The art of packing light…

…is not an art I have learned. I have just struggled across London with a suitcase, handbag, rucksack, bag filled with gifts and 2 carrier bags with food that I didn’t manage to finish before travelling. I was pleased with my suitcase packing, but I struggle to understand why there is so much else besides.

In the hopes of not being too harried by the time I got to Liverpool Street, I tried to work out the route with the least steps, but there were still a lot. It made me appreciate again how blessed I am to have working limbs to get me from A to B, muscles to manipulate the load, senses to help me navigate, mental faculties to consider routes and be (partially) spatially aware – and a fair amount of knowledge of the London travel network, of course. What a wonder! Without all of these things working together, it would have been a journey of unknown danger and complexity.

I am glad to be safely on the train eastwards and not needing to concern myself with points and signals and speed limits, the modern comfort of travelling without getting dusty or muddy from the road or wet from the sea or river. Or horse-sore or blistered or exhausted.

I will arrive in more or less the state I left home, maybe a little flustered from getting myself and my luggage off the train. Then I will be able to forget the journey and think only about impending Christmas services and celebrations. But maybe I should hold onto my journey for Christmas, Christmas which is full of journeys to Bethlehem: Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi.

It is the Eve of Christmas Eve, the Forefeast of the Nativity. Make ready, o Bethlehem! We journey to you!

Christmas cards

I send/write quite a lot of Christmas cards but every year I struggle with The List. I have a system in place (of course I have a system, I am an organiser), but then
I wonder whether I have excluded someone who should have one, or I should just save lots on cards and postage and send only a few.

But really I love sending cards. Sometimes it is only a few words extra below the pre-printed message, sometimes a hasty wish to catch up again soon, occasionally something longer, but it keeps me in touch with friends. I think of them more than once a year, even if I haven’t managed to meet them for a while, but the card is proof that I value them, or gives me an opportunity to say hello in a more tangible way than a message on Facebook.

I don’t send nearly as many cards as my parents – my mum has a better system than me, probably – and I have always loved the sight of Christmas cards strung across the room on long threads of cotton, almost as festive as the tree.

So I will continue to muse on who gets a card and who does not, and also continue to send quite a lot, but for anyone who has persevered to the end of this post, I would like to say a very Happy Christmas to you. Particularly if you didn’t receive a card…

Birthday bugs

Yesterday was my 33rd birthday and I spent a lot of it without much voice and something of a cold. I can be no more definitive than that. It gave me some time to think: what does it mean to be 33? Is there anything special about this age?
Last August I spent a week on Mull and Iona, a pilgrimage to St Columba and the other saints of that place. While we were searching the skies for white-tailed and golden eagles on Mull (we saw both eventually), a lady from Egypt told us about the tradition of eagles there. They live to 33, but by that time, their wings are heavy with tatty feathers, their talons are gnarled and their beaks are blunt. They cannot hunt and would die, so they must hide themselves away for a time. They sharpen their beak on rocks and then tear out the old feathers. The injure their own talons to take off the callouses. They must then heal. At the end of the process, though weakened by lack of food and injury, they are once again able to fly and hunt for prey. This, according to the Egyptian lady, was the origin of the phrase in the Psalms: ‘so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s’ (Ps 102:5).
I suppose the lesson is that turning 33 is not just another age milestone, but an opportunity to renew yourself. So we will see what the next year brings.

First ever blog entry…

It had to be done eventually, so I have decided to blog a little and see where it gets me.

Walking from the train home today, I had a feeling of endlessness or eternity, the train and platform were so long. Many ideas seem to come to me in the gap between the train and the house, I must be feeling quite receptive.

But that reminds me of the wall on the way into London Victoria.  There is a tantalisingly obscure piece of graffiti (or workman’s warning) saying MIND SPIKE’S – never mind the unnecessary apostrophe – and when I first saw it I wondered what a mind spike is, perhaps some kind of thorn which catches your thoughts when you are not careful.  I suppose it’s really about spikes on the wall, but why do we need to mind them?  Did a guerilla mountain climber leave them there to attach ropes?

Here’s to more inspiring journeys…