A Camino Postcard: St. Jean Pied de Port

Today was my designated acclimatisation day before the big walk over the Pyrenees tomorrow. It has felt, however, a bit of a nothing Day: as beautiful as St. Jean Pied de Port is, I want to be on the road, pushing on step-by-step to Roncesvalles and Santiago de Compostela. As a result, my wandering around town took me only up and down the citadel (the down part being the descent of muddy and slippery steps) and to sundry benches where I stopped to listen to some music and write. I wrote a few notes for the Fixxbook. This was a mistake as it accentuated my Nothing Day blues. Tomorrow, I’ll leave at 6-6:30am. The pilgrims’ office said the Napoleon route will be unsafe due to the weather so I’ll take the Valcarlos. It won’t be spectacular but it will be safer.

I must break my one paragraph rule here to acknowledge the fact that today is the 55th anniversary of Evelyn Waugh’s death. As a man he had a lot to object to but he knew this and daughter God’s help. As a writer, he gave the world some beautiful and hilarious stories for which we owe him a great dent of thanks – EW: Requiescat in Pace.

click the sidebar link for more Camino photos on my Instagram account


A Camino Postcard: London to St. Jean Pied de Port

Yesterday, I left home just after 3:30am in the morning to begin a journey that would take until mid-afternoon to complete. From London to Saint Jean Pied to Port in southern France: I was really doing it! Except for one incident when we had to get off the Stanstead express because of an ‘incident; on the track, the journey was a seamless one. The only moments I didn’t like was whoever the aeroplane banked steeply – it felt like falling. I have a strange calm in aeroplanes, though, for whatever happens is completely out of my control so there is even less point than normal in panicking. Other highlights were drinking a beer at 8am at the airport and seeing armed French soldiers at Bayonne train station. After arriving in Saint Jean, I took a quick look around before returning to my hotel to catch up in my sleep.

– For more of my photos, click on my Instagram link in the sidebar. You don’t need an account to see my photos.

Camino Prep Update

One week today I hope to have just arrived in Roncesvalles or be very close by!

How is my preparation going?

It is pretty much complete. I now have my travel insurance; I have ordered my euros from the bank (to be collected tomorrow); I was going to take £300 worth but settled for £200. I don’t want to have too much money on me at any given time just in case the worst happens and it is stolen. One or two toiletries aside – which can wait until Saint Jean – I have bought everything that I’ll need.

Medical Matters
I am pleased to report that I have not experienced any more flashing in my right eye since the episode a week last Monday. I would be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t nervous about the possibility of it happening in France or Spain and then having to go to the nearest hospital to get it checked out. And what do I do if it happens next Monday night or Tuesday morning? I shouldn’t worry about this; it serves no purpose and makes me needlessly anxious but unfortunately, me being me, I find it hard to let go.

Also, I had to go to see my G.P. a couple of days ago. As I suspected, the problem I had turned out to be a non-serious one but I was determined to go Just In Case. I’m glad I did; I’m determined to be responsible about my health: I don’t want to be the kind of man who pushes health issues to one side and then gets really ill. If it happens even though I tried to do something about it, that’s okay, but not otherwise.

I have spent more than I should have these last few weeks. Oh dear. The upshot is that I will have £1500 to last the Camino and get me home. That’s £200 less than I really should have. As my predicted spend is £1050, it still should be plenty enough, though.

What’s Left To Do?
Guess who hasn’t quite managed to learn any Spanish… gulp
Guess who hasn’t yet planned his daily route… still time

As I will be leaving London in the early hours, I should probably see if I can buy my Stansted Express ticket in advance. By the way, I thought I had to go to Victoria Station to pick up the Express but my friend M. told me it leaves from Liverpool Street. I dodged a bullet there even if my friend laughed at me!

Also, before I leave, I need to let one of my sisters know my laptop password just in case the very worst (or best given the shape of the world happens) and I die abroad. Of course I hope it doesn’t happen and I’m sure the odds are very much in my favour but if it did I would like my family to be able to have access to my laptop so they can close e-mail and social media accounts, etc.

Finally, I leave on 9th April, if the political worst happens, Britain will leave the E.U. with ‘No Deal’ on Friday, 12th April. It doesn’t look like that will happen, and I am glad. I wish Theresa May hadn’t asked Jeremy Corbyn’s help but if her own party refuses to support her, what else could she have done?


