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Letters home, 2012, My Pink Slip – Section 44

By Ewart Tearle

April 2012.

I’ve been a photographer for many years – at times semi-professionally, several times published, but mostly as a keen amateur. You’d think that going round snapping buildings, sights, scenes and landscapes would be a pretty innocuous occupation in your spare time; but not so. In 2006 I ran foul of the City of London Police one lunch hour while I was working for Sainsbury’s in their Holborn office.

I was team leader of a group of members of the Sainsbury’s IT Service Desk and we had just moved the entire IT division from an office in Union St, Southwark, to the new Sainsbury’s Head Office at 33 Holborn, London City. I volunteered to document the area we had moved to and to write weekly articles for publication to the IT division on our intranet under the generic title “Our Neighbourhood.”

It involved exploring an area around Holborn Circus that was big enough for me to walk anywhere I wanted to, so long as I was back at my desk within the hour. I could explore almost the entire City of London; lunch in one hand, camera in the other.  Many of those articles are reproduced in the London Stories section of this site, but one particular story was held back because suddenly it was very controversial. It started off innocuously enough as a story about the history of the press in Fleet Street.

You can walk to Fleet Street from Holborn Circus in about ten minutes, by a number of different routes, so I spent many months walking up and down one of London’s most famous streets and visiting many of its historical sites, including St Mary Fleet, the Home Church for London’s journalists. One of the things I noticed early on was that buildings which had large clocks overhanging the footpath anywhere in the area of Fleet Street, were probably once press offices, or publishing houses, even if they were no longer used for that purpose.

I think it was a Victorian idea of public service; the trains ran on a timetable and it was necessary for everyone to know the time. Very few people could afford a watch so these street clocks helped people keep track of the time, but whilst they reinforced the valuable contribution of the newspapers to the public good, they also reminded the population that time was flying by and there were deadlines to meet. Cleanliness was next to godliness, and punctuality was a virtue. I kept an eye out for clocks.

At lunchtime on 18 Sep 2006, I took a shortcut from Fleet St via Furnival St to Holborn, and I saw just such a clock on a handsome brick building with JC on the street-level window and lots of little hooped windows on the top storey. Some yellow cones sat on the road outside. I surmised that the road had been blocked off for the visit of an important person at some time during the day. I stood on the corner opposite the building, well clear of the cones, and took some photographs of the building and its clock.

There was a yell, answered by another yell and then stamping feet. As I lowered my camera three huge men in greatcoats and a shorter man in a high-vis jacket surrounded me. “What are you doing?” shouted the biggest of them, glaring down at me.

“Photographing the clock,” I replied and pointed to it. The high-vis turned and looked around, but six eyes stayed locked on me.

“You can’t photograph that building,” said the one directly in front of me, his brown eyes glowering in anger, his nose close to mine. His was a leather greatcoat and it was heavy with anger and threat.

“I’m in a public place,” I said, “and so is the building.”

“It’s a private building and you can’t photograph it,” said the second man, his bald head glistening in the midday sunshine.

“I can photograph any of the buildings around here, and I have, and no-one’s come and told me to stop, so what’s the problem?” I asked.

“You can photograph all of them if you want to, but you can’t photograph this one.”

I was never going to change their minds. I gave up. “Ok, I’ll get back to work, then.”

“We’ve called the police, you stay here until they arrive.”

“You can call whomsoever you like,” I snapped, “but you are just a security man, and an ordinary citizen, the same as me. I’m in a public place and you cannot prevent me from leaving.” I was shaking with apprehension. I took a step towards the gap between the gathered men. Incredibly, they moved aside. I walked towards Holborn without a backward glance.


I looked around. It was a police car. Had that security crew really called the police? And had the police responded? I gathered the noise of the siren was directed towards me. I stopped and waited for whatever happened next in these situations. The car stopped some yards away and as its doors opened, two officers in full police uniform alighted from the front of the car and walked towards me. At least the car’s lights weren’t flashing.

“Your name?”

I told them

“Have you got any identity?”

In order for me to get back into the Sainsbury’s building I had to swipe an authorisation card at the barrier. Every lunch hour long queues would form as people alighted from the lifts, eased their card to the end of its lanyard and ducked their heads to bring their cards into contact with the reader. My card had my name and photo on it; I suppose I was lucky because normally I don’t carry ID on me. I took the lanyard from around my neck, slid the card out of my top shirt pocket and offered it to the waiting officer.

The shorter, thick-set officer reached out and took the card. He looked at me and at the card several times. “You work for Sainsbury’s? Where?”

“On the corner of Holborn Circus, opposite St Andrews Church,” I said carefully. “The Head Office.”

“Ok,” he said and handed me the card.

As I put it back into my pocket, I took out my diary and said, “Now that you know my name, I would like to know who I am talking to. Are those numbers on your epaulettes your police identities?” The other officer, taller, slimmer, more wary, looked at me carefully and nodded. I wrote down their numbers, and he told me their names.

“I understand you had an altercation back there,” said the shorter officer, glancing back over his shoulder, to indicate where the car had come from.

“I wouldn’t call it an altercation,” I said. “I was photographing the clock on the corner building and these guys surrounded me and demanded I stop. I pointed out I was in a public place and so was the building, and they wanted to hold me there until the police arrived. I told them I was leaving because I hadn’t done anything wrong, and I left. No-one touched me, and I didn’t touch them.”

“That’s true,” said the shorter officer, taking over. He produced a notepad from an inside pocket of his uniform and flipped it open. “I need to fill out an incident report,” he said. “Name? Address? Date of birth? Place of birth?” He wrote them all down.

“What incident?” I asked, “Why are you filling out a form, what have I done wrong?”

“We’ve spoken to you for more than two minutes, so we are required to fill out this form under the Terrorism Act.”

“Am I a terrorist?” I was aghast.

“No, no!” he remonstrated, smiling.

“Am I under arrest?”

“No, not at the moment.”

“What’s going to happen to this form?”

“It’s just filed in a drawer in the Snow Hill Police Station. If nothing happens in the next few weeks, it’s not recorded any further. It doesn’t get computerised, nothing like that.”

“So what’s this all about?”

“Why did you photograph the building?” I told him about the stories I was writing for the Help Desk and this particular story about Fleet Street and the clocks. I offered to give him a copy of the stories I had already written and published.

“Do you know what the building is?” he asked pointedly. I must have looked blank, because I hadn’t had time to find out. “It’s the Jewish Chronicle. Didn’t you see the security signs?”  I thought for a second – so the clock said exactly what I thought it said; this was a building used by the press.

“I saw the green signs and the yellow cones, but I was well outside the area – I was on the opposite side of the road, on the footpath, so I was outside the security area, surely.”

“It isn’t just what’s inside the signs,” he said “This whole area is a security zone.” He waved his arm airily over the entire street and down the hill towards the Holborn Viaduct.


“Because we don’t want people blowing up the Jewish Chronicle. You must be aware of the situation in Palestine.” I thought, the Middle East is along way from London.

“Hang on a minute,” I said. “You don’t want me to photograph the Jewish Chronicle because people might find out where it is?” He nodded. I pointed to my left, “About two hundred metres that way, across Holborn, is the London Islamic Centre, right next to St Albans Church, and on High Holborn, about half a mile from here, is the Arab Press House, I have photographed both of those places, including on a Friday when they are very busy and no-one has objected in any way.”

“Well,” he said slowly, “No-one is going to blow them up, are they?”

“It doesn’t seem possible that the Islamic Centre is unaware of the location of the Jewish Chronicle so close to them. How could a photograph of mine possibly be a security risk to the Chronicle?”

His face clamped shut. He was finished with discussion. “I’m pleased you’re not going to photograph it again.” he said, steel in his voice. He tore off the pink copy of his notes and handed it to me. “One of my colleagues will be visiting you in Sainsbury’s, probably tomorrow.” The two officers turned back to their quietly idling vehicle.

I didn’t wait to see the car drive off. As I walked toward Holborn I examined the slip. They had described me as 6’0 tall, medium build, short brown hair, white shirt, black trousers, black shoes. PNC ID Code IC1, Ethnic W1. The comments were worrying:


“Seen taking photos in area of Jewish Chronical.”


“Allegation made was seen photographing Chronical Refused to stop when questioned. No search. Legitimate photographer.”

The last two words were an intense relief, but “Refused to stop when questioned” seemed odd. I stopped for questioning by the police. Did they mean I was supposed to stop if I was questioned by the security detail? Actually, I did stop and I did answer their questions. Or was I required to wait with the men for the police to arrive? I thoughtfully folded the slip and finished the walk back to Sainsbury’s. How on earth are you supposed to know where a “security area” is when such places seem to be made up on the spur of the moment? And if you do know a “security zone” is in force, what are you not allowed to do while you are within it?

I photograph interesting things in unusual places: in Fleet St alone I had photographed the Mary Queen of Scots statue, King Lud and his sons, Sweeney Todd’s salon, Queen Elizabeth I, the Romanian Orthodox Church altar in the Church of St Dunstan in the West, the beautiful Art Deco clock on 141 Fleet St, even the gin palace entrance to Lloyd’s Bank, but when I photographed the clock on the Jewish Chronicle – suddenly I’m being questioned under the Terrorism Act. Not one of those signs in front of the Chronicle building said “No Photographs.” My pink slip said I was questioned under Section 44 (2), which I later found out were the stop and search powers. It was not dated. I put the slip into my desk diary, printed four of my “Our Neighbourhood” articles that I had written for the intranet, and put them in an envelope.

True to his word, two more officers did turn up at Sainsbury’s Head Office the following afternoon. I received a call from Reception.

“There are two police officers from the Met here to see you. Can you come to Reception, please?”

I rang HR and told them briefly about my adventure in Furnival St the previous day. I asked them if someone would like to accompany me.

“Ring us back if you get arrested, and we’ll see what we can do,” she said. “You were on Sainsbury’s business, so we will offer you help if you need it.” I took the envelope with me and descended to the atrium.

The officers were young – still in their twenties – a tall, slightly stooping, blond, earnest chap and a dark auburn young woman with blue eyes and a careful stare. Pale blue shirts and dark blue trousers. But they weren’t from the Metropolitan Police Force. They were from the City of London Police, a much smaller police unit which operated entirely within the one square mile of the City of London. There were indeed the colleagues of the officers who had interviewed me the previous day. “Can we see your identification, please?” said the young woman. I was pleased that Sainsbury’s had photo ID cards, but I still thought that carrying ID wasn’t necessary in Britain. I handed her my card. She studied it while she said, “What kind of photographs do you usually take, Mr ….Terale?”

Her mis-pronounciation was a common error. I offered my envelope, and the PC took it while she handed the card to her colleague, disentangling its bright red lanyard from her wrist as she did so. She walked over to the seats that litter the open spaces in the atrium, pulled out the sheets and sat down while she read one of my articles in its entirety. “This is good,” she said. She read another one while her colleague read the one she had just finished. “There’s no need to read them all,” she said, handing them to me. The other PC gave me back my card and they left. I took the lift back to the seventh floor and flopped into my seat.

“You still here?” asked James, the team leader of another group. “I thought you’d been arrested. Bloody nuisance photographers.”

“That’s cold, coming from you. At least HR said they’d offer me assistance.”

“Oh, Mate, we’ll all come and see you in jail! Since you were on Sainsbury’s business we’ll be paid for the time we are visiting you.”

“What if they don’t?”

“Then we’ll stay here and you’ll have to sweat it out on your todd.”

April 2012

It’s been more or less six years since my encounter with Section 44. Human rights activist group Liberty noted:

An area could be designated as one where people and vehicles can be stopped and searched at any time, by an assistant chief constable (or someone of similar rank or above) and the Home Secretary must confirm the authorisation. The authorisation could be made at any time that the person making it ‘considers it expedient’ for the prevention of acts of terrorism, could last up to 28 days and could be renewed.

The powers under section 44 were so broadly drawn that authorisations allowing for stop and search have been made on a rolling basis since they were first introduced in 2001. For example, for almost 10 years all of Greater London was designated as an area in which anyone can be stopped and searched without suspicion.

As a result of this we have seen section 44 powers being used against peaceful protestors on a regular basis. The statistics show that if you’re Black or Asian you are between five and seven times more likely to be stopped under section 44 than if you’re White. Yet of the many thousands of people stopped under this power, no-one has been subsequently convicted of a terrorism offence.

I suppose it’s possible that the security area defined by the sweep of the police officer’s arm had been one such area designated; but how could anyone know there was a Section 44 notice in operation, and where its boundaries were.

In July 2010, when the section was redefined, the British Journal of Photography said:

Home Office hands victory to photographers, restricts use of Section 44

In a speech to the House of Commons, the Home Secretary Theresa May has put an end to one of Britain’s most controversial piece of legislation, which has been increasingly used by police officers to restrict photographers working in public places

Officers will no longer be able to search individuals using section 44 powers. Instead, they will have to rely on section 43 powers – which require officers to reasonably suspect the person to be a terrorist. And officers will only be able to use section 44 in relation to the searches of vehicles. I will only confirm these authorisations where they are considered to be necessary, and officers will only be able to use them when they have ‘reasonable suspicion’. These interim measures will bring section 44 stop and search powers fully into line with the European Court’s judgment. They will provide operational clarity for the police. And they will last until we have completed our review of counter-terrorism laws.”

I sympathise with the Jewish Chronicle, and I understand their concerns with their security, but calling the police on me because I photographed their building from a public place was unwarranted. Given the position of their building on a street in the middle of the City of London, it seems to me that they have to look to their own devices to secure their position rather than summon the wrath of their security detail onto a public street and then to call the police to question the motives of passing photographers. We have a right to do what we do.


Letters home, 2001, London Marathon

Dear Mum and Dad

Just a short note to let you know that I’m home safely after running the London Marathon this morning.  My time is sub-3:45:00, meaning about 3:44:10hrs.  I had hoped for a sub 3:30:00 but I just have to accept the time I’ve got.  It’s not a bad time for 54-yr old running his first marathon, and his first London Marathon at that, after only 3 years and 3 months of any sort of running.  And I’ll tell you what, there were an AWFUL lot of people behind me!  When I was running past the 21 mile mark, with Tower Bridge just in front of me, I could see lots of people just passing the 13 mile mark, and no sign of the tail of the competitors.  They had taken nearly 3 hours to get half-way and they still had a long way to go .

Waiting for the train, St Albans

Waiting for the train, St Albans

London being what it is, and the trains being in the condition they are, we couldn’t go directly to London Bridge Station and then off to Blackheath.  We caught the train from St Albans to London Bridge, but just before Kings Cross Station we were told by the train driver that due to engineering work, he wasn’t stopping at London Bridge and we’d have to get off at Kings Cross and find another way to Blackheath. Up to that very moment we’d had assurances from the rail people that all was in order.  We got to Blackheath Station near Greenwich Park after having to miss three trains because they were all full, but only with 10 minutes to spare before I had to throw my kit onto the back of the  truck that would take it to the finish for me.  It was a close thing, and Elaine said there were lots of people who actually missed the start and had to run through the assembly area just to catch the field.

It’s quite a flat course, a little downhill if anything, and very pleasant to run on those roads.  All the way it was jammed with runners, I always had to be careful where I ran so as not to trip up or be tripped, but at least half a dozen people in front of me went down.  None of them looked hurt, but it would be a difficult thing to recover from completely.

