Monday, February 26, 2007

Barefooted Retreat

I've spent a glorious barefoot weekend visiting friends and making a pilgrimage to Worth Abbey for a weekend retreat.

The weekend begun at about 2pm on the platform of Southampton Central where I removed my sandals and packed them deep into my rucksack hoping not to remove them again. I boarded the 2:20 train to London (which I just managed to catch despite the horrors of the Southampton bus network trying to thwart me) and got out my MacBook and began working on my conference poster for next week. My battery lasted exactly the whole journey with the 8 minute warning just as we pulled into Victoria.

It was then 5 pm as I strolled barefoot through the station, making an oddly loud noise on the cool paving slabs. It was rush hour and the number of people all around was quite uplifting in an odd sort of way. In fact in exactly the opposite way to the crowds in West Quay. People here seem to flow better, knowing where they are going and actually using their brains (is that to harsh on the general Southampton populace?).

I picked up some supplies in a local supermarket and then caught the underground to South Kensington to take a look in the V&A Museum at the advice of my good friend Hannah Hawksley. It's free and open late on Fridays - bonus - and had a very interesting display of Chinese artefacts, some of which show the most stunningly intricate craft work. The V&A seemed to be barefoot friendly :)

I then took the tube right across central London to Stratford where a friend from my teaching trip in China, Chin Hwa, now lives and works. Chin had made a grand dinner with black bean tofu and a peanut veggie dish which was all very tasty. Another of my good friends from Hong Kong, Queenie, joined. It was simply lovely to catch up as it had been two years since we'd seen each other (actually in Hong Kong). I was also able to fix the odd light bulb and door handle crisis.

Queenie and I then took the tube back and I got off at Victoria. I must say that the underground was also very barefoot friendly. My Prague metro experience was good and London was as good - very little rubbish on the floor to worry about and nice long escalators to run up :)

My train got into Worth Station at about 1 and from there, after a brief key loss panic, I made my way to the abbey. Thankfully the majority of the road surfaces were in good repair, and only the last stretch really hurt. The warm-ish rain helped stave off the cold. When I reached the abbey I found I'd miss heard the accommodation key code and so settled down to sleep on the floor of the main abbey, which is really beautiful at night with only the alter floodlit.

The rest of the weekend retreat was simply beautiful. The monks were as loving as ever and gave good direction for my thoughts and prayers. I made one exploration down to the quite garden through quite a muddy field which was very pleasing. I also managed to finally find time to quieten my inner monologue and actually contemplate things. I also strengthened some good friendships and thoroughly enjoyed the company. I also encouraged a friend who had got her shoes soaked to take off her socks as well and go barefooted - and she loved it, which was quite exciting for me too :)

So a very blessed weekend sharing with old and new friends and with the Lord. Good. Very good.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Barefoot Meeting in the Stag's Head

How completely wonderful. I've just spent a lovely hour in the Stag's Head (a rare event for me) talking to not one but two other local barefooters!! I went from work to celebrate a friends birthday with a pint in the bar and it turned out to be karioke night. The first guy was fairly crap, but the second was pretty good - singing Meat Loaf. As we were half watching I noticed two girls also barefoot, very wierd I tought. I was going to go up and say hello untill my nexdoor housemate Ben pointed out their two rather large boyfriends. They would surly have 'had me'. So I didn't say anything.

But low and behold the Meat Loaf singer was also not wearing shoes. Mysteriouser and mysteriouser. A little later he walked past and I said hello. We introduced each ourselves and found out that he was a real barefooter. Furthermore I noticed an IXTHUS arm band and enquired about his church activities - turns out he's the ABC barefooter that I'd heard roumers of. He's a true hard core barefooter, has been for 5 years and actually realised he didn't like wearing shoes back in college.

All very exciting. And then he goes and introduces me to his friend who's been barefoot a year while still at college!

So we chatted and I asked him many things about his feet - even had a prod - as he's the first barefooter I've actually met in person. I'm afrid it's given new encouragement to me going barefoot for longer. I know some of you were thinking / hoping that I'd give it up come winter, but I'm afrid you might be dissapointed. Barefooting is great, its too fun not to do, and when I don't (as I have been wareing sandles of late) I miss the interesting feeling and textures of the ground.

I now can't wait for my first proper off-road wilderness barefoot walk.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Made it - Nice

Well I made it round to the shops today enjoying the beautiful winter sun warming the pavement and my feet. The temperature was simply lovely, cool and refreshing and felt really good to give my feet a good airing. I was quite surprised at how easy it was to walk around shoeless and by how comfortable the ground was to walk on. So despite it being winter, barefooting is still good.

Interestingly last night I had my first barefoot dream where I met a nice old lady who'd been barefoot all her life and seemed most excited to meet me also shoeless.

Out to the Shops

It's Sunday today. the sky is blue and the sun shining. My hillwalk yesterday was from Whitchurch and was also gloriously sunny though I was shod in my walking boots. Now, with such a sunny day I'm going to see if I can walk to the shops barefoot without getting too cold.
It feels like my original barefoot adventures in the summer when I first started. Will I be able to make it all the way to Waitrose? Now the challenge is the cold. There's a slight northerly building and the water butt outside has ice on it. This could be a challenge...