Tag Archives: England

May 4: A pleasure shared

Abel.bluebells

We walked home from church with a friend who wanted to see the bluebells in the wood. She had heard about them but did not know they were so close to home. A pleasure shared already, but she took pictures aplenty to share with her mother in East London, a pleasure further shared: her mother will enjoy not just the bluebells but the clear and infectious pleasure our friend received from them.

A gift that is special to an English spring.

A few days before we had walked that way with young Abel, who’s too small to damage the flowers as he walks, but he too loved the ‘blue flowers’: pleasure shared as a little child lets us into the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t often quote Rupert Brooke, but I remember …

the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
        In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

The Kingdom of  Heaven is reflected in that very English carpet, but I’m less sure about an English Heaven? One that welcomes people from around the world, I trust, or it would not be Heaven, just an off-shore island …

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

24 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XVII, A Hagiographical Foray

 

minster-saints2

 

Though ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas had been all unaware, the day of their visit to the monastery at Minton was the feast of St. Domniva, its foundress. In the course of the various services they attended throughout their stay and by recourse to some fragments of conversation had with a few of the more knowledgeable of the nuns, ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas were able to piece together bits of her fascinating story. It seemed that Domniva (before she became a saint) had been a princess of one of the royal Anglo-Saxon houses and a renowned world traveler. There was a massive amount of (circumstantial) evidence indicating that one of her journeys may have even taken her- along with a sizeable entourage since she was, after all, a princess- to sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that she discovered a rare and wonderful animal in the sprawling market of a nameless and long-vanished city called a dik-dik. Smitten by its elegant grace, the noble Domniva purchased the animal for a magnificent sum and brought it back with her when she returned to the foggy shores of East Kent.

great-rift-valley-640x480

The dik-dik appeared as a perfectly formed young deer…except that its coat of dense fur was a soft, buff-gray peppered with nearly invisible spots. For all that the magnificent animal resembled a member of any number of herds ranging the length and breadth of the Five Kingdoms, it only stood around six inches tall; a miniature version of its British cousins with ebony hoofs no larger than the tip of its mistress’ forefinger. Used to a much warmer clime in the dense acacia forests of its African homeland, it nevertheless also was able to appreciate the overgrown nature of the English countryside (and nearly all of England was countryside in the late seventh century) and, discovering that a brisk frisk was an excellent way to dodge the chill, it soon began to thrive. Everyone who saw it fell instantly in love. Perhaps, the dik-dik should not be referred to as an ‘it’ since it was a young stag, sporting a full rack of arching antlers, and proudly answered to the name Boanerges, which the Lady Domniva had given it.

At some point in time there was a blood feud, as seemed so common among royalty then and now and, in order to make things right, the king of Kent decided to build a monastery. Fortunately for the king, the Lady Domniva had also become very pious and wished to retire from the tiresome frivolities of life at court. And so it was settled- Domniva would found the monastery and serve as its first abbess. A site was duly chosen on the shore of the mighty Wansum river, which, bisecting a large mass of land, created the Isle of Thanet. It was then that the dik-dik established himself forever in the annals of England and lore of the great southeast.

To be continued

TJH

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

21 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries XIV, The Sands of the Sea 2

 

earthnasa

One of the things that had early enamoured the delegation’s Director of that strange planet called Earth was the presence of not one, not two, but five major salt water oceans. The Director’s home planet, within the sprawling Ossyrian Confederation, possessed many stunning streams and a few shallow lakes – most of liquefied ammonia but a few world-famous tourist attractions that ran with the mirror-brightness of molten mercury – but these were mainly for aesthetic admiration and nearby inhabitants rarely went in for a paddle or dip. Stunned by the beauty of the opalescent North Sea channel between east Kent and what he reckoned must be northern Belgium, which seemed to change colour with every mood of the capricious sky in an antipodal love affair that would have done justice to any couple – bickering or dewy-eyed – found in the classics of terrestrial literature, he would spend long hours along the shore; hunting for treasures that might litter the sand, or simply staring into the endless blue. And then, while stranded in the sun-drenched daydream called California, he had screwed up his nerve on a particularly sultry day and taken the plunge.

