It’s the middle of February. In normal times, I would probably be away the weekend away. I love a weekend away. Not a city break or a jaunt to a holiday house – but a Christian residential weekend away – with children or teenagers. The best times.
My first weekend away was to Comrie Crusader Centre forty years ago. Here’s what I loved about it. Bunk beds in dorms, sleeping bags, singing, daft sketches at the “show”, discussions, hunt-the-leader in the village, a long walk up a hill in the rain, buying sweets at the shop, making crafts – but most of all, and, not just in Comrie but in a large range of weekend-away venues – thundering around the venues – large houses – whooping and hollering, high jinks and hysteria.
When I got too old to go as a teenager, I went as a leader, then as a cook. The kitchen is the best place to be on a weekend away. Well, when you are my current age, the best place to be is in the kitchen. The kids get to do more than thunder about the building, although I suspect that is still a favourite thing – especially when they play hide and seek in one of these big houses in the dark.
I love to meet random people, or have people I know and be with them on a cooking team for a couple of days. You get to talk and talk and talk and make food. You serve it and the job is largely done. You get to clean up and disinfect the surfaces and sweep up and mop and make the kitchen look perfect.
I think it is the talk and talk and talk thing that I like. You are engaged with people in a context that is just social – the “temporary community”, living at close quarters with other people – so you actually have time to talk and talk – and listen to people’s experiences of literally life, the universe and everything.
As a kid and teen I loved the bible teaching, absorbing whatever the theme was for the weekend and having the chance to discuss it, and fill in wee worksheets or gather profundities in a notebook.
As an adult and parent, I now look back on these weekends – as a child, teenager, young leader and cook – I can see so many life lessons and life skills that everyone is missing out on just now.
They perhaps first learn how to make their own bed on their first weekend away. Kids have to learn to take a turn with the chores to make the temporary community work. There is no dead time – the activity and interaction is absolutely constant – it is a rich chunk of life. People learn to negotiate who gets what bunk, when to finally go to sleep, how to all get along. Kids get to try new food – and they generally eat it because their parent isn’t there to remind them of their fussiness.
Then there are the pointedly “together” times – that seem so distant right now. There’s the times of meeting, singing and playing music together, discussion groups, teaching times – and then the necessary ceilidh or party or sketch show or bonfire – all designed to have people together.
In 2020 the weekend away was planned for mid June, rather than mid-February. Normally my three kids would go and I would be in the kitchen, leaving them alone. However, the plan was for my son to miss it – he was meant to be in Tanzania. The daughters were going to go – but one of them would be leaving the weekend sharp to catch a bus to France with the school trip leaving on the Sunday night. I would have missed it too – I was meant to be at a wedding…
Absolutely none of this happened.
I am just thinking of all the hilarity not had, conversations unheard, bonfires unlit, hot chocolate still in the packet. And friendships not made and cemented, memories not made. All quite sad.
However, I suppose I appreciate what we had and look forward to a time when we can all get out our kit lists and pack our weekend bags and head off to some big house in the country, thunder about in it, have a cup of tea, some home baking and a long conversation.