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             Away again?! – the Atkins’ experience of 2017

It’s unbelievable to reflect that a year that seemed a long way off in January is now nearly over. I promised that I would adopt a positive outlook and attitude to national and international situations and pretty much failed (like many New Year’s resolutions) but on the home, family and personal front there are lots of smiles.

We have successfully embarked on our, “If it can’t be done by car, boat or train we don’t do it!” approach to holidays. We had such horrible experiences at airports that giving up on them has been no real hardship because our “Bucket list” seems to be just as long and adventurous.

In June we embarked on a road trip to English National Parks taking in The North Yorks Moors (to enjoy the railway) Lindisfarne (long blue sky days) so much nicer when the tide is in and the tourists have gone, The Lake District (whoever made a road as treacherous as the Hardnott Pass) and the Peak District (you can’t beat a real Bakewell Pudding) .It always amuses me to come south into Scotland from Northumberland.

The end of July saw us back with Silversea and a 24 day voyage from Tower Bridge to Tower Bridge – coming under Tower Bridge with the ship’s tannoy playing “Rule Britannia” was quite something! So we went via Cornwall, Ireland (N&S), Snowdonia, Isle of Man, Scotland, 6 blue sky days in Iceland and back via the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, Dundee and Leith. The only wet place was Falmouth and a real highlight was the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This was organized by the ship and we sat in the Royal Gallery (what a view).

The most recent adventure was from St Pancras to Passau in Germany then down the Danube to the Black Sea and back. The insights in Eastern Europe were mind blowing, especially when you get away from the big cities. The evidence of the communist period is evident, the poverty pretty obvious, yet there is an incredible wealth of historic buildings. Highlights – Constanta on the Black Sea, The ride through the Danube delta. The encounter with the Romanian Navy. The hinterland of Bulgaria (Viliko Tarnovo, with its churches, castles and jewellery!), the village of Kalocsa in Hungary (an amazing horse show, folk museum and paprika museum). But most telling was Vukovar in Croatia and opposite Serbia. It was the victim of a horrendous siege in 1991 as it stood in the way of a Serbian land grab. In 3 months its population was reduced from 50000 to 20000 and the devastation beyond description. Yet there is new life. Check the website for pictures.

On the home front things have been hectic. Wendy is still running her study group for which I am allowed to make the tea and at the last count I had taken Sunday Services at over 30 churches in the past 18 months and then 2 on the

boat on the Danube. We are also giving talks to various groups on our travels and “Hatch, Match & Dispatch” & “It shouldn’t happen to a vicar”. These take us all over the county and sometimes beyond. Whatever else it keeps the grey cells turning.

The family are around somewhere. Rachael and the kids were over in August, Philip cycled from London to Rome as a fundraiser for MS, while Dominic got married again and has given up his job on the radio and now running a vintage dress shop with Carli, who in her spare time is appearing on East Enders and in Pantomime in Colchester. Ruth has sprung the biggest surprise at the age of 37 by taking up boxing!! It’s a one nighter for charity (a battered women’s hostel would you believe) watch for videos on Facebook.

Wendy and I finish the year with 2 surprises. I had to have another angiogram as I was getting aches in my chest during our heatwave in July and am awaiting a second opinion. Wendy has just been diagnosed with MPN a form of cancer in her bone marrow. We have been told that neither will affect our life span (whatever that may mean) so we will continue to, “Do it while we can!)

Meanwhile we wish you a truly happy and blessed Christmas and a productive New Year

Wendy & DavidChristmas Pics small



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Return to Woodford

Back home and no sooner we were off again.  This time to my first and foundational church at Woodford, now called Woodford Wells Ecumenical Church.  Thanks to them for inviting David to preach again (this time an Anglican Communion, they alternate) and to Moira for her wonderful hospitality.  It was great to see so many of the old friends that I grew up with and to meet new members of the church.  A very joyful experience.

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Finally Cologne

We had a beautiful sunrise for our last morning on the Danube and then we made our way to Passau, our last port of call.  The train journey then took us via Frankfurt to Cologne where we stayed at the Maritim Hotel.  We parted from the group next morning as they set off for London.  We stayed on for two more days to celebrate my birthday.  We were able to spend some leisurely time on a city bus tour and in the wonderful cathedral.


The cathedral holds relics of the Three Kings/Wise Men and has many representations of them in glass and statues.


This amazing altar piece is in high relief with local peasant scenes in the lower panels


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Melk Abbey, Austria

Melk Abbey is amazingly elaborate and beautiful with one court leading into the next.  All the internal rooms are filled with treasures, reliquaries, painted altar pieces, and a huge library of gold bound books.  No photos were allowed inside.


Our final stop was for a wine tasting with accordion accompaniment.


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Durnstein, Austria

This was the most beautiful place we visited anywhere.  It nestles among extensive vineyards, all the most glorious golden colour at this time of year.  This is where Richard the Lionheart was held when he was abducted on his return from the Crusades and finally ransomed.  His name is everywhere, notably at Rich Art a clothing shop with fabulous locally made designs.


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Bratislava, Slovakia

On our way to Bratislava we saw the Danube as wild as we have seen it.  Those who remained on the boat hardly noticed it.

Visiting the Castle we had views across the city to tower blocks remaining  from Communist times, and a new bridge with a revolving restaurant.

As we stayed back from a late shopping expedition, five of us remained in an upstairs restaurant at the port until the others caught up with us for a very late return to the ship.


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Kalocsa, Hungary

After two days on the ship with no visits (David did a Sunday service) this was our first wet and cold day.  We have been so lucky.  Today’s visits were however spectacular even if muddy and wet.

The horse show demonstrated the skill of the horsemen and their mounts, which included a very loveable donkey and long horned cattle.

Later we saw the production of paprika, folk dancing, egg painting, amazing embroidery, hand and free machining on the same piece.  Wall painting in various rooms.


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