Chapter 6 Written / Published 5.11/.10.11.17 (Pics by author, unless indicated)
The month of November starts with No, two short letters which seemed to want to cling to my writing. It's no different in this chapter.
No chapter in October could only means one thing - travel. We shall stop over in an Arabian kingdom en route to Europe. In Southern Germany we meet my unique, contented brother, before embarking on a bicycle ride in the South of France. Even before leaving, a little No. magic - in French!
6. NO - U ONLY.
All is only a short three-letter word. But how did it show off in the previous chapter! Does it surprise any reader that to begin this chapter I shall recall an all encounter, which took place on the day of publishing?
Our Men's Group in church was visiting the National Motor Museum, Birdwood, in the Adelaide Hills that day. When I thought I had seen them all, from classic to exotic to vintage and veteran vehicles, one particular old-timer drew my attention. Had anyone ever heard of one called ALLDAYS? That's the make, written on the radiator in large bronze lettering. .
A British firm, whose roots go back to 1650, manufactured motor cars in the early 20th century. The vehicle displayed at Birdwood, according to the description panel, is the only one surviving in the world. Pity my phone/camera was not charged up for taking pictures that day. Maybe, just as well; my mind would have been occupied with photography, rather than just admiring the best collection of motoring history in Australia.
This took place on 13.9 (2017) only five days before I was to commence a trip overseas. Among the countries to visit was France. In the weeks leading up to departure I had made a renewed effort to improve my limited knowledge of the French language. It so happened two days later, on 15.9. (note the date) that my wife, while cleaning out an old cupboard, came across a book titled Berliz Self-Teacher French.
I had bought this book, which was first published in 1949, soon after arriving in Australia. There had been a few attempts to improve my French, but it had been decades since I had touched this old publication. Casually browsing the pages, after my wife handed the book to me, I spotted some sentences on page 137. Suddenly I thought: Hey isn't it ....?
Berlitz Self Teacher French - P. 137
Two days later, on Sunday September 17th, the day before my departure for Europe, the theme at church was 'God's love'. Volumes of books could be written, and have been, on this subject. My dairy tells of a small incident, which took place that day, where I not only heard about God's love in church, but experienced it first hand. Some may dismiss it all as co-incidental. I sense God's providence behind it, just to show that HE is there, always!
For a few minutes early that Sunday morning I had the opportunity to hold in my arms our one year-old grandson. Since they live in Darwin, this was a rare occasion. Is there a greater joy in life than to cradle a little baby, look deep into their eyes and get rewarded with an innocent giggle and gorgeous smile?
As little Jacob conveyed his pleasure I could not help but start singing to him. Out came a little children's song. The lyrics of the chorus say it plainly: "Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me ..." Jacob was soon back with his mother.
Barely an hour later I sat in church, waiting for the brass band to start playing. The first tune, right in line with the theme of God's love: "Jesus loves me this I know ...Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me."
But there was more. Minutes later, the preacher gave an illustration during his sermon, how God delights in HIS children. He explained, when his boys were babies, he loved to just just sit down, hold them in his arms and sing to them. Just as I had done an hour earlier with little Jacob.
Friends, anyone dismissing all as co-incident is not honest with themselves. "God is - and a rewarder of those who diligently seek HIM." (Heb. 11,6).
The scripture that morning came from the Book of Zephaniah: "The Lord your God will rejoice over you with singing..." (Zeph. 3, 17).
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Parents also rejoice in their children. Besides singing to them parents love to give gifts. Toward the end of the year, it's time for giving gifts, especially toys. Recently a catalog arrived in our mailbox. It advertised a toy sale, a politically correct toy sale. Take a look:
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There was a good reason why I did not write and publish a chapter in October - travel. It had been on my mind all year to again take a trip, but only crystallized halfway through 2017. On September 18th I left Adelaide late in the evening on a flight bound for Doha and Frankfurt. I chose this option mainly because there was no need for a connecting flight to Melbourne or Sydney.
The first of the two flights with Qatar Airways, from Adelaide to Doha was a tedious, 13-hour jaunt. Next to me sat a couple, Jeff and Annette (JA) who were en route to Iceland for a week. Later they were planning a road trip starting in Avignon, France. I told them that Southern France was also on my itinerary.
