There are things I won’t say here, personal stories I won’t tell. Partly because I don’t want them out there in the world, where people can tear them apart and judge me. Partly because they involve other people and I don’t want to hurt them. Suffice to say, I find Christmas an extremely challenging time of year, and the Christmas just past was quite horrendous.

Reading International Solidarity Centre
Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC)

One of the things I like to do when my spirits have been ravaged is to visit the RISC World Shop in Reading. It’s underneath the RISC roof garden I have been lucky enough to visit a few times, and have written about in the past. The roof garden is an eco-friendly, productive permaculture garden, based on forest garden principles. It’s really quite remarkable.

The Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) is an educational charity, working with “schools and community groups to raise the profile of global issues and promote action for sustainability, human rights and social justice”. RISC moved to its current location and opened the World Shop in 1996. I lived in Reading around that time, and was aware of RISC, mostly as a community centre – there are rooms upstairs that local groups can use. The roof garden wasn’t built until the early years of the 21st century, and by then I had moved to Oxfordshire.

We now live about 40 minutes away from Reading and make the trip a handful of times a year. I love walking into the RISC shop. It’s usually relatively quiet, and a welcome change from the chaos that is Reading town centre. It’s also a riot of colour, and smells great! While we’re there, we spend some time browsing and try to buy something (safe in the knowledge that everything is eco-friendly and fair trade!). During our latest trip, I bought a vegetarian cookbook (A Lebanese Feast by Mona Hamadeh) and a dish scraper made from a coconut shell that will help get burnt food off the baking trays 🙂

The calming and uplifting effect I feel there lasts for days. If we lived closer, I would visit more often.

This morning I spent a few minutes analysing why I feel so at home there. It’s because the World Shop:

  • is friendly and welcoming, diverse and tolerant
  • smells wonderful
  • is colourful and exotic
  • is full of wonderful eco-friendly/fair trade products
  • is charitable, helping to build local community
  • focuses on a global future, not a nationalistic past
  • is 100% progressive

It’s also worlds away from many of my everyday experiences, and markedly different from my upbringing, and now I need to ponder how to bring more of the world shop atmosphere into my daily life.

Lotus by Ke Hugo, Pixabay