Friday, 20 July 2018

We the people...

Look, you're bored with it, I'm bored with it, but it's pretty crucial to us as Christians too, even if it isn't all the fun of the fair (see left), so I think I should record the extraordinary political backdrop to this week's events. After all, this is a journal of sorts. Well, on this occasion, more of a rant. Sorry! You'll have to scroll down to find the walking bit...but first I have some stuff to get off my chest. Or I may just possibly explode...

As far as the UK's concerned, whether or not one agrees with her immediate solution (a complicated second referendum) ex-Education Secretary Justine Greening is surely right in pointing out that the House of Commons is completely deadlocked on the Brexit issues. There's no course of action open to it  which can ever find anything approaching Parliamentary consensus, or find acceptance with a sufficiently large proportion of the population or media. Personally I'm desperate for us to stay in Europe, but I fear the consequences of frustrating the hard core leavers. I think it's even possible there might be violence on the streets if we do. Stewart Jackson, a convinced 'Brexiteer', and once a Northamptonshire MP, was unwisely filmed (with Peterborough Cathedral in the background!) talking about an 'establishment coup' last evening, because of Teresa May's attempts to find compromise. Everyone needs to mind their language.

On Radio 5 some grassroots Tory activists and supporters of 'Leave' were interviewed at a Kent fundraiser. One said: 'I thought we'd just sign a piece of paper and that would be it'. How could someone with even the sketchiest idea of politics think such a thing? - and she was probably on the committee that selected their MP.

Meanwhile on the far side of the Atlantic this strange man who's come to be President preens and blusters, saying whatever flits through his head or suits his own individual interests at a particular moment. I've never before watched a public statement by world leaders as I did the post-Helsinki 'summit' press call, thinking that both protagonists, Putin and Trump, 'their' man, and 'our' man, were simply lying, repeatedly and blatantly. Trump's subsequent claim, 24 hours later, that he mis-spoke is belied by context, speech pattern and lack of corroboration elsewhere in what he said. Is he mad or bad? It doesn't matter much, because again, given the inexplicable devotion he inspires in middle America, any action taken against him would have the direst consequences. Only an election will fix it, if in turn the election's not fixed. Impeachment or assassination would simply mean martyrdom. And yet what he's doing by undermining international relations('disrupting' as one time aide Steve Bannon approvingly characterises it) may have malign repercussions for decades to come. If I ever make jokes about him, it's because I'm scared. This isn't the first time in living memory folks have worried about the American President. Check out Don Henley's 'End of the Innocence' written about Ronald Reagan - and how nice and cuddly he now seems - 'But now those skies are threatening/They're beating ploughshares into swords/For this tired old man we elected King/Armchair warriors often fail/And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales/The lawyers clean up all details/Since Daddy had to lie...

However, this President's brain isn't just missing (remember Spitting Images?) It's been stolen by the Russians or the Devil, I don't know...

Both these situations have come about because of the 'will of the people', expressed incautiously through the ballot box in the UK and the US, and so have done harm to our confidence in the notion of democracy, hitherto so apparently secure and certain in our national mindsets, but actually now so fragile and adequate in post-internet practice. And what does this say about the government of the Church? Compare and contrast, as they used to say in exam papers.

Against the background of such difficulties, as it must have been during the 'phoney war' of late 1939 and early 1940, domestic day-to-day activity seems trivial, almost an irrelevance, a sleep-walk. But sunshine is the happy drug, and my spirits lift as I park near Teeton and tramp the lane to the crossroads where Hollowell's one way and Coton the other, the latter a place always bluebelltastic in late April. I sit on a bench and look at the view. The schools haven't even broken up for the summer yet, but the English fields and hills look French in their parched yellow-brown dress. A combine drones away in the distance. Birds tweet and chuck, caw and coo. A horse clacks up from Coton. The rider greets me cheerily. 'It's cooler today: a bit more bearable...' she opines. I don't like to say has she seen the weather forecast for tomorrow. I stroll on into Guilsborough, thinking I'll take in the town first and then visit St. Etheldreda's, but the church is open so I seize the day and go inside.

