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Day 5 - leaving
Ok, got up at 7.30 still tired; but had to sort out my bag ready for
leaving Ahrweiler; which did not take long. I have charged everything
over night as I may not have access to a power socket at all next week.
We then had our last breakfast with our family, quite upsetting really.
I did not see Jürgen but Ellen was there; she also made me and John
giant pretzels, must be a German thing, very nice nevertheless. Around
this time Ellen got a phone call asking if I would like to do the first
reading in English at the farewell Mass; I agreed without considering
the fact that there would be 1,300 people present at this very important
Mass. Anyway I was glad at being offered the chance. We then made our
way to the fire station (Jürgen dropped us and Ellen off) where we were
to deposit our luggage on the coach before attending the Mass. We said
our last goodbye's to Jürgen; thanking him for his hospitality and sheer
kindness. The rain started...badly.... Anyway we headed to the market
square where the Mass was to be held, with Ellen.



Ellen went and got me a copy of the reading as I spoke to a few people
in the square. As I looked over the reading in preparation I noticed it
was long depicting a dragon eating a newly born child but the child was
saved by the lord. We then went to the square café for one last time. It
was raining hard so we ate inside with Father Steven and Father Chris
who kindly got a round of hot drinks in whilst we where waiting for Mass
to start.



The Mass started at 11.30, I headed to the front of the crowd ready to
do my reading. When the time came I got up on the stage (the Mass was
outside, the church was not big enough for all the newcomers from the
nearby parishes). I climbed the stairs, turned to the congregation and
saw an ocean of umbrellas; it was still raining. With over a thousand
people looking at me......I started to read; very loud and clear I have
been told, but half way through I hit a snag; the word 'diadem'
hyphenated over two lines. I stuttered and without thinking laughed,
shrugged, and said 'whatever' and carried on reading un-daunted. People
said it was a good recovery. The rain was persistent for all hour and a
half of Mass.



Once Mass has finished we were invited for soup which was being served
by the army; 1300 people is a lot!! Anyway, everything went very well
and the soup was nice. We only had 30 minutes to get to the coach and
eat so there was not much time for anything, I walked to the coach with
Deacon John in the rain, yet morale was still high.



Once on the coach i said my final goodbye's to Ellen and her daughters,
as were other people and their own host families. This was a very sad
time and both English and German people where close to tears, the
atmosphere was very strange and sad yet such emotion makes the trip
worthwhile. The true emotion and atmosphere cannot be written in so few
words...


As we set of on our journey to Bechen; a town near Cologne where we are
going to spend the next few nights in a school hall as mentioned
earlier. As we approached Bechen we got lost, and lost a bit more, the
rain is starting to get to people but we are plodded along nicely. We
eventually found our way by asking a local who conveniently knew fluent
English. We arrived at the school, and to our amazement a huge crowd was
waiting for us with drinks. After a few dilemmas with baggage and
splinters (you know who you are) we found out we are going with families
instead of the school hall! Brilliant!!!!! We received our pilgrim pack
which is basically a backpack with information and novelty inflatable
hands; fantastic. We then hit a snag, we all needed grouping and
assigning to families with no prior preparations made. It then started
to rain. We all got brought back to the coaches where we received
information and me and John got split in order to establish the groups
which was fine with me. This took bloody ages but we eventually got
grouped up with families. Me, 3 priests including Simon and Phil and his
mate got grouped together with a new family. The new host family cannot
speak a word of English but Father Simon can speak German. He did not
arrive for twenty minutes though (he was of registering the group for
tickets) which made the time quite awkward. We unpacked and went to the
church which is literally over the road, which is good. In the church we
had a welcome service and then proceeded to another festival, with
tokens for free beer, which was nice. Unfortunately I have spent most of
the evening writing this journal.



Well we are back in now, its just gone midnight; at least we have a bed.
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