March 18, 2012

A Church and a Community Shop

While we were in the Museum we picked up a leaflet about the local community shop in Langford. It's housed in St. Giles's church! A local lady entered a competition a few years ago answering the question, 'If you had £10,000 for your local community, what would you do with it?' Her answer was to open a community shop in her local church. She entered on the last day of the competition and won. When she was told she had won she had to go to the local vicar and tell him what she had done and ask if he was prepared to house a shop run by volunteers in his church. Luckily he said, 'Yes'.

The shop was manned by a salty old dog with a long white beard and a hat with a feather in the front. It turned out he'd been playing the fiddle with the Morris Men when they played outside the Chequers pub about a week ago. He made us a cup of tea and welcomed us in. The shop is in what looked like the vestry, complete with cassock hung at the back (I presume it was the vicars as it didn't have a price label on it). I don't think I’ve ever seen such a selection in such a small place – anything from polenta to tapenade, shoe laces to chocolate moulds, mushroom ketchup to coconut milk (3 varieties as well as coconut cream). It was a veritable Aladdin's cave.

While we shopped we were regaled with tales of dunking sponge fingers in champagne on a French submarine and how the Victorians had extended the Norman church and left evidence of what it had once looked like. Another customer came in and we looked up politely and said, 'Hello' and went back to shopping. For some reason I looked up again and realised I knew the lady and hadn't seen her in years. We did the, 'How lovely to see you' and 'It's been years' and 'John's having treatment' (I didn't ask) and caught up with each other to the amusement of Jock (the salty old dog).

The church itself is fascinating and we did The Grand Tour. It was the only Norman church to have two rounded ends to the building at one time. The Victorians extended it at one end to square it off and added another extension to one side and a tower. On the squared extension floor they marked the curve of the old wall with tiles. On the outside wall they left an open area to reveal the start of the curved wall. At the other end of the building they placed a glass panel in the curved wall revealing the Norman stone wall under the rendering. The crypt, we were assured, still had some space left and was opened at various times of the year for viewing.

On Becoming Chairman

A couple of months back I was persuaded to become the Chair for Maldon Art Trail as the people who were organising it up until last year were stepping down. A new committee had been formed but they needed a Chairman. I got into conversation with a friend who is also involved and found him steering me towards taking the position. I was quite flattered actually and quite excited as well. Maldon Art Trail has gone from strength to strength over the last 4 years and is now quite a big event.

On Friday myself and 2 other committee members met with the 2 women who used to organise the trail for a photo shoot to publicise the hand over to the new committee. The shoot took place at the Museum of Power in Langford, where the launch party for the Art Trail is to take place and who host the ever-popular sculpture trail. We’re a jolly looking lot in the photos and it’s going to be difficult to decide which one goes with the press release.

Susan, who manages the Museum, then took a couple of us on a bit of a guided tour including going down into the belly of the Museum. It’s a fascinating place. Susan is very enthusiastic about the Museum and has brought it a long way from the collection of greasy parts a few years ago. She and Stephen got on like a house on fire and I can see Stephen getting involved with volunteering and who knows what. I got quite excited for him when I thought of the possibilities of involvement for him. I can just see him conducting tours and leaping around on 'Marshall' (a fine example of an 'inverted vertical' triple-expansion steam pumping engine – look it up).

Mike Barter has built robots from scrap pieces that are situated at the Museum and the kids love them. Susan and Mike have often talked about a book for the Museum but neither of them have time. While we were there Friday Susan talked about the robots and their characters and I found the fuel firing up in me. I wrote a rough sketch of an idea when I got home and emailed it to Mike to see what he thought. I’d like to run it past Susan as well and see what she thinks. It will give me the big push I need to get my pen and pad out and write! I might even consider doing the illustrations as well.