Sponsorship Saturday, Oct 17 2009 

Hi all. Recently, with the winter coming in, costs have been driven up as many campsites have been shut for the winter. I would wild camp, but after Bar-Sur-Aube I’m very hesitant about doing this in all but the smallest of places. In addition, I’ve been forced to stay in a youth hostel for six nights as the Lightfood books for the second and third part of the VF haven’t arrived – thus driving my costs up further. To be frank, I’m rather concerned that my funds won’t last me to Rome.

Thus, no matter how much I hate to actually ask, I have no choice but to ask for some help. If everyone who reads this, either on the blog itself or on Facebook, sponsored me £1 (or other currency), that would allow me to get all the way to Rome, and possibly back again (though that’s lower on the priority list).

All those who sponsor will, as a gesture of thanks, get their name in the book as a sponsor or benefactor or something like that.

If you want to sponsor me, either email me (joshua.campana@yahoo.com) for my details; CH Forum members, Kerren Simmonds has them, or alternatively, go to the “Sponsor the Ferret Stick on its Way to Rome” group on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61002191&ref=ts#/group.php?gid=11740255748.

As I say, I do hate to ask, but at this rate there is a real chance I may not have enough to reach Rome.

Act Two: The Via Francigena Wednesday, Oct 14 2009 

12th September
I took the train to Victoria and left. Along my way, I walked the entirety of Old Kent Road! I arrived at the Vicarage in Welling, whose church was dedicated to my old friend Bishop Ridley, at around 5pm, but the Vicar was clearly out. I waited till 9pm and then gave up and looked for somewhere else. Evenually I found a Methodist Church with a wide alley and bedded down there out of sight.

13th September
I was half awake at 9pm when a steward came to unlock the church. She made me a cup of tea and while I waited for the service to start, I persused the magazines and journals at the back of the church. Among them was the latest issue of the Cliff College newsletter! I had read the articles online already, but seeing familiar faces brought a smile to my face. At the end of the service I joined them for tea and a man named Paul invited me to his flat for lunch. I accepted his offer and off we went. While I used his shower he went shopping, and when he returned an hour later he made some sandwiches and we had lunch. We laughed at who should be more wary of the other: I who had gone alone to a stranger’s flat, or him for leaving a stranger in his flat alone for an hour!
As a boy, Paul had had a strong faith, built from the traditional Bible stories. However he had wavered under intense bullying in his teens. Recently however his mother had passed away andthis had brought him back to the church, where he was now preparing for confirmation. Before I left for Canterbury, Paul gave me three sets of sandwiches, decanted some ribena into a water bottle, filled my other two with water and finally gave me a massive bar of chocolate!

So I then took two trains and two replacement busses to Canterbury, arriving just in time for the evening service at the Methodist Church. As part of the music before the service the Organist played Scipio! Wow. At the end of the service one of the congregation who was part of the council said there was a hostel in the Cathedral grounds and the minister said if I couldn’t stay there to come back and she would put me up. It turned out the hostel was actually a hotel, so back I tramped and the minister drove me back to her house. There I had a sandwich and a cup of tea and we talked Theology, Ecclesiology, Ecumenism and my pilgrimage for a while before I went to sleep.

14/9 Via Francigena 1

The next morning the minister gave me a big cooked breakfast before I left and I sorted out my mp3 player which wasn’t working. Then she drove me from her house in Faversham to Canterbury and I walked to the Cathedral, where my pilgrim pass was stamped and I was allowed in for free! Score. I walked to the Chapter House where the people got a clergyman in to bless me. The Chaplain who normally did it was out so a Canon came across. We went into the Cathedral but the St. Anselm Chapel, which holds a special significance for pilgrims, was full of tourists so we went up to the cordoned-off high altar, stepped over the rope and knelt there. I was expecting the traditional “Father Son and Holy Ghost” blessing but he took his time over it and prayed for safety and lodging and all good things like that! On our way back to the chapter house where I had left my things he told me that he had recently taken the VF to Rome by bike, and it had taken him a fortnight. However it seemed he had trained beforehand, unlike me (my training was taking trains).

