Dean's Blog

Blog – August 2017

Summer Holiday: August 2017
Having taken the Sunday evening service on Sunday 30th July I took the overnight Gulf Air flight to London and caught the the underground train to King’s Cross Station (of Harry Potter fame), where I was to meet with Tricia to catch the midday train from there to Inverness. s1It was another long journey on top of the flight, but in some comfort, as we travelled First Class, a new experience, but booked well in advance was very reasonably priced, especially as we were given meals, snacks and drinks at regular intervals. It travels at high speed up to Edinburgh, with only a stop in York and it was lovely following the Northumberland coast catching a glimpse of Lindisfarne flashing by. But from Edinburgh onwards, the Scottish section of the Journey the pace slackened especially when we hit the Highlands where on two occasions we had to stop for another train coming from the north on a single track with passing places. We arrived in Inverness nine hours later.

We stayed in an Airbnb, in walking distance from the city Centre and the following day picked up a rental car. We did a brief trip to the Loch Ness Centre which reviewed the legends, the history and the scientific research on the Loch Ness monster, which has caught so many people’s imagination, concluding that large though it is, it did not have the necessary food to sustain a large monster.

s2The following day we drove up to the northern tip of mainland Scotland to John O’ Groats on what was a lovely summer’s day, a rare event in this part of the world. We were able to see clearly across to the Orkneys and breathe in the fresh sea air. We had managed to book tickets for Sister Act, a London show based on the movie, and showing at a theatre just five minutes’ walk from where we were staying. It was an exuberant performance and we felt privileged to be there especially when we heard that some people had booked for the show the previous Christmas.

s3We travelled on from Inverness towards Fort William on Thursday 3rd August, where we’d been told you could get the best fish and chips in Scotland. After consulting with the Tourist Information Office, we went to Macaris on the High Street and it certainly lived up to its reputation. We travelled on to Glencoe, a brooding valley, where the infamous massacre took place, not for the numbers killed but for the breach of hospitality that was incurred when orders were received to kill the inhabitants who had welcomed the soldiers with gracious hospitality.

s4From Glencoe we headed south staying in a beautiful bed and breakfast overlooking Melfort Loch, south of Oban on the west coast. On the following day we returned to Oban and decided to see if we could find a memorial to Josephine Marshall, a neighbour and friend in Hong Kong, who had tragically died from a virulent cancer only diagnosed following the birth of her second child. She was only 34, leaving behind her husband and two young children, and a very gifted teacher and cellist. I had attended the funeral in the Episcopal Cathedral in Oban twenty years previously. We found the garden with the ducks and decided to knock on the door of the farmhouse that used to belong to Josephine’s grandparents. Wonderfully Everest, Josephine and Robin’s daughter answered the door and Robin and Jocelyn, a Filipino whom Tricia and I had known independently and has provided the home care for the family, were also there. It was a special reunion.

After a cup of tea and the opportunity to catch up we headed for the Isle of Seil crossing the ancient Bridge over the Atlantic to reach the island and travelled as far as the road would allow. There was a very eccentric art gallery where we sheltered from the rain and had a cup of tea and shortbread before heading back to our B and B.

s5We were up early the following morning (Saturday 5th August) to catch the ferry from Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull and on a lovely sunny day took the scenic coastal route to Fionnphort via Selem. We stopped for lunch at the Mausoleum for the Macquarie family, particularly Lachlan Macquarie, the first Governor-General of Australia and known as the ‘Father of Australia’. The road is certainly spectacular following the coast with mountains often rising up steeply beside the road. We stayed in a very welcoming Airbnb in Fionnphort, a short walk to the ferry to Iona, our destination for the following day.


s6We attended the Sunday morning service (6th August) at Iona Abbey having caught the ferry across from Fionnphort. It was exciting to watch a gannet fishing in the straight between Mull and Iona, turning from a glide into a focused missile, as it determinedly dived for a fish. The service was lovely: a large congregation, sensitively led liturgy, which was inclusive of people from a variety of traditions and ages, and a thoughtful sermon from the new leader of the Iona Community, Michael Marten. After the service we had lunch with Pat Bennett, a colleague of Tricia’s, when she was doing her Theology degree, an added bonus as although we knew she was working with the Iona Community, in Glasgow, we had no idea that she would be at the Abbey when we were there. It was also good to visit the museum and get a feel for Iona’s history since its founding by St Columba in the 6th Century.

s7We caught an afternoon ferry, collecting our hire car, to travel to Lochdon, staying at an Airbnb, with a stunning view of the Loch from our bedroom window. Our host had moved from Cambridge with hi s young family; he is a master carpenter who has an interest in outdoor activities, especially kayaking. He had clearly immersed himself in the local community since arriving on Mull by volunteering for the Coastguards, who essentially act as an emergency service, having to respond to all sorts of emergencies: people in trouble on cliffs, on the mountains, at sea or even in car accidents. We had two nights there and on our only full day on Mull we drove to Tobermory, a very attractive fishing village with multi-coloured houses on the waterfront.

