I finally rediscovered this film this week. I had been trying to track it down for years, an 80’s TV movie about a near-60 year old, desperate to walk from Lands End to John o’ Groats. The drama documents Alan’s difficulties as he treks from Cornwall to the far reaches of Scotland, falling at many hurdles along the way. Superman he is not. Meanwhile, in the background his family wrestle with their own lives and try to understand why on earth he should want to do this at his time of life. You can watch the whole thing here on YouTube.
Alan gives little away. He has a gentle smile which seems to be his stock-in-trade response to most questions and, like many of us men, he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. He may just be too private, or he may not have the words to express the deep longings within him. Either way he has to walk, he has to make this journey. Something he has talked about for a long time. His family want it all to be over, and keep planning celebratory parties for his return, a big finish for him. But to Alan the walk is the thing. The travelling. The action of placing one foot in front of the other. Overcoming the odds, proving himself.
The image of life as a journey is beyond overused. We cannot help but keep on describing our lives as times of travelling. There is after all a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. Trips to the shops, ferrying folks about, getting from A to B. All good and vital stuff. But there are different kinds of travelling. Most of my moving about is to keep busy. Helping me achieve things. Alan’s walking is about something else. A stepping aside from the rush and the pressure. A letting go.
I have just come across a German proverb which says, “What is the use of running when we are not on the right road?” I rush about too much I know. Hopefully on some of the right roads. Jesus walked a lot. It was his main form of transport. But he was never in a rush. He made time for others, and he also made time to be with his father. To step out of life’s traffic. There is a moment in Mark’s gospel early one morning, when he is hiding away so he can slow down and be with his father. (Mark 1 v 25-38) His friends come bustling, looking for him because lots of folks want his attention. He’s becoming famous! He has lots of Facebook friends! He’d better make the most of it. But Jesus’s response is clear and simple. He is moving on. There are others who need him and he is not afraid to say no in this situation. Perhaps his time of R&R with his father gave him the insight and the strength to do this. He wasn’t after all trying to rush around and achieve lots of things. He was here to be full human, fully alive. For the sake of the rest of us.