'Two worlds colliding' is an expression I find myself using from time to time. On the one hand I'm an ex-pat worker, expected to operate to the highest international standards of efficiency, with deadlines to meet, deadlines to chase, people to see, meetings to attend, etc. etc., all with due deference to the clock in much the same way as I did in the UK when working there. On the other hand, I can find myself suddenly, and sometimes without warning, stepping into a parallel world where time has a much more elastic quality, where the stated starting time for something is understood (but not by me, and this is never explicitly explained) to be the time at which you might start thinking about leaving home, with the actually starting time when everybody is ready. The strongest example of this is when I was still going to the Pentecostal Church and there was a men's breakfast one Saturday. That's fine, various things to do in the morning - read a PhD thesis, pay my backup generator bill, etc. etc. - go to lunch at 1pm., then do various other things later in the afternoon. To find that the stated start of 1pm. meant that food was actually served at about 3pm. What particularly annoyed me about this incident is that one of the pastors, who was running the most effective campaign to get people to attend church services on time that I've ever seen - 'Our Lord is our guest of honour, so it is He who arrives last, not you!' - somehow contrived to arrive just as food was being served.
I'm afraid that, in practice, I insulate myself from this other world which means, for example, that I don't go to choir practices at the Cathedral - I know that they would drive me bananas in a very short period of time.; However, in other instances, it is possible to predict that one is entering this alternative way of accounting for time, and take due precautions.
So, very pleased to have an invitation to the wedding of a colleague last Saturday, I set off to arrive at the stated starting time of 2pm. equipped with my Kindle (I know I've said this before, but indulge me as I say it again, the Kindle really is the most marvellous invention!) and a bottle of water, expecting to be able to sit quietly in a corner reading whilst waiting for proceedings to start.
Well, at first everything went to plan - although there were disconcertingly few people when I arrived. Then to find shortly afterwards that a time of worship started, at a volume level at which I was not so much hearing the sound as feeling it vibrate through my body. Deciding fairly quickly that I would be able to join in just as well from outside the building, I found myself joined by a group of children.
So, what do you do when waiting for a wedding with loud music going and a group of children to hand? Dance, obviously. Well, to be strictly accurate, move in a more or less rhythmic fashion, I'm not sure I can dignify what I do with the word 'dance'. Here are a couple more pictures taken by my colleague John:
We also danced during the singing in the service itself, one reason for being at the back of the building - another being that was the furthest point from the speakers. I finally got to leave at about 7pm. - this was at the end of the service, you understand, I didn't stay for the evening celebration - and asked a former colleague, Gabby, to translate for me as I said thank you for looking after me, much enjoyed meeting them, I need to go home now. To be somewhat disconcerted to get the response, 'Pamoja?' which loosely translated means, 'Can I come with you?' Really sorry, no, but get the bridegroom to invite me back for a Sunday service sometime, I'd love to see you again.
Finally, it gives me great pleasure to correct something I wrote last week. Paying tribute to Caroline Thornton who passed away recently, I wrote about the book I encouraged her to write, and said that, to my knowledge the book didn't get written. Well, since then I've had some really nice emails from Jonathan, Caroline's husband, and their sons Alex and Ed - Ed and I went to Peru on the same church trip back in 1999 - and discovered that, much to my surprise, Caroline did, in fact, write her book. Even better than that - I have a copy which I've read. Not quite what I was expecting, it's an account of the nearly 30 au pairs that Caroline - initially one at a time, then two, then finally three - had over the last nine years. Inducting and dealing with a long succession of young women from around the world with varying standards of English and understanding as to what being a carer means reads as if having au pairs is in itself a full time occupation. Maybe those who look after children have a better idea already as to what it is they are supposed to do? Maybe those au pairs don't have the benefit of their employers dictating emails for the purpose of dumping boyfriends.
When we discussed the idea I was thinking of a book geared at helping those about to enter the business of employing au pairs, and there is some advice, explicit and implicit, but mostly it's a very sympathetic account of the people who helped look after Caroline. Very pleased that I was able to read it. Jonathan, Alex, Ed and wider family members: sorry I'll not be able to join you for the funeral on Tuesday, my thoughts and prayers go with you.