It sounds like French, but it isn’t. You will know from school days that ‘très bonne‘ isn’t spelt that way! But I know my Breton friend, who loves puns in Franglais, would understand the joke, because this weekend Martin and I are expecting to have a very good time in the old West German capital with our favourite Italian friend – uno, due, tre of us in Bonn.
I don’t know any German and am not that interested in going to Germany, but Daniele who used to work with Martin in Leicester has persuaded us to go and visit him in his new home. Here is Daniele, on the left of this photo taken in London last year – with the arrow conveniently pointing at his head! The young man in the centre of the picture is another Italian who also used to work in Martin’s dept. They are promising young scientists pursuing their careers – Paolo in London and Dani in Bonn – and in some ways are like ‘sons’ to Martin. They have faithfully maintained their friendships with him since they moved on. Perhaps the respect shown is a reflection of family-focussed northern Italian upbringings, but their kindness to us has been really genuine and refreshing – and funnily enough they are both involved in aspects of brain research.
You never know where blessing is going to come from! As Daniele was leaving Leicester in October 2009 he enthusiastically persuaded us that the best possible way for us to spend those ‘not sure what to do’ days between 27th and 31st December was to visit him at his family home in the Veneto. He would be staying with his sister and parents and would be at a loose end – we would be doing him a favour if we went to relieve his boredom and he would show us his hometown of Padua and the surrounding area before we took the train to Venice for a few days. We could even fly there from East Midlands airport, 20 minutes up the road from our house!
Make me an offer I can’t refuse! We had waited far too long to go and see beautiful and extraordinary Venezia anyway and it may not stay afloat much longer 😉 Daniele’s idea made the whole thing more feasible and we would have a friendly local guide for the surrounding region – because Italia is not really a nation, you know, but a collection of very varied and intensely independent holiday destinations! Then we could tack on our romantic trip to the historic city built on the water without having to spend too much. So even though we were a bit unsure about leaving our ailing son we took the risk and made the booking… In the end, despite being a snatched opportunity, it was the last holiday we had before Sam’s definitive diagnosis, so it holds special, carefree memories.
Not only did Venice win our hearts – even in the rain and high tides with New Year fireworks over a flooded San Marco – but so did this young Italian man. He showed us so much in those few days, from Padua’s Giotto murals to St Luke’s bones, Soave vineyards to Verona’s Roman remains, Romeo and Juliet’s hilltop castles to the expanses of the Veneto plain – and punctuating the excursions everything from local tripe and homemade grappa to rare white truffles with Amarone ‘meditation’ wine… and plenty of cappucino in between.
So we loved the Veneto, but we love Daniele even more: he became like a younger brother to me. If he wants to take us round Bonn, Cologne and the Rhine wine area this weekend – after Martin has given his work lecture – then who am I to refuse? He is part of the blessings the Lord has sent us – a source of joy and affection. And for our part we are perfectly free to share the differences between our faith in the living Jesus and what he picked up from his dry Catholic upbringing with an interested listener! Fantastico!
We are Europeans – my passport tells me that. I have been pretty scared of foreign countries for most of my life; I’m not a born adventurer and am happy staying in familiar territory. We agreed to go to the US for Martin’s sabbatical year in 1996 because I only wanted to go somewhere that I could speak the language! Spiritually, I had such a heart for England I didn’t even want to go to pray in Wales at one time! But the Lord has taken me and gradually stretched me… first into the UK and Ireland, then Brittany (gotta love the Celtic nations!) and on to Spanish islands and trips with Martin to mainland Europe… but still only western Europe, mind!
English is spoken all over the world, the heritage of the biggest empire the world has ever seen. God put that grace on us and even planned it that way so that our small nation (that finds it so hard to learn other languages!) can be His tool and catalyst in spreading the kingdom. We do have a calling to serve and father the nations – in the right spirit this time – and an equal responsibility to carry the gospel to the family of nations to which we belong. One third of (what we used to call!) evangelical Christians in Europe live in the UK. It has been said that the UK is a ‘pivotal nation’ in God’s plans on the earth, as we sit geographically and historically between mainland Europe and the USA: no wonder the battle is so fierce in our land.
I know all this, but I still tend to be insular and comfortable at home… so the Lord seems to enjoy finding ways to stretch me! Ha! That is favour at work again – He loves me too much to leave me as I am! So, Bonn, here I come – brother Germany I make room for you. Come to think of it, we do also know quite a few nice young Germans… New friendships lead to new adventures, companions for the journey through new doors: that’s how it is meant to happen (see People or projects?) Who knows where it will lead?
LOVE EUROPE! Tre Bonn est très bonne 🙂