Friday, 28 December 2012

Ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν


At my mother's memorial service her friend and neighbour, Christina Murray, read this from one of Barbara’s regular articles during her fourteen years as  the first women’s editor of Farmers Weekly. She was inspired by seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks in the National Gallery.

PEACE OF MIND
...When we were children, one of the excitements of Christmas was visiting the crib in our village church. And, like all things in a child’s memory, it’s the atmosphere and happenings which surround an event as much as the event itself which are important.
We always used to make this visit after tea and oh the excitement of going out of the house after dark and the little shivers of expectancy which murmured through my small frame as we entered the church door and tip-toed across the stone floor to where the crib was arranged in the corner. There it was, those little figures grouped around the inch high doll lying in its little match-box sized crib. This tiny figure representing the Man who was to make men and women of us all. Now, when I look at this picture, I recall the feeling of those after-tea visits, and though now I can express my thoughts a little more clearly the majesty and the magic of it still remain.
What emerges more clearly as one stands before this painting is the Mother’s peace of mind - strange that so nebulous a quality should shine out so distinctly. For her it was a peace of mind from having achieved so richly that for which she was chosen. For us it is strangely the same, for Peace of Mind is an achievement in itself. It is a philosophy of life born along the road to maturity. A state of mind achieved out of the guts of experience.
Then when you believe that you have found contentment in the way you live your life, a pride in your family and friends and no lasting envy of others, then peace of mind becomes the bridge over the gap between youthfulness and maturity which, when you cross it, makes you stronger and braver than the young.
The truth of this shines through the face of the Virgin in the picture and as one quietly gazes on this family group one begins to know the meaning of that Peace which Passeth all Understanding.
*** *** ***
The Rev William Mather, officiating, finished his tribute:
Barbara would not have called herself particularly religious but she was blessed with an open-heart towards life and people and with a spiritual awareness. It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that when she refers to the 'Peace that passeth all understanding,' she is quoting from the famous verse in Philippians 4.4-7. In the words of the Authorised Version of the Bible, which she loved, it is as follows:  
4. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and
Again I say, Rejoice 
5. Let your moderation by known
Unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 
6. Be careful for nothing; but in
Every thing by prayer and supplication
With thanksgiving let your requests
Be made known unto God. 
7. And the peace of God, which
Passeth all understanding, shall keep
Your hearts and minds through
Christ Jesus. Amen
 **** ****
Barbara's step-daughter, Fiona, spoke most ex tempore, sweetly and with such fun, wit and timing. I pause at using her notes to capture her tribute, which like this seem to have something of the style of Pickwick's acquaintance Alfred Jingle. Fiona tho' was no charlatan and she never mangled a phrase:
Intro: difficult task so many aspects to her character. She was attractive, cultured, extremely intelligent, charming, great sense of style – feathered hats, plus fours, good sense of humour, great taste, always interesting, career woman, homemaker. A true country woman who was equally at home in the city, often infuriating and never, never wrong! She was interested in everything ranging from llamas and Jacob sheep to politics, religion, literature and the arts, always young at heart. Amusing and exasperating anecdotes: Supermarket trolley, plastic cutlery. Driving: excellent and very fast, to still very fast, but dangerous. A9 at 80mph, terrier. Crash with police car. “Not my fault, foggy”. Cooking: Excellent, unusual attitude to food hygiene, chicken, “Nonsense”. Food poisoning. Hols: far from incident free. Fire, insurance. Picnic chairs and table, picnic site. Lost passport, Wheelchair in road, furniture moving, slope, booking cockup, shared bedroom, smoking in café..End on serious note. Dad and particularly B gave us wonderful holidays with the children up at Faillie. Warm welcome, wonderful smell of woodsmoke, delicious meals, picnics. A relaxing outdoor holiday, fishing, swimming in the loch, walking the dogs. Hard to realise that a 40 year era has ended. I believe that B’s spirit is riding across the moors, whistling up the dogs or fishing down by her beloved Findhorn and that is how I’ll always remember her. Last paragraph from Wuthering Heights.
“I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth”.
Thank you Barbara for looking after Dad so well, for all that you did for our family, and for the privilege of knowing you. 
*** *** ***
Mum's friend Minoti could not join us but added her tribute in writing:
REMEMBERING THEODORA
"Theodora"! Slowly she lifted her head, a ray of sunshine stole in from the window wrapping around her hair like a halo as we came in beside her chair in the living room of Brin Croft that afternoon of the last day of June this year. It was as if a sunflower had turned its face to the East in the morning. Indeed so it was. For a moment time raced back two centuries. It was as if her great grandmother, Jane, Lady Maine, had stepped out of the pages of the researched volume on the life of Sir Henry Sumner Maine which lay open on the table where Theodora had been reading. But this was not the first time that our two worlds met, defying as it were Rudyard Kipling's famous prediction that they would not. Unlike her great grandmother, who had never seen India, Theodora had visited the country although she had not been familiar with her ancestor's famous books Ancient Law published in 1861 and his equally famous lectures in Oxford on Village Communities in the East and West which too had been published in 1871. It was well beyond the Kipling prediction that the "twain shall not meet". Sir Henry not only brought the East to the West but brought the study of Law into the formal teaching curriculum of Oxford University. I travelled the other way round to the West and so imbibed the scholarship initiated by Sir Henry which helped me to retrace my study of common lands in India to the Western Teutonic and Celtic communities of Europe. It was in this process of collecting Sir Henry's entire correspondence that I came across Simon's search on the internet for his Grandpa Henry who was Sir Henry Sumner Maine's grandson. This is like the silk route to Theodora Barbara Sumner Maine or TBSM - her encrypted DNA as I would like to think. Her great grandmother and grandmother belonged to families in Kelso - the Borderlands. I could discern a special attachment of Theodora to the Highlands and she listened with great interest to my work on common pastures in highlands both in Scotland and in the Himalayas. She called herself a shepherdess. To me our meeting has been a confluence of two cultures brought together by the onset of changes in the Twentieth century where women are no longer in 'tutelage' as they were in the times when Henry Sumner Maine wrote about it. She wanted to know so much about the tradition of commoning in both India and in Scotland and whilst I was able to explain the major findings of Sir Henry there was very little time to share his views on women in society. I never could tell her how Sir Henry had been in the society of educated authors of his time like George Eliot and had been espousing the talent of his wife's sister who wrote novels. I wonder what Maine would have thought of my finding his great-grand-daughter enthusiastically reading about the Voyager spacecraft on the edge of our solar system, on a 21st century iPad? [A note from the scholar, Professor Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul, December 8, 2012]

