He was in a friendly, sociable mood, I hardly know him any other way, when I bumped into him this morning. He was carrying a flower stand on his shoulder as he was coming from the church. Left over from a wedding, he explained, nobody picked it up afterwards, my job to return it. A vicar’s lot, I suppose.
I inquired after his wife, eager to receive some first-hand information. We were standing by the churchyard wall, a nice wall out of flint stone, with plenty of cars parked next to it. Last year somebody ran a car into it causing a large hole which had to be repaired, of course, I don’t know at what cost. Ever since, I imagine, the Vicar is nervous about the wall: All these women every morning, taking their children to the C.o.E. school next door to the church, parking, so many in a long line, reversing, turning, cutting it fine, the Viocar was muttering a lot of comment under his breath, I didn’t understand half of it, rolling his eyes, pretending comical despair and eventually deciding to turn his back on the scene of action. He was then able to inform me about his wife’s state of health. He was factual about it, using medical terminology, down to earth, cool, smiling.
His wife was obviously very poorly, putting them both to a lot of trouble which they had to bear and that was it. The problem would be solved sooner or later by an operation. They had seen a specialist in a clinic reserved for clergy, Mrs Rivers had told me they had seen somebody privately and had concluded they must have private income, and he explained this meant that his wife was treated ‘like a private patient’. The trouble was that the operation would have to be in a different hospital, which might mean a long wait. There were more tests to be done before she could have surgery, and while they were waiting, she was resting in a Christian home of some kind. I felt sorry for them both: she out of action for an unknown time, he having to cope on his own. He was fine, he protested, busy all the time. Stops you from thinking, I said. How was I, he asked, and didn’t insist too much, because I was visibly fine, too. I asked him to give his wife my ‘love’, I thought it had better be ‘love’ for a vicar, and I would keep my fingers crossed for her. I didn’t offer any other support, for after all what are his parishioners there for ?
He picked up his flower stand, smiled very warmly, I thought, pushed his hat a little with his right hand which reminded me that in former times gentlemen used to raise their hat for the ladies, bestowed blessings on me, and we parted.