MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Five

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.

MWW Day 5 - First Part: Drouin to Warragul

MWW Day 5 – First Part: Drouin to Warragul

MWW Pilgrimge: Day Five Part Two: Warragul to Yarragon

MWW Pilgrimge: Day Five Part Two: Warragul to Yarragon

A very early start in Drouin this morning. Deacon Mark had kindly offered to put our washing on, and had told us that his machine was supposed to be a combined washing machine and dryer. I was a little concerned about this, as some of our special gear is not really meant for the drying maching, but as it turned out the machine didn’t really dry it at all – although it was well spun. I expect were Mrs Deacon at home we might have had a little more success. In any case, Mark hoiked on the gas heater and we hung our washing in front of that, rotating it like a pig, duck, pigeon and rabbit on a spit, so that all was nicely done in time for us to pack and leave about 7:45am. I was still mucking about (Josh says “faffing” is the word”) with the picture gallery for last night’s blog write up, and Josh was keen to get to Warragul in time for the 9:30am mass at St Joseph’s, so he left at 7:35, just as the sun was rising. Daylight saving ends this weekend, so it was the equivalent of 6:30am in the real money.

Sean had headed off as I packed the last bits into my backpack, thanked Mark profusely for his great generosity, and headed off. The first section of today’s walk was brilliant, all green and  bathed in a sunny golden glow of dawn. Poetry is necessary for this description. There is a path all the way from St Ita’s Church and School in Drouin to the front door of St Joseph’s Church in Warragul called the Two Towns Trail. After going through some delightful wetlands, it curves up and runs along to Warragul with the highway on one side and open farmland on the other.  Only the farmland is fast disappearing. Before our very eyes, we were seeing fields transformed into suburbs (see pictures…).

Mass was celebrated by retired priest Fr John Divine. I was sorry that we didn’t get to meet the PP, Fr Herman, who is himself retiring in the next few weeks. Fr Herman was a class mate of Cardinal George and Archbishop Denis back in the day at the seminary. We did meet the parish secretary, Pru, who very kindly provided us with a parish stamp in  our pilgrim passports. She admitted that we were, as far as she knew, the first pilgrims ever to come through Warragul. I asked if Bishop Patrick was in, as it would have been nice to pop up to his office and get his blessing. Sadly, he wasn’t. I am praying for him and for his diocese as we traverse it from one end to the other.

We had morning coffee and brunch at Frankie’s, relaxed in the confidence that we had already knocked off one third of our journey, and it wasn’t even noon yet. Then shouldering our packs we headed south over the railway line to Bona Vista Avenue. On the way, I stopped at the Aussie Disposal store and bought a length of strap and a buckle for the front of my pack, to bring the two straps together across my chest. This totally reorganised the weight distribution thus offering a great deal of relief to my shoulders. Once out of town, the roads were considerably “up and bloody down” (as one of my fellow pilgrims expressed it), but albeit with extraordinarily beautiful views of the Strezlecki Range to the south and the Baw Baw mountains to the north. The road we were on was very much a backroad, with very little traffic and a bit of gravel at one point, but an excellent Camino route.

We were eagerly looking forward to arriving at the Darnum Pub, which looked very good on Google. As we approached, I saw the sign saying “Open 6 Days” and thought that it would be just our luck if Friday was the day it was closed. No, the sign said “Tuesday to Sunday” and today was definitely not Monday. However, the door was firmly locked and not a soul was to be seen within. Josh pointed out the fine print on the sign which said “Bar opens at 4pm”. Buggar.

So walked back to the “Tea Rooms”. You could get tea and scones there if you wished, but we had ginger beer and (I had) a nice Cornish pastie.  Hitting the road again, we headed across the M1 Freeway, onot the Shady Creek Road. Again we were assaulted by passing quarry trucks. Josh points out that they hardly hurt us, and it is true that we were not hit by any of them, however were we to have to share much of the road with these monsters, I would be rerouting our little Camino. Happily we soon turned off onto the quaintly named Little Moe River Road. This road finally led downhill onto the open plain on which we will travel basically from now on. “Bloody up and down” no more? Perhaps. We are in Gippsland, after all.

Along the way today, as always, we have had the fun of explaining our little pilgrimage. Perhaps the best encounter was witha member of the local Anglican Mothers Union who spotted us leaving Warragul and wondered what these three strange persons with the ski sticks and little cart were up to. When she encountered us again in the Darnum Tea Rooms, she could not resist coming over to enquire further. Along the road, farmers greeted us as passed – cows also cast a quizzical glance in our direction.

Today turned out to be the shortest day for travelling so far. Google Earth made it 26.7km while my GPS said 27.81km. We were on the road only eight and a half hours and arrived at the Yarragon Motel at 4:30pm. The Motelier had reassigned us to a larger room, so our accomodation is spacious and comfortable, although at $150 for the night is perhaps on the more pricey end. Okay for three people, and the room can in fact sleep a half dozen. A good dinner was to be had at the pub next door, currently being renevoated on the exterior, but fully functional within.

That’s about it for now. Short day tomorrow to see us into Moe. Josh’s last day with us before returning home to work. A bit of rain has been forcast, but seeing the state of the paddocks around here they could do with it. I noticed the farmers dry ploughing today with clouds of dust. We gave up that practice back home in Pinnaroo years ago, but they are obviously confident that the rain will come soon.

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MacKillop Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Four

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.

MWW Day Four Part One

MWW Day Four Part One

MWW Day Four Part Two

MWW Day Four Part Two

It is always easiest to start these daily reports with where we are right now. And the lines have fallen for us in goodly places. We are staying with Deacon Mark Kelly in Drouin. Sadly, his wife Hilary is not with us, as she was admitted to hospital over Easter and is undergoing treatment at the moment. Mark has, nevertheless, been an excellent and most generous host. We had the great luxury of bangers and mash for dinner with good beer and red wine and fruit pie and ice cream for dessert. Being very weary after our 30.8km (Google Maps) or 32.75km (GPS) walk from Tynong North to Drouin, it was wonderful to be welcomed with such friendly kindness. Josh was very weary, and Sean is dealing with blisters.

The hill into Drouin was a bit of a killer – outside Longwarry, there is a 100m rise, and then there is another 50m or 60m rise up to Drouin itself. Drouin boasts the highest altitude railway station on the Bairnsdale line (138m), and I am told it is also the highest point on the Princes Highway, aka Highway 1, which circles Australia. St Ita’s Catholic Church in Drouin is, of course, on one of the highest points of town, and Deacon Kelly lives next door. A bit of a stretch at the end of the day.

