ACharterhouse 11, vChronicle +4 IN THE great London marathon On Sunday there was a surprise appearance by a distinguished cleric particularly well known to readers of the Catholic Herald. Cardinal Grotti's many admirers will not be astonished to learn that he did not actually run in the race, but — as seems only fitting — he was carried.
By permission of his Boswell, John Ryan, he travelled on the Tshirt of one of the competitors, Mr Andrew Nurnberg, a literary agent, who was running in aid of the restoration appeal for London's only pre-Reformation Catholic Church, the worldfamous St Etheldreda's, Ely Place.
The patronage of so enthusiastic a fund-raiser as Cardinal Grotti is certain to have been helpful; but the Rector of St Etheldreda's Fr Cunningham, needs all the money he can get for the urgent and extensive work that has to be done on the walls, roof, drainage, lighting and organ of his church, which dates back to at least 1251 and is both historically and architecturally a structure of national importance.
He tells me the appeal seems to have had a promising initial success, with about £58,000 received in cash or formal promises so far. But the present estimated need is for £200;000.
Charterhouse has already said that donations should be sent to St Etheldreda's (Ely Place) Restoration Appeal, 14 Ely Place, London ECIN 6RY. It will probably do so again from time to time, because St Ethedreda's has so clearly become the special church for Catholic journalists in London.
A good many people will remember Douglas Hyde's story in I Believed, of how, when moving towards Catholicism from the ardent Communism that had made him news editor of the Daily Worker, his at first seemingly baffled efforts to pray to Our Lady there played a crucial part in his conversion.
"I knew my search was at an end," he recalled. "I had not talked to nothing." Outside he tried, to remember the words of his prayer and almost laughed. They had been those of a 'twenties dance tune:
I WAS at St Etheldreda's recently, arriving rather too early for the evening Mass that preceded one of the supper meetings of the Guild of St Francis, which is for Catholic journalists. I spent a little time looking at the famous west window, because I had recently found an early drawing of it which was new to me.
I think it may have been made during the period in the late 1870s when the crypt was already in Catholic use, but the church over it, the old chapel of the Bishops of Ely, was still derelict. I would like to know what might have been the curious hut-like structure than can be seen through the window. There is certainly nothing like it in Ely Place now.
Today, the window's geometrical tracery is filled with the rather grand stained glass designed for it by Joseph Nuttgens when Second World
War damage was made good. This is said to have made it the only church window in London 'to have some Gaelic words on it. They appear beneath the figure of St Brigid, who is depicted because the crypt, when it was opened for worship, was mainly used by the many Irish families then in the neighbourhood, and was therefore dedicated to her.
St Brigid, or Bride, also has a link with journalists. She never left Ireland, but was venerated the world over; and one of the 19 churches dedicated to her in England is St Bride's the famous journalists' church in Fleet Street, London.
Mirth in the East
AT THE Guild of St Francis supper someone asked me if I had found during my time for instance. They love them, of course. But I could only remember one. This is about Soviet science making the big medical break-through, discovering how to bring" the dead to life. Naturally it picks as its first subject the great man past whom so many good Soviet citizens and a lot of tourists file daily in the Red Square mausoleum.
The treatment appears to succeed, and Lenin sits up briskly, and says: "Take me to my old office. Bring me the files of Pravda since the day I died. I am .not to be disturbed. You can leave food for me on a tray outside the door." Several days pass and then one day the food tray is found not to have been touched, and this happens again and again. Gloomily the doctors wonder if perhaps their experiment has failed to have lasting effect.
Eventually, in great trepidation and accompanied by the entire Politburo, they break down the office door and enter. The room is knee-deep in torn and crumped copies of Pravda. but Lenin has vanished. On his desk is a note. It says: "Gone to Geneva. We have to start again from the beginning."
It so happens that if I had been asked about Russian political jokes a day or so later. I would have been able to pour out a stream of them, because I was sent a new collection, called Russia Dies Laughing, edited by Zhanna Dolgopolova, a Russian emigre now living in Australia, where she teaches in the Russian Department of Melbourne University. Andre Deutsch are its publishers, and it costs £4.95.
