Mon Nov 20th
After a satisfying morning getting a number of letters written, plus my features for various newspapers, and with a mountain of washing hanging on the line, and some housework achieved, I ate some soup and listened to the news. It was reported that an employee of British Airways had lost her appeal concerning her right to wear a small cross round her neck while working for the company. I fleetingly reflected that here was another example of a British institution displaying a now-routine anti-Christian approach (it's so daft! British Airways has the Union Jack as its logo - which has a cross as its centre and core!!). I thought: well, there is nothing I can do, and we are all getting rather tired of these idiotic debates.....Then about half an hour later the phone rang. Sky TV News: would I come and debate about this employee of British Airways who has been banned from wearing a cross.....
Changed from comfortable stay-at-home clothes into something more suitable. No time to tackle hair properly. Train to Waterloo. I am not usually so nervous any more about TV interviews, but this one was to be with Polly Toynbee, the militantly anti-Catholic, anti-Christian columnist on the Guardian. Felt slightly sick with nerves and had to rush to the ladies' at the station and then again at Westminster Bridge (Deo Gratias for St Stephen's Tavern, with a nice cloakroom!). and then again on arrival at TV studios.
The illuminated Houses of Parliament in the glow of a darkening Autumn tea-time are just fabulous, almost ethereal. SKY TV has its studios at Millbank, so I walked down past St Stephen's entrance, and that statue of Richard the Lionheart, which gave me courage. I've done this walk literally hundreds and hundreds of times, and at one point was doing it daily, when I worked at the House of Commons. Today it looked at its most glorious, and there, flying out into the cold wind from the top of the high Victoria Tower, was the Union Jack, with the Cross at the heart of it.
St Edmund Campion was tried at Westminster Hall - still there, just as he knew it - after being horribly tortured, and he gave a ringing defence of the Catholic Faith, so why should any of us be remotely fussed when all we have to do is live and defend the same faith in ease and comfort?
The debate didn't go too badly. Made the obvious points : wearing a cross is standard part of our tradition, why the fuss, get a life. Britain has been Christian for more than 1,000 years - heck, almost 2,000 years as the Faith first came here during the Roman Empire, the same Empire into which Christ himself was born.... surely the cross has a place, as of right, in our common life? The Toynbee got a bit rattled and went on and on....she wanted to see no Christian symbols anywhere in public life, no prayers in Parliament, no formal place for the Church, religion should be completely private.....
Asked for a final word, I said I didn't happen to be wearing a cross myself, but I did have this small medallion depicting not Christ, but his mother - I held it up briefly - and would give it to Miss Toynbee as a gesture of goodwill.
She wasn't happy. As we put on our coats afterwards I said "That was a genine offer - here's the medal" and she said no, thanks, it was v. kind of me but.....
If anyone feels like sending a Miraculous Medal to Miss Toynbee in place of the one she didn't want to accept from me, she works at The Guardian.
Collected bike from SPUC headquarters where I had left it on Sat - so it was useful that I was in London today after all, nice arrangement of Providence. Bought an Advent Calendar at the CTS bookshop - they have some beautiful ones - to send to my sister in New Zealand. Also bought L'Osservatore Romano, which I rarely read but which had some nice pix of the H. Father so looked somehow reassurring. Bought large cafe latte and settled down to read. Felt more settled and ordinary. I really don't like TV debates.