We are coming to the end of the third week in Lent. It was International Women’s Day on Thursday and this became a point of reflection for me in my Lent spiritual reading because my text is the first book known to be written by an English woman.
An element of humour has always been part of my spiritual journey, although I have sometimes aspired to a more serious Catholic life of contemplation. In fact it is exactly ten years ago that I was in Hermitage P in the great cloister in Parkminster Charterhouse in Sussex, struggling with the hard diet and exhausting timetable of Carthusian life. It was the monastic equivalent of joining the Foreign Legion.
Even then, God invited me to see the funny side of things, and that was not difficult with the help of the surprisingly impish humour of the Novice Master Father Cyril. One afternoon he rang the bell of Hermitage P, walked quickly through the ambulatory and up to my cell, greeting me with, “Hello there: I’m just dropping in to check you’re not dead yet.”
I would also sometimes have to suppress giggles when things went horribly wrong during recital of the psalms, sitting in the poor light in the creaking oak stalls during those long hours after midnight in the night office in the freezing great mock-gothic church.
So it was perhaps unsurprising that God would play some jokes on me during my attempt to do some serious spiritual reading in Lent 2018.
The first was quite an old joke really. There are at least two failing Catholics in Finestrat and we discussed our Lent plans in early February. My friend said she would commit herself to going to weekly Mass during Lent. I said I would commit myself to reading the Divine Revelations of Julian of Norwich. We are coming to the end of the third week in Lent and my friend tells me she still hasn’t been to Mass, while I am just on page xviii of Denise Baker’s Introduction to the text and neither the Lord or his chosen revelator Julian have revealed anything to me yet.
Yes, the old joke is the text I ordered from Amazon. It is the original untranslated Middle English of the fourteenth century. “All shalle be wele, and alle maner of thynge shalle wele…” etc. That will teach me to choose the edition with the scholarly notes. As an intellectual, I thought the Penguin paperback version – also available on Amazon – was just for the plebs. In fact it would have been an easier read for this pleb too. Was this the key lesson of Lent 2018 ?
Meanwhile, the other joke that God played on me this Lent is that I was sacked from my school teaching job on 1 March. This was a rather curious hiccup in an otherwise fairly uneventful working life, and not particularly useful for my GCSE students, but it does at least provide more time to struggle with the Mydelle Englyshe of Julian of Norwich.
Hey ho, and on with the struggle. “Ther was a tresoure in the erth whych the lorde lovyd. I merveyled and thought what it myght be.” That’s a good idea… time to go and plant some beans. I’ll come back to sister Julian tomorrow.
15 thoughts on “All shalle be wele, and alle maner of thynge shalle wele”
Oh no. Commiserations.
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Hi Sheel. No worries. I have two union lawyers looking at it and the school never turns up for the conciliation meetings with sacked staff, so it will be going to court later this year. Unemployment benefit in Spain is 70% of your previous salary for the first 6 months, so life in the sunshine without planning and marking… Result.
You we’re not sacked or you were. Needless to say, I sincerely hope that you were not!
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What an interesting life you do lead! Take care of yourself, Gareth, whatever you do; you are very much needed in THIS world for the time being. Love and very best, Maggie
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What a mischievous, impish God! Being inspired to plant some merveylous beans is a very good thing. That will please both God and you, and the Donks. Lovely photos of Parkminster. It was quite an experience for you!
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Hello Maggie! Yes, I lead a far too interesting life at times. So it is all over in that school now! Thank you for providing that really good Skype input into the students’ work in Design and Technology. They appreciated it so much! It was one of my highlights of teaching in Elians in the past six years. (My D & T teaching was later handed over to Sarah the Art Teacher, until she was sacked last September.) One day you will have to come over and see the donkeys, and I still have to discuss that children’s donkey story with you. Will we ever do it? Meanwhile I have a comedy to write, about a failing school in the Costa Blanca where the Russian mafia replace the headteacher with a guy with Mexican contacts who can bring the cocaine in via school textbook deliveries.
Jean Bayne in Finestrat you are NOT anonymous! You may have a new dog but we still know who you are… Yes I was sacked.
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Yes, Alys, indeed it was quite an experience in Parkminster. The only contact with the outside world being the sight of Gatwick-bound jet planes circling overhead. Much better a hermitage with beer and donkeys!
Ah yes Jabba, THAT sort of Myddle Englyshe. Of course, she is your namesake too. Didn’t realise until reading this book that she was named after St Julian’s church in Norwich, because that was where she was walled up as an anchorite.
TBH, the language is not that difficult to follow. It is later than Chaucer isn’t it? So the cadences are less Germanic and once you get beyond the spelling differences it isn’t that difficult.
