Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Is this normal?

If I were left alone long enough and could make up the events my life, I would go ahead full steam. 'Today I am kidnapped by aliens disguised as albatrosses and they lock me in a cell with an android who says the only way to escape is to feed sardines to the twenty-eight penguins on guard duty who will turn into mice'.

Today's actual events sound a bit like that. And that saying of San's keeps coming back to me. Is this normal?

Today's home ed outing is a visit to a working Benedictine Abbey. I haven't arranged this; it's thanks to a local organiser and, although Grit is not religious, we think the Gritlets should learn about tolerance and respect, so they can be tolerant and respectful just like mamma.

Naturally, we are late setting off, for which I blame everybody else. The abbey is a 40 minute drive. I even think I know where it is. But there are 30 minutes before the time when a monk is going to talk. Typically, I have no petrol in car. All of these things will not matter, I think. I might know where the abbey is, and we will just have enough petrol to find it. I will buy petrol there. Such is the nature of hope. I forget that I do not actually know where the abbey is. Or that abbeys do not sell petrol.

Twenty minutes later we are lost. The abbey is not where I would like it to be. Mr and Mrs Taylor say it is their house, and it is private land, so clear off. The Sat nav has no power in it, and I cannot charge it up in the car because last year someone stole the charger. It is not a good time to recall that monks shut themselves away in the countryside for years.

Off we go again. I have to go in a direction. The petrol gauge says now definitely there is no petrol in the car. I estimate we have 20 miles. I tell Shark, Squirrel and Tiger who are all complaining about dinner, that I am ditching the monks and aiming for a petrol station. I ignore the groaning and ask, What is the alternative? Is it to drive until we stop, on an English one-track lane with grass growing in the middle, surrounded by fields and hedges, in the middle of nowhere, then stay there forever and probably die from starvation because we are looking for a monk? Would you like that? Would you? Or would you like to fill your faces with flapjacks on a petrol station forecourt? You choose.

When Grit has been instructed to point the car in the direction of flapjacks, she does so with renewed hope. She creeps along, turning here and there, trying not to put her foot on the accelerator. We crawl through a little village where there is no petrol and suddenly we pass a wobbly road sign. Bell Lane. Bell Lane! That is it! I am sure that is it! I have Bell Lane written down on my scribbled instructions from midnight when I did my thorough preparation for this trip. The abbey is down there! I swing the car around, suddenly confident that if I get stuck in the abbey with a hungry Shark, Tiger and Squirrel, the monks will get their prayers for petrol answered pretty fast.

We arrive at the end of a tiny twisting lane. We see another car ahead, parked in front of a locked 5-bar gate. It is Dee! Yippee! A face I recognise! We are saved! This is the right place! I was lost and now I am found! Right now I could jump out of the car and dance, even though we are in the middle of nowhere with a locked gate and no petrol. Dee says she has been punching numbers in the box to open the gate and nothing has happened. She has rung the organiser of the trip who is not answering. She has tried pushing at the gate and it doesn't open. Grit tries all the same, like it is all going to happen, because miracles happen, like you find an abbey when you were looking for a petrol station. After five minutes of trying to break in, a cross-looking man arrives on a tractor and asks what we are doing trying to break into his property. We say we are looking for monks.

When the farmer has cleared us off his property and given us instructions on how to get to the abbey, we crawl back up the tiny twisting lane. At the top of the lane Shark announces, 'There is the sign I read on the way in!' Even in the midst of this despair there is joy, because this is reading in action! Shark can read! Grit asks what does the sign read. Sharks answers, No entrance to Abbey.

Well the abbey is right next door to the turning that we took; there is the organiser, flapping her arms on the grass verge, shouting Car park back down lane turn left! Grit turns the car round again and heads off down another lane. We park the car, with only one small bump to an indicator lamp, which is OK because it is not ours, and then I repark the car somewhere else sharpish, and we walk back to where the organiser was standing. Only the organiser has now disappeared, along with Dee. How do we get in? thinks Grit. Grit and Gritlets wander about some outhouses. No-one to be seen. Grit considers climbing in through a window in search of monks and then sees a little wooden door set back in a wall. Of course! she thinks. This is a door! So I bang on it. No answer. I bang again. And again.

I am about to shoo everyone away when suddenly door opens and a nun appears. Nuns? Nuns? Do monks and nuns live together then? This is confusing. Grit is overwhelmed and would like to sob. Forty minutes late, no petrol and no monks. No wonder people arrive at Church doors in despair and weeping.

