A View of the City

On Friday, from my study in Suffolk, with the apple blossom in full bloom outside, I took a virtual pilgrimage through Pepys’ London, with author Jacky Colliss Harvey and Barbara Schwepcke, founder of Haus Publishing. Through the glass of our screens, Jacky gave us a tour of some of the 17th century tea and coffee … Continue reading A View of the City

City Centre Sanctuary

The atmosphere of many grand or old buildings can be cold and austere, but Wakefield Cathedral, which is both old and grand, embraces the visitor as soon as they step through the door. A labyrinth set into the recently re-laid stone floor is an invitation to enter a different frame of mind: the act of … Continue reading City Centre Sanctuary

Gone for a Burton

During the research for my forthcoming book We are Pilgrims one of the most intense weeks was spent amongst the letters, lectures and published works of the explorer, linguist, ethnographer and spy, Sir Richard Francis Burton. Of particular interest was what led him to travel to Mecca disguised as a pilgrim.  His covert participation in the Hajj convoy … Continue reading Gone for a Burton

Feast and Famine

It shows enormous political confidence to build a cathedral; a declaration of the strength of the church, now and for tomorrow. ( We are richly blessed with over 40 English Cathedrals) And even during the decades of building and carving and embellishing, the construction of a cathedral serves an immediate social and economic purpose, raising … Continue reading Feast and Famine

The Power of Song

This week I spent a day walking and talking with Will Parsons, co-founder of the British Pilgrimage Trust and intrepid explorer into that rich spiritual world which lies beyond the surface of any pilgrim path. It was a transcendent experience. Our day’s journey began in the misty morning amongst the yew trees of St Mary’s churchyard, Patrixbourne … Continue reading The Power of Song

Love, Actually

Pilgrimage is a ritual journey which carries with it our hopes, beliefs and much more and while few of us are tramping the old ways on New Year’s Day, many of us will have engaged in some sort of ritual behaviour over the holidays which expresses these same feelings. Lighting Hanukah candles, leaving biscuits out … Continue reading Love, Actually

Say ‘Cheese’

We were making a return pilgrimage to Walden Pond, MA, the small body of water set amongst pine and oak trees where the transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau, famously retreated (on and off) over a period of two years to consider the meaning of life. Thoreau bought a hut from an Irish labourer who had helped build … Continue reading Say ‘Cheese’

A Cosy Atmosphere

As the afternoon light faded we made our way along a muddy footpath towards a simple barn-like structure that sat alone on the edge of the salt marshes. Soon small groups of people began to converge on this remote building each picking up a small candle as they filed in through the broad low doorway. … Continue reading A Cosy Atmosphere

Hope springs eternal

The Eleusinian Mysteries centred around initiation into an ancient agrarian cult founded on an early myth about the origins of agriculture and why the seed lays dormant underground through the winter months.   The myth describes how Hades opened up a chasm in the earth through which he abducted Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, goddess … Continue reading Hope springs eternal

Migrant in London

Last year, on the road to Rome I reflected on my fellow-men, women and children on the move across Europe, not on a personal journey, but in search of safety, freedom, or a better life. Yesterday in the London library I came across a collection of poems by the Jamaican poet James Berry, who landed … Continue reading Migrant in London