THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
From Frankfurt to Poperinge via Ghent and "Wipers"
Second thoughts

The abbey road home

The Navigator is a Roman Catholic. The "famous on TripAdvisor" breakfast at our B&B this morning was therefore not for him as he doesn't eat before Mass. I ate alone before we took to the road to head for the Abbaye St. Paul, Wisques.

We had an open-topped motorised saunter in bright sunshine through Belgian and French countryside. The Navigator drove and said he enjoyed it as much as yesterday's full-on charge through Germany.

Abbaye St Paul-1
The Abbaye was beautiful. I am not religious and so was a mere spectator but the mass – sung or rather chanted – was beautiful too. The monks went about their business in dignified solemnity but I ultimately found the experience distressing. I knew I did not belong there and I couldn't understand why any modern would feel they did.

I knew I would never have had this experience were it not for my late wife's conversion to Catholicism (with which the Navigator helped her). I would like to understand why she took that path. I would like to believe she was right and that – somewhere – her spirit happily lives on. I have enormous respect for her intelligence and am quite prepared to believe that my failure to understand her faith means something is lacking in me. Whatever the reason, I just don't get it. If she was right, Hell beckons.

I upset the Navigator by answering truthfully when asked how Mass had made me feel. I had realised the question was inevitable and felt so sorry for the hurt I knew an honest answer would bring that I had bought him a gift of monastic honey from the Abbaye's shop as a sweetener.

I took the wheel again and we drove to the Eurotunnel. We had lunch at the "Flexi Plus" lounge before catching our train. Soon we were back in Britain "enjoying" the fruits of successive governments' monumental incompetence when it comes to things that really matter - like the transport infrastructure of the country's economic heart.

The weather was fine and Speranza's roof remained down all the way to London but the contrast with our brilliant experiences in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium could not have been more stark. We seemed to spend almost as much time sitting in traffic on the accursed M25 as we did with the wind in our hair. Still, we have our memories of a whimsical, brilliant trip.


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Tom, are you ready?


I worked on it for a while but writing is a lonely pursuit and harder work than I imagined so I have never completed it. Sorry!


I just re-read your entire US travelogue. Did you ever come out with a book?

pete soakel

need toll motorway in south so one can put ones foot down! - great travel story, thanks.

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