Thursday, 1 July 1999
The Truth beneath the Image
Last Tuesday (as I write), having ‘been to see the Vicar’ about our forthcoming wedding (always strange to have the tables turned), Beccy and I went for a walk at Sprotborough. It was, I think, just the day after a fatal crash outside The Boat Inn, next to the River: the dashed lines on the road, which marked the trajectory of the vehicle, and the bouquets of flowers, with their brief, heartfelt messages, each, in their own way, told their part of the tragic story.
We walked in the direction of
Doncaster, but only as far as the A1(M) viaduct which carries the teeming traffic high over the valley. On the way back we saw the pleasure boat at its mooring and it reminded me of a previous walk at Sprotborough and a strange experience. It was evening, and we had walked from the Pub in the opposite direction, through the reserve known as Sprotborough Flash – a wooded area with ponds to the north of the waterway and I think a disused quarry to the south. It was getting quite dusky as we started to make our way back to the car and it seemed very tranquil. But then the peace of the evening began to be disturbed – sounds of music and laughter became audible and drew gradually closer. Eventually, round the next corner of the river the boat appeared, decked out with lights and crowded with people. Evidently the party was in full swing, with a band playing and some kind of stand up comic sending people into fits of laughter every once and again. Standing on the bank had seemed fine, now on-the-boat was obviously ‘the place to be’. All this while the boat was still some distance off. But then the bizarre nature of the moment revealed itself. As the boat drew past, with us to its starboard side, it was we who burst out laughing in amazement. Sure enough there were lights and there were people, but they were all sat there, glum and mute. There were neither musicians, nor a comedian but only a stereo system with the volume turned up loud. All the party spirit was simply an illusion!
A sad commentary on modern life? Perhaps the Church has the problem of finding itself in exactly the opposite position. People perceive it to be dead, boring, out of touch, trivial, and so on; whereas, in fact, behind the scenes, we should have the secret of life-in-all-its-fullness, a source of strength for living that life and the truth of reality at its greatest depths.