Favourite Camino Videos and Some Title Thoughts

I wanted to write a blog post this morning but wasn’t sure what to write about.

When in doubt, a cup of tea.

Armed with a cuppa, I sat down in front of the TV and put on YouTube to distract me. Not for the first time, I found nothing. I guess I was too distracted to be distracted any further.

After a few minutes, I typed in ‘Camino’ to see what came up. This gave me an idea. First of all, I’d like to share my favourite Camino Francés vlogs with you. If you are interested in the Camino de Santiago, you could do a lot worse – and I mean A LOT worse – than discover it through these vloggers.

One. Pride of place goes to a Cuban-American named Efrén González. He walked the Camino Francés in 2017. Not only did he walk it but he took a little drone with him, using it to take some beautiful shots of the Way even as he walked it. Since 2017, Efrén has walked sundry Caminos and other hiking trails around the world. As it happen, I’m naming Efrén No. 1 not so much because of his drone work but because he has such a friendly manner. He’s the kind of person who we all need in our life – friendly and very positive. He’s also my No. 1 because he was the first pilgrim whose journey I followed when I was prepping for my own Camino in 2019. Check out his YouTube channel here.

Two. Rachelle Smith of I’ll Get There. If I remember correctly, she walked the Camino in the autumn of 2019. Like Efrén González, she is very friendly and positive. She sings beautifully, too. Her videos are very gentle going and sweet. I started watching her Camino Francés vlogs again last December while recovering from my operation and might go back and watch them from start to finish as they certainly merit repeated viewings. Check out her YouTube channel here.

Three. BK Lee is a funny one because he reveals very little of himself in his videos. In fact, for a long time while watching them, I had no idea if I was watching a man or a woman. This is because Lee filmed his pilgrimage using a camera attached to his backpack strap. As a result, you rarely see his face. And when I say he filmed his pilgrimage, I mean, he filmed it. Almost every step. If you would like a more – much more – in-depth idea of what it is like to walk the Camino Fránces, then BK Lee is the man for you. Check out his YouTube channel here.

Last, but certainly not least:

Four. Stacey Wertz walked the Camino Francés with her daughter Molly last year (2022). The videos she made are a lovely mother-and-daughter account of their journey. I’m actually still watching them (the Wertzs have just reached Portomarín) but they have already made a strong impression on me. To begin with, I don’t think I have seen any other family pilgrimage vlogs – certainly not mother and daughters. Secondly, both Stacey and Molly must be very fit because they are the only pilgrims I have seen who have positively embraced the big uphill walks in the Pyrenees and to O Cebreiro! Thirdly, each video is edited to include (a) comments by Molly at the end on what the day was like (Stacey Wertz does most of the talking during the day), (b) a few photos from the day’s walk, and (c) a map of northern Spain with the route thus far covered outlined. Every video it inches forward until, as now, they are close, so close, to Santiago. Check out their YouTube channel here.

Efrén González
Rachelle Smith of I’ll Get There
BK Lee
Stacey and Molly Wertz

So, when I typed ‘Camino’ into YouTube’s search bar, another idea occurred to me: to say something about the titles of one or two of the videos that the search brought up. Here goes.

Before beginning, I should add that I haven’t yet watched these videos. What follows is strictly the thoughts that occurred to me after seeing their titles.

One. What Every Pilgrim Should Know about Albergues on Camino de Santiago! Here’s what I think you should know:
By-and-large they are run by volunteers. They have their moments (I know this from experience) but thank the Lord they are there!
Keep your valuables close to you! The albergues close their doors at night but before they do, there is plenty of time for some ne’er-do-well to slip in and out with your money or phone.
If you leave your albergue while people are still in bed, please don’t be noisy!

Two. What I Wish I’d Known Before Hiking The Camino.
Travel as lightly as possible! You will so not regret being ruthless about leaving things behind.
Have water with you at all times. Actually, for most of the Camino Francés, you have good access to water, be it from a fountain, food stand, or shop, but there are points where you might be obliged to travel long distances without any of these (e.g. the Valcarlos route of Pyrenees if you can’t take the Napoleon Route and along the Meseta) and you do not really want to be caught short. That way dehydration lies. Take it from one who knows; yes, from personal experience!
If possible, take a good pair of hiking socks and boots. Blisters are a Camino killer. Whether you buy specialist gear or not, just be attentive to the warning signs vis-à-vis blisters. You’ll save yourself much pain if you do.

