Pam has extensive family in Canada: six brothers, five with children; lots of cousins, all with children; and more aunts, uncles and in-laws than I can keep track of. My family is mostly in England, and I don’t get to see them that often. But Pam and I have made an effort this trip to see as many of my British relatives as possible.
We started with Mom, of course, and got in a number of visits while we were in Lincoln. Then we scooted up to Newcastle to see my niece Claire and her family. Claire and Phil have two children. Phil works for a pharmaceutical company on the leading edge of developing molecular structures that can be made into medication to treat cancer. Claire has set aside work – she has Ph.D. in biochemistry as well as her husband – to bear and raise their two children, although now that Joe is about to enter nursery school she is considering a return to the working world, at least on a part-time basis.
Megan is five and Joe is three, and they are quite delightful. For Pam it was the first time she had seen Claire’s family, and she was quite taken with them. The family took us for a hike up to see a portion of Hadrian’s Wall, a defence fortification built in the second century A.D. to keep the barbaric Celts of Scotland out of Roman England. Parts of the wall remain; along with the watchtowers, barracks and baths that the Romans built for their soldiers. Megan and Joe marched up the hills and over the fortifications like little troopers, Joe only needing a carry down a particularly slippery stretch on the way down. We stopped for lunch at a nice little hotel overlooking the river where the children patiently listened to their (great!)-uncle try to teach them the intricacies of outdoor chess. Just for the record and future bragging rights, Megan won with a king and castle checkmate.
Next on the grand tour was my sister and my nephew Colin, who with his wife Verity and their two children, Jack and Willow, all live in the wilds of North Lincolnshire. Colin is a farmer like his father Roger, and has what is for England a fairly large farm on which he grows wheat and oil-seed rape (canola). He is a clever and well-educated young man with an extensive knowledge not only of the crops and animals he manages, but of all the government regulations and subsidies that need to be managed in order to be successful in today’s stress-filled agricultural sector. He took us on a tour of the farmstead, showing us the new storage facility that he is having built and the crops, including an experimental section of elephant grass (miscanthus) that is being grown in England as a biomass fuel.
His wife Verity is a lovely warm-spirited woman with a Master’s degree in animal husbandry and an enviable reputation for her knowledge of horses which she uses in horse rescue operations for a charitable organization. Her most recent project was the rescue of twenty Shetland ponies from animal abuse on a Lincolnshire farm. Their two children are friendly and adventurous; Jack was pretty shy at first but by the time he took us on a tour of the farm, he was happily strutting his stuff. Willow is just a happy and beautiful little doll. Their grandmother, my sister, quite dotes on the two of them, and her house is filled with a riot of motorbikes, front-end loaders and train sets. We are so happy to see these two new families doing so well in very different environments and areas of pursuit. They are a real tribute to Rosey and Roger’s commitment to parenting and I am sure it makes them both very proud.
After two days in Colchester, staying at a lovely B&B down near the coast, we headed out past the dreaded M25 and into the south to see my cousin Rosalind, who lives and works in Kent as assistant head of English at a girl’s boarding school. It had been forty years since I last saw my cousin and I had quite lost touch until she found me through Facebook. She lives in just a charming little town in the English countryside, surrounded by stately homes, lovely gardens and quaint little British pubs. Her school, pictured here is like something out of a Jane Austin novel, a handsome structure set in an idyllic landscape. Yesterday we took a drive past her school on our way to Sissinghurst, a medieval castle that is the site of one of England’s most iconic gardens. Towering plants grew in glorious profusion beside ancient brick walls surrounded by neat little rows of hedges trimmed to geometric precision.
Ros was wonderful to stay with, very relaxed and welcoming with her two little kitties and bookcases full to overflowing with literature that I was dying to read. But there was far too much to do: little pubs to visit and a friendly little high street to explore. This morning we went with Ros to church and were warmly greeted and encouraged in our faith. It has been such a treat to share our Christian belief with a cousin who understands the call of Christ upon her life. We missed visiting with her son Tom, who is in Oxford, but that simply gives us a reason to come back at another time to this lovely part of the world.
It has truly a privilege to have the opportunity to visit with my family in England. It has been brief and packed; not an easy visit to plan and co-ordinate with the limited time we had. But the Lord has been in all of the details, my family have been most accommodating and understanding,and it has been a blessing from beginning to end.