Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Snowfall to Snowdrops!

Judy and Barbara

Beautiful bulbs in bloom

Snowdrops in the Cotswolds

Winter is quickly fading away. We now have almost 12 hours of daylight and that is a nice change from the 8 hours we had in December. The snow has completely melted, even the remains of the large snowman made by the office elders is now melted and gone.

This past week was half term week and all of the kids were out of school, so everyone came to the Temple and it was one busy place. We had between 100-200 visitors each day at the Visitors' Centre until Saturday when we had almost 300. We felt like zombies after that day was finished. As soon as we closed up shop on Saturday at 5:00 pm we caught the train into Victoria Station in London and then ran to catch the bus to Oxford and my cousin Judy's home in Lechlade on Thames. It was about a 4 1/2 hour trip, but very pleasant on both the nice train and coach.

We had a delightful weekend with cousins Donald and Judy. We ate delicious English cuisine, watched weepy World War II movies, went for long walks in the English countryside, introduced Judy to genealogy on line, visited a lovely garden centre, and spent some valuable time relaxing and even napping a little. It was great! We drove along the beauiful narrow little roads of the Cotswolds to a lovely country estate called Colesbourne Park. It is an amazing place renowned for its collection of snowdrops (a delicate bulb). The snowdrop collection at Colesbourne Park was started by Henry John Elwes (1846-1922), a traveller-naturalist who in the course of an adventurous life introduced many plants from all over the world into cultivation here. After his death, the collection lay more or less undisturbed for 60 years until his great grandson Henry Elwes began to identify the plants and spread them out through regular division. These delicate white flowers are planted in masses through the arboretum and lakeside landscapes, and in smaller groups in the garden. Snowdrops are found across Europe and the Near East, from the Pyrenees to Iran, but are not native to Britain. Turkey has the greatest diversity of wild species. The large estate was a beautiful site, acres and acres of white, yellow, purple, and blue bulbs blooming with intensity. The large stately homes and estates here are so fascinating to see. I love to imagine what life must have been like and is still like for these families of royal or moneyed birth.

We also were given our release date this week by our mission president who is going home at the same time as we are. We understand that the new mission president will be Lyle Shamo, who I went to Hurricane High School with a FEW years ago. Our release date is coming up quickly and is the 17th of June. Some of our children are coming over to pick us up and do a little touring around the UK before returning back to the good old USA on July 2. We are excited to be coming home. This has been a fantastic experience, but we are ready to see the grandkids and hug them all over and over again and get back to our lives once more. We look forward to lots of adventure once we return home. We will be chomping at the bit to go four wheeling with all of our buddies come the middle of July. What fun!!!

Life here is good. We have all of the French people here this week to the temple so it will be another busy week. My two sisters, Carol and Sheila and their husbands are coming to visit next week. We are excited to see them. Hope all is well with all of you. We love you and value the friendship that we have shared through the years.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

London England Missionaries

The beautiful old manor house.

Good friends from Mitcham ward.

Well, it is starting to feel and look like spring. The snow is gone, the lawns are emerald green, the spring bulbs are bravely sticking their heads up out of the ground, the primrose are brightly blooming, and the blackbirds are singing beautifully in the budding trees. We are hopeful that spring is truly on its way. It is not dark now until almost 6:00 PM so the days are much longer and we love it.

Today, I thought I would tell you a little bit about the senior couples who are missionaries here in the temple and also those in the London England South Mission. There are 10 senior couples in the mission right now. We and our friends, the Perrys from Prescott, Arizona, are the next couples to go home. We will be leaving here in the middle of June. Most of the couples are about our age, some are younger and some are quite a bit older. We have couples from California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona right now. They are a varied bunch, very capable and experienced. Five of the couples are serving in the London area doing church education (institute and seminary), proselyting, leadership training, filming census records at Kew Gardens, and working in the out-reach program with the young single adults. There are also four couples in the southwest, Plymouth, Weymouth, Portsmouth, and Bristol and Kenneth and I here at the London Temple in southeast England. Our mission president is Jeffrey Swinton from Salt Lake City. He will also be going home the first of July so his three years are almost over.