So, going back to the start, we made a good beginning at Tynong North, with a “the same but different” menu for breakfast: instead of omelettes, we had fried eggs with the same fry up of silverbeat, mushrooms, tomatoes and leek as last night (but with additional garlic from Sean’s stock). With fresh coffee and tea, we were well and truly set for the day ahead.

The day was – for the first time on our journey – sunny. Although the warmest was only in the mid 20’s (Celsius), it was nevertheless a very different experience from walking in the cloudy cool weather we have had thus far. The morning was simply brilliant. Crisp and cool and glistening with sunlight, it is easy to see why the “Australian colours” are green and gold. To that I would add white and blue, as descriptive of the sky above us.

We followed a route that went “Tynong North Road, Mintern Road, Wright Road and Garfield Road” down to the M1 (Princes) Freeway. It was very beautiful, the only draw back being that there is a quarry in this vicinity, and there were big quarry trucks coming and going on the gravel roads. I had wondered last night as we were travelling towards our destination, why the local gravel roads had been water sprayed and who had done it (my experience is that councils are reluctant to spend such money). I realised now that this was to reduce the dust from the Quarry trucks, and must be a responsibility of those who run this enterprise. Given that for the rest of the day we were often on gravel roads being passed by local vehicles kicking up a billowing cloud of dust, I really appreciated this.

The elevations were all over the place at the start. I had expected that we would simply descend onto the plain, but there was no such simplicity. At least for the first 10km, we undulated between 130m and 60m, before fI ally reaching level ground at Garfield. As I said, the bottom of the Garfield Road took us to the M1. Crossing this was a little tricky, but no real hassle. There was a very good roadside path leading all the way from the freeway down to Garfield, obviously with the idea of attracting local walkers and bike riders. I wish more municipalities had this idea.

In Garfield we stopped at Brewsters coffee shop for an early lunch (it was after 12 already). There was a (very) chatty local woman in the cafe, but no other patrons, so we made ourselves at home and had a good meal to keep us going. We had our pilgrim passes stampede the Post Office next door.

Heading out of town, we started on the main road between Garfield and Bunyip. It was, however, much busier than I remembered it. Sean put his finger on the problem. The local towns are fast becoming satellite suburbs, and the increase in population meant that what were once sleepy backroads are now becoming congested with traffic.

At the first opportunity I diverted our pilgrimage to the other side of the railway line, and we walked on the much quieter Railway Avenue until we arrived in Bunyip. This was a mixture of gravel and bituminise surface, but the traffic was much less than on the main road.

At Bunyip we called in on the Butcher’s Shop Hotel, where Josh shouted me a can of Guinness to keep me going. Only cans and bottled beers were available as there was some kind of malfunction with the beer taps. We met the manager (who has a horse farm in Drouin) and the couple of the guests. These two guys were quick with information about where we should walk next but, as we have discovered by now, they were the directions of those who have never walked but only ever driven. The real “secrets” had already been divulged by Google Maps. There is a track that leads all the way through from Bunyip to Langwarry on the north side of the railway, although at times it is a bit scrappy. At Langwarry we met our two friends from the Bunyip Pub just pulling up to enter the Langwarry establishment…

We found a good way into Drouin, following Edgar’s Road and Old Drouin Road. The publican at Bunyip had warned us about “the Drouin Hill”, which we would have to climb. About two thirds through our journey, we came across said hill, which initially raised us from about 30m to 102m. This was only the start of our ascent. Once we got the end of Shillinglaw Road, however, there was some disagreement as to which way to go next. In the end, I recommended (perhaps wrongly?) going up Lampard Road to the Railway Station and Shopping Centre. This road was a repeat of the earlier climb, taking us at least another 50m higher. Maybe there wasn’t any option. I dropped in to the Woolworths to buy some cheese, olives and wine to give as a gift to our hosts, Mark and Hilary Kelly.

The rest of the story is told above. Mark has each of us sleeping in our own rooms and beds, for which I am very thankful. Sean and I put a load of washing on, and Mark and I talked while Josh retired to his blow up mattress in Mark’s study. For all other info see above. I’m falling asleep now writing this, so any other details will have to be entered later.

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MacKillop Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Three

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.

MWW Day Three Part One

MWW Day Three Part One

MWW Day Three Part 2

MWW Day Three Part 2

Tonight we have arrived in Tynong North, just south of the Bunyip Forest near Cannibal Creek. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Josh says “Make sure you tell them we are all bloody buggered.” Done.

According to my original Google Maps measurements, we were supposed to have travelled 27km today. In fact, the GPS measurement (which is usually a little exaggerated) was 35.2km. I know for a fact that we walked 1km further than we originally intended, because the Cornucopia Cottage where we are staying was not at 540 Tynong North Road (Peppermint Ridge Farm, the home of our hosts, is there), but at 459 Tynong North Road. Still that should only bring it to 28km, and it was certainly further than that. Sore shoulders, feet, etc. and Sean has a nasty blister to deal with (May the Lord and all his saints preserve us from such disaster).

But we have real beds tonight, with nice linen and towels, a hot shower etc. and so we are feeling comparatively civilised again. We had prepaid for the cottage ($115) and for breakfast supplies ($10 a head extra: eggs, mushrooms, home-grown tomatoes, home-baked bread, butter, jam, milk etc.). Rather than carry extra food with us from Gembrook, we had planned to cook all that up for dinner tonight, and just have bread and jam in the morning.

But we made the mistake of thinking our accommodation was actually up at Peppermint Ridge, and called in at the Farm. While it was disappointing to be told that we still had another kilometre to walk to the cottage, it was a “happy fault” in that we ended up with extra supplies for dinner as well. Our hostess decided to give us another half dozen eggs, a bunch of silverbeat, two leeks and a bunch of parsley. So I decided to cook up omelettes for dinner tonight.

When we got here, we also found a bag of oven fries in the freezer (perhaps left behind by a previous guest?) so we bunged them in the oven to cook while we took turns in the shower (the first really decent shower I have had since leaving home). We ate these while I was cooking tea. I say “I cooked tea”, because I knew exactly what I wanted and didn’t want either of my companions mucking it up. We had omelette stuffed with fried leek, tomato, silverbeat and mushrooms. Sean donated a small block of cheese, which we grated and added to the filling. With a slice of home made bread and a glass of red wine left over from last night, that was dinner.

So now that things have quieted down, it’s time to reflect on the day gone by. The accommodation at the Emerald church worked really well, but I still woke at 4am and was not really able properly to get back to sleep. After we had all risen and packed, we spent some time in prayer in the church before the blessed sacrament. Josh said his morning extraordinary form office, and I listened to Morning Prayer on the Divine Office app. (Josh calls it my “prayer wheel”). At the end, we sang the Regina Caeli, and headed off down to the local bakery for breakfast.

