I’d go to Walsingham. I love it. I’ve been on genuine pilgrimages, on foot, by coach – which you can keep; I loathe coach travel – and car – yuck, even worse. My choice every time: walking. I don’t mind bicycling some of the way but basically I want to walk, please.
Where would you stop on the way?
Various places but Norwich certainly. It’s a lovely city and there are glorious churches to visit. The Catholic cathedral has a particular interest as part of that Victorian Catholic revival to which we all owe so much rather than to the medieval. I like the Catholic cathedral. Who could not love the Anglican one? And I’m a fan of Edith Cavell, the nurse who is commemorated in the Anglican cathedral, who gave us that phrase, “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred towards anyone.” She is, of course, quite right. People today love talking about peace and goodwill towards everyone. Being nice to everyone is a bit of cliché, so she knows that’s true.
Who would be your travelling companions?
I’d prefer not to stomp alone. I love my family, but in all honesty I’d like the chance to get away and be with friends. The people I’d have would be young, enthusiastic, outward-looking, those active in the faith but not the kind of people who talk at you. I’d also like to give a nod to Wesley’s tramping around Britain. I like to think that he would be with us in spirit.
You can transplant your favourite pub, bar or restaurant onto the route. What is it?
The Albert pub in Victoria Street. They do good pub food, it’s not too noisy and it’s the only building, apart from Westminster Cathedral, with any merit on the hideous Victoria Street. When I’ll team up with Prince Charles to pull down London’s most depressing buildings, the Albert will shine out, as it does now, as one of the good ones.
Would you camp under the stars or find a church hall to sleep in?
Happy to sleep under the stars but I do like a cup of tea properly brewed and you can’t do that over an open fire. Probably a few nights under the stars but the rest in comfortable stars. That’s the deal.
Which books would you take with you?
Pope Benedict’s theology, Jesus of Nazareth. His theology has been quite eclipsed by his being pope and pope emeritus. His beautiful life of Christ will stand along with his other works exploring the relationship between Church and state. By way of fiction, I might probably take Newman’s Callista, which I prefer to Wiseman’s Fabiola. But, of course, I’d take some Jane Austen. Probably Emma.
You stop in a church. What’s your go-to prayer?
Probably the Memorare. I would be carrying some hopes and bushes and prayers for people, so I’d probably do that.
It’s your turn to cook. What’s your speciality?
Something with pasta. Some ravioli, cheesy or with meat, tossed with cream and cheese, but not with pepper which ruins everything.
What’s the singalong to keep everyone’s spirits up?
I’m rather fond of “Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner”. My father’s regimental song, “Screw Guns”, by Kipling – “Smoking my pipe on the mountings”. Something British and hearty.
You’re allowed one luxury in your bag – what is it?
It’s probably going to be prosecco if we can clad it with something that keeps it cool and stops it from going pop.
What would you most miss about ordinary life?
Proper hot showers. I was brought up with much more limiting facilities, which was normal in the 1960s and ’70s, so I have never quite lost my absolute delight in the free availability of flowing hot water.
What would you miss least?
Incessant pop music everywhere, the hideous whine of unwanted noise masquerading as music. I loathe it. Part of the fun of a pilgrimage is you tune in to good conversation, birdsong, the rustle of wind in the trees and the sea as you get nearer the coast.
Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Edith Cavell as having said that “Baptism [rather than patriotism] is not enough, I must have no hatred towards anyone.”Since amended.
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