Tuesday, 26 July 2016

MY TRIP FROM NEW YORK TO SYDNEY VIA PANAMA CANAL - PART 1

Tuesday, 19th July

Left for London Gatwick at 9.30 am for a 5pm flight.  A journey of approx. 4 hours max! But you have to allow for road works, accidents, flies in the ointment and the 3 hours it takes to check in!
I flew Norwegian Air Shuttle to New York on the new Dreamliner.  One of the cabin crew told us the plane was lighter and faster with lighting designed to reduce jetlag, purer air, roomier seats, bigger windows and more luggage space. 

The flight was uneventful (thankfully!) until we reached New York where we sat on the tarmac for 1.5 hours while ground crew got their act together.  So much for a speedier crossing! The technology worked a treat.  It was, as usual, the humans that let it down.

Making my way to the taxi rank I was approached by a driver asking where I wanted to go. I told him, he took my suitcase and started heading across the road. The rank gaffer asked him where he was going and was told “I’m taking this lady to the Wellington Hotel”.  “OK” he said, and to me “follow him”.  So off we go at speed across the road into a car park and we are on our way. 

My first clue was that there was no meter or licence number in the car.  My second clue was when we reached the hotel he told me the fare was $150!  What can you do?  Just put up and shut up!! At this stage I wasn’t even sure that he wasn’t going to pull a gun on me.  He didn’t take cards and I didn’t have that much cash so he took me to an ATM where my cash card was eaten up!  We had mild words and he finally agreed to accept that I only had $126 and had now lost my main source of finance. I wrote that up as a close shave.

New York was not kind to me that night but I did manage to put a block on the cash card.  Now I had no cash, only had my Debit and Credit Card to rely on and I couldn’t remember if I had told the bank I was taking this trip! Cheers! I remembered mentioning it when I let them know about the Norwegian trip but, in hindsight, wasn’t sure if I was told “let us know before you go”, or did I imagine that?!

The following morning I met up with my friends Jill and Angelo. At last, someone to look after me.  We set of for the ship in another taxi.  After a while I said, “are we going the right way”? Angelo reassured me that we were and half an hour later, when we pulled up at an empty cruise terminal in Brooklyn, we found that actually we weren’t!  We should have been at the cruise terminal in Manhattan, where we had just come from.  I didn’t want to say “I told you so” but I did. 
It transpired that Angleo had received an email with incorrect final boarding instructions so we had our taxi fare refunded. 

Bliss to be on the ship, safe at last, but with the nagging worry, what am I going to do about money? But I’ll worry about that when we get to Saturday. 
Saturday, 23rd July

The ATM on the ship offers me $60 for a charge of $6.50 + any other charges my bank may make (no “may” about it mate). But needs must.  So we set off for Hamilton to have a wander around.  Now Bermuda is a place I could happily live in.  Picture perfect, smiley people, lovely day.  Bliss. 

Then I spot an ATM.  Should I take the risk? Yes, be brave.  This is when paradise turned into something a lot less appealing. The ATM won’t let me have money and my bank started sending me frantic messages which my phone wouldn’t let me respond to, panic.  I rush back to the ship and spend a gut wrenching hour trying to contact the bank by ships phone. Finally sorted!  Whew!  Now I can relax.

Tuesday, 26th July


Two uneventful days sailing through the Bermuda Triangle and incidentally, according to the Captain, the most dangerous waters in the world. I thought the danger was that the triangle would eat us up, just like my card, but apparently the danger is that we are navigating through narrow channels between reefs.  Now I did wonder why he couldn’t have kept that information to himself but I guess he was just trying to big his job up.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

SALES TRAINING - WHAT NOT TO DO!

This is recent call I received. I kid you not!

"Am I speaking to Ann C.......?"
"Yes, may I ask whose calling?"
"This is Choice Catalogue, how are you?"
"How am I?"
"Yes, how are you?
"Ummm -  I'm OK - what are you calling me for?"
"Before I can tell you that I just need you to confirm your postcode so that I know I'm talking to the right person"
"But you are calling me.. why do I need to prove who I am when your the one that's calling ?"
 "Because you could be anyone.."
 "But you just called me!"
"Yes"
"And this is the number you have taken from my account details which you have there ?"
"Yes"
" O.K. so you called and asked for me by name and I confirmed that it was me ?"
" Yes that's right "
"And asked if I was OK. ?
"Yes "
"And now I have to prove who I am to you before you can go ahead and try to sell me what exactly ?"
" I'm afraid I can't discuss that with you unless I can confirm who I'm talking to.........."

You couldn't make this up if you tried.......

