Death of my mother
9.03pm. Mam died at 1.30am. I got up at 5.40 and Julia phoned with the news at 6.15am.
I went to the Surgery before 9am, dropping Freda off first to post the letters and do the shopping. I saw the nurse, an hour before my appointment; she took my blood pressure: 190/110. I was Philip Jackson’s 8th patient. Numbers 6 and 7 not having arrived, he called me in. I would have to go on medication for the blood pressure, and for the rest of my life. I asked about the blood tests. They were “fine” — no diabetes, no rheumatism, no leukaemia, an increase in white cells fighting the virus infection.
We talked for a few minutes. Philip was very helpful and understanding. I needed to be more selfish, he said.
Outside in the car park, waiting for Freda to arrive, I chanced to see [Prebendary] Vere Hodge, asked him how he was, and after some conversation told him Mam had died. This evening he phoned while we were having tea. He had received a word of knowledge, he said — “The passing was easy and the reunion joyous.” Freda told me just now that she had received a similar intuition.
Back at home I phoned Graham Witts. He was very strong, definite, supportive, and plans to come on Friday morning. The phone kept on ringing — Nita, Mary, Barbara, Pat Eastbury from Ramala. Nita asked if I would take Kathy Blackmore’s funeral at Yeovil on Monday at 2.30pm. I had phoned Julia at 8.30am to ask her to avoid having Mam’s funeral on Monday because of Freda’s and my commitments. After some discussion I agreed to take Kathy’s funeral. Then Mary phoned to say that the funeral would now be on Tuesday and they now had someone else to take it.
I was taking Quest prayers as usual [at midday], read John 13:1–17 and spoke on the Sacraments. We prayed for a lot of people. I lit a candle for Mam — has anyone ever lit a candle for her? Eleven of us there, I think, including Philippa, Pamela, Alice, James & Rosemary Turnbull. I had three separate hugs from Alice and one from James — all so very kind.
I got back just before 1pm, rested after lunch, took Freda shopping to Tesco at Street, answered more letters after we got back, went to the post again on foot, met Alice again and we spent 20 minutes in conversation. Would I be prepared to take prayers every Tuesday?
John Franklin arrived while we were having tea. He will give us a quote for a new cupboard in the kitchen. I worked in the office until 7.45pm answering more letters.
So an eventful day. Mam has died on the 13th. How many births and deaths have we had on the 13th or 26th?
John Wiles wrote, and Peter Gill from Eire and lots of others. I took these and other letters to Chapel prayers.
As we returned home from town I suddenly realised “I am an orphan.” Then I remembered John 14:18, “I will not leave you orphanos — a tremendous text for Pentecost!
SUNDAY 31st AUGUST 1997
Diana is dead
9.15am approx, in Mallorca. We shall be going to Mass in a few minutes. A lovely morning again, the moon a mere sliver of a crescent before dawn: perhaps there will be an eclipse of the sun. The days are warm and sunny but not hot, the nights cool.
12.16pm. We heard about 45 minutes ago that Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed last night in a tragic accident. I have known Diana since she was a little girl of 4 or 5, and corresponded with her for several years. This holiday is the first time we have gone overseas for years without my printing an envelope to send her a letter: I felt there was nothing more for me to say. Freda has reminded me of what I said to her only yesterday about Diana “catching us up on the motorway”. The tragedy which the Lord showed me by His Word about 32 years ago is still not played out. George [Carey] will be taking the funeral, I expect. Will the truth be told, that a third person died last night? Had she lived, the heir to the Throne would have had a Moslem for a step-father. Diana had clearly lost the goodwill of the public, as Charles has also; he will be blamed for what he did to her, but his father drove him into it. It is all so tragic.
MONDAY 1st SEPTEMBER 1997
8.30pm. There was a feeling of being in a daze yesterday, of stunned disbelief, just as it was in Detroit on 22nd November 1963. So far as we could see, no one danced last night, though that was the advertised entertainment. In common with a lot of people we paid several visits to the TV cinema in the basement, which broadcast Sky News all day (and presumably all night) devoted entirely to Diana’s death. The Mallorca Daily Bulletin brought out a special edition, 250 pesetas, with a full-colour photo of Diana covering its front and back cover. Today’s UK newspapers were nearly all gone when we went to the Spar shop after breakfast. The Daily Mirror, usually unpleasantly garish in its use of colour, was likewise in black and white with a full spread front and back cover picture of Diana and the dates 1961–1997.
