Stephen Taylor: Bicycles and b&bs

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IT was two years ago since I was part of an inspection team for a college that trained men and women for ministry in the church, and now I’m in another inspection team.

This time it’s a course which covers the five dioceses that make up Yorkshire, and the students (or ordinands as they call them when training for the ministry) have two residentials a term and weekly teaching sessions.

Our inspection lasts from one residential to the next, and includes all the teaching in between.

The universities of York St John, Leeds and Sheffield are involved in validating the different degrees that are offered, and the course also shares some of its teaching staff with a residential college within a monastery.

As the inspector who is looking at ‘teachers’, ‘students’, and ‘outside organisations’ it’s quite a busy schedule for me, and most of the trips are about 100 miles each way.

The plus side to these inspections is the privilege of seeing the extraordinary commitment that individuals are making to train for ministry in the church.

The downside to this inspection is that the course has never been inspected before, so there is no benchmark or even existing descriptions to (for example) the relationship of the course to other organisations.

So there will be rather a lot of creative writing in the next few weeks.

So if you suddenly find my column populated with a description of the relationship between a monastery and a training course, then I’ve cut and pasted from my report!

ONE of the other activities in our household at the moment is the planning campaign for the summer cycling expeditions.

I declined a friend’s invitation to do John O’Groats from Land’s End. I reflected on what I felt like last summer after 50 or 60 miles in a day, and then imagined doing it again. And then repeating that for 9 or 10 days!

I just don’t have that level of fitness, so a more modest campaign is being planned in the back room with maps and books.

It’s a campaign with very particular component parts:

Step one: get the bikes fit for cycling. We have just discovered a mobile bike repairer which if you have an unfixable puncture, which we have, is very useful not to have to get it into town with a flat tyre.

So last weekend the man came and took the bikes away, and we should be practising again now the days are getting longer – and when it stops raining.

Step two: plan the routes. We are going for two this year. The first is over four days courtesy of the royal wedding, which gives an extended bank holiday and will be from Edinburgh to Sunderland via the ‘coast and castle route’.

The second will be the newly signed route from Morecombe to Bridlington called the Way of the Roses. Not quite sure how we get to or from this one yet – but this well be in August so we’ve plenty of time to think about that.

Step three: book the accommodation. We’re not quite at this stage but soon will be and its quite fun checking out the different B&B’s on their websites and working out nice places to see near by.

So when the wind is blowing and the rain lashing it down, we retreat to the back room to imagine summer and long days and lots of down hills stretches!