Monday, 21 July 2014

BROTHER, SISTER, LET ME SERVE YOU

We sang this in Church yesterday and I absolutely love it.  This is who I aspire to be, but have been known to sometimes fall abysmally short!   If only we could all be this way think what a wonderful place this world would be.
 
Brother, sister, let me serve you,
 let me be as Christ to you;
 pray that I may have the grace to
 let you be my servant too.
 
 We are pilgrims on a journey,
 and companions on the road;
 we are here to help each other
 walk the mile and bear the load.
 
 I will hold the Christ-light for you
 in the night-time of your fear;
 I will hold my hand out to you,
 speak the peace you long to hear.
 
 I will weep when you are weeping;
 when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
 I will share your joy and sorrow
 till we’ve seen this journey through.
 
 When we sing to God in heaven
 we shall find such harmony,
 born of all we’ve known together
 of Christ’s love and agony.
 
 Brother, sister, let me serve you,
 let me be as Christ to you;
 pray that I may have the grace to
 let you be my servant too. 
 
I certainly didn't feel like this on Saturday when I was trying to sort out my bank account.  My bank has been "acquired" by another bank which, over the past few weeks, has sent me scholes of instructions on what would happen and the procedure for accessing on-line banking. 
 
So, I tried to follow the instructions on Friday, managed to lock myself out of the card reader, tried to seek advice over the "phone, and after wading through all the "options" found out I wasn't registered for telephone banking.  Tell me something that I don't know you twerp. I eventually ran out of patients and very nearly life!
 
Saturday morning, bright and breezy I woke up determined to crack the problem.  I started the process at 9 am and by lunch time I was bemused, befuddled and bewildered having spoken to several delightful young call centre staff who "weren't trained" to help me with my problem.  Eventually I was told that my call was being transferred to someone that could help. 
 
Before I could explain the problem this person started off by saying "type in your 4 digit pin, etc. etc."  I tried to stop her at this stage to say that not only was my pin 5 digits long, but by this stage I was actually locked out of everything.  She was obviously reading from a script and couldn't deviate long enough to listen to me. 
 
Much to my embarrassment I ended up shouting at her.  She paused, "No 4 digit pin?" "No"  "But you were sent one" "I wasn't" "Are you sure?" "YES!" "Well in that case we will have to send you another one, it will take about 5 days to reach you" by this time I was totally deflated "OK"  "Someone will call you to discuss this further because we can't unlock your card reader from here, you will have to go to the nearest branch of this bank and follow the instructions on the screen".  And, I must admit, it was not my finest hour when I slammed the 'phone down yelling "WHATEVER!"
 
I then waited for the 'phone call.  None came.  Wait a minute, let's think about this.  "Calm down" I told myself "check through all the stuff they sent".  And do you know what, there it was, the 4 digit pin! Drat!  The 5 digit pin was for telephone banking!  WHAT?!
 
Now the problem became different - if I didn't hurry they would cancel my newly found pin, so I dashed to the bank, unlocked my card reader, hurried home and hey presto, I now have on-line access again.  Whew.  All's right with the world again.
 
Technology makes life so much easier doesn't it?
 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

LOVE THIS CHINESE DOCTOR!

Q:   Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can  prolong  life.  Is this true?
A:  Heart  only good for so many beats, and that it... Don't  waste  on exercise.  Everything wear out  eventually.   Speeding up heart not make you live longer; it  like  saying you extend life of car by driving faster.    Want to live longer?  Take nap.

Q: Should  I reduce  my alcohol  intake?
   
A:  Oh   no.  Wine made from fruit.  Brandy distilled  wine, that  mean they take water out of fruity bit so you  get even more of  goodness that way.  Beer also made  of grain.  Bottom  up!


Q: How can I  calculate my body/fat ratio?

A:  Well, if  you have body and you have fat, your ratio one to   one.  If you have two body, your ratio two to   one.

Q: What are some of the advantages of  participating  in a regular exercise  program?

A: Can't think of single  one,  sorry.  My philosophy: No  pain...good!  
    

Q:   Aren't fried  foods bad for  you?
   
A:  YOU  NOT  LISTENING!  Food fried in vegetable oil.  How   getting more vegetable be  bad?


Q
  :   Will  sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft   around the middle?
A:  Oh no!   When you exercise  muscle, it get bigger.  You  should only be doing sit-up if  you want bigger  stomach. 


Q:  Is chocolate  bad  for me? 

A:  You crazy?!?    HEL-LO-O!!  Cocoa bean!  Another  vegetable!  It  best feel-good food  around!

Q:  Is swimming good  for your  figure?

A:  If swimming good for   figure, explain whale to me.

Q:  Is  getting in  shape important for my  lifestyle? 

A:   Hey!   'Round' is shape!

Well... I hope this has  cleared  up any misconceptions you may have had about food  and  diets.

