Saturday, December 7, 2019

Turning point 4)

I had only been in the job a couple of weeks when I was summonsed by Head of the Union. The head of my department (dear Peter Tongeman) had been taken very ill with peritonitis and he desperately needed immediately replacement as Chair of an International Student Conference in Switzerland - scheduled only a few days ahead.  Peter's responsibilities were immediately thrown into my lap - chairing all the sessions, preaching a sermon, and leading the group of British students (already selected from different student societies) by train and ferry to Zurich.

I was peculiarly unprepared.  Mercifully I found my passport (only used once for a brief visit to Paris). I was to meet the British party under the clock tower at Victoria Station. Given a folder with travel and conference details, plus all the tickets, none of my party was known to me.  On time members arrived and coming last, with an admirer lovingly carrying her bag, was Carol Bentall.

And this was the critical moment of the whole turning point in my life. The moment I saw her I knew she was the person I was going to marry.  No hesitation. Mind you the initial conversation was unpromising. Sweeping into the group she asked: 'Who is in charge?'  Knowing this was my opportunity I pronounced: 'I am'. to which she answered, looking me up and down, 'What you?'  It did take her some time to share my conviction about our future which received no encouragement while we were actually in Switzerland.  On our only free afternoon she went off with a tall, handsome Swede!  (Why do I remember that?!)

The whole experience was extraordinary. Sessions were noisy and controversial.  It was the era of student revolt and all that.  I am sure my inadequacies were exposed at many turns.  But, returning to England I knew my life had changed.  Courtship was serious - engaged after 3 months, married after 11 months. Interestingly, friendships made at the conference venue, the International Baptist Seminary in Ruschlikon, have continued to the present. Carol and I were to return several times variously as conference helpers, on sabbatical and, indeed, for a holiday exchange with the President.

I must round off this slab of indulgence before it runs away with me.  But one more post is required.

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