Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

My Holiday – part one

This is the obligatory “what I did on my holiday” written for the monthly newsletter of my congregations. It’s here in case anyone beyond them wants to know what I did.

In July I took a month’s holiday and went to Europe. There were two reasons for holidaying on the other side of the world: to catch up with friends that I’d made at the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Institute at Bossey in Switzerland; and to do some of the things that I hadn’t managed to do when I was living there.

I began by flying from Melbourne to London. It was four degrees when I left Tullamarine and a wonderful thirty degrees when I arrived in Heathrow. The British were sweltering, and the recorded messages in the Tube kept reminding them to drink water. I loved it! In London I stayed with Linda Williams and her family. Linda is curate at All Saints (Anglican) Church, Kenley, so at the end of the week, to thank her for her hospitality, I preached for her at Sunday’s choral eucharist. It was a small congregation, for which she apologised. I didn’t tell her that her “small” congregation was more than ever gathers here in the Macedon Ranges, even at combined services.

Aimee Moiso, a minister in the Presbyterian Church of the USA and another Bossey friend, had arranged to come to the UK and stay with Linda at the same time. We’d both been to London before and had already done lots of the touristy things, so we spent most of our time just wandering. There were several walks along the Thames, and visits to some of London’s many amazing free museums and art galleries: the British Museum; the National Gallery; the Portrait Gallery; the Tate Britain. Londoners are so lucky to have these amazing collections, and to be able to visit them for free. There’s no pressure to see everything, to get your money’s worth, when you can just wander into a gallery for an hour.

The Tube is amazing! I always forget how incredible it is, that it moves so many people so quickly every day. I did spend some time wondering why Melbourne’s public transport doesn’t work as well. How come the Myki tickets still don’t work properly, when the London Oyster card is so easy to use? And why aren’t workers on our train system as friendly and helpful as those people who would see me frowning at a map of the Tube and come to help me work out how to get where I wanted to go?

Aimee and I spent a lot of time just catching up with Linda, and with Anna Eltringham, another Church of England priest, and her brand new baby Amelie. We’d arranged to stay with Anna rather than Linda because of Amelie – we later worked out that since both Aimee and I were suffering from jetlag, at different ends of the day, we could have stayed with Anna and helped with Amelie, who was as wide awake at midnight as Aimee was and as wide awake at 5 am as I was.

After a week in London Aimee and I travelled to Scotland for a couple of days in Edinburgh, a night in Oban, a night on the island of Iona, and a couple of nights in Glasgow. It wasn’t long enough. I love Scotland. It’s an entire country of people that sound like my relatives – and it has five-storey bookshops. There’s a particular bookshop on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow that has five storeys of books and a café – I could live there forever!

At Oban, a small town on the west coast of Scotland, we attended a “Summer Sundown” service led by the Kilmore and Oban Church of Scotland Worship Group with the theme “South Africa”. Aimee and I were amused and pleased that the service included “Thuma Mina” which we had sung all the time at Bossey. We stayed for hot chocolate afterwards, and were excited to find that the Oban church is a Fair Trade church, as is the entire town of Oban. One of the women we spoke to even said that Scotland is considering becoming a Fair Trade country. The UK is extremely far ahead of Australia on Fair Trade; I didn’t see any non-Fair Trade tea, coffee and sugar.

After Oban Aimee and I took one ferry to Mull, and then another to Iona, and spent the night on Iona at St Columba’s, a converted manse which has become an amazing organic hotel with incredible home-grown food. In the afternoon we split up and each wandered around the island alone, getting in touch with its centuries of Christian history. In the evening we attended an agape service at the Abbey. This was amazing. I use the Iona liturgies all the time – it was wonderful to use them in worship at their source. (I also spent a lot of time in the bookshop on Iona buying more.)

The abbey is beautiful. In parts of it the original thirteenth-century building can be seen; other parts, like the carvings in the cloisters, come from the twentieth-century restoration and rebuilding work of Rev. George Macleod and the Iona community. Aimee and I decided that one night on Iona was definitely not enough; we’ve both decided to go back for at least a week sometime.

After Iona we had a couple of nights in Glasgow, a city that I adore. The people are warm and welcoming – and determined to help tourists save money! Aimee’s American guidebook advised her not to go down to the Clyde river, warning that the only people who hung around there were thugs and pimps and it wasn’t safe. I swore to her that if we walked down there at eight pm on a Saturday evening we would be perfectly safe and that we definitely wouldn’t get mugged or murdered. I was right, and I’ve told Aimee to email her guidebook writer to tell him.

All our travelling was done by train. Before I left Australia I reread Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island to get into the right mood, and one thing has definitely changed since Bryson wrote in 1995. He recommended trains as a good way to travel partly because they were so empty – the trains today are jam-packed. They’re still a great way to travel: no need to worry about the traffic; amazing views of Scottish scenery; and the chance to get some reading done if, like Aimee and I, you’re a bibliophile. But you definitely don’t get carriages to yourself the way Bryson used to.

At the end of our second week Aimee and I split up. She was going to spend a few more days in London; I was travelling on to Switzerland and Austria. Our friendship had survived a week of sharing rooms and a fortnight of travelling together and we’d had a great time. When I went to Bossey I was told by one of my professors that I’d make friends for life there. I can’t yet say whether I’ll be friends for life with the other students, but so far we’ve managed four years of friendship.

I spent my last night in London on the couch of one of the ex-Janet Clarke Hall students, Chris, who now lives in London with his English partner Jenny. (Every London flat needs an Australian crashing on the couch to really make it feel like home.) In the morning Chris and I took a Brighton-bound train to get to Gatwick Airport. Foolishly, we were so busy talking about our plans for our week in Switzerland that we forgot to get off the train at Gatwick. The train sped towards Brighton, a town that I’m sure is a fabulous holiday destination, but not the one we wanted. Luckily there was one other stop between Gatwick and Brighton, and with only minor panicking and hysteria we made it to the airport, to find that our plane was delayed. We didn’t care; we were going to Switzerland.

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October 24, 2010 - Posted by | Life, etc.

3 Comments »

  1. Dear Avril,

    Thanks for keeping us up to date with your adventures. hope to see you soon,

    Julie.

    Comment by Julie | October 24, 2010 | Reply

  2. Love it. Thanks, Av. Looking forward to the next installment!

    Comment by Olivia | October 24, 2010 | Reply

  3. What Olivia says!! 🙂

    Comment by Judy Redman | October 24, 2010 | Reply


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