An Anglican Country Belle


Meet someone special, whose name none of us know. Pity, that. It would be nice to speak on first name terms. Introductions and formalities are a boredom to her. She never has told anyone her business because nobody was bothered, supposing her merely functional: an elaborate shop-counter. What account she has to give, who knows? Her life is our life, and that’s all we can say.

Before we were born, she was in her prime: like the second coming of Jean Brodie. Should God spare her, she will be here long after we die – still, by His providence, very much in the prime of life. Blessed amongst women? Yes. Unique? Well, not really. There are many like her, to coin a phrase: not one of a kind, but one of a kind. Her twin sisters are settled across the world: a scattered family, typical English brood.

In all the parish, none can hope to rival her stern glamour and obvious flair for fashion. Her wardrobe is crammed with outfits for all occasions: graceful gowns, whose hems hardly clear the floor. Advent finds her in flamboyant purple, as does his brother Lent. Received opinion says these regal tones have spiritual meaning (a heart-warming theory). Showbiz, dear… it’s all spectacle.

Ordinarily, she looks fabulous in green: the loud emerald shade, specifically. She wears no black to mourn her fallen children, a noble retinue processing down the centuries to present recollection, but blood-red. It helps her contend with tragedy; no mother was bereaved as oft.

Secure in her Anglican faith, she finishes each outfit with a burnished cross. Ah, looking so good isn’t easy! This is no tawdry gossip column, but some say she needs help to dress in the mornings. No shame in that, of course.

How could any doubt her piety, what with spending all her time in chapel? She does indulge a favourite vice, however; even during worship, she never snuffs out her smokes – one brazen flame in each hand, with brass holders like Holly Golightly’s! – and our priest is too nice to have a word. He supplies her habit, after all. May she never change: our peerless prima donna.

Sinful souls unburden their affairs in her hearing. Something about her invites this kind of honesty. No misdoings faze her, be they never so trivial or sinister. Understand why we bow so low before her: she could ruin us all, but every day decides against it. Always that wooden look of arch-discretion.

What would she say? Whatever would be her insight she would speak it well, if ever speak she did: a wordless poetess.

Human secrets gather in her breast, a rising tide swelling upwards. Not a blade of grass grows in this parish without her knowledge. All those confessions… enough to fill volumes: The Sun, The Star, The Mirror… it’s a miracle the tabloids haven’t snapped her up! Instead, she holds her peace. And so, her bond of trust with us remains intact – for another generation, anyway.

The cattle down the lane talk to her, their affairs being less outrageous... barely. Throatfuls of mad farmyard sounds boom from the field beyond the yew trees when she’s home. “There has to be someone in that odd stone building with all those pretty windows,” runs their cow-logic, a bovine saltus fidei. The young calves, too, brought up in these ancestral customs, babble away to the hidden one.

Babies, on the topic of little ones, are dear to her. Nobody has a better spot in church from which to see them born again. Straight up the centre aisle she smiles with affection, watching them transformed into good Anglicans. Wait a decade or so, then these too will be hers. From water to wine: that’s how the story goes.

A fine hostess, the table she waits is broad as a banana leaf and serves the masses. The food is never a surprise: a predestined menu, the heavenly table d’hôte. Nobody begrudges the predictability. To be truthful, not a few find solace in it: a constant in a schizophrenic age.

Like the food, the diners are foreseeable: the usual suspects. That said, her fondest welcome goes to the gate crasher. Open invitation, eh? That’s rare in a paywall world, and it’s a rare soul who comes to the feast. Ah well; there’s always the next one. Tell a friend. Spread the word.

Where things go deep is this: her body carries the holy sacrifice, consecrated for the purpose. In this regard, at least, she’s just like us when time comes round for supper. God bless… all that reverence – oh, for love of Christ! – which sucks every drop from cup-rim to cupped mouth.

As we kneel before her – tapping head; then shoulders; then, finally, heart – we kneel before God, though she herself is only His handmaid. This is, as another Lady knows, the greatest sign of all.

1/10/2023 6:41:39 PM
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  • Matthew Allen
    About Matthew Allen
    Matthew Allen is a writer and musician based in Northern Ireland. He is a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, where he studied Theology and Liberal Arts.