Kippers and Marzipan

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Holiday breaks are odd things aren’t they? Or maybe they are just odd for me.

Off we go on Thursday evening for an Easter break in Ross on Wye. I’m very excited. Of course this may have something to do with the fact that I have it in my head that we are going to Hay On Wye, where I know there are lots of book shops. This is, of course, completely wrong, as Hay on Wye is an hour away from Ross on Wye and only has two bookshops. Well, that’s all I managed to find. I’m sure it has more, if you feel inclined to look, but not as many as Hay On Wye, and seeing as I thought that’s where we were going you can understand why I felt a bit let down.  Not that it’s anyone’s fault and after all I was the one who booked the break.

The doctor arrives home from work and I’m packed and ready to go. I’ve packed enough books for two weeks in Mauritius. I’m determined to have a break. It is then little Matthew (my grandson) realises we are not joking and that we are really going away for a few days and leaving him. He’s having none of it and races to the car before we do and dives in. Now, there is nothing worse than an upset child, except an upset child who refuses to budge from the back seat of your car demanding to go on a weekend break with you. I had planned a lot of things happening on this break but babysitting a child was not one of them. I check my phone aware we had booked our table for dinner at the B&B for 8 pm. We still had the rush hour traffic to fight through. Twenty minutes later we have wrestled said child from the car, handed him back to his parents and are waving goodbye. I start to fret about Bendy (the cat) Did I leave enough cat milk for him? Will my stepson and his wife remember to pull the blinds at night so he doesn’t see the bully cat? Is this whole break thing a bit extravagant?  I tell myself I deserve it and the doctor tells me so too, so it must be true.

We arrive at Ross on Wye and the little B&B I had been expecting is nothing short of Ross On Wye’s own Shangri La. Our room looks like one out of the Shangri la that Andrew stayed in while in Hong Kong (okay slight exaggeration) but it feels as hot as bloody Hong Kong. I struggle to turn down the radiators and have already drunk my way through their two bottles of  complimentary water when I realise it is the towel rail that has turned the place into a sauna.

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After freshening up we go down to the bar for dinner where we’re invited to sit in the library and peruse the menu. I’m not sure if my eyes pop out before the doctor’s or vice versa. £36 per person for a three course meal? I check I’m wearing the right glasses.

‘Was dinner included with our booking,’ I whisper, thinking of the little pub just up the road and how pie and chips would be just as good as the Garlic and thyme rump of Herefordshire lamb, saffron potatoes chantenay carrots, peas, and broad beans offered on the menu in front of me.

‘What was that?’ asks Andrew, who never hears me at the best of times but at present has an ear infection so is basically only hearing me with one ear.

I whisper again, a little louder this time.

‘I think so,’ he whispers back.

Before we know it, drinks have been ordered and we’re being led like lambs to the slaughter into the dining room, a waitress carrying our tray of two glasses, which we could easily have carried for ourselves.

‘Would you like me to pour water into your glasses?’ asks the waitress.

I shake my head. I think I am still capable of lifting a jug.  Dinner turns out to be quite superb and we both make a mental note to check that the evening meal is included in our booking.

I can’t believe we have this luxury for three nights. The following morning we toddle down to breakfast (also included, in case you were getting anxious for us) we’re shown to our table where we consume a pot of lemon and ginger tea, cereal with yogurt, followed by kippers for Andrew, full English for me and toast to finish.  We then toddle off to Ross on Wye for me to look in the two bookshops and countless charity shops. I’m at my happiest. The doctor then encourages me to do some sightseeing away from the shops.

The churchyard
The churchyard

We wander into the local church yard and I take a few photos before we walk towards the church where a vicar stands to welcome us.

‘Hello,’ he whispers ‘are you visiting?’

Oh dear. Andrew inclines his head, obviously wondering how his hearing could have deteriorated so quickly. I lean forward in an effort to hear the vicar thinking he must have a sore throat.

‘We’re having a service of silence for six hours. But if you’d like to come back.’

Andrew inclines his head.

‘Come again?’ he asks.

‘If you would,’ whispers the vicar. ‘Tomorrow would be fine.’

‘That’s good,’ says Andrew. ‘The weather is not so good today.’

Meanwhile I’m standing there wondering why the vow of silence seems to have included us on the outskirts of the church. But God moves in mysterious ways, so they say.