Then it was a matter of finding the trail. We entered the Emerald Lake down at the Nobelius Siding, and walked through the length of the park on the northern side of the lake. This was indeed a very pretty path in every way. We had little yellow arrows to point us the way, which reminded Sean of the Camino de Santiago. From the Emerald Lake Park, we made our way into the Wright Forest following the trail through to Cockatoo Creek. Wright Forest was quite a contrast to anything we had yet walked through, with little greenery and the only trees being tall Mountain Ashes. Coming into Cockatoo, the trail led past St Luke’s Anglican Church. While Sean and I were taking a closer look at the church, the pastor (that’s how he was described on the door), Rev. Owen Proud came around to see who was poking around. We introduced ourselves and chatted for a while about his ministry and the history of the parish.

We stopped in at the cafe at Cockatoo where I bought some water for my backpack bladder. I intentionally have not been carrying water if we could get it freely along the way, but now I knew we would be needing something for the rest of the day. The three of us had some argument about what route to take to Gembrook. We had been really spoiled by the beautiful pathways this morning, and Josh was convinced that surely there would be a trail along the Puffing Billy railway? Moreover he claimed to have found such a thing – a signed pathway just down the road from the shops. Only this trail, which started rather well, ended up taking us down the Pakenham road to the Josie Bysouth Reserve, on quite the wrong side of Cockatoo Creek. On the other side of the road, we found a track called Tymon Road, which took us through to Doonaha Road and back up onto the main Belgrave-Gembrook Road at the Fielder Railway station near the Whistle Stopover B&B.

This road had been a bit of a climb, and the climbing didn’t stop there. We headed up Fielder Road till it joined the main road at the top of the hill. By that stage the weather had begun to turn and it was drizzling lightly and blowing quite a cold fresh breeze. I took shelter under a roadside stall (with lots of lovely produce for sale – I would have bought up big, except I would then have had to carry it all day), and put the cover on my backpack. Walking now high along the ridge, it was possible to look across the valley and see to the north of us the other route that we had originally intended to take, Amphlett Avenue. Given how busy the main road was and how little room there was on the verge to walk, this would have been a greatly preferable option.

Several kilometres still from Gembrook, there is a point where the Puffing Billy line comes very close to the main road and passes over a bridge. There was a track leading under the bridge, and I wondered whether it might lead to a trail along the railway. No such luck. It was all long grass, and wet, and I was in sandals and socks. There were also signs up prohibiting cycling, riding horses or walking along the line on pain of a $200 fine. We rested then at the Gembrook sports ground, sheltering a little from the wind and drizzle and resting our weary shoulders. It was just on 12noon by this stage so we sang the Regina Caeli and then pushed on into town. Now there was a trail along the railway, along Station Street, which we followed.

There were workman on the railway, and we asked their task meant that the train was cancelled for today. No, they replied, it would be along in about 10 minutes. With this expectation, we completed our walk into Gembrook and entered the Station House. There was a fire burning there in the hearth, and we were invited by the staff to come and sit and chat. Josh kept watch outside for the coming train. We had a great conversation with the staff, who were very friendly, telling them what we were doing. I enquired about the Hotel in Gembrook – I had been told that it was closed but that it would open on April 1st, which, unfortunately, was two days away. The staff laughed. No, they said, it had been bought and was being refurbished, but it was taking years and no-one knew when it would be finally opened. They reasonably surmised that the people telling me it would be opened in a few days were having an early April Fool’s joke on me.

The Puffing Billy steam train finally pulled in twenty minutes late, to much excitement and photo-taking. One of the staff kindly offered to take a picture of all three of us in front of the train. We were then directed up to the Post Office to get our pilgrim passports stamped. There again, we had a great conversation about our plan to do the full pilgrimage to Sydney. The Post Office staff were familiar with the Camino de Santiago so we didn’t have to laboriously explain the stamping routine. We asked for recommendations regarding dinner, and were told the same thing the railway staff had told us: The Independent Restaurant and Bar does Argentinian style Spanish tapas style meals that are very good.

We took up this recommendation, despite the food being a little pricey. It was an order to share arrangement, and the food was really good, as was the special Coopers Independent Lager brewed just for the restaurant. Nice bread with a creamy cheese and olive oil, followed by Beef and Port Croquets, Beetroot in yoghurt, crispy potatoes, Chorizo sausage and Crumb-fried Black Pudding. All very nice. In truth, we could have done with a bit more food, as the rest of the day was still very long. According to my calculations, we had about 15kms still to go. I think in reality it was over twenty.

It was after 2pm, so we really had to step on it. We decided simply to head out on the Beenak East Road, which led around onto the Gembrook-Tonimbuk Road, instead of our original plan to walk down Red Road and the Avenue. In truth we were very tired of climbing up and down hill, and it looked like the Beenak road was the most inclined simply to go in a downwards direction! Once again, however, there wasn’t a very good verge, and we were mainly walking on the road. Sean’s Carrix couldn’t handle the walking off the flat surface very well, and this limited his options for the rest of the day.

Along the way, we passed two young blokes with their backpacks and tents. When we asked where they were headed, they said “near Bunyip”, which I thought made no sense as that was another full day’s walk from where we were. We don’t know what became of them, as we passed by and continued on our way.

This section along the Gembrook-Tonimbuk Road was actually unpleasant. One thing I do not like about the Christus Rex Pilgrimage is how much walking is done on the edge of busy roads, and that is exactly what it appeared this would be. While we must have walked four or five kilometres like this, once we were in the Bunyip State Forest, Josh found a side track that we could walk on (it was still unsuitable for Sean’s Carrix, unfortunately). He and I walked on this track, which ran parallel to the road, for some way, while keeping an eye on Sean’s progress on the road. But then, about 600m before the turnoff south, we came to Dawson’s Track which led in the right southerly direction parallel with the Tynong North Road. Again, Sean could not take this track, and in any case, was feeling a bit nackered, so he stayed on the road while Josh and I climbed up the trail into the forest.

This was quite good, actually, as it took us deep into the rather attractive native bush land. The trail did, however, climb upwards a long way before turning back down onto the Tynong road. Along the way, Josh spotted some three big dear on the trail ahead of us – but they ran off as we came near. No wonder all the signs showing prohibition of dogs and firearms. Sean was waiting for us at the Bald Hill picnic grounds. Here we saw that the Tynong North road is not sealed, and so very few cars made their way through the State Forest along it. Josh and I continued to follow the park management trail down towards Tynong, finally emerging just before the end of the forest.

Now we were sore and desperate to get to the cottage. The road opened up onto a flat expanse which was much more pleasant to walk. Finally too, we all three made it to our destination (as per story up the top of this page) at 6:30pm. Too late really. Next week it will be dark by that time!

