Tag Archives: letters


Letters home, 2001, July 29

29 July 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

I have landed a very nice job as a Technical Support Analyst on the Help Desk for Sainsbury’s head office in Rennie House, Rennie St, Southwark.  Pronounced SUTHic.  The place is often confused with Suffolk because lots of Brits can’t say the th in Suthic, so it comes out suffok anyway and people say to me, “Oh, you’re working in Suffolk – that’s a long way from St Albans ….”

Now Mum’s mother was Elsie Orange, eldest daughter of Edward and Helen Orange.    Helen was originally Helen Hinkley and she was born in 1865 and lived at 53 Union St, Southwark.  When she left for NZ in 1883, she left from a very good place to leave. It’s easy to picture the Dickensian pea-soup smogs and imagine peering through slit eyes as you pick your way to work through the grubby brick buildings listening for the trains hissing and rattling noisily overhead.  She was a nurse in London, did you know? I don’t think Mum ever met her – she died in 1928, and Mum would have been 7 at the time.  Also, and she divorced Edward Orange in 1924, so it’s quite possible she would have had nothing to do with the Orange family, including Elsie, after that.  

However – back to Southwark.  I was very surprised indeed when I was asked to go to 168 Union St for my job interview with Sainsbury’s and I had a brief look around the area that afternoon.  Since then, I’ve taken to walking all around the Bankside area that Helen would have been familiar with and I have been looking for anything older than 1883, so that what I am looking at, she would have seen.  Well, there is a lot.  

Firstly, her house is still standing.  It’s just the shell and is being refurbished for business premises, but many of the houses around it are still in 1883 condition and you can easily get a sense of the dust, grime and poverty of the area.  It was primarily a warehouse district and many of the Victorian era buildings still standing, although converted to modern use mostly as offices, have retained the lifting gear attached to the outside walls.  

She would have been familiar with the Southwark Cathedral, which was called the Church of St Mary Overie when she lived there – it became a cathedral in 1910 and it’s only a few streets away.  She would have been familiar with the stories of The Clink – the prison that gave all others the name.  It’s just a few streets away, even though it wasn’t an active prison when she lived there, the rubble from a huge fire in the area in 1814 was still there in 1883 and its underground vaults still exist, too. It was the prison for the Duke of Winchester in Winchester Palace and it started life in the 1300’s.

It’s a really horrible place.  Southwark has been home to prostitution and crime since Saxon times.  The Duke of Winchester “regulated” the brothels and owned a large section of Bankside since King Stephen gave it all to the Bishop of Winchester in the 1130’s. As you can see the title has become a secular one. The Clink was his private prison and he held life and death over its inmates until the prison was destroyed in 1780. Incredible. In its turn it was a firstly a prison for the population under the Bishop/Duke’s control, then it was a prison to hold Catholics for Henry Viii, then to hold Protestants for Mary, then reverted to holding Catholics for Elizabeth 1.

Its last use for most of the 18th and 19th centuries was as a debtor’s prison.  For all of this time, the owner could extract fines and payments from the inmates.  He made an awful lot of money out of misery.  I saw in an issue of last week’s Metro newspaper that the Duke of Winchester is the wealthiest man in Britain.  He owns 300 acres of inner London and is worth 10 billion pounds.  So now you know it; there is wealth, power and respectability in being a pimp. There is a little bit of Winchester Palace still standing – a wall and a large rose window – and under that is the Clink. In Clink St, of course.  The palace itself, in its heyday, was inside a fully-walled area of about 200 acres; all that’s left today is that bit of wall with the window, and the remnant of the Clink.

She would also have been familiar with St Paul’s Cathedral towering over the Thames on the other side of the river, and all the other works of Sir Christopher Wren in the area built in the late 1600’s, early 1700’s.  His chief mason, by the way, was a man called Edward Strong who was a citizen of St Albans and is buried here in St Peters Church. The Blackfriars bridge Helen crossed to get to The City from Bankside is the same one I cross to get to work.  It’s called the Blackfriars New Bridge, built 1860 to replace the original bridge built in the 1760’s, by an engineer called Rennie, incidentally.  

