I have so much to tell you today that I don’t know where to start. This is what happens when I’m in writing gear – the brain zig-zags all over the place, and I know it’s a sort of displacement activity because the creativity is building but the thoughts aren’t quite there yet. The new series is in the shadows and taking a breath ready to step out, but just not quite ready for the light. That means I have to find something else to think about while the subconscious firkles around for the next bright idea. Having said that, I’ve got some lovely, delicious, exasperating, funny, heart-breaking characters down on our very first document for the new series. So exciting!
I’ll kick off with something I’ve just this minute read on the BBC website – the shopping centre ‘giant’, Intu , is likely to go bust. This huge organisation is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, although it owns most of the largest shopping centres in the UK, places like Lakeside and the Trafford Centre and many others. All of them are massive shining, concrete and glass palaces of commercialism, humungous cathedrals of consumerism. I like both metaphors. As they went up, our High Streets and village shops went down. “Tough” said the shopping centre moguls, “That’s life.”
Now online shopping is taking over and these fabulous carbuncles are on the way down. “Tough,” say the online traders “That’s life.”
What will happen to these places? Large enough to be small towns, with parking for thousands, offering employment (yay!) but often miles outside town centres (boo!), what will happen to them if they are no longer financially viable? Maybe as we drive past them, seeing the broken panes of glass, the tarnished silver, the faded signage, the crumbling walls, we’ll remember Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ :
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’
My little town still has a High Street with small businesses and real shops – when I moved here I went into a butcher’s near the castle and asked “Is the lamb local?”. He was holding a cleaver at the time so maybe it wasn’t everso wise to question him just then, but he resisted temptation and managed to answer levelly enough, “Well, I can show you the field it comes from, if you like.”
I hope that our High Street survives the 21st Century, the superstores, online shopping, and now the fad for pseudo ‘farm shops’ (where sometimes 80% is brought in by lorry from hundreds of miles away but it has some mud on it and it goes into a paper bag so that’s alright).
Life is change, I get that, and I embrace it, but when bad change collapses in on itself, like these horrible shopping centres, I think we’re allowed to say a quiet “Hurrah!”. If the jobs that were available in these places are now available in town centres and villages, surely that’s a good thing for our communities, our ecology, family life and sanity?
What else did I want to tell you? Oh, yes, I have a huge blank canvas that’s been getting in the way for months, and I decided that I would use it for a children’s story in church. I was going to demonstrate to the children (and the adults), as an encouragement, how our church life is saturated by prayer. I was going to put a sticker on the canvas for every occasion when we, as a church, pray. I started to work it out… guess how many? This is not praying as individuals but in meetings, worship, Bible studies, activities…. in one month… approx 131! One hundred and thirty one stickers? And that’s not including special times, unscheduled or quarterly or annual meetings…. the times when two people meet in the street or on the beach and spontaneously pray, not including the times when we visit each other one-on-one and pray, not including the prayers of the prayer team….
I think I better think it out again.
And next: how is it that, although there’s been mass hysterical panic buying of toilet rolls, so that the shelves are empty by mid-day regardless of how many are delivered overnight, you haven’t met a single person who has bought even one toilet roll more than their usual? All your friends are models of rectitude, selflessness, reason and calmness. Amazing.
It’s a bit like motorists – the roads are full of terrible drivers, but everyone you speak to is a sane and sensible law-abiding, steady knight of the road.
I didn’t buy extra toilet rolls, didn’t need to. It’s one of my neuroses and so I always have about 20 in stock. But I am a fast and naughty driver.
I may be the only one you ever meet.
Whaddya gonna do about it? Parp! Parp!