Amongst my more peculiar traits, (of which my friends know there are many!), is a propensity to 'rescue' old prayer books and bibles. They are hardly wanted and rarely seen in secondhand bookshops these days - but I always feel so strongly that at one time, they all would have been precious to someone - a cornerstone of a faith which may have sustained those individuals though all manner of life's ups and downs. Such artifacts are not, to me, to be sniffed at, but to be respected and retained.
So when I spotted this little Book of Common Prayer in the Sue Ryder charity shop in Newbury this morning, I felt sorry for it and picked it up to purchase it. I showed it to the assistant, who somewhat hesitantly said - 'er - it's a prayer book...'. I said I understood that - and how much was it, please? To which she gave a rather lovely reply.
She told me that the Founder, Sue Ryder, had stipulated that no Bible or prayer book was ever to be charged for - so if I would like to take it, please to do so - for free. I was very moved by this philosophy, but also felt that I could not take it and pay nothing - so I popped a pound in their collecting box - and we were both very happy.
Then - as I put it in my bag, this dropped out…
…a tiny, tattered photo, it adds a whole other dimension to my find.
Apart from knowing that this book of Common Prayer and hymns Ancient and Modern was given from 'Jack' to 'Gertie' in October 1913, I know nothing of who possessed this little book. But my imagination likes to think that the donor and the owner are perhaps both in the picture; maybe Gertie is even the woman close to the centre of the photo, her head is graced by the particularly magnificent beribboned hat? And oh, would that the colours of the ribbons were visible…which my imagination sees in green, purple and white - but in the realms of my imagination that conjecture has to stay. I have no concrete evidence of anything or anyone. (My imagination does not care about that...)
All I can say is that today, I honour whoever those people may be - all someone's daughters and sons, many of them ancestors, and all living in a world that was about to change out of all recognition.
Your little book will be cared for, Gertie and Jack - and my imagination will continue to have a creative feast on what you have left behind.I give you both my thanks.