Better Late Than Never, I Hope
Two weeks ago, when I wrote this post about confessions aka the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I mentioned that I had more to say and would try to say it later in the week.

Unfortunately, I now can’t remember what I meant to say! I think I wanted to write some more about my experience of going to confession so let’s do that here.

Seat & Seatability
I’ll start with my visit to Westminster Cathedral today for confessions. I arrived at about midday – confessions began at 11:30am and as it was quite early and today is not a particularly special day in the Church’s calendar, I expected the queue to be quite short. Wrong! There are seats for about thirty or so and every one of them was taken; for the first few minutes of waiting, I had to stand up.

Actually, this was not because not every seat was being used: as penitents head into the confessional, those waiting have a habit of not moving forward to the next seat. It can often happen, therefore, and in fact, invariably does, that at some point you end up moving forward several seats in a one go. This happened today.

With that said, there were still a substantial number of people waiting – 20 at least. In my previous post, I called confessions the Cinderella sacrament, and in the wider Church perhaps it is, but there is definitely a sub-section of Catholics who hold to it. And they are not the older generation, either. Today, I saw one woman who can only have been in her twenties.

Finding Her Way Home
Because of the numbers of people waiting, a second priest arrived. He took the confessional box furthest away from us. If you know Westminster Cathedral, it was the one closest to the Lady Chapel. The woman I mentioned a second ago had to make her way up to him and, if she knew the Cathedral, was obviously not familiar with this confessional. She first headed towards the empty one to the immediate right of where the priest was sitting. He popped his head out of his box to let her know where to go. Except, she couldn’t seem to see where to kneel (from where she was standing perhaps it was just out of her sight) and needed further directions. The poor thing – I hope she wasn’t too flustered.

A Showdown
The worst thing ever to happen to me while waiting in the queue for confessions – apart from the occasion I had to listen to an extra loud penitent make theirs – was witnessing a woman leave the queue to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist at Mass. That wasn’t the problem. The problem came when she returned to her seat and was quietly challenged on what she had done by the man sitting in the seat to her right. I couldn’t hear what he said, but I could certainly hear the woman’s indignant response. People arguing in the queue for confessions is one of those things that really ought not to happen so it all felt very awkward.

My view is that the man was certainly out of order. What the woman did was between her and God. And if he challenged her because he assumed that she was in a state of mortal sin, that too was wrong. Yes, that is one reason for going to confession but it is not the only one. One may also go because one has committed only venial sins as well. With that said, what she said did not look good. It makes one think, hold on, you’re going to communion even though you are aware of sins that you need to confess? But this is my problem to overcome, not hers to take account of.

An Unexpected Gift
On a happier note, after I made my confession today, the priest gave me a miraculous medal! He popped the medal through the grill and handed me an explanatory leaflet over the partition that separates the priest from penitent. I had thought that it was a wall that separated us but it turns out there is a little gap at the top. Anyway, I’m quite chuffed with this gift and it will certainly be coming with me to the Camino.

A Little Laugh
I converted to the Catholic Faith when I was at university in Dundee. In those days, I went to confessions at Dundee cathedral. The Parish Priest there was also the university Catholic chaplain. This meant we could, if we wanted, talk freely after the end of the confession. On one occasion, I went after England had beaten Scotland in the then Five Nations. After saying my confession I took advantage of our friendship and asked the priest if it was a sin to enjoy England’s win. It was, I admit, a You Had To Be There moment but we had a good laugh over it.

I finished my confession today at the same moment as communion was being held for the 12:30pm Mass, so I joined that queue straight away. I rarely finish my confession at this precise moment so it felt quite odd doing so. In fact, I wondered to myself if I should sit down to say my penitential prayer first. I was very unsure and therefore discombobulated; this is why after receiving Our Lord from one of the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist I forgot that the Cathedral doesn’t distribute communion under both kinds and went to the second Extraordinary Minister. I realised my mistake at exactly the moment as she did and put her hand over the ciborium. Oops!

By the way, the usual penitential prayer is, of course, x number of Our Fathers or Hail Marys. Today, the priest asked me to say the Divine Mercy prayer. I know about the Divine Mercy but not the prayer so if I had sat down to say it… I wouldn’t have been able to; not unless I got my phone out to google it, and that was not going to happen. There would have been nothing wrong with doing so, but I wouldn’t want to draw attention to myself that way.

