13. Divine Pigeon Post – Part I

“The miracles of Earth are the Laws of Heaven” – Johann Richter.

Since I came back to S. Africa to care for my mum, I have been driving her car using both an international license and my regular British license.  To get my international license, I had to present myself in person at a branch of the UK Post Office with proof of my identity and a passport photo.

The international license is only valid for a year.  My last one was due to expire in May 2017.  There was no way I could get an extension.  But there had to be a cheaper way to renew it than flying back to the UK just so that I could go to the Post Office for this 10 minute process.  What though?

I prayed.

Then I discovered via an internet search that the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) in the UK, does renewals by post and applicants do not have to be paid-up members to take advantage of this service.  Thank Goddess – a solution!

In early March, I downloaded the forms, filled them out, signed a cheque for the fast 2-day processing service and then started looking around  for a Divine Pigeon who would carry my letter from S. Africa to the UK and post it for me upon arrival in London.

Flight of pigeons on clothespins by Rodeofarm.  Freeforcommercialuse.org https://www.flickr.com/photos/rodeofarm/8438229621/

Sad to say, I have learned to avoid putting sensitive items in the S. African mail especially if they contain personal data that could be used fraudulently.  Professional courier services are a lot less vulnerable to corruption but also a lot more expensive.

No Divine Pigeons manifested for me in Johannesburg in March.  On April 4, I flew to Cape Town for a short holiday and took the license application with me.  My former student, Penelope, who relocated to Cape Town last year, had a neighbour whose grandson was going to the UK in a few days and he was willing to play pigeon. But he was not leaving till 20 April.  No other pigeons were identified during the remaining days of my holiday so Penelope’s neighbour was my best option. While another former student, Miriam, drove me to Cape Town airport for my flight back to Johannesburg, I checked my application to the RAC, sealed the envelope and Miriam kindly delivered it to Penelope for me.

Then I waited.  I did not know the name of the neighbour’s grandson and had no contact details for him.  Penelope tried to get his email address for me but his non-techy grandmother could not help.  There was nothing for it but to simply trust that all was under control.

In late April, I sent a message to my friend Carolina who lives in St. Albans, just north of London. She receives my mail in the UK.  The UK Post Office redirects it to her from my old address in Canterbury rather than forward it to me in South Africa for reasons already noted. I alerted Carolina that my new international license from the RAC would soon be arriving in her mail box.  In early May, Carolina sent me a message: there was still no sign of my license. Timing was tight as my old license was due to expire on 17 May.

 Flight path, Johannesburg to London

Normally, it would not be a big deal to be without a driving license for a few days but my mother had just had a replacement knee operation and could no longer walk or drive.  If I could not drive her to her doctors’ appointments or to get groceries, we would be “stranded” on her retirement complex and have some logistical challenges to deal with.  There is no local public transport system in Johannesburg beyond the VW minibuses which are not usually roadworthy, (some are tied together with string!) and endure fatal accidents on a daily basis.

On 4 May I called the RAC office in the UK. Yes, they had received my application and processed my license and it had been sent to their mail department.  The person I spoke to offered to research the Post Office tracking number for me so that I could follow up myself and she sent me an email with the necessary information.

Great!  The license was ready.  All  I had to do now was find a Divine Pigeon flying from the UK to Johannesburg before 17 May.  Well, at least, I thought that was all I had to do. The situation turned out to be a lot more “miracle-hungry” than I had imagined.

   Pigeon Messengers

Engraving in Harper’s Magazine, April, 1873

 

Will tell you about the sequence of  events and “near-miss stories” in the next blog post.

Appreciating the miracle of global communication via technology.

Blessings,

Rev. Steph

11. Adventure in Wonderland with the Russian man, Part I

“The miracles of Earth are the laws of Heaven.”  Johann Paul Richter

When I was still working in Europe as an English teacher and marketer for English in Action Ltd., I would often fly from London to Vienna on a Sunday morning and then go on the road visiting schools in Lower Austria for the next one or two weeks. On one particular Sunday I had booked myself into a small guesthouse in a spa town called Laa an der Thaya near the Austrian border with the Czech Republic.

After leaving my home in Canterbury at stupid o’clock that morning to catch my flight and being in transit for approximately 7 hours, I was singularly unimpressed when I arrived at my guesthouse in Laa an der Thaya and could not get in! My reservation at Fruehstueckshaus Wunderland (the Wonderland Breakfast House) had been confirmed on the hotel-booking website and so I called the reception, hoping that someone would answer and let me in. No luck. No human being. Only a voicemail message.

