Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Comings And Goings...

Should the Mayan Apocalypse come to pass on Friday it will, I fear, play right havoc with the Christmas rota as ordained and published. Not that we of St Boniface Parva are not at all times - as good scriptural virgins lamps a-trimmed - ready and waiting for the return of the Good Lord at the right and proper End of Days. We do know full well that the Last Trump will finally indeed sound in due season - a matter for some of serene sanguinity, for others of nightly terrors - but when one is gearing up for the Last Great Push before Midnight Mass there simply isn't the time to be fretting over any final smiting or eternal rapturing. 

H has gamely promised to tackle Mrs Fairclough and her simply lethal mince pies, Curate Cuthbert is making as decent a fist as any a man could of Choir with its inexorable habit of going flat during the anthem, and I am deep into frantic final revisions of the Church cleaning and polishing jankers to ensure both sides of the 'Great Feud' are content that their conflicting and competing contributions have been properly welcomed and fulsomely rewarded. (No brawling mass of Coptic and Catholic monks in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity can compare with the hissing pit of vipers that inhabits our Sanctuary should Miss Marchbanks's altar flowers appear on stage before Miss Frobisher's troops are done with polishing the Communion Rail!)

As for the homily du jour please don't ask! Where does one simply begin? With the Gospel of course, and would that one could stop right there. One's favourite Bishop was that St. Petersburg Patriarch of blessed memory, who promptly exiled three of his best priests to Siberia for the duration for having the temerity to sermonise one word beyond Holy Writ. If only Bish Tom would so ordain! But no, ever the command is to get up on one's hind legs and preach, preach away.

A generalised 'That Was The Village Year That Was' is often the safest line to take, though requiring as it frequently does a good glossing over of some of the lower lights of the past twelve months: the unseemly fisticuffs outside the Legion on Lammas Day; that time 'Bilko' Biggins was so cut sailing back into the marina on race day that he rammed his fore-spar clean through the Club Captain's best genoa! And so forth. 'Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.' Quite so.

A more firebrand pastor than one's own eirenic self might well hijack the occasion of a packed house for a spot of hellish haranguing - 'Pull up or be sent down' - but it does so jar the Happy Holy Birthday mood of a good sentimental Midnight Mass, which they always tend to be; not to mention the large portion of one's audience come for their annual roar-along-a-carol neither wanting nor willing to be hectored, especially after an evening's preparatory ale at The Dragon.

Above all, it having been such an unmitigated stink of a year all round for so many, any banging on about anything other than the hope eternal in the birth of a saving child would be mean spirited in the extreme. Hope they - the theologians - say is the Cinderella virtue: faith and love get all the positive press, hope hardly a mention. I had, indeed, hardly hoped to be so buggerated about this year what with blocked arteries and lower limbs in periculo mortis; nor indeed had there been much evidence of anticipation of good things when laid stretched out on the cold theatre slab with one's surgeon opining "I doubt this will kill you..."

But one has pulled through despite the odds and plain in the face of dire alternatives. Be charitably baked pies never so inedible, be Choir always just below the note, be feuding factions never ever at peace one with the other - we shall survive, Mayan Long Calendars or no Mayan Long Calendars.

See you on the other side of the Apocalypse! 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Best Foot Forward...

"As for new shoes, dear boy, I wouldn't bother just now if I were you." 

- Thus one's ever humane surgeon opining (many years now ago) how best to proceed all tests completed, all options considered, all the latest bookies' odds taken into account. 

Does that sound all a bit callous, somewhat blasé, rather too nonchalentamente  all together? Dropped out a clear blue - dark thunderous in truth - sky of course yes, it would. The tone, though, of such potentially portentous prognostic discussions is one to be set by as much the patient as the medic in question. If the fellow about to be carved like the finest Christmas turkey has a mind for flippancy in the face of possible extinction, then the appointed carver-in-chief is well advised to follow his lead. 

A certain utterly bearable lightness of being is, indeed, a perfectly reasonable reaction in such circs., trust me. Not exactly an 'easy come, easy go' view of one's own existence, but rather a deep acceptance that to live is, at some moment and from some cause inevitably, to die. That depth is then not necessarily to be borne heavily, but taken in all lightness for being the natural and the supernatural order of the whole ens & esse case, the proper accomplishment of The Four Last And Inexorable Things. 

