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Homemade Hot Cross Buns.jpg

No, on a strict diet until Lent is over, Brassie said firmly, rejecting the proffered

Mocha.  I’ll just have a Suttonford Spring Water.  I’m parched actually.  All

that weeding at the weekend.  I was pruning some jagged rose bushes.

You sound like the aviator in The Little Prince, I commented.  Do you

remember when he said: This sweetness was born of the walk under the

stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms.  It was good for the

heart, like a present?

Not specially, Brassie said.  What was that about a pulley?

Well, he had been asked to draw water from a well in the Sahara Desert

for the Little Prince, just as the Samarian woman was asked to give

Jesus something to quench His thirst.

Oh, yeah.  And then He said he could give her water…

..and she’d never thirst again, I supplied.

That was beautiful, Brassie agreed.  I remember reading

Saint-Exupery to the twins when they were little. I like the point

about the effort one puts into the gift.  It refreshes parts that

other drinks don’t reach.

I think that refers to beer, I countered.

So much for self-denial.  She bit into a Hot Cross bun.

It’s good when you eat food appropriate to the season, I stated.

I hate to see Hot Cross buns on shelves at the wrong time of year.

St Exupery even covered the importance of ritual..

Oh, like the regulation of the lectionary? Brassie mused aloud.

Mm, she agreed, nodding with her mouth full.  I think Exupery

said something about half the pleasure of gifts is that they should be

given in a meaningful context.

Yes, he wrote that Christmas presents, for example, received after

Midnight Mass, in the bosom of a loving, smiling family were so much

more memorable.

Not like throwing an Argos catalogue at your carping kids out of

guilt, Brassie expanded.

I seem to recall that he gave an example of a merchant who could sell you a

thirst-quenching pill which would save you fifty three minutes a week.  The

Little Prince said that he would rather spend those minutes in drinking cool,

clear water.

All this brings to mind a story that we had at Sunday School when we were

little, Brassie enthused.  It was about King David craving a drink of water

from a particular well in Bethlehem.  Some of his brave, or reckless

henchmen risked their lives and stormed through the enemy to bring him


I remember that! I interrupted.  Didn’t he pour it out on the ground as an


Yeah.  He felt it was too valuable to pour down his throat, given what

they’d risked. He returned the element to its source.

But Jesus allowed the woman to pour out the expensive nard perfume all over

His feet, remarked Brassie.  He accepted the gift.  It seemed excessive, a

waste to some, but he was okay with it.

That’s because He knew His own worth, I commented.  Also, the grudging

disciple was more intent on syphoning its value off for the purse he carried,

allegedly on all the disciples’ behalf.

Brassie mulled this over.  I might have been annoyed if someone had

poured out my gift after I’d put all that effort into getting it in the first place.

Hmm.  But The Little Prince said that it all depends on how you look at

things. Grown-ups couldn’t see that Saint-Exupery’s childish drawing of the

side elevation of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant was not a brimmed


There’s a book about a man who mistook his wife for a hat, she interjected.

Brassie wanders off the point sometimes.

Oh, have you got it?  I asked.  I would like to borrow it from you.  I seem to

recognise the phenomenon. But, no, I drew her back on track.  Some people

don’t understand why the workers in the parable who joined the day’s labour

in the vineyard after the work had been largely done in the heat of the sun,

should receive the same wage as those who turned up late.

Yes, that’s never made sense to me, she said emphatically.

Well, no one is worthy.  It’s like the Elder Brother syndrome.  He felt

overlooked when the Prodigal returned and received a warm welcome. 

The Father rightly reminded him that he had had the benefit of his 

company, riches and household, all the time the younger brother had

been sharing pig swill.

Someone said that gifts that cost you nothing are not worth giving.

Correct, I replied.  That’s why I give all those unwanted Christmas prezzies

to Help the Ancient.  But I also have to give meaningfully too and that is more

of a challenge.

You gave me a nice present for my birthday, soothed Brassie.  Wasn’t it a

Wells for Africa donation certificate?

It might have been, I answered.  I can’t remember.

You didn’t waste your money, she carried on.

No.  Exupery said that the time children waste on loving their rag doll is never

– well, wasted.  One of the characters says the responsibility the children took

showed that they were lucky.

I hope you don’t see me as some kind of rag doll.  I know I didn’t change out of my

gardening trousers today.. Oh, I remember now, Brassie became agitated.

There was something about looking after your rose and watering it and not minding

if you only had one to look after, even if it had thorns.

I think Exupery’s wife, Consuelo, was rather thorny, I explained.  I don’t think

she offered him much consolation, in spite of her name.  And yet he said thorns

weren’t grown for spite.  He suggested that roses were vulnerable, but beautiful. 

His rose was so vulnerable that a sheep could have eaten it.   Flowers need to believe

that they can protect themselves with their terrible weapons, but we shouldn’t listen

to them, he said.  We should just admire them.

Was that his sexist view of women, then?  Brassie asked.

I think it was more subtle, I pondered.  He said people should think of the

affection behind the strategems and the inconsistencies of our loved ones.

In other words, forgive them..?

..as we ourselves are forgiven!

We flowers are complex creatures, as he said.

Thank goodness someone wastes time on us!

Would you like another bottle of water? I asked.

No, thanks.  I feel quite refreshed by our talk.  I’ll look out

that book for you tonight.

Oliver Sacks, I remember now.  Thanks, Brassie.