Tag Archives: letters


Letters home, 2000, Sept 14

14 Sep 2000

Dear Dad

Thank you very much for the parcel today … I’m not intending giving away the beautiful bowls you made.  We’d love to use them ourselves, to put them on the table and say my dad made them when people ask us where they came from and what the unusual looking woods are.

And what a wonderful surprise the stop-watch is!  Grandad Dawson, after whom I am named.  I am thrilled, Dad, it’s such a wonderful treasure and I didn’t even know it existed. Please thank Mum very much.  When I am working on the helpdesk lots of people ask me what sort of name Ewart is and I am so pleased for Mrs Youngman’s research, and for Mum’s stories, that I can tell the asker that the name is Irish and was my mother’s father’s middle name.  I now have something tangible and very personal (it would be a safe bet that he used the watch to time his horses) that belonged to my mother’s very loved father.

Also, thank you very much for the offer to stay with you, but we are already booked into the Pauanui house.

I have signed up for the Cabbage Patch 10, which is a 10-mile race run by the Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham, that’s the weekend after next. On 15 October we are off to stay with Jack and Kate Dalgliesh in Leicester for the weekend. Remember that we stayed with them for a few days earlier in the year and went to Bosworth Field to see where Richard III met his end. This time I shall be running the Denstone ½ marathon. Denstone is in Staffordshire a little north of Uttoxeter and a little east of Stoke-on-Trent. It looks like three houses and a tent on the map and since the listing says H for hilly, I guess it will be interesting countryside, and I won’t be looking for too quick a time …

I have also signed up for next year’s London Marathon, to be run in April. However, they don’t tell me I’ve been accepted to race until December, so I can’t say until then whether or not I’ll actually be running. I am looking forward to it, though; you run across Tower Bridge and you can’t cross that on foot at any other time.  I want a time of under 3hr 30min.

The days are positively balmy, even warm, and there hasn’t been much rain; a very nice late summer going into autumn. The trees are just turning colour even though there have been no frosts around here yet and the coolness one associates with autumn hasn’t snapped in. We have a beautiful big bushy Superstar rose that has a dozen large flowers on it and Elaine’s impatiens are in full and glorious flower. One of the things that is always so surprising about England is how vigorously everything grows – like a tropical garden – and how intensely the plants cram their flowers onto every available twig.

You would have loved it here, Dad, if you’d have been able to make the trip.  St Albans is such a beautiful city and the old people here who know a thing or two, recognise the name Tearle and say that it is an old St Albans name.  The Tearles have been here since about the 1760’s.  The countryside around here is like a huge park, all closely manicured and carefully managed, the accent of the locals is light and sweet, the little children are beautifully dressed all the time, and the entire city is quiet and orderly.  The history of the place is deep and intensely interesting, filled with many of history’s greatest names.  We have felt very at home here, and we have met lots people who have treated us with kindness and genuine friendliness.  We love our little flat and Jersey Farm is like Pauanui.

No doubt you’ve heard about our strikes and blockades over the cost of fuel? It’s never dull here! A couple of stories now about the fuel crisis:

A garage in Flitwick, up the road from Luton, is selling petrol at 2.00 pounds a litre instead of the usual price of 83p

Some guy in Luton stored 70 gallons of petrol in beer barrels. They leaked into his basement and the whole street was evacuated while the petrol was flushed away.

The local councils want the secondary schools to close because if teachers can’t get to work, they can’t guarantee the safety of children and teachers who can get to school.

Believe it or not, Elaine and I have HEAPS of petrol. Almost all the garages around St Albans are advertising “Nothing except 4* (LRP.)” Well, that’s what we run on. Our little old Metros only use 4* petrol. Now that my tank is full, it will go for about 2 weeks, just to work and back.

We have lots of supplies left in our millennium cupboard, so we won’t starve for a while.

I keep thinking, oh, dear … why me?  They know I’m in England but they don’t know where, so they’ve sent this huge fuel crisis to flush me out.  Well, I won’t go.

By the way, here’s a note from our travel agent:

Thanks for your email Ewart, the petrol situation is incredible and yes it is on the news here plus the inflated costs at some petrol stations. We have had rises here to and it is now 1.15 per litre.
I have great news. JAPAN AIRLINES IS CONFIRMED NOW to depart London 14 December at 6.15pm and arrive here on Saturday 16th at 11.50am and then to depart Auckland on Saturday 13 Jan with the free night at the airport hotel in Osaka and arrive London Heathrow at 3.20pm on Sun 14th. Cost is NZ$2260 plus taxes and does not have to be paid in full until 45 days prior to departure.

