The church stands on the corner of the road, its bell long muted. Streams of fast moving traffic slow down almost to a halt as they pass by. Not out of any feeling of reverence, or respect but to manoeuvre around the sharp right angled bend as they make their daily commute. The contrast could not be greater as the church in the midst of this teeming traffic, isolated in its loneliness, stands high above a tranquil countryside with hills standing as a backdrop to sheep grazing peacefully in low lying pastures. Subtle changes are taking place, however. Ageing farmers no longer able to tend to their flock contemplate the alternative of rearing cattle instead.

The external structure of what for many is an apparent irrelevance in this modern world masks activities taking place within. The church-choir breathes forth its sweet music.

Phil loves the choir its rich melody lighting up her retirement. “They are talking of painting the exterior of the church” she says as she prepares to go out for her twice weekly practice. “But some people are against it. They say it is a waste of money.” “I know the feeling” replied her ageing husband Frank as he contemplated signing up for new cycling gear. “It won’t swell the numbers, but it might sweeten the tune.”

Sadness pervaded his spirit as the weight of years pressed down upon him. Wrinkled skin, ageing limbs signalled that the years were moving on. “You would think she was going to a fashion show” thought Frank as she scooted out the door, after spending the last forty five minutes selecting dresses and touching up her features. Getting ready was part of the weekly ritual, almost as important as the practice session itself.

Frank had thought long and hard about the new cycling gear recently voted in at the AGM. Like the church he could improve his outward appearance, or like the parochial hall, now jaded and in need of modernisation pretend that things were better left as they were. Or he could take a leaf out of his wife’s notebook, as with a spring in her step she dashed out the door.

Torn between two traditions “I cannot go against the church” he said, echoing the words of his father before him. Secretly delighted with himself he signed up. He hummed a tune to himself as inwardly the music continued. He could almost feel the pedals turning, the call of the road, the mountains, the valleys, the lure of the countryside. “And how much better it will all be in new gear” he thought.

Tom Ryan

December 2017