It’s taken me week or two to be able to write this post, every time I thought about it I was filled with lets say less than christian feelings.
Some friends of ours, Marks and Spencer, came to visit us for a few days. They are thinking of moving to the area after having been to stay with us a few times and realised how very lovely it is in Devon.
Proud to show off our new home and surrounding area we decided that a trip to Buckfast Abbey was an absolute must. It’s a stunning place, absolutely breathtaking in fact and I couldn’t wait to show it to them.
After a tasty breakfast we packed ourselves and Douggie the Doggie into the car and set off to Buckfastleigh where we spent some time admiring the beautiful quaint old railway station with it’s characterful old steam trains before we headed off to Buckfast Abbey.
As both our friends are disabled we managed to park right outside the entrance using those ever so useful blue badges, worth their weight in gold they are. I was bit disappointed to see that the entrance to the abbey was covered in scaffolding and shrouded to try and hide it all but they covered all the shrouding in pretty, evocative photos of the interior of the abbey so it could have been worse. As building work goes it was as non-intrusive as you can get.
We strolled through the grounds, obviously heeding the signs to keep dogs on leads. After all, we were in the grounds of a magnificent, working abbey and due respect should be given such a place. Dogs rampaging round the gardens would be so disrespectful. Douggie was tethered to my side the whole time, much to his disgust. The gardens were a delight. The lavender garden was just lovely, I can imagine what it must be like in summer.
As we walked it quickly became very apparent to me that I’d massively overestimated my recovery after my operations and this amount of walking was way too much way too soon. I was starting to struggle but trying not to show it. With nowhere to sit I had no choice but to plod on.
A heavy downpour of rain encouraged Marks and Spencer to go inside the abbey. I was so pleased.
Me, Marks and Spencer all went into the abbey. Boofuls stayed out with Douggie in the rain.
Marks and Spencer went off to admire that abbey in all it’s splendour. I stood for a moment, knowing I was in too much pain to go with them and aware that Boofuls was outside in the rain. So. I scanned the entrance inside and out for signs saying if dogs were allowed or not. No sign of any signs. Happy days.
“Boofuls, there is nothing to say dogs aren’t allowed. Why don’t you come in. I’ll sit quietly in the pew by the door with Douggie the doggie and you can go and be tour guide for Marks and Spencer.”
So that’s what we did.
Dougie tucked himself in by my feet and settled down and I revelled in sitting in such a beautiful place, enjoying the atmosphere and feeling so grateful just to be sitting and easing my poor aching body.
Then came a tap on my arm. “I’m sorry, you can’t come in here with a dog.”
“What? It doesn’t say dogs can’t come in. Does God not like dogs?”
“You have to leave, dogs aren’t allowed in the grounds never mind in the abbey.”
At this point, the ignominy of being thrown out was overtaken by my body screaming at me to SIT DOWN! YOU’VE DONE TOO MUCH!
I sighed. “Right. Look, the thing is, I had a large operation three weeks ago. I just need to sit for a few minutes. If I can’t sit in here can I at least sit outside in the entrance porch?”
“No. No dogs allowed.”
By this time Boofuls had disappeared. I left the abbey, close to tears and in extreme pain. Knowing I couldn’t walk as far as the car and Boofuls had the keys anyway. I hobbled up to and sat on the nearest steps in the wind and the rain and tried not to cry as Douggie the doggie cuddled up to me.
Luckily I had my phone with me and sent Boofuls a text message.’I’ve been thrown out.’
After a few minutes, a few minutes where people stared at me like I was a mad woman, sitting in the thankfully now light rain on the wet steps and looking a picture of misery, Boofuls appeared.
He helped me back to the car and we waited for Marks and Spencer to return.
As we waited I stopped being upset and started being angry. So very angry.
At this point it had stopped being about the dog. I had no real issue with that. I know I don’t have the right to take him wherever I want. Their house, their rules and all that …or did I have an issue? It turns out I did.
No dogs allowed in the grounds the woman had said. Why then were there signs all over the place saying to keep your dog on a lead? Are dogs allowed or are they not? It turns out there is a very long and convoluted answer to that which involves a public footpath running right through the abbey grounds.
I ranted about how thrilled God must have been at their display of christian kindness to a person in need. No. Wait. What I meant was their very unchristian jobsworth attitude to a person in need. I ranted about their mixed message dog policy. I ranted about the embarrassment of sitting outside on the rainy steps while abbey staff walked past staring at me, not one asking me if there was an problem.
Such was my ranting that Boofuls offered to go back down to the abbey and register my discontent. Off he went.
After having registered my discontent he was helpfully informed that there were in fact ‘no dogs’ signs at the entrance. Oh really? As a dog owner we always make a point of looking to see if dogs are allowed or not. They call it responsible dog ownership.
We searched and searched for them. Eventually we found them. On the wall at the entrance, two small signs completely covered by scaffolding and the picture covered shrouds covering it. There is no way we could have seen them.
Time and time again Boofuls and I have come across this attitude of people who claim to be christians but who’s christian attitude leaves a lot to be desired. We have left more than one church because they were less about doing the work of God and more about the egos and holier than thou attitudes of the church members.
Sadly, this unfortunate incident at Buckfast Abbey has done nothing to change my view.