...after a terrific summer which included, in no particular order, a lot of family time, some time at sea, some time sorting out computer problems, some time writing a chapter of my next book, and some time in St Petersburg!
And more...but people's holiday travels and fun are of limited interest so I'll leave it mostly aside and simply hope to bring to this Blog over the next months any useful ideas and experiences gained...
Here's just one: it was extraordinarily moving to stand in an Orthodox Cathedral in Russia, beside an array of icons, flickering candles, and throngs of - mostly young - people quietly bustling to and fro and praying. Here a young woman, brought up in the Soviet era, told us of her visits to her grandmother and the latter's answers to the child's questions about Christianity and the meaning of the icons in the granny's flat - the start of a journey of faith which resulted, some years later, in baptism. The Christian Faith is alive in Russia. Beautiful modern icons depict bishops and others who perished in the Gulag. The last Tsar and his family are hailed as martyrs and depicted as such, and their remains lie in a place of honour in the great church where their ancestors also lie buried.
Russia has all sorts of problems, but the years of officially-imposed atheism, closed churches, banning of all Christian books, etc etc, are not merely over but regarded as a tragic time in centuries of Russian Christian history.
In one church we visited, a small display showed items from down the years, including a poster from the 1930s advertising a series of atheist lectures held in the building. Today, those years are seen as a period viewed with embarrassment. People tell of prayers said privately at home, of an unbroken chain of faith leading from one era to the next and of a quiet certainty that Christianity will never perish from Russia.
And all this in what was once the Marxist state and the centre of worldwide atheistic Communism.