Wild and Precious Lives
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?” asks the Pulitzer prize winning American poet Mary Oliver in The Summer Day. Visit Faversham for seven minutes on this summer day comes our immediate response. The timing isn’t entirely of our making: it springs forth from the gap between the train from London Victoria to Faversham and the onward leg to Canterbury East. “Take us to church” we paraphrase chanteuse Sinead O’Connor for we are Eucharist bound at Canterbury Cathedral. But first there’s a mall to behold.
Mall rhymes with hall if you’re American and means your local shopping centre. Aurally, in the States it’s interchangeable with the term for a gangster’s girlfriend. Mall sounds like the French word for ill if you’re English. For Londoners, Mall has a Pall. Mall if you’re Kentish must surely be associated with the loveliest street in Faversham. Only 340 metres long, The Mall in Faversham is full of visual delights. It’s unusual to find architectural beauty abutting a railway station. But here we have Mall House and Wreight’s House for all to see, two Georgian gems on the right side of the tracks separated by the two metre wide Ticklebelly Alley and 70 or so years of history. They may both be red brick dormered slate roofed sash windowed houses with fanlighted columned entrances but the former is mid 18th century and the latter early 19th century.
“I shall never finish answering this question,” says Jo Bailey Wells Bishop of Dorking in the Foreword to Reverend Andy Rider’s book Life is For Giving. The Bishop is responding to Mary Oliver’s poetic enquiry. “Every day presents challenge and opportunity which call for some adjustment (or at least tweaking) of whatever plan I held. At least for me, that’s the way life retains its wild and precious character, its flexibility and grace.” The Summer Day includes the lines, “I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed.” Paying attention, falling down, kneeling, we continue our wild and precious lives unabated. Lunch in Frog and Scot, Deal – another town with a Ticklebelly Alley, will follow Eucharist.