Now we know our home and return dates …

By the way, our gas in England is $NZ2.48 per litre – I guess you can see why the locals aren’t too happy about that.




Letters home, 1999, July 4

4 July 1999


Still haven’t got a job – this is driving me NUTS. My reserves are under pressure, but I’m still expected to front up. I’ve got about 8 CVs being evaluated, and 3 are quite hot, but none of them is a job, you know, with real cash. It is very frustrating and I feel under such pressure.

Never mind, today I ran 6 miles. That’s 10km. My book (Bruce Tulloch, a aery good English middle distance racer from my high school days) says that training at 8min per mile is about right, so my 6 miles at 47:06 is fine – I don’t want to be going any faster. I realised this morning that 8min/ml is about 5min/km, which is the time I’ve always used as a benchmark. What Bruce says, tho, is not to go much faster than this in training.

Ok. What counts is total miles in a week, and the length of the longest run. So I shall do 6ml one day, 10ml another and 4ml another. That’s a total of 20 miles. It’s not really long enough. It should be 30ml. Well, not yet. I’ll have to do a couple of weeks at 6/6/4 before I go to 6/8/4 and then a couple of weeks at that before 6/10/4. I’m loath to do 4 days of running, but I’ll put in an extra day if I feel good – you know, no muscles under pressure or any pains.

Now, he’s also got a thing I haven’t heard of called fartleck. Awful name. It refers to running 50m more or less at a sprint, followed by a 150m trot. Then you do the 50m again and the trot. 4-5 times in the length of one of the training runs. I’m going to do it on my 4ml night. I’ve done one turn so far, and it leaves you a bit the worse for wear, but not injured. That’s why I’ve left a 4ml night in the training sched.

So that’s how it stands at present. Pretty boring, eh? As Caroline said, “You should get a job.”




Letters home, 1999, July 5

5 July 1999

Dear Joni

I have an interview with a Kevin Fordhan at Tech-Aid, 11am on Wed 14 July. His company is Tech-Aid and they recruit fro only the top 500 companies worldwide. His address is 14-16 Lower Regent St, London City. Yeah, in the City.

I go to Picadilly Station and walk 200m from there.

You got goosebumps yet?

The company he’s recruiting for is Compaq.

You got goosebumps now?

The job will be based in Reading and pays about 32k pounds, plus benefits etc. I don’t know what the bens and etc are, but I’ll let you know.

The company I went to see yesterday said I should be applying for IT Managers jobs. This will get me in the door of one of the biggest players in the world, and an IT Manager’s job shouldn’t be too far away. Go directly to 50k, pick up your bonus on the way.

Now ….. don’t get too excited, I’m certainly not …. but it’s so nice to see something happening at last.

And don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it after the interview.



Letters home, 1999, July 7

7 July 1999

Frances Rawlings, Otorohanga

I’m pleased your mum Frankie is improving. Give her a kiss from me. That will cheer her up!

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

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

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

Never mind …. we’ll cope.



Letters home, 2000, July 16

16 July

Dear Mum and Dad

Remember the Fernleaf girl, in the advertising soap about the family that was breaking up? She became the Anchor girl when Anchor took over the brand? She’s here on our TV now, for Volvo. She and her boyfriend are way out in the woods with a huge mountain backdrop and the boyfriend is trying to cook dinner over the fire. The result is horrible to his taste, so he sneaks around the tent and drives off in the Volvo 4X4 coming back very quickly with two big pizzas. She opens the box, is about to say something and decides better of it. Tucks into the pizza. You’re never far from civilization with a Volvo 4X4.

We had a lovely, lovely local weekend. We went to the market yesterday morning as we always do to get the veges and any other groceries. It is cultural festival time in St Albans and there was a group down by the clock tower doing a medieval mummers play. This one was a puppet play with big puppets. The one we saw was a kind of comical adaptation of the story of George and the Dragon with lots of audience participation and a huge colourful dragon held up high. Eventually, George gets to teach the dragon a lesson – in these environmentally friendly days it doesn’t do to kill the dragon, of course – and marry the beautiful princess.

This afternoon we drove up to Beachwood Green near Luton airport to the home of my cousins Donn & Sylvia Heath. Your great grandmother, Sadie Tearle had three brothers, Joe, Fred and Tom Adams. Ivor Adams is the grandson of Fred and Donn Heath is the grandson of Tom. We had a very interesting moment while Donn Heath absorbed the fact that the only difference between me and him was my accent!