She would have been familiar with the Blackfriars rail bridge, too, that crosses the Thames and swings through Southwark on a big brick viaduct.  I suspect that then the arches would have been open, but today they are bricked up for lockups – and there is a very large amount of space to be let under the arches of a rail bridge.  Blackfriars Bridge would have looked a quite a bit different from what I can see today because on the Southwark side of the bridge was a huge Romano-Greek building in stone called the London, Chatham and Dover Railway station.  

On its facade were carved the destinations you could travel to by rail in those days.  Part of the facade was placed in the railway building I walk through, so I was able to read what she saw: Paris, Moscow, St Petersburgh, Rome, Marseilles – lots and lots of places on the Continent.  Maybe it gave her itchy feet …  There were two other interesting things I found out – one was that the City of London ends on the other side of Blackfriars Bridge.  I always thought the City ended on the north bank, but at least in the case of Blackfriars Bridge, the City extends right over it and a few yards on the south side.  The other interesting thing is that Blackfriars Bridge, Tower Bridge, London Bridge and one other (I think Waterloo) belong to The Bridges House Trust.  It was given property in London, I think by Henry Viii, and it looks after those four bridges, including replacing them when necessary, “without recourse to public money.”  In other words those four bridges were built and are maintained entirely without calling on taxes or rates.

Ivor Adams, my cousin on my grandmother Sadie Tearle’s side, who has worked in The City most of his life, said that Bankside was the haunt of the Teddy Boys in the 1920’s and 1930’s and even today, in spite of all the upgrading that has been done there, areas just to the south, like Elephant and Castle, North Peckham and Peckham, are still poverty-stricken and crime-ridden.  If you stay close to the river, you’re ok. It’s very nice.  In Southwark, there are two named areas close to the river.  One is called South Bank and extends from Waterloo Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge and the other is called Bankside and extends from Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge. I work in South Bank.  

I walked 7 minutes from work down The Thames Walk to the Tate Modern, a coal-fired electricity station that has been converted into the largest indoor space I have ever seen. And they use all this space for an art museum. Free admission, too.  I could only spend 10 minutes there but the building outside is massive in brick, dominated by a tall red-brick chimney that has been a feature of the Bankside skyline for nearly a century.  Inside, it is light and airy and there are overhead cranes quietly tucked away waiting to move large and heavy exhibits.

The last night of Music in Marshalswick turned out to be the best night of them all because it was a celebration of Elizabethan madrigals. The choral group was about 20 strong with 8 men and the group was usually divided into four voices and sometimes six. They sang these really lovely, lilting tunes from the 1500’s, many with direct reference to Queen Elizabeth I, for whom they were actually written, but some also were religious pieces.  

It’s interesting that musicians and poets of the time wrote about religious and secular things in the same idiom. And it’s also interesting that some madrigals are still being written – Vaughan Williams wrote a couple for QEII’s coronation and Aaron Copeland, the American, wrote some, too. But arranging “Home Boys Home” as a madrigal is rather like a Barber Shop Quartet singing Heartbreak Hotel in 4-part harmony; it sounds pretentious and insincere. The modern madrigals lack the romance and feel for the genre that the Elizabethans had and those songs were uplifting and so, so sweet.  

We found ourselves at a loose end a couple of weekends ago, so we drove up to Stockwood Park in Luton.  Now, I have driven past the park lots of times and always promised myself that I would call in to see the Mossman Collection – whatever that was – but I had never got around to it.  It was a bright sunny day and Elaine said her kids had told her the whole thing was free, so since they had recommended it, we thought we’d go and see what it was all about. It was a revelation.  

The first thing we saw was a gypsy caravan exactly the same as the one Graeme made.  It was mounted on a dray with the front steering wheels able to swing in under the tray of the caravan, a centre section of the roof lifted for head clearance and lots of carving and colourful paintwork all over it. Graeme’s caravan could have showed the constructor a thing or two about craftsmanship, though. It wasn’t rough by any means, but Graeme’s was better.

