Had a great afternoon yesterday watching the international from Twickenham with Peter. A glass of Dr Hexter's Healer - a very mellow brew, I must say - and some tasty oven-baked chips helped sweeten the pill of seeing England go down 18-9. I know 13 of our squad were out with injuries (which does by the way make you wonder about what rugby union professionals are subjecting their bodies to nowadays...), but I was pleased to hear that there wasn't too much excuse-making afterwards, certainly not from my companion, who knows his rugby. As Wales v New Zealand was on BBC, I was able to record that and watch it at home (round Strictly - Jane thinks rugby's a bit rough). That was a closer match and Wales COULD have won, or at least drawn, especially when Martin Roberts had an unpenalised high tackle near the end. I suppose because it was closer (19-12) Wales did more complaining - what with Leigh Halfpenny moaning about the pitch (Wasn't it the same for both sides?) and Warren Gatland, the coach, moaning about the officials being biased. The ref may have missed the high tackle, but I doubt it would have made a difference to the result. And I didn't see evidence of bias. Refs and umpires, like all of us, make mistakes, though remarkably few in my view. At school I used to be told, 'The umpire's decision is final,' and we then got on with game.
After an afternoon of escapism, I turned on the laptop and opened my emails. One had the subject 'John'. It was from our friend Jan. You may remember we met John and Jan in the spring at the MNDA Spring conference in Taunton, and then in July at Waddesdon Manor. A year ago John went to his doctor with a suspected stroke. It turned out to be MND. The email brought the message that John had died on Wednesday. It can be a vicious illness. John had an amazing degree of faith and courage, and a great sense of humour. We've lost a friend. But John would have said what my friend and co-author Jozanne says, 'Jesus is my hope and heaven is my future.'
This morning I tuned in to Morning Worship on Radio 4 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00nnp0k): 'On Remembrance Sunday, a programme specially recorded at Camp Bastion, the main base for British forces in Afghanistan, presented by army chaplain Rev Andrew Martlew'. It was, I thought, a far more moving picture of the real war than any others I've heard or seen. I suppose it was the measured reflection on experience by the professionals, which seemed to carry much more power and conviction than the breathless reporting of journalists or the shrill denunciations of phone-in programme contributors. Listen for example to the young soldier who gives mouth-to-mouth to a dying comrade within days of his first posting or the sergeant who lays out soldiers and children in the mortuary and reflects on his own daughter. I think it was the most potent introduction to Remembrance Sunday I've experienced.