Diana and Dodi were killed when their drunken driver, who was also killed, smashed into a pillar on a Paris underpass at 110mph, trying to “escape” press photographers who were chasing them sometime after midnight. (Was it about 1.10am when I was suddenly awakened and went to the bathroom to look at my watch? I have several times been awakened by Diana in distress over the years — experiences so vivid that they remain with me to this day. It is all terribly sad. There is a national and almost worldwide outpouring of grief. I remember nothing like it since the King’s death in 1952. The process of beatification has already begun. Was not Marilyn Monroe 36 when she died? Perhaps someone will see the similarities. Like Marilyn, Diana was created — and killed — by the media. Perhaps the revulsion people feel towards the paparazzi will tend to a clean-up in the media. Maybe young people in particular will be moved to think deeply about the meaning of life and Diana’s death may mark the beginning of a moral and spiritual awakening throughout the land — just as the publication of the D.H. Lawrence [book] was a watershed in the 1960s, bringing about the permissiveness and promiscuity and self-gratification which has all but destroyed the nation. “The only thing that matters in life is to enjoy yourself”, no matter who gets hurt — and Diana, with the £17 million she got from Charles as a divorce settlement — was doing just that, but desperately unhappy, never able to find peace, and constantly resorting to astrologers and soothsayers who told her what she wanted to hear. Even so, she had splendid qualities and accomplished great things. All life is an act. We have a part to play and all is maya.
The day has been overshadowed by the tragedy and it will have upset Clarice & Julia on their brief holiday in the Scilly Isles. We have had a nice day walking halfway to Alcudia. We stopped at the San Remo for coffee — I had a swim first — then we walked some distance along the main road before cutting back to the beach. We found a nice spot to eat our lunch and later I went for another swim.
SATURDAY 25th OCTOBER 1997
Pilgrimage to France
8.26pm BST. We are in room 170 at St James Court Hotel in Buckingham Gate. James Turnbull collected us from home at 10.15am to take us to Castle Cary station: we posted letters and I gave him a packet of booklets asked for by Caroline Nompozolo when she phoned just before we left.
We had reserved seats 47 and 38 in coach C. The 11.24am train was about 10 minutes late. It was a lovely day and we had a pleasant journey, eating our sandwich lunch at midday. On arrival at Paddington at about 1.20pm we learned that the tube trains to Victoria on the Circle Line were not operating due to a signal failure, so we travelled on the District Line to Earls Court, then took a train in the opposite direction to Victoria. From there we walked down Victoria Street to Westminster Cathedral, then on to Buckingham Gate.
After finding our room we went for a walk back up Victoria Street, up Buckingham Palace Road, past the palace and through St James’s Park to Piccadilly, then down to the Circus, where I picked up a discarded What’s On to see if there was a concert or show to go to this evening, but I could find no advert for the Royal Albert Hall. We walked up Shaftesbury Avenue, looked at all the theatres, all of which we had been to in years past. An Ideal Husband with Kate O’Mara, Michael Dennison and Dulcie Gray and other distinguished actors at the Globe was the only show that appealed to us. They had two stalls seats left, in row W, but at £34.50 each, was beyond our pocket.
By now we were feeling tired so we walked back to Piccadilly Circus, down Haymarket and Cockspur Street to Trafalgar Square, through Admiralty Arch and down the Mall, then through the park to emerge in Birdseye Walk. We crossed over to walk down Queen Anne’s Gate and Broadway, past New Scotland Yard and the Home Office to emerge in Victoria Street and so back to our hotel.
We went to the Mediterranée cafe for something to eat. Freda had omelette and chips, which she shared with me; we each had something from the sweet trolley, and a pot of tea for two, then came up to our room, where I have been writing this in bed. Freda has opened the window to give us some fresh air; the fountain is playing in the courtyard. We have put our watches back an hour for GMT. I put the clocks back before we left home.
