Sunday, 14 October 2012

Betjeman And Baskets

It’s our Harvest Thanksgiving today. We no longer do the fruit&veg display, and a harvest loaf like a sheaf of wheat – we just fill the church with baskets of flowers [which are later distributed to the sick and housebound in our community] This morning during the service, we will also collect packets and tins to take to a nearby Foodbank.  Tonight we join with the Anglicans for a United Service, with Martin gage from Christian Aid as our guest preacher.

I shall be preaching elsewhere this morning, but took these pictures yesterday as people delivered their lovely arrangements. I am so grateful to all those who have donated these baskets- and those who will deliver them later.

Here is one of my favourite harvest poems – John Betjeman’s “Diary of a Church Mouse” I learned this by heart years ago, and it was often my ‘party piece’ at Harvest Suppers!

DSCF4730Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service DSCF4731books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
DSCF4732So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
DSCF4733I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
DSCF4735To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
DSCF4736Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
DSCF4734Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house,
But all the same it's strange to me, how very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all - except at Harvest Festival.


  1. I'm so impressed you can keep all those lines, and in the right order!!!
    Some days I can barely remember my name, you were right about the baby brain!
    x x

  2. What a fun poem - and it reminds me of the grumblings I used to hear in my church in the UK around Christmas time!

    I just want to say a Thank You Angela for your faithful blogging - you post every day, and you always have something interesting/amusing/thought provoking/poignant to say. I really don't know how you manage it - but I'm very glad you do.

  3. THAT is a good poem!
    Did you really memorize it all?
    You're amazing, Ang.

    1. PomPom, back in the 60s, many English schools encouraged pupils to learn REAMS of poetry by heart, to regurgitate ad nauseum!

  4. The poem reminds me that we once had a squirrel in the church..he took up residence in the organ and frightened the life out of our Rev as he whizzed past the altar during a service.
    Jane x

  5. I love the basket idea. We have just gone back to the old way of bringing food to church for harvest for the first time in years. (For Foodbank) Was shocked to discover that neither of my children had ever heard of "We plough the fields and scatter" What is the world coming to!:)

  6. Love the Betjeman. I often used to recite "Advent" at carol services when I was younger, I can't remember all of it anymore!

    Lynn P


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