Balaam, Birinus, Bradford on Avon, compassion, Damascene, David Cameron, epiphany, Feast of the Transfiguration, Financial Times, Fleury Abbey, lax, Loiret, Paul Gilbert, Snodbury, St Paul, Sully sur Loire, The Carpenters, The Longs Arms, The Shrink and The Sage, Weekend Magazine
Diana Fotheringay-Syylk, prematurely retired ‘Lax‘ Mistress from St Vitus’ School
For The Academically-Gifted Girl, had been trying to read The Weekend
Magazine from The Financial Times while she was being transported around the
Loiret by her local coach firm from Bradford-on-Avon. She was staying in a 2*
hotel near Sully-sur-Loire, along with other members of her town’s Twinning
She had been allowed to bring along a ‘friend‘ and her daughter, since two
people had dropped out at the last minute and there had been seats left
Behind Diana was her erstwhile lover, Augustus Snodbury, who was still in
educational harness, so to speak, at St Birinus Middle School. Their daughter
Drusilla had closed her eyes, but this did not shut out the low, burring sound
which emanated from her father’s rather hairy nostrils.
And what exactly is a Lax Mistress? I hear you question, Dear Reader.
It was a trainer for a particularly vicious outdoor team game played by
innocent-looking maidens, armed with strong lobster nets on poles.
Innocent-looking, in general, but the goalies were of a different, scary
Diana was trying to concentrate on her favourite The Shrink and the
This guide to modern dilemmas by a psychotherapist and philosopher
duo fascinated her. Diana was looking forward to being a member of the
congregation at The Feast of the Transfiguration in Fleury Abbey and the
rhetorical question which headed the columns struck her with a force as
convincing as the Damascene beam of light which had struck St Paul and
It read: Are we compassionate enough?
Diana had been seeking a spiritually significant experience by venturing
on this trip. Nothing less than an epiphany would satisfy her. She had
opened her mind and heart to receive any messages that might be
forthcoming. But could the divine voice speak through The Financial
Times? She then remembered Balaam’s ass and thought that all things
might be possible.
A psychologist called Paul Gilbert was being quoted as having stressed that
one must be kind to oneself, as well as to others. He warned against two
evolution-shaped drives-firstly, the detection and subsequent escape from
danger and, secondly, the drive to acquire things we want, such as food
and sexual partners.
The article recommended a David Cameron-like state of sensing that we are
all..on this journey together.
Here Snod’s snoring seemed to rise in volume and objection. Already she
was in danger of lapsing into compassion fatigue.
When we are irritated by others, Gilbert said, we should remember that
they are mere humans, like ourselves, who cannot help getting things
But she didn’t snore, did she? She would check with Drusilla later on,
since they were sharing a room. Come to think of it, she remembered Dru
buying some ear plugs in Boots, before they set off.
Gilbert mentioned something called compassion under the duvet, which
fortunately was only a practice of reminding ourselves to be kind to others
before we climbed out of bed in the morning.
Suddenly, the scales fell from Diana’s eyes and she realised that she could
now forgive Gus for his appalling ineptitude, if not for his snoring.
He had been clumsy at their attempted reunion at The Longs Arms, but maybe
it had been down to nerves and possibly they could travel hopefully together
and arrive at the same destination one day- so long as it did not involve any
sharing of duvets, other than of the moral variety.
The Sage explained the etymology of the abstract noun, compassion. It came
from com and pati, meaning to suffer together.
Having both taught for a number of years, they could empathise with each
others’ pain. She determined to avail herself of any lessons that she might
be offered during the service, but she could sense that her transformation
had only just begun. Pity that it sounded like a song from The Carpenters.