As it happens, I clean forgot to say the Divine Mercy prayer when I got home and only remembered when I wrote the above, so let me draw this post to an end and go and say it!

F1 Bahraini GP: The Race

The Result
A lucky win for Hamilton
Ferrari let Leclerc and Vettel race: great for the fans, trouble ahead for Ferrari?
Extraordinary double Renault retirement on the same lap at almost the same place

Paddock or Pub
This weekend, Formula 1 took second place in my life. In first place was friendship. It will always win.

On Saturday afternoon, my best friend invited me over to his neck of the woods for a drink; he was getting out of his house to escape a political event taking place there – his sister is a local counsellor. We went to a couple of local pubs and had a great time chatting.

Race Day
On Sunday afternoon, another dear friend, K. V. Turley, and I went for a walk along Regent’s Canal. We started round the corner from Lords cricket ground and ended up at the Charles Lamb pub just off the Angel, Islington.

By the way, I haven’t named my Saturday friend in order to preserve his privacy. I have no problem mentioning Kevin, however, because he is a Catholic journalist whose articles you should read. He publishes in various online magazines. His latest is on Tolkien, Led Zeppelin and the Annunciation. You can find the article here.

After returning home, I watched a rerun of the Grant Prix on Sky television. However, I then spent most of it catching up on the phone to an old work friend.

An Explosive Race on C4
This morning, I watched highlights of the race on Channel 4’s website.

Poor Leclerc. He did such a good job to take pole and one or two glitches aside he dominated the race. He should have won. Had he done so, it would have been his maiden victory. He’ll be feeling rotten today but that first win can’t be far away in this Ferrari which, after being so short of speed in Australia, showed that it can be fast – very fast.

Leclerc was undone by an energy recovery failure in his engine. He could still drive his car but only with a substantial power deficit to Hamilton (24mph) who duly swept past him to claim first place and then the win.

Leaving the Circuit
Sebastian Vettel has a lot to think about – a teammate who looks like he may be as quick as him, and who the team are letting race him, and his unforced error after Hamilton passed him. Vettel spun out, losing second place in the process. He passed the chequered flag in fifth. He has form for these kinds of mistakes. If Ferrari start to notice it there could be trouble ahead.
Renault have a lot to think about as well. From the TV coverage, it didn’t appear that their cars stopped for the same reason. David Coulthard suggested that Hulkenberg suffered an engine blow out and Ricciardo a software failure. Both will be equally unacceptable to a team that is hoping to really kick on this year.
999 not out. The Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks will be race Formula 1’s 1,000th race. What a landmark! Unfortunately for me, I will probably not see it as I’ll be in Spain. Maybe a kind bar will show it. We’ll see. As for me, the next race I can expect to see will be Monaco on 26th May. That’s not a bad race to come back home to!

Credit Where It’s Due
Bahraini Flag: Wikipedia
Chequered Flag Wikipedia

A Walk to Pole Hill

Yesterday, while our M.P.’s debated Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement for the third time, I decided to put on my backpack and take another long walk.

My destination this time was Pole Hill in Chingford and an obelisk that was originally erected in the Georgian age to mark the direction of true north from Greenwich. In 2008, the local council – at the behest of a member of the T. E. Lawrence Society – added a plaque to the obelisk recording the fact that Lawrence had once owned land on the hill. I am very interested in the life and times of Lawrence so it was this that I went to Pole Hill to see.

I planned my route on Google Maps. From home to hill it gave me a journey of 8.3 miles, walkable in 2hrs 47 minutes. I intended to walk home again so a round trip of 16.6 miles seemed like an excellent venture – especially since 15 miles is probably going to be the type of distance that I will be walking every day on the Camino.

She jogged, I walked.

I set out somewhere after nine in the morning. The sun was in the sky and my spirits were high. I walked down Stoke Newington Church Street with its various trendy shops and then through Stamford Hill with its strong Orthodox Jewish community. Or are they Ultra Orthodox? I wondered this as I walked and couldn’t think of the answer. I’ve just looked on Google, and it suggests the latter.

Now, I don’t visit Stoke Newington very often, and I go to Stamford Hill even less, but I know the areas. I didn’t leave familiar territory, therefore, until I took a right hand turn on to Gladesmore Road. Minutes later, I was trotting along the edge of a park and then onto the path alongside the River Lea. I remained on this path until I arrived in Chingford.

