Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Day 13: Lanark to Biggar.

Distance: 17.4 miles (230.8 total).

Duration: 7 hrs 37 mins.

Lowest Temp: 2ºc.

Weather: All around us but never on top of us.

Highest Alt: 825 ft

Archdeacon Watch: Glad not to be on the bus, mostly.

Last night we were wonderfully looked after by the Revd Dan Gafvert, who taught us a lot about Lanark and about Lanarkshire. It was great to be able to stop, for the second and last time on this pilgrimage, in someone’s home.

This morning The Archdeacon declared himself fit for service once more, so off we set. Now, in my defence, I’d like to put it on the record that over the first few miles of each leg I really need to keep going just to work out the various aches and pains I have in my right foot (everything else, I’m delighted to say, continues to work well – well, as well as ever). Stopping and starting makes me sore. Here ends the case for the defence.

By the time we’d made the two miles to New Lanark, The Archdeacon had introduced a series of pauses to our progress, as he’d mucked around with his clothing, faffed about with his rucksack, and had the inevitable long minutes of fiddling with his walking sticks. I prayed the Rosary, and tried to think good thoughts.

Then we reached New Lanark itself, a wonderful heritage site which is well worth a visit. The Archdeacon disappeared into the Gift Shop and Visitor Centre. This is a walk, a long walk, popping in to Gift Shops and Visitor Centres is something we just don't do. However, I rustled up as much Christian charity as I could muster and waited. He didn’t reappear. I continued to wait. Still no sign.

I began to have a tantrum in my head: ‘What’s he up to? He’s just making this walk harder. It’s like having another pack to carry.’

And then I stopped. Comparing this person, parson and friend to my pack made me realize just how stupid I was being. I remembered that my pack contained only the essentials for the journey, and that all the people I’ve been privileged to share this pilgrimage with are essential to it.

What’s more, all the people I’m privileged to share life’s pilgrimage with, are never extra weight – they are essentials, without which no pilgrimage is worthy of the name. It's only my poverty of love which makes others feel like extra weight, and the more I can learn to love, the more I will understand that the people I encounter are never weights but gifts.

And lastly, I wish to defend The Archdeacon from expressions of sympathy which he has received in recent days. He is a proud man who would be deeply distressed to think that anyone is feeling sorry for him. In the ten years of our friendship that’s a distress I’ve never caused him, and nor do I intend to in the ten or so days ahead, as I drive him over Glen and Ben (Scottish terms for landscape, not people we’ve met).

PS The Archdeacon has managed to organise for us to celebrate the Eucharist on Lindisfarne at 10am on Friday 26th February. As I always put when advertising forthcoming events in the service sheet, ‘all are welcome’.

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