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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, February 01, 2005
    Fairy cakes and dark things on the Wall

    I love incongruous connections. And they come easy in Greenbelt. Spent yesterday in All Hallows, one of London's ancient churches, its position in London Wall saving it from destruction in the Great Fire of 1666, reconstructed by George Dance the Younger in 1767.

    Once hermits lived in cells in the church. Now the crypt is inhabited by the keen young beautiful people who somehow arrange the hopes, dreams and obsessions of hundreds of spiritual creatives into a four-day summer festival on a slick Cotswold racecourse.

    We met in the church, a neo-classical space arched and domed and decorated in the style of the ancient Temple of Venus and Rome in the city of Rome. In the heart of the City, in the guild church of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters we sat under chandeliers around utilitarian tables, sharing fruit and butties, boiled eggs brought by a religious sister and fairy cakes baked by a minister's wife in equally-historic St Albans. The cakes had 'dark things' in them (raisins, on close inspection) and the eggs had been purchased from a Hackney hawker seeking pity at the convent door.

    In our meeting we discussed how, once again, we will spend August Bank Holiday weekend transforming Cheltenham Racecourse's most exclusive venue, dripping with gambling wealth, into a house of prayer. We always seem to manage it - it is a beautiful place. But incongruous - yes. If Greenbelt had a middle name, it would be incongruous.