I could not help overlooking the title of the book Annette was reading in the seat beside me. Preparing this chapter I learned that it deals with a subject close to my heart:
Another reason for choosing to stop in Doha, a place I had never been to, was the opportunity to experience the Orient for a day, without having to stay overnight. Flight 915* arrived in the Middle Eastern Kingdom, Qatar, very early in the morning. The connecting flight to Frankfurt was not until 20 hours later - almost a day for adventure!
(*Just noticed how digits 159 featured earlier)
Short-term visitors to Qatar from certain countries, Australia included, can obtain a free visa to leave the airport. Without any hassles I passed through the immigration desk and was soon on a public bus to Doha city center, twenty kilometers away. There were plenty of offers of taxi rides and tours, but why bother, when for 10 Rial (A$ 3.50 return) I could catch a public bus anywhere for 24 hours?
At the tourist information office I met a young German traveller, Michael, who also had only one day to spent in Doha. We decided to share the cost of a 'desert tour', an excursion in an air- conditioned Toyota 4 WD vehicle (about A$ 70 each).
It took about an hour to reach the edge of the sand dunes, driving through the treeless, dusty suburbs, made worse by the heavy machinery at road works. Finally, on the fringe of the desert our driver Imran, a migrant worker from Pakistan, stopped for a tea break and to let some air out of the tyres.
Iram assured us the temperature was only in the high 30's. It felt like the mid 40's. Nearby stood a herd of camels, waiting for tourists, who want to take a ride on their backs. Another option for desert adventure were dune buggies. There must have been a dozen hire places. Strangely enough, we didn't see much activity. It must have been off-season.
After the adrenalin rush of our desert adventure Michael suggested to catch a taxi and check out the Doha Torch, a luxury hotel and the largest building in Qatar at 300 m ( in 2017). We caught the elevator to the public Cafe on the 21st floor. The views even at that level were spectacular. Guests at the hotel can reach the nearby, super-modern shopping mall Villaggio via a connecting walkway.
Based on Italy's Venice this gigantic shopping complex has a canal running right through it. Visitors can enjoy a ride in a gondola, gondolier and all, just as they do in Venice; except it's all indoors. The rich come here to spent their cash on expensive perfumes, jewelry, Rolex watches, designer brand clothing, the latest fashion or electronics etc. The poor, as we did, buy a take-away chicken dinner from the Carrefour supermarket and eat it on a comfortable chair beside the canal and watch the gondolas go by.
Back in downtown Doha there was one place we didn't want to miss, the Souq Waqif, the central market square and major tourist precinct. The place reminded me of the medinas, the walled cities of Morocco; the same oriental flavour, but much smaller and nowhere as ancient.
We had dropped by in the afternoon, but the place had been virtually deserted. It was now evening; the place abuzz with tourists bargaining with keen shop keepers for a special souvenir. Cafes and restaurants were crowded. We spotted a vacant table and just sat and watched passing traffic, sipping tea and cooling down with an ice cream.
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The second leg of the mammoth journey from Australia to Europe was far less tiresome. On boarding in Doha it was announced that we were travelling in a brand new Airbus 350. For the six-hour flight to Frankfurt / Germany I had three seats to myself at the back of the plane. It was hard to tell how much sleep I got. It felt exciting to be touching down in my country of birth for the ninth time since leaving five decades ago (almost).
Frankfurt / Main - Germany
My flight QR 69, which had taken off at 1.30 AM touched down early in the morning in Frankfurt. Since I had all day to get to my destination Esslingen, about 220 km away, I planned to spend a few hours just being in Germany, walking around the old city, the famous market square (photo above) and among the timbered houses.
After collecting my luggage from the carousel, I spotted a bakery and couldn't resist buying three genuine, locally baked pretzels. After paying and walking away, I nearly missed it, a round, bronze coin on the ground - 1 Euro. I knew Frankfurt was one of the world's financial hubs, but never expected that money was just laying around like that!
While travelling I missed much what was going on generally in the world. I'd only heard of Mexico being struck by earthquakes, and the Caribbean devastated by hurricanes. One news, however, I briefly saw on a screen in the underground train station: "
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Esslingen / Neckar - Germany
Every time I visit Esslingen it thrills me to be home; to just walk the cobble-stoned streets, revisiting many memories of my teenage years. It gives me enormous pleasure. Above steep pathway through the vineyards, for example, we often would walk up after Sunday afternoon's youth group meeting. Our leader, Wer?ner, may have thought we all went home. But somehow, the boys always knew where the girls could be found.