So, indeed, a consideration that one in all likelihood had sufficient footwear for the rest of the journey was perfectly in order at the time. And oddly enough, it has stuck as almost something of a shibboleth ever since, much else changing not least the length of the path ahead now much advanced from the original proposal.

Cometh though the hour - some twelve years on - cometh the shoe shop. A certain tramp-like look to the boots - not quite soles flapping in the wind with twine holding the piece as one, but not far off - could not forever be ignored. Certainly wasn't by parishioners many and by Parish Council all it seems. Hadn't really noticed, but apparently murmurings were abroad that Rector was turning 'scruffy' - not a good look in rural settings. Scruffy is not plain raiment suited to one's station. Workaday rough-hewn is splendid: the shepherd's best smelly old tweeds dripping with sheep-dip perfectly at home in the Snug Bar. Scruffy, rather, is 'letting oneself go', a lack of private concern and - worse - a tugging at the binding public thread.

Fascinating really on what one is judged. Be he never so holy, be his soul never so pure.... No, wait. The reef of cheap puns is looming. Let us just recall Great Aunt Norbertina's nostrum, who on being introduced to any gentleman took in first his boots and then his gloves. Either failing inspection, the case was lost and the man spurned. (Hats and handbags for the ladies one recalls.)

And thus a long-standing duck has been broken, a drought (apposite contemporary thought) assuaged. After a two-day striving with ill-mannered and inept sales personages, shops shut when they should darn well be open, sizes not in stock and prices beyond any remembering; after all such labour and toil Rector finally has new boots. Huzzah! Just hope I've not broken some potent charm or spell laid back in the days. Hard not to be a tad superstitious. They tell me these fine crafted pieces will last 50 years. Heaven help my dotage if I make it half as far!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

For Patrick Leigh Fermor: Caveat Lector...

The monastic refectory reader - the Lector - has a simple task: keep the troops entertained with the book of the week whilst they nosh; speaking loud and clear and avoiding any subliminal resentment to creep into the voice as you watch your dear brethren eat their fill, you the while feeling pretty darn peckish. Nothing quite like a daily eight hour fast to sharpen the dullest appetite.

The Lector's task though is not quite so straightforward as it might, at first, appear. The book will have been chosen by the Abbot as seemly and uplifting. It may well be both, but that does not preclude it from being deadly dull and atrociously written, nigh on impossible to read aloud. Brownie points, though, are not to be gained by letting such weaknesses get the better of you. A textual sow's ear you may well be given by the boss, yet a literary silk purse you must gift to the boys.

You are not to read so slow that folk nod off into their soups, nor so fast they choke on a fish bone trying to keep up. The voice must be loud enough for the deaf 'uns not to be continuously barking "What? What?", nor yet so strident and hectoring that the rest of us clap our hands over our ears in self-defence. Rhythm, cadence and intonation all must be firmly in the middle ground too: you are not auditioning for Hamlet, but neither will you be forgiven for droning.

Preparation, as in so much, is key. The Lector is expected to have read ahead and mentally, if not audibly, rehearsed. Names of obscure 5th century Greek saints will trip lightly off the tongue, not be stumbled over. Poorly written paragraphs will have been so conned as to seem veritable Proustian marvels of pellucid prose.

Occasionally, even, you may have to cull and to censor. The book will be a secular volume. It will be soundly orthodox - no temptations against the faith - but, dealing with humans in all their many frailties, there will be passages best left alone. If, say, the subject is Irish historic struggle for independence - a natural Catholic favourite - it may well be necessary to make mention of the cause of Parnell's downfall, but without inclusion of any biographic or graphic detail of his particular shenanigans with Kitty O'Shea. This is less prudish, more pragmatic: no point in reminding most monks about what they've left behind; no point, either, puzzling the more virginal sort over what they never knew in the first place.

To fail to plan is to plan to fail. As much a truth in monastic life as in other business. One day, as one sat noshing not lectoring, young Bro. Kevin got up to read. The book was one well-known to and much loved by myself, Patrick Leigh Fermor's 'Between the Woods and the Water'. It was also a personal favourite of the Abbot, he and Paddy having been long-time chums, the fellow a not infrequent guest of the monastery.

