Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Saving Paradise

Greenbelt 2012. Saving Paradise. 

I'd looked forward to - longed for even - the Festival all year. Ever since I left Christian Aid having been on the working group planning for what was always going to be a fantastic presence in Cheltenham.

We arrived full of excitement and anticipation, in particular I saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and ex-colleagues, still feeling myself to be part of the movement for change and the amazing organisation that is Christian Aid.

More of my personal angst elsewhere - this one is all about the mud...

An apocalyptic downpour on Saturday afternoon, on top of an already saturated racecourse, led to flooding and a soggy boggy quagmire such as I have never before witnessed. Six inches of swampy water around and inside the entrance to the venue reduced footfall dramatically and as the picture shows the situation was much the same for many of the centre course traders and venues.

The grandstand side of the Festival was able to carry on regardless with a certain sense of cheery calmness of the type currently popularised on greetings cards in the style of wartime posters. Meanwhile punters were stopping at the end of the walkway to the centre of the racecourse and turning back - even The Jesus' Arms with its fine wines and ales could not tempt them to walk on the water.

Is it okay to admit the situation was ghastly? That in spite of looking forward to the Festival for months I was miserable, disappointed and ready to go home...?

Surrounded by jollity, positivity and punters making the best of it, not allowing the weather to spoil their enjoyment of Greenbelt, I felt at times like a moaning miserable whingebag. Perhaps I was.

But reflecting this morning, in the comfort of a hotel after a decent breakfast, hot shower and great night's sleep I felt emboldened enough to scribble a few notes.

I believe it is okay to admit the situation was horrid.

Without in any way minimising the suffering of others throughout the world it's okay to say that suffering is a part of life and small scale suffering of the kind we experienced this weekend is a reminder of this.

Is it possible that by denying the reality of our own small taste of suffering we are denying ourselves the opportunity to share in the experience of others who suffer more deeply?

Where do we draw the line?

I've read about flooding in Bangladesh for many years now. I've seen photos of people up to their necks in dirty floodwater and have on an intellectual level acknowledged their suffering.

But after wading through mud this weekend I finally - get it. As far as it is possible to from the warm dry sofa on which I am now sitting. I could escape, they cannot, and I have some small understanding of what it is they are going through.

If I deny how horrid the cold, slimy mud was. If I minimise the inconvenience, the soul destroying damp and damage it caused; if I keep calm and carry on with a smile and a cupcake - is it possible that I in some way minimise what my brothers and sisters in Bangladesh are suffering?

It's late, I am tired, and articulating this is not easy but it has to be done - if corrected tomorrow.

I will go to bed thankful for a comfortable mattress, hot water, good food and the life that I have - with a prayer for those who struggle with so much worse than we experienced this weekend.

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