Thursday Day 4 #OfGodAndMe #ThisNunsStory
In the last 2 years at Brighton I drove a Honda 50 CC motor bike and this came with me to ‘London. It wasn’t very fast & I enjoyed the smells of the countryside (can anything beat the smell of a field of flowering beans?) 1/25
London was a very different experience, however in more ways than one. I decided to live at the Chelsea convent of the Daughters of the Cross in Cale Street & while the house was a hostel/home for the elderly I was living with the community. 2/25
And so I became a postulant (seeker) This was very different to my first postulancy, however as I had complete independence. Each weekday morning I travelled on the underground from South Kensington to my school in Mile End in East London 3/25
where I taught a class of 7 year old children of different nationalities. As well as indigenous East enders whose grandparents & parents had attended the school there were children of Afro Caribean, Greek Cypriot, & Chinese origin. The school was such a happy place to work 4/25
The newest group to come to the East End were the Bangladeshi children whose families had come to London after the war with Pakistan. These were Sikhs but there were also Jewish, Orthodox Christians, Muslim and Hindu children. 5/25
The school was very old. The head joked that it was one of the few places where rain stopped play in the ping pong competition. I swear the walls were held together by the thick green and yellow ILEA paint and a lot of love given down the generations. 6/25
I was in the East End not many years after the current Call the midwife series & there was a lot of #poverty. Children came to school #hungry and ill clad and we used to have a store of food and clothes for emergencies. Head lice were a constant problem for some children 7/26
The staff had a thriving social group. We would go out to the local Chinese or Indian restaurant, or have a drink in an East End pub. The Grapes, the Londoner & the Blind beggar (the Kray’s twins pub) were favourites but in those days females couldn’t go to the bar! 8/25
As a Tower Hamlets school, we had a free pass for the Tower of London & thought nothing of taking groups of 7 year olds on & off the #underground. In the summer we joined 4 other ILEA schools for 15 days at Sayers Croft camp in Surrey 9/25
This was built to provide ‘fresh air & fun for inner city children’ – oh we had that all right! It was wonderful to see some of the children develop a passion for #nature, but as one girl remarked ‘Cor miss, I can’t wait to get home & get my clothes round the launderette!’ 10/25
Life at the convent too was, you might say, ‘interesting’. Sister Nilda lectured in scripture at Heythrop College & ignited a passion for scripture (as she did for so many others) I loved the buzz of central #London with its sounds and smells. Life was good 11/25
The community was flexible & open. One evening we had a phone call from the police asking us if we had a room for a young woman victim of #domestic violence who needed a safe house. I had a spare bed in my room so she stayed with me for 10 days. 12/25
When I was out during the day all was peaceful, but that she hadn’t reckoned on was a mad teacher whose ‘live’ lesson of leeches & other water creatures escaped the bucket they were housed in for the night! 13/26
I passed my probationary year & was a qualified teacher & now decisions loomed again. I had the opportunity to go to India in the summer, but the novitiate beckoned & I decided to get on with it. The other postulant, older than me also wanted to start novitiate. 14/25
We were the first to join the congregation for 7 years so a new novitiate was set up in a large house in Purley, Surrey, not far from Carshalton where 2 of the community were still teaching.( For religious the Novitiate is the initial time of preparation for taking vows) 15/25
We were 7. Pat, the novice mistress/superior was my former primary school head while another, Sr Mary Webb, my secondary school head. Mary was an absolute delight to live with and kept us sane in the middle of those tense moments that happen in all groups.16/25
One sister played the Jonathon Livingstone seagull record at every opportunity. On one memorable occasion as the notes of the record started in a nearby room Mary exclaimed, “Oh no! not that damn bird again!” 17/25
My spirit expanded in this year’s novitiate. I had time to think, pray and question. I loved the quiet of the house & the rhythm of the life. From the others I learnt something of what it is to be a Daughter of the Cross and something of what living in community means. 18/25
2 days a week we attended the formation course in Portobello road where we had lectures in spirituality, scripture, theology & psychology. As well as being spiritually nourishing it was a great support and gave me friendships that I still have. 19/25
My favourite time of the week was Dominican Fr Geoffrey Preston’s theology lectures, I sat transfixed for the 45 minutes he spoke and my spirit expanded at his words. 20/25
At the end of the year the Portobello Road group had an outing to the Julian Shrine at Norwich. Thanks to Geoffrey who was a friend of the community we stopped at the Carmelite monastery, Quidenham for Mass, picnic & talk by the prioress, Sr Rachel (Ruth Burrows). 21/25
I can’t remember a word of what Sister Rachel said, but I had a sense of something important happening. Without my knowledge a seed had been planted to lie dormant until its time to sprout.22/25
Sadly Geoffrey Preston died aged 42. After his death Aidan Nichols gathered his many notes of sermons for the Church year & published them in a book, ‘Hallowing the time’. It is a book I go back to time and time again & always find something new & nourishing. 23/25
I would recommend you to read the preface, it is a masterpiece of an honest obituary. In it he speaks of the waste & sadness & failure in Geoffrey’s life. 24/25
Reading the piece to write this tweet I was struck by the phrase,
‘was it or was it not a failure that was redemptive, sanctifying, creative of new life for many people in the Church and on the edges of the Church?

I will leave it there for now – more tomorrow 25/25

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More from @Gillianfc

7 Apr
And so Day 3 of my story of God at work in my life as part of #OfGodAndMe #ThisNunsStory series. Yesterday mention of the book, The Silver Sword seems to have struck a chord with many so perhaps its not out of place to mention that today 7th April is #Worldhealthday 1/20
Ian Serraillier ended his talks by showing this photo with the words, ‘No child should ever again have that expression on his face’. My hope this the UK as host of the upcoming #G7 summit will prioritise Universal health care for all. #UCH 2/20
So back to my story. Living at home again and my dream of religious life gone out the window I applied and got a place for September at Brighton College of Education to do a cert ed in biological science & primary education 3/20
Read 21 tweets
6 Apr
I read the story The Silver sword by Ian Serrailler. Its about 3 Polish children who separated from their parents in World War II cross war torn Europe facing war, danger & #disease. These are children like me, I thought & was so glad I had been born after the war finished. 1/20
Living through the war as RAF personnel my parents also had a horror of war, which rubbed off on me. I saw photos of the relief of Belsen & I decided that I would do everything I could to stop war #poverty & #prejudice. 2/20
I remember Dad telling us about the jigsaw at his #Methodist Sunday school with the map of the world on one side and the face of Jesus on the other. “taking care of the world is taking care of Jesus” he said 3/20
Read 22 tweets
5 Apr
This week I'll be sharing my story of God at work in my life as part of #OfGodAndMe #ThisNunsStory series. Inevitably its a series of snapshots I have plucked out of my memory album in order to tell my story. At a different time I might well have chosen different snapshots. 1/15
I was a post #war baby born in the leafy suburb of #Sutton to parents who had met in the RAF during the war.I now belong to the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liege (FC) & live in Much Hadham, Herts. 2/15 ImageImage
Dad, a teacher on #sthelier council estate was the son of a Rhondda valley miner who had died at 49 of TB & silicosis. Mum is a Geordie handweaver who drove 3-ton lorries in the war. Her father had been orphaned age 7 when his Dad died of TB. 3/15
Read 15 tweets

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