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Quite. When you were at Parkminster, God had yet to reveal the donkey experience to you! Which compliments the beer experience very well!
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And now it appears that a number of students (and maybe their parents too?) are reading my Geography blog this weekend, as the blog stats seem to be going quite mad. So why not take a look at my final letter to my students at the forced end of a quite enjoyable teaching career:
I don’t remember from my education – all those years ago – anything like the sackings of teachers that they experience in this awful “British” school education here. When I was teaching a colleague’s Art classes back in September, after she was sacked, the children were saying, “Where is Miss Hood?” “Is she coming back?” They all liked her and were told nothing at all.
These private “British” schools in Spain are the pits.
Funny thing is, Jabba, as you know I went through my double dip right wing phase in life. Remember all our traddy manouevres on the Damian Thompson Daily Telegraph blog? The battle against the Tina Beatties at Roehampton and Ma Pepinster at the Tablet? Our traddy battles with the nortyy rood lefties in the Catholic Church… The struggle against the suspected heretic Pope Francis? Then the knives came out and they slaughtered us all from the inside: the real hardmen (and women) of the traddy right. A corrupt and nasty bunch. That was the end of it, as far as I was concerned. The end.
I had little interest in the Church, in conservative politics, and I even stopped looking at Bruvver Eccles Luvvly blog, which was so hard… as he had become a real beacon of truth.
Where am I now? I have returned to fighting the cause of trade union rights to preserve the dignity of my fellow teachers. I have been sacked for challenging management’s patronising and infantilising scam of “Uncle Tim’s Points” (instead of a proper salary scale).
But there’s an odd spiritual schizophrenia here: I cannot return to the 1970s “Base Community” group approach; the communist-focused liberation theology view; the fake Franciscan New Age crap of Pope Francis (who IS a heretic); and nowhere does my personal old-fashioned Christian socialist trade union revival ever contradict the things we were arguing in the traddy group that set up Catholicism Pure and Simple in 2010, as I set of from Canterbury, cycled through France, and came here to live… eight years ago.
John Ruskin, William Morris, Cardinal Henry Newman… and many more; they don’t fit the left/ right categories. I see more and more that I don’t either.
Fighting for workers rights, students’ right to a proper education, women’s right not be oppressed by men in the workplace, and above all Citizens’ Rights after Brexit (EU in UK and UK in EU) these are things I believe in and fight for. As for the glib conservative Catholic views that I was happy to argue eight years ago on the Damian Thompson blog: forget them.
We now have a fight for survival. The utterly abhorrent views of right wing Catholic “MP for the eighteenth century,” Jacob Rees-Mogg – and his ghastly contrived upper class accent – have done more than anything else to create such a revulsion within me against these people that I could never – ever – again stand up and be counted among the traddy fold.
Yet Pope Francis is a heretic, Tina Beattie is a pointless secularist theologian, Ma Pepinster would do better as CEO for MacDonalds, and I – quite honestly – have nobody who speaks for me any more. Not even Cardinal Sarah, whose book The Power of Silence, disappointingly turned out to be a load of cut and paste quotes with no real substance.
That’s where I am, Jabba. And I am reading Julian of Norwich, who I believe was encouraged to wall herself up in St Julian’s church in Norwich as a similar act of despair, but as she had no donkeys this was a more practical solution than I could bring to it, as donkeys produce twelve large buckets of manure every week and the anchorite option is not possible when you do the figures and look at the available space.
Dear Gareth, sorry about the ‘termination’. I hope the union gets behind you and pushes really hard, and in the right direction. For your edification I have a copy of some of Richard Rolle’s works in the original myddle Englysh, if you are so inclined…too hard for me to parse and speculate upon in my dotage. Be well, eventually Easter will come.
Trooper and Clementine send their love too with a bray and nicker here and there. My prayers for you.
I wrote a reply five hours ago, when I got your message, but it disappeared. This is what happens when the Devil gets into Lent. (He also spilled all my paperclips on the floor. Darn!)
Yes, I read Richard Rolle a long time ago – there was a Penguin edition in the library of Glasshampton monastery where I was in 1989 when the Romanian dictatorship was falling down and we were stuck in the monastery with no radio or television (which is prolly the whole point of being in a monastery, so one shouldn’t get too exercised about it) but I read Richard Rolle in the library while waiting my turn for the weekly summary of the news in the Guardian. An odd way to read a medieval mystic…
Matilde, Rubí, Morris, Aitana send greetings to Trooper and Clementine. We all bray here except Rubí. She brayed once but then couldn’t much see the point after that.