We leave the vicar to his silence and when he is out of earshot, Andrew says,

‘I can barely hear you at the best of times and that’s with both ears. How am I supposed to hear him?

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We make our way back to the town, discussing what great food it is at the hotel. How the breakfast is so vast that guests can’t possibly want lunch.

‘It’s nearly two and I couldn’t possibly eat lunch,’ I say.

‘People do though,’ says Andrew. ‘I’d never want to be a glutton like that though, would you?’ he asks as we both glance in the local bakery window.

Ten minutes later we exit the bakery after buying two marzipan cakes, a hot cross bun, and a large custard tart.

Well, it’s a long time before dinner.

Hope you all had a fun Easter.

Boot Camp Christianity? I think not.

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With the atrocious murder of Drummer Lee Rigby at the forefront of the news, it makes me once again consider the dangers of religion and religious cults and how dangerous religion can be when in the wrong hands or misunderstood. I recently blogged about a particular Christian organisation who assaulted my daughter in law on the streets of Cambodia in the so-called name of religion and you can read it here.

I will never mention their name because that is exactly what Mr Lindsay Clark the CEO of this organisation wants me to do in the hope it will drive more traffic to his site. But I’m happy to publish their photos if that would help.
The organisation recently blogged about their visit to Cambodia where they tried to snatch my daughter in law’s bag and then attempted to video her without consent. Of course they didn’t mention this but what bothered me most was how they termed this trip ‘A military training camp for new recruits.’ What kind of religion has military training? And for what possible reason? They then go on to describe the boot camp. How worrying is all this? I’ve never heard such words used in conjunction with religion. The programme is described as

‘More dynamic, interactive and challenging than ever before.  Among other things we have added a ‘sense making day’ to the program where students were regularly required to step out of their comfort zone in order to participate in various team activities and interactive field visits that challenge them to use all their senses to better develop their leadership abilities. 

According to Mr Lindsay Clarke it was during Susan Detroy’s first field trip that the incedent (his spelling) supposedly happened and she was just an observer. An observer of a young woman with a child having her bag snatched and videotaped?
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Mr Lindsay Clark

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Susan Detroy

Our final correspondence with Lindsay Clarke is as follows.
From: lindsay clarke Sent: 01 May 2013 00:41
To: a.j.cook@cmsoftware.co.uk
Subject: cambodia incedent

Andrew,

Your email was forwarded to me and so I will give you a direct reply. (ORIGINAL EMAIL SENT TO SUSAN DETROY WHICH CAN BE READ AT THE OTHER POST)

I would have great concerns if I were in your position and am personally concerned about anything that could have alarmed —– or for that matter any person whether I or my organisation were involved or not.

However I have emailed your wife and you were copied in, that if you wanted to talk about the matter to let me know and one of our senior team would respond. If the time zones worked that person would probably be me. I am currently in Europe.

However there was no response to this offer.

Instead you sent another email to an intern who is not in a position to reply not just because she has instructions but because she doesn’t have the life experience or background herself, she was an observer on her first day in a cross cultural setting. This literally was Susan’s first day on the field.

By the way I didn’t accidentally include you in an email? (YOU DID MR CLARKE, WHICH IS HOW WE KNEW YOUR TRUE FEELINGS ON THE MATTER)

So let me be very clear.

1. I offered the opportunity for you, your wife or family to speak to a senior member of our team directly – no reply (NO APOLOGY THOUGH)
2. You and you wife have made wrong assumptions about the status of any people involved in this unfortunate incident – do these people really work for me – mistake (THEY THEMSELVES SAID THEY WORKED FOR HIM SO WHAT IS HE ON ABOUT HERE?
3. And then your wife made the biggest mistake in making false allegations and decided to and threatened to defame me personally – that was a big mistake (I ONLY REPEATED WHAT HAPPENED AND THE WORDS OF HIS OWN INTERN!!!)
4. Independently of all of your threats and demands we have processes that are followed regardless and so this matter is under investigation and will be acted on and anyone within our reach that was at fault will be dealt with. (WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION WHY ARE THE PEOPLE STILL WORKING WITH HIM, WHICH THEY ARE!)
All this said I would suggest that it would be prudent of you to make a time to talk with me and it should be a priority from your perspective.
MAYBE AN APOLOGY SHOULD HAVE BEEN A PRIORITY FROM HIS PERSPECTIVE.
Regards
Lindsay Clarke CEO & Founder
Our response

