Recycled material from the blog is providing the Sunday thoughts for East Coast, a local radio station, for the next four Sundays. Here are the third and fourth:
When I was a kid, my asthma was so bad that I was sent to a special school in the south-west of England. Deep inside Dartmoor National Park it was boarding school three miles from the nearest village.
The school’s answer to poor health was exercise: exercise, exercise and more exercise. There were exercises outside every morning, cross country runs, organized hikes on the moor, and the encouragement to play football or to do something active during every spare moment.
In the spring of 1975, it was decided that a new football strip was needed, so a sponsored walk was organized.
They were a new thing in 1975 – or maybe we were just behind the times. Fifty or sixty of us walked from our school to a place called Teignmouth on the coast of south Devon. It was advertised as a twenty mile walk, I think it may have been only seventeen, but the extra three miles made it sound more impressive and it meant we got more money from those who sponsored by the mile.
We were all given sponsor cards to post to our families at home and they collected money and posted the cards back. We had the money before the walk had ever happened! I had £6 on my sponsor card, equivalent at that time to about two dozen pints of beer; one boy had £41, which matched a week’s wages for most people.
There was much debate about the colour of the new strip. Lots of the boys were from the English Midlands, so we ended with the orange shirts and black sorts and socks of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
A special match was organized to mark the arrival of the new strip. The team selection that day was very odd; it really depended whether or not you were liked by the team captain – who played in goal. Unlikely people got a run out that day, including an undersized, pale and skinny kid who was still struggling with asthma.
Looking at the team photograph thirty-three years later, I wonder how I was ever selected to play – I was rubbish as a footballer. Yet I look back on the time with fondness, it was an opportunity that came for a moment and then was gone.
The Bible has many stories of people who took their opportunities when they came along – a blind man at the roadside, a woman in a crowd of people, the friends of a man who was paralysed. They could have said, “Ah sure, another time will do”, and missed their chance of a different life.
Do things today; say things today; because tomorrow there might not be a second chance. There are opportunities that come along only once in a life time, if nothing else, they might mean you have a photograph in thirty years time.
I’m not very good at eating out. There is invariably some disaster which results in the most of the food on a plate or much of the contents of a glass spread across the table or down the front of my shirt.
I’m safe with fish and chips – I hold the bag up under my chin and there’s no chance of anything going astray, but anything else comes with danger attached.
I was at a conference in Windsor, England for ten days last autumn and was having dinner and when I felt dampness soaking through my shirt. I looked and realized that I must have spilled vegetable soup down my front.
I got hold of my serviette and tried to wipe it off, but then noticed that the soup had migrated to my trousers. I wasn’t sure how this could be, I wasn’t aware of having spilled any soup, let alone spilling it twice. Taking hold of my tie to move it out of the way, it became clear that I had managed to get my tie in the soup and that it had spread soup across my shirt and the waist of my trousers.
This caused general hilarity at the table.
Sheepishly, I admitted that to come away for ten days I had brought twelve shirts, five pairs of trousers and three jackets When the good lady of the house had challenged me about the volume of my luggage, I pointed out that I had a tendency to spill things.
Once when heading out for a ski holiday, I had got no further than Dublin airport in my fresh white sweater and ski jacket when the top came off a cup of hot chocolate and the contents had poured down my front. A friend suggested that I took the jacket off, put the sweater on back to front, and then put my jacket back on, and no-one would notice. No-one did notice, until I got on the plane and took my jacket off to put it in the overhead locker and realised that the people behind me were totally baffled as to how I managed to have a chocolate covered back.
If my wife had been at the conference, I would not have managed to mess up a tie, a shirt and a pair of trousers without even spilling the soup. “Ian”, she would have said, “you’re about to get that tie in your soup” and listening to her, as I always do, I would have tucked it safely out of the way.
The huge bag of dirty washing with which I came home from that trip taught me two things:
One, that wearing a tie just causes unnecessary problems;
and, two, that when God says in the Bible that “it is not good for man to be alone”, he knew what he was talking about.