Tag Archives: London

21 August: come a few degrees Southwards

Anachronistic by more than 60 years! The penny post was not established until 1840.

It’s holiday season, and was so in August 1780. Johnson writes to invite a Scottish friend to come and enjoy the bright lights of London, but a little later perhaps, when winter is drawing in.

To DR. BEATTIE, AT ABERDEEN.

Sir,

More years than I have any delight to reckon, have past since you and I saw one another; of this, however, there is no reason for making any reprehensory complaint—Sic fata ferunt*. But methinks there might pass some small interchange of regard between us.

If you say, that I ought to have written, I now write; and I write to tell you, that I have much kindness for you and Mrs. Beattie; and that I wish your health better, and your life long. Try change of air, and come a few degrees Southwards: a softer climate may do you both good; winter is coming on; and London will be warmer, and gayer, and busier, and more fertile of amusement than Aberdeen.

More news I have not to tell you, and therefore you must be contented with hearing, what I know not whether you much wish to hear, that I am, Sir,

Your most humble servant,
SAM. JOHNSON.

August 21, 1780.

Life of Johnson, Volume 3 1776-1780 by James Boswell.

* That’s how the fates worked out.

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7 August: Happy and thoughtful holidays!

Boudicca
Taken near Cleopatra’s needle by CD.

Good Morning! I’d like to share an old family story that has a bearing on our lives during the second summer of covid-19; we hope you enjoy your holidays, but please let other people enjoy theirs in peace!

We looked around for somewhere to eat our picnic and my young daughters chose the spot between the paws of one of the sphinxes that guard Cleopatra’s needle, an inscribed obelisk associated with the Queen, on the Embankment in central London. Here we were out of the way and could watch the river traffic and the passing tourists.

In the half-hour or so we were there four different families or groups swarmed up beside the girls, posing for photographs; there is another sphinx on the other side of the Needle. Only the last family asked permission, and that was when we were leaving, otherwise there came no apology or acknowledgement of our family at all.

This extreme case of bad manners poses two questions. What, first of all, do we go away for? These people did not appear to be looking at or appreciating the monument at all. I guess they too were near Charing Cross, and had to tick the Needle off their list, and take a photo to prove it. In fact the second, unoccupied sphynx was better lit and unoccupied, so why intrude on us?

Which brings up the second question: do we consider other people when on holiday? The first time I ever felt ashamed to be English overseas was when a couple of middle-aged compatriots smuggled two Yorkshire terriers into a Galway restaurant and fed them titbits on their laps. It was not the last time!

It’s not just inebriated football supporters who get us a bad reputation abroad; it can be you or I, when we don’t take trouble to learn foreign ways, whether tipping, using the buses, or even the plumbing. The ordinary courtesy of consideration and neighbourliness are important, even in London.

Don’t spoil your holiday – or someone else’s – with bad manners!

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14 June: Going viral LXXXI and Thomas More.

The Roper Chapel at St Dunstan’s, Canterbury, where Saint Thomas More’s daughter interred his head which she had rescued from its pole on London Bridge.

I met Revd Jo Richards this morning, resigned to another delay in opening up church buildings and services, as she relates below. Good News, though, is that the Commemoration Service for Thomas More will be happening, even if there will be restrictions on numbers. If you cannot be there in person, you can follow the service on live streaming.

Over to Jo:

Good morning to you all on another glorious summer day. I hope this finds you all well as we are here at the Rectory.
It would appear that the lifting of covid restrictions will be delayed for a month; we will no doubt hear more this evening from the government, but all covid precautions are maintained across our three churches with the mandatory wearing of face coverings, unless exempt and social distancing, receiving of the host in one kind, and no singing. Prayers for those who are planning weddings at this difficult time, and all the uncertainty that entails.

Dates for your diary
Service of commemoration for St Thomas More: Tuesday 6th July 2021, 7.30 at St Dunstan’s – Booking required via Sue: 01227 767051

May I encourage you to come along to this service which marks 50 years of this annual commemoration held in St Dunstan’s. From Rev. Brian McHenry: It is good to announce that the service to mark the melancholy anniversary of St Thomas More’s execution will return this year to St Dunstan’s after the necessary intermission last year. The speaker will be Dr Jonathan Arnold, the Diocesan Director of Communities and Partnerships, who is an expert in late medieval and Reformation church history. His subject is ‘Profit and Piety: Thomas More, John Colet, and the London Mercery’. The service will also be live streamed.

