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After sharing with you the favourite passage so far of my 12 year old son I thought you might like another instalment of “Ashes to Ashes”. 

If you remember Janko has made it across The Channel and is on his way to Swanhill to confront Fr. James…..

James sat in his study. He was supposed to be writing the sermon for the Sunday coming but his mind kept wandering. It was the church and schools Harvest Festival this week so the main service was all sorted. Miss Strong had been kind enough to share with him some resources for assemblies on Harvest and he had easily adapted that for his sermon when the church would be packed with children and adults. It was the early morning 8am service that was giving him a bit of trouble. He didn’t think they would appreciate volunteering to come up and help him with the visual aids. 

 He leaned back in his chair, interlocking his fingers behind his head and looked out of the window. The trees at the end of the vicarage garden were heavy with leaf, just waiting for the time to send them spinning to the ground in that wonderful carpet of crunch and colour that James could never resist kicking his way through before becoming an adult again and raking them together and collecting them.

The sound of children in the playground next door shook him from his reverie and he smiled lazily to himself as he straightened up, stretched his arms before picking up his pen to begin sketching out his ideas. All of us are children at heart and just as children find joy in the smallest of things – the kicking around of dead leaves, so we should remain thankful for all of God’s gifts given to us. Harvest gives us that opportunity to be thankful for the food we eat that sustains us every day.

Not a bad outline. He began to work through these ideas, teasing and shaping his thoughts and the words in front of him into some sort of coherent thought that those who were awake at 8am could follow, and take home with them to think about in the week ahead.

The alarm on his phone distracted him. He looked down to see that the Deanery Chapter Meeting was due to start in twenty minutes. He really shouldn’t miss another one so James quickly scribbled a note to himself outlining where his thoughts were going for the sermon. He grabbed his phone and car keys and headed out of the vicarage to drive to his neighbouring parish to meet with the other local clergy to pray and share together. As he got into the car he hoped that the coffee would be served at the beginning of the meeting; in a centrally heated room with about fifteen people all sat together it could get rather sleep inducing, especially if Canon Giles the Area Dean started praying. His prayers were wonderful, eloquent and meaningful but without the stimulation of caffeine they were often a little long too. James smiled at the memory of the Deanery Chapter last year when an enthusiastic member of the chapter found that old Revd. Jones was asleep during the prayer and shook him awake. Philip had woken with a start, sat bolt upright in his chair and almost shouted; “Amen, amen. Good, good, good.” Completely cutting off the Canon in mid flow. The meeting had descended into laughter at that point with even Canon Giles saying he’d never heard a clearer word from God that the prayers were over. 

This Deanery Chapter wasn’t as memorable as that meeting had been, and coffee had been distributed at the start of their time together. As he left James felt his usual gladness at belonging to a church that was bigger than his own congregation. Is was an organisation that, despite its many shortcomings, was where the expression of his faith called home. Today they had discussed the bishop’s plan for a diocesan year of prayer the following year. As he left the meeting James was already thinking about people he would ask to help organise prayer mornings and as soon as he got home started researching material for Lent courses and home group meetings around the topic of prayer. 

James made notes about all this, notes that he would share with his churchwardens and then, together, they would draw more people into the ideas and implement them as a church. First he had to collect the paperwork he had printed off days before for the school governors meeting he was due to chair, making sure he could read the notes he’d annotated the various reports with. He then walked the short distance to the school, and into the staff room, to be offered a cup of tea as the other governors and staff members gathered. 

It was when he returned to his study later in the afternoon, just as his stomach started telling him dinner should be round the corner, that he noticed the scribbled notes he’d left himself that morning. It looked like dinner would be pasta and sauce again once the sermon was finished. He sighed slightly as he returned to the task he had started four hours earlier but it couldn’t wait as Wednesday evenings was quiz night in The King’s Arms and although James’ team didn’t often place in the top three it was an expected, and relaxing, part of his vicaring duties. 

As James was drinking his second pint of the night Janko was unpacking his sleeping bag from his rucksack. He had been dropped by Nikola with a handshake and farewell grunt at one of the services around the M25. The task for tomorrow was to get into London, change his Euros and start to plan how to get to Swanhill. Janko presumed that train for part of the way and then walking to his final destination but it had been during the day, sat alone in this foreign country that he realised he’d given no though at all to how he would actually undertake his mission. He rebuked himself for not doing more planning in the weeks he had waited for Nikola when he found himself thinking about how he would return home after dealing with Jim Pooley. Up until today he hadn’t seen any further than his act of justice, now he began thinking about whether he wanted to live after the death of that man. He knew he was willing to die trying to kill him but; when he had, what then? How to get away? Where to run to first and why hadn’t he made any sort of arrangement with Nikola to return him across the sea? 

 There was nothing that could be done about his past stupidity but Janko was determined that he would succeed, and do such planning as would make that possible. He was slightly surprised to discover that he did want to escape and live a life somewhere with an untarnished memory of his lost family so he wouldn’t rush this. He would take time to plan properly, to organise and equip himself. With a smile he thought about the long handled axe that had been the tool of his trade in Gostilj. He would obtain one somewhere and feel the pleasure of swinging it again. 

As evening drew in Janko collected his belongings and walked to the edge of the parking area. It was around the fringe that he found an electrical sub station. Looking behind it there was just enough room for him to crawl under the bushes that grew against the metal fence. They would give some shelter and the sub station should protect him from any wind or any nocturnal surveillance that ought to mean he would remain undetected until the morning. 

Looking around to make sure he wasn’t being watched now he unpacked his sleeping bag, threw the rucksack before him under the bushes and crawled into the makeshift nest. 


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