4.1 Chris: Rebirth
The morning after Chris and John returned to Chichester, they went to look at a house that John had been thinking of buying, in the countryside, just outside the little town of Arundel, about ten or twelve miles from Chichester.
The Arundel bypass runs just south of the town, and the town itself runs up the side of a hill from the river Arun, and is crowned with three imposing buildings. In the centre is the ancient parish church of St Nicholas with its curious interior, divided by a glass and iron screen. The sanctuary is Catholic, the burial place of the Dukes of Norfolk (who, unusually for the British aristocracy, are catholics), whereas the main part of the Church, curiously truncated without its chancel, is Anglican. The building is pretty enough, but it is utterly overshadowed by the two other buildings. One is the great Catholic Cathedral, built in French Gothic style in the nineteenth century, and the other, Arundel Castle, a huge and ancient pile looking utterly mediæval, though largely reconstructed in the early nineteenth century. Since its aspect is to the South, the sun tends to shine on the town all day, illuminating its monuments of stone and its houses of brick, and the bypass is truly the best place to appreciate it.
So John did the driving, and went that way so that Chris could see it. The first view of Arundel for anyone is always memorable, and Chris was utterly captivated.
‘Is this really where we’re going to live, John?’
‘If you like the house. Tony and I both do; we’re just waiting for your opinion.’
‘I love the town already! But does it really matter what I think about the house? It’ll be your house, and I’ll be happy wherever you are.’
‘Of course it matters. And it’ll be our home. Not just mine.’
The houseand it was a proper house this time, not a flat overlooked the pretty valley of the river Arun, to the banks of which its large grounds ran down, and had a magnificent view of Arundel and the great park attached to the castle.
John slung his arm affectionately around Chris’s shoulder, and Chris put his arm around John’s slim waist, and thus entwined they went together to look around the house.
It was big, and very old indeed, first built in the fourteenth century and added to at various times after that. The windows in the oldest part of the house were small, with diamond-shaped panes, and the rooms had dark brown beams running under a white ceiling, and large brick and stone fireplaces. But there were one or two big rooms from the Georgian era that were large, high, and elegant, with big sash windows giving onto a long lawn, and the view of Arundel. There were eight good-sized bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and each bedroom had another smaller room which could be used as a dressing room, sitting room, office, or even another bedroom.
The kitchen downstairs was, John said, what sold it to him. It was vast, bigger than the whole flat in Chichester, and had the original huge mediæval fireplace and bread oven, the fireplace still capable of burning large logs.
‘This’ll be so wonderful in winter’ he said. ‘The three of us in here by the fire. I don’t think we’ll need the rest of the house!’
It had a large Aga stove (‘That’ll take some getting used to!’) and all the modern conveniences.
‘So, Chris’, said John. ‘Do you like it?’
‘No!’ said Chris, to John’s shock.
‘No, you silly fool, I absolutely adore it. But can you afford it?’
‘Oh yes, I’m ashamed to say, easily. It almost seems indecent, when I’m only twenty one! This cost only part of what I have made on interest from my investments since my parents died, despite everything else I have spent. I haven’t even had to touch any of my capital at all, and there’s still about seven million interest left over, because we don’t really spend much. That’ll help us to furnish this placewe’re going to have fun!and I’ve got another little project I want to discuss with you.’
‘It’s going to be so much nicer running in the countryside in the mornings than in the town, too!’
‘That’s what I thought. Much easier on the knees, also; we won’t be so sure to get arthritis in our old age.’
‘But what about a gym? Is there one in Arundel, or are we going to have to drive back into Chichester every day?’
‘Ah, my boy! That’s one of the secrets of this house. Come with me.’
They went along to the end of the house, through a door and along a tiled corridor. Then they suddenly came out into a huge glass building, warm and bright in the spring sunshine, and again with a great view of the garden and Arundel.
‘Oh John! A swimming pool! It’s enormous!’
‘Yes, but be careful not to go skinny-dipping with the lights on at night, or you’ll give any pervy citizen of Arundel with a telescope a cheap thrill. And just look here’
Chris was puzzled.
‘It’s an empty room.’
‘Empty now; but it’s a gym, with strengthened floors. We just need to get the machines and things, and so we can get exactly what we want, without having to rely on what the public gym provides. And now look here…’
They went through another door, and there was a large bathroom and changing facility. No individual showers, but one very large one with several heads and various nozzles to spray one from every direction. Chris said
‘Oh my! Tony is going to start some fun in here!’
They sat on the floor in one of the large empty Georgian rooms, and looked with satisfaction out of the windows at the view. Chris had one or two questions.
‘John, why do we need eight bedrooms? There are only three of us.’
‘Well, I was thinking that you might want Tim and Justin and Tom, or anyone else (your mother, perhaps?joke!) to come and stay sometimes. What’s the point of having all this stuff if you can’t share it with your friends? We’ll make the most of it and have people over all the time. And I want the Henrys to be able to come here as well.’
‘Wicked! Oh John, this is wonderful. I love it! Another question.’
John raised his eyebrows.
‘How are we going to keep it all clean? And are we going to have to maintain the garden ourselves? It’s going to take ages.’
‘Clever lad! Tony never thought of that. Yes, you’re right; we’re going to have to get some staff. Come and let me show you the other buildings.’
There was a large garage and shed for the garden machinery, but, more importantly, there was a substantial and pretty three-bedroom cottage included in the property.
‘I’m going to advertise for a housekeeper and a gardener, and they can live here. Perhaps we’ll get a married couple; it’s ideal, really; they’re near, but not too near, so we’ll still have our privacy.’
John then led Chris down the garden towards the river, and towards a large wooden building on the bank.
‘This is one of the best bits. It’s a boathouse; the River Arun is navigable up quite high. You could keep a one or two-man skiff here and keep up your rowing in the holidays. And perhaps a dinghy for small sailing. But here we come to my other project that I mentioned a little while ago.
‘I’ve been thinking that because you’re going to crew for me in the summer on the boat, and Tony says he’d love to do it sometimes as well, for instance when you’re away at school, it means there’ll always be at least two to sail the boat. Now, there really isn’t room in my sail locker for two to sleep, and having two sailors means that we could run a bigger boat. So how about it? Shall we get a bigger boat?’
‘What? Sell the Saucy Mrs Trusspot?’
‘Well, possibly. Or we could bring her home here, and keep her in the boathouse, for our own use around British waters. There seem far too many out-of-season months when we can’t do any sailing at all, because we are here, and our boat is laid up in Nice!’
