Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Belfast Again (2)

Sunday morning, I hunched in the corner of the bedroom under the rooflight to tidy up notes I'd previously drafted for the teaching.  We had a different set of friends around, but Patrick had reappeared.  On Friday's coastal road journey, Alan and I had nattered about transition and succession in the church.  He bemoaned the present scantiness of bible teaching compared with the legendary concentration in the past.  I'd explained that I'd spent an unbroken two years covering 70 foundational subjects on Sunday mornings.  Unfortunately, I could find no trace of evidence that this had changed anything with anyone.

I shared playing the guitar, and we looked at the first two 2013's scriptures on finding the fire of God.  Afterwards, Alan commented, with restraint, that I'd been more charismatic than may have expected!   After lunch we chose to stay in the lounge where it was warm.  Patrick was providing colourful descriptions of the polarities in the Province.  On Friday and Saturday nights, Union Flag protesters has been walking the central white lines of the city's main thoroughfares.   The Police closed roads and set up diversions.  Ray and Ruth confessed that they only stayed in the city for one 12th July - the prime Marching Season weekend.  Thereafter, they joined the many residents who go away.  We thought about the prospects for the future.  Patrick offered, "We're Celts, the people who terrified Caesar.  We're not happy unless we're fighting."

We were resisting the temptation to move from our cosy room, so I finished off the Development Group notes for Tuesday.  Meanwhile Ray and Ruth took Alan and Andrea to the airport.  As evening came, Ray suggested some short videos we may enjoy after our meal.  Richie Mullins and more Todd White.  Mmmm, pretty good.

Our flight on Monday left at 4.10pm.  Ray was eager to give us a last minute blast, so we headed out past the City airport to Helen's Bay.  Whew, the wind!  Ray and I had been chewing over the prospects for our businesses.  The side of my mouth numbed up as if I'd had an anaesthetic shot from the dentist.  We decided not to take the longer walk back to the car!

After lunch we started to head for home.  This time the flight was via Manchester.  I gave Ray an aside, "I'm afraid that in my experience, it rates as having the worst record for late arrivals."  The advance train tickets give three hours leeway for delayed flights.  Even so, I have several memories of dashing the long trek from the Terminals to the station.  Mary's passport needed renewing, so she didn't bring it.  At Security she couldn't find first her boarding pass and then her driving license.   I stood by helplessly while she gesticulated, pink and flustered. 

Passengers were happily milling around the Departure gate.  That is, until a Delayed sign put our leaving back to 18.00.  I fished around for some train time information, and worked out we could get home by 10pm.  I had to be on the road by 6.00am on Tuesday.  Ray texted me a message warning that this could be the start of a slippery slope, and to make sure I got a meal voucher.  Sure enough, 18.00 changed to 21.15.  Five hours delay, and landing after the last train to Sheffield would have gone.

"Well, it's really getting like a Multiply trip," I smiled at Mary.  Next year I'm plotting to take her to Zambia.  "What options do we have?   Go back to Safe Haven, try to divert to Liverpool, or sit tight?"  I explored flight times on RometoRio.com, then rang Jack to explain our predicament.  It was already past teatime at home.  Unexpectedly, a kind gentlemen with Menzies printed on his hi-viz jacket told us we could rebook for a 20.30 flight.  This would provide a few minutes spare to catch the last train - even allowing for the head wind.  And we'd get a meal voucher! 

So, we followed him, like the Pied Piper, down a long ramped corridor back to the ground floor.  We collected new boarding passes and negotiated Security again.  This time Mary went first.  We blew our £6 at Burger King.  The rest of the journey was uneventful.  That is, until we taxied to the Terminal stand, and waited for the doors to open.  And waited.  "Hello," broke in the PA.  "I'm afraid we're waiting for ground staff to stand at the bottom of the steps before we can open the door.  There've been diversions tonight, and teams have been overstretched."  Groan.  The minutes ticked by to the train time.  Then the flight deck door burst open and a figure hauling on a hi-viz jacket dashed through the door.  "The Captain's decided to do the job..." PA confirmed.  Cheers.

The Terminal to train trek preserved the Manchester statistics.  The ticket office shutter was down.  It seemed everyone who'd travelled with us pressed into the carriage.  The destination board read Southport via St Helens, and we were dubious.  The ticket-manager was diligently threading his way through the crowd.  About half the train were without tickets.  My phone rang.  "This is Nicola at Northern General.  Mr Wilkinson would like his phone charger and bible."  It was Barrie, back in hospital again.  What could I do?!

Paul picked us up at Sheffield.  I felt I'd never be warm again.  Leaving bleary-eyed next morning, I omitted to ask anyone to oblige Barrie's request.  Sometimes there are just too many things to fit in to life.

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