Category Archives: Letters home


Letters home, 2001, Oct 29

29 Oct 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

Ivor is improving by the day.  This is not to say that he can leap tall buildings in a single bound but he is out of intensive care, sitting up in bed and is very lively and positive. He still has a little bother breathing because they had to collapse one of his lungs in order to carry out the surgery, but his colour is very good and he’s actually looking forward to going home as early as Tuesday 30 Oct.  He has repaired so quickly that he is weeks ahead of where they expected him to be. He is looking forward to coming home, perhaps going to the Canaries for a holiday and most of all to a slap-up family feast for Christmas. I say best of luck to him, too.  

Elaine and I went to see him in Hemel Hempstead NHS Hospital on Sunday and he even walked us to the door, “Look, no hands.”  They gave him a walking frame to assist him but he reckons it’s more use as a set of bull-bars to push through the crowds.  He says the bit that hurts the most is where they cut through his ribs to get at his lungs and when I suggested they’d hacked into him with a meat cleaver, he pointed to a chap on a bed opposite him who was to have the operation next!

Elaine and I are delighted you like our coat.  We thought that since there are going to be more cold days before Christmas than after, you should use it immediately.  Because it’s designed for English winters and it’s waterproof and nice and long, and has big, velcro clips we thought that it would suit you on your racing machine. We hope you get LOTS of fun out of it. Mum will enjoy her pressy … I hope it doesn’t take too long coming since it was posted at the same time as yours.  Weren’t those St Albans Christmas cards nice?

We are also pleased that Graeme is still at work on that wonderful catamaran and that he still enjoys the work.  The cat sounds huge.  We are also pleased at the progress that Abby and Geoffrey are showing.  They have told us they are off to Norfolk Island with their mum on a week’s holiday.  They will remember this holiday for more than a little while and they are old enough to get a great deal of fun out of it.

Every day in London is an adventure and another day of discovery.  Elaine is on school holiday this week and after I got to work this morning I discovered, on a quick trip to the coffee machine, that outside was a simply glorious day; mild but not cold with a clear blue sky and a golden tinge to the reflection of the sunlight from the buildings.  I rang Elaine immediately and she dropped everything, caught a train and sent a text message to my cellphone from her favourite coffee house opposite The Black Friar pub, just off the City end of Blackfriars Bridge.

Elaine needs only the slightest excuse or the mildest of invitations to leap on a train and go enthusiastically to London. During my lunch hour I showed her things she might like to explore: the remains of Winchester Palace and The Clink jail in Clink St – she had lunch in Porridge, a very attractive little coffee house in Clink St, with reasonable prices, right opposite the ruins of Winchester Palace – Southwark Cathedral, the full-size replica Golden Hind, the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern.

When I met her after work in Doggetts pub, just off the South Bank end of Blackfriars Bridge, she was brimming with all the things she had done in just a mile or so along the Thames, in Bankside.  She had met a Dean of the Southwark Cathedral, a chap called Holman, who had greeted her at the door – as they often do here – and on hearing her Kiwi accent told her a lovely story of visiting his daughter when she was on a 2-year stay in New Zealand. She explored the cathedral and left a candle burning for Jase. She visited the Golden Hind and then went on a tour of The Clink. It’s a gruesome and horrible story, but extremely interesting.

We also found out that Westminster Bridge, for which one of her relatives organised a petition to get built, in 1750, was the first bridge over the Thames apart from London Bridge itself.  The Romans built the first London Bridge and when King Ethelred tore it down when he fought the Danes to get London back off them, the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down …” was born.  Westminster Bridge was built in 1750, so it took 1700 years between the first bridge over the Thames and the next one.

I’m not forgetting that it was torn down and rebuilt several times, but it was always on the the same spot and always called London Bridge. Still is. The old London Bridge – you know, made of stone in the 1170’s with houses built all along the top of it – lasted until 1825-ish when Rennie – who also built Blackfriars Bridge in the 1760’s and after whom the building I work in (Rennie House) was named – built a new London Bridge. It’s Rennie’s London Bridge that was sold to the Americans and is now in Arizona. The new-new London Bridge is a low-slung stressed concrete bridge with not a shred of romance in any foot of it.

Oh, yes! One last thing about old London Bridge.  They used to stick the par-boiled, tar-dipped heads of famous men convicted of treason on stakes mounted on the roofs of the houses along London Bridge.  The first victim was William Wallace (of the movie Braveheart) but another was Sir Thomas More.  

We also have a connection with Southwark Cathedral.  Apart from the fact that Helen Hinkley, Mum’s grandmother, lived just around the corner from it and must have gone there at some time, since she was a devout Christian, it was in Southwark Cathedral that your cousin Richard Blake was ordained.  Richard was the son of Ellen Tearle and Harry Blake.  You will remember the photo of the wedding being held at Levi’s smithy with the large family portrait with your father in the right hand side. The bride was Ellen.  

There was never to be a better wedding than the first Tearle girl to be married, Ellen – to her first cousin, Harry Blake.  Their children were Norah, Gladys and Richard.  Norah is still alive, in Norfolk. I have spoken to her quite recently and I think you have written to her on occasion.  Richard Blake was an Anglican priest in South Africa.  He wrote to me once – a kind, gentle, intelligent man who was very highly thought of.