The rest of the day passed relatively uneventful. I arrived at Shepherdswell at about 5pm and went to the Church, which was open and had a wonderfully large porch. So I sat down and prepared to set up camp in the church. Eventually a lady came along with a key for the church. I explained I was a pilgrim and could I stay in the church overnight. She agreed to phone the vicar and brought me a cup of tea and filled my water bottles. She said it was ok so I cooked dinner and went to sleep.

15/9 VF 2 – Dover

Today was shorter than yesterday but felt longer, partly because I got rather lost en route. The Key Lady brought me a banana, a cup of tea and two biscuits for breakfast and wished me well. En route I found a redundant church which had a pair of interesting stained glass windows depicting the Baptism and Transfiguration – the two occasions on which God says of Jesus “This is my beloved son”. When I arrived in Dover I was met by James Foreman, who had been in West with me. We drove to his house and put the kettle on. Then he got dinner on. While it simmered we went to the church his Dad was rector of to hunt for a stamp for my pass and then went to Tesco for a supplies dash for me and for James to get his Jaffa Cake fix. We got back in time for dinner to be ready and rolled a D6 for the grace. How exciting. After dinner, we watched the Two Towers and translated the letter of introduction which Father Ian had written for me (and which I have now unfortunately lost!) into French and Italian.

16/9 VF 3 France 1: Dover-Calais-Guines

In the morning James and I went to Dover Castle where he was working to get a sticker for my pass and to do photos. Then we went to the ferry port and I bought a ticket, and after saying goodbye to James, waited for an hour and a half for my ferry. Yay. I don’t normally get seasick, but the sailing was pretty choppy. I did manage to get my free hot drink though, which was good. The book said I should follow the coast west before turning inland, which doubled my journey length just to get to the traditional landing point for Sigeric, but I decided to blow that and took the canal road to Guines. I arrived at about 8pm and found a campsite, but when I went to check it was the one in my book, there was no book! I searched my rucksack but it wasn’t there. I panicked a lot. I couldn’t go on without it, so leaving my kit out of sight I donned my Hiviz (but stupidly not my torch) and went in search of it. The last time I remembered having it was 5km away, so I returned there, keeping an eye out all the time, but to no avail, partly as I was looking for a bright white book when it was actually dark red. When I returned to the campsite I decided to return to Calais the next day and if I did not find the book en route I would return to England and reorder it from the website. So I bedded down out of sight in just my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

17/9 VF 4 Fr 2 Guines – Licques

The next morning I was up at dawn and walking back to Calais. About 3km up I spotted my book, lying where I had left it on a barrier support. So I turned around and returned to Guines, whence I left for Licques. However, in a forest clearing the roads went all over the place and it was not clear from my guidebook which way to go, especially as the Via Francigena signs I had seen thus far were pointing in the opposite direction. So I decided to go by road and navigate back to the VF later in the day. However, I left Boquehalt by the wrong road and consequently became very lost. Fortunately I flagged down a car which drove me to the campsite in Licques, where I bought meths and made dinner. I also discovered the other flavours of Jaffa Cakes in France!

18/9 VF 5 Fr 3 Licques – Wisques

I left Licques aftera fewfalse starts and a trip to the supermarket. A fairly uneventful day. I arrived late at the Abbey of St. Paul in Wisques which the book recommended. The monks had turned in for the night but I rang the bell and one of them came down to me. I showed him my letter from Fr. Ian and he tended to me, giving me a room and some food. Over dinner he and I spoke a little in French. There were only 15 monks there; when he had joined there had been 50. This came as a great surprise, as Ampleforth seemed to be thriving, and had sprouted a daughter house in the USA. I should note that both Abbeys were Benedictine; however, these did not eat Frosties but did have Nesquik on the shelf. Then I went to bed.

