Letters to the Church Magazine – Mid-October Special

Dear Sir

I was tidying the churchyard last week when a strange priest arrived.

However I have to stress I did not know he was a priest. From his open-necked shirt I assumed he was an accountant on “Dress-down Friday” at his office, nipped out from Banbury to eat his sandwiches. It was only from his posh accent and insistence that he alone was right about everything that I realised he was in fact Giles Fraser.

Mr Fraser – I cannot bring myself to call him “Fr Giles” or “Reverend” as he does not wear a dog collar – was on an expedition to find out what a rural church was. He told me that St Leodegarius was unnecessary, that it was too empty, that our rainbow banners were too insistent upon their association with Noah’s Ark, and that our church is a glorified rural bus stop and should be run by the council. I pointed out to him that our (Conservative) council had no desire to run a toilet-less 800-year-old building with a leaking roof in a small village, and he seemed to foam at the mouth.

He then asked why we did not have a Wednesday group for Sikh single mothers; where he could get a Starbucks; and where the nearest Tube station is. I told him because there are no Sikhs for miles around; Banbury; and That London. He shuddered and went off to revere a photograph of Jeremy Corbyn to settle his nerves. Then he bought a postcard of the church and went over the stile into Leys Meadow. I last saw him being chased by a flock of sheep, screaming “the country demons have come to get me!”

He’s not hoping to be the curate, is he?

Yours etc

Jenna McKenna, Tremlett Road, Woodby

October 2015

Dear Sir

I would like to clarify what happened last week in the incident that has become known as the “Fist of Peace”.

I wish my fellow-Christians peace. I am happy to respond to the words “Peace be with you” with the words “And also with you”. I would prefer “and with your spirit”, as that keeps it on a spiritual plane without any implication that we need to worry about the peace of people’s bodies and minds. Don’t bear thinking about, bodies.

But I object to people running around shaking hands, or attempting to hug other people. Especially when the “other people” include me. That is why I have taken to wearing a sweatshirt bearing the logo “Exchange the Peace? No thanks!” on both front and back.

But despite the sweatshirt, and the badge saying “I do not shake hands”, and the “All I am saying is give no Peace a chance” hat, somebody still marched up to me and held out their hand to share the Peace. Naturally, I did what any self-respecting introvert would do in these circumstances. I punched him in the eye.

I do not understand how, when my personal space was so clearly violated – against my clearly-stated wishes – suddenly it is I who have “problems”. I do not see why I have to be grateful to Mr Myles for not pressing charges when he returned from A&E. And I certainly do not intend to pay for the repair of the churchwarden’s wand that I smacked him over the head with. The churchwardens have another wand – if they’re as magical as they think, they can cast a spell to fix the broken one.

I would like to stress that I will not be avoiding Church on Sunday. I will be there, in the same pew as normal. Wearing a large cardboard box and carrying a taser. I expect there to be no more trouble.

Yours etc

Shaz Smash, “Lemony Grove”, The Snicket, Woodby

Dear Sir

A short-term respite from the idolatry at the so-called “holy well”? I thought so, but I was, needless to say, sadly disappointed.

The archaeologist leading the dig told me that, with the oncoming autumn, it was going to be necessary to “put the lid” on the dig until the sun returns next May. The water level is, apparently, too high for archaeological activity.  And so I was glad to see his irreligious, atheistical bottom removed from the site.

But I fear he has done enough damage already. A group of new-age “pagans” have decamped into the garden and, living in a teepee next to my caravan, are disturbing my early morning sleep with songs to the goddess Diana.

I believe that, in good weather, they may dance naked in the dews of dawn. It has not happened yet, but I keep an eye out just in case.


Yours etc

Martin Moraine, “Purity Caravan”,  The back garden of New Rectory, Great Tremlett

Dear Sir

The Autumn Fayre was held this year on 19th September. This is clearly in Summer, but I will let that pass. We already had that fight at the PCC and it is safe to say there are families in the valley that won’t be forgetting what happened for the next few centuries.

I’m pleased to inform you that the Fayre raised £244, a dozen conkers, a squirrel and an old bloke called Jerome. If anyone wants Jerome can you please come and collect him? He has already eaten the squirrel.

Yours etc,

Fennel Bailey, The Old Orchard House.

Dear Sir

Once again the Mothers’ Union had an animated discussion at our September meeting. Our new member, Stephanie, failed to understand the concept of “Mothers’ Union”, and asked whom we had recommended for the Labour leadership. When she then found out that we were not paid for our jam-making for the forthcoming Advent Sale, she demanded we went on strike to demand a Living Wage.

I would like to apologise to the Vicar for our inability to check Stephanie’s over-exuberance. After she called him a “scab” during the monthly Morning Prayer and Coffee, she went out and threw red paint at the vicarage. However the good news is that, having done some calculations, she worked out that Rev Nathan is actually paid, at an hourly basis, less than the Minimum Wage.

As I write these lines, I am aware that Stephanie is currently chained to the railings of the Bishop’s Palace. I am really considering whether it is time to disband the branch, and join the Women’s Institute.

