The BBC Website includes a section on The People’s War, memories of the conflict from all over the world. It is worth visiting to learn how bad and how good people can be in times of stress, conflict and danger.
George Nolan Johnston was in the British army in the Middle East, sent on a long and apparently pointless journey culminating in a crowded train with no opportunity to get food or drink. Did the officer who organised it not know the men could not get food, or did he just not care?
Here is an extract from Mr Nolan Johnston’s story, but do read the rest of it.
We arrived at a way-side station in the sand. A fleet of trucks waited for us, we were transported some miles west into the sun, and dumped on the side of a desert road. Our patch was beside an east-west tarmacadam road bordered to the North and South with sand. The patch was equipped with open ablutions and latrines. We had neither food nor tents.
Shortly after we arrived a dispatch rider arrived on a motorbike. He bore a message from the officer in charge of the next camp, which was a mile up the road. If we cared to walk up, he would supply us with tea and sandwiches, he apparently had been similarly dumped a week prior to us. We were really starving so we queued up with our tummies rumbling and mugs at the ready. The last few yards were torture and when we got a full mug of sweet tea and a large thick corned beef sandwich, we thought we were set. Never before or since have I enjoyed anything better. We were so very much grateful to the unknown officer.
Compassion, imagination and sharing.
When Abel’s mother was growing up, Prue Leith was advising what was still British Rail on catering for their passengers. Abel’s mother and her sisters really enjoyed Casey Jones milk shakes from Charing Cross station in London, superior to the franchise operators who took over after privatisation.
Ms Leith was writing about meals in the i newspaper recently (June 30). At the same time as she was devising London’s best milk shakes, her company was catering for city firms, But that business has gone. People are eating alone at their desks, as we read recently.
An exception is the Fire Service, where one firefighter on each watch will shop and cook for the crew: breakfast, lunch, dinner. Meals matter to keep the individual firefighters fit and healthy, and to keep the team fit and healthy, knowing each other, looking out for each other, ‘having each other’s backs.’
I share Ms Leith’s sorrow that eating together has been slipping away from work and family life. Let’s turn off the tv or radio and enjoy each other’s fresh news and stale jokes again!
A festive table from the Littlehampton Sisters, who need no lessons from me in eating, living and praying together! WT
We do not hide our affection for the Marches, the border between England and Wales. A different beauty to Kent’s, the ‘blue remembered hills’. That was Housman; his contemporary, GK Chesterton, said that anyone who walked a mile on a sunny day in England knows why beer was invented. We had travelled rather more than a mile, mostly on hot motorways…
Where Canterbury has a farmers’ market in the old railway goods shed, Ludlow in Shropshire has a brewery. Even on a Monday morning there were people enjoying the sun and the beer. We saw no reason why two travellers should not join them.
Impressive plumbing behind the bar, where we shared a sample of three small glasses of different beers; all very good.
From our seat on the mezzanine floor, we were able to appreciate the physical labour that goes into producing the beer. The mash tun was being cleaned out, but was obviously still very warm for the man dismantling the filters. In the old days he would have been allowed beer ad lib; today he had a pint glass of good Shropshire water. Probably as well, all three we tasted were very drinkable, but might leave the drinker a little unsteady on those steps.
The L’Arche Archangel Brewery is still tiny in comparison, but maybe we should all together visit a few small breweries to learn more skills. And if we can get near the three beers I tasted in Ludlow, we’ll be doing very well. And of course we are saving a couple of bottles to share with the other brewers in Canterbury!
Tomorrow we share a pint with a saint.
I could and should thank many librarians for their help in my research, including those in Canterbury and Folkestone who sourced books from elsewhere in Kent or other libraries in England. The small fee for interlibrary loans avoids my spending a couple of hours on trains to the British Library, and I can usually take the books home.
University libraries especially have scanned out-of-copyright works on the web. One such book Action this day by Archbishop Spellman, mentioned a Jesuit, Francis Anderson, as a connection of my subject Arthur Hughes MAfr, Internuncio to Egypt.
More search on the web led me to the Jesuit Archive in St Louis, where they hold letters from Hughes to Anderson, revealing something of himself. I know this because the good people there, Ann and Jeff, scanned them and emailed them to me.
No human can ever know or express the whole truth about anything, but we can help each other to come to a closer understanding. The paths of all genuine seekers after truth converge – scientist, historian, artist, philosopher, theologian. And the focal point of our searching is Truth itself.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.
photo from Jesuit Archives website.
She was coming out of the corner shop, on her way to choir before her night shift at the Hospice. In her hand a packet of halal biscuits: I knew she was careful what she ate but not that careful …
‘I forgot to pack a snack to share,’ she said, ‘so I popped in and thought, these look interesting. pistachio wafers. There’s an unwritten tradition at work that we bring something to share through the night. Sometimes I bring crisps or grapes. We may not all three sit down together but we can still share.’
Shared food building the team, or if you like, the community. Shared food asserting life in the face of death.
So why did Jesus eat with all sorts of people? What happened on Maundy Thursday? He took our natural sharing to another level: this is my body, given for you. A promise that transforms every shared meal.