19/9 VF 6 Fr 4 – Wisques – Therouanne

I had for breakfast about 5 slices of bread and jam, and a bowl of tea. The other guest at the time was a dentish. I didn’t get his name but he looked like a John. He made the tea using powdered milk, which somehow wasn’t revolting! Miracles do happen. John the Dentist left and I packed up my bag and stamped my pass, then made to leave. Except the door was locked so I couldn’t. Eventually a monk came to open up and I left. I tried to give him some money for my stay but he refused it. So I went on to Therouanne, which my poor French pronounciation rendered as “Tehran”. I arrived around 5 and went to the church. Once the other visitors had left I got out my trangia and cooked dinner. Then a man came to lock up at around half 6 and said I couldn’t stay there. So he called the mayor who spoke English, and found someone who could help me. He was a man who had keys to a football club, and so I slept in a bathroom with a sink and toilet – perfect! The mayor gave me a loaf of bread and a bottle of water while I waited, and Mr. Football gave me some sweet wafer biscuits and apples. I was very tired so went to bed.

20/9 VF 7 Fr 5 Therouanne – Amettes

I left early and set of for Amettes. As I did I met Mr. Football who gave me a packed lunch. I decided to take the more direct road route, which also had the advantage of being one straight line, making it harder to get lost. I liked. Along my way I stopped to use the toilet at a house in Longhen, and the lady also filled my water bottles and gave me a banana! The day was going well. At half past four I had what I imagine is a stereotypical/traditional pilgrim experience: sitting in the afternoon sun by a dusty track with my trousers zipped off at the knees, drinking water, eating bread and listening to an interview with Rowan Williams on the World Service. How nice.

I arrived at Amettes at about half 5 and looked around the church. It was decorated with scenes of a local saint whose name I can’t remember off-hand (it’s in my book) who pilgrimated all his life, living as a “fool for Christ”. He died of malnutrition at the age of 35, a fate I’d like to avoid. His kneecaps were stored there but I couldn’t find them, which was a shame. I asked around for a place to camp and was led to an “Abri du Pelerin”, or pilgrim shelter, which looked like a church hall with a big green space and a toilet (indoor but with a door to the outside). I was given the key for the loo and left to my own devices. These included breaking a tent pole when pitching it…great. It still stands but not as well; it sags a lot and takes 6 times longer to pitch. GREAT.

21/9 VF 8 Fr 6 Amettes – Bruay-la-Brussiere

The next morning I struck camp and posting the key through the letter box, set off. I took the shorter of the two routes and arrived in Bruay at around 2. There was no campsite so I went to the only place marked in the book as B1 (0-20 Euros), but it was full. So I went to the local Mairie, and they phoned around for me, but to no avail. At last one of the people working there volunteered to put me up. His name was Jacques. After his meeting at 6 we drove to his house, which he was converting from a farm. He cooked me soup and pork stew for dinner, and let me sleep in his daughter’s room as she was studying in Paris. I felt a bit funny about using her bed as she was my age, but I decided to go with it as it was big and comfy “so neh”.

22/9 VF 9 Fr 7 Bruay – Arras. One week in France!

The next day I went shopping before being driven to another town to take a train to Arras, which was too far to walk. While I was in the Hypermarket, I caught sight of a man staring at me. It turned out he was looking at the Ferret Stick, and had noticed its woggle. He approached me and it turned out he was a Scout Leader himself! We got talking about what I was doing. I said I was going to Arras this evening and that I planned to stay at the maison diocesenal, and he said he knew it through his scouts. So he arranged for me to stay there for the night! That afternoon I sat in the sun and basked…and burnt my knees as the legs of my trousers were in the car with my pack and my sun cream. Ow. So in the evening I was driven off and put on a train (a double decker! I went on the top for the novelty.) to Arras. I arrived at the Maison and was greeted in perfect English by a young lady who asked me, “Are you the English Scout?” She and a group of others met there each week to pray and share a meal together. The reason her English was so good was that she had spent a year in England as a French Language Assistant, so over dinner she interpreted what the others were talking about and also we spoke in English between us. Which was refreshing, not needing the dictionary every other word. After dinner I was so tired I went to bed, even though I would have liked to have joined the others for fellowship.

