Wednesday, June 04, 2008


There was a small team of engineers at work today behind the Heras fencing enclosing O'Neill's pub, and blocking Trinity Street. They were assessing the damage, and discussing a plan of action. By tea-time, I'd received an email from Steve in City Centre Management to say that re-building work is to start immediately, with part of the street shuttered off to provide an enclosure for a skip to collect the fire damaged materials. Re-opening is proposed for August.

That's a nice and positive response on the part of the brewers M&B. I imagine the owners of Piazza Italia next door must be relieved, since the fire ran up to and almost through their party wall. They had some smoke damage, in their upstairs kitchen apparently, that was all. Hopefully they can re-open soon for trade. Just as summer arrives is not a good time to be shut. Howells and the Market were open for business as usual this morning, despite the nightmare of having all the suppliers unable to enter and exit by the usual route, with Trinity street blocked off. All the vans had to enter via Wharton Street and turn around in a narrow space and exit the same way. I guess it was just impossible for larger vehicles to enter at all. Trading losses for yesterday alone will run into big six figures, it's guesstimated. Church folk are just grateful that there's been no damage to the building, and all our fresh paintwork.

Reflecting on the news coverage, with almost every photo frame shot capturing some portion of St John's, so close and dominating the quarter, it's notable that no mention of the church being so close was made in any reportage whatsoever. It illustrates how selective is the perception of the news reporters and editors in narrating their story - and a popular pub figures more in their account of the city than its oldest place of worship. Gone are the days when this incident would have merited a headline such as "City Church neighbourhood pub fire".

I was reading about the post-modern world view recently, with its absence of 'meta-narrative', a commonly accepted account of how the world is, in which religion and religious meanings play a key part. In a secular age, religious meanings are optional, one set of choices among many. I used to regard that as a philosopher's injunction - 'this is how you will see the world form now on', so to speak. Gradually, I've come to realise this is what's happened, this is how the world is for many people today. I'm not sure why even.

Thinking back to this morning's session on signage and map making. Part of the value of the discussion was the mutual discovery that not everyone needs to receive information in the same way, and not everyone needs the same information to arrive where they're wanting to go. The bigger map, the larger picture isn't helpful to everyone, doesn't meet everyone's needs. But the question persists of how you can provide a helpful service to as many people as possible? Maybe a universally useful service can only be a success if everyone has to give and take, and learn a little in order to acquire a common frame of reference. How would you go about this?

Perhaps post modernity is like having sections of maps which are helpful when seen in their appropriate context, and the big general map is there too, but only for those who feel they need it. Yet, everyone needs to learn the sign language of the map, and the appropriatness of the sign conventions is what arouses most debate. Which makes me wonder about religion and post modernity. Are we paying enough attention to the meaning and function of the signs and symbols of the realm of faith. and what they convey? Or are we still lost, trying to figure out the map?

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