Worryingly only six of us turned up on Saturday morning to make the Palm crosses which would be given out to the whole congregation at Palm Sunday services. Three of whom were my two friends, Eleanor and Ian, and myself.
Nobody had remembered to advertise the Saturday morning session in the Church magazine so nobody knew it was happening. Except for the three of us who consider this one of our favourite Easter pastimes.
On the very first occasion, invited by Eleanor to join her (I try never to say no to an invitation, especially one which introduces me to a new activity. Unless said activity verges on the dangerous, like bungee jumping for
instance) we met at The Rectory and so many volunteers arrived that we took over two rooms. The Rector at the time exercised a robust approach to Quality Control and was not beyond ruthlessly disposing of any of our efforts which failed to pass muster. He
was particularly insistent that we must not snip off the pointy ends of our crosses.
On Saturday I noticed that Eleanor had brought along no fewer than three
pairs of scissors - what’s with all the snippy implements, I asked? Eleanor said it was in case “someone” forgot to bring their own with them; she was looking somewhat pointedly at me as she said this. I waved my own pair of scissors at her,
triumphantly. Wasn’t it good of her, though, to come prepared on someone else’s account?
Sweet Jill was on refreshment duty, taking our orders for
tea and coffee to refresh us along the way. She also produced some sugar-free Werthers toffees (now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one - who could ever talk about Werthers and sugar-free in one greedy breath?) Despite the absence of sugar, I accepted
her offer gratefully.
I seem to remember that in past years we aimed to produce 300 Palm crosses over the course of an hour or so. Given we were so few in number,
this time round, it seemed sensible to agree, before we started, what we were aiming for. The bare minimum, we were told, was 150 but to be on the safe side we should set our sights on achieving 200. There was clearly no time to waste.
Ian and Eleanor both confessed that they had practised the evening before in preparation. It’s easy to forget, from one year to the next, how to fashion a perfectly formed Palm
cross, with a neat “lock” holding it all in place and (remember) a pointy end. I applauded their industriousness - my own preparations had extended only as far as locating a pair of scissors (see above) and slipping them in my handbag. Lest I forgot.
While I am fashioning crosses out of palm branches, my mind wanders back to Palm Sundays at the parish church in the village of Staplehurst when my Foursome were growing
up. There was always a real life donkey in the procession and my children’s main topic of conversation over the days leading up to the Main Event was whether or not the donkey would “behave itself.” I’m not at all sure this was the
intention of those who, year on year, led the donkey into church in a bid to make the service more meaningful to both old and young alike.
We make it to
the magic 200. Towards the end of our session, I decide that I had better wash up all the mugs. This seems only fair, considering that I did drink at least twice as much coffee as anyone else around the table. Eleanor collects her three pairs of scissors and
bids me farewell; Ian leaves about the same time but forgets his scissors so I put them in my bag to return to him on Sunday. I nearly forget my own scissors and have to go back for them.
Outside in the churchyard, a splendidly beautiful jay is perched on the cherry blossom tree. He gazes at me enquiringly as if wondering what I am doing there among the gravestones, humming “Ride on, ride on in Majesty”
I don’t really see the need to explain myself to him, but I nod (as much to myself as to Mr Jay.) I am feeling mildly pleased with myself.
It was, as my dear Mum would doubtless (and quite inexplicably) tell me “a job well jobbed.”