The road home

“And when I get home, there will be tea.”

I do not know when I first uttered these uplifting words to myself, but more than forty years ago. (Forty-four? Forty-five?) It was a cold autumn evening in London, when I was underdressed, and also underfunded. Hungry, too. With neither tube nor bus fare, a six-mile hike lay ahead. Well, the cold would make it invigorating; and from Highgate to Vauxhall is mostly downhill. I remember, too, how I’d got into that fix: emptying my pockets on some much-wanted books I was now carrying in my satchel.

Since, whenever walking, with miles to go, this line returns upon me: “And when I get home, there will be tea.”

“Books or cigarettes?” Orwell once asked, in the title of a pamphlet. I did not smoke in those days, so might instead think, “Books or dinner?” Indeed, bibliophilia can be a serious addiction. But I did have a roof to sleep under, and usually at least bread and cheese, and tea, always tea. Looking back over decades I retrieve the happiness of those irresponsible days, when I was so young.

This evening in Toronto, the chill again, the sun setting early, and me jacketless. The same experience repeated, except that now I am somewhat older. Worry about the future has still not settled in; it will be as it will be. The important thing to know is that there will be tea.

“He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. …” (Newman’s prayer.)

Recently, a burglar took away my money, such as it was — poorly hidden within the High Doganate. But no modern burglar would take my books, I reflected, “Don’t let it change your mood.” And worse, much worse things can happen, as visits to the dying helpfully remind me. I don’t mean to be glib. On the streets, I glimpse worlds of pain — and the terrible loneliness of the friendless and abandoned. The eyes of the defeated seem everywhere these days. Were they always?

“The homeless,” they are called, by media trolls, who use them to score political points. As ever, the term is misleading. Hardly one of them has no place to stay. What they characteristically lack is a home where they are cozy; people by whom they are loved. Social workers can’t provide that service. If they wanted to, they wouldn’t have the time.

On my walk home this evening I saw a panhandler with a dog. He also had an iPhone, which he was diligently consulting. Even the beggars in this city are computerized! And there are places where anyone can go to get warm. Food is available for the harder cases; Guvmint Nanny has programmes for that. What the poorest of the poor in fact lack, is any sense of belonging.

I remember London; how cold it could seem; closed doors as if nothing were behind them. Shop windows with goods for the cash-plentied. And as today, once again, living entirely alone.

But no, no one does: for there is God, and inmost grace, in gladness or in sorrow. It is there when it is sought, never failing; as a nest or lair, which one may make cozy; and within, a soul which God created, and can never be thrown away.

“He has not created me for naught. …”

Consider the matter in its eternal dimension. For, “When I get home there will be tea.”