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Reading Aloud

The Vicar

I keep on unfailingly friendly terms with him in spite of the fact that I have nothing at all to do with the Church. Of course, we never touch that subject.
Our friendship goes back to the time when I was a member of the church choir for the simple reason that I enjoy singing. The old choirmaster and organist retired after a year or two and the new one came, together with the new vicar, my present friend. I stayed on long enough to be taken in as a familiar face. Then I left. Various circumstances made us keep in touch. We frequently see him on a Sunday morning, my husband and I walking one way to fetch the newspaper and the Vicar coming the other way in his car, going to work. We always wave to one another. Sometimes he is accompanied by his wife who also gives us a friendly smile. The Vicar has a dog similar to ours, a bitch, and somebody told me once he had his eyes on our dog as a possible mate for his. What an extraordinary combination! I was all for it. However, nothing came of it. A misunderstanding after all – the Vicar’s wife having heard that a lady in the neighbouring village was looking for a suitable dog for her bitch had apparently recommended ours – that was the true story. I was disappointed.

At Christmas time we had a tin of biscuits given for which we had no use. Aware that the Vicar has to do a fair bit of entertaining, I passed it on to him. His wife was grateful and rang me up to say so. A little later we had to ask him for his services. Our daughter needed a passport and various forms had to be filled in and signed, duly witnessed by a local or professional person of consequence. How convenient to be on good terms with the Vicar! He saved us the trouble of going further afield. When I rang him up, he answered the phone in French to which I replied in the same language. However, he couldn’t keep it up. He had us round and did the necessary without delay.

I wonder if I annoyed him a little – he never said a word about it – when I had a letter published in the XDM – a “diocesan magazine” – recently. I don’t normally read this magazine, but somebody had brought an article in it to my attention. It had been written by quite a young lady ardently supporting the view that a husband has “God-given” authority over his wife and that the wife must do what she can to make his life easy for him. This was supported by a number of quotations from the Old and New Testament. I asked my husband for his opinion and thought I should not withhold it from the Editor : It had made the day for him, my husband told me, only too pleased to hear, at least in theory, what life should be like for him. He couldn’t understand why an institution with sound views like that didn’t have more support.

The Editor must have felt the same, because he published the letter with my full name and address. I hope the Vicar didn’t think I wanted to take the micky out of his article – I believe his views are similar. He reads the magazine first before putting it at everybody’s disposal in the church. Somebody borrowed it there and let me have it, asking me to take it back to the church afterwards. I didn’t want to be seen in the church and sent my children down, but the place was closed. I went myself later, and much to my embarrassment bumped into the Vicar’s wife who was sitting in the porch. She never sees me there nowadays and she knew what was in the magazine I was bringing back. I tried to behave casually and with the most innocent tone asked her where to put it down, because I had no idea. She did it for me with a set face, calling me “dear”, it is true, which encouraged me to sit on the bench with her for a few minutes. I hadn’t seen her for quite a while and knew she had had health problems which she readily informed me about. Then, talking about the problems the former organist and his wife were faced with, she divulged such a wealth of details about the latters’ lives and circumstances that I couldn’t take it all in. Considering they had arrived in the village two years after us, I wondered where she had learned it all – his greedy son who was after the house; his mother who was called the “mad” woman of the village; and a lot more. I entertained my family with it coming home.

The other day I saw the Vicar at the organist’s house. I was helping make up their bed for them and the Vicar was sort of supervizing. All these eager ladies rushing about the house, making themselves useful – it must have been a pleasing sight. As I passed him yet again he thanked me for the postcard I had sent him from holiday. I had never sent him any, but was pleased to know he thought me capable of doing it and acknowledged his thanks with a smiling “that’s alright”. Good for him! Better to thank too much than not enough.

He went on holiday himself recently. The day he came back he was on the phone to me to hear what news there were about the old organist. I felt duly important and put him in the picture. He thanked me for looking after them. Had the holiday been beneficial for him, I wondered, once the official part was over. Yes, very much so, was the answer. The weather was not quite perfect, but otherwise very nice. Some beautiful places in England. He was quite taken by what he had seen. I suggested the break must have been welcome. That’s it, he said, the break has done us good. Nice to hear you, I said, see you and bye-bye, Dick. Bye-bye, dear.

His name is Dick which strikes me because it means “fat” in my language. He is as thin as a rake…

The Vicar is a controversial man. Two people had told me about an article he had contributed to the Church Magazine. It was about the position women hold in life according to the Christian view. At the time there seemed to be great uncertainty in this matter. As far as the Vicar is concerned there can be no doubt but that woman is subordinate to man. Quite absurd for her to be ordained as a priest. A dangerous proposition in fact which has to be resisted. New Friend pushed the magazine aside, so he had told me, utterly disgusted and determined never to look at it again. A lady friend of mine – I heard this from her husband – had to be “scraped off the ceiling” – she was so upset by the article. She called the Vicar to task and in spite of his wife’s loyal support she managed to make him give way. He in fact said that his sole subject had been to stimulate the discussion about these things.