And finally:

Three. How Much Does It Cost to Hike the Camino de Santiago? This is a really good question. I think the answer completely depends on you: how much do you want to spend on it? You could easily put your trainers on, stuff some old clothes into a backpack, fly off to Biarritz, take the train to Saint Jean Pied de Port and begin just as you are tomorrow. No specialist gear. No training. If you are fairly fit you’ll very likely be fine. On the other hand, you may want to buy all the things. Thick socks and hiking boots, a thin sleeping bag, quick dry clothing, etc, etc. That’s pretty much what I did. In the end, my Camino cost me well in excess of £2,000: my entire savings. I didn’t need to go that far, but at the time, I wanted to give myself the best chance of completing the pilgrimage, and so I didn’t hold back.

By the way, the video at the link above was published at the end of 2019. It would be very interesting to see a post-Covid video that looks at what the cost of walking the Camino is now. Prices have gone up since the pandemic, in Spain as with everywhere else. I have seen it said that the Camino is more expensive, though by how much I don’t know. Hopefully not by too much – it would be a tragedy if the Camino de Santiago became the preserve of the well-off.

So, there we are. I hope you found this post enjoyable. I do recommend My Top Four videos to you. If you watch them, let me know what you thought of them. The same goes for the videos whose titles have inspired me. In fact, maybe I should watch them as well!

buen camino!

A Hipster’s Story

This post has been in my drafts since early December last year. I really wanted to finish for the sake of the conclusion. If you don’t want to read the whole thing (it is very long), the tl;dr is this: if you or someone you know has thigh pain, do see a doctor or physiotherapist. Physiotherapy works. If you or someone you know needs a hip replacement, go for it: it’s life changing.

The Beginning
In May 2018, I was walking home from work when my right leg almost gave way underneath me. The pain passed as quickly as it came but the same thing happened several more times during the summer. I thought about going to my GP to get his advice but as I was working as a temp at the time, I didn’t want to take the time off work.

The summer turned into winter and I started experiencing pain in my right leg, specifically my thigh, on a more and more regular basis. In April and May 2019, as chronicled elsewhere on this blog, I walked the Camino Francés, from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. The pain remained with me every day but I managed to complete the walk thanks to Ibuprofen, trekking poles, and the use of public and private transport. Simply saying ‘thanks to’ doesn’t do justice to the fact that without all three of these things, I would never have made it.

Once I returned home, I started a new job. The pain in my thigh got worse and worse. By November 2019, I couldn’t walk around the house without limping. In December, I began my current job, which involved working from home. Now, you would have thought that I would choose this moment to visit my GP. After all, I was also working part time. It was very easy for me, therefore, to work out my own working hours. Not a bit of it. I have a most wonderful GP but I still hate going to the doctor unless I absolutely, absolutely have to.

Finally Facing the Problem
That point was coming, though, and it eventually arrived in February 2020. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what triggered this move. I don’t recall the pain getting any worse at that point. I think it was just a case of finally not being able to live with it any more. Anyway, I visited my GP and explained the problem. He recommended that I get physiotherapy. I looked up the (NHS) website, e-mailed the application form, and waited.

February 2020. You would be forgiven for thinking that I had a long wait ahead of me. Like, a two year wait, for Covid was just around the corner. However, I was blessed. In early March, I received a call. An appointment was made and just two or three weeks before the first Covid lockdown hit, I saw a physiotherapist for the first time. As a result, I went into the first lockdown with physiotherapy exercises to keep myself busy with.

The Pandemic
I kept up the physiotherapy exercises all the way through the first, second, and third lockdowns. In fact, I was still doing them – with some adjustments here and there as I realised what worked for me and what didn’t – when my NHS contact called me to make a new appointment to see a new physiotherapist (the first one I had seen was from Finland and, I think, returned home). Our first appointments were via Zoom but then, finally, we met in person. I was able to report an improvement in my leg to him… although, there was a fly in the ointment: the pain in some areas had disappeared, but appeared in others. That was no problem for him, he just gave me new exercises to do.

