Saturday, December 18, 2010


Clare had decided to join the church-cleaning brigade this morning: a yearly rite before Christmas. As we had eight inches of snow last night I decided to accompany her - can't have her getting buried in a snowdrift and dying of hypothermia.

After ten minutes of tentative walking we arrived at the Catholic church. At the entrance the old Catholic priest was just leaving, helped by someone a little older than me who I learned was called Peter. The old Catholic priest, a heavy, thickset man who must be in his eighties, can barely walk and was being assisted to his electric cart (or whatever they call those things) prior to making his way home. Given the depth of snow this seemed to be a challenging prospect so I volunteered to help Peter.

We pushed this thing down Chamberlain Street like a miniature snowplough. Things took a turn for the worse as we moved into Union street, the small thoroughfare which leads down to the Library. As I pushed through the packed snow (Peter having gratefully ceded the task to me) my breathing became laboured and exhaustion began to kick-in. After 80 yards of this we both had to turn the cart and push this heavy contrivance up the driveway to the priest's house. With both of us shoving and the electric motor engaged we finally managed to manhandle him to the ramp, which was itself buried in snow. I think it was at this point that I felt incipient backstrain. Great!

Peter now returned to the church to get a spade to clear the ramp. In the spirit of lateral-thinking I meanwhile pushed the snow off the ramp with my trainers. With considerable effort I finally got the priest into his house, helped by his motor.

Now, none of this would be remarkable ... just a bit of neighbourly helping-out in the inclement weather ... except for the remarkable ingratitude and arrogance of the priest. As we turned his mobility cart towards the upward slope leading to his front door he imperiously ordered Peter and myself: "Push me up here!" A little later it was "Clear the snow off that ramp"; then, looking at me, "Push me up the ramp." No 'please', no 'thank you', not even a requestful manner. This is exactly how I imagine the aristocrats of the eighteenth century talked to their peasant serfs. But we don't talk to people like that these days, do we?

I spoke to Clare afterwards about this 'prince of the church'. "Oh yes," she explained, "all the old ones are like that."

I returned to the church where Clare was vacuuming. Afterwards, we all met up for coffee in the back room kitchen where charming Peggy and organised Pam tried to inveigle Clare into joining the Catholic Women's League ("Just once a month at two o'clock, here in the church.").

Clare and the cat hunker down

... and this is why

Returning from church...

... it's another winter wonderland for the author

A driveway in winter