Monday, 29 August 2011

Day One - Sunday 28th August - Todmorden to Mytholmroyd

We started off in a downpour, and with a bit of confusion about which direction to take. But once we got going we started walking as a group and, as you do, we got to talking.
I was surprised to learn how many people didn’t know many other people on the pilgrimage. One was ‘Hev the Rev’, a Methodist Minister who moved to Todmorden from Durham about a year ago. Despite looking every inch the part in her hi-tech walking gear, Heather told me she usually only ever walks from her front door to the Land Rover. And she did seem to be struggling a bit up the first hill, but was clearly determined. She told me she doesn’t know that many people and, like me, found the prospect of the pilgrimage a bit daunting. But, as she said: “You’ve got to face your fears.”
The oldest of our group was Frank, at 84. Obviously a colourful character, the seasoned walker soldiered up the steep hill without any apparent problem. I took a great picture of him stopping for a short breather, before he smiled at me and set off again with a sprightly gait.
Paulinus, Gabriella, Martha & Florence
Believe it or not, there was a real-life Paulinus walking with us. He and his family had travelled from Wrexham to take part for the day. He was just about to tell me how his name was in fact connected to St Paulinus, when there was a cry up ahead. It turned out that Frank had collapsed. It quickly became clear that he needed assistance, so the first-aider rushed to his side, and Revd Owen dialled 999. The rest of us, clearly shocked, went to wait a short distance away, while Tina and Stuart sprang into action to deal with the situation.
A chill wind was blowing up there on the hill, just below the Bridestones, and it seemed an eternity before the rescue team arrived. Eventually it was decided that those of us who weren’t able to help Frank in any way should carry on just a bit further, and call it a day after that.
There was still an underlying sense of collective anxiety about Frank. We knew that the search and rescue team had arrived, that he was being taken care of, and that Pat was going to accompany him to hospital. But for all that it was a subdued group who walked down the hill to catch the bus to Mytholmroyd. I imagine the air above Cornholme was thick with our prayers.
That night, instead of staying with the group and bedding down on the church floor of St Michael’s Church, I confess I opted out and went home. My only contact with Frank had been that he’d flashed me that lovely smile. But even though I didn’t know him at all, I still felt exhausted by the anxiety I’d felt for him. Was it self-indulgence? Did it go against the spirit of pilgrimage to opt out the minute anything went wrong? Maybe, but the route took us virtually past my front door - just when I felt most in need of home comforts.

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