Magazine article The Spectator

At a Loose End

Magazine article The Spectator

At a Loose End

Article excerpt

Bored with pandering to the needs and appetites of a pair of acne-encrusted agrophobic nihilists, I left my boy and his half-brother in the caravan and went out for the day. As I walked out of the door, they were sprawled on the couch, flicking the channels between live pictures of the lying-in-state of Pope John Paul and What's New, Scooby-Doo? The curtains were drawn against the spring sunshine.

It was right that I spent the last day of our holiday away from the boys. I wouldn't call myself a Christian, much less a Catholic, but with the Pope's death I felt I'd come to the end of something. One whole day to wander and think and not speak to anyone might help me clarify what it was.

The sun sang, the birds shone. I vaulted the overflow from the septic tank, greeted Lloyd the cock-turkey, latest addition to the caravan site's new pets' corner, who was showing off in the lane to no one in particular, and headed inland. The lane went through a wood then over a windswept hill. From the top of the hill I could see, nestling among the great dunes at the mouth of the Camel estuary, a tiny church with a crooked steeple. This would be St Enodoc's, final resting place of John Betjeman, who lived in the nearby village of Trebetherick. My boy and his half-brother's veto of my daily suggestion of a visit to St Enodoc Church had been automatic, final. Here was my chance.

Betjemen's slate gravestone is by no means the grandest in the postage stamp of graveyard, but it has pride of place. On the wall inside the porch I read that there has been a place of Christian worship near or on the site of St Enodoc's since the 3rd century. Furthermore, in Victorian times the church was buried in the sand. Pushing at the heavy door, I found myself in a quaintly small, light place beautifully decorated with white lilies. A brass plate attached to the wall was dedicated 'To the honoured memory of Second Lieut. Ronald Chard Roseveare, 1st Somerset Light Infantry, only son of Mr and Mrs AT Roseveare of this parish, who fell in action near Ypres on August 8th 1916, aged 19. For God and King and Country.

The plate was buffed to such a high shine I could see my face clearly. The words brought on an attack of ideological vertigo. …

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