Here - There - Somewhere travel blog

Cooked Saint Albans

The Boot Inn

Mates

Mates Too

Saints

Peg's Father's Secret Business

Norman Tower

Footloose Mates

Foo Mate

Yep - Mates

Food Mate

My Main Mate


Alban was a Roman bloke who, about 1,700 years ago, decided to become a Christian. At that time, Christianity was banned in the Roman Empire, even if you lived in far away Britannia. Alban’s conversion was a one way affair, so in refusing to renounce his new beliefs, he stood against the all powerful Empire, was tried, found guilty and executed by decapitation thus becoming England’s first Christian martyr.

As were the ways of those times, when Christianity later was accepted by the Roman Empire, an abbey, school and town grew around the town of Alban’s demise; his earthly remains entombed within the church for veneration by the faithful. This very same abbey, in later years, rejected the entry of a young guy named Nicholas Breakspear because he was not up to standard. Not allowing a small thing like that detract him from his desire to find a career in the Church, he headed to Paris, excelled and still later became the first and only English born Pope.

Interesting for sure, but why were we there?

After much deliberation, diagnosis, discussion and scholarly argument, Her Hoppyness decided that she needed to rest the injured ankle for a few more days before tackling the walk. Thus our immediate itinerary was turned around; we would now fly down to the London environs first to catch up with some old friends and then train it back north to attack the Coast to Coast walk a few days later.

We met John and Celia in Australia in 1979 when they came there for their honeymoon. John worked for the same oil company as I did then, he in London though. Since entertainment was the de rigueur in those times, Peggy-Ann and I were assigned the onerous task of taking them to dinner. It was tough work. For example, we had to train John into the glories of shelling very large king prawns and savouring the delicious flesh, he having never spied such large delights previously. Of course, they also enjoyed good wine too, a requisite skill in the oil industry of the ‘70s. We hit it off, as they say, like a house on fire, so when we moved to Paris and found the Hurleys in residence too, the friendship firmed over rowdy games of Canasta, bottles of cheap Cote du Rhone and Friday drinks at the Bar Lorraine.

In July, only a few months after another successful trip to Australia which included a notably long Melbourne Cup day lunch in our company, John was diagnosed with leukaemia and suddenly his life, Celia’s and their family’s, were rocked, re-assessed and stressed. We had planned to spend a few days with them, perhaps even going down to northern Wales, but this was no longer an option of course. So it was off to St Albans to spend some time with Celia and visit John in hospital where he had just returned for his second round of chemotherapy, the first round being a total success. One battle had been won but the war was still being fought.

John was in good spirits, taking the whole thing in his stride and although a keen cricket and rugby fan, did not rub in (well not too much) the Ashes win by his compatriots nor belittle the poor recent form of the Wallabies. If attitude and support from family can beat a disease, then John will surely win this particular skirmish. I believe he will.

Of course, no time with the Hurleys would be complete without a nice boozy lunch or dinner and although John was not present, the three of us consumed enough happy liquid for the four. As it always is when seeing good friends after an absence, we caught up with the latest family news, reminisced of all those good times past, spoke of our dreams for the future, but above all, chatted about John’s leukaemia and its effect on him and the family and how the arrival of such an unwelcome visitor focuses ones life on the most important matters of all. It was an evening well spent and we felt sure that we had been of some support and comfort to Celia; something that is difficult to do when home so far away in the antipodeans.



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