As Covid-19 Comes Too Close

Dear Friends

Before a short reflection, tomorrow’s 11:25am for 11:30am service is accessed via the following and Stephen’s, Andrew’s and Sue’s readings from The Week’s ‘It Wasn’t All Bad’ are attached to the e-mail version of this to be read in that order.

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I hope this finds you well. I write from my desk at home in the very quiet backstreets of Waterloo, looking out towards the Old Vic and Lower Marsh. The sky was full of red, yellow, light and dark blues a little while ago. I was much reminded of Turner’s paintings, but I was more reminded of Blake’s apocalyptic imagery. I suppose this was due to a number of factors: the times we’re going through; him having lived not so far away in this part of Lambeth; and more complicatedly, one of my favourite hymns being ‘Jerusalem’.

Blake’s ‘dark satanic mills’ were not up North as commonly supposed, but right here on the Lambeth riverside. My street and block here are named ‘Windmill Walk’ and ‘Windmill House’ because of the windmill that powered one of Blake’s mills. The area’s mills today are usually the theatres of the South Bank and Waterloo, and for all they’re dark in closure now they normally shine bright and always give evil short shrift. The area’s mills at present are Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, full to capacity and then some, with doctors and nurses working around the clock not unlike those under harsh labour in Blake’s mills. As I write I think especially of the nurse I encountered in Lockdown 1 who, attracted by the smell of our barbecue in the garden one Sunday, asked if she was right in thinking I was preparing jerk chicken. I replied affirmatively and offered her several pieces of chicken and salad through the railings in safe conditions, which she tucked into having not had lunch. She said the jerk chicken was as good as any she’d ever had, adding she was of Jamaican extraction. I said she was just hungry, but she wouldn’t have it and went on her way with a big smile, a wave and a can of Jamaican ginger beer. I pray she and hers are well and she’ll drop by when I’m next in the garden barbecuing. That will feel to me like Summer is truly on its way.

Summer will not be early this year, activity wise, for any of us. I suspect my ten days in Ottoman Old Antalya, Turkey, scheduled for the end of May will have to be re-scheduled. But I’ve had a good run in managing trips to Old Antalya and the Lake District last year, in the Chapel being open from the end of Lockdown 1 until just before Christmas, and in keeping well to-date, and I know many of you feel similarly. I’m naturally particularly relieved all our members and regulars have been unaffected by Covid-19 directly and feel we have been very fortunate indeed. But the virus has come a lot closer of late, with Sue’s Matthew and family having contracted it, potentially her Paul and family having done so, and with our losing our old friend Peter Chevolleau from the Brixton community this week who’s funeral I will be conducting shortly within a day or so of Pat Barlow’s (our David Medhurst’s late partner, who I mentioned last week).  Peter’s mother Muriel was a stalwart of the Chapel in the 90’s, serving as a trustee, and his cousin is our beloved Mary. It never occurred to me I’d come to conduct both Muriel’s and Peter’s funerals. We send our condolences to Rita and Mary, and our thoughts and prayers are with Rita who is in recovery from the virus. Lord in your mercy …

So please continue to take care. The old strain of the virus was catchable enough, the new one even more so, and it appears its more deadly too; the hospitals are overwhelmed; and with the mass roll out of vaccines we finally have a better time to look forward to in the not too distant future. My mum and Andrew’s mum and stepfather had their first jabs yesterday; Sue’s doctor, who saw her out and about a few days ago, implied she would be getting hers before very long; and today half a million received their first jabs.

Much love until tomorrow, when we look at what we can learn from the gentle and delightful ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’, which has been a bestseller amongst all ages during the pandemic …

Julian Smith, FRSA

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