Spring has arrived and with it the pilgrimage season. I have recently returned from a trip to the Kurdish region of Iraq (KRI). I was there to interview female Peshmerga for my history of Women Warriors. Given that most wars are largely fought by men, the book looks for answers to one question – what causes some women to take up arms?
Nelson Mandela once asserted that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." At the very least, it is a power-tool for levelling up. My grandmother left school at 13 but was a strong advocate of life-long learning and, thanks to the ‘Workers Educational Association’ she was living proof of its value.
After being locked down in our cities, or ever-more crowded countryside, the timing of these isolation-paradise movies is impeccable. But what hooks us into these escapist dreams, these illusions, is no different today than it was in the 19th century. Like pilgrimage itself, it taps into an eternal impulse within us all.
For much of the last four decades I have lived within walking distance of the Thames in London. This weekend I ventured out to explore a stretch of the river’s meandering upper reaches. Setting out from Lechlade in the very early morning mist only larks and reed warblers broke the silence.
This week I spent a glorious hour in conversation with Karwan Jamal Tahir on the topic of female Peshmerga soldiers - research for my book - 'Women Warriors'
Stanford is a Catholic and the content of his book is heavily weighted towards Christian routes and shrines such as Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes, and Rome. Nevertheless, he treads a balanced and respectful line across the wider religious terrain.
While the media may be wrapped up in immediate concerns of contagion, we can only assume that the millions flocking to the Kumbh Mela are taking the long view.
During his lifetime Philip Mountbatten was known variously as Prince, Duke, Consort. Some of his titles were honorary others, were earned. In this latter category we might include Influencer – a person who through his trusted position was able to amplify ideas and inspire others to act.
Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road..
Surely this is the richest fortune of all - not only to live a good life, but to recognise it as such.
Experiencing that unique synaptic prickle that comes from fresh conversation and a new perspective on the world, my encounter with award winning podcaster Jeremy Bassetti made me nostalgic for that special quality of life in the city currently lost to lockdown. Not least the serendipity of the chance meeting.
Twenty odd years before Herman Melville penned ‘Clarel’ an epic poem on pilgrimage, he wrote ‘Moby-Dick’, that wondrous mixture of fiction, natural history and social anthropology. Published in 1851, the book was a commercial failure. At the time the Nantucket whaling industry was already in decline and American readers no more wanted novels about whalers than … Continue reading Call Me Ishmael
While the government contemplates the logistics, costs and implications for personal liberty of introducing quarantine for travelers, and hostile states whip up anti-vax sentiment, we might take a peek at the link between faith and pestilence, as sadly the two often travel hand in hand. Amongst the largest gatherings on the planet is the Hindu pilgrimage … Continue reading Forty days
I had hoped to journey to the Orkneys last year to see the Ring of Brodgar, the Bronze Age standing stones not far from Stromness, but it was not to be. I wanted to get a better sense of this ritual site and experience at first-hand how it feels and imagine how it might have felt … Continue reading Thankfully!
Every New Year’s Eve we become oracles, each prophesying the big political, economic and sporting moments for the year ahead.
In tandem with my book 'We are Pilgrims - Journeys in Search of Ourselves', this blog is part of a quest to understand why, each year, 200 million people from all faiths and nations, embark on a pilgrimage. It explores how we began this practice, how it has inspired musicians, artists and writers, how it … Continue reading About Why Pilgrim
Lamb’s 2020 book ‘Our Bodies Their Battlefield’ is grim but compelling. Ultimately, I had to put it down, lacking the courage to continue reading. Afterwards, nursing my own cowardice, I thought of Lamb. The woman who had the strength to face the detailed accounts of violence sustained by women in the course of conflict.