A good many of the stories show that this kind of thing in the Communist world can be much the same as in the West, just as crudely bawdy, and more so than normally gets into print. The main interest — as a fact, and not merely to imply disapproval of dirty stories — is in the light that is cast on what really irks those who live under the Soviet system, on the degree and nature of popular cynicism, and on grass-roots opinion about the leadership, the realities of political life, the official myths and the world outside.
The book also gives some indication about what Russians are like, including the fact that to a great extent they much resemble the rest of us.
The book does not contain my Lenin story, but it has much that conveys the same kind of message. For instance, the propaganda machine's exaggerate_d_praise of Soviet achievement, which so often causes amsuement in the West, is similarly viewed by many Russians. One story that suggests this is a joke version of a Tass report about a race between Nixon and Brezhnev, which Nixon wins. It simply says there was a race in which Brezhnev came second and Nixon last but one.
Another story seeks to sum up the whole history of Soviet Communism. Stalin, Khruschev and Brezhnev are travelling in a train whch breaks down. "Fix it!" orders Stalin. Work is done, but it still doesn't move. "Shoot everyone!" orders Stalin. This is done, but the train remains halted. Stalin dies. "Rehabilitate everyone!" orders Khruschchev. They. are rehabilitated, but the train doesn't budge. Khruschev is flung out. "Close the curtains," orders Brezhnev, "and pretend we're moving!"
The book itself is perhaps summed up with a tale of Presidents Carter and Brezhnev chatting at a summit meeting.
"Do you collect--stories against yourself?" asks Carter. "I certainly do," says Brezhnev. "Do you have many? asks Carter. "Two camps full," says Brezhnev.
The bodies politic
BY COINCIDENCE with this book which contains so much about what people say of politicians, I've received another
which tells what the politicians, past and present, have had to say for themselves, The Book of Political Quotes, compiled by Jonathan Green and published by Angus and Robertson at £5.95. This one I shall keep. The preface expresses the view that the book's 3,000 or so quotations make clear that for all the fine words and fancy phrases, politics is about power, the "hard dealing of hard men" — and to hell with the losers. Well, this is largely true, but there's a lot of wit, too, and fun of various kinds.
How about this exchange for studied rudeness?
Bessie Braddock, MP: "Winston, you're drunk!" Winston Churchill: "Bessie, you're ugly; and tomorrow I shall be sober." Tories seem generally to have been rather good at abuse, notably the suave Disraeli, who contributes a large number of withering descriptions of opponents. Of Robert Peel he said he was reminiscent of a poker, the only difference being that a poker gave off -occasional signs-ofwarmth; and he described Peel's smile as "like the fittings on a coffin".
Americans also shine (if that is the proper word) in this section. Mark Twain says of Cecil Rhodes: "I admire him, I freely confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake." Then there is Henry Adams on Theodore Roosevelt, of whom he said: "To President Roosevelt we ascribe that quality that medieval theology assigned to God — he was pure act."
In more modern times, I liked Cyril Connolly on George Orwell: "He would not blow his nose without moralizing on conditions in the handkerchief industry."
Among modem Americans, some of the people who didn't quite reach the top display the most polish, particularly Adlai Stevenson, who said of Nixon that he was "the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree then mount the stump for a speech on conservation."
Some quotations come from surprising sources — or do they? Who do you suppose said this: "We must keep America whole and safe and unspoiled. We must keep the worker away from Red literature and Red ruses, we must see that his heart remains healthy." No, you're wrong.lt was Al Capone in a letter from goal.
I've been picking quite at random, and I'm sure the collection contains many riper plums. I'll offer you just one more — about religion. It's-from-President Eisenhower, who takes so much stock from sharp-tongued contemporaries that it is a pleasure to record him using words well on his own account with this definition of an atheist as "a man who watches a Notre Dame — Southern Methodist game and doesn't care who wins."
Someone in Scotland will surely now say the same thing about a Rangers and Celtic soccer match, perhaps when the Pope gets to Scotland.