On Tuesday I took flight to go to the Affinity Theological Studies Conference.
This is held every two years and takes the form of six papers exploring a theme in theology, these papers being sent out beforehand accompanied by a series of discussion questions. During the conference each expert delivers a synopsis of his paper, or homes in on sections they feel particularly relevant. The assembled company then divides into groups of about 10 people to discuss the paper and the questions set by the speaker. I had agreed to lead one of these groups.
I set off from a tempest-racked Bordeaux having weighed the misery of catching the 42 outside our flat, then crossing the road at Mérignac to wait for the 1 to the airport against the misery of trudging to the centre of Pessac to catch the 48 directly with no change. I decided on the latter and made it to the airport not entirely drenched. Some of this water came from my trek to the bus stop. Some of it fell INSIDE THE BUS. I consoled myself with the thought that just last week there were concerns of drought in the summer. Our aquifers were being refilled.
The airport at Bordeaux is easy. Easy to get to. Easy to get through security. Easy to avoid the duty-free shops. Easy to find a coffee is you want one. Easy to find the toilets. Easy to find the departure gate. We are very spoilt.
Boarding the flight wasn't quite so easy. Because of the weather, for the wind wrought and was tempestuous, they decided to embark with only one set of stairs, and I entered the plane to find the steward drying the seats with paper towel. "It's raining INSIDE THE PLANE?" I asked, and he said it was.
Having seen videos of aeroplanes shimmying and sashaying down the runway to land I was, perhaps understandably, a trifle apprehensive but my fears were banished when I heard the steward address the pilot as "Maverick". With Tom Cruise at the joystick, with a few unusual manoeuvres and with bated breath, after a few short minutes we were above the wind, which indeed wrought and was tempestuous and into the brilliant sunshine and peace that you find above the clouds.
I was sent into a revery about the difficult periods of life, which has so often wrought and been tempestuous, and how, if we can find out how, like Maverick, to rise above we can nevertheless find brilliant sunshine and peace.
Oops - here we are in Gatwick. A bit of argy-bargy with shuttles and I was soon on the train opposite two chatty young ladies who had just returned form a fortnight's adventures in Cuba! What experiences they had had! Now it was back to work but with their secret weapons - their memories of their Havana experiences, and not a few bottles of real rum, the good stuff.
As for me I took the 73 bus through the potholes and pneumatic drills of the capital of the rebel kingdom to the British Museum. I was headed for the Greek and Roman rooms with my copy of "Through the British Museum with the Bible". Or is it called "Through the Bible with the British Museum". One or the other.
I first visited Sargon II's Winged Lion Gates. I love those things and if one day I can have a house built for me then that's what I'll have for my garden, perhaps a trifle smaller. I was thrilled to find Sargon II's Winged Lion Bookends in the gift shop later, but at £55 each they stayed there.
Past the Parthenon Frieze, a quick visit to the ever-youthful Alexander the Great, then down to the inscriptions that demonstrated Luke's scrupulous trustworthiness in his travelogue in Acts, a quick sideways glance at the mummies, then off to the cafe for a cup of ... what-do-you-call-this ... coffee. Then lunch I suppose. I found that London shares the current vogue for eating raw fish wrapped round little balls of rice, but adds a plethora of Korean cafes. I ate in Macdonalds. Of course.
Then on the Underworld Railway to Golder's Green where I was to stay overnight with my old friends Gary and Eleri Brady. We would travel up together the following day to the conference.