AS I chew another mouthful from the top of my Biro the paper in front of me remains as blank as ever. The furrows deepen, the pen gets shorter and I pause to raise my hat to the real Charterhouse for whom there is no substitute.
On some far away beach no doubt he rests, soul at peace, straw hat over his forehead, bucket and spade by his side, trousers rolled to the knees and jellyfish playing with his toes, enjoying the rewards of honest labour.
Authentic Charterhouse we salute you. How week after week you manage nearly two thousand interesting words is beyond my imagination. Perhaps somewhere in darkest Hampshire there is actual]) a whole factory of Charterhouses with departments devoted to church history. travel, saintly oddities, episcopal vagaries, ecumenical rompings and even church music. That is a consoling thought. I'm probably standing in for a whole cottage industry, a co-operative of O'Donovans now all lined up on some faraway beach together. Which is quite enough to get me going ...
THE remarkable London parish or St John's Islington produces new initiatives at a rapid rate. One of the latest Islington schemes is a holiday cum retreat house at Totland Bay on the Isle of Wight administered by the parish and run by hardworking Sister Mary.
The list of those, especially children, who would not otherwise have had holidays is a long one and the situation is ideal, The beach is only two minutes walk away and there are plenty of hills to climb. When I was offered a few days there recently 1 did not need much persuading especially since I have long been convinced that south of a line drawn roughly from Pulborough to Peterslield the sun shines constantly.
So it was last week. Blue skies, green grass, white cliffs and little boats dotting the sea in every direk lion Rot he group in occupation at Totland Bay this time was not quite what I had expected.
Led by Fr Jim Kennedy of the Westminster Diocese, the house held a large group of mentally handicapped teenagers and their companions. It was quite an experience for me and a lesson in loving care.
The were not always easy. Some could not speak. One or two could be violent. Most were unpredictable and all needed constant care and supervision. That they got in generous doses from the volunteers who, for the most part, had given up their own holidays to make this venture, one of the many good works of St Josephs centre at Hendon, possible.
My few days turned out to be very creative. Other problems slip into proportion when you are faced by a young person whose mind is injured, whose horizons are limited but who offers so much trust. The Isle of Wight gave me more than a sunburn.
SOME %■ceks ago I joined a group of about 1500 people who went to Molesworth in Huntingdonshire where the Government if it is allowed, intends to base yet more American nuclear weapons, this time cruise missiles. With about 60,000 such weapons of various sorts already disfiguring this planet it does seem to me that we need yet more like we need the proverbial hole in the head. We have not of course been asked, but that is another matter.
On that rather windy Molesworth day I was handed a short leaflet about a place called Little Gidding only a few miles away. It was known to me only as the title of one of T. S. Ehot's Tour Quartets', a poem certainly profound but one which leaves me rather out of my depth.
That there had been once a Church of England community at Little Gidding inspired by the saintly Nicholas Ferrar in the 17th century I knew, but that a community existed once more was news. The leaflet from this new cornnumity said things that I liked. This group was formed it declared:
'To live together in love and Jaith and joy.
To bring together Christians of all denominations and all others who seek God.
To live simply, without wastefulness nr greed.
To ha .e concern for all the pc-ples of the world.'
Most of us have I suppose some kind of yearning at times for community life based on such sensible Christian elements.
It was therefore a pleasure recently when driving down a rather wet Al to be able to turn off to Little Gidding and to meet some of today's community.
The little church hich the first Community used is still there. beautifully cared for and the centre today for daily prayer and the Taize office. The original Ferny manor house is no more, but the same spirit of shared lives in the spirit of the Acts of the Apostles is still there, About 20 people. including children. make up the present "family". Some arc married and some single. Sonic work at Little Gidding itself, some in local towns or further afield. Every Saturday night the entire group meets in prayer making it possible for members who come from a variety of Christian traditions to attend their own churches on Sundays.
The eight acres of land surrounding the present buildings are used for vegetables, fruit and hay and is the home for an assortment of cows. calves, pigs and hens. But this is not an escapist adventure. On the contrary says the literature, "we are a small part of the movement towards the renewal of community within the church and in society-.
Not for all of us to gallop off to Little Gidding and if we did there wouldn't he 100111. Nevertheless
such experiments, by those prepared to try to make ideals work in the real world of today, deserve our interest and support.
If you would like to find out more for yourself write to:
The Little Gidding Community, Manor Farm, Little (lidding.
