From our Chaplain, Canon Graham Bettridge
‘You could see the Crystal Palace if it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in Between’
Howard Spring used the irony of the music hall song “You could see the Crystal Palace if it wasn’t for the houses in between”. In the moving saga of a family growing up in a poor parish, St Mary -le-Bow, at a time of unease with rumours of wars abroad and rising discontent at home. The folk he wrote of were defined by their parish of birth ‘cockneys’ (they woke up to the sound of Bow Bells).
The Crystal Palace became in the novel the place of dreams, the vision that in so many ways brought heart and hope in the midst of harsh reality. Like Saint Augustine’s City of God. It is always there and any one can see it, ‘if it weren’t for the houses in between’. All those houses and all those people, grand houses and shabby houses, rich people and poor people, with all their feuds and rivalries, their hates and fears, allegiances and treacheries and dissents; yes it would be easier to see the shining pavilion if it weren’t for all this in between.’
The author drew on the indestructible spirit of this inner London community, a village amongst many villages. The ‘cockney’, as soon as they could speak, reflected their common identity and seemed to live up to it. This determination of spirit and versatility of humour was the soil of The Music Hall. A place for all to have a go, to join in, not to be afraid to chance their arm, to risk being a fool, to show who we are. (At Easter and at Christmas our own Parcevall Music ‘Hall’ happens: it is known as ‘Over to You’).
The great warmth of the Music Hall makes the best of things, sharing and chattering, singing and accepting – praying and caring, putting the day into a perspective. Coping and thereby helping each other so to do. People, we, find a better self working through the unexpected especially for and with others. It’s not piety that is the stuff of Saints but stickability.
Just sing this to yourself!
The chorus “Oh it really is a wery pretty garden, and ‘Endon to the westward could be seen, and by clinging to the chimbley, you could see across to Wembly, If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between”
We can grow familiar with the ‘houses in between’, some times they become so familiar that our vision does not go beyond them. The familiar is comforting, change is worrying, yet to be alive is to change. Walkers, pilgrims, pause and take in the view but continue.
The unusual picture of Our Lord in the letter to the Hebrews as the ‘hare’ in the paper chase in a great cross country race, is portrayed as the trail blazer in our life’s journey. He has always got there before us (wherever ‘there’ may be) and leaves behind for us to find, a welcoming warmth.
Graham W Bettridge
Hon Chaplain Parcevall Hall
23 June 2020