Our annual pilgrimage weekend had been on the calendar for
at least 9 months. 2 weeks before HWMBO tells me he is going to Brazil that
week and won't be back in time. FINE.
We cancelled the restaurant we had booked but when I
arrived alone in the village there was really no where else to go. So I went
and ate alone (literally!)
It was a fantastic meal, I think I was just very early.
Later in the evening I went down to the Shrine cafe for a cup of hot chocolate - alone again!
At the start of one of the services I lit a candle with a special prayer for our marriage.
During the service it burnt down and it felt very sad. I had to light another from the first to feel happy again.
The whole weekend left me with a lot of time for solitary thoughts.
And solitary walks.
You are never really alone at Walsingham though. Mary is always there with you and you can bring her home again too, even in a shopping bag!
Actually at different points of the weekend I met some really nice people and it was lovely to have a chat with them, something I probably wouldn't have done if we'd have been a couple there.
This weekend is normally a time we would spend together with little diversion and it helps refill our marriage bank. But alone I found time to refill my own sanity bank.
A weekend away with no trappings, no material musts and shoulds. The accommodation is clean and adequate. The internet connection is reassuringly bad and the phone signal sporadic at best. There are few shops, no television. Plenty of space for reaffirming faith, time to self assess and question. Time to find a little peace within. Time to accept the doubts. Time to talk to the priests and express my unhappiness at some of the church teachings and time to understand that it is ok for me not to agree with them on some things.
If you have never visited the England's Nazareth in Norfolk, I totally recommend you do. Even if it's just for a few hours as a part of a holiday in that area. It is fine to just go and have a walk around, you don't have to wear a label describing your personal belief system - it is ok to go on pilgrimage and it is ok to go as a tourist. It's an untouched part of England and a living history. Go have a look at the Anglican Shrine in the village and the Catholic Shrine a mile outside. Both are worth a look at.