WE THINK OF the Church existing statically in buildings and they
are, of course, often beautiful testimonies to faith and the love of
God. In Gloucestershire there are around 400 churches which are all
part of the living histories of our county’s distinctive communities.
With this in mind it can be hard to remember that Jesus’ ministry,
and that of his first followers, was not building-dependent. It
was, perhaps, ‘ministry by walking about’ and our Lord travelled
enormous distances. Here in Gloucestershire the first ministers and
clergy would preach frequently in the open air under tree canopies,
and by the side of rivers and streams. John Wesley covered 5,000
miles a year on horseback, more than many people travel in their car
today! The Forest of Dean, for example, really was missionary country
until the early 1800s, certainly for the Church of England!
It’s also said that men, such as the Methodist Charles Wesley,
brother of John, experienced such a hard time in parts of our county
that he symbolically wiped the dust from the soles of his boots when
leaving some more unwelcoming villages! In remoter parts of the
county the Church of England did not fare much better with my
predecessors and was often greeted by vegetables well past their
‘best before’ date.
Despite this there was a spurt of church and chapel building in the
nineteenth century and much of it remains today. Generally we are
fortunate with church buildings in our Diocese. However, the sad
reality is that nationally many of our religious buildings are
proving very expensive to run and maintain. There have been national
newspaper reports of plans to convert some places of worship to
‘festival churches’ open at the great Christian festivals of Easter
and Christmas, for example, but otherwise closed. That is a
great shame but is perhaps inevitable as the costs escape beyond the
congregations’ ability to pay. It is indeed sad – and salutary – to
see magnificent chapels in places like Pembroke and Haverfordwest
with boarded up windows and entrances, and similar chapels in the
former hotbed of Methodism, Bristol, now operating as premises for
tyre and exhaust retailers.
One solution originating in California that I have tried is called
the ‘Church in the Forest’, where we take the service out from inside
the church building to beautiful countryside locations places, in
wooded glades, hilltops or at lakesides, rather like the original
missionaries and preachers in Victorian times. There is nothing quite
like a service of Holy Communion next to a lake with swans gliding
across the still water on a late summer evening behind a temporary
altar. Sometimes using traditional liturgy, sometimes using Celtic
services, you feel very much in touch with the landscape and close to
the earth in ways our forefathers understood so well. It’s as though
our prayers mingle with the rising mist, and the beauty of it all, on
a warm summer evening and everything seems full of the love of God.
Fr Nick Bromfield, Team Rector
Our theme this month is ‘Travelling’ and several of you have
written of your experiences.
Ralph describes a travelling song. Tudor sailed to an unknown
destination in wartime. Gill met an old friend. Maz
travelled to Kenya with her charity. Our Saturday walkers
travelled on foot. Paddy describes journeys by train. Sue
sailed in an oil tanker. Anya had an eye opener. Roseann writes
of people who have travelled far from their homeland. Becky advises
what to take with you. Liz writes of the variety of things she has
seen on her travels.
Whenever we go on a new journey we always have a variety of
emotions. We may be excited or anxious, happy or sad. We
may enjoy the journey or just be pleased to arrive at last. Whoever
we are or whatever we do, we all have travelling. Wherever we
go there is nothing like coming home again.
I wonder if Paddy has travelled on the train in the cover picture?
Goathland is a stop on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
Commuters use the line to travel from Pickering to Whitby and back.
Being steam the line is always popular with tourists. Much of
the line is single track so one train has to wait while the other
reaches the station where they can pass safely. The cover
picture is a frame taken from a video clip I made of a locomotive
noisily pulling its train up the incline into the station.
April 2017 Magazine Deadline: Sunday 12 March 2017
April - Early memories; May - Flowers
This Sydney Carter worship song (hymn) was a favourite with the
children in my Junior School in the 60s. We’re fortunate to have
Sydney Carter’s work which I’m sure will last. It’s easy to see why
we like it. This song (like Carter’s other work: As Jacob with
travel was weary one day, at night for a pillow a stone he lay) has
a catchy tune which could be sung as you hike along. By the way -
another good song as you travel along on foot is the Vaughan
Williams’ tune set to For all the Saints. Try it?
One more step along the world I go is a worship song addressed to
Jesus as a friend and travelling companion. We ask Jesus to be
our travelling companion:
One more step along the world I go,
One more step along the world I go;
From the old things to the new,
Keep me travelling along with you.
We ask Jesus to be our companion through life:
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you.
A familiar image in religious literature of our lives as a journey
is Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and there are many others. At
Christmas we hear from the Wise Men in Eliot’s poem: A cold
coming we had of it.
Round the corner of the world I turn,
More and more about the world I learn;
All the new things that I see
You’ll be looking at along with me.
As I travel through the bad and good,
Keep me travelling the way I should;
And Jesus is a help on life’s journey:
Where I see no way to go,
You’ll be telling me the way, I know.
The song ends with a prayer:
Give me courage when the world is rough,
Keep me loving though the world is tough;
l leap and sing in all I do,
Keep me travelling along with you.
You are older than the world can be,
You are younger than the life in me;
Ever old and ever new,
Keep me travelling along with you.
