Well I settled down a (little bit) after my time spent on Caldey Island, a few visits up to our Monastery Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and continuing with the meditation groups in Teesside and Gainford plus two visits to the Hindu Centre in Middlesbrough for lunches as well as attending the Diwali Festival which I hadn't been to for the last 5 years. It is a lovely festival and I went with Paul and his son Daniel and Simon and met John there, it was really well attended and had a lot more people there who are not Hindu than I remember from previous attendances as well as more younger Hindus. One observation I made was seeing a young man sat in front of me who all through the first part of the ceremonies played a football game on his phone, later when he got up to leave the ceremony hall I turned to John and said it must be half time.
Rev Adelin came down from Thursday to Saturday in October, on the Friday we visited Peter the Chaplain for Teesport and Hartlepool and spent the day with him and Brian another ship visitor visiting crew on ships and getting to know the job and dock locations. On the Saturday we had a day retreat in Middlesbrough and I also was given the telephone number/e mail and address of Mia ( a lay Buddhist I know) and her husband who have now located to Beijing so hoping to see them soon.
Well we finally got Jun's Spouse visa after lots of problems, delays, e mails, including me meeting with our local MP and getting her involved. It was clear practically from the start that the UK visa office are not up to the job, and after 60 working days they sent Jun an e mail to tell her they hadn't been able to process it within the guidelines of 60 days as her case was not straightforward and when we contacted them they wouldn't say why but promised to escalate the case. They then sent out another e mail at a later date which was by then 72 working days saying exactly the same thing (not-straightforward), and when I phoned and wrote to them they made the same promise as before ( we will escalate the case). So I told them our MP was now involved with the case and then all of a sudden they write to Jun to inform her they are now dealing with her case but there are some documents missing and gave her 10 days to send them, by this time it was upto 84 working days ( these documents were not missing we had been very sure about sending in everything they required). So we resubmitted them and within a few days Jun got confirmation she had been give the Visa, she then had 30 days to return to the UK to collect her Biometric card. I would not wish for anyone to go through this process it was so frustrating and upsetting and we were treated terribly.
So finally Jun arrived on the 7th of November for 3 weeks minus her luggage which had not made it onto the connecting flight and the next day we travelled to Durham to collect her card and then meet the van driver in a motorway service station to get her luggage.
Jun came with me on some ship welfare visits and Peter is very keen for her to start work especially with her translation skills, Jun really enjoyed it, and I have now completed the training and awaiting my qualification from The Merchant Navy Board after completing their ship welfare course.
We went upto Scotland for a few days stopping off at Jedburgh and watching the Remembrance Sunday parade, then to Melrose visiting the famous Abbey there, then to Edinburgh for 2 days staying with a French lady in her lovely apartment through Air BnB, she is an artist and her apartment reflected this. We spent time visiting art galleries and going down to the grassmarket, Leith and going out to the Forth bridge. On the way back we followed the coast heading for North Berwick, our first stop was as we were driving through a village called Aberlady when we observed a huge cascade of poppies in front of the church, as we walked up a lady was opening the church and told us the story that the thousands of poppies are all hand knitted by people from all over the world and it is quite famous. We spent time at North Berwick which in some respects is like going back in time, after which we stopped off at St Abbs a small fishing village but well know for its diving, then on back home.
Jun went back to Beijing at start of December and will be back here at end of January so I am spending more time doing ship visits, collecting Xmas gifts from all over, amazing to see so much generosity from people, went to the Seamen's Mission Xmas party to help out, staying for a couple of hours but had to leave as I was setting off early the next morning for a retreat at Ministeracres which was well attended.
The following week my friend Dave and I sailed from North Shields on the DFDS ferry to Ijmuiden in Holland for 3 days on a 15 hour overnight crossing which should have given us just less than a day in Amsterdam then a overnight crossing back. It was very cold the whole time with snow in Amsterdam but the ferry was very nice the cabin was comfortable.....but, there is always a but, there was a delay disembarking so by the time we got off and the coach got us to Amsterdam it was nearly 12 noon. We bought tram tickets and quickly got to the Van Gogh Museum which was amazing, we then went to the Amsterdam Houseboat Museum going onto a large converted houseboat all done in 1950's décor beautiful! Then after something quick to eat we headed back to the pick up point outside the station for 3:45 to find a large queue waiting for the coaches which were.... not there as apparently other people whose flights had been cancelled owing to the weather were going back by ferry and had taken our places, and the bus drivers had not thought to check for their boarding cards. So after nearly 2 hours stood freezing we were back on the coach back to Ijmuiden, the bus driver said to me how sorry they were but the good news was that the ferry was waiting for us, my reply was " I should bloody well think so" ha-ha. Anyway it was a good crossing back and we made up the time, the crew were really good on the ferry all very polite and helpful, and I got lots of photographs over the 3 days.
I was straight back down to Teesport visiting ships with Peter, and one day we visited 5 ships and handed out 75 presents to crew including presents for a female Filipino Chief Officer whose joy at receiving a present was heartwarming. I have agreed to work with Peter on Xmas day and am looking forward to going on the ships that are in and taking the crews ashore.