As Bro. Kev began to read, his lack of preparedness became at once all too apparent. Not merely his endless failure to grapple with some pretty tongue-twisting Mitteleuropa family names and complex aristocratic titles, or even his utter inability to do justice to the limpid beauty of the writing. There was an elephant trap coming, but some two pages down his path, of which he was clearly blissfully unaware.

Patrick, the guest at some Hungarian schloss, was out for the day with the Count's younger son. Two late teenagers having fun with gun, with hiking and some swimming. Late hot summer it was, the labourers busy in the fields gathering in the harvest. As they emerged from their river dip what should greet them but two strapping peasant women, weary from work and seeking diversion.

You can see where this is leading. Sadly Bro. Kevin, not having read ahead, did not. As, though, he ploughed on it became all too clear from his rising colour and his faltering voice that the penny was slowly dropping. The boys having met the girls, the convenient hay ricks being to hand, only those utterly enrapt in their cottage pies du jour could possibly not have caught the inevitable drift towards the reef of lasciviousness.

What was a man - a hapless Lector - to do as the community, as one, leant forward to catch the next sensual sentence? Grind to an embarrassed halt was the best young Bro. Kevin could muster as his eyes flashed desperately down the page seeking the next seemly paragraph. By now the eyes of the whole community were bent on the floundering fellow. Imbued with fondest charity for each other as we all always were, there is nothing quite like watching one of our own take a pearler to arouse the deepest interest and, one dare say it, happiest glee. Happens to us all from time to time, and no harm when this time it is another's turn for the odure. Good for the humility we would say if pressed.

"Later that evening the Count and I..." broke finally from Bro Kev's lips, as he arrived at last at a passage safe enough to share. The rapids shot he had lighted on the calmer waters of a typical PLF discursion on the historic battles once fought in sight of the very schloss, the outcome of which had decided the fates of peoples and states for generations.

How the meal ended is not recalled. Quite probably with some indigestible cheese. Certainly with Bro. Kevin bolting for the safety of the kitchen and his reserved mess of pottage. Possibly even a sound rebuke from the Prior for his avoidable mishap. Stuff of monastic legend though it became, so thank you dear Patrick for that gift of mirth you so unintentionally gave to Quarr that day. Your presence there was never forgotten and, whilst monks remain, never shall be.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Slip Sliding Away...

A note just in from my Australian actress chum asking if I am still feeling "...lower than a snake's pudenda". She does, indeed, have, as befitting her type - Antipodean and thespian with it - a certain sharp and direct way with words. Sets one thinking of course. Why is one so glum and for so long? How does a snake cope with the whole genitalia close to the ground thing? Along those lines - bit, though, like the old poet Donne: "parallel, Though infinite, can never meet..." I mean you can't really afford to mix the two can you: the puzzles of serpentine anatomy and the mystery of man's moods? That way would indeed madness quite lie.

You could, of course, merely take it for what it is - exempla of Divine Providence at work. On the one hand a snake's burden is - in part - to preserve what dignity and comfort it may whilst on the slither; on the other a man wrestles with the glums as best he can. The serpent, being but sentient not sensible, does not brood; the man though - through, dare one call it the curse of consciousness - does.

Pre-lapsarian, of course, one might say the boots were on other feet - the man a simple, happy-go-lucky gardener and all round help-meet; the wily serpent all dastardly plotting and scheming. (See Holy Writ - or Milton according to taste - passim.) Not that there were any boots way back then, not even Wellingtons - though presumably it must have rained in Eden, so they would have come in handy. And did the serpent ever have feet, even before being struck and stripped down by the Almighty as an eternal slider not stroller? That's the trouble with questions - one merely leading to another. Bit like a good beer then. But not such fun.

Setting, then, aside the whole serpent conundrum, how goeth the man? That the sufficient unto the day challenge set from Down Under. In short and simple, the resounding answer would be a 'yes', one is still bloody - or perhaps far worse bloodless - blue. Could one go that bit further and give any account why so if so? Perhaps, though to list the reasonable and proximate causes would be both lengthy and lowering. Reasons to be cheerful - as the song goes - would be a better bet; quite as taxing but surely elevating not enervating?

Might even give a go, one guesses. First off then, health? Check. Actually, no, that's where, at once, the whole enterprise begins to fall apart. By and large one as much doesn't as does have it and what one does have is less than either it once was or, indeed, what, other circs. prevailing, it could have yet been. Drawn a bit of a blank there then. Best left alone, in truth, that one.

