Why do I walk up hills?

7593837It is not unusual for me to question my own sanity when I am struggling up a hill on a cold and wet day. On those days when I could be sitting in a warm room, maybe watching an exciting, or at least interesting, film on my T.V. munching away on some fresh popcorn; instead I’m suffering up a hill. I am getting good exercise, of course, and I know somehow it is good for my soul but I cannot deny that I have willingly undertaken to suffer.

When the sun is shining and views are expansive it is easy to take another lung full of sweet fresh air and to wonder at the glory of the world all around me. On days like that it is easy to understand why I would go through the agony of climbing a steep hill, after all some views can only be seen by those who bother to leave the car and take a long walk. Yet, some days you can not see further than a few feet in front of you and the struggle is made even more intense by the need to carry more clothes on a cold day and wear thick waterproofs to keep out the rain. What would motivate someone to do that?

I once heard a mountaineer say in response to the question “why do you do it?” that “if you are asking that question then you will not be able to understand the answer.” I understand just what they meant. Any answer that I give to such a question will, by it’s nature, be very unsatisfying because the only way to truly answer the question is to take to the hills and walk.

I like words, I also like pictures and film but there are still some things in the universe that it is impossible to successfully describe. The feeling, for instance, of holding your new born child or watching a sunset next to the love of your life. Poets come close but only because they reawaken some deep memory in us that makes us feel again that moment we remember but have never been able to describe.

I can not successfully describe to you why I like to walk but it is my experience that if you take the trouble to try it, and maybe come with me on a walk one day, and maybe in the wet and windy weather as we just crest the top of the hill the penny will drop and somewhere deep inside you a light will come on and you will then be able to stand on the top of that hill buffeted by the wind and without having to say a thing you will know why I do it, and then like me you will be wondering when the next chance will come to do this all again.

Farewell to the EU?

339176_1500I guess by now you are probably fed up with thinking about the EU but at the risk of causing even more trouble here is another comment. I’m not going to say how I voted – though I suspect most people who know me would be able to work it out. However, we now have to deal with the aftermath of the referendum. Please bear with me while I begin with a few moans – to get them off my chest.

Moan 1: The politicians let us down

I think it was quite possibly the worst of times for British politics. In the first instance we had an internal party struggle that erupted into the country having to vote in a referendum that it was ill prepared for. I am disappointed that so many people seemed to vote in protest against the UK politicians – one way or another – when this was a referendum on our collective future. I’m appalled that so many lies were pushed out in an effort to persuade us – one way or the other – and now we are hearing that even those who peddled the lies knew they were lies but don’t seem bothered about it. I’m also upset that somehow people think it is perfectly acceptable to do anything to get the result they want. We saw the UK at its worst at a time when we needed it to be at its best.

On top of this just when we were shaken by the result and needed our politicians to step up and take a lead so we can gain a little confidence and encouragement they seemed to collapse into a heap of recriminations and quitting.

I am someone who has always defended politicians as good people trying to do a difficult job but sadly the leadership has been very bad indeed. It felt at times like a school playground squabble when we needed good leadership – shame on them all.

Moan 2: Those jumping on the political bandwagon

I once had great respect for Nicola Sturgeon but she lost that with her reaction to the vote. Though, it must be said that she is not the only one getting involved. With the whole of Europe shaken she chose the moment to force her own political agenda of getting Scotland out of the UK. When we needed some stability and proper democracy (when did it become democratic to say because I haven’t got my way I’m not going to play any more?) we instead got calls for division and instability. Democracy is surely about accepting that the majority decide and even if we don’t like that decision we have to accept it and live with it. Democracy is never about leaving because we don’t like the choice – that is not democracy it is childish behaviour.

Enough moaning, now what?

Moaning is not the answer  – we need strength and diplomacy

What we need now is to find a way to live with the decision. Very nearly half of this country did not get the result they wanted. This is very painful for many. But we have made the choice and barring some last minute attempts to change the result we will have to live with the consequences of what has happened. We cannot change the result but we can change our future. We need to put love and understanding at the heart of our next steps. We need to be strong and display what Britain is famous for and pick ourselves up from the rubble and show the world what we are now capable of doing. Whatever disasters come our way as a nation – whether we caused it or not – we need to roll up our sleeves and get on with the work. The time has come for us to work together. Who is with me?


P.S. Of course as we return to gold old fashioned British values I’m looking forward to people getting back to church again.

