September 27, 2014 in Dean's Blog
We spent our summer leave together back in the UK (though Tricia made a trip to Australia to see her family in July). Over the month we travelled over 200 miles in a car that I’d hired from Heathrow on arrival visiting family and friends. Expatriate holidays at home can be quite a challenge and inevitably you don’t see everyone you would have liked to. It is a reflection of our finitude and perhaps gives us a longing for heaven, when we are not bound by time.We headed north–west to Cheshire stopping of for lunch with Peter and Teen in Wolverhampton and while staying with my sister were able to see my niece and her husband back from Uganda and Clare and Oliver Ramsden (ex-Hong Kong and Bahrain).
From Cheshire we headed further north and west to Bowness-on-Windermere. We stayed with the retired local doctor and her husband and had a wonderful view of St Martin’s Church, where I’d been Rector from 1989 to 1998. It was lovely to catch up with several friends from that period – life’s journeys are full of joys and challenges and after the morning service I had the opportunity to share something of our life in Bahrain and to give a taste of the life and mission of St Christopher’s.
I did the same in Selkirk in the home of another retired doctor and his wife with whom we stayed, the church family of Carol Byers, who was just sending off her final essay to complete her theology and ministry degree. We have since heard that all is complete. As she started this course in Bahrain, with the support of many friends in the community, she wanted to pass on her thanks to the community here. She has written: I feel so blessed. What a journey, and it is only just beginning.And I have encouraged her to go and see the Diocese and ask “What next?”
We got together as a family for a week on the Norfolk Broadst and en route were able to stop off for a cup of coffee with Viv Buckle in her home in Suffolk seeing their lovely new home and meeting their lively puppy, Honey.
Our home for a week was a Gold Gem which was a little crowded for six people for the two days we were together, but we managed and there was always the opportunity of walks and evening meals out in a pub and when the weather was fine, which was most of the time, travelling on the roof was a possibility. The maximum speed limit was 6mph and in parts 3mph, so you have to adjust to the rhythm of life. Eddie Askew, the former International Director of the Leprosy Mission, wrote of going Slower than Butterflies after aholiday on a canal boat and though there were no locks on the Broads to slow the pace of progress, we became very aware of the state of the tide and its impact on the flow of the river and had to slow ourselves down.
From the relative peace of the Broads we joined several thousand people at the Christian Arts Festival,Greenbelt, in the grounds of Broughton, a stately home outside Kettering, Northamptonshire, though it is much more than an arts festival now, encompassing all sorts of areas of life in a whole range of different media. Tricia and I, somewhat wimpishly, rather than camping stayed in a nearby Band B and commuted, but it saved us begging and borrowing a tent, sleeping bags and all the other paraphernalia required for camping.
There was so much going on at the same time in the programmethat you have to pick and choose. Two items relating to our region that I enjoyed were BethlehemUnwrapped which involved building a wall like that around Bethlehem on the side of a London Church at Christmastime, and a session on Scriptural Reasoningin which Muslims, Jews and Christians tackled a subject expounding from their own Scriptures and engaging in respectful conversation with others.
We heard some excellent speakers – Desmond Tutu’s daughter Mpho Tutu (though she reminded us all that she does have a mother, Leah!), John Bell from the Iona Community, Brian McLaren an author/ speaker from the US – and enjoyed a variety of untypical festival food: tartiflette, Tibetan curry, Thai noodles from the stalls.
From Greenbelt we went to visit my mother, who is in a nursing home near Havant and I was able to feed her lunch on two consecutive days. She didn’t speak in the time that we were there, except an initial recognition that it was me, but we looked at old photo albums together and I hope that in revisiting old memories, it triggered happy memories of family times together.
On our final weekend in the UK we hired some wooden cabins in the Lee Valley, a river that run downs to the River Thames in London, to celebrate Philippa’s birthday and for a family w/e. It was here that the slalom canoeing took place in the London Olympics and we watched some spectacular white water raftingWe hired some bikes one morning and cycled along the canal and we had a round of golf. We lost lots of golf balls, but in the end found many more than we lost!
On the day before we returned to Bahrain we visited the Making of Harry Potter, near Watford, a birthday present that the girls had bought Tricia, and for more than three hours we were caught up in the magical world of Hogwarts, as well as the Muggles’ Privet Drive. The exhibition is very well put together and the way you arrive at the entrance of the Great Hall is very dramatic.
The make-up of the visitors is very international, an indication of the worldwide appeal of Harry Potter. It is certainly highly recommended if you have Harry Potter fans in the family.