Along a country road I drove past a place I have often wondered about – an old stone house surrounded by iron fences adorned with bicycle wheels and religious iconography. On a makeshift sign the words ‘Celestial Being’ were crudely painted. The gate was open and a roadside board advertised antiques for sale. I’ve never seen the place open before so, curious, I pulled into the carpark.
On an old plaque by the rustic gate the words ‘Salesian Order’ were engraved. I had some recollection that this was some kind of Catholic religious order. Well that explains all the religious artifacts I thought as I took in a Jesus made of rusty iron with crown of barbed wire round his head.
Entering the shop/shed I was confronted with a dusty mishmash of old plates, dark wooden furniture and the like. Nothing grabbed my attention and I was about to leave when a 50ish guy appeared. An air of melancholy hung around him yet he was eager to take me on the tour of the grounds and explain something of the history.
The house, he said, had been owned by Salesian Brothers up until a few years ago when he bought it. A pub had stood on the corner of the property. I said something about the odd mix of religion and grog. The guy replied morosely, ‘They were heavy drinkers’.
He took to me see the old cellars he’d excavated by hand.
On the other was the remains of old blacksmith shop where rescued fragments of the past were displayed.
The guy was so into the curious world he was creating I found I was somehow swept up into the flow of his words. As I followed him round I developed a kind of selective vision where I overlooked the incongruity and the unfinished and saw only isolated pockets of beauty. For a while I felt as if I was seeing the project through his eyes. I’ve processed my mobile phone photos to try and convey that feeling.
The magic wore off by the time we got back to my car. We wound up our conversation staring at an incomplete gazebo where lovely old stained glass windows were rotting beside a tub of blackish water filled with saplings in desperate need of being planted out. The guy himself to have some kind of reality check at that moment for he said bleakly, ‘It’ll look better when the trees grow.’
Driving away I found myself hoping that celestial beings really do visit him and give him some heavenly help and guidance for if he ever does finish the project he will have created quite a wonderland.