The timing chip tied into my shoe

The timing chip tied into my shoe

It must have been quite a cold day, because when I drank the water from the bottles that were handed out nearly every mile, I thought they must have taken the bottle from the fridge.  It really chilled my skin when I threw some water over myself.  However, the weather made very good running conditions because I never once felt over-hot, it was just a nice comfortable temperature all the way round.The beautifully soft and very light running suit that Genevieve had bought for me made such a difference, too. I’d never worn anything before that was so light and so comfortable.

During the 12th mile, we crossed Tower Bridge and that was a real highlight. There were lots of people watching and a wonderful amount of noise. At the 13 mile point, there is a short section of road where I could see the leaders of the marathon passing the 21 mile mark and heading for the finish. I saw Teargat, who was second, and Antonio Pinto, who was about 5th.  Paul Teargat was running his first ever marathon and I heard he’d finished second.  Not bad. It was just fortunate timing that I saw them.  Any later or any earlier and I’d have missed them because the section where the homecomers could see the outgoers is quite a short stretch of road.

Half way

Half way

The very, very worst part of the marathon was mile 23. The course seems endless and the pain is awful.  I told myself that I would never walk.  No matter how slowly I ran, it would still be faster than walking and I was also absolutely sure that if I walked, I’d stop.  I have never walked in a race before and today wasn’t going to be the first time. It could have taken another hour to get to the finish.  At mile 25, there is no mile 26, just the finish 1.2 miles away.  When I saw Buckingham Palace on my left, and passed the Victoria Memorial as I rounded into The Mall, then I finally felt that nothing could stop me.  I could see the finish clock in front of me and it was about 3:42:00 and I saw 3:43:55 as I crossed the line, so that’s why I think my final time will be about 3:44:10-ish.  But well under 3:45:00.

I crossed the finish mat that recorded the time from the chip on my foot, then I stopped.  After that, it was all agony.  I could hardly walk, every step was an effort and I was gasping from the pain.  I had to walk up a little ramp to get the chip removed from my running shoes and then I had to walk down the other side, clutching onto the railing.  A lovely lady put the London Marathon finisher’s medal round my neck and gave me a quick peck on the cheek and someone else swung a space blanket (it’s a blanket made of very warm, shiny material) round my shoulders and I limped down the whole line of The Mall to find the truck with my kit bag on it.  Someone gave me a goody bag of London Marathon stuff with a t-shirt, some sports bars, some drinks and an apple.  Just as I found the truck and collected my kit, Elaine and Karen yelled enthusiastically from behind the tall wire fence that kept the runners’ area secure.  It was a terrible effort to sit and get changed and an even worse effort to get up.  I was very impressed that they had managed to find me with all those people milling about, but they had gone looking for the numbered truck with my kit in it.  Very intelligent.

The end

The end

We walked to Trafalgar Square and down the tunnel to Charing Cross, from there the train to Leicester Square for Kings Cross and from there … Home.  People on the trains and in the tunnels who saw my London Marathon medal (of course I wore it home! And I’m taking it to work at Tesco tomorrow, too) engaged me in very pleasant conversation, commiserated with me on my agony and charmingly commented on my time.

During the week I had lots of phone calls from our English friends and family, including Thelma, Roland and Jennie.  We also had lots of lovely emails from friends and family in New Zealand and Genevieve rang a couple of times as well.  

Ivor Adams rang to see how things went, Roland rang to see how I was and Ivor’s daughter, Jill and husband Dave, came round to see us and to swap jokes with the cripple.  I’ve had emails of encouragement this morning from friends in Te Kuiti, Otorohanga and Hamilton and Nick and Sally Trout from Warnham sent one, too.  I also had an absolutely beautiful card with encouragement, and lots of stickers, from Karen before we left this morning. I have had a wonderful day.

The prize

The prize

Elaine’s view of the London Marathon while Ewart did the hard job of running it.

The main marathon event began for me last Wednesday when I went to London on Ewart’s behalf (armed with signed authority, ID, and a list of tasks to complete) to collect Ewart’s gear bag, computer chip, runner’s number etc. The fun really began on the tube sitting at Charing Cross Station on the Jubilee Line waiting for the Docklands Light Rail. It was the first morning to collect such articles and people were arriving from all over to find London Arena, just like me.

I wore my new Canterbury tracksuit, bought in NZ for me by Ewart especially for the marathon and my NZ All Blacks t-shirt. On the platform apparently I looked like someone who knew where I was going because English people kept asking me for directions.  It was quite a laugh really but I met some lovely people this way and we travelled on the trains together, chatting about the marathon all the way and going our own separate ways on arrival.

The Arena was easy to find – it’s in the Docklands area of London where huge and very impressive expansion projects are going on. On arrival the 2001 Space Odyssey music blasted forth and that really set the tone for a great day. Everything was really well organised so getting Ewart’s gear (through several steps) was very simple and that left my day free to enjoy the marathon exhibition and enjoy it I did. At the end of the day, after some shopping for Genevieve at Canary Wharf, I dragged my very weary body home ready for the days ahead.

The first of those days was quiet and just required providing the right sort of foods at the right times for when Ewart needed them and having a quiet rest – you know, marking, stuff like that.

Saturday was market day, so I had to get the right foods, cook at different times to get the right amount of food in and make final arrangements with our special neighbour, Karen. There were lots of emails and phone calls wishing Ewart well and with all the cards sitting about, our flat was quite festive. Followed by an early night.


The marathon went really well. We got up at 4.50am and made ourselves ready to go. Karen arrived here at 5.45am and we headed by car for St Albans station, travelled by Thameslink train to London … and then the fun started. We intended to travel direct to London Bridge station but just short of Kings Cross the driver came on the intercom to say that due to engineering work, this train would not be stopping at London Bridge. We would have to get off at Kings Cross and go to London Bridge via the Northern Line. The Northern Line is the furthest walk through the tunnels of any of the lines at Kings Cross so we set off at quite a pace so as not to use up valuable time. We waited on the platform with lots of other people, white plastic gear-bag in hand, heading for the marathon.

After about ten minutes a voice came over the intercom telling all the marathon people to head for the Victoria Line because the Northern Line was closed. We went to the Victoria Line platform and waited; the train was late, then the one that did come was full and we couldn’t fit on. We waited for the next train while time ticked by. We caught the next train to Green Park, then more walking through tunnels to the Jubilee line and caught that train to London Bridge. Then we had to go to find Connex.

Once there we ran into all the other people (hundreds by then) who had been caught by the train problems. We stood on platform 5 and watched the first three trains come and went and we couldn’t get on.  I met one man who told me he had started north of us at Hertford. He had sat on that station for 15mins with other runners, finally to have the intercom tell him that no trains were going from Hertford to London that day, despite his having checked with the railways the previous day. He had had to ring his wife to drive him and a group of runners to St Albans to catch our train – and be there by 6.24am! Most of the trains from London Bridge could only take a few people because the trains were full before they got to us.

London being what it is, and the trains being in the condition they are, we couldn’t go directly to London Bridge Station and then off to Blackheath.  We caught the train from St Albans to London Bridge, but just before Kings Cross Station we were told by the train driver that due to engineering work, he wasn’t stopping at London Bridge and we’d have to get off at Kings Cross and find another way to Blackheath. Up to that very moment we’d had assurances from the rail people that all was in order.  We got to Blackheath Station near Greenwich Park after having to miss three trains because they were all full, but only with 10 minutes to spare before I had to throw my kit onto the back of the  truck that would take it to the finish for me.  It was a close thing, and Elaine said there

Then we got sent to platform 4 and two more full trains passed through.  At the third train we ran right to the front carriage and got there just as the doors shut. I called to Ewart and the driver that I could see vacant seats. We asked the driver if we could get on. I had my NZ tracksuit. He opened the doors, let only the three of us on and quickly closed the doors behind us and the train set off. The trip was quite slow because of a succession of red lights and a slow section of line with engineering work. Once at Blackheath there were lots of nice friendly police and marshals to help us to find the right place and we set off on the 20 minute walk to the Blue Start on Greenwich Park. We made it in time for Ewart to change, drop off his gear bag on a big numbered truck and have just over 10mins to spare.

