Actually, there was quite a good reason for it,- namely very little worth blogging. The Indian Express continues to bear down on me, dominating both practical and emotional landscapes, and much of last week was very task focussed and makes less than rivetting reading...
You see, since Tuesday I’ve
- Started my malaria tablets
- Stripped Gloucester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey of small and inexpensive gifts of the tea-towel and bookmark variety, since I'd hate to arrive empty handed in a culture famous for generosity
- Continued to accumulate clothes and pharmaceuticals in the corner of the bedroom, where they fill me alternately with excitement and guilt whenever I fall over them en route to draw the curtains (one possible solution to this would be, of course, to get on with packing the things…but that feels a bit too conclusive right now)
- Purred happily as I watched HS and GK enjoying the CK Community Players production of Oliver! - HS in sole charge 0f a rather complex lighting scheme, and watching the world from a great height, GK giving his all on stage. Actually, I felt rather like the mum of the entire company as they seem to be either part of my congregation, kids I know from schools/youth groups,neighbours or dog walkers. Inordinately proud of them all, if that doesn't sound patronising. Believe me, they were excellent.
- Enjoyed 3 excellent evenings with special friends, all of whom are reassuringly confident that they will indeed see me in December. Mind you, I suspect that N and I, who habitually meet for curry every six weeks or so, may just need to revise our habits in the immediate aftermath of my trip. After curries and spicy foods 3 meals a day for a month, they may no longer be quite the treat they’ve been till now…but we’ll cross that bridge as and when…
Meanwhile, some of the congregation as nearly as wobbly about my departure as I’ve been at my worst. I think they too my be treating my trip as a dress rehearsal for my real departure, which is likely some time in the next 18 months. It’s possible, too, that India really does look rather alarming if you’ve spent most of your life in the same parish. One elderly couple I visited yesterday punctuated their conversation with the anxious mantra
“We do hope you’ll come back…”
Thinking rationally (which isn’t something that comes easily to me) I guess the greatest cause for concern is the famously alarming Indian city traffic. I can promise hand on heart to flee from all serpents faster than they can flick their tongues at me (and indeed, I’ve been assured that they are so rare in Karnataka Central that I may phone not only our diocesan Social Responsibility officer but Fab Bishop himself if I actually have a close encounter with one). Google is very quiet about man-eating tigers in Bangalore, and somehow the chances of my running off to the hills with a passing Maharajah seem depressingly slim. So, let’s assume that all will be well. It seems a healthy way to look at things!
But as so often, it took Little Fishes on Thursday to make me really see what is going on. Our session on One World Week provided the perfect focus for thoughts about my trip, so I emptied my cupboards of Fair Trade food from across the world (though frustratingly, not a thing from the Indian subcontinent), and we talked about mutual dependence between different races. Mostly, we rolled an inflatable globe around the place, but the older siblings who had joined us for half term helped me find India, England and the countries of origin of most of the food.
We sang “He’s got the whole world in his hands” and “Wide, wide as the ocean…” and then it happened. As I pointed out just how much of the globe was actually sea, the truth came home to me with a resounding thud…
“His word teaches me that his love reaches me everywhere”
I first learned the song from my mother, who’d learned it in her turn at her C.I.M. mission school in Cheefoo, China, over 70 years ago...And, of course, it's true!
Thanks be to God!