Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday 25th August

Today was a bank holiday. Eve invited Ivan and Di Moorhouse, as well as Bruce and Sue Stephen, to join us all for lunch. Wendy Naish (Eve and John's daughter) was also here - whom i haven't seen for 34 years! What a lovely day it has been - catching up on news and seeing photos and solving the problems of the world! We truly have been spoilt with hospitality and love.

Sunday 25th August

Wake-up time today was 08h30 - in time to get ready and have breakfast before church at 10h00. Not that our other mornings have been early! - breakfast generally seems to be at about 9 or 10a.m. - because the people we have visited so far have been retired, or on summer vacation, or over a weekend!

The church we attended with Derrick and Mary is an 18th century Georgian building - about 265 years old. The inside was refreshingly different from the churches we have visited so far. There were stained glass windows along the sides, but the walls inside are plastered and painted white - making for a much lighter, brighter look. There was a worship team consisting of painist, clarinet, two guitars, small drums, and vocalist - who lead with contemporary songs that were more 'British' than American - very refreshing! Ther order of service with prayers and songs was displayed on a screen in the front of the church above the altar area. A modern touch, tastefully installed! As it is still summer holidays, the service was a family service and included a baptism. There were a lot of children and young people present which was good to see. The church obviously has a large number of young families. I particularly enjoyed the order of baptism and plan to use it in future at home - particularly in the more contemporary services. It was good to experience how the whole service was conducted with the families and children in mind - something that i have certainly learnt from. Tea/Coffee was served afterwards in the church hall over the road - a busy buzz. I also appreciated the arrangements of the graves at this church. On entering the church grounds, the graves were not obvious as they were shielded from view by hedges, and there was a reasonable size garden in the front of the church where people could gather and chat without falling over tombstones. Much more to my liking!

On the way back to the house we drove past the river Avon and stopped at a sight from which one could see the old original suspension bridge crossing to Wales, and in the other direction the sea where the river enters it.

We departed Bristol and headed for Redhill to be with the Moxhams - a journey which took about 2 1/2 hours.

Bristol - Saturday 23 August

After a lot more talking on friday, we left the Wellands after lunch and continued on to Bristol to be with Derrick and Mary Sheppard. The journey took about 1 1/2 hours from Uffington. We hadn't seen them since they paid a fleeting visit to us in Pretoria about 15years ago. Ned saw them when he was in England in 1988 - a visit that Paul their son remembered as he and Mary had gone with Ned to visit a goat farmer and he had seen a kid being born. I was pretty tired from all the talking we had already done, and so did not contribute much to the conversation that night!
We took a drive to Westonbirt National Arboretum - a very large tree garden (large garden and large trees!) It was so peaceful to be walking amongst the trees - so many varieties, well placed and spaced, with contrasting greens, and some already turning with autumn colours. The dogs were in their element as well - running with abandon, fetching sticks, and greeting other dog visitors!
If we lived in the area I would hope that I would make time to visit often! One of the sights was a 2000year old lime tree grove; and another was a huge Cedar of Lebanon - one that I'm sure King Solomon would have coveted for a building project if he had still been alive today!
That weekend there was a tree festival in progress, part of which included people carving trees into various and amazing shapes using chain saws. This was one of the 'sculptures' that I liked.
We had dropped Paul off at his blacksmith's workshop on the way, and so collected him again on the way back - first inspecting his work place and seeing his creations. What a talented young man he is - with great musical abilities too.

It was a very relaxing day, and I was much refreshed and rested at the end of it.

Uffington - Wed 20th to Fri 22nd August

We left the Pillingers at about 16h00 and continued on to Uffington to be with Martin and Anne Welland. Martin and Ned were together in Conex (in Zim in the 'old' days). Once again we received a very warm welcome.
Ann, Beryl, Martin - looking at photos of Ian's wedding. The last time they saw Ian was when he was a baby 28 years ago!

Thursday was a leisurely day spent talking a lot, continuing from the lot of talking we began on Wed. night! We had a look around their church - tombstones dating from the 1100's.

