Thursday, April 7, 2011


I have just returned from being on retreat.
The retreat was held in a secluded place in the country. A silent, hidden place amidst mountains, with a stream, trees and an overgrown pathway to a beautiful waterfall.
To me all that was, neither here nor there.

Most, being city folk, hotfoot it out, retreating willingly and longingly from the madding crowd, towards the silence and serenity.

I, coming from the Garden Route, and very recently before that, coming from an even more hidden place, ran, full tilt, towards the city and my friends, tolerating the location, outside the city walls, for the greater good.

Four of us shared a room. Four maturing ladies, finding ourselves on single beds (me on the bottom bunk!), reverted very quickly to girlhood.

I have a favourite film - Out of Africa - and apart from the allure of Denys Finch-Hutton, it is Karen Blixon on her farm in Aafrika that delights me. Her story telling, whilst seated around a lace and crystal dressed table, on tapestry chairs, being waited upon by men wearing white the stuff of dreams.
She was a great weaver of tales, as Isak Dinesen or Karen, and to me, the greatest of all is the tale of Babette, and her feast.

It turned out that , this retreat, held on a kind of African Farm, contained within it many types of Babettes, for me.

There are some friends who live within a fearless abundance, that has nothing to do with money. During this weekend I was at the receiving end of some of that.

And , as weekends like this are meant to be a drawing closer to God by drawing away from worldly things, and drawing towards the spiritual, I found, like Babette,that the opposite proved to be true.

There was a Narnia moment when I was tempted, like Edmund, by the indulgence of Turkish Delight, and I , like him, could not resist!

An abundance of them had been tossed to me, where I lay on my bunk bed, while we chatted and laughed, pretty hysterically , before we slept.

My last waking memories are of a friend spraying me with Issy perfume, so that my crumpled down sleeping bag released that heady fragrance at every restless turn, throughout the long night!

There was an exploration of deep matters of a spiritual nature which I participated in, in a manner of speaking.

But the greater thing was just Being.
Just being with all of those Babettes who shared with me their passion for shoes - sixty three pairs! (What have I being doing with my life? Obviously not shopping nearly enough!) and their passion for books and their husbands and dancing and wine and food and music and smoking cigars and Italy and laughing (rude and crude) and our children and each other and thinking ....and God.

So, even though Edmund was tempted and indulged, it all turned out alright in the end. All safe and happy because Aslan dealt a final blow!

And Babette blew every last penny of her winnings on the greatest indulgent feast for all her friends, and they ate food they never even knew existed and despite a resolve not to, they enjoyed themselves and laughed and drank and ate and found that by doing all that they could, finally, love each other.

I was so sorry to leave them all.
To say goodbye.
What fun it was!
What a treat!
Thank you

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