Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Stroking Straws

The hit is instant your skin cools rapidly and there is a powerful smell of dust and damp stone.You struggle to see anything in the deep shadow and the silence is palpably beautiful. Tentatively stepping forward, afraid of stumbling on the rock floor, you look up. It's an automatic reaction. Everyone who enters does it and the reward for this involuntary neck exercise is to see some sublime stone carving.

Out there on the other side of the giant oak door, the crowded market street is noisy, and unbearably hot but, on this side you find yourself in the best chill-out room imaginable. There was no charge to push open that door and enter, yet you are surprisingly alone in this cool and tranquil space. Red tea lights flicker ebony shadows over hand crafted, arcane and symbolic treasures. Their significance escapes you, but their presence is curiously soothing and you feel the need to be still.

There are plenty of places to sit. In fact a couple of hundred simple wooden chairs, lined up in rows facing east. Old hand-made upright chairs with straw-wrapped rush seats, each one unique like the people they have supported over the years, people who came here seeking support of some kind. Light streams in from a window high in the walls and the empty seats glow gently.

Sitting on one of these chairs you notice that none of the rush worked seats are identical either. Different sized  coils, varied straw colours, different cross over points and oscillating twists. The urge to stroke them is irresistible, they are lovely because they were lovingly made, they are simply beautiful.

The heat is crushing, there is a strong smell of exhaust.  The light is painful and you are enveloped by noise. You wonder if somehow, in a moment of inattentiveness, your eyes closed  and it was just a dream.