|The state dinning room.|
|Lively North Indian dance performance|
|"As fair as these green foreign hills maybe they are not the hills of home." Still nice though.|
|Again I choked up at the discovery of unity in a foreign land.|
|No tourist attraction could beat that!|
We have been visiting our son in Edinburgh. This time in two weeks we will be somewhere over the Atlantic ocean heading home to New Zealand. This will be good because I am starting to long for the familiar and am missing responsibility, purpose and routine. I am also missing New Zealand country side. But we have enjoyed being tourists. We are not loaded with money so we have had to be careful about what we do. Here are some thrills of the last week.
We took two buses to the Ocean Terminal Shopping centre, which meant we passed through yet another area of Edinburgh we had not seen. We visited what is claimed to be the UK's number one attraction, the Royal yacht Britannia. This ship was the home away from home of the Royal family, but is now out of service. I was struck by the sort of British pride in the ship and in the Royal family. I was also aware of the incredible cost to the tax payer of having this ship. We saw the relative comfort of the Royal living quarters and the cramped living quarters of the crew. Compared to Royals of other countries and other rich folk, it was not luxurious, but still I became more aware of the monarchy and the costs involved. As we walked through the rooms, decks and hallways we could hear people conversing in various languages, we realised we were among tourists from a wide range of countries. Some people touring the ship with us belonged to a troupe of performers from North India and at the end of our tour they put on a performance on the wharf beside the ship. As they danced I choked up. Their performance and the awareness that there were people from all over the world amongst the delighted audience gave a real sense of oneness with the world community. While we fight among ourselves we are essentially one, we ought to enjoy that unity more often.
The minister of the Augustine United Church where we have been attending invited us to have coffee with her. We enjoyed coffee and nearly two hours chatting in a cafe in the museum. We instantly liked her, her openness, the similarities of our understandings and values and the sense of collegiality in ministry. It was delightful to feel the sense of unity of purpose and concern with this person.
We visited Craigmillar Castle, a preserved ruin close to here, where at one stage Mary Queen of Scots used to enjoy staying. (we can see the castle from our bedroom window) I still marvel at how they built these buildings away back in the 1400's, the walls still straight, towers perfectly round and arched stone ceilings still standing. It did, however, make me aware of the feudal system of the old days. A laird would live in this castle and serfs would pay rent and taxes for the privilege of eking out a measly living on the land. They would be expected to protect the castle and their lives were at the mercy of the man in the castle on the hill. Jesus in his time got into trouble because he confronted and questioned a similar domination system that was backed by the religion of the time. I wondered with our growing gap between rich and poor whether we are getting close to a modern version of this same system? I once did a Structural Analyses course where the directors of the main companies in NZ were listed off. It was a relatively short list of rich people, with lots of overlap, who basically had the power over the rest of us, determining prices, wages, regulations and economic directions. In visiting this castle both before and after we walked through grassy fields and woodland. I loved that, being off pavements and away from the crowds of the city.
Today we worshipped at a combined, University of Edinburgh Festival service in a packed Greyfriars Kirk. Soweto Melodic Voices sang. It was a friendly service in spite of the crowd, with people of different denominations, no denomination and obviously different nationalities. We stood in big circles in the corners of the Kirk and passed the bread and chalice around. After communion we all "Passed the Peace" with warm chatter breaking out in the Church. It was very moving as communion ended the singers sang the chorus of "It is well with my soul". Behind me a man was seated and at the end of the service I got to chat with him. I discovered that he was an elderly retired minister. He had worked as a carpenter in shipyards, served in the war, then studied for ministry. In the short conversation we had we both sensed a connection and shook hands several times as we told of similar experiences, discoveries and values in our journey in life. For example he was delighted when he learned I had been a plumber! We both shared how our tradesman experience had contributed to our life as ministers. It was one of those special moments. We did not even exchange names, but we were instant companions.
I guess that the highlight of our trip will be time with family. I have enjoyed working on projects with my son. There is a sense of journeying together as we plan and then work on the project together. I enjoy time with my grandson. He is only 9 months so I guess he will never remember this time. But it is simply precious when I see him during the day, I say "Hello" and "What's happenin'?" He looks at me briefly and a smile crosses his face, his eyes light up, he reaches a hand out in my direction and sometimes squeals in joy. No tourist attraction will beat that!
Two weeks left..
I had a secondhand picture book history of England as a child. I devoured that again and again. There were two places that stuck in my mind. They are Hadrian's Wall and the Isle of Iona. In the next two weeks we visit both places and my son and I have a further DIY project to complete.