The insidious creepingness of all faiths and none

I am writing a daily blog (Monday to Friday)  on preparing spiritually and physically

to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September.

for details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotwold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page 


Elation and excitement.

Arriving at Highgrove, home of HRH The Prince of Wales.

Being waved through the gate, shown where to park.

And Leave your cameras and mobile phones in your car. No photos. None whatsoever

Welcomed and led into the Gardens.

Our Guide, she was all pink and purple, with a peep of bright green wellies..

-Now, d’you see? she says, pointing out this plant and that.

- And His Royal Highness has such good sense of humour: d’you see? and she waves at the duck egg blue board which proclaimed: Entering an old fashioned establishment. GMO free.

- He is such a fun gracious man, she enthuses. He plans it all, chooses the plants.

He wants a garden which delights the eye, warms the heart, feeds the soul.

- D’you see that little statue? A thank you from the Welsh children’s charity.  He has them here for a Christmas party every year.

- Oh and when he takes us round each year and points out all the new things, it’s such an honour.  D’you see?

We did see – and there’s the boss!

That IS him, isn’t it, my boss, the Bishop of London.  Beheaded and on top of the wall.

- Are you a Vicar then, she enquires wide eyed? Yes, that’s the Bishop of London. And the other heads too: all people that the Prince admires. Dr Kathleen Raine, the poet and scholar; Sir John Taverner, the composer; Dr Vandana Shiva, the environmental campaigner. D’you see?

The rain is obliging and holds off. It’s damp and windy but dry.

And there we are, standing at the front door of the house.

Right at the front door. Did you ever think you would get this close, she asks? He wants you to see it all.

We do, we are -  in awe and wonder.

Is that his bedroom window, opened a crack, curtains parted? Does he sit hereon this garden bench? And here? He must be glad when we all are gone.

- And one last thing, she promises, d’you see? D’you see this plain wall and these simple wood doors?

She throws them open. The Carpet Garden. Based on the design of a Turkish carpet in the house.

It’s so beautiful, calm, tranquil. D’you see?

Nature to heal and restore the soul.

Healing plants.

Life giving water properties.

All the best of the Islamic faith, nurturing and healing and life restoring. Not what you read of when the extremists get hold of the faith; but Islam at its best, its basis. A place for nurturing and restoration.  D’you see?


And I want to cry out, to intervene.

We are being fed snippets of positive Islamic faith.  Were I to do the same with my Christian faith, I would be hounded down.

But it’s there in our culture each day.

The insidious, creeping takeover – whether it’s gay lifestyle, civil marriages, all faiths and none:

just as long as it isn’t Christian.

You can do what you like, say what you like, believe what you like – as long as it’s not Christian.

I gaze up at the The Crescent which dominates this beautiful garden.

And I don’t say a word.

My silence is my acquiessence.

What might Ann have said?

Why in the world don’t I say these words aloud to strangers more often? Why don’t I live them more clearly? I am ashamed of how many times, unlike the apostle Paul, I have been ashamed of the gospel, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)

And what are we really here to do but to live the Great Commission — not the Great Optional? 




Or even thought?

Our Guide smiles.

- Your Champagne tea awaits. She points to the tea room.

And I gratefully flee.





I pick it up.  A large, beautiful, Folio edition, green bound and illustrated. Caress it, remember it, wondering where is the copy I read as a child?

Maybe a daughter has it on her shelves – or more likely in her boxes hidden in our attic cupboards. So I lift the unread copy from my shelf, and begin to read, in readiness for the first gathering of we who have decided to read children’s books for fun.

The heroine: Mary Lennox.  A sickly, wan, sticky sort of girl, one who stamps her feet and shouts. I remember disliking her intensely. And feeling she did not deserve to be rescued.

Who does?

Then there was Dickon.  Almost too perfect, knowing so much at the tender age of 12. Free to roam the moors. An animal charmer. Lover of fresh air and gardening.

And Colin. Scary Colin in that scary house.  A secret, hidden down long corridors. He, it, frightened me. Deliciously. Tapestries and rich hangings, four poster beds and heaps of cushions. Chamber maids and house maids, cooks and gardeners. Way out of my experience.

I liked the robin best. He knew where the key was hidden. And Martha.  Not that I could understand much of what she said, but I learnt, along with Mary.

And like Mary, too, I learnt about the Magic.

To the child who was me it seemed quite natural and almost romantic: positive thoughts pushing up along with the crocuses and daffodils, making everything all right again – Colin and his not-so-twisted back, Mr Craven and his despairing, traumatised sadness, Mary and her loneliness.

In the secrets of the garden, everything comes alive, nature and people alike, and spiritual and physical healing is experienced as the beloved roses begin to bloom again.

And they all lived happily ever after. Or so I assumed.


So now, I begin to read it all again. And this time there is sadness and sympathy for those poor lost ill-tempered children.

Admiration for Martha’s mother.

Amazement that the staff stick around.

And compassion and empathy, oh, so much empathy, for bereaved, crazed Mr Craven, travelling to escape, travelling to forget.

I race through the book, devouring pages, staying up late to read.  After sixteen months of not remembering much of anything read, I find I am captivated and able to recall so much of what was read as a child.  A child of ten, maybe eleven.  Primary School, certainly.

I knew little of what I now see.

The emotional bruising and scarring of adults and children alike in this Craven/Lennox family.  A fallen world.

Madness and loneliness and death and bereavement, all mixed up and changing those affected. Like me.

The ‘earth-mother-ish-ness’ and healing ways of Mrs Sowerby, Dickon and Martha’s mother. Is she a Mary figure?

Dickon as a young St Francis, with animals his constant companions.

And the garden itself, the archytypal paradise of the Garden of Eden, bringing healing to those who find it.


But now, as I read, I wonder about the author and my curiosity searches.  And I learn of this young Englishwoman from nineteenth century industrial Manchester, emigrating to rural Tennessee, scribbling to supplement the family income in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

Of her unhappy marriage.

Her own illnesses.

The death of her son from consumption.

Her divorce.

Her success as a writer, giving her financial freedom to return to England and rent a large country house – with a walled garden.

And her spiritual journey, her adherence to Theosophy, Christian Science, Mind Healing.


I’m glad I now know more.  But I’m glad too that I could read it both as child and adult with the glorious anticipation that all would come right, that there would be healing and joy again.


And so there can be.

We need the Holy Spirit, winged and red-fire, to point the way.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13, NKJV