Rowan’s Way: 2 Pooh Sticks

I’d tried to explain to my step-mother, but I might as well have saved my breath to cool my porridge. Like it or not, and I didn’t, we lived in an era and a society where a common sense of morality had broken down. My answer to why I would not have sex with a man to whom I was not married was simple; it was wrong. What did I mean by wrong? I meant that I was a Christian and that set my moral framework. Sex was a natural human urge, but there were lots of those, and the idea they were all okay was easily disproved by what would happen to me if I gave into my appetite for cream buns; I’d look like one in no time, with deleterious effects on my health and figure. I didn’t need to go to that utilitarian argument, because my moral framework told me gluttony was a sin. But what common moral framework did our society now have?

Even I, with my views, would hesitate before giving again the sermon I had given once at Theological College on ‘the sinfulness of pre-marital sex’. Most of my male colleagues seemed to take it as a cue to ask me to bed, while my female colleagues felt compelled to regard me as “weird”, even if in private, some said they agreed with me. The only framework which it seemed was held in common was “consent”. As long as the woman consented to sex, that was fine. It ruled out criminal sexual acts on the grounds of a lack of an ability to consent by one side. I was uncomfortable with the whole thing, but as my tutor had said, I was going into ministry in the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth. Of course, there were those who would counsel me that what I did in private was my own business – but I had my moral framework and I tried to live my faith. That’s why I was still a virgin at the grand old age of twenty-eight. It looked as though Ryan might want to test the waters – hence the challenge.

I’d have been lying to myself if I’d denied finding him attractive – indeed, very attractive. But then I doubted that any red-blooded woman would have found herself neutral on the subject.

Over the next few days, I found my thoughts straying in that direction. Monday was a welcome day off, and like most clergy, I used it to catch up with mundane things like getting my washing done and ensuring that my vestments were clean and starched; I was one of those odd women, maybe the only one, who loved the process of ironing and starching her surplice. Indeed, I loved it so much I did Susan’s too. Across the period I served my ticket there, she said the thing she’d miss most when I moved on – apart, of course, from my cheery smile, was my laundry services. If all else failed, I could earn my living as a cleaner cum laundry-maid. I could not abide mess or dirty clothes. Nor, it turned out, men who thought they were God’s gift.

It was my regular practice to take a long walk on Monday afternoons. The country lanes were white with blossom, the abundance of which, this year, reminded me of God’s love for us – there was so much of it that one marveled at it – as well as our ability not to appreciate it. As we had just passed the second Sunday in Easter, I thought a gold-coloured beret would go with my pashmina and my mid-calf skater skirt, and as it more or less matched my walking shoes, I thought I would present a suitably coordinated picture to any of the congregation I might encounter. Men could get away with looking like scruff bags, women clergy ought not to hold themselves to such a low standard.

It was my habit to pray my Rosary as I walked, and I had just finished the fifth decade of the Joyful Mysteries when I reached the weir. The sun was still high in the sky, and the water was running slowly. We’d had a winter notably without rain, and a hot Easter. But I still couldn’t resist doing what I had always loved doing as a girl – playing Pooh-sticks. For those unfamiliar with Winnie-the-Pooh, well in the first place, buy and read the books, and in the second place, it consists of dropping sticks on one side of the bridge and seeing which of them comes out first. I was so engrossed in my game that it was only when he spoke that I realised I had company.

“The stick on the right will win. Want to wager me ten pence?”

Turning, there he was – Ryan, smiling broadly. “Well?”

I tried not to look as startled as I felt.

“Well, since I agree, I’m hardly going to bet against my preference. Do you play?”

The moment the words were out of my mouth I could have kicked myself. Grinning broadly and looking me straight in the eyes he responded:

“Depends on the game and the stakes. What did you have in mind?”

“A quiet country walk, as it happens. You?”

Again, the urge to kick myself came.

“Oh this and that, nothing that I could mention to a vicar in knickers.”

I felt myself flush. He invested the words with a wealth of meaning which I was determined not to get, or indeed, to investigate.

“Thank goodness for that,” I said, with what I hoped was a light laugh, but which I feared had probably come out as a nervous giggle.

“So, if I take the left side and you the right, let’s see which stick wins – are you Pooh or Christopher Robin?” he inquired, teasingly.

“Why narrow it down?” I teased back, I could always be Kanga or Tigger.”

I really did need to take a vow of silence, or else think faster.

“I suppose that depends whether you’re the motherly sort or more bouncy?”

He looked at me, quizzically.

“A vicar in knickers never answers such questions”, I said, extricating myself from the dilemma he had posed.

“Sounds more like Wol,” he said, “a wise Vicar holds onto them that way.”

I couldn’t help laughing, he was quite outrageous, but in a flirtatious way at which it was impossible to take offence without coming across as a total kill-joy.

“Quite agree, and I am a Wol Vicar. I choose the left.”

“I thought you said the right would win.”

“That was with the willow twigs, the two oak twigs you have will work differently.”

“Oh”, and expert are we? Tell you what, make it fifty pence if you are that confident.”

“We poor curates are hard-pressed you know.” I smiled, looking straight back at him.

“Tell you what, if you win, I buy you dinner, if I win I buy you a drink at the White Swan. What do you say?”

“I say that it’s a way of asking me out, but accept.” I was now daring him.

“You’re on. One, two, three … .”

And we dropped the twigs simultaneously, before turning and looking over the bridge to the edge of the weir. I still got that childish sense of triumph when I saw my twig go over first.

“Dinner it is then,” Ryan smirked. “As it’s your day off, what say I pick you up at seven?”

“Hey,” I protested, “Mr. Fast Worker, who says I’m even free tonight?”

“Well, are you?” His smile was as broad as the river.

I felt myself blushing as I answered:

“As it happens, yes.”

“So, seven it is? I’ll pick you up from the new vicarage?”

“I think you already did”, I smiled.

And so he had.

About JessicaHoff
Church of England. Survivor. Grateful. Rabid feminist lefty, according to some, wishy-washy liberal according to me.

8 Responses to Rowan’s Way: 2 Pooh Sticks

  1. chalcedon451 says:

    I shall look forward to further developments.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. the unit says:

    So getting down to the nitty gritty of why you’ve been missing from here…two or three years.
    Bet dinner was great.
    “Just Joshing “, of course. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicholas says:

    I always feel sad when I think about Winnie the Pooh, something about leaving childhood behind. Wistful.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. the unit says:

    I be staying originalist. Next episode will tell us all more, not just more to all.


  5. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 11.30.20 : The Other McCain

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