And  remember: 

Life   should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention  of  arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved  body, but  rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one  hand - chocolate in  the other - body thoroughly used up,  totally worn out and  screaming "WOO-HOO, what a  ride!!"
    

AND.....

For   those of you who watch  what you eat, here's the final  word on nutrition and health.   It's a relief to  know the truth after all those conflicting  nutritional  studies.   

1. The  Japanese  eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks  than  Australians.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat  and  suffer fewer heart attacks than Australians.

3.  The  Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer   heart attacks than Australians.

4. The Italians  drink a lot  of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks  than  Australians... 

5. The Germans  drink a lot of beer  and eat lots of sausages and fats  and suffer fewer heart attacks  than  Australians.


CONCLUSION:  Eat  and  drink what you  like.   Speaking English is   apparently what kills you.


 
 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

HERE'S A BIT OF FUN


Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning.
A  homograph that is also pronounced differently is a  heteronym.

1)  The bandage was wound around the  wound
2) The farm was used to  produce produce
3)  The dump was so full that it had to refuse more  refuse.
4)  We must polish the Polish  furniture
5) He could lead if  he would get the lead out
6) The soldier  decided to desert his dessert in the  desert
7) Since there is no time like  the present, he thought it was time to  present the present
 8)  A bass was painted on the head of the bass  drum
9) When shot at, the dove dove  into the bushes.
10) I did not object  to the object
11)  The insurance was invalid for the  invalid
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row 
13) They were too close  to the door to close it 
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present
15)  A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a  sewer line
16) To help with planting,  the farmer taught his sow to  sow
17) The wind was too  strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing  the tear in the painting I shed a  tear
19) I had to subject  the subject to a series of  tests. 
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
    
Let's  face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in  eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in  pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or  French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while  sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are animal organs. We take English for  granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that  quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a  guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. 
And  why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers  don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is  teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2  geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it  seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you  have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of  them, what do you call it? 
If teachers taught, why  didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables,  what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the  English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the  verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play  and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?  Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim  chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a  wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique  lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it  burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on. 
English was  invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the  creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race  at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible,  but when the lights are out, they are invisible. 
PS. -  Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick'?

Monday, 9 June 2014

HERE IS GOOD




To continue, post six and the last of the series. If you have read the previous five posts I have described how I had a “spiritual awakening”, how that affected me and what happened as the result of it. 

After the initial impact I had three months of what I can only describe as absolute blissful peace.  We still had major emotional and financial problems but nothing seemed to touch me.  Could this have been what is known as "Grace of God?” I don’t know, but it felt good. 

Unfortunately it didn’t last forever, but by this time I had the means of dealing with my situation.  It was, to say the least, a very exciting time with many unexplained things happening, one of which was that Davy and I had become concerned about our very dear friend Steve who was becoming fascinated with some of the fringe "ism" groups. I had “coincidentally” recently bought a book on “cults & isms”.  We decided to give this to him and his wife, along with my cherished Bible. 

Giving my Bible away was a great wrench for me but we figured that their need was greater than ours.  When we arrived home that evening, lo and behold, there was a parcel on our door step.  In it was a wedding present from two of the ladies at the church.  A Bible!  Another "coincidence"!? 

The upshot of this is that our friends became Christians soon after attending our wedding at Millmead and Steve then went on to become a great charismatic influencer with a tremendous gift for service. 

Fast forward four years.  Many, many other unexplainable things happened, however, these stories are not about me and, therefore, not mine to tell.  The bottom line is that my time at Millmead was about to come to an end.  Davy’s mother was terminally ill with cancer and we decided to move to Lincolnshire so that we could be near her in her final days. 

The downside of leaving such an inspirational church is that other churches, particularly the few I tried in rural Lincolnshire, felt like spiritual desserts.  I came out feeling worse than when I went in so I spent next 26 years doing my own thing! And, I might add, not very successfully!

A couple of years ago I started getting agitated about this and set off to look for an Alpha Course.  Unfortunately I had just missed one, and was introduced to some of the people that had been on it.  I asked if there were any “lively” churches in the area and was recommended three, St George’s in Stamford, the Community Church in Peterborough and Holy Trinity in Boston.

I tried St George’s and loved it, but it’s about 30 miles from where I live and felt the need to find a church more local to me so I tried Holy Trinity which is only 10 miles away. 

It was Mothering Sunday and as soon as I walked in I felt that I belonged.  During the service Simon, the minister, asked the young people to come to the front and collect potted primroses for their mothers. I found this simple act of love profoundly touching and when a young man gave me one too I nearly fell apart!  I hadn't expected that.  In fact I cried.  If the truth be told I’m just an emotion wreck hiding under a gruff exterior, but please keep that to yourself.   

