Turning the clocks back ...

'You're right that education is in a terrible state, Ferdi, but you can't just turn the clock back', someone (older than I am) once told me. 'Well, we do it every autumn ...'

Older clocks, like older people, don't like being moved back in time. Walking around an empty school this morning (it's half term break) I counted up all the clocks we are going to have to correct now that summer time is over. The old-fashioned ones are much more difficult to put back than the modern ones, because they don't like going backwards, and in order not to mess up the chimes, you have to listen to every quarter hour chime and pause a few seconds before moving on to the next. It's much easier in the spring, of course, when one is moving forwards.

The much discussed wave of conservatism (or even reaction) that is supposed to be afflicting/blessing the thrity-somethings of today is - I think - much more subtle. Like those modern clocks, we can move backwards and forwards with equal ease. The challenge for us is to find our own place in time and space and give honour to past, present and future. Sometimes that means that like St Paul, we have to play the conservative and hold fast to that which is good; other times we must put away childish things and accept the blessings of the future.

We are meant to be salt and light for the world. The salt makes food, and life, palatable. Without Christians, the world would surely be an even more wretched place .... But we are - by virtue of the One we represent and imitate, light. 'In him there is no darkness at all' ... in the light of Christ, which we must bring to bear on the world, that holy light of truth lights up every situation and helps us see what we must do.

And so autumn - the season of mellow fruitfulness - is here, and winter is just straining to blast her cold at us, forcing us to spend thousands of precious euros on oil. The hedgehogs are still about, so winter can't be here quite yet. At the moment we are experiencing clear blue skies and sunshine by day, and cold at night. But our thick stone walls keep in the heat until morning, at least for the moment.

It's a traditional season for contemplation, for finding comfort and strength in old certainties and customs. Time to huddle around the fire, literally and metaphorically. It's a good time to turn the clocks back for a season ...


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