Hi there ! We have been on holiday ! Together ! As a family ! Sometimes.
We spent just over three weeks in the UK, firstly in North Wales, in Deeside.
Some friends loaned us their house while they were on holiday in low places so we had pretty total freedom. It was great to be with our home church and then to be invited to coffee, to lunch and to tea/dinner/supper pretty well every day.
While there we rekindled our relationship with Asda, where I used to be on the team of chaplains, and I made what would prove to be the serendipitous discovery of the holidays, namely a moka pot coffee maker of unknown fabrication (it doesn't say made in China) at the very decent price of £5. It became my constant friend and companion and has accompanied me back to France.
We met up with our friends, the Griffins, in Chester. We thought that they had deliberately crept up on us, but then discovered that four years in Burkina Faso turns a somewhat exuberant family into a rather quiet bunch. We exercised our jaws pretty hard, however.
We attended a church officers' social evening, and it was good to see new church officers filling the lounge in the new pastor's house. Matt Francis started at the church in July (I think) and I have just remembered that I have not yet answered an email from him !
During that first week Catrin was on camp but Gwilym was with us, turning in a memorable performance in a rather crazed karaoke evening at the home of some church members.
The second week was spent at the Aber Conference. Catrin had now gone to spend the week in London with friends. Gwilym was in a yoof flat in Aber keeping his kitchen clean and keeping the noise down at night, honest. We were in a super little flat with two sofas in the kitchen, sharing with two health-food-eating ladies (chia seeds and wheat grass powder stuck in my mind, if not my craw), one super chap from the Black Evangelical Reformed Church in London and two assorted pastors from neighbouring countries (England and Ireland, I think) These latter being alone and omnivorous we established a common larder and so ate MOUNDS of spaghettis bolognaises and curry and so on. The moka pot came in handy.
At Aber we were detailed to man our mission's stand on two days, carefully chosen so as not to prevent us from going to seminars I fancied. As it turned out I didn't go to the seminars anyway. We took the week easy. However there were many highlights :
1) Geoff Thomas in Bethel, with his timeless liturgy. "Let us worship God, let us pray."
Geoff preached on the Ascension in three messages. We benefited from the first two but missed the third.
2) Bernard Lewis on Monday evening, preaching with a calm seriousness. Bernard was a missionary in Papua New Guinea with our mission and now pastors the church where our ex-colleague Carol Liddiard is a member.
3) Alistair Begg in the mornings on "With Christ in the School of Evangelism". He's a lovely man, his looks belie his 61 years (it's definitely a wig) and the messages were engaging with a lovely self-deprecating humour. I was glad he didn't say anything like 'barely ambulatory'. I thought that these were good times but that they didn't hit their stated goals. There we are...
4) Iain D Campbell. For me Iain was man of the match. He preached on "But I" from Romans 7, then "But Christ" from Galatians 2. They were cracking messages. Just grand. And since I love him dearly anyway, ever since he laughed when I said in his church "and the Auld Alliance - well the less said about that, the better", then you can see that he and I have this special bond...
5) Vaughan Roberts. I don't think anyone was surprised when he revealed his secret. Maybe you have already heard? Anyway, just in case the news has not reached you, Vaughan confessed that he is Welsh. Well both his names are Welsh, aren't they! He preached very well from Habbakuk.
6) Ian Parry. Well Ian and I have this special bond, you see. When I was 30 and Ian was a little younger we were both in Emmanuel Baptist Church in Cardiff and we have kept in touch over the years. He is a great lad, a Keller devotee (without the tee-shirt, he protests) and a brave minister and a faithful pastor. On the Friday he preached a brave pastor's message on "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" and let's just say that I got the message.
The third week was completely different. We went to stay with some friends in Bath, calling on my sister Kathryn on the way.
It was great to see Huw, Kath and Peter in good form and to catch up on the family news. We see so little of each other.
Catrin arrived in Bath from London on the 19:30 bus. Gwilym went off to "Soul Survivor" from Sunday to Friday. And we walked the pretty streets and alleys of Bath. Mrs Davey and Catrin visited the Jane Austen Museum. We met up with friends just outside Bristol and visited Tyntesfield together. I made two visits to that temple of coffee, Colonna and Smalls, one by accident and one by design. Gwilym's visit confirmed his preference for quantity over quality (he prefers ... Costa) and I happily browsed the bookshops.
I got a chance to attend the prayer meeting at Deeside and home groups at Bath. I was also able to meet up with my friend Rupert Bentley-Taylor for a coffee, and we caught up with our dear friends, Keith and Janice Hoare erstwhile of Aix-en-Provence but now at ... Herne Bay.
Yesterday we caught the 7:25 plane from Bristol, rising at 4am to do so, returning our hire car unblemished (Phew ! Relief !) en route, enjoying a super flight to Bordeaux and being met at the airport by John Wooley of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Cardiff (see above) who had borrowed our house with Deborah and Jessica. We spent the day exercising our jaws and today I feel I still have a sleep deficit to make up!
Probably a sign of a good holiday!