Because of a really bad internet connection here, I will wait until tomorrow night to upload today’s pictures!

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MacKillop Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Two

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.


MWW Pilgrimage: Day Two (Part One)

Today's trail

MWW Pilgrimage: Day Two (part two)

I should not be astonished at how tired and exhausted I feel tonight, after completing the second day of our pilgrimage – somewhere between 29.0km (Google Maps) and 33.26km (my GPS tracker). Call it a round 32km, and it feels about right. Normally, I would not think that a very taxing walk, but it is an entirely different matter when a) carrying 12kgs on one’s back, b) going up and down between 170m above sea level and 380m (the highpoint just before we came to Menzies Creek along Black Hill Road – from which we could see not only Port Phillip Bay, but also Western Port Bay, not only Dromana, but also French Island in the distance and beyond that Phillip Island).

We are camping out tonight at St Joseph’s Church in Emerald, thanks to the kindness of the parish priest, Fr Simon, and two local parish leaders, Pauline and Henk, who had everything ready for us when we arrived. We have made up beds for ourselves from the pew cushions, and have tea and coffee and toilets and all amenities – except for showers. Beggars – or at least pilgrims – can’t be choosers.

We left St Paul’s Missionary College in Norton’s Lane, Wantirna South, this morning at about 8am, in time to get to St Jude’s Catholic Church in Scoresby for mass at 9am. Fr John Hannon said mass for us and his congregation of 20 or so locals – a very no-nonsense priest who preached a short and scripturally based sermon. We bailed him up after mass to explain what we were doing and to ask him to stamp our pilgrim passports. He got the idea immediately – “Like an Australian Camino?” – and was very obliging.

From the Church, we headed down to the Scoresby shopping centre, crossed the crossways of Stud Road and Ferntree Gully. Sean pointed out that this would be the last major crossroads we would see until Warragul at least. We went down Stud Road until we came to the Ferny Creek Trail, which led for about 8kms to Upper Ferntree Gully, where we had lunch at a cafe “Brewers”. A very nice elderly gentleman came up to us as we were eating, and introduced himself as an ex-bush walker. He had seen our packs and recognised kindred spirits. Actually, it turned out that he was more kindred than he knew, because when we explained that we were Catholics on a Mary MacKillop pilgrimage, he said that he was a “returning Catholic”, and  used to be the librarian at Mannix College.

It is very wonderful to meet people all along the way and to see their reaction when we tell them what we are doing. The waitress in the restaurant asked us what we were doing for the rest of the day, and the look on her face was priceless when we said “Walking to Bairnsdale”! We met a Catholic couple as we were walking into Ferntree Gully, and again, just as we were walking into Emerald this evening we met a man who said he was educated by the Josephites. All along the way, people get what we are doing.

After lunch, we began our ascent into the hills along the Ringwood-Belgrave Rail Trail. It was a great delight, when we arrived in Belgrave, to meet none other than the Belgrave Wizard himself. For those who do not know, the Wizard is something of a living landmark in Belgrave and the other hill towns. He is conspicuous by his bizarre dress, his owl-topped staff, and his habit of traversing the roads between Upwey and Selby (his most recent habit being setting himself up opposite the Tecoma McDonald’s and pronouncing imprecations in their general direction). It turns out that Sean knew the Wizard from years back, and introduced me to “Dan”. While the others were taking a toilet break, I chatted to Dan and learned that his years of walking the streets may well be numbered – he is suffering (like my father and another of our dear elderly friends) from fluid swollen legs. There is no hope for it, I told him, you have to go home and put your legs up and rest. Nothing else works. Sean thinks the Wizard may well be 85 years old, and perhaps even 90. Anyway, it was an honour to meet him. When my daughter rang tonight, I asked her “Who do you think I met in Belgrave?” “The Wizard?” Absolutely.

So from there we went on, past Mater Christi College (my girls school),  on back roads around the Selby Railway bridge towards Menzies Creek. For most of the afternoon we could hear the Puffing Billy train tooting away, but it remained out of sight until we got to Menzies Creek station. When I heard it, I raced up the hill from the main road to the station (oblivious of the weight on my shoulders) and made it just in time to snap a couple of pictures. Looking behind me, I saw that Josh had followed me up the steep path at an equal pace, the very hill that a moment earlier he had looked at and said, let’s not go that way. Amazing what the romance and thrill of a steam engine can inspire even in the most exhausted legs.

Along the way, we saw horses and donkeys and ducks and sheep and a goat – the latter of which had gotten his chain all tangled in blackberries, so I spent a little bit of time setting him free. It really is a very picturesque  landscape for most of the way up here, but we were really taxed by the sheer exertion of climbing up and down hills. Today is probably the hardest of our journey. By the time we got to Clematis, the pub on the roundabout (The Paradise Valley Hotel?) proved too much of a temptation, and went in for a welcome pint of ale. After that, I felt a definite spring return to my steps for the final 4 km or so to Emerald, arriving at about 6:00pm.

Dinner tonight was two pizzas from Big Al’s around the corner washed down by a bottle of Shiraz Merlot from the local IGA. It is now after 10pm and time for bed.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day One

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.


MWW Day One (1)

MWW Day One (part 2)

Readers of this blog will know that I enjoy a good pilgrimage. I caught the bug two years ago when I first went on the Aussie Camino from Portland to Penola (see also the official Aussie Camino website here). Since then, I have done the Aussie Camino another one and half times, the Christus Rex Pilgrimage from Ballarat to Bendigo, and led two “Pilgrimages of Mercy” – one from Boronia into the Holy Door at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, the other from St Philip’s in Blackburn North to the Holy Door at St Brigid’s in Fitzroy North.

While doing the Aussie Camino last April, I was struck by the fact that we were walking to Penola – which, while a very significant place in the life of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop (being the place where she entered religious life and founded the order of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart), is NOT a official shrine – diocesan, national or otherwise. It could be, but it isn’t.

The official national Shrine to St Mary MacKillop is in North Sydney, which is also the place of her burial. I concluded that, if one was to do a proper Aussie pilgrimage dedicated to St Mary of the Cross, it would have to have her shrine and tomb as its ultimate destination. Logically, given that I live in Melbourne, the starting point should be her birthplace, 9 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

So over the next few months, I began to think about a possible route. In November 2014 I had travelled to Stanwell Tops just south of Sydney for the Christian Motorcyclists Association National Gathering. I rode home with my brother and a friend down the South East Coast of NSW and back into Victoria from Eden to Orbost and through Gippsland. It struck me at the time as a very beautiful and inspiring bit of countryside. So, given the two options for a pilgrimage from Melbourne to Sydney were either the Hume Highway or the Gippsland/East Coast, the latter was definitely the more attractive.