SUNDAY 26th OCTOBER
10.13pm. A long day: breakfast at 7am in London, lunch at midday on the Stena Invicta ferry crossing the channel, and supper here in the Hotel L’Espérance at Lisieux.
This will be our first-ever night in France. We got to Westminster Cathedral to wait for our St Peter’s Pilgrims coach to arrive from Birmingham. It arrived at 8.30am, half-an-hour late; in the meantime we had been to Mass but had to leave early without receiving the sacrament. Father Sean McTernan, parish priest from St Teresa’s, Great Barr, welcomed us aboard the coach. Two seats had been left for us, behind and above Mary Metcalf, our tour guide — the seats we would have chosen for ourselves. [John & Mary Metcalf are the directors of St Peter’s Tours Ltd.] Three women from California also joined us at the cathedral.
We had a very pleasant drive in bright sunshine down to Dover. On the way we saw the entrance to the Channel tunnel. At Dover our coach was taken aside and six cases examined, including one of our bags, as part of security. The Channel was very calm. We sailed at 11.15am. We had lunch in the café — cheese and pickle and egg mayonnaise sandwiches, a pastry and cup of tea (£8.40).
After landing at Calais we drove here via Boulogne and Rouen. About 5.30 we stopped at a service station café and bought bottles of water.
We arrived here at about 7.30 and had Mass in a small dining room before dinner. We sat at a table with Margaret Logan and Elizabeth, two Irish girls, sisters. Margaret, who is married and has a family, lives in Belfast but flew to Birmingham to join her sister on the pilgrimage. We had a nice meal.
TUESDAY 28th OCTOBER
10.07am. Lourdes — at last! — after wanting to come here for 40 years. [I bought a Pan book, The Mystery of Lourdes, by Ruth Cranston in 1958 but knew about it long before.] We arrived five hours ago at 5.15am after a very long journey [overnight] from Lisieux in the morning and Alençon, where we had lunch.
We had a wonderful day [yesterday Monday 27th]. We had breakfast in the dining room with Margaret, who took food up to her sister Elizabeth, then the coach took us to the Basilica of St Thérèse, where we had Mass in the crypt. It was a most wonderful place. Afterwards we visited the Carmelite convent where Thérèse died just a century ago on Thursday 30 September 1897 — the Pope made her a Doctor of the Church only nine days ago. Then to Les Buissonnets, where she lived with her father and four sisters until entering Carmel in 1888, and a terribly moving statue of Thérèse and her father in the garden. After lunch at [the Campanile Hotel] Alençon we visited the house, now a chapel, where Thérèse was born on 2 Jan 1873 and her mother died only 4½ years later. I bought a beautiful book Thérèse et Lisieux, 336 pages of photographs by Helmuth Nils Loose and commentary by Pierre Descouvement, 250 Fr.
Then a long journey on the A10 motorway, stopping for dinner at a service station south of Tours and on through the night with short stops for toilets and coffee, to Bordeaux, Dax, Orthez and Pau to Lourdes. We are staying at the Hotel Mediterranée, Avenue du Paradis, overlooking the River Gave, with mountains in the distance.
It was raining when we woke this morning. After breakfast and Mass in the hotel we walked the short distance to the Grotto. We entered by St Michael’s Gate, his statue in the centre flanked by Archangels Gabriel on our left and Raphael on our right, before us a long straight esplanade and Breton Calvary, and on our left the entrance to the vast subterranean Basilica of St Pius X, consecrated by Cardinal Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March 1958. It is oval in shape, 220 yards long and more than 50 yards wide with a central square altar, brilliantly lit and able to be seen by 20,000 people.
At the end of the Esplanade we entered Rosary Square, dominated by a crowned statue of the Virgin Mary; across the square the Rosary Basilica consecrated in 1901; beyond and at a higher level, approached by a ramp on either side, the original Crypt chapel consecrated on Saturday 19th May 1866 with Bernadette herself present; beyond this the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception built on Massabielle and completed in 1871.
