As the mother of a son with autism, I have throughout his life acted as an advocate, carer, companion, supporter. One of his difficulties is taking unfamiliar journeys alone. Now aged 18, he has just started a new course in Horticulture at Pershore College in Worcestershire.
Yesterday we met what was, for both of us, a challenge: we navigated the minefield of getting from Warwick to Pershore College by 9.30 am (a three hour journey by public transport). It was a challenge for me because, as a car-owner, I’m used to driving everywhere and am unfamiliar with public transport, especially in rural areas. Having recently been involved in a car accident, I’m currently without a car. So we both set out, expecting to find the buses arriving and departing according to the timetables, and I ended up with feelings of frustration, anger and even betrayal from the difficulties and unexpected events we encountered (all of them caused by human error). I thought to myself, ‘I must write about this…. if I was a satirical novelist, I’d write a brilliantly comic piece about it.’ Even as I raged impotently against the bus companies of Warwickshire and Worcestershire, the infuriating details of this journey struck me as perfect material for a comic novelist’s take on life.
Having delivered my son an hour late at the college (slightly relieved by the discovery that several of the other students had also had trouble with public transport this morning, and were late, or still hadn’t arrived – so my son wasn’t alone, and hadn’t missed anything important) – I walked into Pershore to explore the town before returning to the college later in the day.
I was thinking to myself, “this is a lovely place” but my nerves were still so jangled by our recent journey, and the thought that he’d have to go through this 3 days a week for the next academic year. I found myself reflecting on how so many people in our society seem to operate by keeping one area of information separate from others, and they don’t coalesce, responding flexibly in relation to other facts. It reminded me of a recent comment on Facebook I had read by a fellow-writer, observing that she regarded the world as largely insane, as a matter of course.
Then I found Pershore Abbey.
First of all I walked all around the exterior of the Abbey.
Then I walked in through the west door, and this was the sight that met my eyes.
Immediately, I thought: Sanity. It was as if I had been trapped in a stifling, enclosed cell and now entered a place where there was fresh air, living water, and a vision of life that transcended all I had been experiencing for the last few hours. I felt released, opened up, by the beauty of this space.
And this is the purpose of great religious buildings, and the goal of all truly noble architecture – to draw you in and welcome you as you enter, to make you feel that you are accepted, whoever you are, and whatever state you’re in, and to live your eyes upwards, so that you may transcend the troubles of this world, and indeed, see this life in divine perspective.