MY WIFE is ill, and has to lie abed. It is rather unfair, since it is I whom am meant to be the sick member. As a result, however, 1 have to do most of the cooking and washing-up which I have always meticulously avoided except when her late father came to stay.
TBut our common enough misfortune has had side-effects. People stop me in the street and say: "Where's that wife of ours?" I have no good answer. hey want neither my self-pity nor any clinical details. Being human, they expect to hear only "much better today."
11 has also had the most wonderful effects. A very good neighbour brought in a rice-pudding the other day. Have you eaten one lately?
he are quite ravishing and, I am told. easy to make.
Perhaps it is because this is a small town and well acquainted with death, but the reaction to illness is realistic and wise. I am tempted at times to believe that people are naturally good. They arc certainly much happier being good than being bloody_ Carefully fostered, the image of my helplessness has not gone unnoticed. Mothers of lots of children come to the door. won't come in, you're too busy, hand in sonic delicious dish and hurry off. To coin a phrase, it takes the breath away.
Because it is known that today is the day I write this Charterhouse thing. I have been told not to cook and someone is bringing in the entire luncheon. It's almost as good as living over a restaurant.
I once did. During the war, on leave, 1 used to take a room over the White Tower in Charlotte Street and that is still a Greek (Cypriot really) restaurant and one of the very best in London.
I seem to remember that I lived on honeyed cakes and retsina because I was inadequately paid for my heroic work. But we were young
then, and soon marched that lot off. The only trouble was that Augustus John had another room in the house, and made a fearful and curious amount of noise.
Anyway from my present impasse I have learnt a series of things. First there is the goodness of friends. And most of the kindness comes from our membership of the parish, Someone is going to drive my wife to London to see a. specialist. The priest brings Communion every day.1 do not, as one of Irish extraction should, meet him with a bell and a lighted candle. I am the helpless victim of that English Embarrassment Factor. But we do not speak until the Presence is delivered.
Someone gave me six of the brownest eggs I have ever seen. When my sister, an excellent cook, last Sunday, was having a restful bread and cheese, I was warming up a navarin de mouton.
I have also learned other things about running a house. It is not necessary to make the beds every day, If you brush the stairs down and keep the kitchen fairly clinical, the rest of the house looks after itself. Throw all left-overs, letters and handouts away. Newspapers left lying about give a room a gracious. lived-in look. Flowers arc a nuisance, but look well in the church. And, writing of the church, I have an obiter dictum. If you find you have come to Mass without money, take the plate round,
This bit is a dreadful piece of journalistic self-indulgence. I have the rare opportunity of saying "thank
you", if not to the sound of trumpets, at least in print. I really want to proclaim our gratitude.
Catholic Herald at bay
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is a noble and successful paper with pronounced political views. Its best feature is "The Way of the World", a box column that is stunningly witty
and of even more pronounced political views.
I used to know its writer quite well. He never raised his voice above the inaudible, but when he gets into print he shouts the world down. I think it is the best purely Right-wing feature in our journalism, and to do this day after day is far worse even than writing Charterhouse.
However, he has_ taken against the Catholic Herald and he is thinking of awarding it the "coveted reversible Three Piece Suite" for being "the most promising Leftwing journal of the year."
It cites us on Rhodesia, Archbishop Lefebvre, ecumenism, the role of the World Council of Churches, detente, etc. It also cites a report of a lecture by the Archbishop in Rome. One cannot complain. One enjoys it when he does it to others.
I thought of composing a lofty reply. But we are determined to be humble at all costs. I thought of being rude, but that would not be nice. I thought of cringing, but then I do quite enough of that when I get things really wrong.
Someone here suggested a reply rather like this: "Dear Peter Simple Honestly, what a week it's been. First you at us last Friday, then on Monday the BBC's "Radio Burps" saying they'd got news which would sell the Catholic Herald in Mecca.
What's to become of us?
"Here in the commune there is already worry about how your settee and chairs are going to look on our lino. If there's no cash option we'd really rather one of those Red Chinese bamboo chair sets. Habitat do them.
"There's worry, too, that we're losing award points with our issue last week. Page one had
about Catholics getting honoured by the Queen, compounding the un fashionable loyalty displayed by our Jubilee Supplement a week or two before.
