A little flexibility

When Advent begins before 1st December, there is always that minor inconvenience of the advent calendar and advent candle not beginning until the beginning of the month, as they are generic for any year.  I have a simple solution.  Advent candles always have a distance to burn before they reach the number 1.  This is neatly burnt over two days, i.e. today and tomorrow.  Advent books, generally speaking, have an introduction, easily divided into two days, before 1st December is reached, or a, “How to use this book”, and then an, “Introduction”.  Again, two day’s worth of reading and thought before the meat of the daily reading begins.  The traditional Advent calendar, will, admittedly not start until Tuesday, but never mind.

It struck me, in reading someone’s obituary yesterday, that flexibility can appear in the most rigid of situations with a little understanding of another’s position, and rivalry becomes mutual support.  The person I was reading of had nothing to do with this, in fact she would have been a very young child at the time, perhaps even a babe in arms.  Sarah Poyntz, one of my all-time favourite nature writers died in September this year at the age of 93.  I may say something more about her later in the week.  Anyway, she wrote for some years a nature diary for the Guardian from her home in The Burren in County Clare on the western seaboard of Ireland.  Her writing was always beautifully phrased, because she was, by profession, an English teacher. 

In the introduction to Sarah Poyntz’s life in the book, A Good Year For Blossom, which contains a selection of 200 entries in the nature diary from women writers, which the Guardian published in 2008, there is a story from her place of birth in 1926.  It was a turbulent time in Ireland and divisive too, as families and communities were picked apart due to political, religious and cultural differences, that had revealed themselves in the struggle for freedom from British Colonial rule.  Segregated education was, and still is, one of the main issues, with both Catholic and Protestant schools being present in most sizeable communities.  The largely Church of Ireland schools were under threat numerically in many places in the 1920s, and government inspectors were looking at their viability.  They were to arrive in the place where Sarah Poyntz and her family lived on a particular day, and the local Roman Catholic priest, “lent” children to the local Church of Ireland rector, in order to demonstrate that it remained strong enough. Such accommodation under the circumstances does demonstrate how good relationships can help bridge gaps, and also, that humour helps too, as, no doubt, there was a genuine coming together and thinking of a way that they were not going to be dictated to from above!  No matter what their differences.  

John Mann