As It Is

The window of the room which was generally mine is so low that I could see the tree-trunks and the road as I lay in the feather-bed. Romney Marsh was so quiet at night that a car could be heard a mile and more away. It amused me to watch from my three pillows for its headlights to come sweeping round the bend in the road from Hope All Saints, and shine for a second or two on the tall green poplars, old grey church tower whose clock thinks it is always three minutes past three, thatched cottage with its garden of flowers and trim hedges. As I went to sleep there was no sound from the miles of flat fields around the Bell Inn at Ivychurch but the occasional bleat of a sheep, sleepy chirping of a bird in the eaves, distant bark of an uneasy dog. At dawn I woke to the singing of a thousand sparrows, house-martins, swallows; I would open one eye, see the pearl-grey of the sky flecked with pink and the tops of the poplars touched with gold, give a contented sigh, go to sleep again. All day, every day, I rejoiced in sunlight, bathed off the yellow sands of Dymchurch, roamed with my dogs over the fields to this quiet old village or that (Brenzett, Appledore, Burmarsh, Ebony, Snave); until the siin went down behind the hills, and it was time to return to the little room with the large bed, coloured print of Queen Victoria, two framed texts, china candlestick (“Present from Margate”), and small low window looking down the white road to the sea.

So in August it was; perhaps may be again.

As it is - since the least an East London parish priest can do at a time like this is to remain at his post - I see search-lights from my bedroom window, long silver fingers poking their way among the clouds that lie over Haggerston’s houses and ruins; the last sounds as I go to sleep may be the drone of bombers or the eerie shrieks, as of babies being murdered, of a cat-fight. At times I am woken by the sound of guns over the river-estuary, followed by that familiar warbling of unblest sirens. I fumble my way out of sheets and blankets, into clothes and tin hat, mumbling the while my unchanged opinion of that Fuehrer and all his works; roam yet again through small streets and alleyways to visit this shelter and that, the wardens at their posts, the rest-centre, to see that all is reasonably well with my many valiant and enduring friends whose ages vary between one and may-be eighty.

As it is, I have spent much of these August days writing and drawing what is to be found within these covers. In the winter of 1940 a cockney charlady remarked that “The best of the blitz is that it takes your mind off the war.” That goes too for an attempt to teach the Apostles’ Creed to an imaginary Catechism; though I fear that I have not quite succeeded in keeping the war out of it.

In the introduction to Part One I detailed at some length what were my methods and customs when St. Augustine’s Catechism was by no means imaginary, and it was my fortune to be every Sunday afternoon in the cheerful and lively company of that Peggy who wished, and doubtless still wishes, to “knif” Hitler, and her hundred companions. However, there may be some who are as yet unacquainted with Greta Garbo June Elizabeth Margaret Rose Luvaduck, Sarah Susannah Snatchpiece (who blotted her identity card). Uncle Percy’s astonishing moustache, and the not at all Reluctant Dragon. So it may be well to repeat that:

(a) These instructions are intended not only for those who conduct Catechisms, but also for boys and girls who for one reason or another (like Peggy) have no Catechism to go to.

(b) Numbers in brackets refer to other instructions.

(c) Since it is good for both catechists and catechised to know their way about the Bible, such references (in italics and brackets) are frequent. Verse numbers are inclusive.

(d) Words in instructions printed in capitals are those written on the second blackboard; though these are not to be found in every instruction, since “variety is the spice of” Catechism also.

(e) The table of contents I have only drawn up for fun. It is not to be taken seriously, and may well be ignored.

St. Augustine’s Clergy House
Yorkton Street, Hackney Road London, E.2

September, 1942.