09 January 2020, The Tablet

Like stepping on a loose paving stone that sends a spout of rainwater up your trouser leg


Like stepping on a loose paving stone that sends a spout of rainwater up your trouser leg

Christopher Howse
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Three things happened at once as I walked past a gap between buildings: the sun came out, a cannon fired and pigeons wheeled through the air. That was in Tarazona, in the Ebro valley near the town where the Borgias made their early fortunes, but it might have been anywhere. The triple experience was refreshing, like stepping on a loose paving stone that sends a spout of rainwater up your trouser leg.

Something similar happened recently after I’d been to Confession (to acknowledge some of the sins that seem only too apparent to other people). The priest was handing me a periodical of interest, out of the door on his side of the confessional. Just then I caught sight of a strange figure who I like to think spends his life walking to Irish shrines, like a cleaner Benedict Joseph Labre.

This pilgrim had lent me a little book about the Virgin Mary, and the last time our paths crossed, he’d asked for it back. I had it somewhere safe. But where? St Anthony found it for me, and it had been in my overcoat pocket for a couple of weeks on the off chance of meeting the owner again.

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