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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, August 14, 2006
    Everything's tragic if it's all that you know
     
    Though I tend to avoid this, for reasons of confidentiality and conviviality, sometimes some shapes and shades of parish life find their way into this blog. And today has been one of those days when I've found myself deeply moved by encounters with two families: one young woman, told by everyone that because of her disability she would never be a mother, whose one-year-old daughter and two-year-old son I shall baptise next month, another couple facing the loss of their baby boy with dignity and gentle spirit. And bringing his beautiful twin to me for his initiation rite.

    I'm moved not out of compassion - that would be patronising; not out of empathy - for unlike these precious people I have no experience of the void. I'm moved because these people - not churchgoers, just ordinary people working through extraordinary situations with fragility and mettle - are teaching me what it means to be more fully human. It is these people who help me grow.

    So it is a day also to replay one of the most human albums in my collection, Julian Cope's 20 Mothers, a life-affirming collection of often deeply personal songs, including the opener Wheelbarrow Man, a stomp celebrating the drude's first conversation for five years with his estranged brother, and Senile Get, a harrowing description of the last days of his alzheimer-aggressive grandmother-in-law. And one of the most uplifting songs I've ever heard, Highway to the Sun, which honours the memory of Jill Phipps, 'the Veal Martyr' in a tune which perfectly merges gentle lovingkindness and raging defiance... a song of growing-up emotions:

    We can race our race alone
    But I feel like nature's son
    Natural magic
    Spilling out, spilling out all those cosmic rays
    How I love my latest song
    'cos it tells me to go on
    Everything's tragic
    If it's all, if it's all that you know