Do it now

This was the scene yesterday. I was by the sea and swam in warm gentle waves. I read some of Wolf Hall and sat with bare arms and legs enjoying what might be my last swim this year. It was glorious.

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And today about the same time this is what I am looking at. Tommy’s first wet walk.

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Everything changes. The leaves that are green turn to brown.  Enjoy it all as much you can. It’s over far too quickly.

And while I am on this theme.

Off now to watch Strictly with my daughter, stir ( and eat) some risotto and help put the boys to bed.

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Better get used to blogging by iPhone

We leave on Thursday. My bag is not yet packed but I have everything I need. Vaseline, all purpose shampoo/cleanser, euros i collect tomorrow. I have some collating to do. Some Karrimor sandals that served me well last year and a very thin lightweight running top – bright pink – these are unaccountably in the new flat by the sea. I found myself weighing my pants on my digital scales as recommended by Mary Berry ( the scales, not weighing your drawers) and then thought “this way madness lies” and just picked three pairs.

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I am not taking the blankets though it is tempting. It’s gone all cold and nasty here and though we’re promised tropical heat by the end of the week I think, I hope SW France will be warmer still.

It feels strange to be going. Last time we hit the ground running. I’d been to Center Parcs and a funeral two days before. It was Helen’s birthday as we left. The mountain pass opened the day before we crossed the Pyrenees. It felt like the beginning of something. Spring perhaps? But this feels like the end of something. It’s getting murky and dark as I tap! I feel as though I should be battening down the hatches and making a casserole. Instead I am peering at maps and mentally marking the halfway stage. Cahors I think.

But it is the start of so much. The children go back to school this week. My grandchildren will move into the next village while I am away and as grandparents we will be getting more involved in their precious little lives.

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Can’t move that picture:( anyhow that’s halfway.

This venture feels different: we are not walking to Santiago. The pull won’t be as strong I imagine. But nevertheless it’s a pilgrim route and has its own mystery. I heard the head of Eton speaking of teaching in its ancient halls. He said in many ways it’s a learning and teaching space like any other, but admitted that the weight of history and the sheer number of preceding masters and students has an inexpressible effect. I think this walk will be similar: thousands have been there before us but this is our time and it will be up to us to make it our own.

So many questions and wonderings. I like this poem. Mary Oliver again. This is the end of ‘The Summer Day’

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

There are so many reasons to play it safe but, but we all die at last and too soon. And our lives feel increasingly precious, if not wild. Why not then, if you’re offered it, have an adventure?  So for the next month I hope to be strolling through God’s good earth in my favourite season with a dear friend. What could be better?

Not long now

Two months, TWO MONTHS (!) since I last blogged. And here is an update on my forlorn hope plants.

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Haven’t they done well? Marvellous what a transplant, some intermittent watering and lots of neglect will do.

I’ve had a lot of ideas for blogs, mostly they come when I am out running or walking ie not at a computer. I am not sure how interesting my musings at home are but I know, don’t I? – that writing about trips away are popular with readers.

And we have another one planned.

Last year Helen and I did Our Long Walk from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostella. On the way we met a number of people who had begun the walk further back along The Way. Some had begun at Vezelay, some at Le Puy en Velay and one from Haarlem – rather alarmingly she had left her family on 1st March and was making her way to Santiago – this was late May. They added a lot to our experience and all said that the walk through France was worth doing. And that the food was better.

So this year Helen and I are attempting to walk from Le Puy which I think is in Auvergne to SJPP in the Basque country. It’s another 500 miles and through some beautiful country side in SW France. We said last year we would do this but now, now we have to make good on our promise. We have the kit, we have the tickets, we have the guidebooks.IMG_3937

There’s nothing like the sainted Brierley this year. We enjoyed his guidebook at many levels. His relief maps and tips were useful and his opinions and honest spirituality were a good starting point. He was the ‘Learn from Me’ parent and we were rebellious adolescents: we enjoyed disagreeing with him and I personally defaced his publication with smart remarks. “Oh really Mr Brierley, 18 km with no shelter and no water is sublime on the meseta. Really? You should get out more.”  (I heard a marvellous quote this morning on radio 4, that a mother’s place is in the wrong. So true.) But like a parent he earned our grudging respect, so much so that I have bought three of the same guidebook for different purposes. One I lost because I left the hostel before dawn and didn’t check my kit properly. One for snipping up, scrap booking and defacing. And one to read and show.

This year’s guides are sterile in comparison. Heavy on the maps and a tad clinical and, alarmingly, Miam Miam Dodo ( Yum Yum Bye Byes) is in French. Both of us have some French and are hoping the total immersion experience will bring all that vocabulary flooding back. But none of this gets any easier as we age. I will celebrate my 55th birthday on this walk and find reaching for the correct English word like feeling into the back of dark cupboard feeling pretty certain there’s a useful pair of shoes in there, but being unable to lay my hands on them instantly. So heaven only knows what it will be like in French.

I made a list of all the words we learned in Spanish last year and it runs to around 150, maybe more. So as I went with five: “Dos cervesas por favor – Gracias” – I am hoping the ratio of improvement will be similar, as actually deep down, very deep in a wardrobe of my brain which may back onto Narnia, I know a lot of vocabulary and indeed some grammar. I’ll let you know.

It’s a strange feeling this year. Last time I was nervous and many things were complete unknowns. This time we have more idea. We have honed our kit list and acquired those important merino base layers. And our thermals bought in the hellhole which is Carrion Regardless are coming with us. And Helen has done lot of snoring research and bought some industrial ear plugs.

I don’t feel so nervous.  The walking will be fun, mostly and that’s the bit I really like. The stages are graded by difficulty green, orange and red. There are three red days.

The food should be better  – could it be worse? And the accommodation will be French. Say no more. I’ll let you know.

 

Who’s to say…?

In the corner of my bedroom there’s a vase containing two of last year’s alliums.

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Everyday I look at them and sometimes I see them. You know what I mean.

A good friend asked me a few years ago, Verity how do you hear God speak to you? And I was a little flummoxed as I wanted her to remain my friend but I didn’t really think of God in those terms much anymore.

I don’t go to church. I don’t read the bible as I did. I don’t ask much of him as I used to. I don’t pester him with requests and temper my tiresome prayers with praise. But I feel closer to him than ever. And I believe in his goodness and faithfulness.

So I gave her this reply. I find God through metaphor. I also find God in nature and solitude. In stillness and presence. In poetry, and it doesn’t have to be lofty. In everyday things.

Here are some more alliums: this year’s.

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They are of course stunning and upright
and glorious. They are also crowded round with self sown nigella which I don’t have the heart to pull out. It would
show the alliums to better advantage but those beauties stand tall and proud anyhow.

And that’s how it is when we’re young. Whether we knew it or not, we were pretty darn gorgeous. I look at young people today and find their youth so beautiful and precious.

(And soon it’s over and you find yourself a dried out husk in the corner of the bedroom. No just joking.)

But who’s to say one is more beautiful than another? They are simply at different stages of being. And the naked elegance of the flower which has dropped its blooms has its own glory. It’s vulnerable but still strong. It has a kind of dignity.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3 v11.

Everything.