After that, there were sections on display of the crafts and farming activities of the 1800’s; brickmaking (10 million bricks a year in Luton alone) haymaking, poaching, hatmaking (the Tearles of Stanbridge were heavily into strawplaiting and hatmaking) the blacksmith, heart and soul of every village in the country, as well as displays of kitchen life and home crafts such as tatting and lacemaking.  It was very impressive, the displays were detailed and had authentic clothing and tools.

Stockwood was originally a large farming mansion very close to Luton, but its owners sold it to the council and in the 1960’s the council demolished the house, but left the grounds and the tall imposing brick wall that enclosed the grounds.  Inside the grounds they have set up Victorian gardens and some large hothouses.  Inside one of the hothouses is the cafe. Nice.  That was all we had time to see and we’ll have to go back to see what the Mossman Collection is all about, but it’s free, so one day when we are at a loose end and want something interesting to do for free …

Last Saturday afternoon we went to Harlington, of all places, to see The Pirates of Penzance. Actually, they were really good.  I haven’t seen the show since Rotorua Girls and Boys High schools combined to put it on when I was in high school.  They made their own costumes and set and hired a very good set of lights. Remember “Poor Wandering Heart,” and that beautiful trilling that Mabel does that sounds like a skylark?  Well, this Mabel did it really well; I still wake up in the morning with that powerful impression of her sparkling eyes and perfect pitch and I can’t rid myself its simple, clever little tune.

Harlington is one of those little villages with a very old centre of Tudor houses heavily cloaked with protection orders and surrounded in expensive modern houses.  It even has its own railway station and almost everyone who lives there gets on the train and goes to London every day.  It’s the same train I use. When they are on their way home these are the stations they pass and in this order: Blackfriars, City, Farringdon, Kings Cross, St Albans, Harpenden (another little, expensive, commuter village) Luton Airport Parkway (you catch a free shuttle to Luton Airport), Luton, Leagrave, Harlington, Flitwick (you call it FLITTick) and Bedford. They travel from Southwark to Bedford in about an hour.  

In the morning the train also stops at Gatwick airport and terminates at Brighton.  Although I don’t know of anyone who commutes from Bedford to Brighton every day, I do suspect that some commute to and from Gatwick because it’s a very big airport and it would need lots of engineers and IT people, so why not from Bedford?

At the bottom of our hill is House Lane, which goes in a more or less northerly direction to Sandridge and above the lane are large fields of rape and barley.  For most of the last three weeks there has been a gradual reddening of the rape field so we walked down to see what was happening.  The rape field in full flower is bright, bright yellow and very dense because the raceme of the rape plant is about 8 inches high with about 100 flowers on it.  Spread that densely over a 50-acre field and you can see how the colour could become so intense.  As the yellow died away, the red colour had been spreading and intensifying and now we could see what it was.  Poppies.  Here they call them field poppies to distinguish them from cultured varieties.  

I thought they were weeds, probably brought back from France and Belgium on the clothes and in the pockets of soldiers of WWI. But I’m wrong.  William Cowper, English poet and man of letters during the 1700’s was in St Albans recuperating from mental illness and he wrote about the field poppies of St Albans, so they have been here for a while and this spectacular display of massed blooms lasting about 2 weeks is repeated almost every year; it’s just that some years, like this year, are better than others.  

So Elaine and I have become much more thoughtful about English wildflowers. They are not weeds, they are real plants and Jennie and Thelma are very enthusiastic about them, as was Clarice.  I thought why get excited about weeds?  I’m beginning to see why. Remember last spring we went up the hill to see the bluebell wood?  The bluebells have a 10,000 year history here.  The ground was set up for them by the retreating ice at the end of the last Ice Age and they come up, flower and die away early in spring before the other forest floor creepers and greenery get a start.  

There are bluebells all through Europe, but they don’t mass anywhere there like they do here. It seems that the timing of the poppies is just as fortuitous.  The rape flower drops and the poppies are tall enough to catch the light while the rape seed pods are ripening.  The bright yellow turns to bright red. Alongside the roads are massed bunches of pink blooms held stiffly like feathers on tall spikes – there is plenty of hemlock, but the pink blooms are packed together rather than just scattered about. Thelma says they are willow weed. Jennie says that all these things are governed by the seasons, which are so pronounced here, so that without having to read a calendar, the person who can read the wildflowers can tell exactly where in the year she has got to.

