To the Few, who have persisted with the Field of Corn, I thank you, and I wish you all a happy Christmas, full of God's blessings.The season of Advent has crept up on us again, and, for some, Christmas Day will have come and gone without them even noticing. However, I hope you will notice it and this offering of mine. The tall story is entitled, 'The Anniversary', and hopefully, you will get some amusement from it. It's got nothing to do with the headteacher, of many years' standing, who was seen walking in the street one day during term time, by one of the quidnuncs of the parish. I hasten to add that a 'quidnunc' is not somebody who hasn't a pound to her name, but is a gossip monger. I had to throw in that tiny morsel of information, because of my profession … but I digress. Back to the story.
She said to the Head, "Oh, I see you are off school, Mr Thrasher." "Madam," he replied, with a sigh. "Madam," repeating himself for emphasis," I have been off school for the last thirty years."
All this reminds me of another headteacher, 'Such' Hardman, who asked a pupil, many years ago, "Did you absorb anything in school, yesterday, boy?" Rubbing the side of his head, and looking as if the pain had not yet subsided, the pupil replied ,"Yes, Sir, the back of your hand."
"And can you remember why I was exasperated with you?" continued the Head. "Well, " replied the pupil, " I'm not sure what ex .... exsperated means, but you give me the bunch of fives 'cos I said I had been swatting flies for my Biology homework." The boy walked away as the Head tried to get the last splinter from the back of his hand, with his tweezers.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about Mr Hardman's nickname, which he had inadvertently given to himself. On his first day as Head, in front of the entire school, he introduced himself: "My name is A. Hardman, and I shall be known as 'such'."
Ever since Grayson Favour had died, ten years before, his widow, Evadne, had occupied herself with her boutique, friends and golf. Now, it was Advent again, the fifth of December, her husband's anniversary.
She was waiting in her lounge, for Christopher 'Sandy' Shaw, their old friend. He was going to drive her to the cemetery, where they would both pay their respects. Christopher was not called 'Sandy' because of his surname or the colour of his hair, as is usually the case, but because of the sand which he had put into the petrol tank of the C.O.'s new car, when he was a cadet at Sandhurst, gaining him great acclaim among his fellow cadets. It had really annoyed the C.O. because only the week before, one of the cadets had reversed a Centurion tank into his car, crushing it completely. Fortunately, he had just got out of the car, and, still shocked, was able to hear the military policeman ask the cadet why he had not used his rear view mirror. "Well, Corporal," he replied, "when I passed my driving-test the examiner said I should never need to look back, and so, I don't."
Suddenly, the 'phone rang, jogging her mind back to the present (the timely call must have been a bit of relief for you, too, as it stopped yet another digression, on my part). It was Sandy." Hi, Eva. I'm afraid I shall be a bit late. Stuck in traffic on the Mil Could be fifteen minutes. Sorry." He rang off before Eva could speak. As she went into the kitchen to make some coffee, the doorbell rang. She opened the door. "You, you swine, Sandy," Eva called out, quite startled."
"Thought I'd cheer you up with a practical joke, Old Thing," said Sandy. "Are you ready?"
''I'll get you for this," Eva said, as she put on her coat.Within the hour, they were in The Partridge Country Inn, about a mile far from where Grayson was buried. The owner, Sidney March approached and showed them to their table, in the nearly full, festively -decorated restaurant. The three had known each other for years. A white-bearded man, sitting at the adjacent table, said, "Hello." "This is Noah Sark," said Mr March."His father had an interesting sense of humour." After the introductions, Evadne said," D'ye know, Sandy, I fancy some fish, this time." She interested herself in the menu as Sandy got some drinks and returned.
"Sandy," she said thoughtfully, pointing at one of the items on the menu. I'd really like to try these," putting the emphasis on the 'I'd'. "Oh, yes, Eva," said Sandy." What are those?"
"Ides are young carp," said the bearded man at the next table, noticing Eva's emphatic pun and seeing what she was pointing to on the menu. "Thank you so much for that," said Sandy, rather peeved at the interruption. His fulsome remark, however, did not deter the man, who continued, "If I were you, I should beware the ides of March."
