This afternoon I was quite exceptionally watchful.
Regular readers will remember that I have signed up to be a Church “Watcher”,
ready (on one afternoon a month) to welcome visitors to our beautiful church. This afternoon was my very first experience of watchfulness.
I thought it might
be cold in the church so I dressed up warm with an extra jumper, scarf and gloves – only to find that someone had thoughtfully ensured that the heating was turned on. I came equipped with a bottle of water and my copy of “Lincoln” which I
am still ploughing through. I thought Lincoln would be appropriately sombre reading material – chick lit, for example, just wouldn’t seem fitting, would it, given the surroundings? I also managed to find a helpful leaflet about our church which
I had been given on a recent tour for would-be Watchers given by the Church Archivist. Sadly I found I couldn’t remember much about the tour, apart from that I had found it highly enjoyable. How would I answer any questions I might be asked by the swarm
of visitors who would descend on us over the course of the afternoon, I panicked.
My fellow “Watcher” was called Anne and when I arrived she was pinning
up notices announcing that our church was open for visitors and worrying whether she had enough string to secure them to their posts. Apparently we are going to have A boards one day soon but they haven’t arrived yet. We have a good discussion about
where we should put the A Boards when they arrive so that people will see them and decide to pay us a visit. Anne has been a “Watcher” for three years so at least I have someone with experience to pass on. She tells me that afternoons on
Church Watch tend to pass painfully slowly but I am undaunted. We are joined by Elizabeth who shows me how to turn the lights on, where the loos are (apparently a fair number of visitors simply want to use the loo) and draws my attention to the Visitors Book
in which our visitors could be encouraged to write.
Outside there seems to be a fair amount of coming and going in the churchyard (I think, perhaps, it is used
as a short-cut) but nobody lifts the latch and comes in to see us. We settle down, the three of us, for a good old natter. We start with Maggie Thatcher’s funeral, somehow drift onto boarding schools and the difficulties of children in care, tell each
other stories of our families and share our experiences in researching our family history. We talk about how, so long as you love, and are loved, you can survive anything life throws at you. The saints look down from the stained glass windows and nod
A visitor! But, no, it’s another Church Regular bringing sweet-smelling flowers to be turned into a beautiful arrangement by someone more
talented than I. I tell my new friends the story of my short engagement with the Flower Arranging Club at school when I was 11, how I soon realised my lack of skill with All Things Floral and joined the Guinea Pig Club instead. We talk about dogs
and how Anne has an arrangement with a dog-owner who needs someone to look after and walk her dog while she is at work. This provides Anne with all the fun of having a dog without any of the responsibility. I tell her that this would suit me fine too but I
know, in my heart, that Mr B would take some persuading. Elizabeth tells us about the large tabby cat which has “adopted” her and now brings along all his mates to line up outside her kitchen door every morning waiting to be fed. We talk
about sea-gulls, how proud and arrogant they are, but how we love them because they are all about the seaside and living at the seaside is one of life’s real pleasures.
Good heavens, it’s half past four already. How time has flown! We haven’t had a single visitor but we have watched the church faithfully and enjoyed each other’s company. Elizabeth says it’s the best time she’s ever had
on Church Watch. Next time, she says, perhaps we should make ourselves a cup of tea?
Anne says she can give me a lift home but I reckon I need to stretch my legs. I walk home humming All Things Bright
and Beautiful, which always reminds me of my mum - and we have, after all, been talking about love and family all afternoon.
There’s only one loser, as far
as I can see and that’s poor old Lincoln, lurking unread in the bottom of my bag. As it turned out, I didn’t need his company after all...