Hello from Toulouse in southern France! I had to think about that for a moment, "Where am I?" I'm actually not feeling too well right now. I have a mild dose of "I just walked 240km in 6days without a sufficient break" coupled with problematic feet. Basically I'm really tired & sat here looking at the computer for a very long time trying to muster up the energy to think back over what happened this week. I walked. I prayed. And yes, other things happened as well. My right foot is hurting more & more & I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't a structural problem (bone). I've conducted a few little tests to sort out why each step with the right foot is coupled with a massive fold line down the middle of my forehead & I'm leaning more towards bone damage than anything else. My left foot, on the other hand, is the one that's been bleeding & had problems with the nail & in the last 2days an infection has set in. It isn't good. I'm working on it as fast as I can & following doctor's orders however it appears at this stage to be an up-hill battle. I may need to start looking for a hospital very soon. Not yet though. Not yet. Other than walking on egg shells this week the journey from Montpellier to Toulouse was one of the most satisfying stretches of road I've passed along for a long time. I left the Mediterranean coastline at Beziers & headed up through the foerst-clad foothills of the Pyrenes. I was caught out by one thumping thunder storm that had me ducking for cover under a hawthorn bush for 30mins but thankfully I was eventually able to continue. The storm had passed but by lunch time the rain had set in solidly. I was saturated. It was, even so, beautiful. The wind was whipping mist up along the hillsides & seasonal waterfalls were bursting out over cliff faces along the valley walls as I headed higher & higher. I stopped in a small Catholic Church to extend to the parish the invitation to pray for unity but the priest was a little catious & dismissed the invitation. As I was leaving he asked if I needed anything so I promptly asked if it would be possible to dry my socks (my bag had been soaked & the spare pair were also wet). He obliged & showed me to a room with a small fan-forced heater. He left the room for a moment as I whipped my socks off & draped them in front of the heater but when he returned he happened to glance down & notice my wet, bleeding feet. He was shocked, "You actually walked all the way?" And so, for a second time, I had the opportunity to explain what I was doing & why, but this time, he recieved it with great interest & encouragement. Good old bleeding feet came in handy after all. For the next 30mins while my socks dried he ran to every room in the house fetching me food, medical supplies, a towel & 2pairs of thick walking socks. They were too small for me but more importantly my socks in front of the heater were drying quickly. By the time I eventually headed on my way again he had recieved the invitation to invite the town's people to pray for unity, though he felt he was loosing the battle in that town. It is sad indeed to see how foreign prayer has become to many. I have been pleasantly suprised though at how generous many of the French have been to me in giving their time. On a number of occasions this week I've asked for directions in a town & had the person I've asked actually walk me there. Last week it was elderly Rohan who showed me the way, but this week it was a mother, a young boy, a young couple & teenage girl (pictured). Every little bit of help makes a difference to my day so it has in essence been a more pleasant week than usual! I've also been thankful for some great off-road walking this week. On the day from St Pons to Mazere the old railway line had been graveled over for pedestrians & so I had a seamless, contour following trek through forest & tunnels to each of the village 'stops' along the way. It was a silent retreat from the constant roar of traffic. With summer fast approaching the fruit trees are coming to life with a boom & fairly regular haave an abbundant supply of mulberries & 3 varieties of cherries to choose from along the road's edge. Do I have a favourite yet? Nope, but I'll keep taste-testing them until I've come to a decision. It could take a while. I thought I might lose my tent on the first night of the week as a ferocious wind storm blew in off northern Africa & blasted the French coastline but it's now calm, cool & overcast. I've caught up the 3days I was lagging but the medical problems could put a dent in that sooner rather than later. I dropped an item of clothing on my foot last night & it nearly brought me to tears. If that item of clothing was a knight's chest plate then it would be considered normal to be crippled with pain, but it wasn't. It was my cotton undies. The toe is in bad shape. I hope I'll be writing to you from Lourdes next week, but only God knows that. Perhaps I'll be in Belgium seeking a toe surgeon instead. Please pray for me & as always, for the broken body of Christ, the Church. God bless & peace be with you. Sam.
"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it" Psalm 24:1