We caught the ferry from Craignure to Oban on Tuesday 8th August and from there drove on to Glasgow stopping for a picnic on the edge of Loch Lomond. Having found our Airbnb and offloaded our luggage, I returned our hire car after searching the city for a filling station as I had to return it with the tank full. In the evening Tricia met with an academic from Glasgow University, who is working in a similar field to her PhD; she kindly travelled in to the city to share a meal.

On Wednesday 9th August we caught the train from Glasgow to Wilmslow in Cheshire via Manchester. We travelled through very familiar countryside from our years in the Lake District. For much of the journey we sat opposite a very chatty couple who lived in the Lakes, but were originally from Yorkshire. They were off on a river cruise on the Rhine and the Mosel.

s8We had a lovely couple of days with my sister Heather, just out of hospital from a shoulder operation, her husband Stuart, niece Katherine and grand niece, Savannah, just a month old. The extra pairs of hands were appreciated to help hold Savannah and help walk the three dogs were appreciated, especially as Heather was sadly out of action for Granny duties.


We visited Great Budworth to see a memorial stone in the parish church to my great great great grandfather, James Dean, a surgeon who lived in the village, his son and grandson (my great grandfather whom I remember well) and then went on to see the beautiful gardens of Arley Park, where we also had a delicious salad lunch, most of the ingredients coming from the vegetable gardens of the estate.

On Friday 11th August we travelled on from Wilmslow to Hitchin, Hertfordshire on the train traveling down to Euston Station, London and out from Kings Cross, where we spent the s9weekend with our daughters, Alex, married to Dan, and Hannah, who is back from Hong Kong for a fortnight; she was able to combine the weddings of two friends with some work in London.  We enjoyed a swim in the heated Olympic-size outdoor pool, which tested our fitness on the Friday followed by a bacon and egg roll and mug of tea sitting in a small cafe in the market. In the evening we had a family meal at a Tapas restaurant with Tamsin, a close family friend from our Kent days, now working as a doctor in Oxford. On Sunday morning (13th August), following the morning service at St Mary’s Hitchin, where Dan is serving as Curate, s10we were also able to catch up with Paul Johnson, who had a few months at St Christopher’s Cathedral, but had to return to the UK because of health concerns. It was good to see him looking well, enthusiastic and looking forward to a new teaching post at a school on the Isle of Man. Alex led us in a cross fields walk to a Garden Cafe for lunch, a sprightly elderly couple using their house and garden to serve delicious homemade lunches at very reasonable prices. In the afternoon I joined Dan and Alex at The Hub Church, meeting in very much a cafe style and exploring the theme of hospitality. Afterwards they had a game of rounders against another “fresh expressions” church from Stevenage, and typically managed to tweak a hamstring, Usain Bolt style, as I raced to the first base!

s11On Monday 14th August we travelled on to Strood in Kent, part of the Medway towns on the other and less glamorous side of the Medway River from Rochester, where we had rented a tiny one-bedroom terraced house; but it was all very clean and comfortable. As our previous parish was at the other end of the Medway towns, we know the wider area well, but are also aware that Strood is not a place that we have explored. We have decided not to rent a car, but to use public transport while we are here, as we are minutes away, on foot, from the train station and buses also are fairly frequent.

On Tuesday 14th August we caught a bus into Chatham where we both had sight tests and in addition I had a hearing test. In the afternoon I walked into Rochester across the bridge over the Medway and, as Choral Evensong was about to begin in the Cathedral, I stayed on for that; it was led beautifully by a girls’ choir from St Alphege’s Church, Solihull and it was good to talk to the lady Canon responsible for the Cathedral’s mission following the service.

The weather forecast being good for Wednesday, we caught the train down to Westgate-on-sea where we read on the beach, went for a rather chilly, but very refreshing, swim on the rising tide and had fish and chips in a typical English seaside cafe before catching the train back to Rochester and walking back to Strood.

