"I come inside. And close the door."
With these words, Susan Hill ends the month of December, and this wonderful book. I felt a sadness that surprised me. I am thankful I'm going to begin her book The Magic Apple Tree in three days, but I am still hoping so much that she will continue writing these nonfiction gems which are Howards End is on the Landing and Jacob's Room is Full of Books. I don't really have words for how much these books mean to me. She pulls me into her heart and into her thoughts over and over again. And it is just where I want to be.
If she continues on, I hope that she writes about the book which the title comes from. I was hoping for a few pages on Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf. I am missing VW. It has been too long since I have been completely caught up in her books. I believe Mrs Dalloway was the last one I read, and that over a decade ago. I would also like to read Howards End again. It has been ages. I tried to watch the latest television version but just didn't enjoy it.
Some words, some sentences, some names, some stories are part of the fabric of my mind, part of the store of references and images I was certainly not born with but which I began to acquire and memorise as a child and continued to absorb through all my growing up and into adulthood. I heard the Bible being read and the prayers of the Church of England services - the words of Morning Prayer, the Eucharist and Evensong, the Collects - all from The Book of Common Prayer and the hymns from The English Hymnal. I am still surprised at how much I know of all this by heart, and I was not from a vicarage family. I wasn't alone. Everyone used to know chunks of the Bible because they heard it without fail every Sunday, and those who could not read it did not really need to, they listened and remembered over the years. ...
It makes me sad that the Bible, the Prayer Book, the Classical canon are not part of my own children's fabric. The rot set in forty years ago or more. I doubt if they know anything much by heart and it is not their fault. Schools regard learning by rote as time-wasting and sterile and how does a rich store of literary and cultural references help one in Real Life?
The Collects are a particular source of beautiful cadences and deep meaning. They are inspiring, and comforting, and they are all quite short, so reading the Collect of the Day each morning takes only a couple of minutes. You need not be a believer to gain a lot. This reading is a form of meditation and mindfulness and goodness knows, those are all the rage. I think the Collects strengthen one's mental immune system and guard against all manner of ills. Is that just me?
you know us to be set
in the midst of so many and great dangers,
that by reason of the frailty of our nature
we cannot always stand upright:
grant to us such strength and protection
as may support us in all dangers
and carry us through all temptations;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.I decided that I'm going to take her words to heart and begin reading a Collect every day from the Prayer Book I received when I was confirmed.
She tells a lovely little story about being on the beach at this wonderful time of year when not many people are about.
A man came towards me and said in a low voice that on the old gate down there was an arctic finch. I followed his pointing finger to it. Pretty, nervous little bird, but sitting bold as brass on the top strut of the gate, and unmistakeable.Soon some birdwatchers appear. "Word had got out, It only takes one text message." But as she walked back to her car she was "hugging myself with secret delight that for a moment or two, the quiet man and I had had it all to ourselves."
She mentions in passing a book that I bought almost three years ago for Tom.
He loved this book, and learned a lot from it. Susan Hill said it was a best seller! Who would have thought. Makes me very happy.
And she introduced me to something completely new! Fat balls. I'm sure all my UK readers know exactly what they are. Over here we call it suet, and it comes in little square plastic containers. No plastic with the fat balls. I'm looking into getting some. They sound like a great idea. For my American readers, this is what they look like.
So, Collects and fat balls! I ask you, does a writer get more eclectic than this?!
The pleasure I've gotten from reading this book over the past 12 months is immense. As I did with Howards End is on the Landing, I'm certain to read it again. And, as I said, I do so hope she continues on.