Scent of memory

May 19th, 2010 | By | Category: Ministry

A psychologist would probably talk about deep-rooted insecurities, about a failure to come to terms with reality, about a desire to return to childhood; whatever, it’s good to be back in the country.

Lunch yesterday was in a cafe, full Irish breakfast with three slices of toast and butter and two mugs of tea; a heart attack on a plate as one Northern colleague used to comment.  It was wonderful; to sit and ponder the world over the top of the mug; to watch the passing traffic and the coming and going of the customers, not one of whom seemed to think it odd that a clergyman was sitting at the table at the wall.

The waistline could not cope with Irish breakfast every day – something more abstemious was called for today.  Chicken ciabatta from the hot food counter of one of the supermarkets seemed the healthiest option, especially as it came with salad to salve the conscience for having thickly spread butter on the bread.

Walking out of the shop, a man called a warm ‘hello’.  Present at last night’s service marking the arrival of the new Rector, he stood and chatted for ten minutes about the parish and about the community and about life in general.

Walking back the length of the street, a neighbour stepped out to shake hands. “I worship at a different church, but I’m pleased to meet you”.  How differently Irish history would have turned out if we had dealt with our divisions in such a plain, simple and hones way, ‘I worship at a different church’.

The trees and hedgerows were lush shades of green, driving out to a farm on one of the country townlands.  Everything seemed to have sprung into abundant growth.  But it was not the spring foliage that captured the imagination, as beautiful as the horse chestnut and the other trees might be.  It was the smell of the animals at a farm, particularly the unmistakable scent of cow dung, that revived memories long buried in the deep and the distant past.  It was the smell of small farms and hard work; it was the smell of little farms where farmers did a bit of this and a bit of that to try to earn a few pounds to make ends meet and to balance the books for another year.

Driving a road just wide enough to allow a car to pass between the hedges, a road where tufts of grass grew along the centre, there was a sense of having driven back in time; back to a time of security and certainty, back to a familiar world.  A psychologist would have a field day.

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  1. I’m looking forward to an Ulster Fry and normal (ie white, not brown Rankin) soda bread this weekend. Back in Belfast for a few days. Sadly, I’m still off proper tea. (And we all know what proper tea is, don’t we?) If I make it to the end of August it’ll be a year. The yearning is growing strong though.

  2. I know someone who says that an Ulster Fry is the best cure for a hangover…..! 😉
    Ian I think you will be very happy in the grassy lanes of Mountrath. What a wonderful time of year to begin that journey!

  3. Ulster fries are very dangerous!

  4. I am sure you were thinking of your Granddad. So glad you have had this experience on your first day. This feeling of “coming home” reaches into your heart, mind and your very soul. God’s way of talking to you and showing you He is going before you to make the crooked places straight.

  5. I think I was thinking of my Grandad’s place – smell and memory go together!

  6. Although East Devon is a great place to live, I am slightly envious of your description of your Parish there Ian, and yes I too remember those farm smells from years past ,gone now along with the small farms driven out by the big business farms…….its rare to see cows in fields now!!!!…..Oh and I hope you had a good helping of black pudding and white pudding!!!!!

  7. Rashers, sausages, egg, black pudding, baked beans – and chips!

  8. chips!!!!!! for breakfast…..

  9. As long it does not include curry

  10. It sounds absolutely idyllic. Don’t feel guilty about a fry up! Might not be good for the waistline but it’s sometimes good for the soul!

  11. Is that why you have the ‘strong chair’ Ian??????

  12. “Smells are surer than sounds or sights
    To make your heart strings crack “

  13. I had to look up the reference – Kipling is right.

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