Thurifer is looking forward to freedom
Footnotes in books sometimes provided more entertainment than the books themselves. One of my favourites is in A. J. P. Taylor’s English History 1914-1945 where he notes that the creases in King George V’s trousers were at the sides rather than front and back. In Henry ‘Chips’ Channon, The Diaries 1918-38 Simon Heffer’s editorial footnotes are a joy. One reviewer said that the footnotes were like reading the Almanac de Gotha to which you could add Debrett’s, Burke’s Peerage, and Jennifer’s Diary. The thrill of a footnote is that it expands the text and makes you want to know more, even though it may seem already to be more than enough. The one that follows is priceless and captures some of the flavour of the book. The Diary entry to which it is the footnote mentions “those ill-fated and fascinating sisters of Possenhofen”. “The Empress Elizabeth, the Countess of Trani; and also Sophie Charlotte Augustine (1847-97), Duchess in Bavaria, who married in 1868 Prince Ferdinand of Orléans (1844-1910), Duke of Alençon; Marie Sophie Amalie (1841-1925), Duchess in Bavaria, who married in 1859 the Duke of Calabria (1836-94), who succeeded his father in 1859 as Francis II, King of the Two Sicilies, who was deposed in 1861; and Helene Caroline Therese (1834-90), Duchess in Bavaria, who married in 1858 Maximilian Anton Lamoral (1831-67), Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis”.
Overheard” “You have put on weight.” “I was bored during lockdown.” “No-one can be that bored.”
Not unrelated, a garden bench gave way last summer. In large part, it had rotted over many years of exposure to the elements in my leafy suburb. Its twin in the garden suffered the same rotting but had not given way. It was time to replace them. There was only one choice possible, benches designed by Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944). Now best remembered for his design of the Cenotaph in Whitehall and the government buildings in New Dehli, a dazzling series of palatial constructions. There were also houses on a more domestic scale and there is Castle Drogo in Cornwall which makes granite a thing of beauty. The benches are immediately identifiable with the characteristic arched back and scrolled arms. They look very fine in their new setting. The garden bears something of the influence of his collaborator Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932). Although that had nothing to do with me, the garden was designed before I took up residence, I have long been an admirer. I am numbered among those who love gardens but have little or no interest in gardening. One of their collaborations was his refurbishment of the castle on Lindisfarne, off the Northumberland coast and her design of a walled garden that was recreated to her original designs some years ago. The garden of hers I should most like to see is Hestercombe House, Somerset. For some years, oddly, it was the Call Centre for the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. They remain united in death. She is buried in a family plot in the churchyard of of Busbridge Church, near Godalming. Lutyens designed the family memorial. Lutyens ashes are in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.
When our purblind successors of the Apostles (sometimes difficult to believe, I know) locked, bolted, shuttered churches, surrounded them with barbed wire and had towers staffed by archidiaconal heavies ready to fire off disciplinary missiles or missives, much liturgy went online. Much of it was very good and, given the constraints; booking, reduced ceremonial, limitations on choirs, no hymn singing (no great loss as far as I am concerned), satisfying. But there was a real sense of loss in not hearing live music, both liturgically and attending concerts. As some compensation there was one first-rate initiative in the online Fulham Holy Week Festival. The venues for the recordings offered beautiful settings; St Matthew’s, Kensington Olympia, All Saints’ Notting Hill, St Augustine, Kilburn, All Saints’ Margaret Street, St Gabriel’s, Pimlico. The musical offerings were Sung Compline, works by Merula, Henry Purcell, John Blow, Couperin, a form of Tenebrae, where the Bishop of Fulham read George Herbert’s The Sacrifice, Stainer’s, The Crucifixion, César Franck, Bach, Messiaen, de Grigny, Dupré. The impresarios were James Day, Daniel Turner and Tom Williams. They gathered a galaxy of fine young singers. This ought to be an annual feature of Holy Week, with a live audience / congregation as well as online for those unable to attend church. Although I was able to attend attenuated liturgies in church, these additional offerings made Holy Week a richer and deeper experience than I had anticipated.
As a pastoral precept “a problem shared is a problem doubled” has much to commend it. One of the disadvantages of the sustained period of lockdown was that there were few plausible excuses to miss a Zoom meeting. I will be busy reading a book, dusting, drinking a cup of coffee, staring blankly into space, all sound a tad feeble. Resignation sets in and you prepare to join some group, club, society or association and listen to the complaints and grumbles, gripes and miseries of much-valued colleagues and dearly loved sisters and brothers. The tedium can be throat-slitting. I yearn for the return of days when plausible excuses such as too far to travel, other more urgent, that is, trivial reasons that sadly prevent my attendance.