As with the church at Fawley that we visited with Andrew, I find it strange to see the graves and tombstones all around the church. I wondered if the yard would ever be 'full' - but Martin assured me that they reused the same grave areas - newer ones being just on top of the older ones.
On the way to Thame to see the Pillingers, we stopped at a church at Whitchurch - also dating from the 1100's - the first vicar was Peter (no surname) in 1189.

Some of the wooden pews were obviously very old and probably dated from that same era.

There was still a sundial on the tower of that church, as well as a clock that would have been installed much later. The church in Uffington had evidence of the old original markings of it's first sundial, plus a later sundial, as well as the newer clock. It is very sobering and humbling to realise that generations of people have been worhipping in that building for nearly 1000years - all the life experience that has been corporately and cumulatively lived is almost tangible. The concept of 'the communion of the saints' comes alive; as well as the reality of God's faithful presence and action among his people through all those generations and many more both passed and yet to come. With the very real threat of Islam gaining a foothold in England contrasted with the millenia of Christianity that has seeped into the land, as it were, I wonder if Islam really has a chance of surviving?? But then, paganism was the order of the day before Christianity took root. I suppose nothing can ever be guaranteed, can it!

From the church, we went to visit the White Horse and the remains of the old Roman fort/ garrison just down the road from the farm on which the Wellands live. The White Horse is a chalk construction on a hillside (formed by glacial movement aeons ago). It has been archealogically discovered that a trench was dug and chalk blocks moved in and put in place about 3000 years ago. There is of course much speculation about whether it had religious significance; and there is a flat topped mound which is believed to have been a place of sacrifice.

The white curve in the mid-foreground is part of the white horse. The mound is off to the left of the picture.
So much ancient history - and we think we know how they might have lived but we don't really. And in 1000years from now I suppose others will also speculate about our lives - and probably get it all wrong! What we do know is that they were people probably much the same as us, with their concerns and problems and joys and griefs - and they probably lived their lives as best they could according to their beliefs and perceptions. Do we?

Thame - Wednesday 20 August

We left the Gibbs' at about 09h00 and made our way towards Thame - not a long drive at all - to visit the Pillingers. Steve is with Wycliffe Bible translators. They were in Kenya for many years, working with the Rendille nomadic people, learning the language, developing the written language and primers for literacy, and of course translating the scriptures with the help of local people. Steve was at university with Ned - so that was the original contact. Being based in England now, Steve uses his linguistic skills more than when he was working with just one language group, and is busy on a number of projects including teaching of typesetting skills to those whose material is getting ready for the printing stage. Johanna, his wife, has her own ministries of prayer and support for missionaries.
Steve, Johanna, Jenny, Beryl

What a blessing to hear about the work and their children and how they have been guided by, and used by, and provided for by the Lord. We had a great time catching up. It is different talking about things from just reading about them - more personal and real - and one can get a greater sense of how to pray for them in the future.

Buckingham - Tuesday 19 August

How lovely it is to be with friends!
Charys vacated her room to accommodate us for the two nights we will spend here. This is Malcolm's last day of leave; Heather still has another week of leave left. We went into 'the village' with them to get a few things - Ned needed a cough mixture to ease his bronchitis. Right in the centre of the village is the old gaol - now a museum!

The village market was in full swing - plenty of stalls selling everything from fruit and veges to clothes, CD's, nick-nacks, and money-waters. Amazing this tendency to sell things on the street. They probably have their regular customers though - the market is here twice a week and moves around to other villages as well. Don't think that I would choose that way of making a living - obviously I haven't!

