A “Mardle” is a talk of local interest. The people of Letheringham had asked Rendham resident John Rogers to deliver such a talk to them at their ancient priory church. Early on the day he was to drive to Letheringham to give his Mardle, Monday March 26th 2007, John was struck by a severe heart attack that took him to Ipswich hospital and quickly on to Papworth. It is no small achievement to survive a heart attack in your 70s and then write your first book – and a moving, heart-warming, fascinating and informative one at that. But he felt a compulsion to do so.
“I didn’t know whether to aim the book at believers, or non-believers”, he says, so I chose neither”. The result is his undelivered Mardle (it has been given since, by the way).
To say this handsome little book, with its evocative cover drawing by John’s successful artist daughter Lucinda Rogers, is about a church, the church, spirituality and the search for faith and truth, is perhaps to remove it from the reading list of doubters and non-believers, which is a great pity. It is finely observed, beautifully written and exceptionally interesting.
Sometimes writers will say they feel the spirit of other writers looking over their shoulders as they work. I can think of two, albeit a rather disparate pair, who would have approved as, looking over his shoulder, they regarded John Rogers’ script. The great “retro” Englishman John Betjeman would have heartily approved of his knowledge of the story and structure of a church and its physical and spiritual place. A tap of on the shoulder, too, from the once Poet Laureate, for the elegance and style of the writing. Patrick Leigh Fermor, I would wager, would like the cut of John’s literary jib and the passages of erudite description transposing into a personal encounter, or a reminiscence. Suffolk-bound the narrative may be, but John comes across as a true traveller.
You may sit round a table with John Rogers enjoying good food and a glass of Burgundy, with happy inconsequential chatter, when suddenly he will pose a question touching upon one’s deepest beliefs and thoughts. Like the book it is done with a gentle smiling style that draws forth consideration and response. Read “The Undelivered Mardle” and I will wager it will make even the most cynical among us think about life, our present place in the world and the human spirit.