25 August 2012
So, it’s farewell to Ealing today
So, it’s farewell to Ealing today, farewell to the “Queen of the Suburbs.”
Farewell to Ealing Abbey, and the daily round of monastic prayers in the Benedictine tradition, with Mattins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and – at the end of each day – Compline.
Farewell to the Conventual Mass each morning.
Farewell to the Scriptorium, with its book-lined walls and book-covered tables, desks and chairs.
Farewell to the monastery garden, with its trees, the sound of babbling water, the beehives and overhanging vines.
Farewell to the Benedictine Centre for Arts and Studies at Overton House, and seminars on Latin and Liturgy.
Farewell to a garden friendly to the birds and the bees, to beasts and to me.
Farewell to the labyrinth that led me round in circles and brought me back to the centre.
Farewell to the leafy lanes beloved of John Betjeman, where ‘bell-haunted quiet falls’ on a Sunday.
Farewell to the Ealing of green spaces at Haven Green, Ealing Green and Ealing Common.
Farewell to the Ealing of Ealing Studios and Ealing Comedy.
Farewell to the Ealing of Charles Blondin, who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope, and lived in retirement at Niagara House in Little Ealing.
Farewell to the Ealing of Billy Smart, once owner of the best-known circus.
Farewell to the Ealing of Brentham Garden Suburb, which was before its time.
Farewell to the Ealing of Castlebar Road, which has no connections with Co Mayo
Farewell to the Ealing of Maria Fitzherbert, who lived at Castlehilll Lodge, married a king and never became a queen.
Farewell to the Ealing of Agatha Christie, whose grandmother in Ealing may have been morphed into Miss Marple.
Farewell to the Ealing of Nevil Shute, who lived in West Ealing before his father moved to Dublin in 1912.
Farewell to the Ealing of the Revd William Dodd, the ‘Macaroni Parson’ whose forgery led to his death on the gallows.
Farewell to the Ealing of Ealing Broadway, riots, tubes and trains.
Farewell to the Ealing of Michael Saward, hymns and a family of indescribable bravery.
Farewell to the Ealing where Margot Fontayne had her first dancing lessons.
Farewell to the Ealing where Thomas Henry Huxley spent his boyhood.
Farewell to the Ealing of Philip Lawrence, who once taught.
Farewell to the Ealing of Freddie Mercury, who studied at Ealing College of Art, when he was still known as Faroukh Bulsara.
Farewell to the Ealing of Dusty Springfield, who was known as Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien when she went to school here and later worked in Bentall’s in Ealing.
Farewell to the Ealing of John Henry Newman, who went to Great Ealing School with his brother.
Farewell to the Ealing of Father Richard O’Hallloran, a petulant and pugnacious priest from Ireland who battled with Cardinal Vaughan and was excommunicated.
Farewell to the Ealing of Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated.
Farewell to the Ealing of Fred Perry and Lillian Board.
Farewell to the Ealing of Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, who was a teacher at Great Ealing School before being crowned King of France.
Farewell to the Ealing of Saint Benedict’s, where Chris Patten, Julian Clary and Peter Ackroyd went to school.
Farewell to the Ealing of Pitshanger Lane, with its Greek and Italian restaurants, it friendly coffee shops, talkative newsagents, useful laundrettes and dry cleaners, its village atmosphere, and to the Village Inn.
Farewell to the Ealing of Thomas Merton, who in The Seven Storey Mountain tells of living in Ealing for a time with his aunt and uncle.
Farewell to the Ealing of Saint Peter’s Church, where I received a warm welcome last Sunday morning.
Farewell to the Ealing that welcomed me warmly, to Ealing Abbey that extended warm hospitality and to the monks who became friends.
And in the words of John Betjeman,
Return, return to Ealing,
Worn poet of the farm!
Regain your boyhood feeling
Of uninvaded calm!