A week or so ago I had to go to Old Street for a Windows 2000 course.  I knew it was in the north of London just outside the City, but I wasn’t perfectly clear, except that I had to leave the train when I got to Farringdon, two stops from Blackfriars.  A very nice chap with a beautiful, full-featured Cockney accent told me the way to go when he saw me looking in my London A-Z. In a very short time I was walking along Clerkenwell Road, which you just follow along until it becomes Old St and I realised that on my right was the remains of an old courtyard and I had a quick look because I had a few minutes to spare.  I was at St John’s Gate, built in the 1550’s.  It was once a courtyard for the Knights Templar and became the centre for an organisation called St John of Jerusalem whose main concern was care for the injured and then the establishment of the St John Ambulance.  I was a zambuk for most of my high school years and here I was at the very centre of the St John’s world.

“The man who is tired of London is tired of life.”  Dr Samuel Johnson. 

I had found the location of the church of St Mary Le-Bow, the source of the Bow Bells, and I was dead keen to go and see it so Elaine and I took the train to Blackfriars a couple of Saturday mornings ago to see what we could find in and around the City, just by walking.  When we came out of Blackfriars Elaine reminded me that Iris had told us that the plot of now-vacant land behind the Black Friar pub was once called Times Square.  It was where The Times of London was printed and distributed and Iris worked there then.  

We walked along past St Paul’s Cathedral to Bow Lane, which is a little shopping lane, closed at the moment for repairs, but right there was the elegant tower and spire of St Mary Le Bow, another of Christopher Wren’s little church masterpieces.  We bought some lunch and waited for the bells to ring.  As far as I could tell there were 3 of them and they are beautifully tuned and very melodious, though not very loud. On Saturday, with almost no traffic about, the City is very quiet. Some people who say they are Cockneys must have very good hearing, says Ivor.  On the outside wall of the church (closed on Saturday!) was a plaque for John Milton, saved when his church in nearby Bread Street was demolished.  The divine poet, John Milton; I had never associated him with London.  I rang Norah to see if she knew where Fred was born, but she said she didn’t know, so soon I shall go to St Catherine’s House and get his birth certificate and then I shall visit the place.

We had a highly amusing and very entertaining night out with Jo and Neil in their last week in London. Jo Mark is the daughter of Jimmy Mark who leases our farm block.  We met at the Sherlock Holmes statue at Baker Street Station. Baker Street is a most interesting place. 221B Baker St is in the window of the Abbey National Bank.  Of course it was a fictional address, but the bank has put a little tableau of Holmes and Watson in the window in recognition of the fame they have brought this street. But there are lots of three-storey houses still there exactly the sort that Holmes would have lived in. There was also an Elvis shop. We couldn’t stop laughing.  We had dinner in Pizza Express and then after-dinner coffee down the road in a delightful little coffee and dessert place. I had an ice-cream parfait with my coffee.

Elaine’s just had her 50th and although it was fairly low key, it was still an enjoyable time.  I got her a heart rate monitor to help her at the gym and just so Mum wouldn’t accuse me of only buying her tools, I also got her a very nice silver dragon on a silver chain for her to wear with a black t-shirt – which I also supplied. We had a most enjoyable dinner with our St Albans friends at a local Mediterranean restaurant and in a week or so I shall take her on the Eurostar to Paris for the weekend.

The news about Joni is all good.  She has just been made Brand Manager of Fresh-n-Fruity, New Zealand’s biggest brand.  AND she’s in the middle of buying a new house.  It isn’t quite hers, yet, and anything can happen, of course, but she has done the paperwork and it all looks in pretty good shape.  The house is a terrace of  two-bedroom apartments in Ellerslie so it’s very central for her friends to visit her, but only 20 minutes to work on the more or less traffic-free side of the motorway to and from work.

Keep up your bowls and keep happy and healthy.

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine


Letters home, 2001, Oct 7

7 Oct 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

It seems that when we have adventures, they don’t come in ones!  Since we have been in England there has been:

  • The wettest winter since records began in 1776. With floods all around us, but we ourselves were not actually flooded
  • The coldest winter in 25 years, with our local lake frozen over
  • The petrol blockade when the country ran out of petrol and we almost had to walk to work
  • Foot and mouth disease ravaging the country and closing the countryside
  • BSE running wild so we can’t eat beef – and don’t
  • The Paddington rail disaster that happened just a few minutes after I left the station on my way to Slough.

And now the Americans and the British have started military attacks on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Still, don’t worry about us!  There is no immediate threat and neither of us is at all close to any possible target.  None of our friends is worried, either.  It seems that quite a few Kiwis have decided to go home, but they are just young people and they have few contacts here who would be able to help them if there was an emergency, while we have many. Also, many of our friends have been through a war and know what to do.  