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14 May: Mary with the disciples

somers.town. pentecost
St Aloysius, Somers Town, London.

Half-way through May and this blog has no mention of Mary … not very Catholic! But here she is, in the midst of the Church, such as it was in those days after the Ascension. One of the team.

This picture, shot through clear stained-glass windows, shows us a glimpse, not only of the first Church receiving definitively the Holy Spirit, but also of the noisy, diverse corner of London that St Aloysius’ serves. The church itself stands above street level, an Upper Room, slightly removed from the noise of traffic.

Visitors from many parts call in, perhaps between trains at Euston or Saint Pancras terminals. Find out more about the church and parish here.

I am always happy when I find it open; some people feel uncomfortable in modern churches, but this was designed to celebrate the Vatican II liturgy and brings everyone close to the altar. If you have a few minutes between trains, you too may just find it open! And Mary, filled with the Spirit, ponders all these things in her heart, and unites her Son’s disciples in the Upper Room, be it in Jerusalem or Somers Town.

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12 May: The Lord is abroad.

Taken 3 miles, 5 km, from Hammersmith, one stormy night.

The late Mr. James Ralph told Lord Macartney, that Doctor Johnson passed an evening with Dr. Young at Lord Melcombe’s (then Mr. Dodington) at Hammersmith. The Doctor happening to go out into the garden, Mr. Dodington observed to him, on his return, that it was a dreadful night, as in truth it was, there being a violent storm of rain and wind.

‘No, Sir, (replied the Doctor) it is a very fine night. The LORD is abroad.’

Life of Johnson, Volume 4 1780-1784″ by James Boswell.

In Eastertide we consider the presence of the living Lord in our lives. But see how language changes! On this occasion the Doctor did not mean to suggest that the Lord was overseas, rather that he was out and about, ‘abroad’, even on a night of violent storm. At Hammersmith (West London) in the 1780s the night would have been many times darker than today, a violent storm more truly dread-full, but he felt God’s presence and seems to have enjoyed the storm. A very fine night indeed!

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7 May: Praying with Pope Francis

Looking from Greenwich to London’s Docklands financial sector. Saint Paul’s Cathedral is all-but invisible to the left.

Universal Intention: – The World Of Finance
Let us pray that those in charge of finance will work with governments to regulate the financial sphere and protect citizens from its dangers.

I guess Pope Francis feels he has had his share of being let down by those in charge of finance! It always seems to be the poorest who suffer most when finances go wrong, both at a personal and a national level. Company executives remain wealthy when their businesses go bust, while their workers lose jobs and the pensions they had been paying into. Indebted countries find their debts rising at the same time as opportunities vanish to earn more from trade and so pay off debts. And don’t ask about covid vaccinations!

Rich nations often owe part of their prosperity to exploitation of workers or other assets overseas; there is an obligation to restore fairness in trade and to protect citizens of this one world from the dangers of unfair trade, which may persist for generations.

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19 April: Saint Alphege, first martyr of Canterbury.

From a window in Hythe parish church.

This week we celebrate two saintly Archbishops of Canterbury, two very different men who both lived in difficult times. Today’s feast is for Alphege, a Saxon martyr who ‘smelt of his sheep’. The day after tomorrow is Anselm, a great teacher.

It was the reign of Ethelred the Unready when Alphege became Archbishop. He had retired from his monastery to become a hermit, but was needed elsewhere, in particular to seek an honourable peace with the marauding Danes. Canterbury and London are both close to the North Sea, the great open highway for the Danish Longboats, both cities vulnerable to attack.

Alphege reached a peace agreement with some of the invaders, who converted to Christianity, but another group took him captive and led him off to Greenwich, now a suburb of London on the River Thames. Here they held him to ransom, demanding money from the people of Canterbury.

The good shepherd of his sheep refused to let them pay. Stalemate ensued for some months, until his captors had a mighty ox roast with plenty of stolen alcohol, and decided to get some fun out of him if they couldn’t get any money. They stoned and beat him to death using the bones of the beasts they were feasting upon.

A short while after his martyrdom on this day in 1012, Saint Alphege’s remains were transferred to Canterbury Cathedral, near those of his predecessor, Saint Dunstan. Thomas Becket would be buried nearby.

