22 May 2012
On Sunday, our friend Beatty Hallas was a welcome mat of sorts. Beatty is an artist who is interested in 'public affirmations' - ways people interact, respond, make things better - how they look after one another. For the open house, she stood like a sentry in our doorway, welcoming people. Nothing more, nothing less, and let interactions and conversations happen naturally. More information about Beatty can be found at www.beattyhallas.co.uk and be sure to pick up or download one of her leaflets about alternative/contemporary habitation - it's a really interesting read!
Notes on Welcome Mat, 20 May 2012
I began slightly tentatively, hands clasped and standing on the doormat outside the front door. My feet began automatically to rock up onto the toes and back down flat, as I had seen policeman do. This was as much about keeping my feet warm as settling into a stance and rhythm of biding my time. As the day went on I became more confident in my position, more upbeat and alert to the dynamics of arrivals.
The weather was much colder than I thought it would be. A chilly wind gusted around me. I had to leave my post several times to get hot tea and jump up and down. I felt lacking in my preparations.
I realised as time went on that my role was to be poised, with the emphasis on waiting for someone to arrive. Someone to receive my greeting. I could see reflections in a car in front which gave indications that they were coming. I had to focus and be receptive.
I thought of the all the jobs I have had that have involved this 'greeter' element. The duality of being vulnerable in needing someone else to complete the exchange, and the upper hand of being the initiator of a new relationship.
On arrival visitors were often stopped in their tracks. I stood face-on at the top of five steps in an alcove-like porch. It was a surprise to be met like this on a domestic street. They smiled on being welcomed, a mood of warmth was established on going into the house. They replied with 'thank you' or even 'you've been so kind already'. I turned sideways to let them enter the narrowed doorway and this prompted further interchanges as we brushed shoulders in close quarters.
If they asked if I had work in the house I said no, but passed them on to the homeowners. They were curious why I was there if I didn't have work in the house. I let this remain a question in their minds without being confrontational.
The six hours passed quickly. The porch felt like a sentry box, with a limited view. Neighbours passed back and forth, kids on scooters and cars reversing up the street. As people left I was the final point of farewell.