About two months ago a very distinguished member of the world-wide Baha’i community passed away, he was the last surviving member of a unique collective of spiritual magnets called the Hands of the Cause of God. As soon as the UK’s national memorial service was announced I knew that I wanted to be there and kept an eye open for cheap flights and trains to get myself down to London for the event, it was also going to be a great opportunity to see friends whom I had not seen for years.
A cheap train got me into London at 18:10 on Saturday night, I had arranged to go for dinner at the home of Neil, Saghar and (their newborn baby) Edward Cully. Also present were Manijeh and Vince Afnan-Murray, Simon Batchelor, Ali Khosravi and Sarah O’Donovan. It was quite moving to see the two month old son of Saghar and Neil, it had been a long time since I saw a young baby from of a close friend. We chatted and entertained ourselves until about 3am (partly due to a misunderstanding over transport arrangements) and then I went back to Simon’s flat for the night with him and Ali. I was keen to go to the Guardian’s Resting Place the following morning, before the memorial meeting, it is the grave site of Shoghi Effendi, a central figure in the history of the Faith, and I always feel a crisper spiritual connection, a keener clarity of vision and an instantly elated spirit when I am there, it is my favourite place – in the UK at least – to pray and reflect on life. We decided that we would need to leave by 11am to make the journey, we made this decision just as we were heading to bed at 5am, so even then I knew it to be an optimistic plan.
Just before noon on Sunday, Simon and I joined the traffic in south London heading round to the north, it became increasingly apparent, as we tried various short cuts that saved us barely a few seconds here and there, that we were going to be a little pressed for time, if indeed we would have any. Not long after we had crossed the Thames we were making great time and while I would normally prefer to spend longer at the Guardian’s Resting Place, especially having not been there for so long, we did get a good half an hour there and I felt thoroughly lifted by the experience and quite refocussed on some aspects of my life. It was, as always, well worth the visit. Next challenge, getting to the memorial meeting in good time… again some early traffic was a little worrying but we soon got moving well and got to the meeting with another half hour to spare before the start of the programme.
I am going to blog about the actual programme separately.
The programme was a little longer than most of us had expected, it started at 3pm and ended just before 6pm, I had a plane to catch at 20:10 and had been advised to get to the airport for about 7pm, so that gave me an hour to say hello to old friends and get from Ealing to Heathrow. Nonetheless, as short as some of the chats were it was a delight to meet some old friends and, as I expect will be the done thing from now on, their young children too. Actually the weekend left me feeling quite paternal, not that such feelings are of much use at this moment in life. I’ve often felt it is easier to have a reason to leave early than to hang around and have long awkward goodbyes, but on this occasion the departure was that little bit too soon to be entirely polite about it, which was a shame, but I did have a wonderful time there, both from seeing everyone and from the programme itself.
A final credit is due to Simon’s SatNav for navigating a route through the back streets of west London to get us to Heathrow on time for my flight. There were a few events after that… take off was delayed by computer problems at air traffic control, when we landed at Newcastle airport the doors out of the arrivals hall into the airport were all locked (including the fire exit) and we had to wait another 15 minutes for somebody to come and unlock them, and then once let out into Newcastle Shahla, my mother-in-law who was kindly meeting me at the airport, had broken down in the car park and a man who worked at the airport was trying to get her car working again! Of course, I was soon back by Ladan’s side, and extremely happy for having had such a great weekend trip.