‘Let’s do it! That’s a fantastic idea! What are you going to call the new boat?’
‘I haven’t got that far, yet. Tony wants to call her the Trusty Mrs Saucepot!’
Chris giggled. ‘Or the Potty Mrs Saucetruss.’
‘Or the Crusty little Nausepot.’
They laughed for a while, thinking up more and more ridiculous names. Then John looked at his watch and asked Chris
‘Well, shall we do it?’
‘What, the house or the boat?’
‘Great! The three of us are unanimous, then.’
So there and then John took out his mobile phone, and phoned the Estate Agent in Arundel. He was directly put through to the agent handling his house, who had the seller in the room with him, and made his offer, which was immediately accepted. It was agreed that after an hour or two for the agent (who was also a solicitor) to draw up the papers, the contracts could be exchanged that afternoon.
And so, by tea time, they had a new home.
Chris was intrigued as to how the Saucy Mrs Trusspot had earned her name. Back in the Chichester flat, John pulled out his collection of Round the Horne tapes, and put one of them into the machine. Soon both of them were lying on the floor, hooting with laughter at the camp humour. Over the next few days, once Tony had returned from his conference, they listened to the whole canon of episodes, and it was unanimously agreed that the new boat would have to be called the Douglas Smith though Betty Marsden came a close second, and Daphne Whitethigh a third. They went up to the great Boat Show at Olympia together, at the same time taking Chris to his last instruction with Father Smith, and bought themselves a large new yacht with all the up-to-date gadgets and technology, including a state-of-the-art computer and an automatic pilot. John knew much more clearly what he wanted, now. The double bed cabin had been a big mistake, he thought. It was not pleasant having the boat rocking all night every night with amorous couples doing their thing in such a confined space, and it was shocking just how much room even a small double bed took up. The new boat had six single bunks in one cabin which ran the entire width of the boat, and a table with benches that could be converted into a double bed in the main cabin if somebody really was that desperate. The new boat, the future Douglas Smith, was paid for, and orders given to dispatch it to Nice, and to bring the Saucy Mrs Trusspot home to Arundel.
Chris went off to speak with Fr Smith for the last time. The annual Forty Hours’ Devotion was going on in the Church during that fourth week of Lent, as every year, and there were literally hundreds of candles burning before the Blessed Sacrament on the sanctuary. John stayed in the church to pray.
Chris, however, had something on his mind, and he wanted to talk about it to Fr Smith. His voice was trembling with nervousness.
‘Father, I’m really sure I want to go through with my baptism. In fact, I’ve never been as sure of anything in my life before. But there is something you need to know, and I’m not sure whether it’ll make a difference. You… you see, I’m pretty sure that I’m, er, gay.’
Fr Smith just smiled gently at the handsome youth. ‘Is that what’s been worrying you all these weeks?’
Chris nodded, smiled back, and shrugged.
‘Well, it’s not the end of the world, Chris. I won’t pretend that it’ll be a breeze for you, but it certainly doesn’t make you a bad person, or even a bad Catholic. You know, in the past, the theory was that all men were basically heterosexuals, and so if they committed a homosexual act, it must have been a perversion, a deliberate decision to go against nature and God’s laws simply for the peculiar pleasure of the act itself. In other words, they thought that being a homosexual was a choice, and therefore wicked. Some people still think that; perhaps they are so very heterosexual themselves that they cannot even imagine any one else thinking differently. And unfortunately, they have basic, physical, biology suggesting to them that they’re right.
‘Now, I mean by biology that anyone with an ounce of common sense in their heads can see what the human sex system is for; it’s for the reproduction of the species, like any other animal. And the fact that it’s very pleasurable is to encourage us to reproduce, but also to express our love for our beloved. If someone wants to live life the way God wants, they treat their body and everything else as if it were working the right way, even if that costs an effort.
‘To a heterosexual man, that is no problem. Loving his wife, and pleasuring sexually with her, just comes naturally. But what is a homosexual man to do? We both know that the situation is none of his making. Nobody turns himself deliberately into a gay man; whether through nature or nurture, it just happened to him, and he has to live with the consequences. Those who call such a man a ‘pervert’ are either very cruel or very stupid, since it is due to the man’s nature, not a perversion of it. Those who call him a ‘faggot’, something for burning, presuming to anticipate God’s judgment, are running the danger of hell themselves.
‘Christopher, most men experience a blend of heterosexual and homosexual inclinations, though they vary in the proportion of each. Homophobia, I suspect, is most often to be found in those who truly are pretty near half-and-half, and who fear deeply their felt attraction towards their own kind. So they fling around these abusive terms to try and convince us all how manly they are. If you ever encounter it, just smile to yourself, and say “Got your number, sweetheart!” You, Chris, at least know who you are, and these days, that’s a great blessing.
‘The sexual urge is one of the strongest we have. Compare it to hunger; you don’t usually lust and yearn after a bacon sandwich, after all. Therefore, sex is less under our control than hunger. One cannot simply turn it on or off like a tap, or even push your penis down and think of dead puppies! One has very limited success that way. So should one be held wholly responsible for something one cannot help? I honestly don’t think so. And if you, Chris, truly love another man, then I think that any pastor who did not look at least understandingly on your expression of it should take a good look at himself.
‘Christopher, if you want to be perfect, celibacy would be the best thing. But the same is true for heterosexual people. And I do actually urge you to aim for perfection, just as I urge people who are imperfect in all sorts of ways to aim for perfection. But perfection, as our own St Philip said, is not achieved in one day, or even four. It takes a lifetime. And in the meantime, the real sins to get worried about are those of malice, spite, meanness, not one whose root is in affection, and cannot to a large extent be helped.
‘I suppose what is in your mind is a worry that in asking for Baptism you are wanting to turn away utterly from sin, but yet wondering if you will be able to resist what the world thinks that Catholicism thinks is a very terrible sin? You are worried that you would be a hypocrite? I thought so!
‘Christopher, it is a noble and a good thing on the day of your baptism to be determined never to sin. Indeed, it is required. But you and I both know that such a thing is not going to happen. You will sin again, and you will go to confession. You are beginning a new life, you will be ‘born again’, and what you need is to try as well as you are able to do God’s will. But the old Chris is not going to disappear. You are simply promising to battle with the old Chris, and do your best to become the new Chris. And from the day of your baptism, God will give you the grace to do that.
