Friday, 21 January 2011


While I was away, Cecily McDonald died. She was one of the few remaining St John's city centre parishioners to be born in the Parish. Her father was a local publican, and she grew up and into the LV trade herself. I took her Communion back in November at the request of her son Julian, who works at the reception desk in Central Police Station, as I had done during my ministry to her once she was house bound, before I retired. Julian left a message on our answering machine to let me know when we returned. Thankfully the funeral was arranged for today, and Father Mark who was conducting it invited me to take part.

Cecily was interested in the discussions I had with the city centre developers about raising a sculpture in St John's Churchyard. I was sure the only kind of work to survive critical scrutiny would be one  with a commemorative character. Style would be less significant than motive, I maintained. One that would fit the bill, to my mind, would be a work of art dedicated to the memory of the 360 victims of the Blitz raids on Cardiff. There's no public memorial to all those who lost their lives. I put the case  for this to the Art Procurement professional, with a smart office down the Bay, hired by Land Securities to spend the budgeted millions or outlay on new art for the city centre, but the idea that an artistic competition to place new sculpture in the city centre should be constrained by such a theme met with a polite shudder of revulsion. 

I pointed out that nothing that wasn't in some way commemorative art would be acceptable to the Diocese whose responsibility for the proposed site of the sculpture arose from real ownership. Then, the lines of communication went dead. I never heard from the Art Procurer nor from Land Securities on this matter again. Not even an apology for the waste of our professional time and services. I guess that's how English big money deals with us provincials who still have title deeds in coveted places. Damn them, I want to say. Cecily would have just given a knowing shrug - that's how they are , get used to it, they don't know any better, poor things - she might have said.

The first Blitz raid on Cardiff was Jan 2nd 1940. Co-incidentally this was the day sixty one years later, when Cecily died. Imagine the unforgettable impact of a bombing raid in a highly populated area on a fourteen year old publican's daughter. Yet, she never grew bitter about it.  Despite her great age, there was a good crowd present in church. I was privileged to read the Gospel and to give an affectionate eulogy about someone whose war time story-telling gave me an insight into the way ordinary citizens coped with horrifying events in those years before I was born.

This evening, after a spell in the office, I had to go out to Ely to do a funeral preparation visit, meeting the family, hearing the sad story of untimely death. A man sick with emphysemia went home and died in his chair watching his beloved Discovery channel on TV. Having lived out his life in the same few streets of a huge housing estate, this was his wonderful window on the world. His sudden demise was compounded for the family by the equally sudden death of his small dog this morning. Did it die of grief? I wonder. There are so many things about timing in human existence which we fail to comprehend.


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