Then again, why is this being mentioned at all, why not preserve the long held silence? It has just come to me - because the very notion of being dragged across the dirt like an adder's fanny has made me chuckle. I am amused. The rest can go hang. For now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Water Cannons To The Left Of Them, Watery Canons To The Right...

"You're taking advantage of your cloth, Father!" "That's what it's for."

- You'll be remembering, of course, that fine scene in the film 'Ryan's Daughter', the one where Father Collins sends villager McCardle sprawling to the ground with an improvised haymaker in order to save the eponymous - if unfaithful - heroine from the vengeful mob.

How we all cheered in the seminary, watching 'muscular Christianity' in such vigorous action. Saturday night, once a month, film night. Pretty bland stuff mostly, befitting our tender years and burgeoning vocations. 'The Shoes of the Fisherman' featured large - and often - as I best now recall. Inspiring that one, no doubt, foreshadowing even J-P2 by some ten years or so. All a bit 'Zorba the Pope' for me, not to mention much sympathy felt for the Teilhard de Chardin character - played so sublimely by dear Oskar Werner - who was fated to be if not condemned then condemned to silence. (Never a happy fate for any J.)

Connection, of course, between Shoes and the Daughter thing, if you know it? Possible reason even why we ended up being vouchsafed more than a glimpse of the irrepressible Sarah Miles giving her all for her art. Leo McKern of course the link: the clever, kindly if ever churchly cunning Cardinal in the one, whilst the humane and loving, if utterly treacherous to the cause father in the other.

Did the Sat. Film Soc. Sec. simply assume that a McKern number must be a safe bet, without bothering to check before booking? Step forward Deacon (as then he was) Dewhurst and take your rightful bow. 'Drippy' - now as then more on the wet side of damp - had and has a truly special charism, a pukka gift from God: everything he does starts out wrong, yet turns out right. The bane of the high-heid-yins, Canon - for now so risen in rank - 'Drippy' will plunge into any project with much care but little thought, daring defeat yet ever gaining victory.

Thus with the film thing: should have been a disaster once Sarah Miles's kit was well and truly off, yet turns a total triumph when the blow is landed, malleable seminarians are impressed with the power of the dog-collar and the authority of the Church triumphs again as it must. 

Did once ask 'Drippy' to what - or to Whom - he attributed this remarkable, nay jammy, good fortune. Can't say we really cracked it, though it was fascinating to note his one remark that, as a young boy, 'Drippy' had heard in passing someone say '...the Devil is in the detail you know' and, being a pious young thing, had assumed at once and ever after that details were to be avoided like the worst of any plague for fear of encountering the Enemy of Mankind. Taking a bit of a theological punt here, but one can only speculate that such simple Faith was at once rewarded with a Guardian Angel from the crack SAS ('Seraphims Against Satan') squadron to save such a sweet, soulful eejit from himself.

Whatever the cause, the effect has been wondrous. Show 'Drippy' a roof in need of much restoration and he's at once - in complete innocence - knocking on the door of the biggest local villain tapping him for a ten spot on the spot, as it were. Put him in charge of the most important ceremonial of the year and - despite his not having a clue what's going on - everything will fall right into place and right on time, as again it were.  (Luck, that's what Napoloen demanded of his generals and lucky, indeed, he would have been to have had 'Drippy' bearing his Marshal's baton. Would have waltzed Waterloo and we'd all now be speaking fluent Frog.) 

Thought of 'Drippy' the other evening in the aftermath of the revolting students and their silly, vandalising ways. Mrs May is entirely mistaken in calling for water cannon to drench and disperse any future marauding mobs. Send in, rather, the watery Canon and peace will at once be restored to the streets and land.

Don't ask me how he would do it - don't for a moment consider asking the man himself because he wouldn't have the faintest notion - but place the fellow in Parliament Square and be prepared to watch a miracle worker at work.  Might he do a Father Collins, take advantage of the cloth, and try knocking some sense into whichever head needs it the most? Why not, that's what it's for after all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stone Me!

'Filia Babylonis misera beatus qui retribuet tibi retributionem tuam quam retribuisti nobis. Beatus qui tenebit et adlidet parvulos tuos ad petram.'