Subject: RE: cambodia incedent

Dear Mr Clarke

Thank you for your offer to have someone phone. However, after reading your email to ‘the team’, in which I was included, I could see your true feelings about the incident and felt it would be pointless to discuss the matter with any of your team. What we would have liked was a genuine apology for the way my daughter-in-law was treated, which we could in turn pass on to her. That would have been the end of the matter as far as we were concerned. However, your email to your team showed such a lack of grace and honour, which ironically are your words from your email, that I have no desire to discuss the matter with you. It seems, from the email to your team, that you put traffic to your site above the respect for others. I find this motivation abhorrent and contrary to my understanding of Christianity, and my view is shared by a lot of other people.

You say that your intern does not have the life experience to respond to my email. My children learnt to say sorry at the age of three, but if she is that incapable then I question why she is part of your team.

I don’t think we will see eye to eye and so, regrettably, I think further contact would be pointless.

Regards and best wishes for the future,
Dr Andrew Cook

Oh, Mr Lindsay Clark if you are going to respond in this way do you not think you should at least make sense and spell words correctly. How else do you expect to have any credibility?
Avoid this organisation at your peril.

All we wanted was an apology. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Christian Approach? I think not!

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I have a lovely daughter in law. She is Filipino and wouldn’t hurt a fly. She is sensitive and kind and supporting my step son in Cambodia while he works in the hospital, helping those less fortunate than himself.

There is a man named Lindsay Clarke. He is Australian. Lindsay Clark from my experience, is not sensitive and far from kind. I want to tell you about them both because they have a connection which is not only cruel but ‘apparently’ driven by faith and a devotion to Christianity.

This is the story. I hate unfairness, injustice and ignorance and this smacks of all three.

My daughter-in-law was visiting her favourite café in Siem Reap Cambodia last Wednesday. It is one we frequent often when I am there. She was with her two year old son, my grandson, who loves ‘The Blue Pumpkin’ very much, and especially their mango shake.DSC_0052a-1024x682 Suddenly, out of the blue a young man came and grabbed her shopping bag. She was terrified and so was her son. The man was pulling the bag so hard that he was twisting her arm. Fearful of what he may do next she let go of the bag. She called for help but no one came to her rescue. The Khmer people are peaceful and have suffered much in the past and they may have been afraid to intervene. At this point another young man came and began videoing the incident. My daughter-in-law was confused, scared, and hanging onto her child who was crying in fear. A few minutes later some Cambodian women and a young American girl named Susan DeTroy came laughing and giggling in front of her. My daughter-in-law was now shaking and my grandson was hysterical. They told her they were grabbing the bag and videoing   a drama for training purposes for their organisation. My daughter-in-law became very angry, not understanding why they would pick on a mother and a child to use for fun and training, inflicting pain in the process. They never asked her consent to video her and her child. Can you imagine if that happened in England? At first they wouldn’t tell her the name of their organisation claiming they couldn’t remember it and asked her why she was making such a big deal. Fortunately, my stepson was working at the hospital close by and he came with another professional person and suddenly Susan DeTroy could remember everything. They quickly apologised. They said they thought she was Khmer (Cambodian). As though to harass a Cambodian woman would have been acceptable, but surely to harass anyone is unacceptable.

Now, here is where Mr Lindsay Clarke comes in. The organisation they worked for was a Christian one. Christian? I don’t know about you but this isn’t what I thought Christians do. Tell me if you know differently. My daughter-in-law is now too embarrassed to return to ‘The Blue Pumpkin’ and my grandson has been traumatised. Yes, they will get over it but was it necessary? And this is in the name of religion?

So, let’s go back to Mr Lindsay Clarke, who is he exactly? He is the CEO and founder of this organisation who hopes very much that any blog posting of mine will send a lot of traffic to his website, and feels that Susan DeTroy and her colleagues did nothing wrong. Of course this is not what he told me. I emailed Mr Clarke with my concerns. Here is my email verbatim.

Subject: Assault in Siem Reap

Lindsay Clarke

I urge you to respond to this email to explain the disgraceful actions of your organisation before I take further steps… My daughter in law was assaulted by members of your staff in Siem Reap city centre, (Cambodia) outside ‘The Blue Pumpkin’ café. She was with her two year old son and they had their bag grabbed and were videotaped without consent. It was not until later when my step son who works in the hospital in Siem Reap, confronted them did they admit who they worked for… YOU, and said it was for training purposes.