Fruehstueckshaus Wunderland in Laa an der Thaya

I asked for help from Upstairs. Suddenly it occurred to me that I had not read my confirmation email all the way to the end and maybe there was a code number for me to type into the keypad by the main front door. (That was inside the green double doors you can see in the picture.) I sought, I found, and lo, the door opened.  Was that a miracle?  No, not really, I was just following instructions.  Well, OK, maybe that was a bit of a miracle… 🙂

I hauled my heavy cases up the long flight of stairs to the reception area and there I found my room key with instructions to get to my room – up another flight of stairs to the second floor.  Great! (Not.)  Never mind, my carefully planned reward for all this travelling and heavy lifting was to relax in the Laa spa that evening so I fished my swimming gear out of my suitcase, grabbed a towel from the en-suite bathroom and ran down the two flights of stairs to the front door. The heavy metal door slammed behind me as I stepped out into the covered passage way and there, in front of me, was a frenzied man – another frustrated traveller who clearly wanted to get into the guesthouse and couldn’t.

At first the man spoke some broken German mixed with some broken English. He was demanding that I use my key to let him in! I was not willing to bow to pressure from a stranger but I heard that he had a Russian accent so I began to speak Russian to him. The relief flooded his face.  Really, what were the chances that he would arrive in this remote Austrian town and meet a Russian-speaking English woman in that very moment when he needed help to get into the guesthouse?  It turned out he had used the same hotel-booking website and he, too, had not realised that he had been given a unique code to open the door.

I could not help being curious: what was a middle-aged Russian man doing in Laa an der Thaya? The answer was obvious: he was travelling through central Europe on a healing journey and checking out the famous thermal spas along the way.  In fact, like me, he wanted to go to the local spa in Laa that evening as soon as he had checked in.

“How are you planning to get to the spa?” I asked.

“I am planning to walk.  I have a map,” he answered.

Understanding that the Law of Attraction had brought us together because we were old spa-mates, I offered to drive him to the spa in my rental car if he could be ready in a few minutes.

“You would really do that?” he asked, smiling like a young boy who had just received his first bicycle for Christmas.

“Sure,” I said “but I don’t want to be back too late because I still have work to do this evening.”

He nodded and dug into his coat pockets from where he produced a crumpled email printout from the guesthouse with his unique code printed on it and lo, as if by magic, the door opened for him too!

Do you want to know what happened in the spa with the Russian man?  I will reveal all in the next blog post… 🙂

Appreciating the miracle of global connection via technology,

Blessings,

Rev. Steph

10. Miracles, Eggs and Einstein

“The miracles of earth are the laws of Heaven” Johann Richter

Albert Einstein famously said: ‘There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.’

“Albert Einstein quote” by Shayari unplugged, freeforcommercialuse.org

www.flickr.com/photos/shayariunplugged/6904460554

One morning I put some eggs on to boil for breakfast as I thought about this famous saying by Einstein.  As the water began to boil, I glanced at the kitchen clock and gave myself four minutes to take a quick shower.  On thar cold winter’s morning, I appreciated the miracle of the shower – the heat and the force of the water instantly warming my body, the beautiful rose scent of the soap, the winter sun streaming in through the bathroom window.  And in the enjoyment of all these miracles, I completely forgot about my eggs!  Miraculously, I woke up and quickly dried myself, while affirming that my eggs would be boiled to perfection – not too soft, not too hard – by the time I got back to the kitchen.

As I passed the phone at the entrance to the kitchen, it rang.  Miraculously, because I was right there, I was able to answer it after one short ring so that the phone extension in the main bedroom, right next my mother’s bed, did not wake her up with a fright. She was convalescing after a miraculous knee replacement operation and needed lots of rest.

The person on the other end of the line was my brother-in-law. This was most unexpected and even miraculous.  He had just come home from hospital after being in a near-fatal car accident which caused three fractures to his pelvis. His son, my nephew, had sustained five broken ribs and was still in hospital two weeks later. The airbags in the car had burst because of the impact of the other driver’s vehicle and the car itself was a complete write-off.   Miraculously, even though the accident took place at 10.30 pm on a Sunday evening in a quiet suburban street, there were witnesses and help was immediately available to get the two of them out of the car and call for the ambulance. It is miraculous that they are both still alive and healing nicely.

After our initial exchange of information regarding the state of my brother-in-law’s health and my mother’s, I excused myself to quickly take the eggs out of the pot and then ran back to the phone.

Miraculously, my brother-in-law reported that he was moving ahead with my mum’s legal case and would be consulting with his advocate friend over the next day or two.  Despite his weakened physical condition, he was continuing with his work and being driven by my sister to his various appointments.  Miraculously, my sister was retrenched from her part-time job two days before the car accident and had a two-week gap before starting a full-time job with a new company. Her new salary was going to be more than double her previous salary which meant she had the freedom to be at home and care for her husband and son without concern for financial loss.