23/9 VF 10 Fr 8 Arras – Bapaume

Today was rather uneventful. I arrived in Bapaume at around 9 and everywhere was full. One place I went to had a restaurant, however, and one of the diners took me in. I don’t even know his name.

24/9 VF 11 Fr 9 Bapaume – Peronne

Another uneventful day. I got into Peronne at 8 exactly, making my speed at around 5 k/h! I went to the Paroisse Peronne – a proper vicarage, as declared by the name on the gate! This vicar – I’m certain he was a vicar and not a priest for reasons I’ll explain in a minute – was a complete Anglophile – again, see in a minute! At the moment all I noticed was the traditional English gate sign. He showed me the church hall, where he brought me a matress and some dinner, and I set up camp in “my kingdom”, as he called it. I listened to the World Service, but after the reception went bad I gave up and went to sleep.

25/9 VF 12 Fr 10 Peronne – St. Quentin

Today I had breakfast in the Vicarage proper, and started assembling clues about the vicar. I had already noticed that the crosses in the hall were empty, but as i went past his office I saw what seemed to be a Vatican Wallpaper. Yet in his dining room I saw, as I ate, several books of note. They included the Book of Common Prayer (the pocket book one), the New English Hymnal, the modern Common Prayer, Common Worship and Hymns Ancient and Modern – Revised Anglican Version! I decided on the basis of this that the man must be a French Anglican Vicar, as the Common Worship – the Anglican worship book – was in French, making it more than mere Anglophilia. On which note, I also noticed on the piano the music to Jerusalem! What a tune, and one I’m going to be writing about soon. On his wall he also had a rack of mugs from various Cathedrals and suchlike in the UK. The man is a complete legend. Today I looked around Peronne, failed to find an internet place (it had shut) and wrote my log. Then in the evening I took a bus to St. Quentin, where I lost all that log on the bus. Great. So I went and bought a new notebook, except the French don’t seem to believe in lined paper, only squared! How odd. So I went off to the campsite. I was in a huff by the end of the day.

26/9 VF 13 Fr 11 St.Quentin – Montescourt-le-Lizerolle

I was still in a huff this morning and decided if I couldn’t give up (this was no longer an option as sponsors had just put money in my bank) I would do it as quickly as possible. So I went to a bike shop and went to buy a bike. It was only by ill fortune that I was stopped, for I could not take enough out of my account to do it. This was actually pretty lucky, as I’d really have regretted it, I think. Anyway, I started walking to Tergnier, and stopped that evening about 10k away, on a gravel path outside Montescourt, and wild camped there. A lovely clear night.

27/9 VF 14 Fr 12 Montescourt – Suzy

The next morning I was up early and reached Tergnier by 10. At 9 I got a call from JDS which cheered me up no end. He reminded me of the essential question for this pilgrimage: “How do you eat an Elephant?” The answer is, of course, “One mouthful at a time!” He suggested getting to Besancon, returning home and working for a few months, and then returning in the spring and continuing. I liked the idea, but decided against it because I worried that if I stopped I might not start again. So I decided to take a rest break every so often instead (which is how I’m writing this). I continued walking, and reached Suzy that evening. Suzy was a small village with an expensive yet poor quality campsite. The only water facilities were in the toilets which were ages away and the taps sprayed everywhere. Not impressed.

28/9 VF 15 Fr 13 Suzy – Laon

The next day I set off for Laon. I didn’t realise until it was too late that I had eaten the last of my lunch supplies the previous day, so I marched all day without stops for more than a cup of tea, arriving at Laon at 4. I booked into the campsite and went to the Carrefour Hypermarket to buy supplies. As I had reached one of the major cities I splashed out on a bag of M&Ms and some coke to enjoy myself, as well as a drastically overpriced can of beans and some eggs.

