Dawn Chorus

I’ve never cycled 100 miles by 9.00am before. I’m not sure I’ll do it again. Yesterday’s “Dawn Raid” in aid of Help the Heroes was nevertheless a great experience.

250 cyclists set off from Help for Heroes main base in Tidworth to cycle to London. We left in waves from 2.00am onwards. The first bird sang at 3.50 by which time we were 30 miles in. We had gone through Andover as the clubs turned their partying customers out on the streets, along empty roads, following signs tied to lamposts which marked our route.

There was a great spirit and the while thing was organised very well. Two major refreshment stops at 36 and 64 miles.

The hills around Box Hill were tough as they came at about 70-80 miles as we began to tire. After that we sailed into London to be met by bacon rolls and coffee at Blackheath.

Average speed 16.1 mph which was reasonable. 6hrs 10 mins of cycling.

The Queen has sent a letter of thanks and congratulation to H4H fir raising £290m for their work. When you visit Tedworth House you can see what great work is being done.

When we arrived we were all invited to take part next year. Maybe I could find a group of people who wanted to do it together?

Dawn Raid

We’re entertaining churchwardens from the Chalke Valley this evening. Churchwardens are the unsung heroes of the Church of England. (Although their spouses generally claim that the title is properly theirs).

Then an hour or two’s sleep before heading off to Tidworth for a 02.00 start. I met a Colonel at a Harvest Supper last autumn when June 8th seemed a long long way away. He suggested I join them for a 100 mile bike ride. I didn’t take much persuasion. It’s in aid of Help for Heroes which is an excellent cause. If you’ve ever been to their centre at Tidworth you’ll know what fantastic work they do.

So far so easy. Then I found out the ride starts at 02.00. Always read the small print. But it should be great. The route takes us through the dawn over Box Hill, part of the Olympic Course, so we can all pretend to be Bradley Wiggins.

There is one rather embarrassing thing. Last September June 8th just looked like a blank Sunday in my phone diary. So I signed up, got some sponsorship (see http://www.bmycharity.com/EdCondry if you wish) and started anticipating the pain. Then I realised June 8th was Pentecost – not a day a Bishop should miss Sunday morning church. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

It is in a good cause.

Much Ado

Flaming June. So off we go to the ruins of Wardour Castle to see Much Ado About Nothing. Cousin Simon playing Benedick. Strawberries and Pimm’s it was not. It poured. It hailed. By the end there were only 30 left in the audience, huddling under plastic ponchos, umbrellas and layers of blankets. The poor actors looked frozen, especially the women in their Sicilian summer dresses. But it was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Credit

On the train again. Much better than car, if not so good as bike. On the way to Church House for a meeting of the directors of the Churches’ Credit Union. We are fortunate in having some highly skilled and experienced people who can guide us through the very complex technical issues of finance and compliance. If all goes well it should start up later this year.

Yesterday evening to a talk on Imber church and its unique bus service. Imber is a village in the middle of Salisbury Plain evacuated in 1943 to prepare for D Day and never again inhabited.

An old school friend has set up a real bus company that runs a timetabled service to take passengers to this isolated village when the army take a rest from exercises. He just happens to own a London Transport Routemaster, and has the licence to drive it.

He gave a fascinating talk in aid of the Churches’ Conservation Trust.

Imber’s church of St Giles is the only village building still in good condition. There are services a few times a year.

The church receives 10000 visitors a year perhaps because it is difficult to get there, and usually impossible. It’s a strange metaphor for current ideas of God: distant, isolated and only contactable very occasionally.

Somerset

Yesterday off to Somerset to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the priesting of my training incumbent: the man who with great tolerance and encouragement saw me through my first stumbling years as a curate.

1964 was the year of Harold Wilson, West Ham beating Preston North End in the FA Cup Final, Mods and Rockers at Clacton; the year it was a announced that a village called Milton Keynes was to be a New Town. Series 1 services were yet to be authorised, the ASB had not even arrived let alone left.

Looking back priesthood was elevated, with the laity being the empty category of all left over. Anglican priests still read the whole service, Epistle and Gospel. The male priest was meant to be a holy example for the laity. “What he does they do,” Moberly had written.

I was the Emergency Preacher, the real one having been struck down ill. I quoted instead Rowan Williams: “The priest is in the business of immersing in Christ’s action the gifts and prayers and love of human beings.”

Pleasure of travelling

Reading Frédéric Gros’s wonderful The Philosophy of Walking on the train. (Ok, I accept the rebuke for the oddity of that sentence but I really don’t have time to walk 100 miles there and back today).

Rousseau, he says, walked long distances as a young man, but then went everywhere in his barouche (read BMW 5 series). “…gnawing cares , perplexities, and discomfort got in with me, and from that moment, instead of feeling, as before, nothing but the pleasure of travelling, my only anxiety was to reach the end of my journey.”

Precisely. The exact difference between car and bicycle.

Butterflies

Early morning walk up on the Plain. The dogs are old and walk slowly. Butterflies now appearing in abundance. A small tortoiseshell, a small white, fritillaries of some sort, perhaps a meadow brown and a small heath, but they were moving quickly.

A Cinnabar moth, with military red stripes. Two great black slugs proud and shiny. A tunnel of white May blossom.

So yesterday a great day when Figheldean village hall was packed with people from around the Ramsbury area discussing hope in the rural church. So many positive stories. So much encouragement. The national rural officer, Canon Jill Hopkinson came. She told us that 40% of the people who go to an Anglican church go to a rural church. Yet the rural church is so easily disregarded, or seen as the past.

Now on the train to London. No car! Hurrah! And tomorrow to Salisbury by bicycle. A return to ethical standards.Phew. Do I cycle to Wootton Bassett on Friday morning. 60 mile round trip?