November 2021
One of the new areas to experience pain was my hip. I thought nothing of it at the time. It was just one more. In the subsequent months, however, the pain did not go away. In fact, slowly but surely, it got worse. My hip got more and more stiff.

Early 2022
The year got off to a good start. In January, I realised that all the pain in my right thigh, that had been with me since 2018, had now gone. My thigh wasn’t in perfect shape – there was the pain in my hip and one or two other areas – but after visiting the physiotherapist again in February, I believed that the pain of those ‘other areas’ was connected to my hip problem.

The visit to my physiotherapist in February was the last – to him. There was no more he could do. He sent me on to another physiotherapist who would be able to look at my hip. I can’t remember now but maybe he suspected that I had osteoarthritis, something which this other physiotherapist would be able to diagnose. That’s what happened. I went to see her. As we walked into her treatment room, she walked behind me. After she had done some exercises with me she said that from the way my leg reacted to those exercises, and the way I was walking, she was fairly sure that I had osteoarthritis. Only one thing would confirm it: an X-Ray.

I was referred to my local hospital. A few weeks later, I went up there, got the X-Ray done and then, a week or two after that, went back to the physiotherapist. It was as she had thought. The cartilage that connected my hip bones had worn away. Ouch! What was to be done? The physiotherapist warned me that there were really only two options: pain management or a hip replacement: a plaster over a deep wound, or the nuclear option. As soon as she said this, I knew I would prefer the hip replacement. Managing the problem would mean avoiding an operation but it would also mean no longer being able to walk very far, to probably having to use a stick, to having to rest more, and so forth. I wanted – and still would like – to be able to walk the Camino again one day. It may be a pipe dream, but I won’t even be able to consider it if I can’t walk an hour without hurting.

The Final Decision
The physiotherapist referred me to a hip specialist (at least, that’s what he is to me; I imagine he specialises in much more!) at my local hospital. I went to see him in April. We discussed my situation and looked at the X-Ray of my poor hip. He confirmed what my two choices were. I could not tell him quickly enough that I wanted the hip replacement operation. Very good, he said, the waiting list is nine months, but we’ll get there. I left the hospital with so much gratitude for the consultant, physiotherapists, GPs, and the state of British medicine.

The Wait
A nine month wait meant that I did not expect to hear from anyone until January 2023. During the summer, I was called to UCL Hospital to get scanned in a machine that looked like a giant polo, and which, rather inexplicably, had a device in the ceiling with an X-Box logo on it. Do you think they play games in there? Once that was done, I again didn’t expect to hear any more until the New Year. Towards the end of October, however, I received a letter informing me that my operation would be on 23rd November! Had someone dropped off their waiting list? I was filled with nervous excitement.

The Lead Up to the Operation
In the lead up, I had two phone calls with a nurse and physiotherapist to discuss my medical history and what would happen after the operation. I also received two letters, one of which – my admission letter – told me what I needed to do three days before the operation (i.e. take a Covid test) – as well as what to bring to the hospital on the day, etc.

Everything was clear. 23rd November was a Wednesday. Just after 5pm on Sunday, 20th November I took the Covid test. It was negative. After I had logged it on a government website, however, it occurred to me that I should have taken the test in the morning. The letter, after all, had said that the test should be taken 72 hours before my admission (which was scheduled for 7am on the 23rd), and it was now 62 hours. Oh dear. A few weeks ago, I had woken up thinking I had missed a detail of my medical history and so fired off a worried and apologetic email to the nurse to whom I had spoken. As it turned out, however, I had nothing to fear: I had actually mentioned it to her. This time, the same thing happened. I had nothing to fear. Someone from the hospital called me the following day to make sure I had done the test and was all ready to come in. I mentioned the timings and he wasn’t at all bothered. The only important thing was that I had done the test no earlier than 72 hours before the admission.