John and Jill Knight came over for supper - Jill and Heather being sisters.
Jill, Ned, charys, John, Heather, Malcolm

Ian, Allan and Paul have all passed through the Gibbs household on their travels to the UK - only Richard still needs to visit. It is good for the youngsters to renew contact. We spent time together when they were little - them visiting us in the Transkei; visiting each other when they lived in Klerksdorp and we had moved to Pretoria; and then meeting up at the same holiday venue when we were camp-parents on a Scripture Union camp and they were just on holiday at Barachel on the Hartebeespoort Dam. Their children ranged in age from 15 to 10 when they moved to the UK, so contact was only by irregular letters from our side! It is wonderful to have friends that, when you meet up after a long time, it is as if the intervening years were hardly there. Relationships are truly precious.

John will be leading a pilgrimage in a couple of week's time, in Spain. This entails walking 225miles in about 12 days over the Pyrenees. they walk about 20 miles per day, and sleep in rudimentary hostels each night. He keeps walking fit through the year by going for a 20mile walk each week. I cannot imagine myself doing anything like that. But then, I guess John never imagined it either until he actually went on the first one last year. Just goes to show - you never know!!

Scunthorpe - Monday 18 August

This morning was an 'up early' morning - 05h30 - terrible if one is on holiday! However, all in a good cause. We went in to Heathrow with Andrew and 'his' taxi. He was flying to Edinburgh and we were collecting a car at terminal 4 - a Peugot 308 - very nice! We then motored up to Scunthorpe (near Doncaster) to visit Jean Dobie. there was a bit of rain on and off as we drove, but not cold. Ned had not seen Jean in 20 years and I had not seen her in 30 years. We had lunch with her and her friend Pat Smith. Pat is the lady through whom we email Jean - lives just down the road from Jean. It was good to meet face to face the person whom we had only imagined before. We had a lovely time catching up on all the news. Jean has a collage of our family pasted onto her sittingroom door - it was one that I sent up in about 1997/8, when Ned graduated with his doctorate and the boys ranged in age from 16 to 9years old. Quite something. She prays for the boys regularly. What an honour and blessing it is to have prayer warriors faithfully keeping lifing one up to the Lord. Brings home the importance of regularly communicating with one's friends.

We left from there at about 16h00 and made our way to Heather and Malcolm Gibbs in Buckingham.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Henley-on-Thames 17 August 2008

Having got to bed well after midnight, we arose late and leisurely. Andrew had been cycling with friends and was due back at noon. We trundled off to the local Waitrose supermarket to purchase lunch making items, trusting that we would remember the way there and back again! We got back to the apartment to find Andrew was back, and proceeded to prepare and eat lunch and carry on our previous conversations.

After lunch we went for a drive around the area, stopping at the college through which Andrew did his MBA, then on through Fawley. There we stopped at the church to have 'Tea on the church porch'. This is a local Sunday 'event' - serves as a community gathering affair and also as a fund raiser! It was quite strange to see various people sitting on folding chairs on the grass amongst aged tombstones and granite blocks having animated chats. We wandered around the church, which dates back to 1100's and maybe earlier, and then down the lane, across a field and back again to the car.

These ancient buildings really are a great expense to try and maintain, and the worshipping communities are not very big. So, what's new??

London - Saturday 16 August 2008

Today we met Kirsty Morgan and Stuart Fath at Hyde Park after spending a short time at St James parish church, Sussex Gardens. A Huge building - seats about 1300 - with magnificent stained glass windows. I love the atmosphere in these big old churches - although this one is young, having been built and rebuilt in the 1800s. I am so aware of the generations of worship that have been connected to a particular place - the 'cloud of witnesses' becomes almost tangible!

Stuart, Ned and Kirsty

We had a light lunch together at a tea garden, then wandered further until saying farewell to Kirsty. After that Stuart led us to a place in and around Bayswater where Ned obtained a local sim card for his cellphone. This will cut down our costs of phoning - I have international roaming but am using my phone to sms rather than phone. We will use Ned's to phone from at a cheaper rate than mine.
We wandered past Buckingham Palace and the statue of Queen Vic on the way to St. James Park. I shall be sending a photo of Queen Vic to Dawn Reynecke - they look so alike (!!!)