Anyway, in the village today Donn and Sylvia were helping to organise a village open garden festival with local home gardens open to the public. We visited all of them, finishing with cream teas in the garden of a very large home, known locally as “the big house” or “the manor” although it is quite modern. It was lovely and sunny this afternoon so it was nice to be outside after all the cold and wet weather we have been having lately.

When we got home our neighbour Karen had her dinner with us then we went off to Ivor’s so I could work on his scanner. Iris gave us some beautifully fresh raspberries from her garden so we have just had a raspberries & ice cream supper.

I start my new job with Tescos tomorrow morning. Elaine is coming with me to Luton hospital to have my eyes checked, although they are now greatly improved. They think I caught some sort of virus thing in Belgium. I will then go off to work at Welwyn Garden City.

We’ve just come home from a really great night out. There’s a fellow who sings traditional English folk songs in French Row, just outside the Cafe Vicolo where we sit and have a cup of coffee every Saturday morning when we go to the market in St Albans. He calls himself John of French Row and he sings for the MS Society charity. He invited us to the Bull pub in Redbourne for a songs night. And we went tonight. It was just beautiful … all those lovely old songs that Butch and I used to sing in my university days at Waikato.

Also on Saturday, I updated my running shoes – that is, Elaine bought me some new ones for my birthday. On my first run on Sunday afternoon at least I did 4 miles under 30 minutes, and this afternoon I did 4 miles in just under 29 minutes. I’m looking to see if I can do the Great North Run in Newcastle, or maybe do the Garden City 10-mile again. So we’ll see how it goes. The first day at work in Tosco was a bit unusual – I didn’t know the answer to any of the questions that any of the callers rang in about! That’s a bit of a worry, but I am confident that I will pick up the patterns soon ….

Yes, well, I have just finished my first week at Tesco and it was quite interesting. I haven’t driven in England much before now, so driving to work has required a bit of education, too; although I haven’t actually got lost, I have driven home about four different ways, none of them intentionally. Progress House is in Shire Park which is on the edge of town, so I don’t get to see anything of Welwyn Garden City, but the group I am a sort of a member of has taken me to lunch at the Crown and Anchor pub in Tewin, a little country town 10min away, we’ve been to the Shire Club where you have to have a security pass to get in or it costs you 50p entry fee, and we’ve been to the cafe on the ground floor. Elaine makes my lunch, so none of that has cost me anything, but they are interesting places to go.

Tesco hasn’t yet organised too many of the tools I need to start work – my door pass arrived only yesterday, as did my AHD logon, but that’s all. I haven’t got a system logon, so Simon logged me on – illegally – as him, I haven’t got Lotus Notes so I can’t get or send messages, I haven’t got a telephone logon, so Simon let me – illegally – use his. And I haven’t got a mainframe logon, so if anyone rings me about problems with the mainframe, I can’t help them. All the servers were turned off on Tuesday, so we couldn’t help anyone at all and some of us couldn’t even log on.

There are some people from Novell working on the servers in the basement on pain of death if they don’t get things rectified, and the system administrators can’t set up any new accounts (like mine) otherwise everything is FINE. I sat at Simon’s elbow from Mon till Wed, then on Thurs I sat with Kevin, watching how the infrastructure worked and how the calls were answered and trying to see what were the most common problems. On Friday, two helpdesk guys failed to turn up and on Monday one of them is leaving, so they put me to work on Friday afternoon, fudging all the legal niceties as I said above, and I fell into the deep end. In the course of the afternoon, I took ten calls of about 15min each and I resolved ALL of them. None of them was left open, and none of them was referred on. One guy said “I can’t find the trakworks.ini file.”

I said, “That’s nice, where is Track Works?”

He said, “You haven’t been here too long, have you?” He was still most impressed when he went off with his program working properly.

So that’s it, I am now on the Helpdesk and working at the craft. The contract goes until 02 Feb 2001, but the manager says that it should go on much longer than that. We’ll see.

The only thing wrong is how COLD the place is. I know this is summer, but it looks like I’m not going to get much of it because where I sit is right under one of the cooling fans and I have to wear a jersey inside all day. When I get into the car, I find the day is roasting hot and I have just missed it. Because Elaine is now on holiday, we have six weeks to find another car. That shouldn’t be too hard. The Metro Centre wants to sell us one of theirs so we should be able to get a really nice little car for about 200 pounds.

