More haste, Less Speed

photo from

photo from

I am sure John Wesley was a very laudable person. History paints him an iconic man of the people.

He rose at four every morning and admitted to travelling four or five thousand miles a year. But he said of himself: “Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry.”

Wesley put his inner peace down to the time he spent travelling: ” I…never undertake any more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit,” he said.

“I generally travel alone in my carriage, and am as retired ten hours a day as if I were in a wilderness. On other days, I never spend less than three hours, and frequently ten or twelve, alone.’

His life was full indeed, and has rendered him an icon unto successive centuries. But it should be noted that Mr I Am Never In A Hurry Wesley never had any children.

Were there two kids in the back of his carriage asking Are we nearly there yet?

There were not.

I woke at 5:30am on Thursday. Somewhere inside my head there was a crack NASA team readying for launch.

A letter had come home the night before: Dear Parent, it said, please dress your son up in his posh suit tomorrow for a special mass in school. You can send his school uniform in a bag and he can change after mass. Thanks awfully, yours, The Head Teacher.

A couple of weeks ago, Felix made his first holy communion. He wore a small but perfectly formed grey suit.

There were follow-up events and communion breakfasts and so forth, and finally this, the closing gig. All the mothers must scurry around at unearthly hours trying to track down the location of the smallest tie – or tiara- in the house.

Right, Felix, I said presently, get your kit on; and promptly realised that Phil had gone without doing Felix’s tie. And I can’t tie ties.

His collar sat over his lapels, devoid of tie. He looked like very small mod: all he needed was a fag in his hand and a decent Lambretta scooter to complete the look.

I took a sharp intake of breath; and phoned his father on his mobile.

The importance of concise, calm airplane cockpit communication has long been held as an ideal when discussing the transfer of vital knowledge under pressure.

I was as far away from achieving that as a silent-order Benedictine nun from a Vegas slot machine.

“Phil!” I bawled down the speaker,”You’ve got to teach me how to tie a tie over the phone!”

My husband was clearly in one of those quiet carriages on the railways, the ones where you don’t carry out brash work conversations and annoy everyone else. Brash tying-tie conversations would be doubly disturbing; so he got up and shuffled out into an adjacent unstable drafty compartment. I haven’t asked him if someone nicked his place.

I put him on speaker and laid the phone on the duvet. He went through clear, concise instructions once with disastrous results. The second time my heart sank: because I knew I had grasped the technique, but would never be able to get it straight. The knot bulged uncomfortably and the two ends stuck jauntily out at a 45 degree angle.

“There must be someone,” I ventured desperately, “who can tie ties at school.”

My son the mod pottered happily along the path into school. He hitched his rucksack over the jacket, rumpling it in a way I am certain Marks and Spencer’s never intended.

The car alarm went off. I knew it was mine, and I knew why it was sounding: the dog was in the car and had been doing his own brand of barking and aerobics. “You guys go in”, I said with increasing agitation, “and I’ll shut it off and follow later.”

Did Wesley ever run back for a coach alarm set off by some 18th century family mutt while his kids shot off in Sunday best in the opposite direction?

He did not.

I longed for ten hours in a quiet coach rattling off to somewhere new.

The mass was nice with lots of singing and the kids felt special. Afterwards they filed out to the playground for a group shot. the girls looked like princesses. And the boys? They were having a blast, and looked for all the world like a band of mods with a bank of lambrettas lined up nearby.

My son, naturally, was not wearing a tie.


A repost from days gone by. I am off to Oxford for the day with my friend Lydia.


25 thoughts on “More haste, Less Speed

  1. Very diverting! You had a Methodist in your madness, here? πŸ™‚
    I could never describe tying a tie over the phone. I leave my faultless double-Windsor to my hands – they know how, even if I don’t.

  2. It’s so much fun seeing tiny boys in 3 piece suits, or kilts, or generally looking like chrubic gangsters. The girls get all caught up in pretty frocks, while the boys don’t give two hoots, and are great to watch.
    Benedictine nun/ Vegas slot machine- a classic, Kate πŸ™‚

  3. I hope you will share your photos from your trip to Oxford, Kate.

    I cannot even do up a tie from watching online videos, let alone understand how to do one over the phone. I loved the image of Felix running off to school without a tie, though.

  4. Enjoy your day in Cambridge, Kate.

    I chuckled at the remark about “not having children.”
    Children add another dimension to life . . . but they are great big time sucks. πŸ˜€

  5. I cannot tie a tie and I force my children to wear clip-ons. But we rarely go anywhere posh where they need to wear one. I am sure if we went to Vegas they would look like classic swingers.

  6. Another Oxford trip! Great! I never learned the art of the tie either, Kate, and was fortunate that for a time while my son was young “clip-ons” and bow ties were actually fashionable. I often feel like I’m back in those years of younger motherhood when I’m trying to get Karina and Sophia to their various sports and extra-curricular activities. I rush about getting gear together and checking/double checking the lists of items I need to have in tow and I wonder how I once did this day in and day out! You made me smile! Grandmotherhood is all this rush, too, but it takes me an extra day to recover! πŸ™‚

  7. I only had to deal with the Are we there yet?”. My daughter has two boys and is as far from that calmness of spirit “as a silent-order Benedictine nun from a Vegas slot machine.” πŸ˜€ Great read Kate.

  8. A perfectly apt simile: “I was as far away from achieving that as a silent-order Benedictine nun from a Vegas slot machine.” Lovely, Kate.
    Thankfully, I have two daughters, and never had to master tying a tie. Love your humor.

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