What a week! I came home from Spring Harvest with the ominous pricklings of a sore throat beginning. Thursday I had to officiate at two funerals, and by then the sore throat was developing and I felt kinda low. Obviously unless you have actually been hit by a truck or something, you can’t back out of taking a funeral on the day – having written the eulogies and deceased-specific prayers etc etc. So I continued as per normal, but during the first funeral my temperature plummeted until I thought I was going to pass out or throw up or something. I gritted my teeth and f o c u s ed and we got through.
At our crematorium there is no place for clergy to hole up between funerals – they took our room away and gave it to the bearers. But in the corner of the crem attendant’s office by some coat pegs they had a chair where they let me sit. Opposite a mirror. Fascinating. I texted Hebe to tell her I looked like a ded Bodhi. All in black too. Wish you’d seen me. Yellowish white with not even red eyes and shaking violently. I sent a message for the Badger to come and get me the minute the second funeral was through, and at home they all prayed for me which was most necessary and effective – I still felt like a small glacier in Funeral 2 but not like I would fall over or be sick.
Once home I had to get into my PJs and into bed. The tribe had put two hot water bottles in my bed ready, plus some flowers and snacks and a glass of water on the nightstand. Sweethearts! I got undressed, saying to myself over and over “You can do this. You can do this.” Then I collapsed into bed and my whole body shook like it was being electrocuted for a little while, and the hot water bottles began to thaw me out. I relied on them for a bit until my temperature went up . . . and up . . . and up . . . I floated about on hot clouds for a bit that day and night, and by the morning I was betterish. Since then I’ve felt just kind of . . . ill. My throat got very sore – then better. I got tired and breathless – then improved. Then by yesterday I’d got this mother of all coughs that sends me into turbo-super-powered hacking spasms with tears pouring down my face every now and then just for a fun surprise. And it’s raining and blowing a hooley and as cold as an Alaskan popsicle with added liquid nitrogen.
All this week (part of not feeling very well, I think) I’d been feeling fed up and depressed about the state of the world, the church and humankind, and a bit lost in the fog and generally pointless and like giving up.
So by this morning I'd gotten to feeling kinda sorry for myself.
Until the mail came.
There were two really nice letters from the next of kin from the two funerals saying how pleased they’d been with them and how just right they were. That was lovely.
But best of all, a letter from Sister Mary of St Joseph of the Notting Hill Carmelites to whom I’d sent a bundle of books earlier in the spring. She’d written when she got them, to say thank you, and I thought that was nice and didn’t expect to hear from her again.
But it turns out their correspondence was on short rations for Lent, and she had more to say. She said she really loved the Hawk & Dove books and thought they should be compulsory reading for every novice (you have no idea how pleased I feel that she said that). And best of all, she sent me (as well as a book about the Carmelite tradition of prayer) a DVD that I’d really wanted to see but I couldn’t obtain anywhere – a tribute made by their community to one of their sisters (Sister Patricia Mary of Jesus) who died two years ago of pancreatic cancer.
And this DVD is called “Never Lose Hope,” which is something Sister Patricia Mary said to her sisters after a very difficult evening just four days before she died.
The community the DVD comes from is the one in the wonderful No Greater Love, so I feel as though I almost know them just through watching that film.
I’m going to make myself a hot drink, then curl up and watch this DVD right now!
Oh, God bless Sister Mary of St Joseph – that’s cheered me up so much!
Yes, I know – there are not many women who would seize a homemade film about a nun dying of pancreatic cancer and shriek “Oh, wow! That’s the film I’ve been looking for.” Just a special select few on a tiny planet orbiting round a question mark at a suitably safe distance from the earth.
By heck, it’s cold today! I need a doughnut!
Ditching the ironing board! Yeah, man! You better believe it! Hahahaha – hooray! Yes, there are still some items we occasionally need to iron, but we have kept our kitchen table so that’s OK.
Cranks Cookbook. Let me tell you, when in 2002 I moved in with Bernard to his cottage all kitted out with the belongings of his previous wife Anne (that was how I knew him – we met when someone recommended me to him to take Anne’s funeral back in 1997), I was delighted to find a copy of the Cranks Cookbook, because I’d been in their Covent Garden restaurant often before it curled up and died, and loved their food. "Go, Annie!" I thought, "Fab choice!" I never actually cooked anything from it, but when Bernard died a couple of years later and I moved out again, it was the one thing that wasn’t mine I took with me. That was in 2004. It stayed with me in my tiny apartment in St Leonards for a couple more years, during which time I never even opened it. However it was Cranks Cookbook, so I carefully packed it up with the rest of my stuff and took it up to Aylesbury when I married the Badger and moved north to be with him in 2006. It stayed on a shelf there with the rest of the cookery books, and because it was the cherished and hallowed Cranks Cookbook it escaped the cull of further downsizing when we moved back to Hastings at the end of 2009.
This is 2012. I have never, not once in ten years, consulted that book for any recipe whatever. When I cook, I just make it up as I go along. Fiction cooking. I sent it off to the Oxfam bookshop so the non-fiction cooks could have a go.