I have a confession to make. Despite being an atheist, I've been to chapels twice this week. 
    No, I haven't been saved!
   Firstly, I went to Hanbury Chapel in Bargoed, now known as the Public Library.
   It's an utterly awe-inspiring place to hold a Creative Writing class for adults and I'm privileged to be able to tutor there.
   Our latest challenge is to come up with poems about the building and I've actually written two. I'm sure that members of the group will be equally inspired.
   My first reaction was to write in Welsh, which is really gratifying. This poem isn't for public consumption yet though. My reliable editor ( my wife) needs to scan it very closely, especially my wayward mutations!
   The library has only been open a couple of years and from the facade it seems like you are indeed entering a chapel. Immediately, leaflets and books on local history both announce its very different identity and perplex the stranger.
   The space has been used so wonderfully, it's full of light and words lifting to the ceiling with clarity. So many of the original features have been retained, so this was no act of civic vandalism. Organ pipes and organist's chair are immaculately preserved and there's even a constant light on the latter.
   It's a pity the place isn't available for book-lovers' weddings, dressed in character out of Hardy or Bram Stoker, with the organ's grand tones summoning the atmosphere of 19th Wessex or Gothic Dublin meets Transylvania. Sadly, the organ isn't working.
   One of my group asked if they had a Bible there and the librarian had to delve deep into the basement to produce a specimen, pristine and untouched. Ironic in a place where sayings from that book are still muralled with absolute conviction.
   Another in the group recalled attending 'Songs of Praise' there. She was a Welsh Baptist but the denomination there was English Baptist and Cymraeg would not have been used in either prayer or hymn.
   Intricate and ornate railings, stained glass windows depicting the 'green hill'  and roses growing and ,amazingly, in the basement itself were the original altar and pews, not shipped off to St. Fagan's, but as though waiting for time-travel to happen. Close by a room full of computers, it seemed like a battle of the centuries was lining up.
   And that's what you notice about such libraries nowadays. It's no longer the newspaper room, reference library or children's section which is busy, but the computers.
   Perhaps libraries should make free e-books available for downloading, or be full of various You-Tube films of poets , or other writers reading extracts from their latest novels..........perhaps some are like that.
   One thing is missing however. Unlike Rhymni with it's homage to Idris Davies as you enter, there is nothing about local writer John Tripp here. I know John spent much of his life in Whitchurch, Cardiff, where he is remembered, but some acknowledgement would be fitting.
   I urge anyone who hasn't visited Bargoed Library to do so. Wander around and breath in the atmosphere. Be inspired!
   It's still a sanctuary as well. In the modern part at the back there's a cafe and while I was there a distraught young man entered. He insisted he didn't want anything, just to stay there. He proceeded to walk around, very agitatedly staring out the window on look-out for someone after him. I noticed later he was sitting on a sofa in the main part of the library and looking somewhat relieved.
   The other chapel I went to was Calfaria in Heolgerrig; this time to the back room normally reserved for a Polling Station. Here I collected my order of a dozen free range eggs and bag of salad potatoes from a local co-operative run by the Gellideg Foundation.
   As one woman there said - ' We are run by the people, for the people!'
   The quality of produce (they also provide vegetables and salad) is superb and long may their co-op flourish, using local goods and skills.
   During a week when a number of us writers ( from various parts of south Wales, but a couple from Heolgerrig ) are hoping to set up a publishing co-operative, I am optimistic  that these are small signs of a future Wales.
   More people need to get together and pool their skills in this manner. Quality products which aren't beyond the price of most people must be a priority. Laudable though the might be, too many of the products coming out of Wales (like Halen Mon and Penderyn Whisky) are luxury goods for the wealthy.
   What this small food co-op shows is that an alternative can be created to the juggernaut supermarkets which crush everything in their way.
   As an atheist, I have to say that I much prefer chapels performing these functions (though Calfaria is still a functioning one) : where words of many kinds are praised and people come to support the fruits of the soil rather than making offerings to a God invented to explain the origins of mankind and an after-life to render them immortal ; gods of another kind.

                                         IN BARGOED LIBRARY

 'Suffer Little Children...'
                                            'We Need To Talk About Kevin'

O Worship The Lord In Beauty Of Hounds -
                                                              misreading of scripture
                                                                                    faith in dogs

                              O      O       O       O      O
                              O      O       O       O      O

                                          wooden O's
                                                            echo sighs
                                                                            the calls down mines

                         angel lights
                                            floating spaceships
                                                                         cuddly green dogs

pulpit   
         pulclick           puldrag             pulfleat        pultap            pulchat

  
                                   screen truth              google bible

                    some answers
                                           no search engine
                                                                        can find 
                                                         
 


Comments

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