Ivor goes into hospital for his big operation on Monday week, 15th October.  I spent the afternoon at Ivor and Iris’ this afternoon and we also had a very pleasant party with them last night, along with their neighbours and a couple of friends.  He is a worry and has lost an awful amount of weight and size.  He thinks he will be in hospital for about 3 weeks after the op. So we do wish him all the best.

Be careful ….

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine.


Letters home, 2001, Sep 16

16 Sep 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

That was a long hard week … For a couple of days the week before, I was asked to do some overtime on the COMP helpdesk and then late on that Friday the team leader asked me to let her know if I wanted any more overtime.  I told her I didn’t ask for the overtime in the first place, I was just doing her a favour, but if at any time she wanted me to work the extra 2.5 hours from 4:30 to 7:00pm, all she had to do was ask.  She said, “Stay on then, we always need extra help.” So now I’m on overtime for the rest of my Sainsbury’s contract, about 10 paid hours per day.  

It suits me ok because it costs me 200 pounds a month for the train trip to Blackfriars, so if there’s an hour or so going I may as well take it because I have already paid to be there.  I get paid by the hour, so if my train is late, I don’t get paid for the time I wasn’t there, nor do I get paid on Bank Holidays.  It’s very good for people who are permanent because they get paid whatever happens so if there’s a holiday or their train is late, or their hours are reduced – like at the moment we’re on a 37 hour week – they still get paid their usual amount and the less they have to be at work, the better they like it. Me, I struggle for every hour so if there are extra hours going begging, I take them.  There are things I won’t do, though.  One of the team leaders asked me if I’d work the weekend so I said, “How much do you pay?” and when she told me, “Time only,” I turned her down.  I don’t give up my weekends unless it’s time and a half on Saturday and double time on Sunday.

So this last week has been filled with getting up at 6:00, catching the 7:31am Bedford – Brighton train to Blackfriars, logging in at about 8:20, having lunch from 1:00 to 1:45, finishing on my SHD helpdesk at 4:30, logging into the COMP helpdesk and working until 7:00pm, catching the 7:22 train back to St Albans and getting home just after 8:00pm.  Elaine’s really good because she takes me to the station every morning and brings me back very night. I have learnt a few new skills, too, because the COMP helpdesk looks after stores while my own SHD helpdesk looks after office workers with Windows 95 and Microsoft Office. The COMP Helpdesk manages Unix servers and the Mainframe which capture, process and print the data generated by stores orders and sales. By stores, we mean gigantic supermarkets and there are about 1500 of them, so you can appreciate that there is quite a bit of data …

I also had a chat to the team leader about extending my contract because I need to know very soon if I have to find another job. The contract was to run out on the 21st of September and they wrote me to say they’d extended it for a week until the end of September.  Last week the floor manager, Kevin Moody, said he’d be extending it to the end of October. I asked him later in the week if I could contact my agency to make my extension official and he said it was already in hand and that he’d extended my contract for “A little longer than that.” I’m not sure how much further that is but every week is a bonus.

On Tuesday 11th someone said that he’d been told on the phone that a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre in New York.  We couldn’t believe it and we were even more incredulous when someone yelled out a little later that a second plane had flown into the second tower.  “Ahh, you’re taking the mickey!”

“N0, no, it’s on TV – there are holes through both towers.” Then we heard about the Pentagon and finally the plane that went down near Pennsylvania. At about 3:00pm London City shut shop and went home and Canary Wharf was evacuated and cordoned off.  When I caught my train at 7:22pm there were only about 30 of us who waited for it when usually there are about 200 on the platform. A lot of the Deutsche Bank people I worked with in Bishopsgate in 1999 were often speaking to colleagues in the World Trade Centre and I know there will be lots people there waiting desperately for news. It’s been a terrible story. I have heard that about 150 NZ’ers are missing and up to 500 Britons. Mostly, though, we are keenly aware of the loss of intelligent, educated, gifted, enthusiastic young lives hopelessly and tragically wasted.

We have just come back from St Albans Cathedral.  There is an area right under the central tower which is dedicated to people who are being persecuted and it is there that a small display with pictures and candles was set up by a local lady with ties to New York.  When Genevieve was in Italy she came across a small stone church in a country vineyard and was so moved, she lit a candle for Jason.  We thought it was such a lovely gesture that we have done so, too, in the churches we have visited and we light a candle for Jase each time we go to the St Albans Cathedral.  

Today we lit two – one for Jase and one for the victims of this terrible tragedy. There is, remarkably, a St Albans Cathedral in Washington.  We wrote a little message for them, although there was no book of remembrance.  We mentioned this to one of the churchwardens, but he said The Powers That Be had decided there wouldn’t be a book.  He was obviously quite disappointed at the decision. We told him we thought it would have been nice to have a book and send it to Washington, and he looked quite distressed.

We are, however, quite worried about what happens next.  Everyone is talking war, but the last time there was a big bombing in the US blamed on foreign terrorists – in Oklahoma – it was an American who did it.  We are hoping that the Americans don’t just shoot first and ask questions later in their desire to punish those who harbour terrorists, regardless of whether those were the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Centre.  Tony Blair looks like he’s trying to talk sense and so is Imran Khan.  Cool heads are hard to find.

