Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The London suburbs are all apple blossom and cherry blossom at the moment, and sometimes there is an enchanting delicate little shower of it, like confetti at a wedding, which catches you as you cycle past.

The bells of Westminster Abbey were ringing out, crashing peal on peal, as I rounded Parliament Square on my way to the City for the St George's Day meeting of the Catholic Writers' Guild. We now meet at St Mary Moorfields, after many happy years at St Etheldreda's, Ely Place. (Fr Kit Cunningham, of St E's, recently retired - I was honoured to be invited to write the tribute to him in the diocesan newspaper, the Westminster Record). It's easy to miss St Mary's - which is intentional, because when it was built, Catholics still had to be rather private (oh, well, all right, secret) so it has a hidden, semi-underground feel. This also makes the church - which is beautiful, and enormously popular as a venue for weekday Masses among the younger City workers - rather hot. Even on this mild evening, it felt very warm: there are no windows giving access to the outside air. But it was a beautiful St George's Day Mass and Fr Peter Newby, our Chaplain, spoke about St George as England's patron saint, reminding us that the very identity of our country is bound up with the traditional Christian faith, and we must pray and work for the revival of this Faith in England today.

Speaker at the meeting - held in the lower crypt after the usual delicious and talkative supper - was Maggie Fergusson, author of the much-acclaimed biography of the poet George Mackay Brown. Her book is warmly recommended. His poetry is glorious, and his story - a convert to the Catholic faith, growing ip in Orkney - an extraordinary one.

Meetings of the Writers' Guild are always so enjoyable. I sat next to David Twiston Davies of the Daily Telegraph - his daughter Bess, also a journalist, was with me on Friday afternoon as we worked on the "Young Journalist" project for Tamezin magazine.(excellent magazine for teenage girls - recommended). The vote of thanks was given by novelist Piers Paul Read, who is a former Master of the GUild and helped to shape it in its prent form. Others present included Lynette Brurrows, whose excellent book on raising children Good Children, is still popular and who is always so courageous and refreshing in sticking up for family values in debates on TV and radio.

It was good cycling home in the cool breeze along by the river, which glitters at night with all the lit-up buildings and city activity alongside.

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