A really happy party held yesterday night to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of a good man becoming a Jesuit and a great lady becoming an Ursuline sister was also an excuse to celebrate the Jesuit's 80th birthday.
The party was a rombustious and thankfully informal affair with terrific hospitality not excluding the hydraulic variety notwithstanding the fact that the hosts were teatotal. Listening to the stories about why these two great people had chosen their respective religious life paths was also fascinating. The usual round of teasing and stand up comic acts was fun but the real courage was displayed at the end by the talented solo singing of a Gaelic prayer from the Ursuline stage, of a daughter of one of the guests who herself is quite unwell
Usually I'm too awkward to be able to enjoy large partes very much and find light conversation especailly in crowds hard but many of the 150 or so guests had featured in a large way when our children were small attending schools in the parish and we were much younger.
Strange how easy renewing these old acquaintances proved to be and how much could be said during each few minutes (which inevitably is the only time one has to converse with individuals in large parties and crowds) greetings.
Thus in one conversation we recalled how the two Catholic High schools in the parish for an extrordinary few weeks, years ago, had been deeply divided over the then government's policy of allowing schools to opt out of Local Council control and become grant maintained - a little like the recent Labour Government's Academy status and the new coalition government's Free School idea.
Back then the Ursuline High School (for girls) parents voted to opt for Grant Maintained status but the (SJ) Wimbledon College (for boys) parents voted not to go Grant Maintained but to retain the status quo. Quite dramatic especially as the two schools ran (and still run) a VIth form consortium together and brothers might attend one with sisters in the other school. The parental voting system imposed by the government of the time proved to be most divisive which lesson hopefully politicians have since learnt.
I was reminded whilst reminiscing over those events in our children's school years, that the other parent had been a Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon just before the Tony Blair era. If only he had stood a few years later he would surely have been elected when Blair fever swept the country. Although my preference is usally more conservative I would vote for a man like him irrespective of his and my politcal preferences, which is in my view a weighty reason for preferring the UK voting system to those more in vogue elsewhere, such as proportional representation. Voting for a man or woman of the locality is surely far preferable to voting for the party machine?
The conversation then turned to the news hot off the press that little brother Ed Milliband had just beaten big brother David in the race for the Labour leadership. I won't divulge my socialist friend's views but my own are that the outcome provides a graphic illustration of how electoral systems other than first past the post, risk delivering second best outcomes.
A lovely evening - Church parish and community lives at their best not to mention a little brotherly love and politics.