I wake up to a beautiful sunny day and Lokabandhu and I exchange memories of the yatra (walking meditation) we did six or seven years ago. I hear his tale on transition Glastonbury and the core group folding; the last big event and the conflict that put everyone off doing another and how though the working groups continue there isn’t as yet energy to restart the core group or equivalent.
I am most inspired by the tale of his founding the Buddhist community he lives in and the language he used on the advert he put out around Glastonbury to find a suitable house for a small transition community. It is beautifully worded, describes how the community would like to live, the principles they espouse, and provides short professional descriptors of each of the prospective tenants. It reads delightfully; who could want better tenants, and indeed it was so, so although the people who replied to the ad had already rented their home, when that all fell through and the new tenants gave notice, Lokabandhu and his community were offered the house. By now, though, the transition group he had gathered has fallen away, one couple had had a baby, the others had other things that had come up for them, and Lokabanshu had to start again, He couldn’t raise another transition group, but he did raise a Buddhist group , and here they all are, sixth months later, living in a beautiful big cottage with a garden and a Raeburn stove, and a guest room, as well as their rooms and a lounge where small events can be held.
I set out to resume my journey, through Glastonbury, undeterred by the book shops, this is not the time for that, walk past Woolies, that is now a heath food shop, a bit like ours in Totnes, which moved in to the defunct Boots. I enter and find it the same, a soulless place, and it all seems a bit of a shame, I used to love our health food shop when it was a bit too small and where you stopped to chat to all the friends you met in there and how now, I at least, cannot wait to leave the fluorescent lighting and the “buy and leave” feeling these superstore buildings seem to have imbibed. Both Glastonbury and Totnes transition groups had the idea of taking on the old Woolies shops and making them into market places for local traders, and I wonder what would have happened if they had; if a collaborative effort might have shifted the big corporation energy and redeemed the buildings, given them back soul.
On the street again I am offered “The Big Issue” (http://www.bigissue.com/) which I used to buy regularly, believing in its message, and then suddenly the style of writing changed and I could no longer bear to look at it, but I understood that it needed to happen, the language had to change to reach a wider audience, to make it more accessible. I wonder if this will happen too with health food shops, that their move into these sorts of shop premises will somehow make them more familiar seeming and attract more people in. I hope so, for if not it will have been a move in vain. I do think a moment here about transition too, the use of language, how I left steeped in Transition speak, and delighted, and am returning having had to find a different language, and with an awareness that just as one size does not really fit all, one language does not serve all, and if we would communicate with all, why then we need to learn their language.
I walk along back lanes and Sustrans routes to Bridgwater, horrified to see my first ever peat farms and the big holes left in the ground, filled with water left behind, as the ancient bog land is drained to satisfy the gardeners all over the country who instead of making their own compost from their own food waste, buy it ready made, and often with peat added. The ugliness of the landscape left behind is testament enough for me to realise that this is inappropriate action, and will end in tears.
I cross King Sedgemoor’s Drain, marvelling at the massive land reclaim project that happened here so long ago transforming the inland sea in to growing land, and wonder, for how long have we had more people than the land can support?
When I get to Bridgwater the river Parrot is silty and almost empty and I learn from my host for the night, Val Pennock, that the tide is out, and as we gaze at the docks, now beautifully reclaimed into housing as so many dock areas have been, at the start to the Bridgwater Taunton canal, I hear that the river Parrot is like the Severn; it too has a bore, a tide! I am amazed at how little of the natural phenomena of my own country I know about, and I resolve to pay more attention to the daily comings and goings of the Dart, the river in Totnes, when I get back home.
Val and I talk about Quakers, and Buddhists, and Transitioners, and how much they all have in common in terms of their principles, and I present the Glastonbury food mapping material to her and pass on their request that it be passed onto someone local who would like to get involved, and she remembers the women who brought local veg boxes to a local community scheme and thinks they’d be the ones and promises to try and make contact.
In return for the gift Val tells me about Street Pastors, and gives me a book about them to take (“Street Pastors” Les Isaac and Rosalind Davies, 2009). I am moved to tears by her account of the project locally where teams of 4 go out into the streets on Saturday nights and are there for the young people, listening to them, giving them spikers, small plastic lids for the bottles of drink they buy so they cannot have their drinks spiked with drugs, taking thermal blankets with them in case they find anyone in need, and just being there for them. The kids call them the pasties but it sounds affectionate, and some of them really value their being there and look out for them, asking for the spikers, and sometimes giving them hugs. I wonder, though I haven’t met them, and am perhaps making an assumption here, if the kids are recognising a grandparents’ presence, something that many have really lost touch with in these days of fractured families and segregated activities; old over there, young over here.
I imagine it must take a great act of courage for older people to venture out into the streets on a Saturday night, and to stay out till after 3am when the nightclubs kick out, and Val admits one of the reasons she went on the 12 week training course to become a street pastor was through fear, but she clearly loves what she is doing, as a volunteer , one Saturday night in 4, and the connection she is making with the young people, and the other relationships that are beginning to form.
She tells me about the bouncers, and how different they are now from how they once were, and how there is concern for the kids, and an almost parental role emerging, again, something sadly lacking in the lives of some of our young people in our times.
Best of all…they give out free flip flops to the girls whose feet hurt from trying to walk all evening in their high heels!
I promise to take the book and the tale onwards to the next transition place for it is an idea that is worthy of being shared, it doesn’t have to be a Christian group to take it on, in fact Val was saddened to describe that when the owner of the local Indian take away, a Muslim, asked to be part of the scheme he was refused because he wasn’t a Christian. The idea is just wonderful, but let’s make it cross cultural and non religious …please.
I talk about the scout movement in Clitheroe and the tale Anthony the storyteller in Stroud told me about his father, scout leader, and the local Muslim youth leader, and their plans and determination to make the scout movement in Clitheroe a multi cultural experience and to join together the two groups of young boys to share their activities; now that feels like a transition way forward.
Though Bridgwater is not yet a transition town I am inspired, and feel delighted to have stopped off hereto meet this wonderful grandmother, and receive this great idea and to have left the food mapping idea here to take root. When we take away the names of our different groups, why we are the same, the very same, with all the same cares and concerns, love and respect for others, and fears that we might not be doing enough.
Quaker, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Climate Friendly, Green, Transition and so many more; just names. Just how many like minded people are working to make our earth a much better place to be in and at the rate we are going we will soon all be joined up beautifully and the difference we are making really tangible.