The full distance would be around 1300kms. That would take at least two months to walk. I don’t have two months holiday up my sleeve, but what I do have is annual leave. I decided that I would walk from Fitzroy to the North Shore of Sydney over four years, utilising the annual Easter Holidays to do two weeks walking at a time. The first leg would take me to Bairnsdale, then in 2017 I would walk to Eden, then the next year to Bateman’s Bay and finally in 2019 walk the last leg into Sydney.

Part of my inspiration for this came from the fact that 2016 is the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the order of St Joseph. Another cam from the fact that in March 2016 I turned 50 years old. I’m not getting any younger, I thought. Now is the time.

It was an ambitious plan, and I mentioned it when my I next met with my friend Sean Deany, one of the original developers of the Aussie Camino route. Actually Sean had mapped out and travelled (by foot and by bicycle) a much more ambitious route which he called “The MacKillop Woods Way”. This trail led from Port Augusta to Penola to Melbourne to Sydney (via the Hume Highway). He immediately said: “Can I come with you?”

Actually I was glad of his offer. Together we have spent the last 8 months or so planning this journey. Sean is a very experienced pilgrim, having done the Camino de Santiago a number of times, and last year walking the new Ignatian  Way in Spain over a distance of 1600kms. Australia is a very different environment for pilgrimage, but his experience and ideas have been invaluable.

Then another friend, Josh, said that he wanted to join us – although on the first leg he was constrained by the fact that he only had one week’s holiday to spend with us. Why not?, I thought. The more the merrier.

The planning has taken a lot of work. There are no “albergues” to stay at along the way, so we had to arrange accomodation, and plan our trail and walking days to fit in accordingly with what we could find. We don’t have any back up vehicle or crew, so we have to carry all we need on our backs.

To cut a long story short, today, on Easter Monday, we set out on our pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mary MacKillop on the “MacKillop Woods Way”.

Cathy drove me in to the city this morning, we picked Josh up from his hotel, and then went around to Sean’s place for breakfast. Next we walked to the birthplace of the Saint, where we had prayers commemorating her, and Cathy took pictures of us together. Then followed 9am mass at the Cathedral and the pilgrims blessing by Fr John Salvano after mass. A final farewell to my wife, and we were off. We went via Richmond, to St Ignatius Church where there is a fine stain glass window of Saint Mary, and then (after a quick coffee in Swan Street) to Brighton Street where there is a small plaque marking the place where Saint Mary lived for a few years from 1858-1861. The rest of the way was walking along the Main Yarra Trail and the Gardiner’s Creek trail down to Malvern, where we had lunch a the Jack & the Beans Talk Cafe (Josh introduced me to a “Reuben’s Sandwich” washed down with a Hawthorn Pilsner). From there we proceeded eastward along the railway line to Holmesglen, and onward to Glen Waverly. We crossed the Dandenong Creek at Shepherd’s Bush, and arrived at our destination, St Paul’s Missionary College in Nortons Lane, Wantirna South, at 5:30pm.

The full distance, according to Google Maps, was supposed to be 27.3kms. My GPS app measured us at 32.44km. Two kilometres at least should be added to the GM measurement for our detour to get lunch, so I make it about 30kms in all. My feet are sore, and my shoulders very sore (I am carrying a pack weighing about 11kgs), but otherwise Day One was completed without any mishap. The weather has been fine, light winds, a mainly cloudy day with a top of about 19 degrees C. Perfect walking weather. And it looks as if we will have this for the rest of the week.

There were many more cyclists on the path today than walkers. Families were out in strength on Easter Monday on their bikes. We could not walk side by side on much of the path, as we had to leave room from cyclists to overtake us. That didn’t stop Josh and Sean chattering away for most of the walk – I’m glad I brought them both along as it saves me from constant conversation. I do enjoy the depth of conversation that is possible on a good long walk, but I also find walking and talking exhausting.

There were cyclists who, passing us, saw the shells on our pack and called out “Camino!” or some such thing, so it is good to see some recognition of what we are attempting to do. During one break we began talking to an older woman out doing her walk. She wanted to know how far we were walking (seeing us packed up like packhorses). When we told her about our Camino to Mary MacKillop’s shrine, she told us of her childhood education by the Josephites in the Western suburbs. “I went to the Brigidines on this side of the city for my secondary education,” she said. “Archbishop Mannix didn’t think that we in the West needed educating.”

St Paul’s, our home for the night, is run by the Focolare movement, and is the closest thing to staying at a monastery that we are going to experience on this journey. They had a nice meal waiting for us when we arrived – pasta, salad, chicken and beans (washed down with a mezzo liter of red wine I brought with me). After dinner, the three of us went up to the chapel to say evening prayer together (Novus Ordo – Josh had already said the Traditional Latin Vespers, but as he said, too much liturgy is not enough!).

We now we are preparing for bed to rest for the next day’s journey, a little sore and weary in the feet and shoulders.

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RIP Pudge (The Last of the Blues)

Pudge in a pocket during her ailing

Readers of this blog (and I don’t kid myself that there are very many anymore), will know that my rats, Stumpy, Stripe, (“Mummy”) Smudge and (“Auntie”) Dot have all passed on. Pudge alone remained as “the last of the Blues”. Inevitably, she too began to approach her old age. The first signs were that she began losing weight. Another sign was that she virtually lost the use of her back legs (something that usually affects male rats). About a fortnight ago, when I was celebrating my 50th birthday, I found Pudge lying at the bottom of the cage, cold and still. I thought she had died, but she was still breathing. We brought took her out of the cage and cuddled her for a few hours. She warmed up and revived, and by morning was bright an alert again. This happened a few times over the following weeks, usually in the evening. Every evening I thought she wouldn’t make it to morning, but next day, there she was, bright and awake. 

But Easter Saturday night, I came back from the Vigil to find her again at the bottom of the cage, lying still. Again, more cuddles, but she was quite lethargic. Her front legs were not even responding to any stimulation, and she just lay still in my lap. This time we were sure she was near the end, but at bed time, I put her back in the cage, in the box with the other rats (we have four other rats, two pairs unrelated to the original Blues) to keep her warm. I thought it was her right to die in the same cage that she was born in. 

Still, Easter Sunday morning arrived, and the morning cage check showed that Pudge was still with us. But I checked again after we arrived home from church, and this time the end had come – she had passed away in the hours we were gone. We had 5 additional guests for Easter Sunday lunch, so I didn’t have much time right then for mourning or funerary rites. In the afternoon I had to deliver the other rats to their AusRFS boarding home (I am going away on pilgrimage for the next two weeks), so it was really a very timely passing. I was worried that Pudge would die while at the boarder’s. 

