This month I had lots of things happening in my life, so we tended to stay close to home. The weather was mostly dry, but still very cold, but we visited a number of parks for some excercise and had a special visit to the Botanical Gardens. Usually we come here later in the year when all the Spring flowers are on display, but we enjoyed this winter visit none-the-less.
The Gardens have a long history going back more than 200 years, and currently have a collection of over 9,000 different plants, with most growing in the temperate and tropical greenhouses. Entrance is free, and its lovely to go there out of the cold in the winter. Just inside the entrance to the park there is a mobile kitchen selling a variety of hot and cold food and drinks at a reasonable price. Parking meters are on the streets surrounding the park, and we have always managed to park on Great Western Road just a few hundred yards from the park entrance.
The Orchid House
We always like to start in the ‘orchid house’, which has a large variety of plants some in glass cases, others in the central and side stalls, and some hanging from the ceiling. There is also a tropical pond here. The smell of the plants in the warm humid atmosphere is something to be enjoyed.
The Cactus House
The next glasshouse couldn’t be more different with its Cactus and arid loving plants. This always brings back memories of times spent working and travelling abroad
The Tropics and Jungle House
Now we did feel as if we were in the tropics as we viewed the beautiful selection of ferns, palms and other large tropical plants. I even spotted some sugar cane, which played a major role in my working life.
The Begonia House
Then to the ‘Begonia House’ where we enjoyed the display of this amazing plant in all its varieties. I enjoy growing them in the garden as they seem to keep flowering all summer.
Then we went to the beautiful ‘Kibble’s Palace’ and sat in the quietness with a cup of tea and a sandwich from the mobile kitchen, and soaked in the atmosphere of the place. Here you are surrounded by amazing plants, and sculptures, mostly with a Biblical theme. We are indebted to the men and women who work behind the scenes to make this facility available to us.
A few other places and parks where we walked in February.
Reflections: When I review my photographs for the months of February and early March, I realise how blessed we are having so many beautiful places to visit so close to home, and in fact so blessed to have a home where we can find warmth and shelter, food and water, and have neighbours, family and friends around us.
This weekend Gary Lineker’s tweet has again brought to the fore the pliight of countless thousands of migrants and refugees, many ordinary people like us, who are desperately seeking just such a place to call ‘home’. Meantime governments in the wealthy nations search for ways to control the influx, so as to be able to choose who can gain entry, and how they can contribute to the economy and pay towards healthcare and social services. The figures are staggering! According to the UN 89.3 million people worldwide are displaced – 27.1 million refugees (about half under the age of 18) – 53.2 million internally displaced – 4.6 million asylum seekers. 1 in every 88 people in the world have been forced to flee. All this as a result of wars, civil unrest and violence. Since then, we have also had the earthquakes in Turkey, where an estimated 1.5 million were made homeless.
Meantime the nations of the world continue to increase their military expenditure by billions of dollars. Does that help the problem or exasperate it? Figures from the internet for 2023 are staggering. The top ten nations for military expenditure are shown here.
|Country||Military Expenditure $ in billions|
|The United States||778|
|Saudi Arabia||57.5 (estimated)|
|Add all the other nations military expenditure and we are talking about an annual expenditure approaching $2 trillion.|
I can certainly recommend Tearfund, and if you would like to give to help the displaced of the world you can log-on here: https://www.tearfund.org/get-involved/donate
For many I guess these are just some rather sad but necessary statistics, but this weekend I was reminded of one visit I made to a camp for displaced peope in Sudan, when I worked with Tearfund in Africa. Seeing children dying of malnutrition, and watching a mother’s tears as she tells how she lost two of her children on her journey to the camp, are scenes one never forgets. I’m sure many of you have heard such stories first hand.
With fellow workers we sometimes talked and dreamed of the possibilities, if military budgets around the world could be suspended for just one year, and funds re directed instead to the needs of the poor and destitute, to provide food, water, shelter, education, healthcare …. but sadly that’s still just a dream!
But in the midst of that vista of gloom and darkness we were surprised one night when a group of young people came to visit us at our tented camp. We were sitting around an open fire in the field and they had come to sing to us. They sang with such joy and enthusiasm, and the theme of their song? well, actually they were singing about their hope and trust in Jesus! That was back in the nineties, and Africa’s development has come a long way since then. However, it is still true today, that in all of life’s circumstances having a personal faith and trust in Jesus as your Saviour and friend is a life transforming experience, which can give you peace and hope no matter what life throws at you.
I’ll finish with Psalm 84, which we were reading with our church friends last night. The psalmist speaks of his longing to be in the presence of God and in His house, and finishes by saying ‘blessed is the one who trusts in you‘. Here it is presented by the Dornoch Free Church Praise band, from the North East of Scotland. Enjoy.
PS: The first plug plants are in the greenhouse, so praying the temperature will soon start to rise. Have a great Spring!