It’s Lights Out…

On-Line Gaming
As I have probably mentioned before, I love watching people play video games online. My current favourite is Codemasters’ F1 2019 – soon to be replaced by this year’s iteration of the game. The lock down period has been a blessing for discovering Formula 1 Twitch live streamers.

As I write these words, however, I am listening to an LMP 1 car race around LeMans in a virtual 24 Hours of LeMans live stream. Each team has four drivers, each of whom drives for a certain number of hours before handing over the to the next person. I don’t know who organised this race but it must have taken a lot of work. I imagine the stamina required to race is also pretty high!

The Last of Us Part 2
I discovered Twitch in 2014 when I started watching The JHN Files play the original Last of Us game. I was captivated by both game and the live broadcast. The Last of Us Part 2 finally came out on Friday, and I can’t wait to play it.

The game was originally meant to be released at the end of May but earlier that month was suddenly and indefinitely delayed. A specific reason wasn’t given for this, which led me to wonder if it was because the game – in which your character has to survive in a world that has been ravaged by a pandemic – might not sell so well in a world currently being ravaged by, well, a pandemic.

Fast forward a few weeks and all of a sudden, Naughty Dog, the company behind the game, announced that it would come out on 19th June. Why? Probably because an irate developer who had left the company/been sacked published spoilers about the game online. Thankfully, I managed to avoid those so can still look forward to diving into the game as soon as I have a chance.

The Path to Rome
Today is 21st June. In 1901, Hilaire Belloc is eight days away from Rome. I have written my tweets (@PathtoRome1901) covering his journey up to the 25th. Today, I hope to write the last four days worth. Then, I will be able to relax and think about ‘what next’? I want to read more Belloc. Do I have the time? If I do, what should I read?

Protests
The protests that started out as a reaction to the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis (USA) are now in some places morphing into a wider campaign against statues of people from various periods and backgrounds.

Predictably, statues of slave owners have been pulled down – here in the U.K. a statue of Edward Colston was dropped into Bristol Harbour by protesters.

Less predictably, I have seen photos/footage of a statue of Union General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant being pulled down; the same treatment has been meted out to a statue of George Washington and St. Junipero Serra. A bust of the novelist Cervantes has also been defaced. All these have happened in America.

What’s going on? I have read that Grant only ever owned one slave, who he inherited, and who he set free as soon as he was able. Cervantes was not a slave owner but rather, held as a slave for several years. Maybe these details are incorrect. But if they are right, they provide proof that for some people, what started out as a Black Lives Matter protest is dissipating into a campaign against anyone they happen to dislike. If that is the case, their campaign, lacking any solid foundation will surely collapse in due course.

But maybe they know perfectly well what they are doing and these acts of destruction are part of a deliberate campaign to destroy public remembrances of the past. Is this a good thing? No. Individuals or unauthorised groups who destroy statues are declaring that they have the authority to shape how society remembers the past. But this authority belongs only to the people as a whole (through the government) or the private organisation that owns the statue. Individuals who destroy statues or any public remembrance make themselves petty tyrants.

If the government or private organisation takes down the statue without considering first the pros and cons of doing so also acts in a tyrannical fashion. Once a statue goes up, it should only come down after the matter has been given full consideration. Nothing else will do.

When we ask ‘what is going on’, there is, of course, another option that we should be alert to: that agent provocateurs are acting in order to discredit their rivals.

Football Returns
The Premier League returned last Wednesday. Sky Television is broadcasting its games on two channels – one with fake crowd noise and one without. Neither are satisfactory. Hearing the fake crowd noise and seeing the empty stands is too distracting to be acceptable. Watching a game without any crowd sound at all takes away any sense of urgency and almost all the excitement. With that said, I prefer watching the games with no sound as at least its more honest.

I am not fond of the fact that all the players take the knee/have the Black Lives Matter wording on their shirts. I dislike particular causes getting so much publicity when there are so many others out there that are extremely important and necessary yet get little or no publicity at all.

Sainsbury’s
Up till last Friday, the queue for Sainsbury’s was getting shorter and shorter every week. On Friday, though, it was a rather longer. A sign of things to come? Probably not. I think I just arrived at the wrong moment. For example, a week or two ago, I arrived at the store when there was virtually no queue and left when it was as long as this week’s.

Also, per Government guidelines, I have started wearing a face mask when in store. Strangely, though, most people are now not doing so! The other week, one of the Sainsbury’s staff very kindly showed me how to wear it in a way that reduces the amount of fogging over on my glasses. Very useful! (I’m probably the last person in the world to realise this but in case you don’t know, you just bend the metal strip so that it follows the contour of your nose).

