Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Peter's Cafe in the Borough of Hackney, London N1

An Afternoon in Peter’s Cafe

Recently a young friend wrote to me: “Keep being you!” Today I sit in Peter’s Café here in Hackney, East London listening to poetry and live music: folk both British and American and Spanish guitar music. The musicians are quite good & perform here gratis the 1st Wednesday of every month.

The café, open Monday to Wednesday from noon to 7:00 p.m. (19.00,) serves simple food: home made vegetable soup and toast, cheese toasties, tuna or egg salad sandwiches, salad, sausage, vegetarian or meat burgers and more. Food is very inexpensive and free if you cannot afford it. Many pay more. Those who come to the café form a community rich in its diversity and fraternity: those on pension, young professionals, local neighbourhood children, refugees seeking asylum, homeless (sleeping rough), and workers on lunch break. A family of five just had a full lunch for £4 25p.

The café is staffed by Catholic Workers: a Passionate priest, an atheist, volunteers from local London neighbourhoods and from the United States. The poetry and live music are a monthly event in the café. The good food and diverse community experience are a daily experience. Drop in; grab a bite to eat; spend some time or the afternoon in conversation, read or simply rest a bit.

The music continues punctuated by a reading of a favourite poem. A lady working in a nearby office comes in clearly frustrated saying: “I need a break.” Invited to sit she begins to relax. I make her English tea. She takes a slice of home made banana cake provided by one of the musicians. After about 45 minutes she comes to pay saying she feels better and next time she’ll read a poem by her favourite poet, John Donne. Encouraged, she picks up a volume and locates a poem and read it for us. Smiling, she departs – no worry lines in evidence. Shortly thereafter our local British gent arrives. He is a regular who entertains us often with imitations of various British dialects: cockneys, long shore men, blokes – you name it. His repertoire is almost endless. His quick wit and wry humour a favourite with everyone.

I’ve truly come to realize that Peter’s Café provided by the London Catholic Worker is truly “Cheers” without the alcohol. “Keep being you!” A kind comment but clearly so easy in this wonderful community.

Dorothy Day must be smiling.

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Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.