On Thursday 16th August we travelled up to London, meeting up with Andy and Jo Holland, s12
now ex-Bahrain, for a coffee in St Pancras Station. A’ level results had just come out that morning, which impacted on their son Michael, but he had done well and is soon off to help in a school in Kenya for a year. We went on to the Royal Academy and spent some time looking at the Summer Exhibition, works by both familiar names but also by many others whose works had been selected.We had a late picnic, that we’d brought with us, in the courtyard under the watchful eye of a statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds. We popped in to see an exhibition of paintings s13of Tudor Royalty in an adjacent gallery, a particularly spectacular portrait of Mary I, though the lighting of the gallery was so dim it was hard to catch the richness of the colours. We met up with Hannah and her long term school and university friend, Lauren, at Pizza Express before going together to Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe Theatre, an amazing production full of interaction with the audience, set during the armed struggles of the Mexican Revolution.

On Friday we had a home-based day, trying to make contact with a number of people but in all cases getting voicemails or answer machines. In the afternoon I left Tricia to her studies and s14went for a lengthy walk, coming face to face with a young fox at one point, picking blackberries on the way, but also getting caught in a heavy rainstorm as I was at the furthest point crossing the Medway motorway bridge. As I walked back to Strood picking up the Strood Community Trail, I came across a 13th Century  Knights Templar house rather incongruously now in the middle of an industrial estate, something that I had no idea existed after eleven years living eight miles away. In the evening Tricia and I walked to Frindsbury Church, which we can see perched on the top of a white chalk cliff, presumably an old quarry. There is an amazing view of the city of Rochester and especially the Cathedral and the castle, again another place I hadn’t been to in eleven years living in this area; I will return to take a photograph from there.

On Saturday 19th August we planned to meet Dan’s parents, Heather and Jeremy, for lunch in the Cooper’s Arms pub in Rochester. En route we went via the Temple Manor, the Knights s15Templar house which extended the walk but it is only open to the public at weekends. It is amazing to find such a treasure in the middle of an industrial estate and throws new light on the history of this community. We had a good lunch and they mentioned particularly the impact of hearing and meeting Terry Waite at a recent New Wine week. After our lunch together, I popped into Baggins, that advertises itself as England’s largest second-hand bookshop, and Tricia found a copy of Terry Waite’s Taken on Trust. I was hoping too to find a copy of Brian Keenan’s An Evil Cradling, written following similar experiences of kidnap and incarceration in solitary confinement in Lebanon, to give to Jeremy, but I had to be content with the book by Terry Waite. My particular memory from Brian Keenan’s book is his amazing description of a bowl of fruit, and especially the orange, given following months of only eating grey porridge. His response is almost one of worship.

On Sunday I went to the early morning Communion Service at St Nicholas, Strood, which was led by Sue Vallente-Kerr, a Pioneer Minister in Strood and Frindsbury and the daughter of the Revs Paul and Jean Kerr, who were active in the Diocese of Rochester when I served here eight years ago. David Green, the Vicar of Strood, and father of Lucy, who shares an apartment with our Philippa in Sydney, Australia, was returning to the parish from his sabbatical the following day.

s16Later in the morning we travelled down to Paddock Wood, where we were met by our daughter Hannah and Tom at the station. Tom’s brother Jimmy drove us all to their mother’s home, where we met Tom’s mother and grandmother along with the parents of Jimmy’s partner Hannah over lunch in the lovely garden of the family home in the midst of Kent Weald countryside – a very happy occasion.

s17Meals and visits dominated the week beginning 20th August. On Monday after two visits and cups of tea with old parishioners we had dinner with Paul and Sue Warren, who have visited us in Bahrain a few years ago; on Tuesday we caught up with Gavin and Janet Cargill, whose daughters remain good friends with our girls. We met up on the train to Margate and had a gentle day in cafes, in the relatively new Turner Contemporary art gallery, which is a good size for a gallery, not overwhelming you with the sheer volume of material, but enough to hold a significant exhibition, and over a fish and chips and mushy peas lunch. We saw the Anthony Gormley (of Angel of the North fame) cast gazing out to sea and covered with water at high tide.

s18On Wednesday 23rd August I had a further fuller hearing test in the big shopping centre of Bluewater, so, while we were there, we used the facility of the cinemas to go and see the remarkable movie Dunkirk. It managed to highlight both the horror and destruction of war, but also the heroism in the midst of the extremities of the situation – the need to evacuate thousands of soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk – puts people in. It follows what’s happening primarily through the actions of a few individuals: on the beaches, in the armada of boats crossing the channel to bring the soldiers home and in the battle above in the sky through an RAF pilot. It’s a movie to go and see.