From there we descended to ground level, passing under the arches of the ramp, the River Gave to our right, and there was the Grotto where on Thursday 11th February 1858 Bernadette had her first apparition of the Virgin Mary. All my adult life I have wanted to be here and to enter into the mystery of Lourdes, but nothing I have ever read quite prepared me for the experience. I took a photo of Freda here.
After lunch at the hotel we visited the cachot, the stinking dungeon 13ft × 10, where the Soubirous family, 6 of them, were living at the time of the Apparitions; then the War Memorial, site of St Peter’s Church and from there to the Hospice where Bernadette was taken in by the nuns and lived as a postulant before leaving for Nevers. Afterwards we visited the Boly Mill, the family home where Bernadette was born on Sunday 7th January 1844 — Fr Sean met a priest-friend here from years ago and there was great fun between them — and the Maison Paternelle given to the family after she left for Nevers, also the museum with many relics and photographs and a plaster model of Lourdes at the time of the Apparitions.
We had dinner in the hotel at 7pm. Afterwards we joined hundreds of others in the torchlight procession and rosary at the Basilica, then again to the wondrous Grotto; finally back to the hotel, where Freda made us a cup of tea.
WEDNESDAY 29th OCTOBER
1.11pm. We have just come up to our room, No 216, after lunch. We are going on a trip into the mountains this afternoon.
We had breakfast this morning at 8, then walked to the Grotto for Mass with many priests concelebrating; there was a large contingent of people from Swansea diocese. All the seats were taken, so many of us stood throughout. Afterwards we had a group photograph taken, with much fun [jpg] then the stations of the cross on the hillside above the Basilica. A sunny day but very cold.
THURSDAY 30th OCTOBER
7.38am. A fine morning, nearly light now. I have been up about half-an-hour. The town is very quiet; there was hardly a soul to be seen as we walked through the streets last evening, a little hurriedly, for holy hour at 7.30pm. In fact it started about ten minutes late. It was held at the subterranean chapel of St Joseph.
Earlier yesterday (Wednesday) we spent the afternoon on a coach trip (optional) to Gavarnie in the Pyrenees, only a few miles from the border with Spain. We drove via Argelès-Gazost to Luz St Sauveur, stopped at the Pont Napoléon spanning the deep valley of the Gave — I took a photo — then on to Salom where we branched right, and so on to Gavarnie and the incredible sight of a huge amphitheatre of snow-covered mountains 10,000 feet high, the Cirque de Gavarnie. We visited the church where for centuries pilgrims to Compostela stopped to pray. Afterwards we had coffee and were delighted to see some Pyrenean mountain dogs, donkeys and ponies. On the way back when it was nearly dark we stopped to visit the ancient fortified church of St Savin and bought postcards.
8.10pm. We have just come up from dinner and shall be going out again for the torchlight procession and rosary. It has been another beautiful day, frost on the ground to begin with then sunshine all day.
10.12pm. Our stay here is nearly at an end. It has been one of the great happenings in my life. After breakfast we went to Bartrés [the village 3 miles away where Bernadette spent periods of her young life], where we had Mass in the Franciscan convent. Freda read the responsorial psalm, very beautifully too. About a dozen of us, myself included, received the laying-on of hands, then anointing with oil on forehead and hands before communion. After the service we visited the place where Bernadette was nursed and spent her happiest days, before returning to the cachot. We bought a few postcards etc, then went to a lakeside café, where we had coffee; from the coach we saw the sheepfold where Bernadette tended the sheep.
We returned in time for lunch at midday. Afterwards, the only free time we have had, we went for a long walk retracing our steps of Tuesday afternoon but in the reverse direction to see again the Soubirous house, Boly Mill and the cachot. The Little Way shop, which there had not been time to visit on Tuesday, was now closed for the season, but we did visit an English bookshop and I bought a Tan book on Mélanie Calvat of La Salette [Mélanie and the Story of Our Lady of La Salette by Mary Alice Dennis]. We bought a few more things from the hotel shop after we got back, including a picture book of Lourdes by Antonio Bernardo, postcards, a tiny blue cross for Freda and Bernadette medal for me.
