The fragility of courage, the imperative of courage

‘ A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies and her husband has full confidence in her.’ A cry from the Proverbs of the Hebrew Old Testament for all times. And for today .

The death of Jo Cox is an immense tragedy for her husband and family. She was the mother of two small children and the gaping hole left in that family is all the more tragic when we dare to think of their future without her. We want them to be able to grieve with privacy, but so many of us want to hug them and just say, ” We are with you.” That is why the streets in in Batley were full yesterday. Humanity seeks to gather in tragedy. Seeks to comfort our neighbour;strangers and friends. 

So the question is not if we knew Jo Cox or had met her, but rather how can we huddle together and try to patch up the hole she has left? How do we huddle to make sense of her death … and of her killer? How do we deal with a member of our humanity who brutally lashes out and kills a wife of noble character more precious than rubies?

But wait, we are not remembering just now the doing, we are remembering who Jo Cox was. (We can’t even bear to hear the word ‘was’instead of ‘is.’)This is about being. A human being. .and our being human. We don’t do noble character, we don’t do being. We are. And this public grief is about ‘who are we ?’ We urgently need to model a noble character as individuals and for society.

The description of a wife of noble character is from the thirty first chapter of proverbs in the Old Testament wisdom books. Just before this description is the exhortation to ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights for all those who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly ,defend the rights of the poor and needy ‘ 

Is this the response we have to Jo Cox’s death? As we grapple with immigration, integration, terrorism and fear? Speak up . Speak up for those who cannot help themselves. If we do this we follow not only the character of Jo Cox, but we can echo the teachings of Jesus to be an advocate for the poor and needy. With him as our bedrock and source of our strength . Jo Cox as a great pioneering example, we can seek to build a country of noble character; a better world of noble character.




Rest and Reflection



It’s been over a week since my cycling tour of the Abbeys of Yorkshire came to an end . A beautiful tour , a tour about being and not about achieving .  How many miles and how high I climbed in total is not the issue. The space to think, to enjoy ,to find, to pray,to be was  the purpose .And that was fulfilled. 

Yes, I’d love to be an expert on each Abbey , so feel the highs and the lows of those who lived there. To see the learning ,hospitality ,charity and love of the great monasteries. To hear the tales of failure and fear and isolation  as a community diminished. It cannot be , that the Abbeys of Yorkshire , over four hundred  years , led a uniform existence of peace and holiness , happiness and contentment.  It cannot be, that as Henry VIII saw fit to dismantle monasteries , each monk or nun was in error . Some , maybe , had drifted away from biblical and apostolic truth , but many , may we dare to believe, were  believers and followers of truth.  So much remains in history and mystery. 

I loved the nature , the owl, the deer, the otter and the gulls. the shoreline and the wild moor, the city and the reclaimed coal field. I loved the ruin , held static by English Heritage and the living ex monastery or nunnery  in private care as a private dwelling .  We salute the private owners with so great a responsibility to protect , nourish , cherish and preserve our history. 

And the speed of my cycling brought a peace and thoughtfulness to the journey. A time for reflection and acknowledgement of the greatness of the institution of monasteries and nunneries and a thankfulness that the rhythm and heartbeat of prayer continues to flow out to God and into our world 

Home from home


The home from home cycle tour of the Abbeys of Yorkshire is finished
( except Nun Monkton…I haven’t forgotten you,and shall cycle over in the next few weeks).Thank you to all my wonderful supporters.You have been family and friends,financial emotional,physical and spiritual supporters.Thank you .
At Ripon,I felt an overwhelming sadness that the trip was nearly over and thought that Fountains or Bolton would make me very sad.Emotions are strange and unpredictable and having feared an over busy Fountains would be intrusive ,it was a delight to see crowds of people enjoying themselves ,treading the place of so many before them.It was good to be a happy and bustling monastery again. Different times and perhaps some differnt needs, but still with plenty of places of peace and people finding inspiration from those called by Christ to follow him.At Bolton Priory, I was not sad.I had my husband with me and it is here where we were married.I was also nearly home.

In Wensleydale ,the usefulness of Marrick Priory ,accessible by zip wire and a place of holiday and adventure today ,is a positive and fulfilling use of old buildings.The nearby ruins of Ellerton Nunnery are located in a private garden.Small, beautiful and important they are maintained by private individuals as a remembrance of the nation’s heritage. Watton and Newborough Priories , near Bridlington and Byland , respectively are simply private houses bearing the cost of the heritage and privilige.We need to be grateful that families will maintain these places and use them.
As I finish this trip , I have much much more to share,everyday stuff and thoughtful stuff and spiritual stuff,the surprises,frights and the kindness of people.This story Home from Home is simple.If you want true cycling adventures ‘Cycling home from Siberia’ is the most wonderful book By a geography teacher that was.
Did I keep the rule of Benedict?..It is hard and sometimes harsh but as to rules and wisdom Psalm 19 has great advice.I like to know what is better than gold and better than honey. Psalm 19 as read in Selby Abbey on my second morning .
” The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer

May some resonance be found by all of you in this rule.