‘Nobody is bound to do the impossible. Christopher; you will never, by trying, be able to turn yourself into a straight man, unless you are pretty well half-and-half to begin with, and even then I’m not sure. What you are bound to do is to try and be the best sort of gay man that you can. Don’t for instance, be promiscuous. Be honourable, be loving, be stable. And as chaste as you are able to be. But, above all, don’t worry!
‘And never, ever, forget that your gayness is not the only thing that defines you. You are also very handsome, an athlete, a good sailor, highly intelligent, a beautiful singer, both lovable and loving, fun-loving, and soon, perhaps most importantly, you will be a catholic christian. All these things define you, and so many other things. Don’t ever, like some gay people, make your gayness the only thing that matters. Don’t let anyone force you into a pigeonhole.
‘Be yourself, Chris, because that is the person God wants to save, and nobody else. God intends to save a real, gay, Christopher, not a hypothetical straight Christopher who doesn’t even exist.’
Chris felt a great deal better after this and went to rejoin John for a visit to the tailors in Saville Row. There were two suits to be made, to be ready in three weeks in time for the baptism. One suit, John said, ought to leave room for Chris to grow, so that it could be altered if necessary. The other, a most unusual order, was just for that one occasion, and must fit absolutely perfectly. They then went to some shirtmakers, and ordered a dozen silk white handmade shirts for Chris. Some of these, too, were to be tailored perfectly, and, John insisted, were to have long tails. Most mysterious, thought Chris. And then an order for two pairs of shoes. All these things to be delivered to the Rembrandt Hotel the day before Easter Sunday.
John came into the Chichester flat triumphantly one day. ‘I’ve found our housekeeper and gardener!’ he announced.
‘Are they a couple?’ asked Tony.
‘Oh yes, they’re a couple all right!’
And so they were. Dennis and Frank were certainly a couple, handsome, and in their mid-to-late-thirties. Both had had high-powered jobs in the City, but had got fed up of the pressures of the life. Dennis had had some early twinges in his chest that might suggest a very early heart attack was not so far down the road, and so they made some fundamental life decisions. They decided that they had made enough money to see them comfortably into their old age, so long as they were careful and took a less intensive job in the countryside.
‘And that way,’ said Dennis, ‘we might even live long enough to enjoy our old age. Isn’t that right, heart-face?’ he asked Frank.
John and Chris looked at each other, wanting to explode with laughter. ‘Heart-face’ was what the gay couple on Round the Horne used to call each other. So from then on, Dennis and Frank were known to the three as Jules and Sandy. When everyone knew each other better, Jules and Sandy were let in on the joke, and they found it as funny as anyone.
It was settled that Dennis (‘Jules’) would see to the house.
‘Nothing like a chance to vada some other omi’s latty’ he camply opined, getting into the part. Frank (‘Sandy’) was the gardener. He was the more masculine of the two, with an impressive physique, and said very little. But he knew all about gardens, which was what mattered.
On being shown the new house, Jules was ecstatic about all the possibilities for interior decor. But John was firm.
‘No way! You’ve got your own house to do up. This is ours, and the only decor queen here is going to be me!’
‘And me!’ said Chris and Tony together.
‘Bitches!’ said Jules, and they all laughed. ‘I’ll get the gay mafia onto you!’
‘The gay mafia?’
‘Oooooh, yes! You don’t want to run foul of the gay mafia. You do, and they’ll send the boys round to criticize your curtains!’
Jules and Sandy loved their cottage; it was exactly what they had been hoping for, and John told them that they were welcome to use the pool and gym in the big house whenever they wanted. They moved in the following week, not wanting to lose any time, and got to work straight away, readying the house and grounds for their new owners.
John looked around at his old Chichester home sadly. He would miss it, though he knew the time had come for a move. The funny thing was that everything this flat contained would easily fit into just the kitchen of his new home.
That gave him an idea. Why not do exactly that? Why wait until they had the whole place furnished before moving in? They could just camp out (camp out! what would Jules say to that?) in the kitchen with all their furniture and fittings from here, and fill the rest of the house as they had leisure, and were taken by this or that. It could be real fun.
The others agreed, and a removals firm was engaged to move everything to the Arundel kitchen (Jules loved the idea!) during Holy Week, the week before Easter, when the three inhabitants would be staying in London.
One evening there was a phone call from Pat with good news; he had applied for the Perv’s job, and had been successful. So successful, in fact, that he was offered also the considerable step up of being deputy headmaster. He had very favourably impressed the Head when they had met in the hospital, who was wanting to shed some of his duties onto a younger man, now that the paperwork involved in his job was increasing so alarmingly. He saw that Pat was just the man to work well with boys. And Pat was thrilled; all his own boys would receive free tuition at Whitefriars, the fees of which there was no way he could ever have afforded, and the twin girls could go to the reputable girls’ school down the road, again free, there being a reciprocal arrangement between the staff of the two establishments. And best of all, the job came with a large house, much bigger than their Lancashire home. They could keep their old house for their retirement, and in the meantime rent it out for some additional income.
Above all, Pat told John, this would be a new start for them all. For Conor and Seán particularly, this was going to be important. Conor had almost miraculously recovered when he heard that John had been found, but his first question had been ‘When’s he coming home?’ With the Henry family at Whitefriars, it was going to be a lot easier for everyone to see each other and rebuild their relationships. Seán bitched continually about the move, because he was having to leave his friends, but, as Pat said, friends like that he could well do without.
John chatted with Bernadette on the phone; it was difficult at first, both sides being uneasy, but they were soon gossiping away like old times. The twins, too, chatted happily about how they were looking forward to moving, and about their hobbies. Even Rory, though he couldn’t remember John, chattered happily about his forthcoming First Holy Communion. But Conor would not come to the phone, nor would Seán; John was saddened, but relieved too. Their reunion would have to find its own space and time.
On the Saturday before Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, the John, Chris and Tony sadly closed the door on their flat for the last time, and came down the stairs. That home had many happy memories for them all, but they knew that the time had come to move on. They left the key with the removals men, and went to London, to the Rembrandt Hotel, opposite the Oratory.
Holy Week is a serious time for devout Catholics, and this was a particularly important one. At the end of the week, Chris was to be baptized, and Tony, too, had caught the atmosphere and was determined to make a good confession and return to the faith.
On Palm Sunday morning, they got up late, and, still fasting, and wearing their best suits, went across the road in time for the High Mass at 11.00. There was a strange solemnity about all the people going into the church; there was no queue as there had been for Midnight Mass, but the church was full of people. Chris took in a gasp of astonishment; all the statues, crosses and pictures had been veiled with great purple sheets.