                                                         Guilsborough: chancel steps

The 'borough' part of this large village/small town's name is related to the word 'bury', meaning a large mound, as in a castle mound, but in King Alfred's time a 'burh' acquired special significance as a fortified town strategically placed to defend against Viking raiders. The mounds in Guilsborough pre-date Alfred, and maybe in one instance have a connection to the ubiquitous Roman governor Ostorius Scapula. At an elevation of nearly six hundred feet and with good views of the surrounding countryside, this would have been a good location for a safety-minded community. Who the eponymous Gyldi was, I don't think anyone knows. What succeeded him or her was a settlement which caused a lot of spacious, gracious houses to be built: Guilsborough has the air of a small spa town. Since the turn of the century the population has declined to about 700, but when the local comprehensive school buses its pupils into town that number almost triples. The pub is the Witch and Sow. There are various hokey local legends about witches riding around on pigs ( a sort of medieval Hell's Angels?) which may have some vague connection to actuality insofar as two of the five women hanged for witchcraft in Northampton on July 22nd 1612 came from Guilsborough. Through the centuries the village's children - and perhaps would be young lovers looking for a bit of peace and quiet - were scared away from a local pond with tales of the witch Black Annis who'd be sure to drag them to their deaths in its murky waters.

How ying and yang is it then, that Guilsborough's comforting, beautifully stained-glassed church is dedicated to a female Saxon saint. The cult of Etheldreda, aka Aethelthryth, centres on Ely, where she died an improbable virgin, despite two marriages and the baleful influence of Wilfrid, Bishop of York who for political reasons hoped he could persuade her to compromise her vow of chastity.

In her church I meet Trevor. I spot a pair of shiny black shoes on the organ bench, and ask if he's the owner, thinking he might be the organist. 'Oh no,' he says, 'I'm just the dogsbody...' And indeed Trevor is clearly very busy with church admin today. I see lovely floral tributes in the porch and guess there's a funeral later. Quite possibly a large crowd is expected because there's a loudspeaker rigged up to relay sound into the churchyard. I learn the deceased is Nigel, and he was either a cricketer himself or a cricket supporter. One of the tributes expresses the wish that he may find matches to watch on the heavenly playing fields. It's a hope I share.

I retrace my steps down the Teeton lane and pass the same horserider (who seems to have forgotten our first encounter), and a cyclist I also saw an hour previously. All cyclists look much the same in their shades, helmet and dayglo kit, but I know I've seen this one before. As he whizzes by he leaves a distinct waft of Armani eau de cologne in his wake. At the crossroads I turn onto a diagonal path and gently descend through the fields to St. James, Hollowell, a little Victorian chapel at the top of the real hill down to the village. (The gradients hereabouts are steep enough that Hollowell used to be regularly cut off in times of snow). I sit inside and read Psalm 75, thinking of Trump. God says to the boastful 'Do not boast', and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horn; do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with insolent neck...' If ever there was a defining example of an insolent neck, it's the Donald...

There's a sweet little organ in St. James, and I tootle for a few minutes, then gather up hat and stick and trot on down past the quaint bus shelter on the corner of Church Hill. I remember that Jude and Geoff Cook, one time captain of Northants Cricket Club, used to live in Hollowell and wonder exactly where. We knew Jude because she taught with Sue, and we met Geoff occasionally. He's been a marvellous servant of the game, a humble, largely unsung hero at both Durham and Northampton.

