Taking advantage of a bargain "fun fare" (£1 there, £4 back..which only confirms that it's trickier to escape London life than to get into it in the first place) I felt like the archetypal provincial lady as I departed from Cheltenham on Wednesday. I remember my mother having "little outings to Town" when I was a child, but I'm very sure that none of her trips was ever remotely like this. After a very happy evening with my good friend Humble Secretary, the following day saw me joining several hundred other clergybirds at St Martin in the Fields for "the march of the Dibleys"...or, more correctly, another stage in the campaign to Make Poverty History
I'd been uncertain about whether this march was really likely to be a good thing, and it did feel a little odd, even sad, that the most famous ordained woman the media could come up with wasn't in fact anything of the sort....but it was really good to be there.The weather was perfect...winter at its best, crisp, clear, with Nelson silhouetted against a startling blue sky. The atmosphere was even better..being part of a gathering of so many women, only just over 10 years since it became possible for the Anglicans among us to live out our callings. Best of all, of course, was our reason for gathering. The video "Toddlers", which we saw before we set off, provided more than sufficient reason for all and any efforts to change things...Street children..a tiny scrap being lovingly tucked up, as though she were a doll, by a sister who might have been as old as 5, on the bit of pavement they call home. The toddler would be a wee while learning to walk, as rats had nibbled her toes off.
We can't let these things continue.
Apart from the real purpose of the day, there were some wonderful moments...standing in a queue of dog-collared women in the gents at St Martin's...The way we all helped each other clamber, with varying degrees of dignity, onto the plinth at the base of Nelson's column for photos (so glad I didn't wear a cassock;-) )...The small baby who occasionally made herself heard during the service...Wouldn't it be wonderful if the world she grows up in could be different and better because 2005 was the year things changed.