Morphed from teacher to pilgrim after my last lesson and legged it to Westminster. Had a thought to be on Millbank but already blocked off, so headed for the Abbey where I bumped into Mac. Chatted to people, texted my folks etc in the quiet crowd, that's apart from the singing. Lots of flags. Thought the police were more vigilant than I have ever seen, scanning the crowd.
After a mere two hours, the Holy Father passed by looking very serene and he was really very close. We were a bit down from the people with the baby who he blessed. My face is now fixed in a smile. Do ever do that? Wake up smiling?
Afterwards I bade farewell to Mac and headed down Victoria Street - if you don't know the geography, it's the road Westminster Abbey is on and Westminster Cathedral is down there on the left. The road was closed and so the whole street was filled with Catholics with flags, numerous religious and priests. Meantime the Neocatecuminate (spelling?) folks were walking towards the Abbey with their banners, guitars etc singing, which added to the atmosphere.
I was aiming to meet Clare, that's Fr Ray's maestra di cappella, at Victoria Station. She's in the choir at Hyde Park and had been rehearsing all day. We headed back to the Abbey to see if we could see the HF leaving and bumped into Fr Ray, Lawrence (great letter in the Guardian) and one of the LMS London Schola. Heard the bells ring out, which was very impressive. Didn't see the HF again, as I was much further back in the crowd and he got into a car with tinted windows.
We made our way back up Victoria Street, this time with about half a dozen of the Catholic Bishops, which was rather surreal. Had a drink in a pub with Papal colours flying and then something to eat.
The Protestant Truth Society were there with banners and were shouting out ditties such as, 'The Pope is the antichrist.' We just shouted, 'Viva il papa' a lot louder. Also the thing about wordy protestantism is that when you put lots of words on a placard they are illegible on TV. White and yellow, so much clearer. I wonder what it is like to turn up where there are a large number of happy Catholics who just ignore you and smile past you. The atmosphere was very happy and the shouts and counter shouts gave a certain panto feel. More than enough happiness to mop up any exercised prods. Still, at least they are very clear what thy think. Better than all this wishy washy undermining nonsense we are usually in for.
My act of charity for the day? A placard with, 'Where are the woman priests?' on it ended up under my trainers.