While we were inspecting the poppy display, Margaret Martin, who was staying with us on holiday for a while, asked us for a couple of flint stones that she could take home.  That’s not difficult – pick and field stone and it’s flint.  As the glaciers retreated north about 10,000 years ago they left this land smoothly undulating but the terminal moraines are heavy in clay and water-rounded flint stones.  I thought I’d have a go at being a new-age Stone Man, so I picked up a couple of likely looking flints and banged them together. Nothing.  Why didn’t they shatter and give me a nice axe or something?  

I threw first one then the other very hard down onto the road.  Still nothing, they just bounced away. So I picked up a broken one that had a very obvious flaw in it and looked around for a stone to bang it with.  I decided I’d try a nice round stone because it would probably be stronger than a broken one and, holding the broken one in my left hand whacked it on the flaw with the round stone.  This time the flawed stone broke nicely into two.  I then whacked the very edge of the break and with a satisfying little ping a shard fell off.  When I picked it up and examined it, my little shard had a razor edge and a thick, blunt edge. It could easily cut meat held as it was in my fingers, or be mounted into a piece of wood with glue (they used resin) or tied in with string to make a slicer or a scraper. In ten minutes I’d gone from 21st Century Man to Cave Man.  Elaine and Margaret both reckoned I’d only make it to Neanderthal, but I’d still have been able to carve the roast.

My last piece of good news is that Elaine has successfully finished her QTS. That means she has qualified teacher status. We were both flomoxed when we arrived here to discover that Elaine’s NZ teaching qualifications and experience counted for nothing.  She had been recruited in NZ for supply teaching in England by Select Education and they hadn’t told her this rather important fact.  For the past two years, Elaine has been teaching in England as an untrained and unqualified teacher, even though for most of the past year she has been the mentor for a teacher in training.  Britain has an acute shortage of teachers – about 10,000 too few and it is heavily recruiting in NZ, Australia and South Africa.  

Because it doesn’t tell these people that their qualifications and experience are not recognised and won’t be paid for, they come here in all innocence and don’t know for months firstly that their are on the lowest pay a teacher can get, but they also don’t know that if they don’t get their QTS in two years, they won’t be allowed to continue teaching and therefore will have to go home when their money runs out.  Accidentally or not, Britain gets lots of highly qualified and experienced teachers almost for free.  The QTS usually take one to two years, but Elaine was allowed to do hers in six months.  She has now finished and will be paid at the proper rate in due course.  It also means, of course, that she will be able to continue teaching if she wants to.

Yesterday we got half of one our oldest wishes – to go to Luton Hoo.  As you know, Luton Hoo was the house used in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.  There was the long drive through trees and a front view of a quite magnificent house. All week we had seen advertisements for a Robin Hood Fayre at Luton Hoo, so we had to go and the half of the wish that came true was the long drive through the trees.  

The house has been sold and a hotel corporation is turning the house into a luxury hotel so sooner or later we are going to get the second half come true.  However, the fayre was a beauty and well worth going to.  As we drove up to it, we could see large white pointed tents with St George flags on the tallest poles and lots of bunting hung between them.  There were lots of re-enactments of rural life in the 1350s and there was also an ensemble playing music from the Tudor period and there was an American playing a range of musical styles using a hammer dulcimer. It’s quite a wide instrument with a peg to hold it off the ground and the musician plays it by tapping the strings with felt-tipped, curved little hammers.  It makes a very pleasant resonant sound like a clavichord, but much more mellow.

The music he was playing wasn’t particularly old, but the hammer dulcimer is certainly a Mediaeval instrument.  I mentioned to him that my younger brother makes Appalachian dulcimers and he said that the Appalachian dulcimer had a Northern European history, quite different from that of his own instrument.  Just inside the gate as we walked in was a group re-enacting family life in the 1350s.  They had a long, heavy wooden table with earthenware dishes and wooden plates.  