It was late in the the evening, and already dark, before I was able to bury Pudge and read the Prayers for the Burial of a Pet over her grave. The end of an era. Thanks be to God. Rest in peace, Pudge.

The Blue Rat Cemetary



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Pilgrimage to the Holy Door at St Brigid’s

The Year of Mercy is an opportunity to resurrect an ancient practice in a new land: pilgrimage!

Last Saturday (27 February), ten pilgrims arrived at St Brigid’s Catholic Church in Nicholson Street, North Fitzroy, having walked 23km from St Philip’s Catholic Church in Junction Road, Blackburn North.

St Brigid’s has been designated a “Shrine of Mercy” for the Holy Year, and its main door is one of the five Holy Doors in Melbourne. “It’s always open”, said Fr Savino Bernardi CS, when we contacted him to organise the pilgrimage.

The day began for five pilgrims after receiving communion at the 9am Extraordinary Form mass at St Philips. Fr Nicholas Dillon gave us the traditional pilgrims’ blessing, and we headed off down the street. Soon we were on the Koonung Creek trail, which follows the Eastern Freeway all the way to Burke Road – although we hardly knew we were so close to civilisation, as most of the trail is pleasant bush and parkland.

A leisurely pace meant that we had time to stop for lunch at the Freeway Golf Course café, and rest often in the shade of trees along the way. Two more pilgrims joined us at the start of the Main Yarra Trail at Burke Road, and three more at Yarra Boulevard before crossing the Yarra in to Clifton Hill at the “pipe bridge”. Before arriving at St Brigid’s we detoured via a café in Queen’s Parade for a cold beverage. We also stopped to pray at St John the Baptist Church – and were graced to hear the baroque quartet practicing for next Sunday night’s concert.

The pilgrimage included prayers along the way, including Rosary and Divine Mercy, the Year of Mercy Prayer of Pope Francis and psalms. But mostly it was a chance to talk and share with one over many issues and concerns along the way.

On arrival at St Brigid’s, Fr Savino came out to welcome us and give us his blessing. He took photos for us also, before we entered through the Holy Door into the Church. There we knelt before the beautiful statue of Our Lady and professed our faith and prayed for the Holy Father’s intentions, in accordance with the norms for the Holy Door Plenary Indulgence.

The day was one full of graces and unexpected discoveries. We hope to repeat the opportunity again during the Holy Year with a walking pilgrimage to the Holy Door at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Keysborough. Contact David Schütz on 0400 978 938 to register your interest.

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Louis Bouyer’s early review of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”

This is probably completely against some kind of Internet etiquette or arcane copyright law, but I am going ahead and doing it anyway.

I was intrigued to find the name of Tolkien come up in The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer, and on pages 179-180 find Bouyer telling us about a short review of “The Lord of the Rings” he published in 1958 entitled “Le Seigneur des Anneaux, une nouvelle epopee“. The full review article can be found here in the original French. Does anyone know of an English translation of this article available on the net? I haven’t been able to find one.

So in my desperation to read the article, I resorted to Google Translate (mea culpa etc.). If you will therefore forgive me, here is the result below. I personally have next to no French at all, so I have not attempted any kind of cleaning up. But you will get the gist.


Lord of the Rings – A new epic?

Studies by Louis Bouyer Wednesday 12 November 2014

In recent years, the British public has been gradually amused and intrigued and passionate impatience by the successive release of three beautiful purple volumes from the publisher Allen and Unwin. They were presented in a bizarre cover, stamped with a cabalistic sign uneasily that accompanied vaguely decipherable runic characters. The general title The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), was hardly illuminating, nor the titles of the three parts corresponding to three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King

Now that the finished work is in our hands, in which the leaf for the first time it provided a succession of surprises, if not for mistakes, no less disconcerting. At first glance, if one has the wisdom to read a row the first forty pages of the first volume, resisting the urge to run away to see how things will develop, the impression was of come across a new Jules Verne, but of a far superior quality. The best of the best starts of Jules Verne is evoked; the prologue and joined exceeds the scientific hoax of Journey to the Center of the Earth, however, that the first chapter throws you in medias res, as dazed and seized what happens to you in L’Ile propeller or better yet the Testament of an eccentric. But the amazing storyteller art mingles here the effect of a music skillfully and archaic style, and already the first chords of a grand poetry accompany the progress of these long sentences of imperturbable humor. You can then hold you to jump to the so-called explanatory appendices that meet the tight hundred pages from the end of the third volume. Think again to the scholarly pedantry mystifying justifications provided by Jules Verne Upside down. But after a few pages, you find yourself hesitating. Is it likely that a counterfeiter has had a great deal of patience these strangely accurate maps, genealogies also numerous, varied, complicated than those of the Bible – with thorough explanations lose yourself in the maze of a language, of heraldry, a chronology that you can absolutely believe word but we still manage to take less for the possible product of a single brain …? Yet this is not all: should we really accept that this confusing author could invent a language from scratch (nay language: many, in their different forms albeit subtly related …)?

But really, who is he that J. R. R. Tolkien, whose name, without any title or explanation is repeated on the three volumes? A look at who’s who British teaches us, or reminds us that this is the name of one of the most famous philologists Oxford, Fellow of Merton, leading expert of ancient languages ??and Scandinavian literature. We remember when C. S. Lewis, in his famous autobiography, has quietly appointed in passing as a Catholic friend who had especially helped found the Christian faith.

This encourages us to situate the somewhat strange atmosphere in which the story will push us more and more. In the characters – in fact we meet along the way, in this place names and place names that proliferating but we shall come gradually to regain its footing, there is not there something in the Nordic Sagas, and even time the old Celtic legends such as these come to us through the Mabbinogion, Brut of Wace or even Morte d’Arthur …? Yes, and many other things that we discover, or will believe discover along the way. But if we are advising us to scrutinize any of these analogies, we will be disappointed, or rather our curiosity, far from being satisfied, will do than irritated. None of these similarities is a kinship. All these characters, these stories, all mysterious objects and the incredible sights that will show we are like Melchizedek: the prestigious genealogies some of which are filled, the justifications developed for the others remain “without father or mother,” not only in history, but as well in the fable … we must bear it with delight: the world “enormous and delicate” Lord of the Rings is certainly a world that Mr. Tolkien alone has the key, and this is even a world he came entirely from his sleeve, pretending to pull the old books that adorn its Merton scholar library seasoned in a science where insiders are particularly rare.

