All grandchildren are perfect. Octavia Rose Thompson is no exception. And on the day of her christening,yesterday, she showed the kind of class and style, beauty and grace we have come to expect of this six month old star.
The day started the usual way on big family occasions. I was told my jacket didn’t match, my shirt was creased and my shoes were scuffed. A quick trip to the dressing up box and all was swell. A walk along the river where Oxford were practising their starts for the Boat Race in two weeks ,over Putney Bridge and we were at the church. All Saints ,Fulham one of our favourites.
Especially enriched as the chapel of the Bishops of London during their visits to their summer palace.The blood and pomp of our history smeared liberally on its walls .See there the Indian Mutiny, see there the Cycle Brigade pedalling off to the slaughter, see there the ruffed and pious 17th century grandees and their dames.
Yesterday was the start of the Easter fest. The day that Mary washed Christ’s feet and Judas took the silver. The Reverend Eileen McGregor tried to make sense of these events, which was all a bit pointless, as most were just there for the christening of Octavia and another.As the Rev Eileen hinted at an erotic element in feet cleaning, Octavia beamed and chortled. She wasnt bothered. It was her day and however mysterious the faith she was going to enjoy it. Octavia 5 Eileen 0
Despite the fact this was a family plus service swelled by a 100 from the two christening parties, unknown, unrecognised hymns were chosen. The embarrassed mumble of such singing does nothing to make the congregation feel closer and as one. No amount of handshakes and giving each other signs can make up for the lack of a good hymn.
The service staggered on to the climax we wanted.The baptism. Promises were made about keeping Octavia true to the faith. Promises no one understood and none would respect. But a family ritual had been observed. This was church used by both sets of grand parents, this was the church where Octavia’s mother and her brother had been christened . Octavia even wore her mother’s christening robe. The church may no longer be the source of our faith but it is the guardian of our tradition and whats left of our spiritual life.
Later fizzy wine , hamburgers and christening cake were consumed in the Dukes Head back on the Putney side.The very pub which Mary Wollstonecraft in 1795 was taken after she had failed to kill herself when jumping off the old wooden Putney Bridge. But yesterday didnt belong to history, it belonged to Octavia Rose. Still red faced and beaming she tolerated even her grand father giving her a cuddle. Happy day.