Monday, 31 December 2012

Alternative Xmas

My comment about soup and roll for Xmas supper hit the mark.  It freed up the day for arranging a decent walk, although Harriet did produce an amazing chocolate cheesecake to mark Josh's birthday.  So Clive resolved we should "do" Chee Dale for our traditional walk. 

It's part of the Monsal Dale disused railway Trail between Buxton and Bakewell.  The attraction is that the main track's wheelchair/pushchair friendly; it offers a challenging alternative walk for the keener ones, and there's toilets at the car park.  Clive reccie'd out the route last week, and produced an abundance of travel directions and laminated maps. 

This was more than brotherly thoughtfulness.  We've had incessant heavy rain.  The riverside path and stepping stones (for the adventurous) were already awash, submerged.  So Clive even included an alternative alternative walk in case the river proved impassable.  Customarily, our Xmas Day walk attracts an interesting selection of folks.  Pause and think who may be induced to forgo traditional trimmings and do non-Xmas, indifferent to the weather, with a bunch of radical religious nutters.

 This year was a bumper event.  Viv had a seven or eight friends from the Christian Union international cafe: two Nigerians (brothers), two Iraquis, two Chinese, a Brazilian and a Japanese.  We had an Iranian and Slovakian, and two Chinese, and No 21 had two more Chinese.  Mark the point - these folks had no other invitations.  The hard-core single students would have likely spent the day in their bedsits. 

After a lot of mutual photographing, we cheerfully trekked out of the Millers Dale car park.  A third of the way round the adventurous route, we'd already had the whole party slithering down the river bank several times.  Progress was painfully slow.  Some folks had turned up in woefully unsuitable gear (not really their fault).  So Barrie and I took the Nigerian guys and some others along the relief route.  I didn't even get chance to let Mary know; somehow she was way ahead of me.

Pat and his brother turned out to be engineers.  We chatted about Multiply, Atmos and tent-making.  At the "here's-where-you-turn-back" point, Barrie produced a Snickers bar.  He divided it into six with surgical precision.  We were the last ones back to the car park.  The forty-plus others were crowded round three picnic tables laden with soup, pizza, quiche, crisps, rolls, cake and fruit.  "I'll always remember today," grinned Pat, as his brother took another snap-shot. 

It was dark by the time we got home.  The next thing on the agenda was Agape, starting with celebration worship at the Jesus Centre.  Viv left his international friends (now joined by a Malaysian) at No 25 next door. 

Back home again, we'd just finished the meal and prayed over Josh, when Jan appeared at the door. "Do you know there's smoke coming out of No 14 (our neighbours)?"  This is a women's refuge home.  We've tended to run our separate lives.  Plus, the relationship with the Council management has been - hmmm - asymmetrical, in the "heads they win, tails we lose" way of things.  But Harriet knows the mums from the school gate.

She found them standing in their garden distressed, wet and cold, while the fire engine attendants took over.  Some children were in pyjamas and bare-footed.  So, into our lounge they all trooped, one mum with eight kids, one with three daughters, a policemen, one of the resident staff...  Beyond sympathising with the policemen, we guys kept out of the way.  It emerged that a television set in the boys' bedroom had exploded and set the room on fire.  Nasty Xmas surprise.  They stayed well over an hour, until it was okay to return.

I doubt there would be another home in the street able to be quite so readily comfortable with this intrusion.  So here's a testimony to our alternative Jesus lifestyle.  A brilliant day.  How was Xmas for you?

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