England, Germany, Russia and Poland together

England, Germany, Russia and Poland are currently playing in the Euro 2012 football competition. Over 70 years ago these nations were savagely at war. Here is a story of forgiveness.

Poland was where the second world war began, when it was invaded by Germany on 1 September 1939. As a country, it suffered greatly from its position squeezed between two great powers. Like Germany and England, it had to suffer greatly, in particular when the Warsaw ghetto uprising was suppressed on the eve of Passover of April 19, 1943. The country also housed notorious concentration camps, most notably Auschwitz-Birkenau, which the English team visited before the start of the competition, and Treblinka.

I have just watched the BBC TV "Songs of Praise" programme, devoted to the old and the new Coventry Cathedral. Both were named after St Michael, the name given to me and one whose origin is the Hebrew question "mi kəmo ʔelohim", translated in English as "Who is like God". The old one, a 14th century Gothic church, later cathedral, was almost completely destroyed in a bombing raid on Coventry on 14 November 1940. Although Christianity preaches forgiveness, it is hard not to think that this bombing played some part in the decision to bomb Dresden to destruction in February 1945.

The new Coventry cathedral was designed by Basil Spence, later knighted, and its foundation stone laid by Queen Elizabeth on 23rd March, 1956. On 25th May 1962, when she had reigned for just 10 years, Queen Elizabeth was present at the consecration. Thus, when we are celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Coventry Cathedral is celebrating its Golden Jubilee.

The decision to rebuild the Cathedral, taken on the day after its destruction, not simply as an act of defiance but rather as a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. Since then the Cathdral has been at the centre of a Ministry of Reconciliation. One example of this is the statue, called Choir of Survivors, very recently given to the Cathedral by the Frauenkirche in Dresden.

One particularly well-known symbol, which originated in Coventry Cathedral, is the Cross of Nails, a cross of three nails from the roof truss of the old cathedral. This gave rise to the Community of the Cross of Nails, an organisation devoted to reconciliation in the world, and which has donated crosses to several German cities whose own churches were destroyed in the war.

It is a very sad sign of the times that, while writing these words, the TV news carried a story of the bombing of two churches in Nigeria. The above-mentioned Community would preach forgiveness, but it is hard to do so.


20:48 Posted in Special days and notable incidents | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: euro 2012, football, poland | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook


Lille FC coach beats airport offside trap

March 2012 044.JPG

Last Friday night the driver of the coach of Lille Football club performed miracles to turn things around. The team then beat Evian 3-0 in Annecy and are now in third place.

It was late afternoon on Friday 23 March, when I was near the General Aviation centre, on the North (Jura) side of the airport, that I saw this luxurious red coach manoeuvering to get to near where the passengers on the private jets come through the customs and out into the car park. Knowing that region, I realised that he would be in big trouble, since that is a narrow road, at the end of which the area for turning round mostly has parked cars all over it, so I followed him down.


This coach turned out to be the official coach of Lille Football Club. The driver told me that he was there to meet the Lille FC players and staff, and then take them to Annecy to spend the night before playing Evian TG on the Saturday night. He would then bring them back to the airport, where they would fly back to Lille. I told him he would have two problems: turning his coach around and then queueing to go through the Vernier tunnel and the Bardonnex customs post.

He started an attempt to turn the coach around, with me trying to indicate when he was getting too close to a wall, a building or a car. After 15 minutes he was still trying when, by a great stroke of luck, the owner of the critical parked car arrived and moved it: ouf!

While waiting for the team to arrive, he told me that the opposing team, whose full name is Evian Thonon Gaillard F.C., had been promoted into the top league in France last season, after only one season in the second league. This rapid ascension seems to be in part because of support from the Danone Group. However, even when they were in the second league, their home ground did not meet the required standards, so they had to find a suitable ground to play their "home" matches. There was some talk of them playing in Geneva, but finally they opted to play in Annecy.

Their flight, in a Dornier DO-328 registered as OY-NCO and operated by Sun Air of Scandinavia, landed at 7h35 pm. A quick passage through customs meant that they left at around 8pm, so they would probably have missed the worst of the Friday night jams, got to Annecy and had a good night's sleep. They then beat Evian 3-0, thus keeping their third position in the French league, and returned to Geneva to take a flight on a similar, but different, Sun Air aircraft (OY-NCN): it left at 11pm on the Saturday night.


Curiously, when I looked up the result on the Swiss teletext on the Sunday morning I saw that the match was goalless at half-time, before finishing as 3-0 to Lille. The first goal for Lille was a penalty transformed by Hazard in the 36th minute! Maybe the person updating the teletext sports pages did not get enough sleep?

The next important encounter in Lille will take place next Wednesday, 28 March, when a team of lawyers of DSK United, renowned for their robust defensive play, will try to neutralise the attack of a team of state prosecutors.


11:11 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: lille, football, evian, geneva, airport | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook