A rug on my knees

“Ian, do you remember going around in the car with a blanket over your knees?”

My mother looked at my sister and suggested it was a very odd question, why would I have gone around in a car with a blanket over my knees?

“Yes,” I said, “it was the day after Nan’s ninetieth birthday party.”

“But you flew over,” said my mother, “you didn’t have a car.”

“That’s why I was able to travel around with a blanket over my knees. I sat in the back and we did a tour of the local places and I was offered the chance to sit in the front and I said that I would sit in the back with a rug over my knees and look out the window at everything we passed.”

The party had been the previous afternoon in the Langport Arms Hotel. I had left the morning service in the south Dublin church where I was rector at 11 am. A parishioner had whisked me to Dublin Airport where I had caught a flight to Bristol. My brother in law had collected me at Bristol Airport and we had arrived at the hotel at 3 p.m. Four hours from Dublin to Langport had seemed an efficient piece of travelling.

It was January 2003 and I remember feeling overwhelmingly tired and being delighted at the opportunity to just sit in a car and watch the world pass by.

I was forty-two years old at the time. There was no cause to feel tired. Yet there was also a feeling of never escaping from the parish, never being certain that there would not be bad news.

It was in the nature of the job, playing a pastoral role means assuming pastoral responsibilities. To complain at being called would be as silly as a farmer who suggested that the livestock could only receive care between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

I remember us passing through Langport and leaning my head against the window as a child might and looking at the buildings I had passed countless times in my life without giving them a second thought.

There had seemed an intensity about everything I saw. Colours brighter, buildings finer, even the winter landscape livelier.

It was one of those moments that would be unrepeatable. The emotions and sensations of that journey could not be replicated.

Why the rug? I think it indicated an internal desire to be driven, to have someone else responsible, to have decisions taken for me. Perhaps it was also a sign of a wish for the wisdom of age, for the wisdom of those who can look back over long lives.

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