But advance us further in our reading. We are not, far from it, at the end of our surprises. We began by familiarizing us with a curious country, the “Shire”, that is to say the county where the “Hobbits” are conducting a peaceful bourgeois and slightly wayward life. Who are these Hobbits? They explained to us, like everything else, with a generous luxury sports scholarship. A sort of little men to share the terrestrial dating, they are reminiscent of the gnomes Grimm, but their idiosyncrasy remains deliciously British. Two heroes will gradually come off of abundant company in various figures, but all equally charming. This is Mr. Frodo Baggins and his faithful companion, Sam. It is thought the couple to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, so often imitated. But how brilliantly it was anglicized, or rather “hobbitisé”! There is in Frodo Hamlet rubbed a humor that would be a “squire” countryman, flier intermittently, particularly scholar and meditative, but in which the knight emerges unexpectedly from the upbeat and end without improbability in a ” transitus “as well as Enoch or Oedipus at Colonus. Beside him, Sam, the son of the hilarious “Gaffer” has exactly the right proverbial sense of Sancho, with a fidelity that thoughtlessness, the badaude curiosity, but not any selfishness, can cross without ever really put in danger. But its slaughter and its trick of “cockney” honest, his inexhaustible ingenuity, tastes rather feel that the Terran freshly stirred up him a figure all Anglo-Saxon would not be unworthy of Chaucer. And around them as succulent figures, from these first pages without leaving the “Shire” from the various members, male or female, the Baggins family until farmer Maggot, another crunchy whitening our fables!

This familiar realism is so pleasantly that lavished to prepare the most incredible figures, in the best traditions of the great Anglo-Saxon. It starts with the wise Gandalf, the wizard of beneficent personality will gradually, too, not only epic grandeur, but almost religious. Next, the mysterious opponents ahead soon, striking right away by the wave of terror they barely passing glimpse. They too will grow up to the stature of the Knights of Apocalypse and princes of a nameless horror. This is also one of the most constant features, but the most cleverly spun, this singular work the way the characters, first with an almost comical reality, transform or hatch rather grandiose figures.

The quest of Frodo and assorted companions that attach to its not going to start soon. The object will remain partially obscure until the end. This is to recapture the magic rings, one of which is in possession of the little people at first so little inclined to nothing epic, and so ward off the formidable progress of the great Darkness that once repressed threat again , with so peaceful county, an extraordinary human universe, prehuman and preternatural that will reveal itself to us gradually.

The quest begins by crossing a mysterious forest besieging of its huge plant presences easily evil, the protective wall of the “Shire”. Two episodes will there also dream as an omen of alternation of heavenly or hellish adventures has in store this novel where the epic still has colors of Apocalypse. This is the last night in the stifling tumuli haunted, and this is the sunny glade where the singular romance flourishes that Tom Bombadil, true Puck of the forest, with which, for the first time, have a poetry casting visionary who, from place to place, always renewed and always true to its very charm aside, interrupt the narrative prose.

After two episodes of enchantment, picaresque novel of color, but very British, again, to prepare us insidiously to a new dive in the most responsible for the delicious anguish fantastic: the night in the inn distracted, chatty and helpful Barliman Butterbur, “the prancing pony”. Around her roam the dark riders, and we’ll slip a Shakespearean farce formed the best terrors; that is, if you will, Falstaff at the Castle of Otranto. At the heart of that night when we fall in Walpurgis Rabelais, one of the great encounters of the story takes place: that of the enigmatic Strider, who is later revealed to as Aragorn, before appearing as the expected King Gondor.

But the quest will resume, with him now to lead us first in the North Elves City, where will the big Elrond martial. Our valiant companions will not reach without first night battle with the cursed riders. The respite they will enjoy after this will be short. It will prepare for the big trip south, which extends again the Darkness, and the fulfillment of the mission of Frodo. Then they have to go through underground passes of Moria, where Gandalf seem engulfed by an infernal power. They emerge in the enchanted kingdom of Lothlórien, to be guests of the queen Galadriel. However a new companion still will append to them, the ambiguity Gollum, holder of the secrets of magic rings, ready for all the humiliations and tricks to recover the ring that Frodo holds; but it will be eventually defeated by the transparent simplicity thereof.

The course of the great river, along which float the body of the unfortunate knight Boromir, bring them to Isengard, the fortress of Saruman magician. First enemy, as Gandalf, found in the meantime, the dark powers. Saruman has been won by the charm of talismans he believed ward. But the amazing vegetable humanity Ents, coming to the aid of our friends, drown her accursed city under a tremendous flood.

So come on the scene the faithful Cavaliers Rohan. Thanks to them, we will come to Minas Tirith, the city of light, paralyzed, as a new “land gaste”, under the ambiguous charm of Palantirs, magic mirrors that have both seduced and perverted Saruman himself. But his struggle with Minas Morgul, the city of darkness, will resume, with the arrival of the expected King that its senses power from the hands of failed Stewards. However, it may not deliver the decisive battle against the dark realm of Mordor before Frodo, accompanied by the faithful Sam and Gollum perverse, had defeated in his lair of the invisible nightmare Sauron and finally sacrificed the power of magic rings …

Then the funeral of King Black Riders will be defeated and, once again, the Great Dark retreat. But the Lord of the Ring, with the victorious princes, his companions will not remain after their supernatural experiences, in the peace of an earthly kingdom. An unnamed vessel will carry them in the afterlife unattainable Western Islands. However, the faithful Sam will not grow weary of reliving this dream true in the well earned peace of his domestic happiness …

and trace the outlines of this story reduced to childish tale. And it is there, no doubt, the same frame of a book that has made year after year from the “stories” followed a father, a poet than scientist, took up tirelessly for children, as logically imaginative than himself.

But tell, especially hastily, these “stories” beautifully spun can not give any idea of ??the wonderful embroideries that have flourished this frame or the inlay treasure that is inserted there, where the most fun or the most realistic deeply human mingles constantly visionary poetry, as in the fairy light water Palantirs.

Poetry, the novel, which is both a poem and is crossed besides passages in verse recalling both Celtic ballads, Vaughan … or Lewis Carroll – poetic, this novel is above all the sense etymological, by an inexhaustible imagination creative power. Humanity, or mythological animals, superhuman or subhuman, which mixes them – are equally convincing, and an astounding profusion. But it is highly poetic in its enchanted places, turns itself magical, as the realm of Lothlorien, idyllic as the home of Tom Bombadil, magical as Isengard and its surroundings, epic (like Homer or the Bible) as the plains of Rohan or the royal city of Gondor, as the demonic empire of Sauron. It is even more so perhaps some of the episodes that take place there: the nostalgic party at the elves Galadriel; funeral erring body Boromir comes to moving waters of Anduin; the incredible steps in deserts, underground, haunted forests dotting the narrative; the frightening shadows walking by the mountain of the dead; and above all perhaps the arrival to the citadel of Minas Tirith, suicide denies the Steward Denethor in the funeral palace given to the fire, and finally the titanic struggle and victory of Elendil …

