A Day in the Country
Sutton Courtenay Mothers Union entertain London Mums
This article appeared in the October 1972 issue of The Oxford Diocesan Magazine. George had been Vicar of Sutton Courtenay for four years, and Margaret chaired the Mothers Union Committee
'I wish we could do something for other people - people who don't live in such a lovely part of the country,' said the youngest member of the branch committee. 'Shall I write to Mothers' Union headquarters?' said the Enrolling Member. 'The MU News had an article last year about country branches entertaining homeless mothers from London.'
So we wrote to London and soon received a letter saying:
'I have been in touch with Mrs Blakeway, the Social Worker who looks after the homeless families in the London Borough of Greenwich, and she will be very pleased to accept Your kind invitation for a party of homeless mothers and children to visit your branch on the 13th July....'
And the Greenwich MOH wrote and said: '... Presumably you would wish the party to arrive in time for lunch, and stay to tea, later in the afternoon, before returning home. If you would be so good as to let me know how many mothers and children you can entertain, I will make the necessary transport arrangements.'
To this letter the Enrolling Member replied:
'I think we had better say not more than twenty mothers (you would let me know the approximate number of children). Some of our members will take two mothers and their children to their own homes for lunch, and all will come to the Vicarage for tea. We have a large garden and room in the house if it is wet for quite a large number. We are all looking forward to their visit. I hope they can arrive by twelve o'clock (or earlier if you would like), and stay till after tea. Am I right in thinking that all the children will be under school age?'
Fortunately the day was fine. We had arranged to hire some Play Group toys, so the Vicar arrived at the end of their morning session, and put one climbing frame, one see-saw, one pull-truck and several prams and tricycles and balls into the back of his little Renault. It is wonderful what you can do with a sunshine roof.
There was just time to put these out on the Vicarage lawn before the coach arrived. Five mothers and a gaggle of children got out for lunch at the Vicarage, and the rest went on up the village in the coach, with an escort to introduce them to the other four lunch hostesses. The driver then brought his coach back and joined the Vicarage luncheon party. He was a great help in encouraging everyone to feel at home. The food also helped and everyone ate well; though some of the mothers put quite unrealistic helpings on their children's plates.
After lunch several of the visitors went to 'The George' next door, and the children played with the toys in the garden and ran about and enjoyed exploring. The raspberries were still plentiful, and some went into the fruit cage with the Vicar and enjoyed picking their own. Gradually, through the afternoon, they were joined by the other mothers and children, who had walked down through the village with their hostesses and friends. Eventually tea was served in the garden. The children were marvellous and they did eat! So did their mothers! They ran about a lot: but they were evidently well used to playing with each other. So there were no quarrels, and the only tears were a few shed when it was time to go home.
The mothers also were good visitors, and enjoyed it all. They were especially glad to be able to pick flowers to take home, and were thrilled at being able to pick mint.
Every one of our Mothers' Union members helped in one way or another, and we had sufficient funds from a garden party beforehand to pay the expenses of those who gave the lunches. All the organising of transport was done by the Social Workers from London: we just fed and entertained our guests. Later we had two letters from the 'Homeless Families' Unit':
'... They were really quite overwhelmed, and their outing will give them a talking point for weeks. Most of the children slept all the way home.'
'Thank you so much for sending the colour photographs to us. The mothers were delighted with them, as they had no idea that you would be sending them on to us. They have been circulating round this building since they arrived.'
What if it had rained? Well, we should not have had such lovely snaps, and the Vicarage hall would have needed an extra wash.
We should also have had to work harder at entertaining them.
But we are blessed with an old-fashioned Vicarage, as well as a large garden, and we should have used the attic for running about in.