The member of your staff who was confronted was American and apparently named Sue or Susan and was said to be on a Gap year. There were others involved who were Khmer.  In my opinion it would be prudent of you to terminate her time with you and her team as she is discrediting your organisation and Christianity as a whole.

 I am a British novelist and freelance writer with a large readership and following on the internet. I have no qualms to bring this to people’s attention. It is disgraceful to do this kind of thing to people on the streets on Cambodia. They told my daughter in law that they thought she was Khmer (she is Filipino). This makes me think that you consider it acceptable to harass Khmer people. How disgraceful of you. My daughter in law has been left very shaken by this incident especially as your team seemed to find it funny. This time it seems you chose the wrong person and I look forward to your response regarding your very obvious racism and abusive behaviour in this particular case and how you justify it in the name of Christianity.

 Regards

 Lynda Renham-Cook and Dr Andrew Cook

I cc’d everyone in the organisation and included my husband Andrew Cook. Mr Clarke’s response to me was.

‘Thanks for your email Lynda.

If you would like a phone call from one of our senior team please let me know and we shall arrange it.

Regards

 Lindsay Clarke CEO & Founder

However, he sent a completely different email to his team. How do we know this? Mr Clarke ‘replied to all’ not realising my husband was on the cc list. The following email is what Mr Clarke really feels.

  ‘Hi Team,

No one responds to this email, especially you Susan. No need to:) 

I won’t say what I really think on email but basically go for it Lady the publicity will drive traffic to our web site. Oh! Except she doesn’t get any more blog likes that any of us. Check for yourself!!!

So for those not in the info loop, hardly anything this women said is accurate and I will on this occasion not run with her advice, so Susan is going nowhere, didn’t do anything wrong and is fully supported by our team and particularly me. We at ****don’t react we pro act.

Hope you are all having a brilliant week.

Pray for each other and enjoy the journey.

Grace

Honor

 Lindsay Clarke CEO & Founder  

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So Mr Clarke (pictured above) thinks there is nothing wrong in assaulting young women with young children on the streets of Cambodia.

Susan response was.

Subject: Re: Assault in Siem Reap

Thanks for the support guys 🙂

-Susan 

To be fair Susan is young and we all make mistakes. However we wanted her to be aware that people have feelings and that her actions were not the right way to promote Christianity. We hoped for a response as it would have shown she had some integrity. We have not had a response to date. This was my husband’s email to her.

‘Hi Susan

One of my favourite quotes is from Micah 6 verse 8, which reads, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” To me this and the teaching of Jesus on compassion and love for others encapsulates true Christianity. As you are working for a Christian organisation in Cambodia I assume we share the same understanding on this, and we both want to live our lives on this foundation. The reason I am writing to you is to share something that I am troubled with. I am writing to you as the Father-in-law of ***** the mother with the two year old child that you met last Wednesday. ***** is a lovely but sensitive woman who is working hard to support her husband who is on a placement with the main hospital in Siem Reap. She is like any other woman in that she is worthy of respect and love, and the fact that she has an Asian background does not diminish this fact.  Your actions last Wednesday have disturbed her a lot to the extent that she is now uncomfortable to venture into Siem Reap centre. She feels embarrassed and that she has been made a fool of. You may think she is over-reacting but you don’t know her, or her background. It really is very insensitive of Lindsay Clarke to minimise the incident and email you saying No one responds to this email, especially you Susan. No need to :). There actually is a need for a genuine response. ***** was very upset by your conduct with her and by your refusal to give the name of the organisation you work for, and that you only were able to remember this when my Son arrived. Are you really happy, before God, with your conduct?

I know that you have been told that you cannot respond to first email, and therefore I don’t expect a response from this. I only hope that you think about what you are doing and ask yourself if your work with ****** is bringing good to the people you are in contact with. I found Mr Clarke’s email to you (he accidentally included me in the c.c. list) very disturbing for a Christian organisation, but that’s another story.

I hope you enjoy your time in Cambodia. It is a beautiful country with lovely people – please be good to them!

Dr Andrew Cook & Lynda Renham-Cook

 

But what Mr Clarke does not know is that I am not going to mention his stupid website with his oversized donate button. You can find that for yourself if you are so interested. But I have published his email to show he supports racism, and unsolicited videoing of women and children to highlight his work, which he describes as ‘Christianity’.