The Princess made her first confession. It was a surprisingly nice ceremony. When I made my first confession, we were taken out of school during the day and filed into the church and into the confession box in turn. No parents were involved.
This was quite different. It was in the evening and families came in droves. The children did a little play and went up to the altar to tell the priests their sins (although as I may have mentioned before, there are no sins any more, only occasions when they don’t “show love”). The sixth class choir came as did all the teachers from the school.
Mr. Waffle and I didn’t quite know what to wear so we were somewhat overdressed for the occasion. My poor daughter was horribly nervous, mostly because she had one small line in the play which she had to deliver in front of an entirely sympathetic audience. As her moment came, she turned pink. Then she scrunched up the end of her skirt in her fist and delivered her line at great speed. Not, in fact, entirely unlike my interventions when forced to speak at large conferences.
After this, the actual confession was painless.
The church where the ceremony was held is very pretty. It’s a beautifully proportioned Victorian gothic structure with lovely stained glass. It is, however, in a very deprived part of the inner city surrounded by run down council flats, some of which are boarded up. After the ceremony we were told by the school to do something celebratory, so although it was late, we decided to take herself to a slightly old-fashioned but still smart hotel nearby for a drink. As we walked past the flats (or the flahs, as they are known locally), I was astonished to hear someone calling the Princess’s name and to see her waving merrily up at a depressing balcony. “Who was that?” I asked. “That’s X [let us call him Bronte] from my class, he lives in the flats.” Truly all human life is here. “Oh, I think he lives with his granny,” I said to Mr. Waffle, “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen his mother.” “Who then is the young woman with Bronte tattooed on her lower back?” replied Mr. Waffle.
The Princess got orange juice and marshmallows from the nice waiter in the hotel. She got a sparkly bracelet from Veritas (religious goods store in Ireland, haberdashers in Belgium – I give you this information free) which was the best of an, ahem, interesting range of items. She loved it which was delightful. The whole thing was very pleasant and, I suspect, may be more successful than the First Communion day given the weight of expectation which is riding on it. Of course, she is not really prepared at all for her second confession when she’ll have to go into the box in the church, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.