Posts Tagged ‘The Eagle and Child’

Of Inklings, books, and friendship

October 12, 2011 1 comment

Late yesterday afternoon, after a full day with books, my good friend Sheridan Voysey and I met over a pint (in this case, of Pepsi) in a back room of The Lamb and Flag pub, Oxford. We entered therein a long tradition, to which we are newcomers and interlopers, of meeting to talk about… books. Specifically, in our case, the ones I am reading, and the one Sheridan is writing.

The Lamb and Flag nestles into a strip of buildings adjacent to St John’s College, across the expansive junction street of St Giles from its more well known counterpart, The Eagle and Child. Like The Eagle and Child, The Lamb and Flag was host for a number of years to the weekly Tuesday gatherings of CS Lewis, Tolkein, Owen Barfield, Lewis’ brother Warnie, Nevill Coghill and the other group of writers which came to be known as the Inklings. The group moved from their preferred venue at The Bird and Baby (as it’s colloquially known) to The Lamb and Flag when their growing renown made it more common for their discussions to be repeatedly interrupted by fans and literary pilgrims who would wait at the Eagle and Child to catch a glimpse of, and perhaps strike up a conversation with, the great Oxbridge authors.

So The Lamb and Flag became venue to their conversations,  in their latter years. In the well worn booths, and age-darkened chairs, they would read, discuss and critique each other’s work in a spirit of deep and enduring friendship. Undoubtedly their writing was the better for these regular fellowships. I suspect their lives were, too.

As Sheridan and I chatted about faith, life, good and evil – some of the challenging but important topics he is tackling in his new book (the follow-up to his ‘Unseen Footprints’, which won Australian Christian Book of the Year, 2006) – I had a sense that we were on sacred ground. Not because the Inklings had met within those same walls, as aware as we were of that hallowed tradition. But the sacred ground of friendship. As our conversation wound its way into the deep things of life, as we shared thoughts, ideas, theological reflections we became pilgrims together. I’m not sure his book will be any better because of my ideas. But I know my life is richer for that hour and a half, in a pub, over a Pepsi, with a good friend.