We arrived back in Gainford after a horrendous 26 hour journey from leaving home in Beijing, we were stuck on the plane waiting for weather conditions to improve for over 2.5 hours at Beijing followed by a 11 hour flight then we missed our connecting flight from Paris to Newcastle and had to sit for over 6 hours for the next one which didn't get us in to Newcastle till nearly 11pm by which time there was no trains, no car hire available so we had to get a taxi which cost £90. Air France refused to reimburse the fare as they said they don't compensate for bad weather delays, but I kicked up a bit of fuss and they finally gave me a £100 voucher to use against future travel. Also when we had booked the taxi to pick us up and take us home from Newcastle Airport through an online company they had offered a £5:00 discount for first time users of their company, but I later found out I had inadvertently entered in to a contract with them when I claimed the voucher against the fare which allowed them to take £25:00 every six months from my account. I only knew about it when I received my credit card statement and saw the deduction it was a very hard struggle to get that sorted they would not reply to my e mails or acknowledge my cancellation of the contract, after 6 e mails I had built up a sufficient case from the e mails and copies of their T&C and informed them that if they hadn't resolved it by a certain date it was all being sent to the Financial Ombudsman.....they wrote to me two days later and refunded my £25:00 and cancelled the contract.
We haven't been anywhere really this time we have continued with the Spouse/Settlement Visa app and other outstanding admin stuff, and have made the online application and paid the £2,0070.00 for the Visa and NHS, then Jun took all the hard evidence when she returned to the company back in Beijing who work on behalf of the UK Govt, they promptly scanned it all and send it to Sheffield UK for the decision ( typical eh ha-ha).Sheffield have now e mailed us to say they have opened the application and it will take approx. 3 months to process providing everything is as it should be, so hopefully Jun could be back here in Oct/Nov as she has to collect her visa and biometrics within a certain time frame. We did have days out here and there one of them to Malham Cove which was a great day we walked to it from the village and then climbed to the top from one of the sides ( not straight up as some climbers were doing), another day on retreat up Monkseaton at Whitley Bay and Sunday Festival at Throssel.
I have had a couple of full days out doing photography with my next door neighbour as well as continuing to go to my two meditation groups and another night were Rob my neighbour comes in and has a meditation with me as well as having days up at Throssel Buddhist Monastery I also have had a meeting with Colin the NHS senior chaplain at West Park Mental Health Hospital to discuss doing some chaplaincy work like I did before at the James Cook Hospital. I am also starting work with the Seaman's Mission in Teesport in October as a lot of ships come in with crews from Asia who are Buddhist.
I have also been doing a bit of work in the allotment recently as the slugs ate all our vegs, so I have put a pond in for frogs so next year hopefully they will keep them down as I don't want to use slug pellets and I have left a area of the allotment wild around the pond. I get some funny looks from the neighbouring allotment owners, especially one day when I had sown wildflowers among the weeds and the allotment manager passed me as I was watering what appeared to him to be just weeds.
I asked Jun to do a search online in China recently after reading an article that said they had banned Winnie the Pooh she did, and sure enough it came up saying "This webpage is not available" its because there are some big conferences coming up and lots of people call Xi Jinping the teddybear, so they have blocked all references to the bear you couldn't make it up could you ha-ha. We still have times when we get things wrong with each other with regard to language a recent example was when we were chatting with each other on FaceTime and talking about the weather and weather forecasters here in the UK and China and Jun said the weather at the moment is very hot and humid but there is a very big storm coming in 2021, I said how could they know that far ahead, then we both realized she meant on the 21st and 22nd of the month.
I was invited to visit my friend Paul from our village at his cottage on the Island of Caldey off the Pembrokeshire coast where he was staying with his son for summer, it is an Island owned by the Cistercians with a beautiful Monastery at the centre. I went down for 7 days travelling down by train a 7.5 hour journey with four train changes, one of them arriving in Birmingham giving me 4 minutes to get to the next one. When I arrived at Tenby the seaside resort in Wales it was 5:30 and to late to catch a boat to the Island so I spent the night in a dormitory at maronbier youth hostel on the coastal path and had a lovely 2 hour walk along the cliffs. It all felt a little strange being on a holiday without Jun with me, the next morning I was down at the pier at 7:30 to catch the mail boat in very heavy rain and was soaking wet by the time we had completed the 30 minute crossing in choppy seas and Paul met me at the jetty and introduced me to some of the Monks as they were going to the mainland to visit some nuns at their Monastery.
