Sunday, 15 February 2009


I was sitting in peaceful, dim old Great St Mary's. GSM. The Grim. I love large empty spaces. Auditoria are great. I used to go and sit in the pitch pitch black of the Abbey Theatre, with even the exit signs switched off, and just drink in the silence. Warm and dark. Womblike, I suppose, though I never felt enclosed by it. I have always felt much more free and safe in the dark. I spent my teens walking about the dark streets where I lived, sometimes with a friend and sometimes not. I was often miserable, and I walked and cried and felt sorry for myself in a wonderfully teen-aged fashion. It really wasn't a very safe thing to do, as a young girl on reasonably dodgy roads chosen specifically because they were deserted and dark. But I felt a weight lift every time I did it. I could look up at the dark and the moon and remember that things were bigger than the here and now. It's not a feeling I get in ordinary daylight - the light has to be special if it's there, making the humdrum stranger. Bright summer sunlight through leaves, the perfect reflection in glass water, the dark light in a storm. These things do the same. Big, quiet, man-made spaces have a similar effect. They stand, bigger than their purpose, something beyond what they were created for. There is a permanence to them that does not exist in their creators. That church is not particularly old, or even that beautiful. There are beautiful things in it - the magistus above the altar is one of the more lovely of its type and though the lights weren't on it, the gold leaf gleamed in the dull of the winter twilight. It wasn't even that quiet in there, so central as it is and it still being fully afternoon. But it was peaceful, and I was alone. I do not have connections enough to it as a place to feel real affection for it - not like St Mary's in Ashwell, that is still on several levels the home of my heart, if that had to be somewhere physical. So many memories it holds, and such a feeling of being rooted, there. But GSM is important to me. I went there when Paddy died. I needed to feel as though I was doing something and the ritual of evensong was soothing. And there was music. There still is music. It was time for choir practice.

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