An Irish day. That’s what this Sunday has been like. Gorgeous warmth with sudden bursts of shower and (so far) one pelting rain. Just as I decide to start a fire in the wood stove, the sun appears, the breeze blows the drops off the plants, and I can again swing the front door of my little gate lodge open to let in the fresh air. The Irish call this weather unsettled; it is a word they use a lot.
This morning the rain held off long enough for me to decide to drive to church. I have given up trying to justify even to myself why I choose to spend Sunday mornings here shivering in a back pew at Carbury Church, mumbling creeds and responses that seem to come from some sort of muscle memory, singing along in a half-voiced mutter to the recorded hymns with the rest of the stalwart congregation (all two dozen of us), listening to sermons that I keep hoping will be uplifting or at least make sense. Whatever the reasons, I have now been going long enough that I am welcomed back into the fold by the regulars, some of whom seem genuinely happy to see me (but then again, how many strangers show up at the Carbury Church in any given year?). Although the vicar tends not to remember who I am, she does show some vague recognition when I shake her hand after the service.
This morning the vicar wasn’t there; she goes off on holiday after the annual church barbecue, which was on the solstice this year which means of course that I missed it. Instead there was a very British sort of minister who told a long story about marrying his wife—who was sitting in the congregation and no doubt has been through this before— in the 1960s, and about his mother declining to attend the wedding. (Although he didn’t expressly state a reason, it may have been because he chose to get married in a red velvet suit; no word on what the bride wore.) In fact the sermon, which began with weddings and I fervently hoped might move toward the need to embrace same-sex marriage, instead veered off into something vaguely to do with freedom (that suit) and ended up in a rather dispiriting validation of ‘democracy’, the entire ramble larded with the many ways his mother, long dead, had let him down throughout his life, although he of course had been a model son (I mean, he’s now a minister!), the red suit notwithstanding. At the end he shook my hand and said it was nice to see me again although of course he had never laid eyes on me before. Fair enough; this isn’t his regular parish, after all.
Tonight I’m heading to a barbecue to honor the 21st birthday of a friend’s daughter. Given the weather we will certainly be eating indoors, but this is what barbecues in Ireland are like, a spin of the wheel laced with some generally misguided but nonetheless eternal optimism that just this once it won’t rain.