Poetic, finally, it is still by both the romance of true friendships that continue to, rare few and modest loves that it forged as the margins of the story and the influences that it preternatural foresee around talismans (rings or Palantirs) between superhuman magicians and enormous powers of a sub-human spirituality that support or counteract the …

One senses behind this poetry, at once so human and so fantastic, a hidden meaning but everywhere present. It is remarkable that there is demonic power as a series of hierarchical avatars, low but devious Gollum in invisible Sauron, Saruman through the white wizard lost pride of his powers, and the King of scary Nazgul … But it is clear that the light power has only servants, Gandalf, the benevolent wizard, Aragorn, King of Gondor, by Frodo himself, the ultimate winner, because the pure, the selfless, who willingly lost in the abyss into which it had been forged talisman of preternatural powers … This power itself remains unnamed, invisible to the eye obviously even himself invisible Sauron, his ultimate enemy . It was she, however, that will join the victorious princes, voluntary passenger ship lost to the West …

One thinks, of course, the old magic stories of the Arthurian legend, Christianized in the Grail Quest. Here, however, surprisingly authentic Christian spirituality underlying this fantastic poetry seems more assured. Yet not once the Divine Name is pronounced, not a single allusion is made to the Savior. But talismans here are not superficially disguised as sacraments: they are deliberately sacrificed by a purity, a hard-won disinterestedness, too clearly woven of love not to be derived from faith, this faith in which s’ eventually absorb the victors valiant.

C. S. Lewis, and others with him, were not afraid of comparing this unusual work to those of Ariosto or Spenser. It supports one or the other comparisons, as it looks like an unexpected form of “science fiction”, while it is a detective novel of exceptional verve and a great fantasy adventure that overshadows Arthur Gordon Pym or Moby Dick.

I read not only with renewed pleasure with which I read to twelve the best Jules Verne, but with an ever-increasing impatience of following a story that keeps you going for a thousand pages without failure. And thousands are already like me, not only in Anglo-Saxon countries but wherever English literature a few readers.

Does this mean that we have here a work destined to remain a kind of sui generis epic of modern man dreaming awake its most immediate problems in a deceptively archaic setting which reflected all the mythical symbols that are ageless ? The author himself, no doubt, would welcome the potential irony of Max Jacob password on the Soulier de Satin: “It’s a masterpiece!

What would convince me best that there is more than the prestige of an exceptionally fertile imagination, is that Mr. Frodo and his loyal Sam did not seem unknown. I remember as English cottage Warwick County, Shakespeare country, where I have spent in a chair in the corner of the fireplace, entire evenings to hear the stories, especially the digressions of a farmer. He renewed his inexhaustible verve and my interest in the bottom of the tin where pints poured himself an excellent ale it was Sat.

And I no less readily evokes such a comfortable home on the Downs Somerset, where I leafed valuable books of a squire to the poetic and pious soul, which, during our walk was interrupted in his stories hunting to show me off the nave of Wells and Glastonbury Tor. Now he spoke of Aelred of Rievaulx and his De amicitia, with the same fervor, while filling us two glasses of sherry its best: I believe it was Frodo …

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RIP Auntie Dottie (and belatedly to Mummy Smudge too)

Last night I had the most amazing experience. In my 50 years as a pet owner, I have been with my pets when they were born and when they were giving birth. I have also been with them when they died. Sadly, in the later case, this was always as a result of human intervention. Nor have they ever been happy occasions.

(Pictures below, clockwise from top: Dot lying in my arms last night; photo of Dot taken a few weeks ago; Smudge with tumor visible; baby Dot in October 26; baby Smudge)

2016-02-16 21.05.40 2016-01-26 20.25.31 - edited Smudge with lump 2015-09-12 edited IMG_0299 (Medium) 2013-10-26 (Medium)




But last night, Auntie Dot died while resting in my lap. She was 2 years and 5 months old, which is good going for a rat. She and her sister Smudge came to live with us on October 26, 2013. Within three weeks, they were both mothers of litters (11 for Smudge and 13 for Dot). Just before Christmas that year, we returned most of the babies to the pet shop, keeping only Smudge’s Persephone (aka Pudge) and Dot’s Stumpy and Stripe (both now deceased). Smudge had to be put down on October 10 last year due to a mammary tumor that had grown too large for her to cope with.

Still, little Dot carried on with great energy and pluck. In recent months she had been losing a lot of weight and, while still eating well, didn’t seem to be able to regain it. We had seen this with our 15 year old cat Milli, who also had to be put down last year due to internal organ failure. For some weeks now, I have been checking the cage each morning expecting to find that Dottie had passed on, but each day she was still going.

Last night at feeding time, she came directly to the door of the cage and wanted to climb out to be held. So from 7pm, she snuggled in my lap while our family watched TV together. I thought she might go to sleep, but she stayed resolutely awake, not closing her eyes. Occasionally, she tried to get up and go for a walk or climb up to my shoulder, but was really wobbly on her legs, and returned to my lap. At around 11pm, after the girls had gone to bed and Cathy was still up knitting, she breathed her last breath. I turned to Cathy and said “She’s gone.”

Some of you reading this will have had the experience of being with a loved one when they die. It is a great mystery.

One moment there is life
a breath
a heartbeat
there is just stillness.

I have not shed tears for Dottie. Her death was such a beautiful experience that I have found more joy than sadness in farewelling a beautiful animal who, along with her sister, brought a great deal of joy into my life. Dot is survived by her neice Pudge, the last of ‘blues’, and will be missed by her two step-daughters, Bubble and Squeek.

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Remarkable account in Louis Bouyer’s Memoirs

“The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer” had been recommended to me, and I was glad when I saw it on the new items shelf at the Daniel Mannix Library.

I have been flicking through it. There are lots of really good bits relating to ecumenism and Vatican II, and also the liturgical reforms after the Council. Bouyer was one of those appointed to the liturgical committees charged with enacting the Constitution on the Liturgy after the Council (in particular the Eucharistic Prayers), and his candid comments are revealing.

This one is best:

On several occasions…Bugnini ran into an opposition that was not only massive but also, one might say, close to unanimous. In such cases, he didn’t hesitate to say: “But the Pope wills it!” After that, of course, there was no question of discussing the matter any further…

“[Later when] Paul VI himself…was discussing our famous work with me, work which he had finally ratified without being much more satisfied with it than I was, he said to me: “Now why did you do [x] in the reform?” At this point, I must confess that I no longer recall specifically which of the details I have already mentioned was bothering him. Naturally, I answered: “Why, simply because Bugnini had assured us that you absolutely wished it.” His reaction was instantaneous: “Can this be? He told me himself that you were unanimous on this!”


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