Admission Day
Right up until the operation took place, I half expected a delay of some kind or another. Given the overworked nature of the NHS, such would not have been a surprise. It never happened. I arrived at the hospital, was checked in, shown to a bed, and there waited. Doctors and nurses came and went, I was given a gown to wear, questions were asked, my possessions were bagged up and taken away. Details of my next of kin were taken, and I waited.

The Operation
At about 10:45, I was taken up to the operating theatre via the X-Ray room. In a room next to the theatre, the chief anaesthetist and her staff spent several minutes looking for somewhere in my spine to inject the anaesthetic. They tapped, they prodded, they pricked, but all, it seemed, to no avail. I would have to be given a general anaesthetic. Finally, however, they managed to find a vein (which is what I guess they were looking for), and started injecting. I was rolled onto my side. Curiously, I was rolled onto my right side and my bad hip, not my left; I was assured that I would be rolled over in the operating theatre. Speaking of which, they were playing dance music in there! I asked if they could play Bruce Springsteen. Someone went to ask the surgeon if he had The Boss on his playlist. He did! Sadly, however, the anaesthetic got me before I could hear any of it.

I woke up all of a sudden in the recovery room. Very groggy, I just listened to what I was told and lay back. After a short stay in the recovery room, I was wheeled off to a ward. In the following hours, the grogginess went and I was told that the operation had gone well. In the written notes, given to me when I was discharged, the operation is described as being ‘uncomplicated’.

There were four beds in the ward. Only the one opposite me was being used – by a patient who had had a foot amputated, and he left later in the afternoon. I had the place to myself until another patient arrived not long later. I love my iPhone, but not its lack of a phone jack. I don’t use AirPods as they fall out of my ears too easily. I would have bought my iPad and headphones but my admission letter said no tablets or laptops (the second patient ignored this advice and tapped happily away on his laptop). As a result, I was without music. As I had nothing to do but lie there all afternoon and evening, I really would have appreciated having something to listen to.

continued on 1st March 2023

I was kept in hospital overnight. Being (more or less) physically fit, however, I was able to leave the next day. My sister, H., came to pick me up. We called a minicab and before long were back home.

December 2022
December was a time of rest and gentle physiotherapy. For three weeks, I did very little else. At first, I was certainly happy with that but as the month wore on, I did start to get bored. Finally, my patience broke and I resumed my part time job. Through the month, I continued to take the cocktail of pain killers that had been prescribed to me. Only at the start of December did the pain level rise, and then just over the course of an evening and morning. I had been warned that this might happen, and had been given morphine to counter it. I wasn’t keen on taking the morphine as the label said it was addictive, but the pain was such that I could not resist doing so. Thereafter, as December progressed, the wound in my right thigh healed and I grew stronger. At the end of November, I hobbled about with two crutches. As time went by, I was able to get by with just one. In December, I started going to Mass again – using still just one crutch before finally, I became able to walk/hobble without it. Finally, I no longer hobbled.

January 2023
In this month, I recommenced my lockdown exercise of walking on the spot while watching a YouTube video (to counter the effect of boredom). Except now, I was able to jog. When I began (around the third week of Jan.), I did this exercise for 45 minutes at two different speeds (25 minutes at a very brisk pace, 15 at a brisk one, then 5 minutes very brisk again). Within a few weeks, however, I was able to jog for an hour. When I started this exercise, I couldn’t talk to myself (which I often do as I try to develop story ideas) as I needed to breath deeply. In the last couple of weeks, that has changed. I can now jog and talk at the same time.

Weigh In
On 1st October last year, I weighed myself. I was 17 stone and one pound. I am quite tall (6’2″) but I thought that is really too much. In the seven months leading up to the operation, I started doing what exercise I could (mainly the on the spot walking as I couldn’t jog with my bad hip), and used an app on my iPhone called Lose It! to monitor my calorie intake. I lost several pounds – nearly a stone, in fact, because on 22nd November, I weighed 16 stone 3 pounds. I stopped exercising and checking my calories in December as I focused on recovering from the operation. Having largely done so by the end of the year, I weighed myself again on the last day of the year. Amazingly, I had lost more weight and was now 15 stone 12 pounds. As of the time of writing, I am currently 15 stone 7 pounds. Slowly but surely, I am heading towards my target of 15 stone 3 pounds. I have no doubt that the improved exercise that my new hip is enabling me to do is helping me get there (unfortunately, it has to contend with my still high calorie in take. Just last week, I recorded 15 stone 4 pounds. I celebrated by eating a lovely beef burger, which promptly gave me back a shed load of calories that I had lost!).

