Liverpool, have you ever been? I hadn’t been there for 40 years. My wife lived there for a while so we decided to go on a city break to celebrate her birthday. The plan was to have 2 nights away, visit 2 cathedrals, 2 art galleries, 2 museums and 2 restaurants, just the 2 of us. Well, you need a plan.
The reality turned out somewhat differently. We managed 1 night and 1 cathedral, where we enjoyed a tremendous Evensong service. It was straight after the service that my wife lost her footing on the steps leading down from the choir stalls and fell heavily to the floor. And she wasn’t getting up. We only had 15 minutes to reach our first restaurant. Come on, I thought.
But it was not to be. Quickly attended by concerned onlookers, we soon realised there was a potential serious injury here and called for an ambulance. It didn’t arrive. There were jokes about it going to the wrong cathedral (great sense of humour the Liverpudlians have) but it hadn’t. We waited for 2 long hours before the comforting sound of a siren was heard in the distance. During this time, the Dean and others managed to fish out a GP from a meeting in the cathedral and a nurse. All agreed that my wife was not to be moved. So she spent the 2 hours supine on a cold cathedral floor, looking in awe and pain at the magnificent ceiling of the cathedral. Such moments make one appreciate the sheer beauty and grandeur of such buildings, although she probably wouldn’t thank me for saying so.
Eventually after a good slug of gas and air, enough to have delivered a set of twins, I thought, my missus was scooped up into an ambulance and whisked to A&E, where we spent 3 hours getting sorted. She had to give her date of birth many times during the process and each time responded resignedly “It’s today.“
It turned out that she had fractured her greater tuberosity (a bit of the shoulder) and sprained an ankle. I never knew we all had a Greater Tuberosity. It’s a great name for a rock band or collective noun for onion farmers.
It was 11.15 pm by the time we got back to the hotel, certain that the chef would be able to rustle us up something nice to eat as we were starving hungry. But his shift had ended and I now have a certain empathy (but not a lot) for Jeremy Clarkson and his outburst at catering arrangements as we feasted on 3 packets of crisps and a Kit Kat from the Auto-Vend. And so it was straight home the next morning, bruised and battered, but blessed to get on the train.
I had a few words with God on the train journey back. Come on, God, I remonstrated, I’m a bit miffed about this. We really needed this break. We’d had several spoilt holidays over the last 3 years and we were due this one. But actually, the gospels don’t’ say anywhere, follow me and I’ll ensure you always have good holidays and won’t fall over. God doesn’t run the world like that; otherwise there’d be no need for Health and Safety policies in churches or notices saying Mind The Step. We’d all be very safe.
The deal is that we have the freedom and personal choice to make mistakes to do stupid things and to fall down a flight of steps if we so choose. That’s the deal. The best part of course is that however we screw things up, we are forgiven and can start all over and try again the next day. And surprisingly there has been a silver lining. It has made us just be. It has made us not try so hard, but just be, and look and listen, something most of us don’t actually find time to do. In many ways, it is a time of constant prayer, just being. And it has taught me a lot too. My one-handed wife needs constant care. I’m getting very good with a pair of GHD hair straighteners and have in an idle moment thought about becoming a stylist.
So our city break turned into a city fracture. Sometimes it’s nice to get home. And on the bright side, we did get to see Liverpool Cathedral. It is an awe-inspiring place, the 5th largest cathedral in the world and the largest in the UK. We were amused on returning home to read its motto ‘a safe place to do risky things in Christ’s service.’ For us, it turned out to be ‘a risky place to do safe things in Christ’s service.’
The other bright spot of the accident was the immense care of all those who attended us at the cathedral, the care and attention of the ambulance crew and all the wonderful staff at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. Our hearts were touched by all of the human kindness we encountered throughout. God was there after all.