I have just drafted the latest instalment of Grandpa’s Adventures – a letter emailed out every week to my seven grand-children, as also to interested grown-ups in the wider family, detailing some of my adventures here in New Zealand.
To quote some extracts from Letter No.6 (which is also full of pictures)
This week’s adventures began last Monday with a long drive, over the Bombay ranges, to the town of Hamilton through which flows the mighty Waikato river. I was due to stay with Neil and Sue Maclean … They have a swimming pool and a HOT TUB in their garden – I went in every day!
This has been a great week of eating lots of ICE CREAM , and also of really yummy PAVLOVA (‘pavs’ as Sue Maclean called them)…. Along with fish and chips (‘fush and cheeps’) I also ate PAUA fritters – YUK! Inside the beautiful paua shells found on the beaches of New Zealand are these ‘abilones’. I didn’t enjoy that culinary adventure!
I returned to Auckland from Hamilton on Wednesday. In the afternoon my host, Terry Calkin suggested we walk round the volcano (defunct!) in Cornwall Park. Terry is very competitive – and was always trying to walk faster than me. Foolishly as we were coming to the end of our walk, I began to run – I wanted to reach the car first. Here we were two men, one 75 and the other 70, racing one another! Alas, I pulled a muscle in my left thigh, so to my great disappointment Terry won! This was an adventure which went wrong!
Not the greatest of literature, I admit. But it is a way of developing my relationship with my grand-children, who range from three to thirteen years old. None of them live in Chelmsford: two live in Stepney Green, two in Forest Gate, while the other three live in Vancouver. Fortunately the two families in London regularly come to see us, while we are able to Skype and Face-Time the others. Nonetheless a degree of creativity is needed to keep in touch.
For instance, in the run-up to a big family holiday, when we with all our children and grandchildren spent a week together in a wonderful manor house near the Suffolk sea-side town of Southwold, every day for thirty days I sent ‘vintage’ picture cards (mostly dating from the 1970s and 1980s) to my English grand-children (the postage would have been prohibitive for the Canadian side of the family) in which I counted down the number of ‘sleeps’ before our special holiday.
In the run-up to Easter (covering most of Lent) 2013 I engaged in another ‘count-down’. Every day for 28 days I emailed a story, a picture and a prayer, all focussing on the last week or so of the life of Jesus. It always seems strange to me that while we have Advent calendars in the run-up to Christmas, we have nothing for children in the run-up to Easter.
What my grand-children make of their grand-father, I am not quite sure. ‘Funny old buffer!’ they probably say, and that may well be true. Yet hopefully, they also know that I love them all dearly – and that for me is so important. Furthermore, how could they ever believe me when I tell them that God loves them, if they don’t see God’s love reflected in my life? In this respect I read of an American Presbyterian minister working in one of the more deprived areas of New York who said:
We never tell the kids to say ‘Our Father’ in the Lord’s Prayer, because most of their fathers are alcoholic or absent. The person who represents God to them most of all was their grandmother.
Gosh, that is a sobering thought. And yet, the truth is that grandmothers and grandfathers for that matter can have a real influence on their grandchildren’s understanding of God. As the Apostle Paul once reminded his young friend Timothy: his faith had in the first place been shaped by his grandmother, Lois (2 Timothy 1.5). So I shall continue to work away at my relationship with my grand-children, both for my sake and for their sake too.