"The front page improved with a picture of the Albanian revolutionary, Mother Teresa, and shc got practically a whole page inside too. But are we really helping ourselves when we balance off Kevin McNamara's sterling column week by week with running-dog stuff from Norman St John-Ste vas?
"if we want, moreover, to keels our progressive backsides on hard chairs for another year, the entire. page on helping Soviet dissidents and the sufferings of Russian Jews must guarantee it. "This was all of a piece with the lead story on Cardinal Hume corn ing right out and saying it for human rights; went on about prisoners in Russia and Lithuania as well as in South America. Hopeless.
"Then we went and topped it all off on the back page by having that bloody-fisted revisionist Patrick O'Donovan (Observer, you know) wittering on about the cost of canonising people, a burial in a Ferrari, and the joy of a pretty child in white for her First Communion.
"As for Archbishop Lefebvre and your reaction to the US agency report we carried on his Rome address, we own that this was scarcely the fairest reportage on this matter we have carried.
"But do get it clear that in aligning yourself with this prelate in his genuine anguish it is not in particular the Catholic Herald you are laughing at: your target is the Holy Father and the Catholic Church as a whole. Just so long as you know.
"Got to dash: lunch with Mgr Trendilefti.
But who would sign it? So it was never sent and somewhere deep within the 'I elcgraph's majestic halls there is a sad humourist who thinks us a dangerous, dishonest and subversive lot, We'll just have to offer it up. But if ever an office needed new furniture, it is ours.
A few days later Peter Simple wrote the same sort of stuff about The Universe. So there is no heartrending tonight in Charterhouse street.
Choir takes the plunge
SOME TIME ago there was a colossal and rather painful row within the bowels of Westminster Cathedral that concerned the master of the music, Colin Mawby.
I have never been given to understand what it was all about, though several good men have tried to explain. I suspect that the clergy throughout history have been indifferent employers of labour and artistry. After all, they got the Sistine Chapel dead cheap.
Colin at present has a year of Sabbatical leave from the Cathedral. But in 1972 he founded the New Westminster Chorus. He started it to give concerts in the Cathedral. Cardinal Ileenan helped it. Cardinal Hume has deruffled all manner of feathers.
Well, anyway, this choir is now going to sing with the London Mozart players on Saturday July 16 at 7.30 in the evening. It is going to he the artistic equivalent of an orgy. The choir is going to sing Handers Engishly baroque Coronation Anthem, "Zadoc", and Mozart's Requiem. The orchestra is doing Beethoven's 5th symphony. Beat that!
The choir is not now specifically Catholic. Colin started it with a small legacy and collected around him it growing number of civilised people who simply li ked to sing.
And England was once famous for its delicate passion for singing. The choir sung within Queen Anne's Footstool, which is the charming four-towered former Church of St John in Smith Square, where politicians live round about,
The choir, now more than 100 strong, is young in membership, and in taking the hall it is taking the plunge into the big time. The concert is being sponsored by one of the singers, James Barber. He went to school with Colin at the Westminster Choir School which, after financial visits, seems to be pretty certain of survival_
James Barber's firm has. produced seeds since 1875 in Hertfordshire and, the managing director, he has sung in the choir since it started. The whole enterprise is marvellously civilised stuff.
People who go on about the decay of music in church and live within a tank gun's range of the Albert Hall really ought to go. For Colin Mawhy is not only a friend: he is one of the people to whom I defer as an artist, I suppose you can get the tickets at the Albert Han or usual agents.
And white we happen now to all be inside Bentley's majestic Cathedral, may I firmly remind you that the International Festival of Flowers and Music will now he on there while you read this paragraph. It is going to be a great deal more ecumenical than the do at St Paul's. Sixty different countries, and some of them not even nominally Christian, have done displays. I dare not write about what they look like. They have not happened yet. Part of the proceeds are going to the Queen's Silver Jubilee Appeal about which, you may remember, himself of Wales was rather good on television.
India is bringing in flowers from the Himalayas and their own florist from Bombay.
The details sound entrancing. Japan and Korea, who each have a proud and ancient mastery over living flowers that leaves the rest of the world behind, are sending us experts in their national arts, The United Arab Emirates, which is that rich and hot coast beside the Gulf called Arab or Persian according to your attitudes, arc going to tangle up the Edwardian byzantine ' chandeliers with masses of flowers. The Indonesians are going to send the image of their ferocious national bird, Darudda, done in flowers. And if that does not entice you nothing will.