Help for the journey

‘Are we there yet?’ This is a familiar cry from a child frustrated by a long journey, impatient to be at the destination. With the school holidays soon upon us, it’s good to be reminded of Psalm 121. This is one of those psalms (Ps 120-134) used by the Jewish pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the great festivals.

There were real dangers for these Jewish pilgrims on their journey. They could slip on the road, there was the threat of wild animals and they had to suffer hot days and cold nights. On the Christian journey we are tempted by ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’, as well as dealing with those who mess up our lives and our questions about God’s goodness or existence.

So where do we look for help? 'I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?’ (Psalm 121:1). Ironically, the Jews would look to the hills, where pagan worship was practiced. Even today, we can go to the wrong places for help eg horoscopes rather than the Scriptures; work colleagues or friends, rather than fellow Christians. We can also miss where to look for help: ‘My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’ (2).

Like the Jewish pilgrims, we need to recognise that only God has the power to keep us on the road. Even when God seems silent in our suffering, He is ‘watching over us’ (5). On our journey He ‘will keep us from harm’ (7) and ‘watch over our coming and going’ (8).

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There’s No Place Like Home

July and August – the British holiday season really takes off. Literally, for those who are flying to warmer or more exotic climes. The full-colour ads still promise their annual delights, whether it’s a cottage for four in Wales or a fancy hotel on the Boulevard des Anglais in Nice. Others of us will simply load the caravan, or pack the boot of the car, and set off for, well, ‘somewhere else’. Holidays, which were originally holy days spent in church or at home, have become the great evacuation. “Going anywhere nice for your holidays?” asks my neighbour. My truthful answer would be “Yes, I’m staying here.”

But that’s more my age than a judgment on holidays. My mind can re-run so many, without any need of an album of old photos: the kids knee-deep in a rushing Welsh stream, or having pedalo races off a Spanish beach. A couple of cappuccinos in the piazza in Capri. The beauty and holiness of Assisi. And far back memories as a child myself, the boarding house, the beach, the sand in the sandwiches.

But still it’s true. Every single time it was nice to see the key go in the lock and to know we were home.

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Are we there yet?

Are you off on holiday by car soon? Then beware: car journeys become too long for hot, bothered children after precisely two hours and 37 minutes. That is when you are likely to hear ‘Are we there yet?’ 14 minutes later, arguments break out in the back seat.

This is the finding of recent research by the Highways Agency, who feels sorry for parents preparing for the long summer getaway by car. It suggests that parents travelling with children might wish to consider planning to stop for a break about two hours into the trip, to help young passengers cope with the boredom, and to keep family peace alive.

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How far do you live from where you were born?

Where were you born, and how far away is it from where you now live? The average distance seems to be up to about 100 miles. If that does not seem far, consider this: only 25 years ago most British people tended to live within five miles from where they had been born.

Recent research by the genealogical website Ancestry has found that exactly half of us still live in the place where we were born, and half of us move on. 70 per cent of people who move away from their birthplace are sure that they will not return, and just 14 per cent ever plan to go back.

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Beat back seat boredom

Do you have a long holiday drive with the family ahead of you? Here is a game to keep the tedium at bay….

Car Snooker This game starts when someone spots (or ‘pots’) a red car, which gives them a score of one point. Then someone needs to spot a car of one of the following colours: yellow (two points), green (three points), brown/rust/orange (four points), blue (five points), purple-pink or rose (six points) or black (seven points).

Someone then has to spot another red car, and so the process is repeated until 15 red cars and all the other coloured cars have been spotted. Hopefully, by then, you will have arrived!

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They may look like just weeds to you….

Where would you think to look for some of the UK’s rarest plants? Well, you could be forgiven for ignoring the roadside verges, but that is where they are.
The myriad of weeds and grasses that grow wild along our roads each summer are also home to such rarities as fen ragwort, sulphur clover, crested cow-wheat and wood bitter-vetch. In fact, fen ragwort is now reduced to living in a single drainage ditch beside the A142.

In total, Britain’s verges are home to more than 700 species of wild plants, one in eight of which is threatened with extinction. The research was done by the charity Plantlife. Some verges are leftover fragments of wildflower-rich ancient hay meadows and grasslands, while coastal plants thrive beside motorways and A-roads because they are salted in winter. No wonder the charity is pleading for better verge management, in order to give the plants to flower and grow each year.

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Flight path

Windsor Castle, outside of London, is directly in the flight path of Heathrow International Airport. While a group of tourists was standing outside the castle admiring the elegant structure, a plane flew overhead at a relatively low altitude, making a tremendous noise. One irritated tourist demanded: "Why did they build the castle so close to the airport?"

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In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

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