Virginia Barton

Bookery Nook: Recipes, role models and Rolheiser

For little ones, “The Story of St Francis of Assisi” is an excellent buy at a time when the National Association of Headteachers is urging parents to help their children to read before they begin school. This delightful book costs less than two packets of cigarettes . . .

Tea-table arguments over a forthright campaigner

High-profile crusaders like Victoria Gillick tend to be seen in black or white – one loves or loathes them. Most parents are, I suspect, in broad agreement with her principles; it’s the way she puts them over that get people’s backs up. It is the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal approach as distinct from the cunning serpent and harmless dove tactic.

Tales of St Frideswide and Oxford

Stripped of the romantic embroideries beloved of simple Christians, St Frideswide’s fairy tale of imperilled virtue, escape and hiding emerges more or less intact.

Prize-winning snail in an empty goldfish bowl

Only one’s own jealousy is interesting. Other peoples’ is not – at least not 336 pages of it. Sin is boring if it is totally isolated from virtue – think of the bald, unmitigated lust that constitutes that most boring of literatures, pornography.

Calcutta on our doorstep

Mother Teresa’s message is simple, as direct as a laser-beam, and is contained within the first two commandments. And we don’t have to up-sticks and go to Calcutta because the lonely, neglected and the poor are with us always, even within the confines of our own families.

Heroine’s thoughts borne out of truth

Simone Weil died regretting that people were more attracted to her person than to her thoughts. She was convinced that her ideas contained nuggets of pure gold and she wanted people to ask the question: “Is what she says true?”

Short (stories) and sweet but not in weight!

Short stories may be called the Cinderellas of literature in that they are the least rewarded and least regarded and yet, apart from Poetry, I believe them to be the most difficult literary form to execute perfectly.

Invitation to the country’s waltz

Heaven forbid one should actually have to get up at 4:30 am to do the milking, or brave the elements of a winter night to bring the sheep to safety, but thank God there are people who do these things so that we may have milk on our doorstep, roast lamb for Sunday lunch and honey still for tea!

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