The women were wearing white linen full-length dresses drawn at the neck and sometimes with a tunic dress over the top.  The men wore woollen breeches, white linen blouses in much the same cut as the women and with jerkins over the top.  It was very warm clothing for such a hot and sunny day.  They were cooking meat patties for lunch.  In a small enclosure next to this little group were three colourful tents with knights and soldiers showing off their swordsmanship and demonstrating the use of Mediaeval pikes.  

In another enclosure off to the right there was a stage where small groups of musicians with Mediaeval instruments played traditional English tunes, some of which I recognised from Shakespearean plays – not that Shakespeare was Mediaeval, of course, but they always take a few liberties. On the same stage another group played a variation on the St George and the Dragon story that we had seen in a mummers play in Romeland, St Albans. They always play this story for its laughs, but St George killed the dragon and got the ever-thankful girl. She was so thankful it hurt laughing.

It’s just wonderful going to events like this and it’s one of the reasons we like being here so much.  At last we are in touch with the roots of the culture that made us who we are and we can understand better why we love the things we do.

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine


Letters home, 2001, August 22

22 August 2001 – From Elaine

Dear Mum & Dad

It is school holidays here at present until 3 September so I am enjoying six weeks of basking mainly in sunshine while Ewart travels daily to London to work by train, but has lovely lunch breaks on the banks of the Thames near the Globe theatre.

We are now safely back after a week in West Sussex and have had a lovely break. The weather wasn’t that great and at times wet and quite cold but it didn’t stop us having fun, especially me…not quite so much for Ewart as he still had to go to work each day but we went out exploring together at the weekends and enjoyed that. We were house sitting for friends and this gave us the opportunity to explore a different part of the country.

While away we had a cat called Muffy (who got to like us and enjoy our company during the week), three guinea pigs, 9 gerbils (a bit like mouse/rats sort of) which became 14 on our last night, a pool and a big house. We had hoped to use the pool but the weather wasn’t suitable so we just kept chlorinating the pool as we were asked. I had a couple of days that I stayed at the house and watched TV and slept because I had got quite tired and the rest of the time I did lots of sightseeing.

On the Tuesday my friends Liz & John (ex Goff’s Oak JMI school) came over and took me to Lewes for the day. We did lots of exploring and had a lovely lunch at a restaurant, and attended a rather wierd art show which included a little exhibit which caught us a little off guard. Part of the show was set in a beautiful garden. We passed a large bright orange pole shaped like an arrow (exhibit No1), then not that impressed followed a lovely path between two hedges. As we went through Liz and I heard a woman sobbing and sobbing. We peared through the hedge and could see no-one. This went on for some time, then John came to assist, still no joy but we were beginning to get quite concerned. Suddenly Liz noticed a black box suspended in the hedge. We had “been done” It was an audio exhibit as part of the exhibition!!!

The experience was quite unnerving, but not to be put off, we decided to look at the rest of the exhibition, just in case it improved. There were video, sculpture and photographic exhibits – not always to our taste, but I was pleased to have been able to have the experience. Some of the pieces really made you think… On our return, John & Liz stayed for dinner once John had collected Ewart from the station. The extra travelling to work meant really long days for Ewart but he was really good about it. The trains weren’t that reliable for him either so it was quite an eventful week for him.

The first weekend Ewart and I went to Ferring and had a lovely walk in the breeze along the pebbled beach, saw our first beach huts and talked with a lady who owned one, then had lunch at a lovely thatched tudor style pub. We met an artist, had a long talk with him and looked at his paintings. From there we went on to Bognor Regis. There is a large Butlins there on the beach front – quite ugly but seems to be a very big business. We didn’t go in to look because you have to pay, but we went for a long walk along the beach front and looked at the rest of the area.

During the week I set out on my own each day after dropping Ewart to the train. I went to Brighton – saw the lanes, walked right to the end of the pier watcing all the families on the rides and went into the Royal Pavilion which has recently undergone a lot of restoration. It is beautiful, but at the same time quite strange in that it is Indian on the outside and Chinese inside but very bright, ornate and colourful throughout. It was the home of George V and William 1V and for a short time, Queen Victoria, but finding it too open to the public, Queen Victoria gutted it of its possessions, took them to London and the buildings were later sold cheaply to the city of Brighton, which still owns them to this day. The pavilion has since been returned to its previous glory and is well worth a visit.

