Notes from West London

Lent 2023 summarized

This Blog was created in December 2015, over seven years ago. Since then, every day of the year, from New Year’s Day to the Feast of St Sylvester, has been represented by at least one piece, in at least one of those seven years. Some seasonal themes have been covered that do not need to be revisited. There are pieces about when the clocks go back and when the clocks go forward, pieces about my birthday, the anniversary of my mother’s death, Christmas, Good Friday. The beginning of Lent was the subject of this piece on Ash Wednesday 2016. The advice that I offered then still applies.

This year Lent began on 22 February. It ended on Easter Sunday, 9 April (10 days ago). I didn’t make any bold plans for how to spend the season, but as it progressed I managed to do something that I had vaguely hoped to do but never managed before: attend mass at least once a day in a different church every day.

Like any sequence that stretches, unbroken, across several weeks, this one could have ended at any time. I might have planned to attend an evening mass somewhere only to find that it wasn’t happening, and then the run would have finished. This nearly happened on one occasion, but I had a back-up.

As with other daily habits (exercise, for example, or piano practice, or reading 50 pages a day) once you get past a certain point the momentum of the unbroken run spurs you on. If you have kept up your newly-adopted habit for 20 straight days, you should find the 21st day easier that the first.

There are many reasons why this was the year that I was able to attend services in different churches for each of the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and the Easter Vigil. I hadn’t really thought about it, but on Shrove Tuesday my daughter asked if was going to attempt it and that was enough to make me plan a few days ahead. Also, this felt like the first time in many years that it has been achievable. I guess that most churches were back to something close to their pre-lockdown normal in 2022, but I wasn’t, and the churches were closed for long periods in 2020 and 2021.

Another thing that made it easier for me to trek all over London visiting churches that were familiar to me, and many that I had never visited before, was free public transport, which I wrote about here last year. And as the season of Lent progressed, it became a London thing, revisiting parts of my city that I have not visited for many years, and discovering a few new places. It wasn’t just about churches, it was about blue plaques, bars, shops, restaurants, even the odd art gallery.

I have kept various records, as you might expect: notes in my written diary; a spreadsheet to plan, and then document, the times of the services; paragraphs of detail in my Snippets, the password-protected documents where I type at least a thousand words a day, most of which will never be made available for anyone else to read.

I was tempted (well, it was Lent) to Blog regularly about how this “project” was going but wanted to get to the end of it first. I might go back and slot pieces in for the relevant dates, but for now I will offer this summary: 46 days, 48 churches, 50 services. Happy Easter, and pass the Maltesers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s