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Letters home, 2000, Christmas letter

Christmas Greetings from Elaine & Ewart

Greetings from St Albans where we have now been living for the last 18 months!  We’re still here and we still love it.

We had our first English Christmas with snow for a day mid week, and a little more a week later, lots of beautiful coloured lights in towns and on homes, carol singing and bands in the street playing Christmas songs and the most moving church services in Wing and Stanbridge.  The main highlight for us was being given tickets to attend the ‘carols by candlelight’ service in St Albans Cathedral – 2500 people each with a candle and surrounded by the most beautiful choral singing we have ever heard.  And we stood in the freezing cold one magical night and sang carols in St Brelades Place with our Jersey Farm neighbours. Genevieve came over for a month.  After her trip up to Edinburgh for Hogmannay and ours to the River Thames to celebrate the millennium New Year (we were right underneath all those fireworks in London you saw on TV) we all travelled to the Costa del Sol on the Spanish Mediterranean coast for a one-week holiday. We stayed in Torremolinos and visited Gibraltar, Seville, Ronda, Cordoba, the magnificent walled city of Alhambra near Granada and drove along the Mediterranean Coast.  Our main focus for this adventure was Moorish architecture.  We CAN be intellectual.  Since then Genevieve has studied for and passed two courses in Spanish language at Auckland University.

We celebrated our silver wedding anniversary in Paris, just the two of us and only for a weekend.  We enjoyed visiting many of the places we had studied as teenagers learning French in high school.  The architecture of central Paris is stunningly beautiful and we look forward to returning some day to continue our romantic walk along the banks of the Seine.  Lately we have been having other anniversaries – our second Garden City 10 and our second Guy Fawkes night in the frost on Jersey Farm Park.

In the UK Ewart has been kept busy with a range of IT contracts, beginning at first with the large banks in London City. This included West LB and several branches of Deutschebank, mostly as a hardware technician but also as a member of the migration team installing the new style managed desktops on company pc’s.  He also did spells at Maidenhead, Luton and Slough and while on this last job, he left Paddington Station just four minutes ahead of the trains in the Paddington rail disaster.  I had spent the day in blissful ignorance on a school trip with seventy 7 year olds in Suffolk visiting an Anglo Saxon reconstructed village and museum.  Later Ewart was to get a contract in Belgium for 8 weeks working for the Opel Belgium car manufacturing plant in Antwerp.  One week of this coincided with my school holidays so I flew to Belgium to meet Ewart, was put up at the Hilton in both Brussels and Antwerp by Ewart’s contracting company and spent a wonderful week exploring first Brussels, and then Antwerp, on foot.  The architecture was gorgeous and the churches and galleries wonderful – as was the shopping!  I gained a real love for Belgian lemon ice cream – and Belgian chocolates weren’t bad either…. The company paid for Ewart to fly back to England each weekend to spend time with me – home each Friday and back each Sunday night.  It was fun for a while but we were pleased it was not too long term – it is a bit difficult living in different countries from each other but we both managed to enjoy the sights of Belgium when we had time.  While at work Ewart was working long hours so he did not get about that much.  Ewart now has an IT contract with General Electric (GE) at Welwyn Garden City, not far from here, so we are managing to spend a lot more time together.  He is on contract to TESCO, the largest supermarket chain in Britain.

Before leaving NZ I signed up with a teacher supply agency.  I have since signed on with three additional agencies and they have together managed to keep me in full time teaching work.  I have now worked in about seventy different schools in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.  It has given us a regular income and plenty of holidays in which to go exploring.  I am currently working at a middle school in Barton-le-Clay (north of Luton) in Bedfordshire.  My contract is about to be renewed until July.  It takes me around 45 minutes each way to commute.  At times the traffic can be very congested but with a bit of local knowledge you learn when to be on the roads and when to avoid them.  It also helps to learn the direction that the traffic flows and then apply for jobs in the opposite direction.  After Christmas I will be training through DeMonteford University in Bedford to have my teaching qualifications recognised.  I have been hit by a new European ruling that means because I don’t have an EU passport my quals are not automatically recognised and some form of retraining is necessary.  The county is paying for it and it will take me 13 weeks instead of the usual year.  Because of this,  to date I have had to be paid at an unqualified teacher rate.

