Monday, June 23, 2008

Living water

Last week I went to Cannes, for the first time ever in my overlong career, which would come as a surprise to many. It was most impressive, the event of events. Sponsor money drooling out of every pore in every orange carpet and tourquoise wall. Creativity shouting out from rooftops, pavements and beachfronts. Chic presenters. Happy recipients. Tired judges. Eager networkers.

I moved on to Lourdes within two days of experiencing Cannes, to fulfil an old vow. It's a picturesque village at the foothills of the snow peaked Pyrenees, where a young girl called Bernadette encountered the mother of Christ in a series of 15 apparitions between February and July, 150 years ago. In one of those apparitions, Our Lady asked her to drink from the dirt and grass on the ground beneath her feet, which she did, and a spring magically appeared from which millions of pilgrims now drink and bathe in and carry bottles of water back home with them (as I did), known as it is for its miraculous healing properties.

This is a picture of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes taken at the entrance to the Sanctuaries of St Bernadette - as you can tell I had good sunny weather!

And this is a picture of the Grotto. Surprisingly, the statue of Our Lady is small and made in the exact size and place where she appeared, dressed in white and blue with roses on her feet, unlike the oversized statues in all the usual grottos we see.

I did take a dip in one of the baths, after a four hour wait, in which all the decades of all the mysteries of the Rosary were recited in five different languages, by the end of which I didn't really want to hear another Ave Maria.

Truth be told, I would go back to the 12 th century shrine of St Francis of Assisi in Italy, the patron saint of animals, again and again and again. Lourdes, where a candle costs 2 euros and a mass costs 18 euros, has become a place for the tourists and the rich pilgrims. Perhaps I should sponsor some needy person to go there, because I'm not sure I myself would go there again.