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BARBICAN LIFE


A View from St Giles’ Y


Katharine Rumens Rector, St Giles’ Cripplegate


esterday I bought myself a geranium. It’s a tasteful, dappled pink and cost £3. That’s Borough Market for you; Master Chef


contestants don’t shop in Goswell Road with a camera crew in tow – that’s why it’s still cheaper round here. The geranium is a self-congratulation/ consolation prize to mark my taking up the ancient office of head girl for an ancient organisation providing godly fellowship and learning for ancient and less ancient clergy. We, the less ancient, are at pains to include the ‘the retireds’ in the programme mindful that one day we will be like them and expect our rightful portion of ancient fellowship. The geranium is settling in fine and I have written thank you letters to two bishops and bought some post it notes. Over the coming weeks my duties will possibly get more onerous than this. I will think about tidying my desk. In addition to the ancients I am also taking part in an in-gathering of head girls. A clutch of us are shortly due to meet for an ‘Action Learning Day.’ This suggests something bracing in the middle of the Cairngorms: a can of tomato soup, a bit of string and you’re on your own till the lorry picks you up at dawn the following day. Let’s not get too muscular about this; it is just a sit- down-and-talk session with a fancy title.


The extended group of head girls has already completed one of the 48- hour residentials. We met earlier in the year. The ones from the hinterlands had to set off the previous


day in order to arrive to register in time. Us cosmopolitan types rolled up on the day.


Because we will be spending an amount of time together we swung into action with one of those ice- breaker sessions. Not that the ice was that thick; we’d already met over lunch and compared journeys and passed the salt – so the thaw had set in. The icicles had started to drip, as it were. The facilitators were looking smug because they had cooked up the next bit. Was it going to be that one where you have to get into a circle and introduce yourself to your neighbour? Then in turn you have to introduce that person to the group. “This is Fleur and her shoes leak.” “This is Patty from Portsmouth.” “This is Serena who is allergic to mustard.” For the most part it merely sorts out those who were paying attention to the instructions and those who were not.


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This ice breaking was about going to different parts of the room. As a technique it has adopted some of the urgency of speed dating. We have to cluster and clump animatedly around the room. What is your preferred season? We obediently divide into spring, summer, autumn and winter; all noting with interest those with winter in their hearts. We shared the reason for our preference and moved on to the next divisive challenge. A fondness for cats at one end of the room, dogs at the other. That would not do. I requested an animal- free-zone and found that we, the petless, got on famously. Others busied themselves comparing snaps of themselves and the cat on a walking holiday in the Lake District, or pretentiously reading Proust to the dog. Finally we had to divide according to our own understanding of our leadership style: were we chocolate or strawberries? The ones with clear complexions had to be strawberry leaders. I went for chocolate, this being a closer food group to Majestic boxes on special offer.


Chocolate is a recognisable


leadership style; I learnt this from Olivier Mythodrama workshops via Shakespeare. I am a keen follower of the genre. I have stood with Henry V at the gates of Harfleur to be inspirational; I have stabbed with the senators in the Roman forum to be influential; I have skipped into the Forest of Arden to learn a sustainable style.


I was least at home in The Forest; I


didn’t read the instructions so hadn’t taken a yoga mat which was important for the poetry writing which came later. The woman next to me read me her poem. It rhymed. Clearly no yoga mat was needed to be Henry V. This was about battles and getting ready for battles. There were four options: good king, warrior, great mother or medicine woman. We had to spend 15 minutes being each. Good kings had to chair meetings and need to read non- fiction and listen to Bach to practise their potential. Warriors had to divide into two nasty aggressive teams and score goals. They need to hit it big with a punch bag and take to hunting if they are to reach their potential. Medicine Women had to craft something original out of straws and sellotape and need to practise spontaneity (with straws?) and do amateur dramatics. It is the Great Mother who had to sit on the floor, listen and be listened to while eating chocolate. She needs to have slow hot baths and adopt a proper diet (preferably with little or no chocolate). Hence the leadership style which might just be the thing that the ancient clergy are in need of. Bring on the chocolate.


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