‘Why, John?’ he whispered.
‘Because this is Passiontide, when we are focussing in on Jesus’ death. This saves us any distractions at all, even good distractions. Take a palm branch; you’ll want it in a minute.’
A bell rang, and children’s voices rang out the pure and thrilling chant Pueri Hebræorum; telling how the children of the Hebrews cut branches from the trees and laid them before Jesus, who was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The procession, with the clergy in red this time, the colour of blood, made its way to the back of the church, and there the Gospel was read, telling of that same event. Everyone held out their palm fronds, and the priest blessed them, sprinking them with holy water. Then the great doors at the end of the church were flung open, and the buses and taxis could be seen moving along the Brompton Road behind the clergy; a strange mingling of diesel fumes with incense floated around the church. The procession moved out of the great doors, and the choir and people followed. The choir sang some ancient and sad, and yet triumphant, chant as they went.
This was a strange thing, thought Chris as he walked. We are remembering Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem when they received him as a King, and yet he was coming only to die. Within a week, the same crowds who shouted ‘Hosanna!’ would be shouting ‘Crucify him!’ The poignancy of the moment struck him, and tears pricked his eyes.
The passers-by looked at the strange pageant with curiosity. One or two Japanese tourists took out their cameras, and one or two other passers-by laughed and chatted. Others bypassed the procession, studying the pavement assiduously.
As the procession entered the church once more, the choir suddenly burst into glorious harmony, Ingrediente Domino, ‘As the Lord entered the Holy City’, and Chris felt his heart lift. Yes Christ came to die, but that was so that we might go to heaven!
The sadness returned, though, because the mood changed sharply. Three priests on the sanctuary sang slowly in Latin the account from St Luke’s Gospel of the suffering and death of Jesus. Chris and Tony followed the text with the translation in the booklet that was provided, while John (whose Latin was quite good) just quietly listened. It took a very long time, nearly an hour, and all the people stood in reverence as the terrible story was told. As the point came when Jesus died, the whole congregation dropped to their knees in sorrow. The rest of the Mass was as usual, but the mood was sombre.
After Mass, the three went quietly to have lunch, their first meal of the day, in a nearby restaurant. Even the ebullient Tony, for once, was sobered. Chris hardly said anything, but his mind was working overtime.
They went back in the afternoon for Vespers, which was moving, too, but not like the morning, and then John took them all to see a film, just to lighten the mood a little.
Monday was a normal day; Chris and Tony had never seen the Victoria and Albert Museum, and so, after they had exercised in the hotel’s little attached gym and swimming pool. they spent the morning there, and in the afternoon, and also the Tuesday morning, went to look for some furniture for their new home.
On Tuesday evening, they walked through Belgravia to the impressive Westminster Cathedral for the Blessing of the Holy Oils. Chris had never heard such a wonderful choir; they were even better than at the Oratory. He had never seen so many priests; there must have been hundreds walking in the procession, ending with no fewer than four bishops in their mitres, and the tall Cardinal Archbishop himself, who saw Chris goggling as he went by, and gave him a smile. All the holy oils, for baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and anointings of the sick during the coming year were blessed in great silver vats. Some of that oil was to be used on Chris later that very week for his baptism and confirmation.
On Wednesday morning, John and Tony went to confession, while Chris waited in the Oratory church for them to finish. They were there a long time, which puzzled Chris, who couldn’t imagine what his heroes would need to confess, but they came out looking an awful lot happier.
That evening, the great drama of what is known as the Sacred Triduum, or Holy Three Days began with nightfall, which the ancients regarded as the beginning of Maundy Thursday, and the ancient Office, or service, called Tenebræ a word meaning ‘darkness’. The priests entered in silence and began a long series of psalms in rapid Latin, at the end of each of which, a candle was snuffed on a great stand in the sanctuary. John whispered to Chris
‘It’s to symbolize the growing darkness as we come towards the passion of Christ.’
From time to time the psalms would be interrupted by a reading, or the singing by a lone priest of passages from the Lamentations of Jeremiah to a heartbreaking melody, a lament on the desolation of Jerusalem, and by analogy, the sorrow of a soul that has been laid waste by sin.
Quomodo sedet sola civitas… ‘Oh how the city stands alone that once was full of people! The mistress of nations has become as a widow, the prince of provinces now made to pay tribute.…Plorans ploravit in nocte…The rain falls in the night, and the tears upon her cheeks; there is nobody who can console her in all her sorrow; all her friends despise her and have become her enemies…Viæ Sion lugent…The streets of Jerusalem mourn; there is no-one who comes to her feasts. All her gates are destroyed. Her priests are weeping, her virgins prostitute themselves and she herself is oppressed with bitterness. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, turn back again to the Lord your God!’
John thought about how unhappy he had made the Henrys when he abandoned them, and was bitterly sorry again.
When Chris thought he could bear no more sorrow, the choir began to sing the first of the great Tenebræ Responsories by Tomas Luis da Victoria. Chris knew the music; the Whitefriars choir had sung some of it last term, and as the glorious harmonies swelled, he followed every note and word, understanding for the first time the true context, and what it meant, telling of Christ preparing for his passion.
Finally, when the last psalm had been sung, and even the candles on the altar were snuffed out, the final remaining candle on the great stand was lifted off, and taken behind the altar. Suddenly, pandemonium broke loose; the lights were all turned out, so that the church was plunged into complete darkness, and a deafening diabolical crashing and knocking sounded from all around. Chris was terrified, until he realised that everyone was beating their books on the bench in front of them; his heart pounding, he saw the candle which had been taken behind the altar brought back again and set on the altar itself. All was stilled. The silence was profound. A priest read a prayer, and then all the clergy simply got up and left.
When the others got up to go, Chris could hardly move, he was so overwhelmed. He was full of questions, and John did his best to answer them; the disappearing candle represents Christ dying and going into the tomb, and the banging symbolizes the frightened world without Christ, terrorized by chaos. The reappearing candle is a foretaste of the resurrection, which restores peace.
The three friends had dinner in the Rembrandt that night, thoughtful and silent.