Since moving to the temple in September, we have been able to meet and associate with many of the temple missionaries here. There are about 10 American couples over here serving as ordinance workers in the temple. There are approximately that many that are from England also serving here. They have housing on site for all of the ordinance workers, plus all of the paid workers here: gardeners, security, engineers, janitors, cooks, etc. Each Sunday a few of us hold a big dinner for about 20 people each week. Some of us are the same each week, but we try to invite a few new ones each week. It is lots of fun to share food and visiting with the good people here. Kenneth was sitting and visiting after the dinner with the men while the women were in doing the dishes. They got talking about where they had all gone to school and it just happened that all of the men sitting around the table had all graduated from Utah State University so they had a good visit about the Aggies and how their basketball team is doing this year. The American temple workers are from Canada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Montana. Several of them are rich farmers and ranchers from Idaho. They even wear their Wranglers and their western shirts so they really look the part.

The old manor house is now finished after about 14 months and the temple presidency and some of the temple workers are moving over there. It is so nice and has such character. I was hoping that we would get a chance to live there for a few months, but they have a new rule that no one who is going home sooner than 6 months can move over there so I guess we will continue to live in our "Motel 6" room and just be happy to have it. We hope you are all well and happy. I'm sure the spring weather is gorgeous. Enjoy it for us!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

And Did Their Feet in Ancient Time Walk Upon England's Pastures Green!

The scaffolding is gone - finally!

Blackbridge house - the TheobaldDore home

Elder Smith and his snowman!

Well, February is almost half over with and the weather has now turned from cold,blowing snow to brilliant sunshine(even if only for a few minutes). It was amazing how the snow and ice finally melted because of a warm rain that came last Friday and immediately the lawns turned a brilliant green. It really looks like spring!

We are staying busy here at the Visitors' Centre. We had 225 people here for tours on Saturday. 24 of those were investigators, so that is really exciting. The Visitors' Centre has become a great missionary tool, just what it was hoped to be. One of the things that we do a lot of here is marketing the Centre to government leaders, business owners, schools, tour groups, clergymen, and other groups. I am sending out letters again now so we hope that with spring on its way we will be able to spark even more interest in groups coming here to visit.

In our spare time, Kenneth tends the centre and I do genealogy. We counted up the different individuals in our family lines that we have been able to find that need their temple work done. So far we have found over 300 family members to do temple work for. It has been exciting! I have sent names to my kids, my sisters, my cousins, and other members of the family so hopefully that work will be done soon. It has been exciting to be over here living right in the footprints of my ancestors. The Jackson family (my grandmother Martha Lorena Jackson Theobald's family) lived right here in the Surrey/Sussex area in small villages by the name of Horley, Pratt's Bottom, Chatsworth, etc. We have been able to drive through the small villages and imagine what life must have been like for them while living here through the centuries.

My great grandfather James Jackson came to Utah with a handcart company in 1857, the year after the tragedies of the Martin and Willie handcart companies in 1856. He later returned to England and baptized many members of his family and most of them immigrated to the States, too. The Theobald family also hails from right near here in Kent, near Canterbury. My great grandmother on the Theobald side was also a handcart pioneer. She came from South Africa in 1860, the last year that the handcart companies came across the plains. She came by herself with three small children. I am not sure how she could have pulled that handcart by herself. She must have had divine intervention because my dad said that he could remember her when he was a small child. She was only about 5 foot tall and about 95 lbs. We call her "Courageous Elizabeth".

I am finding that by doing this genealogy work I am developing a great appreciation for everything our forefathers gave up to come to America and gather with the Saints. You notice things like the loss of three children in two years because of a terrible epidemic of flu, a mother who had 6 or 8 children but only 1 or 2 survived, people who had the courage to leave home, family, lands, inheriitances, just because of the strong testimonies that they had, lives cut short by accidents that happened while crossing the plains, and other heart rending incidents. All of a sudden these names on the sheets of paper or on the computer screen become people with real feelings, with times of sadness, happiness, and joy in their lives. I look forward to one day meeting them and being able to converse with them.

