One of my favourite poems as a child was Walter de la Mare’s stirring and ghostly “The Listeners.”
includes the lines: “Tell them I came and nobody answered / That I kept my word!” he said. As an eleven year old I took enormous pleasure in rolling these words around my tongue for greater effect. Whether this actually had greater effect,
I cannot say. It was, perhaps, a strange choice of poem for an eleven year old’s party piece.
Anyway, the words came flying back into my head this afternoon
when I turned up for my monthly Church Watch to find that nobody else had turned up to watch with me. The Church Watch co-ordinator had come along to unlock the door but said he couldn’t stay and nor could he leave me alone in the Church, on account
of my vulnerability and Great Age. Well, OK, he didn’t quite put it like that but I took it to be his meaning. I suggested that we ring my friend, the Wise and Wonderful Eleanor, who would surely be up for ninety minutes nattering with me if she
happened to be about. Sadly she wasn’t so that was another good idea down the drain. I’d only just lit the candles to welcome any visitors who might venture into the Church while we were open – but sadly had to blow them out again and return
home where Mr B was amazed to see me back so early and therefore about to disturb his peace and quiet.
I did have plenty to do, so I couldn’t grumble, even
though I had been looking forward to a happy time with my knitting in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings of St Andrew’s Church. If anybody had turned up wanting to be shown the famous Mosaics of the twelve apostles, the Victorian font, or the Memorial
Window to James Henty (who trotted off to Australia in 1829 and founded the Merino sheep farming industry), then I would, of course, have forsaken my Knit One, Purl One rib and given them the Grand Tour. Sort of.
As it was, I returned home to the task of sorting out the forthcoming Questers visit to Blind Veterans UK. This is turning into a bit of a nightmare due to the fact that it is so very popular. I
have now had to arrange a second visit and today’s big job was deciding who should be on which list. Mr B, who is cavalier about such matters, said I should simply select all my favourite people or at least those who would be easy enough to contact,
being on email. I feel honour bound not to follow his advice, especially as some of the people on my list are newbies who might just turn out to be favourite people once I get to know them. Instead I follow the advice of our Group Leaders,
write everybody’s names on little bits of paper and carry out a “Lucky Dip.” Mr B watches me with eye-brows raised and says he hopes we won’t be finding pieces of paper with people’s names on for ever after. I say of course we
won’t (I have my fingers crossed behind my back as I make my affirmation.)
I write two emails, one to those on the first visit, and one to those on the second
visit. At least I should be receiving lots of emails over the next week or so. I will feel quite popular for once. There are four Questers on each list who do not have an email address, so I will have to decide whether to phone them or write to
them. Writing to them will involve stamps or shoe leather, depending on how far away they live – but telephoning can also be tricky because lots of our Questers are – not to labour a point – getting on a bit. The mere thought of explaining
all the details of our Jolly Outing over the phone eight times over is more than a little daunting. It is All Getting Too Much For Me so I waltz into the kitchen to peel potatoes, slice onions and prick sausages. This is one of my classic Delaying
Tactics. Another is Clearing Up the Kitchen which can take me hours and hours, on account of the fact that I can combine it with some serious people watching out of the kitchen window, our kitchen being at the front of our house, rather than at the side or
the back. I particularly like it now that the schools are back and I can watch the youngsters larking about on their way to and from school, while I stand there at the sink, elbow deep in warm, soapy water. (Yes, I do have a dish washer but I find standing
at the sink, elbow-deep in hot, soapy water more therapeutic than loading and unloading dishes.)
In order to delay my return to the task in hand, I try to remember
the rest of “The Listeners.” Isn’t it amazing how one can remember poems from far off childhood? The final lines of “The Listeners” are: “And how the silence surged softly backward / When the plunging hooves were gone.”
I dare say the listeners in our Church – I’m sure there are some – would have welcomed the silence surging softly backward once I’d blown out the candles and taken my clackety knitting needles off with me.
Except - it should have been such a restful afternoon...