Places of Silence
Heavy rain since early morning had triggered the flood alarms, but not woken me. Out at 9.10 am to get to Leicester to be interviewed by Ben Jackson on Radio Leicester. Naturally the traffic was slower than usual on the M1 and A50. I was lucky not to be held up by fallen trees, of which there were several today.
The telephone call came at 10.04. Where are you? To which I could truthfully reply that I was in sight of the front door, a mere 100 yards away.
I was ushered in by young acolytes, all of whom had that slightly superior air of 'I work for local radio.' They were very pleasant. Each door had a security button, a sad reflection these days of measures that need to be taken against potential security threats.
The building was echoey empty. The bookshop and cafe have closed. The BBC has been told to pull its horns in.
I was given a cup of institutional coffee and shown into the studio. Mics seem to have changed, now having blue foam covers rather than the metal guards used to dampen sibilance. Ben, who had been on air since 9 am, was fresh-faced and rosy cheeked. His role was to engage in relaxed conversation with his guests interspersed with music, news, traffic and weather reports.
I managed to display my book of Hong Kong. He was suitably complimentary of the photos and asked which cameras I had used. The interview went from there. As promised I was released around 10.25.
It was all very quiet inside. I saw no more than four employees, including Ben, and a young lady who was to be the next guest. She was painting in white pen on the window having developed the skill of writing and drawing back to front.
The street was deserted. I thought I deserved a decent cup of tea so found my way to the Buddhist Peace Centre, two doors down. The pictures on the walls really impressed me. I don't know whether it was the choice of colours and colour harmony, but they were very calming.
The cafe is next to the large Meditation Room. Three large figures, a Buddha and two Bodhisattva, sat in a glass case along the far wall, along with several smaller devotional objects and figures.
As I walked in, I felt the same response that I had had when visiting the Temple of 10000 Buddhas in Hong Kong ascending the staircase lined by gold plated buddhas. These figures seemed to have a powerful presence. Perhaps it's no wonder that people in the past would bow down to statues of a golden calf, for example. But there was no doubting the absolute silence and serenity in the room. Whether I would have felt the same had there been other people present, I can't be sure.
Should you feel harassed and anxious, I think you might be able to benefit from simply sitting in this room and then enjoying a good cup of tea.
Out into the rain and around the corner to visit the cathedral, which I haven't done for some while. Traditionally, our churches have been open to welcome people who want to enter a place of quiet and sanctuary and commune with... themselves if no other. Since Richard III was interred there, the dignitaries of Leicester have become preoccupied with marketing his presence in Leicester and his tomb in front of the High Altar. It's not that the cathedral is noisy, far from it, but whispers and conversations with visitors disturb the peace. The Meditation Room in the Buddhist Centre was far more conducive to quiet reflection.
I drove home up the A6. Both Len and George had heard my interview. George said that I actually sounded like 'a normal human being.' Basil had also heard my voice. Len said he was looking around for me whilst I was being broadcast. I was able to download the episode from BBC Sounds.
Main photo today is of the Meditation Room in Leicester's Buddhist Peace Centre. The figures do not portray the presence that you may feel if you see them for real. Extras are of Ben Jackson sitting in the studio at Radio Leicester (with my reflection in the window) and the nave of Leicester Cathedral.