The Americans haven’t been too successful in stopping drugs getting into their country from areas really close to them and they pour vast amounts of money into the IRA and the Israelis.  Bin Laden used to be a US ally, the Taliban government in Afghanistan was backed by the Americans to fight the Russians and Sadam Hussein in Iraq was originally an American puppet to overthrow the government there. We are just wondering if the Americans are going to use the WTC attack to settle a few scores. The world has to be really careful that the aftermath of the tragedy doesn’t kill more people than the tragedy itself!

On the morning after the attack on the WTC as I was crossing Blackfriars Bridge on my way to work I heard a young English girl’s voice so clearly in my head I could have been already logged into the phones.  “My Windows won’t start.  I have been here since 7:30 this morning trying to get it to go and I can’t do my work.” She was on the verge of tears and those last few words in her beautiful crisp, clear and despairing tone –  “I can’t do my work” rang in my ears and haunted me all day long. I don’t remember if I worked with her in Tesco or in Sainsbury’s but I helped her to get her program running and she nearly cried with relief. I was probably reacting to the tragedy of the day before, but I am so pleased that I helped her because she is the very embodiment of all that young people do well, like Joni.  She is hard working, enthusiastic, dedicated and professional.  

We on the helpdesk do good work, you know, to keep these young people doing what they want to do.  I always thought that being a teacher was altruistic and steeped in the romantic traditions of liberalism and humanism, but since being in business and working in IT, I see it still applies to me.  I have done more good work since I started in IT and became a businessman than I have achieved doing anything else in my life. I am not just a cog in the great machine: I help others to do the work they want to do.  Later the same day a man rang me to get his program working again because its central data file had become unreadable. I fixed the file and as he ran his program he said, “How did you do that? Ewart, that was excellent work, thank you very much.”

I have one other piece of sad news; Ivor has been diagnosed with a tumour near his stomach and it is so bad that he can’t eat anything unless Iris blends it all up and he eats it as a sort of puree.  They think it’s operable because he hasn’t had it very long – under a year – and he goes for a full scan on Tuesday. I am very worried by the news.  Ivor is the most special friend – he is very knowledgeable about the Adams family that my grandmother Sadie belonged to, he is a kindly, gentle and generous man and most of all he is the man who made my dream come true. We have been able to stay here because of the help and the generosity that he and Iris gave us when we were new to England and the British ways of doing things. Without their help at that time we could not have stayed. I am so hoping that he will be ok.

On a much more pleasant note, we have had a few of our own adventures.  I learnt a couple of things. We went to Ivinghoe Church. You know the rhyme?  

Wing, Tring and Ivinghoe, three little churches all in a row

They are not in a straight row … In Ivinghoe Church is a list of all the vicars since the Normans.  One of those vicars was the Bishop of Westminster – for about 300 years. Ivinghoe was the wealthiest living in Buckinghamshire and of course the Bishop of Westminster would have it – it’s the wealthy who always get first crack at the riches.  It’s likely he never actually went there, let alone preached there. The Duke of Westminster is the wealthiest man in Britain, worth about 10bn pounds, mostly in central London property.

Last Bank Holiday weekend we went to the Ford End Mill in Ivinghoe. There is no Ivinghoe mill listed in the Domesday book but one is recorded in 1232 and Ford End Mill thinks it might be them. The Normans built a grand house nearby with a moat around it and the moat is used to pond water for the mill.  The stream is very small so the mill could not work all day, every day and while the water wheel itself is a Victorian overshot steel wheel with big riveted plates and an axle that runs in heavily greased wooden bearings, the building is dated in the middle 1740’s.

When the mill is working the whole building sways. It processed 2 tons of corn, wheat or barley per week.  I saw a calculation that started with 16 sacks of grain and although different grain weighs different amounts, it was always processed and paid for by the sackful – per bushel.  So the rough calculation put production at around 2 tons a week.  This particular mill, and the ones near us at Kingsbury and Redbournebury, produce wholemeal flour.  Elaine bought a pound of flour and she made the most beautiful scones, which we shared with Karen upstairs and Christine next door.  It was quite a nice little party and they were most impressed at Elaine’s cooking.  

There are two grinding wheels; the one on top, which goes round and round and thus is called the runner stone is a sandstone wheel made from a Peak District stone aptly called millstone grit.  The bottom wheel, the bed stone, is fixed and is made from lots of smaller pieces of French marble called burr stone cut to a special pattern and tied into the shape of a wheel with an iron hoop such as you see on wagon wheels.  There is also a series of grooves cut deeply into the bed stone which both grind the grain and channel it into the central hole.

The bed stone was designed by the Romans and that design has not changed in 2000 years.  There’s nothing overwhelmingly traditional in that; no-one has ever designed a better one. One other thing I found out about flour mills: they have been in Britain since Saxon times and until very recently they only ever ran in daylight hours. One is not allowed within coo-ee of them with a candle or any other naked flame because the dust they produce is extremely explosive.

We bought three most interesting horse brasses, one with the Bedfordshire coat of arms, one with the Buckinghamshire coat of arms and one with an illustration of the Ford End Mill. We are now on the lookout for a 6 foot black leather nightingale.