There was nothing much the following day until the evening, so John, Tony and Chris decided to make up for their laziness of the last few days, and have a real workout. They ran for three hours in Hyde Park, alternating sprints and jogs, and frequently pausing to do push-ups and other exercises. Then they took three rowing boats out on the Serpentine Lake, and raced each other; Chris was by far the most proficient rower, and easily won every time. Then they ran and exercised some more before returning to the hotel for lunch. John recommended that they all took a siesta, because they would be having a late night. They all slept a little, and woke feeling limber and refreshed.
They ate a good dinner that evening; John reminded them that they would be seriously fasting tomorrow, and Chris at least would have to fast the next day, too, no easy thing for a hungry and now active lad. At 8pm they went across to the Church for the Mass of the Last Supper. In this Mass, the church remembers Jesus instituting the Last Supper, and goes over all those events of the evening before he died, how he celebrated a passover meal, and replaced the passover lamb with his own body and blood, since passover lambs could not be sacrificed until the following day, when Jesus must die too. The Mass began cheerfully enough, but near the beginning something unusual happened. All the church bells rang; the big ones as well as the little ones, and the organ played deafeningly, then all suddenly ceased. There would from that moment be no more bells, no more organ, until Easter, until Christ had risen from the dead. The choir would have to sing unaccompanied, and a rattle replaced the bell. It was, said John, at the same time a symbol of mourning and also a way of removing still more distractions.
The Mass continued; very beautiful, but very austere; joy for the institution of the Mass combined with knowledge of what the morrow held. The venerable superior of the Oratory creakily got to his knees and washed the feet of twelve men, in memory of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. At the end of the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus himself, was taken in a triumphal procession from the altar to another chapel in the Church, the ‘Altar of Repose’, symbolizing the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus sweated blood in agony over what he knew was to happen. ‘Could you not watch one brief hour with me?’ he said to his sleepy disciples, and so on this evening, the Church has always tried to make that right, by watching at the Altar of Repose until midnight, and decorating this place with flowers and candles galore.
The three friends stayed until the end, then rose with stiff knees, and went to bed.
On Good Friday, Tenebræ was in the morning, and, though just as moving, lacked the drama and surprise of the first night.
The big service happened in the afternoon, at 3pm, the hour Jesus died. The church was even more packed than at Midnight Mass, and the atmosphere was tense. Nobody spoke except in hushed whispers.
There was the crack of a rattle (since the bells had been silenced), and the procession entered in silence. The priests, vested in red, the colour of blood, stood before the altar, and then on the stroke of three, as Jesus died, they pitched themselves forward onto their faces. There was a sort of groan from the people, and they all fell onto their knees. There was a sob here and there. Otherwise there was silence, bar the creak from an overburdened kneeling bench or the protest of a baby. Chris and John knelt together in their dark suits; Tony had become separated in the crowd. After a while the priests got up and read a simple prayer, and all sat for a reading. Then, as on Palm Sunday there was another solemn singing of the Passion account, this time from the Gospel of St John, written by a man who had himself stood at the foot of the cross, and who saw for himself the blood and water running from Jesus’ pierced side. Again the people knelt when they came to the account of Jesus’ death.
Then the first image to be unveiled was brought in; a simple crucifix with the image of the dead Christ on it. The entire congregation pressed forward, one at a time, to kiss the feet of the image. It took over an hour for everyone to venerate the cross, and the choir were nearly hoarse by the end, singing the most heartbreaking music, above all the tragic Reproaches; the imagined words of Christ to sinners, the people who had crucified him.
‘Popule meus, quid feci tibi? My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!’
When Chris and John had returned to their place, John was not surprised to see Chris’ shoulders shaking. He pulled the lad to him, and Chris whispered in his ear
‘John; did I bring that about, by my sins; is it my fault?’
‘It’s all our faults, Chris. That’s why everyone is so sad. But another way to look at it is that he did it willingly, simply because he loves you so much’.
After this, simply, Holy Communion was distributed, and everyone went home.
There was a service of the Way of the Cross that evening, noted for its popular atmosphere of devotion, but John thought that Chris was too distraught for them to go.
‘If I’d known that my sins would do that, I’d never have sinned. I’m never going to sin again!’
John wanted with all his heart to jolly Chris out of his mood, but, like all devout people, he knew what Chris meant, and he also thought that it was a good way to approach his baptism. He would have to face the reality that sin wasn’t that easily got rid of, later.
Chris was hungry, and that made him emotional. His seventeen-year-old stomach ached for food, but he would only give it water until the evening, when the three of them had a bowl of vegetable soup and went to bed early.
With Christ dead and in the tomb, the Church doesn’t do much. No Masses, no other sacraments except confessions, and anointing in emergencies. There was Tenebræ again, in the morning, and Chris insisted on going. The others thought he ought to sleep late, so as not to notice his hunger, but he wasn’t having any of it. John decided to join him in his fastit seemed only fairand by the afternoon they had got used to it, and Chris was feeling a little light-headed.
John took him to Trumpers, where they were both shaved by a barberthe whole treatmentand Chris had his hair cut to perfection. The barber splashed some special cologne on his face, and Chris liked the smell so much that John bought him a bottle.
At eight in the evening, Chris undressed and got into the shower. He returned to his room with a towel round his waist and smelling of cologne, and, lovingly, John, already in his own suit, helped him into his black socks, followed by a new white silk shirt with gold cufflinks and a dark blue tie. Chris had never worn a silk shirt before, and he shivered with pleasure at the sheer sensuousness. Then followed the trousers of his new black gossamer-light woollen suit, and his new black handmade shoes that were instantly so comfortable, and yet so shiny and smart. Finally the single-breasted black jacket. John stepped back and looked at his beloved Chris. He had to catch his breath; the young man looked so utterly handsome; the black emphasized his slim waist and hips and the length of his legs, while the flaring of the jacket emphasized the strong chest and shoulders. John quietly took Chris by both shoulders and gently kissed him on the cheek.
‘I love you so much, Chris.’
‘And I love you too, John. Thank you so much for bringing me to today.’
The church was in complete darkness when they arrived, so they had to fumble around, bumping into people who were trying to find a seat, until their eyes adjusted. It was very weird. Most people were milling around at the back of the church, where a few things had been prepared. There was the crack of a rattle again, and, like ghosts, all in purest white, the procession silently approached the back of the church.
Then, there was a pause, while people fumbled around, and then a crackle, and another, and suddenly Chris jumped:
A fire! In the church!
But everyone seemed to be treating this as normal, so he soon calmed down. The flames flickered all round the darkened building uncannily. This light in darkness was the symbol of Jesus risen from the dead, the new dawn.
