I was born in Wolverhampton, England and studied in France where I met my wife Valerie who holds a German passport although she was born in Ukraine. I am a graduate of Birmingham University gaining a Masters degree. I spent a year at the University of Constance in Germany where I took a particular interest in literary theory.
Valerie and I spent some years working in Austria and Germany and have travelled in Poland and Ukraine. Apart from my native English, I speak fluent German and some poor French. I am currently working on the Russian language. Now retired,I spend my time writing, gardening and looking after Valerie who now has Parkinson's disease.
We still live around twenty miles from the spot where I first opened my eyes to the light of day. Like Peter whose Galilean brogue gave the game away to those around him (Matthew 26:73), “thy speech bewrayeth thee”, it would be difficult for me to hide my origins, even should I wish to do so. German bombers were flying overhead at the time. Coventry had received punishing bombardment and this continued. The fires from the city lit up the night sky and this could be seen from our home on the outskirts of Walsall around thirty miles away. We were kept safe. Thankfully, I remember little or nothing of those days, save for some experiences of the ‘blackout’ and gathering coal from an open cast mining site in deep snow.
Meanwhile over a thousand miles away, my future wife’s family, she then but a toddler, was forcibly removed from their small farm by the Nazis under threat of incarceration. Ethnic Germans, they were moved from what is now Western Ukraine into the homes of dispossessed Polish farmers just south of Warsaw. This was a Nazi version of what we would now call ‘ethnic cleansing’. Not long after this, the family fled from the approaching Russian forces amid tales of appalling brutality by the soldiers. Dad had been now conscripted into the German army, despite being well over fifty years old. Whilst we collected coal to warm our modest home, at least we had a roof over our heads, Valerie along with her mother, brothers and sisters joined literally millions of others in a six month trek west through the bitter winter of 1945. Exposed to the cold and attacks from the air by marauding fighters, many died en route. On reaching West Germany they were not well received. Billeted on unwilling farmers, they were seen, not as proper Germans but as ‘dirty Poles’.
Valerie has pleasant memories of being brought a cup of tea in the morning by British soldiers who pitied the plight of these hapless refugees, often living two families to a room. They gave out chocolate to the children, something they hardly knew. What a strange folk these British enemies were! It did not stop her getting caught up in shouting, “Go home Tommies!” Little did she know then she would later marry one! Valerie and I met in France in the early sixties when we were both students. Sadly, the deprivation of those war-stricken days left its marks: positively, she wastes absolutely nothing; negatively, her health suffered. She survived a severe childhood attack of rheumatic fever, the effects of which have now resurfaced to plague her evening years. Had we both lived something other than modest lives, she would possibly no longer be with us.
How mysterious are the workings of our loving heavenly Father! We marvel so often. How God protects His children and gently cares for us. Often I mull over the Psalms even at night before falling asleep. They have a poignant and blessed meaning to us both. How God orders our steps and does not suffer our feet to slide. We daily experience at first hand the knowledge of His presence and the blessings of His loving kindness. We praise Him continually for His constant mercies, nothing do we deserve of what He freely gives.
Yet at a time when, humanly speaking, we should both be slowing down and doing less, we find ourselves unavoidably caught up in serving others. Furthermore, we find ourselves under a constant constraint to make known the Gospel of God’s grace. Why? I ask myself why? Are there not so many others who could do these things more ably? But then why are they not doing it? These days, unlike in my youthful past, I now positively hate the limelight pushing myself forward to make my voice heard. Are there not many other things I would rather be doing? Occupying myself with reading, gardening, indulging my love of languages and of music, travelling about, taking photographs and video shots would make life considerably easier. Particularly in times of weariness and loneliness, I confess to being a reluctant servant.
I love the land of my birth. It is good and right that I do so. I have benefitted much from living here, we both have. How God has in the past blessed Britain. Yet today our people are set on a course to inevitable disaster, calamity of the worst kind. They have set their sights on a ruinous end. Like many of you reading these words, I am appalled and outraged at some of the godless laws enacted by our parliament, laws that can only bring yet more misery and tragedy upon our people. I am deeply saddened that a substantial majority our people assume they can with impunity commit the most grievous evils against God. Sin and godlessness is rampant and men sin assuming nothing will happen to them, no retribution will visit them. We see no instant fire of God’s wrath, no storm, no wind of judgment. However, to abandon God is the height of folly, but to be abandoned by God, to be given up by Him to reap the consequences of our evil-doing, at least according to Romans 1, is itself irremediable judgement.
Cry aloud, thou that sittest in the dust,
Cry to the proud, the cruel, and unjust;
Knock at the gates of nations, rouse their fears;
Say wrath is coming, and the storm appears;
But raise the shrillest cry in British ears. (William Cowper)