To Conclude
I would like to conclude this post by saying this: if you, or someone you know, has problems with their thigh muscles or hip, encourage them to go to the doctor or physiotherapist. The physio that I did between 2020 and 2022 helped wonderfully in that regard. If you (or a person you know) does require a hip replacement, they might for very good reasons choose not to have an operation. If they are tempted by the idea, though, it is a good one. My hip replacement has given me a new lease of life. I sleep better now. I can kneel down. I can walk without pain. I can walk long distances: just last Saturday I undertook a three-and-a-half hour walk! Yes, I felt very stiff afterwards, but my hip was just fine. No need for a stick. No need for pain relief. It was wonderful. My only regret about the whole business is that I left it for so long. I put a job that in some respects didn’t even treat me that well first. Having an operation can be a nerve wracking time. The recovery period can try the patience, but it’s worth it. It is so, so worth it.

Pope Benedict

In the summer of 1996, I became interested in Catholicism. After returning to Dundee for my second year at university, I developed that interest further by attending the student Catholic Society. My reading continued, and in the course of it, I learnt about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the “panzer kardinal” who headed the Catholic Church’s fearsome Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

In due course – Easter, 1997, to be exact – I was received into the Church. Before long, I was helping to serve at Mass at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. One day, I was in the sacristy with the diocese’s then Bishop, Vincent Logan. I can’t remember how we got on to the subject, but I must have told him I had been reading about Ratzinger, and that he sounded like a scary man. The bishop smiled and said words to the effect that the cardinal’s reputation was ill deserved. He’s a very gentle man, he said, very kind. This stuck with me, and so I was not surprised when I read similar sentiments after Ratzinger became Benedict XVI in 2005.

Benedict resigned from the papacy in 2013 but thanks to many of his actions was pope, my reading of earlier years, Bishop Vincent’s comments, and those of other people, he never disappeared from my consciousness. Thus, when his death was announced yesterday morning, I was not surprised, but I was sad. It’s a funny thing to be sad about the death of someone you have never met, and never would had he lived to be five hundred, but I was and remain sad at the fact that he is no longer with us. I think it’s because Benedict, simply by his being alive, was a rock (pun intended) on which we Catholics could tie our faith.

That’s a funny thing, too, because I by no means agree with everything Benedict did, either as pope or as Cardinal Ratzinger. I think his opposition to Liberation Theology was exactly right, as was his decision to grant freer access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but regret his classification of homosexuality (in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) as an intrinsic disorder, and failure to ask more questions about what it means to love, how to love, and be loved. I believe the Church is on a journey here, one that will see future popes (perhaps having started already with Pope Francis) coming to understand that men who love men, or women who love women, are also acting in accordance with God’s plan, rather than deviating from it.

So, I didn’t agree with Benedict about everything, and he did make mistakes over the years. But that’s life. The important thing is that he tried. He had his eyes on Jesus all the time, and he tried. I have no doubt that when he fell over, he got up, returned his gaze to the Lord once again, and continued walking. For that reason, he was holy. One day, I hope this will be recognised and that he will be declared a Saint. For my part, I’m not going to wait for the declaration to be made. I’m going to start asking him for his intercession now.

Pope Benedict – pray for us

Simple Pleasures

Once a week, I take a bus to our local Sainsbury’s – or rather, one of them; we are fortunate to live in an urban area where they are sprinkled about like daisies in the garden – to do the shopping for my parents and I.

Because of the amount of shopping that I buy, I take a minicab home. As soon as the car gets moving, I move my head to as close to the window as possible. I always open it because I love to feel the wind against my face as it rushes past.

This being London, the minicab stops and starts an awful lot; and when it gets going, it never does so for very long before stopping again. As a result, I am not able to enjoy this simple pleasure for very long, but that’s fine. At least I am able to enjoy it if only for a short time.

