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 2017

Dear Friends and Family.

I hope all are well and have succeeded in riding the surf of these remarkable times.  2017, besides being a beautiful and elegant number, has excelled even the surprises of its predecessor:  we are in an unexpected, more uncertain place than many have experienced before, and there is much anxiety.  Prayers for all in 2018.

In other news, far away from the bulletins, walking the Cuckoo Way (canal towpath between Gainsborough and Chesterfield) this summer has been a delightful experience – special thanks to all those who have accompanied me thus far. At the time of writing I am still negotiating the foothills of Retford and Worksop, so a little way to go to reach the Leaning Spire of Chesterfield.  This has been very congenial walking – I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys restful, picturesque ambling along well-trodden paths.  It has also been excellent training for Mr Bingley (robust Chihuahua X).  As a rescue dog, it is impossible to know his early-years experiences.  Suffice to say, on arrival at SCH he was not comfortable around strangers, and especially not around strange dogs.  Upon espying a group approaching in the distance, he has been known to turn tail and, just out of reach but with occasional glances over his shoulder to check I am following, to trace his own scent a mile or more back to a place of safety – usually the car.  The popular but narrow canal towpaths of this summer’s walking, with no way of escape but backwards, have proved to be something of a challenge to him.  In recent outings however, there has been progress.  Albeit diffidently, he has succeeded in skirting any alien parties blocking his path, and continuing onwards in a generally forward direction (towards the proffered treats!).  All that small-steps practice in the learning support classroom is finally paying dividends in redirecting Mr B’s reward-focussed little doggy mind!

On which: there has been some concern that I might have been a little uncommunicative over this past year.  In the first place, let me reassure you in the time-honoured fashion, “it’s not you, it’s me!”  My illness, and the subsequent media interest in my life here were especially disruptive, so during the past months I have been very glad to begin again to restore a quieter balance.  My retirement can only support this, and I am looking forward very much to exploring this new bounty of emptiness: time, space and sky!

This year’s Christmas designs reflect an unexpected debate current in our media:  What is Truth?  No answers provided, just a few scriptural questions and quotations which may provoke a seasonal post-prandial discussion.  As I am unable to process any card orders this year due to progressive disability, I offer you the designs  embedded in this letter, in place of the usual end-of-year snapshots.  I wish you all a thoughtful and benevolently disputative festive season, and the fruit and blessings of Truth in the New Year.

Rachel M. Denton (Hermit of the Diocese of Nottingham)

November has long been a significant month in my religious career.  It was the month I entered Carmel all those years ago, the month I began my hermit life as I moved into St Cuthbert’s House, the month of my solemn profession, and, this year, the month I was offered and gratefully accepted ill-health retirement: a pensioner at the age of 54!  God willing, it will be an opportunity to enter more deeply into the quiet of this Lincolnshire desert and renew once again the 16-year-old commitment of my profession, “I entrust myself to the life of the hermitage”.

Healthwise, I am moseying along.  As most people who have been through the post cancer-therapy process will know (we are a growing crowd: NHS & DG!), getting out of the woods is one thing, but it takes a while to leave the trees behind.  Sometimes it feels like being caught in a pinball machine, bouncing around between the various disciplines, but nothing sinister has been pinpointed as yet, and I passed my (significant) 2 year lymphoma-free threshold earlier in the autumn. Hoorah!  Proudest diagnostic:  I have managed to run down a 10 year heart pacemaker battery in just 2½ years.  I put it down to all the luvvin.