Almi – A Very Busy Student

Almi came over to the house last week. She is now studying Languages in Leeds and took the opportunity to re-connect with her old friend Hannah, our daughter, who is back at home in York for a short spell, looking for a graduate job post Covid19.

Almi comes from an illustrious family! Both her parents were highly educated and successful in their chosen careers, and those of our friends in Addis Ababa who knew them well, held them in high esteem. Almi’s mum, Gail was recently awarded an OBE for her services in tackling neglected tropical diseases, namely Podoconiosis and in the process helping an awful lot of Ethiopians steer clear of debilitating Elephantiasis (lymphedema). [Sorry Gail for using the perjorative – I’ll not do it again!]

Her Dad, my old prayer partner in Addis Ababa, used his own perfectly formed feet to run a good marathon in his time. When I first met Richard at a meeting of St Matthew’s church council, I was pretty unimpressed when he told me he had ‘’done a bit of running himself’’ and was now assisting the famous Haile Gebre Selassie in managing and setting up a series of ‘’fun runs’’ in Ethiopia. I later discovered that he was indeed faster than me on the track and probably had better endurance too?

Almi’s brother Lukas was far too young to join my, fairly amateur, attempts at teaching random kids the basics of judo, but he was flexible, made of rubber and would never admit to pain. So, I allowed him to be my own personal ‘Cato’

attacking me at any moment, from behind, when my attention was elsewhere, with unorthodox moves and with the intent to kill me and cause maximum damage. In turn, and knowing that his pride would never allow complaint, I would unceremoniously use all my adult strength to rip him from my body and throw him across the dojo (our garden) into a pile of mats where he would prepare himself for his next attempt. He was never interested in fighting the other kids; he want to be the best and king of the pack so my eventual defeat was his only concern. Currently, I hear he is in cycle training for the Olympics like his sister Almi who happens to be a good runner too.

The question is why would such a focussed, determined and accomplished family be seen dead hanging around with the Campbell’s? But even in this, Almi’s clan was exercising and putting into practice their Zen-like wisdom. In all things, balance is essential and understanding the dangers of chaos is required. Consequently, Almi and Lukas were allowed, for short periods of time, to over-eat, slob out in front of the TV, stay up late, sing rude songs, fart outside the bathroom and generally let it be.

So, last week, when Almi called in, I asked her through skype, from Iraq if she would like to write up a piece, reminiscing those fun days and events of their youth in Ethiopia. I expected a polished piece of prose, of precisely 2500 words, in English (the language specified) but received instead a derisory 129;

Hi Gary,

Sorry for taking a bit of time writing this, I’ve just finished term and wanted to give it my full attention! Had a lot of fun writing this... Gary and Jill always taught us the most important of things, how to rob a casino, how to get someone in a headlock during judo, and, most importantly, how to explode a seagull. Don’t worry though, he hasn’t gone to prison... oh wait... Gary’s most strenuous duty on our 5 day cycling holiday was not keeping up with Lukas but motivating me, Hannah and Josh to leave the cafe every 20 minutes. Jokes aside, Gary has offered us more generosity, wisdom, and fun than we could have ever imagined. Really hope we can see you all at Christmas!


On second reading, I re-evaluated the content of her words and realised how succinct, sufficient and generous they were. Childhood should be nothing but fun and if the Campbell’s were any part of that, then we successfully played our part in making the world go round and making it just a tiny bit better for four much loved and well balanced children.