Heidelberg 2

Thursday 15 June

A busy week, preparing for a conversation, having it, and writing a report. Very little walking so far.  I thought of going out this morning, but someone asked to use the computer in the flat so I stayed home.  After he left, it was too hot, and later there were threats of thunder.  Tomorrow evening I am talking about pilgrimage.

I heard that the 30-day Ignatian Camino walk I had hoped to do in September/October has been cancelled.  Not surprised as I knew they had not had many registrations.  Instead, I booked a week walking the first part with Ramblers, and am thinking I might continue on my own, since I have the guidebook.

I listened to a YouTube reading from Evelyn Underhill’s book on Mysticism,  There are indeed more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy.


A small turnout for my pilgrimage talk, but one of them had been to Sansepolchro and seen the picture shown in my slide in the Footsteps of St Francis talk.  We spoke about different ways of doing pilgrimage, alone or in a group, and whether my walk on Heiligenberg counted as a pilgrimage.  To the latter question, partly – the monastery ruins.  But in fact I had been reading David Jenkins about the church’s over-attention to the past (in The Calling of a Cuckoo) which led me to feel ambivalent about historical pilgrimages.


I intended to walk the “most spectacular” section of Neckarsteig, from Neckargerach to Mosbach.  However, I failed to recognize the replacement bus at Eberbach, and took a regular bus to Neuenstein instead.  After asking the way several times, I found the path, and did one of the longest sections, to Neckargerach.  Lunch by a ruined castle, then resisted the temptation to take a much shorter route to the station and walked round the edge of a side-valley.

Sunday 18 June

I had chosen two hymns from the more modern section of A&M New Standard, and had been singing the calypso Linstead Market to myself.  The organist, however, had substituted saying a psalm, perhaps because I had requested Psalm 8 on Trinity Sunday the week before.  The last hymn, “Sent forth with God’s blessing” to the tune The Ash Grove, turned out to be one where they wanted an inclusive-language version.


Mirjam, whom I met on the Camino in 2004, came to stay.  We had two good walks together, the Via Natura after taking the funicular railway up to Königstuhl and a short morning walk up through the woods along Blütenweg to Bierhelderhof.  It was good to have company, and she has invited me to stay with her in Bayern, which might fit in with another visit to Heidelberg.


This evening was the monthly meeting at the Chaplain’s flat.  I had chosen the theme “Faith in hard times” and started with a reading of Psalms 42&43.  Only one taker, but we had a good discussion.


my last long walk, up to Weissenstein, where I found a busy restaurant.


Church cleaning and barbecue.  I had been assured it was OK just to come for the latter, in the garden of the Old Catholic parish house.  Argument about whether the BBC was biased to the left or the right.

Sunday 25 June

My last service here, unless they ask me back.  Preached about Sarah and Hagar, for which several people thanked me.  A lot of newcomers and visitors including 3 priests from the Episcopal Church, one of whom asked me what Jesus meant by saying “not peace but a sword”.

After my last ice cream, tried to get up Königstuhl by a path from the shooting lodge beyond the castle.  But the path along the edge of a slope was badly eroded, and I didn’t fancy it in my church shoes.  So, through the castle grounds and back to the Old Town.


Up ridiculously early, and had packed, washed up and taken out the rubbish by 9.  No point in leaving for my train until 11, so catching up with the blog.






Thursday 1 June

I found the local Aldi supermarket just before it closed at 21:00, and grabbed a packet out of the chilled section as the shutter was lowered. It turned out to be flat cakes of potato and onion, which I fried and topped with a cheese slice. Could have been worse.


Walked to the church along a main but not very busy road, bought maps, and returned along the side of Königstuhl, one of the two mountains.  Not much over 200 m ascent, seemed a lot more, with a very long flight of steps taking me back to the valley at the end.

Paul Needle had posted a link to the Radio 4 daily service, from Diocesan Synod, so I listened to it instead of saying Evening Prayer, and Shared the link, remembering some bags I saw in a bookshop window: Twitter is not Berthold Brecht. Facebook is not Frank Kafka.

