(I seem to start every post with an apology now. A reader wrote to me two days ago, worried at my silence. It has, indeed, been a difficult week... but alas, I will have to update you on this at a later date.)
The dawn service on Easter Day in Rose’s cathedral is the most beautiful in the year.
It starts by moonlight in the cloisters. The choir processes in through the pitch-dark shuffles of the many hundreds who have left their beds half way through the night.
The story of the Exodus accompanied by the lighting of the brazier.
(We attended for all Rose’s three years in the choir. Year two, the brazier wouldn’t come to life even at the entreaty of an entire persuasion of cathedral clergy. Year three – Rose’s final, confirmation year – some enterprising verger had preempted embarrassment. The tiniest match lit a whoosh of petrol into a bonfire and Alex’s eyebrows were almost singed off in surprise.)
The night-lit candlelit faces of the choir sing to the Old Testament readings, and long before we have had too much we go shifting off in crowds into the vast nave into which you could fit a dozen parish churches.
All clutching our old saucepans or wooden spoons… or, in our case, Alex had brought the Toy Symphony box of all the instruments I gave Bink for her seventeenth birthday performance: whistle and nightingale and toy trumpet and cuckoo and drum. For use much later.
For the moment when the liturgy says, with italicised understatement, The congregation makes a joyful noise unto the Lord.
The service combines the awe-inspiring with the dramatic with the hilarious with the profoundly moving.
Towards the end, the confirmation candidates, thirty or more, move to the vast font – one or two will require baptism first – to be sprinkled by water thrown from branches of hyssop and anointed with oil and prayed on by the rest of us.
We had borrowed our friends’ house again. The whole family invited to witness Rose confirmed: her very special day, barely short of a wedding in anticipation and celebration.
My father, now nearly ninety-nine, going to sleep in his clothes, the more easily to rise at 4 am.
And after a service which lasts two and a half hours and feels like forty-five minutes, down into the crypt for a bucks-fizz breakfast for all.
What kind of an awesome as well as awe-inspiring cathedral serves a bucks-fizz breakfast? How blessed Rose was to be there for three glorious years!
Though that year, we barely ate the breakfast on offer in the crypt.
Because one of Rose’s best friends was being confirmed with her, and her grandparents owned surely the loveliest, most quirky house in the city, clinging onto the cliff overhanging the river, its apple-garden and class-roofed conservatory with the most stunning views imaginable.
The cathedral almost close enough to touch, on the other bank a deep-dropping chasm away.
The brunch was champagne, smoked trout, prosciutto, scrambled eggs, freshly warm croissants, fruit, yoghurt, home-dropped blinis flipped on pans before our faces... and far, far more that I have forgotten in my mixed sad-joy of that glorious, sorrowful morning of Rose’s last Easter at the cathedral.
Because... guess what? We hadn’t seen Bink since Rose ended her wash-cycle prematurely three months earlier, in the New Year, to catch the Sunday afternoon train to get to school for the start of the Lent Term.
Run away and not come back.
Still in trauma at the imagined traces of soap which had once come close to kissing Rose’s suitcase.
Her adored baby sister – she always claimed – and she couldn’t be there for her.
Yet again, Bink the dark hole in the family, casting a shadow on the mid-morning sun rising over the lawn spanning the golden morning, with the tears on the river glistening far below.