I t seems a long time since the holidays, and while Tiger Woods and his like struggled against the wind and rain of St Andrews, we sweltered in Italy for 2 weeks in day temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees centigrade and evening temperatures of 27 degrees!
This time we were in Sorrento for a week staying in a small hotel surrounded by a lemon grove, eating breakfast outside each morning, and enjoying visits to Pompei and the Isle of Capri. We had been told it was a good idea to take the Funicular railway from the town to the top of Capri and then walk down, and this we did. At the top, we enjoyed a lovely cup of tea in a restaurant overlooking the Bay of Naples with a wonderful view. At least we enjoyed it until I paid the bill – two teabags, two cups and a pot of hot water – £7.50! This was surpassed only in Rome when for two cappuccinos and two croissants we paid £11.50p.
However, the main meals were excellent, whether a freshly made pizza at lunchtime sitting by the marina, or a meal in a Trattoria in the evening. We were warmly welcomed back to the restaurant we dined at once or twice when we were in Rome in 2007 – the two Bangladeshi waiters remembered us – and the carafe of wine we ordered came as a gift from them! There are advantages in being able to speak Bengali! I also got a free pen in a gift shop run by Bangladeshis when I spoke to them in Bengali – I just wish I had taken a photo of their faces when I did!
As ever, we met folk from Carnoustie when we were away, two of whom are Panbride members. I don’t think there is a year goes by without meeting someone from Carnoustie – whether it be the West of Scotland, south west England or Australia!
We also had a few days in Milan – and managed to get tickets (the cheap ones!) for a performance of The Barber of Seville at La Scala. (The only other tickets available were priced at £160)
However, once again it was the Churches of Italy which will last long in the memory. The Duomo in Milan was spectacular and we climbed to the top of the Cathedral in temperatures of about 39 degrees and from the roof saw miles into the distance. We also visited St Peter’s in Rome again, and attended morning worship in St Andrew’s Church in Rome where we were given a warm welcome.
Over the weekend we were in Sorrento, we had made a Sunday morning trip two stations up the railway line to Piano di Sorrento, and enjoyed the relative peace there. On the way back to the Station we passed the Catholic Church and
could hear a service taking place. We went in and stood at the back. The sermon was just finishing, and then the celebration of the Mass began. Having worshipped in the Church of Bangladesh, we were able to follow the different parts of the service despite not being able to speak Italian. The singing was wonderful, led as it was by a priest with a tenor voice worthy of La Scala – it was one of those spine-tingling moments in worship. After the sharing of the bread and wine was finished, the congregation were invited to share the Peace, and although we were in effect only observers, people in the pews around, and those standing around us, came and shook hands with us and shared the Peace with us. So, although only observers, we immediately felt part of what was going on – and it was a very special experience.
It raised a question – how good are we at making strangers and visitors feel part of our worship? I know that there is the opportunity to greet one another at the start of the service – this practice started a long number of years ago when there was feed back from visitors that no-one had spoken to them (and we have all had that experience visiting other churches!) Although it takes two to make a conversation, no visitor should be able to say that there was not the opportunity to speak to people around them, and I know that subsequent feedback from visitors is that they appreciate this opportunity given to them.
I hope that you have all felt welcomed in churches where you have worshipped, and that visitors and members alike will feel there is a place for them within the fellowship of Carnoustie Panbride.