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 …’
‘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.’
‘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.
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.
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.
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