A priestit was Fr Smithblessed the fire, and then lit a huge candle from it, and the coals to burn incense on. Another priest took the candle and walked a little way up the darkened church. He turned to the people and sang
Lumen Christi! The light of Christ!
and the people sang back loudly
Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
This happened three times, each time a little higher and louder and more excitedly than before. And people began taking lights from this one candle, and spreading the light out among them. Little by little the church was becoming illuminated magically in the light of a thousand candles in peoples’ hands. And when everyone had returned to their place, a priest mounted into a pulpit and sang the Church’s great long proclamation of joy at the Resurrection of Christ.
‘Exsultet iam Angelica turba cælorum! Rejoice, you powers of heaven, sing, chorus of angels…Jesus Christ your Lord has risen!’
Then several passages from the Old Testament were read, literally in the light of Christ, since the candles were still the only illumination. Then as the readings moved from the Old Testament to the New, Fr Smith intoned
‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ Glory be to God on high!
Bells rang, the organ thundered out and the church was flooded with light, revealed in all its colour and beauty; flowers and candles heaped high on every altar and even the pillars of the church were clothed in crimson damask.
It was Easter.
There was another reading, and then the solemn first Alleluia of Easter, sung first by Fr Smith, with everyone repeating. Finally the Gospel of the Resurrection of the Lord was sung.
Then water was brought and solemnly blessed. Finally it was time for Chris. He, with John and four other people who were to be baptized came and stood before Fr Smith, who spoke briefly to them.
John’s hand was on Chris’s shoulder, since the lad had asked him to be his Godfather, and he could feel the calm strength flowing out of the young man; there was no panic or nervousness. He knew exactly what he was doing. John thought his heart would burst with pride.
Three times Chris was asked if he rejected Satan, all his works and all his empty promises.
Chris answered three times ‘I do!’ in such a firm voice that several people jumped.
John removed Chris’ tie and opened his shirt down several buttons, folding the silk back to bare his chest. With a firm thumb, Fr Smith anointed Chris between his pectorals with oil, symbol of God’s protection against the devil.
Then Chris was asked if he believed in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the principal doctrines of the Christian faith.
Again he said three times ‘I do!’ as before.
So then, gracefully, he ascended the steps of the sanctuary with John at his side. Chris knelt down before the table with the large bowl of blessed water on it. Fr Smith asked him formally if he desired to be baptized in the faith of the Church.
Again Chris said ‘I do’, but this time softly. He turned his head and held it over the bowl, John having his arm around his shoulders.
Fr Smith said, not without emotion in his voice,
‘Then, Christopher Andrew, I baptize you in the name of the Father’
he poured water over Chris’s forehead in the form of a cross
‘And of the Son’
He poured again.
‘And of the Holy Spirit’.
He poured water a third and last time.
Chris rose to his feet, a look of beatific happiness on his face. Fr Smith took a voluminous white garment and put it over Chris’ head so that it entirely covered his black suit. It was the sign of his new purity, all his sins washed away. Then he took a candle, lit from the Easter Candle, and put it in Chris’s hand, symbol of the resurrection.
Chris returned, a Christian, and the happiest one in the world, to his place.
After the other candidates had also been baptized, a chair was set in the middle of the sanctuary, and the venerable Superior of the Oratory came and sat in it. Again, Chris approached and knelt before the priest. Hands were laid on his head, and his forehead anointed with holy Chrism, another oil. He was receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, and he was to add a new name to the names he had already. The priest said
‘John, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit!’
And again, Christopher Andrew John Sanders stood and returned to his place.
The great Easter Mass continued, and finally Christopher, now fasting for more than 36 hours, was able to eat something; his first food was Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of the Lord to whom he had just devoted his life. If he could have died at that point, he would have regarded it as the best thing that ever happened to him.
The great Easter Vigil takes up to three hours or more at the Oratory, and so it was after midnight when the crowds finally spilled out onto the road. But bed would be a long way away yet. John had hired a room in the Rembrandt Hotel, and was throwing a party for Chris. But first he took Chris up to his room to change. As soon as they closed the door, they both burst into tears of happiness and fell into each other’s arms. The tension had been building up so long, and now everything was over. After a minute, John said
‘Get undressed, Chris, and have a quick shower. You probably need it after all the heat in the church, with those candles.’
Chris obeyed, but did not know why. Afterwards, he stood naked before John once more.
‘And this is your other new suit, Chris.’
And John produced from the wardrobe a most exquisitely beautiful suit, all of silk, and completely white. This was the suit that had been made in order to fit Chris to perfection right on this day; perhaps in a month he would never be able to wear it again. He pulled on white socks. Then John gave him a clean silk shirt and he put it on.
‘John, why are there such long tails on the shirts?’
‘Chris, surely you can work it out? This suit is of silk, and white. Remember the lycra bodysuit? You don’t want to scandalize all your guests! Or do you want some boxer shorts? Perhaps Tony has some he could lend you.’
Chris went red, and shut up. The silken trousers which he quickly put on felt so light and comfortable. He took care to tuck the shirt down well. A white tie followed, the light jacket, and then even a pair of white shoes. Chris had looked wonderful before in the black suit, but now he looked like an angel.
Which, John reflected, was just about what he was, so soon after his baptism. He looked at the young man in awe.
Chris joked ‘This suit is so light, I feel almost naked!’
They went down to meet their guests. There were not many, but all very dear. As Chris entered the room, they all gasped at this vision of beauty before them.
Tony, of course, was there, organizing things, but Justin, Tom and Tim had all come too, with their families, to Chris’s delighted surprisewith the darkness and all that was going in, he had not noticed them in the churchand they surrounded him, slapping him on the back and congratulating him.
‘God I wish the bloody old Church of England was like that: I might even do it myself!’ said Justin. ‘Imagine Whitefriars chapel with all those candles! It was really wicked, man!’
‘Not quite the choice of words I should have used, handsome heart-face!’
It was Jules; he and Sandy had come up for the event.
‘Oh yes, we always come up to the Oratory for the big shows; it’s the best free ballet in Londonyes we’re both Catholicsbut anyway, a chance of free champagne, and she…’ he indicated the silent but grinning Sandy ‘…she’s anybody’s, darlings. So here we are! Congratulations, Chris, dear! You look absolutely edible. Why weren’t you around when I was single? And where did you find so many handsome boys to bring here for Auntie Jules? Aren’t you going to introduce me?’
