Night Trippers of Blighty

Let me share some good news before I go into detail about the election. This week, I was in London to speak on behalf of Open Doors UK. The organization which advocates and serves persecuted Christians around the world. This was a very special experience for me. Not only because Open Doors is kind and courageous but also because I was in Bratislava when I first started my research for Living Not By Lies. There, I found an offset printer that was used by the underground church to print samizdat over a decade. Open Doors had given the printer to them. The pieces were then smuggled into the room, one by one, by another Open Doors team. Open Doors, an Evangelical Organization, took great risks in order to help their Catholic brothers. This was taken on the wall of the Museum of the Victims of Communism, Kosice, Slovakia a few weeks ago. Open Doors’ (left) member is pictured with a Slovak Christian friend inside the secret chamber with an offset printer.


Open Doors was important back then and still matters today. They invited me and it was a great honor. Naturally, I spoke about the lessons learned from the Soviet bloc underground church experience.

Martin Shaw, the mythologist and convert to Orthodox Christianity, was there to meet me. He also came from deepest Devon to visit me and allow me to interview him for my book on reenchantment. It was one of the highlights in my year, hanging out with Martin. Martin is a joy to be with, full of great stories and well-told, and instantly lovable. There were pints and pubs, then more pints and Lagavulin, steak, bangers, wine, and still more. Stories! People will be talking about Martin Shaw’s parts when the book is out. For more information, take a look to his website. Martin is more than capable of just going to the corner shop for milk. He is also courageous. His Christian conversion cost him a lot professionally and personally, but he was determined to follow the truth wherever it took him. These past days, I feel like I have made a friend who will last a lifetime.

Last night, as I sat in the lecture hall, I saw many of my friends. Father Daniel French from Salcombe and Father Calvin Robinson were there. Tom Holland, the historian, was present, along with Susannah and Alastair Robs and Carl and Catriona Truman. Catriona, however, did not have her famous shortbread. But a man cannot have all things. Helen Orr, her amazing son Godfrey Niall Gooch, whom I have been Twitter friends with for more than a decade but hadn’t met until last night, was there. If you can see the worth of a man’s friends, then you are very rich indeed.

After the reception and talk, Tom Holland took Martin and Niall to the Academy Club. This private Soho drinking club was founded by Auberon Waugh. This was the ideal clubhouse for writers. Martin and I were staying at the Carlton Club in Mayfair. Our hosts had generously provided us with lodging. This was… not what it seemed. The Academy was elegant and simple without being extravagant, even though AuberonWaugh was a brilliant reactionary. It felt like home. I could feel at ease there if I lived in London, as Tom would be a member. Here’s a photo I took of Niall ( @niallgooch – a great Catholic conservative follower on Twitter) at our table.


You would have loved to be there to hear Tom and Martin talk about Sir Gawain, the Green Knight, St. Cuthbert, Chaucer, the Anglo-Saxon saints and Chaucer. These two great Englishmen are deeply committed to their country and have a deep understanding of their history, legends, and myth. Niall had to get on a train to Dover so he was unable to enjoy the second glass of wine Tom brought. I could have sat there all evening. Tom shared the story of how he saw an angel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s crypt in Jerusalem. Martin talked long about Gawain and how his conversion to Christianity gave him new insight into the myth. As I sat there, taking in the information, I realized that these two men are passionate about life to its marrow. It was a great privilege to be surrounded by two amazing talkers, who share their love for life through skilled storytelling. Tom and I shared that we were able to see why he is such a great historian by being around him. He loves the story of history, and the world. Matt, my son is a history student and has a great time finishing his last semester. He is also a huge Tom Holland fan. Tom recorded a video message of encouragement for Matt. In it, Tom confirmed that Matt had chosen the great career path of historian.

If the club didn’t close and we weren’t kicked out, I imagine that we would still be there talking the night away. We walked down the narrow, uneven staircase to Soho Street below. One of the bartenders said to Martin, “You look exactly like Dr. John, the Night Tripper!” He did.

Although Martin is not allowed to dress up as Dr. John in West Country, I think they are similar, fo’ sho.

Before we went to bed, I snapped the photo at the top on this Soho street entry. Patrick Leigh Fermor’s wonderful travel book A Times Of Gifts is one my favorite books. These two days in London, which I would have a whole chapter for, would be included in a book with the same title. It is all so wonderful. Thank you for all of it. We walk on gold-gilded splinters.

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