...and a few days ago came a card from friends in India, from Tikli
I studied E.M.Forster's A Passage to India for 'A' level 50 years ago. It was Mum's friendship with Minoti that made instant connection with that curtain falling conclusion, written when she was a 7 year old girl, to Forster's tour de force:
"But the horses didn't want it - they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, 'No, not yet,' and the sky said, 'No, not there.'"  Ch. 37
*** *** *** ***
Clarinet Quartet in Ag.Georgiou
Μια πολύ ωραία συναυλία του "Κουαρτέτου Κλαρινέτων ΟΡΦΕΑΣ" πραγματοποιήθηκε απόψε  βράδυ, στην εκκλησία του Αγίου Γεωργίου, στο χωριό μας. Το συγκρότημα εκπροσώπησαν οι Αργυρός Δημήτρης, Κρητικός Γιάννης, Μάνδηλας Χρύσανθος και ο Βασιλάτος Ηλίας. Στο πρώτο μέρος του προγράμματος το κουαρτέτο πλαισιώθηκε από τις νεαρές μουσικούς της μπάντας του Μουσικού μας Συλλόγου  Νικολούζου Ευαγγελία, Στογιάννου Σπυριδούλα και Τσιριγώτη Ελευθερία. Το ποικίλο πρόγραμμα απέσπασε το χειροκρότημα του κοινού και τα θετικά σχόλια των μαέστρων των Φιλαρμονικών Σκριπερού και Κορακιάνας. Την εκδήλωση προλόγισε ο Πρόεδρος της Φιλαρμονικής Κορακιάνας Σπύρος Σαββανής. 
This evening a delightful concert was given by the 'ORPHEUS Clarinet Quartet' at the church of St. George - Αγίου Γεωργίου - in our village. The group comprised Dimitris Argyris, John Kritikos, Chrysanthos Madilas and Elias Vasilis, joined in the first part of the quartet by young musicians from our band's Musical Club, Evangelia Nikolouzos, Spyridoula Stogiannis, and Spyria and Eleftheria Tsirigoti. A varied programme won the audience's applause and compliments from the conductors of the Korakiana and Skripero Philharmonics. The event was introduced by the President of the Korakiana Philharmonic, Spyros Savvanis.
*** *** ***
I went shopping again on Christmas Eve and bought presents - chocolate boxes, champagne, marrons glacés, checked boys' toys at Maplins...
...before descending down the Birmingham slope to look for odds-and-ends from the Rag Market, treating myself to a well burned baked potato...
... dripping with melted butter, then half a dozen oysters...
... and later, when Richard joined me, a meal at Café Soya. A couple sat nearby. The male had entered on the phone, spoke on it while eating and left the same way, emitting muffled banalities, letting the woman open the exit door - a bulky figure, possibly an android, enabling its owner to enjoy the town alone. I peered to see a ring in its back, but she probably had a remote control in her handbag.
On Christmas day it continued grey. A part of my little constellation - Amy, Guy, now Oliver in his pushchair seeing it all for new, his first Christmas, Liz and Matt and Richard and dogs Jessie, Oscar and Cookie plus our neighbour's dog Deiter - we strolled through Handsworth Park, the familiar circuit of our park - Vertegan's promenades - by St Mary's Church, over the narrow rail bridge, past the cricket ground to the rose garden, children's playground and back along the avenue by the Son's of Rest and over the larger rail bridge, down the long slope that passes the pond, taking us back to busy Hamstead Road...


...and home for the happy chaos of Linda's and Dot's Christmas lunch in the early evening - and presents still to come. Oliver sits in the same high chair that served his great grandmother, his grandfather, and his mum.
Lin's mum Dorothy with Oscar and Oliver and Amy and Guy

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