We  have enjoyed being in England and have made lots of new friends amongst family, neighbours and work colleagues.  We have made a point of taking up any offer made to us and we have had many wonderful adventures as a result.  We have really enjoyed visiting the historical features within our financial reach – this has included castles, museums, Roman ruins, roads, houses, buildings in London City, bridges, even the Shuttleworth museum where I got to sit in a Spitfire aircraft at the time of the Battle of Britain celebrations.  Because this was strictly against the rules they closed off a hangar to allow me to do it and send photos home to my dad.  His special friend flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain.  St Albans is a lovely place to live – it has wonderful huge trees, which change colour with every season, daffodils, bluebell woods, lots of Roman and royal history.  We are less than 10mins from Hatfield House, where Elizabeth 1 grew up and where she was when she was told she would be queen.  Henry Viii still casts his shadow over here, right down to the nunnery ruins near the centre of town, the Queen Mother grew up not far from here in a little Hertfordshire village and the Spensers (Princess Diana’s family) still own a lot of land around St Albans.  We have a wonderful cathedral, one of the oldest in Britain and it takes just 35mins by train to get right into the middle of London if we want a night out or a day exploring.  We both love exploring London and although we have done lots of things there are still many more to do. In fact, we are going to Aldwych, right down by the Thames Embankment in London City, for a Christmas party with Ewart’s GE collegues as one of the last things we’ll do in England before we come home.  Any excuse to go to London …  During the year we have also had visits from several NZ friends who have come exploring with us and we have been out for meals with work colleagues and English friends we have made here.  Some have also invited us home and we have been able to see a truly English view of life.  At every school I have taught at I have asked the children where I should visit and what we should do. The suggestions they have made have given us some wonderful days out together; not to mention pancake day, the Advent calendar with a little present for every day for the last month before Christmas … so many charming, new things.  We have even managed a couple of good local theatre shows.

We have our own lovely little rented flat in a block of ten.  The neighbours are young and friendly professionals and regularly drop in for a chat or a coffee, especially in summer when we all feel more like sitting outdoors.  We have a pretty little enclosed garden of our own which we supplement with potted plants year round.  I have just potted up 18 pots of bulbs (tulips and daffodils) which should flower just after we get back from our Christmas trip to NZ, 14 Dec to 14 Jan. The lawns take 5 minutes to mow!! We have bought identical beige 1983 Austin Metro cars which we have labelled ET1 and ET2 with dayglow stickers.  They are nice and cheap to run and cost little to purchase in the first place.  Being hatchbacks they also come in handy for shopping and for going to the recycling plant.  Being highly populated, recycling is a big issue in the UK and we have got right behind it.

We have really enjoyed getting back to our roots in the UK and have spent a lot of time with our respective families.  They have been very loyal to us and contact us by phone on a regular basis and invite us to share meals and family celebrations with them.  Ivor and Iris have been a great support to us.  We lived with them for four months and now live just around the corner from them.  We are all the best of friends and see each other or phone most weeks.  They were wonderful in showing us the ropes initially also – especially how to find our way around English roads and how and where to get the best shopping deals.  Iris introduced us to shopping at the market in St Albans and that is now our Saturday morning task followed by a cappuccino at our favourite Italian restaurant, in French Row, which has an English folksinger playing traditional music outside.  We have go to know John (the singer) and have been to folk club at Redbourn with him.  Here in St Albans we are right in the centre of Tearle country.  We also travel up to Leicester on a regular basis to visit with my Scottish cousins who now live there.  In the New Year it is our intention to travel north to Galashiels in the Border Country where my great grandfather came from and where my grandmother visited by sailing ship when she was nine years old.  I still have family living there.  They are looking forward to meeting us and showing us how the family lived and still live in that area.  Others I have met here tell me the area is beautiful – so far I have only seen pictures but I have heard fascinating stories from Jack, Kate and Susan.  

While here we have both taken up fitness activities – Ewart has been running long distance and has competed in a number of ten-mile and ½ marathon races and done very well.  Just this week we are really delighted to learn that he has been accepted as a competitor in the 2001 London Marathon.  It is really hard to get into so we are very proud and delighted.  At the moment his training has him running about 45 miles per week.  My efforts are very recent and far more modest.  Ewart has devised a walk/run programme for me that we do every second night after work together, in the dark and cold, lit only by the street lamps.  I put in about 13 miles per week, and already I feel a lot better for it.  We are enjoying doing it together.

We have been delighted with all the letters, parcels, visits and emails we have had since coming to England.  Our wonderful family and friends have considerably enriched this wonderful holiday we are having.  We are united in saying this was a very good decision for us.  Each day we feel privileged to be here, to be able to explore such a beautiful place, which is so steeped in history going back thousands of years and in which there is so much to do.

We are returning to NZ for just a month at Christmas to attend my parents’ golden wedding and to catch up with family and friends.  All of our parents have been unwell at times during the last year and we are really looking forward to spending time with them, as well as with our precious Genevieve.  She has done so well while we have been away: studying, working, doing lots of sport and gaining a promotion at work.  She is now Assistant Production Manager Cultured for the NZ Dairy Group, based at the Takanini plant in Auckland.  She has bungy jumped, tandem parachuted from 12 thousand feet, run, skied the west ridge of Whakapapa, played for two netball teams which are doing well in the championships, surfed, go-carted, partied and travelled to Australia, England, Scotland and Spain – in other words, she has as usual filled every waking hour!!!! We intend spending some quality time in Auckland exploring her life with her.   Merry Christmas!

Ewart and Elaine


Letters home, 2001, March 11

March 11 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

It’s Sunday and I’m just in from running 21 miles.  That is SUCH a long way – it’s more than 30km and everything on me that I try to move hurts.  My schedule wanted me to do 20 miles in 3 hours, but I was a bit quicker than that and I did the 21 miles in 2:58:06.  I didn’t intend to be quicker, but I had picked up a rhythm at the start and simply kept it up.  To run a marathon in under 3:30 hrs means I have to be able to do a 1:37 half-marathon and a 42 minute 10km.