29/9 VF 16 Fr 14 Laon – Reims

The next day I went up to the Plateau of Reims, the old town. The book said it was reached by a steep climb and they were right! It was very steep but very rewarding. I met a British couple, whose name I don’t remember but one of whom I seem to remember being called Peter (If you’re reading this, please say!) who were driving to the Alps for a fortnight, and after looking around the Cathedral they bought me some lunch and drove me to Reims, thus cutting out three days of walking. It was one of my rules I had imposed that I would accept lifts, but not too big ones – i.e. not ones that cut out interesting things, so this was ok. In the car we talked churches and pilgrimming and Champagne. When we got to Reims we got lost in the city and just about found our way to the Centre-Ville where I went to the Tourist Office and then to the local Internet Cafe. I then went to a maison diocesenale, which was described as “Donation” in my book. Because of this, I treated myself to a dinner out in a local cafe, and had Bacon and Egg on toast.

30/9 VF 17 Fr 15 Reims – Trepail

I learnt the next morning it wasn’t donation after all, but was 18 Euros for the night. I winced but there was no getting round it, so I paid up and packed up. I walked to Trepail, the first half of which was spent following a canal towpath. I reached Trepail very late, as I had stopped about 5k before and talked to Mum on the public telephone for three hours. I arrived after midnight and found a green space where I wild camped.

1/10 VF 18 Fr 16 Trepail – Chalons-en-Champagne

Again I arrived late and with nowhere to go, was forced to sleep under a Cathedral. Fortunately I just looked like another homeless person so nobody bothered me.

2/10 VF 19 Fr 17 Chalons-en-Champagne – Vitry-le-Francois

I tried to take a train to Brienne-le-Chateau today, but it turned out the railway station had closed. So I took a train to Vitry in the hope of bussing it to Brienne. There was a bus, but it wasn’t until the evening and would arrive after the tourist office shut, meaning I could not use the pilgrim hostel there. So I sat around at the station all day and rewrote the log. When it got dark I got into my sleeping bag and roughed it again. I was woken at 10.30 by the Gendarmes, who after I had explained my situation and showed them my passport, advised me to go round the corner onto the platform, as it was quieter.

3/10 VF 20 Fr 18 Vitry-le-Francois – Clairvaulx

I took an early pair of busses to Brienne-le-Chateau via St. Dezier, and walked the 28.9km to Bar-Sur-Aube, where I planned to go to the presbytery. However, about 1k from the centre of town, in a housing estate on the outskirts, a group of youths approached me and one of them pepper sprayed me. Oddly enough they did not try to rob me but just stood there and laughed as I fled. I found a doorbell and rang it to no avail, and so tried the next one, where a family received me. In my panic I tried to explain what had happened, and to my shame uttered the one phrase I promised I wouldn’t: “Parlez-vous Anglais?” Fortunately their daughter did and I managed to explain what had happened, with a lot of acting out. They rang the hospital who told them it wasn’t an emergency but to rinse my face, which they did. When I could see again (I hadn’t been able to properly before) I opened my eyes and saw my saviours for the first time. They were a mother, father and two daughters. They invited me to sit down and eat something. However, as I did so, I caught sight of my face in the mirror, and it was all red. I sat down and tried to eat, but though the pain had died down mostly, the shock of it persisted and I could barely eat anything. I called home to let Mum know what was happening, and then the family called the police, who got some information from me and the family, and then took me to hospital so they could get a certificate of health for the complaints procedure. Then they took me to my next day’s destination, Clairvaulx, where I lodged with the sisters at the Fraternity (a bit of an oxymoron?). There the officers took a statement with the aid of the sergeant’s daughter, who spoke English. This finished at around 11, and after being given a carbon copy of the statement and a contact sheet with the details of the officers, the sergeant’s daughter and the family whose dinner I had interrupted, I went to bed.

