The view was spectacular – a complete 360-degree panorama of the countryside lying to the north-west of Newcastle, stretching to the Cheviot Hills in the north and, on a good day, the sea to the east. Down below was the runway, and we watched as a range of aircraft landed, ranging from a BBC helicopter to a scheduled flight from Copenhagen.
Standing in the air traffic control tower was an unexpected perk of doing a placement focussing mainly on industrial chaplaincy. I was the guest of Charlotte Osborn, the chaplain at Newcastle International Airport. It astonished us how the controllers themselves were able to give directions to the pilots of several aircraft and have a coherent conversation with us all at the same time: truly, their brains must be wired for parallel processing in a way that few of us can comprehend!
I’ve had a couple of other different industrial experiences these last few days. I spent one day with John Dawson, the lay chaplain at the Department of Work and Pensions at Benton. There was a very marked sense of doom hanging over the place, and frequent use of the phrase “in the present climate”, referring to the expected job cuts. John has real credibility there as he worked in the department himself as a manager before retiring, and it was great to see the rapport he has with former colleagues.
On Monday I went round with Stephen Hazlett, the full-time industrial chaplain at Sunderland Minster. We dropped into Grundfos, a pump manufacturer. This was a connection that, some years ago, had international implications… the Minster’s rector, Stephen Taylor, regularly visits a diocese in Tanzania, and wanted to take a water pump out there, so enquired of Grundfos. The then boss of the plant, Niels Vinther, personally manufactured a pump and donated it free – and then went out to Tanzania himself!
After visiting Grundfos we stopped off at Liebherr Cranes – an unusual manufacturer in that the boss, who is a Christian, himself contacted Stephen to become chaplain to his company. We had fun on this visit: the small kids inside of both of us enjoyed sitting in the cab of one of the cranes – though we didn’t get to sit in the cab which was high up!
A few days after returning to Durham, I put the seed feeder up again and wondered how long it would be before the birds would re-discover it. I did not need to worry: instead, they seem to have learned a new trick: they can now feed two or three at a time, and are guzzling the seed down at an astonishing rate! In the meantime, I’ve finally managed to snap my star visitor – the nuthatch.