We celebrated Harvest Festival today.

Harvest Festivals in the 21st Century are not like those the Church Mouse talks about in his poem,
Click here to listen to poem: Diary of a Church Mouse

produce arrives in tins, packets, bottles and jars: at St Giles we donate those to Loaves ‘N Fishes, a local Food Bank. The vegetables come from supermarket shelves, all carefully graded in size; gone are the days when the gardeners competed with each other to bring along the biggest onions, cauliflowers, and the longest, straightest carrots.

Gone to are the days of growing glorious Chrysanthemums in glowing golds and bronzes, I recall a well loved uncle spending weeks and weeks carefully nurturing and pinching out all the side shoots leaving just one flower bud right on the top. to create a ‘bloomer’ which would then disappear beneath a brown paper bag, protected from insects, and soiling until the day of its unveiling. In those days, working class people had no conservatory, or glass houses, such things were beyond their dreams. In those days your dreams were small ones, limited to the size of a man’s wage.

But, small as dreams and wages were, hearts were large and generous and only the best was good enough for Harvest Festival.

Here is a true tale about real, true Black Country folk.

Doris was a flower arranger, and Doris liked to arrange the flowers by the altar for the Harvest Festival. Every year she would peek from her bedroom window, watching the paper bags in Mr B’s garden. Every year she would ask in advance for some of the precious blooms. Which were duly cut for her as required.

“I always pay for them,” she told another neighbour.

“She always takes my best ‘bloomers’ – I’d like to keep some for the Churchyard,” Mr B, confided to the same neighbour, ” But what can’t say no. I don’t grow them to sell, but for ….”

“Love,” the neighbour replied, understanding that Mr B’s devotion and care for the chrysanthemums matched his love and devotion to his late wife.

“Look Mr B. Do you know what Doris wants them for?”

She went on to explain the pride of place the treasured blooms would occupy.

“‘Er ay never tow’d me that, me luvver. Well ‘er ay ever gooin to pay agen. An next year I’m gooin to grow twice as meny. I dey know that. That’s an ‘onner, that is.”

Apologies to scholars of the Black Country Dialect. I have probably done a great injustice to the spelling…. But not, I hope to Yesteryear Black Country folk who had little in material goods, but were rich in generosity. And would have shared over garden walls, and back fences the things they grew with needy neighbours, and in days before Food Banks, whatever today’s dinner was…

Times change. Love never changes.



Photos taken around St Giles Church, the amazing St Giles Flower Girls have been at work again.


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