"What are you talking about?" asked Sandy. "What has a quote from Julius Caesar's soothsayer got to do with all this?"
"Well, I was here with the parish priest of a local church, recently, and he ate the ides. He suffered greatly from them for the next two days," said the elderly man. "Are you trying to put off my customers, Noah, with all your 'Idle' gossip?" interjected a voice from behind him.
Noah turned, to see Mr March approaching ... and he wasn't smiling. ""Your puns are best left at home," he continued."There was nothing wrong with my ides." "Sorry, I couldn't resist it," said Noah, as he got up and left.
"His father's love of the pun was, sadly, handed down to Noah," said March.'Tm a bit of a philistine in that area ... if that's the correct word," he continued. Sandy and Eva tried the ides and chips, with a side order of salad, enduring the frequent interruptions of the waitress, asking if the meal was 'alright'. "All those interruptions were making me wonder if Noah's comments had made Old March a bit worried about the fish," said Sandy," but only time will tell, in our case." Then, the couple finished their meal and left.
Several minutes later, they arrived at the country church of Saint Alabaster in the Meadow, set in the centre of the little village of Dunstan on the Wold. Sandy parked the car opposite the church.
They walked through the Iych gate, up the steps and followed the path round to the rear of the church. There was a smaller, secluded cemetery here, and Sandy pushed open the gate.
Unlike in the outer cemetery, the air was filled with the pungent odour of the dank soil and vegetation. Eva approached Gray's grave, and put a single rose on it. Immediately, the tears ran down her cheeks. Sandy noticed the tears and said, "It’s obvious that you are still deeply in love with him." Then, she started sneezing, and told Sandy that she was breaking out in a cold sweat. He took her arm, and steered her out of the cemetery, still sneezing, and back to the car. Once there, the tears and sneezing subsided, and everything was back to normal.
"It has happened each time I have visited the grave," Eva said." It has never been as severe as today's outbreak, though."
Before he started the car to take Eva home, Sandy said, "Promise you will go to the doctor, tomorrow, and get some advice about all this." "I will," she said. The next day found her at the doctor's, explaining what had happened. Doctor Aykson-Payne listened carefully. "Mmm," he said, stroking his chin, giving himself time to come up with a diagnosis. 'Tt won't be breaking patient confidentiality," he said, clawing the air at the appropriate words, "given that Gray has been dead for so long. I can tell you that your husband came to me, many years ago, about this condition. It happened to him, every time he visited his mother's grave ... the same one he is buried in. I do believe you are suffering from Gray's allergy in a country churchyard." Eva seemed satisfied.
"Before I go, Doctor," she said, "do you have anything for an upset stomach?"
For the Mums
When Christmas Day is over
Just to give yourself a treat
Unwind upon the sofa
and rest your weary feet.
A glass or two of sherry
Wouldn't go amiss,
And some help with all the tidying up
Would certainly lead to bliss.
"Just a thought”
Over the hills and far away,
I saw the Lord as He walked on His way
Though I didn't know it He saw me also
And He raised His arms inviting me to pray
Then the Lord appeared to me one morning,
Dressed as a beggar, on that dismal day
"Will you pray with Me?" He asked sincerely.
"Yes," I replied, as we went on our way.
The sick, the poor, the lonely, the hungry,
These are the ones whom I’m with all day”
Jesus said as He stood beside me,
"These are the ones for whom you must pray."
“The oppressors, the selfish, gossips, adulterers,
All need your help, each and every day.
Pray for them daily, do it unfailingly,
Then I'll be happy as I go on my way.
The indifferent, the cold of heart, Those who cause anger,
Those who interfere with life in the womb
These are the ones to pray for unceasingly
Before they, themselves, go into the tomb."
Pray for those afflicted by addiction,
For those who blaspheme and curse every day.
Pray for the pushers, the users and abusers,
And consider the children whom they lead astray.
If you can pray for all of these people,
Your thoughts will move from yourself each day
Include them all in the Holy Rosary,
And delight my Mother's Heart as you pray.
When you have learned how to forgive these others,
Your mind and heart will always be free.
And I will be there to welcome you into Heaven,
To spend your life with Me, eternally."