I spend a part of my morning looking around Bridgnorth saying goodbye. It has made an impression on me, this old town. I visit the town hall with its beautiful stained glass windows, and look at the railway the Castle Hill, which is the shortest and steepest railway in the country. It was water powered in the 1800s, like the one in Lynmouth in Devon, two of only five built in the UK. I stop with a couple of grandparents and their young grandson to watch one carriage go down and the other come up in less than 2 minutes.
I walk the castle walls again; I love to be guided by local people but I also love to walk alone taking places in at my leisure, savouring the things that affect my senses; too slow a process to be really appreciated in company; I think we all too often forget the joy of experiencing things alone; and in this liking for company miss out on really feeling the impact different things have upon us, and the relationship we then build with those things.
I read on an information board that the when the king’s troops lost to Cromwell they burnt down the high town to stop them taking it and rendered 300 people homeless. This tension between the tenacity of those in power to keep their position at the expense of those less empowered, less educated, and poor, working classes has not dissipated here and I can feel it hanging in the very air as I walk along the high street, see the young people hanging around on street corners, and in shop doorways, see the older ones peering out of cafe windows, uncomprehending and disconcerted by my appearance. These people still do not have ownership of their town and I feel sad.
Robin and Rani ask me to sum up transition for them before I leave so that they will feel confident they can talk about it to others. I sum it up as “rebuilding our local communities” as I have found this is something that can be grasped by most people. Inner transition is the part that most inspires Robin but as we have shared over our time together this isn’t always the most accessible area for many people to start on. Robin is eager to start connecting with transition and seeing if they can’t start a group in Bridgnorth, and also in creating more of a sense of community in their row of houses and with all their years of community living I feel sure he and Rani will make a good job of that. I leave them welcoming their next door neighbour.
I walk on and as I follow the back road that meanders its way to Worfield I meet a man with a dog. He is interested in what I am doing and when I tell him about transition he asks for the details of the website. He is involved with green issues in the town and likes the connection. I feel happy I have chosen to re-walk this road and not succumbed to the bus to Worfield, something I considered as I had walked this road already; a very timely reminder that we never walk the same road twice.
I reach Claverley around about lunchtime; I have planned to stop here, eat my packed lunch in the church yard, it is half way along the journey and I have heard tell of a flower festival and think it might be pretty. I am disappointed. The village is certainly alive with village folk and some elderly visitors, but they are charging for everything including entering their church, which seems to be bedecked with flowers inside. I sit on a bench overlooking the valley to eat and feel vaguely uncomfortable with this uneasy daring to be in their village without giving them money. It is obviously a fund raising event but it hasn’t been advertised as such. There is a grasping avarice in the eyes of the second hand books and bric-a-brac stall holders on the street which puts me off even looking at their wares. I see a poster advertising a local history exhibition with photographic memories of the local trade, and of the travellers that have passed though over the years; this I should look at I think and retrace my steps to the village hall. I go in and am stopped at the door
“It’s a pound to go inside”
I look through to an uninspiring set of boards and photos and suddenly feel that I have no desire to be a traveller here and turn around to leave. I am saddened by the clearly set mode of communication with outsiders; “give us money” is the only message to be heard. I think back to Geoff and Jeff in Lilleshall and their lively desire to communicate and offer hospitality to a stranger. Claverley does not see any form of exchange between them and strangers but hard currency. I leave without a word; the riches that could have been exchanged here killed stone dead by their fixed idea of what they wanted. There is a lesson for me here; to truly engage with one another there can be no agenda of any kind, when we establish the form of currency that we want we are setting a very clear agenda that excludes by its very nature.
True exchange can only occur when both parties are giving from their hearts and I begin to see that herein lies the reason for the use of money to represent trade having led us to this place where we all now reside, in a debt based society where some grow rich and unhappy and others grow poor and unhappy. Only when each partner in an exchange is content with the trade, has offered the fruits of his/her loving labour can trade truly serve us, rather than us being servants to the system we have created. We live in a society that is not driven by free will nor about people acting out of passion and love for the work they do. We are all too often driven to do work that does not inspire and nourish us for the sake of a meagre reward; a handful of coins to hoard away in some bank’s vault, and in doing so freeze the flow of energy rendering some people homeless, and what valuables do we give away for this meagre treasure, our love for what we are good at, and in giving this power away, we deprive the whole world of receiving the precious gift of our own unique talents.
I walk on from the sad experience of Claverley and soon enough meet the sign that tells me I am in Staffordshire, and I stop at the 7 Stars in Seisdon for a glass of juice diluted with water.
I walk down a horrific road for pedestrians out of Seisdon; there is no footpath through the village and so certainly none on the road out, and the cars zoom by as though they were headed for the hospital for the last moments of their mother’s life. The people in this area of the country drive with no awareness that there is anyone else in the world but them. It is harsh and unpleasant to walk along roads in Shropshire and I begin to suspect Staffordshire might be the same. Finally, after a particularly scary hair pin bend with a humped back canal bridge in the middle of it and a fast side road meeting the main road just after it, where the stream of cars do not even slow in recognition of the road conditions let alone the fact that there is myself, a woman with a pair of greyhounds, a jogger, and two men in suits stopped to put petrol from a can in one of their vehicles all at the bridge, I get to the place where I can join the railway track path that will lead me straight into Wolverhampton.
The railway was built by the Victorians but never actually used for trains and has remained a public right of way and now forms the track through Smestow Nature Reserve, a thin strip of a reserve leading all the way in to and through the Tettenhall region of the city.
I meet Naomi Waters, my good Transition and yoga friend, and her partner science teacher Lee, seven month old baby daughter Seren, and Mulan the elderly cat.
We talk education and Naomi and I talk about our enthusiasm for the new Government free school scheme and how we can see an opening here for transition schools to begin to sprout. It feels comfortable to be amongst like minded people with similar background; I empathise with Lee’s mountain of tests to be marked, and get excited about Naomi’s first cautious wonderings about the soon to be vacated pre- school on their street. We all stop everything frequently to enjoy the exotic big eyes of baby Seren, her delightful forays into exploring her world, and her engaging smile and laugh. A school run by the parents of this shining child, now there would be a place where our future generations could thrive and explore their own special gifts rather than have them drummed out of them by a system hell bent on producing cyber ciphers of people to become the next generation of mindless consumers to feed the ever soulless environment the oil based system is creating around itself as a buffer to the natural world that makes us feel scarily alive.