Current News

Our family Christmas was once again influenced by the restricting reappearance of the Covid virus in the Omicron variant. Fortunately, England chose to remain largely open, so we were able to travel north to see my sister and her family. Her daughter, Claire, had just taken a new position, which limited her vacation days, so the get-together didn’t take place until the Dec 28, but it was certainly well worth the wait.

Our trip up was largely uneventful. Mindful of crowds in these anxious times, we carried drinks and snacks with us, and stayed in our car in parking lots when we needed a break. We did allow ourselves a brief look around the stunning Lincoln Cathedral, now well over a thousand years old, whose central spire at 524 feet would not be surpassed in height until the Washington Monument was built in 1884. After a short walk around the grounds, we journeyed on to my sister’s place just south of Brigg in North Lincolnshire. She had a cosy little room set aside for us and we had meal of fish and chips and a pleasant evening together.

The following day we headed over to the other farm where Roger and son-in-law Phil were cooking up a storm and clearing enjoying doing so. We gathered in the front room with Rosey’s son Colin and his wife Verity and their two kids Jack and Willow, and Claire and Phil’s two kids Megan and Joe. Colin has now completely taken over the farm from his father, though Covid has meant that he had to give up the cows, and there were no herdsmen to be found who could manage the work. Verity has taken her expertise with animals into the classroom with a special interest in providing kinesthetic connections for the developmentally challenged.

When everything was ready, we moved into the dining room. There were twelve of us around the table, and we were all in good spirits. It had been ten years since Pam and I had last had a meal in this house, and we have never shared Christmas with my English family, so it was a rare and special treat to share the stories and the warm camaraderie of the meal. Feeling the need for a good airing after stuffing ourselves, we all – including all three dogs – went for a walk in the very pleasant Lincolnshire countryside.

Then we settled back in the dining room for dessert and the opening of Christmas gifts. We had brought a few small things for everyone from our trips into London, and they were well received. While the adults cleaned up, the kids settled into one of the board games on hand until it was time to depart. It really was one of the nicest Christmases we have had since we left Canada over fourteen years ago.

We had saved one special gift for Rosey, which we gave to her in private. It was a photograph of our grandmother, Edith, presenting at an exhibition in what our best guess is around 1909. Cousin Ros was given the print by her mother and was passing it on to Rosey as the family historian. I had it suitably framed and before we left the following day made sure it was properly mounted on the wall.

The drive home was difficult and tedious. London is a massive city and the traffic was clogged for miles. But we got home safely and though we were tired it really had been a wonderful visit. Hopefully when the weather gets a little warmer we could go north again, perhaps all the way up to Newcastle next time.

Shakespeare and his company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, built the Globe Theatre in 1599. Well established by then with a decade’s worth of successful plays, Shakespeare was the largest shareholder of the new enterprise, which for the first time enabled actors to take a share of the profits of the plays they produced.

The Globe was built on the south side of the Thames to avoid the restrictions on the north of the river imposed by the City of London. It would seat three thousand paying customers – a penny to stand, tuppence to sit, a thruppenny bit for a seat and a cushion – and was a most successful enterprise until it burned down in 1613 as a result of an actual cannon used in a production of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. It was rebuilt the following year, even more splendidly than before.

The Puritans pulled it down – along with all other theatres in England – in 1644. The present structure was built in 1997 based on the plans for the original building discovered only eight years earlier. I have longed wanted to see the rebuilt structure and on Wednesday, we did, much to my delight. On the way we strolled through the Borough Market: a veritable assault of colours, smells and tastes.

We then walked over the Thames on the new Millennial Bridge and walked through the grounds of St. Paul’s Cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London in 1666. We stopped have a look through St. Mary-le-Bow, home to the famous Bow Bells, also built by Wren, and stopped by Ye Olde Watling, a pub built by Wren to house and feed the workers on his many projects. The pub was packed so we opted to have lunch at Williamson’s Tavern down a tiny cul-de-sac instead that we had discovered on a previous trip to London.

Suitably refreshed we walked through Leadenhall Market on our way to the Tower of London and across the Tower Bridge. Everywhere we went we were impressed with how the clean the city was and how the deliberated restricted lack of traffic allowed us to walk freely among the lanes, monuments, and markets of the old city. We finished up on the south bank again, strolling through the Christmas market stalls on the embankment with their dizzying assortment of cuisines from around the world.

