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The Boy from Belfast - C. S. Lewis

Updated: Jul 28, 2019

It was raining the day we visited Oxford - the home city of C.S. Lewis. Huddled under an umbrella, the cold seeping through my jeans, I could easily imagine the seventeen-year-old Lewis huddled over his desk trying to write his entrance exams for Oxford University with gloves on.


We were on a Tolkien and C. S. Lewis tour – seeing the colleges where they lived and taught, and the pubs where they met to discuss literature and their own writing. What struck me was that these men were amazing academics, immersed in the world of literature both English and foreign.

We passed students in their black gowns with a carnation in their lapel to show at which stage of their exams they were – white for first exam, pink for middle exams and red for final exams. We passed students carting flowers and champagne, shaving foam and confetti to greet their friends after their final exam. We passed bookshop after bookshop filled with literary classics. We ate the classic Devonshire tea with scones, jam and clotted cream – delicious.


What struck me was that these men were amazing academics, immersed in the world of literature both English and foreign, and that they regularly drank, laughed and debated with fellow writers. Both C S Lewis and Tolkien did this – and not just with the famous ‘Inklings’ group at the Eagle and Child pub.


Tolkein set up a group called the ‘Apolistics’ – a play on the word apostolic. Guess how many were in the group? That’s right – 12. Tragically, over half of these bright young men were killed in the war. When you watch ‘Lord of the Rings’ it’s easy to see the images the war seared into Tolkein’s mind. But he returned and continued to meet regularly with fellow writers and literary scholars.


Goal 1: Expand my literary connections – writing groups, book clubs, conferences – to discuss, laugh and debate all things literary.


Did these great writers discuss only their own genre, their own work? No! They covered a mind-blowing diversity of subjects including translating Icelandic!


Goal 2: Read widely – not just in the genre I write, not just fiction, not just recent stuff.


A few days later we arrived in Ireland where C. S. Lewis was born and grew up. Just down the road from his East Belfast house and next to the local library is the C. S. Lewis Park scattered with life-sized Narnian sculptures.


Some commentaries question C. S. Lewis’ intentions with writing the Narnia books, saying that the allusion to things Christian is simply a coincidence. But on a memorial to the great author, engraved in metal, are his own words on the subject. In a response to a letter from 10-year-old Anne Waller in 1961 he says, 'The whole Narnian story is about Christ.’




Here’s what C. S. Lewis says about each book.


The Magician’s Nephew tells the creation and how evil entered Narnia.

The Lion etc. – the crucifixion and resurrection

Prince Caspian – restoration of the true religion after a corruption

The Horse and his Boy – the calling and conversion of a heathen

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep)

The Silver Chair – the continual war against the powers of darkness

The Last Battle – the coming of the Antichrist (the ape). The end of the world and last judgement.


C. S. Lewis had the amazing ability to package spiritual truths in a wonderful story. In his words:

Any fool can write learned language. The vernacular is the real test. If you can’t turn your faith into it, then either you don’t understand it, or you don’t believe it.

Whether it’s faith, nutrition, politics or history, every writer aims to turn complex concepts, ideas and facts into something easy to understand and interesting to read. Even if one is born with an aptitude for words, it still requires study and practice. C. S. Lewis studied, wrote, taught and debated literature at Oxford for almost fifty years.


Goal 3: Keep writing and writing and writing.

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I love to have a sweet treat in the pantry and to pop into the school lunch-box but I also want it to have some nutritional value. This week I’ve been into nut cakes – carrot cake with lots of walnuts and this moist orange almond cake. Nuts are rich in protein and healthy unsaturated fat - great for good health!

This cake is easy to make – but you do need a food processor. It’s very high in protein from all the eggs and almonds, and it’s gluten free.

(Some baking powders are not gluten free so check the pack if you are making this cake for someone who can’t have gluten. If you dust the cake with icing sugar, as in the photo, check it is gluten free too.)

 

 

2 oranges

6 eggs, lightly beaten

250 grams sugar

300 grams ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

Boil oranges in a little water for 1-2 hours.

Chop oranges roughly and let them cool down a bit. Then blend well in food processor with all the other ingredients. Line a large pan with grease-proof paper. Make sure the pan is large enough so the cake isn’t too thick or it will take too long to cook. Bake at 180C/350F for 1 hour – or perhaps a bit longer.

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