Yesterday morning we decided we’d better chase up my new car, so we went round to the Metro Centre on the London Road and had a look at a couple of the cars he had for sale there. One of them was in our price range (300 pounds) it was quite tidy and the MOT for it was current till March next year. Also, it had seat belts for the rear seats. It’s exactly the same colour as the one we already own. Metro cheese. He said he’d make sure everything was tidy, legal and running smoothly and we’d pick up the car probably next Friday. So there you go, two cheese-coloured Metros in the parking lot.

We did get to the Gardens of the Rose yesterday. We went to the market first to have our cup of coffee and had a good chat with John of French Row, the folk singer. While we were talking to him we heard Eine Kleine Nacht Musik – played too fast, but rather well – coming from a small orchestra the other side of the clock tower, so we went to investigate. The orchestra had two violins, a viola and a cello and they had obviously played together a few times before – their tone was deep and very co-ordinated.

They went on to play the William Tell Overture and quite a few other family favourites. Apart from their excellent sound, we also loved the way they got kids up to help them and they danced and gestured as they played. It was a delightful 1/2 hour we spent listening to them. For some reason you get very good acoustics if you stand in front of the clock tower and no-one has to have any form of amplification in order to be heard perfectly well by a crowd of about 100 grouped under the robinia. It is just so romantic.

We decided to go to the Gardens of the Rose even tho we would get there at about 2:30pm. It’s a beautiful place, all right; the house is an old manor, but I don’t know anything about it other than it is now the HQ for the Royal National Rose Society – patrons, Princess Anne and Lord Runcie. They will obviously have to get a new vice patron, because Lord Runcie, retired Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of St Albans, has just died.

The gardens are in 30 acres of rolling Hertfordshire countryside and are actually in Chiswell Green (pronounced Chissel Green) but that’s only a suburb of St Albans anyway. We had a quiet and contemplative afternoon in the warm sun wandering around admiring a beautiful garden of 30,000 roses. One section of the garden was called the Peace Garden and was a collection of all the most famous roses that are descendents of the Peace rose. I didn’t know that Superstar was a “Peace Rose,” but there was a bed of Superstar and all its descendents in the Peace Garden. We got a really awful bright red plastic rose fridge magnet as our memento. A good day all told.

This morning I have been for a six-mile run and it was a respectable enough 43:54min. I haven’t done much work since the Petersfield 1/2 marathon, but it looks like the work I did in Belgium on the cross-trainers wasn’t wasted effort. I found out there that my highest heart rate is 178 and my resting pulse here at home at 42. I have bought the latest Runners World magazine and at last I have a new pair of running shoes, so I am lining up a couple of races for next month.

We’ve got the first of the leaf drop happening with the early-wintering birches, but there’s no sign yet of general colour change in the trees.  When I’m in the Tesco building, the trees around us make it look like we’re in a forest. We can see to a horizon that’s about 10 miles of rolling countryside away, and everything in view is trees, we can hardly see the rooftops because the trees are so big and they grow so densely. Every single tree was planted by hand. The fields all around us are deep yellow with ripe wheat, maize and barley and we can see combine harvesters at work on most days.

Many fields have large stacks of wheat or barley straw bales waiting for the truck. Some fields have even been re-ploughed and we can see the dusting of fertilizer sitting on the ground. The fields around Beds/Bucks/Herts are on beautiful, gently rolling countryside, they are 20 to 50 acres in size and all are ringed in magnificent oaks, elms, ashes, chestnuts and sycamores. The entire countryside looks like a gigantic park.

We went to Knebworth House yesterday. It used to be just an old Tudor manor, and home of the Lord Lyttons since about the 1450’s but in the 1840’s (around the time we signed the Treaty of Waitangi …) it was added to considerably and they put up towers and added gargoyles and laid out some lovely gardens. It was used as Wayne Manor in Batman! And I thought the entire movie was shot in America. The outside has been about one quarter renovated so it will look very impressive once the work is finished, but in this week’s paper Lord Cobbold says he may have to sell the place because the work is too expensive.

They used steel reinforcing rods in the 1840’s additions and in England’s damp and cold the rods rust, which breaks up the stone. The Victorians got very energetic with lots of these manor houses and all of them (I know of another 3 in the area) now have to have huge amounts spent on them removing the rods and fixing the damage. The Victorians thought the rods would make the building last longer. Anyway, it’s a fantastic looking building and the gardens were a very pleasant afternoon’s stroll. And, it’s not far from here, off the A1(M) near Stevenage.

