Walking across Minster Square, I was stopped by a passing couple who wanted to express how disgraceful it was that, after so much money has been spent on the regeneration, the white stone is already blackened by the wheels of bikes and skateboards.
I pointed them to the tower of the Minster. Can you see, I asked, the clean stone where stones have had to be replaced, and the dirty stone that is older? Is it a disgrace that the stone is dirtied? (After all, it is dirtied by our collective pollution.)
This space was a dead area before. People passed through it as quickly as they could. These dark marks tell me that this is a living space now, that young people like to spend time here, along with older people sitting on those benches. Is that a disgrace?
Hear me, I appreciate that the regeneration requires work on all our parts to build bridges between generations. I am fully aware that there are older people who are troubled by the noise. I know that some young people are selfish and inconsiderate, as are some old people. But I will not join in cursing what I see as a blessing.
The discoloration of the stone is inevitable. That it has begun so soon is, in my opinion, an endorsement of the work that has been done to transform the space.
I hear what you are saying, the man said, but I can’t go there myself. I’m a fair bit older than you.
Yes, yes you are. But you approached me, and I will seek to build bridges, not walls that divide. And what I might say to a younger person would include inviting them across that bridge towards you.
Build bridges, not walls. Speak blessing, not curses.
It isn’t you, he asked, making these marks? Oh no, I replied, I don’t have the balance for skateboarding.
On the other hand, playfulness is a great way to reduce the symptoms of being a grumpy old man. Perhaps I should risk it, some time...