A Cultural Experience

Early this morning we think we spotted the foxes’ den.  Between the side fence of our garden and the back fences of a terrace of houses there is what was clearly once an access path.  Each end of this has been blocked off and there is now no through way.  It is so undisturbed that one of the residents has put a gate in his fence and extended his garden to the edge of ours.  He has put in a brick path and is growing runner beans, tomatoes, and flowers in carefully tended soil.  (More encroachment is detailed in a further post).  Further down the path is a fence-high heap of sticks, rather like a beaver’s lodge or the nest of a roc, which has gradually, mysteriously, appeared.  Sitting on top of this pile, having the occasional scratch, was a fox cub.  It seems foxes are like dogs, in that they go round and round in circles settling into a resting position that they find comfortable.  Not surprising really.

I suppose urban foxes don’t need to go to earth, because people think they are so cute.  Some time ago I was consultant to an adoption agency in Putney.  There the foxes lived in an Andersen shelter.  Every spring the staff gathered at the upstairs window to watch the cubs gambolling on the lawn.

Just after 11, leaving the fox on his pile, I walked the circuit of Morden Park.  The atmosphere there was quite eerie.  Apart from one young man having a rant into his mobile phone and an ancient, knackered, overweight dog which seemed to have lost its owner, I encountered no other being in this wooded amenity, a short walk from an underground terminal station, and which takes an hour to circumnavigate.  Apart from the rant and the dog’s laboured panting, the only sound, until I came to the stretch alongside London Road, was that of birdsong.  It was almost, only almost, a relief to hear the roar of the traffic.

On this same London Road, on the site of what was once the Express Dairy, lies ‘the largest mosque in Eastern Europe’. Thinking that there was something incongruous about the huge hoardings virtually alongside advertising  Matalan bikinis, I decided to visit it.  Despite their preparing for a special event and it not really being convenient for a visitor to come, I was made most welcome and given a complete tour of what is clearly ‘a multipurpose complex’, with the exception of the womens’ prayer and other rooms.  The area is vast.  Having visited smaller London mosques I was unprepared for this.  In addition to the huge public prayer rooms there are administrative and service blocks containing offices; meeting rooms; a free homeopathic medical centre, residential and eating facilities; a huge sports hall; a library and bookshop; their own television channel broadcasting services all over the world; and no doubt more I haven’t mentioned.  Everything on an extremely large scale.

In the bookshop I was given a copy of the Koran and a book on the philosophy of Islam.

Security was understandably tight, with systems which would grace any airport, but I was given unrestricted access and didn’t have to go through the detector which my artifical hip would undoubtedly have set ringing.  At the moment they are hosting teams from all over the world taking part in a 20-20 cricket competition.  The teams were all accommodated there.  I was shown their sleeping area and welcomed into the dining hall where a wonderfully aromatic curry was being served.  I was invited to partake, but, since I was to be cooking liver, bacon and onions tonight, I declined.  Sadly.

This mosque complex dominates the southern skyline.  It is quite the most elegant building in Morden, contrasting with the 1960s Civic Centre and the rather earlier Underground station.  I had come prepared to make a comparison between the physical nourishment provide by the Express Dairy and the spiritual nourishment to be found in a mosque.  There is no comparison to be made.  As far as I can see this environment provides everything.

Walking through to the centre of Morden and back to Links Avenue I contemplated what I had just experienced.  The dominant sense was one of peace.  In the vast prayer area a smattering of people were positioned for silent prayer.  Here was, however, one contrast.  All was even quieter than the deserted public park I had just walked through.  But there was nothing eerie about it.

11 thoughts on “A Cultural Experience

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