The Camino
I have heard that the Camino is opening again in July, which is great news. It won’t be like before, though: face masks must be worn in albergues, and I think there will be a reduced number of beds available. Next year is a Holy Year for Santiago. This should mean that pilgrim numbers go up, up, up. It will be interesting to see what happens if the coronavirus remains an issue (as will likely be the case bar the discovery of a vaccine). I would like to walk the Francés again next year. In the current climate, I really don’t know if that will happen.

An Unexpected Letter
This week, I received a letter from HMRC saying that I had paid too much tax over the last year. The reimbursement will be very gratefully received. This week, I found an old USB stick and on it was a document with my Government Gateway number on it. This means I can finally sort out my tax status for my current job, which is a great relief.

Lessons Learnt From The Camino

On Sunday morning I got to thinking (once more) about what I learnt from my first Camino. At the same time, I asked myself if I was remembering what I had learnt. Unfortunately, I realised that I was not. Here are the lessons that came to mine:

  1. Appreciate water, and drink it regularly
    This is hard: day-to-day how does one truly appreciate a thing? It’s easy with a person – you show them kindness, etc – but with a thing?
    As for drinking water regularly, I know that I don’t do that. For several weeks now, I have been meaning to look on-line to see how much I am supposed to drink per day but have not yet done so. I have in the past, only to forget the information and drink less.
  2. Eat healthily
    I would say that my diet isn’t too bad, but it still involves regular amounts of sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks. They need to either stop or at least slow down until I get a sense of balance in my diet.
  3. So Far As You Are Able, Look After Your Body
    I have failed badly in this. In May 2018 I developed a muscle complaint in my right thigh that my doctor suggested I go to physiotherapy for. He gave me the requisite form to fill out and send off but I didn’t do anything about it: I didn’t want to take the time off work. As a result, the complaint got worse. It didn’t stop me from walking the Camino but it did make me need Ibuprofen on a pretty regular basis and it did make trekking polls a fairly essential part of my kit. When I got home from the Camino, I should have sent the form off then but still didn’t for the same reason as before. I am only now doing something about it. Yesterday, I sent the form away. The physio’ will be on the NHS so I will have to wait a while for a response but hopefully they will be able to alleviate the problem if not cure it. After nearly two years of doing nothing I have to admit that I just don’t feel deserving of a cure.
  4. Travel Lightly
    This has multiple meanings.
    On a day-to-day basis it means keep as clean a desk as possible, throw away any paperwork you don’t need, get rid of any possessions – whether it is tech, books, or anything else – that you don’t need. All this is important as I am a bit of a hoarder. I do try to be tidy but so far it is more of an on-off thing than a permanently on, if you see what I mean.
    Travel Lightly also has a deeper meaning, for example, don’t let yourself be attached to material possessions, don’t buy anything except for what you really need (whether on account of beauty or utility or anything in between). As with the day-to-day meaning, I currently get rid of what I don’t need on an on-off basis. In the depths of my heart, I love what I have too much. I know this to be true because whenever I am ill and start thinking about worse case scenarios I am sad at what I will lose by dying. A Christian who is truly aligned to God should not be thinking in this way.
  5. Be Prepared to Make New Friends
    Since coming home from Santiago I have not made any real effort to make new friends. I definitely need to think about this more and then come to a conclusion and then act upon it. But why must I make new friends? That’s a good question with lots of answers, one of which is because I am not, and don’t want to be, a recluse.

So, five lessons learnt from the Camino. What next? First of all, don’t be surprised if I come back to this subject in another post – especially if I think of more lessons. In the meantime, I am going to use this post as an opportunity to ask myself how I can implement the ones above. For example, I have just looked up how much water should one drink per day. The website said two litres (three pints) so that’s what I am going to try and do. What about the other lessons? Let’s see.

As I write these words

we are just two weeks away from polling day in the 2019 General Election. Will Boris Johnson win an outright majority for the Conservative Party or will Jeremy Corbyn win the day for Labour? Or will voters be split down the middle once more and return a hung Parliament?

For me, the election campaign has been an interesting but anxious time. It’s been interesting in the way that election campaigns always are. But it has, and is, anxiety-inducing because of the fact that Jeremy Corbyn belongs to the far-left of the Labour Party, and the thought of that faction holding the keys to Downing Street is, to me, a detestable one. This has been compounded by Corbyn’s failure to deal with the issue of anti-semitism within the Labour Party.

