...of life in suburbia: in a Britain of ugly crimes, violent groups gathering to shriek and hit one another in the streets, and a general sense of unease, there is another life plodding along, slightly beleagured, conscious of an air of menace, but getting on with things valued and enjoyed for a long time and not to be given up lightly....
There are groups in the suburbs that still thrive with a faintly pre-TV, pre-fast-foods, pre- WWII sort of feel to them: clubs and societies catering for different hobbies, little groups with Minutes and Chairmen and Annual General Meetings. They invite people like me to speak to them. Tonight, I was speaking to a local Wine Making Circle. They - well - make wine, and take it along and taste it and win prizes and certificates. They have a Guest Speaker and nibble snacks and wait to be entertained. I was invited to speak on "Celebrating Feasts and Seasons".
The meeting was in a church hall, and while they set up the tables and talked about blackberry wine, I looked into the church. High Anglican. Two people, one a robed clergyman, saying the Stations of the Cross. They were just approaching number 12. "We adore Thee O Christ and we praise Thee". "Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world." It was suddenly good to be there and just quietly to join in: they swivelled round when they heard a third voice but then just nodded and carried on. Later I read the parish newsletter and there it was, "Stations of the Cross every Monday evening during Lent". I hope they get more people next week.
A fine Edwardian church, beautiful stained glass with a Burne-Jones feel... I've passed it dozens of times and never dropped in.
Then the meeting: a cheery gathering. Gave my talk and, to my pleasure, sold a number of books. Good questions and chat afterwards. Home through the dark streets to a mug of tea, and plans for tomorrow, and writing this Blog.