Remembering how I had not stopped on my walk last week to Ilford, I made sure I did so along the River Lea and, importantly, drank some water.

Before then, however, I took a wrong turn. Not into the canal, fortunately! No, after passing the North Circular Road (the A406), I should have taken the right hand path when the canal path forked but forgot. I realised what I had done a minute or two later, and could easily have turned back but decided to keep going. I said above that 15 miles is the kind of distance I will be walking daily on the Camino but in truth I might well be required to walk much further, so let’s get experience of doing so with the backpack now.

He knew where he was going, even if I didn’t.

This decision meant that I was now walking along the west side of the William Girling Reservoir instead of the east. It also meant that my walk to Pole Hill would now be 9.3 miles in length, taking 3 hrs 5 minutes.

The walk was a pretty straight forward one until I reached Pole Hill Road. It rose steepishly towards a dead end. I had intended to wait until I reached Woodberry Way, further up the road, but could see from Google Maps that there was a right hand turn on Pole Hill Road that would take me to Woodberry Way, which would lead me to the obelisk.

Unfortunately, I somehow missed the turn! I don’t know if I blinked and missed it or if it wasn’t there after all but I managed to walk right past it. A few moments later, I was at the top of Pole Hill Road, and my poor right leg, so quick to take offence, was telling me of its hurt feelings. Oh well, at least I got to go downhill again; that was much nicer.

I continued along the main road to Woodberry Way. At the top, I found Pole Hill. I had not looked at Google Maps properly and expected to see the obelisk there. It wasn’t, and looking at the map now it seemed to be on the other side of the hill. I thought to myself, perhaps I shall just go home now, and use the obelisk as an excuse to come back again another day but quickly dismissed that idea. I set off up the hill. There was a path leading across it at street level but I knew the obelisk was at the highest point, so up it was. And, hardly a minute later, there it was!

Pole Hill Obelisk

I sat down at the foot of the obelisk for another drink and to eat my sandwich. While there, a man came up to me and we started chatting. It turned out he had been researching his family background and had reason to believe that his father was taught by Vyvyan Richards.

T. E. Lawrence didn’t just own land on Pole Hill. After the Great War, he wanted to build a printing press there. His intention was to do this with Richards. Unfortunately, their project never happened. I hope this fellow can prove a connection between his family and Richards (who was a schoolmaster in the area). I told him that if he can, he should definitely let the T. E. Lawrence Society know.

While at the obelisk, I called C.; she is a saintly lady who instructed me prior to my reception into the Catholic Church in 1996. It was out first conversation for 18 or so months so it was great getting back in touch with her. I never come away from a conversation with C. without feeling greatly nourished.

C. and I fanboyed/girled over the upcoming canonisation of John Henry Newman

The time came to leave the obelisk. I have a muscle at the top of my right thigh (groin area, I guess) that always feels very stiff for the first few steps. It soon starts to loosen up, and did so as I began my downhill path.

I didn’t go far – I wanted to stop at a local pub for a couple of beers to see what it would be like carrying my backpack afterwards. As it turned out, the two beers made no difference whatsoever. Unfortunately, my walk home was not without struggle as my right leg felt a bit sore for the whole journey. I managed this pain by taking Ibuprofen, which – probably because of the alcohol – seemed to make little difference – and by stopping to rest along the way.

Lawrence of Pole Hill

Back at the pub, I drank my beer as the Brexit debate wound up on the TV in the background. Fortunately, the sound was turned down so I didn’t have to listen to our indecisive M.P.s natter on. Anyway, sadly for the Prime Minister her Withdrawal Agreement (W.A.) was voted down for a third tine so who knows what will happen now? I, personally, would like to throw those members of the Conversative European Research Group (E.R.G.) who refused to support her and the Labour M.P.s who, I read, support the W.A. but don’t want to be seen to do so, into the sea. If Brexit doesn’t happen they will both deserve their failure.

After finishing my beer, I set off again. Along the River Lea path, I met some bicyclists who were taking a rest. One of them is currently cycling round Britain, which sounds great fun. We had a super conversation about my walk and Camino.

