I hope everyone had a lovely Easter, though I can’t imagine that for many it was as lovely as mine. Having not expected to get to Downside for the Retreat (as I would have been in hospital had my autograft gone ahead), I turned up with Fred on Thursday evening and had a wonderful time all the way until Sunday lunchtime when we left.
Thursday evening mostly consisted of greeting and catching up with people, and that was especially nice this year as many were surprised and, fortunately, pleased to see me. What’s more, we packed out Bainesbury (the house at Downside that we, the OMV, rent for the duration) with wonderful people, including many of my closest friends. Hurrah! On Friday I didn’t risk setting out on the Cross Walk with the others, as I’m still not as strong as I could be, but did attend the service and then in the evening chaired our ‘chat with a priest and a few glasses of wine’, which went very well. Saturday was more relaxed, with just a bit of flower-arranging in the morning in the Abbey (to help pay for Bainesbury), a talk I attended, and a pub lunch with the OMV lot. In the afternoon we had a game of Articulate, relaxed in Bainesbury and then later had a quiet drink in the pub as my other siblings (including in-law) turned up. Then there was the Vigil, which was lovely, and didn’t seem as long as it was, before we had our Resurrection Party in Bainesbury, where we provide the youngsters of the Retreat with somewhere to let their hair down without keeping their parents etc awake. On Sunday quite a few people left early, so by the time we had cleaned up Bainesbury and had a little bit of lunch (yes, Tomandalice and Harriet, that was our breakfast) there were just a few of us left. It was very sad to say goodbye, and the time had whizzed past, but it was a lovely lovely retreat. Thanks to Jo for organising it.
The sadness of it ending was cancelled out pretty swiftly by going to Tomandalice’s house for Easter lunch, where Harriet was also staying: we had a very entertaining time, washed down with some wine and punctuated with Easter egg hunts. We even found an old wooden golf club in the garden, plus a couple of old tennis balls, so the hunt was a bit more fraught with risk than usual, as I took aim at the hunters. That fun was spoilt when Tom’s mighty whack saw the head of the club come flying off and almost decapitate someone – fortunately Harriet didn’t remember that there was actually a set of golf clubs in the back of her car… Leaving there, though, was sad again as Fred and I realised that the wonderful Retreat and the entertainment of being with siblings was all over and it was back to humdrum reality. Or something.
I do love going back to Downside, for a number of reasons. I had five brilliant years there, and remember them fondly whenever I return. The welcome is always touching and sincere, and it’s great to talk to old friends from the monastery and elsewhere in the Downside family. I suppose I also feel very proud when I go back, as I managed to get my name engraved on a couple of boards in the Main Hall and haven’t yet ruined the good reputation I earned during my time there! Unfortunately there weren’t any school team photos when I was in the 1st XV for rugby, so nobody believed I had been… Anyway, to the right is a picture of Greg Parvus playing for Downside, drawn by Honeypot, to make up for it. As I was saying, though, it’s always great to be back at Downside, and I had a wonderful surge of energy and joy being there.
I was once again touched by the number of people who asked after me, told me that I am in their prayers and offered their continuing support. It does make an enormous difference to know that there are so many people gunning for me, including many I have not necessarily even met. I was surprised to find this blog advertised on a board in the Main Hall, but moved to know that the Downside community still cares about me. Amusingly, it was pinned up underneath another notice advertising Confession…