See recent photos here
It was so good to arrive in Oxford yesterday! I’ve never before walked over 100 miles, while more or less sleeping rough for much of the time and carrying a 15 kilo pack, so I was VERY glad to arrive at this destination.
My body is very tired, of course, although it is noticeable how fit one can become in just 11 days. I walked the 10 miles or so from Abingdon, my camp of the night before, in just 3 hours, and felt I could easily have carried on. But now that I’ve actually stopped it is definitely catching up with me.. My muscles ache, and I feel all the scratches and insect bites. Remarkably so far the feet have been pretty OK, apart from blisters on my little toes and a bruise under my big toe nail. That’s probably too much information, but it is amazing how the body adapts so quickly.
I’ve been resting most of the time but have been made very welcome by Soo Tian and the other residents. The Oxford Catholic Worker actually predates the London Catholic Worker, where I know most of the people, especially my friend Fr. Martin Newell who started it. For those who don’t know The Catholic Worker is a radical international christian anarchist movement founded by Dorothy Day, which seeks to put into practice the gospel of Jesus Christ in a very direct and uncompromising way. I have great admiration for their work, and am sort of affiliated with the London group, I suppose. The founding inspiration of The Simon Community was the Catholic Worker, and Simon volunteers and workers still seek to live out the same message of inclusive community today.
Apart from Soo Tian all the residents of St Francis House are people who came to the UK for sanctuary, but whose claims were rejected without a full and adequate assessment. Tens of thousands of people are in this “no recourse to public funds” category, a phrase used a lot in this context, and which is actually a terrible short hand for destitute, without any rights, in between states – a truly horrible bureaucratic limbo. One young guy I’ve been chatting to has at last been recognized as having a genuinely founded fear of persecution in his native Afghanistan, and after 11 years (words fail..) he has recently been accepted as a refugee.
I’ve been weighing it up carefully and have decided – I think – against going to sleep on the streets. It feels too much like being a homeless “tourist” or sensation seeker. And I know I have a bank account and home and life to plug back into when I am done. During times in these travels I will inevitably rough it, perhaps even bed down on a cardboard box or 2. I’ve already been sleeping in the woods more than half the time, after all. I wonder what other people think about this?
I will probably blog a bit more before setting out on the next phase of the journey on Monday. That’s all for now folks!