The minicab home from Sainsbury’s is a particular highlight as I don’t drive and rarely have need to be driven by others. It’s my only opportunity, therefore, to feel Nature’s billowy touch. And what a lovely, cool, alright, slight aggressive touch it is! Okay, the faster the car is going, the more it feels like a full on kiss from an over excited or frankly drunk partner it becomes, but still – there is pleasure in that (I’m sure).

Speaking of the fast car – as well as kisses, the wind flow also reminds me of aerodynamics in Formula 1. Yes, that sounds a bit (very) sad but it does. The thickness of the air as it rushes through the window reminds me of how it presses down on an F1 car, giving it its downforce.

At the end of May 2022

It’s coming up to seven AM on a sunny Monday morning. At least, I think it is sunny as light is coming through my window. It’s hard to tell, though, as there is a huge bush outside obscuring all sight of the sky. We would take the bush down but, unfortunately, it is growing from the garden next door so we have to wait for the local council to do the job.


I am writing this blog post with dry hands. I think I must have been bitten by a vampire with a fetish once. Instead of being interested in my blood, he decided to suck my natural oils out. Ever since then, my hands have got drier and drier. Thank goodness for E45 cream.


I have mentioned previously on this blog my ‘gammy’ leg. A funny thing happened at the start of 2022 – I realised that all the problems with the muscles in my right thigh that had afflicted me since about 2018 had been cured: nearly two years of physiotherapy had finally paid off!

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the matter. In November 2020 I began experiencing pain in my right hip. Over the next few months, it did not respond to physiotherapy at all. Little by little, it got worse. Earlier this year, my physiotherapist sent me for a scan at the local hospital. It revealed what she suspected: I had (‘quite advanced’) osteoarthritis.

Treatment for this is one of two things. Either, more physio, pain killers, managing one’s movement, using a stick, etc or a hip replacement. I cannot walk very far these days without having problems. I can’t remain still, either standing or lying down without experiencing stiffness and pain. As soon as the physiotherapist told me the options, I knew that if asked, I would go for the hip replacement. It will put me out of commission for a while, and – as operations do – comes with risk, even if slight, but the other option is simply a plaster over a deep wound and a form of managed decline. Who would want that?

After the scan, I was referred to a hospital consultant who did indeed give me the option of managed decline or hip replacement so, despite being young for such an operation, I went for the latter. I’m now on the waiting list and will, all being well, have it either at the end of this year or the start of next.


For many months now, I have been a very bad reader. It’s been my own fault – I just haven’t got on with it as I ought. It probably didn’t help that I was determined to finish one particular book before moving on to any others. That book was Hilaire Belloc’s The Cruise of the Nona. The silly thing was that, whenever I did start reading it, I liked it. It was just the sitting down and starting it that was the problem. It didn’t help that my edition of the book had small text. to try and get round this, I took an older edition – with slightly larger text – out of the library. It worked and I finally finished the book. This Friday (4th June), makes the anniversary of the start of Belloc’s pilgrimage to Rome in 1901. That means, I will start reading his brilliant account of his journey, The Path to Rome. I shall have more to say about this in due course.

After finishing The Cruise of the Nona, I moved on to the other book that I started last year – This Thing of Darkness by K. V. Turley and Fiorella de Maria. It’s a Catholic horror story, meaning, it’s about an alcoholic war widow who interviews Bela Lugosi in the last days of his life and gets drawn into the diabolical reality of what he represented on the silver screen. Horror is not at all my thing. I read the book because Turley is a friend. I am glad I did, though, as it is a compelling read. Though, no, not enough to make me read more horror books.

My current read is Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton. I actually started this book briefly last year but put it to one side soon after. Checkmate in Berlin is Milton’s account of the start of the Cold War in Berlin. If the book is half as good as his other narrative histories (which include an account of D-Day, British spies during the Russian Revolution, and the destruction of Smyrna in 1922) then I know I will be in for a treat.


A few posts ago, I mentioned reading Evelyn Waugh’s biography of Monsignor Ronald Knox. Well, I shortly off to Mells, to go on a literary/spiritual pilgrimage in search of Knox’s grave. Watch this space for photos and and an account of the trip. I can’t wait.

