Monday, 25 December 2006

Canterbury Cathedral + time lag

[broadband back on line for a few moments at last ...]

Christmas Eve? Well actually the ITV London programme about Canterbury Cathedral was transmitted from 1.10 on Christmas morning - and yes, I was still up watching it.

Focusing on Canterbury brought to life the reading I've been enjoying in the last few days from my mother's diary of the 1940s, including descriptions of Christmas 1944 in the environs of Canterbury Cathedral.

One thing I noticed about Christmas then is that there is more carol singing in the days after Christmas day - like the evening at my mother's place on "the Thursday after Christmas" -
"Alfred (Deller) was to provide the carollers and I the hearth and refreshments ...
"... we played games and finally charades, and a good time was had by all - there were ten of us in all and they didn't go home till past 1a.m."
- and there was a carol concert in the Cathedral on 4 January. Nowadays we do all the carols before 25 December!

The scene my mother describes at the turn of that year is shot through with national and personal issues. The Second World War is raging through its fifth year and there are references to war time duties like fire watch. But what's bothering my mother more immediately is the slowness of my father to make her a proposal of marriage, and the re-appearance in Canterbury of Lois Lang-Sims. My mother knows from mutual friends the Dellers that Lois and Joseph (my father) had been romantically linked.

Anyway, he finally proposed to my mother by letter (though they lived quite close to each other!) - a letter that was "shot through the letterbox" late in the evening of 4 January sixty-two years ago - 1945 - and she rushed round the next day and gave him a hug (my words ... and not quite à la Vicar of Dibley I think).

Lois seems to bear no grudge. In her book about Canterbury Cathedral (Cassell 1979) she includes more than one credit to my father's work:
"A few weeks after VE day ... the choir which had been trained single-handedly by Joseph Poole gave a lunch-hour recital at the National Gallery in London. It was spoken of by critics as being the finest Cathedral choir in England at that time ...
"At the outset of the war [when the choir school was evacuated to Cornwall] ... there remained half a dozen small boys and five adult lay-clerks ...
"It was providential for the Cathedral to have in its Precentor an outstanding musician, who took this apparently unpromising nucleus and built up from it, in the most difficult circumstances, the foundation of the Cathedral's post-war music."
[p.64] ...

[Seems there's to be a television documentary sometime in the near future on Canterbury Cathedral, in which Lois Lang-Sims is one of the contributors.]

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