27th March 2024

Today, 27th March, is a day of memories for me, as it is my Dad’s birthday. Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne just before WW1, he left school at 14 and went straight down the pit, looking after the ponies hauling tubs from coal face to pit bottom. Searching for work in the late 1930s, he came to Cheltenham and met my Mum, whose maiden name was O’Brien, after her great-grandfather who left Cork in Ireland seeking to better himself, also arriving in Cheltenham. Thus, I am descended from two economic migrants, a mix of Irish, Geordie and West Country!

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, also a day of memories for me, for my Mum died on Maundy Thursday in 1984. Dad had died eight years earlier, on Christmas Eve, so our two greatest Christian celebrations are, for me, tinged with sadness. At Christmas and Easter my thoughts go out to those who are hurting or alone.

That ‘first Christmas’, the baby in the manger, as yet on his own in his mission of saving humankind, was vulnerable to the hatred of a jealous king. That ‘first Good Friday’, the man on the cross seemed utterly alone, vulnerable to the hatred of those who felt threatened by him, be they the religious leaders of his own people, or the local representative of the foreign military power that occupied his land.

But between manger and cross, the seeds had been sown, and he would soon be joined in his rescue mission by an ever-growing, ever-diverse family of those who are inspired by the new life that burst forth on that first Easter.

David Bell