I have a confession to make - I’m not working as hard as I used to! Its not that I’m slacking off or becoming lazy, honest. I just found that I really couldn’t keep afloat with all that I was asked to do, and have any time for family or myself. I know that clergy are in a privileged position to be able to have any say over what they do and how much, but actually a less stressed Simon is good for my family and congregation and all with whom I have to do!
he main reason why life is now a little less busy is that I gave up being school governor at Bemerton St.John Primary, and our secondary comprehensive Salisbury High School. You will now divide between readers who imagine that a school governor is pretty much a title without any workload, and those who have had any actual experience of it in the last 10 years! Suffice to say I feel like I have gained maybe a day a week, and so life has actually become manageable and enjoyable.
One of my new hobbies, and a way to relax, is cloud spotting. I have always noticed clouds when they’re really showing off, but it was only The Cloud-spotter’s Guide, that has put words and form to my fascination. They are endlessly changing and changeable, beautiful and delicate like cotton wool, frightening and powerful in a thunderstorm. They’re free, they’re everywhere, all day and all night (that is one of the benefits of our latitude and the mix of air currents over Britain). I have in fact become a bit of a geek or a nerd, a paid up cloud fan - with a T-shirt and a calendar (!) but at least I have a smile on my face!
Just think - they are no different now to when Mr Herbert himself looked up at them, from under his medlar tree, or out of his tiny counterpane windows; the sky is the same now as its always been. Except then people understood how to read it better, and might have realised that yet more snow was due.
Amazingly, although people knew the sky better, types of clouds were not named until the beginning of last century, when airplanes needed to know, and actually what was going on up there was a mystery only solved in the last 75 years or so. Do stop me if I’m boring you!
I felt very in touch with George Herbert recently when we went on a half term trip to Hampton Court. It's been ages since I’d visited, and was amazed at the scale of the place. Of course the grounds are huge, which seems a sign of wealth to us now in our world of land prices, but back then when 80% of the country was raw forest anyway no one really bothered to fence it in or call it theirs! The palace really conveys the feel of the 16th and 17th centuries - without the bad smell! There are open streets under the palace, stairs leading up to the great hall, all without doors, and then the contrast between where the commoners were and the sumptuous richness of the royal apartments.
The craftsmanship of the chapel and general decor really came home, as did the scale. Here were kitchens that produced food for maybe 1000 staff and servants - a whole village or industry. Here was the kind of wealth and power that marked Henry VIII as the richest person in the land. I thought of Herbert and the contrast he knew between the life of court and life of the ordinary person (peasant seems pejorative). And I thought of his choice. Having met the current Earl of Pembroke recently and been impressed by his dedication to the job, and the weight not to say burden, of responsibility such titles bring, I realize that to be free to choose at all is liberty indeed.
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