Fiona is in Scotland this week visiting Peta & Cole and “The Boys” – Bertie and new arrival Teddy – so I have been enjoying a few days moreorless on my own. Which is quite strange – because although Fiona will have spent literally months on her own here when I was at sea, it’s a new experience for me being home alone! But not entirely…

We have great friends in Clive and Pauline Parnell-Hopkinson, and I stayed with them for a couple of days at the beginning of last week. The P-H’s and we have been friends for about thirty years, despite the fact that Clive was a chaplain in the…in the…well it wasn’t the Royal Navy and it wasn’t the army, it was them others! Still – we’ll pass that quickly by. In fact when we were in Gibraltar we all four of us had a memorable holiday in Morocco. I then had a Landrover Discovery and we travelled from Gibraltar round to Algeciras and then by ferry to Tangiers and then headed south. Our first stop was at Asilah and then on to Marrakech, Fez and Rabat and then on through the High Atlas via a seaside stop at Essaouira and finally to the very edge of the Sahara at Ouaouizarht – where we drank the hotel of tonic water! It was a great holiday, and we stayed in some excellent hotels – including a converted Islamic seminary. The roads were good; the food was delicious; the people were friendly; and the history and culture fascinating. Certainly a touring holiday I would recommend to anyone – as it was all very easy and trouble free.

Anyway Clive and Pauline had me to stay for a couple of nights this week in their lovely rectory at Ellisfield in deepest rural Hampshire where the snow drops were in such profusion in the churchyard that bus loads of people – mainly from local retirement and nursing homes – were arriving to view the scene. Certainly all around the signs of spring are becoming more apparent – here the birds are flying to and from with nest-building materials, some of the early bushes are already beginning to bud; the daffodils are breaking through and although it’s not yet warm – that intense, penetrating winter chill seems to have gone and there’s something in the air that says the change of seasons is imminent. Yes – spring is in the air, and it can’t come soon enough!

Spring brings new life and new hope – the land is refreshed and revitalised and everyone’s spirits are raised – now wonder that even hundreds of years of Christianity have been able to erase the ancient springtime symbols of eggs and bunny rabbits – indeed, not only has it failed to erase them, it has assimilated them and they have become part of the Easter iconography. The very word “Easter” has its roots in paganism rather than in Christianity. The modern English term Easter developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre, which itself developed prior to 899. The name refers to Eostur-monath, a month of the Germanic calendar attested by Bede (The Venerable) as named for the spring-time goddess Ēostre of Anglo-Saxon paganism, the word having the same root as oestrogen – eggs. Anyway – new life and new hope are key words for me this week – and all part of my inrention of being positive, hope-filled, en-lightened and open to the reality of healing in whatever way it may come. Certainly when one is faced with the enormity of cancer – in several places – one is compelled to take a long hard look at one’s beliefs and life-style and do a little re-assessment – so these few days on my own have not been wasted!

Meanwhile, I am back into hospital on Wednesday afternoon and surgery on Thursday – but I’ll be updating again between now and then. I hope you’re having a very pleasant weekend.