Encountering celebrities is a funny business. I tend to watch and worship from afar. One day this week I'm at my regular London studio haunt recording the audio for a course to teach Egyptian kindergarten children English (and get your head round that!) In other studios within the complex all sorts is going on. I do an 'after you, Claude' in the loo with someone I think to be Keith Allen ( a one- time marvellously evil Sherriff of Nottingham on telly). Richard Wilson (aka Victor Meldrew) is holding court in one corner of the Green Room. I share the coffee pot with a silent Sir Ian McKellen, and there are other names I could drop if only I could remember who they are. Yes, well, I'm overly star-struck - always have been - but then with 'fifteen minutes of fame' ringing in our ears, which of us isn't, if we're honest? My engineer for the day, the excellent Shane, who recently came to the UK from Austin, Texas, says a year ago he wouldn't have believed he could ever find himself chatting to Sir Ian over best Colombian roast (Shane's evidently bolder than I am!) Some celebrities can be fascinating company. Most are not, in my limited experience.

Some Anglicans are in celebrity-awe of bishops, and even of clergy. Worst of all, I think that throughout history the Church may have exaggerated or played upon this tendency. In consequence they call the shots, and we do as we're told. Right now we need more ordinary people doing extraordinary things. More Trumpton, less Trump. But it's pot and kettle. Show me a writer or musician who doesn't like a bit of that stuff and I'll show you a liar. Where are the boundaries of the humility into which Jesus encourages us? And how does blogging relate to this?

                                               A preacher's eye view: Cottesbrooke church

I climb away from Hollowell on a green lane up towards the old A50 Welford Road, which runs attractively along the ridge. As I near the top, I hear the sound of what I'm sure is a Merlin aero engine, throaty, muscular and regular, and through the trees get a brief glimpse of a heritage Spitfire having some aerobatic fun overhead before it speeds away to an air show somewhere. I'm on the Macmillan Way again, and as so often with this path you have to make it up as you go along. Trusting to my instincts I end up where I want on the road in Cottesbrooke not far from the main gates of the Big House. If it had been a Thursday afternoon, I could have gone in and paid too much money for a cup of tea, but it isn't. The church of All Saints is more than adequate compensation. It only merits one star in Simon Jenkins 1000 Best Churches but I'd give it five. Granted, it's not in a perfect state of tidiness despite a sixties' renovation, but that's part of its charm and there are wonderful things to see. The three tier pulpit is perfect, the funerary monuments beautiful and moving, but best of all is to climb some wooden steps opposite the pulpit, open the little gate and enter a mezzanine gallery. I guess this was once the toffs 'box' from which they could watch worship, but it later became a school room, and there's still an open fireplace there, something I've not seen anywhere else. Beyond the gallery is the 1604 tomb of Sir John Rede. He's flanked by a little marble procession of his ten children, a mini 'terracotta army' in Tudor dress, mourning their late dad.

I can't resist looking in the music cupboards on the side of the gallery. Inside is an envelope stamped and postmarked 1943, and underneath it a pile of ancient organ music, untouched for decades I imagine, although the little organ at the back of All Saints is locked and so I suppose, must be in occasional use. I wonder how many are in the congregation here now? Do the posh people still attend worship?

The rest of today's ramble is almost an anti-climax. There's a hike through barley fields wonderfully scented in this toasting heat, and then a disappointment at Creaton where St. Michael and All Angels is shut, too vulnerable, too near the main road. I cross and walk the next undulation back to the Teeton Road. I've saved myself a treat, a warm-down for the final third of a mile, dropping back gently to the car down the metalled lane. Northampton is ahead of me across the glowing fields. I see the Express Lifts Tower raise its single rebellious finger to the sky, thus saying everything about our town that you need to know. A single column of black smoke rises vertically: there's a fire somewhere, and thinking of Saddleworth Moor and Wanstead Flats in recent days, I hope it's at least not arson. I remember the days when late summer was blighted by farmers burning off the stubble, and am grateful it doesn't happen now. But have the alternatives made more work for them?

Some philosophers dealt with the problem of the material world's existence by suggesting that when we're not around to witness things, they simply 'disappear'. Bishop Berkeley countered this by positing that they didn't, because God was always there to monitor them. While I'm walking and not listening to The News, I can kid myself that Trump, Brexit, the whole ghastly shebang is just a series of phantoms or bad dreams. Sadly not...