As I travel through the bad and good,
Keep me travelling the way I should;
Where I see no way to go
You’ll be telling me the way, I know.
Even though we travel through the night of “doubt and sorrow” we
know Jesus is with us.
I was called up for war time service when I was 18 and went into
the Royal Air Force. I was then training in the following year when
our forces landed on the Normandy beaches and we thought that the
threat of our being posted overseas would be over.
However that took longer than was imagined and as we reached
September 1944 we were sent home on embarkation leave. We reported
back to Morecambe where we were kitted out with tropical gear,
including the dreaded Bombay bowlers for Burma which you should guard
with your life.
We went by train to Liverpool and boarded a ship which I think was
the Monarch of Bermuda. We were allocated our spaces as the crew
worked feverishly to get all the kit on board. On a bright day we
sailed off down the Mersey, saying farewell to our homeland. But not
The engines gave out and we were ignominiously towed back to where
we had come from. Men and goods were moved from the Monarch onto, we
hoped, a more seaworthy vessel for our travelling. One lad could just
about see his family home in the distance, where no doubt his mother
wondered where he was.
We were finally ready to set sail and this time it was in a thick
northern fog and I saw a helmeted policeman standing under a lamp
post watching us go. This time we went and slowly the land began to
disappear and a slight roll began to appear. Then out onto the high
seas and we were glad we weren’t sailors. We headed further south and
then it was a bit lighter in the evenings. A slight rumour began that
were we going to America.
On Sunday there was a drum head service for all the forces and
suddenly I realised that the hymn we were singing “For those in peril
on the sea” included us. We passed through the Bay of Biscay where
the kippers we had for breakfast were steadily returned to where they
had come from.
We slept in hammocks below the water line with shouts in the night
of “We’re sinking” and someone’s bare foot resting in my face.
We heard that in the night we had passed through the Strait of
Gibraltar. Forget America – think Burma. The Mediterranean was kind
to us and sunbathing suddenly became the thing to do - there was not
much else. We pulled into Valetta on the island of Malta and had our
first taste of the bum-boat sellers. Then it was onward with a
glimpse of a portion of Italy, later followed by one of the coast of
We turned right and there suddenly was the cosmopolitan town of
Port Said with the bum-boat sellers working at full stretch. There
were so many shouted instructions in all directions until we had the
surprising one of “Pack your kit.” Don’t say we were going to have to
change ship again for our journey down the Suez Canal.
No. To our surprise we left the ship - glancing at the jelly fish
floating about - and were marched in the direction of a train. We
tried to sort our kit out as our worldly possessions were thrown
around and wondered yet again what was going on – we were always the
last to know.
Then we were off and had the different experience of a train
journey to Ismailia. There we were sorted out again, taking the
greatest care of the Bombay bowlers. We changed trains and during
the night we travelled through the expanse of Egypt which had been
under threat during the Desert War but which was now at peace.
Coming into the city with all its bright lights was such a
revelation after black-out Britain and we had the fig, date, and
peanut sellers which cheered up our rations. We eventually arrived at
Cairo Main Station which in the middle of the night was full of life
with everyone shouting directions and cars honking like fury.
We eventually were bundled into lorries (gharries) and met old
father Nile. We arrived at a camp called 3 Signals Depot and were
allocated to tents in the middle of the night. We were too tired to
take much notice but in the morning we had to be up and out on
parade. We had cold water shaves (ugh) on a bench swilling with water
and as I peered into the mirror I could hardly believe my eyes. In
the far distance were small hillocks – could it be the pyramids? I
showed the man next to me who said, “So What?”
We had to muster with our so well looked-after Bombay bowlers and
then at the count of ten we were ordered to sling them over a fence
into a well stoked fire. Good riddance to something which had been
the bane of our existence.
Our feet had hit the ground and our travelling was over - for a few
Travelling - moving on
from one place to another, going on a journey
Moving on from one place to another is nowhere near as exciting as
going on a journey. Starting to think about what I was going to
write under this heading one area of my life came to the fore. Moving
on from one place to another? Most of our everyday life is
covered by this statement. Undertaking the cleaning, shopping,
gardening, is full of moving from one place to another!
Travelling on a journey, now that is an adventure, exciting and
usually with a purpose, for a celebration, rest, interest etc., I
still can’t believe that in 1998 I fulfilled a dream and celebrated
thirty years of marriage to Nigel when I travelled to New York in
three hours, that was really travelling.
On another occasion a planned trip to Australia had to be deferred
because of a very bad fall and I was unable to travel. A year
later we departed for a seven week adventure there. As usual we
booked the flight but nothing else - our holidays are “adventures”
mixing with the locals is our passion. Arriving in Canberra
early evening we booked into a motel. We decided to book
for another night. Upon going into the office I met this lady and
recognised her immediately as my friend Liz who I last saw in 1968.
We shared accommodation for two years in Leicester. Most
Sundays we went to church together and she joined me when I walked a
friend’s rough collie at the week-end. We were both avid letter
writers but after three years her letters stopped. I went on
this holiday with a heavy heart as I was in a bad place at the time.
