10 January 2019, The Tablet

The Visual Commentary on Scripture offers a new way to pray

The Visual Commentary on Scripture offers a new way to pray

City life, unlike the deserts and mountains, offers few spaces to pray


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.

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