Saturday, November 7, 2009

from Kate

I've been savouring each of these posts, hearing Dad's voice in the words and it's a gift that I wish could continue.
I have other emails from Dad, including MANY jokes, heartwarming stories and other forwarded messages, but this invitation to journey with him across Spain was unique. We couldn't communicate in person, by text or phone call and the emails paint a vivid picture that, at other times, would have been conveyed in conversation.
I am so thankful for my opportunity to share in the journey of Dad's life.
I read the following prayer a few days ago and it speaks to me of Dad. He certainly wasn't perfect, but his life was a journey with God. I am so thankful for the many people who have spoken to me this year of the ways Dad touched their lives and the footprints he left that they desired to walk in...


"God we are surrounded by a cloud
Faithful witnesses who have gone before
Those who have loved where we would have hated
Those who have healed where we would have hurt
Those who have spoken out when we would have remained silent
God may we walk in their footsteps
Learning courage from their sacrifice
May we learn to give so that others may receive
May we learn to love so that others may be set free
May we learn to die so that others might live
God may we join that cloud of faithful witnesses
Treading paths of loving obedience
Leaving footprints that others desire to walk in
God may we too lead kingdom lives
Amen"
Christine Sine, in her blog GodSpace

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Annus Horribilis

The following is a note Dad posted on his facebook page on November 17th 2008 and speaks of his more recent journey.

My year has been dominated by my health. After being diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukaemia (CLL) in June 2006 I had to start treatment (chemo and mabthera - (monoclonal antibodies B therapy)) in March 08 when in increasing pain and difficulty. The B cell count was 100 (normal is around 5). After the treatment and a five week rest the count was 270. My enlarged spleen was removed and found to be 85% mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), a relative of CLL and in the same spectrum as non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It took a long time to recover from the op. The count peaked at 350 then began dropping slowly. I started daily tablet chemo at home with mabthera every three weeks. There was a 10% drop over a four week period then 77% drop after 18 days before the last treatment. The count was then 60.8, arounnd the level of June 07 when the affliction was causing me no difficulty. My lymph nodes are harder to detect meaning the MCL is less aggressive. So one or two more big drops and I may MAY enter remission.
The whole thing has been interesting. At first I did what I was told with complete trust in the doctor and the treatment. When things went pear-shaped (You will die within months if you do not take this massive treatment which will destroy you and give you a 10-15% chance of living 2-5 years) I began the reading, questioning, exploring that I should have done earlier. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive family and we rejected the massive intervention, went to Port Douglas for a week, and planned to live as fully as possible. I wrote a Bucket List and enjoy planning and ticking off the accomplishments (short, medium, and long term). I pray, read the Bible and my list of aphorisms as well as positive books. I laugh and smile a lot and frankly am happier than I have been in many years.
The first thing I read each day is:
It's morning; I'm still alive. Let's go, Lord!
and the last few are:
I want to live so I set real targets.
I will follow the plan always.
I am temporarily afflicted and will recover.
My affliction melts away as I become healthy.
My reality is peace of mind always.
Two other really helpful ones are:
I always see the funny side.
If unhappy, I will smile.
This has been a relatively short time when compared with others' journeys but we have traversed much territory in it.
Right now, I feel I would not change a thing...

Feel free to ask me anything.

home

Hello from OZ
Yes, Folks, I'm back in the Promised Land.
I saw several new-to-me cathedrals in England including Ripon and Wells, and the Royal Armouries in Leeds. It was wonderful to stay with my neice Lyn and her children Daniel and Xana, and to catch up with Delia and Keith Davies and Patrick Duffy, friends from the Camino in 2000.
The plane left an hour late but arrived in Melbourne half an hour early at 4:15am so I went home by public transport and was in bed by 6:30. Unfortunately I'm still jetlagged and very weary, especially in the afternoons. With school starting today the kids may have free activities this arvo while I yawn!
My Camino was a wonderful time and I feel blessed to have met and made friends with so many people from all around the world. What can we say? The Camino is unique.
God bless you all.
John