4/10 VF 21 Fr 19

I woke up the next morning feeling better and went across to the Sisters’ house for breakfast, where I found the Gendarm sergeant. He had brought me some gifts from his daughter: chocolate, some biscuits, some gum and postcards of Clairvaulx, as I had said I wanted to send some home. Before he left, he took a picture of himself with one of the sisters and myself. After breakfast we drove to Mass. I followed it as best I could, but didn’t realise the Creed was the Creed until the final clauses (the ones about the resurrection of the dead), switched off during the sermon and hacked my way through the hymns, which didn’t even come with the music. Fortunately one of them had the tune to “Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace”, which I knew. It was my first mass in any language, and I watched with interest. Transsubstantiation seems to have caused a lot of rifts in the Ecumenical process, yet all I noticed was that during the blessing of the bread the congregation bowed their head, and that only priests drank the wine – though this was happening in England too as it helped counter the Swine Flu spread. I was also interested to note the absence of the Ave Maria in the service. The church was very ornate, with a decorated roof, stained glass and statues. After Mass, which I may say did not include coffere at the end (what kind of a church doesn’t do coffee at the end? Well, CH for one, but that’s a different matter) one of the sisters bought me an “Americain” for lunch: a burger in a baguette with a huge portion of chips, which I had with a can of coke and a yoghurt. Then I wrote a postcard, and went to bed and had a nap. In the evening I had dinner with the sisters, and then talked to Mum on the phone before turning in.

5/10 VF 22 Fr 20 Clairvaulx – Chateauvillain

The next morning the officer was there again, this time with copies of my statement and the photos he had taken at the hospital and the one taken with me and the sister. I packed up my bag and took photos with me and the sisters, and they took one for their pilgrim book, which I wrote in before leaving with more food which the sisters had given me. When I reached Chateauvillain, I sought out the Syndicat D’Initiatif, which had the key to a room with a toilet, a sink and 5 Z-Beds. It was shut so I went to the Mairie. They directed me to a B&B run by a British Couple, Steve & Maggie Tait. They had had the house for a holiday home for a few years, and when in March Steve had been made redundant, they had decided to move out here permanently. They certainly seemed to be enjoying it! It turned out the sisters (I assume) had paid for me to stay there that night! There were some very crossed wires, however, as they had been told someone was being brought here who had been beaten up, which I quite clearly had not. But it turned out that it was me after all, so I got a room and put my things down. Then I went across to the restaurant they owned for dinner, where I had a new experience: roast rabbit! It was delicious, and because of my Pilgrim Budget, Magggie gave it to me for a cut price, which was lovely. In the evening I returned to the B&B and met the other guests, a Scottish family whose daughter was spending 7 months in France as part of her degree course. However, there had been a mess-up with the accomodation and she was expected to live in the upper room of a church for 7 months – fine for a night such as I might have, but totally unsuitable for long-term living. We talked for a while and then all went to bed.

6/10 VF 23 Fr 21 Chateauvillain – Mormant

The next day I met the family again at breakfast. Before I left I signed the visitors’ book and noticed three pilgrims in their 60s, going slowly, a fortnight ahead of me! I decided to catch them if I could, but in case I couldn’t, left my own details in case others should come along. The road to Mormant was through a forest, and I lost the track. Resorting to navigating by bearing alone, I eventually found it and reached Mormant. The lady who owned the Gite de Group showed me to it, and gave me some food: Eggs, milk, orange juice and bread. I managed to get Radio 4 on Longwave and listened to some comedy for a while before going to bed. That said, the night, no matter how comfy, had set me back 20 Euros, though I did get food for that as well.

7/10 VF 24 Fr 22 Mormant – Langres

The next day I arrived late in Langres and after an unsuccessful encounter with a priest who refused to come to his door, went to a campsite. The weather was bad so I slept in the toilet block there. Not happy. Fortunately there was a phone box and I gave the number out on Facebook, and got a couple of calls.

8/10 VF 25 Fr 23 Langres – Champlitte

The next day I went to Champlitte, which was 39.4km away though I got a lift part of the way. This presbytery was empty, the hotel was expensive and full and the camping was shut, so I bedded down in a phone box and again left early.

9/10 VF 26 Fr 24 Champlitte-Dampierre-sur-Salon

The next day I went to Dampierre-sur-Salon, and finally a priest put me up. It was little more than a storeroom in his house,but it was dry and safe and free, and so I liked it.

