S T   C U T H B E R T ’ S  H O U S E Hermitage of the Diocese of Nottingham               

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Christmas 2010

Dear Family and Friends,                                                                                                                                                                                      

I think it fair to say that 2010 has been an unusual year.  This time last year I was in the process of NOT being diagnosed for the cause of a dodgy femoral nerve.  A year on, the medical situation is unchanged – the femoral nerve is still dodgy, the diagnosis still eludes the experts – but in the meantime I have had quite an adventure adapting to my new circumstance and exploring the hitherto unknowable merits of our welfare state.  Suffice to say, 3 walking sticks, numerous grab rails and a smart(ish) new(ish) automatic motor later (complete with disabled parking badge, oh yes!), and with the support of the team at my local job centre, I am looking forward to soon being promoted out of ESA (those who care to, will know what that means) and into the “Return to Work” cohort to earn my own living again.  Hopefully a more structured approach to my writing and calligraphy, a little tutoring work and the odd supply day in school should together suffice to keep me shuffling along in this mortal coil for the foreseeable.  

In the meantime, 2009/10 has been something of a sabbatical, albeit punctuated liberally with appointments (ref. above) which effectively removed any sense of “vast abyss” from a life without structured work.    The prospect of solitary incapacity should sound quite enticing to a hermit – the opportunity to “do” the hermitage thing properly, without distraction.  The reality?  I have been both amazed and profoundly dismayed to discover what great treasuries of distraction are to be found in the minutiae of simply getting through a day!  Rather than resting in the awareness of each minute’s silent æon, the days have never seemed so short, and the months have flown by in a haze of “jobs to be done yesterday”.   I end the year then, a wiser, more self-knowing, but sadly no more focussed hermit than when I began it.  God can make of that what God  will.

On the other hand … the calligraphy business has benefitted a little from my restricted mobility, and I have enjoyed fulfilling a number of very interesting commissions – from a plaque for a local village hall, to an epic cricketing commission from Singapore. New designs for Christmas are now on my website – a cheerful bunch I like to think, jostling and punching their way out of envelopes with your greetings.  AND the best price yet.  Over the year I have been able to send nearly £150 of profits to CAFOD and the Medical Foundation (for the care of victims of torture).   And (fortuitously) to feed myself.  Thank you for your support.

OTHER NEWS:  A GREAT CHASM appeared in St Cuthbert’s House at the height of summer.  Soil tests revealed a lip-pursing dryness which had caused subsidence in the ground – and cracked the drains.  Problem solved then?  I was anticipating bulldozers and hard helmets, but apparently both issues are solvable with minimum disruption – inflatable drain liners and rain: the wonders of modern technology - and God. Meanwhile I am considering erecting safety rails alongside the rupture, and opening it up to the paying public. “Cream Teas at Owersby Edge” has a certain ring to it?

The other major preoccupation of the year has been my CATS.  I was beginning to empathise with good King Henry:  divorced, beheaded, divorced, beheaded, beheaded … the divorces due to the allurements of the local farm cat colony; the beheadings courtesy of the road up Folly Hill (quiet, but deadly).  I was tempted briefly by the offer of  a canine “ratter” as an alternative, less lethally independent solution, but realised very quickly that the concomitant wet doggy affection would be more than I could cope with on a regular basis – I am a hermit for good reason! - and decided instead to explore the hitherto alien notion of “indoor cats”.  Jack and Harry (in honour of our recently fêted Cardinal) moved in a few weeks later.  Cream point and white Selkirk Rex brothers, they resemble nothing quite so much as tiny sheep.  They are uncannily quiet, so ideal for the contemplative life, and follow me around with their wide-astonished baby blue eyes.  They find many things astonishing.

As do I! Not least the sense of providential care which has been my experience during this unexpected year.  I have known a great warmth from your love and concern for me during this time of transition, and applaud the matter-of-fact manner with which those of you affected have addressed the limitations which my limitations have imposed on you.  I have recently been reading a book which speaks of the limitations which God chose to embrace by becoming human.  It is not my natural perspective, inclining instead to focus on the infinite human capacity for love which was Jesus’ living out of his inherent, unlimited humanity amongst us.  A capacity which I have perhaps glimpsed more readily than is the common experience, through your care for me during this year.  Thank you.  My prayer during this closing season is that you too will experience something of the reassurance, and empowerment  and joy of that infinite care, however, and by whomsoever it might arrive for you.  And, in the fullness of time and season, that you may have a very happy Christmas.

Rachel HDN