Looking back across the Thames we could see the new London skyline arising as striking and majestic as it has been throughout history. On the return train ride home, we once again celebrated being able to do this so easily and so cheaply from Horsham. The one-hour train ride to London was $15 Canadian and the trains are clean, fast, and frequent. The terminals at London Bridge and Victoria Station are both in the heart of the city, making exploration of the city a wonderfully joyous adventure.

I met my cousin Rosalind for the first time when I was eleven and she was just four. My parents has splurged on a transatlantic flight for me – at half price because I was under 12! – and I flew BOAC to London where I was met by my still very active grandmother. Grandma took great delight in showing me off to all the members of her vast family, including sisters in Bournemouth and the Lake District. She also took me around to my aunt and uncle’s place in London to meet them and their daughter, Rosalind. Ros was young and shy and I was never given time alone to develop any sort of relationship with her before I was whisked off to the next relative.

My mother and her sister were not what you would call close, so there wasn’t much of an effort to visit over the years. My aunt and uncle came to Canada once, with an older Ros in tow, and we visited England a couple of times, but never spent much time with family. In my late teens I went to England and tried to contact my Aunt’s family. I had just returned from France following a terrible accident that had left me both injured and virtually penniless. I called the number I had for my aunt and briefly explained my situation. She replied with, “Well I haven’t time for that now, I’m off shopping with Ros and hung up on me.” And that was that.

I made several attempts to contact my cousin over the years without success until Ros found me on Facebook and reached out to me some twelve years ago. What a delight it was to hear from her after all those years! She was teaching English at a private girl’s boarding in Benenden that looked like the setting for a Jane Austin novel. Benenden was the school home of Princess Anne, among many notable others. As wonderful as it was to talk to Ros about the joys and challenges of teaching English, it was an even greater delight to hear of her shared faith in Christ.

Ten years ago Pam and I spent three delightful weeks in England visiting all my family, from my niece Claire in the north to cousin Ros in the south. What a great joy that entire visit was! The upshot of that visit was that Ros agreed to fly to Canada to attend our daughter’s wedding. We arranged for her to stay with friends and she took part in all the pre- and post-wedding celebrations. We have remained in touch through emails and Facebook ever since.

However, because of the demands of our own jobs and families, we haven’t been able to visit England since Mom passed away. So it was with great joy that we made our first trip in our new-to-us car to Kent to see my cousin earlier this year. We have had two visits since, mostly to do a few repairs around her house. This Sunday we went down to Kent for a Sunday carvery at The Bull in Benenden. The food was great and afterwards we went back to her delightful little place in Tenterden for tea. We had a lovely visit and shared some gifts and some memories. How wonderful to reconnect to family at this time of year.

Len and Mary came to the Black Forest Academy the year we left, so we never got to meet them on that occasion. When we arrived in Horsham, they were back in Canada visiting family, so they weren’t here to greet us, although we did stay in the manse where they have been living for the last couple of years. By the time they got back, we were ready to move into our own place, so we didn’t have much time to connect then either.

We have made up for that oversight during the last five weeks. Len and Mary are wrapping up their 25 years on the mission field and returning to British Columbia. They have spent most of that time in Germany, and have accumulated the typically ponderous German furniture – including several enormous schrank – which all had to be wrapped up and moved back to Canada. Mary’s ministry is based on hospitality, at which she excels, and her collection of cookware and dinnerware would rival any catering firm. That all had to go back as well.

The manse, where they have lived for the last few years, is a large two-story, four bedroom house with plenty of closets, nooks and crannies which were all stuffed to the hilt with the clothes, books, pictures, and memorabilia of a lifetime. All of it had to be emptied out, sorted, catalogued and packed as safely as possible for the long voyage home.

To say that we packed 380 large boxes for shipping doesn’t do justice to the enormity of the task. Bookcases and schranks needed to be disassembled where possible, wrapped in protective material, placed into cardboard boxes that had to be assembled from available stock to fit and then shrink-wrapped to seal out moisture for shipment home through the elements. Solid oak sideboards weighing 80 pounds or more were wrapped as well; the strain of which threated to dislocate my back on several occasions.

For her part, Pam individually wrapped hundreds of plates, tea cups, glasses, endless decorative mugs, plaques, cuckoo clocks and kitchenware, not once, but several times each in different layers of wrap and before being packed in boxes. By the end of the day neither of us could move our hands properly, and the pain would often wake us up in the middle of the night.

Having moved through four countries in the last fourteen years, we knew as soon as we looked at the task, that the five weeks they had scheduled for the move would not be enough without a significant commitment on our part. So we have put in four to six hours a day, six days a week for the last five weeks working alongside the Len and Mary and getting to know them well as we laboured together to complete the task. It is a testament to our Lord, who schools all who love Him in how to work alongside others, that we got along so well in what was an enormous strain on all of us.

With some help from Trevor, we finished the packing the day before the movers arrived. As soon as the movers had cleared a room, we began cleaning that room, ten in all, plus hallways and closets. The movers were most efficient and were able to fill the three large trucks they brought with them in less than five hours. Those trucks will then be taken to a warehouse to load the container they will be shipped in. It will have to be a 40 footer to hold everything that is going back, and I have to say I don’t want to be the one who has to unpack it all.

Len and Mary are a dear couple, and they will be dearly missed here at TeachBeyond Global. They have offered sanctuary and extended hospitality to hundreds of missionary families over the years. Those accumulated memories of connection form the bonds to the physical items they wanted to take home with them. We totally understand their connection to these things. How could we not, after giving up so many of those very things ourselves over these past years.

We are physically exhausted and bruised from our labours. But our strength will return and those bruises will heal. And in their place will be the memory of having had the opportunity to serve a couple who have served so many others for so well for so many years. God bless you both, Len and Mary.

The Reform Club grew out of the reform movement in England in the early part of the 19th century which gave rise to the Reform Act of 1932 which extended voting rights to shop owners, small landowners and tenant farmers, but denied those same rights to working men and women. Even with further reforms in 1867 and 1884, only 2.5 million of the 35 million inhabitants of England had the right to vote. It would not be until 1918 that working men would be granted the vote and women afforded that same right ten years later.

The Reform Club became the place where these vital issues could be debated. It also became a haven for writers and journalists who interacted with these political thinkers. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a member, as was Henry James, William Thackeray, Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, and David Attenborough. Its lobby has often appeared in writing and film, serving as the launching point for Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days and the fencing scene in James Bond’s Die Another Day.

We were there at the invitation of Teach Beyond to network with members of the Association of Christian Teachers on England, an umbrella organization that seeks to support Christian teachers in both secular and church schools. We met a number of colleagues with whom we hope to develop a further relationship as our responsibilities with our mission increase.

Following a light lunch, we took a brisk walk to Piccadilly Circus to pay our respects to the famous Eros statue, created by Sir Alfred Gilbert, the leading sculptor of the Victorian Age, to whom the local pigeons pledge their loyalty. Then we took a leisurely stroll along Piccadilly, stopping at Fortnum and Masons for some Christmas gifts for my family before entering Green Park to rest our ears and ears a bit from all of the Christmas bustle.

Suitably refreshed we strolled on to Harrods in Knightsbridge for some more gifts and a bit of a look around at the famous Christmas displays. Paddington Bear seemed to be the theme this year, and he was everywhere. Prominent too were the Disney plush toys and of course the ride-on toy cars for those with more money than sense. The toy Land Rover on display cost $10,000 Canadian, more than I have ever paid for a car myself.

We finished our day at a little bistro overlooking Sloan Square, the site of so many protests in days past. It is quite trendy now and very convenient to Victoria Station where we caught the one-hour train ride back to London. The weather was most kind to us all day, with temperatures in the mid-teens and lots of sunshine. This was our second trip in to London, and I must say we find it to be a most pleasant place to visit, and for us living in Horsham, very doable at very little expense. We will return.

The last time England won the World Cup (that’s soccer, ma’am) was in 1966. As luck would have it, I was with my family in England at the time and got to see it happen. The entire country was, and is, mad for the game, and every pub and several store windows had the games on more or less constantly as England made their way to the final and then defeated what was then West Germany 4-2 for the win. Cue the pandemonium!

My birth city of Colchester has not fared well at English football, bobbing up and down between the third and fourth division for most of its existence, so they are not much of a team to support. And frankly, I can’t get behind all the moneyed teams like ManU. and Chelsea. Recently Newcastle United was bought out by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, infamous for ordering the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. So despite having a niece in Newcastle, it is hard to get behind a team like that as well.

Moving to Horsham has given me another option. Brighton is just down the road from us and is a charming little seaside town filled with winding streets and little cafes. It also is the site of a brand-new football stadium, sponsored by American Express that hosts the Brighton team called Albion. The Seagulls, as they are called locally, have been on a tear since the stadium was built ten years ago, and sit at fourth place in the Premier Division.

Clive, with whom I work at Teach Beyond, is more of a rugby fan than a football fan, but knowing that I was interested in seeing my first ever live game, secured tickets for us for last Saturday’s game against Newcastle. They couldn’t have been better seats. Apparently by the time he booked the 30,000-seat stadium was sold out, except for disabled seating. For 30 quid ($50 CAN) he got us seats at pitch level with an unobstructed view of the entire field!

Not willing to endure the crowds on the train, I arranged to pick him up in my car and after a delightful lunch on the way down, found a parking spot a mere twenty minutes away from the stadium. As we approached, the crowds pouring in from the trains and buses began to swell. However, the stadium is well designed and could easily manage the numbers. We found our way to our seats and settled in for what proved to be a wonderful match that went mostly Brighton’s way, much to the delight of the local fans.

There has been much fuss made over the hooliganism of British football fans. I am happy to say I saw none of that in Brighton. They sang lustily on every conceivable occasion, as did the Newcastle fans, but civility was the order of the day, and the stadium staff were most courteous and helpful as well. It was a very enjoyable experience, and one that I have waited a lifetime to see in person. It will not be the last!


To ensure that we take the time to explore our new country, we are attempting to take Fridays off to wander. Today we set out to visit Chichester, a town that many had recommended to us. We noticed, as we studied the map that there was a place enroute called Arundel, with a castle. It seemed prudent to make that stop along the way.

It turns out that Arundel is one of the finest historical towns in southern England which sits on the banks of the Arun River. It is a charming, picturesque market town know for its two stunning landmarks, Arundel Castle and Arundel Cathedral. The town overlooks the beautiful expanses of the South Downs and upstream lies a wetland and nature reserve. The High Street is filled with antique shops, specialty teas, fudge of every conceivable flavour, and bake shops, restaurants and pubs.

The magnificent stately home and fortified Arundel Castle, is the ancestral home of the Duke of Norfolk, reflecting nearly 1,000 years of history. It was established by Roger de Montgomery on Christmas Day 1067, the land ceded to him by William the Conqueror. De Montgomery became the first to hold the earldom of Arundel and this has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk ever since. Originally built by the Normans to protect the vulnerable wooded plain through the South Downs, the town grew up on the slope below the castle.

Sitting at the top of the hill overlooking the town is the impressive Arundel Cathedral. It was commissioned by the Duke of Norfolk in 1868 and its designer was Joseph Hansom, the most notable architect of the Victorian Age (whose name survives as the designer of the Hansom Cab). Built in the French Gothic style, it features a spectacular round stained glass window reminiscent of Notre Dame in Paris and a huge vaulted nave.

After buying a few Christmas gifts for our grandchildren, we stopped for lunch at the The Swan, down by the Arun River for some schnitzel and salmon before heading home. Our Google Maps navigator – who we have nicknamed “Ginger” – gave us some hilarious miscues on the way, through a farming cart path and to a bridge closed to all but pedestrian traffic. All part of the fun of exploring when you are no longer bound to the tyranny of a job and a schedule! We can’t wait to head out again!

After almost two and a half months in England, we finally took a day off to take a trip in to London. We walked the two hundred meters to the train station and grabbed a latte for the fifty minute ride into Victoria Station in the heart of the city. Eighteen quid and our senior’s rail card got us a day of travel on the train, buses and underground. It was an unseasonably, warm sunny fall day that allowed us to walk around enjoying all the sights and sounds we could pack into a day.

We dropped by Buckingham Palace but the the Queen was not in to greet us. However we did catch the end of the changing of the guard before wandering into Green Park where we saw the Canada Memorial, a lovely sculpture in which shimmering water flows over the monument giving the impression of maple leaves gradually changing in colour from dark brown to bright green. Maple trees planted by the monument were in full, glorious colour, giving us a lovely taste of the fall season that we have missed so much.

Our meanderings down the Mall and alongside the lake in St James Park brought back memories of earlier visits. Because of Covid and the fact that it is off-season for tourists, the the crowds were very thin. Some Brexit protesters livened up the street corners around the Parliament Buildings and Westminster Cathedral. Unfortunately much of the Parliament Buildings, including Big Ben are undergoing a face lift so were well covered. A lengthy walk along the Embankment of the Thames River took us by some unique sights and ended up with afternoon tea by Trafalgar Square. Our timing was perfect to take in a visit to Canada House, an hour of spectacular art at the National Museum and an Evensong Choral concert at St. Martins-in-the-Field.

A ride around town on the top of a double decker bus took us back to Victoria Station and the opportunity to relax a bit and enjoy a pub dinner at The Albert pub before catching the train home. It is a privilege, at this point in our lives, to be living just outside such a wonderful. historic city and we are looking forward to many more visits to explore the many facets of London.

My Aunt Marion passed away suddenly on Sept 16th, just shortly after she had moved to a care home due to severe issues of mobility. She passed away just as she lived, with grace and dignity, having just about two weeks earlier celebrated her 87th birthday surrounded by her five children, fifteen grand children and seven great grandchildren. Aunt Marion and Uncle Tom were committed to family, highly regarded members of our community, faithful congregants in their church and loved by many. Marion was a gifted singer and loved music, was a photographer and a historian and loved by all the community children who rode on her school bus for almost twenty years. Tom and Marion loved to dance and even after Tom had lost his hearing, their dancing was a wonder to watch.

My mother’s family was large and somewhat fractured as new immigrants from Scotland who settled in Winnipeg. Three of her siblings, two of my uncles and an aunt passed away before I was born. My mom’s oldest sister passed away when I was young but had lived at such a distance that I had met her only once that I remember. I was very close to my mom’s youngest brother, Uncle Archie, and even though he lived in Ottawa, I visited him often as a teenager and young adult. Somehow, on leaving Winnipeg, my grandparents, my mom, mom’s sister Lil and brother Tom all ended up living on the 16th Concession of London Township, where I grew up.

Although Marion entered into the family through marriage to Uncle Tom, she was in many ways the rock of the family; the voice of reason, common sense and practicality for us all. While life was not necessarily easy – raising five kids on my uncle’s basic income – Marion was always the steady, calming influence for our extended family. She was able to manage a bus full of students in all sorts of weather with compassion while not tolerating any nonsense that might impact the safety of her charges.

At 87, Marion’s mind was sharp and fully engaged in the lives of her entire family. She maintained a family tree cataloguing the life and death of all of Tom’s siblings, and the births and marriages each of their of children, grand children and great grandchildren. She acknowledged every birthday or celebration on Facebook and kept in touch with us all on her trusty iPad. Just two weeks before she passed away, I received an email from her, congratulating us on our move to England.

Marion was the last of my mom’s family, and faced each sorrow and loss with peace and joy, founded in a deep faith in Christ, a reliance on the Holy Spirit for strength and wisdom and a song in her heart. She was a lady in every sense of the word and someone who I long to emulate. Her children, grand children and great grand children will miss her dearly but she leaves behind a wonderful legacy in her family who were her life.

We have lost count of the number of places we have lived in during our marriage, but it is well over a dozen by now. Some we have owned; some we have rented. Some we have adored; some we have endured. But there is one thing we know how to do, and that is secure a place to live. So it will come as no surprise to any of you who know us that one day after we landed in England we had secured accommodation. True, we did have to wait another four weeks to move in, but at least the place would be ours and we could go about securing the others things we needed, like a car and a bank account.

The flat is a corner unit, with lots of light and a view of the park across the street. There is a theatre beside us and a train station just up the road. It is a five-minute walk to where we now work, and only slightly further than that to where we shop. Most importantly – and this is what closed the deal for us – it came furnished and had a parking spot right beside the flat, two things that are virtually impossible to find in this country. There is even a ramp leading up to the flat from where we park our car.

However, there were two obvious drawbacks: one was that the flat was a one bedroom and a mere 430 square feet in size, and two, that the bed was a double. We had plenty of time over the four weeks we waited to move in to second guess the wisdom of our choice. Now that we have lived here for a month we are happy to report that 430 square feet is perfectly adequate for an elderly couple, and that a double bed is less of a problem than we thought it might be.

The place has other charms as well. The heating comes through the floor, for one. In a land that is considerably colder than the last two countries we have lived in, this is a notable feature. The floors are warm to the touch, and with no fan to move the heat around, there is no air to irritate my allergies. The place is so small that it takes a minimal amount of energy to heat the place, and the windows transmit radiant heat from the sun, even when it is cold. The kitchen is open to the living room, which both of us have always liked. And the closet in the bedroom runs from floor to ceiling so there is actually plenty of space to store our stuff.

But the area around the flat is its greatest feature. We walk in the park most nights, and there is a little pub just down the street that has a great Sunday roast beef carving. We saw the new Bond film at the cinema beside us, and plan to see live theatre there as well. And although we have yet to take the train to London, we have our senior’s passes in hand and are planning a trip in the near future.

Without question there is a liberty that comes with fewer possessions that many in our generation have yet to learn. We arrived here with two suitcases each and will likely leave with less than that. That is virtually all we own in this world, and all we are ever likely to need before we go to heaven. And it turns out that 430 square feet can hold all of it and us quite comfortably. We are grateful to God who clearly had set aside this place for us upon our arrival.

« Previous PageNext Page »