Finding a loo was fun. We found some for the athletes but the queues were horrific so Karen and I decided we could wait. Just…

We wished Ewart well and just before the 9:30 am start time headed back to Blackheath Station. We couldn’t find the start line anyway because there were thousands of people (plus tens of thousands of runners) and large hot air balloons as well, including a couple we recognised from the Hamilton Balloon Fiesta. We found a nice coffee shop and rested there for about 1/4 hour. During that time, the race had started and some time later we saw runners still arriving with their gear bags and running to try to catch the start.

Getting ready, Blackheath

Getting ready, Blackheath

From what we understand, the start area was so huge that there were runners starting when the leaders reached the eight-mile mark. For the London Marathon everyone’s time is counted

from the start gun regardless of whether you make it over the start line very quickly.

Karen and I found the station and joined the queues for trains to the underground once more. We decided to go via Victoria, so we flagged the train to Charing Cross because it was too full anyway. When our train was due the announcer came on to say our train would be ten minutes late. We were beginning to get used to this and started to laugh. Others on the platform looked sideways at us and Karen said, “Welcome to England!” We were both dressed as Kiwis but Karen’s mum is Irish and her dad English. We were just having a fun day out.

On arrival at Victoria we had similar adventures but finally found a train to get us to Tower Bridge where we hoped to catch Ewart at the 13 and 22 mile points as they were opposite each other. We didn’t find that place immediately, because there were far too many people, so we grabbed an ice ream and went to the end of Tower Bridge, next to the Tower of London – and found a great atmosphere there anyway. We had to stand on tip-toe for a long time checking out every runner with a white cap heading towards the half-way mark.

I finally spotted Ewart. We screamed “GO EWART” at the top of our lungs then headed back to the underground for our next adventure. Out came the map and we decided to head to St James Park, arriving by The Home Office. Once there we found we were just 800 metres from the finish line and fortunately Karen spotted a gap in the fence so we could be right at the front. We could see at last!!! We’d felt REALLY SHORT until then, though. We stayed there for about 1 1/2 hours looking at every white cap, yellow and black strip etc. Our eyes hurt and streamed and we cheered on anyone who got into difficulty or who looked interesting. Finally we spotted Ewart and screamed at the top of our lungs again. People around us looked at us VERY STRANGELY. Then we took off towards Buckingham Palace.

Here it got really crowded and it was very difficult to get through the crowd. We caught a glimpse of runners from time to time and photographed the beautiful tulips in the palace gardens. I also saw the plaques for the Diana Princess of Wales Walk in the pavement. From here on the going got really difficult and we could only go a few paces at a time whenever the crowd would let us through.

We found the finish line on The Mall and watched people finishing, being awarded their medals and getting their computer chips removed. As each runner finished they were wrapped in a reflective, metallic-looking sheet, called a space blanket, to keep warm. I spotted the numbered trucks where we had earlier deposited Ewart’s gear and knew just which truck his would be in, so we headed for it.

We had to stay beyond the perimeter fence and we took photos of things we thought Ewart would want to see afterwards. We spotted Ewart quite quickly and called to him, taking a photo of him with his medal and space blanket. We waited for him to change then we walked parallel with him until we could be on the same path. He was very stiff and sore by this stage, but very happy. He had finished the marathon in 3 hours 44 minutes. It was a fantastic time for a first marathon, in fact for any marathon.

We were REALLY proud of him. We walked at his painful and very delicate pace to Trafalgar Square and then through the underground tunnels to Charing Cross station. People were happy, chatting to each other, showing medals and comparing times. It was really great to be part of and fortunately the train trip home was much less eventful. At St Albans station a couple of black guys who worked at the station called to Ewart to see his medal and made him and us feel really special. They were so happy and excited just to share Ewart’s triumph with him. We finally got back to the flat at 4pm, very tired but extremely happy, kind of high really.

Since then it has been all celebration. Dave and Jill had driven up from Ashtead to see Ivor and Iris and they called round see us. That was a lovely surprise and a perfect way to wind down after a big day. There were lovely emails and phone calls to follow, yesterday and today – from everywhere. Ewart has had a great day with his work mates today and I with mine. Ewart took his medal to work today and he got a great reception. None of them knew he was running. Tomorrow it goes with me to school. The children knew he was running and are excitedly waiting to hear how he got on.

Well, this is it. Time to go to the start.

Well, this is it. Time to go to the start.

It was a wonderful adventure for us all.  For me, I am pleased to be the  “gopher” and “spectator” but none the less a participant. For Ewart it is one of the greatest achievements of his life. Thanks for your support. You made a big difference to the last two years of training for this event. Genevieve was wonderful: she phoned us, wrote lots of encouraging emails and bought the lovely running suit that Ewart ran in for the race. It was truly a great family day for us.

Re-united. Exhausted and pleased it’s over, but there’s only one way of winning a London Marathon medal.

Re-united. Exhausted and pleased it’s over, but there’s only one way of winning a London Marathon medal.

Lots of love



Time: 3:43:58 hr Place: 6453 Finishers: 33,000  Starters: 44,000

The London Marathon is a world event, so that puts Ewart in the top 20% of marathon runners world-wide.


Letters home, 2001, Dec 17

17 December 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

The Stuart Turner catalogue is on its way.  I called in at the model shop in St Albans and they said Stuart Turner doesn’t deal through shops, he markets direct so I thought I’d look on the internet and he has quite a useful site there, with a phone number to order his catalogue. I spoke to a nice young fellow there and he said he’d be happy to send a catalogue to NZ, so it’s on its way.  I don’t know if it’ll take a week or three weeks, but it’s all paid for and done n dusted.  Pleasure me old mate. Hope you have lots of fun with it. You can order the parts you want through his fax number, which will be in the catalogue.

Our trip to Cyprus starts on Wednesday morning, so since it’s Monday night here now, we’ve only got TWO SLEEPS until we’re on the way. The travel agent contacted me a couple of days ago to say that our departure time has been delayed until 0955 because they (Britannia Air) are putting on a much bigger plane.  It means we don’t have to get up so early to be at the airport 2 ½ hours before departure. We have paid for our car to be garaged at the airport so we can drive there and back and not be at the mercy of somewhat erratic train schedules.

Looks like I do get a final chance to give you a big Christmas Greetings – we went up the St Albans Cathedral and lit a candle for Jas. We also remembered that the Christmas we spent with you in your house before we came to England was the second-to-last Christmas you had in your Hahei house and we remembered all the work and the fun we had helping you get the building started. I think very few people have made of their retirement the adventure and the challenges you made of yours.  We salute your courage and your enterprise and we admire the home and the community you made in Hahei. The years we spent going to see you each Christmas, with your reciprocal visit to Pauanui for New Year, were magical times and we are deeply grateful we could share them with you.

We have put some bright and sparkly snow crystal lights in the window which will come on at 5:00pm with the Christmas tree and our security lighting and we have given our valuables and our keys to the care of Ivor and Iris. So we are all ready for Christmas and we’ll be able to see how the Orthodox Greeks celebrate Christmas in Cyprus. We are so looking forward to this new adventure.

We do hope you have a very happy Christmas.  

Love: Ewart and Elaine.