We originally went to Ivinghoe to explore the Ichnield Way which passes along the Dunstable Downs end of Tearle Valley.  It’s not a road and never was. Neither was it ever used by the Romans; it’s a sort of cattle path and it’s really bits of paths all put together.  If you are travelling south, you will follow it for at least part of the way because it’s an all-weather track, mostly following the firm chalk footing and often running along the high ground to avoid the boggy lowlands.  

In Norfolk it’s called the Pedlars Way, for about 100 miles either side of Ivinghoe it’s called the Ichnield Way and then further south it’s called The Ridgeway, but these are all local names for the same walkway.  Bits of modern road have been built on it but mostly you can walk it across the countyside for literally hundreds of miles.  Parts of it were used in 4500 BC, making it the oldest walkway in Europe. In those days, there was a large land bridge between England and France and the Thames was a tributary of the Rhine.   So now at last I know where the Ichnield Way goes – all the way from northern Norfolk near the Wash, almost to Henley-on-Thames, just west of London.

We also went to see the Ivinghoe Beacon and passed right below it.  We didn’t have time to climb the hill and if we had we would not have been able to see its undoubtedly beautiful and panoramic view because it was quite a hazy, smoky, cloudy sort of day.  But we now know exactly where it is and if we see a clear day we are going to climb up and see the view.  Ivinghoe is only about a 1/2hr drive from here.

During the time I have for lunch I have been exploring the south side of the Thames.  London is a magnificent, beautiful city.  Sometimes it’s grey, sometimes it’s foggy and raining, sometimes it’s hazy and smoky and sometimes it’s sunny, clear and warm as it is right now.  Always it has this feeling of power and beauty. Wordsworth said it best. I remember that poem from my Form 3 days and it’s not until you see London on a clear, or slightly misty, morning that you can appreciate how well he captures its spirit. It really is an awe-inspiring city and I love being here and working here.  Think about it … a couple of years ago I was a Te Kuiti computer retailer and today I am a London computer consultant.  That’s all right, isn’t it?

It’s a bright, clear, warm sunny day outside and during my lunch 3/4hr, I walked, admittedly slowly, the Jubilee Walk along Bankside on the south bank of the Thames.  If you walk out of Rennie House where I work, you can follow Milroy Walk underneath a building and then into Marigold Street, a narrow alley between Sea Containers House and a large apartment block, to the Thames.  A distance of about 200m.  The Thames was at almost full low tide, but the water was still flowing swiftly out to sea, so the tide hadn’t turned at 1210hr.  

I walked underneath Blackfriars Bridge and then through Bankside passing The Founders Arms pub which juts out into the Thames, then past the Tate Modern, the Globe Theatre, the Millennium Bridge, the new beehive-looking building that the mayor of London will soon move into, then Southwark Bridge.  The walkway under Blackfriars Bridge is fully lined with white ceramic tiles.  On the tiles are large copies (6×8 feet) of the original plans for the bridge when it was built in 1760 and another set for the bridge when it was rebuilt in 1863.  There’s a reproduction of the woodcut from the Illustrated London News of the opening of the New Blackfriars Bridge by Queen Victoria in 1863 and another of the woodcut of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Station as it was in the 1860’s.

When you walk through the tunnel under Blackfriars Bridge there is almost always a busker in the middle of it.  The buskers are unfailingly excellent musicians.  I often wonder if they need a licence or special permission because there are never two of them competing and they are always playing such lovely music so well.  Usually they play classical pieces – Vivaldi is a favourite, I’ve noticed – but once there was a kettle drummer and for a whole week there was a female jazz clarinettist.  There are actually two tunnels, one in the tile-lined section under Blackfriars Bridge and, 50m on, another brick-lined, larger, tunnel under the rail bridge.  They don’t give names to rail bridges. The two tunnels have wonderful acoustics and the musicians in each can enjoy beautiful feedback from their instruments. Because of the kink in the path the two musicians cannot hear each other. I have seen violinists, trumpeters, a classical guitarist, a Spanish guitarist and a saxophonist.

Blackfriars Bridge runs down onto Blackfriars Road and that road is the boundary between Bankside – east towards the Tate Modern – and South Bank – west towards Westminster Bridge.  There is an enormous amount of rebuilding, refurbishment and replenishment going on in the South Bank and Bankside areas.  It’s very impressive and includes lots of new buildings, new businesses and upgrading of paths, walkways, lighting, public gardens and parks as well as road surfaces and verges and some new and interesting statuary and monuments.  

I walk through Bernie Spain Gardens most lunchtimes on my way to the Thames via Gabriel’s Wharf.  Bernie Spain was a local aid and charity worker who died of cancer and the little park is called after her. There’s a grassy saucer in the middle with planted beds around it with low shrubs and bright annuals. There are seats alongside each planted bed and at night they are lit from below. Local office workers sit on the grass and eat their lunch on any sunny day and even though there is still work going on putting in more lighting and some very fancy seating involving large slabs of stainless steel, the garden is bright, quiet and peaceful.  