Liz and I burnt the mid-night plus oil chattering whilst folding and
sorting the laundry. The first thing she said to me was “you
have been so much on my mind Gillie (she is the only person that gets
away with this) I have been praying for you.” Thirty three years
since we parted and she just knew my needs and was there for me.
She has been over here a couple of times and you won’t be surprised
to know the letter writing has resumed. I just wish her writing was
easier to read. I believe that our meeting wasn’t just chance;
it was planned but not by us of course. Her letters had stopped due
to her having family problems. A travelling experience with a
very very happy ending.
Travelling the path of life from our sunrise to our sunset we walk
up the hills and down the dales. We meet challenges, choices,
people and experience happy and sad times. As a Christian I
believe one thing is certain, God is with me. I know this, he
guided me to Liz.
Another journey was to Japan for a two week holiday. With two words
of Japanese and the grace prior to and after eating in our vocabulary
off we went. Relying on five students whom we last saw five years ago
to be at various venues to meet us was an adventure. All
arrangements were made by e-mail. We had a wonderful happy time
with great fun and friendship. It was great to meet their families
and experience their way of life. We shared so many things
together in each country. When with us the students enjoyed
coming to church with us and sharing our faith. Going on the
visit to them gave us the chance to visit their temples and share
Often sung round the campfire in my Guiding days and sometimes at
One more step along the road I go;
From the old things to the new,
Keep me travelling along with you.
Gill not Gillie Woodcock
Last month I
promised some recollections on life as a vicar and rector in the
Forest of Dean. My family moved to Coleford in 1992 and this
fulfilled a childhood ambition (nurtured while on Boys’ Brigade camps
in the 1970s) eventually to live in this wooded beautiful location
where the birds always sang and the sun always shone, like some
idyllic Dennis Potter television screenplay. The spring and summer
months often produce a rich golden-leafed autumn though places can be
snowbound in winter, when the Forest assumes a different kind of
starker beauty. My last benefice for ten years of Drybrook, Lydbrook
and Ruardean was in the heart of the Forest of Dean, consisting of
around 7,500 people and taking in about one quarter of Cinderford
including the large Forest Vale industrial estate as well as numerous
settlements, each often ‘micro communities’ in their own right with
rich local traditions and local families going back many generations.
On summer camps with the Boys’ Brigade and school trips I remember
the slag heaps of coal and how they would dominate the land around
the now closed mines and entrances to villages and towns. By the
1990s these had grown over with ferns and saplings, often Corsican
pines because their root system needs shallow soil. I took many
funerals of men who had worked in the mines, some whom worked in the
last deep mine at Northern United Colliery which closed on Christmas
Eve 1965. I would sit and listen for hours to old miners whose
bravery and mental and physical strength would be lauded with a shrug
of the shoulders and a smile. In Clearwell Caves you can see accounts
and photographs of boys aged no more than 10 or 11 smoking their
distinctive pipes like little old men as they emerge from the local
pit, school days long gone for them. The society was patriarchal and
girls would typically leave school at 14 and spend time ‘in service’
in the big houses here in Cheltenham. One member of my congregation
at Drybrook, Ivy Hewlett, now 98, worked in this way at Prestbury
Manor and had one half-day a week to do her courting before marriage
and settling back in Cinderford.
What was church life like? Pretty tough, would be the answer – but
full of joy as well! I was very fortunate to have growing
congregations and high numbers of occasional offices, including last
year 80 baptisms, (sadly) 95 funerals and most years some 22-25
weddings. These services matter and count to successive generations
and the church is still the anchor in many families’ spiritual lives.
We developed a local ministry team and because my three parishes had
three vicars before becoming a benefice in 2006, it was essential to
build lay leaders and ‘doers’ to keep everything covered. Plenty of
pastoral care and as my daughter Ellie used to say, “Daddy just
walking about talking to people,” brought people into church and my
deepest joy was seeing the deepening of faith in people’s faces, week
by week, reconnecting with the love of Jesus and grasping this for
The Christingle Service at St Mary, Prestbury, is usually held in
the church during the weeks just before Christmas. Because of the
restoration work being undertaken during the last few months of 2016
it was not possible to hold the service at our usual time.
Instead, the service was planned to coincide with the festival of
Candlemas, and was held in the church on Sunday 29th January 2017 at
As normal, letters advertising the event were sent home with all
pupils at St Mary’s Infant and Junior Schools, and collecting
candles, to be filled with coins in aid of The Children’s Society,
were made available at the schools and the church. These were
then brought to the service at the church and exchanged for a ‘Christingle’.
This is made from an orange (representing the world) with red tape
circling the middle (representing Christ’s
blood shed for the sins of the world); four cocktail sticks holding a
mixture of sweets/sultanas/marshmallows are pushed into the top of
the orange (these represent the four seasons and the fruits of the
earth): finally a candle is put into the centre top of the orange
where a slit has been made previously and covered with a small square
of silver foil (the candle represents Jesus Christ – the light of the
Once everyone in the congregation had exchanged their collecting
candle, or collecting envelope, for a Christingle and had returned to
their seats all the candles were lit and the main lights dimmed; a
prayer of thanksgiving was offered to God and the song ‘Like a Candle
Flame’ was sung by everyone.
