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