The upgrading of this area is being done on both the macro and micro level.  It’s most interesting to be in the middle of it.  It’s also interesting to see that the parks are numerous and small. I think they do that so only a couple of hundred people gather in one place at a time. That gives the people gathering there a feeling of intimacy and it limits the crowd size. There are 5 small grassy, well-treed little parks within 2 minutes walk of Rennie House – in all directions.

Just down the road are the ruins of the Clink – next to the ruins of Winchester Palace, in Clink St, of course.  I have found out that maltreatment of prisoners was unknown before the 14 century and it probably came to England with the return of the Crusaders.  They brought torture with them because they had been subjected to it on the Continent, mostly in the Middle East. The Bishop of Winchester owned and ran the Clink jail on the Bankside and tortured prisoners until the prison was closed in the early 1800’s.  By that date he was the Duke of Winchester, but it was just a case of the clerical title becoming a secular one.  He made huge amounts of money out of regulating prostitutes and the stew houses of Bankside, and the prisoners in the Clink, since King Steven gave him the land and the power.  It’s an awful story and I’m pleased the Clink is now just a four-roomed underground museum of horrors.

In the last week of Elaine’s school holidays there was one spectacularly clear and sunny day so I rang her and asked if she’d like to come to London and have a look around the area where I work. She dropped everything, and arrived at Blackfriars Bridge at about 2:00. She went off off explore the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre while she waited for me to finish work at 4:30. When I caught up with her we walked all the way west along the Thames (the Queen’s Walk) past the London Eye, the Museum of Film, then walked on past Waterloo Bridge, the Hungerford Bridge and the London Aquarium to Westminster Bridge.  

It was a gorgeous afternoon of sunshine and dappled light cast by the large London plane trees that border the entire distance.  On the way back we called in at the National Theatre and heard a 1/2hr jazz concert then we walked past St Paul’s on the opposite bank all the way to Southwark Bridge.  I also showed Elaine Rennie House, the church behind it with the stones on the ground to mark the burning of the ground caused by the church cross being bombed during the war, then we explored a street nearby that had lots of little brick workers cottages mostly dated in the 1860’s.  Helen Hinkley must surely have known them.  

We called in at Gabriel’s Wharf hoping we could get dinner overlooking the Thames, but the little Italian place was full.  We walked on a bit further and in a first-floor restaurant called NEAT (London and Paris) in the OXO Tower Building, we found a very good welcome with a seat next to the window.  We watched the sun set and the lights go on all along the Thames.  The Embankment, St Pauls, the Savoy, the Adelphi they all seem to swim in mid air during the night, the lighting is so good.  Their stone columns become transparent.  It is a most remarkable and beautiful transformation.

We hope that you are in good health and we thoroughly enjoyed our talk with you the other night. Best of luck with the new workshop, Dad – we hope you have lots of fun.

With our very best love

Ewart and Elaine.


Letters home, 2000, Oct 8

8 Oct 2000

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks very much for your letter and the cutout from the magazine. John L Tearle, who wrote the book “Tearle, a Bedfordshire Surame,” is adamant that Tearle is not from Tyrell, although he is not certain exactly where it came from. He thinks it is a corruption of a French word, but he doesn’t know which one.  Alec Tearle, though, said when he was living in Germany that the Germans always knew how to pronounce his name (the English and the French certainly don’t) so he thinks it may have been German.  In other words we may have Saxon roots that predate the Normans who came here in 1066.  Our ancestors could have been in England from as early as 500AD.  

That reminds me – a couple of days ago I saw a programme about the Salisbury Plains that said that England had been heavily cultivated since 5000BC and that in 2500BC there was as much land under cultivation as there was in 1914.

When I went to put away the wrapping from your previous parcel we saw the photos you had sent. By that time our last fax had gone to you, so I didn’t say thank you. Well, let me say it now! The photos are really good. Mum looks a lot better than she sounded earlier this year, but she still looks a bit wan. I thought you’d have a RED scooter, but grey is cool and the mode of transport, with its tall flag certainly looks … shall we say … suitable. And you look very happy. Getting out and about is good for the spirit.

It is not a pleasant thought that neither of my parents will be in their beautiful little Hahei house after Christmas. I guess that you will be going to Matapa, too? When you are selecting things please remember that all I want is the painting that Ella du Cane gave Sadie and any photos and family documents. They will be very well looked after. I am taking Grandad Dawson’s watch into the jeweler this weekend for a shower and shampoo. The English make a most attractive, hooped stand/hanger thing for fob watches, so this watch will be nicely presented and out of harm’s way. I’ve been thinking about the date on it – 1926 – Mum would have been about 5yrs old when her father bought it! She would have seen him with it all her life, since she was often with him when he went to train the horses. Wonderful.

I ran the Cabbage Patch 10-mile last weekend in 71 min 45 sec, so I am pleased with my time, but I am working on getting it closer to 70 min. However, there were a LOT of people who finished after me. About 1/2 an hour after I’d finished and we were getting into the car, there were still people on the other bank of the Thames about 1/2 a mile from the finish. At that stage it rained like crazy, so we decided not to go exploring around Twickenham, but the track I ran went through Kingston, where earlier this year Elaine and I had caught a ferry to go to Hampton Court. I recognised the island the boat had passed.

