The Man Who Liked Car Parks

Neil sat in the car. It was dark and his glasses were misty. He took them off and rubbed them on his sleeve. Outside, the drizzle was stopping. It looked like the night would be clear, even if it was unbearably cold. He opened the glove compartment. There was a Lion Bar and a can of Coke. He took a bite of the Lion Bar and then rewrapped it and closed the glove compartment.

The car park was nearly empty. At the other end from him there was a white transit van. It was filthy and someone had written "Clean Me" in dust on the bonnet. There was also a Renault Megane parked near him. Every five minutes it's alarm went off, which annoyed him. It was like a fitful sleeper who rouses in the middle of the night, angry and confused.

He knew that the car park would soon fill up. He'd been here before. He knew what would happen. He liked to arrive at the car park early and get a good spot. That was half the fun, for him; the build-up, the anticipation. The knowledge that he was sitting alone in a north London car park as dusk approached. His friends were in pubs, talking about football, or lying in bed with their girlfriends, talking about holiday plans and mortgages. But he was here, with his can of coke and his Lion Bar, waiting for it all to happen. He felt a chill in his stomach that had nothing to do with the cold outside.

He twirled the knob of the radio. It was all dance music and ragga from local pirate stations. Then he hit the news. They were talking about the death of some statesman. But what did any of it have to do with him? Then he hit the light-hearted banter of a radio phone-in. An angry man was saying that no-one understood the sacrifices that America was making to ensure global safety. The radio host was half-heartedly playing Devil's Advocate. My God, thought Neil, people are idiots.

Another car arrived at the carpark and parked almost opposite from him. It was a Nissan Micra, green or grey, he couldn't tell. The headlights dazzled him and then died. He listened to the radio and waited. But nothing happened. No-one emerged from the Micra and both cars sat in solitude, like strangers waiting for a train.

This was Neil's fourth time. The first time had been in a car park in Brixton; he had enjoyed it, but it had taken him nearly two hours to drive home afterwards. So he searched the internet for a location closer to him; somewhere in north London. And he had stumbled upon the car park, just five minutes away from his flat. He liked the strange incongruity of it: it was a drab, dull location he had passed a thousand times, and it had never occurred to him that it was anything other than an ordinary car park. But then, he had spent so much of his life with his eyes closed to such things. It was only in recent months that he had opened his eyes and seen the world anew. He felt as though he had been handed a key that gave him access to a whole new world; a world that sat alongside the normal world of men, but was always hidden to those who could not see it.

Now the carpark was filling up. A red Ford Cortina parked next to him. He wondered if it would be Sandra. He hadn't been last month, but he had seen her twice in November. He liked her. He liked that fact that she talked to him as though he were an equal; without real affection but without contempt or false friendship. He was tempted to wind down the window and take a closer look to see if it was her, but he knew it would be better to wait.

He looked down at the pile of papers that sat on the passenger seat. He has printed them all up from information on the internet. If it was Sandra in the Cortina, he would give her the papers. She would be impressed, he hoped. He had certainly done his research. He switched on the overhead light and re-read the sheet on the top of the pile. The information was broken down into a series of Frequently Asked Questions:

"What is Godding?
The term godding refers to either having or observing a religious experience in a public or semi-public place, usually outdoors. Sometimes the voyeurs join in with the religious experience, but usually they just watch from a nearby location.

How did Godding start?
Godding has been getting a lot of attention lately, but people have been doing it for many years. Recently, with the advent of the internet, mobile phones, and messaging, it is easier for Godders to find one another and arrange meetings.

Why is Godding so popular?
It's fun and it's forbidden. People love to watch and be watched having religious experiences. There's also an element of challenge and adventure to finding a good godding spot and seeking out an exciting encounter.

What kind of people go Godding?
Couples into religion are usually in their 30s to 50s, though some may be older or younger. Observers are usually single men, often disenchanted priests or rabbis. Most godders are middle class, and most lead quite average lives apart from their unusual "hobby".

Where are the best places for Godding?
Godders mostly choose open air, somewhat out of the way places, often in or near country parks. Car parks are also quite common congregating spots, and occasionally cinema halls. The best locations are hidden away from the public, but still easily accessible

I don't have a car. Can I still go Godding?
Many godding activities revolve around cars, as couples do like to discuss religion in cars and also some locations are somewhat remote. However, it's quite possible there is godding activity in your area that is accessible by public transport. Check godding sites and godding groups for info.

Why has religion been driven underground? Why can't I just talk about religion in public?
You are free to discuss religion where and when you want, but it comes with a certain risk. Belief and faith are no longer considered polite subjects for conversation in most communities. Godding is popular because it allows the anonymous observance and discussion of religious experiences without fear of judgement. Most godders would never discuss religion with friends or family, but crave some secret spiritual fulfillment."

Neil put the papers down and looked outside. It was raining harder now, and he switched on the windscreen wipers. There car park was nearly full. There were about 20 cars. Some had their headlights on and some had their engines running, but most were silent and static statues. The drivers sat in darkness, waiting for it all to kick off. He could feel the tension and excitement rising in his stomach.

He looked over at the Cortina. It was definitely Sandra, but Philip wasn't with her. She was alone in the car. Good. Maybe later he would continue his discussion of the Holy Trinity with her. The guys at work would laugh at him if they could see him now. But they weren't here now. He was. And he felt alive.