We had a cup of tea in our room then had a rest before dinner. One of our party, Betty, is very ill and we are all praying she may survive long enough to fly back to Dublin tomorrow.
FRIDAY 31st OCTOBER
10.23pm. We are in Nevers tonight at an hotel for a few hours before Mass and breakfast at the St Gildard convent.
We arrived at 7.40pm after the long journey from Lourdes. We left the Mediterranée at 7.20am after Mass at 6am followed by breakfast. It was a beautiful day again and we drove through the spectacular landscape of the Massif Central.We stopped for coffee at a huge supermarket at Albi and later at [unfinished]
SATURDAY 1st NOVEMBER 1997
A beautiful sunny morning, frost thick upon the ground, the atmosphere ecstatic. We went to Mass at the Convent of St Gildard, where Bernadette arrived on Saturday 7th July 1866 and died nearly 13 years later on Tuesday 16th April 1879. In the chapel we saw her incorrupt body lying in a silver casket, her head inclined slightly to the left. In her nun’s attire she looked simply beautiful.
After breakfast in the refectory we walked in the grounds, visited the Grotto, reminding us of Massabielle, &saw her belongings in the museum.
SUNDAY 2nd NOVEMBER
8.28pm. We arrived home at 10.40pm last night, David Chapman having met us at Castle Cary, where the train arrived on time at 10.07pm. After crossing the Channel at 5.30 (4.30 GMT) from Calais and arriving at Dover at 5.45pm, the coach took us to Farthinglee services, where we were met by Bob Metcalf and three Filipino ladies in his van. We then had a frantic drive up the M20 and A2 and across London to Paddington, Bob using a satellite guidance system, and arrived with eight minutes to spare before the last train of the weekend left for Castle Cary.
It was foggy when we got up this morning. We both had baths before breakfast, then walked down to St Ben’s and afterwards shopped at Safeway on the way home. Dawn called to see us. Freda did the washing and cooked lunch for us. I washed up afterwards, then we slept for most of the afternoon.
MONDAY 3rd NOVEMBER
11.29pm. We had a happy time at David & Philippa’s tonight studying Mark 13. Freda collected the film we took into Zapp’s yesterday, so we were able to show photographs and postcards from our pilgrimage. Anne Stallybrass joined us but Mary phoned to say she was unwell.
We went to the meeting in a white Metro lent me by Miers. Their mechanic Adrian called for me at 3.30, I took him back to Miers then called at Walton Press but came away empty-handed as the printing was not finished. On the way home I posted 18 letters and tapes I had copied earlier. They were of the meeting on October 24th [Tape 1515, Bernadette] when I forgot to record the second side. Instead, I substituted The Story of Bernadette.
Freda went to her class as usual. She walked there; Rosemary Turnbull brought her back. The sandwiches I had for lunch were made from a boiled egg and tomato left over from our picnic lunch last Friday when we made the journey from Lourdes to Nevers.
TUESDAY 4th NOVEMBER
10.20pm. A busy day: shopping; Eucharist at the Abbey; coffee with Frank & Irene. After lunch to Bridgwater to get the Amstrad PCW computer repaired; on the way we called at Miers, returned the car they loaned us yesterday and collected our own now happily repaired. On the way back we shopped at Tesco, called at Walton Press, and called at Frank & Irene’s with a few items we had got for them — dried fruit etc. for a cake Irene was intending to bake.
Graham Witts sat behind us in St Patrick’s Chapel: he is coming to see us tomorrow at 3pm DV. Also at the Eucharist were Charles Shells, John Canning, John Burgess (who has taken over as sacristan from Winifred Chandler), Rosemary Turnbull (but not James and Carla) and Caroline Nompozolo, who asked for a further supply of Britain’s Royal Throne and Britain in Prophecy. Peter Stratton celebrated: we know him from the Society of Mary meetings we used to go to at Ewan Macpherson’s church at Westbury-sub-Mendip.
