So today, it being Lent and all, I went on a pilgrimage. By coach.
Yes, I know, I thought that too. My idea of a pilgrimage is loosely based on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
or images of toiling up mountains on hands and knees. No pain, no gain comes to mind. Travel by Heritage Coaches was altogether more comfortable for we fifty modern-day pilgrims.
We met outside the church
at 9 a.m. which was early for me, especially taking account of a quarter of an hour walk from home to our meeting point. Mr B queried why I didn't take the car but I'd decided I should walk at least a small distance as part of my very own Pilgrim's Progress.
When I was a teenager I used to give up travelling to school by bus for Lent, opting instead to walk all the way there and all the way back. I worried a bit about benefiting financially from this act of denial so donated my bus fares to Oxfam. I am not at
all sure that my undoubted feelings of smug self-satisfaction were in tune with the spirit of the Lenten season.
Rather like a holiday trip, we had to travel around other churches picking up more people /
pilgrims until every seat was taken. Finally when the coach was full we said prayers and were sprinkled with holy water by our Rector who admitted, quite candidly, that he was enjoying ruining all our hair-dos. The more observant among us noticed that he didn't
get his own hair wet.
First stop was beautiful Arundel Cathedral. The coach pulled to a halt right outside, blocking the road completely to oncoming traffic. Fortunately we couldn't hear the comments from
the poor drivers whose passage we were impeding. There was a service going on inside the Cathedral but that was good because the address was all about journeys. The preacher must have known we were coming. And, twenty minutes later, going...
Back onto the A27, our latter day Pilgrim's Way, heading at 50 miles an hour to Chichester and another Cathedral. Would there be time for a coffee break, somebody asked plaintively. No, it wasn't me, as a matter of fact but
I did listen carefully for the answer. Which was no, by the way.
I have visited Chichester Cathedral on many occasions but I have never entered via the Door of Mercy. I wondered how I had missed it until I
discovered later that it's a door which is not usually used but was opened in December, especially to mark this Year of Mercy. Despite that, I felt as if I was following in the footsteps of pilgrims past.
new friend Kathy, whom I met on the coach, questioned whether giving up her one glass of wine with dinner each day for Lent was particularly testing. How much more challenging it would be, she suggested over a cup of coffee in the Cloisters Cafe at Chichester
Cathedral, to give up coffee? I think she could see that the very idea was giving me withdrawal symptoms because she kindly offered me half of the buttered hot cross bun which she had packed in her capacious handbag. I think Kathy might just be a Kindred Spirit.
Kathy and I rather lost ourselves on the way to the Bishop's Chapel for the Mass to mark the end of our pilgrimage but we made it just in time to secure a seat at the back. I've never been inside the Chapel either -
it was another new, very moving experience.
A group photograph to record the happy scene and then there was time for lunch and shopping before the return coach trip. Except for me, as I had decided to make
my way by train back home to Mr B who was Home Alone again, the poor, neglected one. I've been a bit of a gadabout this week - even the cheeky chappie who runs the mobile coffee shop outside the station remarked on Thursday that I seemed to be always "out
Mr B was surprised to see me earlier than he had expected. In fact, he looked a trifle bothered, possibly because he feared I might interfere with his plans to watch Bournemouth versus Everton
in the FA Cup. He need not have worried; I know better than to come between a husband and his football.
I think it is safe to say that Mr B will not be giving up the footie for Lent.