Pandemic and War.

Last week, Boris Johnson lifted all of England’s Covid restrictions (read here). If you catch the virus you no longer have to self-isolate. If you travel on public transport, you are no longer legally obliged to wear a face mask. We are back to where we were at the start of 2020. Almost. Self-isolation is encouraged for anyone who has tested positive, and wearing a face mask on public transport is “strongly encouraged”.

When the pandemic first hit, I updated my British Catholic Blogs page to include a series of prayers for the sick, medical professionals, scientists, and so on. The prayers appeared in a post below the weekly calendar of saints and above the A to Z of British Catholic blogs. When I heard that the restrictions were going to be lifted, I decided that this would be the moment when I removed the prayers and let the BCB blog go back to being exclusively devoted to its original purpose.

Then, Vladimir Putin began his invasion of Ukraine in earnest. When that happened, I wondered if I should include a new set of prayers for the Ukrainian people. As I write these words, I’m leaving the blog as it is because I really would like it just to be an A to Z. I am wondering, though, if maybe its worth while including a prayer page – one that could highlight the Ukraine, Covid, and all the other national and international issues that we need to be praying for right now.


Vladimir Putin has committed a profoundly wicked act against Ukraine. In reply, the Ukrainian people are committing many heroic ones as they defend their country. Governments worldwide have started placing sanctions on Russia in response to what has happened. Although these sanctions will hurt both ordinary Russians and people everywhere, I have to hope that no government holds back. Principally, to help Ukraine, but also because if Putin achieves success in that country, his avaricious eye will surely fall upon other countries on his borders.

How do we as individuals react to the Ukrainian crisis? Prayer has to be at the top of our agenda. What kind of prayer? For peace, certainly. Further to that, though, I have found myself thinking about the Catholic I once met who happily told me he prayed the imprecatory psalms against his enemies. At the time, I thought that a bit stiff but, you know, these psalms are Biblical so they are legit. What I never stopped to think, was, were they legit for the time in which they were written, or for all time? I might have been tempted to say the former – until now. For what he is doing to the Ukraine, Putin surely deserves every imprecation placed upon him. However, our God is a god of love so to put it bluntly it does not feel right to ask Him to punish anyone, much less remove the stain of them from the world. That love, however, is not of the merely sentimental kind, and neither does it exist in isolation. God is also a god of Justice. But, even more than that, of mercy. So, that is where I find myself now: praying that justice – and mercy – may be done to Vladimir Putin.

Praying the imprecatory psalms or simply praying for a person’s overthrow or death is not a thing lightly done. If we say these prayers without a desire first and foremost for the object’s repentance, we risk falling into a spiritual darkness full of malignant desires for vengeance and revenge. That, in turn, could destroy our souls. How do we avoid this? I guess, just as I have said: Yes, pray for Vladimir Putin’s failure, overthrow and/or death, but pray first and foremost for his repentance. The repentance of a sinner, however great or small, is what God is about. If it is His purpose, it should be ours as well.

Our Daily Camino

There is a saying that the Camino really begins when you get to Santiago. Since walking the (French) way of St. James in 2019, I have sometimes wondered what this meant. After all, once you arrive in Santiago de Compostela, the walking is over. It’s time to return home, to work, family and friends, etc.

This morning, it occurred to me that the saying is, perhaps, true by analogy. We leave the way of St. James for the way of our daily life. Our home is our albergue. Our daily walk is our workplace, or the work we must do at home. Our daily destination is to complete that walk, that work. Our ultimate destination is our evening rest, meeting our friends or family, going to the pub, cinema, or simply, to bed. Our ultimate destination is no longer Santiago, but heaven. I am speaking here, obviously, as a Christian. Perhaps a non religious person’s ultimate destination is simply to reach the end of their days having done the best they could during them. That sounds good enough to me.

I make no claim for this realisation being in any way original. I’m not aware that I have taken it from anywhere but maybe I did and I just forgot. It is too neat and obvious to be original to me. What I will say, though, is that when I made the realisation, it really cheered me up because now the daily duties of my life took on a new, brighter, hue; basking in the light of the other Camino, they meant more, and I am most grateful for that.

