Mgr Paul Grogan

Mgr Paul Grogan
Mgr Paul Grogan

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Finding peace

I ascended the second highest fell in Wharfedale yesterday, Buckden Pike. Close to its summit is a memorial to the five members of a Polish Wellington Bomber crew who perished at that spot when their aircraft crashed during a snowstorm in the Second World War. Only the rear-gunner, Joseph Fusniak, survived: he crawled down to the bottom of a valley in the night despite being in extreme pain as a result of a broken ankle. I said the De Profundis for those who had died that night by the memorial. With that memory still fresh in my mind, it was moving today to see the Lancaster Bomber flying over Buckingham Palace as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Yesterday was principally characterised by joy, however. At one point, I lay down in the bright sunshine and surveyed the evocatively named Langstrothdale and its first village, Hubberholme. In the churchyard there is buried the great twentieth century Bradford essayist, novelist and playwright, J B Priestley. I remember once at school reading a very amusing essay that he had written in the 1930s about the pleasures of doing nothing. He remarked that if Herr Hitler had appreciated  these pleasures more the whole of Europe would have been the better for it. From the summit I could see the Howardian Hills on the edge of the North York Moors to the east and, I believe, the near summits of the Lakes in the West. Then, best of all, as I was taking my boots off in the car-park I heard a girl of perhaps ten saying to her parents as they completed their walk, "What a great day! Thanks!"

That would have been enough, but there was more. Passing through Kettlewell, a couple of miles into my home journey, I came upon a Morris Dancing festival to mark the Jubilee. I stood and watched for a good half-hour. It was marvellous. Some groups waved large white handkerchiefs; others carried large batons; the movements were choreographed and were physically quite demanding, but at the same time there was a sense of informality and fun (not unrelated to beer); sometimes we heard loud guttural shouts; at other times men struck their sticks against each other with a loud "clack." It was as if the stuff of life had been taken into the dance and transformed, like in a good drama. The clash of man with man was acknowledged, but the aggression was resolved and in the end the unity symbolised by the dance triumphed.

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