Last weekend I did my half-marathon in the prescribed time, but I haven’t met the 10km speed requirement yet.  I’m sure it will come.  I have to do another half-marathon next weekend and I really want to attack that time.  The following Sunday I have to do 20 miles, the next Sunday, 22 miles and the Sunday after that 18 miles.  My schedule is following the theory of a very famous British coach, Bruce Tulloch, who says that in order to get the time you want in a marathon, you have to run 100 miles in the long runs (those Sunday runs) in the month or so before the start.  On Tuesdays I do speed training and on Wednesdays and Thursdays I do medium distance runs of 8 to 10 miles at just under or just over my marathon pace.  Fridays I always have off, Saturday morning is a funny little slow run of 5 miles and Monday night is a slow run of 4-6 miles to help recover from the Sunday exertion.

The trouble is I don’t know if the London Marathon is even going to be run this year.  I have entered 3 races so far and all of them have been cancelled because of the foot and mouth disease outbreak.  They kept my entry cheque, too.  I have had notice that the two other races I have entered are also cancelled, so I won’t get a race before the marathon and even that looks doubtful because the race starts in a big park in Greenwich and there is a lot of stock in that park.  There are movement restrictions on all farm animals so the stock can’t be moved out of the park unless it’s to slaughter – and then only under a special permit.  

In St Albans, all the local parks have been closed including Jersey Farm Woodland Park just up the road and Verulamium Park where we like to go sometimes in the weekend.  The area around us is large-scale commercial cropping, mostly for rapeseed oil (canola) and oats or barley and there are very few animals of any sort.  However, most of the farms have notices on the front gate asking people not to drive onto their properties and all the local walkways and bridle paths that go through farmland are closed.  

The road gates of all the farms are padlocked and the front gate of each farm has a bed of bright yellow straw soaked in antiseptic that a visitor would have to drive or walk over.  Some of the restrictions have been put in place by government and also by local bodies. However, some restrictions have been set up voluntarily by desperately worried farmers, who have also lobbied their local clubs and organizations to close events that encouraged large groups of people to go on or near rural roads or byways. All except one of the races that I have entered was closed by the organizer after approaches were made by their local farmers. The other one was closed by order of the local council.  Strangely, though, the football is unaffected.  I suppose that is because the football grounds that the big clubs own are all urban and the visitors are kept in town.  But I still think it’s odd.  The golf clubs are still well attended, too.

I’ve got a bit of a problem with other countries selecting the English to treat specially. Foot&Mouth isn’t carried in sandwiches, dairy products or handbags. It’s held in a pig’s throat and the pig breathes out millions of the virus onto the wind where it will waft for about 30 miles. It is also carried on feet and wheels and can live in the earth for 6 months. When an infected animal is killed, the virus dies with it. The virus is not in its meat, it’s in the throat, but of course it can also be in the soil attached to the animal’s coat.

So let’s say I walked along a country road and a Landrover from a farm drove past me and I stood on the dirt thrown up from its wheels and say that dirt had the virus in it. A week later I got on a plane and headed for Germany. Everyone on the plane should be disinfected, because anyone on the plane could have picked up the virus from the tracks left by my shoes, not just me and the other people from England. It’s silly just to sterilise only the English. If there’s one person from England on the plane, and they are going to disinfect that person then the entire crew, passengers and interior
of the plane should be disinfected as well. I still think they have absolutely slack border controls.

We were horrified when the government allowed doggy passports and the free passage of dogs with the passport … I mean, what border controls? If you mention such things as F&M you’re scare-mongering, aren’t you? They’ve just forgotten how incredibly expensive these things can be and how eternally vigilant your borders have to be to keep them out. Look at all the illegal immigrants that get in! As I said, what border controls? I have just seen on the BBC website that F&M is in France. Let’s see if they can do any better. They are blaming imported British animals. I wonder if countries are now going to sterilize all French people coming off planes?

It’s actually the tourism industry that is suffering the most. Farming gives the economy about 21BN pounds a year, but tourism injects about 200BN. Farming is small bikkies by comparison. All of rural Britain is shut down and farming is losing about 20M pounds a week … tourism, though, is losing about 10x that.

We are not in gaol, though. I can still run on the rural roads, we can still go to rural towns; it’s just that all the bridle paths and walkways are closed as well as most of the parks and common lands. It’s not as dramatic as the fuel blockade was, but it is going to last a lot longer. In 1967, the number of cases ended up at over 1200 and we are only at about 200. There’s a long way to go, I think.

And then there’s the weather.  After a month of absolutely beautiful weather in NZ, we came back to a very cold welcome in England.  We had heard about the snow near Christmas time and we were very disappointed we had missed it because till now, there had been only one snow in a year and last year it had been very light.  A couple of days after we returned, we had a 2-week visit from one of our best friends from Otorohanga, Elizabeth Marshall, and for her the weather turned on all the fireworks.