Tallies on the stick:  17 km. 5.5 hrs. Sunny with a little cloud building. 21 - 24 deg. C. Breeze in late morning fading thereafter. 210 metres of ascent - and descent! 4 churches. A 3-tier pulpit. A tuppeny-happen King George VI stamp. One rabbit (as ever, my that guy does get around...) One squirrel. Mucho rustling in the undergrowth. A few mozzy bites. 11 stiles. 8 gates. 3 bridges (even though we're not in Sussex).

You know how I kick against
All routine
All drudgery
Every day being the same
The calling to be Humble and Meek
The ordinariness of Now.

Forgive me
My pride
My vaunting ambition
My overriding desire
To be a special case
And be thought better than other people.

I know I should be confident
That you made me
As you made everyone around me
Unique and precious.
I know that everywhere
There are diamonds in the rough
Of everyday experience.

Please give me grace to look more carefully
And to trust you.

Friday, 13 July 2018

One flesh, one bone...

You get to thinking you're a pretty cool hiker, and then someone says something which makes you realise you've a lot to be humble about. And we're not necessarily talking treks up Annapurna here. My friend Jen mentioned to me the other day she'd just walked 57 km at one go, and did it in ten hours! OK, she's half my age, and probably twice as fit, but crumbs... Respect, Jen!

Brendan Foster, Steve Cram and other athletics commentators often talk about 'running your own race', rather than worrying about the superior skills of others, so here I am, tottering on, stick, scarred knees, n'all. That's British track n'field for you...

To recap for recent fellow travellers on this actual and virtual pilgrimage, I'm walking to every(Anglican) church in the Diocese of Peterborough. For me it's a spiritual discipline and the excuse to write a snapshot of Northamptonshire life in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Oh, and a chance to sound off about stuff. My rules? Every walk is circular. Every walk has to touch the route of a previous one. If there's a message it's that if we have some kind of Christian faith, we're better together rather than locked up in ghettos of our own making. And for readers who don't share my or any faith perspective to suggest that people like me aren't necessarily weirdos. Well maybe we are, but by today's standards, just no more weird than anyone else. Hello, Boris. Hello, Jacob. Hello, Donald. Hello, Love Islanders.

In case you want to do a Jack Kerouac or Bill Bryson on a Shire County, here are the more recent walks. If you want to stay cool, then look back through my posts, and just read about 'em.

                                                      Road bridge near West Haddon

Dec. 3rd 2017:  Walk 50: Canons Ashby - Adstone - Maidford - Farthingstone - Canons Ashby.
                                                                                                                                            17 km.
Jan 13th 2018: Walk 51: Charwelton - Fawsley - Badby - Hellidon - Charwelton.
                                                                                                                     16.5 km.
March 22nd:    Walk 52: Badby - Everdon - Newnham - Badby.
                                                                                         12.5 km.
April 17th:       Walk 53: Hellidon - Badby - Staverton - Catesby - Hellidon.
                                                                                                                15 km.
April 22nd:       Walk 54: Everdon - Stowe Nine Churches - Weedon - Everdon.
                                                                                                                     15 km.
April 28th:       Walk 55:  Staverton - Daventry - Braunston - Staverton.
                                                                                                         19 km.
May 7th:           Walk 56: Weedon - Flore - Brockhall - Norton - Dodford - Weedon.
                                                                                                                            20 km.
May 14th:         Walk 57:  Braunston - Barby - Kilsby - Ashby St. Ledgers - Braunston.
                                                                                                                                22 km.
May 25th:         Walk 58:  Brockhall - Little Brington - Nobottle - Harlestone - Great Brington -
                                            Whilton - Brockhall                 22 km.
June 18th:        Walk 59:  Ashby St. Ledgers - Welton - Long Buckby - Watford -
                                            Ashby St. Ledgers.                   22 km.
June 22nd:       Walk 60:  Great Brington - East Haddon - Ravenstone - Teeton - Holdenby - Gt.    
                                            Brington                                    19 km.
June 29th:        Walk 61:  Watford - West Haddon - Winwick - Crick - Watford.
                                                                                                                       18 km.
July 8th:            Walk 62: Crick - Lilbourne - Clay Coton - Yelvertoft - Crick.
                                                                                                                       19 km.

