Just like my father


An exciting day ahead!

First, to Aughton Park for the 8.48 train to Liverpool Central, crossing over to Lime Street to take the 9:48 for London Euston, a journey I have taken innumerable times.  Then a short walk along Euston Road to heaven on earth, St Pancras International.

I have fallen in love with this wonderful Victorian railway shed, designed on pure engineering principles by William Barlow.  He believed that the aesthetics would follow – and he was right.  Jacqui commissioned a special portrait of the station for my Christmas present.

In fact, just before Christmas some friends (!) planned an elaborate hoax (including professionally designed stationary, a dedicated phone line and Royal Mail special delivery) to offer me the appointment of station chaplain for St Pancras, working five days every three months. (I could use my holiday entitlement – they worked that out).   Sadly, I fell for it.

Then the thrill of taking the 14.02 Eurostar train to Gare du Nord. My first visit to this ancien régime Parisian terminal was way back in 1959 – you could still see the bullet holes, at least that is what I thought as a ten year old.

Another short walk to the Gare de L’Est for the 20:57 TGV for Rheims. Then, a few days impatient wait before doing the same thing again in reverse.

Just like my father.

Walter used to take us every year overland to Spain by train. I occasionally view the 8mm movies he took – all of trains and SNCF stations, with the very occasional glimpse of a family member should they stray into the frame.  In fact, he so enjoyed the journeys, rather than the intervening holiday on the beach, that one year he actually travelled alone by train to Irun, on the Spanish frontier.

There he spent 45 minutes in the station buffet, for a coffee and croissant – before getting straight back on the train for the journey back home.

The question is why am I so like my father?  Had not God intervened (a strange story if ever there was one – I was offered a place at a theological college without even applying) I would have followed Walter into a career with British Rail, as an economist based at Euston.

It could, of course, be genetic.  My sister recently uncovered our paternal grandmother’s family to discover that they too were of railway stock, just like our father’s father.  Should my DNA ever be decoded it would show that strange Stephenson sequence which results in a bizarre love of train journeys.

The only other alternative is that, like my support of Everton, I have simply assumed my father’s enthusiasms.  Not that he ever sat down and instructed me in the joys of the parallel lines.  I simply allowed his love of trains to embrace me; his enthusiasm was contagious.

We were talking at our Ministry Team meeting on Tuesday how parents communicate their Christian commitment, their love of Jesus, to their children – a very powerful theme in the culture of the Hebrew scriptures.  It is saying the obvious but it is not what you say but what you do.  Our enthusiasms, our passions,  the wild and various ways we put ourselves out for God in response to his amazing nail-pierced compassion for us.

If our children see us do our best to put Jesus at the centre of our lives,  whatever that may mean, they will want to imitate– especially in the home environment where are true selves are most evident.   It simply becomes part of them.

Of course, we are talking about human beings here.  Nothing is ever straight-forward.  We can only prepare the ground:  we cannot make the seed grow.  My sister has no obvious affection for trains or for EFC, although strangely, her son has picked up his grandfather’s enthusiasm for both.  There again, it may simply be that the genes have skipped a generation!

Great to meet up yesterday with Keith and Gill Croxton, now active at Christ Church Buckingham.  They led our ministry with the older young people upto 1997 while Keith had a key role in the early development of our Ministry Team.   I attach their photo

Must dash, catching a train.