Grit gabbles to the nun that she is here on an educational outing and please let this be a place where there are monks because she has no petrol and the organiser has vanished into thin air. Well at this, the nun gets snippy. She looks down her nose at Grit, which is pretty good for a nun who has the physical stature of a five-year old, then the nun doesn't let Grit finish asking about the monks but sharply says she will look at the diary; turns on her heel and walks away, leaving Grit standing at door shouting. Grit is in turmoil. Not only has she just caused a nun to break her 25-year vow of silence, now I feel a sudden urge to make smart comments and start shouting rude names. But you cannot shout at nuns. You cannot call them names. Or get cross because they just cut you dead and disappear down corridors.

The nun reappears and curtly says the monks are through the arch. Round the corner, turn right, you cannot miss them. Then shuts the door. Grit is a pissed off Grit now and vows never to be a nun ever ever ever, not even if she is paid a million pounds. However the instructions are true.

Grit and the Gritlets find all the home ed group and two monks, one of whom is elderly and looking about to fall over, and the other who is an ex-headteacher monk getting cross. Apparently someone asked him a question which he says is asking him to justify his existence. He sounds pretty snippy to me too and I wonder what the question was. Do you really believe in God? Are you a secret Buddhist? Apparently it is neither of these, it is Do you vote? Politics and religion, there you go, two subjects you should never discuss. I guess if I had asked Can you get away with wearing yellow underpants? that would've been OK.

Even though we have missed the talk and all but the last question, we get a tour of the abbey. We get to peer in through the nun's garden to their back windows before the ex-headteacher monk gets out his pet moth to show the kids. Then I'm thinking Can it get more bizarre than this? Here we are looking at a monk's pet moth miles from anywhere and I have been told off by a nun already and wondered what underpants monks wear. Can home ed get more surreal?

Now at the final bit of the tour the ex-headteacher monk leads us all into the chapel and asks everyone to shut up and put bits of the furniture back. And for a few quiet minutes I sit there praying for petrol, even though I do not believe in God, but probably might start now for a petrol station. And just as I am thinking about this great void between knowing and unknowing, faith and reason, hope and despair, the door opens and the Jesus Army arrives.

So today, this is where you can find Grit.

'Today I have been trespassing twice, committed an act of vandalism in a car park, run out of petrol at an abbey, am kidnapped by the Jesus Army, locked in a chapel with three starving kids, a politics home ed group and an ex-headteacher monk who has a pet moth. And the only escape is back through a priory full of snippy metre-high nuns.'


Linda @ The Briar Patch said...

Glad you managed to escape! Sounds like lots of life stuff was learned. ;)

Have amazed myself by coming out of lurkerdom twice in one day!


Brad said...

My dear, you are one hec of a story teller. I've said it before, you really need to edit these posts into a book. People like me would pay good money for it.

Great story.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

you are not telling me that a nun didn't know where the nearest male was? especially as he turned out to be thru the nearest arch?? if you ask me, the sight of your triplets reminded Mere Therese that you had had sex.


this woman has had SEX!

sex sex sex.

that is what the nun was thinking about, that is why she was snippy.

here ends the chav interpretation of your blogpost.


Allie said...

Erm, sometimes nuns aren't that bothered where the nearest male is ;-) I've got a fascinating book of life stories of lesbian nuns (honest, I have!) Ain't necessarily a sex-free lifestyle, whatever the church might have us believe...

Great story, BTW.

Beyondmywildest. said...

Erm, was going to comment but then I read Allies comment and now my mind is all muddled.

Potty Mummy said...

I don't know why but I always assumed monks wore loin cloths rather than pants. It just sounds so much more holy...(no pun intended)

sharon said...

Sounds like the perfect day out - adventure, drama, a soupcon (needs one of those curly things under the c) of danger, controversy, and holy people. What more could the Grits need? I'm sure you all learnt loads of useful things lol!

I'm assuming you got some petrol and made it home safely, or are you sitting in a field somewhere exhorting the gritlets to 'PUSH, there'll be food when we reach the petrol station'

Mean Mom said...

Lol! It sounds like a very normal grit sort of day, to me!

I often tempt fate by driving around with my petrol light on and I don't even carry a can. I do so like to live dangerously and that's about as close to living dangerously as I'm ever likely to be!

Kitty said...

Pigmy Nuns? That's got to be worth some sort of 'project', surely?

Did you get petrol? - I get decidedly twitchy if I'm running on empty. :-(


Grit said...

hi folks! what a great set of comments... sex, loin cloths and pigmy nuns. i'm almost tempted to google.