Right now, the polls are suggesting that the Conservatives will not only win the election but will do so with an outright majority. I would say good except that I am a very ‘wet’ Tory who does not believe that Boris Johnson is fit to be Prime Minister. He is lucky to have Corbyn as his opponent, otherwise I would be tempted to sit this election out.

What to do about it all? Practically speaking, one can only cast one’s vote and hope for the best. In my case, I can only do the latter: Jeremy Corbyn is my MP and has such a huge majority that my vote will not count a jot.

As a Christian, though, I can – and must – do something else:pray: pray for Boris Johnson, pray for Jeremy Corbyn, pray for all politicians. And pray hard. For the forgiveness of their sins (as well as mine, of course). For their wisdom. Especially their wisdom.

I wish there was a theology of election campaigns, spiritual guidance for how to not only survive election campaigns but turn one’s response to them to good. I imagine, though, the guidance would boil down to one thing: prayer.

I wish we had a theology of election results as well. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, be it Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn (whether in a Labour majority or minority government) we will have a leader who has his plus points but also negatives – some of them profoundly bad. For the next four or five years, he will be on our TV screens and computer monitors daily. He will need prayers. Lot’s of.

And so will I. Politics is a very turbulent business and it sometimes feels like social media puts us, the voters, into the eye of the storm. Where we stand, all may be calm, but we see the savage conditions around us and can only be adversely affected by them. The answer, of course, is if gets like that, then quit. But there is so much that is good about social media that it can make quitting a hard thing to do. And why should I quit when it is other people causing the problem? Sometimes, though, hard decisions simply have to be taken. In the meantime:-

This is my Theology of Election Campaigns and Results

  • Prayer for Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
  • ~ for the forgiveness of their sins and wisdom; I dislike Corbyn most so an especial amount of prayer for him
  • Prayer for myself
    ~ for the forgiveness of my sins and the grace to endure
  • Prayer for the new government
    ~ for its wisdom
  • An active determination to get angry at those in politics whom I do not like
  • Prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament wherever possible
  • Prayer at Mass
  • In all social media interactions, be positive; don’t hate. Remember: those I dislike are humans, too; they deserve the dignity of the children of God. That’s a bare minimum

A Camino Postcard: London to St. Jean Pied de Port

Yesterday, I left home just after 3:30am in the morning to begin a journey that would take until mid-afternoon to complete. From London to Saint Jean Pied to Port in southern France: I was really doing it! Except for one incident when we had to get off the Stanstead express because of an ‘incident; on the track, the journey was a seamless one. The only moments I didn’t like was whoever the aeroplane banked steeply – it felt like falling. I have a strange calm in aeroplanes, though, for whatever happens is completely out of my control so there is even less point than normal in panicking. Other highlights were drinking a beer at 8am at the airport and seeing armed French soldiers at Bayonne train station. After arriving in Saint Jean, I took a quick look around before returning to my hotel to catch up in my sleep.

– For more of my photos, click on my Instagram link in the sidebar. You don’t need an account to see my photos.

Camino Prep Update

One week today I hope to have just arrived in Roncesvalles or be very close by!

How is my preparation going?

It is pretty much complete. I now have my travel insurance; I have ordered my euros from the bank (to be collected tomorrow); I was going to take £300 worth but settled for £200. I don’t want to have too much money on me at any given time just in case the worst happens and it is stolen. One or two toiletries aside – which can wait until Saint Jean – I have bought everything that I’ll need.

Medical Matters
I am pleased to report that I have not experienced any more flashing in my right eye since the episode a week last Monday. I would be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t nervous about the possibility of it happening in France or Spain and then having to go to the nearest hospital to get it checked out. And what do I do if it happens next Monday night or Tuesday morning? I shouldn’t worry about this; it serves no purpose and makes me needlessly anxious but unfortunately, me being me, I find it hard to let go.

Also, I had to go to see my G.P. a couple of days ago. As I suspected, the problem I had turned out to be a non-serious one but I was determined to go Just In Case. I’m glad I did; I’m determined to be responsible about my health: I don’t want to be the kind of man who pushes health issues to one side and then gets really ill. If it happens even though I tried to do something about it, that’s okay, but not otherwise.

Money
I have spent more than I should have these last few weeks. Oh dear. The upshot is that I will have £1500 to last the Camino and get me home. That’s £200 less than I really should have. As my predicted spend is £1050, it still should be plenty enough, though.

