The literary life of EDWARD JAMES, author,reviewer, occasional poet and former pension adviser to the government of Kyrgyzstan


‘Mummy! Mummy!  You’re not listening to me Mummy!’

Five year old Helen tugged at mother’s apron as she busied herself around the kitchen.

‘Pat said to me Mummy …’

‘Pat who?’

‘Pat O’Brien’.

‘Helen, why are all your friends Irish?’

‘Because we all go to the same religion class, Mummy.’

‘The Catholic religion class?’

‘Yes, Mummy, the Catholic religion class.  Pat said to me…’

‘Eddie’, called Di across the kitchen, ‘there’s been another mess-up at that school.  They’ve put Helen in the Catholic class and we said specially on the form they sent us that we wanted her in the Protestant class.  You’ve got to do something about it!  Book an appointment with the head-teacher and get them to put it right immediately.’

My heart sank.  Another mix-up at the European School in Brussels, the school for children of officials at the European Commission.  I had recently joined the Commission, along with several hundred other Brits, Irish and Danes, following the latest Enlargement, and everything had been confusion ever since.

Helen burst into tears.  ‘I do go to the Protestant class, Mummy.  I don’t want to change class.  I like the nice Irish boys.’

‘Don’t take any notice of her, Dad’, intervened her elder brother.  ‘Hel doesn’t know the difference between Catholic and Protestant.’

‘Well, if you know so much, what is the difference?’

‘One’s Irish, Dad, and the other’s English.  But tell me, we have some Irish boys who come to our Protestant class.  Why is that?’

‘That’s a long story, Henry, and I’ll explain it another day.  Just now we have Helen’s religion to sort out.’


35475FE_DA_EuropeanUnion_112912The head teacher was a woman; very much a woman, who spoke English with a soft, husky French accent.  They didn’t have head teachers like that when I was at school.

‘We are so sorrry, Monsieur James.  We understand your position.  You see, we lost ze forms that the parents filled in to say what was to be each child’s second language and what was their religion.  So we asked the children and Helen said that you had chosen Frrench as ‘er second language but she didn’t know ‘er religion.

‘So we asked ‘er what she did on Sundays, and she said she went to a football match.  So we decided that she was a Catholic.

We are so sorry, Monsieur James.  I will see to it that Helen’s religion is changed immediately.’


Two days later we received a letter from Mary O’Driscoll, teacher in charge of religion for the Catholic stream for English speaking children.

Dear Mr James,

              I am so sorry that there has been this mix-up over Helen’s religion.  I understand your position, and we shall be very sorry to lose Helen, who is a very popular member of class.  However, we have a particular problem if Helen leaves just now.

             We are rehearsing for the Nativity play which we put on every Christmas for the Association of Catholic Parents, and Helen has a very important role in the play.  In fact she is the Virgin Mary.

             We would be extremely grateful if you could consider postponing the change in your daughter’s religion until after Christmas.

             I look forward to hearing from you.


             Mary O’Driscoll.


Which is how Di and I came to be in the front row at the Nativity play, the proudest Protestants in the Catholic Parents Association.

A nativity scene in a children's nativity play


If you liked this you may be interested in reading my page ‘Plus ca Change’ which describes how I became an official at the European Commission – almost as accidentally as our little girl became the Virgin Mary.

And for all the other posts in the Christmas 2014 Blog Hop just click on the item below.

2014 Christmas Tour

Thank you for joining our party

now follow on to the next enjoyable entertainment…


  1. Helen Hollick : “You are Cordially Invited to aBall”(plus a giveaway prize) –  http://tinyurl.com/nsodv78
  2. Alison Morton :“Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale” (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/op8fz57
  3. Andrea Zuvich : No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell – http://tinyurl.com/pb9fh3m
  4. Ann Swinfen : Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates – http://tinyurl.com/mwaukkx
  5. Anna Belfrage : All I want for Christmas – http://tinyurl.com/okycz3o
  6. Carol Cooper : How To Be A Party Animal – http://wp.me/p3uiuG-Mn
  7. Clare Flynn :  A German American Christmas – http://tinyurl.com/mmbxh3r
  8. Debbie Young :  Good Christmas Housekeeping – http://tinyurl.com/mbnlmy2
  9. Derek Birks :  The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble – http://wp.me/p3hedh-3f
  10. Edward James : An Accidental Virginand An Uninvited Guest – http://tinyurl.com/o3vowum and – http://tinyurl.com/lwvrxnx 
  11. Fenella J. Miller : Christmas on the Home front(plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/leqddlq
  12. J. L. Oakley :  Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907(plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/qf6mlnl
  13. Jude Knight : Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 – http://wp.me/p58yDd-az
  14. Julian Stockwin: Join the Party – http://tinyurl.com/n8xk946
  15. 15Juliet Greenwood :Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway) – http://tinyurl.com/q6e9vnp
  16. Lauren Johnson :  Farewell Advent, Christmas is come” – Early Tudor Festive Feasts – http://tinyurl.com/mmclaey
  17. Lucienne Boyce : A Victory Celebration – http://tinyurl.com/ovl4sus
  18. Nancy Bilyeau :  Christmas After the Priory(plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/p52q7gl
  19. Nicola Moxey : The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 – http://tinyurl.com/pewcu6f
  20. Peter St John:  Dummy’s Birthday – http://tinyurl.com/nsqedvv
  21. Regina Jeffers : Celebrating a Regency Christmas (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/pt2yvzs
  22. Richard Abbott : The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit – http://tinyurl.com/o9vhn8m
  23. Saralee Etter : Christmas Pudding — Part of the Christmas Feast – http://tinyurl.com/lyd4d7b
  24. Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement…(plus a giveaway prize) – http://wp.me/p4lRC7-aG
  25. Suzanne Adair :The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 – http://tinyurl.com/oc5496a

Thank you for joining us 




15 comments on “AN ACCIDENTAL VIRGIN

  1. judeknight1807
    December 20, 2014

    Delightful story, and reminds me of cheering on my own Marys, shepherds, assorted kings and angels, and even one innkeeper.

  2. Lucienne Boyce
    December 20, 2014

    Lovely little story about how children can drop their parents in the most incongruous situations!

  3. Peter St John
    December 20, 2014

    Um… er… yes, well… Merry Yuletide, Edward…!

  4. reginajeffers
    December 20, 2014

    As I have actively practiced a variety of religions over my 67 years, I found this quite amusing. Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. kritsayvonne
    December 20, 2014

    Delighted to find you x

  6. Pingback: Christmas 1914 on the Home Front | Juliet Greenwood

  7. moxeyns
    December 20, 2014

    Heh 🙂 I hope she enjoyed the next term as a Protestant, and didn’t do what my daughter assumed was de rigeur, and protest a lot!

  8. Debbie Young
    December 23, 2014

    Brilliant – you couldn’t make it up! And how lovely to hear of such a happy ending to a Catholic/Protestant dilemma too! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Helen Hollick
    December 31, 2014

    Very enjoyable post – thanks for joining the Blog Hop Edward and have a Happy New Year

  10. edward654
    December 31, 2014

    Happy New Year Helen.

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  12. Araceli Lamore
    August 19, 2016

    Great Post, I love this, you give me a exciting.

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    August 26, 2016

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  14. Lon Arnwine
    June 7, 2017

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