Old Friends and a Monastic Weekend

I've spent a glorious barefoot weekend visiting friends and making a pilgrimage to Worth Abbey for a weekend retreat.

The weekend begun at about 2pm on the platform of Southampton Central where I removed my sandals and packed them deep into my rucksack hoping not to remove them again. I boarded the 2:20 train to London (which I just managed to catch despite the horrors of the Southampton bus network trying to thwart me) and got out my MacBook and began working on my conference poster for next week. My battery lasted exactly the whole journey with the 8 minute warning just as we pulled into Victoria.

It was then 5 pm as I strolled barefoot through the station, making an oddly loud noise on the cool paving slabs. It was rush hour and the number of people all around was quite uplifting in an odd sort of way. In fact in exactly the opposite way to the crowds in West Quay. People here seem to flow better, knowing where they are going and actually using their brains (is that to harsh on the general Southampton populace?).

I picked up some supplies in a local supermarket and then caught the underground to South Kensington to take a look in the V&A Museum at the advice of my good friend Hannah Hawksley. It's free and open late on Fridays - bonus - and had a very interesting display of Chinese artefacts, some of which show the most stunningly intricate craft work. The V&A seemed to be barefoot friendly :)

I then took the tube right across central London to Stratford where a friend from my teaching trip in China, Chin Hwa, now lives and works. Chin had made a grand dinner with black bean tofu and a peanut veggie dish which was all very tasty. Another of my good friends from Hong Kong, Queenie, joined. It was simply lovely to catch up as it had been two years since we'd seen each other (actually in Hong Kong). I was also able to fix the odd light bulb and door handle crisis.

Queenie and I then took the tube back and I got off at Victoria. I must say that the underground was also very barefoot friendly. My Prague metro experience was good and London was as good - very little rubbish on the floor to worry about and nice long escalators to run up :)

My train got into Worth Station at about 1 and from there, after a brief key loss panic, I made my way to the abbey. Thankfully the majority of the road surfaces were in good repair, and only the last stretch really hurt. The warm-ish rain helped stave off the cold. When I reached the abbey I found I'd miss heard the accommodation key code and so settled down to sleep on the floor of the main abbey, which is really beautiful at night with only the alter floodlit.

The rest of the weekend retreat was simply beautiful. The monks were as loving as ever and gave good direction for my thoughts and prayers. I made one exploration down to the quite garden through quite a muddy field which was very pleasing. I also managed to finally find time to quieten my inner monologue and actually contemplate things. I also strengthened some good friendships and thoroughly enjoyed the company. I also encouraged a friend who had got her shoes soaked to take off her socks as well and go barefooted - and she loved it, which was quite exciting for me too :)

So a very blessed weekend sharing with old and new friends and with the Lord. Good. Very good.

Actually taken last year, but it's not changed much.

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