Thursday, February 22, 2007

Conversations and entrances

On really horrid days, it’s good to have one like today to remember.

I walked down to church for the Eucharist – for a while at least it wasn’t raining and the sun came out. The lady who stands in the City Hall underpass quietly witnessing to her faith,(see 14th Feb posting) looked up as I passed and for the first time caught my eye and gave me a beautiful radiant smile, which (I hope) I returned when I said : “God bless you.” as I passed her. Contact at last.

After the noon Eucharist I had a conversation with a visiting couple from Toronto – she was a Quebecoise and he an Italian Canadian of fifty years standing. They were trying to work out what sort of church St John’s is, as well as fascinated by its history and relationship to the city and country. Coming from another bi-lingual city, they were impressed by the visible evidence of two languages in the way the city presents itself to the world, and wanted to know what degree of political autonomy Wales has. It was one of those moments of feeling pride in our particular social experiment, and feeling that our little corner of world Anglicanism has made a strong contribution to healthy pluralism - living together with our differences – despite apparent problems elsewhere in the Communion.

Oxford House South section demolition is now under way, and I was able to grab some quite spectacular photos of the demolition machine in action. Being half term there were more people causally watching than usual. I must find out what the site workers call these machines. I don’t even know their proper technical name. When this one toppled sections of a brick and breeze block end wall, or smashed a window and grabbed out its entire frame and mounting in one blow, there was an audible gasp of amazement from passers by. Live entertainment for half-term week!

I had a chat with Gerald (it said on his hat) one of the site foremen, who in between sentences was redirecting traffic at the junction of Bridge Street and the Hayes. Although the NCP multi-storey car parks had finally been closed for demolition three days ago, the banner notice announcing they were still open was not taken down until two days ago, and out of habit, motorists were driving in search of parking right in front the building site, before having to turn around and exit frustrated and denied. Gerald told me that he had worked on a similar development in the centre of Plymouth for four years, and how he’d got to know the local photographers, including a septuagenarian who’d researched old film archives of building, rebuilding and redevelopment of his city over his lifetime, as a way of documenting social change. That’s a bit more ambitious than my photo-blog, but I fully understand the kind of enthusiasm that drives such a project.

I left Gerald sorting the chaos and went to visit Nia Wynn-Jones in her workshop behind the ‘temporary’ city library over the railway from Bute Terrace. (Check out Nia's website) She’s making the ornate wrought iron gates that will grace the entrance of the south churchyard, once the new east-west path has been completed. She's copied the fleur-de-lys motif from the existing railings to use as decoration - hundreds of them ! She's also replicated the corner ironwork pillars from the churchyard, and will be re-cycling the pieces of fencing taken out to create a gap for the path, to use in the gates. It's going to be an eye catching design, that will fascinate visitors and enhance civic pride. I'm determined to get Nia to do some work on the church tower porch gate which could do with something kinder than renovation. It only fills two thirds of the gothic arch it encloses. Extending and embellishing it to fill the complete space, in a way that echoes the design of the gates would give the entrance a lift.

The churchyard site manager, Danny McGee was consulting with Nia when I arrived. He and I had spoken on the 'phone, but so far I'd not succeeded in finding him there, so it was good to have a face to face with these two people whose labours are going to transform one small ancient corner of the city centre into an open air sanctuary from all the hustle and bustle. I got some great pictures of the ironwork too.

Last but not least, I had an email from someone I know well, who has been thinking through life the universe and everything for some months, and has shared some of the journey with me, now asking to be prepared for Confirmation. It’s one of those things that crowns any day, no matter how bad or good it may have been.

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