...Let me make it clear at the outset that I have nothing against the good Daughters of Babylon, singular or plural. Indeed I count several such as dear friends. (H, by the way, does not need to know this!) Thus when I liturgically chant that I would wish someone should take their babies and dash them against the rocks, I am merely voicing the Psalmist's ancient passion of sorrow and despair, not my own advocacy of selective infanticide.

Why this necessary caveat? Lest I find myself collared after Vespers because some over-zealous commentator has seen fit to report me to plod for inciting racial hatred, when one has merely been dutifully following the established rubric of the Book of Common Prayer.

What a sad sea-change there has been. Time was when discussion on these troubling lines - for they are harsh and hard - would content itself with an understanding of what it is to sing the sacred scary words, how anger at wrong doing - righteous anger - can so enrage the human heart that death of the innocent is demanded. One was to consider the horror of slavery, the misery of captivity, the destructive raging of the powerless. Also to reflect on one's own furnace of anger that might, at any moment, erupt as deadly as any volcano. Above all, to contemplate the Way of Christ that so utterly overturns the human desire for revenge, whose justice is truly not of this world and whose mercy is infinite.

And so forth. Something for the God Squad to chew over and no one else's business. Not now though, for we have allowed to be created a society based on comprehensive surveillance of every thought and word - let alone action; they being continuously and overtly tested against a prescribed and po-faced secular Jansenism.

Non-compliance is not merely reprehensible, it is criminal and sinful both. The blameless are denounced as witches with an abandon that would make even the denizens of Salem blush.  Judgement Day is now to be found in a Magistrates' Court, not the Court of Heaven. Enforced auto-da-fé public confessions of guilt and remorse flourish in every marketplace and newspaper, with an ease that would cause even dear Tomás de Torquemada to draw breath and ponder.

All our gnats are filtered and all our camels swallowed. Thus it is that - with some growing trepidation - this evening I shall turn to the two or three (rarely more sadly) gathered together in His name and murmur: "We shall now sing Psalm 136 'By The Waters of Babylon', and if anyone is intending to nick me could they kindly wait until after Benediction?"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Children Of A Lesser God Indeed...

I'll say this much for Miss Lily - our local timber merchant and regional Witch-in-Charge - she runs a tight ship. With her you know just what you'll be getting (properly seasoned oak and naked but discreet midnight cavortings) and just what you won't (warped beams and blood ceremonials). Not much, of course, on which we do agree, but on this we both are firm: if there is one thing worse than organised religion it is disorganised religion. That way, indeed, do madness and terrible deeds lie.

Not that we have, as such, sat down and chewed the cud over the finer points of our respective and varying beliefs - rather lowering and pointless for both parties that would be - but I have heard enough of what is in and what is out of other world to know that Miss Lily will brook no truck with fly-by-night Sorcerer's Apprentices who, for example, would wish to use their 'powers' to summons the Dark One or - worse really - affect the outcome of the 3.30 at Chepstow. A gentle English natural paganism appears to be her thing and, perhaps, no great harm done possibly even some good.

I might even ever so slightly envy her the whole nookie angle; not, you must be assured, from any unrequited personal concupiscent spirit of mine, but rather you can't ignore the marketing pull of the thing. An hour of psalms and Benediction vs. a come-all-ye frolic - you can see how the one might have the edge when pitching to the undecided.

It is, though, less the effect on our respective followers that concerns me today and more the fall-out on innocent passers-by; collateral damage as it were. One reads of a gathering of travelling folk, allegedly a Christian revivalist affair. Very possibly so, but comes with it usual tales of sudden local spikes in thievery, chicanery and other knavery. Facts, of course, not mythical fictions matter here, but when one fact is mass depredations from shops by marauding children and another is windows being put in when the pub opts for the security of a lock-out, one begins to see a rather rum pattern emerging.

Heresy is, most often, an orthodoxy taken in isolation and gone thus utter bonkers. We read that the early Christian communities held all things in common. Perfectly splendid when a part of the whole package, but quite nuts when taken as carte blanche to helping yourself to anything, anytime, anyhow. Take the old monastic adage as your example: everything was 'ours' because nothing was 'mine', but that was not the occasion to be waltzing off with some other fellow's shaving foam if the fancy took one. Good heavens no, all hell would break loose if that were to happen and rightly so.

