'Have you just come from the conscientious objectors' gathering?' is not a question I am asked in most shops I can go into these days. It was a joyful delight to be asked the other day and it was completely in place. How wonderful it would be if similar enquiries were to be made of me in other places as a natural matter of course! In Housmans bookshop, just around the corner from London's Kings Cross station, it is as obvious as breathing. May that spirit flourish.
For about 40 years, I have enjoyed visiting Housmans, finding fresh perspectives ands alternative connections, some of them a little off-putting, and occasionally bizarre, but always stimulating. The bookshop was originally founded in 1945 as a mail order bookshop for pacifists. Named after Laurence Housman (brother of he more famous poet A.E), and donated by a clergyman for peace work, the shop was established in 1959 and has been a source of strength, interest and empowerment for generations of radicals as a whole, as well as maintaining a powerful continuing witness to peace.
Of course, its days are probably now numbered as a bookshop. Empires such as Amazon continue to crush the traditional book trade and small person. Kings Cross has also been transformed and many of its former intriguing as well as its less salubrious characteristics are almost gone. Across the road from Housmans for example is one of the last remaining traditional strip pubs in London. It, like Housmans, may not be long for this world, as contemporary values change. Why, there is even now a McDonalds outlet on the nearby main corner. As a gesture of support for another way forward, I look for books and items in Housmans and find many. My luggage is already enough so I settle for a novel by Leonard Cohen and Bob Holman's biography of Keir Hardie. I suspect all those three figures would be pleased: their souls dancing and singing in solidarity and in peace along the still defiant shelves of Housmans. There will be another dawn...
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Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.