After the evening Mass last Sunday someone said to me, “I love reading your Log, especially when it’s about Father Gareth.” I don’t know what it is about Father Gareth that so many people love, but certainly he is a unique individual and it’s great to have him on the team. So, to keep at least one reader happy. I am going to begin by thanking Father Gareth for keeping going throughout most of Lent and into Easter when, clearly, he wasn’t feeling all that well.
What seemed to be a long-lingering cold turned out in fact to be the flu. For much of the time he had no energy and no voice but, apart from the odd day, when he knew he just had to go to bed, he continued to celebrate Masses; hear Confessions, take part in our Lenten Taize,
Tenebrae and Reconciliation Services; represent us at the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral on Holy Thursday; and make his inimitable contribution to the Easter Triduum Services.
Most mornings during that time, when we were having breakfast together in the Passionist Community out at Bishopbriggs, Father Gareth would appear down for Morning Prayer and we would all ask, “Well, how are you today?” Invariably his answer was, “Great lads, great, never felt better in my life”, when obviously he wasn’t well at all, seeing as how he croaked, rather than spoke his response. He even had to endure a few weeks of not being able to go swimming, which is something he loves to do every day. Father Gareth is a great man for
recommending all kinds of remedies for various ailments and conditions to other people, sure fire cures; he would have made a great medicine man in the Wild West, touring around in a covered wagon peddling miracle remedies in a broad Welsh accent; so he took a bit of teasing as to why all these cures weren’t working for him.
And of course, given the fondness in which he is held, other people, wanting to care for him, were giving him certain cures as well. Just last week someone gave him menthol crystals to clear his sinuses. This resulted in a community exercise as we all took it in turn to pull the towel over our heads and breath in the solution. Father Gareth had, of course, put in far too many crystals, thereby nearly blowing all our heads off, and the smell of the menthol, like the costly nard used by Mary to anoint the feet of Jesus, filled the whole house.
I remembered as a child often pulling the towel over my head and breathing in menthol as I was prone to whooping cough, and I have to confess that I always enjoyed the experience, just as now I can enjoy the feeling of putting too much hot mustard on a sandwich, or too much horseradish sauce on beef, and getting that burning sensation passing through my nose to the top of my head. This led to a discussion on other childhood remedies which, for me, were the regular spoonful of malt; rosehip syrup; cod liver oil; and syrup of figs. I’m not quite sure what all of these things were curing or preventing but they were, I think, a
continuance of war time practices making up for what was lacking in people’s diets.
Of course, there were childhood treats as well as childhood remedies that wouldn’t have been there in war time. At the bottom of my grannie’s close in Partick Bridge Street there was a shop run by a lady called Madge Cockburn. In Madge’s shop you could experience the joy of a penny-drink which was a big glass of irn-bru; cream soda, or red cola. Also for a penny you could get a selection of things like sticks of liquorice; gobstoppers, humbugs; sherbet lollies, swizzels and the like. I’m sure Father Gareth would have enjoyed all of them, although what they were doing to our teeth and how they would have avoided the sugar tax I don’t know.
Anyway, it’s great to have Father Gareth back to himself; back to swimming, and even last night, back to making truffles which taste sweeter than any of the afore mentioned delights.
Thanks to all who had a care for Father Gareth. I am reminded of these words from the
Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works”.