The main point of conversations, of course, was the biblical lessons we had learned earlier. Unless, girls may even came before that? Discussing girls we used to call Thema 1 (Subject No.1). How different five decades later. The No.1 subject seemed to be the age pension and/or those little (or big) pains and aches mature seniors eventually have to cope with. I thank God everyday for my health, being able to ride my bike without any trouble.
I also owe thanks to one of my closest friends in Germany, who had once again lend me a Giant bicycle to get around. There were many rides all around Esslingen - to the places where we used to live, where I went to school or where I worked as an apprentice. Hard to fathom that it was over 1/2 century ago.
In my early teens, when we lived right on the main shopping precinct in Esslingen, inside the 13th century Pliensauturm, I used to know every shop and its precise location. My brother Gerhard and I used to play a game. We would look at shop window displays and see who can spot the most expensive item. It was great fun searching the expensive items in a jeweller's shop window. Shopkeepers must have been wondering why two little boys were so keen on looking at expensive watches, rings and necklaces.
One fine summer day during school holidays Gerhard and I decided to take a walk. He must have been about 12 years old; I was ten then. We headed west, downstream on the Neckar River past Mettingen, Obertuerkheim, Untertuerkheim until we could see the Wilhelma, Stuttgart's Zoo. We ended up right in the city center, returning hungry and thirsty in the evening. Our concerned mother could not believe how far we had walked; about 25 kilometers that day.
Koenigstrasse, Stuttgart's major shopping mall.
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How different things were in 2017 with my brother, who was not yet 70. He never had a wife or children, so he lives at home by himself; no church or club and not many friends. He communicates with a few neighbours, who are very kind to him (and to me, providing a bed during my stay). Apart from shopping for his necessities, he does not go out anywhere.
I would have loved to take him for walks or on a road trip in his small Renault hatchback, which he can't drive anymore due to bad eyesight. There always was an excuse to stay home, even in the best of weather. His vehicle had not moved in over a year.
Of even greater concern to me, his brother who prays for him, is Gerhard's neglect of essential hygiene and health. When our mother was still alive, she was the one to tell him to have a haircut or get his teeth checked and his fingernails cut etc. For many years Gerhard lived only a few doors away in the same building as our mother.
Sadly, since she has passed away Gerhard has no one close to him. Our oldest brother lives a few hundred miles north in the Ruhr Region. The good news is that his basic needs are met and he is content the way he lives. I keep praying for him that God will work in him.
Gerhard and I were both confirmed in the Evangelical Methodist Church, Esslingen. My special memory verse, which stayed with me right through life, is Proverbs 23, 26: "My son, give me your heart and let your eyes observe my ways."
To save the world we need eyes opened and minds renewed!
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Thank God, I have some very good friends in Germany, mostly those who chased the girls up through the vineyards with me, after youth group Sundays. One of them, Eric, happened to have a visitor from France staying with him. She lived very near Grenoble. On 24th, Sep. 17 Eric drove her back home, which worked out perfectly. I was able to catch a ride with them, at the same time, right to the place from where I had planned to commence my bike ride.
The thought of a France bike ride came while watching the world's most famous bike race on TV, the Tour de France. Why not add another river, the Rhone, to the list. I had already cycled, the Mississippi, the Danube etc? Distance wise the Rhone would be far shorter.
A few kilometers from above sign my sharp eyes, scanning the road surface while riding, spotted something, which lead to something else, which may sound like I had indeed gone nuts. Still on the D1532 I remembered that my small collection of registration plates from various countries did not yet include France. My most treasured ones are those I personally collected on location - Germany, Alabama, New Zealand, England, Czech Republic and various Australian states.
On the first day of riding I spotted indeed a registration plate, albeit it was a small, square one and damaged. I still picked it up; better than nothing. But then there was another, take a look:
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The two letters NO two days ago played a little game with me. If it were not the precise timing of it all, I may not bother to mention it. All through my long, lonely journey this has happened - I would be pondering a thought, questioning something, and within seconds something tangible, visible or audible, which fits in perfectly, would cross my path.
Anyone doubting my sanity, or my integrity, may not believe, let alone understand this. Perhaps, it's because right from the start, a decade and a half ago, I had seen a supernatural power behind it, ONE who controls it all. Pity, because this same power is available freely to ALL who bother to diligently seek and search for it. They will find HIM, who is ALL in ALL.
One could go nuts or get one's mind into knots trying to figure it all out. Especially, after I checked the location - right outside No.10.
Let's leave it in God's hands what it all means.