I turn the volume down on the stereo as I drive into the Deanery, and pull up to my usual car parking spot, sheltered by a huge cedar tree. The gardens are beginning to bloom with snowdrops and daffodils as its mid February. The Cathedral bells are ringing out from the Tower as the 9am Eucharist is about to begin. It’s a Saturday and nobody is around yet. I walk along the gravel path crunching beneath my feet as I approach the arched door. Inside, it is significantly darker. The silence fills the space. The tall vaulted ceilings arch high over my head. Candles are lit in memory of loved ones, their tiny flames flicker and offer hope amidst this Gothic austerity. Only my footsteps can be heard. I unlock the office door and look up at the tall arched window, the blue and white stained glass from Mother Mary’s gowns illuminates the dimness and I feel serene.

I love this Abbey and Cathedral, and it’s an honour to work here. It’s been standing tall for over a thousand years, and is rich with Norman arches, seccoes, misereres, ancient mosaic ceilings, a high altar, a Lady Chapel, vibrant stained glass windows and more. This place of worship is a comfort to Christians who come to seek redemption, and will still be standing tall long after their deaths.

I was welcomed into the parish and immediately felt like I was part of something special. There’s a wonderful network of relationships within our church community and feel removed from the consumerist and Capitalist world of “getting and spending.” when I come into work. It has been a new experience, and giving back to the community feels rewarding and gives personal meaning to my life.

It’s a fifteen minute walk to our local cinema in London Road. As soon as we arrive the word Odyssey in lights welcomes us in. The locals know what a struggle it’s been to resurrect this place, and what an important part of St Albans’ history it is. It first opened in 1908, was burned down in 1927 then reopened in 1931. After many years as a working cinema it closed in 1995, and finally in 2014 after much campaigning by the locals, it has reopened once again and is a real joy for our community.

As soon as I walk past the doors I’m greeted by friendly ushers seated at the box office computer, ready to print our tickets and show us to the bar. The cappuccino machine is humming and pumping out espresso. The bar is crammed with huge packets of popcorn and crisps. Behind the counter are some booths with round tables where you can chill out before the screening.

I take the stairs down to the darkened auditorium and am instantly impressed by a spacious and stylized interior that feels relaxing. This cinema actually appears to be untouched. The wide cinema screen is framed with gilded art deco features. We are shown to our candle-lit table surrounded by three soft chairs. This is my first experience of cinematic luxury. Memories of crowded dark auditoriums and rows upon rows of identical seats become distant, as we join other cinemagoers relaxing in the privacy of their own table and sip our cappuccinos.

After the trailers, the curtains close and one of the ushers appears on stage providing us with a witty introduction to the film, before walking away from the opening swish of the curtain. The place has fallen silent. I kick off my shoes, sit back and nestle into my armchair padded with extra cushions. It’s been a long week. I sigh, and for the next couple of hours, let myself be taken by the hand on another cinematic adventure.