Once more it barely feels like another month has passed since I wrote my last letter. In that time my mam and dad have been to visit for a few days for their silver wedding anniversary. We went to see Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre, which I can highly recommend to anyone to go and see, especially to people who live as close to Easington Colliery where the film was made. A highly enjoyable musical which tells the tale of life during the miners’ strike.
It was at the end of their visit that I travelled home with them to spend a weekend at home, with their silver wedding anniversary, and it was another relation’s 21st birthday party on the Saturday evening which I didn’t intend to miss. It was while I was at home for that weekend that I missed Fr Robin Crawford’s leaving party, which just leaves 2 priests here now, Fr Philip and Fr Peter.
I returned to Westminster on the Monday and cooked a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner for one of the church wardens and her husband, which went down very well. The following weekend we had a parish trip to Edenbridge, in Kent, to stay at the convent of the Sisters of Saint Andrew. There were 19 of us altogether, the majority of whom travelled by train from Victoria Station to Edenbridge Town. The convent is a little way out of the village, so had to journey by taxi to the convent. There were several people who journeyed by car, which meant that those of us who had gone there by train could throw ourselves on their mercy for a ride back to the railway station on the Sunday. The majority of us went to the Edenbridge Bonfire Night parade, fireworks and bonfire on the Saturday evening (even though it was the 6th of November). Again, we relied on the kindness of the drivers to ferry us to the event. The torchlight parade and all of the floats were very good (we even had bacon sandwiches and some had fish and chips standing in the street) and imaginative, ranging from the Mad Hatters’ Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland, E.T. and even one based on the rescue of the Chilean miners. After the parade, we ventured to a large playing field, where we could watch the fireworks and the burning of the effigies. It is Edenbridge bonfire night celebrations that burns an effigy of a celebrity person, so this year alongside Guy Fawkes was Wayne Rooney. A very good performance to watch, and the fireworks were spectacular.
Our time at the convent was intended to be a retreat from the usual events of life. To go away as a group to pray, worship and even socialise together - to get to know one-another better than just at our weekly brief encounters at church. We were fortunate that there were a number of people who had never been on the retreat last year, so Andreas and I weren’t the only two to whom the Sisters of Saint Andrew was a new experience. On the Friday we watched a film together, Cool Runnings. If you’ve never seen it, it is a film that tells of working together as a team, and is based on the story of the first Jamaican Bobsleigh team in the 1988 Olympics and the trials they had to overcome. On the Saturday we had a service of prayer together, and sang a few new hymns and psalm tunes together, before having lunch and then having free time in the afternoon before the Bonfire celebrations. On Sunday we had a Eucharist in the chapel, lunch, and by the time we got sorted out it was time to go for the train.
It was good to go away with people from church and to get to know them better, spending time eating and talking together (and laughing, there was plenty of that as well as some people can testify). I also enjoyed being in the countryside again. Shotton Colliery is fairly well surrounded by plenty of green that can be enjoyed, and I can say that I’ve missed it a bit being in London. On the Saturday morning I set off for a walk at a quarter to 7, and walked through some fields, climbed over a style and continued on to a wood, where I was fortunate enough to see 5 deer! There was plenty of other wildlife to see and birds to hear singing. On Sunday morning, Lisa, Andreas and I set off for another early morning walk - this time without seeing as much wildlife. I think we all returned refreshed physically and spiritually, with strengthened friendships.
© 2010, Andrew Crawford
Our pastoral assistant, Andrew, has been writing his "Andrew's Travels" column in his Parish magazine for three years. He continues to contribute and his current articles will be published here.