Out of This World

Hey, here’s me checking in. How are you?

As I write these words, the clock reads 6:46am so I have beaten my previous early post record by a clean twelve minutes. In these days of lock down we get our pleasures where we can.

Who am I kidding – I would have mentioned this anyway; it’s an easy way to get into the post, after all (blogging-wise, there’s nothing worse than knowing that you want to write something but don’t know how to start).

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So, how are things here? Well, my parents and I remain well, for which I give thanks. Overnight, one of my fillings fell out. I wasn’t surprised – the same filling has come out several times before. The shape and, I think, shallowness, of the filling has made it an impossible one to stay in. My tooth doesn’t hurt so I might just leave it be until my next scheduled dentist’s appointment.

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Last Sunday was the first anniversary of my arrival at Santiago cathedral at the end of my first Camino. As soon as I am able, I will write a post about this. I know part of what I want to say so just have to work out the rest before I put finger to keyboard. Next Sunday is the first anniversary of my return home so I shall try to do it by then. If you want to know how I felt last Sunday, though, well, I teared up when I listened to ‘Santiago de Compostela’ on The Way soundtrack. This music covers the arrival of Martin Sheen et al at the cathedral and the swinging of the Botafumeiro, which always moves me deeply when I watch the film. Here is the music:

I feel so much for people who intended to walk the Camino this year but whose plans were scuppered by the coronavirus. I hope all of them are able to reschedule to next year or the year after.

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Yesterday, 19th May was the 85th anniversary of T. E. Lawrence’s death following a road accident: he was riding his motorbike home down a country road when he turned a corner and was forced to swerve to avoid two boys on bicycles. Lawrence was launched from his bike and suffered head injuries that would prove to be fatal.

Unsurprisingly, there is a conspiracy theory regarding his death as a car was seen driving away from the scene of the accident, but I don’t think it has gained any traction among Lawrence scholars. At least, not among the few that I have read. A new film about Lawrence is due out soon – Lawrence After Arabia; judging by its IMDB synopsis, it will take a deep dive into the conspiracy theory:

Retiring to his cottage in Dorset Lawrence hopes to forget his past fighting in Arabia but soon he is drawn into political intrigue and his many enemies begin to plot against him. Was a motorcycle crash an accident or attempt at assassination by the British Secret Service? 

IMDB

According to IMDB, Lawrence After Arabia is due out on 16th October this year so going to see it might just make a nice early birthday present for me.

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Apollo 13 (9/10)
I have wanted to watch this film for ages but couldn’t find it streaming anywhere. While I was looking through our DVD shelf the other day, I found that we owned a copy of it. A very nice surprise! The film is as good as its reputation. Tom Hanks leads the way as Jim Lovell, captain of the ill fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon. The acting, script, special effects, music… everything about this film is pretty much spot on.

The American (8/10)
Okay, the facts:
Stars: George Clooney and the Italian countryside.
Directed by Anton Corbijn.

The American is about an assassin named Jack who is ambushed by unknown assassins outside his Arctic hideaway. He manages to kill them but is forced to kill his lover: she didn’t know his profession and there can be no loose ends.

Jack heads south to Rome where his handler tells him to go a small Italian town and await further orders. Not long later, Jack is given another job: to make a rifle for another assassin. He does so, but realises that it is to be used on him. In the denouement of the film we see what he does to get out of this very unpromising situation.

Anton Corbijn is a photographer so The American looks very good. I mean, George Clooney is in it. It is set in Italy so of course it was going to look good but under Corbijn’s directorship it looks even better. The story is told very tightly. Music is used only sparingly. This means we really focus on Jack – despite knowing so little about him – and become much more unsettled than we would if we were watching a Bond or Jason Bourne film.

I found the denouement of the film quite confusing. One or two parts of it still are. On the whole, though, I enjoyed the picture. It was very different to standard Hollywood fare, and while I like that, too, I appreciated this.

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Finally, Monday just one (18th May) was the one hundredth anniversary of Karol Józef Wojtyła, more well known as Pope St. John Paul II. Fifteen years on from his death (15 years already!) I still miss him. He was pope when I became a Catholic so will always be special to me – even though nowadays I am not as right on in my Catholic views as I used to be. I think in the end it will be people like him (rather than many living clerics – and laymen for that matter) who keep me in the Church. Pope John Paul: Ora Pro Nobis!

A Walk to Pole Hill

Yesterday, while our M.P.’s debated Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement for the third time, I decided to put on my backpack and take another long walk.

My destination this time was Pole Hill in Chingford and an obelisk that was originally erected in the Georgian age to mark the direction of true north from Greenwich. In 2008, the local council – at the behest of a member of the T. E. Lawrence Society – added a plaque to the obelisk recording the fact that Lawrence had once owned land on the hill. I am very interested in the life and times of Lawrence so it was this that I went to Pole Hill to see.

I planned my route on Google Maps. From home to hill it gave me a journey of 8.3 miles, walkable in 2hrs 47 minutes. I intended to walk home again so a round trip of 16.6 miles seemed like an excellent venture – especially since 15 miles is probably going to be the type of distance that I will be walking every day on the Camino.

She jogged, I walked.

I set out somewhere after nine in the morning. The sun was in the sky and my spirits were high. I walked down Stoke Newington Church Street with its various trendy shops and then through Stamford Hill with its strong Orthodox Jewish community. Or are they Ultra Orthodox? I wondered this as I walked and couldn’t think of the answer. I’ve just looked on Google, and it suggests the latter.