Fortunately none of the young men, nor their parents, took offence at Jules, but chatted happily, roaring with laughter at his sallies.
When the champagne was all gone, and the food all eatendespite his fast, Chris was too excited to eat more than a few mouthfulsthe party broke up.
John came again to Chris’s room.
‘Chris, I have something for you.’
‘Oh John, we agreed, no presents! It would be an anticlimax. Tomorrow, please!’
‘No, this isn’t from me. It’s from someone else, and I think you should see it tonight.
John put a small package into Chris’s hand. Chris recognized the handwriting on the envelope with it. It was his mother’s.
‘O John, how could you? Today of all days!’ Chris was distressed.
‘No, no, Chris, it’s okay. I’m afraid I opened it and checked. Look at it; it’ll do you good.’
Playing for time, he opened the package first. Inside there was an old mother-of-pearl rosary. Odd!
Then, very nervously, as if it were a time-bomb, he opened the letter.
My dear Chris.
I wanted to write and say congratulations to you. I know it sounds odd, but I’m really glad you have made this decision. I never told you, but I was brought up a Catholic; somehow it never rubbed off on me, but I was always sorry I never gave you the same chance.
I know I’ve been a rotten mother to you. One day, perhaps, I’ll be able to say sorry, and maybe we’ll be able to talk without fighting. But I am truly happy for you now that you are with somebody who seems to care for you, and that you seem to have found yourself. Maybe one day I will get the same chance. Say a prayer for me; I can’t do it for myself.
John is a good man, really like his father. It is so weirdly appropriate that it should be he who looks after you now.
Love (and I think I mean it!)
p.s. By the way, the rosary belonged to your grandmother, my mother. I think she’d be thrilled for you to have it.
Chris was crying again by the end of the letter, but they were healing tears. He folded it carefully and put it in his wallet to keep safely. John breathed a sigh of relief; it seemed that he had done the right thing after all. Chris asked,
‘John? What was all that about your father?’
‘I really haven’t a clue, soldier. Maybe she knew him, but I’m sure he never mentioned her. She said something about it when she was getting into the taxi at Brindisi.’
John may have been unobservant, but he was beginning to get his suspicions. He said nothing, however. In his heart he was grateful that Linda had effectively agreed that Chris was to live with him now. They really were now a family.
John helped Chris off with his suit, and folded it onto a hanger.
‘John; please stay with me tonight’
‘There’s only one bed, and it’s a single!’
John relented. ‘Oh okay soldier, but don’t blame me if you’re uncomfortable. I’ll get my shorts.’
‘Take a pair of mine.’
‘No, my waist is 30˝ now.’
‘Not any more!’
Out of arguments, John took off his suit and folded it over a chair. Once naked, he pulled on a pair of Chris’s shorts and got into bed, pulling the younger man’s back against his chest.
Both were asleep in minutes.
They woke at about nine o’clock; John went back to his own room, and then he and Chris showered and dressed to go to the 11.00 High Mass in the Oratory. When they met, John was surprised, though not displeased, to see Chris in his white suit again.
After the Mass, which was splendid and full of joy, they sat eating lunch together with Tony, and were pleased to see Jules and Sandy at the next table; the two had been daunted by the long journey back to Arundel and had decided to stay the night.
‘So, honey,’ said Jules, ‘What’s with the angel gear this morning again? Don’t you get to go back to being a human being today?’
Chris said, by way of explanation;
‘I read on the internet that the newly-baptized in the early Church used to wear their baptismal garment for eight days; that’s until next Sunday. So that’s what I thought I’d do.’
John said, ‘It’ll get pretty grubby, Chris. White silk is not exactly the most practical everyday wear.’
Chris’ face fell for a minute. Well, perhaps I can wear it to Mass, and can go shopping and buy some other things in white tomorrow. I’ve got some money now, thanks to you, and have hardly spent any of it.’
Jules laughed. ‘Well give a girl a credit card and Knightsbridge, and what else does she want to do but go shopping? Hell, I wish I could comeI’m really good at shoppingbut we’ve got to get back. There’s loads to do if you three are moving in tomorrow.’ Jules and Sandy moved off to pack and hit the road.
Chris’ face fell. ‘John, I’ve been meaning to ask you something. Do we really have to go tomorrow? I’d so love to stay here till next Sunday; to stay the whole Easter Octave.’
John was in no mood to refuse Chris anything at this stage, though he was somewhat put out; he had been looking forward to getting settled in to the new home. But before he could answer, Chris felt a pair of hands on his shoulders,
‘Hey, Chris, John, Tony.’
It was Justin, with his parents. They had decided to stay in London for a few days to take in some shows and exhibitions, and they were just coming into lunch, having been to the cheerful charismatic Easter service at Brompton’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church, right behind the Oratory.
They took the table which Jules and Sandy had vacated, which was quickly reset by the waiters, and the whole party fell into easy conversation. During the course of the meal, Chris’ desire to stay another week was mentioned, and Justin’s parents quickly offered to let Chris stay with them; he could move in and share Justin’s room, so there’d be very little extra expense.
Before he knew what he was saying, John had not only agreed, but invited Justin and his family to come down to Arundel for a day or two the week after. He immediately regretted it, for the house was still unfurnished. But he had not forgotten that Justin had saved Chris’ life, and so did not retract.
‘Look, you may have to be prepared to slum it a bit; we’re only moving in tomorrow, and there’s hardly anything there.’
‘Don’t worry about it; we’ll love it; we’ll even give you a hand!’
And so it was settled. John and Tony were so anxious to get off that they decided to leave that day after Vespers.
That night, Justin’s family and Chris, still in his white suit, went to see a show, and then went to bed, Chris went to the room which was his for one last night.
In the car on the way down to Arundel, John was strangely silent. Tony, at the wheel, chattered away, but John just answered in monosyllabic grunts, looking out of the window at the passing fields. Eventually, Tony had to speak:
‘Look, John, what’s the matter? You’ve a face like a wet weekend! I hope it’s nothing I’ve said or done.’
John shook his head and sighed.
‘No, Tony, of course not. I just didn’t like leaving Chris in London like that. I feel guilty now.’
There was a silence. A little nervously, Tony asked him,
‘John; are you in love with Chris?’
John blushed. ‘No, I don’t think so. I was afraid that I might have been at one point, but really I just love him like a really dear little brother or something. It took me a while to work it out, because I’ve never really been in love, or at any rate had more than crushes, and I’m having to learn as I go along. But as for Chris, well, I mean, we’re really close; after all, we’re so alike in many ways.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, you’re all always saying that we look so similar; I think it goes a lot deeper, too.’
