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Travelogue of AFAN Pilgrimage from London to Walsingham - November 2009

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You can find lots of pictures from our Pilgrimage  at 

And videos at


Day 1 2 3 4 5 6


Day 1

After a week in Spain, I awoke  at 3.45am at the monastery with  the sound of rain and the mind complaining “oh dear what a day to start a pilgrimage”. Well I got myself to Bow Road Station dodging the down falls of rain, standing outside in the cold and wind on a monday morning in November, waiting for some members of the AFAN team to turn up, wondering what have I let myself in for.

It was lovely surprise to my friend Graham poet ( and long term wanderer to be there chatting to Alan the director of the project, who was dressed in traditional Algerian burnous (robe). Soon to be followed by Debbie the Jewish representative and Rev. Mike Ward in priestly robes.

Alan had in his hand a naff AFAN sign and paraffin torch lights, and then mentioned to us that he had forgot the paraffin. Both the sign and torch lights ended up being lethal weapons, as we walked down the busy streets of London. So of we started to the Sikh Temple, which was no more than a shelter after being burnt down probably in a racist attack last year.

From the Sikh temple we walked down Bow road towards the East London Mosque, I noticed the market stalls, and my empty stomach. As I need to eat before 12pm - being a Theravadin Buddhist Monk who can't eat after midday - and we had started at a leisurely AFAN 10am, we had a discussion about the best way I could eat my packed lunch. So after our tour of the East London Mosque, the largest Mosque in London, with its large prayer halls I was offered a room to eat in. I was even offered some food but I stuck with my cheese sandwiches, saying a Buddhist blessings of thanks before I ate for the people that gave the food to monastery. The rest of the group got tea and Biscuits.





We were given the following words from the Koran called the opening:-

In the name of God, the Merciful, the compassionate

Praise belongs to God, The lord of all being,
The All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate,
The master of the Day of Doom

Thee only we Serve, to Thee Alone we pray for Succour
Guide us in the straight path
not the path of those whom Thou art Wrathful
nor of those who are astray.

I noticed on the walls of the Mosque the suggest donation of five pounds, I guess as a Buddhist monk that does not use money you notice these sort of things. Time seemed to be grabbing us and so it was time for a photo shoot and then a taxi. A taxi? Oh here we go - the mind starting go off on one:  “it should not be like this.” We are doing a pilgrimage and were in a taxi zooming off to St. Pauls Cathedral so we can be there in time for Eucharist. Anyway the Buddhist part of my mind, just said let go and so we waltzed in, all in our in costumes, with a nod and wink to the admission guy up into the majestic hall. Robes seem to have a very good effect on people, they smile, they help, the odd heckle, but on the whole  it is kindness and generosity which is expressed.

The service started and in the sermon our walk was acknowledged by the priest. He  also talked about this day being St.Margaret's day.  My mind recognized these words as the name of the street where our monastery is, what a strange occurrence. So we received one of many blessings, we left the church and headed backwards to go to Bevis Marks synagogue.


So at Bevis Marks we had our bags searched by a guard and then entered the beautiful and quiet space of the Synagogue. Outside the rest of the group bought food for lunch, whilst I enjoyed the scene. We walked around the corner to St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, as soon as we entered, it had a very calm and peaceful atmosphere.  Here is Alan speaking about St Ethelburga’s.


So we were welcomed in with tea, warmth and somewhere to sit for the rest of the group to have lunch. Afterwards we entered the round tent, nobody wanted to leave...

you can see the round tent:



...and then the word “taxi” was mention again, otherwise we would be late for the Humanists,  so Alan's skill at calling a taxi came into operation, we squeezed in and I switched on the video recorder to ask the question... what is a pilgrimage?

Here are some of our responses







and then Graham gave us one of his Poems


So we made it to somewhere near the British Humanist Association (BHA) offices, as the friendly taxi driver told us how to get round some roadworks. A quick walk and we where on the doorsteps with the BHA peace flag.


Leaving the BHA and racing down Tottenham Court Road, there was an opportunity to visit the Scientologists - there was, let's say, a silence. I spotted an electronics shop with the folowing sign we crossed Tottenham Court road and Oxford street we meet the Hari Krishna procession - perfect timing as this was our next stop.


So we walked down Oxford street towards the temple and the Govinda restaurant. We had a great chat with one of the priests there.


The group split up, one trying to find paraffin for the torch precession and the other to gather the rest of the group from Church House in Westminster, so we could all walk together to meet Shahid Malik, Minister of State at Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Well we tried to get paraffin and found White Spirit, it was a bit strange for me to walk in a hardware store in the centre of London with Graham and Debbie at 5pm at night and watch them ask for Paraffin. Anyway, to my advantage Graham took me to a Theravadian Buddhist monks heaven, a cheese shop. As we monks don’t eat in the evening, we can have certain medicines (don't ask why - its what makes religous life so comical) and one of them is cheese.



Another dash and onto a bus, mobile phone and texts and we arrive to walk (run) the last bit to DCLG. It was too windy for the torches and we had got white spirit instead of paraffin, so it wouldn't have worked. So we entered DCLG with the usually press, secretary, security blah, that goes with these events. We meet Shahid and to be honest it was a disappointing event, I got the handshake but no heart shake. He got the kids and we got the photos, I suppose that's the way it is....

We caught the tube to Euston, had a drink and caught the fast train to Berkhamstead, where our lift awaited to take us to the monastery and a sound night's sleep. At Euston Alan changed bags and as he cleared out his bag he found the paraffin!



A summary of Day 1 London Tour (A rather busy day) -16th November - Where we went

Gurdwara Sikh Sangat, Harley Grove, E3 2AT

East London Mosque, Whitechapel Road E1 1JX

St Paul's Cathedral, Ludgate Hill, EC4 8AD

Bevis Marks Synagogue, Heneage Lane EC3A 5DQ

St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AG

British Humanist Association, 1 Gower Street, WC1E 6HD

Rada Krishna Temple, Soho St WC1

Church House, Gt Smith St, SW1P 3AZ

Torchlight Procession to DCLG

Meet with Shahid Malik, Minister of State at DCLG, Eland House, Bressenen Place SW1




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