I returned to Islington along the same route that I went to Pole Hill, which means that by the time I got back home, I had walked for at least 6 hrs 10 minutes and a total distance of 18.6 miles.

And once I got home, I rested. My leg started to recover straight away although as I write this blog post, I can still feel a little twinge. It doesn’t hurt, though, and won’t stop me going out shortly.

What did Pole Hill show me?
This: that even when my leg hurts, I can still walk. And that I can do so with a good heart; last night, when I reflected on the day, I was happy; I remembered what was good about it and not just what was bad. I’m really happy that I took that long route – nearly 20 miles! – as it shows what, despite everything, I am capable of. I’m not sure if I will do any long walks next week. I think I might just focus on stretching exercises.

Credit Where It’s Due
All the Photos: me!
John Henry Newman: The Oxford Oratory

The Day That Didn’t Happen

Today was supposed to be Brexit Day. For now, however, the U.K. remains in the E.U. Unfortunately for her, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has not been able to persuade the House of Commons to approve her Withdrawal Agreement (W.A.). Later today, she will commend it to the House for the third time.

Will it work? Reading political journalists on Twitter this morning, it seems the numbers are still against her: too many Brexiteers are remain opposed to the W.A. as does the Conservative’s junior partner-in-government, the Democratic Unionist Party (D.U.P). It looks like the D.U.P will definitely vote against the W.A. but maybe by the time the vote takes place those Brexiteers who are still against the deal will decide that the potential consequences of the deal being voted down yet again are too great to risk and come round.

It’s a high risk time. What would I do if I was an M.P.? I would certainly have voted for Theresa May’s deal. I voted to leave the E.U. because I don’t like super-states and don’t want to belong to one. I’m not concerned with immigration and I would be perfectly happy with a customs union.

Let’s say that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is voted down for a third time and, ultimately, Brexit fails. I would be very sorry for it but life goes on, and let’s face it, there are advantages to belonging to the E.U. and also other things in life that are much more important: doing good in one’s daily life, for example.

This doing good would have to include not being annoyed at the Brexiteer M.P.s whose actions ultimately killed Brexit off because it was never good enough for them. Of course, they have to vote according to their consciences but when they do I hope they realise that the world isn’t perfect and they will never get all that they want – or even half of it! For now, let’s see how they vote…

On Monday morning I experienced

a flashing in my right eye. I am very short sighted and every time I go to the optician he says ‘if you experience any flashing, go to the A&E department of Moorfields (my nearest eye hospital)’ – being short sighted makes one prone to this problem which can be quite serious.

When the flashing occurred, I looked up Moorfields A&E department on its website and it told me that they were only for eye-threatening conditions. As I didn’t feel I was about to lose my right eye, I thought I better go to the optician instead.

I went there and a space was very kindly made for me in a full schedule to see the optician on Wednesday at 10:25am – yesterday, as I write this post.

So, yesterday, I went for the appointment. The optician – I should say optometrist – looked into my eyes and could see nothing wrong. After the examination, he told me that from the way I described my symptoms, I might have had a visual migraine but advised me to go to Moorfields for a fuller check.

I could have left it until another day but as I am sure you can appreciate, when it comes to medical matters, the sooner one knows what’s up the better.

I arrived at Moorfields at around eleven thirty AM and was there until somewhere past four o’clock. God bless our NHS but it moves slowly sometimes.

Yes, there were plenty of out-patients there, but after I arrived in A&E I had to sit over here with a ticket and an immigration form to be completed. Here wasn’t so bad as after a short while, my my number was called. The person took the form and asked me to now sit over there. Actually, there wasn’t too bad, either; when my name was called, though, I was simply taken to a different waiting room. I remained there for somewhat longer before my name was called again, and a nurse took me away.

Hurray! Now, we’re moving. Kind of. She did a couple of preliminary checks on my eyes before taking me back to the waiting room. Now, the longest wait. Finally, the doctor called me and the proper examination began. Before it ended, I had to go to the imaging department on the lower ground floor to get a scan of the back of my eyes taken. Yes, I got lost on the way there and back.

Finally 2.0. I managed to locate one of the waiting rooms I had previously been in and spoke to a nurse who – despite my woeful description of him – found the doctor for me. Not long later, he arrived and we looked at the scans. The good news is that he could not see anything wrong with my eyes. The awkward news is that the flashing could happen at any time. And if it does, I should go see my optician (said the doctor)/A&E (said the optician).

