Orthodox England

Excerpt from: Volume 9 Issue 4 Date 1st June 2006

Editorial: When I Went to Heaven

Our first car, purchased in 1961, was a pale-green, second-hand Ford Popular; top speed, with the wind at your back, 50 mph. Petrol then cost four-and-six a gallon – twenty times less than now. Inside the car there was space for four small people, but there were five of us. We squeezed in as we could. In the days before seatbelts I would crouch on the floor at the front between my eldest brother’s legs. There was always room.
On Sunday afternoons in spring, we could head southeast, to go for a walk down on the north Essex marshes. Meandering around the back roads, by the meadows and clumps of daffodils of Inworth and the blossoming fruit orchards of Tiptree, we made our way towards the Blackwater estuary. We rambled along at a rural pace, trundling by the pastures and backwaters of the estuary, in a world redolent of the solid earthiness of the past.

In the approaching tang of the sea, the lobster pot and the old fishing boat, haste and rush never came the way of these backwaters. Low, grass-grown marshlands compassed us about and, beyond them, nothing but muddy banks, water and reeds could be seen, nothing but the cries of the gulls broke the silence. It seemed as though the other world had broken through the veil to this one, and I had entered eternity, where time stood still.

Or else, on a golden summer’s afternoon, we could head northwest, up the river valleys of the Colne and the Stour to Suffolk, to ‘Cousin Mary’ at Kedington (in fact my grandmother’s cousin). This was prosperous country, rich farmland. The lanes meandered delightfully between fields and hedgerows, ever flower-decked and pretty. Making our way from village to village, now and again going downhill with a sprightly turn of speed, we would wave to children paddling in a stream, as the little road pleasantly curved its way by copse and meadow.

At Cousin Mary’s, in Dash End Lane, the peace of the countryside descended with lovely softness. There, in the Victorian living-room of her cottage, in the days of lace and chintz and antimacassars, over the sideboard hung the portrait of her beloved only son, dressed in the First World War uniform, in which he had given his life. And in the presence of the clock’s measured tick on the mantelpiece, we drank her homemade dandelion wine and ate fresh bread with butter and her own fragrant damson jam. Birdsong came in though the open windows. And, once more, or so it seemed, I had gone to heaven.

Fr Andrew

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(c) Orthodox England - Published within the English Deanery of the Church Outside Russia: with the blessing of the Very Reverend Mark, Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland.