The Other Side of the Grille

In the refectory of a closed order, the nuns are celebrating the initiation of two young novices with tea and Victoria sponge cake. When the tea urn is empty, two small girls from the children’s home next door sit on the trolley and a young nun wheels them round and round her robes flying up behind her. Like the new initiates, the two little girls are dressed in white. The two girls are sisters, aged three and four years old, with the same dark bowl of hair. In the ceremony they acted as bridesmaids, carrying the long white trains of the noviciates down the aisle of the chapel. At the foot of the altar, the taking of vows became a breathless whisper, a murmuring call and response. The ethereal sound of the nuns singing still seems to echo, the shafts of light from stained glass windows continues to fall. The trolley wheels squeak over old linoleum and the smiling faces of the nuns spin by. The air is filled with laughter and a fluid sense of calm and tranquillity.

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