Six days before I turn 50 years old and I take a trip to the city of Chester. An overnight trip with my beautiful daughter. An opportunity, an educational trip to this amazing city. Full of history and story. Like so many of us.
Immediately I’m overwhelmed by the intricacies of the city. A city lost in times. Like a central hub of past and present where some rigt has splintered and melded the modern with the ancient. Great Tudor buildings lean and jut out at odd angles, across the road from our hotel, the first and largest Amphitheatre where gladiators fought.
This walled city that is split by the beautiful river Dee is full of amazing sights. Even under the current situation, where people are in and out of shops and restaurants with facemasks. This continued approach to our new world, is now mixed with the new NHS COVID 19 Track and Trace app. Everyone is starting to use the app. It’s refreshing to see people following guidelines, wearing masks and using this app in the hope of taking some control of this situation.
It was amazing round this city and share it with my daughter. Walking by the river and through roman gardens. We even stood listening to musicians, a beautiful violinist and later to the talented Ed Alleyne-Johnson play his purple electric violin. In two weeks time it will be 10 years since I proposed to my wife in York whilst we were listening to said violinist. It was also almost 20 years ago since I last visited Chester to see a friend who was at university, which led me to contacting them and catching up.
It is a time of reflection it seems, I seem to be mainly listening and watching shows that remind me of the 80’s. Or of my past as I meander towards this half century of living. I suppose time is where I feel I am at the moment. As I near 50 I am starting to feel as though I am paused. Very much like 2020, this whole year has been paused, this opportunity to stop and reflect and I am realising I am on the cusp of something, although I admit I am not sure what that something is. This pause gives me chance to slow down and look around at where I am and what options are available.
In a city that is paused, freeze framed between past and present allows me to think back at my time, the almost 20 years since I was last there, where I am and where I am going, what is happening now and where that will lead me is humbling and overwhelming. Ghosts of past creep around the disheveled jaunty street corners, memories of homelessness creep in and remind me how far I have come from when I slept in scary sordid places as I walked past people bedding down for the night.
A woman, singing along to a backing track of east 17s ‘Stay another day‘ played out in the night following our meal and me and my daughter danced in the night. Later as she cried and told me it was happy crying as she worried we might never do something like this again, and I felt blessed to tell her we would have many times like this if we wanted. The reality is we probably will, however time is sometimes cruel and unkind as i heard of a young woman I met in taize who died of cancer whilst doing missionary work last year in Africa, a beautiful person that I met albeit briefly, who had used her life to make a difference.
All we have of time is now. Not past, not future but these briefest of moments that seem plentiful and forever, yet time can take them away so quickly. We have now, this moment, this second. Each pause we have can be an opportunity to reflect, however it should only be the briefest of pauses.
Look back but don’t stare.
Sincerely Yours, Paul