I was at sea in the build up to the last Gulf War in 2003. I had about twelve ships in “my parish. I was based in RFA FORT AUSTIN with the great Captain David Pitt as my host, and I made my way every two or three days by helicopter or sea boat to any of “my” other ships that were in hailing distance. It was great. I was never in one place long enough to make a nuisance of myself, and never long enough to run out of things to do or people to see. With my trusty overnight “grip” and my portable mass kit I would don the flying suit and all the necessary clobber for flying in one of HM’s helicopters over the open ocean, or the life-jacket and helmet necessary for a ride in the sea-boat. I’m not quite sure which mode of transport I preferred. I would certainly not ride in a ‘helo’ for pleasure, and when I did take to the air in a Sea King I always insisted on sitting on the seat right next to the cargo door. If anyone was going to get out first in an emergency…it was gonna be me! Only once in the RN did I ever try anything like the pulling of rank, and it was whilst embarking in a Sea King, someone was already seated in ‘my seat.’ “You’ll have to shift and move,” I said to the hapless fellow. “Really? He replied. “Why? “Because,” I said, “that happens to be the chaplain’s seat.” With sighs, weary and knowing looks and great mutterings under the breath, the guy moved somewhere else on the aircraft and you’ll be glad to know we both got to our destinations safely. I am reminded too of another occasion when I was being winched down from the helo as it hovered above the ship’s flight deck. The aircraft couldn’t ‘land-on’ as there was quite a swell and the deck was bucking a bit as the ship made 15 knots through the Arabian Gulf. I sat on the edge of the aircraft’s doorway, the winch wire was around me, the order was given and down I went. Below, the flight deck crew looked on with their usual humour and sense of anticipation and the sailor with the earthing rod was ready to make sure I didn’t get an electric shock as I landed. Unfortunately at that moment the swell made the ship dip quite dramatically only to quickly rise-up to meet me on my way down from the aircraft. Bang! I landed on my back with a bump…and a bit of a shock! (A bit like Hoffnung and his barrel of bricks!). Anyway, the Chief Officer – Jamie Taff – was there to meet me, and all ended well in a reviving G&T (now there’s a surprise!).

I was reminded of this today when my old chum Captain Paul Whyte popped-in for a coffee this morning on his way home along the A303.

Life is full of “bangs” and “shocks” like that unceremonious landing on the flight deck of a ship at sea. But you see, all was well. I was well met and looked after and pleasantly watered (with Schh...you know who!). And after the shock of my recent diagnosis I am being well looked after now too, by Fiona and family and friends and health care workers – and shiver me timbers if Christmas this year is not going to go off with a great big BANG of a good time, because there’s more. For I also believe that whatever happens to me, ultimately I am in the arms of the Child of Bethlehem, a Child with a destiny and I entrust my destiny to Him.

Fiona and I send our love and greetings to all of you who have been kind enough to follow the story of our blog in recent weeks. We wish you a very Happy & Holy Christmas. We’ll be back on line at the weekend with all the latest!

Merry Christmas !


Comments on this entry:

  1. Graeme & Fiona,

    We’re so pleased to “hear” you’re getting to back to normal – whatever normal is in your life Graeme, I’ve never figured that one out!!!

    We continue to read THE blog and remember you in our prayers. I know Michael spoke to Fiona – we saw him on Sunday after church but he didn’t stay for the lunch as he was loaded with the dreaded lurgi.

    Anyway our love to you both at this very special time of year. We took Allison’ two, Bonnie & Vivienne, into the Crib Service in St.Nich’s this afternoon and they both enjoyed it. For me personally it was special as Andrew held it in “St.Andrew’s” and used our Crib set for the service.

    Love & God’s Blessing to you and the family.

    Nancy & David

    — Nancy & David · Wednesday 24 December, 2008 · #