beach-rye-640x348

Oh, yes!!  The memory washed over him like the sloppy kiss of a saucy courtesan with impossible emerald-coloured skin as soft as watered silk and gold dust swirling in her eyes. Though she could dance with abandon and even (when out of sorts) be dangerous, the unselfconsciously beautiful Pacific owned a touch that both soothed and tingled, relaxed yet stimulated, all of his weary senses. The Chihuahuas, safely ensconced in England, either with Mrs. Fox in Cornwall or Will Turnstile’s raucous tribe closer to home in Canterbury, were never forgotten as he floated on the soft swells and then, emboldened, body surfed the crashing waves of blue-green foam. No, not forgotten but perspective was regained. As the mystic said long ago, all would be well, all manner of things would be well.

TJH

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si'

June 4th – Saint Boniface, Apostle to the Germans.

St_Boniface_-_Baptising-Martyrdom_-_Sacramentary_of_Fulda_-_11Century

Tomorrow would be the feast of Saint Boniface if it were not a Sunday. Here in Canterbury, Fr Boniface OFM counts his patron as ‘perhaps the greatest Englishman who ever lived.’ Quite a claim  from a German-Scot, but then Saint Boniface is celebrated as the Apostle of Germany. He worked there in the Eighth Century.

This greatest of Englishmen spent much of his working life outside England, as a European, preaching and baptising, dealing with royal houses, journeying to Rome to confer with popes and maintaining correspondence with friends at home and in Ireland as well as on the continent. No insular little Englander!

Boniface was first and foremost a missionary, sharing the Good News, giving faith to others, often in the face of opposition. He died in an ambush by pagan outlaws, and like Jesus in the Garden he refused to let his companions fight. Instead he held aloft the Book of the Gospels in a gesture of prayer. That book, hacked about by the robbers’ swords, can be seen in Fulda, near Boniface’s tomb.

Bonifatius, erfurt

The Good News survives attacks by those who oppose Christianity, and even the damage done by us Christians when our vision is too restricted or we tacitly accept that our faith is private, when it ought to inform all our relationships with God, family and neighbour.

 

MMB.

Upper picture: from 11th Century Sacramentary of Fulda at:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/St_Boniface_-_Baptising-Martyrdom_-_Sacramentary_of_Fulda_-_11Century.jpg
Lower picture: Statue of Saint Boniface with the hacked Gospels, from Erfurt, where Boniface established a church in 724 during his first mission in the region, and set up the diocese some 18 years later. Note and picture by NAIB.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

April 27th: Peace on Earth? II

dogs.short

All went well with the construction of the intergalactic space modules and the training of their crews. Then the question arose as to how the Ossyrians should appear, for naturally they had very long necks, short legs, a thick waist and huge doomed heads which would tend to generate ridicule probably followed by violence from the earthlings. They pondered long and hard on the best disguise to adopt and finally settled on the idea of appearing as dogs. They had noticed that dogs seem to have very positive and generally friendly relationships with the earthlings, being allowed to enter in all the special places beloved of their masters such as in front of the fires they had in the wintertime and on their beds. So all the crews choose to be different kinds of dogs and started training to eat dog food as served up on Planet earth.

Then they were off. It took nearly six months to arrive at their destination, a place called Canterbury in a country called Britain. They had spent the journey time learning Earth Speak. But this was very difficult because unlike the Ossyrians who only had one language the earthlings had dozens, which as the Ossyrians saw right away produced lots of friction and difficulties.

However, as they were in a part of the world where the language, ‘English’ was among the most familiar to the Ossyrians, they found they could understand at least some of what was said but there was another problem, accents. Some of the people who appeared to be speaking English which the Ossyrians had learned were totally impossible to comprehend because they had peculiar intonations. They looked different and the Ossyrian explorers discovered that they were refugees escaping from wars and revolutions in their own countries, or trying to get work in Britain. Many of the British seemed to resent or even fear them but some people had the same attitude as the Ossryians who never discriminated against any groups because it would obviously lead to friction, discord and violence which would damage the whole of society.