Came, some many years ago now, across a particularly unpleasant mob who took this and everything else to a most unpleasant, sinful extreme. 'Children of God' - remember them? Ghastly shower all round, much given to taking anything and anyone they wanted. Unwittingly, young Dean 'Drippy' Dewhurst and I - busking about the place as one did of a seminarian summer holiday - took a lift with a group of such once. Truck pulls over as we sauntered up the hot and dusty road. "Climb aboard," they jollily cried, "we're heading for [insert some long forgotten outdoor music fest where every second person you met thought they were the bass player with Hawkwind - lot of that about in those days] too."

So we did. First big mistake. Didn't take long for realisation to dawn. They were all American for starters. That doesn't come by accident let me tell you. There was clearly a purpose going on and it all too soon disclosed. "Have you let Jesus into your heart?" winsomely whispered this achingly beautiful young woman as we were but still settling ourselves into the back of the flatbed. A fair - if sudden and intrusive - question to ask one might suppose and one that, in the circs., might have been swiftly and easily answered in the affirmative.

Might have been, were it not for the bearded burly fellow by her side whose fearsome look quite said: "I've this stonking great bowie knife I carry with me at all times, and if I'm not satisfied with your answer I may just open up your chest to take a look for myself". Funny how much you can read into a look, but there you have it. 'Drippy' and I too, exchanging glances, were instantly as one in deciding the need for a good wholesome English counterblast. They let fly with their Jesus, we return the blow with our weather. "Awfully hot and muggy at present don't you find?" "Could do with a decent thunderstorm to clear the air wouldn't you say?" Not bad for a snatched strategy; you could tell they were pretty flummoxed by that one. 'Does not compute' said their startled gazes, which for a holding position was tolerably sufficient.

Awkward silences descending, we gripped tight our camping gear and ourselves, pondering whether a sudden leap off the side might be the lesser evil in the event of the renewed assault on our sensibilities and our souls that would surely soon come. Forestalling though that, the truck lurches to a stop and out pops the driver - head of the crew one instantly spotted - calling the troops down for a spot of impromptu depredation.

There we were by the sizeable front garden of a large and lonely house simply awash with fruit trees of many kinds. A pleasing prospect to behold from truck-side, though clearly the view from the house must have been quite opposite: a mob of hairy Americans about to pilfer and very possibly pillage the place. One very scared looking lady householder was indeed peering from her drawing-room window, giving just such a signal of alarm and outrage as she watched the hairy horde came steaming through her front gate.

"It's all free man," cried chappie. "The good Lord provides for his faithful. Come and help yourself." Rank, arrogant and abusive nonsense of course, a shameless and scandalous travesty of the Gospel. Putting that into rational and compelling discourse might have been the thing for another occasion. Here, however, more direct action was required. Dear 'Drippy' - never a sobriquet less deserved for a man so bold - at once directed what that action should be. "So we take what we want do we?" he yelled at chappie, as he slid into the vacated driver's seat. "Yeah man, do it for Jesus," replied chappie, as one who was fallen clean into the cunningly-laid trap.

"Well do this then fuckwit!" yelled 'Drippy' as he dropped the truck into gear and raced away down the road, leaving chappie and his motley crew amazed, outraged and truckless. There, of course, was I clinging on in the back of the flatbed as we bounced along simply grinning from ear to ear. "Terribly sorry old sport, don't know what came over me," said 'Drippy' after he finally pulled to a halt some five or so miles later. "Quite all right dear boy," I had to in truth reply. "I too might have used just such a rude word so provoked."

We pondered chucking the ignition key into the impenetrable roadside hedge before leaving all behind and sauntering on. Decided, on the whole, that would be just too knavish. Let them trudge the weary miles to reclaim their lawfully owned truck intact. Didn't seem entirely right, though, that they should be let scot-free to continue their godless ways unhindered. A couple of loosened spark-plugs was, therefore, our final homiletic message. Muscular Christianity of a kind. I would like to believe our Lord approved.

Miss Lily certainly did when I mentioned the matter over a shared pot of herbal infusion the other month, calling it 'sympathetic magic'. Nice phrase. Not sure I could use it in any sermon of mine, but I might just give it a go and see what happens. Could only but result in another rocket from Bish Tom. Never yet, I fear, found the right spell to keep that one at bay. Bound to be somewhere in one of those ancient tomes that so clutter the Rectory library. Could do with a proper indexing could the library. Might well set Curate Cuthbert about the task. Organised religion after all, that's the ticket for me.