Time to reflect while having a weekend off in Dundee.
A lodge visit is always a very exciting time for me, not knowing anyone doesn't worry me as I have never been made to feel unwelcome and when visiting a lodge other than my own, there is no pressure created by having ritual to deliver, I love being able to sit back and relax and take it all in. Back at Alan's, while having a shower, Alan's lovely wife put all of my clothes through the wash and while I was ironing my shirt and waistcoat, the Amazon delivery guy turned up with my new IPad charger & lead. Like a complete nugget, I had plugged my IPad into the only available socket which was behind the tv in the Travelodge I stayed in while in Rosyth. When packing up in the morning I didn't see the lead because of the tv so I left it !!! A dead IPad is no use to anyone and I'm going to blame that on me being so behind with my admin... All cleaned up and ironed, a lovely meal and we were off back to St Andrews for the Lodge meeting.
What an amazing Lodge room, the Lodge St Andrew No. 25 is over 400 years old and the brethren of the lodge conducted a truly incredible ceremony of Initiation for a young American student from New York. Incidentally, they also have a young man from Florida and one from Russia, both studying in St Andrews and both chosing to join Freemasonry while away from home studying. For anyone reading that is not a Freemason, you will probably be aware that we conduct various ceremonies when we meet in our Lodge rooms, ceremonies that depict the history and traditions of our fraternity so we take them very seriously. There is added meaning because the ceremony being conducted is always perfomed to an individual, a man that is either joining our ranks or is being progressed through the degrees, every Freemason remembers each of the ceremonies that was performed for him, so in turn, every Freemason has a desire to perform their part of any ceremony to the very best of his ability for the next man. The importance of being a small part in a team effort is also very empowering and when the team effort pays off, it is an incredible joint feeling of achievement. This often means hours of learning and practicing the particular part you are delivering, to conduct a ceremony correctly, the way it has been done for hundreds of years, it should all be performed from memory and not by reading it from a book.
In a Lodge such as Lodge St Andrew no. 25, 400 years of tradition and a group of men determined to continue this proud tradition, the delivery of the ceremony was awe-inspiring. A visitor witnessing it could not help but be impressed by the quantity and the quality of the work, delivered with humility and a good amount of humour, particularly when the American candidate was struggling to understand the words being spoken, with a deep Scottish accent....
The perfect end to what had been a good week. I spent the night at Alans house and in the morning Alan delivered me back to St Andrews. I knew I was tired and needed a day off but I didn't know where I would spend it so I grabbed a table in a cafe to sort myself out. The prices for accommodation in St Andrews are ridiculous so I jumped on a bus, a half hour drive up to Dundee and booked into a Holiday Inn for 2 nights, for less than half the price of a one night stay in St Andrews. A chance to chill out, play tourist, sort my kit out and catch up on some sleep. You know you're tired when you are in bed for 8.30pm on a Saturday night in a new city !!! What a party animal, my kids will be soo unimpressed !!!
I also got a chance to visit the cathedral on Sunday morning for the Palm Sunday service, there is something very special about the sound of a full choir reverberating around the walls of a cathedral, a real treat. Followed by the entire afternoon, snoozing on my bed watching the ladies rugby with my feet and knees elevated !!!
My stay in Dundee marked the end of the third month on this adventure, I had returned home for break to see my family and to attend to some of my own Masonic commitments but I had also reached a number of milestones.
From 1st January to 31st March I had walked for 56 days, walked 1,514,357 steps which amounted to the grand total of 551.54 Miles. This is averaging out at just under 10 miles per day which if I'm honest, I'm happy with. Of course the average is a lot less if you add the days off I have had but this challenge isn't about how far, how fast. After three months, I've settled into the routine, the feelings of apprehension every morning, packing up and setting off not knowing where I'll be laying my head that night, the need to work out my route for the day to avoid high tides or walking for miles to find a river with no way to cross so have to walk all the way back...
I expected the aching legs, knees and feet would have got easier by now but they haven't. I get up in the morning and I stagger to the toilet like 85 year old man, greateful at least that I managed to get up before I went to the toilet !!!
I have had low days but the periods of low mood don't last long when I focus on what's around me, what I can see, can smell, can hear. Getting physically exhausted can of course make us all feel feel low but I've learnt, get into my sleeping back and go to sleep. Whether I sleep well or not, I am resting and when I get up, I might be as rigid as a board but my mind is calm and relaxed, it's a new day to embrace as a challenge, places to see and people to meet.
I wish I could have thought like this through my dark days, no matter, I can now and will continue to do so, there's a long way to go yet...