WEDNESDAY 5th NOVEMBER
9.10pm. Freda is writing details on the back of the photos we took on the pilgrimage; I numbered them earlier this evening. It is just a week since we visited Gavarnie in the Pyrenees and saw the shrine of Notre Dame de Bon Pont in the church there, a stopping place for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. One of the photos I took was of Freda standing on the bridge, the Pont Napoléon at Luz. It was built in 1860.
Graham came this afternoon, a little earlier than planned, as he had been to see Neill Bonham in the morning instead of the afternoon. It was to discuss the readings each week from the new Lectionary. I said I favoured having the Sunday Plus published by Redemptorist Press, and it seems that they had more or less agreed on this.
I asked Graham about his own spiritual journey and what exactly he believed he was doing when he celebrated the Eucharist. I then told him of my own journey, of my “conversion” to Catholicism beginning in 1965 when I read Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua at Bournemouth [the Fontana edition of 1959, third impression June 1965].
Having no Amstrad I spent the morning doing odd jobs in the office and also put up in the hall two new aerial photographs of Summerlands and Hill Head taken, if I remember rightly, on April 17th this year. One shows the whole road and surrounding areas; the other shows not only the house but E496 BPM standing in the road, &, in the back garden, the pond and bench. I bought the pictures while Ken Kemble was staying with us.
THURSDAY 6th NOVEMBER
8.01pm. A quiet day. In my quiet time I read Malachi 1, noting especially in v.11 the change from future tense in the KJV to the present in the NRSV. Again I left the correspondence until the Amstrad is returned. I opened the loft intending to work up there but decided instead to go to the 10.30 Eucharist at St Ben’s. I was surprised when James Turnbull appeared. He explained that Graham was feeling unwell and had phoned asking him to stand in for him. James gave a splendid message on Remembrance Day, the Celtic (as distinct from English) saints etc. We talked for a while afterwards, then I went to Barclays to enquire whether a cheque I sent to The Little Way on October 2nd had been drawn: it had, on the 27th. I next went to St Mary’s to pray and brought back some literature, then went to St Margaret’s Chapel for midday prayers. Anne Stallybrass was leading today. She and I were joined, a little later, by Philippa, and later still by Alison Collyer, who is almost always 20–30 minutes late.
After lunch I did the washing-up and caught sight of a sparrowhawk swooping over the lower terrace, then Freda saw the hawk sitting in the cherry tree — a beautiful sight but we fear for the blue tits and other small birds in the garden.
During the afternoon [unfinished]
FRIDAY 7th NOVEMBER
8.08pm. Still without the Amstrad I spent a second morning getting more exercise. Nita McCullough phoned at 8.45 to say she would not be coming this afternoon as she had a sore throat. As she was in need of a further bottle of Night Nurse I decided to get this from Hallet’s then take it to her. On the way past St John’s the bell was ringing for the 10am Mass so I went there from the chemist. John Canning was celebrating; the only person there was Revd Christopher Woolley, then we were joined by Mary Smith, who afterwards asked me how Lourdes was. I had forgotten that we had spoken to each other at Castle Cary when we were waiting for our train to Paddington. We had a nice service, just the four of us. Like most of our local clergy John was using the Daily Missal. I talked for a while first with Christopher, then with Mary & John, then walked up High Street, Bove Town and Jacob’s Ladder to Nita’s, where I spent a few minutes before returning home. On the way I called at 65 Bere Lane to see how Anne Stallybrass was getting on but she was not at home. Only when I got back did I realise I had forgotten the lettuce Freda had asked me to buy.
Nancy, Mary, Josie and Helene came to the meeting. I read Psalm 122 then talked about our visit to Lourdes and Lisieux [Tape 1516 Pilgrimage]. At one point Freda jumped up to rush outside to scare off next door’s cat, which was climbing the apple tree. While she was outdoors the doorbell rang — Mary went to the door and found it was William Watkins from South Wales — and almost simultaneously the telephone rang — Ken Kemble phoning from Uvalde to tell us about the new baby, a fourth daughter born on the 30th. William did not stay: he had brought some friends to see Glastonbury and they were then driving to Portsmouth.
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webwork by Jim Nagel at Abbey Press, Glastonbury — this edition published 2007-06-30