Tea or Coffee ?

I’m staying in a coffee hotel tonight. Not expensive, breakfast included quality shampoo and a hairdryer. That’s what makes a coffee hotel .I haven’t tried the coffee yet ,so I don’t know for sure but I am. confident to try tomorrow . Isn’t it sad that ‘beware the coffee ‘hotels still charge full rates? So I am very happy here with the fluffy towels and the attention to detail

Beautiful roofed Abbeys today. Selby Abbey ,Howden Minster,Beverley Minster, Watton Priory and Bridlington Priory .A special time of morning prayer in Selby set the day off to a good start (after the baked bean drenched fried egg. … Last night was a tea hotel) . Three delays today .A wrong turning , a six mile diversion and a Fiona moment of leaving bike keys at the bakery . It was good to get to Beverley Minster ,site of an Anglo Saxon monastery but the present building an amazing parish church . So the welcomer there told me , school masterly ,when I said what I was up to . They serve tea and coffee in flasks for any to self serve so they still get my vote and the Minster can speak for itself
To make up time and avoid an A road I rested myself by train to Watton Abbey. This one has a roof ,as it is now a private house ,a few ruined walls in the gardens .And so to Bridlington Priory. Rushed but admired .I trained again to Scarborough to keep on schedule
Whom did I meet today? A lovely gentleman at Howden with a splendid 60 year old bike .He told me about basket loads of vegetables from his allotment .I said I have an old timer too , but only 40 years old and I’ve left it at home . We bonded . And the fantastic baker in Howden who bakes well and found my keys and the welcoming carer in Howden Minster A friendly place indeed .
Whitby tomorrow .Goodnight

Be prepared..

So the start of the full week of Cycling around the Abbeys of  Yorkshire is unsettlingly close. Monday 29th April  0630 BST. That’s the plan..the finish time can wait until a more predictable forecast can be given .No surprise then , that a last minuter like me has a lot of preparation to do .The maps , the route, were done months ago , but with not much thought of revision  or minute detail . So is it really going to be a peaceful enough route? Is that quick stretch on an A road an invitation  to be under Eddie Stobart’s wheel? and where is man with a van at his most aggressive ?  My closest encounter with an auto mobile was with a quad bike on a narrow Dales road, so safety is an unpredictable beast, as an individual event. Trends and trending affect populations but bypass many  .No risk assessment will tell me if a quadbiking shephard misjudges.However, to all who know my Boris bike ways, Yes I shall wear a helmet , have lights, have reflective clothing strips, have waterproof panniers, have spare tubes, a repair kit, some food, some drink , some first aidsomethingorother.  And a blogging smart phone .That most of the cycling stuff was bought only yesterday will confirm I am someone who owns a bike and not a cyclist. Am I excited? Of course! Yorkshire Abbeys on a bike, you can out do Chateau de Loire a thousand fold. (Remind me of that on the days I’m tired and wet please)”>Fountains Abbey

Faintly Remembered

Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison,
Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
Within the guilty closure of thy walls
Richard the second here was hack’d to death;

Pontefract Castle lies in ruins,apparently the locals welcoming its destruction by Parliamentarians in the civil war .And yet it still belongs to the Queen . High up on a rock surrounded by traffic and suburbia it lies at peace .The residents are now rid of the fighting it attracted for centuries. A place of conflict,royal murder, intrigue and politics it was destroyed 100 years after the sacking of the havens of peace that were the monasteries.

Pontefract Castle is reported to be the place of Catherine Howard’s adultery which led to her beheading Perhaps it does have something to do with the sacking of the monasteries .A king with six wives was not going to please the church in Rome . But the monasteries enraged him by paying their tithes to Rome and not to the home coffers . Here in Pontefract there is no sign of the Cluniac Priory surrendered to King Henry VIII on 23 November 1540 . It had stood for 450 years , small but a place for up to 40 monks and a Christian presence next to the bustling castle .Stop to think awhile and hear the history in the station name Pontefract Monkhill .If this monastery had been founded the day it surrendered and lasted as long ,it would have closed just three years ago .It was here for a long long time .

I work near here and had wanted to see the site and remember. And in betwen the driving around also remember Nostell Priory. A name in National Trust ownership and a Robert Adam house paid for by coal deposits beneath .The priory gone but held in the sub conscience.

Both priories too ruined to be on my bike trip, I have mixed sentiments of amazement that the history is so close , but an anger that suburbia squeezes around and the priories are obliterated .Such influence and importance reduced to an A road and a Shell garage with Costa .Peace is now offered by the low walls of a once bloody and very important castle.The wall of Pontefract’s Saxon Church a nod to a much longer Christian heritage on the site (photo) />