I am currently reading a book called "London" by Edward Rutherfurd. It is historical fiction and is the story of the founding of London from its earliest beginnings up to the current time. It is amazing to realize all of the freedoms that we enjoy and take for granted were not even thought of back a few years ago, especially womens' rights. I am so glad to live in this day and age when there are still many things wrong, but life has truly changed for the better for the majority of us.

Well, enough of that. We hope all is well there. I love this time of the year in St. George. Spring is coming, the home show is going on, the spring sports are beginning and everything about the world is beautiful in the spring. We love hearing about your news and lives.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

The manor house surrounded by the snow!

Barbara at the temple

A wintry day at the London Temple

It has been furiously snowing here since Sunday morning and England is essentially shut down. The buses, tubes, trains, and airports are shut down in London, so life has come to a standstill. It is the largest snowfall in the past 18 years and we are experiencing the coldest winter in English history. This storm they say is coming straight out of Siberia, so it is COLD!!! So glad that we were here to experience all of it!!! It truly is beautiful, though. We took a nice long walk in the snow, so I am sending you a few pictures of the beautiful London Temple in the snow. Last week we went to Hampton Court, which was built by Cardinal Woolsey in 1514. He later fell out of favor of King Henry VIII when he wouldn't approve a divorce for Henry when he fell out of love with Catherine of Aragon and wanted to marry Anne Bolyn. King Henry took the palace from Cardinal Woolsey and turned it into a royal palace for he
and his new wife, Anne. As you probably all know, he later had a few more wives, 6 in all. This is how it goes: Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. He was an awful man. The English, though, have a great big celebration planned for this spring to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry becoming king. Hampton Court is all being redone to be ready for the huge party. One of the magnificent things to see at the palace is the kitchen. In 1529, Henry Viii turned Hampton Court Palace kitchens into a giant food factory. There were 55 kitchen rooms covering 3350 square meters staffed by 200 people providing 600 meals twice a day. They say that 75% of Henry's diet was meat. Hence, he had gout and many other ailments in his later years. What a man! The palace is essentially made up of two seperate palaces built about 150 years apart. The front and the back parts of the palace are from two completely different time
periods and look it, too. King Henry VIII's part is a gothic design and William and Mary's part is very classical architecture. Mary described Henry's Tudor buildings as "Gothic monstrosities". King William and his wife Mary II decided to give Hampton Court Palace a big classical makeover in 1689. They wanted to make it even more fabulous than the French king's palace at Versailles. They hired the greatest architect of the day, Sir Christopher Wren, to knock down all Henry's buildings, except the Great Hall, and replace them with a brand new classical palace. Fortunately for us, there wasn't enough time or money. So Christopher only rebuilt the King and Queen's private rooms. Today you can see both styles of architecture and experience some of the history, intrigue, and phantoms that still exist at the palace. One of the ghosts said to frequent the palace is the ghost of Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife. Cahterine's rooms were
located at the top of the stairs entering the haunted gallery. Legend has it that on the night after she was arrested for treason, she ran shrieking down the gallery while Henry was hearing Vespers in the Royal Pew. She begged him to spare her life, but was caught by the guards who dragged her away to her execution. If you just happen to be there, in the later hours of the day, you too many hear Catherine, still running about wildly and shrieking, but now holding her head in her hands as she runs along. What a place. It has been interesting to visit these places and to try to imagine what life was like for these people. Some of you have probably seen the movie or read the book called " The Other Bolyn Girl". It is supposedly a true story. Aren't we all glad that we live today and not back in those days. We are keeping busy. I just turned in a report to the Church about visitations here at the London Temple Visitors' Centre. In
October, we had 1032 visitors with 45 investigators, In November, we had 1345 visitors with 60 investigators, In December, we had 1534 visitors with 75 investigators, and in January we had 1607 with 77 investigators so we are keeping very busy and introducing many, many people to the new Centre and to the Gospel. We'll see how February goes now. If it keeps snowing, it will be very slow, I'm afraid. So we shall see. Hope all is well with you. We think of you often with fondness. Have a great week.