This was forecast as the hottest day, over 30°. I spent the morning working on my sermon for Sunday. After lunch I walked in the castle park and explored the Hédas valley, which was blocked for building work. Back to St Jacques church, where I said evening prayer in the chapel. Went with John and Hilary to an ecumenical prayer group, meeting this month at a small and beautiful Orthodox Church in the car park of a block of flats. I should have liked to have a better look at the ikons. The chapel was crowded, with 30 people. A mixture of Gregorian chant and Taizé, with silence and open prayer, followed by bring-and-share refreshments in the only slightly cooler car park. People were friendly to this foreigner, more so than I would expect in England.
Skept with the window open, until woken by a child and a dog howling. It took a long time to get back to sleep. A lazy day, washing clothes and reading, until 3:30 when I decided it was time for a walk. Much cooler than I expected. My map showed footpaths on the hills behind Jurançon, but I could not find the starting point. It was either a blocked path on grass, or an unsigned and probably private gravel track. So this was a road walk.
Home at 7. I decided not to go to choir practice, as they are rehearsing for Pentecost, the Sunday after I leave. Thought I would improve my French by watching TV. They speak so fast, I have difficulty in distinguishing the words let alone making sense of them. But I suppose if I listen enough, I shall understand more. This seems to be a film about a werewolf.
Just as the forecast said, it rained all day (though not very hard). Found a copy of Karen Armstrong’s book A History of God and read a chapter about the early church. The one I really need to read, in preparation for Trinity Sunday, is the next one. Just after 4 I felt the need of a walk, rain or no rain, and I went north to the Forest of the Bastard, which is lovely – no traffic and enormous trees. Once I got going, I really enjoyed tthe cool weather.
With a similar forecast, I decided to have a go at Chemin Henri IV, the path of Lourdes, but was thwarted by the Grand Prix closing off the Boulevard des Pyrénées and who knows what else. Thought of taking a bus out of town, but when it got to 10:00 I decided Lourdes would have to wait for another day, or two. Instead I took a bus towards the forest where I walked yesterday, and followed GR 653, the route from Arles to Santiago. The forest part was even better than I expected, as it used a small path as well as broad tracks. A much-ridden and muddy path took me round the end of the racecourse, after which I expected roads most of the way. Pleasantly surprised by good paths beside the roads, and some traffic-free lanes. Reached Lescar about 12:30. After a brief visit to the cathedral, where I had been on Sunday, admiring the life size carved statue of St James, I decided against a sandwich at the snack bar and was delighted to discover a friendly restaurant just round the corner. The buffet of starters was a feast in itself: sardines and a smaller fish (whitebait?) with mixed vegetables and cucumber, asparagus with egg and mayonnaise, a slice of melon with ham. The main course was a pork stew with mushrooms and carrots, served with pasta, the little twisty sort, and washed down with water and a glass of wine. The only disappointment was the lemon tart I had for dessert, which was heavy without being interesting. I should have chosen strawberries and cream. All this for under 12 €, so I tipped generously. The GR 653 continued westward until it met the river, having crossed which, I turned towards Pau, following a cycle track on the south bank before crossing over to the golf course and castle park. Over 40 000 steps, though 7 000 were messing around town and walking from the bus stop to the forest.
Did the other accessible stretch of GR 653, taking the bus to Morlaas and walking from Ste Foy church to the forest where I joined the route yesterday. Lovely green tunnels, and farm tracks where it was quiet enough, and lonely enough, for singing.
Back at the flat, I read Karen Armstrong’s chapter about the Trinity, very interesting on the different emphases in Eastern and Western Christendom, and a good introduction to pseudo-Dionysius who, being sixth century, was too late to figure in my study of early church history. The apophatic tradition is viewed as a way of encountering the unknown and unknowable God through contemplation.
Thought of going to watch the Grand Prix from Beaumont Park, until I discovered it cost €23 to get in. So I contented myself with a distant view and inescapable noise. Then I thought I’d walk round the outside of the cordoned off area and eat at the restaurant at Eaux-Vives water park, only to be told I was too late – at 2 pm. They were selling ice creams outside St Jacques but the queue was very long so I went home.
The best way to attempt the 40 km Chemin Henri IV, having identified a few drop-out points where I could get to a bus stop. I had read a guidebook, which overestimated the number of beautiful views of the Pyrenees (perhaps because he did it in February) and underestimated the quality of the Waymarking. The author regarded the route as starting a couple of km from Pau and finishing at the Lac de Lourdes, the final 3 km to the station being along a noisy road. On arrival at the Lac, I discovered a bus was leaving in 10 minutes. So the actual distance was 37 km, in 8 hours. I was aware that the main reason for doing the walk was to show that I could, and that on arrival in Lourdes I would be in no state for sightseeing. It reacquainted me with the patience to let the road take as long as it takes. It is mostly wide tracks, but the last stretch is a narrow footpath with a lot of steepish downhills. Quite a few walkers at the Pau end, some of them doing a circular walk along a short stretch of Henri IV. After that it was mainly cyclists. Good day out. Just missed the 1655 bus to Pau and had to wait for the 1855, rehydrating myself in a tea shop.
A home day, for washing and shopping. Tried out the Apple computer John leant me to see if I could print a sermon from a memory stick. Hardware problem: only one of the ports takes the USB printer cable and memory stick so I cannot use both at once. Operational problem: the printer is not installed, and needs the system administrator to install it.