Letters home, 1999, July 1

1 July 1999

Greetings from the UK.

All is well and Ewart and I are happy in this English summer. It is hot and everything around here is really pretty.

We have been asked whether we get news about NZ on TV and in the papers here. No, one would think NZ didn’t exist at all. The only news we are getting from home is what we are receiving from friends and family and of course the world cup cricket games. When our sports teams aren’t over here NZ doesn’t exist at all for the English. They do like NZ lamb and anchor butter though, and of course the zesprey is available in all the local markets, along with Cox Orange apples grown in NZ.

All NZ produce over here is a lot smaller than we are used to getting back home. Apparently the English are used to only eating small portions for things like fruit. None of the really nice crisp apple varieties grown at home such as Pacific Rose are available here. At present we are eating rock melons, bananas, cherries (yummy, large & very cheap), strawberries, nectarines & raspberries (grown here on site). It is fun going to the markets on Saturday mornings to buy our supplies.

I am being kept pretty busy teaching now. I start at a new school on Monday (tomorrow). It is Goff’s Oak JMI School. I will have 8 & 9 year olds. Their teacher fell off a desk when putting up displays. A little boy moved a chair thinking he was helping her, unfortunately it was just as she went to stand on the chair so she fell breaking ribs and rupturing a lung. She got out of hospital on Friday but the word is that she is still far from well. I will be teaching her class until the end of term (28 July I think).

On Friday morning I drove up there to look at the school taking Ewart with me. We had a hang of a job finding it, found ourselves in Potter’ s Bar three times!!! Of course we weren’t meant to go to that town at all!! When we finally found the village we found that we had been very close early on in the trip. We have now written down the name of the road so I should be Ok on Monday. I’ll leave early in the morning just in case. The school is at Goff’s Oak which is just beyond Hatfield about 20 mins from St Albans, when you go the right way that is. It took us an hour the way we went!!!

We spent a lovely morning there meeting the staff and students and had our first taste of school dinners when they gave us lunch. A two course lunch costs 1.25 pounds per day. (sorry, can’t use a pounds sign, this software doesn’t have the symbols font installed). I also got to spend time with the current South African supply teacher. He goes off touring in Scotland with his wife for the next two weeks before returning to South Africa after having been here for six months.

After lunch, being my first day off for a few days, Ewart and I travelled up to Leighton Buzzard for the afternoon. We visited the bank, Sheila and George and spent a couple of hours with Thelma at Wing. We also spent a couple of hours with John Wallace (the chap in on the screen saver on our home computer). It was a hot sunny day and everyone was pleased to see us. The countryside is really beautiful through Bedfordshire and we enjoy travelling through it although it plays havoc with my asthma at this time of year, lots of fields in full pollen at the moment. The rape fields are bright yellow and stand out vividly for miles.

We haven’t seen any movies over here yet. Adult tickets cost 10 pounds ($30 NZ) so we watch movies on TV. Prices will seem very expensive to us until we start earning AND spending British pounds.

I have decided to ask the supply company I work for to send me to primary school  assignments only at least until the end of term. Although a lot of the college kids are really nice and none swear at you, they are REALLY noisy and only stop for teachers who shout at them. I thought it was just my differences to start with but then I started to watch the English women teachers with their classes. They all shout for attention!! B——r that!. By lunchtime you have hardly any voice left, apart from the fact you get sick of the sound of your own voice!! I had some lovely classes but the noisy ones drive me nuts. I’m also getting rather sick of being asked if I am Australian every lesson and hearing the song “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo” when I come into a room. At least when we lost the cricket to Pakistan they wanted to talk about cricket. I can live with that. England lost worse than we did.

I don’t regret having tried it though because I have met some really nice kids and it has been interesting getting to view England through their eyes.

Yesterday Ewart & I drove up to Luton to visit Jennie Pugh and her sister in law Elsie. We travelled in the little red Ford Fiesta I have hired to get to work. It is lovely to drive. Ewart’s cousin Dennis Tearle designed the suspension system. We found out when we travelled in it up to Bedford to see him! Small world!

Jennie is 83 and very active, still does her own gardens, lawns etc and is a beautiful little lady. She was really excited about our visit and rang to tell us this morning. We spent until 4.15pm talking family and history. Her home is filled with beautiful family historical artefacts. She likes talking to us about them because she knows we have a genuine interest. We then took Elsie into town to go to the chemist then headed on to Wing where we had dinner with Thelma and her mother Millicent. Once again we had a lovely time talking family history. Ewart then comes home and writes it up onto the computer so we will have record when we get home.

Thelma is the president of the Wing Historical Society (among other things) and in a place with such deep history gets to learn marvellous stories to tell us. Recently she has been fighting with others to retain the old Wing school which had been built for the village by the Rothschilds – really beautiful stone building. Many of the Tearle family went to this school and they fought ard to keep it. But, the council sold it to a property developer who has pulled it down to build houses.

As is usual around here, by law the site then has to be checked by archaelogists before buidling can commence. Sixty graves were found. On further excavation one grave was found to contain an Anglo Saxon coin dating back to 937. This brought in the BBC who interviewed Thelma and others in the village this week. The BBC are now paying to have DNA testing done on some of the bodies in the graves and also test some of the locals to see how long some of the present families have been in the area. Don’t we miss exciting things living in a country with such a short history.

The countryside, including here in town, is lovely. There are lots and lots of beautiful big trees. They are valued here and once they reach a certain height become protected even if they are on private property. This week has been sunny and really hot. Not at all what we expected. Much hotter than our last visit. Today it is grey and drizzling but still quite warm. The coolness brought by the rain is very welcome. Everyone’s gardens are beginning to fill with flowers and most people go off to the garden centres at weekends to fill in any gaps in the garden that appear now that flowering has begun. On talking with the staff at schools I find that most people change almost all the plants in their gardens every year. Sounds an expensive exercise. No wonder many of the English tend to have quite small back gardens compared with ours.

We rang Joalene and Deirdre Mark and Neil (ex Otorohanga) this morning but they weren’t home. We suspect they may have gone to France for the weekend. Thousands of people have gone over this weekend to get cheap duty free goods. The govt has cancelled duty free shopping with the continent, effective on Monday. I think they must have seen Ewart and I coming! We have let a message on their phone with the hope of going down to see them in Neasdon sometime in the next few days. I will write to Jimmy and Dos again once we have seen them. It will be new territory for us to travel in and will take us very close to Central London.

Ewart has applied for over 60 jobs now and is waiting to hear back. We have at least six which we know are definitely live. Like some parts of NZ employment decision making processes are very slow here. He is applying for jobs every day and regularly ringing the agencies so they keep him at the top of the list. He is being very good about it.

Well, love to you all. It’s time for me to go to prepare some school work for the little darlings tomorrow. Hope you are all having a happy and successful year. We look forward to getting some email from you.

Love Elaine