Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Glastonbury Holy Thorn

Is there any news following the terrible attack on the holy thorn at Glastonbury last December? - Kes

The Holy Thorn grew from a cutting of a tree said to have been planted by St Joseph of Arimathea two thousand years ago before it was cut down by what many now believe were four men with a chainsaw. Needless to say, they carried out their act of malice under cover of darkness. There is no news so far leading to the culprits being reprimanded; though community leaders in Glastonbury set up a fund to try and find out who vandalised this sacred tree. Thousands of people arrive each year to pay homage to it as part of their pilgrimage to a place full of reminders of our earliest Christian heritage in these Isles. If no culprits are identified the money raised will go towards the replanting and future protection of the tree. Local folk are convinced that more than one person was involved, and an increasing number are reaching my view that this wanton vandalism was the work of those on the Left-hand Path.

Television interview about St Joseph of Arimathea and Glastonbury.

St Joseph of Arimathea visited Somerset nearly two thousand years ago and drove his staff into the soil at the spot where the Holy Thorn was vandalised three months ago. The staff is thought by many to have once belonged to Jesus, and while most hawthorns only flower in the spring, the Holy Thorn flowers at both Christmas and Easter. It is, therefore, heavily symbolic of the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The sacred tree has been protected by a metal cage to discourage such vandalism. This did not deter the diabolical group who attempted to remove the cage in order to dig up the entire tree in the dead of night. Once this failed, they resorted to cutting off all the branches leaving an iron encased stump. This means that with the stump still intact the tree might recover in due course; although we won't know until Easter. Until then, what remains of the Holy Thorn would best be watered with our prayers.

Personal images of Glastonbury with the Holy Thorn (bottom, left) prior to being vandalised. Also seen are the site of St Joseph of Arimathea's church (top), the Abbey grounds and Glastonbury Tor.

I am delighted to report that this month a new shoot has appeared on the vandalised tree despite it being mercilessly cut down. We wait to see if this will survive to herald the return of the Glastonbury Thorn. 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Gitte May-Britt Gifford R.I.P.


Our dear friend Gitte died last Friday at her home. She was a very close friend of my late London Secretary, Diana Brewester, and often visited Highgate, London, when Diana was alive. Likewise, Diana would visit Gitte in Denmark. When Diana passed away in December 2003 it was Gitte who ensured that her last wishes were carried out. Her generous assistance during that period was invaluable. Yet I feel that the loss of her friend was something from which Gitte never really fully recovered. I miss Diana, too, seven years after her sudden departure following a terrible illness. It remains uncertain as to what took Gitte from us because the autopsy results were not disclosed, but I am in contact with her last boyfriend, Daniel, who has been as helpful as anyone can be in these circumstances. He is as much in the dark about her end, however, as we are. That notwithstanding, Gitte showed immense loyalty and courage. Frequently outspoken, she was a formidable opponent and a fiercely loyal ally. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her. The funeral is being held this morning in Odense, Denmark. We invite prayers for Gitte who is now in the care of her Creator. She leaves behind a daughter, Siri, who is also very much in our thoughts and prayers.

I shall always remember Gitte May-Britt Gifford as an exceptionally strong-willed woman whose thinking could not be influenced or altered by anything other than indisputable fact. She had an inquisitive mind of great intellect, and her unquenchable thirst for knowledge was tempered only by a sense of humour which made her all the more human and all the more likeable. Towards the end, I suspect the balance in her being and life became upset. It is deeply distressing that one so intelligent and so relatively young (she had just turned forty-five last month) can suddenly be taken from us. I shall not forget her, especially her kindness, and her determination.