10/10 VF 27 Fr 25 Dampierre-sur-Salon – Gy

The next day I left fairly early and went to Gy, where a woman stopped me as I was trekking uphill in search of a church and presbytery. It turned out she owned a pilgrim hostel, so I stayed there overnight. It was very comfortable, and for 15 Euros I got masses of food and a bed, so I was satisfied. Nonetheless, to make the most of it, I took the leftover food with me.

11/10 VF 28 Fr 26 Gy – Cussey

The next day was fairly fun. In the forests I saw parties of hunters, and while following a road I met a swiss man with whom I spoke some German, only I ended up lapsing into French occasionally! It used to happen the other way round, which was not good in French lessons. Whoops. I arrived in Cussey-sur-Ognon around late afternoon, and after finding nowhere to sleep, eventually decided on the church porch, which was out of the rather heavy rain, and out of sight of passers by. To be safe, though, I made sure I stayed in the lit phone box till it had quietened down.

12/10 VF 29 Fr 27 Cussey- Besancon

I arrived in Besancon in the early afternoon, and went to the tourist office. Then I went to each of the three “Donation” places in the book to find somewhere to stay, but the two nunneries were women-only, I think, and at the Franciscans nobody was in. So I booked into a Youth Hostel, which has the free internet with which I am blogging now. And here I stay at the cost of 20 euros/night. Still, it has a lovely view, breakfast, free internet and is ensuite, so it’s not that bad.

Total word count: 5341

More journal Tuesday, Oct 13 2009 

CONFESSION: This was written only about a week and a half ago as first I forgot to write and then I left my notebook on a bus, so sometimes details may be lacking.

Recap: I had arrived at Hebden bridge and stayed for a bit.

I stayed at Hebden Bridge for a few days. On Friday morning two families arrived for a weekend break, and in the evening some Scouts arrived so I got to pay at last! On Saturday evening the people invited me to join them for a BBQ, which I did gladly.

On Sunday morning I rose early and made my way up to Heptonstall – a very steep climb – for the 9.30 eucharist. At the end I got talking and was reminded of Heptonstall Methodist church. I went down and arrived just in time for the 10.30 service there! The service was led by Glenn Cannon, a double minister. First ordained as a baptist minister, he had been seconded by the local Methodist circuit and toured it. He was also hoping to be ordained as an Anglican “Ecumenical Canon” – which would make him Canon Cannon! How could anyone refuse him this position.

Then I wandered around for a bit, before making my way to the Vicarage for lunch. Howard and his wife were there, with their daughter Sidonie and their other daughter whose name I also can’t remember. (If you’re reading this, please get in touch!) The meal was easily the best I had had since I left Cumbria, and more than filled me up. After lunch, Howard, Sidonie and I all sat down and talked Facebook with them on their laptops and me on my phone. Howard turned on the TV to check the cricket score, just in time to see us win! Eventually Howard drove me back to the campsite where I packed up as best I could despite the torrential rain and went to sleep.

The next morning (Monday 24th) I rose early and finished packing, before taking a train to Leeds and thence to Derby. The reason for this was that one of my friends whom I had met at Cliff, Hannah, was leaving for the States for a year the next day. She had no idea I was coming so when Lucy, her sister, picked me up the conspiracy was still intact. Oh the look on her face! I wish I had entered with a camera to preserve that expression. It was hilarious.

The next day Hannah left at 5.30am (if that mythical hour actually exists) and I took the train to Wakefield and was met by Chris Stevens and his wife Vicky. I had met Chris, a Deacon in the RC church, at Taize, and after dinner we met another person from that party, Stevie “9th time” Taylor – whose massive experience of Taize was becoming (in)famous. We went to a pub, and played pool, and then went to another pub, and cooked chips. I however fell asleep watching Steve and Chris’s eldest son playing Pro Evo Soccer, and woke up in bed! How bizarre.

The next day I took a train to Doncaster and hung around for the day. I was going to stay at Steve’s, but he wouldn’t get in til 10 and he said it was rough, so I decided not to hang around. So I went to the bus stop and phoned the local Canon in Retford, leaving a message. Some kids who got talking to me were impressed by my story and so all gave me a few pounds to cover my bus fare. The Canon, it turned out, had gotten my message on his way out but not told his wife, who was home alone. I showed her my JDS card and to be safe she rang him. He confirmed I was kosher and congratulated me via her on getting so far. She gave me some food and I pitched up in her garden. Later the Canon arrived and we talked for a bit, before looking up directions for the next day on Google Maps.

