Read on for my day on 17th October:
‘It's wonderful to record what for me is not a run of the mill day. I normally get up around fourish, as I work early mornings, but on 17 October I'm able to sleep in until the disgraceful hour of 7 a.m! I feed the animals, wave our 16-year-old son off to school, then eat breakfast with hubby.
We both leave the house around the same time: M en route for work. Yours Truly fairly bounces down the road to the station, my trusty little rucksack on wheels stuffed with all the necessities needed for a precious few days away: no, not sunblock and swimming cossie; more clothes suited to the blustery autumnal breezes, hot water bottle, diary, colouring things, bible, prayerbook and other bits n'bobs. For that Tuesday marks the first day of my retreat – something I try to do annually. After a fraught year on the homefront I'm feeling like a cross between a dried- up old sponge and a length of ancient, perishing knicker elastic!
So, onwards, ever onwards – down the line to Reading. Duck through the ticket barrier to buy some light reading in Smiths. However every women's mag has screaming headlines of the Only 99 Shopping Days til Christmas!' Relax! Try our simple- to- follow 365 point Xmas Countdown Action plan!' variety – all of which made me want to run away and hibernate until 6 January, 2007. So I emerge with a copy of Your Dog' magazine, and Alexander Mcall-Smith's Expresso Tales.' Then a trip to the coffee kiosk for a quick cuppa and bar of chocolate, and then onto the train for Baskingstoe…sorry, Basingstoke.
Another wait there, hence another coffee, another chocolate bar, and yet another trip to the facilities.' I head off to Platform 5 where I'm thrown into confusion on learning that my train is divided into three. Being somewhat spatially and geographically challenged (not able to tell front from middle and back) I decide to ask a rail employee where to get in, so as to avoid getting whisked off to Bristol by mistake.
Off we set – chugging our way down into the West Country. I know Salisbury of course, but many of the other names are new to me. I think we must be taking the picturesque route. Not that I see much, as apart from pausing to buy… yet another coffee and a packet of Jaffa Cakes, I sleep most of the way to Crewkerne.
On arrival around 2.40 p.m., a friendly taxi driver awaits, and we bounce off down the lanes to the tiny hamlet of Compton Durville where I'm staying with the Community of St Francis, an Anglican religious order. The sisters live in a Grade II listed 17th Century manor house – surrounded by fields and farmland. If I sound like a travelogue – sorry; I can't help it. This is my second visit and the place is getting to me. One in three burnt-out people say they prefer it…!' Well, this one does, anyway. Since my last visit I've started to explore a calling to join another part of CSF: TSSF, the Third Order – people off all ages, married or single, ordained or lay who sense a calling to follow the way of St Francis in their everyday lives. I've been welcomed into my local group as a postulant a month ago; hence the timing of this retreat is particularly meaningful.
On the road down, I was beginning to get wobbles of the Eeeeepppppppp! Was this really such a good idea after all?' type. But after several hours simply pottering, cup- of- tea – ing, meeting the sister who is guiding me through the retreat, supper and Night Prayer, they begin to subside. I tumble into bed at the disgustingly early hour of 9.15 p.m. It's been a long day.