Fr. Jeremy's Topic - Maidenhead Advertiser April 2024

Posted by R.Broad on April 26, 2024

Thought for the week – Maidenhead Advertiser (April 2024) .

A young engineer by the name of Attilius, one of the key characters in Robert Harris’ thrilling book ‘Pompeii’, about the story of Vesuvius exploding is described in the novel ‘This was always where he preferred to be – not in some filthy town, but out in the country, with the hidden veins of civilisation, beneath an honest sky.’

I would normally be at one with the thoughts of Attilius so I was not too hopeful on being asked as part of a conference sharing the experiences of practitioners from around Europe who are working with Asylum seekers and refugees to visit a town to read the environment through feelings and senses experienced. I was invited to roam the town of Sunderland. I had to slow down, clear my mind and notice.

To my surprise I found myself walking into a shopping centre. Attilius would have I am sure despised shopping centres just as I normally do. However, I found by slowing down I felt instantly becalmed. The instruction was to discern my feelings when walking somewhere without a plan. The city should be my mirror! I began writing notes of my experiences. I heard a voice call out ‘Sir, are you lost?’ I looked up to see a Chinese lady. I replied, ‘No I am meant to be lost!’ I walked on and noticed Sunderland’s desire to ‘be connected, to unite, to find inner pride and value’ advertised on a wall. Even the rubbish bins had jokes. ‘I tried thinking of a bin joke, but the punchline was rubbish!’ This was no filthy town.

I walked on and came across ‘Betsy Jenny Wellbeing Café’. The menu offered ‘Men and pies, yoga, Samaritans, debt advice, book swaps and setting up small business. Having ordered my flat white, I watched two people grow in number to twelve. They sat enjoying cups of tea and bacon sandwiches sharing conversation. There was not a mobile phone to be seen!

I viewed a large painting on a wall behind the dozen contented bacon butty eaters. Two cupped hands with branches forming from the nails leading to mini hands. The 22-year-old artist from Consett saying we are all connected.

I left the café and found Sunshine Corner, a shop selling local organic fruit and veg and fairtrade goods. The owner shared with me the story of a Pakistani lady whose family has been accepted to stay after waiting nineteen years. The owner said that she plans to work in partnership with the lady who is a brilliant cook. The owner continued ‘People with little, need to find their creativity.’

Sunderland on the surface might not be beautiful but by noticing I found ‘the rich veins of civilisation alive and well.’