Tried Lidl, slightly closer than Aldi. Must remember that neither provides baskets, you need to pick up a trolley before entering or restrict yourself to  a handful. Good practice in resisting ice cream. But I shall have to shop again tomorrow as Whit Monday is a public holiday.

Found a book about Anglican churches in Germany up to 1945 and read the first 60 pages. This confirms my theory that Bishop Bell’s visit to Sweden in 1942 was not solely to confirm some candidates in Gothenburg, but to meet Dietrich Bonhoeffer for what turned out to be the last time, on 1 June.

I thank God for the opportunities of being part of the Diocese in Europe.


Thundery showers forecasted at three separate times, so I stayed in the flat. Finished rereading Paradise News by David Lodge.


Enjoyed my first Sunday service in Heidelberg, but was surprised that the tune to the second hymn was not Puer nobis nascitur.  Don’t take anything for granted.  Walked back over Königstuhl, a different route from Friday, avoiding the long flights of steps and passing a rural pub.


Whit Monday is a public holiday in Germany.  The. English Church is one of about 8 congregations taking part in an ecumenical service.  Very large congregation!  I took part in the intercessions, reading a short prayer in English.  Refreshments afterwards.  This reminded me of the international services in Gothenburg.  Afterwards I walked on the Philosophers’ Way, like many others young and old, but went a bit further,  crossing the river at Steinach and returning to Heidelberg by a cycle path alongside a main road.


Tried the biggest of the local supermarkets. That’s more like it!  It had started raining by the time I got home, so I didn’t go walking until the afternoon.  The first stage of Neckarsteig involved climbing up “heaven’s ladder”, a series of flights of rough stone steps.  I tried to do 100 between breathers.  Beautiful view from the terrace at the top. This is one of the two “black” stages, i.e. challenging.  Apart from a short shower in Hauptstrasse, the rain held off until I got off the tram coming home.


Stayed home in the morning waiting for a meter-reader and revising an old sermon for tomorrow.  Then did a round walk from Emmetsgrund and was delighted to discover that part of it followed the E1 long distance footpath, of which I walked two weeks’ worth many years ago.  There was even a visitors’ book to write in, so I did.

Pau III – Ascension onwards

Thursday 25 May

Ascension Day is a public holiday in France, and the tradition here is to meet at the home of the Reader, John Errey, way out in the country, for Eucharist and a shared lunch in a big marquee in the garden.  A small gazebo was added to give a bit of shade around the altar, this being one of the hottest days.  I supplemented an old sermon with some thoughts on prayer, based on the Archbishops’ initiative “Thy kingdom come”.  Someone thanked me for my enthusiasm.  Lunch was a barbecue of sausages and burgers, including some pea burgers for the vegetarians,a variety of salads, and a wonderful selection of desserts, to which I had contributed a pummet of apricots.  There are no buses today so John Arthur had to drive into Pau to pick me up and drop me off.


John took me for a walk in the Pyrenees.  This time I was able to get a bus to his local station and a train back in the evening.  We drove up steep and winding roads to a car park near the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, and walked up the GR10 to two lakes, total ascent 438 m according to my step counter.  Because the train back was at 4:18, we did not have time to continue to the pass which is over 2000 m above sea level.  On the way back we stopped at a small Templar chapel from the 12th century and sang Laudate Omnes Gentes.  Stopped off for a quick snack at John’s where Hilary had made scones.


I had thought of walking the next bit of the Arles Camino, but was doubtful about trains back from Oloeon Ste Marie.  Instead, I retraced a previous walk as far as the footbridge near Laroin, following 7 girls on horseback and their leader on a bicycle for the last bit of the way.  Then crossed the river and walked round the Lacs de Laroin.  Lovely contrast between the noisy river and the peaceful lakes.  The area around the lakes is reserved for camping/fishing, with a separate entrance for each pitch – luxury.  There was no obvious alternative to going back the way I had come, making a third walk along this stretch.  Once again, when I reached St Jacques church, there was a very long queue for ice cream so I didn’t stop.


