Advent letter 2018

Leningrad bookshop as was

Leningrad bookshop as was

Yesterday a friend told us that she hated Christmas letters. This is because, she said (rightly in our experience), she is fed up with hearing how perfect other families are, mum and dad sustaining the world economy with their cottage industry, fighting corruption and reversing global warming, though—hypocrisy alert—this seems to involve a fair bit of travelling on aeroplanes. The children of this perfect family are truly chips off the old block and are already in line for Nobel prizes.

It doesn’t occur to the writers to put a sticker on the envelope advising the ingestion of antiemetic medication before opening.

This may well be the last of the Monkhice “Advent” letters since the Vicar has it on good authority that the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England, in its continuing suicidal quest to be relevant and trendy, will abolish Advent from 2019. It will be replaced by a series of “Sundays after Black Friday”, the liturgical colour to be vermilion red to reflect the resultant bank balances. The season of expectation is thus replaced, in line with the zeitgeist, by that of instant gratification. The residents of Burton vicarage, in their loyalty to all liturgical innovation, have enthusiastically embraced the spirit of the age by consuming the first tin of Celebrations. Actually it’s plastic. Can you have a plastic tin?

Susan and Stanley went to Barcelona in February. It snowed. We liked Barcelona, especially the old part. Stanley was not impressed by Gaudi. Despite, or possibly because of, reading History of Art at Cambridge, he thought a five-year old could have done better. The Sagrada Familia is over-rated and looks as if it’s melting, and Gaudi’s tiles are not as good as the ones in Carlisle station jacksie where there are also some interesting and educational messages on the wall.

Speaking of which, himself got into trouble in Sagrada where he was desperate for a wazz so went to the loo, or tried to. But a Guardian of the Porcelain refused him entry on the ground that it was being cleaned. He was reminded of an episode in Leningrad, as was, in 1987 when in the bookshop on Nevsky Prospekt young Hugh, nine or so, said he needed the loo. Stanley went to the counter and said to the assistant “gdye twalette pazhalusta?” The response was “nyet.” This exchange was repeated. Stanley turned to young Hugh and suggested that he go into the corner of the shop and “piss on the floor”. The assistant then escorted the pair of them to the staff toilet. It just goes to show.

The next outing after Barcelona was to Cumberland in August where the Vicar officiated at the wedding of his grandniece in the parish church of the village where he spent his childhood. It was a lovely occasion marred only by the fact that his left eye, the blind one, was very painful. Examination the next week revealed that it was about rupture as a result of arteries bleeding into the vitreous humour, so he had a little operation. It is still not right, not painful but irritating. He wanted them to take it out so that he could have two glass eyes, one with red sclera so that he could pretend to be Dracula when it suited him. Or rather half Dracula since the good eye does not (yet) have a red sclera. Actually, the good eye isn’t that good. It has glaucoma and a cataract. He won’t drive on dark nights any more. This is wonderful since he can miss meetings. He told his parishioners that there would be no more evening meetings in the winter. They were delighted. Fewer meetings for all: truly a win-win situation.

The trip to Cumberland was combined with the Vicar giving an organ recital in Whitehaven. Surprisingly perhaps, West Cumberland is full of good organs for which there are various reasons, one of which being the profitability in the 19th and early 20th centuries of mining and heavy industry.

Our other jaunt was by train to meet medical school friends in Leeds. Decades since we last saw some of them. Apart from these trips, and occasional visits to Ireland, it’s difficult to prise Monkhice from Burton.

Stanley’s hearing is disimproving too, again not without benefits in meetings. They have mouths, and speak not: eyes have they, and see not. They have ears, and hear not: noses have they, and smell not. Susan’s hearing is not great either but her vision is good. She can still thread needles. She spends a lot of time crocheting and stuffing things—toy animals that she makes along with friends at The Making House which is in posh Burton, that is to say, the other side of the river.