I was sitting at work on the first day and there was just the slightest flurry of little white flakes and I had to go to the window to have a look.  Gradually throughout the afternoon the snowfall became heavier and the bare trees on the other side of Shire Park became more indistinct.  I even drove home through the falling snow. It was pitch black, of course, because at that time of year night falls at 4:30pm and I was on the shift that finishes at 6:00pm.

It snowed on and off for the next three days and while it didn’t actually inconvenience anyone because it didn’t build up into drifts like you see in other cities, clearing the snow and frost off the car each morning was a pretty cold chore.  Elizabeth went off adventuring each day, mostly catching the bus to the station and then the train into London about 40min away.  In the evenings she would show us her treasures and tell us the stories of places she had been and people she had met.  She is a straight-forward, no-nonsense sort of person but someone who can also tell the funniest stories about her day of anyone I have ever met.  It didn’t matter how cold she felt or how lost she got, Elizabeth kept her cool and soaked up everything London and St Albans offered her.  She also managed to get home every day before dark.

Anyway, this is about the weather and I have digressed.  On the Sunday morning I went early for a long run through the country and I was very surprised to feel how cold it was and to see how much snow was lying about.  There was even snow on the footpath and my feet were crunching through it and sliding slightly as though it was sand or little glass pebbles.  We thought we’d take Elizabeth to Kingsbury Mill for a breakfast of waffles and a tour around Verulamium Park and St Albans’ beautiful cathedral.  For the first time, we saw snow on the ground around the cathedral deep enough to cover the grass and there was snow on its roof and hanging on the trees.  

We took photos of the graveyard with the snow sitting on the gravestones and helped people up who had slipped on the frozen path.  We walked down the hill past the Fighting Cocks pub, with deep snow on its shingled roof, and as we walked on into the park we saw that Verulamium Lake was almost completely frozen over and there were black-coated people walking and even skating on the ice.  Of course I went for a walk on the lake; gingerly, carefully, but I did it nonetheless. Later, Ivor said that the last time the lake was frozen was in the 1960’s.  We probably would not see it again in our lifetime.  

We walked right through the park marvelling at the hoare frost clinging to the bare branches of winter-bound trees and watched the geese splash-landing in the small patch of water left unfrozen on the whole lake.  We had wrapped up very warmly at home with long-johns, heavy winter trousers, jerseys, big coats and thermal gloves, but our feet were still really cold when we finally arrived at Kingsbury Mill on the far side of the park.  

The waffle house there has a big fire and a warm atmosphere and we ate our breakfast waffles of hot raspberries and maple syrup while our feet warmed up.  We now have three beautiful photos: one looking back over the River Ver to the Fighting Cocks pub, one of the Victorian brick bridge over the narrowest part of Verulamium Lake and the last is of Elizabeth and Elaine close to the edge of the iced-over lake with its island of frozen trees in the background.  Everything is white, dark green, black or grey; the photos are almost monochrome and the day you can see in the photos is overcast and foggy with a dead white sky.

Then it rained.  It’s only just stopped, really.  House Lane, the road from here to Sandridge, is closed because it’s flooded in two places between us and the village.  It’s also flooded between us and Smallford, on the road to work.  Fortunately, there’s a diversion so I can still get to work without too much trouble.  House Lane is about 60 feet below us, so there’s no possibility of our being flooded, although we do get quite a flow of water, from the football field near us, past our front step when it rains heavily.  

The locals say that the water is so high in House Lane and it won’t drain away because the level it is sitting at is the water table.  Also, it doesn’t have to rain very much here for the water table to stay high, because it is being replenished by rains on the Chiltern Hills.  People are reporting flooded cellars and garages, but it doesn’t seem as though their houses are flooded.  The storm-water pipes are so full of water that it is pouring out of the inspection covers.

Now, it’s nearly spring.  Here, spring starts officially on 22 March, when day and night are the same length, but the peach trees are getting pinker by the day and the cherry blossom is fat with expectation.  The daffodils are massing and the crocuses are already in full and glorious colour.  The English bush them up around the trees and they make a very colourful display while much else is still in its winter browns.  

We can see why the Europeans like spring so much – it is such a contrast to the winter and it comes on in such a burst of colour and activity.  Also, it’s considerably warmer.  Only a week ago, it was –2C in the mornings and barely above 8C all day long, now the frost is gone and the day temps are around 13C.  No wonder the plants get into such vigorous action because they are spurred on by the sudden change in temperature and the rapidly increasing daylight hours.

After lunch today Elaine wanted to try out a new route to her work so we hopped in her nice new (1993!) Rover Metro (aren’t we going up in the world?) and I navigated while Elaine drove up the M1 until we got to junction 12 and I had to wake up and pay attention to the map. Normally she has to drive through much of Luton in 8:00am rush-hour(s) traffic and this new route is designed to keep her out of Luton.

Well, it was a very pleasant trip through a bit of rural Bedfordshire to Barton-le-Clay. Did I tell you that Barton was where William the Conqueror and a few of the kings after him got bricks made? It’s a very cosy and tightly packed little village with an old heart of Tudor houses with their bricked in wattle and daub walls surrounded by a substantial new housing estate in very late 20th Century brick.