The mystery is - why did I start agitating to find a church at that particular time?  All I can say is that it’s been a particularly difficult year and I believe that I was guided to solid ground to help me to deal with more of life's "challenges"! J  I feel safe now.  In the bosom of a caring community, learning, one day at a time, how to live a richly fulfilling spiritual life. 

Well, that’s my story from there to here and I must say that, one day at a time, here is good.
. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

JACKIE PULLINGER AND ALL THAT GOOD STUFF


Continuing on from the amazing occurrences I described in my previous four posts documenting my progression from atheism to Christianity, I rushed home and said to Davy “I know what’s wrong with this house! My bible is in the loft. Can you get it down please?”
As I told Davy what had happened I randomly opened the bible and, glancing down to read  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Wow! This totally freaked us out.
Next day Davy had to go to the Builders Merchants and while he was in there I wandered into a Christian Book shop nearby. While I waited for him in the pickup I randomly opened each of the three books I had bought and, believe it or not, the first page I turned to in each book contained this same bible verse.  I was just knocked out - but that wasn’t to be the end.  As I put the last book down I looked up and there was the same verse on a church notice board nearby.  I just flung my arms in the air and said “OK, I get the message”.
Now what?  I immediately felt a great peacewhich transcends all understanding”.  We had a multitude of emotional and financial problems, but suddenly I felt very calm about everything.  Where did that come from?
The next day I started fretting about Pentecost, what was it and when did it happen? I asked Bridie. She asked why I wanted to know, but I had no idea.  I was totally unprepared for the answer she gave me “Did you know that this Sunday is Pentecost?”  I had no idea! This was all too strange. And as an aside, I have just realized that I am writing this the week before Pentecost!
I then found myself wondering where I should go with my newly found faith?   I was sure that I needed to go to church but wanted to go somewhere where I could be nurtured and developed.  I didn’t want anywhere too stuffy, but neither did I want to end up with what I called “over the top nutters”.  I was cautious.
I told Bridie about my bible verse being in the books etc and she recommend that I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boon.  This was the book that had turned her around. 
She had also recently bought a book called “Chasing the Dragon” by Jackie Pullinger a young Christian who had gone to Hong Kong to work among drug addicts, helping them come off herion without withdrawals and “coincidentally” Davy had been trying to help a young addict that worked for him.  One day Bridie ‘phoned me and said “guess what, Jackie Pullinger is over here and speaking at a local school this evening, shall we go and take John with us?
We discussed our plan with John and he agreed that we should go and see her.  After her talk she prayed with him and I told her that I was fascinated by her story.  We had a chat and she said that if I wanted I could catch up with her again the following evening at a place called Millmead in Guildford where she was speaking again. 
When I rocked up at Millmead I thought “Oh no, a Baptist Church”!  I nearly turned around and went home, but was still keen to talk some more with Jackie so I went in.  You can tell that I am not at all bigoted or biased! J
Against all my better instincts I did go into the Church and immediately knew that I was in the right place.  I later found out that the Church had been developed by a renowned preacher and biblical scholar David Pawson.  He had moved on from Millmead the year before, but the legacy that he left behind was just what I needed. 
I eventually had full emersion baptism in that Church and in 1983 Davy and I were married there by Justin Dennison, another inspirational preacher who taught me so much.
If you remember my path had taken me from Sunday School, to sitting along in Churches as a child, to reading the Catherine Marshall book that suddenly appeared in my home. It wasn’t until later that I realized perhaps my real conversion had started with the 12th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I was, and still am, a member of Al-Anon, a fellowship for families and friends of alcoholics.  We follow the same 12th step programme of AA.
The fist 100 members of AA decided to help suffering alcoholics by analysing the steps they had taken to recover and sustain their recovery from alcoholism. 
The 12th step is “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps ….”  BOOM – it suddenly dawned on me that I had followed these steps to the best of my ability for 16 years and slowly my mind had been opened to the possibility of there being a Higher Power who I eventually came to called God. When the time was right he led me to him.  Just as it said on the tin “having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps
And what happened to John? He did come off of heroin without withdrawals and stayed clean for several months.  Unfortunately the lure of the drug pulled him back into addiction again from which he eventually died.  It was so tragic because he had a little girl, twin boys and a lovely wife.  Unfortunately he didn’t see the need to seek the ongoing help of other recovering addicts through the NA 12 step programme.  It’s a hard lesson, but to see others fail can reinforce the need for recovery.   
To be continued……..
Oh, and another thing, I would urge you to click on the Jackie Pullinger link to hear her story.  She is an absolute nut, but if only I was half the person that she is I would die happy