Unlike many big Christian gatherings, Spring Harvest is neither in a hotel nor under canvas. It happens at a Butlins camp, where people stay in chalets like this.
The grassy spaces between the chalets are open and safe for kiddies to play, and though there are roads, cars only creep through slowly and occasionally. There's an adventure playground and a swimming pool, a grocery store and places to eat.
Inside, the chalets might be this kind of layout:
— with bedroom decor maybe something like this:
Simple, comfortable, basic and unpretentious. The kitchens have a fridge, cooker, kettle, probably a microwave these days, and some saucepans, utensils, crockery, cutlery etc.
Spring Harvest lasts for five days. After we'd been there three or four days, I began to wonder why we had all the clobber we did, back at home. The chalet wasn't big, and should have been cramped for space, but it was fine because we'd only brought what would fit in the car. We didn't have as many implements in the kitchen as we had at home — but that didn't matter, we got along perfectly well without them.
I felt a deep, powerful, groundswell of longing to get rid of all our bits and pieces and live just the same as in the chalet, after we went home.
Back then, I assumed I was just being silly, and suppressed the idea. But it never quite went away.
Because England is definitely a four-season country, I have more clothes than I could fit in a suitcase. We also have some kitchen items — a juicer and a water distiller, for example — that were very expensive and we do use them. Then there are things like paint brushes and garden tools that we need, because we are our own grounds staff.
So — for the moment — it doesn't seem realistic to pare down to having as little as we had in the chalet.
But I am slowly, little by little, inching in that direction. And the electronic revolution is a big help. In the 1980s when we went to Spring Harvest, the record player we left at home looked similar to this (we had that same gas fire, too):
On the record player, we played large vinyl discs:
We had lots and lots of books:
And a phone that plugged into the wall —
— plus a phone directory to remind us of our friends' numbers.
We needed a wall calendar:
And I enjoyed taking photos with our camera:
We had a radio with an integral cassette player:
— a calculator:
— a torch:
— an alarm clock
Some people had watches, but I never did. I can't wear rings or bracelets or necklaces or watches because of their forcefield. I stop watches.
Now, all these things — music, torch, camera, calendar and diary etc, and the reminders that once had to be left prominently displayed on bits of paper — are in my phone, my books are for the most part in my Kindle, and I can watch TV on my MacBook (without disturbing anyone else). I enjoy Sudoku and playing cards and crosswords: but I can do these electronically. The stack of books I used to have beside me to write a book or a sermon has greatly increased, because I have access to so many more. But they're all invisible, open inside my computer. And as the day ends, I don't have to turn the light on to go on reading, and chase away the beautiful shadows of evening. I have a bedside lamp, because it's nice to have a glow of warm ambient light, but really I only need one, because it charges with a USB jack, so I can carry it to where I need it to be. I do also have a powerful angled light for seeing difficult things — sewing, maybe — because my eyes are getting old. But that folds down and sits neatly in a corner, and charges from a USB jack so I can use it anywhere.
All these inventions are helping me patiently stalk chalet-life, the simple, basic, bare essentials kit of someone who is on holiday. Every day I discover something else I no longer need.
There's a song about this.