The Day before – where to begin?
The worst possible trip to the start line. Sod’s law kicked In snd what could go wrong did go wrong. Never ending trafic snarl ups and our drivelling sat nav suddenly rebooted itself and decided to take us to Wales! That’s the cost of relying on what my old Aunt Daisy would have called “new fangled gadgets”
Come back maps; all is forgiven.
Two hours late we end up arriving at he home of Nigel and Maggie Kay who ten years ago created “Homes in Zimbabwe” today absorbed under the ZANE banner. We first met the Kays when our daughters were at school together half a lifetime ago. We have since forged a warm friendship; they are hugely supportive of the work we jointly undertake in Zimbabwe.
I am a member of a serious men’s group. We were all members of parliament at one time
or another, and we have met at least monthly over the past 20 years or so. We talk about
our lives and problems, and we do all we can to help and encourage one another. As the
old saw goes, a problem shared is a problem halved – and so it proves to be.
I realise I am fortunate since I know that few men enjoy the blessing of such support –
and for all I know, many would regard such a group intrusive and unnecessary. But I
need my friends and we all dislike small talk. Over the years, we have grown to trust one
another and we allow an occasional torch to shine into the dark places in our lives. We
run our meetings according to the so-called Chatham House Rule, and so none of us
discusses individual problems with anyone else.
A few weeks ago, we discussed our lives in general terms and those of our often-troubled
offspring. I said that I was saddened that for career reasons, some of my children were
moving out of Oxford and to posts up to a couple of hours away. I said I was also upset
that our two sons were to be ordained on the same day and in separate places, 300 miles
apart – meaning that our family and its celebrations to mark the occasions would have to
A grave silence fell upon the group. Then one of my friends mused: “In past months, we
have discussed financial difficulties and various serious illnesses. One of our brothers has
a bad drink problem. Two of our children are living in South America, and one has
emigrated to Tasmania; another of our children faces imprisonment for attacking
someone in the street and yet another is suffering from bulimia. And then there are the
two children who refuse to talk to their parents civilly, and instead communicate via foul
and angry text messages and emails.
You, dear Tom, expect us to sympathise with you because two of your children are being
ordained on the same day. Gentlemen, a two-minute silence for poor Tom – how on earth
will he cope with the stress of such a burden?”
We all need a kicking sometimes to allow us to see things in proportion and in
perspective, and believe me – that felt like quite a kicking…
* Please note that the problems in this item have been altered so as not to betray confidences
A murkey warm day. We start with a new car and a new cockerpoo dog called Moses. The poor animal has no idea of the ups and down of what lies ahead. We also have a new driver (Markus) from Bulawayo. Markus is of German extraction and electrified us all at dinner last night by telling us that his nickname at school was “Kraut!” Clearly political correctness was not a strong suit in Zimbabwean schools. Markus tells us he rather enjoyed the name.
Off we go to our first start point in Brighton.