One of the more recent Lord Lyttons was Viceroy to India in the 1870’s during the British Raj and it was he who organized for Victoria to become Empress of India. Winston Churchill was a frequent visitor here and his painting of the Banqueting Hall now hangs there. Queen Elizabeth the First also visited here in the 1570’s (I told you the place was a Tudor manor house) and the Lord Lyttons were all knights of the garter. One of the more unusual paintings is of a nun and a monk holding a baby and grinning widely. It’s described as “Tudor anti-Catholic propaganda.”

AND we have the fridge magnet of the house ….

We went to Southend-on-sea for the day on Sunday. It was such a fine sunny morning and I’d already been for my 12-mile training run, so we thought we’d go and look at the sea. I’ll tell you what … you wouldn’t go to Southend-on-sea twice. It seems the kids in various schools your Mum teaches at have said with great enthusiasm that “You gotta go there!”

We took the M25 at London Colney, past the Stanstead turnoff and on down to junction 29 where we took the A127 to Southend. The prettiest part of the trip is in Hertfordshire; once you get into Essex, the scenery gets much more industrial and scruffy. There are lots of untilled little fields lying fallow and full of weeds, many of the fences are in poor condition, there are unpainted warehouses dotted along the sides of the roads, that sort of scruffy.

Southend is quite big and it took a bit of navigating to find the beach. The town would have to be at least as big as Hamilton, but the beach is narrow, pebbly, with a bit of sand and heavily fortified with groins running out to sea trying to stop what little beach they have being washed away. The town is on the banks of the Thames and does not look out to sea, but across the river to tall chimneys and industrial installations on the other bank, at least 5 miles away. The view is dominated by a long jetty swinging from the far end of the beach to about a mile out to sea and we could just make out a few people walking on it and a little train running along it. Behind us, the beach carried on for another 2 miles before it turned left and the Thames met the Atlantic.

We parked our car about half way along the beach and walked west, with the sea on our left and the road on our right. We stopped at a Louisiana 30’s style eatery for lunch and although he was unkempt, the chef could cook. Elaine had a seafood platter and I had fish and chips … for the first time in England someone knew how to cook chips.

When we got to town it was the sort of place that was made for kids; we could see why the kids in school had recommended the town so enthusiastically. But actually, it’s horrible, noisy and loud. Every second place is a casino or games joint, there are three tattoo parlours, every other place is an eatery, and on the shore side of the road opposite the town there is a narrow strip of sideshow sort of attractions clambering over the rocks – flume rides, adventure rides, flying swings, pirate ships, that sort of thing – all with their music turned up and all flashing their lights and waving their flags.

Kids heaven, I should think, but sort of down-at-heel and tawdry and the people who walked about chewing their Southend rock looked sort of desperate for fun with their new tats and their hot, screaming kids. We bought the fridge magnet of a brightly multi-coloured sailing dingy and found a badge for the blanket. We ate some of the locally-made sticky peanut fudge and watched the traffic wardens sticking parking fines on the cars that hadn’t paid-n-displayed. Next stop Blackpool, I suppose …

The very best wishes

Ewart and Elaine


Letters home, 2000, Aug 24

24 Aug 2000

Dear Dad

Our planned trip to Wales this weekend didn’t come off, unfortunately. Yesterday afternoon, Elaine went to examine the coffers to pay the rent and stuff and the report wasn’t good. We’re not destitute or even close to it, but spending 300-400 pounds on a trip to Wales didn’t sound too clever with Christmas not too far away along with our trip to NZ and Elaine still being on holiday – and not being paid – for the next two weeks. However, all is not doom and gloom. It’s raining here and there are storms in Wales and people also told us that going away on long weekends usually means sitting in long tailbacks on any highway we wanted to travel on. Well, parked on the M25 is not my idea of a holiday, so I guess we’re making a virtue of our necessity.

We’re not wasting our time, though. When we went into the market for our veges this morning, we met two really cool people from “oop North” (Birmingham) dressed in motorbike leathers, who called themselves Paul and Jean. They rode to St Albans on a Honda GoldWing 1500 and they are camping on the Hertfordshire County Fair Ground near Redbourne. That was the grounds we went to last year for the Hertfordshire County and Gamekeepers Fair (where I bought my neat hat.) It is also the grounds where the first ever recorded game of cricket was played in 1668. ANYWAY, they are staying there because there’s a Europe-wide gathering of the mark. Tomorrow afternoon, 600 of those huge bikes will parade through the streets of St Albans and Paul and Jean have asked us to come and see them before the parade. So tomorrow looks like being quite a good day. And we’re going to Iris and Ivor’s for dinner. Wales will wait.

