I could hardly believe it when, back in February, Harley and Debi Rollins invited us to travel to England with them. We are just back now from three weeks in England, Scotland, and France, an incredible journey for anyone, especially for us at our mature 75 years!
My mind is full of strange and lovely, grim and dark, soothing and stimulating images. Of course, Charles and I both took pictures, lots and lots of beautiful pictures. But the best ones are in my head where I can bring them up for chuckles, exclamations and reviews whenever I please, without batteries, without buttons, swipes or cyber skill.
In this short blog today I’m only going to pull out a few of those images that I see in my head. There are many more! And first of all, my biggest point of gratitude is that God was with us all the way. I’ve been on lengthy journeys before but am most definitely not a seasoned traveler. I had a few fears leading up to this trip: becoming lost from my group, losing my passport, falling on one of those mile-high airport or train depot escalators, getting locked in a bathroom, or being arrested for shoplifting because I started out the door with a postcard in my hand. None of those things happened (though a few scary moments did occur!) and I’m so thankful.
As I flip through the images in my head, I’m thrilled again at seeing English country gardens so perfectly trimmed, redolent with roses, peonies, red hot pokers, sweet Williams, hollyhocks and green, green grass. I’m smiling in the rapture of viewing 75 Claude Monet paintings in the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square. I’m laughing in eagerness as Charles and I board a boat for the Thames River cruise. We’re all four–Charles, our friends Harley and Debi Rollins with whom we travelled, and I–stunned and amazed as our driver friend Dave Armstrong unexpectedly treats us to an adventurous ride through hectic downtown London late one evening. He even drove us down the wide avenue straight towards Buckingham Palace. When he saw a helicopter about to lift from the palace grounds, he whipped into a parking space so we could watch for a minute.
Visions of Portsmouth come to view: the stony shoreline, the carefully preserved ship Victory where Lord Nelson, though winning the battle, lost his life in the battle of Trafalgar, our laughter and Christian fellowship as we enjoyed that day with Gerry and Jean Davy and their family.
The coast at Deal was so exciting I almost went rolling into the sea walking on the deep layers of water-smooth rocks. And the flowers! Imagine bright wildflowers so thick a little child walking through them was almost hidden, and beyond the flowers the shore, and then waves rolling in. Dave and Pam White, dear wonderful missionaries, welcomed us there into their sweet bungalow.
We rode to France via the Chunnel. I’d been apprehensive about going so far under tons of water for the crossing. But it was quite fun, like riding an underground car ferry, and I didn’t even have time to worry. We spent two nights in a lovely little French village called Honfleur, a day visiting memorials on Normandy Beach and enjoying the French countryside. Then Paris for one day! What can you see of Paris in one day? You can ride a double decker bus and see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the river Seine, the Louvre, bridges, busy streets, shop windows, and then even enjoy dinner afterward at a lively corner café.
Our trip to Scotland by train was a joyful experience even if I did almost get train-left. The Scottish countryside is full of surprises: high smooth green hills dotted with a thousand sheep, craggy cliffs, curves that dip down to streams, high overlooks, clusters of farm buildings ready for a cold hard winter, little cozy villages with busy markets. It was a thrill to drive into the city of Edinburgh, to see the majestic dark castle atop its “unscalable” cliff, to see the old kirks, the cobbled streets and round-abouts. John Lewis was a great driver that day and seemed to take pleasure in showing us things that had meant a lot to him, like the “three bridges” at the Firth on Forth, an estuary of several Scottish rivers, or the Devil’s Beef Tub, an amazing very deep valley where legend has it that centuries ago Scottish men stole English cattle from across the line and brought them to that valley until they could make a profit on them.
Aside from the beautiful scenery, the cathedrals, the city sights, I see the faces of wonderful new and renewed friends: Jeff and Janet Rushton (?), Robert and Ann Smith, John Lewis, all the folks at Langham Publishers, Dave and Mathilda Armstrong in Keston, Kent, and Andrew and Rachel , our hosts at Manna House in Bromley (the OM Mission House). These are all disciples of Jesus, involved in some way or another in sending Christian literature to third world countries as are the folks I mentioned in Portsmouth and Deal. It was inspiring to catch even a glimpse of their networking endeavors. It was a joy to hear Harley and Debi connecting with so many they have worked with their whole career as missionaries with Operation Mobilisation, Send the Light, and more. Many of their friendships go back to serving together on the Ship Logos in the 1970’s.
Yes, I bought postcards (and didn’t get arrested!) and souvenirs, and took tons of pictures. But when I close my eyes I can see fields of lavender, craggy cliffs, and narrow curvy cobbled village streets.
Soon, I hope to write more on what we saw and experienced, perhaps “An English Country Garden,” “Winchester Cathedral,” “Walking the White Cliffs,” “A Village Named Honfleur,” and details about “A Cold Day on Normandy Beach.”