Guest Post: Paradise on a Penitential Island (Part 2)


I hope you enjoyed the start of Mary’s story (if you haven’t read part 1 just click here.)
So without further ado…

Paradise on a Penitential island Part 2

I will interrupt myself again with some notes I wrote at approximately half way through this glorious weekend:

“12.35p.m. Day 2
They are queuing for the tea and toast already – they run the danger of me eating them.
…Another boat full has arrived – all energetic and light of foot – they’ve only been fasting for 12 hours after all!
Way more young people here than I’d expected.
It’s clouded over now was sunny – sooo beautiful.
There’s worse ways of doing penance I’d say! Like doing here in the rain!
Smelt the cooking rashers earlier – had to move!
Foodhall opens at 1.15. queue is growing. Good job I didn’t accidentally bring supplies – they’d be gone by now.
Real spiritual stuff this. Can’t even think of a prayer, can only think of my body – sore and tired.
Maybe eating and exercising might engage my spiritual side more… My head feels so numb.
Queue gone! Where? Been eaten?
Should have at least put on toenail varnish – I am so unprepared!
So God… besides eating, what do I do with myself? …when I get home.
Can’t even miss the girls anymore.”

Now, back to the real world:
Let us briefly reflect on what the people were queuing for
– black tea or coffee, dry toast, oatcakes.
But also sugar.
White granulated sugar, in a glass dispenser that pours continuously into your black coffee until you stop it.
But why stop?
The thin flat oatcakes look like cardboard.
Dunked in your sugary coffee they look like wet cardboard.

But, eat nothing for 20 hours, put a warm damp oatcake between your parched lips and wait to be amazed.

The average Hobnob contains 1.1g of protein, 3.1g of fat, 0.8g fibre, and 9.4 g of carbohydrates, of which 3.9g are sugar.

Information again pilfered from the web – God bless my creativity and the world wide web!

The nutritional composition of Lough Derg oatcakes is not available online, but that is of no real account because my second discovery on the penitential island was that if your BLACK coffee contains almost as much SUGAR as it does water, then a strange thing happens when you consume your dunked oat cake.

On this penitential island, St. Patrick’s purgatory, you’ve discovered paradise.

And paradise is a hot oatcake that for all the world tastes like a Hobnob, and you don’t even miss the milk from your coffee because this just tastes so great!

No I don’t just mean great, I mean one of the best tasting things you’ve ever eaten in your whole life.
The only thing that comes close is the tea and toast you get after you’ve delivered a baby, but even that doesn’t taste this good.
The best food in the world is the Lough Derg oatcake – dunked.
Rachel Allen, Jamie Oliver – eat your heart out!

But there is only one meal a day, so it doesn’t matter how good it tastes, you are only going to get it twice.

Notes from sometime later on that second day:
“Short choppy stepping, protect, or are demanded by tender toes grazed on rocks and pews.
People’s feet more recognisable than their faces.
Father – daughter identified by their long slender piggies. Then the white sparkly toe-nails, the flat, fat footed woman, the corroding fake tan feet, bunions – a whole medley of bunions! Strapped ankles, wide feet, narrow feet, archless feet, trousers tied around their legs.
Overnight vigil now surreal, a body of people, rising and swarming, bound by the devotion but singular in its execution, but still part of the swarm.
Waiting for the sky to brighten – victory over night for the sun and the penitent.
God – where are you in this? In a late rosary for the unborn?
Warm breeze – is that you God?
Silvery lake turns pewter in the rising breeze.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit – help me to trust that you are showing me the path of life… taking me into the fullness of joy of your presence and at your right hand – happiness for ever.”

Maybe, just maybe I’m not all flesh.

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