7th June               Corpus Christi – The Body and Blood of Our Lord

Paul tells us that the Body of Christ is made up of many parts, and indeed, the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. (1Corinthians 12.22). Let’s not get above ourselves, most of us are more like fingernails than brains or biceps. But we are needed from time to time.

Fingernails can be cracked, broken, ingrained with oil and dirt from hard work. Nurses, though, and chefs need spotless nails; my brother who is a chef will not consider offering a job to anyone, however charming, who comes for interview with dirty nails.

Other nails are pampered, decorated, miniature works of art. They seem to suggest that their hands never get dirty. Of course, some of these nails are in holiday mode, boosting the confidence of the rest of the body for the challenges of a night out.

We may be no more than fingernails in the Body of Christ, but we need to take care of ourselves, scrub those nails so the rest of the body is not made ill when we feed it, maybe dress to impress occasionally, but above all, be ready to get dirty in honest hard work.

Channel Weather

lettuce.redlettuce.greenFrom high on the hill I could see the dark curtain of rain butting up the Channel. Would I reach the station in time to avoid a soaking?

I had just been reading in Wood Avenue Library how, in August 1917, an engine driver had ‘sagaciously’ reduced his speed when a formation of Gotha bombers flew over his train. Sagaciously indeed, since the railway was a target of this raid and the unexploded bomb that hit the track might well have been detonated by a passing train.

As for me – I escaped that squall but its sisters raced our train along the South and East Coasts. You can see them here behind the fields of red and green lettuce that have grown visibly in the last week.

I got my soaking a couple of hours later, when thunder and lightning, wind, rain and hail descended on my daughter’s back garden. Mrs Turnstone had hers yesterday, walking the White Cliffs, her breath taken away by the wind. Hold onto your hats!

That word ‘butting’, implying stubborn progress, comes from John Masefield’s Cargoes, verse 3:

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,

Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,

With a cargo of Tyne coal,Road-rails, pig-lead,

Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Mice with Wings

Ten winters ago we put the nesting box in the pyracantha outside the kitchen window. Blackbirds have built on top of it, twice, and small birds have used it as a winter roost, but now it holds a blue tits’ nest. These tiny creatures, also known as titmice, are close relatives to chickadees.

I’m glad to have them around, since they eat  lots of insects, including the aphids on the apricot tree. So the tree never gets sprayed to keep them fed and the garden alive with birds. Mrs Turnstone is mighty pleased, and it’s a joy to see the cock fly in under cover of the bushes along the public footpath. I think Mrs Bluetit is still sitting on eggs.

Meanwhile, as well as the starling in the eaves nearby, there is a robin in next door’s yew and somewhere in the ivy on the wall is Mrs Blackbird. Collared doves are in the birch, wood pigeons in the lime planted after the hurricane, while a hedge sparrow singing opposite the kitchen window means his hen must be nearby. House sparrows seem not to be nesting with us this Spring, but before now they’ve had the second brood above our bed after a first elsewhere. The cuckoo I’ve not heard for a week or more which is probably good news for the hedge sparrow.

Our roses are at least two weeks behind last year coming into bloom. No Mermaid yet, nor Alberic Barbier; there are some roses in South facing gardens up the street, but turning onto the footpath there is a noticeable drop in temperature out of the sun and into what can be a wind tunnel, channelling the SouthWesterlies that come along the road opposite.

Pay attention to ME!

An urgent piping at next-door but two’s eaves, answered by a parent starling through a bill full of baby food. If reedy means sounding like an old Hammond Organ with a worn felt pad or two, this was a reedy concerto.

An urgent piping in our kitchen: no concerto, but the washing machine demanding not to be fed, but to be turned off at the end of the job. Only too happy to obl …

World Dylan Day

Today is Dylan Day. Despite a swell of opinion that Dylan was not a religious writer, I find the evidence points to a deep spiritual awareness and yearning. Here is a taste of why I see many parallels between him and Augustine.

At the end of the fourth century Augustine of Hippo opens his masterpiece, the Confessions, with these words:

To praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’

1550 years later,  Dylan Thomas, would tell John Davenport that his poetry was written for the love of man and in praise of God; indeed the prologue of his Collected Poems tells how he sought to obey his calling and overcome his fears to:

‘… build my bellowing ark

To the best of my love

As the flood begins,

Out of the fountainhead

Of fear, rage, red, manalive.’

The poet Kathleen Raine affirms that however chaotic his lifestyle, Dylan’s poetry is ‘holy’, laid out ‘with as much love and care as the lock of hair of a first love’, and confessional, in the double meaning that Augustine intended: a recounting of experience entwined with praise of God: Dylan’s awareness of his work as prayer grew as he matured. His masterpiece, the radio play Under Milk Wood, also opens by invoking Creation, familiar from Genesis and John’s Gospel:

‘To begin at the Beginning:

It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black.’

Here are two books written by men in mid-life, although Under Milk Wood would be Dylan’s last work. This is the story of a community of people like him, saints who are sinners, a Welsh City of God, funnier and warmer than Augustine’s version. Sadly we mortals may not yet linger there.

Dylan had seen Llareggub builded here, in Wales, the Chosen Land. It is no mean city, although it is little, like Wales, and like Wales, or the Churches of John’s Revelation, it is on earth as it is in heaven. Dylan was nurtured at the same source as Augustiine; if philosophy opened the wells for the bishop, poetry released for the ‘spinning man’ a flood to float his cockleshell ark, and, we may hope that ‘the flood flowers now’ for him, beyond the ‘breakneck of rocks’ of his life.

Mayflower and more

Riding across the marsh it was mayflower, mayflower, all the way, creamy white, with the odd pink flowered bush: the hawthorn has occupied the nomansland between railway and rough grazing, even veiling the derelict coal sidings.

The blackthorn’s flowering over, it is putting on growth, with just a hint of pink in the bright green leaves.

Once on the Isle we come to market gardens – long, straight, raised beds, tended by narrow tractors, watered by self-propelled sprinklers. Stripes of burgundy and bright green lettuce contrast against the mustard yellow of the oil seed rape (colza) behind.

Before the air-conditioned trains rolled in, there were days when the traveller would be blessed with the penetrating aroma of newly harvested onion. Progress has its price!