Travelling without moving

edinburgh, manchester, Masters, morden, mordor, rugby, st andrews, travelling

Travelling without moving

Since I started my new job I’ve visited a few places – here’s a quick sum-up of where I’ve been and some of the highlights.

St. Andrews // I was in this lovely old town for my Residential Study Week of my distance learning course in Bible and the Contemporary World. (The rest of each module is completed at home with online discussion between students and tutors). I’m actually on the Postgraduate Diploma but hope to upgrade to the M.Litt. (Masters) degree if I keep a good standard on my essays. Anyway, if you click here you’ll see a map of the town. My Bed and Breakfast was just above the Tourist Information place ([i] on the map) and my college was to the right of the [i] across South Street. St. Andrews is a little bit like Norwich, in that it has poor infrastructure and takes ages to get to, but luckily an elderly couple gave me a lift from the train station in their taxi. As soon as I got out the cab, a well-dressed middle-aged man said “Welcome to St Andrews!” and I thought “Wow, this is what Heaven must be like”, until he then gave me a tract spouting King James and invited me to the Gospel Hall. There was also a genuine sandwich-board Christian walking around the streets that I saw one lunchtime, with one of my favourite messages emblazoned across one side: “Repent or perish”. I did resist the urge to punch him.

Edinburgh // My first hour involved getting laughed at by various hotels and hostels as I asked whether any of them had space for 6 that evening. It was game weekend and 6 of us lads that used to hang around together when we were teenagers were up to watch New Zealand thrash Scotland, but someone had forgotten (or not bothered) to book a place to stay. Granton Sally Army did us proud (thanks Ali + Hannah!) and it was a very enjoyable weekend, particularly catching up with a certain James Webb who I’d not seen for at least ten years. Good fun. The coach journey back home wasn’t so fun…

Manchester // How I love this city. If you’ve never visited it, there can only be one of three explanations:

  1. You can’t drive. If this is because you’re self-reliant, have never been able to afford lessons, or don’t wish to increase your carbon footprint, great. If this is because you wantonly scav off other people, or are just very lazy, be ashamed. I hope you offer petrol money to the heroes that drive your royal backside round.
  2. You are lazy. You are probably also from London. You can’t be bothered to go and visit other cities because you believe the world revolves around London, and probably you too.
  3. You are stupid. You think Manchester has nothing to offer. You are wrong.

East End Park // Even though the middle-class, the council etc might disown this part of the city, it IS part of Leeds. Some of my mates who moved there about a year ago are, I would say, doing three things shamelessly: (1) living there, (2) loving Jesus, each other and their community, and (3) looking for the Kingdom of God. And I think that’s excellent.

This week I go to the Midlands and the Isle of Wight.

I’ve been living with my aunt and uncle in Sutton, which has been great, but should be moving to the Alove Shack in Mordor/Morden fairly soon. Hence, travelling without moving…


Arithmetic Progression

bogies, Chai Tea Latte, cotton buds, excitement, hope, introspection, journeying, London, morden, oyster, poem, poetry, thinking, travelling, tube, wandering


Today was a good day. In fact, Sunday was a good day too.

On Sunday, I woke up late because I’d gone to the Camel and Artichoke. I’d travelled with my sister. There’d been good food, live music, old friends. I plumbed my memory for trivia. There had been free books on a shelf. Shelves, even.

Sunday morning I ate some fruit and fibre and walked into town conversing with God about my life. I stopped at Caffe Nero and read a chapter of my book interspersed with tai chi latte and 2 cups of free iced water. I couldn’t get the song Samson out of my head. I bought the ingredients for a thai green curry to cook later for my family and relished the sensation of weight on my hands as I carried them home.

Last night me and Russ worked late on a study guide and I was pleasantly surprised by the japanese sushi and soy beef meze I’d ordered. When we finished I had that soul-cockle-warming feeling of having completed something. When I got back ‘home’ I chatted with my aunt about church and hospitality and how you can’t really be the first without doing the second.

This morning I paid in a hefty cheque. A woman came in effing and blinding full volume at some unseen aggravator through her mobile. It annoyed others but made me feel somewhere within the realms of ‘home’ and ‘real’. I went through the diary of the next 3 months and it looked pleasnatly like my workload would arrive somewhere between intensity and shalom. I made teas for everybody and enjoyed the 3 minute wait that necessitates a perfect brew. I was offered the opportunity of going on a writing course, which I took up.

I headed into Mordor for lunch and took some time to explore. I ordered a pizza and headed off to buy my last Empire in a while from Sainsbury’s. The girl at the till asked me as a matter of habit whether I wanted help packing then laughed at herself. She asked me what my excuse for not smiling was and I said I was thinking and she said I should smile instead. I wondered whether if everyone smiled instead of thinking the world would be a better or worse place.

A woman outside held out a flyer asking whether I wanted to volunteer. I declinined as a matter of habit but went back when the words sunk in. I walked past a fruit and veg store and mentally noted to buy my greens and roots there rather than Sainsbury’s. I returned to the pizza parlour, ate at the table and thanked the owner for a great meal. He smiled.

I headed off to the Big Smoke with my oyster and met some Manchester friends in Borders on Oxford Street for coffee or not. I pegged it over to the Barbican centre to check it out and watch a film.

I’ve thought a lot these last few days.

I’ve chatted about god and church and life.

I’ve seen or talked to some old friends, some good friends and made some new ones.

I’ve been given lots of new opportunities.

I feel independent and excited about life and its inherent possibilities and adventures.

I feel an excitement I’ve not felt in a very long time.

I had a dream about holding a lover’s hand and it felt more real and exiciting a propsect than any of those ‘other’ kinds of fantasies that pop into my and other people’s heads.

I feel good; I feel loved; I feel just as disorganised and last-minute as I always have been, but I don’t care. I just wanna get on with living life and trust that some of this hopeful excitement might splash off and colour some other travellers and troubadours along the way too. I wanna grow my hair as long as it will go and feel wild and raw and manly and kingly in the process. I wanna treat women like princesses. I wanna treat the older travellers I meet as precious works of art, helping to mend them where they’ve torn and restore them where they’ve worn. I want to light the young people I meet in a way that highlights their victories and waters their scorched roots. I wanna see the kingdom coming in real physical ways and not just in anecdotes. I wanna see the King in ways that make me go Wow again.

And as I write these words, sitting on the Northern Line going south, I turn my head to look down the almost empty carriage and see two used cotton buds lying side by side on the polished, speckled floor and marvel at the nerve someone had to clean their ears out on a tube and then leave their waxy treasure there. I want that nerve. And then I look left to the seat beside me and decide to explore the empty cigarette packet. Someone has blown their nose on a piece of kitchen roll and folded it neatly before pushing it into the empty packet. That nerve I just wanted made me unfold someone’s bogies. 

I don’t wanna lose that nerve.