‘No, John. Have you never heard that opposites attract?’
‘What do you mean, Tony? Elaborate!’
‘You’re not alike, actually John, except physically. Chris is perceptive, you’re not. He’s extremely intelligent, you’re averagely intelligentsorry, but it’s true. You’ve got buckets of common sense, though, and Chris has hardly any. Perhaps your sense of humour is similarboth of you seem to enjoy my arsings around, anywaybut your aesthetic sense is completely different.’
‘Well, for once, you got it right with Chris’s clothes this Easter. The silk and the sharp cut of the suits was perfect for his taste. But you’re into tough nylons, cottons, linens, canvas, you hate wearing shirts or shoes; you’re a real outdoors type. Chris isn’t, even though he loves sailing. You’re a loner, Chris is gregarious, now that he has his confidenceoh John, you’re different in about as many ways as it is possible to be different. About all that’s in common is your love of sailing, the body beautiful and homosexuality. Oh and you’re both pretty religious, I suppose.’
‘That sounds quite a lot in common to me. They’re important things, anyway. But I got my religion from my parents; despite all their quarrels and all the unpleasantness at home, that was never questioned by any of us. Where do you think Chris got his religiousness from?’
‘Well, it wasn’t from his mother! It has to have been from living with you.’
‘Oh. Okay, I suppose. But why do you ask if I’m in love with Chris? Is he in love with me, do you think? He begged me to share his bed the other night.’
‘Perhaps he thinks he is. But I shouldn’t worry; isn’t it obvious that he hasn’t really got the symptoms?’
‘How would I know? As I said, I’ve never been in love.’
Tony shot John an anguished look, which John characteristically entirely failed to perceive.
Now it was Tony’s turn to be silent as they drove, and John talked to him without noticing that he wasn’t getting very full answers. As they pulled into the drive, Tony decided to cope with his sadness in his usual way. So, as they stood before the open door of their new home, Tony suddenly seized John and pulled him off his feet, cradling him in his arms. John was too shocked to do more than gasp as Tony carried him over the threshold.
‘Fuck, you’re a weight!’ Tony gasped.
‘Yeah, muscle is heavy, and I’m bigger built than you. Now put me down, you wazzock, before you strain something!’
‘Wazzock? What the fuck’s a wazzock? Is that some weird Lancashire term for a gorgeous hunk?’ And Tony planted a big wet kiss on John’s lips.
‘No it isn’t. A wazzock is a pranny, ya scally!’ And John returned the kiss.
‘Oh, I get it. You’re basically calling me a wally.’
‘I expect so, if I could speak London!’
‘Right. You’re for it now!’
And Tony, gripping on tightly to John ran through the empty corridors of their new home as John wriggled and fought in his grasp, trying to get free. It was a close thing, but as they arrived at the newly-filled swimming pool, John began to realise what lay in store. He shouted and fought with a new urgency as Tony lifted him with all his remaining strength to hurl him into the water. As he began to fly through the air, John managed to catch onto Tony’s head with both hands, and Tony, already overbalanced, toppled into the water after him.
The water was deep and cold, and they both swam to the surface gasping.
‘I’m still in my clothes, you bastard! I’ve got my wallet in my pocket, too.’
‘Bastard? What happened to wazzer?’
‘Wazzock!’ John corrected, treading water and hurling his sodden wallet onto the tiled surface beside the pool. ‘Ignorant southern pranny’.
‘Well, ee bah gum!’
‘That’s Yorkshire, not Lancashire. That’s even worse than being Southern! And what about my clothes? They’ll be ruined.’
‘What about mine? I’m wet too’
‘And who’s fault’s that?’
‘Yours. Whoever thought of putting a pool just there? Anyway, the longer your clothes spend in the water, the wetter they’re going to get.’
Tony had been edging closer and closer to John, when he suddenly seized him and ducked him under the water. A brief tussle, and John’s jacket floated to the surface of the water. The fight was on, and within a few minutes, the two young men, still out of their depth in the pool, had stripped each other naked, their clothes scattered around in the water.
Tony had just pressed John against the tiled side, and was, he said, administering artificial respiration (which seemed suspiciously akin to a kiss) when John suddenly stiffened.
No, not like that.
Tony followed his eyes, and saw, lying on the pool loungers which had clearly been purchased recently, Jules and Sandy, each with a large Campari and Soda in his hand, enjoying the show hugely.
John blushed redder than the Camparis, and Tony shouted with laughter.
‘You two bastards! You’re going to pay for this. This is not a free performance!’
Tony pulled himself up out of the pool and moved towards Jules, who let out a little shriek and minced off as fast as his clogged feet would take him.
‘Frank, Frank, save me. I’m being raped by a naked Tarzan!’
SandyFrank, that isjust lay there, grinning from ear to ear.
By now John had realised that Jules and Sandy were enjoying the game too. In moments, Jules was flying through the air into the pool, where John stripped him of his Hawaiian shirt and very skimpy speedoes, Jules shrieking with laughter and pretended terror.
They all then turned on Sandy, and it took all three of them to subdue and strip the giant and hurl him, by arms and legs into the water.
As an icebreaker, the roughhousing could hardly have been bettered, and the four men speedily found themselves fast friends rather than just employers and staff. Jules had cooked a huge celebratory meal to welcome John and Tony to their new home, and though he laid the table for only two, John and Tony would not hear of him and Sandy eating separately, so they ate together in the kitchen, now crowded with most of the furniture from the Chichester flat. The April night was chilly, so they lit the huge fire for the first time, and toasted each other and friendship with the most delicious Chateau Margaux wine.
That night, John and Tony lay together in the big bed from Chichester, placed incongruously at the far end of the kitchen, and looked at the dying fire. John spoke quietly.
‘Tony, it’s really good to be home. And I’m really thrilled that this is going to be your home, too.’
‘Mmmm’ said Tony, enigmatically.
The next few days were a ferment of hanging curtains and rearranging new furniture as delivery van after delivery van dropped off what seemed like hundreds of heavy items. Jules was in his element, and despite all his bravado about wanting to be a decor queen, John was happy to leave most of the arranging to him, as his taste proved to be impeccable. John had been afraid that Jules would want frills and swags everywhere, but the little queen had quickly understoodbetter than John himselfthat John’s taste, like Tony’s, was very masculine; between the two of them, the house began to feel like home.