James Marston: This week I met a lovely nun

PUBLISHED: 14:30 17 May 2014

James Marston in Isobel and Ted Ashton's garden which is one of the hidden gardens in Bury St Edmunds

James Marston in Isobel and Ted Ashton's garden which is one of the hidden gardens in Bury St Edmunds


So, and isn’t it irksome this trend for starting sentences with so, there’s no getting away from it.

It’s grim up north – well fairly.

I popped to Manchester for the weekend not because I wanted to swap my staple diet of cheese scones and crisps for Eccles cakes and Lancashire hotpot but because I needed a break away from my small Felixstowe flat with sea views (distant).

You see I’ve got the builders in and the dust was getting me down.

Anyway, up there, and miles away it is, I sampled the local cuisine – an all you can eat Chinese buffet – and beverages – Bacardi and coke, my new favourite tipple. While I was there I also visited some of the areas art galleries, well two of them – the Lowry and Manchester Art Gallery.

Both were excellent and the Lowry in particular I enjoyed - did you know Lorwy was 6 ft 2 and a bit of a loner? I didn’t and I do enjoy a handy fact. He also liked crowds, or painting them at least.

Anyway, so, therefore, I couldn’t help but notice that aside from the moors surrounding the great industrial north there didn’t seem to be much green.

It’s all red brick, canals, and streets.

So after a couple of quite rainy days and one hangover I was glad to get back south to the greenery of Suffolk and on Monday I popped along to a hidden garden in Bury St Edmunds.

I say hidden but the owners Ted and Isobel Ashton know all about it and have spent nearly 30 years creating a little town centre haven for themselves and all sorts of wildlife.

The couple, who were most interesting to talk to, are opening their garden to everyone on June 15 for the Hidden Gardens of Bury – an annual fundraising event for St Nicholas Hospice - so you can have a nose too if you like.

Then later this week I felt inspired about life all over again after meeting a nun called Sister Marian.

An engaging character, Sister Marian ministers to the seafarers who dock in Suffolk’s ports, Felixstowe among others, and I enjoyed a thought provoking and fascinating interview about her calling, her life and her work caring for the often overlooked seafarers who bring in the cargo on which we depend to life our lives. Instead of a habit she wears a high visibility vest and stout shoes.

I didn’t realise but nuns can go through up to nine years in a convent before they take their final vows of celibacy, obedience and poverty.

Sister Marian took hers when she was 31.

I asked if celibacy was a difficult one.

She said: “Well you try and be celibate when you’re 22.”

That told me.

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