At this very moment, we are watching Inspector Morse. It’s the episode called Twilight of the Gods where a Welsh diva gets shot. She is in a parade on the way to collect an honourary doctorate when she gets shot from an upstairs window of the Old Bodlean Library. Well, we’ve been there. Barbara Tearle took us on a tour of the Old Bodlean Library. We went through the archway, into the courtyard then into the little room where the gunshot came from. It’s the communication room, where all the letters are delivered down these long tubes fed with compressed air.

When they get to this room, the messages are redirected up other pipes to their chosen destination. The library desperately needs updating, but this system is an institution.  We also had to have a special pass to go there, because it’s a staff-only area and Barbara had organized the passes before we got there. Later we went up onto the Library roof and then onto the roof of the Radcliffe building. We also walked along the canal where Grimshaw was found murdered, and we explored the ruins of the nunnery that formed the backdrop for the scene. We followed the canal all the way to the Trout, a most beautiful pub on the banks of the Evenlode River overlooking a low weir surrounded by huge trees in full summer dress, where we had a plate of hot chips with a cup of coffee and a pint of lemonade.

As far as my running is concerned, it seems that it’s very difficult to make real progress. I seem to be stuck at this level; I can do 3 or 4 miles at 7min/mile, but I can’t get any further. Next weekend, I’ll be running my second Garden City 10mile and I shall be lucky to get inside 72min, which really is only 4 min faster than last year’s time. I am hoping for 70min, but …. it seems unlikely on present form. I suppose I have to remember that I’m only in week 5 of a 12-week sked for a 1/2Marathon in late October, so a 10mile at this stage is a bit premature. But a good result would still be very nice.

I hope that Mum is still enjoying herself at Matapa.  It’s not long till Christmas and we are very much looking forward to seeing you.

Lots of love …. Ewart

Indian Cow

India, 26 Sep 2012

Liam was having a wonderful time with Cupcakes on my IPad and wanted to tell you what he was doing.  He is doing REALLY well with that program and loves it!!!  He even makes his own cupcake covers using my photo library.

Discovered it himself but I assist him with the library because I don’t want to lose my photos by accident.  It looks as tough he may have purchased some extra apps for that program today so don’t be surprised if we get an ITunes bill for that.  We were playing together, he clicked on something pretty quickly then all of a sudden we had a LOT more options with that program. Never mind, he has had a great time with it, plays on it for ages and laughs and laughs while he does it, which is excellent.

It has been a godsend too as they have been studying food at school and cooking each day and of course he has not been able to eat what he has been making. He has enjoyed bringing it home as a present for me though..  Yesterday I had a mini pizza for my lunch hat he had made at school.  It had little sausages on it because he loves sausages. We shared the sausages and I ate the rest.
Time for dinner.


Letters home, 2000, Dec 13

13 Dec 2000

Finished work today, we’ll be on the plane tomorrow.

There’s a plane stuck on the runway and lots of flights have been delayed, but that’s life. Every now and then the train you are on will just stop on the tracks and the usual joke is that the driver has seen a leaf on the track and he’s gone out to sweep it off. The standing excuse for trains being late is for either leaves or snow on the track. In 150 years of British Rail they still haven’t come up with a cure for either. I suppose it’s the same for planes, not for leaves or snow, but some pathetic excuse that will hide the real story of someone’s incompetence.

Never mind, neither rain nor tornado can stop us now! We have had lots of cards wishing us well and about a dozen phone calls from friends and family. Jenny Pugh has rung, as has John Tearle, Clarice, Thelma, and Roland.  Pam and Tom took us to dinner and Liz and John Stredwick made us a beautiful dinner in their lovely Goff’s Oak home. Ivor and Iris will be looking after our car and I have insured mine so he can drive it, and then again for Elizabeth Marshall who’s coming to see us for a couple of weeks as soon as we get back. Here, it’s illegal to drive a car without the basic insurance.

