Day 7 Friday 7/6/02
Santiago to Leeds.
The alarm clock did its job, the taxis were at the taxi rank, and the check-in at the airport was straightforward. Flights were fine, my bike and baggage reappeared at Heathrow. I had great difficulty finding my car in the car park, - it took about half an hour. I dumped all my luggage while looking for it. Memo to self: note which section it’s in next time! The trek up the motorway was OK though I did have to stop a couple of times for a snooze. It was great to be back home, with some special memories. Would I make the trip again? Yes, but I’d like to ride with my wife on our tandem!
When it was all collected, I raised £1000, split between the two causes – the Royal Marsden Hospital’s child cancer research, (to see Chris's rather nice sponsor appeal sheet, click here ) and the Palestinian Human Rights organization, Al Haq. The amount was much more than I’d anticipated – colleagues and fellow parishioners were very generous. I sent a cheque for £500 to Chris – he far exceeded his £5000 target, reaching £10 000.I met Khader Rantisi, from Al Haq, when he was visiting England in July, so was able to give him the other share of the sponsor money.
As I write this in 2003, I am trying to think about what it all meant. Just as the ornate, gilded cathedral gave the medieval pilgrims (and us) a glimpse of the wonder of heaven, the pilgrimage echoes the journey of life. There are highs and lows, with help given and received along the way. I recall a ride Chris and I made one day forty years ago, as schoolboys; we rode our heavyweight tandem the 90+ miles from our home in London to Brighton, and back. With some 25 miles still to go, I was done in! Chris pedalled for both of us until getting near home reinvigorated me. His 'angel of mercy' moment on this trip was on the unending climb up to O Cebreiro, when he waited for me with water and food as I inched towards the top. On our life journey, no-one can make the suffering vanish, but they can make it bearable. And at the end, despite our faults and frailties, we reach our goal.
But the life/pilgrimage analogy can break down - you only get one go at life, but you can go on a pilgrimage many times! I had hoped to go back this summer, but that is looking unlikely. However, I am sure that it will be possible sometime, and it will be great - the riding, the fellowship, and the spiritual journey. See you on the road?