I got back home to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago, after spending a bit over a couple of months in Chantilly, doing locum ministry at St Peter’s Church. Susie got home a week later. She had spent from September to January down in Wycombe, close to Joanna and Craig, and to Jem and Anna, and their families. And then she was back down in Wycombe again in February helping with the grand-children during their half-term.
With hindsight I am a bit ambivalent about my time in Chantilly. Susie and I had committed months earlier to being there from Advent Sunday through to the middle of February. But she stayed in Wycombe so I went by myself. I think I wanted to feel that I was doing something useful. And the congregation at St Peter’s were appreciative and hospitable. But outwith Sundays I spent quite a lot of time walking round the race-course and along the canal. And listening to Lectio 365. Should I have come back to Wycombe to be with Joanna sooner ? The answer is probably yes. Joanna Trollope’s phrase comes to mind: “A vicar is a man who is aways away being wonderful somewhere else.”
Direct fights from Paris to Edinburgh were all full, so I flew back via Amsterdam. On the second leg a KLM air-hostess to whom I’d spoken briefly on the first leg made a point of bringing me a cup of tea and a slice of cake. For which I was very grateful. By contrast Edinburgh’s very good public transport system was a bit lacking. My tram from the airport threw us off at Shandwick Place because of works on the track in the town centre. After which the driver of my 30 bus failed to stop when requested at Marchhall Crescent. And when I remonstrated he was abusive. Very unusual since most Edinburgh bus drivers are friendly and very patient.
The house felt a bit cold and unfriendly when I arrived. Which isn’t surprising since neither of us have lived here much since last September. I am grateful for a heating system that works. We were customers of the now defunct Bulb energy supplier, but have transitioned to Octopus without any visible change. Before Susie’s return I was living off Sainsbury’s packet asparagus soup with croutons. With the occasional treat of fish pie. The ultimate comfort food. And reading Donna Leon, who is the fictional equivalent. I think she is an excellent writer. Apart from the delights of the Venetian background, I love the dynamics of Brunetti’s relationships with his wife and children, and then with his colleagues at the Questura. Most prominently with Signorina Elettra.
A day out
Susie’s train from King’s Cross was over two hours late, problems caused by a signals failure at Morpeth. So she was re-routed via Carlisle. I walked round Princes Street and George Street noting the shops that are no longer there. Jenners of course has been empty for some time, and a fireman was killed in a blaze there while we were away. The Edinburgh Bookshop [more recently Waterstone’s] has gone from George Street. And I am sorry that Fopp’s has gone too..
For Susie’s birthday we took a Car Club car down to Berwick on Tweed, taking the scenic route through Gifford and over the Lammermuir Hills. I remember walking several times from Longformacus up past the reservoir to Twin Law Cairn. And we also remembered Joanna doing her Duke of Edinburgh award scheme hike, camping up there on a very cold November night. As we came though Duns I reflected that Joanna spent nearly a quarter of her life here.
In Berwick we ate in The Maltings, the cafe attached to the theatre and arts centre. Good food and a good view over the roofs of the lower town. The last time we were here, about eighteen months ago, we were with my younger brother, Peter, who died last year. And there was time after to call at Northern Edge, a high-class coffee roaster, and to walk round the town ramparts in a cold east wind.
The state of the nation
I haven’t wanted to write anything about UK politics since the demise of blustering Boris and the, thankfully short-lived, era of the gormless Liz Truss. Now the departure of the saintly Nicola has occasioned a lot of comment. I think Sturgeon was a hard-working and sympathetic politician, who handled COVID well, and was a huge improvement on her predecessor the shifty Alex Salmond. But I fear that standards in education and in health-care have gone backwards under the SNP. My best guess is that enthusiasm for independence has peaked, and that Sturgeon’s departure will ultimately benefit the Labour party. Part of me is delighted that Kate Forbes, a professing Christian who is happy to voice her Christian beliefs, may be the next [very young] leader.
The stop press news is that Rishi Sunak is selling the new Windsor Agreement on the grounds that Northern Ireland will benefit enormous from gaining access to the Single [European] Market. Which makes me wonder why the rest of the UK can’t enjoy that benefit too ! Wycombe’s MP, the ardent Brexiteer Steve Baker, has seen the light. I wonder if other ERG members, the unspeakable Rees-Mogg and Lance Corporal Mark Francois, will vote against the deal. And, if they do, whether Rishi will remove the government whip from them. Just asking. Hopefully.
One thought on “Through a glass darkly – 92”
Ha! Our communications crossed quite neatly, and revealed a lovely coincidence: I have just embarked on my first Donna Leon, vintage 2022. Beautifully written, and by an 80-year-old! Not quite so my update – spotted at least one typo since pressing send… perfection really doesn’t seem so important these days 😂 I always enjoy your blog Chris, and lovely to see pictures of you both, but very sorry to miss you in Berwick!! A la prochaine, espérons 🙏