By the afternoon the weather was beautiful and Paul took me around the Island visiting the original monastery now being renovated by the Welsh Trust with a spire at a very steep angle , the lighthouse at the highest point of the island, the farmhouse which includes the Chocolate factory made famous by the Monks as well as the perfumes they once made but now is made by others, the hermitage where Brother Paul lived before his death when he no longer wanted to live in the Monastery, an eccentric character by all accounts and over the next days some of the caves and coves the watchtower ,stations of the cross, old buildings etc. The next day Paul took me in to the Monastery where I met Father Gillis we had a long talk he is the same age as me and has been a Cistercian for 38 years but before that he was a Buddhist for 3 years, we talked about things as diverse as all religions being fundamentally the same to Somerset Maugham's The Razors Edge one of his favourite books and mine, to Alice in Wonderland, he also gave us both a copy of a prayer from Ghandi and a lovely copy of the Dhammapada. We walked around all of the Monastery as all the Monks know Paul with him staying on the Island since he was a child we attended many of the services over the week while I was there which I really enjoyed. Another Monk I met Brother Titus was a ex Formula 1 racing driver who now drove the Orders small bubble like Fiat at a sedate 15 miles an hour, we had a nice talk about the value of silence in life and on retreat and he said he would like me to come back one day and spend time in the Monastery. I was down the jetty one morning with Paul collecting his groceries off the boat when I helped to unload the Monks deliveries and was thanked and called "brother" by a crew member he obviously thought I was a monk ha-ha.
Paul told many stories of some of the characters and events over the years from the Island one of my favourites was about Brother Stephen who apparently had a wonderful sense of humour and after he died Paul and some other islanders helped to dig his grave after it had been marked out. On the day of the burial Paul was stood a little way from the grave and noticed one of the Monks shoulders shaking and he thought he is really upset and must be crying, then he noticed the Abbot trying to supress a smile at which point they were called over and the coffin was stuck at an angle the grave wasn't big enough and the Monks were in fact all laughing. Paul and the others pulled the coffin out and dug some more but it stuck again so out it came again, and again for the third time at which point Paul said Brother Stephen must already be a saint when the Monks asked why Paul said he has already risen three times, everyone laughed and agreed Brother Stephen would have really appreciated the humour of it.
Another funny episode occurred one morning when we were in the cottage kitchen with the back door and yard door open and lots of tourists were wandering around ( they come over on tourist boats for the day) and this man with camera in hand just walks into the kitchen I said sorry this is a private house but he didn't seem to understand and just looked around then walked out, Paul said that happens a few times when I looked in the yard there was a sign on the wall which read St Theresa's cottage but underneath it was another sign that said welcome, I said that's why they must think it's a chapel or something so we turned the welcome sign around.
We also spent time in the woods building a camp for Daniel Pauls son, that was an opportunity to be a child again it was looking really good by the time I left, I said to Paul we will know how good it will be when you go into the woods and can't find it ha-ha. We also had one day on a private beach which you had to access from the cliff top using a rope to get down the steep incline, it was much harder getting back up. Another great vehicle they have on the island is a ex USA army landing craft which they use at low time to unload and load passengers off the boats when they can't get in, that was fun to watch in operation.
On my last morning I was awake at 6am to the sound of strong winds and torrential rain I was due to go off at 10:30 on the boat but was convinced I was going to be there for another day, but by 9am it was a beautiful sunny day and the first tourist boat came out so I took that back to Tenby along with another man who had been on retreat and a priest and caught the 11:40 train for Swansea then Bristol then onto Darlington. At Birmingham I was sat on my own and a Chinese family came on and asked me if the other seats were free they had two young girls with them who burst into fits of giggles when I spoke to them in my limited Chinese but it certainly broke the ice and I arrived back home at 9pm.
Last week Jun was at work and they were all informed to collect their tickets and after work go to the Theatre in the centre of Beijing to watch a production about The Long March to celebrate Red Army Day, none of them wanted to see it so Jun left her car at work and they took the crew bus down to the city centre photographed themselves outside the theatre and left. But the next morning on the crew bus to work their boss started asking them all about it ,what was it like etc, they were really put on the spot ha-ha.