The music and accompaniment for our Christingle Service was
provided by the Celebrate! band, members of the Celebrate! team
helped in a variety of ways during the service and a group of
Celebrate! mums met together (as usual) in the Upper Room at St Mary
on the Friday evening and assembled the Christingles for Sunday.
The service was led by our Rector, Fr Nick Bromfield, and we
welcomed Roseann Thompson, the local representative of The Children’s
Society, who gave a talk about the range of help given by The
Children’s Society, and the different ways to aid with fund raising
for this charity. (As well as the fund raising from the Christingle
service the parish also takes part in providing individual
boxes in people’s homes to collect for The Children’s Society –
several of these were taken home by members of the congregation after
the service. The local organisers for this are Ruth Rudge (578665)
for St Mary and Jackie Smith (578739) for St Nicolas. Please contact
either if you would like a collecting box).
The service was attended by 150+ covering a wide age range; it was
lovely to be joined this year by a large group of representatives
from Prestbury Scouts, Cubs and Beavers.
A total of £186.00 was raised for The Children’s Society.
Thank you to everyone who attended and helped in any way.
These pictures were taken by Stephen Murton at
The final trip of the Charity took place 28th December – 11th
January and was as wonderful as ever! Fifteen people from England and
one from New Zealand had been working hard over the last two years to
raise funds for our two children’s homes. I know the Utugi Boys Home
group of six did well with their commitment to build a staff house.
The ten people fundraising for St Stephen’s included four people from
Prestbury village and one from Gloucester. The group raised nearly
£28,000. The main project was to re-wire the entire Home, to bring it
up to a fit standard. This included a new generator as backup for the
frequent power-cuts. Also, we had been collecting second-hand wedding
dresses which the Home can hire out, in order to earn extra income.
This involved the refurbishment of an existing shop on site.
These three things – wiring, generator, dress shop – came to
Therefore we were able to do a lot of great things with the surplus
funds once we arrived. We paid a year’s school fees for the
gate-man’s two children; we bought 104 pairs of school shoes; we
visited our old friends at the Jomo Kenyatta Red Cross Home for
disabled children and were able to leave money to buy ten new beds
and mattresses; we took our 104 kids to a fun-park for a morning, and
then back to our hotel, where we bought 104 portions of chips &
On our last day we still had money left so we asked for three staff
houses at the Gatondo Health Clinic (also one of our previous
projects) to be given electricity; a new ceiling to be put in
St Stephen’s dining hall and, if there were money left, new
irrigation pipes for the vegetable garden.
One disappointment was to learn that the borehole which we paid for
in 2012 at Gatondo was now producing salty water and the locals were
not willing to drink it. This was a blow to us and we have asked for
the water to be tested. Since returning, one of my church members is
looking into water purification systems through his work. I pray the
problem can be sorted without the huge expense we fear.
The children and young people at St Stephen’s continue to do well
in their education. We arrived just as exam results had been released
for the end of primary school. One of our girls had come second in
the entire region and she is now going to be sponsored by a local
bank in Embu. Not only is this a huge achievement for her, it is
wonderful that local businesses are taking an interest in the Home.
Two years ago the Home said goodbye to its founding manager and Rev
Mercy took over. She is the Bishop’s wife and away a lot, so I was
rather concerned for the future of the Home. Happily, a deputy was
soon appointed and he is really switched-on! We got on well with him
and he understood our concerns.
The wedding-dress hire shop was greeted with more enthusiasm than I
had dared hope for and the Anglican Church of Kenya (who run the Home
and pay the staff wages) have committed to stocking the shop with
accessories for sale. Once the ceiling is replaced in the dining hall
it is hoped this could be a venue for wedding receptions.
Kenya Projects (UK) charity is not carrying on because a) I am
retiring in July and I couldn’t find anyone else to take it on, and
b) we have done a huge amount of structural work for the Home and
feel they should make an effort to ‘own’ it themselves. However, the
Sponsorship Programme will continue and I thank all of you who
sponsor a child or give to general funds. You are changing the lives
of these children. They could not do so well without your support.
As our University students obtain their degrees and leave for the
big wide world young children are being referred to the Home by
Social Services and a few are still being found on the streets.
Whatever their background once the children are at St Stephen’s they
are surrounded by love and ‘family’. If we can continue our
sponsorship support they too will go on to university, God willing.
I have four children requiring sponsors, if anyone is interested!!!
Thank you so much for your financial support and encouragement,
Picture by Gill Wood
It’s not always like this. Some of our intrepid walking party
in Cirencester Park on Saturday 11 February 2107 ably led by Janet
Waters (centre in green). This well-supported walk, taking in
the town of Cirencester, was advertised as no stiles and no steep
There will be a full programme of monthly walks leaving St Nicolas
on Saturday mornings. Invariably there will be a somewhere
booked for lunch.
