Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Scottish New Year

It was good to spend New Year in Scotland. In our last week in the UK we have been able to connect with more family and friends and also to be reminded of some of the things we like about Scotland. That is probably worth a separate post! The Maori introduce themselves partly by way of reference to the mountain and river they identify with. My river is definitely the Forth (although the mighty Hutt is now also significant) and my "mountain" is Arthur's Seat. We love Edinburgh and miss treading the cobbled streets resonant with history. James Maxton wrote in 1924: "This is our land, this is our Scotland, these are our people, these are our men, our works, our women and children: can you beat it?" I believe his question was intended to be rhetorical!

We had lunch at Edinburgh Zoo with both sets of Grandparents on New Years Day. I doubt that "See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil" is going to be the motto of 2009 when we will have 2 teenagers in the house but a certain amount of monkey business is to be encouraged.

The school year restarted on the 5th of January. This meant that Craig was able to help Alastair with his homework. It also meant that Jamie and Luke were able to go and visit the Royal High School for a day with Robert and Fraser respectively. They were able to see a few old friends and did get asked a few questions about why they had gone to school in their holidays. They thoroughly enjoyed the experience and Luke succesfully navigated a German lesson having never done German before. Craig was able to visit Davidsons Mains. Jerry took him along as Ailsa was having coffee with the girls from the Wednesday morning group. He visited each of the Primary 5 classes and answered questions on his life in New Zealand. Ailsa joined him for a school dinner.

Near the end of our time with the Marshalls the children organised a game of Cluedo which included dressing up as each of the characters. The pictures of Luke as Miss Scarlet are best kept for a 21st birthday but Jamie's Professor Plumb and Craig's Reverend Green can be in the public domain now.

Likewise Colonel Mustard was really too cute not to warrant wider appreciation.

Although I did wonder if Craig's interpretation of Reverend Green was not being unduly influenced by spending too much time with Uncle Jerry. I had the opportunity to preach at Davidsons Mains on the first Sunday of the year and also to say a few words at our final evening service. I am virtually always struck by the connections and the synergy with what I come to say with other things that are going on in the life of the church. We still feel very strongly supported and appreciated by Davidsons Mains and it has been terrific to have had a month of Sundays there. Jerry in particular really "gets" why we are in New Zealand and I am convinced that the church plays a vital role in all we do in NZ and the Pacific. One of our newer friends there shared that when he wakes up in the middle of the night he prays for us in New Zealand. We are wondering if insomnia may be a new spiritual gift.

On our final weekend we met up with my sister and her family in York. Sue and I have not lived in the same country for almost 30 years so opportunities to get together have been limited. It was great to see her looking so well and the kids got on really well together.

Sue and Steve live in Buckingham so York was a handy half way meeting point and is also where they used to live. We had not all been together since Centre Parcs in 2005 shortly before we left for New Zealand.

We visited the Jorvik Centre which features York's Viking heritage and includes a ride through Jorvik (the Viking name for York) in a time machine which features authentic 10th Century smells.

There are also various Vikings that you can interact with, although Luke's attempts to intimidate this warrior fell on deaf ears.

Viking helmets contrary to popular mythology did not have horns on the outside. Some archaeological digs discovered drinking horns and helmets at the same site and thought they were part of the same artefact. Hollywood movies popularised the notion and an idea became firmly embedded in culture. Everyone knows what a Viking helmet looks like.... apart from the Vikings!

We walked around the ancient city walls which are well preserved. In NZ we appreciate the natural beauty but miss the more obvious connections with heritage and history. I wonder how much knowing who we are is connected with understanding where we come from and how we do that when some of the links in the story are not there to be seen and touched and experienced.

We also visited the National Railway Museum, one of York's other "must see" attractions. As well as seeing the Mallard and the George V which are two of the three trains I know. (The other being the Flying Scotsman) my personal highlight was seeing some train spotters beside the railway on the way in. They were using i-phones. It had not occurred to me that the i-phone had replaced the jotter and that now pictures and numbers can be uploaded straight to the web. I was tempted to google to find out if there are killer train spotting applications available for the i-phone but was afraid of what I might find. There are some stones better left unturned.

So we managed to see all our family if not all of our friends. Sue's family is very into skiing but we are making some attempts to induct them into other sports and sporting allegiances as you may spot on closer examination of this picture.

They say that you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family. It would be interesting to see what kind of families we would choose for ourselves. All I know is that as I look at our friends and family none of us is perfect but we are lucky to have each other. We are privileged in that in our families we have some good friends and in our friends some relationships that are more like family. So thanks if we saw you and sorry if we missed you. We love you all.

Our eldest son has decided to branch out in business. Not sure how the business is going but he is definitely getting bigger.

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