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Christmas 2007

2007 was definitely the year of the media:  Following on the remarkable piece about my life here in the local paper at the end of 2006, I was hounded by the press for most of the year.  The hound, it has to be said, was a little terrier, just snapping at my heels occasionally – but the recurring interest of Radio Lincolnshire, BBC Look North, the Diocesan news, Catenian News & towards the end of the year, the Church Times, made me feel that “hermit’s best friend” was never far away.  It has been a fascinating experience & I have discovered an unexpected respect for the many & varied interpretations of the hermit life which have resulted, with remarkably little intrusion: but it does feel a tad surreal to be becoming blasé about yet another photo of myself (the same photo!) in print.  I do wish I had combed my hair …

One of the fringe benefits of the media exposure has been publicity for my greeting card business.  This is still very much in fledgling form, but the online shop makes a small profit now & the cards are on sale in Malvern Priory, Bristol Cathedral, Newcastle Cathedral, the Boston Stump & another couple of website outlets.  I have received complaints (I know, I know!) that the cards are too expensive to send in quantity at Christmas, so I am considering launching a budget range for next year, printed on lighter card which (for technical reasons) will make the whole printing process a lot simpler & less time consuming.  In the meantime I am always grateful to those who fork out on the luxury versions throughout the year – www.stcuthbertshouse.co.uk - feel the quality!

Having celebrated Easter in the parish for the previous 5 years, I decided this year to do things a little differently & set out “on pilgrimage” each Sunday of Lent to the deanery church instead.  With an hour’s drive each way, & parkland close by the church, it was easy to make an event of this & to spend a little more time than usual in my favourite occupation: stopping & staring.  The deanery liturgy was lively, exuberant in part, & had a very different flavour to the rural parish which is my customary home; it was great to be made so welcome & to be part of so moving a Triduum.  Meanwhile, back in the parish, plans were afoot & on Easter Sunday morning (when I returned to the fold) we were greeted by a surprise trumpet voluntary from one of our younger members – a great welcome back.

The spiritual highlight of the year has to have been my Scottish retreat.  I saw this advertised in the Tablet as a “silence & awareness” retreat, thought it looked like my sort of thing & (as places were in short supply) signed up, in August.  It was only later that I began to wonder at the wisdom of a week in Dundee, in November.  On arrival I was greeted by one of the Carmelite community from Woodhall, who had been through the experience before & began, tentatively, to let me in on a few details.  I began to wonder why she had come back for more.  It was pretty relentless: when you weren’t sitting, you were walking; when you weren’t walking, you were sitting: this was Buddhist technique for Christians & apparently with 7 hours sleep each night we were being given retreat-lite; on a Buddhist retreat you could be barred from instruction if you took any more than 4 hours!  Believe me or not, it was actually a great experience & I am looking forward to developing my practice back at SCH … for starters, I can already sit cross-legged!

The vegetable garden has taken on a new order this year, with the donation of 568 used bricks to line the beds.  These were all obtained through the www.freecycle.org network (try it if you haven’t used it yet).  What was most touching was that, without exception, the donors of the bricks had all chipped off the old cement so the bricks were already smooth & stacked ready for installation.  In the unlikely event that any of them catches sight of this letter, many thanks!  The over pruning of the apple trees (for the sake of the Look North camera crew – ref. above) resulted in a paltry crop this year; the garden mice then invaded the house in late autumn to demolish what was left.  Comment from the rat-catcher … “what’s with all the crosses then?”sigh … he took it quite well really, even finishing his coffee before running from the house screaming!

Every blessing to each of you this Advent.  My thanks for your prayers & for your support in so many & such varied ways; it is all very much appreciated.

& my love & my prayers,

Rachel HDN