Celine is having a mid-morning breakfast, a boiled egg and coffee, sitting at a narrow table outside a little coffee shop in North-East London. She is catching up on a few phone calls before heading off to work.
It is a beautiful day. I ask if she would mind me joining her, while son Nick and Sandy go inside to order coffees.
We get chatting. I can’t pick her accent, but discover later that she is French. She is a shoe designer for an Italian niche fashion shoe company. She is wearing one of her designs, Primury, white leather, crossing boundaries of formal and informal, typifying the aesthetic of this generation of younger entrepreneurs.
She has worked for one of the bigger shoe brands but her tone of voice tells me that she has disdain for them. I suspect that, like many of this generation, her expectations of creativity and work have not been satisfied in that environment. Here she is, mid-morning and free to determine her own work schedule, while enjoying the aesthetic lifestyle that feeds her inner life.
She asks me about myself. She doesn’t understand the concept of chaplaincy. I explain that while chaplaincy has religious roots, for me it is about nurturing those inner qualities that are life-giving.
Our conversation turns to the topic of trust. Clearly she has experienced a breach of trust from the shoe company she used to work for. She tells me that she was brought up Catholic, but has rejected the Church with its instillment of guilt and fear.
I think she typifies the movement of younger generations, not only away from the church but from the world of institutional work. I am excited to find this move toward spiritual freedom. There is a spontaneous valuing of the spiritual for its own sake, but without conscious calculation, free from the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ that institutions are good at instilling, yet responsible and seemingly open to others.
She is interested in the themes of my new book and makes a note of its title. I am interested in looking at her work. It’s the kind of interchange that also seems to characterise this dynamic new paradigm.