Elaine was quite pleased with the new route and thought it might save her a bit of time, but more importantly would give her a much quieter, more rural and more scenic road to work. We went along the road a little more to have coffee and lemonade at The Raven, a majestic older-style pub in Hexton where Elaine and some of the staff have lunch on a Friday. We thought we’d see if there was anything interesting going on in Milton Keyenes, but got waylaid by the sight of a most beautiful church in Toddington.

Opposite it was a Greene King pub called The Sow and Pigs. Greene King pubs are always interesting because they are always in an old building and serve real ale, so they are keen to keep up English traditions. Alongside, and possibly part of the inn history of the pub is a Tudor building in all sorts of angles with white-washed walls, blackened timbers and a deeply hollowed tiled roof. Inside, there was a crackling fire and all the jokes in the world about pigs and sows, in frames on the walls. The tables were blackened oak, but the benches had comfortable padding. I pinched a Greene King cardboard coaster to put in the treasure chest because they are an unusual shape and design.

We had coffee and a pint of lemonade (I have to drink a fair bit after a run) and because it was after 4:00pm we decided that Milton Keynes could wait and we would go home. I’d had a long look at the church opposite from the warmth of the pub and I’ve decided we must go back to Toddington to have a much closer look, but wandering around the outsides of buildings in winter in England is not good sport. We drove home through flurries of what is called snow showers. A snow shower has a bit of snow, a bit of rain and sometimes a bit of hail. They don’t all come at once, they are interspersed, but now when they warn us of snow showers on the weather forecast, I know what they are referring to.

ET1 has gone. I am very unhappy about it because I loved that little car, but it refused to start a couple of mornings in a row so I took it to the Metro Centre. They pointed out all the things that would have to be done to it and I reluctantly gave it up to be scrapped. I now run around in Elaine’s former car, ET2, and Elaine has the nice new, white Rover Metro I referred to above. ET1 was only supposed to last us a few months and she would still have saved us a lot of money in car hire and a lot of time in missed bus trips, but she lasted for over a year, so I can’t complain, but she was a little sweety.

About three weeks ago, Elaine and I went to Eastleach. It’s not easy to find because it’s a bit off the Oxford road, down some country lanes and hidden deep in the Cotswolds. Elaine was trying to find traces of her grandmother’s father’s family, the Whitings. Joe Whiting had a huge fight with his blacksmith father, went to Durham at only 14 and then left for NZ. He never returned. We didn’t find the Whitings or any sign of them and none of the locals we stopped and asked could remember the name, but we did find two beautiful Norman churches, built around 1100AD, and a little Cotswold village of substantial wealth.

We looked through both churches and tried to read many of the gravestones, but the name just didn’t seem to be there. The Cotswold cottages are made of quarried limestone blocks, not much bigger than a brick, but enough bigger that you can easily see the difference. We were invited to visit the house of Mary and Ray Jenkinson, one of the longest-standing families in the Eastleach area and they were in a 16th century house. You could see that the blocks were cut with a saw, because of the vertical saw-cuts on the outside face.

These people knew a lot about the Saxon and even the Celtic history of Eastleach, but they couldn’t remember ever having heard the name Whiting. Still, the 1880’s were a fair while ago. We also found out that the early wealth of Eastleach (apart from farming) came from water cress. The Leach River is absolutely the clearest water we have seen anywhere. It reminded me of standing watching trout in Ngongotaha, but the river is not that deep. I looked for trout, though.

The water cress used to be laden onto wagons and sold in Covent Garden in London. I forgot to ask him if was still harvested, but he showed us his orchard, the river running through it and the fountain by the river that used to supply the locals with their house water. The villagers would come to this very ornate fountain with their buckets and be uplifted by the religious figures carved into it while they filled up before lugging the heavy burden home. We had lunch in the Victoria pub, which was also made mostly of Cotswold limestone blocks, and was quite self-consciously Victorian in its décor, as well as having a few pictures of the great queen herself. We debated going the extra 50 miles to Gloucester, but we decided that one town well explored on one day was a good day out.

I looked up my stats at work on Friday and compared them to the others on the team. My stats are so far ahead of anyone else, it’s a crime. I have logged 889 jobs in the month and the nearest other is 720. I have recorded 47% contact time with the customer and the nearest other is 36%, I have an average talk time of 284 secs, which is within acceptable limits, though the ideal is 240, so although I have a high number of jobs and a high amount of customer contact time, my talk time is not too high nor too low. I still had time to train two new analysts. So now not only am I the most senior person on the Online side of the helpdesk, I am also the best. That’s a nice thought.

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine



Letters home, 1999, June 11

11 June 1999

Some of England is really good fun like the day out in London yesterday. But some of it is just hard work – like trying to get a job. I know I haven’t been here long, so I shouldn’t be asking for too much, but you know the pressures everyone puts you under. I have about 20 job apps live at the moment, so I’ll keep pounding at the door until it breaks!