Monday, November 2, 2009

lost count

Good day to you all
Left Germany at 11.45pm and got to Lyn's after 6pm next day. It was good to see her and Daniel and Xana again after 2.5 years.
Next day went to Oxford and after that to Winchester, Bristol, and now I am typing in a McDonald's in Exeter. Lovely evensong with a very good choir. They sang O Quam Gloriosum by Victoria but I did not sing along.
Tomorrow Retford to meet friends, dunno Saturday, and I'm back with Lyn on Sunday.
Leave Monday.
God bless you all
John

Thursday, October 29, 2009

48

Good morning all
I left Erlangen at 8 this morning and arrived in Heidelberg at 12:30. What a great decision! This is a marvellous town with a whole lot going for it. Basically, the town seems to be the castle (tourism) and the university. The numbers of bikes is immense and some people don´t lock them. I saw two stolen in 5 minutes! No doubt they were just borrowing. It is a Sunday, after all. There were also the usual ones clearly abandoned, one with ivy trailed through the spokes.
I took a bus to the castle station. The buses share the tram lines including the super stops. It worked just fine and as there were cars in the way only occasionally, the buses are able to keep their timetables well. A finicula railcar winds its way up the mountain with a stop for those going to the castle. 3€ to go up, 5€ the return. The castle is in various stages of disrepair because of war action, lightning, and other fires. The ruling families rebuilt bits until the 19th c when it was decided the ruins were more important. At various times the families here were important on a European scale. Much was made of the marriage of the Stuart princess (grandaughter of Mary Q of S) to the heir. Though arranged, this was a love match which delivered 13 kids in 18 years. The artillery park became her private garden, and her husband demolished the top of the main tower to build a hall with large windows for concerts and plays. Their wedding was in London and Shakespeare wrote a play for the wedding feast and acted in it. Then followed a fireworks display which pleased the prince so much he organised one such on their return, the first display in Heidelberg. It is re-celebrated annually.
The daughter of one ruler produced the boy who later became Elector of Hanover before George I of England. It really was a fascinating tour. Then I walked through the old city looking at the churches and houses.
There was an organ concert in a Lutheran church at 5, a piano and cello concert in a hall at 7:30, and a Mozart Mass etc for John´s Day (how suitable is this pour moi?) which I attendfed at 8. It was very good with a choir of about 45, an orchestra of less than 20, 4 soloists, and a small organ. It began with an introit in Gregorian chant, about as good as I´ve ever heard. They pronounced the Latin very closely (I think exactly) to how we do it it at Christ Church, which made a big contrast to the Spanish manner where some letters are giving two syllables, x being sung eck - ess, for example. For the rest, it was excellent, my only criticism being that the tempi were sometimes too fast, or the volume too great. Much of the detail was lost in the reverberant acoustic.
This Jesuit church is said to be baroque but is the most restrained baroque I´ve yet seen. It´s the same rectangular floor plan as a romanesque church with a rounded apse as the sanctuary. The side aisles are separated from the nave by squarish pillars and the whole interior is painted white. The capitals of the columns are composite - mixtures of styles - with the details picked out in gold or green. The main organ is a relatively small one, and though it is not old they are raising money for another.
My train leaves in less than 2 hours so I´ll leave this and walk to the station.
Counting the days to home!
God bless you all.
John

Saturday, October 24, 2009

47 (?)

Some random thoughts from abroad.
Tattoos are fashionable in Germany, especially with young women.
The young dropouts of society, who apparently have decided the best way to spend one's days is with a German Shepherd and begging are likely to have so chopped and died their hair (startlingly purply pink is popular) they are unemployable except at places where hair is chopped and died purply pink.
Young men can be as unattractive, boorish, and aggressive as young Aussie men.
The train and bus systems (and sometimes tram) in Spain, France, Switzerland and Germany work very well with quality interchanges assisting in the transfer of passengers.
(Jenny, Quelle is still operating, though I have seen only one store.)
Fewer Germans smoke than Fr and Sp. Advertising is still allowed. However the companies know the squeeze is on so the latest is for them to advertise something else, but using their logo. For example, Camel advertise matches and talk about light and vision. Another mob is advertising their pack with comfortable edges (I kid you not) and have generously reduced the number of cigs in a pack to 19, for only 3.60€.
Twice today I have used the Internet in a Gaming House like a Pokies in Oz. Peple are just as brainless and zombified here. There is an attractive mid-thirties woman near me who for a while was playing two machines at once but is now just rivetted on the one. She is placing a bet every couple of seconds.
Billabong remains the most obvious Aussie label here for anything. I saw a young man struggling to carry a Fosters can today. Actually it was a keg decorated as a Fosters can. I felt such National Pride. Not only a powerful drink, you need to be powerful to carry it.
Herr Ohm who gave us that Omega symbol for the electrical concept (ohms, watts and volts are the three - but don't ask me to describe them) was born in Erlangen. Siemens began here and it is the largest employer by far. A whole street is lined with their buildings.
The new fashion colours for summer here include white, a pinky red, and limish green. (I know you are busting to thank me for this.)
Gambling woman has just won some hundreds of €. She is now working the other machine. Her expression altered not a whit at her great good fortune.
It's 9:50 and time I went.
God bless you all.
John