Elaine made some Afghans for her work and for mine and they went down a treat. It’s also traditional here to give a Christmas card to one’s fellow workers, so I found some really good cards (20 for GBP2) and they were quite impressed with my cards. I got them from the Saturday market. So a card and an Afghan each for all 20 of them really got them talking at work. They also hadn’t tasted Afghans before and they were pretty envious that Elaine and I would be on the beach in summer for Christmas. I promised to show them my new tan when I got back. They are a very nice group of people and it’s a pleasure to work with them.

We have spent an hour or two touring St Albans looking at the decorated houses and we are sure that there are lots more than last year, many with Christmas trees outside their back door beautifully lit and lots of houses with brightly lit windows flashing with coloured fairy lights. It’s dark at 4:30pm so there is plenty of evening before 10:00pm (when most people switch them off) to show off one’s own lights and to go around town admiring the efforts of others.

But now it’s homeward. We’ll see you soon.

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine


Letters home, 2012, My Pink Slip – Section 44

By Ewart Tearle

April 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“Your name?”

I told them

“Have you got any identity?”

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

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

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

“Ok,” he said and handed me the card.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Am I a terrorist?” I was aghast.

“No, no!” he remonstrated, smiling.

“Am I under arrest?”

“No, not at the moment.”

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

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

“So what’s this all about?”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


“Seen taking photos in area of Jewish Chronical.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What if they don’t?”

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

April 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Letters home, 2009, The Empire Hotel

The Empire Hotel – A Railway Story

By Ewart Tearle Nov 2009

I lived for 6 weeks during the Christmas Holidays in the now-burned down Empire Hotel in Frankton near Hamilton, NZ. I can’t remember how much it cost, but at the time, I was earning £5.0.0 a week working as a yardman for Caltex, the oil company, that had three tall storage tanks alongside the railway line. There was one tank for diesel, one tank for regular petrol and one tank for super petrol.

My job was to dip the tanks every few hours and let the office know the level. Every few days a couple of tankers would be dropped off by the shunters on the siding adjacent to these storage tanks. I would dip the tanks again and again until I knew that there was room in one of the tanks for the entire quantity of the fuel in the rolling stock waiting to be unloaded. If you got the dip wrong and started the upload, there was no way to stop it.

Once the tank filled up, the rest of the fuel overflowed. That’s why each tank sat in a hollow all by itself. I heard that one yardman had emptied the contents of the diesel tanker into the super petrol storage tank – and to compound things, it overflowed by several hundred gallons. I have a vague idea that the hotel charged £1 a week and I kept my costs down by having only fruit for lunch, at about 1/-, and fish-and-chips at about 2/- for dinner, giving me a profit for the week of about £3. This was the most money I earned until I was a second-year teacher some five years later.

The hotel served only one meal, breakfast. It was interesting…. The cook was a great guy – huge, bald, loud, dressed in a white singlet, canvas trousers and black boots, sweating all the time. He had one of those distinctively rugged New Zealand names that I wished so badly my mother had called me – something like Bruce, or Jim, or Jack. Of course, the inmates of the hotel had lots of adjectives they went through before they got to his actual name.

He cooked a wadge of bacon, and a bucket of sausages, in a yard-wide cast iron frying pan over a red-hot coal range while the eggs gently boiled in little cups alongside a smaller pan of frying onions. The under-cook passed him tin plates hot from the oven and he slapped some bacon, a couple of sausages, onions and an egg on each plate and then whacked it down on the counter, swinging it along the shiny surface until the man at the head of the breakfast queue swept it up before it hit the floor. You could hear each man take the plate and swear at how hot it was as he carried it back to his table. They seemed to know a lot about the ancestry of the cook.

We all sat down within half an hour of 6am, or else we got no breakfast, sitting on assorted wooden chairs around equally mismatched round, square and oblong, bare wooden tables. A wooden floor of 12” oak planks spoke of the former grandeur of the hotel, but grimy windows and dark stains in the wood told even more about its fallen present. I suppose there were thirty of us.

Wizened little men from the First World War dressed in cloth caps and harassed tweed jackets with woollen singlets exposed under threadbare blue-grey shirts sat in silence and shovelled the bacon and eggs from their tin plates. They were tiny, like my grandmother, who fitted under my arm when I held it out horizontally. How on earth had they won a war? They looked straight ahead, old, tired and sick, their eyes full of nightmares.