Money’s ok so far, so that’s a relief, but you have to watch VERY carefully because the dollar is 3 to the pound, and they spend pounds here like we spend dollars in NZ. So far the agencies have been very positive, so I think it’s just a matter of time, and I wish people around me weren’t so damned impatient.

I can’t see the point in keeping Waitomo Computers alive, or the name waicomp, or its web page, or its domain.

I get a few pages on Virgin, so I’ll have a look into it. I don’t know about a domain name, yet. I think Virgin supports Frontpage Extensions, so it won’t be too hard to get a web site up and running once I have a house of my own and a PC that doesn’t continually drop off the net, like this @#$*^% little Zenith laptop does.

Virgin doesn’t charge for access.

After asking for the second time, wave is now sending my email on to me. I still curse long emails, though, because of the fragility of the link from this PC.

Be cool

I’ll keep in touch


Letters home, 1999, June 16

16 June 1999

Dear Genevieve

I watched the cricket. It was very enjoyable, but when the kiwis couldn’t knock over the openers, the writing was on the wall. Their fast bowler was the difference between the teams. There are at least three teams – England, India and Sri Lanka – who finished behind us, who are supposed to be better than were are. I also think that Fleming is not as good – not as intense – a one-day captain as Nash. And I reckon we missed Nash. It’s probably not possible to have two different captains, one for tests and one for ODI’s.

We won’t see any All Black rugby here. TV is horrible here; 5 channels of bleak desert, and if they do have cricket on the BBC they swap it from BBC1 to BBC2 during the day, whenever they feel like it.

Mum’s having her second day at school today, in a high school with 5 classesof English and Geography. She reckons she’s going to be SO tired. I reckon it’ll be great fun. She was telling a visitor last night that all last year she was saying to herself, “I’ll tell him tomorrow I’m not going.” So far she’s enjoying it here. I think she will end up LOVING it.

The British High Commission is no better than the Home Office. Better to contact your favourite travel office; they have better contacts and can get you the info faster than the Brits will bother to do. The Commission (like the Home Office) is not being paid to service the hoi poloi – so they don’t – the travel company is.

Your fingers are cold? Is it cold in NZ? My, my, it’s soooo nice and warm here. About 25 degrees, I should think … nice and sunny, too.

I have another 3 job apps out there (33 in total) and I have two job apps waiting for the prospective employer to invite me for an appointment, one of which is a co-appointment with Mum. I also have a list of 4 agencies who I am to ring today – just to keep up the contact. Looks a bit dismal, doesn’t it? Never mind.

Keep banging on the door.




Letters home, 1999, June 16

16 June 1999

Dear Elizabeth and Ross

Elaine will probably send a reply to your letter in due course but here, it’s about 25 degrees and sunny, only lightly overcast.

Day 3 of the drought.

Elaine is having her second day of teaching, with two more promised on July 2 and 5. She’s at a local high school teaching English and Geography. All day. Six classes. I reckon she’ll love it. She really enjoyed her stint on Tues with the year 4s. She doesn’t want to continue teaching, but I think this is a good introduction to England and besides, how else is she going to get to a shopping spree in London if she hasn’t earned any pounds? When she gets paid, she/we can go to London, if she wants.

We are waiting for a tour company to contact us inviting us to an interview – me to look after their network and Elaine to look after their staff training (3000 of them, although not all at once.) We’ll keep you posted. She’s also applied for a marketing job with Luton City Council and with Hastings CC, doing almost exactly what she did with WEDA. If she gets one, I’ll look for jobs in that area. I have 33 job apps out there and 2 are waiting for invitations for interview.

I watched the cricket, too. The BBC had it for once. It’s an odd system, here, because most sport isn’t shown live – of course – but if it is, the BBC swap it randomly from BBC1 to BBC2 whenever it suits them throughout the day. Five channels of dismal desert. The government is moving to ban cigarette advertising; the GM debate is hotting up – Paul McCartney is spending 3m POUNDS ensuring that no GM material is in the Linda McCartney branded food products. That’s dedication. Someone is cloning human embryos and killing them at 14 days – something to do with their not being human by then – but it’s been pointed out that while it’s not illegal in the US, it is illegal in the UK. It’s disgusting wherever it’s done. They’re finding bodies and graves by the score in Kosovo, killed by the police amongst others, and sackloads of destroyed passports. Nice one, Slobba. (The headlines here are brilliant.)

I’m still running. Did 40 mins yesterday, about 8km, so my fitness is coming back after a 6-week layoff in NZ.

I’m sorry Elizabeth had to kiss the dummy, what did she expect from a CPR course? Arny? Brad Pitt? You have to make sacrifices in the pursuit new knowledge; it wouldn’t be a sacrifice unless it was unpleasant. Next time she goes to the US she can bash Brad Pitt with her brolly and then she can demonstrate her CPR skills. Work doesn’t have to be unpleasant.

Be cool



Letters home, 1999, June 19

19 June 1999

Dear Genevieve

This internet connection is still driving me absolutely NUTS – it is sooooo poor and so @#$%^ unreliable, I can usually only get a connection ONCE a day. I am pleased I have got such a wonderful temperament, so calm, so patient, otherwise I’d be outside torching cars, I tell you.




