ACW

ACW

Saturday, 11 June 2016

(Try not to) Mind the Gap by Deborah Jenkins

8.40. Hampton Station. Smell of coffee. Pigeons strutting-happy in hazy sunshine.
The announcer jolts us awake with Radio 4 tones.
May I have your attention please? Customers are requested not to feed the pigeons on the station. They are a nuisance and possible health hazard. Please do not feed the pigeons!
Good grief! I look down at a pigeon, whose head bobs back at me, bright eyed and hopeful. A health hazard? More evidence that the world has gone mad. An image flashes across my mind of the birds at Scargill. Ridiculous tears prick my eyelids. I snap them shut. I refuse to be a menopausal woman, on a platform, snivelling. I slow and breathe, and remember.

I'll never forget that first day. Skimming along the edge of the hill, I gazed across the valley they call Wharfedale, and pretended to be a hobbit.  What would my Lord of the Rings name be? Gandeb perhaps, or Debelf. No, Gandeb.
Suddenly Fiona and Shirley both shrieked, "There it is!"
I jumped. As they'd been quiet for some time, I'd assumed they'd been asleep (well, perhaps not Fiona - she was driving.) I looked over to the far side of the valley. I saw sun-dappled slopes, trees and a jumble of buildings tossed across the foot of the hill, like duplo tipped on velvet. The place drowsed, tranquil in the evening sun.
We drove around the valley, up the drive and parked under trees, a parade so straight and silent, it was as if they were guarding secrets.

Which it turns out they were. Firstly, as we wheelie-cased towards the entrance, I could see the place was far from sleepy. People bustled about, cheerful with cases or smiles or both.
"Hello!" they called. This was a surprise in itself.  Londoners do not say hello to strangers. Even Christian ones.

Secondly, the place was not a random heap of buildings but an old shooting lodge, crouched cat-like against the hill and flanked by newer spaces. These were all linked together by a series of corridors and bridges so that you do in fact feel like a wandering hobbit burrowing through earth to your room. The place is magical, from the meeting room with its double view over trees, to the sun lounge with a picture window so large and light it's as if you're tilted into the valley itself, folded into hills, flown between trees. Its effect is dizzying.



And then there's the walled garden. Imagine a wall, high and mottled with age. There is a gate set deep in rosy brick. Open the gate and you're back in The Secret Garden of your childhood, where, at every turn, a new colour steals upon light and silence and there are hidden crannies for dreaming and prayer.



The thing is, I say to God from my bench in an alcove, The thing is, I don't think you quite understand how I need beauty like this in my life. Silence. Above the wall, the curve of hills. A butterfly darts past. There is birdsong. Well you're here aren't you? The reply is gentle, persistent. And I am here, and I do know what you need.


Finally there's the chapel, a prism of glass, which captures a thousand shards of green and gold; an altar draped in water; a cross; lilies. The communion service, led by Adrian and Bridget Plass with their unique brand of humour and honesty, was like bathing in buttermilk. Not that I've ever done it, but I would do in a flash (best not picture this.) And there's a certain energy worshipping with those whose world view is as quirky and hopeful as your own - a lying down, a relief. And God sent this gift wrapped in writers, some old, some young, some bold, some bashful. But it doesn't matter here. We just open our mouths and sing, caught up in the joy of this place perched on the edge of paradise, and of the father who is present and knows what we need.





The train approaching Platform 1 is the 8.50 to London Waterloo. Please stand well back on the platform. Mind the gap between the train and the platform edge. Mind the gap!

I snap my eyes open. The platform stirs. The pigeons have gone, perhaps warned off by the scary announcer. The train snakes into view and I pick up my bag and book, and prepare for the journey.

The day approaching Deborah Jenkins is a Tuesday. Please stand well back so you can observe and enjoy it. Try not to mind the gap between this place and the one they call Scargill. I am still here. And I know what you need.

I will try not to mind Lord.

Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on writing school textbooks for Macmillan. She is also writing a full length novel in the odd spare moment. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver. 




Please click on the link to see the book.




19 comments:

  1. Perfect. This made me slightly tearful with longing to be there!

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    1. Bless you Amy. That place is a slice of heaven isn't it? Something to look forward to... :)

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  2. This is beautiful, Deborah - it brings it all flooding back! I love your description of Scargill as being a place perched on the edge of paradise. And I promise I wasn't asleep...

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    1. Haha! I thought you probably weren't! Thanks, Fiona!

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  3. Brilliant post, beautifully expressed. I'm convinced - next year?

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    1. Looking forward to seeing you there Aggie!

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  5. Wonderful Deborah, I was there again for a few minutes. Lovely start to my day. Thank you x

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    1. Thanks a lot Mandy! Hope you have a great day :)

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  6. Lovely photos and lovely writing, Deborah. The River of Narnia made a big difference to the chapel compared with the postcards without it. What a wonderful weekend! Sue

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  7. Cracking post. The Duplo on velvet image ... I wish I'd written that. Reading your post, I'm thinking, 'Was that really only last weekend?' It's because it all seemed like another world. PS Can I be Frandalf?

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    1. Haha! Frandalf is good :) Yes, it feels like worlds away doesn't it? Thanks Buddy :)

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  8. Ahh, this time last week....
    Scargill is a very special place indeed. What a gap there is; it's hard not to mind it. Thanks for taking me back there, Deborah. :-)

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    1. You are welcome Helen :) Thanks for reading and commenting x

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  9. It really is a tiny bit of Heaven, isn't it? Look and feel of Scargill very movingly and accurately captured! Thank you, Deborah.

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    1. Thank you! And thanks for reading and commenting :)

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  10. Briliant evocation Deborah! Loved it. Missing Scargill at a Mindfulness retreat this afternoon here in Oxford today - only a week ago we were there, the sun was shining, and I was writing my Dragon piece in the amazing Walled Garden. Where else is magic, in a good way?

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  11. Beautiful. Thanks Deborah xx

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