The organizers presented me with the Cabbage Patch 10 t-shirt and I gave it to Elaine as a supporter’s shirt. She loves it. On the day, she actually wore the Garden City 10 sweatshirt she bought the day I ran that race and she looked really good … lots of people talked to her and she had a really good time. It’s quite a nice course through the streets of Twickenham, Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames. To get there we drove right past Chubb house, a tall, rounded, very heavy-looking concrete building close to the road where Shayne had been just the day before in Sunbury.

Everything around there looks the same, just roads and houses wall-to-wall with nothing to distinguish one town from the other, so the Cabbage Patch pub was a bit tricky to find and wasn’t particularly unique anyway, although it looked like an old pub and must have had a bit of history to tell. It was the biggest race field I’ve been in so far and the track itself through the streets was fast and picturesque. My time of 71:45 made me about 30sec quicker than I was in the Garden City 10 three weeks previous.

I had three guys who passed me whom I couldn’t catch, but on the other hand, I did pass a lot of runners in the last mile, including many who had passed me earlier, and those three guys finished just a few seconds in front of me. For the first time, 2 women in my age group finished in front of me, one at 70min 56 sec and the other one a whopping 67:44.  It will be a while before I can beat her!

I have also received the official results and I am quite pleased.  I was 251st out of a total field of 751 finishers.  I was 27th out of 140 runners my age or older, but 25th out of 112 finishers of my actual class, M50. For the first time, too, I have an official age ranking.  I am age graded at 70.73%.  If a representative sample of all the M50 racers in Britain were gathered into a field of 100, I would finish a 10 mile race in 30th place.  Now that my 8-mile time is 55 min, it won’t be too long before my 10-mile time dips below 70 min.

About now, Genevieve starts her new job as Assistant Production Manager, Cultured at the NZ Dairy Group Plant at Takanini. She has been going really well this year with her promotion and has passed two uni papers in Spanish with A+ results. Not bad when working full time, playing netball mid week and commuting to the skiifields each weekend. She has now done a bungy and skydived from 12,000 feet in the last few months as well as skiing the west ridge. She set herself some stiff targets for the year with us being away and has been ticking them off one at a time. Some things she gets into are scarey!!!

As you will have heard, we had a fuel crisis on here. Fortunately neither Elaine nor I ran out of fuel because the sort of fuel our little cars use was the last kind to run out at the petrol stations. That meant that we earned right through. However some of our friends were not so lucky and had a week or more out of work and not paid. When the fuel arrived again all through Luton the garages were cordoned off by police and only those working in essential services were allowed petrol. In St Albans when the fuel arrived it was available on the open market so we were able to fill up and carry on as usual. There was some stockpiling but not by us. It is all over now and we are back to normal.

We were really delighted when we were finally able to send off the money for our airfares and hold the price. We now have confirmation from the bank that the money has been taken from our account so all is well. All we have to do now is to wait for the tickets to arrive.  Below is our airlines itinerary:

Thursday 14 December 2000

  • 3.45pm Check in at Japan Airlines Terminal 3, Heathrow
  • 6:15 pm Depart on Japan Air Lines Flight JL 422
  • Flying Time: 12 hours 5 minutes
  • Friday 15 December 2000
  • 3:20 pm Arrive Osaka – Kansai International Airport :
  • 9:00 pm Depart on Japan Air Lines Flight JL 98 (An Air New Zealand Boeing 767 )
  • Flying Time: 10 hours 50 minutes
  • Saturday 16 December 2000
  • 11:50 am Arrive Auckland Airport
  • Saturday 13 January 2001
  • 8.00am Check in at Japan Airlines counter at Auckland Airport
  • 10:00 am Depart on Japan Air Lines Flight JL 97 (Air New Zealand Boeing 767 )
  • Flying Time: 11 hours 25 minutes
  • 5.25pm Arrive Osaka – Kansai International Airport. – accommodation at
  • HOTEL NIKKO KANSAI AIRPORT Tel: (0724) 551 111
  • Osaka Fax: (0724) 551 155
  • Accommodation has been confirmed in a twin room – breakfast is included
  • Sunday 14 January 2001
  • 9.45am Check in at Japan Airlines at Osaka International Airport.
  • 11:45 am Depart on Japan Air Lines Flight JL 421 (Boeing 747-400)
  • Flying Time: 12 hours 35 minutes
  • 3:20 pm Arrive London – Heathrow Airport : Terminal 3

We have been having great fun watching the Olympics but have seen virtually nothing of NZ. I really wanted to watch Rob Waddell having been his mother’s HOD in Piopio and was delighted with the coverage we got of his races. Elaine was equally interested because she had taught Rob for three years in Piopio Primary.  We got to watch his wife Sonia race too.

There was a lot of screaming coming out of our flat that night and at the end of the race Genevieve rang – she was watching too – and we were all so excited that Rob had made GOLD!!!! We know now it was the only gold medal NZ won. We have bought a nice card to send home to him and his family this week. Fortunately we know his parents’ address. We saw his Mum Sue on TV here too. They gave lovely coverage of Rob after the race – much more than for other athletes even from Britain so we were very lucky. Elaine heard the following day that the staff and students from her school were watching at their homes and cheering for Rob too.