Ordinarily, this would not be a problem but what about the Camino? I asked the doctor what I should do in France/Spain?

I must be honest and say that I was really hoping he would tell me it would be fine to wait until I came home; but, no; he said I should go straight to an eye hospital and ask to see a doctor.

If you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it but I hope, hope, hope nothing happens because I speak too little Spanish. I guess I just have to hope that if it does happen, someone at the hospital speaks English.

About The Immigration Form…

Being British, I had no concerns when filling out the form. I even had some fun with it. The declaration invited either the patient, or the person completing the form on their behalf, to sign it. If you were the latter, you had to give the patient’s name. Of course, I should have ignored the question but I couldn’t help myself. I answered On behalf of (if not patient) by replying ‘myself’. The next question asked, Relationship to the patient (if not completed by patient). I wrote ‘I am me’.

There was a report recently that the Home Office had ‘rejected an Iranian asylum seeker’s claim because he said that Christianity was a peaceful religion’ (see here). In their refusal letter, the H.O. officer had select-quoted passages from the Bible to demonstrate this. Given their religious illiteracy, I reckon I could have written ‘I am who I am’ on the form and got away with it.

More seriously, asking someone to prove their immigration status while they are in a hospital is a fiendish thing to do and the government should be ashamed of itself.

  • While writing this post, I found this on the immigration form that I had to complete. You can bet I signed the petition even if it is two years old
  • If you would like to see the immigration form I completed, click here and scroll down to Pre-Attendance Form. The web page is for the Worcestershire NHS but the form looks just the same

If I was Pope…

At the start of my post on 18th March 2019, I wrote this,

Over the weekend, I met a very dear friend for a coffee and amongst other things we talked about Catholicism. Two topics that we covered were what changes I would make to the Church if I could – I will come back to this in an upcoming post…

Here is that post.

I like the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. It is complimented by the Novus Ordo Mass
I like the Novus Ordo Mass. It is complimented by the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

If I had my way, I would introduce a programme of complete liturgical reform that would lead to all priests being able to celebrate Mass in both the Extraordinary and Novus Ordo form. I would require each and every parish to celebrate the Extraordinary Form at least once a week whether or not any parishioner asked for it.

This is what should have happened after Vatican II rather than Catholics being forced to write to the Pope to ask permission to continue celebrating the Extraordinary Form. It should never have been like that. The Extraordinary Form should never have been so marginalised (or maybe even replaced but that’s another matter). This has led it to being politicised leading, I believe, many people to oppose not it but what they think it stands for.

I would also restore all the Holy Days to their proper place, promote the corporate and individual praying of Lauds and Vespers, the practice of confession – the beginning of a restoration of a Catholic identity in daily life.

During the Punic Wars, Cato the Elder ended every speech with this statement: Carthago delenda est – Carthage must fall; if I had my way, I would begin every homily with this question: Are we loving fully?

The answer will always be ‘no’ because unlike God we are not love. If I had my way, therefore, I would ask Catholics to think about how they love and how they might love more. When I say ‘Catholics’ I mean all Catholics – lay and clerical and all inbetween. In fact, I would bring representatives from every group together to discuss the matter. This is because I believe we are not currently listening to the Holy Spirit enough.

Whenever a Catholic, probably liberal/progressive, speaks out in favour of something that accords with secular thinking, you can be sure that another Catholic, probably a traditionalist/orthodox one, will say that this shows that their confrère has succumbed to the thinking of the age.

It’s quite possible that they have, but also possible that the Holy Spirit is speaking to the Church from outside because she has become deaf to His voice from within. For this reason, the liberal/progressive Catholic needs to be listened to just as much as the traditionalist/orthodox Catholic.

I believe this deafness of the Church is currently happening in at least one respect – that of the Church’s theology regarding LGBTQ+ people and relationships.

If something is sinful, the bitter fruits of that sin should be clear to see; the wages of sin, after all, are death. So, for example, if one is a thief, the bitter fruit of that sin is the hurt caused to the people from whom one steals; if one supports a far right or far left political party, the bitter fruit of that sin is the hurt caused to the people one must put down in order to achieve the party’s objectives.

As I look at LGBTQ+ people, however, and especially those in relationships, I see no sinfulness: I see no one getting hurt but one person or two people growing in each other. It is a beautiful thing.

