Sunday Oct 1st
To Wickenden Manor in Sussex for a conference discusing family life and ideas for enriching it....my contribution was a talk on the Calendar, celebrating traditional feasts and seasons of the year.....it is exactly 20 years ince the first edition of my Book of Feast and Seasons (Gracewing publishers) came out and it is now in its fifth edition, and has given rise to a radio series a TV series on EWTN (watch this Advent, Nov/Dec, and you''ll see me in the kitchen, busy with mince pies and Advent wreaths, and Lucia crowns and all sorts of things). New book "The Yearbook of Feast and Seasons", a companion volume to the (still popular!) first book, is due out in 2007. In the pleasant sitting-room at Wickenden, after a delicious lunch, we were able to discuss practical matters in a constructive atmosphere, with some good ideas coming from busy families. How to cope with the modern lavish birthday party at which the birthday child is given huge quantities of presents that he can barely even acknowledge adequately, let alone enjoy and appreciate? One idea: birthday child chooses a couple from among the (still wrapped) parcels, and the others are donated to children in need. How to cope with TV/computer pressures? Succesful practical solutions by families present ranged from having a "No TV on weekdays" rule, to locking the TV except for a limited set of programmes, and keeping the TV in a cupboard so that viewing it involved a specific decision. There was a general agrement on no-TV-and-no-internet-access-in-child's-bedroom, also on having filters (regularly updated) operating on various key words and phrases, and having a family acknolwedgement that parents viewed the hard-drive so that all websites visited would be known. What also emerged is that one or two families can have a significant impact on local network of family groups, eg can help to damp down a culture of ever-more-lavish parties by simply refusing to join in.....
It is interesting to note that most of the problems raised at this, and other similar discusions I have attended in recent years, always end up focusing on the problems of affluence. It's actually not porn, drugs, alcohol or invcolvement in weird cults that present immediate problems, but the deadening reality of childhoods threatened by massive consumerism and the destruction of innocent pleasures by the fostering of greed.....all this within living memory of an era when many parents in Britain worried about saving enough money to buy just a few modest gifts for the children and treats for birthdays.
We drove back through green evening countryside, saying the Rosary. It's good that we've been getting rain these past few days: the reservoirs in Susex and Kent have been terribly low, and perhaps wil now begin to look normal again. The lawns at Wickenden were green, and logs were stacked in the doorway for winter fires - a comfortable sight.