By Teresa McCaffery
“So, you’ve made a 30 day retreat, how was it?” That’s not so easily explained, so let me tell you the story of my journey home to Aberdeen first.
The first two hundred miles were straightforward: A55, M56, M6, A74M to exit 13. That’s big six lane highways with clear signposting, should not be too bad with decent music playing. There was only one problem, rain, coming down in buckets. Visibility was down and the traffic heavy. I stuck to 60mph and the inside lane and felt slightly sick at the thought of having these conditions all the way. The rain let up, a bit, occasionally, and I stopped briefly for (very expensive) fuel. By this time I was approaching the lake district and unexpectedly found myself looking at beautiful hills - in SUNSHINE! The needle moved round the speedometer and the miles flew by. It didn’t last and there were crosswinds to worry about but there wasn’t quite so much traffic and the rain was less heavy. I passed Carlisle, came to the end of the M6 and stopped at the relatively nice service station I had earmarked. I walked round the lake eating my sandwich and apple then resumed my journey.
Soon I was at exit 13 and turned off for the A402 to Edinburgh. What bliss! It was still raining but I was doing 45mph on a single carriageway road. There was very little traffic, I had time to read the signposts and was free to admire the view safely at my relatively slow speed. The A402 tipped me gently onto the A420 ring road round Edinburgh (well, the traffic was patient as I dithered at the roundabout). I missed one turnoff but found another, slightly longer but easier route over the A1 before arriving at my destination without needing to ask directions. Careful consideration of the options beforehand had given me a good grasp of the geography which enabled me to get back on track when I missed that turning. I got a good meal and passed a pleasant evening with Aasta the kind hostess who had suggested so wisely that I should break my journey at Edinburgh.
Next day Aasta and I checked the route to St Andrews (my next appointment) before leaving after rush hour. It looked simple – a quick left right left back onto London road, a couple of awkward roundabouts at Leith walk and straight on to the Forth bridge. Then take the A92 for Kirkaldy then Dundee but remember to turn off for Coupar and St Andrews.
The first part was a bit complicated but I was expecting that, it was ‘straight on for the Forth bridge’ that nearly defeated me. The road was full of twists and turns, busses and bus lanes confusing the line of the road and hiding the rather rare signposts. I suppose the people of Edinburgh know what they mean by straight on but I had to rely on my rather weak sense of direction to avoid taking inviting and wider roads signposted to ‘somewhere else’. Approaching the Forth road bridge my difficulties began to look more like a nightmare. Road works and temporary road layouts abounded. The speed limit was 40mph but there seemed to be an awful lot of very large traffic moving rather fast all around me and to cap it all the huge triangular supports of the new bridge cried out for attention. Never have I had to concentrate so hard on the road immediately ahead of me.
Once over the bridge I was soon on to the A92, a road much improved since I last took this route. I was bowling along quite happily following the signs for Dundee and St Andrews when I decided to approach the next roundabout in the offside lane as there were three lorries on the nearside lane. I realised that they were hiding a signpost and wondered if it was one that mattered… I got on to the roundabout, saw that the Dundee sign did not mention St Andrews and took the next exit which was, indeed the one I needed. Soon I was in St Andrews enjoying lunch with my son. In the afternoon I finished my journey to Aberdeen in bright sunshine admiring beautiful views of the snow-covered mountains on the way.
Those of you who have made a thirty-day retreat may recognise first week, with its rules for discernment, a repose day, second week with its rules and another rest day, third week, tomb day and fourth week. But if you haven’t don’t worry, life’s journey is a bit like that for all of us.