The orthodox response to this would be that the bitter fruit of their disordered desire and sinful relationship is spiritual death. Well, I can only say that it is a very curious thing that what is spiritually bad can lead to a physical and psychological good.

If I could bring representatives of all Catholic groups together to discuss how they love, and how they might love more, I would ask them to prayerfully consider that the Holy Spirit is calling us to regard the fact and love of LGTBQ+ people in a new, positive, way.

One last thing on this point, it goes without saying that this meeting would be grounded in scripture. I’m not interested in emotionalism. Looking at what Scripture has to say is all the more important because it contains the (in)famous ‘clobber’ passages. Nothing can change unless new light can be shed on them.

In addition to this, I would invite the bishops to Rome to discuss the Culture of Life and ask them to come back in a year and tell me what they had done to promote this ethic from cradle to grave. Then, I would ceaselessly promote it – partly because it is worth promoting but also as a riposte to all those who think that the Catholic Church only care about stopping abortion and not what happens afterwards.

End the Culture of Silence and Shame
Further to the above – I could walk into a church and easily have a conversation with another layman or with a priest during which I admitted, ‘Yes, I can be very impatient’ or ‘I sometimes feel a temptation to hurt those I don’t like.’ We might laugh about it but certainly we would move on.

It would not be so easy, however, to tell another Catholic, priest or layman, that I was gay, bisexual, or a lesbian etc. Especially if I held any kind of official role within the Church up to, and most certainly including, that of the priesthood.

This is unacceptable. In the first place, the Church does not regard simply being gay (in the broadest interpretation of the word) as sinful; how can we be in a situation, therefore, where sins can be casually admitted but a state of being can’t?

Of course, the matter isn’t as easy as that: the Church regards same sex attraction as a ‘disorder’. That is not going to encourage me to tell anyone that I am gay/bi/lesbian etc; but the whole reason we are in the Church to begin with is because we are all disordered in some way or another. The whole point of being a Christian is to confess it, receive God’s mercy and grace, and grow.

The Catholic Church should be a place where we can be open about ourselves and the meaning of things. The Church should be a place for light; in many respects, she is, but she is also a place of shadows where laypeople and ordained are forced to hide from their spiritual brothers and sisters. This is a wickedness for which anyone who helps perpetuate it will have to answer to God. We need more light!

The Vatican
If I had my way I would make the Vatican more transparent in how it conducts its affairs, then more transparent, then more transparent after that. I would not stop until it was a world leader in transparency – a model for the governments of the world to look up to. It simply isn’t acceptable for the Church to be anything else.

Generally speaking, the Vatican needs to be more open. So much trust in the Church has been lost by the various sex abuse scandals that we have now reached the point where it is now not enough for the Church simply to act but she must be seen to be acting to make sure she becomes a safe place for all God’s people once more.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not arguing for total transparency here; that’s impracticable; it would probably be sinful as well, but the Church must do better. A part of me would be happy to fire the entire Roman Curia and start again from scratch but I know that that would not be a good idea.

As I understand it, the Church has yet reached a consensus on whether or not women served as deaconesses in the early church. If it could be shown that they did, I would allow them to serve again in that role now.

If I did that, you can be sure that calls for women to be allowed to serve as priests, or priestesses, would be renewed. I would allow them to do so if they could find a woman among the twelve apostles.

Women in the Church
How many women serve the Church at the latter’s highest levels? In the diocese and at the Vatican? There ought to be more – especially in Rome. There is no need for men to have charge over all the dicasteries.

Pope Francis has taken a good first step in increasing the diversity of the Curia by appointing cardinals from unlikely places; if it is possible within a strict meritocracy, giving more roles to women, indeed to lay people in general, would make a good second one.

If I had my way, I would end it as a formal process. I don’t believe the Church of England or any Protestant community as a body will ever (want to) unite with the Catholic Church. The way forward is to help individual non-Catholics ‘cross the Tiber’.

In the title of this blog post I said ‘If I was the Pope’; the truth is, though, that if I had my way, I’d have more power than the pope. That’s too much. So, as soon as I got my way, I would resign and apply to join one of the Oratorian communities. I love Newman’s congregations so much! I’d love to talk more about it, but that’s a post for another day. Alternatively, I’d follow Sebastian Flyte to a monastery in north Africa.

