Desktop Pilgrimage 2021 | Day 14

Five people on Zoom, smiling and engaged.

In which we started where we stopped on Day 13, St Peters Church, Bredhurst.

Where we went

  1. Across the Downs, through Google Streetscapes that comprised a patchwork of different months and years, sometimes within a few feet
  2. St Mary’s Church, Newington, where we stopped outside and finished off telling stories. FYI, the church is famous as holding the unofficial shrine of a man supposedly murdered while making a pilgrimage to Canterbury.

Topics, stories

  • Deb suggested that we all take turns telling stories
  • This gave us about five minutes each
  • The stories were all personal. Deb went first, with one involving her mother – a story Deb had “brought along” (in her head). It had a cracking two-word punchline.
  • Next was David, with a story about travels in the north, with his wife, and a remarkable and touching local custom.
  • Orla (first time in the pilgrimage today) told a story about herself in relation to one other person, from her childhood into adulthood.
  • Alex told a story about her mother, which began with a description of her character and went on to demonstrate it in a context that was both tender and funny.
  • I went last. I told a story about a story I wrote as a journalist, and what I did about it 15 years later.

Photo highlights (no video today)

What others thought of it

I loved the individual morality and modus vivendi that springs from past experience and makes us who we are now
— Alex

I was invited to go on a story telling pilgrimage via Zoom, based on that of Chaucer’s pilgrims bound for Canterbury. I was doubtful – anyone who turns up to a story telling pilgrimage on Zoom is likely to be a bit of a weirdo, no? It could all be horribly earnest. Yet I was considering it – so perhaps I’m a bit of a weirdo too.

Then I thought about pilgrimage. Anyone trekking to Canterbury for the sake of their souls, has to be a bit of a religious nut, surely? It could all be horribly pious. Yet, if you start with a shared goal, there is something in common. Perhaps others are shy of the overly pious too.

So five of us gathered on Zoom, having no close knowledge of each other; a bit shy, a bit anxious, aware we must contribute – but mustn’t take over. We silently assessed our company. Who might entertain us? Who might put us down? Who threatened to be a bore?

And we agreed each to tell a tale.

And at the end of three quarters of an hour, we all knew each other so much better than when we started. We had decided to trust that no one was so very different from the other. We held each other in a web of story told and story received.

At the end we took stock and to our amazement found we had each of us bared a little bit of our souls. We had sounded some of humanity’s great notes. We had spoken of aggression and forgiveness; of the blessing of trust; of first love that does not entirely go away; of the death of a parent; of remorse and – once again – of forgiveness.

We had celebrated, in a small way, our common humanity. I will continue with the next stage.
— Deb

We gathered as strangers but immediately found ourselves in good hands and great company. Within minutes, the ice was broken, and we were off journeying through the countryside while being skilfully encouraged to exchange our tales. One by one, we volunteered stories sparking empathy, evoking memories, and generating giggles. There was a tangible sense of kindred spirits, touching on moving themes such as, surprise at a stranger’s instant trust, limbic overwhelm, unexpressed gratitude, the discomfort of decades of regret, fighting for forgiveness, and the beauty of vivacity in the face of vulnerability. In just forty-five minutes, we each opened our souls just a crack to reveal sentiments and memories held dear to us. It was a rather beautiful experience.
— Orla


Weather report (real world)

Raining, actually.

Up next

From Newington to Faversham

14.30 to 15.15 UK time. Ends Friday 30 April.

Participants: get in touch to join me “on camera” (via Zoom). This would be a lot more fun. Don’t be shy.