Letters home, 2001, Dec 9

9 Dec 2001

I’m absolutely delighted that Joni went to see you yesterday. It sounded on her mobile as though you had a very good visit and it was very nice to hear you on the phone. When she called me from outside the home she said she was standing near the harbour and I could hear all these birds singing in the background.  It was quite remarkable.  You don’t hear birds singing like that here very often.  The robins go berserk in late winter and early spring and they sound wonderful. We can also hear a few larks in the summer, but mostly we hear only the raucous squawk of the ravens and the dreadfully monotonous two-tone call of those bloody pigeons from as early as 4:00 in the morning, when the dawn is that early.  The only time you can hear birdsong is when you are walking in the local patches of forest.

Just before Ivor went into hospital we went to see the local production of Chess at the Arena Theatre.  The St Albans Operatic always put on a very good show. The lead singers are imported professionals but the cast are hardened locals. Chess is quite a good show, with the music written by Bjorn of ABBA fame. I don’t think he made a particularly good job of the music since much of it is monotonous bouncy stuff intended to get the words out rather than a song or songs as such.  

The best two pieces are in the second half – Bangkok and I Know Him so Well, the song Elaine Page made her own. I didn’t know the song is actually a duet. The hero is a chess champion and the game in Bangkok is a re-match; the American girlfriend and the wife sing this song just before the wife marches him off in triumph back to Russia. It’s an interesting enough premise – when two players are equal in ability and talent, sport is about gamesmanship, not the game.  Therefore what goes on behind the scenes will heavily influence what happens on the field of play.  Nothing new there.  Two good songs in the second half and some nice voices to listen to.

A word about the murder of Sir Peter Blake.  We were very upset to hear that a man whom we admired a great deal had been killed by pirates in Amazonia. The local press (eg the Guardian, The Times and the Evening Standard) all called him the “Legendary British yachtsman Sir Peter Blake.”  New Zealand born, you see.  We thought about that for a while, but eventually decided that in order to write a meaningful story about him you have to find a local connection and after all, Pippa and the children do live in Hampshire. I wore my All Blacks tie to work. It’s a black tie with a silver fern on it and it was sufficiently different from my usual colourful computer ties for people to ask me why I was wearing a black tie. He was a remarkable and courageous man and we shall not see his like again.  New Zealand and the whole world are much the poorer for his leaving us.

Since New Year is coming up, I ought to give you a bit of a confession: I don’t run any more.  A few weekends after I finished the London Marathon my legs fell off. I can walk ok, but I can’t run.  It’s an Archilles injury in both feet and I feel pretty embarrassed about it. Still, I suppose if one goes from being a smoker and a couch potato to running a sub 3:45 marathon in just three years, you may have to pay for it and it looks like I am.  

The only thing you can do with an Archilles injury is wait until it heals, so now I go to the gym with Elaine.  I use the rower, the kayak, the stepper and the crosstrainer as the main equipment and on Sundays – as today – I spend about 1/2hr on each. I’m hoping I can run in the Garden City 10mile in September next year, so I’m not going to do any running at all until about April, when I’ll start working on the treadmill.  

I suspected it was too early to try the marathon, but the opportunity presented itself and I just took it. I am still immensely pleased with my London Marathon medal; it’s one of those things you have to work very hard for and once you have it no-one can take it off you.  There aren’t very many people with a better time than mine, and I still haven’t met one.  I enjoy going to the gym because after the training session Elaine and I go to the steam room and then have a soak in the spa (which they call a Jacuzzi here) so it’s really rather civilized. We go to the gym three or four times a week and you can see the changes it’s made to Elaine.  She really does look taller.

The last thing I have for you is the news that we are going to Cyprus for Christmas. The office co-ordinator at accenture asked us what holidays we wanted over the New Year period and Elaine has been dead keen to go overseas (abroad, as they say here) for part of her winter holidays.  On Thursday of last week I finally got the email to say I had four days off from the 19th – three days, then the weekend, then the Monday, then Christmas.

I rang round lots of travel agents and they all said, “Not now, you can’t.” Yesterday morning I called in at our local travel agent in the Quadrant, the shopping centre for Marshalswick (our suburb, of which Jersey Farm is part) and he had THREE holidays I could choose from.  I could have Alicante, Madeira or Cyprus, all within our budget, including accommodation and all with flights leaving on the 19th and returning on Boxing Day.

I went round to the hairdressers to see Elaine and we agreed that we’d had a holiday on the south coast of Spain, so we’d give Alicante a miss, Madeira is mostly England “over there,” so we thought Cyprus sounded suitably exotic and we plumped for that.  Since then I have found out that Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean, it’s a Commonwealth country and has a history going back to 7000 BC.  There are castles and old cities and Greek and Roman remains.  It’s the home of Aphrodite, it has deep clear blue seas, the winter temperatures are about 16 degrees C, most people there speak English, they ride on the left side of the road and you can drive around the island in about 3½ hours. New Zealanders don’t need a visa. We should have lots of interesting things to do and see.

Since we are leaving in 10 days time I doubt I’ll get the opportunity to write to you again before Christmas.  I that case please accept the warmest Season’s Greetings from both Elaine and I.  You know that we’ll be thinking of you, about our family and all our friends in New Zealand.  Merry Christmas.

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine


Letters home, 2001, Dec 3

3 Dec 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

Ivor is improving every day.  We went to dinner at their place last night and Ivor ate everything we did, although not as much, and as far as we could tell enjoyed the meal and had no after effects.  He doesn’t go back to hospital for any tests for a couple of months yet but he is in good heart and certainly looks much improved.  He was absolutely delighted to get your Christmas card, which we delivered last week, and it was one of the first such cards he got.

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday.  It’s the thing, here.  You do your Christmas decorations on 1 Dec.  The shops and the daily advertising have been full of it for the past couple of weeks, of course, but the beginning of December is when you start to see the decorations go up in people’s houses and see the lights flashing in their windows.  We didn’t do anything particularly startling this year because I just stood last year’s tree up and put last year’s decorations on it, as well as last year’s lights. I did, however, get a snow blanket for the tree.  This is a length of thick, white, woolly cloth and you cut it up and crumple it on the ground around the foot of the tree to make it look like the tree is standing in thick snow.  

I have set the little Dickens doll under the tree and she looks absolutely gorgeous in her copious red overcoat standing under the street lamp in the deep snow singing her carols from the song book held in her green mittens.  I shall get a battery for her shortly and we will be able to hear her singing from amongst the presents Elaine has set under the tree. When we went to Ivor’s I saw that he has some coloured lights flickering bravely in his living room window and everyone in the street walking past can see them.  I must do that; it’s all very well having lights flashing on the Christmas tree, but coloured lights flashing in the window are de rigeur. We have a timer that turns on small lights in the living room at 7:00pm and I’ll rig the tree and window lights up so that everything starts at the same time.

We have now come to that time of year when it’s dark at 4:30pm, long before we start coming home and just getting light at 7:00am as we scrape the frost off the car before driving to the railway station. I have no idea why the English insist on having outside parking for their cars, with very few houses having a garage or even a carport. Actually, since I’ve touched on the point, the one topic the English talk about more than the weather is transport. Everyone has to get to work, almost no-one can walk to work, so almost everyone relies very heavily on the transport system to get them to work. The system is heavily overloaded and it is groaning and cracking under the pressure.

Everything is overloaded – the roads are choked such that a single accident on any motorway can cause a 20 mile four-lane tailback within half an hour, the city streets are nose-to-tail with cars and lots of parked illegally on double yellow lines because finding a park is so difficult. Cars weave in and out amongst the parked cars in a way I’ve only ever seen done in England. It’s like this; if there are no yellow lines to prohibit you from parking, you can park – anywhere.  This often means that streets wide enough to allow only one car in each direction get cars parked on both sides of the road, usually half-way across the footpath, with a corridor wide enough for just one car. If there’s a car already in the corridor, then you wait until that car, and all behind it, have passed through before you can go forward.  