Items Bought, Calls Made, & Medical Matters

In my first post of 3rd March, I mentioned the Camino items that I hadn’t yet bought,

  • A hotel room in Saint Jean Pied de Port for the 9th April (I intend to stay in an albergue on the 10th before leaving SJPdP on the 11th)
  • Walking sticks or staff. I so want to buy a staff like Gandalf’s but I imagine I will have to ‘make do’ with sticks.
  • Sandals
  • Toiletries
  • Adaptor
  • Sewing Kit
  • Travel Insurance
  • Waterproof trousers (Possibly. I might stick with what I have got)

Today, I am very happy to be able to say that with just two exceptions (although see below), all these things have now been bought and are ready to pack (incl. waterproof trousers).

The two outstanding items are toiletries, which I will either leave until the last minute or buy in Saint Jean, and travel insurance.

I’ll come back to travel insurance in a moment, but first, a money update.

I have had a quick look at my earlier Camino posts and it looks like I didn’t share as much as I thought I had about this important topic, so I will here. Please excuse me if I am accidentally repeating myself.

I am paying for my Camino out of my savings. I initially took £2,500 out*: £1,050 for the Camino journey itself, the rest for everything else. E.G. all equipment, the flight out and back, the hotel in Saint Jean and Santiago, and any other bills that might crop up along the way.

In regards equipment, when I first visited Cotswold Outdoor I had no idea how much buying it would cost – backpack, clothes, trekking poles etc; the figure of £500 swirled around in my head but it had no basis in reality.

Indeed it didn’t because having now bought everything that I need, except the two items mentioned above, I have £1,112 left of my £2,500. I have spent, therefore, £1,388. (BTW: If you are reading this in Britain and are thinking of doing the Camino, join the Confraternity of St. James: I saved about £300 thanks to the membership discount).

Now, if I had truly bought everything I needed to get me started on the Camino on 11th April, I might have been tempted to leave the £1,112 alone. However, I know that when I arrive in Biarritz I will have to pay for a transport to Saint Jean. And I haven’t yet bought my hotel room in Santiago or my flight home.

So, today, I called my bank up to ask for a further £700 to be released into my Camino account. It was no problem – I called, the call centre man listened, asked me the relevant security questions then completed the disbursal process: the money will arrive next week.

The thing is, though, I hate using the phone. I don’t know why, I just do. As a result, even though I have known for the last week or two that I would have to make this call, I have kept putting it off until now. I feel very stupid for being so apprehensive but there it is. I wish it was otherwise. When I ended the call today, I was so thrilled I got hope and did a few fist pumps! I really did feel like I had conquered the world. How silly, but it’s true.

* Not literally. I created a new ‘Camino’ account with my bank for the sole use of Camino related expenses. I didn’t want to put the money in my regular account in case I ended up accidentally spending it on books or iTunes

Travel Insurance
At the start of this week, I logged on to the Compare the Market website to find a travel insurance policy. A backpacker deal by a company called Cover for You seemed to fit the bill so this morning I started filling out their online application form.

The medical section asks you to tell them if, amongst other things, in the last two years you have been to see your doctor for an unresolved condition.

I have, and the condition does remain unresolved. It isn’t a serious one – I am not receiving any kind of treatment for it – but as it is there, I thought I better mention it on the form.

However, the website also asks you to tell them what exactly it is. The problem is, I don’t know. When I went to see the Doc. I didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell me. As it approximates to a muscle strain in my right leg, though, I initially wrote that. But then I thought, I better find out if that is enough. So, I called Cover for You up to ask.

It’s just as well that I did because they recommended I find out from my doctor what specifically he wrote down (if anything). This, I was told, will make things a lot easier if I have to make a claim.

So, I toddled along to my surgery to ask for my medical record. Receiving it is not the thing of a moment. I had to fill out a form and will now have to wait a week until they are ready to pass me the information. Once they do, I will go back to Cover for You’s website and complete the application form. Once it is done and ‘sent’ has been clicked, I will have completed the last necessary action before leaving for France!

I am very happy that I didn’t leave sorting out the travel insurance any later than I did. I do regret, though, not dealing with it first. I leave the U.K. in just 18 days. I would have preferred at this stage not to be waiting on any forms.

There we are, then; today has been a day of little achievements that mean a lot to me. Just 18 days to go!