There was a little event yesterday the consequences of which Houseman might have expressed as follows:
Now of my three score years and ten,
Forty will not come again.
It went mostly unnoticed. I've never really banged the drum on my birthday, not since I was a young lad. And at the moment, with so much of our energies being absorbed by parenthood, we had other fish to fry.
Oddly enough - given that we were frying other fish! - it was a weekend of food, glorious food, washed down by the occasional glass of well-aged grape juice. For Sunday lunch I made a kind of Moroccan-style tagine affair with shin of beef, while in the evening we prepared a tomato and mozzarella salad to go with our flash-fried, ruby-red rare goat steaks (yum!). Yesterday - the day itself - was a brutal day of lecturing and meetings but in the evening we managed a very easily prepared fresh fig and parma ham salad with a honey dressing (mega-yum!). Mrs Ches, the soul of constant generosity, presented me with a manually operated fruit press, not merely to up my in-take of fruit (!) but also with one eye on my slow-burning, long-term ambition to experiment with home-made cider. Watch this space.
Yesterday evening we found ourselves at Birmingham Oratory where Vespers and Benediction are celebrated in the 1962 rite. This is a form of liturgical prayer which is etched deeply on my psyche, and there was something entirely fitting about bringing the raggle-taggle memories of my life so far before a sanctuary filled with the slow chanting of the Divine Office. Sometimes God speaks in thunder and sometimes in cadences.
A dear friend believes there is some inherent connection between Catholic respect for food and the Holy Eucharist; it is as if our very material world is raised a notch higher because God has given himself substantially to us under the material appearances of bread and wine. When we are not fasting, therefore, we must feast! Our food as it were continues our hymn of thanksgiving which is integral to our reception of the Eucharist - just as the incensations of the altar at Vespers recapitulate the incensations of the Mass. And, I think I began to understand, as I sat there in the church on Sunday evening, why Chesterton places gratitude so very high in the ranks of the virtues.
But that is perhaps for another blog ...