At St James Park we came across the 'Avon Fire and Rescue' brass and woodwind band, and listened to them for a while - enjoyable although some of the instrumentalists were a bit lacking in confidence. However the crowd present appreciated their efforts.

We left there at about 17h30 to get back to Victoria station, said good-bye to Stuart, and caught the train to visit Jean and Giles Wakeling (and daughter Catherine) whom we have not seen since leaving Zimbabwe 27years ago. We talked - and talked and talked - through supper and coffee and dashed off at 21h45 to catch the 21h50 train back to Victoria station, then Paddington and on to Henley-on-Thames via Twyford.

A lovely day, weather amenable, spent with people we love.
We are blessed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

London visit

Andrew Donkin, our nephew, met us at Heathrow when we arrived. He had just flown in from Edinburgh - so we had a pleasant taxi ride to his apartment. That evening we walked along the Thames adjacent to Phyllis Court Club at Henley-on-Thames. This is the area of the annual rowing regatta, and Oxford/ Cambridge competition. We had a pleasant pub supper, fed the ducks on the river, and talked a lot, strolled through the village, and then retired for the evening. Tired from a long flight, and relaxed by a good draught beer. Sleep in a bed was welcome! How blessed we are.
Phyllis Court

Royal Yacht Club

Imagine the regatta on this stretch of the Thames river

Feeding the swans and ducks on the Thames

Madrid airport

We arrived on time in Madrid on Friday 15th and proceeded to find our baggage and then connecting flight to Heathrow - only to discover that I, having a SA passport and no visa, had to stay in the intransit part of the airport; and Ned, fortunately having a British passport (no visa required), had to go through passport control and retrieve our baggage. If we had known beforehand, we would have booked our baggage straight through to Heathrow from Jhb. And so we learn!

So I spent 4 hours at one end of the airport waiting for our next flight, and Ned spent the time at another end of the airport at another gate. He was rather anxious, especially as he got on to the next plane first and I was still nowhere to be seen! We did meet up about 5mins before the flight left. Our seats were next to each other this time - unlike our flight from Jhb for which the flight was overbooked so we were in different places on the plane!! Ah, the wonders of modern travel and computer technology which finds it difficult to get things quite right.

Separation happens so easily in life, with so much busyness and so many seeming to want a slice of one's life. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that this tendency would be continued in a place and at a time when we intentionally planned to spend a holiday together. Just goes to show - one should never have expectations!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Turn

8 sleeps to go and it's my turn to travel! Allan had a turn at the end of 2001; Ian had a turn at the end of 2002; Paul had his turn a the end of 2007. Ned has had many turns. My last turn was with Paul on a soccer tour at the end of 2001. Richard has yet to have a turn!
Tonight I have been energized by the exercise of tracing a proposed journey around England to see friends not seen for between 14 - 28years. It will be a tight schedule but a blessed one as we take up where we left off with our friends, and some family.
All that remains in the way of arrangements is to buy a pair of walking shoes, get some foreign exchange, shop for groceries for Richard and Paul, pack my suitcase, and go and catch the 'plane.
We are truly blessed!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Moving On

I have been one of those moms who displayed the things made by my kids from the time that they went to playschool. When we lived in the Transkei, the passage walls were decorated with various achievements in the way of pictures and art work. When we moved to this house, my cupboard door became the repository for such works of love - by that stage there was only one pre-schooler.

Now, fifteen years later, I stood back to view the cupboard objectively. Some of the work has already fallen off and been disposed of - as can be seen by the little globs of prestik still in place. The question that rises in my mind now is: should I wait for the others to all fall off? or should I take them off? I know Paul won't be offended if I take them off - but, it means the end of an era that has already ended, but which I have not quite let go of yet.

Perhaps I will wait until there are offerings from grandchildren before I clear the way?!
Sometimes it is hard to move on.

Mexico Visa

It only took one day for the visa to be issued because there is another conference in the pipeline and the embassy is speeding up the process. To our advantage!
We leave Jhb on 14 August for our trip to England and Mexico - 11 sleeps!!