E NEWS 3 NOVEMBER 2023
After almost 5 weeks in Europe, it feels good to be home. The lovely spring, almost summery weather helps, after distinctly autumnal temperatures in Paris and London, our last two destinations. Following on from plus 30 degrees in Portugal, where we spent nearly 3 weeks, it was suddenly 4 degrees in Paris one morning a couple of weeks ago.
I belong to a generation for whom travel became a rite of passage during the 1970s and 1980s. My first ever overseas trip was as an exchange student to the US in 1970, on a DC8 if I remember correctly. We flew to San Francisco via Hawaii where we had to pass through immigration. The whole trip including quite a long layover in Hawaii took about 24 hours and was incredibly exciting for a girl from Whanganui. Equally exciting was arriving in San Francisco. I clearly recall the big city vibe, the hustle of a very diverse population, and interesting restaurants open all hours.
Now, with family living in Paris and London, travelling to Europe every year has become normal for us in a way that I could never have envisaged 50 years ago. During our stay in Paris we had the privilege of accompanying our son-in-law Clément to an in-house exhibition for employees and their families celebrating 90 years of Air France, where he works. This experience certainly brought home how much change has occurred in the airline industry during my lifetime.
But with climate change impacting us, it is sobering to reflect on how damaging to our planet air travel is. Clément assures us that a great deal of research is underway to increase the use of sustainable aviation fuel, which is promising news for those of us with children and grandchildren who live outside of the country. Indeed, post-pandemic young Kiwis continue to head overseas for their OE. We are not the only family within our congregation whose younger members have headed to London to broaden their horizons and work experience. One superb event for us was a dinner hosted by London-based friends with Anna Smith’s sons Jono and Chris and daughter-in-law Chelsea and our son Thomas and his finance Rachel, as well as Anna. The boys grew up together in the Rainbow Room. It was a memorable occasion, even if we did all glue ourselves to the television to watch the New Zealand-Argentina Rugby World Cup game (leading to another story…).
The very pressing and depressing news during our trip was the start of the Israel-Hamas war. What to say except that you have to want to create peace in order to have it. The leaders of neither side appear to want peace; both sides appear hell-bent on destruction and meanwhile thousands of innocent and defenceless civilians are being injured and dying, especially in Gaza. This is heartbreaking.
The war in Ukraine also felt much closer and not just geographically. A good friends, who works for the World Health Organisation, regularly travels to Kyiv. She told of interrupted nights where she and colleagues needed to retreat to the air raid bunkers, which she said are well-equipped and pretty comfortable with beds for the 60s+ (which she is) and even meeting rooms. During the day if you want to ensure an uninterrupted meeting with no air raid sirens going off, you simply book one of the meeting rooms! Plus she said, by way of assurance to my enquiries about how safe it really was, the anti-aircraft missile defence system in Kyiv is pretty effective now.
Portugal was a delight to visit. The people were friendly, interested and positive, the seafood was wonderful, and the early history fascinating, not to mention the fabulous tiles everywhere. In fact modern-day Portugal seemed like a highly desirable place to live, despite the rising cost of accommodation which they too are grappling with. It was sobering to recall that Portugal was ruled by a cruel and repressive dictator for 41 years from 1933 until 1974 which left the country destitute. EU funds have helped to rebuild the economy and the infrastructure so for Portugal being part of the EU is incredibly important. But the people seem to have largely overcome the scars of those terrible years. Although full of beautiful old churches, it was interesting to learn that Portugal has become a very secular country. Our young tour guides told us categorically that the church was not a part of their lives.
Meanwhile we have a change of government pending in New Zealand. I am grateful for the convention of a peaceful and orderly transition of power. My personal prayer is that the incoming government gets on board with climate change measures…and doesn’t ignore poverty and housing needs (to name a few pressing issues on our own doorstep).
Sunday 5 November is Parihaka Sunday. Marking the horrendous sacking of Parihaka by British troops and what this means for our society in the 21st century has become an annual tradition at St Andrew’s. I am looking forward to hearing the Rev Dr Wayne Te Kaawa who will be leading the service as our guest. The Māori Regional Choir has also been invited to sing and the service will be followed by a hangi lunch. I look forward to seeing you all there.
You can read the full E-news here: https://mailchi.mp/21e5e554f0c4/this-weeks-newsletter-from-st-andrews-on-the-terrace-9407692