Two weeks in Wales

 We flew to Manchester Airport on August 3rd with Ryanair, an easy and uneventful flight, and caught our train to Shotton. Everything was on time and convenient. The train was clean and comfortable and we enjoyed seeing the landscape slowly change from the city of Manchester to rural Cheshire and then to Wales.

We had been asked to "organise" the Missions Hall at the Annual Conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales in Aberystwyth. Flights in August are predictably expensive but our mission travel fund is there for that. We baulked, however, at paying a thousand pounds for a hire car so it meant travelling by rail. Aberystwyth is accessible by rail, but to go there from Manchester Airport would take a very long time so we took the opportunity to break the journey with a visit to our "home" or "sending" or "previous" church in Shotton, North Wales.

This was a joy, of course, and we got to visit our old next-door neighbour and to see various old friends who we had not seen for five years or more. Not only that, but some folk were travelling down to Aberystwyth and had room in their car for us, so we got to travel together, too.

The conference was a wonderful time - the first in-person conference since 2019, so especially valued. I had a few hesitations about being in a crowd of over a thousand people, known for their lusty singing, but we had no ill-effects and I am not aware of any clusters generated by the conference.

Our responsibilities included :

1) open up and be the door keeper

2) organise the placement of the missions' stands, ably assisted by the wonderful conference stewards who managed to get everything done while I was still making lists

3) begin each day's session with a brief prayer meeting

4) unblock toilets and car-park. (I'm not sure which was the worst)

5) try to provide adequate ventilation in the extreme heat

6) ensure everyone was happy and all went well

7) Pat ran the tea and coffee kitchen

8) be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

We had a wonderful time, though we are hesitant about doing it again. Our resistance to the automobile is particularly difficult in Aberystwyth where there is a very long hill between the Campus where every other meeting takes place and the two, where the Missions Hall was situated. We only climbed the hill once, getting lifts or the bus most times, but coming down long steep hills is still time-consuming and wearing on the limbs. Also the whole thing is pretty tiring. I think the role is best given to someone who is younger and, as we say in France, motorised.

We were accommodated in a student flat and we had a great time with the splendid characters who were sharing the flat with us: a couple from Belgium, some chaps from South Wales and others from all over. I enjoyed reverting to the accent and dialect of my youth for a while. I even had one or two faltering conversations in Welsh, though I stumble over the little words and struggle to find some vocabulary.

Flying back was a little more problematic. Ryanair told us that there were some delays getting through security in Manchester so to arrive early and to consider taking Fast Track. We did both, taking an earlier train and paying 12 euros to have the high speed line at security.

In the event we are diverted away from Fast Track because we were so early for our flight. OK. But getting through security was challenging - my bar of soap was challenged, as well as my canny decision to pack my adapters and wires in a large mug we bought in Aberystwyth. Still, on the third go through we were deemed harmless and allowed to wait for our flight.

Which was delayed because of violent storms over Paris and London. No problem. We took off perhaps an hour late and had a beautiful flight through cloud-free skies before landing at Bordeaux and arriving home.


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