The next day I went down to Littlehampton, arriving quite early. I walked along the beach front until the shops opened, went into town, looked around the shops and had a capuccino then went further around to The Body Shop International Headquarters where I took a factory tour. I buy some Body Shop products and had learnt about Anita Roddick and her business philosophes when I worked at the Enterprise Agency so found it a very interesting trip to do.

The last part was spent at the factory shop outlet where I stocked up on my usual Body Shop purchases. I then went on to Arundel, went to a village Art & Craft Show, visited the castle and wandered through the lovey little village poking around in antique shops before heading back to Horsham to collect Ewart from the train. Arundel is absolutely gorgeous and the castle the best I have seen so far. The Duke of Norfolk has made a wonderful job of restoring it. It is absolutely gorgeous.

I even managed to climb the keep (most unusual for me as I absolutely hate heights) but I didn’t stay up there for long as the wind was gusting heavily through the turrets and I felt quite unsteady on my feet – got quite dizzy and was very keen to get down. For me the library was the best part. It is the most beautiful library I have ever been in. It would be a lovely place to sit and read. The Duke of Norfolk’s son, daughter-in-law and five grandchilden live at the castle. It is the second largest castle in Britain and built along the same lines as Windsor.

That weekend Ewart and I went back to Arundel so I could show him the lovely village. The castle wasn’t open because the Duke was entertaining friends there but we saw a wedding going to the chapel and having photos taken. The guests were beautifully dressed. We went back to the art show then on to Chichester where we went to the market, had lunch, wandered around town, explored the cathedral then went to walk through the Bishop’s Garden. While there we saw a beautiful tree covered in berries.

We met another family there. The tree turned out to be a Mulberry tree. The family showed us what to pick and we had a lovely chat and fruity treat under the tree with them. Mulberries are sweet and absolutely gorgeous. Who would have thought that a berrry looking like a loganberry, but much sweeter, would come from a huge tree when other berries like that come from vines – most strange, but well worth tasting. It was a real treat for us. On the way home we headed out to the coast and stopped at little coastal communities all along the way. We were intending to go to Brighton to watch fireworks at 10pm but stopped at Littlehampton for a seafood dinner, got talking to a lovely waitress and left it a bit late to be on time. We weren’t worried bcecause the traffic in Brighton would have been horrific as it was Gay Parade Day.

This week I have been back at the flat but out every day. Ewart bought me a month’s membership to a local gym so I have been working on fitness machines, using the steam room and sauna, swimming in the pool and relaxing in the spa pool (called jacuzzi over here). On some days I have enjoyed the relaxation it brings so much that I have sent up to four hours using the facilities. I have been meeting some nice women my own age there too.

On Monday evening I had a lovely surprise phonecall from Genevieve’s friend Kate Abel. I had never met her but Genevieve has mentioned her in emails over a long time so I felt as though I did. She is now in the UK for 2 yrs and also travelling in Europe. She came up on Tuesday on the train. I collected a parcel for her that had been sent to us for her by her parents, met her at the train then we went exploring by car through Herts, Beds and Bucks for the day.

We had lunch at Kingsbury Mill then after picking Ewart up from the train at the end of the day walked at Verulamium Park, up to the Fighting Cocks pub for a lemonade then walked through the grounds of the cathedral before dropping her back at the station to meet a friend in London for dinner. Kate is a lovely girl and we had a really happy day together. She is currenly travelling on the continent but we hope to meet up again once she gets back.

On Wednesday I went to Hatfield to Michelle’s place. She and Steve used to live in the flat above us. We had a long chat together (I am helping her to prepare for job interviews), went to the Hatfield market and ASDA for food supplies then back to my flat for the afternoon. Steve picked her up from here after work as he works near here and that allowed him and Ewart to catch up over coffee too. He is an IT contractor too. They are getting married in April in St Lucia so it was lovely to hear of all their plans.

