Author: Jennifer Kavanagh. Review by Jonathan Wooding
‘Oh, Jonathan – the Quakers? Lovely people, but completely impractical!’ This was the polite (but stinging) verdict, sometime in the early 1990s, on my latest head-in-the-clouds, ‘Manchester Guardian’ venture – attending Quaker Meeting in Wandsworth. It was delivered by Mrs O, the elderly mother of an old school friend, who had introduced my schoolmates and me, in our teenage years, to the novelty of tea and serious conversation in what was called ‘the drawing room’. Her opinions carried some weight with us all – not just because she was the only parent who seemed genuinely to enjoy conversing with us, but because she had been secretary to someone important during the war and had run a colonial farm and hospital in Kenya. She was very pleased with Margaret Thatcher and fairly keen too on the archbishop of Canterbury (she was patron to a local Anglican convent). Quite a practical person, then, no nonsense. How did she come into contact with the Quakers? Was it the Kenyan Quakers, questioning perhaps her commanding presence in their country? Well that was all pie-in-the-sky, wasn’t it?
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