Chapter 3 Harpenden to Aylesbury

Created by patrick 13 years ago
For the left leaning, liberal voting, anti apartheid campaigning, CND supporting Christian that Dad was, this largely “Tory party at prayer” parish made for interesting conversations – to most of which I was not privy. He did confide to me later that he felt that his overt stance on issues such as Trident, South Africa and liberal politics within the church, effectively ruled out any further greasy pole climbing within the C of E. He was however, very adept at enthusing people for his ministry of equality, and in that he found some able and keen supporters. It was largely these liberal allies who converted him from the Telegraph to the Guardian, and it was a few years after this that he discovered that the crossword he most loved to solve was created by his own elder brother John, better known as Araucaria, the Beethoven of crossword compilers. One of the symptoms of a priest overworking at home involved having his curates in Harpenden to regular Friday morning breakfasts in the Rectory; more work for Sylvia, since cooked breakfasts were always required, it seemed. My memory of these breakfasts is not fond. They were emblematic of the problems of the child of the manse, we have to fight with the parish for attention, including within our own homes, and it is hard to gain a satisfying sense of equal attention with a family of 2,000 plus. It was at such a breakfast that I heard one of his curates ask, “Which of your sons do you think will follow in your footsteps?” The idea was impossible to me but he told them, in my presence, that he thought I was the most likely. I think my “NO WAY!” was kept as just a silent thought. But I have done so, yes, in a way – into the skies – not into the church, thanks for the flying gene Dad. I think he would not want me to gloss over one aspect of his tendency for overwork that he hid for many years. Sometimes, as in when he was training for the priest hood, he experienced a hypo-manic high, and it could take him into the church on a joyful wing and a hallelujah. But later in his work, and twice at Harpenden, it led to taking on too much, physical collapse and a need for retreat and recovery. This manic gene is commonly described nowadays as either a manic depressive or bipolar tendency – it is a curse for many, but also mooted as the reason we humans got out of the cave and discovered the wheel. I know it to be the gene that some members of our family share with Stephen Fry, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, TS Elliot, Spike Milligan, Kate Millet, Graham Greene, Buzz Aldrin, William Blake, Victor Hugo and Sigmund Freud to select just a few, ... rather carefully... Peter became convinced that in bygone years this manic gene was at the heart of much spiritual exploration and present in many of the stories of the saints. Overwork's negative effects, with the stresses of a dominant counselling role in Harpenden, led to career movement, not by way of a promotion to a more powerful role, but by what the Peter Principle might label “The Lateral Arabesque”.

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