What’s Left To Do?
Guess who hasn’t quite managed to learn any Spanish… gulp
Guess who hasn’t yet planned his daily route… still time

As I will be leaving London in the early hours, I should probably see if I can buy my Stansted Express ticket in advance. By the way, I thought I had to go to Victoria Station to pick up the Express but my friend M. told me it leaves from Liverpool Street. I dodged a bullet there even if my friend laughed at me!

Also, before I leave, I need to let one of my sisters know my laptop password just in case the very worst (or best given the shape of the world happens) and I die abroad. Of course I hope it doesn’t happen and I’m sure the odds are very much in my favour but if it did I would like my family to be able to have access to my laptop so they can close e-mail and social media accounts, etc.

Finally, I leave on 9th April, if the political worst happens, Britain will leave the E.U. with ‘No Deal’ on Friday, 12th April. It doesn’t look like that will happen, and I am glad. I wish Theresa May hadn’t asked Jeremy Corbyn’s help but if her own party refuses to support her, what else could she have done?

Welcome

Sehnsucht and Wine isn’t my first blog but that doesn’t make writing the first post any the easier. I created the blog a few days ago and have been sitting on it since, waiting for inspiration to strike.

A few minutes ago, an idea occurred to me: instead of writing about a particular subject, why not introduce myself a little by writing about things or people that mean something to me?

So that’s what I’ll do. To give the post some sort of form, I will categorise them according to what S&W will be about: the arts, religion, and politics.

The Arts
I love reading. I have many favourite authors but the two who mean most to me are J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. One of the reasons I like Tolkien so much is the heroism and nobility of characters like Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. I love reading about heroes. I also enjoy reading C. S. Lewis’ fiction but as it is his Christian apologetics that mean most to me, I’ll come back to CSL in the religion category. I am also very fond of Evelyn Waugh, Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton, Ernest Hemingway’s books. I don’t read nearly enough poetry, but when I do, Anglo-Saxon poetry and Sylvia Plath are my favourites.

Religion
In my youth I was a very casual Christian – the kind who went to church at Christmas and Easter; this changed in the early 90s when I went to university. That’s when I saw Shadowlands and started reading C. S. Lewis’s apologetics. Mere Christianity, The Four Loves, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain… they were a rich feast! In my third year at university, the Holy Spirit led me into the Catholic Church. It isn’t always easy being a Catholic but whenever I read something a disagree with or find upsetting I always remember St. Peter’s ‘where would we go?’ comment.

We have our moments, but I love the Church, and, of course, God. In just under two months, I am (Him willing) going to Spain to walk the Camino from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. I’m doing it to say thank you to God for all his kindnesses to me. I’ll come back to the Camino in upcoming posts.

Politics
I am right-of-centre. For context, I am British, so this means my natural political home is the Conservative party. I used to be a member but after they won (kind of) the General Election in 2010 I didn’t like what they were doing enough to stay.

Last week, several Labour and Conservative MPs resigned from their respective parties to sit as independents in the House of Commons. In their various statements it was very clear what a hard wrench it was for them to leave. I was a very casual Conservative so it was no wrench at all for me.

All political parties have their various wings. As a conservatively minded person if not an actual party member, I align with the One Nation Tories. What do they believe? Here is a statement from Wikipedia:

One-nation conservatism (also known as one-nationism, or Tory democracy) is a paternalistic form of British political conservatism advocating preservation of established institutions and traditional principles combined with political democracy, and a social and economic programme designed to benefit the common man.

You can read the full article here. I have to admit, though, the way our politicians behave sometimes, I will happily admit to thinking that maybe we should reintroduce autocracy with added Divine Right of Kings for extra measure.

I can’t finish the section on politics without mentioning Brexit. I want Britain to leave the EU as I don’t like super states but not if it is going to profoundly damage the country. As I write these words, we are entering the final weeks before the 29th March 2019 leaving date. Will Britain leave them? Will it be called off? Delayed? We’ll soon find out and I will write about my thoughts here.

So, there you are. I hope telling you a little about myself hasn’t turned you off reading this blog. If it has, thank you for reading this far and I wish you all the best.

For those of you who are still here: There’s so much that I haven’t said! I haven’t mentioned sports, artists, and – most of all – the historical figure who has dominated my life for a decade now – Alexander the Great. I’ll come back to him in a future post. For now, though, let me draw this one to an end with a thank you for reading; I’ll see you next time.

Oh, and I said I would introduce myself: Hello, my name is Malcolm. Welcome to Sehnsucht and Wine!