Monday, October 19, 2009

47 - no2

Hello all
Last night's concert was excellent. It was a Vespers for St John's Day and the music was all JS Bach. It started with a few words from a Lutheran pastor, then a prelude on the organ. We sang a chorale. The congregational singing was amazingly good, just well focussed and positioned, and everyone giving voice. There were between 140 and 200 people at a guess. Then there were responsorial readings, again from the Lutheran. The bass was young and had a wonderfully produced voice and an amazing range with nothing forced. Alto quite good. The sermon from an RC priest went on and on. Then the young and beautiful Soprano had a recitative and solo. She produced wonderful notes but they were not as well strung together as could be. Poor old tenor had only a recitative so it was hard to get a really good judgement, but he seemed to be good. We had another chorale, and then the four clergy present had a bit to say. The whole closed with the fugue of the first prelude. The organist/director was outstanding, controlling well the disparate forces, and delivering a most satisfying stylish performance.
This was in St Sebald's church which had been greatly damaged in WWII. Most valuable stuff had been removed and stored in rock-cut cellars but the organ was not and ruined. The new organ is very large but not so large as St Lorenz'. They have a reliquary of some founding saint and in the 15th C it was encased in a tall cast brass or bronze gothicky case like a chantry. As it was far too heavy to move it was encased in a concrete box and thus escaped unharmed when the roof fell in directly above it.
I took tram and bus home and made it by 10:30 so went to bed. Temp was still over 30 degrees. During the night there was a cool change and wind made the chimes in my room ring at 4:30am so I'm a bit weary.
Manfred suggested I was going to visit the ENEMY in coming to Germany but people have been wonderfully helpful and friendly. That is said before I mention the sole exception. I wandered into a bakeshop and asked the young assistant what was in a slice. The older person then made a disparaging remark about the English which caused consternation and shame on the Y.A.'s face. I walked out, turned around at the window and looking at the smirking woman carefully placed cap on head and walked to a street stall where I was served, as usual, courteously, helpfully, and efficiently. One exception does not disprove a rule.
Our German tour guide yesterday several times talked about N├╝rnberg being liberated by the 8th(?) Army and Patton. I think it is a hard thing for a national to consider they are being liberated by foreign troops, even if they disliked or hated the guy at the top. (Iraq springs to mind. I wonder if in the future they will feel they were liberated by the Coalition of the Willing?)
Today after a sumptuous breakfast with Petra we came to Bamberg. The cathedral is big and old, and the Bishop's Palace interesting. The bishop was also a prince and one of them had even been an Elector, one of the group that chose the Holy Roman Emperor. There is a large, formal rose garden with a restaurant tucked in behind but it is open to the public and well patronised. Then I went to the city museum and after a while left because they were understaffed and the dragons kept following me. It made me feel most uncomfortable and not trusted, so I wrote that in the visitor's book, together with my e-mail address. It will be interesting to see if they reply.
After, I thought I'd walk to the station (Petra is at work) but by that time the shops and Information had shut and there was only a map with a "you are here" arrow. This was almost entirely useless as the map is not oriented to the direction it is facing. Fortunately a young couple helped me out and I'm just pausing on the route before catching the train.
This morning Petra and I booked my tomorrow's ticket. I leave before 8am and get to Heidelberg at 12:23pm, having changed in Stuttgart. That will allow some time to look around before the 23:44 train to Paris which arrives at 7:01. With the plane not due to leave Paris until after 12 there should be plenty of time to get to the airport.
Time to go
God bless you all
John