The boy shared his bread and fish with Jesus … Strasbourg Cathedral
We went to a couple of weddings last year, as I was reminded by the photograph in yesterday’s post. The top of the cake on that day was given to the bridesmaid for her birthday party: wouldn’t you feel special if that happened for your seventh birthday?
A friend of the bride’s mother made the cake; it was a real labour of love, and the love rippled on as the bridesmaid and her friends enjoyed it, as well as we who later ate some at home.
At our wedding, my brother made the traditional fruit cake. The top layer was still good eighteen months later when our firstborn was baptised. Ponder the many connections there, the sharing of our wedding cake, not with our daughter (even I would not offer a newborn a crumb of wedding cake), but with people we had not known when we got married. But soon after the wedding, slices had been posted around the world to people who were unable to be with us on the day. As far as Burkina Faso, Paraguay and Australia.
You don’t have to be in the same room at the same time to share food and drink.
Such sharing points to something very important, don’t you think?
The best willow pattern service accompanied the eating of our slices of wedding cake last year.
Gate to Jesus Hospital, Canterbury
The Eucharist is Mystery; mystery is not magic. Magic supposes there is no explanation or understanding – no way of entering-into the reality; whereas mystery invites participation in an encounter. This means a way-in to something greater than we are. Mystery is not something I can’t know anything about – but something can’t know everything about. How ludicrously wrong to say you can’t tell me anything about him – as if I can fit into my tiny mind everything about another person – when I can’t even know all about myself. Interesting to ask ourselves why did Jesus ask – who do people say I am?
To say we enter into something greater – to be with someone who can appropriately say we whereas I can only say I! What is happening for this to become my experience? The basic action of the Eucharist is sharing – not just eating. The experience this addresses in me is my experience of hunger. To be human is to be hungry, in the sense that I need more than myself to live fully – as well as food and drink, I need companionship and compassion… so many human hungers persuade me that I cannot be self-fulfilled. With all possible human hungers in mind – this is what Jesus means by I am the bread of life. Our Western culture persuades us that meal-times are essential and always available. There is no such thing as meal-time for the vast majority, who eat whenever food, affection and compassion are available.
If I am never hungry in any of these human hungers to the point of starving, it is unlikely that I feel for those who are permanently there. Compassion requires me to enter into the suffering of another simply because that is where they are [this makes sense of the ancient discipline of fasting before communion]. The obvious way to know about hunger is to be hungry. Hunger is intrusive; will not allow us to get on with anything else until it is attended to. When God created hunger he created a blessing – opportunity to experience so many good things. God created more than enough ways to satisfy every possible hunger – the fact of so much starvation serves to tell us what we have done with Creation’s good things, enough to make the experience of hunger a curse to be eradicated.
Dear Friends, we have received this letter from Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche. To read the whole letter, click on the link.
I have often shared my wonder for the birds, but this time I am going to speak to you about the flowers.
Now, in early May, we have the sun and nice weather. Every day, I take a walk in my little garden, with my eyes looking down because I have to be careful where I walk: this means I notice the primroses.
Please excuse my interrupting Austin’s flow of thought with this appreciation of some of the joys of summer. A version of this post has appeared in the Will Turnstone blog.
As I walked along Canterbury’s Saint Peter’s Street on Saturday I saw a sure sign of Summer. Not the gaggles of French and Dutch teenagers squeezing into the pound shops, nor the obedient American and Japanese tourists following their guides’ uplifted, unopened, umbrellas.
No, It was the cherry lady from Faversham, but selling gooseberries this time. She promised ‘cherries next week’.
I bought gooseberries.
That afternoon as I was cycling home from visiting friends, I sought out the elder flowers needed to make the best gooseberry fool and gooseberry jam. Along the Crab and Winkle cycle path they were as unpolluted as anywhere.
Mrs T made the fool, and froze some puree to make more when summer is mere memory. The fool all went. We took some to the L’Arche gardening club on Sunday, where our Polish friends could not get enough of it, nor could I. Maybe the spare puree won’t make it till Christmas!
And I made the jam. A few Happy Christmasses there!
But yesterday there were cherries in town.
Summertime can begin! Laudato Si!
Last summer we wandered across Manchester City Centre to see crowds sitting on the grass in Piccadilly Gardens, eating lunch-time sandwiches, some in small groups, other singletons often on their phones. Perhaps they too felt the need to be sociable when eating.
And good for them all, to have taken advantage of a comparatively rare sunny day in Manchester to get out of the office or whatever their workplace, and make a picnic of it.
I was reminded of a time years ago. Muddy boots were a bone of contention at morning break where I was working. The indoor workers wanted their space to be clean and tidy. The gardeners wanted to get indoors for ten minutes, and some of them had real bother getting their boots on and off.
The boss, an office man through and through, said that he had always had a coffee brought to him at his desk, so maybe the indoor workers and the outdoor workers should sit down on the spot and take a quick refuelling break and get on with their work.
I don’t know that he ever saw the point the rest of us were arguing: it was not just a refuelling stop, but a together time. Like the coffee break I enjoyed at the Glebe this morning, with my L’Arche friends. Maybe the boss missed out on ‘milk and biscuit’ time when he was of an age to go to nursery school. Milk and sugar? Bourbon or pink wafer?