The trains are fully crowded, at least at peak periods, with most of the train-load standing, and very few trains now run on time because a whole generation of under-funding and under-investment have left the track and all its infrastructure breaking down many times a day everywhere, all over the country. The train traveller going to work pays the most expensive fair of the day, and generally has to stand for the whole trip.  The buses are hopeless; on time for a bus is that time 5 minutes before until 5 minutes after the time on the timetable. Here in Jersey Farm I’ve had to give up using them because at the time I want to catch one, about 6:30 am, they far too often don’t arrive at all.  So with an overloaded road system, an overloaded train system and a bus system that doesn’t arrive for the working person, it’s very difficult to find a way to get to work that isn’t almost as stressful as work itself.

The neighbourhood I work in is that part of Southwark called The Arches. When the London to Dover railway was built from Blackfriars Station through Southwark it was on an elevated platform about 30 feet off the ground and it left behind a real forest of brickwork arches and within them is a darkened underground mini-world.  Lots of the arches have been boarded up and provide rented accommodation for small businesses with narrow alleyways following the bridge above to give access to the doors cut into the boarding.  In one particularly densely arched area there is a permanently manned car-park of about 200 cars.  It’s like gangster alley: Mercedes, Alpha Romeos, BMWs, a Ferrari – that sort of thing.  If it was parked on the street it might be attacked, or perhaps the owner likes to keep it here so the tax-man doesn’t know he’s got it.

 Just down the road from 168 Union St is the house that Mum’s grandmother, Helen Hinkley, lived in so this is the neighbourhood in which she grew up. It’s full of dark brick buildings and 3-storey warehouses and with all that coal smoke from hundreds of Victorian brick cottages in the neighbourhood, each with a coal-fired stove in the kitchen as the only source of warmth, it must have seemed a very dismal, cold, damp place to a young girl growing up in poverty in Bankside. Add to that the noise and smoke from the railway overhead, the constant rattle of wagons delivering goods to the warehouses and the clip-clop of horses hooves it would have been noisy as well as smoky, dismal, cold and damp.

Add to all of that the open sewers and the horse manure all over the road and it would have been smelly, noisy, smoky, cold, dismal and damp.  Just the place you’d want to leave; I don’t blame her.  Today, you can only see where this neighbourhood has come from, it’s not like that at all to be here now, but on a cold, misty morning walking to work from Blackfriars through The Arches to Union St, it’s not hard to visualize how the Victorians lived in Southwark.

I have just bought a book called The Magic and Mystery of England by Ivan J Belcher because it had the Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge and a Morris dancing troupe on the cover, while there was a photo of the fishing boats drawn up on the beach at Hastings on the back. Now that I’ve got it home to read more closely, it’s even better than I thought; the man who wrote it likes lots of the places we’ve been to.  Look at this list just for the time we have been here.

St Paul’s Cathdedral.  We have both been inside and stared at its majesty and grandeur.  Every day, I see it as I go to and from work over Blackfriars Bridge and every day I marvel at its simplicity and its elegance. The chief mason to Sir Christopher Wren, and who helped build St Paul’s, was a St Albans man who is buried in St Peter’s Church on the main road in St Albans

The Chiltern Hills.  These are the hills that wrap around Tearle Valley and across which runs the Ichnield Way, picking carefully the dry route all the way from near Norwich almost to Henley-on-Thames.

Ilfracombe Harbour.  It has a 30-foot tide, smugglers caves carved into the mudstone cliffs and beautiful little stone cottages clamped to the hillside overlooking the town and the harbour. We went there several times to see dearest cousin Clarice.

Tower Bridge, London.  I took Genevieve’s photo in the late afternoon light from the Embankment with Tower Bridge right behind her. It’s a lovely photo. I was also given the privilege of running across it during the London Marathon earlier this year.

The Radcliffe Camera is a circular stone building in the heart of Oxford and is actually a library of which our cousin Barbara is the Head Librarian – the Bodleian Library.

The Magdalen Bridge, Oxford. You hire a punt and go punting down the river, gliding under this 18th century stone bridge.  Magdalen College was built by the Bishop of Winchester – he of Winchester Palace in Southwark with The Clink in its basement, which I walk close by every day.

The Houses of Parliament just down the road from where I work

King’s College in Cambridge with that fantastically beautiful chapel in its grounds, begun by Henry V1 and not finished until Henry Viii.

Christ Church, also in Oxford, with its most beautiful Norman cathedral.

Clapper Bridge, Eastleach, Gloucester. Two parishes, two little Norman churches, not more that 200m apart, one either side of the clearest trout stream I have ever seen, crossed by a small stone bridge that is centuries old.  The bridge is made of slabs of stone piled up and topped with a horizontal slab.  Very simple but very strong. It goes by the name of Keble’s Bridge. The village is made of old stone cottages with two very nice large stone farm houses and a most beautiful stone pub, where we had lunch.  Elaine’s family comes from Eastleach, that’s why we went there.

The Grand Union Canal near Soulbury, Bucks.  Not far from Tearle Valley, this canal was part of the backbone of the Industrial Revolution and these days long thin, brightly painted and decorated canal boats still potter slowly up and down the canal, opening and closing the locks as they go.

Shakespears’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.  We’ve been there twice and had a tour through this house. Stratford is a charming town, but Warwick has a lot more genuine Tudor buildings and is much more authentic in feel.

The Tower of London. We went through there and I had a go at the warder about the Princes in the Tower.  I said the Tudors had turned on the publicity machine to blame Richard III and he said, “It was Richard III.” I saw I wasn’t going to win with that line, so I said it was his fault, that he was the jailer and he had let his charges be taken away to be killed illegally, knowing it to be illegal and therefore collaborating with the murderer. We glared at each other and then he turned to the much more polite lady next to me at the counter.

Churchill’s grave, Bladon, Oxfordshire.  This is quite a site.  There are families of Churchills and Spencers, here.  Winston Churchill has a big stone monument in Westminster Cathedral, but he is buried in this little churchyard in a village not far from Blenheim Palace, just outside Oxford.

The Horse Guards, Whitehall. On a warm, sunny day we watched the horse guards sitting still on these tall black horses. Whitehall is a wide street linking Parliament buildings with Trafalgar Square. When the Horse Guards change watch there is quite a ceremony, but when the men dismount, they are very stiff and sore young men indeed.

Morris Dancing.  We have several morris dancing troupes in St Albans and the city often hosts Morris dancing meets and competitions during the May celebrations.  There is a lot of drinking and a lot of fun and many of the troupes come from the Continent – more in the tradition of country dancing than actual morris dancing – but lots of fun for all that.  When we were visiting Redbournebury Mill a troupe turned up and it was there we first met Martin, the St Albans Town Cryer.

THE places in London: Regent St, Oxford St and Harrods in Knightsbridge. Famous for their lights at Christmas time. Famous for their shopping and their shops. Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, Covent Garden Market.

Big Ben.  People usually call the tower or the clock Big Ben, but it’s actually the name of the 14 tonne base-tone bell that tolls the hours. The man who designed the clock was our own St Albans lawyer Edmund, Lord Grimthorpe. He also paid for and restored the St Albans Cathedral so that the building we see and visit today is the result of his work.  Some of the Victorians were remarkable men with huge amounts of energy and unbounded ambition and skill.

Fishing boats drawn up on the beach at Hastings. One of the first experiences we had of solidly, determinedly traditional ways of life. Elaine got second in the run to be the marketer for The Stade – the heart of this traditional fishing industry – but you don’t get any prizes for being second.  They didn’t want someone not English to do it.

Buckingham Palace.  This was the end point of my London Marathon and it’s always somewhere our visitors simply MUST go.  Outside the gates is the monument to Queen Victoria and the two huge statues facing the palace were given by New Zealand.

