Sunday 9 June 2013

Get Thee to a Nunnery!

I wasn't quite sure what expression I should have on my face when I entered the Tyburn Monastery to embark on a bit of silent contemplation but decided that demure might be appropriate so I practised that look in front of the mirror for several days beforehand and also ate my meals in utter silence with downcast eyes. Cossack loved my nun-rehearsals because they gave his ears a real nice holiday.

Never in my wildest dreams or even in my tamest ones did I ever think I would end up in a monastery with real nuns. Never before have I considered renouncing all worldliness including cappuccinos, cherry-liqueur chocolates, movies and idle chit-chat.

Sister Bernadette is what I prefer to be called now, thank you very much, and I texted Cossack after only an hour at Tyburn to inform him that I was becoming a nun. I waited a few minutes for the shock-factor to subside then sent a second text to advise him that, because he and I have well and truly finished having children, we will have to go totally celebrate ( can't remember the exact word ) from now on.

Apparently I don't get the full nun-attire until I've passed the postulant and novice stages and, of course, there is an enormous chance I get expelled before then because there are some good behaviour clauses to be very afraid of.

My spirituality was only briefly diverted to more commercial matters when I found myself in the little nun-shop. Let me re-phrase that in case you think one can purchase little nuns there because you can't. There is however an intriguing array of goods for sale like miraculous medallions, rose-scented soaps, lavender lotions, quince jam and the coolest postcards ever of a nun swinging a big bell. I got eleven of those.

There was no eftpos machine or nun there so I had to count out all my coins on this little table and put the correct money into a wooden box. I accidentally left my purse there and my dear friend, Sister Minette, noticed it about an hour later, silently pointed it out to me and nothing was missing from it at all so she and the nuns are very honest people which is reassuring...

Did I tell you about the chapel? No? Well, out of curiousity I tip-toed in as quiet as a monastery-mouse, sat there in a carved wooden pew and was captivated by the sweet singing of scripture from the nuns in a little alcove around from the main altar. I thought they might be lip-synching at first but I studied them intently and their mouths moved in perfect unison to the words so they are the real deal.

The heavenly scent of candles wafted all around me and I felt transported  to a world much nicer than the one I generally inhabit.

The nuns around this place float around silently and gracefully doing their chores. They radiate serenity and kindness which sounds so mushy but I swear they do. Even the doves and quails here seem extra tranquil like they know the rules but they do not have to wear veils and robes. All the birds fly around naked, except for their feathers of course, just like they would in your garden or mine.

The focal point of the property is a large white cross perched on top of a small hill from where you can't help but marvel at the glorious view over a small sparkling lake and rolling green paddocks. It is easy at Tyburn, even for a pogo-stick like myself, to slow down, contemplate my Creator and give him a chance to say something to me while my mouth is shut for a while.

It is a little odd walking past my friends in the corridor and not talking or, harder still, sitting there at meal-times excruciatingly aware of every scrape of my knife or clunk of my spoon or gulp of my throat or beat of my heart. The other seven women on this retreat seem so composed whereas every little distraction ruffles me so I try to think of sad and serious things like amputation of legs and seagulls choking on plastic. That way I feel less inclined to laugh nervously.

Speaking of laughter, my preconceptions about nuns being a bit staid and pious were shattered by the vivacious Sister Serah whose humour took flight at the end of our compulsory silence and had us in stitches. Well, thought I, if someone like her can become a nun then why not me?  True, the Pope doesn't know me from a bar of soap but I'm assuming he flies wannabe nuns over to Rome for an interview? I'd love that.

One little incident during the retreat unnerved me a bit. After 20 whole hours of silence I longed to be noticed by my dear friend, Sister Minette,  in whose company I am usually such a chatterbox. She was in the kitchen and doing an amazingly good job of ignoring me when I walked past the window outside and pressed my nose very hard against the glass so I looked like a pug-dog.

If she smiled it was hard to detect and then, would you believe, at my very ugliest moment, the fire- alarm went off and a calm but firm pre-recorded voice asked us to "PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING...PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING... PLEASE EVAC..." and so forth.

Two friends staggered into the lounge in their pyjamas as well as a fully-robed nun who calmly assessed the situation after looking at the wood-burner and then at all of us. Oh the guilt that consumed me - was my flattened nose a give-away? Could this lovely nun sense that my flippancy had triggered the alarm?

Well, thank you God, the culprit wasn't me but eight pretty little tea-candles alight in a circle on the coffee-table. That overly-sensitive smoke-alarm needs some counselling!

Anyhow, I've decided not to become a nun after all because I didn't realise that I would have to give up Cossack - I thought that maybe, as I got married to him before deciding to take my nun-vows, that I could have him tucked away down the corridor - in a separate room of course - but I was told that isn't how it works at all.

Apparently, one cannot always have the best of both worlds so goodbye, Tyburn! I will stay longer next time for you are a gem of a place.

"COSSACK!!! I'm back! Put on the jug! Let's have coffee and sorry, but a lot of pent-up words are about to tumble forth...Bear with! Bear with!"...

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