Philip Mould Interview 'On Pilgrimage: Philip Mould', Catholic Herald

June 10, 2020

You're planning a pilgrimage route. Where would you like to walk?

I am always drawn to the Cotswolds because of its combination of nature and history - it offers the perfect amount of green with the perfect amount of antiquity. I've spent lockdown at my home in the Cotswolds and it's been a fantastic awakening. I've had the pleasure of watching spring blossom, whereas normally we catch glimpses of it through windows. This year, we are in the physical company of spring, watching it take off and develop.

Would you make any special stops?

Absolutely. We have the good fortune to be very near a village called Brailes which houses one of the - if not the - oldest post-Reformation public Catholic churches in England. The priest there used to wear a chasuble made from parts of Catherine of Aragon's wedding dress. There is a tremendous feeling of antiquity in the place - you feel triumphantly subversive that Catholicism managed to survive in the face of Protestantism.

Who would be your travelling companions?

I would take my wife and St Francis - it would be enriching to be with someone who was so connected with nature and his surroundings. My third companion would be Sir Cedric Morris, the artist and plantsman - his skill at translating the natural world into artefact would counteract St Francis.

You can transplant your favourite pub, bar or restaurant onto the route. Which would it be?

The King's Head Inn in Bledington, which has the best soufflés in the world. I'd eat one with chips. With it, I would drink the best claret I could afford - which wouldn't necessarily be the most expensive one on the menu!

Camp under the stars, or find a church hall to sleep in?

If the weather were good, I would camp under the stars. I have grim memories of square-dancing classes in church halls when I was eight.

Which books would you take?

The Pevsner Guide to the Cotswolds, which would inform me about the wonderful churches that we'd stop at. I'd also take the Reader's Digest Guide to Wild Flowers. I'm president of the plant conservation charity Plantlife, and being able to identify a flower gives me the same satisfaction as identifying artists. For fiction, I would take Robert Harris's latest, The Second Sleep, which I haven't yet read.

Which Bible verse would you ponder as you walked?

The verse I have always found fascinating is Ecclesiastes 11: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." I find the idea of throwing something out and getting something back esoteric and romantic. The verse is charitable, it's about giving, and it's optimistic because of the idea of return. To me, this verse is an allegory of the afterlife.

You stop in a church. What's your go-to prayer?

It would have to be the Aramaic version of the Our Father, which begins Abba, Yəṯqadaš šəmaḵ, because it is the language that Christ may have used to say the prayer. Using the same language as Christ is a thrilling thought.

It's your turn to cook. What's your speciality?

I have just bought a thermomixer, an artificial intelligence mixer and cooker, and it's like having another person cooking with you in the kitchen. My most recent speciality is pesto with wild garlic. I've harvested the garlic from our meadow, though I had a slight accident: part of the rubber spoon got mixed in by the blade, so the secret ingredient was pulverised plastic. I didn't tell the others!

What singalong would keep your spirits up?

As children, when we went on holiday my mother used to break into a song that started: "We're going on a journey, we're going on the way, we're riding on a wagon of sweet scented hay," so this would be my song. At this time of year, the Oxford lanes are lined with a marvellous flower called Traveller's Joy, a type of clematis, and it makes me think of times when people had to walk from village to village.

You're allowed one luxury in your bag. What is it?

Liquorice, of course, as much as possible. For me, the worst part of isolation is not being able to get to my local sweet shop - The Olde Sweet Shoppe in Chipping Norton - which sold about six or seven types of liquorice, including a salted one that I became rather addicted to. The unadulterated joy of a choice of five or six types of liquorice has no equal.

What would you most miss about ordinary life?

My whippet, but I'd try to make sure he came with me. He's our gallery dog and is called Cedric, after the artist. He loves being in London but he would be marvellous on the pilgrimage; he'd hunt everything in sight!

What would you miss the least?

London traffic.

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