Today we leave the UK and return to Tanzania. We’ve spent a fabulous time in the UK for just about seven weeks. In that time we have travelled the length and breadth of England, visiting friends and relatives along the way, but now our time here is coming to an end. Perhaps because our stay has been fragmented between different locations (our longest stay in any one place was 13 days) time has flown quickly. We have taken a lot in and caught up with most (though sadly not all) of the people we wanted too. Being a visitor in our former homelands has been strange but friends and family have been generous and kind, we have had many meals and shared good times across the land.
One of our purposes here was to prepare our eldest for University. In just over three weeks from now he will start at his favoured University to study a degree in English Literature, History and Drama Studies. The next phase of his life is starting and so will ours.
Our family has been four for almost 16 years, since our youngest was born. It’s difficult to remember a time when we were three, but even then he was there as a toddler – a part of our family for 18+ years. Now our family must change, readjust, re-balance to reflect the changing dynamic of daily life. It’s going to be wierd, disconcerting, challenging even.
Our son does not cease to be part of the family, but the relationship will change. New experiences for him and for us will undoubtedly separate us a little. This was always going to happen, it’s inevitability established on the timeline from the moment he was born. We have brought our son up from baby to toddler to child to teenager and now to a young adult. We have done our bit and set him up for the next phase of his life.
The fact we are 4000 miles away rather than 400 miles or 40 miles (the distance I moved away from my parents) makes this departure more geographically stark, but in truth when you leave home, you never quite return the same person. The next few years are going to be exciting and life changing. We must embrace it and look on the positive side. For today there will be sadness as four become three but we look forward to our reunion in time to come and the stories we will be able to share.
Our time in England has been a time of reminiscing, firstly back in MK and now in Lincoln. These two places where I lived for 38 years in total are so familiar, but for four years in between these two places I lived in Nottingham so it was good to visit the place I spent my University Years.
I spent two years living on Campus in Halls and a total of four years studying my degree and PGCE – the place is familiar, yet in 28 years the place has changed a lot.
Once place which has changed little is the University Park
Our time in England has been a time of reminiscing, firstly back in MK and now in Lincoln. These two places where I lived for 38 years in total, so familiar. As well as visiting old friends it has been a chance to revisit places – familiar haunts.
Probably the place I visited most often in my time in MK – place of countless runs and walks over the years. We walked it On one of the hottest days of the U.K. this year. A large lake on our old doorstep when we lived there.
Throughout our time in Tanzania we have seen hundreds of kingfishers Pied Kingfishers, Grey- Headed Kingfishers, Malachite Kingfishers even a Giant Kingfisher.
However in Britain I have never seen a (Common) Kingfisher. For years I have looked along river banks hoping to spot that flash of blue and orange, but never a glimpse of this shy bird.
Until today that is… 🙂
It started at 5:30 – I’ve not been sleeping well having pulled a muscle in my shoulder. The sun was shining brightly which for me is taking along time to get used to (having lived with a constant 12 hour day these past two years). So I got up and dressed and headed out with my camera to get some early morning shots of Emberton Park – our home for the week. I headed for the lake and made for the bird hide. As I went I wondered whether it might be possible to see a kingfisher – but I had been to many such lakes and rivers over the years and never even seen flicker.
I am a Christian and as I walked I shot up an arrow prayer asking if just once I might be lucky. I don’t believe in a slot-machine God who does things to order, but I do believe in a God who cares and answers our prayers though not always in the way we expect – in the big things and in the little. This was most definitely in the little category.
I sat there waiting patiently in the early morning light. Self doubt saying to me give up you’ve tried and failed many times, a little voice countering and saying be patient – twenty minutes and movement across my eyeline – in the light it was more black than anything but I followed it and carefully moved to the other side of the hide – there it was on a branch – fleetingly and before my camera could capture it, gone.
My first kingfisher – amazed and thankful I nonetheless decided to wait on the little voice saying be patient.
Ten minutes on and two flashes of blue zooming across the lake – still no picture. I shot another prayer just asking for an opportunity to capture the bird. I positioned my camera towards the branches of a submerged bush and waited. Then finally a squeaky call and another bird flew into view. I got off two shots.
I didn’t get a perfectly posed bird on a branch but God had answered again. He had answered in abundance but not the way I expected. I had seen no less than four kingfishers, having never seen a UK bird before. He will answer in the little things and in the big – if we ask and if we are patient and if we expect the unexpected.
Today we arrived back in MK my home for 26 years prior to moving out to Mwanza. We are staying on a campsite to the north of the city. A picturesque landscape of woodland and lakes near Olney.
It’s the first time back in MK and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends.
We’ve actually been back in the UK a week now. Surprisingly it has not been the culture shock we anticipated – for me I have slipped back into the UK environment with no real surprises, though it has felt a bit cold. Maybe the 40+ years of UK living have made the experience much more ‘normal’ than I expected after two years on the equator.
Having initially stayed with family near Abingdon it gave an opportunity to visit ex-colleagues in Thame and it was good to catch up and see them. Life has changed little, it seems, though perhaps I detect a slightly greater pressure on all as they embrace the challenges of the British Education Reforms – something I am glad to have escaped.
This week a chance for the kids to catch up with school friends and us all to meet church friends and wider MK friends as well as family. It also gives us a chance to sort out things for our son’s impending entry into University. MK’s reassuring familiarity is a real bonus.