Tales from a Convent

Many moons ago, I used to help the Madagascar Nuns at a local convent— I taught them how to use computers, and how to play the guitar; often an invitation would be extended to stay on for dinner. It was never a lavish affair; but it’s amazing how a simple meal of chicken meat, sweetcorn and boiled, sticky rice could taste so damned good.

I became a regular fixture in the convent every Wednesday afternoon. It was always a peaceful place to sit quietly; in those days it was just what I needed. Normally, the Reverend Mother was present at all meals, but this was a teaching order, so on this occasion, the novices were left to prepare dinner.

A quick and easy meal

Instructions were left, what was available in the freezer etc— yet we sat down on this occasion to a sparse meal of only rice and sweetcorn. Looks were exchanged between the novices, but I didn't ask if there was a problem, and I enjoyed the meal all the same.

A week later, when alone with the Reverend Mother, she related to me why it had been so sparse a meal. Apparently the novices had been told that the normal shopping hadn't been available at the supermarket, so the Reverend Mother had bought a different brand of chicken that was on special offer, thinking it would make a change, and be an easy meal to just shove in the oven. When the Reverend Mother arrived home, they were looking scared and sheepish. She asked them what had happened, to which the older novice replied darkly, “Mother, we refuse to eat those birds eyes.”

On another occasion, the novices and Reverend Mother had been on a long trip and had broken down on the side of the road. The Reverend Mother called the AA Breakdown Cover, and very soon they were all delivered home safe and sound. Two weeks later, a young novice was in the kitchen making some tea, when the kettle decided not to work. The novice — in a calm and collected manner, simply sidled up to the Reverend Mother and said innocently: “Mother; call the AA, the kettle has broken.”