Yours etc

Dolores Measle, “Chafing”, Old Street, Woodby

Dear Sir

Once again I am disappointed in the Church Website. I typed in the URL but the site was dark, with no discernible writing. My nephew tells me this is because I have not plugged the computer into the mains, and that in any case I have no WiFi. Well, this is true. My Wifey left me a few years ago after I could not agree to her suggestion that we buy a non-stick frying pan. They tell me that it was the American space programme that invented non-stick pans, and I did not want to run the risk of attracting the attention of the CIA. And what sort of spelling is “WiFi”? These modern modernists may enjoy their alternative spelling, but it is just posing as far as I am concerned. She will always be “Wifey” to me. Or, at least, she was.

I went to bring this up with our Social Medium, Doris. But the moment she opened the door and saw it was me, she said “You’re going to come up with some stupid complaint about the website, aren’t you?”

I think she may have psychic powers.

Yours etc

Chesney Peterson, Walnut Grove, Lt Tremlett

Dear Sir

Every Christmas, we have a new real Christmas Tree. Every year. A nice big one – costing anything up to, I estimate, £74.22. And every year on Twelfth Night we throw it into the hedge behind the North Wall. I do not believe the Church of England has produced an authorised liturgy for this activity but it would be nice if they did. However, I digress.

How do we prevent this annual waste of money?  My theory is that we could buy a living tree in a pot, and then tend it through between Christmases. In theory for the purchase of one tree up front, we could save money – and the tree become more impressive – every year. But could we get the trees through six weeks in the relative darkness of the church and then the following summer each year?

To this end, I bought a Christmas Tree last advent, kept it in a shed until Twelfth Night to simulate the “standing in the church” experience, and then tended to it in the allotment. I regret to say that, in the extended period of high pressure at the end of September, I was on holiday and it died. Obviously this is a risk every year – who can guarantee a safe summer for a tree every year? and therefore I conclude that we should not try this approach.

Naturally I suffered some expenses in the purchase and tending of a living tree. I therefore include an invoice for the treasurer to the value of £74.22.

Yours etc.

Norbert Dranesqueezer, Chester St, Grilsby-on-the-Hill

Dear Sir

Once again the shops are full of Christmas produce! But after my mistake last year with buying mince pies too early, I was not going to fall for it again.

Instead I bought all the chocolate oranges. The entire shelf full – they were 20% off. And I was fortunate in this respect when, returning to “Rodney’s Rest” last Sunday after enjoying the afternoon in the Hanged Man, I discovered I had no other food in the house.  So I settled down to a simple repast of chocolate oranges and creme de menthe.

In retrospect, the fourth orange was a mistake. I spent the rest of the evening convinced I was a chair – which caused a great deal of confusion at Evensong when, I regret to say, I was very offended that Mrs Saint insisted on using a pew instead.

My sweat has smelled of orange essence ever since the occasion, and I am attracting wasps. I am afraid I will have to avoid church until my leaves have dropped.

Yours etc

Major J Dumpling, “Rodney’s Rest”, Little Tremlett

Dear Sir

A Michaelmas Service again? I am sure we had one of these last year. This appears to be becoming a bit of a habit.

I was a sergeant in the Air Cadets. We would have stopped this kind of rot.

Yours etc

Chas “Charlie” Charkles, Hanged Man’s Close, Gt Tremlett.

Dear Sir

Once again it was a joy to support the vicar by “standing in” for many of the Trim Valley services during his vacation. And the people of Great Tremlett were so happy to use the Roman Missal again.

I did miss out on Evensong at Grilsby-on-the-Hill on the last Sunday of Revd Nathan’s holiday. A very strange event indeed. I was just about to leave the Old Vicarage when I received a phone call. A muffled-sounding voice claiming to be “a Churchwarden” informed me that there was no point in coming out for the service, as the boiler in the church had exploded, burning down the church.

I did ask whether I could help in any way – by consoling the no-doubt distraught parishioners who had lost their much-loved place of worship. But the caller told me that the woods had caught fire and melted the road, and there was no way through. So I settled down to a quiet evening and said the Evening Office in my parlour – remembering the sad events at Grilsby in particular.

Imagine my surprise in the morning when I discovered that the road to Grilsby was open, and – on driving up to Grilsby – that the church was standing. I was pleased, but baffled.

Catching up with one of the Churchwardens, I discovered that neither of them were admitting to the phone call. Fortunately, however, the Reader, Doreen, had happened to be at the service, and was able to lead the service and preach a sermon in my absence. How fortunate that she happened to have a sermon that fitted with the text – which was especially fortunate as I was preaching from the 1873 lectionary. And how blessed they were that she should have been there – when normally she worships at Little Tremlett!

I hear there were rumours at the “Blue Bear” that a strange figure had been seen that Sunday afternoon, lurking in the church yard, making a phone call while wrapping the phone in a blue scarf. I am unsure if this were related. If only I knew who was responsible.

Yours etc

Canon Vyvyan Westcliffe (Retd) (But still available for occasional offices), The Old Vicarage, Woodby