My previous entries on the face of kindness I (Indonesia) and II (Lesotho) took place in exotic places with people that I hardly knew. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to find the same face in Europe – the UK to be precise. This time it was with people that I’ve actually known for quite some time and definitely fall into the same category. We don’t get to see each other that often anymore. Before I was his ‘boss’ or he mine – we weren’t exactly sure. And his then girlfriend – now wife – tolerated my ‘bossing’ around of her man in his limited free time as he was chairing the youth organisation voluntarily that I was coordinating. He even came over to Amsterdam at times to negotiate my work circumstances with my ‘real’ boss taking days off from study and work for that – still grateful! She also tolerated that we took over her house a couple of times with a number of people from all over Europe – looking for very cheap locations to stay – he offered ‘their’ home generously for meetings of several days. One of our members once spilled a coffee over their beige carpet. It never came out. I don’t think she ever complained to us.
Fortunately the stain is history, they’ve moved to a grand new house and I got to stay there this time. The actual time spend there was limited. For the record I stayed with them from Friday evening until Tuesday morning, of which Monday was a ‘working day’ for me. The other days however I was taken on what I would now refer to as the: ‘Northern England Entertainment Plan’. It contained visits to Liverpool, Manchester Chorlton area, Tatton Park in Chesire County and I squeezed in Leeds myself. Something most people would probably cover in a week. Besides visiting we actually did a lot of stuff. In Liverpool I was taken to the Empire Theatre, an impressive art-deco style building and laughed until my belly ached (as promised in September) at comedian Dave Gorman. If you ever wish to learn how to do a proper Powerpoint and make it into a joke that you can laugh hysterically about, he’s your man.
The next days included watching rutting deer and preventing the dog (he will only be referred to as Mr. Blaze or Senor Blaze if you’re from Spain) from chasing them, visiting a food lover’s market and of course a nice pub crawl, the required lazy Sunday afternoon movie and a game of jenga with another lovely couple. We also managed to eat Italian Pizza, Benghali curry, Spanish paella, Manchester eggs (in vinegar) Cumbrian sausages with mash potatoes and Mexican wraps. If you think this is quite a lot for a weekend, it probably is (foodwise, yes I was a bit stuffed, but sooooo satisfied). The thing is, it didn’t feel like that for one minute. I was terribly – overly – relaxed as my friends really enjoy having you around and make you feel absolutely welcome.
I can only conclude if you ever head up to Manchester and run into an anesthetist and a wonderful primary school teacher – now social worker called Cliff and Kathryn, you’ll feel just as welcome. And no doubt will you be as relaxed as I was when I stepped into my meeting on Monday. A meeting that I had been quite nervous for at forehand. But taking a total step back that weekend through the care of my friends, and all their listening to my stories (including quite a few worries), and hearing theirs, I realised on my way to Leeds on Monday morning, I had already won whatever I needed: I had gotten to meet the face of kindness again.