What a difference a fortnight makes: Scottish Acropolii, Like-minded Friends, and the British Open

by Anna Blanch on July 15, 2010

As I travel through the foothills of the highlands between Edinburgh and St Andrews I am marvelling at the beauty of the Scottish landscape. I am looking out of the train windows smiling again at the majestic presence of the box-like hills to the west. If i were in Greece or Turkey they might be places where an acropolis would have been located sometime around 50A.D.

I am happy to be returning home, to St Andrews. Happy to see the ocean and to turn my attention to the conference papers that need to be completed or edited for September. Happy to put into place some realignment of my way of living each day. Content to rework my second chapter and my overall thesis outline to reflect some changes in my approach; Content to dive into literary criticism to think about my approach (now that one’s big!). Content to be thinking about other applications for my research.

The past two weeks has afforded me an opportunity of active retreat. I’m not going to detail what I’ve learnt explicitly, nor tell you of the activities too much, because this was a time to treasure up in my heart. A time to rest and think with friends, firstly some who have known me for well over a decade as I visited friends in Ely and then with some who i’ve now known for about 8 days. It’s always lovely to spend days walking by the Cam at Ely, visiting the cathedral reflecting upon its beauty and the thought-full art therein; but more than this, it was a time with friends who let me talk and laugh, sleep, read, write, cook and with whom I could listen, pray, comfort, love. A time where I could be myself. It turned out to be a beautiful preparation for the last week.

This last week I also spent with friends, but (except for two who also from St. Andrews) new friends. I spent a week with a group of scholars; Professors and PhD students, Professional psychologists, a lawyer or three, an economist, and a few biblical scholars.To spend a week with like-minded individuals is a gift. Especially when you can be like-minded but yet robustly and rigorously argue with each other seeking to tease out your own and others positions and ideas, with a view to the Truth. It was a humbling experience. not least because a number of my colleagues were participating in these discussions and lectures in a second language and doing exceptionally well at that.

I have so much to process – not only did I take a gigantic leap in my own learning about intellectual history (over the last 2500 years), I was moved to be faced by my own sins and to recognise who I am in God and how it might be that I approach my PhD and how I might be always a seeker of the Truth.

I have two weeks now – before I leave again – and Paris awaits. But first, as i look out at sheep on a hillside and the sun is setting, I face the prospect of a city besieged by grumpy golfers, hordes of tourists and not a little Scottish rain and gusts (and maybe a sea haar for good measure). Yes, it is the British open of which I speak and though I am on an almost empty train it still cost me 4, yes that’s 4 ladies and gentleman, times what a ticket from Cambridge to Leuchars has cost me in the past. It could have cost me 10 times but i chose to wait in Peterborough an extra hour today and saved myself 160 of the Queen’s finest sterling!

The university is closed tomorrow because of the crowds and though I wasn’t curious before I wonder whether I will have enough interest to wander down to the Old Course and see what I can see. Even I, who has a special place in my heart for all things Sport, am a little hesitant about braving golf-mad crowds. Besides, these two weeks have given me a rest and a peace no carribean cruise could ever come close to.

You know, I might just have to do this again sometime.

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