The title of today's post?  From the lyric of Queen's 'One Vision' ( a recent Pointless answer!)
Freddie's version of 'One Church, One Faith, One Lord...'?

So far 1142 km ( 714 miles ). 228 churches. Back on the road, next week. Keep the faith!

                                                               Et in Arcadia ego...

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Heroes and Villains

We all have to be on the lookout for the Asian Hornet. Nasty critter. Apparently it hangs around bee-hives and kills unsuspecting honey bees as food for its grubs. Our European hornets are really nice in comparison. You can tell the Asian guys by their yellow legs, although in my limited experience of hornets they fly so fast you'd have difficulty knowing what colour their legs are (which is why the Americans designated their F-18 fighter-bomber the 'Hornet').

With Radio 4 'Today' stories crowding my brain (including the renewed problems with Novichok in Salisbury - 'Mr Trump sir, we've arranged a great day out for you in one of our magnificent cathedral cities...') I leave the car in Crick's 'Bury Dyke' and walk west out of the village on another hot morning. The last month's lack of rain is taking its toll: the grass is scorched, the ground rock hard. The village sign has been charmingly overwhelmed by a floral arrangement, so the traveller knows they're in a jolly place even if they don't know exactly what it is. A little green has been isolated by a ditch, to keep out Travellers' caravans. And gradually, as the road flattens out, the noise of the M1 rises, interrupted by the occasional sound of a locomotive horn, because here I am in Logistics Land. Just across the motorway is the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal. Be careful on the roundabouts hereabouts. From DIRFT the HGVs stream out to supply the country with goodies, north, south, east and west. The junction between the M1, the M6 and the A14 is close by.

  I false start looking for the lane which runs parallel to the motorway towards Lilbourne, and make an unscheduled inspection of the Holiday Inn's real estate instead. I suppose the Inn's mostly commercial visitors can play mind games and pretend they're on vacation, but it's not the place I'd choose. I backtrack and locate the lane which is cunningly hidden by a government traffic inspection facility, periodically searching for overweight wagons and illegals, though not today. From a little incline I can see the vast warehouses for Sainsbury, Tesco, the Royal Mail. White windmills stud the landscape. It's only when one stops and watches the M1 that the sheer volume of lorry traffic becomes evident. Somehow when you're driving the road you don't catch such a sense of that, until there's a problem and you end up in a queue, where the chain of high-sided vehicles becomes imposing. I pass Haythog Farm (love the name!) An expanse of farm buildings seems derelict, ripe for demolition, although cows were grazing in a field a little way back. At the top of the rise where the track turns west to bridge the motorway (one vehicle at a time, the sign warns) there's a moto-cross track whose churning of the ground adds to a feeling of topological dysmorphia. On the far side of the M1 the bridleway has been diverted around the perimeter of an early airfield which in 1926 became the Rugby radio station. Lilbourne's village website tells me that for decades the national time signal was transmitted from an aerial suspended between two of the 820 feet high masts. In this digital age the masts have all been dismantled. The extensive site now awaits the arrival of, yes, more warehousing...

                                                     Where the masts once were...

