Day 10 – Noke

Anatomy of a tiff!

Last night I told General Jane that she couldn’t map read for toffee. She told me that I was less than supportive – in fact, what she said was rather less ladylike than that. She referred to my ancestry and she listed some of my less than savoury habits. She then slouched to bed without saying “good night darling” as she usually does: she watched Downton Abbey on her screen while I watched Newsnight, both of us in a brown study. When I went to bed I turned over so all she could see was my right shoulder.

To my silent fury, Kariba, the cat, went and sat on her chest, not mine. That irritated me more than anything. The bloody cat knew what was happening and was taking sides!

On the Tuesday morning, we decided that as neither of us is going to leave the other – for who on earth would take us in? – we had no option but to kiss and make up:

I said, “sorry Darling, it was my fault entirely ”. Jane immediately agreed and so we stopped acting like children.


Today was apparently the AGM of the ZANE branch of the “Otmoor and Islip Ladies WI and Golfing Society” who decided to walk with us. I have no idea how many people were there but I have made a note to ask Dominic Cummings where to go to in Barnard Castle to have my eyes tested.

A hard walking day.

Revolutionary Acts

I was asked by one walker why I was a Christian. I asked whether she had read the Book of Acts.

GK Chesterton wrote that atheists have to be careful about what books they read. They should certainly avoid the Book of Acts for it relates how 12 ordinary and randomly chosen fishermen, without formal education or training of any sort, morphed into courageous martyrs who ended up transforming the world.

Jesus knew from the start that his recruits were, to put it politely, not academic. In fact, they were all over the place, without a clue as to who Jesus was or what he was about. Running away, lying ineptly, sinking in water, hacking off an ear, deserting Jesus when the going got rough – they could have been any of us.   

It wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection and after his message had been tattooed into their flesh that these ordinary men grew into courageous giants, prepared to die for the truth. Wholly hopeless and ignorant small-time fishermen at the outset, they ended up being changed so profoundly that their words have tumbled down the ages to teach Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer and today’s thinkers in the Church. Their transformation dramatically changed the world.

Yet if these 12 hadn’t met Jesus, they would probably have lived rather boring, workaday lives. I imagine them fishing, marrying and bringing up children – and then taking care of Granny and Grandpa before finally dying anonymously in their beds.

But instead, because Jesus marinated their lives with the word of God, they chose to live as penniless vagrants who were flayed, crucified or stoned to death.

It’s a truly terrifying story and not for the faint-hearted! Perhaps we all instinctively know, deep in our souls, that if we get too close to the real thing and realise that the Gospel is not about respectability and morals, our lives will undergo a dramatic upheaval. And thinking sceptics will have some explaining to do: if the transformation in the lives of these ordinary men was not a supernatural intervention, then what exactly was it? What could have brought about such a revolution?

The Great and the Good

On most days, I tip my hat towards Churchill’s grave, sited only 200 yards from where we live. There he rests under a simple slab with Clementine, his parents, his son, his brother and all his children. It’s just a simple country churchyard. But when your reputation is indelibly stamped on the memory of your country, you don’t really need a vast memorial, do you? 

And of course he will be remembered, for he is one of the rare ones, a giant who will be celebrated as long as our ancient history is told. But it’s a select club. We have of course the great composers and writers, names too well known to have to list. And then there are the outliers like Christopher Wren whose memorial in St Paul’s states, “If you would seek my monument, look around you.”

But most of us will be forgotten pretty soon. Even the once quite famous are destined for near oblivion. Can you list the prime ministers who served before the last war? Have a go. I’ll start with Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin, Asquith (what was his first name?), Henry Campbell-Bannerman – but are they in the right order? No cheating, mind! And who remembers the names of their foreign secretaries? No, neither can I.

The point is made by Michael Heseltine, surely the greatest politician in the past 50 years never to have become PM. Although he was deputy prime minister and held many of the great offices of state, he says, wisely, that in a hundred years time, the only thing that he will be remembered for are the trees he planted on his estate.

In the words of the hymn by Isaac Watts:

Time, like an ever-rolling stream
Bears all its sons away.

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