Friday, August 31, 2007

It's Friday!

I am just getting ready for what is going to be a busy, but exciting weekend. Dr Ben Witherington, who many of you will know from his books, is in Hong Kong to give a series of Bible lectures on the book of Revelation. They start tonight. I am very honoured that Ben has agreed to preach here at Christ Church on Sunday on a passage from Hebrews. We hope that you will be able to hear the sermon on the Church web-site as usual.

I am a big Ben fan and have been using his commentaries especially for some years now. I always turn to his commentary on a book of the New Testament if I am studying a passage or preparing one for a sermon. Ben has written a commentary on nearly every book of the New Testament and intends eventually to cover them all. I think his commentary on Acts remains my favourite, although his recent one on St Matthew looks interesting and innovative. St Matthew is the set Gospel for the next liturgical year, year A, in the lectionary cycle so it is going to be getting quite a bit of use.

It just so happens that it is also the weekend before the start of the new academic year, and we have a series of parents' meetings that I am involved in - that and a whole lot more! So a weekend of contrasts.

The school meetings, of course, take place against the background of the events of the summer. The teacher concerned has resigned from the School, which was the honourable thing to do, although I was surprised when they did. The teacher has not yet been charged and we are braced for a lot of publicity if and when they are. Please let it not be this weekend!

Have a good weekend and I'll let you know how the lectures go!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Last of the Summer Wine

Well, the summer season is now drawing to a close - whatever the weather may be doing. It's a bit crazy here as all the shops are stocking European winter fashions including leather boots and coats and that despite a temperature in the high 30s. That's fashion for you.

I imagine it is the same for many of you, this time of year is a real deluge with everything starting up after the summer break. For me, being on my own, with the several schools that I am involved with, it can be a bit overwhelming. I am trying very hard to be well-planned and prepared and am working on the calendar for the coming (academic) year.

Did you know that Easter can't occur earlier than March 22 or later than April 25? This means that Easter, falling as it does on March 23 next year, is one of the earliest. In fact, it is the earliest I can remember it being and it won't be as early for many more years. I think actually I prefer it when Easter is a bit later! Because we have a big break for Chinese New Year, it means that a lot of events are scheduled for this term as next term will be a bit hit and miss. No sooner than we are back after Christmas and people will be getting ready for CNY. No sooner than we are back after CNY and we will be getting ready for Easter!

No wonder then that this term looks like being one event or meeting after another. Nothing to be done about that, but it does make it hard to do anything new or different. It's more a case of hanging on for the rollercoaster ride and hoping you don't fall off! The good thing is that it will soon be Christmas - my favourite time of the year. I reckon it's just 117 days to Christmas! How long before the shops start stocking Christmas goods, I wonder. Please remember to buy real Christmas Cards this Christmas. Apart from anything else it does help the charities who benefit from them.

Anyway, if you are getting ready to go back to school, in whatever capacity, or are preparing start up after the summer, then I hope that all goes well and that the year ahead is a good one!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Then and Now

Somerset Maugham begins the fourth Volume of his collected short stories with this preface:


In this final volume I have placed the rest of my stories the scene of which is set in Malaya. They were written long before the Second World War and I should tell the reader that the sort of life with which they deal no longer exists. When I first visited those countries the lives the white men and their wives led there differed but little from what they had been twenty-five years before. They got home leave once in five years. They had besides a few weeks leave every year. If they lived where the climate was exhausting they sought the fresh air of some hill- station not too far away; if, like some of the government servants, they lived where they might not see another white man for weeks on end, they went to Singapore so that they might consort for a time with their kind. The Times when it arrived at a station up-country, in Borneo for instance, was six weeks old, and they were lucky if they received the Singapore paper in a fortnight.

Aviation has changed all that. Even before the war people who could afford it were able to spend even their short leave at home. Papers, illustrated weeklies, magazines reached them fresh from the press. In the old days Sarawak, say, or Selangor were where they expected to spend their lives till it was time for them to retire on a pension; England was very far away and when at long intervals they went back was increasingly strange to them; their real home, their intimate friends, were in the land in which the better part of their lives was spent. But with the rapidity of communication it remained an alien land, a temporary rather than a permanent habitation, which circumstances obliged them for a spell to occupy; it was a longish halt in a life that had its roots in the Sussex downs or on the moors of Yorkshire. Their ties with the homeland, which before had insensibly loosened and sometimes broke asunder, remained fast. England, so to speak, was round the corner. They no longer felt cut off. It changed their whole outlook.

The countries of which I wrote were then at peace. It may be that some of those peoples, Malays, Dyaks, Chinese, were restive under the British rule, but there was no outward sign of it. The British gave them justice, provided them with hospitals and schools, and encouraged their industries. There was no more crime than anywhere else. An unarmed man could wander through the length of the Federated Malay States in perfect safety. The only real trouble was the low price of rubber.

(W Somerset Maugham, Collected Short Stories, Volume Four)

I am a big fan of Somerset Maugham. I have always loved his stories and since coming out here have liked them even more. So many are set in this part of the world. Living as I do now, as an expatriate, I am interested in how expats in the past have lived. What he writes here in this preface is true now only more so. Aviation, so to speak, has taken off even more in recent years. There are many direct flights from Hong Kong to London each day, all full. Then there is the telephone and the internet and all the other means of mass communication.

During my recent holiday home to visit family the School situation exploded. I was able to talk with everyone I needed to on my mobile standing in a forest in Scotland and deal with letters, read reports, answer the Press, etc, etc, all from hotel room as if I was in my study back here. The time difference was a little inconvenient, and it was not how I would have chosen to spend the holiday, but geographical distance made little difference.

It’s the same now I am back. I can phone family for less than it used to cost me to phone from Scotland and email is always there. I am a child of this global village no less than anyone else, but reading these stories of an age now gone does make me wonder if we are any happier and fulfilled. There is a charm about the life they lived. It was slower, but I wonder how much more we achieve with all our rushing around and constant communications.

One thing is for sure though, it’s not going to get any slower any time soon!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back to Normal

I am very sorry to have gone so quiet recently. It was not what I intended. The case I mentioned in the last post rumbles on and has been very time and energy hungry. The teacher at the centre of the case has not been charged yet so I don't have anything else to report at this stage.

Anyway, I hope you are all having a good Summer. It is very wet here in Hong Kong and we have just had a typhoon pass over. Thankfully, it did not do too much damage.

I will try to get back to normal over the next few days!