Waugh on Knox

Having just written my last post, I have to say – and am delighted / relieved to say – that it isn’t all bad news in matters of religion. At the start of Advent, I bought a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s The Life of Right Reverend Ronald Knox.

I set myself a target of reading 17 pages a day so that I finished it on Christmas Day. As of today (21st), I have met this target. Since I am very good at missing targets, I can’t tell you how happy I am at this!

The book is so sweetly written. Judging by what Waugh has to say, Ronald Knox was not always the happiest person it does seem he was a holy one and boy have I needed to read about holiness this month. Between the Vatican’s Old Rite restrictions, omicron sweeping across the UK, and toothache that has bothered me for much of this month (now thankfully reduced thanks to antibiotics but will need root canal treatment in the New year) joy has been in short supply. The Life of Right Reverend Ronald Knox has supplied it. Deo Gratias.

This is my edition of the book (pic from Amazon)

Veiling Heaven

A few days ago, the Vatican published further restrictions on Catholics’ access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. You can read about them here.

Despite being, as I said when I discussed Traditionis Custodes in the summer (here), ‘a Catholic middle roader’, the news of the further restrictions felt like a kick in the gut. Why? Because although I am happy to attend a Novus Ordo Mass, I know the beauty and dignity of the Old Rite. I am only able to hear an EF Mass very rarely but it is a great blessing to know that it is being said and that I can attend one if the opportunity arose. Now, thanks to Traditionis Custodes and these new restrictions, that is less likely to happen.

In short, it feels like the Pope is closing off one of the routes to heaven.

And to think that the restrictions are intended to foster unity. Such an idea is laughable.

The Pope is still the Pope but I think this is the moment I lost a little faith in him. And all just days before Christmas. I’m angry but most of all sad.

No Time To Die

Before today, my last post was in September. As a result, I completely missed mentioning No Time to Die when it came out at the end of that month. My mother is a massive fan of Spectre (the film, I hope, rather than the organisation) so we went to our local cinema to watch No Time To Die together.


Once there, we sat back on our very comfy couch (literally) and got ready for the action.

Upon our arrival at the cinema, I had ordered a hot dog. It arrived literally (repetition, sorry) as the gun barrel sequence started. I had to put up my arms in front of my face in order to take the plate from the server behind me. As a result, I completely missed said the gun barrel. I couldn’t believe it! Six years of waiting and I miss what is probably James Bond’s most iconic sequence.

To be honest, though, I quickly got over that disappointment and settled in to the film. Two months on, I think No Time To Die is still my second favourite Daniel Craig picture (after Casino Royale). I know it has its flaws but I really enjoyed it on the day, and as I look back, it still makes me smile.


Except, that is, for the ending. James Bond dying? Never! But no, it happened. It really happened. On the one hand, I would have been very happy had he walked away with the Bond Girl, just as he always does. On the other, I respect the producers for saying, You know what, we’re going to do something different. Very different. As the credits rolled, I stayed in my seat until I had seen the comforting ‘James Bond will return’ message at the end.

When I was young, I so wanted to see the James Bond films reference previous pictures. The Daniel Craig era not only did that but (albeit retroactively) made a story arc that ran from Casino Royale to No Time to Die. Now that his run has finished, what would I like to see the producers do next?

That’s a good question and one to which I have no firm answer. There are a couple of directions that I hope it doesn’t take:

  • No return ever to anything approaching the humour and whimsy of the Roger Moore era. I say this specifically because there are fans of Bond who seem to be completely wedded to Sir Roger’s films. I enjoy them but his style has had its day
  • Let’s draw back from futuristic plot ideas. I didn’t mind the nanobots story line in No Time to Die (and the talk of things like ‘smart blood’ in previous films) but how about we ground Bond more in reality for a film or two?

I hope the producers give new writers a chance in the future, and move heaven and earth to get Christopher Nolan to direct a film! That would be something.

Anyway, whatever they decide, as long as it’s a good adventure, I don’t suppose I will mind too much. James Bond transcends his stories. As long as he is there, being cool, deadly, and fighting for the Queen, so will I be as well.