The 1st page of my passport and the date of arrival in England on 19 August 1972
Thank you England for 50 blissful years
I remember so clearly that very first moment when I landed at Heathrow on 19 August 1972:
The immigration officer who was so kind, acknowledging my extreme nervousness and anxiety, whilst trying to comfort me by joking about the boxes of pistachio nuts and nougats (Gaz) I was carrying on my person. ‘I recognise an Iranian from miles away, they all carry boxes of Pistachios and nougats’, he said or words to that effect.
Then, off I went on my first ever journey in England, boarding the train to Oxford, then catching the bus to Summertown, north of Oxford, searching for Five Mile Drive, and getting totally confused and lost.
I asked a man in the street for directions. Looking at me so tired and confused, he dropped everything and drove me all the way to Mrs. Brown’s house, where I was going to have my lodgings.
From those very early days and years I began to see things that were in total contrast to the stereotypical images of British people and Britain I had been led to believe:
that the British are reserved, cold, individualistic, selfish, arrogant, boring, inhospitable and unfriendly.
I wonder, if you can put yourself in my shoes, and feel my feelings at that time, discovering more and more everyday, how wrong and how unjust those stereotypical views were.
I discovered, by and large, that people were most polite, always saying yes please, or no thank you, sorry for this or that, queueing for everything, taking their turns. I found them to be kind, considerate, helpful, sympathetic, friendly, hospitable and caring.
I love Britain. I love my English wife, family and my British friends. I love the time-honoured British values and way of life. I have even grown to like the British weather and against all odds, I even love British cuisine too!
The fish and chips, the full English breakfast, the HP sauce, clotted cream, scones and jam, adding milk to my tea, the shepherd’s pie, Lancashire hot pot, the roast beef and the Yorkshire pudding, ham and the parsley sauce, followed by apple pie and lovely custard, cheese and biscuits, celery sticks and a few grapes, and much more. Not forgetting the pubs and the great beers. I love it all.
I am also delighted to see my British friends enjoying the Persian cuisine, my Persian ways, personality and sense of humour.
“Our own life has to be our message”- Thich Nhat Hanh
“Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness.”- Brother David Steindl-Rast
Today I am full of joy, happiness, words cannot explain.
I am grateful and give thanks for all my blessings.
I give thanks for my 50 years** of life journey, experience, inspiration and achievements. I give thanks for the moments of joy. I give thanks to those who continue to love me, even though at times I may not be a worthy recipient of that gift.
I give thanks for the best gift of my life, my dear wife, Annie. I give thanks for the gift of togetherness and growing older together.
I give thanks for our two loveliest sons, Kevin and Paul, the joys of my life.
I give thanks for our loveliest daughter-in-laws, Sarah and Katie, sweetening my life.
I give thanks for our gorgeous little princesses, our granddaughters, Robyn, Ivy, Isabel and Poppy, brightening and shining hope into my life.
I give thanks for the wonder and beauty of friendship.
I give thanks for my education, career, what I believe, and what I do.
I give thanks for the co-founding of the Ambassadors’ Lecture Series at Coventry.
I give thanks for the co-founding of the Centre for the Study of Forgiveness and Reconciliation at Coventry.
I give thanks for my transformation from a boy from Iran to a man in Coventry.
I give thanks for the founding of the GCGI
I give thanks for the life lessons I've learned in a world of conflicting ideas and aspirations.
I give thanks for the NHS, BBC, and the Guardian.
I give thanks for celebrating my 70th birthday.
I give thanks for the love of wanderlust, all the travels I have done, the places I have seen, the inspiring friendships I have made, the wisdom I have discovered and the hospitality and love I have received.
I give thanks for all I have. All I have done since that day in August 1972 when I arrived at Heathrow Airport. These are the precious gifts I have received. Long may it be so.
** Here I wish to give my profound thanks and gratitude to Canada also, where my wife, Annie, and I lived for nearly 5 years in the late 1970s and early 80s.
We emigrated to Canada in 1976. After a short period in Calgary and some travelling, we eventually settled down in Windsor, Ontario, where I embarked for my economics studies at the University of Windsor and Annie began her work as radiotherapist at the Windsor Cancer Clinic. We had a most wonderful time in Windsor and in 1982, after I had received my MA in economics, and the birth of our son, Kevin, we returned home to Coventry, where I started my PhD in economics at the University of Birmingham.
I never forget the joyous day in 1980 that my wife and I became naturalised Canadian Citizens. It is to Canada that many of my close relatives came to after the Revolution in Iran. It is in Canada that all have found happiness, joy, success and well-being. To Canada, I owe great thanks. Thank you Canada. ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’.