for the puppet. I hadn’t intended staying but Someone wanted company in the puppet-making workshop. The workshop leaders made me feel welcome and somehow I ended up making a puppet in a workshop aimed at 5+ year-olds. The day had not started off very welcoming: grey skies and showers were correctly forecast and I spent much of the time in various stages of moist, damp, drying off and just plain wet. But there were welcoming highlights: the scruffy-looking stranger who helpfully showed us where to catch the return bus; the offer of extra milk (at no extra charge) from the B&B when I wanted a late night bowl of cereal.

Then there was the art gallery in the Royal Arcade. To be honest, we had no intention of buying anything – the nicest pictures were the price of a small car (and a new one at that). However, it was out of the rain and we enjoyed looking at the pictures. I’m sure our clothes and behaviour gave the game away. Nonetheless, one of the sales assistants came over, offered us a coffee, ignored our protests of “But were just looking” and showed us round. He was enthusiastic about the pictures in the gallery and knew the artists who were represented there. I must confess that, apart from Rolf Harris, I had never heard of them but I would say that there were some beautiful and clever paintings there. Incidentally, I went to the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition for the first time this year but I enjoyed this gallery more. As we had declined the coffee our salesman said we must return and stop long enough to have one even though we explained we were just visiting the city briefly. Yes, he was being a good salesman but I think the welcome was genuine.

To round off our city break we went on a tour of the BBC East studios in the Forum. If you were being cynical you could say that we wondered round some offices when most of the workers were out. But our guides answered our questions, allowed us to take photos and explained about both the radio and TV studios.

the studio as it looked lunchtime 19th June 2011

At the end of the tour we were invited to play act a scene for BBC Look East which gave a hands on sense of what it might be like to do the show. All-in-all I think I would give the tour 8 out of 10.

What occurred to me later was that each of the above were examples of hospitality. I usually think of hospitality as inviting people around for a meal and perhaps having a guest stay overnight. And there are some people who have a natural talent for it. Their house is often the place where someone has been welcomed in, whether it is to stay or just to have a cuppa and a chat. They don’t think to themselves, “How shall I be hospitable?” because they are simply doing what comes naturally. Much as I aspire to be hospitable, I do have to think about it.

But hospitality can also be shown in the kindness we show to strangers. The man at the bus stop overheard our rushed conversation with the bus driver and decided to stop and give us the information we needed. The workshop leader did not have to invite me to join in. The art gallery assistant could have left us to wonder round till we got bored and moved on. The B&B landlord could have simply directed us to the supermarket up the road. The tour guides were friendly and did their best to answer our questions. All of these were hospitable by doing the task they were supposed to but added a bit of kindness and a little bit of generosity. None of them gave us a million pounds, in fact the extra they gave was arguably quite small. But it made the difference.

I don’t know what I need to do to be more hospitable but I think I’ve learnt that it is a way of doing what I do anyway with a touch of kindness and generosity.

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