Claims of yet more cheating by the Pakistani cricket team and then a visit by the Pope – just another normal twenty-four hours in my #hyperlocal patch of South London then.
The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to St Peter’s Residence along Meadow Road wasn’t meant to make the headlines. This was an afternoon tea event, tucked away in an otherwise anonymous corner of South London, and hidden away in the official State visit schedule ahead of the Hyde Park hoo ha later in the evening.
The playing down of Mr Pope in my #hyperlocal patch suggested something of a space filler. With a more high profile visit to Wimbledon earlier in the afternoon, and then the huge Hyde Park ticketed event in the evening, cynics (um, the good @SE11_lurker) was spot on in stating that we were hosting a time killing event.
It was almost as if the Vatican had pulled up Google maps, typed in SW19 and W1, and then pinned the Papal tail on my little #hyperlocal patch to pass the time. The location of St Peter’s, SW8 made perfect geographic sense, albeit with some ideological reservations.
Google maps may be great for physical geography, but not so cool on cultural exploration. A short walk down the Harleyford Road, and Mr Pope would have found himself at Vauxhall Cross, the self-centred Gaybourhood of South London.
I personally was rather passive in the whole Papal affair. I’m agnostic but active locally. To stay at home and hoover whilst one of the world’s most influential leaders was passing through my neighbourhood, would have been a waste of an afternoon.
I wandered down Trigon Road shortly before 5pm, quite unsure of what to expect. The road closure signs had been in place all week, but interest in Benny’s afternoon tea break seemed to be limited.
I passed young mother’s carrying shopping bags, kids playing on scooters and even an estate agent trying to temp some tenants into a shoehorn of a flat.
“What’s the neighbourhood like?”
“Oh, you know – apart from Papal visits, nothing special.”
It wasn’t until I reached the Meadow Road junction that I first saw the crowds. Nothing major, but then this was a hyped down #hyperlocal appearance. A rough head count suggested 1,000 max, with a lively crowd of twenty or so protestors, representing the Gaybourhood.
It is rather apt that this hush hush #hyperlocal visit should take place at St Peter’s. Little is known about the Nursing home locally. My only contact with St Peter’s is to pass it on the way to the cricket. The good Sisters within aren’t exactly resting on Test match days, trousering twenty notes a time in pimping out the Good Lord’s car park.
I took up a place in the throng of the two deep crowd, directly opposite the gates to St Peter’s. This was clearly an entry point that I wouldn’t pass the test for. The #hyperlocal online and blogging community was out in force.It seems that I wasn’t alone in putting that Saturday afternoon hoovering on hold.
A sudden rush, and the police convoy speeded past, followed by some very un-Pope-mobile style transport. It was as though Mr Pope was being transported around South London in the back of a rather large hire car.
And that, I thought, was probably that. A quick scroll through my twitter feed, and the good @kennington reported that Kate Hoey was within the sacred walls, being received by the Pope. Keeping in line with the song, the response from Mr Pope of course had to be:
“Who the f***ing hell is Kate Hoey…”
It must have been a laugh-along-a-minute during the short meeting. We were led to believe that Benny was giving a sidesplitting speech to the Sisters all about… death. It’s the way he tells ’em.
I did consider buggering off back to base and resuming my own private worship of housework. But I stuck it out, and was rewarded with what was a truly unique, magical and simply jaw dropping moment, right on my #hyperlocal doorstep.
A robed up dude emerged from the gates at St Peter’s to deliver a cheeky thumbs up to the crowd. I passed this off as perhaps a sign of the party atmosphere within. Perhaps the water had been turned to wine, and wall-to-wall vomiting had broken out.
But nope – Mr Thumbs Aloft was indicating that one of the most powerful and influential men in the world wanted to have a walkabout, right on my bloody doorstep.
The crowd went crazy, both God Fearers and the guys ‘n girls from the Gaybourhood alike. I was sitting on the fence, quite literally, and simply wanted to take it all in.
Even for an agnostic, it was simply magical. There was a huge surge of emotion in witnessing the power of an old man to inspire my local community. As far as schedule time killers go, this had to be the most remarkable way of filling in a spare half hour in the South London afternoon.
I tried to make sense of this short burst of spirituality, but where to look? Mr Pope’s shoes caught my eye. I may not believe in his right wing nonsense of a message, but he is certainly a snappy dresser.
Sticking with the shoe theme, and it seemed that an Iraqi style shoe throwing protest was about to break out. A singular shoe dropped right in front of me. Turns out it belonged to a poor kid who was simply caught up in all the excitement and emotion.
This is about as rock ‘n roll as my little #hyperlocal patch of South London gets. The appearance of an iconic figure in the late evening SW8 sunshine was inspiring, if not in a religious capacity, then certainly spiritualy.
I have seen the light, I have seen Mr Pope, and yes – I have seen a community celebrating a unique event. The Gaybourhood guys ‘n girls rightly had their grievances, but I simply couldn’t ignore the power that this man has. What a waste for it be channelled into the nonsense of organised religion.
So yeah – for one afternoon only, my #hyperlocal patch of South London became the centre of the universe. I may not believe in creationism, but I am now a confirmed supporter of community cohesion.
Amen to that.