1 Itintingdon0i ire.
World of work
I I IS not so long ago that I visited a young Filipino couple living in a large run-down block of council flats in central London. Their second baby had just been baptised and, as with so many of their nation, I was again charmed by their gentle courtesy and real appreciation of the smallest effort made on their behalf.
When I visited I realised why they both looked so tired. Both worked in different sectors of the I..ondon hotel trade. Tony worked all night in the kitchens getting home to sleep for a couple of hours before Rosario set off for her cleaning job.
On the way she put the elder child into school and left Tony with the baby until she returned at 4pm. He then fitted in another two hours sleep before a meal and leaving for his job.
It is a true story. That it could happen has something to do with the exploitation of foreigners in the hotel and catering industry; something to do with the need that such workers have to support their families at home; and something to do with the way in which we can live side by side with others without satarting to appreciate their problems.
For those who would like to know more about the real conditions in the hotel industry I recommend the Counter Information Services "Hardship Hotel" costing 85p which has just landed on my desk. it Ls a report prepared by two researchers at the North Kensington Law Centre who interviewed 80 London. hotel workers during 1979 and 1980.
The long hours and split shifts. the hostility to trade unions by management, the rapid turn over of staff, the niggardly wages, the illusions that we have about tips, the semi-slavery of the work permit system, and the insecurity of living-in accommodation when provided, are all well documented. How a chambermaid in one of London's largest and best known hotels could be thrown out of the room she had lived in for 15 years at 4S hours notice I cannot understand but so it was in a 1979 episode.
On reading this report I thought again of my Filipinos, of the job queues in Mortimer Street where men sleep it cardboard boxes to he first in the line for casual work in the morning, and of the contrasting luxury enjoyed by customers. Ina society based on productivity and
profit it should he no surprise that the weakest go first to the wall. Perhaps we should reserve our indignation not for employers or the system but for ourselves for failing to notice. •
LAST WEEK I visited Oxford en route for Iffley. The best way by far to get to Wiley is to walk along the river from Folly Bridge admiring the view and eventually crossing at the lock.
I was on my way to St Edmund Campion's secondary school. It was holiday time and the school might well have been closed but it wasn't. Tar from it. This year again, Pax Christi with the greatest of co-operation of headmaster and schoolkeeper have been using the school for one of their summer hostels.
These institutions are too little known about and yet, if welcoming the stranger is part of the Christian message. then these hostels have been doing a central job for the church in this country for the past fourteen summers.
The first to open was in St Patrick's primary school then in Soho in 1966. The need was evident: hundreds of younb, people from many parts of the world, rucksacks on back but nowhere to sleep and the start was simple — camp beds, plastic plates, cornflakes and we were away, never to look back. Within two nights that first temporary hostel with 60 beds was full to overflowing and so it has been since although the demand for tourist accommodation of every sort has clearly dropped in 1980.
This year there were three hostels in London, one in York and one in Oxford. All were open for about four weeks and all depend on the goodwill of the school authorities.
Oxford in 1980 was quite typical. The team of workers, like the residents, came from many countries. Noel was a Tanzanian student of economics at Moscow University, Karen a British student teacher from the La Sainte Union college in Southampton. Filar a biology student from Madrid and Helen was studying chemistry at St Andrews.
They and others welcomed me and provided me with the cheapest hamburger on the market at 15p each plus generous slices of brown bread. The guest list made interesting reading. Not only were all the European countries represented as one might imagine, but there were others from much further away, Australia. Hong Kong and even Japan. Each hostel turns itself into an effective model of the United Nations.
This year one of the London teams had working with them a recently ordained priest. Fr Michael Sadlier of the Society of African Missions so there was a weekly Mass, social and get together for all the workers. The "season" now is over, bunkbeds are down and classrooms again look like classrooms. Memories of friendships made and of welcomes extended last much longer: indeed more than one marriage has resulted from these summer meetings. Over these past 14 years no one could count the number of those who have found a place to stay where otherwise there would not have been one. Oxford this year alone provided no less than 2,000 "bed nights" for summer visitors.
The pity is that the season has to be of such short duration. True the main demand is in the summer but there is a steady year round need as well which Pax Christi has no way at the moment of meeting. If therefore some kind benefactor has a nice London house hanging heavy on their hands where a more permanent hostel for short stay visitors from around the world could be created then please do not he shy in coming forward. The rewards will be great .... in heaven.
SIGN in a cottage garden at Alum Bay, Isle of Wight.
'Being in love is like a sweet dream. marriage the alarm clock' What can that mean? CMAC please advise.