The next day I went to the library and emailed Christopher Laurence, an Old Blue who had offered to put me up in Lincoln, to tell him I would be arriving the next day. On arrival at Saxilby, I again hunted the vicar; however, he had moved house so could not put me up. He took me to the new vicarage and gave me some cake while he phoned Christopher, who said it was fine for me to turn up today. So the vicar dropped me in Lincoln, where Christopher gave me a pizza – one of the really nice ones with garlic dip! While I ate this I talked a little to Christopher and his wife (forgotten her name too – noticing a pattern?) and watched New Tricks on the TV. Then I went to bed.

28/8 The next day I went to the Cathedral, where Ben Chewter, another more recent Old Blue, was the assistant organist. After a slight encounter with a member of the Chapter staff who thought he was just entrance-fee dodging, he took me around. He then showed me to the Refrectory, where Christopher had given me some money for Lunch. In the afternoon the Laurences were out and I used their internet to blog a bit without worrying about time limits =) In the evening we watched George Gently on the TV , a rather good programme with Martin Shaw in the starring role.

29/9 Today we went to Waitrose for lunch and I had a Cumberland sausage in a roll. Then we went back and had tea and a chocolate bar. Christopher went off to sermonate at a wedding and I finished Dreams from my Father. That evening the Laurences didn’t have a hot meal so with the rest of the money Christopher had given me I went into Lincoln in search of food. I was rather taken by the idea of a Kangaroo Burger in Walkabout, but the bar was far too noisy. Eventually I went to McDonalds for “something simple, somewhere quiet”.

30/8 We went to the 10.30 service at Lincoln Cathedral. Christopher had phoned the Precentor and told him about me, and as part of the notices at the start of the service the Precentor blessed me. After the service we drove to David Close’s house for an Old Blue BBQ. This ultimately turned out to be a three-course sit down meal, for which all the males present were roped into carrying plates and serving. As the New Old Blue, I was called on to give my opinion of life under the Franklin Administration.

31/8 The next day David dropped me in Folkingham and I walked south until I reached a tiny little village called Welbourn. There was nowhere to camp and so I slept behind a church. Not impressed.

1/9 I walked most of the way to Peterborough todday. I was sat by a roundabout at about mid-morning, eating some peanuts when a police car drove up and stopped in front of me. Apparently someone had called and said that there was a 10-year old by the road going fishing on his own – i.e. me! The officer checked who I was (Bell Joshua 120791 IC1 male) and drove me into town, warning me to keep my wits about me as it was dangerous. So I decided not to hang about, and after hitting the library and Tesco I took the train to Huntingdon, where again I hunted the local vicar, Reverend David Busk in Godmanchester – arriving just in time for dinner! David lived there with his wife Yoko and their three children, who were delightful and also totally bilingual in English and Japanese. Howard had met Yoko in Japan and was
going out there shortly to interpret for Rowan Williams in a visit to celebrate 150 years of Anglican mission in Japan. To the delight and interest of the children I pitched my tent in the garden, watched keenly by them from a window.

2/9 I told David where I was headed and he called the local vicar in St. Neots, who said I could sleep in the upper room of the parish office. For some reason it took me 5 hours to do a mere 10k, partly as I was feeling under the weather. When I arrived I was taken upstairs and shown the room, and then more or less left to my own devices. So I cooked dinner, read Roaring Lion and made a bed of cushions from chairs, where I slept.

3/9 The next day I decided to return home as the one day I had planned for would not leave me nearly enough time to prepare for the continent. And so our journey ends its first act.

Exeunt.

Quick news Monday, Oct 12 2009 

I hate French Keyboards, but I’m at Besancon – 760km from Canterbury and 40% of the way from there to Rome. ETA is the first week of December!