Now, I don’t visit Stoke Newington very often, and I go to Stamford Hill even less, but I know the areas. I didn’t leave familiar territory, therefore, until I took a right hand turn on to Gladesmore Road. Minutes later, I was trotting along the edge of a park and then onto the path alongside the River Lea. I remained on this path until I arrived in Chingford.

Remembering how I had not stopped on my walk last week to Ilford, I made sure I did so along the River Lea and, importantly, drank some water.

Before then, however, I took a wrong turn. Not into the canal, fortunately! No, after passing the North Circular Road (the A406), I should have taken the right hand path when the canal path forked but forgot. I realised what I had done a minute or two later, and could easily have turned back but decided to keep going. I said above that 15 miles is the kind of distance I will be walking daily on the Camino but in truth I might well be required to walk much further, so let’s get experience of doing so with the backpack now.

He knew where he was going, even if I didn’t.

This decision meant that I was now walking along the west side of the William Girling Reservoir instead of the east. It also meant that my walk to Pole Hill would now be 9.3 miles in length, taking 3 hrs 5 minutes.

The walk was a pretty straight forward one until I reached Pole Hill Road. It rose steepishly towards a dead end. I had intended to wait until I reached Woodberry Way, further up the road, but could see from Google Maps that there was a right hand turn on Pole Hill Road that would take me to Woodberry Way, which would lead me to the obelisk.

Unfortunately, I somehow missed the turn! I don’t know if I blinked and missed it or if it wasn’t there after all but I managed to walk right past it. A few moments later, I was at the top of Pole Hill Road, and my poor right leg, so quick to take offence, was telling me of its hurt feelings. Oh well, at least I got to go downhill again; that was much nicer.

I continued along the main road to Woodberry Way. At the top, I found Pole Hill. I had not looked at Google Maps properly and expected to see the obelisk there. It wasn’t, and looking at the map now it seemed to be on the other side of the hill. I thought to myself, perhaps I shall just go home now, and use the obelisk as an excuse to come back again another day but quickly dismissed that idea. I set off up the hill. There was a path leading across it at street level but I knew the obelisk was at the highest point, so up it was. And, hardly a minute later, there it was!

Pole Hill Obelisk

I sat down at the foot of the obelisk for another drink and to eat my sandwich. While there, a man came up to me and we started chatting. It turned out he had been researching his family background and had reason to believe that his father was taught by Vyvyan Richards.

T. E. Lawrence didn’t just own land on Pole Hill. After the Great War, he wanted to build a printing press there. His intention was to do this with Richards. Unfortunately, their project never happened. I hope this fellow can prove a connection between his family and Richards (who was a schoolmaster in the area). I told him that if he can, he should definitely let the T. E. Lawrence Society know.

While at the obelisk, I called C.; she is a saintly lady who instructed me prior to my reception into the Catholic Church in 1996. It was out first conversation for 18 or so months so it was great getting back in touch with her. I never come away from a conversation with C. without feeling greatly nourished.

C. and I fanboyed/girled over the upcoming canonisation of John Henry Newman

The time came to leave the obelisk. I have a muscle at the top of my right thigh (groin area, I guess) that always feels very stiff for the first few steps. It soon starts to loosen up, and did so as I began my downhill path.

I didn’t go far – I wanted to stop at a local pub for a couple of beers to see what it would be like carrying my backpack afterwards. As it turned out, the two beers made no difference whatsoever. Unfortunately, my walk home was not without struggle as my right leg felt a bit sore for the whole journey. I managed this pain by taking Ibuprofen, which – probably because of the alcohol – seemed to make little difference – and by stopping to rest along the way.

Lawrence of Pole Hill

Back at the pub, I drank my beer as the Brexit debate wound up on the TV in the background. Fortunately, the sound was turned down so I didn’t have to listen to our indecisive M.P.s natter on. Anyway, sadly for the Prime Minister her Withdrawal Agreement (W.A.) was voted down for a third tine so who knows what will happen now? I, personally, would like to throw those members of the Conversative European Research Group (E.R.G.) who refused to support her and the Labour M.P.s who, I read, support the W.A. but don’t want to be seen to do so, into the sea. If Brexit doesn’t happen they will both deserve their failure.

After finishing my beer, I set off again. Along the River Lea path, I met some bicyclists who were taking a rest. One of them is currently cycling round Britain, which sounds great fun. We had a super conversation about my walk and Camino.

I returned to Islington along the same route that I went to Pole Hill, which means that by the time I got back home, I had walked for at least 6 hrs 10 minutes and a total distance of 18.6 miles.

And once I got home, I rested. My leg started to recover straight away although as I write this blog post, I can still feel a little twinge. It doesn’t hurt, though, and won’t stop me going out shortly.

What did Pole Hill show me?
This: that even when my leg hurts, I can still walk. And that I can do so with a good heart; last night, when I reflected on the day, I was happy; I remembered what was good about it and not just what was bad. I’m really happy that I took that long route – nearly 20 miles! – as it shows what, despite everything, I am capable of. I’m not sure if I will do any long walks next week. I think I might just focus on stretching exercises.

Credit Where It’s Due
All the Photos: me!
John Henry Newman: The Oxford Oratory