Thursday, 27 October 2011

Life on the road

At Starbucks in Middlesbrough availing myself of their free WiFi as I travel between Manchester and Teesside Universities on the northern leg of my Book Tour.
I say 'book tour', but that is too grand for the series of small meetings that I am driving hundreds of miles to attend.
I went for University Chaplaincies, as they seemed organisations who might want a bit of 'left field' thinking to drum up a crowd of a few more than the usual suspects.
But invitation and happenstance has broadened my destinations to include church groups and meditation collectives.
It is a strange sensation to head off onto the motorway, leaving loving family behind and drive towards who knows what. Strange people, strange beds, stranger loos and bathrooms. I take my own pillows to make sure that I at least have the chance of a good night's sleep.
But so far the hospitality of my hosts have been amazing. Kind people willing to open their homes to a strange man they have never met, feed him, talk to him, and deliver him to the venue. They have all provided lovely food and an understanding of some of what it means to be 'on the road'.
It is, however, a humbling experience to arrive at a destination with a car load of flip charts and aids to the sort of spiritual giggery-pockery that constitutes and evening of 'Developing Consciousness', only to be confronted by a crowd of 9. All who are as embarrassed as you are by the paucity of their numbers.
We all consider whether or not the evening might have been a mistake both in the 'putting on' and in the 'deciding to go to'.
But nevertheless you are in blood stepped in so far, and so you go ahead. You raise the hammer, like Thor, and bring it crashing down to work the magic. And sure enough, with only 9 present the light comes out and we are all transformed, however briefly, by the glimpse of the eternal that we all catch and marvel at, before shuffling off into the night to go our separate ways.
But it is not all like that. There were 33 in Leeds, two groups of 18 and 10 in Loughborough and the same 20 people turned out twice in Wells, Norfolk.
It may sound a bit dispiriting and small, but there is a strange sort of satisfaction in setting up camp, displaying one's wares and then for people to be really quite kind in their responses.
Which is not to say that you do not doubt the efficacy of what you are up to. In other words, you sometimes think you must be bonkers.
Travelling round the country peddling a kind of pseudo-intellectual culturally relevant take on the nature of reality, and why there is a force for good behind everything, and why that makes all the difference.
As you pull into another motorway service station and pour £60 into the tank that you are not sure you will get back as 'expenses', you do begin to doubt it all.
You continue doubting as you roll up to the next 'hosts' house, as you are driven, like the condemned man, to the venue; As you clear away the mess of a University function room to make it presentable, and as you wait for the 9-33 people to arrive.
It is only when you spring to your feet with a 'good evening everyone' that the blood begins to flow and out of nowhere the road ahead seems clear, and you have all the gears you could possibly want to enjoy the ride.
Roll on Teesside University 12.15 tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment