After long meditative silences on her solo cycle around the world, the prayer life of the Tablet’s home editor fell flat in the face of a return to hectic London life – until God came to her on the web
I am standing in the middle of a rising estuary on New Zealand’s North Island singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to a line of Maori. I have been asked to sing a song from my country as part of a powhiri, a profoundly solemn ritual of welcome, in which visitors move from a state of war with the local tribe to one of peace. I decide not to let rip with the second verse because Tawhirimatea, their god of thunder, is periodically shaking the little valley, presumably in displeasure.
I am on the other side of the world, and it is all a terrible mistake. After I finished cycling around the world, last October, I promised myself months of rest. As I began to unwind physically, my mind followed suit: strands of fear sprang free and writhed around my subconscious. I had flashbacks to the night I’d camped next to Mexican bandits; to the time I fought off a farmer twice my size after he crawled into my tent in the middle of the night in Georgia.
Coping was a tightrope walk of honesty – loud noises might make me burst into tears for no reason – and self-care. Then I was offered a work trip to New Zealand, a press trip to research food and wine. A 50-hour return flight; a 13-hour jetlag; 10 separate flights over the course of a week; 17-hour working days that began at breakfast meetings and ended well after dinner.