I WRITE from the former parish of the Catholic Herald. This august journal was for merly situated in Charterhouse Street, half way to the remnants of the Carthusian monastery where St. Thomas More spent a while as a novice.
However, before romantic ideas start stealing in on the reader's imagination with
thoughts of journalists writing in cloistered calm, i should say
that the office was sandwiched between a men's loo and a offal shop, with a backview on to railway lines and fronting on to Smithfield Market.
As the worthy journalists struggled each morning through the stench of dead animals, a mass of lorries, vans and trolleys piled high with meat, the air filled with the earthy language of the burnmarees (licensed porters), the office may have seemed a haven.
Not at ail. Any idea of quiet offices where a noble team hammers thoughtfully away to produce great incisive comment is again a dream.
Journalists, let me tell you, are forced to work in close proximity, they crouch round a large kitchen table, each with phone and typewriter, the table littered with press cutt ings, telex messages. reference books and telephone directories.
All this, plus the inevitable paper cup filled with some dubious, perhaps noxious mixture from a machine erratically marked tea, coffee or soup.
Then at certain moments in the week yet another worthy
"hackmakes his presence
felt. He seems to be engaged on some geometrical problem on a large piece of paper with
lines drawn seemingly at random. It is he who creates
the pleasing format we see in our printed copy of the paper. Add to this the Editor and subeditor and there's your full complement.
All this seems very pedestrian and takes the glamour away from what outsiders might think a glamorous world. But the way they work must be the right recipe for they have moved to shining new offices and created the sam,e slum.
WHAT'S IT LIKE to be a parish priest in central London, l'm often asked. At St Etheldreda's Ely Place there are few parishioners; the area is full of offices. But it is not a nine to five parish.
To begin with, we have a very large hospital, St. Bartholomew's with a priest employed full time there. At any one time, there are on average, 100 Catholic patients besides any number of nurses, doctors, ancillary staff and a medical college to boot. all in all. a population of several thousand centred in one place. Baru is a referral hospital so more deaths can occur than is average in smaller hospitals.
Practically all the daily newspapers are concentrated in the parish. a radio station is there and solicitors and lawyers ply their trade in large numbers. In addition if we don't live in the state of Israel, we are not far off for we are in the midst of the diamond trade situated mostly in Hatton Garden round the corner.
But the most important pastoral role is plain availability under what 1 term the anonymity of central London'. People just turn up, often from a distance with the introductory remark 'May I have a word with you, Father?' They are often people who would find it diffeult to
unburden themselves t.) their local clergy, perhaps because they are too well known. And am blessed or cursed with the characteristic that I never seem to rememberfrom day to day whom I have seen and sometime to my embarrassment not remembering what I exactly said.
I DON'T know whether the Charterhouse Chronicle has been noted for little facts of motoring history. Its regular, distinguished Chronicler (alas, now ill) has seen and commented on life in many parts of, the world but I don't remember motoring history being one of his fortes. But I would like to consign to paper the story of the Motor-Mirror before it is entirely lost. I feel embolden to write on such a matter as the only clergyman who has been a Deputy Clerk of the Course for the East African Safari.
A few years ago, I used to visit in Greville St, off Hatton Garden. and old. old man by name Joseph Pizzala. On the wall by his bed he had this notice which I reproduce here:
In This House — The first 'Motor Mirror' ever used was made — by the firm of — SAMALVICO AND COMPANY —As recorded at the time by the Editor (A. WILSON ESQ.) in "THE MOTOR".
Mr. Wilson, not being able to hear, wanted to see behind his car, when driving . . . A convex mirror, taken from an old mercurial barometer, was mounted in aluminium, in such manner that when fixed at the side of his car, near the driver's seat, he could see clearly behind the car; Without diverting his attention from in front.
Mr. Wilson's Advice, that the idea should be Patented, was not considered justified, in view of the doubtful commercial prospects. Shortly afterwards, it became compulsory, by law, for all Motor
Cars to be fitted with "Motor Mirrors".
SOMA LVICO AND COMPANY (Scientific Instrument Makers) COMPANY SEAL
18 Greville Street — Hatton — London In terms of this world's goods, it's a heart-rending story for it doesn't need me to tell you that a computer would be needed to work out just how many car mirrors have been produced. I used to tell the old man that his family could have owned half London with the motor industry thrown in for good measure if they had patented their idea. And he would smile and fraily shrug his shoulders.
IT IS the beginning of the year. Christmas is past. but is there a sense of the 'twelve days of Christmas'? So much carousing and jollification is crammed into the days before the feast that people are exhausted and sated when the feast arrives. Yet Advent should be a type of Lent, so let's start a campaign to spread the festivities. How sensible and appreciated are those who have their Christmas parties in late Januaryand February.
What of the New Year? We shall be spared the blather about the start of a new. decade; %Nell be conscious that we're a year older:
that allis not well with the country and indeed the world: that whatever policies are pursued, old human nature is there to mess them up, that 'self or sectional interest is rising steadily on the graph, but this is nothing new. The world has been getting worse since time began according to all the writers from ancient times down to our own. But there are basic qualities of love and faith in God and people that will survive so with prayer and sorrow for sin.
P.S. Some of you should have received Christmas greetings from me by now but I've used the time writing this. So please accept this inadequate offering in lieu.
1 Patrick O'Donovan is sick