Saturday, May 25, 2024
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The tearoom brewing hope and defiance


THIS is the story of a woman who will not be silenced or intimidated by the Covid Project Fear.

She has run The Mustard Seed, a Christian bookshop and tearoom in Gedling, on the outskirts of Nottingham, for twenty-five years and sees no reason to discontinue simply because of a rather nasty flu variant.

She kept her business open during the early days when all of Nottinghamshire was plunged into a Tier Three loss of freedom. She stayed open and was duly fined.

She remained open anyway and the fine shot up to £1,000. Most of us would have sullenly complied and shut up shop by this time, but The Mustard Seed remained open. The next day, word had got around and the shop became an oasis in the middle of a locked-up world of despair.

The atmosphere during that Saturday afternoon was indescribable. The place was pulsating with mask-free excitement and hope, even though in compliance with the latest emergency regulations patrons were invited to wear a mask if they chose. Nobody chose.

The inevitable happened.

Possibly because there were people gathered outside as well as the permitted number inside The Mustard Seed, or more likely because any appearance of joy had to be stamped out, the police arrived, made a couple of arrests to ensure that everybody present knew how serious the situation was, and in an ecstasy of zeal brought the fines owed by the owner to £17,000.

Nothing came of the arrests; the criminals caught in the act of enjoying coffee and free discussion were released, and to date the fines have not been paid.

Within a day or two, when The Mustard Seed reopened yet again, the responsible authorities crashed in and ordered the premises to be locked for three months. A police spokesman was reported in the local paper as saying, ‘Although the great majority of Nottingham’s citizens respect other people and make sacrifices during the coronavirus pandemic, there are a selfish few who have to be disciplined by the law.’ Or platitudes to that effect. A couple of national papers ran the story, too, emphasising that The Mustard Seed had thankfully been closed and implying that a catastrophe had been averted.

Decent people could breathe easily again – as much as their masks allowed them to.

The owner and her family decided to take the enforced holiday as a divine gift and spent time catching up with the tasks and pleasures of normal life. Normal locked-down life, at least.

Recently, lights reappeared in The Mustard Seed. I was passing and rang the bell because the door was locked, apparently to keep out the police. Welcomed in as a member of a private club, I was anxious to say straight away that I was interested in helping out with crowd funding to pay the £17,000.

The owner told me there would be no crowd funding.

She would not pay out a penny of her money or anybody else’s money to give to ‘those criminals’. She is going to fight the injustice every step of the way. I felt something like a pang of pity for anybody who tried to stand in her way. As if to confirm this, she explained to me and one or two other members of the ‘club’ that the authorities both local and national had taken on someone too big for them.

I naturally assumed she meant herself.

No, she said. It was Jesus, the son of God, who was guiding her and had been protecting The Mustard Seed from its opening to the present day.

Her courage is indomitable. It is also contagious and is making others brave. Our crowd-funding offers might be courteously rejected. Our prayers will not be.

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Paul Stilwell
Paul Stilwell
Paul Stilwell taught literature and language on four continents. He's now frittering away his retirement in writing novels (crime, satire, Christian allegory, dark humour), one or two of which, e.g. Renegotiable Destiny and The Deserving are available on Amazon. Alarmingly, more are likely to appear if he gets hold of one of those computer thingies.

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