The next walk is at Cold Aston, Notgrove and Turkdean on Saturday
This is an easy 5 mile walk predominantly on quiet lanes and good
paths (to avoid the mud!), gently undulating with fine views. Lunch
will be at the Plough at Cold Aston so please contact Janet Waters if
you would like to come. We will depart St Nicolas car park at 9.30am.
I have always loved trains, from the small local electric ones that
took me to school in Surrey to the TGV in France, Eurostar, the
Cisalpino Express and the magnificent Rocky Mountaineer in Canada.
Cars and buses are useful, planes and ships make long journeys
possible, but I find trains friendly, comfortable and reassuring.
Once settled in your seat, a reserved one for long distances, you
abnegate responsibility and relax to enjoy the landscape and,
perhaps, the company. Night trains are very exciting, ideally
with a friend or friends, of course. I used to love waking in
the night at stations, the lights, the quiet and the gentle movement
of the train leaving the station before speeding up again on its way.
One of my most interesting night journeys was from Leningrad, as it
was then called, to Moscow with the Cleeve School students of
Russian. We had couchettes, though people were too excited to
sleep much, and there was a stewardess serving tea from a samovar at
the end of the corridor. In Moscow we travelled on the famous
Metro. The escalators went very deep and the walls of the
platforms had been illustrated by artists. We liked reading the
station names on the plans in the compartments and hearing them
announced on the loudspeakers.
My first trip abroad was to France, via Newhaven-Dieppe to Paris
and then to Toulouse to stay with my French penfriend. Since
then I travelled to France every year as a schoolgirl and student,
going by different cross-Channel routes. After graduating I
came to teach in Cheltenham where I met Leslie and we got married.
I had never been to Scotland, so Leslie planned a rail trip from
Cheltenham to Skye, via Glasgow, then north-east to Inverness and
back via Edinburgh. We stayed with his aunt near Greenock,
visited Loch Lomond and Glencoe, then went on to Fort William and the
Highland Railway to Mallaig and the Kyle of Lochalsh, where we
crossed on the ferry to Skye, in the sunset. That was one of
our most beautiful journeys. Many years later we took rail
holidays in Switzerland, Austria and Italy, buying a rail pass which
enabled us to stay in an area where we wished to walk and explore the
countryside. I particularly remember the mountain railways and
post buses in Switzerland and the valleys in Italy. Assisi was
our centre there, on a hill – you either walked up from the station
or took a taxi. Our hotel looked over towards the great
Basilica of St Francis. We walked down each day to the station
and caught the train that went through the valley. The
passengers were mainly schoolchildren and a few workers and tourists
who got off at the stations and walked up to the beautiful hilltop
To celebrate Leslie’s retirement we went on a 15-day rail holiday
across Canada. We flew to Vancouver and then travelled for three
days and nights on the Rocky Mountaineer to Toronto. We saw
Niagara Falls, stayed in the Rockies at Jasper and walked a few steps
on the Athabasca Glacier. The train was very long and very
well-appointed, with comfortable beds, a luxurious dining car and an
observation coach where we took it in turns to get the best view of
the countryside. We travelled for miles through grassy plains,
cornfields and woodland, seeing very few buildings of any kind and a
few freight trains going in the opposite direction. It was so
different from the busy railways of Europe. We stopped in the
Rockies at Kamloops in the night to unload and restock the dining
car’s provisions. It was an eerie experience, the quiet figures
working on the platforms of a station that seemed totally isolated in
the darkness. We had an afternoon break at Winnipeg where we
were allowed to leave the train and do some shopping in the town in
an enclosed market, which I loved. We left the Mountaineer at
Toronto and caught other trains to Ottawa and Montreal for the
flight home. We met a school friend of mine in Toronto and an
ex-colleague of Leslie’s in Ottawa, which was a great joy.
Later we travelled by Eurostar to Brussels to visit our eldest son
and his family. The Channel Tunnel makes the journey much
simpler than the ferry routes, but you miss the experience of the
sea! We also travelled by train through the Alps on the
Cisalpino train from Geneva to Milan. The line is a great feat
of engineering and the views are awe-inspiring. Nonetheless,
one of my favourite train journeys is on an impressive English line,
Brunel’s south Devon track that runs from Exeter beside the Exe
estuary and the sea to Dawlish and Teignmouth on its way to Penzance.
(It was badly damaged in floods a few years ago but has been
restored.) If you have never travelled along that line I think
you’d love it.
My first experience of travel was when, at just six weeks old, I
sailed with my sister and our mother to the Middle East on an oil
tanker! My father was a research chemist for the Anglo-Iranian
Oil Company, now B.P., at the refinery at Abadan. Company wives
had to return to the U.K. for the birth of a child as there were no
suitable medical facilities available to them on site, and their only
means of transport was the fleet of oil tankers.
Leaving Southampton we were accompanied by several trunks
containing everything that my mother calculated we would need for the
next eighteen months, when my father’s leave was due, since the stock
in the local store was very limited.
A few months on, our Ayah complained that we were running out of
baby soap. My mother offered her an unfamiliar brand which she
was reluctant to accept until told that it was a present from the
Queen! I was born in Queen Mary’s nursing home in Hampstead on
the King’s official birthday, and as was customary, was given a gift
to mark the occasion. When Ayah heard the full story she was
delighted to accept the soap!