This link explores a fascinating connection between Thomas (1120 – 1170) and his hero, Saint Alphege.

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March 18, Going Viral LXXI: Keeping each other’s kindness.

Dr Johnson

It is the end of summer 1780, and Dr Johnson and James Boswell have not met together this year. In this time of lockdown and self-isolation, we can appreciate Boswell’s feelings when he writes:


I hope that you will agree to meet me at York, about the end of this month; or if you will come to Carlisle, that would be better still, in case the Dean be there. Please to consider, that to keep each other’s kindness, we should every year have that free and intimate communication of mind which can be had only when we are together. We should have both our solemn and our pleasant talk.

From Boswell’s Life of Johnson

But Johnson had to make his excuses. He was with his sick friend, Mr Thrale, who wanted his company during a stay in Brighthelmston (Brighton). It was then rather more than an hour from London, 60 years before the railway opened. Johnson’s words are worth taking to heart in 2021.

Mr. Thrale … is now going to Brighthelmston, and expects me to go with him; and how long I shall stay, I cannot tell. I do not much like the place, but yet I shall go, and stay while my stay is desired.

We must, therefore, content ourselves with knowing what we know as well as man can know the mind of man, that we love one another, and that we wish each other’s happiness, and that the lapse of a year cannot lessen our mutual kindness.

I was pleased to be told that I accused Mrs. Boswell unjustly, in supposing that she bears me ill-will. I love you so much, that I would be glad to love all that love you, and that you love; and I have love very ready for Mrs. Boswell, if she thinks it worthy of acceptance. I hope all the young ladies and gentlemen are well. I take a great liking to your brother. He tells me that his father received him kindly, but not fondly. Make your father as happy as you can.

You lately told me of your health: I can tell you in return, that my health has been for more than a year past, better than it has been for many years before. Perhaps it may please GOD to give us some time together before we are parted.

I am, dear Sir,
‘Yours most affectionately,
‘SAM. JOHNSON.’
‘October 17, 1780

Who would like to hear from you today to keep the mutual kindness going till you can meet again?

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28 February: Blessed William Richardson

You never know what you might find on the Web! I’d never heard of Blessed William Richardson till I saw his name in Hallam News, from the Catholic South Yorkshire diocese. A remarkably brave man to go prison visiting among Catholics, aware that he might be betrayed at any time. The full article from which this is taken can be found here. Remembering him, we also honour Christians of many allegiances, killed for their beliefs, and pray that we may continue to work to bring all our communities together.

Blessed William Richardson grew up close to where the South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire borders meet.

We know from the Entry Book in the English College in Spain that William was a convert to the Catholic faith and was received into the Church by one of the clergy at Wiesloch, Germany, where at that time he was working.  He was called to the priesthood, attended the English College in Spain, studying Philosophy and Theology, and was ordained priest there in 1594 and then returned to England.

Most of William’s life was spent working in London often with the legal profession in the Inns of Court.  He visited prisons as an ordinary visitor, to take Mass to Catholics imprisoned for their faith, and he was sentenced to death after being betrayed by a priest catcher.  His execution took place on Tyburn Gallows, by the barbaric act of being hung, drawn and quartered on 17 February in 1603.  There is no knowledge of his last resting place, but if we can find a King under a car park, we may one day learn of his last resting place.

William’s death was in the reign of Elizabeth 1 and he was the last priest to be murdered at that time.  Elizabeth 1 died one week later.  Bishop Challoner tells us he accepted his death with such constancy and faith, and praying for the Queen, that impressed his executioners.

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Reminder: Fireside Gathering Concert, 5 February.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is welcomefire.jpg

London’s Irish Chaplaincy will host a ‘Fireside Gathering’ concert on February 5th 2021 at 7.30pm. Headlining again is the London Celtic Youth Orchestra, and we’re delighted as well to have Thomas McCarthy on the bill. Thomas, an Irish Traveller, singer and storyteller was named Traditional Singer of the Year in the Gradam Ceoil Awards 2019. Various other talented musicians and poets will complete the line-up, there will be a special message from the Ambassador and it promises to be a great and uplifting evening. The event will be Live on the Irish Chaplaincy Facebook Page and is free to watch. Follow the Fireside Gathering link to find the flier.

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Filed under Interruptions, PLaces, poetry, winter