Knebworth House.  There are lots of gothic pillars and bits tacked onto the outside of a very large Tudor house not very far from here.  We have been there twice and have driven past it lots of times. Knebworth House was used for the filming of Batman and it has beautifully laid out and well attended gardens and grounds.

Hampton Court Palace.  We went on a trip there down the Thames with Ivor’s daughter Jill.  Christopher Wren did most of the work on it that we can see today, but the house is internally a Tudor building and majestic in its own right, though you wouldn’t really call it a palace, more a grand country house.  The gardens are just wonderful.

Warwick Castle.  Joni and I went there on a trip we did to Rugby and Stratford-upon-Avon.  It’s a magnificent building, owned these days by Madame Tussaud’s, started by William the Conqueror, with large round towers at the corners and a commanding view along the Avon River. Joni and I explored it for a couple of hours just before it closed for the day and there’s a tableau set up through several rooms of a visit by Winston Churchill when he was a young man. We were very impressed with the town itself.  Thelma’s son, Martin, lives there.

Hedge Laying.  Some of the hedgerows in England are over a thousand years old, including one near us, along Jersey Lane. The hegderow maker partially cuts through the shrub or branch and then bends it more or less horizontally, laying the next shrub over it and so on all along the row.  The top part of the hedgerow is tied with prunings. The hedges are usually kept about 5 feet high and the resultant woven hedge is stock proof without a single post except for those necessary to make and swing the gate.

Bluebells.  One of the most dazzling and magical sights you can ever see is the carpet of bluebells under the slightly greening trees in woodland open spaces in early spring. It is impossible to describe it and the effect is much too subtle to photograph because although you can see the massed display of blue flowers covering the ground, what the photo cannot catch is that the very air is turned blue. There is green at your feet and the view gets progressively bluer, the further away from yourself you look. The carpet looks about a foot thick and seems to float in the air.

The daffodils at Waddesdon Manor.  Waddesdon was the very first Great House we visited in England, a Rothschild mansion.  Our cousin Alec, Thelma’s brother, took us there.  We’ve been back to the village a couple of times and the last time there we bought a delightful copper and brass Victorian bed warmer from the antique dealer there, who knew the local Tearle brothers.  The daffodils cover very thickly some fields directly in front of the house and are a thick sea of yellow in spring.  Around us in St Albans there are long stretches of highway and city roads which are lined with daffodil yellow that have been planted by the council over many years.

Swans.  All the white swans in England belong to the Queen. On our own River Ver, very close to the cathedral, and out on Lake Verulamium, the white swans glide around and will accept bread from your hand if they feel like it.

Ashridge Forest, near Tring. Thelma took us here for a day out quite recently. The huge Gothic house here was built on the site of a 13th century monastery and it was here that Elizabeth I arrested her sister Mary.  Most of the trees here are beeches, native to England since the Ice Age.  The seat of the Rothschilds was here at Tring Park and we have also visited the Zoological Museum in Tring.  Thelma said that she and her cousins, including Jennie Pugh, used to walk and run through the trees and along the paths in this small forest when they were young. Thelma is particularly proud of her association with Ashridge Forest because it is owned and managed as a nature reserve by the National Trust and Thelma is a long-time active member of the NT, including working in this forest park.


Letters home, 2001, Nov 23

23 November 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

Just a very short note to let you know that my contract has been extended to end of March 2002.  We are both very pleased because some of the contractors did not get their contracts extended, and since there is an increasing number of permanent staffers on the helpdesk team, accenture’s need for contractors is becoming less.  I’m a bit lucky, I think, but I’m also really pleased because it shows that accenture/Sainsbury’s values my work..

We have recently moved to the Union St building, so we are only a couple of hundred metres from the house where Mum’s grandmother, Helen Hinkley, grew up.  I noticed that she also called herself Helen Brenda Hinkley, so no doubt that’s where Mum’s mother’s name came from.  Isn’t it interesting the things you find out?  I have also been stalking the streets and the place is CROWDED with little Victorian terraced cottages and dark brick 3-storey buildings that used to be warehouses, still with their lifting tackle attached, often painted blue or red to decorate the building in its new guise as an office block. It’s a very interesting neighbourhood, but it must have been extremely dark, damp and dismal for Helen and her family.  

The bricks are all a uniform dark brown, almost black, there’s the London-Dover railway overhead making lots of noise and smoke, there are all these Victorian buildings with two coal fires (living room and kitchen stove) belching smoke, there’s the constant noise of horse-driven vehicles taking goods from the river to the warehouses and the strong stink of all the horse manure on the roads.  Add to that the houses would be very warm, that the neighbourhood is historically an area of thieves, footpads and prostitutes and it may not have been all that desirable a place to grow up in …  It’s an interesting place, now, because it’s relatively safe and has been opened up quite a bit by some modern developments, but we still get asked to keep to the lighted streets at night and not to walk along talking into the cellphone because you then become a target to a pick-pocket or a phone-thief.

Thank you VERY much for your Christmas card for us and for Ivor – we’ll give him his this weekend when we see him – and thanks for the lovely letter inside. We are planning to go to Paris in the Eurostar next weekend and hoping for a week’s holiday somewhere – anywhere – in Europe for a week near Christmas, in Elaine’s school hols.

Be careful, be happy. Big kisses for Mum.

Lots of love  Ewart and Elaine.


Letters home, 2001, Nov 4

4 Nov 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you very much for your letter re Mum’s jersey; I’m very pleased it has arrived at last and we’re also delighted that she likes it.  It’s certainly a nice warm material and we hope she gets lots of use from it. She can tell anyone who wants to know that it came from St Albans and it’s English made so it will do very nicely for any New Zealand winter.  It’s also a lovely colour and style, isn’t it?

Ivor came home last Wednesday and we went to see him yesterday afternoon.  He’s pretty tired, as you would expect after such a big operation, and he says he’s still very sore under his right lower ribs which were cut during the op, but he has good colouring in his face and he’s very cheerful and happy to be home. He said the doctor ascribed his lack of appetite to having a very small stomach these days, but he actually looks much better without his pot and I’m sure he’s healthier for that.  He’s eating a little, drinking a little and sleeping a lot, but he’s home and independent and looking forward to getting out and doing things.  No-one knows if they’ve beaten his cancer, but for the moment we are all hopeful since none of his tests so far show any sign of it lingering.  We took him a card to welcome him home and had a cup of tea with him and Iris while we listened to stories of his adventures in hospital.

We also took three things to show him and Iris.  The first thing was my Blackfriars sheep – I’ve called her Geraldine.  She is a knitted toy about 8inches long and tightly stuffed so she is quite fat.  She has a white (woollen, of course) body, black legs and tail and a black head with a slightly cross-eyed but very appealing expression.  

There is this late middle-aged, skinny, faded blonde woman with broken teeth and a ring in her lower lip who sits under a blanket in the mornings at the foot of one of the stairways in Blackfriars Station and she makes knitted stuffed toys.  One of her toys is a most beautiful black-faced sheep and I thought “I got a Paddington Bear from Paddington Station, so what about a Blackfriars sheep?” When I asked her if I could have one she said that all the ones she had there were already sold, but to pick mine up on Friday.  Other people who sit at the foot of railway station stairs are just beggars, but she works very hard to make beautiful little toys.

The next thing we showed him was Iris’ present for Elaine’s 50th fully stretched, framed and ready to hang on the wall. Iris has spent more than A YEAR making a cross-stitch entitled Saint Albans and it’s a diagrammatic map of all the major elements of St Albans and its predecessor, Verulamium.  So there is the city coat of arms, the Roman theatre, the Abbey Church and Cathedral, the clock tower, the Fighting Cocks pub, Kingsbury Mill; in short all the places we know well and go to often. Elaine never knew or even suspected that Iris was doing anything and Iris told her that every time we were coming to see them Iris had to sweep her handiwork away so Elaine wouldn’t find out.  The work is exquisite and it looks so beautiful in its gold frame on our wall.