Letters home, 1999, June 20

20 June 1999

Dear Marlene

Thanks for the letter. The answer to the questions is YES and NO.

No house
No car, but got a hired one for two days last week and whole week this week(hellishly expensive to buy or hire)

Job? None for Ewart yet. None for me exactly yet either, except that I am working – relief teaching. Have been to three schools so far and all want me to go back permanently so I guess that’s something, except as you know it is not teaching work I really want… But, it is money. Currently I get 85 – 90 punds per day, minus tax, minus NHS and anything else they want to take out. Haven’t had my first pay yet.

I taught at a primary school in Hitchen Wilshere Dacre – lovely kids, really old buildings, nice staff, lovely young woman principal – I got on with her really well and I like this school best so far.

Next I taught at a secondary school – Roundwood Park in Harpenden – Kids have rich parents, some classes great, others noisy and quite dependent. I’m off there again for three days this week. Thursday I get to teach religious eduction all day – that should be interesting – haven’t been to church for about 23 years! Had to teach it on Friday at a primary school – looked at the sheets and found out it was all about Moslem religion – know nothing about that, but you know me, I learnt quick!!!

I taught at Ougthonhead Primary at Hitchen – beautiful buildings, wonderful friendly staff and supportive lady headteacher – some tricky kids though. One threw a wobbly but I survived that. Kids are not great at sports period, yell at each other, sulk etc – not exactly my cup of tea – had two periods of PE that day and I go back there again on Wednesday.

Tomorrow while I am at school Ewart is dropping me off at Harpenden then coming back by car to St Albans and canvassing local schools for me (at my request). Its too darned expensive doing all this commuting. I asked Select for schols in St Albans but they have sent me everywhere else!!! Nice couple of girls in there though and I am being sent where I am needed
so I can’t complain – at least I have some work. I have also learnt from other teachers that Select pay teachers the least so I am looking at other options.

We haven’t done anything about a house yet because which ever way we go it is really expensive so we are holding off until one of us has permanent work. Ivor and Iris are OK about this so that helps a lot. We are very happy here.

I sent off two job applications to councils tis afternoon – at Hastings and Watford. Both are interesting jobs. I ave previously sent off my CV for these jobs but they sent me an application pack. Had to tick a box to say I am white again!!! Lots of employers around here specify that they will NOT accept CVs. It is a damned nuisance because filling in all those forms is
time consuming and the final product ends up looking like a dog’s breakfast. I hope the other applicants’ ones do too. They specify ink and then send a form with paper which smudges ink!!!

I have also applied for an IT job, referred by an agency Ewart is in contact with. They have accepted a dual application from Ewart and I so we are waiting to see whether we have been shortlisted. It is with a very large tour company. The jobs sound quite interesting. Ewart has a couple of agencies who have asked him to contact them on Monday so we hope that means
something interesting for him to do.

We watched the full coverage on TV of Sophie and Edward’s wedding yesterday. It was great to be doing it in England. We are hoping to go down to Madame Tussard’s shortly. We are keeping a pretty low profile at present to use aslittle money as possible – basic things cost like crazy. We are just contributing to food costs and paying for transport and try to keep away
from other expenditure at present.

Course I miss you guys!!! Still having fun though and I am glad I came.

Best of luck for Te Kuiti. Have fun. Don’t work too hard.
Must go to bed. School in the morning.

Love Elaine


Letters home, 1999, June 22

22 June 1999

Dear Genevieve

Golf can be addictive, you know! I must say that 55 over 9 holes is a pretty fair score. If you are a left-hander, the set of clubs my mum gave Jase are still in the garage in Whawharua, if they are not under the house, or in the studio.

I’m still running. On Sunday I went 10km, that’s about 6 miles. Whichever way you say it, it’s still along way. I’m still suffering today, but I thought I’d better not let a bit of suffering put me off, so I have been to the Jolly Sailor and back this morning. The Jolly Sailor is at the top of the hill just on the outskirts of the city centre, about 2 miles from here. I reckon the return trip is about 5km, but it’s difficult to tell. Here, they still use the old imperial system of miles and yards, but they run in kilometres! It’s a bit of a trial trying to get some distances that will compute. I need to track out a 5 mile course (8km exactly) and a 6 mile one (close to 10km). Any less than that and the conversion is too difficult. The terrain around here is a bit hard, too. It’s not hilly, but there are lots of slopes everywhere I want to run, and that makes life hard.

I was getting horribly fat, and I am still carrying weight, but it’s beginning to burn off. I dread winter!

Keep up your golf; it gets you outside having exercise in all weathers and it’s a great game for making you a hero one day and a total loser the next. That’s very good for the character.

I’m now waiting on decisions from two more prospective emloyers to interview. So that’s four irons in the pot, and 42 job applications – with CVs – out there. Sheila said she’d send me the job opportunities mag from Milton Keynes. She says ther are hunddreds of jobs in it. That’ll be interesting. The latest two irons are in Frimley and Farnsworth – quite close together.

