I have been to visit my brother at his monastery’s new site. It is a lot smaller but still big, and is half way up a Surrey hill; surrounded by trees, wood ant nests, and other wildlife (I saw a roe deer grazing from my window).

The place they moved from, in Ramsgate, was designed by Pugin’s son, and was never a good, or even fit, place for an enclosed order, and not much good for any order. Add the facts that it was split from it church by a busy road; that the monks did not own the church; that their order was not designed to run parishes but ended up with 7 of them at one time (and some of them did not get double figures taking mass, 200 is. apparently, the minimum for a viable Catholic parish now); and the fact that the building were built for hundreds; and you had an undeniable need to downsize.

Well the move was made, and after the stress of moving they seem to have settled well. One of the big changes with the new place is that guests have a separate block, so there are now very few ‘chance’ encounters with the monks. The guest-master deals with the guests and escorts them to the frater and back for lunch and dinner. It would be possible to stay there and only see the monks in church and the frater.

Basil was given permission to take me for a walk, and he knows every path within miles of the monastery, so we had a chance to talk; but seeing I was the only guest I was on my own for most of the time.

The strange thing is that I hardly thought about the rest of my own life while I was there. It was a retreat.