I find a few real fields clinging on beyond the concrete and brown wasteland and walk up to Lilbourne's village green, complete with bench, postbox, red telephone box and a helpful clock on the wall of one of the houses. All Saints church isn't here though. It's across a hayfield down towards the River Avon (I'm so nearly in Warwickshire). The village was moved centuries ago. Castle mounds as neglected and unremarkable as any old heap of rubble lie just across the road from the church. A few cows nudge and nurdle around their foot. Beyond the ridge and furrow the impressive motorway viaduct dominates the view. I can't get into the church, but from the porch I learn that the parish is keen on its churchyard conservation project: there are many details of the flora and fauna to be found there (two sorts of bat!) It would be easy to be snippy about this, and complain that this surely isn't central to a church's ministry, but hang on a mo, mate. Doesn't my faith start with an awareness of God's extraordinary diversity in creation. Cut them some slack, please.


                          Lilbourne's Old Rectory (as big as a Bishop's palace)...

                          and the peaceful churchyard...

A second mental rearrangement is waiting for me up the road at Clay Coton. I reach this hamlet by a road walk past the Greenhaven woodland burial ground, and then along a track where there's a waymark for the 'Shakespeare's Way', a conceptual long distance footpath originally designed as the route WS might have taken from Stratford to London's 'Globe Theatre'. I'm surprised to find it here, and conclude this may be an off-shoot branching up to the source of the Avon.

St. Andrew's church in Clay Coton always served a tiny community, and by the mid-twentieth century it was falling down. In 2000 a restoration began, but it's now a private house in the middle of a graveyard which can be, as I guess would have to be the case, accessed by anyone who wished. It's a rather odd experience to wander around, look through the windows, and see a kitchen where the altar once was. I have no idea of the faith perspective of the current owner, but what would it feel like to live in such a place? If it were me I'd feel, I don't know, overlooked? - all that close minute by minute encounter with the numinous - at least at first, until I began to habituate. I think a new-age mystic might feel the same, even without the trappings of Christian theology. But what if one were a thoroughgoing atheist? Would the building begin to work magic, per se?

I'm still pondering that question in Yelvertoft where the domestication of sacred space crops up again in a different way. It's now very definitely a day for sand and sunbathing. To add to the Californian vibe, a rock-musician type (male) with an expensively coiffured mane in ash-blond breezes past me steering a Haight-Ashbury multi-coloured swap-shop of a Beach Buggy. I remember with a smile that the only person I've ever known who had one of these was the late Duke D'mond (not his real name of course!) lead singer of the Barron Knights, with which group I made very occasional uncredited TV and recorded appearances in the 1980s. Name dropper. Who? (Your grandparents may remember.)

All Saints, Yelvertoft is at the end of the straggly village, up on a hill. Its west elevation is very striking, even rather grand. Inside it's perhaps not so impressive: the cream wall paint is in need of renovation and perhaps the colour doesn't do the building any favours. But there's clearly a congregation with a warm heart here, looking to engage with visitors, particularly children. A welcome notice tells me that I should feel free to help myself to tea, coffee or orange squash from the servery cleverly constructed in a side aisle. Outside the heat is considerable. The Knightley Arms, which I passed on my way to All Saints, and which has a certain curiosity value because friend Brendan and his wife Jo once took on the pub as a project, now looks a bit down-at-heel, so Yelvertoft's church is truly my sanctuary, and their orange squash is a God-send. It's a long time since I've drunk any. It seems more pungently orangey and attractively acidic than I remember, but the colour still shouts 'E-numbers'. The underlying taste profile carries me straight back sixty years to children's parties and church outings in Bexleyheath's Danson Park.

Anyway, the point is, there are some who would find the offer of refreshments and my acceptance of them, indeed the provision of any kind of non-eucharistic consumption within the church, a kind of sacrilege. I disagree. I think it's dodgy theology and bad history. The New Testament doesn't have a great deal to say about the 'consecration' of things as opposed to people, does it? Rules tend to be dispensed with in favour of 'Grace' - which is not to say we may not consider certain places special permanently or for a period of time.

