When I was in England in June I had to return early due to being hit with COVID. This meant a visit to my Mother in Law in Sussex had to be missed. Therefore when Alison said she was coming to England for her mom’s eighty fifth birthday I said I’d tag along. So I have been with my in laws and Alison since arriving at Heathrow on Saturday morning. It has been a relaxing few days, and today Alison and I took a day trip to London. A kind and generous benefactor wishes to supply new vestments for Our Lady of the Rosary Church so we took the train to Victoria, stopped in to say a few prayers at Westminster Cathedral, then hiked up Victoria Street–taking in a pub lunch on the way–and spent the afternoon at the venerable ecclesiastical outfitters–Watts & Co. They are mostly of Church of England establishment, so Ali was amused to see their selection of dresses complete with clerical collars sewn in.
We headed back as soon as we were finished–not having a taste or need to take in any of the London sights. Having lived on this side of the Atlantic for twenty five years it was sort of “been there. Done that. Check the box”
Tomorrow I am off across the channel to Caen where I will be visiting Gavin Ashenden. I plan to not only go to Mont St Michel again, but also to search out the shrine to St Jean de Brebeuf which is in Normandy. That part of France is rich in saints…St Joan of Arc in Rouen, St Therese in Lisieux etc. etc. The region is also rich in that wonderful apple brandy called Calvados. My bottle from 2019 was just emptied so that will be my one souvenir from this trip.
My trip back to England and France has summoned up lots of memories. I was an Anglican curate here in Sussex from 1983-1987. I met my wife here and now almost forty years later it is with a strange nostalgia that I re-visited these same streets. I also dropped in to see my former boss the Rector of the parish–who is now also a Catholic. He is ninety one years old and still going strong. John was brought up in the Baptist religion (his pa was a Baptist pastor) John became an Anglican priest and now a Catholic so we have much in common. It is my prayer as I approach my own retirement that in my final years I may be as down to earth, funny, compassionate and kind as my old friend. He has mellowed beautifully and not without great struggle and suffering. God bless him.
I return to South Carolina on Monday and back to parish duties on Wednesday–needing some time to get over the darned jet lag.