Railwaymen in dark overalls ate ravenously and drank their hot, sweet tea from squat china mugs they would thump onto the table between mouthfulls of bacon and sausages while they laughed, gossiped about each other and told filthy jokes. They were taller men, bigger, some with paunches that forced their belts to cut into their middle. They had one of the most dangerous jobs in New Zealand, because at shunting time, it was they who ran between moving railway rolling stock, coupling or decoupling on the run, jumping off and onto a step welded near the rear and front of all the wagons. They would stand beside the wagon to be attached and would wave the shunter forward until it clacked against the coupling unit. If the lock didn’t come down, these men would jump into the gap between the wagons and drop the lock, skipping backwards to clear the still-moving stock, and jumping back onto the step. The shunter was in a hurry – the engineer had to fend for himself.

I saw the force that the shunter sometimes used when coupling, and it had torn the heavy cast iron fist of the coupling unit on the wagon into a grisly twisted hook. When a wagon was decoupled, the shunter gave it a thundering whack and the wagon, with all the other rolling stock in front of it, clattered their coupling irons together and charged forward. The engineer on the ground raced along the track to push a lever so that the cortege of rolling stock was diverted to its resting place for the day.

If he failed to reach the lever in time, the first wagon passed onto a portion of the track that was not intended for it, and the engineer could only stand in frustrated impotence while he waited for the stock to stop rolling, or crash into a terminal barrier, and the shunter driver yelled curses at him that would have split the heavens. That short train of stock moved very quickly and in total silence. In the fog that often afflicted Hamilton, and in the rush to get all the wagons in the right places for the day, a man could easily be in front of the onrushing freight and die without ever knowing what hit him.  The men at breakfast were loud and violent-tongued in an effort to remove the thought that today’s fog might be the last thing they ever saw.

One or two men worked in local car garages and I knew of one who worked in a metal scrap-yard, but most of these men were working on the railways.

My bedroom was on the second floor and overlooked the railway shunting yards at the back of the hotel. An iron-framed cot with a kapok mattress and a smelly, stained pillow rested in the right-hand corner under the only window and a small, pale green four-drawer chest left a narrow path to the bedside table with my shiny, chrome-plated alarm clock the only ornamentation. A rimu wardrobe filled the last cavity in the floor space on the left-hand side of the door and a 40-watt light bulb hung crookedly from the ceiling on fraying wires.

Outside, the drivers and engineers yelled orders and banged trains together all night long, but no more energetically than at eight o’clock in the morning when everyone in Frankton had to cross the railway line to go to work in Hamilton. At that hour of the day there was always a train (or two – it was a dual line between the station and the shunting yards) across the only level crossing on the only road to Hamilton. Even in the sixties, the days of steam were behind us, and these trains in Frankton were all diesels.

I stood once by the tracks in Rotorua watching the billowing white smoke and listening to the chuffing and animal breathing of the one steam train I ever saw going from Rotorua over the Mamaku Ranges to Hamilton. When I was in high school, Aunty Grace sent me back to Rotorua from the mining village of Pukemiro deep in the Mamakus on a steam train pulling a couple of carriages immediately behind the engine and nearly a mile of freight and empty wagons behind them.

Fire and sparks leapt from the funnel and fell on the dry grass alongside the railway track, setting fires every few hundred yards. White smoke tinged with black shadows writhed from the engine, through the carriage and down the length of the train. The huge black engine in front of me seemed to be straining every muscle, breathing deeply and sighing heavily like the draft horses that pulled pine stumps from hedges on the farm my father worked when I was a pre-schooler. The smell of coal smoke, leather and old timber in the carriage was deeply impressionable. The sense of going on an adventure with a rumbling giant was palpable. There is no romance like that, in diesel.

“Dirty bloody things,” my mother said with considerable feeling. “You’d put a full wash of clean clothes on the line, and some smelly damned train would crawl past and leave clinkers all over the washing. At least diesels are clean.”

The hotel – more a boarding house, in the way it was run, was an elegant, three-storey wooden structure clad in weatherboard. It was quite a handsome, turn of the century building painted green and white with a large gold sign, outside staircases, steep roofs and an imposing turret. But it had seen its best days. The green was faded, the white was dirty and the sign was cracked and had bits missing. The stairs creaked, the roof leaked and the manager put his head to every door in the hotel to assure himself there were no girls in the hotel after nine PM. In fact, women were not allowed in the hotel in the day-time let alone stay overnight. Frankton was a down-at-heel railway town and the hotel had A Reputation; the manager was determined to stamp it out.

I suspect (as did the local press) that a disaffected lothario burnt the hotel down when his girlfriend was discovered under his bed. The tragedy was that he killed six in the attempt to exact his revenge, and he is still in prison for the offence.