We’ve had Shayne Bates here this week, doing some business for his company, Securenet. He didn’t like it here … thought the place was backward and said he hated London. I suppose that’s logical because I lent him my car and he found the London traffic and road conditions very trying. I never drive in London, but on Friday, he had to go to Chubb House in Sunbury-on-Thames and took the road through Central London to get home. He rang me to say he had been to Harrods! He had even found parking for 7GBP per hour. It took him 3 hours to get home from there, in Friday traffic, so I don’t wonder that he hates London.

However, the high point of his trip was on Thursday when he went to London by train to see someone in the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall. Since that’s near NZ House we advised him to drop in there, too and see if there were ways that he could get some high-level assistance. From there he could also get to see some of the most famous sights of London so we also advised him to leave home early to give himself plenty of time to enjoy himself after the business was done. He rang me about 4:00 to see if Elaine and I would like to catch the train to London and meet him in Trafalgar Square. You never have to ask us twice to go to London. We met Shayne in Trafalgar Square and he wanted a sushi meal. There was the most beautiful Japanese restaurant called the Tokyo Bar on the edge of Chinatown where we had a 4-course meal in little boxes for 10GBP each. Wasabi, sushi, yummy salmon, the lot.

By the way, NZ House was no use to Shayne at all. We’ve been there, too and it was no use to us, either, but I thought that was because we were just little fish of no interest to a giant trade organisation like NZ House. It seems it isn’t their job to help NZ businesses to expand, either, so they shunted him out unceremoniously. It would be nice to know just what it is they do in there.

It’s the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Iris was telling us this afternoon that she was 10yrs at the time and used to stand outside on the lawn and watch the planes fighting each other overhead. Some childhood.

We are just back from Nick Trout’s 40th birthday bash at the Time Out Bar in Horsham.  We went to West Sussex yesterday morning to meet Nick and Sally again, had a very loud night’s dancing then drove the 1.5 hours back home.  We arrived here about 2:00am.  It meant that we didn’t have to spend our Christmas money on accommodation in Horsham.  Nick and Sally Trout are the two hitch-hikers we befriended in about 1989 on their world tour and we have been good friends ever since.  The highlight of the night was when Sally came out into the disco as Marilyn Monroe in that white dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and sang Happy Birthday in the breathy way Marilyn did for President Kennedy.  Sally is an angel and a blonde bombshell at any time, but as Marilyn Monroe she was sensational.

Christmas – we went to Frost’s Garden Centre in Woburn Sands, just up the road from Woburn village, to have a wander around and get a few ideas for our garden when we go home.  The English do garden centres like magical palaces.  Everything is themed and there are the most complex and beautiful displays of plants and gardening things you have ever seen.  But Christmas is a wonder that takes your breath away.  

They had two very large rooms decorated for Christmas with trees, ornaments, lights, grottos, music and all sorts of displays.  We were stopped dead.  Why Christmas so early?  It is because most people in England get paid monthly, so there’s only this month and next month’s pay and then it’s Christmas, so I guess it’s best to get people inspired early.  Woburn Sands is just a tiny village, but Frost’s there is very big, about 5 acres all told and about 2 acres in buildings, so it’s all nice and warm in the cool weather.  With the beautiful displays and its own very good restaurant, it’s actually a very good afternoon’s activity to go there and just have some fun wandering around.  And we did – it was great.  It reminded us that the last thing we will do in England this year is the Carols by Candlelight evening in St Brelades Place, just up the road from us behind Blackberry Jack, on the night before we fly out.  It will be freezing cold and we shall love it.

Well, thinking of Christmas reminds me that it won’t be long before we shall be seeing you and Mum again, and we are very much looking forward to that. Our NZ itinerary looks like this so far:

  • 13 Dec  Last day at work
  • 14 Dec  Fly to NZ
  • 16, 17 Dec With Joni in Auckland
  • 18-21 Dec In Otorohanga with Elizabeth and Ross Marshall – check the farm
  • 22-28 Dec In Pauanui
  • 29 Dec  Go to Hamilton
  • 6-12 Jan With Joni
  • 13 Jan  Catch plane to England
  • 15 Jan  Back at work.

We hope you keep in good health until then and we look forward to seeing you again.

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine.


Letters home, 1999, July 2

02 July 1999

Dear Frances

I have lots of emails I do every day searching for that elusive contract, but I do have 8 CV’s at present being submitted by various IT agencies to prospective employers. One of them will say yes, soon, don’t worry.

If you’ve been watching Wimbledon, which isn’t far from us, you’ll have noticed that the weather is a little changeable and sometimes showery, but it’s quite warm and very pleasant.

Elaine finishes her first full week at school and this contract goes till the end of term (ie end of July). During the holidays we hope to find her different work, but so far at least it’s pounds and not kiwis. Have you seen the exchange rate lately – 28.8c Ahhhhhh!

Never mind …. we’ll cope.