When Elaine went to Hitchen I took the car and went to Stanbridge. I went to pay respects to James Tearle, my great-great-grandfather and to see Lorraine Simons. I didn’t have any flowers, so I managed to find some in Sainsbury’s in Leighton Buzzard. I went to see Levi, my great-grandfather, in Wing, said hello to him and Jase and left some flowers there. His gravesite is rather badly overgrown. What a silly notion only to keep clear the grass in the newer portion of the grounds. For the extra 1/2 hour per week it would take to mow the grass around the entire grounds …

I went around to see Thelma for a moment or two, but she wasn’t home, so I left some flowers for her anyway. We’re off to LB this Friday, to talk to the bank again, so we’ll put her out of her misery as to who left the flowers.

I went back to Stanbridge and left the flowers for James and went around to see Lorraine Simons again. This time she was home and very pleased to see me. She is one of the church wardens and was so kind and friendly to us when we went to the church the first time with John L Tearle two years ago. She has been very sick and still looks like she hasn’t got long to go.

She wants Elaine and me to come and see her and her family one weekend about three weeks hence, so we are making arrangements. The church expansions are coming along slowly, and they are selling blocks (with your name on them)

for 10 pounds each. Won’t that be nice; Tearle names on the church again. Arthur, my dad’s father, was the last Tearle to be christened in Stanbridge Church. Before that, we go back in the church records for almost five hundred years – to 1562. Levi got married in Stanbridge church then moved to Wing on the other side of LB to set up the smithy, but he came back to Stanbridge to christen Arthur. All the other children he and Sarah had were christened in Wing. Arthur was born 12 Dec 1874.

The same day, once Elaine had finished at the Hitchen school, we went up to Bedford to see Dennis and Betty. Hitchen is over half way there, from St Albans. Dennis never knew Levi! Thelma, Jenny Pugh and Alec all remember him, but Dennis was too young. Anyway, he was brought up in 13 Stewkley Rd, Wing by Harry Tearle, son of Mahlon and Mary nee Paxton. That address is the rightmost Ebeneezer Cottage when viewed from the road.

Next time I see Dennis, Alec or Thelma, I’m taking a pen and I’m going to gets some dates and sequences right about the cottages and when they were owned.

By the way, remember the Wing School was about to be demolished for houses? It is demolished, but the developer can’t biuld the houses – something about planning permits. Anyway that beautiful old school is gone, just a wasteland, now. The local historical society is very concerned that Thelma tells them all about Wing and her family’s part in it, before all that stuff gets lost, too. Good idea. She does not look good. I said we’re going to LB this Friday to see the bank, so of course we’ll drop in to see Thelma.

Love, Dad


Letters home, 1999 June 22

22 June 1999


Good heavens!

Don’t you ever go to bed?

No, you don’t; you sent that at 11:42. Well, well.

I’ve sent another 17 job applications off, and this afternoon I got a call from Scott of Computer Futures. Says he’ll send my CV off and try to get me a job asap. I hope so. I hate this being a kept man.

I keep ringin’ and emailin’ and generally bangin’ on the door and I KNOW it will fall in and grant my wish. I have 4 jobs waiting for the prospective employer to decide if I get an interview and I’ve got 52 job apps that I’ve emailed to. One of these days, soon, something out there is going to give. I’m extremely lucky that Ivor has this office upstairs. Firstly, it’s up out of the way from the very loud TV set downstairs – Ivor is quite deaf – and secondly, it has a desk in it hat I have been able to set up the laptop and attach to the phone and get on-line. Of course this entire trip was predicated on the assumption that I’d have internet access. It’s been very difficult because the line is giving me a huge amount of trouble. But I have been able to get out my emails each day (at least once a day) so, however frustrating it has been, I have been able to make progress.

Elaine is teaching again today in Harpendon and we’re off to Leighton Buzzard on Friday to use the car. It’s 30 pounds per day or 100 pounds for a 7-day week, and no mileage payment except for gas, so we may as well use up the couple of days we have it more or less for nothing. I’ll tell you what, though, gas isn’t cheap – it’s equivalent to $2.50/litre. Can you imagine paying that much for petrol? Good grief.

Hello, Elaine’s back. I’ll get her to write to you.

Kindest regards



Letters home, 1999, June 23

23 June 1999


We’ve been about a bit.  Elaine has hired a car for this week because she’s at a school almost every day and none of them is on a bus route.  Today it’s Hitchen, so that’s about an hour away because of how slowly you have to drive to get there.  Oh, it’s diabolical!  Many of the roads here are just two-way, but cars can park on both sides of the road, almost closing it off.  One car has to stop and let opposing traffic come past the parked cars, and then on you go for a while again.  It’s a nonsense having a middle line, because with the cars parked, there is often only the narrowest of single lanes available.  

Lovely, lovely little villages; beautiful countryside but the roads are terrible and there’s always a car right up your tail-pipe.  Like driving in Auckland in that way – no matter what you’re trying to do, or which sign-post you want to read – it’s always in a strange place, and there’s always someone beeping at you to hurry up and make up your mind.

Better go, it’s 2:30 and Hitchen is an hour away.