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  • Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee

Blog 8 - From a Villa in Grey Lynn - Going to church.

Updated: Feb 24

To be sane, I must be mad.

What I would be, I am not.


In Countdown the other day, I stole some blueberries.

They were lying in the corner of my trolley as I put the brown paper bags in, having left my recycled bags, as always, in the boot where they do nothing but get in the way of cheap bedside tables I have won at Cordy’s. I pushed my trolley out with the blueberries and a pounding heart. I returned them to the nice man at the door 30 minutes later. It is hard enough waking up every morning as the same old person without waking up one morning and thinking, "Yikes, now I am a robber!"

I am sad sometimes waking alone in the morning, as there is no person to distract me from my self-centred thoughts, which are not kind to me. How have I come to this? Enmeshed in a bitter divorce, no dog, dicky heart, no reason really to be anywhere ever again. I am like a butterfly who never seems to know where she is going, so desperate is she to make the most of her exquisite lightness of being, her moment of delirious existence. When my children were small, I used to have a fear of flying, knowing if anything happened to me they would not have a mother to love, so how would they learn to love?

Now the maternal justification of my existence has disappeared, taking with it my fear of flying. Theoretically, today and tomorrow and all the rest of my days, I could stay right here in bed, looking out at the beautiful little bay where the wooden fishing boats bestow upon Leigh the right to call itself a quaint little fishing village. They bob about gaily behind a flax bush which blocks most of my view. I could trim each leaf individually, as I like my privacy, but for some reason I keep thinking I am way too busy for that, even though I am not too busy for anything. I have long periods of nothingness contemplating what I should really be doing. The sky is blue, the cicadas trill in a friendly pitch of tinnitus, and I can rationalize the glory of life, but I can’t exalt in it. My absolute lack of any excuse to not be content with my life only feeds the emptiness.

James K Baxter said "Beauty of its own bitterness is born." Thinking perhaps the Lord can make beautiful my bitter soul, I go to church. I want to hear the voices my springer spaniel Deja heard just before he died, a natural death which I selfishly thought would be easier for me. He seemed at peace as he listened to the voice of his other master calling him home. Perhaps there is something to be said for a life of service if you look at the happiness of dogs.

I walk into my little local church and there are 5 elderly parishioners, one of whom is Māori. Her name is Moira and she asks me who my people are. I have never been asked this before in my whole life. My people came from the whole of France and Scotland, so I can’t really claim them as being particularly mine. I suggest to Moira that I grew up down in the cove at Leigh with the right inflexion on Leigh to see if that answer has any merit. I look at the 5 faithful in the church and wonder if I should ask them to be my people.

Welcomed like a lost lamb, I explain that I had liked the groovy Vicar at Christmas who wore plaited bracelets and seemed to really enjoy being a Christian. To my dismay, it seems vicars now rotate. I imagine a small wooden carousel of vicars on the Christmas Tree rotating when they are wound up. Any hope I might have had of developing a relationship with my spiritual leader so he might talk truly, not dutifully, at my farewell are dashed.

The vicar this Sunday is Neil, who introduces himself by saying, "I am Neil, I am half Samoan." He then challenges us, as if on a marae, saying, "I am retired with no hobbies."

To my surprise and delight, my neighbor in the pew rises to the challenge, saying quite forcefully, "Do some volunteering."

"No," says Vicar Neil, "I don’t want to be tied down. I am waiting for God to tell me what to do. Anyway," says Vicar Neil, "I can still pray. Is there anyone you want me to pray for? We pray that the community, including Pakiri, should come to church. We pray for twin cousins Heather and Trevor who have broken their ankles, and for all our mothers, including Neil’s mother who had a sweet tooth but no teeth."

Vicar Neil opens his sermon by telling us that God has grand designs for us but, unlike the TV program, he has no budgetary restrictions. "Who needs money to build their house?" Vicar Neil asks in a sort of passive-aggressive way.

Basil has the temerity to raise his hand, and Vicar Neil warns him, "People who live for wealth come to the end of their life as naked as the day they were born."

He then hands out some faded pink sheets with a letter Paul wrote to some people called the Ephesians:

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins when you followed the ways of this world. You are Gentiles by birth and called uncircumcised by those who call themselves the circumcision. You were separate from Christ."

To hear from Vicar Neil on this most beautiful blue morning that God actually has more than one flock was just plain depressing, and goes somewhat to explaining why God has so many problems. This was not what I had come to church for, and it dawned on me why there were only 5 of us in the congregation. I was getting anxious for the bell to go as my friend Kathryn was waiting in the cove to lop some weedy branches off the pohutukawa trees so I might get better glimpses of the sea over the flax bush.

Finally, after 90 minutes, we sang "I stand in awe of you" 10 times and class was dismissed.

I went back to church the next Sunday to see who came round next on the revolving carousel, and it was a vicar called Simon from South Africa.

Vicar Simon read the Silent Confession to us:

"We recognize that we have often turned away from you and closed our ears. We have robbed others of their dignity by refusing to listen to their stories, and we have been more concerned with expressing ourselves than with opening ourselves to the song of creation."

I liked the idea of the song of creation. I went and lay on the still waters, and the sea wrapped her loving arms around me. I lay on green pastures with the daisies, the thistles, and the little insects. I heard the birds singing the song of the heavens, "Ubi aves, ibi angeli" (where there are birds there are angels).

I felt like I was 6 years old again, singing my heart out at St David’s on Khyber Pass:

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all.

I slept under the inky night sky in the silent darkness. When I woke, I made porridge, made all the more sweet for the righteousness of the blueberries sprinkled over the soy milk without oil!

Soy milk without oil!

Leigh wooden fishing boat

Le Porrige

A great explanation of Leigh!

My angel Deja

125 views2 comments


Apr 06

Dear Ash

I came upon your blog by accident and read them all. Wonderful. How are you, dear girl. Today is mum’s birthday and I have been thinking of her and Caroline.

How is your health.? Mum used to say that growing old is not for the faint hearted. So true.

I have so many memories of the past and so many of them include you and Caroline.

Lots of love


Ps. My email addresses is


Feb 23


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