01 Feb January 2024 Digest
Happy New Year! Welcome back to our blog, and to a new year here at Mucknell Abbey. The year seems to have begun reasonably gently for us, although we know that there are a busy few months ahead, with visitors and other community events on the horizon. It’s been good to welcome back both regular guests and new faces over the past few weeks, as well as a couple of lovely groups – of which more below!
We have been enjoying some tasty treats this month, including a very chocolately birthday cake and a very “proper” galette des rois. This latter is a traditional dessert in France for Epiphany, and since Br. Michaël joined the Community, we have embraced it with enthusiasm. We make it to his mother’s recipe, although we do omit the “fève” usually included – this can be a bean, or a ceramic or plastic token, similar to the tradition of putting a coin in the Christmas pudding. I first encountered this when working in a French school, at lunch time; I was quite bemused by this “truc en plastique” in my dessert, until my collegues kindly explained.
Visiting and Visitors
Those of you who have read our blog for some time may recall our annual tradition of exchanging visits with the Bernardine Cistercian sisters at Brownshill Monastery, near Stroud. This year was our turn to go and see them, and despite truly awful driving conditions, we made it there and back, and enjoyed tea, cake, conversation and Vespers with the sisters there. The Bernardine community opened their Brownshill house at about the same time that our community moved into Mucknell Abbey, and we have enjoyed a close link with the sisters there ever since. The photos below were taken after Vespers in their chapel, and between them show all who were in attendance.
It was also great to continue another annual tradition and welcome 5 young people from the Community of St. Anselm, based at Lambeth Palace in London. Syndey, Shena, Erin, Norah and Sanchitha joined us for a week, and we had a great time getting to know them, and hearing their stories. They also helped us out with some spring cleaning, finishing a tricky jigsaw and contributed to our worship in chapel – it was great to have the stalls full!
The jigsaw in question was of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and had been ‘on the go’ for almost a month by the time our visitors arrived. Some determined work on their part got it done, for which we were all grateful.
You may recall that last January, Br. Adrian did some work laying one section of our hedge. This work has continued this year. Br. Adrian has been working on more of the section he layed last year, and we have also had David, aka The Woodsman, working on the hedge on our southern boundary. Watching the progress of his work has been fascinating; he has used the West Midland style of hedgelaying, appropriately, and at the time of writing has almost finished his work.
Here you can see the progress from laying the pleachers, to the finishing that characterises the West Midland style:
And here is another section of the same hedge, showing the progression from ‘untamed’ hedge, to beginning the laying process. I found it quite interesting to see how much material is removing before laying the hedge:
You may be familiar with the poem Leisure, by William Henry Davies, which begins,
“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”
One of our favourite locales for standing and staring during the winter is overlooking the bird feeders which Br. Anthony puts up each year. I took this short video of a group of long tailed tits foraging for bird seed that had been (intentionally) scattered on the ground: