I’ll write more about today and post more pictures I’m sure.
I went back to Coventry, my third visit in ten months. It was a dull day. My first two visits were in bright sunshine. But Coventry on a dull day still shines more brightly than many other venues. My visit confirmed what I learned last year; Coventry is a vibrant city, a friendly city, a city with heart, an inspiring city.
The day after the cathedral was bombed to bits in November 1940, when 500 people lost their lives and over 1,000 were seriously injured, and many more rendered homeless, the dean made a speech among the ruins calling for forgiveness. When the city was rebuilt it became a centre of peace and reconciliation, reaching out to erstwhile enemies, building bridges. Today it continues that work, and is proud of how it welcomes refugees, working to create a culture that crosses boundaries, nurtures respect and understanding and embraces humanity.
That’s all I’m going to say tonight. But I shall upload some pictures of the cathedral. Maybe they’ll speak more clearly.
It’s book group tonight. I have missed the last two meetings. In January I was at the panto, in February I was in Ireland. Just as well I haven’t doublebooked myself this month as the book was my choice. It’s a novel by Sarah Moss called The Tidal Zone. I believe I wrote about here when I first read it last summer. It was my book of 2016, and it’s definitely in my current top ten of all time favourites.
The novel is written from the viewpoint of Adam, a stay at home dad and part time academic. I’m not going to go into the plot of the whole novel, just say that Adam’s current academic project is researching the rebuilding of Coventry cathedral which was lost in the bombing of the Second World War.
The writing is luminous, the descriptions of how the cathedral came to be rebuilt through the passion and vision of its architect Basil Spence, breathtaking. The project was an act of faith, and finishing the novel I knew I needed to make the long neglected trip to the Midlands to see it.
I went on Tuesday. Somehow I had imagined all of Coventry to have flattened during the war, so the streets and buildings that survived were a welcome surprise. I took my time, made my way across the city, circled the cathedral’s exterior, ate the lunch I had brought with me in sunshine. The glimpses of the jeweled glass I had seen through an open door on the north side were enough to tell me I shouldn’t be disappointed.
Whether I should have loved it so much had I not read The Tidal Zone I don’t know. Certainly passages from the novel echoed in my head as I walked around, the way Spence wanted the cathedral to reveal itself gradually, so that the glass in all its gorgeous glory is only appreciated as you move from west to east.
I have never been to Coventry, nor has it ever been high on my list of places I want to visit. That has now changed. Over the last few days I’ve been reading The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss.
Without giving too much away, as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone and I have raved about this book so much to Octavia that it is already on her to read list, but Coventry cathedral features quite strongly in it. Coventry was bombed to bits in the Second World War. Mother, doing her SRN training in nearby Birmingham, spoke of seeing the glow from the fires in the sky as Coventry burned. The C14 cathedral was left in ruins. Continue reading