Tears for souvenirs
Neil Pickford tries to decide if he is a soppy old git.
I’m a normal man, born and brought up in a time when Real Men kept a stiff upper lip in time of crisis and didn’t blub.
Not even if your leg was falling off.
No, all this sissy public weeping and flowers-by-the-roadside stuff wasn’t invented until the death of The People’s Princess and, even then, was probably imported by nasty, foreign agents who were Enemies Of The Queen (God bless ‘er).
So what trauma had brought about this display of lacrymosel laxity on my part?
Well, as so often in life, it wasn’t a single huge event that had transformed my behaviour and reactions, but a series of smaller ones.
I suppose I’d been emotionally weakened by the ending of a fairly long-established relationship between two people of whom I am very fond.
I’d seen it grow from the beginning, been delighted by how happy they both were and then noticed that things were obviously not going so smoothly.
Perhaps it wasn’t a surprise but, nonetheless, I couldn’t help feeling the tears and hurt involved after the breakup and, to my amazement, I started welling up.
Darn me, it’s starting again, even as I type this blog – what’s the matter with me?
Then later the same day came another event that was both similar to the above, and yet wildly different at the same time.
On Sunday evening the Minster said goodbye to its Associate Vicar Nick Drayson and his wife Catherine, as well as their children Sam and Steffi.
They’ve been here for nine years, pioneering a new way of getting the church into the lives of people, especially young families, living in housing estates miles away from anything like a community centre.
The success of their efforts was underlined by the number of faces at their farewell service, many of whom hadn’t been seen in the Minster before.
As mentioned in a previous blog, Nick and Catherine are heading for the tropical region of Latin America where they will make a new home in the jungle, tending to the needs of many threatened Indian tribes.
Nick is becoming Suffragan Bishop of North Argentina and his will be one of the more unusual and least glamorous postings of any bishop in the Anglican Church. He has described it as being a bishop for a group of people rather than a specific territory, which is the normal way that these things work
They will be 180 miles away from the nearest centre of ‘civilisation’ and, especially for Nick who has had a taste of ill-health in recent years, that’s a bit of a gamble.
In fact the whole process of leaving the comforts and wealth of 21st century Beverley for a much more hand-to-mouth existence, on the strength of where they feel God wants them to work, is one that many of us would find hard to understand, harder still to undertake.
Yet when the old ducts started to drip I don’t think it was because I became aware of losing them because, after all, there’s e-mail in the jungle these days. In addition my wife is firmly convinced we shall meet up with them again one day.
It wasn’t a sense of personal loss that prompted my unexpected reaction. Nor was it any sense of loss on their behalf – the one word they refused to use was ‘sacrifice’, quoting instead the poet Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
I’ve a horrible feeling that my reactions were down to a simple emotional overload on my part, the mental equivalent of: “Out of Control, Reboot,”
In old style Doctor Who or Fireball XL5 you’d see a robot thrashing around at this point, sparking and uttering: “Does not compute, destroy,” whereas the human merely pours water out of the most convenient orifice.
Much less dangerous.
However, I think these tears demonstrated that I’ve been becoming more emotionally open in recent years and it’s a bit unsettling. If you’ve gone through your life largely ignoring or being unaware of the feelings of others then this comes as a considerable shock – learning that other people matter as well.
I blame the Minster for it all – they keep prattling on about caring for other people and you can only say: “yeah, alright, I’ll do that then,” for so long before something eventually takes root.
It’s sneaky, it’s dangerous this Christianity stuff if you live in a society where you are what you have and what you can get. Strip away the I-phone, the holidays and the new car and what is there left?
I think the answer I’ve learned is ‘Everything, when you know what you’re looking for.’
It’s a shock to the system, but it’s magnificent as well because there’s the shared joy as well as the sorrow – there’s a depth and texture to living that hasn’t been there before.
Many of you probably already know this and think I’m a silly old fool for leaving it so late in life to learn.
In my defence I might say I’ve only been working in the Minster for a couple of years so I’ve not been confronted by it on a daily basis until recently – and it’s taken that long to sink in.
It’s a transitional phase I’m going through – which is why I’m as unstable as this bloody computer which has crashed on me more than a dozen times while writing this blog.
I can’t wait to see what’s coming – and if it includes another computer then that’s all to the good.
Or am I missing the point?
As an aside: over the years I have developed considerable ability in reading other people’s handwriting. It’s an essential skill when you’re a newspaper editor, trying to decipher a would-be contributor’s letter, particularly if it’s written in green crayon – as many of them were.
It would never do to confuse ‘Allen’ with ‘alien’, for example – let alone ‘public/pubic displays’.
So it was rather embarrassing to read a forthcoming tour diary entry as: ‘No Crude Language School’.
“That’s me out then,” I thought, wondering which paragon of linguistic virtue I could allocate to that group.
I eventually studied the note a bit more closely. Properly it reads: “No Guide, Language School.”
The writer had left a little kink out of the ‘G’ and a crucial comma. Sometimes it’s the little things that are important in life.