Tag Archives: Simon Batchelor

26 hours in London

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.

Ali, Simon and I visit Lake Windermere

Following on my theme of visiting interesting places in the rain, Simon Batchelor chose to jump on a train to Manchester and then, with Ali Khosravi, meet me in Windermere in the Lake District while the clouds and rain minimized the view of the spectacular hills and countryside around us. Below is a picture from our cruise of the lake:

It was Thursday last week that we met up, Manoocher (see below) had left at 01:30 that day to have NTL sort out his Internet and TV problems in Oxford later that morning. I headed out in the torrential rain storm that often greets those who step outside in this part of the world and raced out toward Hexham, knowing that the scenic route I had chosen, though fairly short, was likely to take a while to get me to Windermere.

Scenic is an understatement here, the rain was not quite as bad once I was halfway west across the country but even with the remaining downpour and cloud the scenery I witnessed as I drove up and down a winding road that passed through Alston was breath-taking. The road goes 1900 feet up into the hills and one could easily die for a view of the scenery up there, not just because it was so spectacular but moreso because the road made several 180 degree turns past deep drops and if I had taken my eyes off the road and onto the scenery for more than a passing glance I would surely now be lying in a VW Coffin somewhere south of Carlilse.

Then came the road from Penrith to Windermere and for the most part that was a much safer affair, though it would have been easier to drive in an Automatic with all the clutch control and gear changes, again this road took me 1500 feet up into the sky with the green mountainous terrain of the northern Lake District rolling up and down along side the lakes. Amidst this beauty I wasn’t too worried about how long the journey was taking and I was suprisingly calm about people driving their vans at 20mph in front of a convoy of 15 cars without pulling over. I mention this drive for one reason, it was spectacular, the A roads between Penrith and Windermere and between Hexham and Penrith are very beautiful drives, espcially, I would assume, for passengers.

The scenery wasn’t really my reason for going to Windermere so finding myself in a wet and windy place that was beautiful but not really as stunning as the drive was of little consequence, I was really there to see Ali and Simon. We’re not seasoned Lake District tourists as yet and so we weren’t sure what to do in the wind and rain, all we really knew was the kite flying was out. We booked tickets for a lake cruise up to Ambleside and then played a few games in an arcade, which Ali won, of course, before boarding our crowded boat. Initially we headed upstairs where I gave everyone a free demonstration on how to fall over on a non-slip surface, hitting my leg hard against a chair as a bonus feature of the display. Once I had got up and hobbled over to a covered seat Ali and Simon felt it wiser to keep me downstairs in a dryer environment.

On arriving in Ambelside our tickets allowed us to disembark, walk around and enjoy all the joys and wonders that Ambleside had to offer and catch another boat back to Windermere. Since the ship’s crew could only think of one hotel and bar as representing all that Ambelside had to offer we decided, however, to stay on the boat and return to Windermere straight away. On our return journey Ali and I ventured up onto the top deck again and, being much emptier on the way back, I elected not to do a repeat demostration of falling over. The picture above was taken through a downstairs window on our cruise of the lake, below are some other photos taken from the ship.

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Lately Simon has had a liking for finding a beautiful place outdoors to sit and say some prayers, so we drove south from the harbour at Bowness in search of a quiet secluded spot by the lake. Simon and I both like to say the longest of the Baha’i healing prayers at least once each day and so I asked if I may say it, while Simon was all for it Ali was somewhat hesitant with the cold wind chilling his Persian blood. Noting Ali’s hesitance Simon said a shorter prayer than he had planned while I proceded to follow with the long healing prayer, Ali then followed through with three of the longest prayers left in the Baha’i religion, namely the Fire Tablet, The Tablet of Ahmad and The Tablet of Visitation (of Baha’u’llah). It was a very special moment for us, although we were brought together as friends by our faith it is rare that we do anything particularly spiritual when we are together. Here are a few shots from the area where we were sat:

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Cold and hungry, as we were by then, we set off to find somewhere to eat and found a small restaurant serving local fish over which we shared our last couple of hours together.

Being dark as well as wet I chose a less scenic route home, rather than 90 miles in 2 and a quarter hours, which was my journey to Windermere, I drove 120 miles in just over two hours. I stuck to the main roads but am sure there was a quicker route, one of the great frutrations of north-east England is that there are few sign posts even on the A routes, and with the rain very heavy again on the eastern side of the country I wasn’t in the mood for turning down small country roads looking for a place I could stop and check the map, so I just drove until I hit the A1 somewhere 45 miles south of Newcastle.

Simon and I have discussed the possibility of another trip to the northern part of the lakes in a month or so. We’ll keep our finger crossed for an Indian summer in the north west.