To get accepted by the British, the Ossyrian explorers had first to pose as strays and then hope to be adopted. Gradually this happened and within a month all tRip alfie xxxxhe Osssyrians had been accepted into homes where they were well treated and in many cases ‘spoiled rotten’. This did not please them because it interrupted their examination of the earthlings whose attitudes of mind as expressed by their behaviour seemed more and more difficult to understand now that they were living amongst them.

The earthlings were in some ways quite clever and had invented a lot of technically advanced devices such as ‘cars’ .boats’, ‘aeroplanes’,’ computers’ and more obviously useful things like ‘vacuum cleaners’. However, having invented something they never seemed to spend any time on evaluating its real worth and its probable effects on society as a whole before allowing it to be produced en masse. ‘Cars’ and indeed vehicles in general created huge problems, killing large numbers of people, placing huge demands on the health services, damaging the environment by pollution, preventing more efficient types of transport from being developed and causing economic upheavals when the price of oil changed. By contrast Ossyrians did not own individual transport machines and would not want to because public transport was very efficient and cheap.

Then there was food. The Ossyrians ate only six types of food and four types of drink. All of them scientifically assessed to give the greatest benefit to their bodies and minds. Their food was all produced under artificial conditions and there was plenty for everyone. Consequently they were generally very fit and active mentally and physically and this greatly reduced demands on the health and social services. Generally most Ossyrians died at the agy of about 120 anny.

cathedralbyellie2

Canterbury Cathedral, ESB.

The other thing which impressed and depressed the Ossyrians was the hypocrisy of most earthlings some of whom professed belief in a benign Goddy who required them to love one another and to be charitable to each other. However, this view was more honoured in the breach than the observance as most earthlings seemed to spend a considerable part of their time in denigrating other people which was regarded as a serious ‘sinny’ and totally unacceptable to Ossyrians because it would obviously lead to friction, possibly violence and unhappiness. So it could not be tolerated because it would destroy their wholequality of life  and undermine their well balanced, happy society.

The Ossyrian observers decide to return to their own planet as they had come to the conclusion that they would not be able to help the earthlings whose noble philosophy of life was so much at variance with their actual mores. In any case communication was too difficult because of all the different tongues and accents. However, the Assyrians did leave a letter in the porch of the Cathedral explaining all this to the people of Canterbury who had been kind to their ‘doggies’. But these visiting ‘doggies’ were looking forward to having some proper food again and living in an honest, non-hypocritical society.

Unfortunately no one could understand Ossyrian English, so this note was assumed to be Chinese and thrown away.

Alfie H and Ajax by NAIB; Alfie B by Jennifer Thompson

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

April 21: Jerusalem V: Centre of Creation

 

 

413px-Hereford-Karte

William Blake saw angels where others saw none, in and around London. He wrote of mercylogo‘Heaven’s Gate Set in Jerusalem’s Wall’, an image from the Revelation of John, chapter 21, where the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven, a heavenly city, where God is so palpably present that no temple is needed.

In this world of sin, a Church building can be a place to concentrate awareness of God’s presence alone or in company; to hear God’s Word, to enter his mercy.

Heaven’s gate can be set in any wall, but Jerusalem has always held the imagination. People around 1300 considered it the centre of the whole round world, and if a visitor to Hereford could see this drawn on vellum in the Mappa Mundi. The Christian world saw Jerusalem as the place where salvation happened, but even the far-flung British Isles (at bottom left) were part of the picture. They still are, along with all that Terra Incognita – unknown to those who did not live there, at least: the Americas and Antipodes.

Blake may have been wary of organised religion, but still he resolved to persevere:

‘Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.’

And so should we persevere, building Jerusalem wherever we find ourselves. Maybe you or I will be an angel – a messenger of God – to someone we meet today. Let’s pray that we rise to that challenge when it comes, even if we are not aware of it at the time – or indeed, ever afterwards.

MMB.

http://www.themappamundi.co.uk/

By Unknown – unesco.org.uk, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41201813

 

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections