What’s it all About
In contemplating my life and in deciding to document a number of episodes thereof; to capture any number of random thoughts and ideas it seemed natural to place the resultant stories in some sort of chronological order. However, I felt strongly that a straight forward annualised list of events would fail to do my story justice. On deeper reflection my life seems to have followed a pattern of ‘PHASES’ rather like most people’s lives I suspect. These phases punctuated by major events, driven by certain revelations and guided in my case by the hand of God, though most of the time I hardly perceived or knew it. And then there are recurrent themes; simple anecdotes. The humourous ones I like the best. There are those that relate to work and running a business in Ethiopia and then my all-time favourite subject – God and religion. More often than not a mix of two or three and then finally some pretty random stuff out there with the fairies!
Throughout my school life my fellow pupils and I were herded around in ‘Houses’ named after famous people – a very common device still used in the British education system to this day. In the seafaring county of Devon we revere our naval heroes highly. I remain therefore, and by fate alone, a great fan of Sir Walter Raleigh and somewhat contemptuous of Sir Francis Drake. From primary school through two secondary schools I was fortunate to be a leading light in the house of ‘Raleigh’ and its eventual head at Devonport High School (for Boys). So why not follow a similar system in my book?
After school I went wandering, learning, experiencing all the things I could cram into a life as rapidly as possible and then ended up fairly lost in the whirlwind of it all. This was the house of ‘Moses’. In his footsteps I crossed my Red Sea and got lost in the desert.
I know very little to be honest about the great poet, writer and Nobel laureate Robindranath Tagore but I was partially educated about the man by Bangladeshi citizens who revered his name and swear allegiance to their country through the verses of ‘Amar Shonar Bangla’ (My Golden Bangla). He perfectly encapsulates the next phase of my life, learning to leave, learning to love and learning to live with Jill Campbell in East Bengal (Bangladesh) and onwards to Ethiopia. Phase 2; In the Footsteps of Tagore.
Ethiopia was our cherished home for 23 years. Not an easy place at times but steeped in history and culture and rooted in faith. Many cultures in fact, as it boasts 80 or more separate languages and regional dialects. Ethiopia impoverished Jill and I financially but gifted us our children, built up our faith, taught us resilience and fostered our integrity and above all strengthened our love of God. With too much arrogance and pride I liked to imagine myself a modern day Lu Ban – ancient Chinese philosopher, engineer and wandering architect - dispensing technical solutions here and there as the need arose. So in his Footsteps I walked across Abyssinia – Phase 3.
Exiled and banished, stripped of my wealth and status, Nehemiah came to mind. The old testament prophet begged for a chance to rebuild the walls and to resurrect Jerusalem from the ruins. And so he was permitted by the all-powerful Artaxerxes. Through struggles and seemingly endless difficulties the good life gradually returned, balance and order was restored. And so in the Footsteps of Nehemiah I now tread gingerly through the streets and precincts of York then back and forth to my beloved East Africa.
Yet, always I have lived in the light (or more fittingly the shadow) of Jill. She like no other has smoothed out my rough edges, taught me civility, rebuked me for transgressions, loved me through out. She has been a constant source of inspiration doing the right thing by others, loving the poor and vulnerable and tending the sick, picking people up off the streets and helping them to rebuild their lives. To steal a well-worn phrase which she always hated – she, to me, has always been the personification of ‘compassion in action!’ While Saint Teresa of Calcutta is truly worthy of the title, living with Jill has been something akin to walking in the ‘Shadow of Mother Teresa.’
And there it is the back bone of my book or blog from which I will hang my thoughts… and probably myself!