Saturday, November 28, 2015

UK thanksgiving

To our great surprise, quite out of the blue, some English friends invited us to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with them in Oundle. Actually, the six who greeted us all belong to Oundle Baptist Church. Each of them had experienced the US day in one way or another and wanted to transplant it. With anglicized  thanksgiving food (paying special attention to Carol's lactose and fructose allergies)  we enjoyed a great time. A couple of things happened.

First, I met a distant cousin and her husband for the first time!  My father's family tree was left as just a couple of father had very little interest in tracing the past.  My newfound cousin was a fount of knowledge who has promised to pass on some detailed research from another cousin (who I also have never met).  Apparently, the Quickes go way back to a notorious highwayman who was nicknamed: Nick the Quick!  What thrilled me most was to find that this (admittedly distant) relative and her husband are keen believers...indeed they helped to plant the Baptist church. I've not been very good looking at my past either - but this was an unexpected thrill.

Second, Carol asked each of us round the table to share one issue for which we are truly thankful.  As we have found in the past on Thanksgiving Day, it is powerfully moving to hear friends share deep positive happenings in their lives. There are many disturbing things happening in our world and we should not escape them in our concerns and prayers.  But there are also wonderful happenings for which we can be genuinely thankful.  That remains true each day.

PS. Our hostess encouraged Carol to bring special Thanksgiving napkins and a central table decoration of a Pilgrim with a pumpkin and turker.....she must have heard about John Lewis.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Table Settings

Readers of my blog will know the erratic variability of its content and timing.  But I just had to mention a fun happening.  This week I went with Carol to the Christmas Evening for John Lewis customers in Cambridge.   A couple of thousand people lined up outside and as we filtered in, drinks and mince pies were on hand.

Various demonstrations were organized through the evening.  On the ground floor one focused on how to set your seasonal table attractively.  We found ourselves in the crowd gathered around an empty table waiting for the signal to be given so that two John Lewis employees could start their display.  They announced it was to be a gold and white display and they threw onto the table a cloth with a distinctive gold stripe.  Tucking it down in front of the chairs they seemed not to notice the tangle on the side nearest us.  With aplomb Carol stepped forward and straightened it out so that it fell attractively. One or two in the crowd applauded her public spirit.

When the white napkins with a gold stripe were placed alongside the plates one was apparently not arranged the right way round.  Again Carol stepped forward, as naturally as could be, to correct the mistake.   The organizers seemed to take it all in good part but, as anyone knows who has witnessed Carol's table displays, they were really pushing their luck by being so slipshod.   As an impartial husband I have to say that the finished result seemed rather drab compared with Carol's normal fare where napkins make statements, and table runners, platters, decorations, candles all add up to design with panache. As she said, she really could not help herself! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015


'Thank you for your patience'.  I lost count of the number of times we were thanked on our flight home.  Waiting in airports is highly topical and hearts go out the holiday makers stranded in Egypt. Our trip back from the US was less news-worthy but proved highly irritating.
Having packed up (four) suitcases, cleaned our room, washed sheets ready for the next visitors we prepared to say goodbye.  In Chicago it was a glorious day for travel - clear blue sky and temperatures in70's Fahrenheit.  As a last minute thought  Carol quickly consulted her ipad. A blunt email from United Airlines announced that our flight was canceled.  Period. No explanation. As we tried to find alternative flights for London we discovered that thick fog was causing havoc at Heathrow. Eventually, we managed to secure seats for the next day though relief at being able to travel together was undone by a later email saying Carol had to travel separately via Washington (which ultimately did not happen). Unpacking, remaking the bed etc. we readied ourselves for delay.  Psychologically, it is odd to prep for departure and find yourself in limbo.

The next day at a chaotic airport we were delighted that our packed plane was only 20 minutes late for departure.  Sitting at the departure gate we next heard that the plane had a fuel leak and would not be ready for an hour.  The mantra: Thank you for your patience was heard for the first time!   After a full hour we boarded, with relief that the delay was over.  Taxiing slowly to the runway we came to a halt....for another hour. The pilot announced an electrical fault in the cockpit with their window heaters overheating.  We needed to return to a gate but none were free. Again, sweetly we heard the mantra.  Another hour passed.  Unfortunately, the economy plus seats we had booked on the earlier flight were not available on this plane and the seat in front of me was damaged and flopped backwards into my lap.  Not only did my kneecaps touch the seat in front!  Meanwhile we heard the mantra again as over three hours late in close proximity to the passenger in front we took off.  Of course, we were commended again for our patience and when we finally reached London we were rewarded with a heartfelt: Thank you for your patience.

I noted some things.  First, that pre-empting impatience is quite clever psychology.  It seems expecting people to behave well goes a long way towards them behaving well.  Second, passengers were remarkably equable. The repeated mantra could have really irritated us but somehow it didn't! Third, because the Christian faith makes much of patience as a fruit of the Spirit perhaps we ought to expect it of other believers and thank them for it pre-emptively. How wonderfully positive to assume the best of others!