Simon Writes

Well here I am again, sitting on Wittenberg station awaiting the train back to Berlin. But my thoughts are not on the amazing guided tour we had just enjoyed through this delightful German town on the banks of the River Elbe; nor of the momentous events in 1517 that launched the Reformation and all that followed. No, I’m thinking about the marketing promotion for the toilet at Haupbahnhof Station in Berlin – a magnificent station opened in 2006 for the World Cup. It cost a Euro (a pound) to go into the toilet but you were given a voucher that offered half price next time you needed to spend a penny. Now why, I thought, would anyone go out of their way to use the station toilet? If you need to go, you need to go and there wouldn’t be time to walk across Berlin just to use a voucher. All rather odd.

Perhaps behind my pondering, embedded in my sub-conscious, lay my interview for my semiretirement post in Suffolk. I don’t do forms and, faced with the Church of England’s application form, I became rather flippant. (Well I can’t remember the name of my infant school teacher.) Anyway, one of the too many questions asked me to list my achievements in my current post to which I filled in, ‘installed a toilet in the church’. Well, forget all the other questions, the fact that I had actually managed to install a toilet put me up alongside the Archangel Gabriel and I was in. (It had nothing to do with the fact that no one in their right mind would take on six churches, none with toilets, three without electricity, and one a ten-minute hike through the field.) Here we go again.

Barbara and I are so grateful though for the many good wishes for our move. Although we are moving on with a sense of sadness, we also travel with joy in our hearts, carrying the friendships and memories of the many happy occasions in which we have shared during our time here in Copthorne. Thankyou to you all. We are as surprised as anyone to find ourselves moving back to Suffolk, but it feels good (or will do once we stop falling over packing boxes littering the vicarage). There is a fantastic team here in Copthorne to see the parish through the interregnum and undertake the building works. And believe me, you have something really good to offer a prospective new incumbent. Exciting all round, and for all of us.

Copthorne will always be part of our family. Barbara and I both celebrated our sixtieth birthdays here as well as our ruby wedding. I celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination and Barbara her tenth anniversary as a Reader. Our first grandchild was born in the first few months of our moving here and our granddaughter was baptised at St John’s. All milestones on our journey, sustained and encouraged by those with whom we have been privileged to walk. And part of our family will always remain here, Pounds rests here in peace.

What am I going to do with all my spare time, I wonder? I have about seventeen years of unmounted stamps to sort through, the bittern’s boom at Minsmere beckons, and there is always the large garden to clear and plant up. I’ve promised Barbara a piano for her retirement but I suspect grandsons will take precedence over practice. And then there’s always the next toilet to plan for.

I must finish where I started. After the long walk at Gatwick’s North Terminal and queuing for immigration (I can never get the e-passport to work) at my age one needs the facilities before embarking on the home stretch. How proud I was to be able to use the ‘toilet of the year’ adjacent to the baggage area. I’ve no idea what one must do to achieve such an accolade for our vestry toilet but it would make for good publicity. You never know, it might help raise funds for Water Aid with which our toilet is twinned. Now that I am proud of.

Bless you all. And thank you once again.