The skies were growing dark again; cumulonimbus heralded possible thunder – and suddenly I was back in the real world again. But whilst I was within the walls of the Shrine, I felt held, totally safe, safer than I have ever consciously felt. I could understand why men and women came such distances to this place.
The Shrine shop, where I found myself without consciously going there, provided an ante-room to real life; one was necessary, as I was far from clear-headed. The African nun who was serving at the till was a cheerful soul – and her brightness brought me back a little more.
The shop is simply a cornucopia of religious images, books, rosaries, icons and candles. I could have spent a fortune, but as I did not have one, I bought a new Our Lady of Walsingham Rosary and pouch, some books on Our Lady, and a candle.
I sat on a small stone wall opposite the Shrine Shop. Did I, I wondered, feel up to the journey back, or should I rest a while? As I pondered, a very large taxi drew up opposite me; it had a London taxi number by the look of it. Out of it got a Nigerian woman in the most beautiful costume – the colours seemed entirely out of place as they lit up the darkening late afternoon. I don’t know she saw me. She looked nervous for a moment. She pulled out the largest suitcase I had ever seen on wheels; it looked more like a small car. She pulled herself up, made the sign of the Cross, and took herself off in the direction of the Shrine and its residences.
The taxi driver turned round, going past me as he did so. ‘You all right lady?’ he asked. I said I was and asked where he was going. ‘Back to eefrow, luv.’ He answered. The surprise on my face spoke for itself. ‘Yes, she’s from somewhere called Lagos, says she does this every couple of years – bit of a God-botherer if you ask me.’ No one had, but I guess he was right – as one ‘God-botherer’ was on the way home, another one took her place. So may it ever be.
The rain had held off. I walked across the road, and then up to ovlov, who was, by now, almost alone in the car park. I made the sign of the Cross – thanked Our Lady – and headed for the open road.