The world that I would love to visit is The Holy Land. St Jerome said “five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in the books and one you will find in the land they called Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you.” How extraordinary it would be to be able to rejoice in the birth of Our Lord in Bethlehem, to pray where Jesus taught in the Temple, to relive His call of the Disciples in Capernaum, to contemplate His miracles on and around the sea of Galilee and to follow in His footsteps as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem. And then to celebrate the Resurrection in the Mass of the Holy Sepulchre.
Your dream travelling companions?
It would have to be Derek, my husband. We have been married for 25 years next June. I think we’ll have a celebration party: we’ve never had one since our wedding, so we want to invite everyone who attended our wedding and all of our friends and family. I’d also take any of my four children who’d want to join me!
You can transplant your favourite pub, bar or restaurant onto the route. Which would it be?
The Town of Ramsgate, a riverside pub in Wapping, close to where my husband and I were living when we first met. It’s where we spent many evenings while we were getting to know each other. I’m not fussy about food – I would just enjoy the atmosphere of being close to the river.
Camp under the stars, or find a church hall to sleep in?
Under the stars! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look out at the night sky? As a child, I went camping every year, all around France and Switzerland.
Which books would you take?
Some of my favourite books are Imperium, Lustrum and Dictator by Robert Harris, telling the life story of the orator and statesman Cicero. This trilogy is a riveting read and an extraordinary insight into Roman politics just before the birth of Christ. Cicero himself was greatly admired by several Church Fathers; his Hortensius played a part in St Augustine of Hippo’s conversion to Christianity. I wonder what Cicero would have made of Christ, had he lived a few decades later.
What Bible verse would you ponder?
This is really tricky because if I’m in the Holy Land, I would immerse myself in various Gospel passages – but particularly the Passion of St John with the masterful portrayal of the tragedy of Jesus’s death and the hope that accompanies his Resurrection.
You stop in a church. What’s your go-to prayer?
I usually start by reciting three our Fathers, three Hail Marys and three Glory Bes, followed by a spiritual communion. I would use the form favoured by St Josemaría, the founder of Opus Dei: “I wish, my Lord, to receive with the purity, humility and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervour of the saints.” I think it’s just wonderful when you walk into a church to make a spiritual communion: you have Jesus there in front of you in the tabernacle.
It’s your turn to cook. What’s your speciality?
Given I have no inclination and very little skill in the kitchen, I would have to offer to do the washing up. My husband cooks at home all the time, he enjoys it. I can’t say I enjoy the washing up, but I’ve become very good at it!
What’s the singalong to keep everyone’s spirits up?
You might not know this one: LIFEGOESON by Noah and the Whale. It would lift anyone’s spirits and for a while it was a family anthem, sung on long journeys in the car.
You’re allowed one luxury …
I would find it hard to get by without a few tea bags. Breakfast tea would be my choice, with milk, no sugar. I used to be a heavy coffee drinker but have recently switched to tea.
What would you most miss about ordinary life?
Life has been anything but ordinary over the last few months. One of the particular pleasures of lockdown has been being able to go for long walks in Bushy Park in Teddington with my daughters and our dog Oscar – he’s a cockapoo. It has been dog paradise for Oscar in lockdown, with so many people at home looking after him.
What would you miss the least?
Zoom calls. They have been relentless in lockdown. I wouldn’t miss them at all!
Ruth Kelly was a Cabinet minister from 2004-2008. She has recently been appointed to the Vatican’s Council for the Economy