And the most miraculous thing of all? My mother had been in the habit of constantly fretting about her situation and very impatient for the legal case to move forward.  As a result of her impatience, she had to ‘suffer’ endless seeming delays and obstacles: the advocate had to go into hospital for an operation, then my nephew had to go into hospital for an operation (two weeks before the car accident), there were public holidays and Jewish holidays, and then my brother-in-law’s car accident.  Knowing that my brother-in-law would be in hospital for some time, and probably not be able to work immediately after returning home, she let go of her stress and anxiety about the case.  She simply surrendered because she knew nothing would be done.  Miraculously, and to confirm that surrender is always the fastest way to get results, my brother-in-law made this call on his second day out of hospital to inform us that he was “on the case” and that it was moving forward rapidly!

Truly, Divine Activity is happening all the time and in all dimensions far beyond anything that we can humanly discern with our limited knowledge and vision.

Oh, and the other miracle?  My eggs were boiled to perfection! 🙂   “Smiling boiled eggs” by Naoko Takono www.flickr.com/photos/naokomc/8943427003  Freeforcommercialuse.org

Celebrating the miracle of global connection via technology.

Blessings,

Rev. Steph

amazon.com/author/revstephanieclarke

9. What you focus on expands: The Valley of the Kings (Part II)

“The miracles of Earth are the laws of Heaven.”  Johann Paul Richter

Rev. Steph

At the end of the last blog post, I left you wondering how the Egyptian magic in the Valley of the Kings became even more miraculous.  So here is the story.

In March 2005, I left the ministry I had founded in South Africa, Soul Home, and returned to Europe to work as an English teacher.  En route from Johannesburg to London, I spent two months in the city of Luxor on the East bank of the Nile, from where I could explore the ancient temples and tombs to my heart’s content as well as get started on my autobiography. (The Miss-Adventures of an Irreverent Reverend: a spirit-ed guide for rebels and renegades.  amazon.com/author/revstephanieclarke)

If you have ever travelled in Egypt, you will know that potty breaks are an issue.  Finding a loo when you need one is a challenge of note and when you do find one, it is often a smelly, less-than-sanitary hole in the ground. My best friend in Luxor, Ahmed, had a solution for me.  He managed a shop in the city centre close to the Nile and the Luxor Temple.  The back door of the shop opened onto a lovely shaded court yard with tables, couches and canopies where a vendor was selling coffee, tea and fruit juices.  This balmy peaceful area, cut off from the main drag and the noisy tourists, was actually the forecourt of The Luxor Hotel.

Hotel - Luxor

The Luxor Hotel, Luxor, Egypt, by Kelly Photos

Flickr: freeforcommercialuse.org

In fact, in the old photograph above,  you can almost see the doorway of Ahmed’s shop on the far left if it were not hidden by the trunk of a whacking great palm tree!

In the lobby of the Luxor Hotel there were semi-decent western loos.  It was rare to find loo paper AND soap AND towels on any given day, plus the loo floor was often wet, but still, this was a luxury and allowed me to drink my Egyptian mango juice or my freshly squeezed lemonade without fear of the consequences while I wrote my life-story on my laptop.

Garden Restaurant, Luxor Hotel

In the garden of the Luxor Hotel, Luxor 2005

Now, what is interesting about The Luxor Hotel is that it was chosen as the on-location film set for the 2005 production of “Tutankhamun,” the BBC 4-part series about the discovery of the young pharaoh’s tomb – the very same series that my mum has saved for me to watch in 2017 in S. Africa!

And what is even more interesting is that the on-location filming was happening during the very two months that I was staying in Luxor!  In fact, some of the film crew and actors were staying in the hotel.  The local Egyptian extras, who were playing the role of Howard Carter’s digging crew, would gather there in the courtyard every day to be taken across the Nile to the film set on the West Bank in the Valley of the Kings.

High up in the Valley of the Kings (left) far from the official site entrance (right)

The lobby of the hotel had been transformed into an exotic 1920’s ex-pats’ club, complete with red velvet sofas, rubber plants and paintings of European nobility. So as I wandered into the hotel lobby to use the loo, I was transported into 1920’s colonial Egypt.

A few months later, after I had returned to London, I went to visit a friend of mine, Dave.  Dave watches a lot of TV and simply turns the volume down slightly when he has visitors.  While we sat and chatted, I noticed a familiar scene out of the corner of my eye:  “Tutankhamun,” the BBC series, was on TV!  And the reason it caught my eye was that the scene was taking place in the “ex-pats’ club” in The Luxor Hotel!

“Dave,” I said, excitedly, “Look! I used to go to the loo right there behind that rubber plant!”

Dave, a full-on Cockney with the gift of the gab and rarely stuck for words, was silent. He smiled at me like the wise old Sphinx. Was he awed by my glamorous life or trying to visualise me peeing behind the plant?

It remains both a mystery and a miss-story to this very day.