Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 48

MAY I tell you my idea?” Jan asked.

“Of course, Sister, what is it?” Joan replied.

“You have a cardboard box of my cookery books. Do you remember? They came with me.”

“Of course I remember,” Joan said.

“Well, they, too, could be sold,” Jan said. “I would be pleased for them to do some good.”

Jan’s offer touched Joan’s heart.

“That would be a great sacrifice for you, Sister,” she said. “Were you not saving them to give as gifts?”

“If it will help the young people,” Jan said, “then it is no sacrifice at all.”

“It would be a jolly blessing, that’s what,” Imelda declared. “And here’s another thought. What about Sister Jan doing a book signing?”

Ideas were coming thick and fast, but would this last one be good for Jan? She had been sent to them to avoid the limelight and to learn humility. Her battles in the kitchen with Sister Clare showed no sign of that particular lesson being learned.

Joan realised that the local paper would surely send a photographer to cover the event. What would Mother Catherine think? Jan’s battle against pride was at stake. But then – how would Mother Catherine know? It was only one afternoon.

“Do you think I should not?” Jan asked.

“It wouldn’t half buy a lot of paint!” Imelda observed.

“It’s just a little affair – I don’t see that there would be any harm,” Joan agreed.

“Then we’ve almost sorted the whole thing,” Imelda said.

“I’m going to bake a hundred scones,” Clare said. “Tell me it’s sorted once you’ve put the jam on those!” “And I have fifty books to sign,” Jan said. “But I also will help with the scones.

“Let me give you a hand with those books, Sister.” Imelda took one end of the cardboard box and Jan the other. “I’ve got a feeling that these will be a great success,” she said as they made their way carefully down the staircase.

Emerging from the kitchen, Joan heard them and met them at the foot of the stairs carrying a tray of scones covered in cling film.

“This is the last of the scones.” she said. “The Fancy Van is almost full of our contributions. If you, Imelda, and Sister Jan can drive down to the church hall and begin to unload I’m sure the Youth Club will have many willing hands to help you.”

Jan was unusually silent.

“Is anything the matter, Sister?” Joan was concerned. “You’re very quiet.”

“I – I am a little apprehensive.” Jan said softly. “Maybe this is not the right thing for me to do.”

“Nonsense!” Imelda exclaimed. “It’s too jolly late to go back on it now. You’ll be the star of the show and raise lots of lovely money for the young people.”

“I’m nervous. I know I am too forthright, I have much to learn about humility. Mother Catherine said . . .”

“If you’ll excuse my butting in,” Imelda interrupted, “Mother Catherine isn’t going to know. This event is for a very fine cause, and you can only do well by it. It’s got nothing to do with humility.”

Oh, my, Joan thought, what have we let ourselves in for?

Having left Jan at the hall, Imelda returned to the convent to pick up the other nuns.

“You’ll never guess!” she said. “The members of the Youth Club have painted a big notice and hung it in the hall. “A Taste Of Italy” by Sister Gianna Rosella Pascherelli. Books will be signed by the author. How about that, then?” Her cheeks were rosy with excitement. “Oh, and there’s another sign propped up on the stage where they’ve put the piano. Sister Benedict Plays Requests, fifty pence each. And Father George has got someone in the town to tune the piano for nothing!”

“What an exciting day this is going to be,” Joan said as they all climbed into the van.

“You didn’t squash the tomatoes?” Sister Louise asked anxiously.

“Everything is tickety boo,” Imelda assured them as she put the people carrier into gear and drove up the lane to the main road.

“We’ll stop at the hall on the way to the church,” Joan said, “just to make sure everything’s organised and to pick up Sister Jan.”

Jan was waiting outside the hall when they arrived.

“I’ve put Ben’s music on the piano,” she said. “Although he’ll probably not need classical music today. Everything else is looking nice and tidy. The other stallholders are already in the church and the animals have arrived with their owners.”

She climbed into the car and took her seat beside Ben, who ran a hand over his chin.

“I had a close shave this morning.” He grinned. “It shouldn’t sprout again until tomorrow. What fun this is going to be.”

“You look every inch a nun,” Joan assured him. “Just try not to say anything.”

“I’ll do all the talking,” Imelda said firmly. “And I’ll collect the fifty pences.”

“You are very brown now,” Jan said quietly. “Nuns don’t usually get so brown.”

“Good sea air,” Ben replied. “Don’t fuss, they’ll just be listening to the music.”

Alison Cook