When Iris gave Elaine her cross-stitch, it was rolled around a cardboard drum and when we asked her where we should go to get it framed she said to ask the man in the paintings stall in St Albans market to do it for us. We bought a small RF Carter print of The Fighting Cocks pub for Elaine’s brother, Gordon and I asked one of the men on the stall if I could get a print of the cathedral, because I have very much admired Carter’s watercolour paintings of the St Albans area, and there wasn’t one on display.  He said he’d have one for me if I came back the next weekend.

“Oh, do you know him, then?” I said.  “You’re talking to him,” he said. So boldly I asked him if he would paint the cathedral for me and when he gave me a price it was quite reasonable, so we agreed. He framed his picture with the same frame and gave it to us at the same time as we got back Iris’ cross-stitch. So the third thing we showed Ivor was our fabulous water-colour of the magnificent Norman church of St Albans Abbey. It is absolutely beautiful.

We also went down to the clock tower to see if there was anything interesting happening at the other end of the market.  The clock tower was built in about 1405 and it’s easily as tall as a 4-storey building, made of the local flint stones and brick.  The area between it and the High Street is a favoured spot for street theatre and musicians. There was an excellent string quartet – two violins, viola and cello – who call themselves Sigma and whom we recognised from their previous trips to St Albans.  They are very animated and usually dance and jump about and have little by-plays with children while they play.  But they play very well indeed with every instrument working hard and each playing a different part, so that the work is quite intense, it has a satisfying depth to its tone and there is warmth in the interpretation.

Even though there is a lot of traffic noise and plenty of people talking in the area, you can hear them very clearly because the clock tower itself forms part of the resonance that enhances their work.  There is always a very good crowd sitting and standing and listening intently.  Some of the listeners give their children coins and these little toddlers walk shyly up to the violin case on the ground in front of the group and drop their coins. Sitting in front of them, for the first time, was a box of tapes, so Elaine bought the three they had and we have been playing them every day since.  Mozart, Handel, Bach, Elgar, Dvorak, Debussy as well as English and European folk tunes are all on these tapes.

That’s something that has never ceased to amaze me about England – there is music everywhere. Live music.  Whenever we go to the cathedral, there is a choir either performing or in practice – which is almost the same thing – and the cathedral has an enormous endowment which is dedicated solely to enriching its musical heritage. The morning I went to explore St Peter’s church there was a choir practice there, too and the lady I got talking to said St Peter’s had a better choir than the cathedral. Rivalry? There are musicians in the Tube, buskers in Blackfriars and more in Bankside, we have seen them and heard them in every town and village we have visited. And they are always so very GOOD.  

Elaine says her little boys come to school quite proudly with their violins ready to go to music lessons after school and no-one slings off at them.  It’s not unusual for children to learn several instruments.  Cousin John Tearle, in Padstow, is a choir singer for his church and Alec Tearle is a wedding singer. We have a tape of John of French Row who sings English folk songs in St Albans, we have a CD of JigWeed of Chichester which we bought from them when we heard them playing in the street on our visit to Chichester, 2 CDs of Paescod of Manchester University when they played at Luton Hoo and Jim Couza on the hammer dulcimer, also at Luton Hoo. So all of a sudden we now have a nice little collection of English street music that is wonderfully well played and quite varied.    

It’s just past Guy Fawkes Night so outside there are loud explosions and screaming whistles from late fireworks.  Last night we walked down past the cathedral to Verulamium Lake and watched the fireworks there.  For the past two Novembers we went to Jersey Farm and participated in theirs but this year we decided to see how St Albans did it in town.  Well, they did it all right.  At 7:30pm it’s pitch black here and all around the lake, about 15 deep, were at least 20,000 people.  Some were wearing little red glowing balls and flashing lights they had worn a few nights ago for Halloween, and some were waving sparklers around but all of us were well wrapped up because it’s pretty cold at night here in early November.  

The fireworks lasted for at least half an hour and the cannons that shot them off from the ground ejected fire to about 8 feet high in bright orange stabbing flashes while the fireworks roared, crashed and thundered and rivers of gold and red cascaded down from about 300 feet directly above us. We could smell the gunpowder and the whole lake valley filled up with thick brown smoke. The noise was deafening and you could feel the big booms go thumping through your chest.  It was awesome. We also got another lesson – as if we needed it – from English crowds.  They are just so quiet and well-behaved.  

There are only three exits from Verulamium Park and the one we used went past the Fighting Cocks pub through a narrow bottle-neck and up a twisting, narrow lane through the gatehouse of the cathedral. For most of the way we could walk only inches at a time, shuffling along slowly and yet no-one got impatient and started to push, no-one yelled or tried to hurry us up.  There were lots of very small children in the crowd and plenty of pushchairs so we kept our eye on the ones closest to us in case there was a pushing match and we had to rescue a small person or two; but the whole thing was so quiet, orderly and good-natured that there was never a time when we held any worries about their safety.

We have just returned from a day out in Cuffley, to Elaine’s friend, Liz Stredwick where we had a yummy turkey and fresh carrots dinner followed by American apple pie. We were sort of “celebrating the harvest” because John had dug up all his carrots, put some in the freezer and some in sand and we were eating the little ones that were left over. After dinner we took a stroll round this village of very impressive million-pound mansions and admired the view all the way to Canary Wharf and the NatWest Tower about 20 miles away in central London.  

Mind you, it might be 20 miles by road and/or rail, but I doubt it’s even 7 miles as the crow flies.  Still, it was such an exceptionally clear day that we could even see the hills of Kent way beyond London. I thought the owners of the houses might be London stocks traders and bankers, but John says they are builders and electricians.  Maybe it’s time to change my job…  When we got home, Elaine made us a snack of scones from the stone-ground flour we bought during our visit to the Ford End mill in Ivinghoe. The flour may be coarse, but the scones are thick and tasty with a full-grained texture and they were delicious with Anchor butter and the home-made strawberry jam we bought at the farmers market.

Thank you very much for the card for Elaine’s birthday; she was really pleased you thought of her and it’s a beautiful card.

Take care, and thank you very much for your letters. We eagerly leap upon them whenever they fall through our mail slot.

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine


Letters home, 2001, Nov 04

4 Nov 2001

We do wonder about what’s going to happen with all these terrorist threats about, but they don’t seem very real and they are certainly not an immediate danger.  From time to time during the working day there are teams of police cars and vans screaming around the South Bank and St Pauls areas but where they are going and what they are after is always a mystery; there’s never a word on TV or on the BBC web site. We take this to mean that nothing happened.  Still, they make an impressive noise and they do need something to entertain themselves with, don’t they?  How else do we find out they are important?

I didn’t tell you about the bomb scare we had. The street outside Rennie House filled up with sirens and screeching-to-a-halt police vehicles and we looked out the window on to the road one floor below us to see what was going on.  Security sent a message up to us to say there may be a bomb in the blue van suspiciously parked in the loading bay of the building opposite our window and for us to move to the other side of our floor.

When we moved to the other side, as directed, one of our supervisors waved at the phones on the desks and told us to log on and go back to work. And I thought, well they’re taking this seriously, aren’t they? Vacate the building in an orderly fashion, leave your personal belongings behind and assemble in a park nearby? For us? Never. If the bomb goes off and all that glass from the windows overlooking the van comes showering, snaking and slashing towards us we would take it like a man, shake it out of our hair, pick it out of our bleeding faces and go back to helping the people who really matter.  So don’t worry about me ….. I’m being well looked after by caring and safety-conscious employers and cocooned in impregnable buildings.


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.