London Legs

Once upon a time in my late childhood and the first year of my teens, I lived on the outskirts of London. Part of that stage of my life involved learning to commute around London, as I attended a Church of England Secondary School rather than the local comprehensive. Some of my friends from Junior School went to the same school and we travelled together, while new friends were made on the train or in school. Getting to their houses to visit meant travelling by train or bus to nearby small towns and being met to walk to their homes.

It’s not a period if my life that I remember with any fondness or regret. School was not always a good experience and for a good part of the five years we lived there, my sisters and I found that children can be cruel as we were taunted for our differences. On one particular occasion my hair was singed on the train by girls from another school. I have no lasting friendships from that time, in comparison to a forty year friendship with a girl I lived two doors away from as a pre-schooler, and a twenty year friendship with the girl who started High School in Scotland on the same day as me.

Time spent in the city of London as a child was sparse. There were school trips to Covent Garden, the Southbank, and the Tower of London, concerts in Westminster Abbey and The Royal Albert Hall both as performer and audience. Music exams somewhere in London as I was taken by my piano teacher. Helping my father move office from a building on one side of the road to the new one on the other. The Lord Mayor’s Show and Christmas Lights.

What that time did teach me was the independence of commuting. Standing still or sauntering is not an option, instead movement should be purposeful and certain.

This is my fourth return visit since the 30 years ago we left. The last two occasions have been with my own children. 18 months ago we visited and had nothing planned and found ourselves aimlessly overwhelmed with the wealth of all that was there. Eventually we managed to organise ourselves enough that we took a bus tour, saw a show and visited Westminster Abbey.

This time we had plans before we arrived, and had booked the Tower of London and the London Eye. We also knew we would be heading to the Science and Natural History Museums.

What has amazed me each time we have returned us how fast moving and energetic life in London is, and also how fit people need to be to even commute. Changing from train to tube often means a lengthy walk along underground corridors. Even changing bus routes can involve a movement from one street to another.

In the heat of recent days we ventured to travelling above ground, as the underground became unbearable. The bus allows glimpses of the city, and in some ways allows the possibility of piecing together the different areas. Underground you lose a sense of where one place is in relation to another. Sometimes so much so, that on occasion you may not realise the short distance that could have been walked.

However even with all the public transport possibilities there was still much walking. Each evening we returned home hot and tired with sore feet.

These last few days of holidays for me have meant an opportunity to revive from the excited energies of past day. Resting of course involves the energies of washing as we put away all the holiday equipment and return to normal life.

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Picking up ideas

Sometimes while on holiday there are things you see that give you an idea for the future, or confirm an idea that was already brewing. From holidays in the past I have a wealth of photos of sanctuary furnishings and banners that might offer ideas should I ever find myself in a congregation undergoing a major fabric refurbishing. There is a selection of orders of services and leaflets, sometimes in French, that occasionally I’ve borrowed ideas for shaping worship. In my head are memories of photo displays within historic national buildings that remind people that a living congregation continues.

This year’s noticing at the moment sits at the side of a bridge. On a once unkempt, uncared for piece of ground a community garden has appeared. Growing are vegetables and herbs that once ready the passer-by is encouraged to pick and try.

It’s a simple idea that has transformed a corner and encourages engagement.

Within parishes and perhaps legacies there are sometimes forgotten wildernesses that could be transformed and offer a new picture of what it means to belong.

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Cote d’Ecosse

Usually at this time of year we are somewhere on the Brittany Coast enjoying French sunshine, warm seas, cider, French bread and mussels. This year plans have been a little different, not least because booking a holiday involves sitting down at the beginning of the year and making a decision. A valuable lesson has been learned for next year, and decisions will be made.

Not booking a formal holiday we decided to use our own flat as an opportunity to get away, with a four day trip to London to bring the holiday to a close. We’ve had our own place for nearly all the time we’ve lived in the parish.

Before parish life, we started marriage in a small, modern two bed house very close to a railway line. So close, my dad was convinced passengers could watch our very large television from the train as it paused before entering the station. Once we moved for the first time we decided to sell this, but with the arrival of a child began to recognise the need for somewhere to escape to that was ours. Perhaps sensibly for us we were also looking to the future, and having at least a deposit for the place we might want to stay in should we leave a parish or eventually retire.

While the children were much smaller, we spent half term holidays at the flat, and the odd Friday to Saturday if we wanted to escape. It contains much of the furniture we have had from the early days of marriage, including the settees.

In deciding that this would be our holiday, we also agreed that we would behave as though we were in France.

Tous les matins mon mari reveille, et il va a la supermarche et il achete une baguette et trois croissant. Pendant les matins nous faisons des visites, et pendant les apr├Ęs-midi nous allons a la plage.

Excuse the lack of French acutes, I can’t find them on my limited keyboard.

The absolute bonus so far has been the weather. The sun and heat were not what we expected, but have made our chosen town seem like the Brittany Coast. And just to top it off, regularly we find ourselves accidentally in the company of French people.

The sofa and the bed are as uncomfortable as they would have been in a gite, but at least here I know the resolution lies in my own hands.

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