Monday, 22 April 2019

The fun side of the pilgrimage

One of the amusing and very weird experiences all along the journey of the Students' cross was getting used to the language of the event.  Being a very old tradition with its own rules, set practices and even terminology, it was interesting to hear and be part of it.

For instance, the whole exercise of carrying the cross.  All in a very orderly fashion, the way we actually carry it, pass it on, without breaking step, rejoin the column, the traffic marshals steering the column, especially on busy junctions or road crossings, the short commands ('Collapse the cross', 'tight column', 'splay across the verge', 'Three on the cross') and actions (raised hand on traffic junctions, tapping the heads by the cross bearers during silence...) along the route.  Then there was this unique set of words, entrenched in the Students Cross tradition, that I just couldn't get over with:

  • Cross dressing!  During a pilgrimage?  Really?  The first time I heard that this was to happen once we reach the final stop (Walsingham), I thought it was a joke. But everyone was serious about it.  Only later did I come to know that the word actually meant, 'decorating the cross'!  
  • GOD.  I first came across this word on a list that I was passing on to someone.  The title of that page was 'Information about Walsingham to GOD'.  I thought there must have been some typing error.  And then on our first day, I heard people speak about God possibly visiting us along the journey.  I thought they were spiritually motivating us walkers.  On our second day, before we dispersed to bed, the leader called out saying that there were 'jobs' God wanted us to do.  Well, by then I had learnt that God referred to General Organising Director.  The use of the abbreviation is a tradition and by now a very clear and commonly used word among the old-timers.  But for new comers like me, every time we heard a sentence like "God is doing the first reading from the book of Genesis" our minds would take a couple of seconds to ask the ears, if we heard it right.  Imagine the laugh I had when I saw on the programme sheet, 'Nominations for GOD' and my amusement on Saturday while watching the 'election of GOD'!  

Being my first outdoor overnight activity for the first time in this country I noticed the way people come prepared for it.  Replete with an inflatable mattress, sleeping bag, inflatable pillows, electrical blowers to inflate these inflatables, earplugs (to block out snoring companions!), creams (one for the face, one for the sun, another for cold, one for the lips...gosh, the list is too long and hilarious!), hats, caps, jackets, jumpers, shoes (walking shoes, water-proof shoes, pub/casual shoes, Mass shoes...), first-aid kit (each one had one!) ... all of this besides the normal travel necessities. 

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