One thing I often notice when I'm walking, and it strikes me here, is that when I'm tired it's difficult to pray with content, by which I mean framing my prayers in anything other than the most general terms. Underlying my introspection is a rather basic fear. In my last hours, in extremis, will I lose faith and the articulation of my hopes, fears and thankfulness? And does that even matter? Perhaps I just have to do the work now in sweated blood to the best of my ability, and trust God.

As I move on from Yelvertoft, I'm feeling ever so slightly smug. Without really thinking it through, I've contrived to spend the first part of the day shaded from the sun by high hedges to the east. And now, at the sun's height, I find the towpath of the Leicester Canal to be largely canopied, so providing respite from the fiercest heat. I think back through the week's events, notably England's win against Colombia in the football World Cup. I can't really be doing with week by week league football, but you don't spend as many teenage hours as I did kicking a ball, any ball, not to be interested in the game at some level. If it is the game I played, that is. The thing that's been most obvious to me has been the tendency, ably displayed by the Panamanians and Colombians, to introduce wrestling as a component of general play. Formerly the use of the 'smother tackle' was reserved for rugby. Despite the South Americans' constant and blatant fouls, Maradona thinks the Colombians were robbed. I think they should have been playing with about nine men from fifteen minutes into the match. The reasons I dislike football, or the stuff which hangs around it, are the jingoism, the tribal codes, the love me/hate me emotions engendered between teams and their fans. I do like the athleticism, the movement of the ball, the skills of rapid footwork and body feint.

However, lots of people follow football precisely because of that other stuff. They're happy to divide humanity into the Good and the Bad, the heroes and villains. This is paradoxical to me, because everything about my upbringing has induced in me a sense of our corporate and individual 'original sin'. I can't help it, but I know I'm bad and only through God's love can be made good, which makes it so much more difficult to write off others in Daily Mail style as 'pure evil'. Our young people are educated in a system which works tirelessly to convince them that 'I'm OK, you're OK'. Sometimes I think the surging sea of unconditional positive regard has resulted in an unthinking default selfishness which can only countenance 'badness' as something possessed by other people, never oneself. And this to me is the onset of a troubling blindness. Of course we Christians too often ignore the stuff about motes and beams. Instead we indulge in nit-picking inspection of the thoughts and words of fellow travellers. Are they truly with us or against us? My team or your team? Two legs bad, four legs good.

I follow a narrow boat down the canal. It's doing about one mile an hour more than I am, so is slowly receding into the distance. I think I'll walk the canal all the way into Crick, but then come across a path which leads me back into the village through the youthful Jubilee Wood. On the far side of the water is Crack's Hill, which has its own country park. It has a strikingly even profile from this angle, so until I can see how it fits into the overall topography, I start thinking of Silbury, and wondering if Crack's Hill could possibly be man-made (it couldn't!) I can imagine how to earlier peoples such a feature of the landscape could be believed to have religious or magical powers. No accident that Spielberg used similar iconography of landscape in 'Close Encounters' . In our modern wisdom we have deconsecrated what surrounds us until those rare, elusive occasions when something from an undetected dimension breaks through and we're caught up in God. We're, all of us, really living in a church.

                                                           Charity at Yelvertoft

Players on the field: 19 km. 5 hrs. 21 deg. C at 08.30 rising to 29 deg. at 14.00. A breeze at first, dying through the middle part of the day. 5 stiles. 10 gates. 5 bridges. A lot of road walking. Again... just a single rabbit. It must be following me around. Larks a-plenty. Ditto butterflies and dragonflies, especially along the canal. No hornets, Asian or otherwise.

Father God
You come and you go.
Sometimes I get a brief glimpse
And catch my breath
And then doubt that I did at all.
I have my Gerard Manley Hopkins highs
And my Richard Dawkins depressions
(though he seems rather too chipper about them).
Like a maths exam,
In the final reckoning
I hope you'll give credit
Where I show my workings.

Please don't give up on me, Father,
But honour my search,
My vagabond life,
My puny faith,
Through the grace of your Son
Our Saviour,
Jesus Christ