Give A Little Love

I gave blood the other day. Donating blood is something I’ve done every six months for about twelve years and, as anyone who does it regularly knows, it’s no big deal. So no sermon from me, just do it if you can.

This time I couldn’t make it to my usual donation venue so I had to go to a local town hall which I guess is like a

thousand town halls around the country, a place millions have visited. Bit musty smelling, cold and with all the sophistication of someone running in Ugg boots. But it was an adventure for me as I have never been in one in my life.
The nearest I’ve come to a town hall was picking up a charity cheque years ago from Glasgow’s City Chambers where, as I left, a drunk recognised me and asked how I was. After politely replying, I asked after his well being in return. He said “mind your own effin’ business.”

I don’t attend political meetings or Women’s Institute jam sales, and I’ve never had to go to my town hall to complain as we aren’t harassed by undesirables living next door to us – tho’ our neighbours are, of course - so I had no idea what the place was like.

As I got through the blood donation bit much quicker than expected, I went for a wander to see what else was happening and, believe me or not, it was a fascinating place. Perhaps I should get out more but I was excited. The first room I came to had a notice that said, simply, “Healing”. I know I shouldn’t have been nosey but, well, you would wouldn’t you? I couldn’t help myself. Inside were strange looking people dressed as the cast of Hair or Godspell and laying hands on people.

Men were having hands laid on backs while bent over and touching their toes, and various women seemed to have others placing hands near their heads as if to get rid of an ache or tension, and it all looked comically serious. I mean why go to medical school for five years when you can cure everything from halitosis to gout simply by having warm hands?

But then I saw a woman having hands placed near her stomach. She was obviously in pain and I guess had come because the doctors couldn’t help. The look of belief and hope in her face was haunting and all sorts of things ran through my head. Suddenly this room became a very moving place to look at and I was being insensitive and intruding. I moved on.

The next room had something called a Zumba class. Not knowing my Zumba from my Simba or indeed my Zebra, I couldn’t imagine what animal husbandry was going on in there. But I discovered Zumba is a kind of exercise set to Gloria Estefan music. It looked great fun and I might be tempted to join a class even though the room next door was probably closer to my skill and fitness level. In there they were having a tea dance with lots of polite old people swirling round the floor slowly, as if speed might take their dentures flying.

I could have shown off and danced like Fred and Ginger but, if I’m honest, it would have been closer to Fred Flintstone and the ginger one from Harry Potter so, again, I moved on.

Carrying on my tour of the town hall I found a museum staffed by local ladies, a Christmas card sale, an exhibition of paintings, and a small coffee shop. This place was like the Tardis and contained a whole soap opera’s variety of life. It was brilliant.

So I think I’ve now found a new idea for a book. How about a day in the life of the town hall? I’ll pick a day next summer and get around as many of these halls as I can, taking photos and interviewing the people who are using the facilities. Why is she giving blood? What’s the story behind her tummy and the laying of hands? Who’s at the tea dance? Why is she giving up her free time to guide people round display cabinets of local maps and photos? Why am I so uninteresting I have to live through other’s lives?

Without these places what would people do? For some it must be the highlight of the week, something they look forward to for days. I came out to the town hall car park filled with enthusiasm and bonhomie, thinking what a great day it was.

And found I had a parking ticket.

A very Happy Christmas to you and yours.

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