...began with a friendly note from our next-door neighbour (see below) and an invitation to supper there. On hearing of our day's plans, and especially the prison visit (again, see below) she also kindly lent us her car, which was to prove a wonderful boon.
Mass at St Cecilia's - glorious liturgy, sense of order and beauty beneath the serene and pleasingly austere arches of the cool chapel, friendly Extern sister bustling Jamie into doing one of the Readings, young family in front of us awed by the nuns' lovely singing...
Then a change of pace. A drive to the big modern prison in the centre of the Island. A friendly Visitors' Centre offers tea and snacks, toys and books for children, a kindly ambiance...but most people seemed to prefer to congregate by the bleak door of the prison itself, waiting for the numbers to be called and for the checking and photographing and shoes-off-please and the doors sliding open and admission to the visiting room. We were number Ten. While we waited, I walked about on the wide green lawn that separates the prison from the road. The sun was very, very hot.
Arrangements for visiting a prisoner are efficient, and we sat at a table and were able to talk freely. Major news: The prisoner for whom I have been asking readers of this Blog to pray HAS HIS APPEAL ON TUESDAY (it will be imminent as you read this). It would be a kindness to pray for him.
Because, for obvious reasons, I will not be going into details of this case on this Blog, I will leave the matter there. There was much to discuss. We left only when the visiting hours finished and all were ushered out.
We drove in silence to the sea. The sun had been beating down fiercely all afternoon. We found a small quiet stretch of beach near Fishbourne, scrambled into swimming-things, splashed into the water. It was heavenly. Further out to sea, the ferry chugged along. Above us the sky was cloudlessly blue as I rolled over to float on my back.The bell of nearby Quarr Abbey pealed reassurringly through the evening air.
Back at the cottage, a delicious supper was waiting next door, where kind neighbour H. welcomed us and was pouring chilled wine. Much talk of many things, including the plight of the prisoner we'd been visiting, the Island, Cowes, St Cecilia's, and more...a pleasant summer-evening supper...then Jamie had finally to go to catch the ferry and train back to London... The pace changed again. H. fetched the papers relevant to the history project. Another extraordinary coincidence of this weekend, you see, was that she had written to me asking if I might be able to help with this story of a remarkable nun - her aunt - born in the 19th century, founder of a college in India, a fascinating story...and the name was suddenly familiar to me as this nun had also been for a time Headmistress of my old school and was something of a legend there...we pored agreeably over papers and diaries, coffee was brewed, a book might be emerging from all this...