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With Carnival, I began to think about masks. I only wish that we could still associate them with the glamorous Venetian variety that stirs a frisson of mystery. But sadly, due to the pandemic, we are growing accustomed to a new mask. This version forces us, even in rare lockdown encounters, to assess each other without the benefit of a facial expression, now covered. No, it is down to the eyes. I wondered are they helping us view into souls as Shakespeare had us believe?
2021 is dawning but with it 2020 shadows persist. We worry for our health. We question will “normality” ever return. Simple pleasures we took for granted are coveted with a sweet misty-eyed nostalgia. But I have long understood that for my personality Work Don’t Worry is the best antidote to my feeling anxious. So I thought let me use this message to share some guidelines that help me when I am overwhelmed – a common state these days!
In December 2019, I was recognised with the Freedom of the City of London. During a ceremony in Guildhall within the famed Square Mile, with humility and wonder I swore an oath at the Chamberlain’s Court. Many of you may know this distinction from its apocryphal ancient privileges such as the right of Freemen (or in my case Free Sister) to drive their sheep or cattle over London Bridge, assuming I had them. Should it ever be deemed I be hanged, my neck is entitled to a silken rope. And, if found inebriated (after all, the informal “drunk” will not do) within the City, police are obligated to bundle me into a taxi home rather than confine me to a cell. Interestingly, when my brother heard this perk, he immediately queried was the privilege transferable?
Pertinent to my message today, Freemen are presented with a book entitled “Rules for the Conduct of Life.” First published in 1740, it is a guide to a shared set of values and ethics. Amongst these is Rule XIX advising “Lead not an idle life but be constantly employed in some honest business, whereby you may do good both to yourself and others.” News of yet another national lockdown curtailing our activities found me stymied if this recommendation could be fulfilled?
Fear not – the KCWC Board and Activity Leaders instinctively understand this Freemen maxim and have worked hard to keep every member engaged and a stranger to idleness. The activities and Speaker Series meetings enumerated in our website for Winter/Spring 2021 make slothful days an impossibility. Against all odds we have organised lectures in Art History along with Contemporary Art, Design and Music, Book Groups and Language Classes to fill your hours. We continue to profile prominent leaders in our monthly Speaker Series discussing topical issues. Even our pets are kept busy thanks to our new AL Philippa Copleston organising Bark in the Park.
While I realise we are still “mingling” virtually, here is where another Rule for the Conduct of Life applies: Rule VIII “Arm yourself with a strict and firm resolution. Reason is the rudder wherewith you are to steer your course but resolution is the wind that will set you forward without which your sails will often flag.” Who among us cannot admit to feeling a serious flagging mood absent from our friends? But if we resolve to make the best of the worst of situations – a global pandemic frightening us all – we can experience a great pressure release and enjoy a buoyed spirit.
Even with these tenets as guiding axioms, I admit a spontaneous coffee or lunch seems as ancient and elusive as my Free Sister perks. But as Rule VIII counsels, I resolve that “this will pass” and it will be with far more appreciation that I enjoy my friends when next we really mingle. Till then I invite you to join me – and all our KCWC friends only a computer screen away – to transform these lockdown months from inertia to activity. Enhance your life with all that KCWC has to offer. It will be the path by which we can together pursue Rule VII: Live Well and Conduct a Good Life.
“Here we go a wassailing …..” Despite this being one of my favourite holiday carols in the English tradition, I confess to always wondering what is wassailing?! Well guess what – it is a tradition of going from house to house singing carols and drinking plentiful amounts of alcohol along the way. So, in the prism we have come to measure every activity these days – Covid appropriate socially distanced behaviour – I am thinking this does not qualify. Hard to sing with a mask even though the alcohol I admit holds some allure! Who among us is not facing the holiday season with some bit of cheerlessness, anxiety, and just overall exhaustion. What a year this has been.
But I still believe there can be Joy and indeed an obligation to try to provide and share some. You, our KCWC members, are a great gift with your support and friendship. So nothing less than a hot line to my elves was necessary to arrange some revelry. And before you say “but it is not in person“, I sort of already get that drawback. KCWC Activity Leaders may be fabulously inventive and diligent, but we can’t sprinkle our fairy dust on Covid wishing it away or convince the government it is safe to assemble. But I miss you and would rather visit virtually than cloister like an Abbess. (Besides, I could never take a vow of silence even as my handwriting does lend itself to scriptorium duties.) So let’s all rejoice in the season and enjoy these treats:
Friday 4 December Speaker Series General Meeting – a bonus from our schedule last year now reinstated. We welcome Francesca Cartier Brickell speaking on Cartier jewellery history. Baubles are certainly part of the season. And few sparkle as much as Cartier.
Thursday 10 December you are invited to a KCWC Special Holiday event: a Seasonal Smorgasbord of Festive Feasting. Log in for lunch with your friends enjoying a custom made exclusive Fortnum and Mason hamperling. Then tune in for a Holiday lights tour and afternoon tea. You can wassail along for a cocktail hour Christmas drink at 17:00.
Midwinter need not be bleak. KCWC has a lot of seasonal cheer extending right into January 2021. From wherever you may hail or whomever you may be missing at the holidays, you have a home in and a friend at KCWC.
Mary Narvell / KCWC President