On Thursday I took Thelma out for the day. She rang and asked if I could help her with her shopping. We were supposed to be going on holiday together to get her some sea air but she has not been well enough to go. She gets very short of breath these days even with very simple tasks, but we managed to have a nice time together on Thursday and she was a lot happier for being able to get out of the flat for a while.

She has been ill for 11years now and is getting quite sick of it. She says she likes going out with me because I take the lead from her, others apparently tell her what to do and wear her out. To go to the places she needs to go now we stop outside each building in the car. I use disabled parking spaces as she now has a special sticker for that. That is really helpful. She goes in and does what she has to do, comes out, I drive a couple of buildings down the road an she goes into the next one after a short rest in the car. Even working this way she gets very breathless so we have to be careful. In the afternoon we go back to her flat, Thelma sleeps on the couch sitting up so she can breathe and I read until she wakes up, make her a cup of tea and then come home to pick up Ewart. Ewart and I are going to stay with her this bank holiday weekend and we will take her for a few short outings to give her a break. (this weekend)

On Friday I spent all morning at the gym. Did a good workout then spent time in the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. Wen I got home I was really tired – think I overdid it, so spent a bit of the afternoon asleep on the couch in front of the TV. Was supposed to be watching NZ v Aus at cricket but missed it due to falling asleep.

On Saturday we didn’t need to go got the market because I had done the shopping during the week so we went for a drive into Bucks and Beds to follow the Icknield Way. Ewart had done some research about it on the internet so we went to find some of the trails. We went to the Ivinghoe Beacons, went to Ivinghoe township and Church, Pitstone Windmill, Great Gaddeston and lots of little villages along the way. We did lots of driving in the countryside, mainly on B roads and lanes.

The trees are beautiful and leafy at this time of year. We explored lovely little churches and went to one garden centre. We looked for the Buddhist Monastery but must have been on the wrong lane (little back road) because we managed to miss it this time. We were told at the garden centre it was worth seeing. It is those sorts of times that it is great to still have a kiwi accent.

Frank used to always quote “Wing, Tring and Ivinghoe, three little churches all in a row”. We have now visited all three – something we planned to do before leaving home. At Ivinghoe Church we bought a copy of the church newsletter and discovered a tale by the Minister about discovering a wonderful new breakfast cereal from a company who cared about its customers and even put a newsletter in the box!!!! You guessed it, Hubbards has arrived in the UK and is available at Tesco supermarkets!!! We are delighted and bought a copy of the parish newsletter to send to Dick Hubbard who I met some time ago at a Mentor briefing I attended in Auckland for the Enterprise Agency.

On Monday I took Jennie out to lunch to the Raven pub near my school in a little village called Hexton. This meant that Jennie could have a nice day out in the countryside in the sunshine. After that we went exploring at the Poplars Garden Centre at Harlington. Garden Centres here are huge, lots to buy and wonderful places to go exploring. Around here we are really spoilt for choice for them. There are quite a number of very large ones within a very short drive from here.

The last couple of days I have been giving the flat a treat by cleaning and tidying it…been a bit of a gad-about these holidays. Our neighbour Christine dropped in some ripe bananas so I made a couple of banana cakes when I got back from the gym today. She took one back to work for her staff for afternoon tea and Ewart and I have the other. It is a lovely sunny day today so I did a big workout at the gym, had a steam in the steam room and jacuzzi then dropped Ewart’s car off at the garage for repairs – that done I walked close to four miles home then spent a quite afternoon at the flat cooking and cleaning to give my poor little feet a chance to recover!!

They did not like walking that distance in my sandals at all. Should have been sensible and changed back into my running shoes I guess, but I got a bit lazy walking in the lovely sunshine. I am currently in training to run the St Albans three mile fun run at the end of September. I have managed to get together a group of young girls from the flats around here to do it with me so it should be fun.

Tonight after dinner we have been invited to have supper with Ivor and Iris.  It is a lovely evening so we will walk round.

Hope you are having a great winter. I understand you already have some signs of spring appearing. That doesn’t bode too well with our summer continuing does it?

Love from Elaine & Ewart


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.




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