Rector's Letter - October 2002
My dear friends,
I'm currently labouring over my speech for Arnhem, the first half is to be delivered in Dutch. I stare at the words on the page, each one looking like a losing hand at Scrabble. I wonder how on earth all these strange arrangements of consonants and vowels are meant to come out. I sit and practice at the computer and pause regularly to clean the screen of the deposits my guttural attempts at speech leave there.
I am well coached it must be said. Eileen & Tony Sargeant lived in the Netherlands for many years, and Eileen has worked hard at making me at least sound like I understand what I am trying to say. So as I pack my bag to leave you for the weekend, let me share with you too the words I shall be saying on those battlefields of Holland:
"Idere jaar, ben ik de eerste man uit de vliegtuig te springerů" hang on, perhaps I'd better give it you in the English version:
"Each year at
Arnhem I am the first man to jump out of the aircraft. Three hundred follow
me. As I stand at the door and look out on the beautiful Dutch countryside a
few hundred feet below, I always say a few words of prayer. Usually something
like "Oh God please help me!" I won't be the only one praying. When we jump
everyone is a believer!
Fifty eight years ago, many men must have said similar prayers. Today we honour them, and perhaps we also say a few words of prayer ourselves. Life always stands on the edge of the unknown. And in a world where battles must still sometimes be fought and where the outcomes are far from certain, I think that simple prayer is much the best: "Oh God please help us".
I shall certainly teach it to the men I jump with, but I think perhaps they know it by heart already!"
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