Hills can be tough at times

I had another busy few days last week with both Haygrove and Heathfield schools. This time both were DofE training. For the first time since I started doing this I had people crying in both groups. The Haygrove group were very new to walking – the first time out on the hills – and they were carrying full packs – a bit of a shock to anyones system. Climbing hills when you are not used to that kind of walking let alone carrying extra weight was very tough on some of them and they cried. I felt very sorry for them but we had to get around and I’m delighted to say they all finished the route despite the struggle. I admire their grit and determination despite the hardships they had to endure.

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The Heathfield group had a tough day when I met them at the campsite in the evening. They seemed OK but their spirits were a little down. The next day walking with them, however, I discovered how tired they were and every hill was painful for them. I wondered at one point if we would ever get to the top of the first one but they battled on, despite the tears, and made it to the top. The second hill was not as steep and they managed it better, although they did complain a great deal.

One of the teachers very wisely observed that they were taking out their frustrations at the route on me because I was always the bearer of bad news as I had to keep telling them that there was more hill to climb and more distance to walk before the end of the day. We parted friends though and I hope I was forgiven for making them walk up the hills.

It made me think, once again, how tough hill walking can be. Going for a walk may sound like an easy enough pursuit but climbing hills and carrying loads is very physically demanding and for those who never do that kind of thing the sheer physical endurance nature of it can come as a shock. I love the hills but you have to learn that the puffing, grunting and sweating is all part of the fun.

Do you remember the days before sleeping mats?

karrimatI don’t know about you but sometimes I get all nostalgic about the way things used to be. Then I remember the benefits of what we have now and it soon passes away. I often remember the hardships of walking and hiking that we used to endure. Do you, for instance, remember the days before sleeping mats were invented? Can you imagine the discomfort of having to sleep on the floor? I suspect somebody will know when sleeping mats were first invented – I’m told it was in the 1970’s but I suspect it may have been earlier . However, I didn’t encounter them until I had been hiking for at least a couple of years. I remember my first yellow Karrimat (picture is not of my mat but one that someone else had for sale on gumtree – hope they don’t mind) – I think I still have it somewhere – it was a very luxurious item. I now sleep on a 5cm thick self-inflating sleeping pad and it is pretty good (I have my eye on a thicker one). Before the days of sleeping pads you had to find as much thick grass as possible to camp on (not easy on Dartmoor where it is either in thick clumps – nasty stuff – or very short) and then maybe dig out a depression for your hip to sit in and try and pitch the tent so the dip was in the right place – not easy. I’ve got soft these days because I have just bought a backup mat just in case mine fails and I can’t stomach the idea of sleeping without one.

Not everything used to be better or are we just getting soft?

Very wet weekend on Exmoor

Sleeping_in_a_tentJust had a very wet weekend with the Duke of Edinburgh bronze teams from Haygrove on their assessments. Congratulations to everyone  – who all achieved their aims. It was a real test on Saturday, having to get up in the rain and getting rained on nearly all day. I’m still drying out.

Farewell to Dad

meanddadI had hoped that this day would never come, the day when I have to say my farewells to my Dad. Tomorrow we have the funeral service but it seems every day since he died has had some sense of saying goodbye. It has been a time for a flood of memories to assault me and it seems even the simplest of things can bring them on.

Dad was not perfect but he was my Dad. During the many times in my childhood when my Mum was in hospital he was the one constant I could rely on. The needs of paying the bills meant that he often had to work long hours, especially when my Mum was in hospital and not working herself. This meant that on many occasions I only had myself to rely on to get on in life and my family will themselves testify that sometimes this means I rely too much on myself today when others are willing to help.

I am going to be taking the funeral service for my Dad tomorrow and when I did this for my Mum it turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done – I anticipate the same will be true tomorrow. However, I’m doing it for my Dad because I want this one last thing I can do for him to be done properly – this is the last thing on this earth I can do for him.

I guess the memories will continue to flood in  – holidays, time spent working on the house together, making model air-planes, Navy Days, visits to castles, etc. At the moment they bring a sense of loss with them but I look forward to that time when they bring more feelings of gratitude and happiness – as they should.

So farewell Dad and may you find peace in God’s house.

I’m not religious

19391694I’m often hearing people say things like “I’m not religious” which I think generally means that they don’t go to church because they don’t want to subscribe to one way of viewing life and the universe. It does not mean that they do not believe in God or that they are not spiritual. I caught the tail end of a TV programme the other day when someone said that they were not religious but they did feel the holiness of Holy Isle – to my mind a very strange thing to say.

But what does this not being religious really mean?

In response to the idea of not being religious I want to ask lots of questions about how do you then make sense of the world? What do you think about heaven and what happens after death? What is the sense of the holy or the ‘other’ that you experience? How do you make any sense of it?

The usual response, in my experience, is to say a variety of things that might have come from a variety of different religions coupled with an attempt to make it all sound like science rather than religion. In effect what people do is to make up their own religion with lots of bits that they have thought about put together in a kind of melting pot. The truth is that they are just as religious as I am but they mistakenly believe that being religious is some kind of soft option for those who don’t think.

A religion is really just a framework. It provides a set of beliefs that fit together in a coherent way to enable us to make sense of those big questions we ask. Religions often have various practices that they expect their adherents to use to help them and they often provide training in beliefs to help answer the big questions.

I often find it a bit weird to listen to the ‘non-religious’ talk about what they believe because to me it seldom – if ever – makes sense, there are usually major contradictions involved for instance. I find that particularly so for atheists – itself a framework of belief of course.

Christians, and other religions, sometimes like to make the point that their belief is not religion but a way of life. Meaning it is not about just following a set of rules but is instead about the whole of life and in particular a relationship with the Almighty. This also highlights the problem of trying to understand what a religion is – if being religious is just following a set of rules then I am not religious myself – but it isn’t.

Of course, I am also searching for truth and like many others I have found that truth in Jesus Christ. This means that I am humble enough not to make up my own religion but am instead trying to make use of the framework that Jesus has given us to help me answer the big questions and to understand how life should be lived.

Let’s give up on this nonsense of not being religious and acknowledge that we are in truth all religious people but we disagree over which framework is the right one to make use of. I would then encourage you to try and understand that making up your own religion may not be the best answer – at least not without discovering what the great frameworks of religion actually say (I hope you don’t mind if I suggest Christianity is a good one).

Happy Easter!

15743423What a wonderful thing Easter is. A time to remember that there is still hope, darkness turns to light.

It would be easy to believe that God doesn’t care and just leaves us in the darkness. Some versions of religion sound like there is hope but we have to go and get it. Imagine we are lost in a deep dark cave with no sign of a light at the entrance. Some religions seem to teach that there is a God but he is at the entrance shouting orders for us to follow to get out (helpful but not very reassuring). Of course, with atheism there is no God at the entrance and indeed no light at the entrance but that is something for another time. Christianity teaches us that God (at our request) comes into the tunnel to find us and when he finds us shines enough light to guide us to the entrance and freedom. Easter is a reminder of a loving God who rescues us.

Holy Week

893192_66453165I find Holy Week a very strange time. For clergy it is a time of great activity and there is little time, or energy, to think about anything other than the events of that most precious time. Yet, the rest of the world is talking about holidays and long weekends and eggs, etc. The events of Holy Week also leave me drained emotionally, I can’t get through Good Friday without weeping at some point, I do this in private of course – being a good British man. By the time Easter Day arrives I’m about ready to crawl into a dark space and hide.

I’m not sure it would be entirely healthy for the whole population to go through this extreme Holy Week experience but just occasionally I wish that other people would stop and take notice of what happened. It may be a distant historic event but it is also an event that speaks to us today – if we will let it. It is hard to think of better news than you are forgiven, death is defeated and you are going to live in paradise – oh and by the way paradise starts now, at least in parts.

So spare a thought this week for what we celebrate. Take a break from the thoughts of long weekends and chocolate and spare a few moments for Jesus – I promise you won’t regret it.

Here is a rundown of what happens through the week:

Palm Sunday – Jesus enters Jerusalem.

Monday – Jesus clears the temple (probably – although the gospels differ over when this happened).

Tuesday and Wednesday – Jesus teaches in the temple and spends a lot of time with his disciples.

Thursday – Jesus celebrates Passover with the 12 disciples (including Judas). In the evening Jesus is betrayed by Judas, and Jesus is arrested. Over night Jesus is tried and condemned.

Friday – Jesus is crucified

Saturday – nothing

Easter Sunday – Jesus rises from the dead.

Have a good Easter.

Religious people happier than atheists

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Ooops – surely this was not supposed to be true! I have heard countless Atheists banging on about how terrible religions are because they make people so miserable – all those rules and regulations weighing you down and making you sad. However, the research (once again) says different. You can read about the latest findings here:


Of course this is a complex subject and does not prove that God exists or which religion is better for you (although atheism does seem to be worst – dragging you below the national average of happiness). Perhaps the most amusing part of this story is the comments of all those trying to wriggle out of the terrible truth that religion is good for you. Hats off to my Hindu friends who it seems are the happiest – with Christians coming in second.

What disturbs me the most, though, is that this story doesn’t seem to have been noticed by most of the press and media. Could it be that this is a golden example of how the press/media seems dominated by an atheist agenda? People are fed such bad information is it any wonder that the churches are empty?

If you are brave enough to ignore what the press feeds you then maybe it is time you got back to church and found out why religious people are happier.

Thoughts about anything