hONESTLY, CAFE IS A GREAT PLACE TO DOCK

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There are some things that there’s no obvious answer to.

Like why is sneezing so satisfying?Or why is the word ‘knickers’ plural? Or why boys, no matter what their age, still think that passing wind in the company of others is hilariously funny?

The Dock cafe in the Belfast Titanic quarter which operates an honesty box payment scheme e

The Dock cafe in the Belfast Titanic quarter which operates an honesty box payment scheme e

Or why Huw Edwards, the BBC national newsreader, occasionally looks down in the middle of reading a news story, as if he’s watching the progress of a spider walking across the surface of the news desk, making its way even closer to his script.

Actually, I can’t really concentrate on what Huw Edwards is saying on the news these days without thinking about how Jeremy Paxman recently described him as being ‘like some evangelical preacher on a wet Sunday morning in Merthyr Tydfil’. How we love Paxo’s eloquent turn of phrase.

Huw is, I think, still of the belief that autocue is a TV secret that viewers know nothing about, hence a newsreader must always maintain the illusion that he or she memorises the whole thing apart from proper names, of course, for which one could be forgiven for having to look down at the script to confirm.

These and other questions are perhaps destined to remain some of life’s mysteries. However, there are others that are so obvious they’re staring you right in the face and they work out in a way that you could only call serendipitous. Serendipitous. That’s my word of the week – the way things just work out by what some might call happy coincidence or being in the right place at the right time, or how the solution to the problem is right under your nose.

And so it was that I called in by chance to the wonderful Dock Café at Titanic Quarter, Belfast, a while back. I was wracking my brains trying to think of a project for my journalism students to do on the subject of social action, which we’d been studying. As the lady behind the counter – a volunteer worker - gave me the most welcoming smile ever and asked “what can I get you?” there was the answer, staring me right in the face.

The Dock is an honesty box café you see. You choose your price and pay just whatever you want to, or whatever you can – social action, in action. It was set up in collaboration with the main churches to build a community in this very modern area, to promote a sense of neighbourhood in what was once the thriving industrial heart of Belfast.

So I chatted to the man at The Dock, Chris Bennett, who gave me a leaflet about volunteering there and asked if my students could make a video about it for their website.

Not being one to turn down a challenge, I took it to the class who embraced the project – researched it, organised themselves into a production team and spent a day filming with the lovely volunteers who give their time,

maybe just an afternoon a week, to serve tea and coffee, start conversations and build relationships with students, workers, tourists and the rest of the diverse group of people who make up the customer base at Belfast’s only honesty café.

The result is a lovely little four minute film which you can see on Chris’s blog on The Dock’s website (the-dock.org) After watching it, call in to The Dock in person and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in one of their big comfy armchairs, and consider volunteering yourself. You may be just the person they’re looking for.