Peter Naylor preached what he thinks might be his last sermon. He told me he retired 20 years ago and is 86.  He had invited me to join some of his friends for lunch after the service, which was way out of my normal price range, a menu at 42 € and quite a lot of wine.  Slow service, good conversation.  Went for a walk round the forest afterwards thinking to get the shuttle bus back, but it had stopped running at 17:40.


Lunch with John and Hilary, then John drove me to the airport along a scenic route, crossing Chemin Henri IV. Met some people who had been at the Ascension Day service seeing off their friends.

I shall only have two full days at home before taking off for Heidelberg.

Pilgrims welcome in Arthez de Béarn

When I was in Luxembourg, I met Steve and Carol who have a house in Arthez, about 30 km from Pau, where they welcome pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Steve is there for a few days, and I went to visit him. Here are some photographs of the hut where pilgrims can brew up, rest their feet, and pray. When Steve and Carol are in Luxembourg, they try to arrange for volunteers to stay in their house and welcome pilgrims.

Pau II

Tuesday 16/5/2017

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.


Locum in the Pyrenees

Having failed to blog my first locum assignment in Luxembourg, I want to start on Pau.

Friday 12/5/2017

Flew in to Lourdes where I was met by churchwarden John Arthur and his wife Hilary.  After a snack in the flat and a visit to the church – unlike Luxembourg they are almost next door to each other, and fairly close to the Centre – we went to a garden party with drinks and “heavy hours d’oeuvres” at the home of an American family who had a horse farm there. After they left, most of the land was sole for building and the house divided into flats.  The new owners have bought up all the flats and are restoring the house to a splendid period piece and the garden is also impressive.


Shopped for food and explored, admiring the view from the Boulevard des Pyrénées, and continued a few km along the Chemin Henri IV, a footpath linking Pau and Lourdes.  The whole thing is 40 km.  Shall I walk it, and one day or two?  If the former, would arrive too late and tired to enjoy Lourdes.





Back in Pau, I came across the Fête de l’Europe, with stalls from various EU countries. This was the British contribution.


This is the second Sunday of the month, which means children will be in church. Ditched the sermon I had brought with me, and talked about getting lost – walking down to the children to tell them about how At the age of 6 I found myself locked out of school, before returning to address the adults. After the service, I changed into walking clothes and discovered a simple restaurant, mainly a crêperie, overlooking the castle where I enjoyed slices of duck with fried potatoes, piperade (tomatoes +) and mushrooms, washed down with half a liter of red wine. Next time I should go for a quarter liter. Then followed the river west, aiming for the medieval city of Lescar, and appropriately enough, getting a bit lost on the way.


Headed for a gym called “Keep Cool”, found on Google, to enquire if I could pay by the session. Yes, 10 euros a time. I did 2.5 km on the treadmill at 6.6 kohl, jogging 2 minutes and walking 1, as my next step towards eventually jogging 5 km. I wore my church shoes, but did not bring the thick socks so they were a bit loose. I bought some basic gym shoes for €4.99 at the big Leclerc hypermarket next door, as well as a range of exciting foods. Walked back a long way round, and after lunch had a siesta. It is very hot. Went out again at 4:30 to check out the station and the “museum of the giants” commemorating winners of the Tour de France. Roads around the station are a mess in preparation for the Grand Prix. In the cathedral, I met a hungry pilgrim and gave him my last banknote. Just enough left for an ice cream outside St James’s Church before heading home, via a cash point, for moussaka and grated carrot.

Continents Colliding

At Thingveillir the Eurasian and American land masses are drifting apart. At Peggy’s Cove on the South Shore, this poster claims that Nova Scotia was formed by two land masses, Avalon and Meguma, coming together.  I do not know why they qualified as “continents”.  On the journey, Gordon was telling me about a course in cultural competence at the medical school where he works, and at the Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg I found out more about the original inhabitants and the effect on them of increasingly greedy settlers arriving from the “Old World” – further examples of continents colliding.

See the Canada page for more about my stay.