Sunday 16th October, 2011

Climax of a Great Week



I did not have a great night. The bed in the Premier Inn was very hard and my digestive system was a little bit "unstable". So I was not upset when it was time to get up. A nice shower helped get rid of most of the aches from the night.

We had a good breakfast, which was as well because we didn't get anything else to eat until around 5pm on the way home.

We were in Sheffield for the annual County Teams Swimming Competition at Ponds Forge. I had made arrangements to get a reserved disabled car parking space. That worked well, so we did not have very far to walk when we arrived.

For us, the event started with a "VIP reception" for County Presidents, all wearing their chains of office. There was nothing formal about it. We got a cup of coffee and some food was served, but it was far too soon after breakfast. Getting on to pool side meant pushing our way through officials and swimmers lined up to parade on. They could not do so until all the Presidents were seated. I had to be very careful moving on poolside, the wet surface was very slippery and my crutches tended to slip.

Event presentation was very slick. Representatives of each of the 38 competing counties paraded on. Swimming took place in two 25m pools at the same time. The 20 top teams formed division 1 and used one pool. The remaining 18 teams formed division 2 and used the other pool.

I was there as President of Hampshire. In 2010, Hampshire finished in 12th place in division 1. Based on the submitted times published in the programme, matching that performance was challenging, and in fact there was a distinct risk that Hampshire would finish in the bottom 4 and get relegated to division 2. Happily, the result was determined in the pool, not on paper.

The majority of the Hampshire swimmers beat their submitted times. At the half way point, Hampshire were in an amazing 7th place, and already had almost enough points to achieve the original objective of surviving in division 1. Beating last year's performance became a real possibility. 4th position in the final relay left them in 10th place, an amazing performance.

With my cushion, and a disabled toilet with 10 yards, my seat on pool side was comfortable enough for 3 hours. There were 3 rows of seats; we got the last 2 on the front row, so had a good view.

Sue wanted to get a picture of me with the team. I could not actually get off pool side while presentations were happening and it was not fair to keep swimmers waiting, so that plan didn't work.

As we were leaving, we heard that one of the results was being protested, so that could change Hampshire's position (it did't). As a matter of interest, Lancashire were runaway winners.

This was a great opportunity to meet a lot of people from the swimming community and tell them how well my treatment is going. They in turn will pass the news on.

We left the pool at around 3:30 and finally stopped to get something to eat just after 4:30. The service area we stopped at had a very limited menu. I wanted pie and chips. NO. Sue wanted Chicken Tikka Marsala. NO. We both ended up with Fish and Chips. This was cooked to order and was surprisingly good quality. The Warwickshire team were in Burger King.

When we got back onto the M1 heading South, it was not far short of sunset. The trees looked beautiful in the mellow late afternoon sunlight. Our plan was to stop again for "pudding", probably at Cherwell Valley.

We did make it to Cherwell Valley. The Sussex team were just leaving. The results of the last 2 events still hadn't been published, so I can't confirm Hampshire's position.

When we made initial arrangements for this weekend, we were not sure that it would work out.  Going all the way to Sheffield in my "bad week" did seem to be a bit of a risk. But, it has been a splendid weekend. I have not had any problem being too tired and apart from the bed last night, have been comfortable all weekend.

The Inter-County Competition is the highlight of the swimming year for County Presidents. I would have been very disappointed not to be there.

This augurs well for a trip to Barcelona and a longer trip to Sheffield in a few weeks for the 3 day British Universities and Colleges championships.

It is Sunday. Because we were at the event in Sheffield, Sue and I were not able to make it to church today. I feel uncomfortable, so when we get home we will make a Thanks and Prayer time a priority before we get too tired. We have had a super week and need to express our thanks to God for everything and to pray for those we know who are not having such an easy time.

My personal bible study this evening was based around Psalm 104, an Old Testament hymn of praise for God's role in creation. This made me think and I decided to share some of the reasons why I am a Christian in these blogs. To make it easy for those of you who don't want to read this, I will present it in a different font.

The main reason, of course, is because I believe that Jesus Christ was an authenticated historical figure and that the evidence that he is the Son of a Living God is overwhelming. I will come back to that on another occasion.

Reading Psalm 104 reminded me of a second reason. When I look around me, I see the wonderful world in which we live as evidence of a creator. While I do not believe the story of creation in the Bible literally, that God created the world in 7 days, I cannot accept that the world and everything that is in it came about through blind chance. To me, the concept of "Intelligent Design", where the creation and evolution of our world is part of an overall plan makes a lot more sense.

This is summed up in the words of a magnificent old Russian hymn:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul my Saviour God, to Thee,
How Great Thou Art! How Great Thou Art!
Then sings my soul my Saviour God, to Thee,
How Great Thou Art! How Great Thou Art!

This weekend we walked through the trees at Chatsworth and whenever I sing this hymn, I think about the beauty of Cascades National Park in Washington State in the US (see bottom picture).