There are a few drawbacks to living on the edge of the Irish Sea and one of them is that friends find it difficult to visit. Just today a London pal turned up at Paddington to make the journey west, a booked journey, only to discover that her train had been cancelled. She’s coming tomorrow instead.
So, instead of the evening I’d planned, I was left wondering if I could be bothered to do anything at all, and if it would be a really sad reflection on my unproductive life if I sloped off to bed at 9.30.? But as I flicked disconsolately through the Times online, my neighbour came in, with the gift of a pot of home made vinaigrette. What a lovely bloke!
This neighbour is definitely one of the advantages of living in West Wales, a sweet and sensitive man. We are unalike in other ways too – obviously our gender, and he’s quite posh in a very relaxed sort of way (while I am not at all) and he is deeply married whilst I am long widowed, and he is very musical (have you heard me sing?) and he’s…. well, he’s nice without even trying to be, you know? Me, in order to be nice I have to stiffen the sinews and summon the blood, gird my loins, and pray a bit, give myself a stern talking-to … and then I might manage a half hearted enquiry about your health. But this chap, it comes naturally to him to both care and share. And laugh and sing. He composes music/songs.
The best bit of him is his honesty. We are completely honest with each other (rare in this culture and rare even among Christians who really want to be honest). He might cry, or – more rarely – I might. He might be helpless with laughter but usually that’s me. We argue about words (him and his ‘pulsate’. He’s so wrong. Just so wrong. ) and definitions and whether a rose by any other name would smell as sweet (yeah, talkin’ bout God) and he’s a dear mate. I may seem him only once or twice a month for a proper talk, but he’s a mate. The strange thing is that with him and one other (see ‘Salad Cream and Ham blog below) the talk is naturally and happily about God, about the Word, about the meaning of life in all its twists and turns and paradoxes. With fellow church goers, it’s too often about ..oh, I dunno, ‘stuff’. The boring dull routine and the petty problems of life. With these two mates its about the gret big walloping lovely LOVELY UNSOLVABLE MIND-BLOWING questions of life. And talking to them always always brings me to a fresh consciousness of God.
Isn’t that weird? Is it because my very lovable and kind church friends have a deep inner life and they don’t need to talk about God? To question and rejoice and wonder? If so, why do I? Maybe I should stop asking you questions before you throw your tablets and iPhones out of the window.
Back to this evening – if I lived in my lovely adopted hometown of Derby, I wouldn’t have been given that little pot of vinaigrette tonight, and we wouldn’t have had that life affirming conversation, and I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
If ifs and ands were pots and pans….. mind you, if I was in Derby I would be having a long ribald supper with Derek and Ivan and the crew, or hopping on a train (one and a bit hours) to London, or going to the opera at Buxton, or the multiplex for some too-bright too-loud block busting film, or joining the late night swimmers at David Lloyd… or…. now I’m just making myself homesick. Stop it.
Vinaigrette, strangely, makes up for all those things (well, almost). So, thank you, neighbour.
Proverbs 27:9 A sweet friendship ( and vinaigrette) refreshes the soul.
I added the parenthesis.