|Of Leather, Spinsters and Willow
25 May 2003
And so to another Church in the constituency, to join my constituents on their knees. Remembering John Major’s speech some eight years ago, I decided to leave the car behind. This was his speech about the sound of leather on willow on the village green, and spinsters bicycling through the mist to Communion. I was doing my bit, belatedly, to respond to my Leader’s call. I was on my bicycle going to Communion, though falling short of his vision in some other important respects.
My route took my across the A303, at one of the few remaining points where you can cross over it, dodging four lanes of dual carriageway linking the South West to the South East. This is a hazardous task in a car; on a bicycle, more exposed and without the acceleration, it is verging on the reckless. A few prayers were said in advance, and I reached the other side. As with the Three Wise Men in the Gospel of St Matthew, I decided, after the service, that I would depart into my own country another way.
It was a United Benefice service, with the congregation from four churches, but reinforced by some 25 visiting Texans. They were staying with local people, enjoying generous Hampshire hospitality and, in return, helping finance repairs to the local churches. They were escorted by their local Vicar, to make sure they didn’t have too much to confess about when they got home. We had two sermons, and sang our respectuve National Anthems
Having sighted me at the back of the Church, the local Vicar welcomed the presence of the local MP and, addressing our American guests, assured them that I would be happy to explain, over a cup of coffee after the service, exactly what an English MP did.
After the service, I had an agreeable conversation with many of the Americans. None of them asked me what I did; on the other hand, a number of the locals were cheeky enough to do so.
I bicycled home, under the A303, thinking that I helped to save the ozone layer by not using the car. When I arrived back, the car had gone. The wife had taken the opportunity to visit the local supermarket to make some discretionary purchases.