Cuthbert was in the habit of foregoing sleep for prayer.
Phil was in the habit of foregoing prayer for sleep.
One night, a monk followed Cuthbert to see where he was going. Cuthbert waded out into the sea – raised his arms – and prayed all night.
As day broke, Cuthbert returned to shore and was followed by otters who warmed and dried his feet with their fishy breath.
(Note: if you think it is unlikely that an otter’s breath could dry your hands and feet, then you’d better be prepared for the pathetic wisp of a puff of air that wafts feebly out of the hand-drier in the gents at Kinross services. An otter would do a much quicker job – believe me!)
Cuthbert sent the otters back into the sea with his blessing and the monk who had spied on him was ashamed, and fessed up.
Cuthbert forgave him and asked him to tell nobody what he had seen while Cuthbert was still alive. The monk wasted no time telling the tale after Cuthbert’s death, which is how I know it.
Phil went for a walk across to the mainland at low tide along the “poles” – then walked back again – it’s further than it looks!
Phil is easily distracted and likes to go off the beaten track and is able to when the missus isn’t there to stop him! (To be fair, she is usually right to stop him!)
Phil is easily distracted by what looks like a huge flock of geese – Phil is curious as it is a bit late in the year for huge flocks of geese – so he sets off at 90degrees to the pilgrim path to have a look – they are across the sand and on the other side of a small channel of water.
As he gets closer he realises they are either VERY large geese or they are not geese at all.
In fact it is a huge colony of seals – grey seals.
He walks to the water’s edge and looks across at them, then he lies face down in the sand to watch them.
As he watches, a dozen or so are curious and they swim out to look at him – daring one another to get closer to the strange beast on the other shore – maybe they thought he was a big goose?
It is a magical half hour – and Phil thinks of Cuthbert and the otters – and half expects a couple of seals to heave themselves onto the sand and breathe on his feet… But they don’t!
Perhaps Phil should have waded into the water to pray? Maybe that’s what they were waiting for?
Or maybe Phil should make more if a habit of foregoing sleep for prayer than foregoing prayer for sleep?
As Phil walks back to the village along the shore, the seals follow him, still curious.
Then he discovers why there are poles – mud up to his knee – thick, black, stinking mud – he is sure that seal is laughing – and he is sure he can hear the missus’s voice…
“Told you so!” :0)