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 2019

December 2019

Dear Friends and Family.

A joy-filled Advent, and a very happy Christmas to everyone;  I hope this finds you well.

2019 was the year I was very glad to have already moved to Sheffield.  My own health has stabilised, so my strategic location right next to the hospital has sometimes felt a little “de trop”.  But my father’s health deteriorated throughout the year, and I was very glad to be within easy travelling distance of my parents’ home,  Rotherham Hospital and the local care home where he was an irregular (in so very many senses of the word) resident.

One of the collateral benefits of these frequent journeys under the M1 was the opportunity to explore the municipal parks of Rotherham. We have an abundance of cultivated green spaces in Sheffield and Mr Bingley (dog) and I very much enjoy exploring them on our weekly adventures. Of particular recommendation in Rotherham must be Clifton Park – complete with archeological ruins, museum, walled garden, miniature golf, war memorial, fountains, bandstand, woodland grove, formal bedding, water play, a traditional playground, extensive lawns, wrought iron railings and wide tree-lined boulevards. Everything, in fact, that a park should have. With a chip shop sited near one corner, Mr Bingley and I enjoyed many an early evening walk & supper there, waiting for the hospital to open to visitors.  

My Dad died, peacefully, at home, with my Mum by his side, on September 20th.  After a lovely, affectionate requiem with family and friends at the local parish church, we finally sent him off with a rousing Dies Irae (his choice!) to meet his maker, clutching a large dahlia bloom from his own garden.  As children, throughout the late summer dahlia season, when the garden was holding more garish blooms than might reasonably be considered sightly, we used to be sent around the neighbours with great bunches of them wrapped up in newspaper cones and dripping wadges of kitchen towel.  They seemed to be well received.  We pray that our Dad too is well received into a new unity with his childhood family, with his old friends, and with God.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

In other news:  Access and The Garden.  Last January I replaced the rather precarious, narrow, slippery, scarcely-a-patio outside the kitchen door, with a wide decking platform which wraps round the back and side of the bungalow and provides safe ramp access to garden, garage and front gate.  The old patio stones were dropped down onto the lawn to make a pathway, so now I can visit my pond, or my woodland, or St Cuthbert’s bower, or even the compost heap, without getting muddy feet.   I have also had a swathe of my laurel jungle removed for insurance reasons.  With a clearer view now, the little boys in the garden next door like to clamber up their side of the fence, and direct the search party in the essential rescue of their cricket balls which come hurtling over throughout the summer months.  They laugh when I can only throw them back underarm!  Courtesy of their father’s obsessive hobby, I have also become something of an expert on racing pigeons.  He keeps them in a shed at the bottom of the garden – I hear them crooning away to each other and to him whenever I visit the compost heap.  The most lovely part of their training is quite early in the year when the weather begins to warm a little. The young birds begin to take off and circle the local rooftops and chimneys in great sweeping laps.  They are beautiful to watch against a cloudless sky; quite mesmerizing.  There is a campaign afoot to persuade me to house a pair of my own in a little cote in my garden next year.  I am cautiously undecided.  

My Dad had been annually bewailing his “last Christmas” for several years, so it is not unexpected, but will nonetheless be a little strange, to be spending this first one without him.  I have a number of friends who will also be missing family for the first time this year.  Special prayers then, for all those missing a loved one during the Christmas celebrations.  I encountered my Dad again, briefly, during a Carols & Candles fest at the local Cathedral. He was singing with the angels.  May their message of peace and the affection of God and our absent family and friends, be with us all.

Emmanuel.  God is with us.  

Rachel (Erem Dio)   

A few pictures for you - of the garden, the menagerie, fulfilling our civic duty, and an expedition up Mam Tor!