Saturday, 2 July 2011


We receive an email from the Wave Club, which Harry and Grace occasionally attend on Saturdays at Phoenix Square Film and Digital Media Centre. There's going to be an outing apparently, though to where and for what is kept as a surprise. It's a Doctor Who weekend at the National Space Centre: my hopes are high.

But it's not only my hopes that are too high, it's also my expectations. The outing is to Town Hall Square (well at least it's easy to find and cheaper) to join in a session learning circus skills: no swinging on a trapeze or sticking your head in a lion's mouth, but plate-spinning, juggling, stilt-walking and the like. The kids enjoy it (though it wears off quicker for Harry). I pass some time in a dwam, lulled into a zen-like state by my speciality: the sound of one ball juggling. I'm reminded of one of my favourite Oor Wullie moments, where Wullie attend a variety show and one of the acts is called "Drapitaw the Juggler"! That's not as tenuous a link as you might think, faithful reader, if you'll only read on.

Across the square, there's another tent being set up in a quieter and less frenetic spot. I go over to have a look. It's staffed by members of the congregation at Leicester's Gospel Hall. I spend a few minutes chatting with two friendly fellows called Gordon and Matthew (left and right respectively in the photo below). I might even confess to hanging out at their tent a few moments longer than I intended, just to appreciate the peace and quiet. I introduce myself and the Council of Faiths and say a little about how we and Gospel Hall might do something of mutual benefit. Chatting about things spiritual, even briefly, is like a little oasis. I'm happy to give them - and Gospel Hall - some space here. Contributions to the soul of our city shouldn't go unnoticed or uncelebrated just because they're quiet and subtle.

When I ask Matthew's consent to take a few photos of the tent, he says I shouldn't miss what's on the back of it. Pointing away from the Square, but perfectly visible to pedestrians, motorists and bus passengers in Horsefair Street, is the Bible verse shown in the photo at the top of this entry. This is the one verse from the Gospels that I'm most likely to remember all my life. As a boy, growing up in Glasgow in the 1960s, I attended 260th Glasgow Boys Brigade (junior ones) which was based at Knightswood Congregational Church. Every boy had to memorise this verse and repeat it in front of the officers and whole company before he could receive his lanyard, the sign of full membership. So that verse has stuck in my mind since a very young age and it continues to have strong and positive associations for me.

The verse in question (for anyone unable to read it all from the photograph) is: "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16). I get the impression that as long as people going about their business this Saturday afternoon get to see that, then those inside the tent are happy.

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