(written January 2007)
As the aircraft descended, through those murky minutes before the sun sets completely, my attention was drawn to the grey blanket of fog that seemed to have flooded into the low-lying areas. Peering through the gathering gloom it was as if malevolent tentacles of some dark monster were advancing through the land to overwhelm and possess it. Indeed the valleys were all gone, filled with a featureless sea of grey, leaving the hills like little isolated islands, forlorn and abandoned.
Our airport was on elevated ground and we came straight in for our landing.
Not so Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest and the UKs largest airport. All domestic flights in and out had been cancelled only International flights having the priority, continued to run.
Our flight up from Turkey was uneventful – it was the first time we had flown with EasyJet – a discount airline. The ticket was incredibly cheap – £61 for the two of us to fly up from Istanbul to the UK – uh, that is not £61 each, but £61 all total! That is fantastic. DV, we will fly back with them on 26 February, the return one-way ticket costing just a shade more – but it is still only one third of the cost we used to pay.
Our youngest son and his girl friend were there to meet us – he didn’t park up, airport parking was £4 for ten minutes (hm, if he parked for an hour that would be £24 and our flight from Istanbul was £30.50 each !). So they drove around and around and we went out and met them.
As he drove us to Hemel Hempstead to pick up our car we descended from the heights and entered the fog.
This veil of fog – enough to cripple airports – spread over the bulk of England. You could see, oh, maybe 100 meters – but everything was blurry, out of focus and dark. The sky doesn’t exist – just a low grey canopy brooding above us and then descending on all sides so we were travelling in a small bubble of ‘almost visibility’.
A few days later was my annual outing to the dentist. My dentist works in a village called ‘Much Hadam’ – which isn’t near anywhere. Travelling to my appointment we sailed on in the grey sea that stubbornly resided over the land. In the countryside trees and hedge rows rise out of the fog and settle back in as we twist and turn our way to the village.
Nothing is distinct. Nothing is clear. Nothing is in focus… the edges blurred by wisps of grey as the fog moves in and out and flows around objects. It ‘feels’ morbid, sad, hopeless, pointless.
After the check-up, teeth feeling bright and clean, we head off back into the fog.
Time has ceased to have meaning. You can’t see the sun. You travel in your own isolated little fuzzy cocoon of, well, haziness and you have no indicator if it is morning, noon or night.
Time, it seems, is no more.
Every bend reveals either a grey wall or, leering out of the fog, another bend. The road continues its convoluted path – this road was clearly not laid down by the Romans, more likely by a donkey tormented by flies and driven helter-skelter across the landscape.
We plough on, sometimes in complete loneliness, sometimes other vehicles appear out of the vapours either to accompany us for a while or to make their appearance and then to disappear once again, enveloped in the ever-changing greyness leaving no trace of their existence.
As we neared Hemel Hempstead our path took us to higher ground and as we rose up, suddenly the fog vanished and a radiant blue sky and the golden globe of the sun shone round and we were in a different world – a world of colour, a world of beauty, a world of clarity, a world of vision, a world of focus and a world with time and grace and wonder.
It was great! Our spirits soared! A new and different universe was before us, our pace increased in this new-found freedom; trees crisp and clear with their leafless branches reaching up into the dazzling sky, the grass a vibrant almost radiating green and words fail to describe the glowing blueness of the sky – we flew on in confidence, in joy and delight.
Then we crested the hill and descended into the valley below where Hemel Hempstead lies, the grey arms of the waiting fog reaching out to embrace and encase us – the sun was consumed in the all pervasive dull, dreary mantle – things blurred and darkness descended and all became unclear, uncertain, unfocused and melancholy.
Occasionally I caught an ‘almost glimpse’ of the sun, now reduced to a fuzzy round orb in the swirling grey mass above us. Unclear and unsure what it was – having no effect but to remind us of what could be…. if only there was no fog… The fog drains your energy, drains your spirits, drains your soul.
Time, once again, had lost meaning – is it 3:00 in the afternoon or 9:00 at night – who knows, it all looks the same.
We long for the fog to lift and the sun to once again reign over the land.
And this experience, for me, really sums up what it is like in Turkey. People are going about their business – lives not dissimilar to our own – they marry and bury, they buy and sell, they laugh and cry, but things are dark, unclear, uncertain, unfocused, morose. Their world is dominated by an all-pervasive fog – a fog which obscures, blurs, inhibits and hinders all and in every way – it is all they have ever know; it is, for them, normal. We speak of sun, of blue sky, of colours, of clarity and focus and it is as gibberish and gobbledygook to our hearers. Their world is so different, so grey, so blurred, so depressing.
Occasionally, some may glimpse the Son, through the fog… but they do not recognise Him nor understand the beauty and warmth and colour and delight that comes in His presence.
Yes, we lived in a fog for a number of days here in the UK – but it passed. In our other ‘home’, in Turkey, a whole nation is living in a fog – a fog that has laid on their land for generations and generations, stubbornly, persistently – blurring and blinding and sapping the energy and life and hope from the people. A fog that hasn’t lifted; has never lifted historically and yet we pray that God may lift this fog so this people living in darkness may see a great Light – the Light of the world.