I must have made several such journeys before the time came for my
sister and me to be left in England in the care of an aunt so that we
could go to school, but I can still remember the unique smell of a
On our individual life journeys we encounter challenges analogous
to those of travel with its hold-ups, late trains or cancelled
planes, and also easier times when things are on an even keel, like
the faithful tankers. But we all also experience periods of
calm and tranquillity and feel thankful to God for such blessings.
We are told travel broadens the mind. It can also be a
disturbing eye opener.
When in the late nineties my youngest took a year out in the
southern States of America I was invited for Christmas by his host
family. I was made very welcome, and was shown around the area
and introduced to the extended family. There were three polite,
lively children who called me Ma’m which unsettled me every time they
spoke! Ashley was the local GP/obstetrician; he and his
immensely likeable wife had met at university.
Some of their friends were back from Washington for the holiday.
When I enquired as to their thoughts they said (then president)
Clinton was no worse than the rest.
The grounds of the Grandfather’s home still held the beautiful log
cabin built by his own father, one room only, with bunk beds and
stove, full of the scent of cedar wood which seemed to glow, even
without the oil lamps. I was taken to see their old pecan
orchard which had in the past been a thriving commercial interest.
There were also a few remaining cotton bushes, and I couldn’t resist
picking a handful! At the edge of the field was a small group
of wooden shacks, with people still living there. They were
sitting on the front porches, perhaps a little uneasy at our
I was fascinated to visit a summerhouse on the river bank nearby,
where the family would still go for a day’s fishing and swimming,
regardless of occasional alligator sightings. The river mud
sometimes turned up evidence of long departed fishermen, and old
Indian arrow heads, chiselled from flint.
When after a day or two I realised there were no newspapers and no
current affairs on tv, Ashley found me the one weekly program which
featured world news. We got into discussion and I mentioned a
documentary that had horrified audiences in UK recently. It
featured so called “dying rooms” in China, where small children were
allegedly left to fade away.
Ashley’s response was immediate, “I don’t know and I don’t wanna
know.” It hit me at that moment how far isolationism influenced
opinion in the states. He was oblivious to the impact his words had
for me. I couldn’t think how to respond.
Can it possibly be that even family minded, educated Americans just
don’t comprehend the effect their government can have on the rest of
In the light of recent elections across the globe how can any of us
be sure we are fit to vote? If we can’t trust the judgement of
our representatives, and as individuals we are not equipped to
understand the broader implications, what on earth comes next?
The Children’s Society works with children living in poverty and
teenagers at risk. As you can imagine this covers a broad range of
work. Each month we are bringing you a story from one of the areas of
our work. Last month we talked about our research on Troubled Teens.
This month focuses on our work with Syrian Refugees and the success
of the recent Guardian and Observer’s Christmas Charity Appeal.
The Guardian and The Observer chose The Children’s Society as one
of three beneficiaries of its Christmas charity appeal which focussed
on refugees and migrants. Over a short period the appeal raised
£1.75m, and part of that money will be coming to The Children’s
Society, as well as Safe Passage and Help Refugees.
One of the projects featured as part of the appeal was MY Place in
Birmingham, run by The Children’s Society. This is a youth centre for
unaccompanied child migrants and as part of the group, we offer:
legal services, help with English, help to access education and
housing and, crucially, help to make friends and feel part of the
Here’s part of the article:
With a football match taking place the reporter meets Islam and
Maya, a 17-year-old from Syria, Arash and Samad, both 16, from
Afghanistan, and 18-year-old Hamid from Iran, who is awaiting a court
hearing about an age dispute. All live with foster carers or family
members and – with the help of The Children’s Society – all have
places at school, but the question of age hangs heavy and storm-like
over the conversation. Despite being a youth club everybody here
looks oddly ageless, in a way that quickly reminds you that children
are not built for escaping from war alone, on dinghies and in crates.
It’s not that these teenagers in their clean trainers and Adidas caps
look old – it’s that they look exhausted.
The risks they face, even now, even here, are complicated, hidden
in acronyms that I write down carefully, realising they allow support
workers to talk about sexual exploitation, upcoming court cases, and
the real danger of being killed, without blinking. These teenagers
have crossed oceans: the next treacherous journey is through the
British legal system.
Food is served on paper plates and everybody leaves their computers
and footballs to gather at the table. The best thing about being in
the UK, says Samad, is that here people respect animals. “In
Afghanistan they don’t even respect humans – it’s nothing just to cut
off a man’s head.” The second best thing about being in the UK, he
adds, is pizza.
There was a period, says Maya, when she had arrived in Birmingham
but couldn’t find a school to accept her. The way she tells it, is as
if she explored the city through its fish and chip shops. “I tried to
learn about England. I ate its junk food. I learned the word
‘gobbledegook’, which I love. I walked around the city. Then I found
the youth club and finally, here, I made a friend.” Before that, for
a long time, she says, “I was expecting neighbours to come by with
baskets of chocolate, welcoming us in, but that never happened.
However, with friends I felt less and less strange.”
It’s eight now, and the custard creams have been devoured, the
football won, and foster carers begin to arrive in quiet cars to take
the children home, to the next happy ending, the next night.
Your donations, actions, prayers and time enable our work with
children and young people who have come from war-torn countries. To
read the full article, please go to:
Written by Wilbur Smith with assistance from Tom Cain,
published in paperback in 2016.
This is the 37th book by Wilbur Smith and I have read most of them,
the first being
When The Lion Feeds in 1972. The last few books have been
co-written with other writers, presumably because Wilbur Smith is now
83 years old. All of the books are good adventure stories and
Predator is no exception. Set in modern times the story
revolves around Hector Cross, who is an ex-SAS soldier, who works in
the oil security business. In a previous book, Those In Peril,
his wife was killed by the villain Johnny Congo and Hector Cross is
determined to see that justice is done and see that Johnny Congo is
legally executed by the USA authorities but can Death Row hold him?
No. Congo is out for revenge but Cross is determined to find him and
silence him once and for all. This is a well-researched book
with a number of very interesting characters. It is not as
violent as some recent Wilbur Smith books, which makes for a better
read. 442 pages of real adventure. If you are not
familiar with Wilbur Smith I would suggest that you start with When
The Lion Feeds, which marks the start of the Courtney series which
covers 14 books. It will take you a few years to read them all
but you will not be disappointed.
The Big Sleep Out happened again from the 30 December 2016 to
1 January 2017 as I thought it would be a good idea to try to raise
more this time for the two chosen charities. I discussed the idea
with the Reverend Liz; she said there was no good reason that I could
not do it again. There was a further discussion with Neil Jones as we
were planning to improve on last year’s life size Crib Scene. I duly
contacted Graham at Cheltenham Fencing to organise the loan of the
fence panels, the scaffolding was organised from L & D Scaffolding.
The life size crib construction was started on the 3 December and
completed on 10 December. More figures were cut out and painted; more
are planned for future cribs.
I was able to complete a tour of all the churches in the Team
throughout Advent attending most of the services that were taking
place. This was to remind people why I was raising money for these
My wife delivered me and my equipment to the crib; I started the
sleep out on the 30 December at 9pm. She made sure that my bed was
well insulated from the cold by covering the bed with plenty of
cardboard. I was then on my own to see the first night out. Nothing
out of the ordinary happened; I was very warm in my sleeping bag. The
first call I received on Saturday morning was from radio
Gloucestershire to rev me up for the live interview on Fay Hatchers
programme at 9.15, during which both myself and the Reverend Liz were
interviewed. This was first time for me speaking live on the radio.
Later on in the morning my wife and daughters brought me some
sustenance. From then onwards I had a steady flow of visitors. Father
Nick came around lunchtime during which we had chat about how things
were going and what it was like sleeping out. Reverend Liz came along
bringing more supplies, taking some photos and having a natter. Mary
Morris also spoilt me with more nibbles. Shelagh Holder’s visit was
timely telling me that a storm was coming in between 2 and 3 in the
morning. David and Mary Williams popped in around 7.30pm. I was then
left in peace to sleep and think about life in general. I woke up
just before midnight, texted my family wishing them a Happy New Year.
I toasted the New Year on my own with a can of beer that Liz gave me.
Around quarter past midnight there was a very sharp shower of rain
which drove in the sides of the Crib. Starting to get wet I decided
to move into the church porch as a storm was forecast during the
night. There was a spectacular firework display to watch over
Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and around.
On New Year’s Day I awoke at 7.30am to torrential rain. I thought
that the walk to St Lawrence Swindon Village for the communion
service was off. The equipment was put in the church and sure enough
the rain stopped, I took the bridle way for the walk to Swindon
Village, the rain held off most of the way. I was the first member of
the congregation there.
The two-night’s sleep out was certainly more thought provoking,
there was plenty of time for me to realise how fortunate I was not
having to sleep out every night. The Big Sleep Out 2016/17 has
certainly raised awareness of homelessness throughout the North
Once again I would like to thank everyone for their support and
donations. The grand sum of £1056.75 was raised to share equally
between the Church Urban Fund and The Children’s Society. I also
would like to thank all the congregations throughout the Team for
their warm welcome. There is already talk of some event for 2017/18.
Pam Thomas, from the lingerie shop Joyce Brooks, arrived at our
February meeting with her friend Wendy and a large selection of stock
from her shop. We were given a brief history of the business
that was first opened by Joyce Brooks after she was made redundant
from Shires and Lances, when they closed in the 1970’s. At the
age of 89 Joyce decided to retire and sold the business to Pam.
Now Pam wishes to retire and is closing the business down at the end
of March, unless she has a good offer to sell it on. Pam then
asked members to name a letter of the alphabet and challenge her to
find an item to match it. From bras, corsets, knickers,
nightwear, swimsuits, tights and a whole array of clothing she came
up trumps. We even had some members modelling! A very
entertaining evening was had and I understand some members have been
to the shop since to purchase goods at the closing down sale.
