Pilgrimpace's Blog

something understood: pilgrimage
April 25, 2018, 6:46 am
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This BBC Radio 4 Programme is well worth listening if you can:



Dr Rowan Williams, the Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, sets out to discover the true meaning and purpose of pilgrimage. He reveals that it’s not so much a physical journey, but more of an internal searchwhich realises the destination was not so far from where we started.

Rowan explains, “Pilgrimage prepares us for death simply by reminding us that we are not, to quote one of Iris Murdoch’s novels, “that buzzing, blooming confusion” we carry around with us, the anxious, ambitious, defensive, greedy self we have constructed, which panics at the idea of loss or helplessness. We are held in a patient and generous truth, new every moment. We can dismiss the worrying over whether we deserve love or peace or homecoming. We are already there.”

In the company of John Bunyan’s Christian, we travel through Jerusalem and Santiago accompanied by a 14th Century English writer from Nottinghamshire, Walter Hilton, and the insights of TS Eliot and the Muslim poet Rumi. Music from Maddy Prior, Monteverdi and Wagner assist our journey to its conclusion, with another of Bunyan’s heroes, Mr Valiant-for-Truth, as he is summoned to cross the river.

Anna Akhmatova
January 18, 2018, 3:31 pm
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There is an excellent In Our Time BBC Radio programme on the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova that you can listen to here.  By coincidence, I am slowly reading her Collected Poems at the moment.  Strongly recommended.


advent calendar 8
December 15, 2016, 8:11 pm
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If you can listen to Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra this week, there are some gems:

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey

Richard Holmes’ The Long Pursuit (which reminded me of the fantastic chapter in Footsteps where he follows RLS and Modestine)

and Babette’s Feast.

Apart from The Box of Delights, what more could you want in the third week of Advent?

good things
August 29, 2016, 3:48 pm
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I hadn’t intended to post again for a while, but I have stumbled upon this excellent programme on Pilgrimage from BBC Radio 3’s Words and Music.  Well worth listening to if you can.  Got me even more in the mood.  Tara a bit.


the pilgrim industry
August 6, 2015, 10:00 am
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There’s an excellent repeat of the BBC Radio comedy The Leopard in Autumn which you can listen again to here.  While it doesn’t feature the Head of John the Baptist as a boy, it tells us a great deal that rings true about the medieval pilgrim industry.

That all said, I am a pilgrim.  I am happy finding holiness in places like those three coffins in the Crypt of Santiago Cathedral.

the man of the mani
June 23, 2015, 1:20 pm
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There was a very good radio programme about Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Mani on Radio 4 yesterday.  You can listen to it here.  Definitely worth it.  It’s made me want to pick his books off the shelf again.


nature writing – 3
April 21, 2015, 1:00 pm
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I am very grateful to Margaret for suggesting I listen to James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life on Radio 4. (You can Listen Again here)

Rumanian Shepherd, photo from Wikipedia Commons

Rumanian Shepherd, photo from Wikipedia Commons

I am taken by this sentence near the beginning:

“How come the story of our landscape wasn’t about us?”

advent journey – a christmas carol
December 21, 2014, 9:51 am
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There was a real treat on the radio yesterday afternoon with an excellent adaptation of A Christmas Carol.  If you can get BBC Radio Player you can listen to it here for the next month.


Dickens is one of my favourite authors and this wonderful short tale of the conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge – by supernatural means (or is it undigested mustard or gravy?) – from Malthusian miserableness to happy generosity is a Christmas classic.  He realises how connected he actually is to other people.

It was of course a biting critique of many of those with power in 1840’s Britain.  Bernadette Meaden writes about how A Christmas Carol speaks to contemporary Britain on Ekklesia here.  The challenge for us is to allow our hearts to be expanded in love so that we make a practical difference in terms of solidarity with those in most need.  This obviously needs to go beyond the actions of individuals to a change in the priorities and structures of our society.

Once the busy-ness of this week is over, I think it will be time to read or re-read another Dickens novel.  Any recommendations?

advent journey – light in the darkness

We are reeling from the terrible news from Peshawar yesterday. 141 people, mostly children, slaughtered in an attack on a school.  Things don’t seem to have changed much since the massacre of the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem which the Church remembers each year on December 28th.  It is bleak and dark.  We are shocked, we doubt, we lament, we cry, we light candles.


As the news of this started to come through yesterday, I was in amongst it in one of those busy pre-Christmas days.  I spent the early afternoon helping at the Learning Disabilities Chaplaincy Christmas Service.  This is up the road at Monyhull.  This is special for many reasons.  There are strong links.  When St Bede’s were rebuilding after the fire, our congregation were welcomed in by the church made up of folk with learning disabilities and their carers and, for a few years, the two congregations were one.  My Grandad spent his life as Head Porter in a similar place.  It is wonderful to be with this Church and I have such a lot to learn there.  It was good to be joined by Bishop David who cemented his reputation there as the man who lies down in services.

The current austerity and attack on the NHS is in evidence though.  There were far fewer residents present than usual.  Many of the homes are now run by private companies, making it very hard for the Chaplaincy to work in a coherent way; staffing is cut to the bone; there are not enough staff to enable everyone who wants to to attend.  After Mass and carols we ate mince pies together.  I’m not sure if J. broke his record for eating them.

I was then kindly by Councillor Barry Henley to accompany Bishop David and Sior, the Chaplain, to Barry’s house where we joined in the lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah.  It was moving to reflect together on the meaning of this miracle against the background of the school massacre.  Light shone in the darkness; oppression is faced by justice and righteousness.  Some of these thoughts should be broadcast soon on Radio WM.


In the evening I went to Woodthorpe Junior and Infant School for their Christmas Concert.  It’s been wonderful to have a link with this school for many years.  I sat in a hall full of parents and grandparents as the children sang wonderfully Christmas songs.  This excitement and joy is a response to the darkness of terrorism.  Children and schools acting in the way they should so that children grow and flourish, learning practically to respect other people and value life.

The light shines in the darkness.

a ring of bright water

The two excellent radio programmes Terry Nutkins in the Ring of Bright Water are available to listen to on the BBC Radio 4 Extra website here.

I can’t recommend these highly enough.  The late Terry Nutkins was a major figure in my childhood exposure to wildlife through programmes like Animal Magic.  These programmes tell the story of his childhood with Gavin Maxwell and the otters:

Following the sad death of Terry Nutkins, we revisit two documentaries he made about his unusual childhood spent with the author, Gavin Maxwell, in the remote west highlands.

When Terry Nutkins was 13 he moved from London to the isolated west highlands to live with Maxwell, whose most famous book is ‘Ring of Bright Water’ . In 2009 – forty years after Maxwell’s death – Terry told the remarkable story of his life with this mercurial man and his famous otters, Edal and Teko.

‘Ring of Bright Water’ is, arguably, the finest book ever written about a man’s relationship with landscape and wildlife. Published in 1960, it tells the story of Maxwell’s life in the now almost mythical setting of Camusfearna. His poetic observations of otter behaviour and the detailed sketches and photographs in the book helped to change – on a worldwide basis – the reputation of these animals which were widely persecuted at the time.

Terry Nutkins had a boy’s own adventure in a uniquely beautiful landscape. But he also found himself living a peculiar existence, in virtual isolation, with a man who was as charming as he was difficult, and whose depression led to severe mood swings. As Terry said, he had to grow up quickly.

And I think time for me to find again my copy of The Ring of Bright Water and put it on my pile of books to read over the summer.