"End to End via the Margins"
One of the oddities of this journey, that brought home to me the importance of working life, is that the rail journey to Penzance was disrupted by a strike, and the homeward bus journey from Sheffield station to my house was also disrupted by a strike.
Why have I done this?
In the prologue I mentioned our nation, and where it stood between America and Europe...
It has been my privilege (I mean that) to meet a lot of Americans on this walk. They were great ambassadors for their nation. Maybe my view of this was influenced by the fact that few of them seemed to agree with their government's policy. It may be that those who did agree would not have had the guts to visit Europe at a time like this: I cannot know. We share a great deal with the US;- a language (mostly), many aspects of culture (over which I have some regrets), and so on. Yet I still feel European. In the last ten weeks I have seen England and Scotland pass in front of my eyes so quickly. Almost before I knew it, I was through the English Midlands. And the European mainland is only a day's walk away, if only one were allowed to walk the tunnel. A day's walk is nothing. The green and social strand of the European way are as close to my heart as Calais is close to Folkestone.
I also said..."There's more to the walk than this. This is a networked experience. I am entranced by the technology that makes it possible to communicate with people as I go, to write this diary and upload it from a mountain top if I want to and my fingers aren't too numb. The church where I live has put a map on the wall, with red ribbons ready to plot out the route. I find all this exciting, that in some new way, the fellowship of the church is becoming real to me."
I am still excited by the emails I had on the move, by meeting strangers who weren't really strangers in houses, churches, by canalsides or on top of the Quantocks. I sometimes thought "these emails are more than I can cope with just at the minute" ... I more often thought "I wish more people were logging on".
"But it's also a personal experience. Will the personality defect that prevented me from taking an ill-fitting pair of boots back to the shop come back defeat me? What other surprises lurk in the cobwebbed interior of my skull?"
Perhaps these defects prevented me from getting the most out of the walk ... but in some ways I was glad not to be too severely tested.
"When I first planned the route, I thought that an average of fifteen miles a day was modest and would leave me with time and energy to explore, chat and discover. But that was based on what I used to do in my youth. Now after some practice walking I'm not so sure. There is a real possibility I may not get to the end."
Much as I hate to quote Victorian hymns, "...the clouds ye so much dread / are big with mercy and will break / in blessings o'er your head." Can't remember which hymn it comes from though. ... As it turns out, it was not Victorian after all, so that's OK. It was written by William Cowper, whose brilliant hymns were carved out of his experiences of depression.
There are a number of questions raised by the semi-formal part of this journey, talking with church groups. I shall leave them for a more considered account. But there were a couple of things that kept coming to the fore in my mind.
One is sin and goodness. It was very clear to see both the sinfulness and
goodness of people. I met people who had suffered at the hands of others. I met
people who had suffered because the way the world runs is bad for them. I was
treated with contempt both by some drivers and by the people who think it
doesn't matter if you use the public sphere as a muckheap. But I was also helped
and supported by and experienced kindness at the hands of many people, both
Christians and non Christians.
Another issue that came up in several conversations and thoughts was
salvation and money. We Christians set great store by the way salvation is
freely available. In Paul's time this meant that it wasn't confined to those who
could keep the Jewish law faultlessly, indeed wasn't confined to Jews at all. In
our time, we may need to think quite hard about what it means that wholeness,
fulfillment, being OK with God, or membership of the people of God is free.
I said in the prologue, "In an odd sort of way, I hope to enjoy this walk. I hope you enjoy reading about it, too." Well, I certainly did enjoy it. I worried about my feet from time to time, but they never hurt very much. I also enjoyed the messages of support and encouragement from you. It seems that between 10 and 30 of you have been looking at the pictures. Can't be sure about the text - the interpretation of the http request statistics depends on knowing your cache settings. But thank you all very much - you made it worthwhile.