On Thursday 24th August, while Tricia headed up to London to renew her passport, I got myself a day bus pass and used it to get around the Medway towns: to deliver a letter by hand to the Will Adams Centre in Gillingham; to call in on John Weir the Funeral Director in Rainham, with whom I had many dealings when a priest here, and having a cup of coffee in the parish church – St Margaret’s in Rainham; to pay a quick visit to Chatham Dockside Shopping Outlet and to the Christian bookshop run by the Baptist Church in  Rochester; finally to the Strood Sports Centre for a swim.

In the evening we invited David and Caroline Green out for a meal at an Italian restaurant, Mama Mia’s, in Rochester. When we first arrived in Rochester Diocese, David was a neighbouring priest and we found we had a shared interest and experience of the Focolare Movement. Independently our Philippa and their daughter Lucy became good friends at school and now share an apartment in Sydney. David too has had a sabbatical this year, largely spent in Australia and Caroline, a teacher is doing a PhD, so we have lots in common and it was a very enjoyable evening out together.

s19On the Saturday we had two meals out. Saskia, who had done her dance training in Rochester and was back on leave from Bahrain invited us to meet with some of her church family from Rochester Baptist Church over lunch in a garden of one of the church families. We were warmly welcomed by all who were there, mostly members of a homegroup that Saskia attended. In the evening we joined John and Linda Kracht, who had come out to Bahrain for my licensing service eight years ago, for a wonderful roast lamb dinner. It was good to spend time with them as John has had to face a barrage of tests and treatment in recent years and though they could not speak more highly of the care they have received in the Medway Hospital, the whole process is clearly exhausting for them both.

s20On Sunday we returned to St Matthew’s Wigmore, in the Parish of South Gillingham, our previous Church, and it was good to catch up with so many friends after the service over coffee, appreciative of the welcome that Brian Senior, the current Team Rector, always gives us when we come back. Following the service we caught the train to Rochester, where we had lunch at The Golden Lion with Tony and Shirley Vick with the Prison Chaplain and a team of those involved with Prison Fellowship, who help to lead worship and befriend prisoners in Rochester Prison.

s21We travelled down to my brother John and his wife Jackie, near Havant, on Tuesday, enjoying our meals eating out in the garden and going out for a walk in the lovely country surrounding their home. It was helpful for me to get some pension advice from John, who was an independent financial adviser prior to retirement as I rapidly move towards official pension age!

We stayed overnight and returned the following day stopping off to see a fascinating exhibition on robots at the Science Museum in London exploring the use of robots from medieval automatons to the very sophisticated use in education and industry in the present day. We returned to Strood via West Malling, Kent having a wonderful meal with old friends from our St Matthew’s days, Michael and Ann Echlin and John and Ninon Tice.

Thursday 31st August was our final full day in Strood. We cleaned up the house and did some final necessary domestic things before walking to the Strood Sports Centre for a swim, though we hit a time when children were having an afternoon of floats. The deep end however was “roped off” and we were able to swim widths rather than lengths. We had a lovely evening meal with Paul and Pearl Bellerby, members of St Matthew’s, who’d recently come back from climbing  Snowdon, and we were able to catch up with their news.

s22We travelled on to Hitchin for our final weekend before returning to Bahrain, good time spent with our daughter, Alex and her husband Dan, expectant parents in December. On the Saturday we had a walk along the Banks of the River Ouse, near Bedford, having a simple lunch at what is known as the Danish Camp. Sunday was a busy day for Dan, with responsibilities in St Mary’s Church, where he is a curate and the Hub Church meeting in the Market Theatre bar. s23We attended the main morning service, a Sung Eucharist at which Dan was celebrating, followed after coffee by a storytime – the story of Mary and Martha – for very young children and families sitting on bea n bags, which Dan led, and involving a very professional music group (violins and cello) to lead a couple of songs. It was lovely to see a much older couple acting as welcomers and other members of the church involved. A lively intern, Faith, who’d just arrived from the States and who will be working in Youthscape, Alex’s work, joined us for lunch with Martha, who is working with The Hub. In the evening I joined the evening service at The Hub, at which Martha was preaching, and found myself sitting next to a lady visiting from Dubai! It’s a small world.

On Monday afternoon we caught the train to Heathrow, staying overnight at the airport Hotel in Terminal 4, which though expensive, takes the stress and anxiety of travelling to Heathrow at rush hour times on the M25, catching the Gulf Air flight back to Bahrain on Tuesday morning.