Saturday, 4th November, 2023

[Day 1328]

Today has been quite an emotionally compelling day for a variety of unconnected reasons. We know that we were going to see our friends in the Waitrose cafeteria but before this, we popped by the newsagent to collect out newspaper as we do every day. I knew that our newsagent had been ill with a lung complaint but when I asked his wife how he was this morning, she burst into tears and cried ‘All I want is my husband well again’ I did what I could to comfort her which was not very much and I just hope that the hospital to which that they are trying to get referred in Leicester (which specialises in heart and lung complaints) can give him some timely and expert treatment. We then progressed on to see our friends and met up two of them – the third had possibly cried off because of the bad weather as it was generally raining cats and dogs. We knew that we might have a visitor just after 11.00 so we beat a fairly hasty retreat to get home in time. The person who was due to visit us was a Eucharistic Minister from our local church and as Meg is so frail and unsteady on her feet these days, the minister has offered to visit us about once a week when this is possible. It turned out that the eucharistic minister was a professional musician and played the cello when occasion demanded for the Birmingham Philharmonic so she was quite intrigued that I had started off my orchestral career as a violinist but all of this had to go when I changed to schools to one with no musical tradition at all (which was quite a culture shock at the time) We exchanged some musical stories and, as befits the occasion, I played the first bars of ‘Lead, kindly light’ – the Cardinal Newman hymn and Cardinal Newman is one of the nearest that we have to have to a saint absolutely local to the area. We had a little table upon which devotional objects were placed as well as some candlesticks which I just happen to notice in a charity shop a few weeks ago and had bought for an occasion such as this. We had a small and intimate little service which I must admit I found quite emotionally compelling and more so than if we had actually attended a church service. We exchanged some reminisciences of a generally liturgical and theological nature and found that our stance on many issues was pretty closely aligned. For example, we were both of the mind that the prohibition on Catholic priets marrying was just a twelfth century ordinance designed to stop a dynastic succession in the monasteries of the time which could have formed a countervailing power in the land. So we had a wonderful morning and, all being well, we can repeat the experioence at weekly or fortnightly intervals. So the morning absolutely flew by and then it was time for lunch of a bought-in chicken and vegetable pie with an accompaniment of broccoli and some baked tomatoes.

After lunch, I busied myself with putting a coating of beeswax polish on our captains chair. Given the ‘fiddly’ bits (technically, turned legs), this took about 20 minutes to apply, followed by about 10 minutes of resting time and then followed by twenty minutes of buffing. The chair is now as good as it is ever going to be and I will only occasionally need to replenish the beeswax polish but now that the job is completed, I took a definitive photograph of it for the record. I have also managed to locate a practically identical chair that was being offered on eBay so I have managed to download the .jpg file illustrating this and now have the two images sitting side by side on my phone. I must say that the comparison is illuminating in the extreme. The chair I purchased was a tad over £50 whereas the one still offered for sale on eBay was £150 + a further £50 postage. It is very gratifying to be able to be able to say, hand on heart, that I believe that the restoration work that I have performed makes our acquisition seem to the the superior of the two chairs but I will leave it to other people to judge the two photos side by side and see if they come to the same conclusion.

The third emotional moment of he day came when Meg and I decided to watch on BBC iPlayer the biopic of Vera Brittain, the mother of the Labour and then SDLP MP, Shirley Williams (The Testament of Youth) This is really all about the horrors of the first World War and one of he most emotional moments in the film is when Vera has promised to marry Roland on his next spell of leave from the fighting in France. But on her wedding day, about half an hour before the ceremony is due to take place, she receives a phone call telling her that Roland has been killed. She subsequently finds her injured brother, Edward, who she nurses back to health. Some of the nursing scenes from the battle front were harrowing – Meg and I decided to pause the film at that point and to come back later to view the story of Vera Brittain’s conversion to the pacifist cause. It is not that Meg and I are particularly squeamish but we needed a break for tea in the late afternoon and will look forward to the completion of the story tomorrow.