Stanley was reminded yesterday that 2019 marks 50 years since he started third level education. He says education, though he’s inclined to the Alan Bennett view that education is what’s left when you’ve forgotten everything you were taught. This year was 30 years since he became Professor of Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Like birthdays and anniversaries such things don’t move him much, but they are reminders that tempus fugits. As it fugits he looks back over his life and he’s reasonably happy given that he doesn’t want to be boring—indeed he thinks boring people should be exterminated—and he would like on his deathbed to say “my God that was a helluva ride”. Or royud as they say in north Dublin.

After having being led a merry dance over the past few decades, Susan has chosen the retirement home. Not Penrith, as previously suggested (that was a crazy idea – she says so herself) but here in Burton. It’s a 2-down 3-up with a long thin garden in the town centre. The question is when? Himself is required to quit his job no later than 6 June 2020 when he’ll be 70. He could go earlier. He could apply from year’s extension in order to see the assistant curate through the first three years. We shall see.

Stanley learnt long ago not to make statements on behalf of other people, so all he’ll say about the rest of family is that Victoria and Edward are well, delightful, quirky, so not boring, in Dublin—as is Shane, Victoria’s husband. Abby and Adriene are well in Texas. We are of course in regular contact with them. Adriene remarried this summer so we hope that they will have stability after a tumultuous time. Abby is coming over next summer and we look forward to that. Hugh is always in our hearts. It is indeed true that he shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Which reminds me if you want to read my Remembrance Sunday sermon, you’ll find it on my blog. Google Rambling Rector blog.

Happy advent, sorry I mean happy season after Black Friday. May whatever force you believe in light up your life. And remember, sin is life unlived.

4 thoughts on “Advent letter 2018

  1. There are certain subleties concerned with the use of the word ‘ride’ and its pronunciation in North Dublin which will not be obvious to the untutored, whether from England or more foreign parts such as South Dublin. Of course people from such salubrious areas are unlikely ever to find themselves on the North side of the Liffey, but should such a mishap befall them a knowledge of the local
    language might be the difference between being robbed at knifepoint and some less successful social interaction.
    The word ‘royud’ would only ever be used by a man and refers to a (largely) cooperative enterprise which he hopes to engage in with one or more women after an evening in the pub. It is probably a mythical entity and the effect of the alcohol is to make its non-occurrence a matter of indifference in prospect and spurious memory in retrospect.
    ‘Roide’ by contrast is a word only ever used by women, and is used by one woman to another to describe a man whom the speaker would consider (almost invariably with astounding degrees of inaccuracy) as an appropriate father for her children.
    A third variant is ‘riyed’. Again this is only used by women, and is difficult for the non-native to pronounce as it is uttered in a specific sneering nasal drawl which requires years of practice to master. Women use it to refer to an acquaintance, usually a close friend, who is perceived to have inflicted a slight on the speaker (often by preemptively interacting with a man identified as a roide by the speaker). The expression ‘ya little riiiyed’ often presages one of those episodes of sisterly violence which (I am told) may be viewed on the internet.
    I do hope this helps.

    • It does indeed. RR, of course, is neither native nor inhabitant of the Holy City between Liffey and northern arc of the M50 – and never has been. He merely visits that land of milk and honey from time to time, laying down his weary head on such occasions in Finglas – or Glasnevin East (although it is more north than east of the eponymous cemetery). That does not inhibit him, however, from experimenting with the vernacular, and hopes that such essays are seen as acts of love and admiration – which is indeed what they are.

      RR will be gratified to learn that he used “royud” correctly in that he is a man, albeit neutered (or what passes for a man in these confused and confusing times). In part correctly too, he instructs me to inform you, in that he sees life in general, and the life of an individual creature in particular as a sublimation of the activity to which you refer in the context of the word under consideration. Incorrectly, however, in that RR now restricts his libations to cups that cheer but not inebriate.

      Nevertheless, mindful of your definitions of royud, roide and riyed, RR opines that royud best fits the bill.

  2. I wish I had met you months ago … or, at least, whenever you started to ‘blog’. What drew me to you was your name – Rambling Rector is one of my favourite roses. It’s perfume alone is worth a visit to the two spots in the Garden at Blickling Hall where it flowers but once each season.

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