Having walked across the sands and up onto the road, I discovered a madhouse. There were dozens of cars, jam-packed into a car park, with hoards of people streaming onto the road into the village. For a place with a reputation of mystery and spirituality, this seemed a little bit odd!
The two men tending the bar were quite sympathetic, however, when I explained how far I’d come and why I was there. They began to phone each place in town to ask about a vacancy for the night. Nothing. They even called an auntie who, they said, was eccentric but had a spare room. Still nothing.
I wasn’t sure what to do, so I sat down and had a pint of local beer. I texted my husband, who suggested I try the local churches. Perhaps a colleague might take me in? I began to consider whether I could manage a night outside if I bundled up. A local woman assured me there were no police to stop me, but it might be cold!
I visited St. Mary’s church by the priory ruins and found no one but tourists. In a quiet corner, I spent a good while praying. There was a service at 5:30 so I would come back then. I left and found a little church-turned-retreat centre called St. Cuthbert’s Centre where my classes would be held. There was no one there. I looked on the bulletin board and discovered the name and number of the minister. I dialed. She answered. I explained.
She came over in less than two minutes to tell me that the centre had a tiny little room off to the side with a bed and bath, called the Bothy. I was welcome to it, she said, and I burst into tears. She kindly showed me into an adorable and homey room with a chair and table, and stairs to a loft where there was a single bed and another chair. She brought me a few towels and gave me the keys. I was flooded with relief, and with gratitude.
Supper at the Ship Inn was warm and filling (lamb shank and a pint of cider). I went back to my little haven, exhausted. As I lay in bed in the dark and quiet, I could hear gentle raindrops begin to fall.
His eye is on the sparrow, the hymn says. I don’t know about them, but I do know that God has his eye on me.