Due to the recent fifth birthday celebrations of a quite different sort of blog last weekend, I was reminded that this blog began five years ago this week. I wasn’t sure whether I particularly wanted to mark the occasion because the blog has become quite a different sort of place than it was at the beginning, when it was simply a blog about a journey, or a “piligriminage” as I called it on the first post. The blog was also about leaving England on a bicycle and the reasons for leaving. It was journal-keeping at a very difficult time.
Three years earlier I had left my teaching post at the Archbishop’s CofE School in Canterbury to join the OFM Franciscan formation process, in an attempt to recover a religious vocation that had been dropped fifteen years earlier. Then I was in a seminary in Rome for a year. Then not in a seminary in Rome and attempting to get my teaching job back in Canterbury in 2010. At this point, in came [Enter stage left with a drumroll] the incompetent Big Brother British state with a CRB check that confused my computer records with someone born three days earlier, in Leigh-on-Sea instead of Westcliff-on-Sea, with exactly the same name and a drug smuggling conviction. Three months of misery and ruin followed while the muddle was slowly sorted out.
Perhaps I was not really ready to revisit all that stuff from five years ago? I hesitated before marking the fifth birthday of this blog. Then a mosquito sent by God woke me up at three o’clock this morning. After killing the Lord’s messenger, I made a cup of tea, then cautiously looked at the old blog posts from five years ago and I found that I was remarkably at peace with the chaos and pain of that time. In fact I quite enjoyed reading the posts. So I decided to mark the fifth anniversary of my flight from England on the velocipede, and with it the fifth birthday of this blog.
It was a journey that led very quickly to a therapeutic encounter with Dalie the donkey in France, who sadly died earlier this year. Also it was a journey which started with despair but in a very short time led to redemption. A job offer in Spain took me into a totally different life than the one I had expected when I cast caution to the wind and left a good job in 2007 to place myself completely at the mercy of the Catholic vocations people, thus beginning a perilous three years that turned my life upside down. From my bleak experiences with the OFM Franciscans in Chilworth Friary and the crushingly oppressive power games of the Southwark Archdiocese and the Beda seminary in Rome, then the final stab in the back from the incompetent mechanisms of the computer state, I made my way to Eeyore’s Gloomy Place. I can’t remember where I saw it now, but somebody once quipped: I used to think a donkey was just a sad horse, then I was told it’s a totally different species. When you’ve spent time with donkeys, there’s something very funny and very true about that, and the world of donkeys is sadly quite good fun.
So this has now become a blog about a life with donkeys in Spain. From time to time, I tend to “go off on one”, as with my recent posts about Pope Francis and climate change, or other themes that remind me the barbarians are no longer just battering at the gate, but running our civilisation (thanks to Patrick Reyntiens for introducing me to Alastair McIntyre); but whether this blog remains – or ever was – a Catholic blog, who am I to judge? Certainly it’s not intended to be pure and simple like some other Catholic blogs. The more “successful” posts on this blog in terms of numbers of visitors have been when I ventured off my usual territory, blogging on the daily routine of life with donkeys here, and entered more controversial topical arguments, such as the incidents when other bloggers have been bullied by authorities trying to shut them down or use their influence to stifle free speech. In the case of Deacon Nick Donnelly in the diocese of Lancaster and more recently David Domet in Canada, bloggers have been disgracefully treated by bishops and priests, and I protested by removing the Vatican flag that I once displayed on this blog. But popularity measured in a few thousand hits over a couple of days, due to venturing off the normal territory of the donkey blog, always leaves me wondering what my small group of regular visitors make of it all. The more “successful” posts in terms of visitors’ appreciative comments tend to be about the donkeys, and a life of dedication to the donkeys which they are inspired by and want to share in some way.
I’d like to thank everyone who has read and supported this blog during the past five years. All posts from 2010 can be seen in the archive in the sidebar. There will probably be much more straight focus on the donkeys and life in Finestrat from now on, and fewer flights of fancy into other areas of interest. Why? Because all that stuff is going on a different blog (and no, not my geography blog either), so look out Bruvver Eccles for Climatology Pure & Simple, coming soon.*
*It won’t actually be called that, but inspired by Laudato Si’, it will celebrate the new focus on the environment from an eco-liberationist Catholic Gramscian anti-globalist communitarian low carbon perspective.