A busy shift at the Colesbourne Snowdrop Weekend, serving tea and
cakes, helped to raise £1,300 for the Denman College Appeal.
This was followed by a day at Denman with a cookery demonstration,
lunch and a cream tea. We met at Monty’s for our monthly meal
out. A few members went on a workshop to build a ‘Bug House’
and a day-trip to Bristol to see ‘Evita’ at the Hippodrome was much
The month of March sees our Annual Council Meeting in the Town
Hall, where the guest speakers include Dr Lucy Worsley and Lady
Bathurst. Preparations are being made for the Three Counties
Show in June where Gloucestershire are hosting the WI marquee this
year. The Skittles Tournament is again on the horizon and so we
are starting to warm up with a few practice evenings. Wendy is
organising a Skittles and Supper Evening at the Suffolk Arms.
There is talk of a ‘Walking Netball’ Tournament which members showed
interest in. Recollections of their school days I think, but at
a slower pace! We are hoping to join a trip to Cardiff with a
visit to the Royal Mint. Members of the Racing Club have a
marquee at the Festival, but on Gold Cup day this year instead of
Peter Badham is our speaker on Monday 6th March, his subject being
‘The History of Pharmacy’. If anyone would like to join us for
the evening, 7.30pm at St Nicolas Hall, they will be made most
On Monday 13th
March Sally Gillespie will be giving us a talk on the vital work of
National Star, from how it stated to their amazing 50th Anniversary
this year. Sally will be giving us an insight into the work
they do, case studies, fundraising and lots more!
Visitors are always welcome at our WI meetings. They are held on
the second Monday of each month and start at 7.15pm in the WI Hall on
For further information on WI activities please contact Hilary
Who or what makes that perfect travel companion? Someone who knows
their way around and can speak a bit of the language? What if they
could even produce a street map of Rome and a list of the best
May we recommend one of the many travel guides from Gloucestershire
Libraries as that ideal companion – or at least as well as your
nearest and dearest?
A library travel book may actually have been to the area before. A
customer recently returned a pile of Russian travel guides that she
had borrowed for her trip on the Trans-Siberian Express. It was
intriguing to think that all those books had actually been to all the
way to Siberia and back to Prestbury Library again. If only our
travel guides could talk, they could recount tales of Spanish sunbeds
or views from a Bavarian backpack.
Actually many of our books do talk. They don’t give away your
holiday secrets but they do fit neatly as an audiobook onto your
phone or tablet. Listening to your favourite author might be easier
than reading en route; a real boon for those who get queasy in cars
and coaches. Collins language guides are also available as free
audiobooks – learn as you travel.
Travel guide eBooks are also excellent if you use a tablet or
smartphone on holiday. We have a large selection of the Lonely Planet
Guides as eBooks – all ready to borrow for three weeks, just like
regular books. And while you have your tablet on, download a few free
magazines too for the sun lounger via our Zinio application.
Online eBooks, magazines and audiobooks are now all part of the
library service and really make great travelling companions. Just
don’t ask them to remember where you put the passports.
For help setting up your device with online services, please bring
it along to the library and ask any of us for help.
Jo, Karen, Laura, Becky and Tessa at Prestbury
‘When the LORD created his works from the beginning, and, in
making them, determined their boundaries, He arranged His works in
an eternal order, and their dominion for all generations.
Then the LORD looked upon the earth and filled it with His good
Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 16; 26, 27, 29
I HAVE BEEN FORTUNATE to have travelled to many places in the world
and find it amazing to see the huge variances between one area and
another, but also thought-provoking to see how there can be such
poverty surrounded by so many natural riches. It is a privilege to
learn from people who live in adversity whilst they live surrounded
by incredible beauty, of the hardships that they accept as daily
life, and marvel that their faith is visible and strong in spite of
William Blake so eloquently wrote in Auguries of Innocence:
‘To see the World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.’
This is to see things in a different light, with your eyes open to
everything that surrounds you, but to see clearly, with imagination
and thankfulness. In seeing these fantastic sights one feels closer
to God and His amazing Creation. To observe a forest that has been
growing since the time of the dinosaurs, a salt plain so wide that it
appears to be a white ocean, stretching as far as the eye can see, or
multi-coloured mountains scattered with lagoons, is to see how Nature
in all its simplicity far outshines anything that man can strive to
make. To walk along a jungle track and observe the constant promise
of rebirth in each tiny green shoot surviving in hostile conditions,
inspires and demands a desire to marvel at, and yes, worship the
greatness found in such simplicity.
Each person experiences life in a different way, sees the world
with different eyes, likewise each person’s relationship with God is
never the same. Some find it very hard to come to terms with things
whilst others accept the harshness of poverty or disability with an
amazing fortitude, taking strength from their closeness to their God.
The secret appears to be acceptance of our neighbours and their
As we are beginning the season of Lent, perhaps it is a good time
to reflect on the simple things that surround us, to be thankful for
the many disregarded blessings we take for granted, and to look for
ways of ‘paying forward’ the love which our Lord showed in His
lifetime, and still does, when we allow Him to.
‘Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you: therefore He
will rise up to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of
justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.’
Isaiah 30 v18