I have a strange life. Good, but definitely unusual. Yesterday was a case in point…
The day started with an agreeable amble across the flood meadow in front of our house, unquestionably part of England’s green and pleasant land. After taking a (German-built) train to the capital, I walked across London Bridge to the office of The Salvation Army’s international IT team. From the entrance, I briefly admired the Shard – the latest addition to the skyline of the metropolis. The top was just disappearing into the clouds, like a modern-day Tower of Babel.
Once inside, we discussed various projects: one relating to a new database project to store details of mission resources right around the world, another relating to a forthcoming European conference in the Czech Republic. We made good progress and finished our deliberations ahead of schedule, giving me a brief window of opportunity to put together a Portuguese website before having lunch together (Chinese chicken and Welsh cakes, naturally).
Then it was off to the leafy suburbs of Sydenham, home of The Salvation Army’s college for in-service development – a place where up to thirty officers from all over the globe convene for a couple of months of theological and practical training. I was due to be met at the station by an African officer, whose cultural understanding of ’13:52′ differed from mine. By approximately 23 minutes.
After a couple of hours of fixing their existing website, listening to their future requirements and setting them up with new Flickr and Disqus accounts (interspersed with publishing a news release about flooding in Indonesia), I was not unreasonably expecting to be on my merry way home. But no! In a further cultural twist, I had an African ‘invitation’ to dinner extended to me – one which could not be declined without causing grave offence.
It transpired that the delegates from North and South America were hosting an evening showcasing their own culture, the dining room adorned with stars and stripes and maple leaves. The meal comprised of burgers, nachos, salsa, guacamole and slaw, which was as appetising as it was unexpected. The USA’s national drink (Coca-Cola, obviously) was served too, leading to a fulsome discussion with an adjacent Aussie about the various merits of diet Coke and Coke Zero. Meanwhile, there was unrestrained debate among South Asian delegates about whether picking flowers from front gardens was socially acceptable in the London hinterlands…
Mercifully, I managed to extricate myself before the inevitable line dancing began. Once I’d phoned to explain my unplanned detention to a by-now-anxious Sarah, the journey back to Alton was largely uneventful. I was, eventually, welcomed home by some traditional English church bell-ringing. And an ‘opportunity’ to intervene in a Facebook diatribe which might euphemistically be referred to as an incident relating to a Canadian in Zimbabwe.
If at times I don’t appear 100% sure whether I’m coming or going (or even which country I’m in), this may go some way to explain.