>Two wonderful people

> Easter Day at St Andrew’s Tarvin was “daffodil Sunday” – presumably because of the association between spring, new life and resurrection. It didn’t take us long to realise that the daffodil is the flower of the meadows of the Greek underworld. The asphodel (daffodil) meadows is the region where the dead were supposed to spend eternity. A river runs through these elysian meadows. To the far side of the river those whose lives were neither good not bad were ferried. In the crossing identity was drained away and they emerged into the meadows peopled by those who were neither one thing nor another. (A further place – Tartarus – was for the evil and treacherous.

Two wonderful people we know have died in the last week. Brenda Stride I did not know well. Jen Murray I have known for nearly 30 years. It was speaking to her family that prompted the thought on the daffodil and the elysian fields as the destination for both of them.

Both Jen and Brenda have been local heroes here in Ellesmere Port. Both have given their lives for children. Brenda has spent her life working with pre-school children: Jen’s teaching career has been in three local schools – John Street, Sutton Green and Stanlaw Abbey on Stanney Grange. She was Head at Stanlaw from 1974 to 1991 (I was working the same patch – a 70’s housing estate – ’83-’93). What was remarkable about Jen was her passion for life and for others. She was a wonderful host which showed itself in the school she helped to create at Stanlaw. Appreciating Jen’s work, her friend and advisor, Vernon Hale, commented on the beauty and optimism of the place (this was at a time of really high unemployment in the community). The school was a real oasis of calm (aka a “beacon”) in which, as Vernon wrote, the children had the opportunity to “experiment”, “speculate” and “create”.

The commitment of both Brenda and Jen spans many decades. They have loved hundreds of local children and had a real impact on their families. I wonder at the impact that these two lives have had on Ellesmere Port and the communities that make up this town so low on self-esteem. It would be good to know whether such passion does shape lives and inspire others. I am sure it has done for many. In the end we have to leave them to stroll the elysian fields – on the side of the river where everybody is somebody. For us, consolation is the satisfaction of having been entertained by hearts and minds big enough to embrace all those in their world with love, and the knowledge that they in turn are entertained at the heart of God’s glory.

We have David C Laurie to thank for the photo.

And here’s Sting singing of those elysian fields of gold:

Quentin Crisp


I didn’t know till tonight that Sting’s Englishman in New York was a celebration of Quentin Crisp. Englishman in New York was the title of tonight’s moving ITV sequel to The Naked Civil Servant about Quentin Crisp’s life in New York. Crisp, played again by John Hurt, comes across as a man of great integrity. As a homosexual “who wore make up in London in the 30’s” he was always an outsider – and despised. His commitment to “being himself”, together with his wit, made him a celebrity figure in New York where he was in great demand as a public speaker.

In a question and answer session at his swansong at a gay club in Tampa, Florida, he comes up with a real pearl of wisdom:

Neither look forward where there is doubt, nor backward where there is regret. Look inward and ask yourself not if there is anything out in the world that you want and had better grab quickly before nightfall, but whether there is anything inside you that you have not yet unpacked.

The quote was prefaced with remarks about the privilege of being the scorned outsider – not as something to be avoided but as something to be embraced. As a privileged insider I wonder how wise his advice is:

In an expanding universe, time is on the side of the outcast. Those who once inhabited the suburbs of human contempt find that without changing their address they eventually live in the metropolis.

I am sure that the wisdom of wise outsiders like Quentin Crisp have helped many people on the outside to “be themselves” instead of selling themselves short.

As Sting writes:

It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile,
Be yourself no matter what they say.