Feb 16th – First Day - Jolly Old England
We touched down on English soil at 8:30 a.m. (half eight, Brits say)., 16 February (that is how the dates are written over here and the time is usually displayed in the 24-hour mode, which Elder Blain has no problem with due to his previous military life). With the light of day just breaking, I looked out the plane window and saw Ireland! It was amazing to think some of my ancestors left there during the “patata” famine and sought refuge across the sea on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Being familiar with island living, that makes sense. Looking out over the lay of the land, there were farms divided off into patchwork squares (similar to the U.S. when looking out of an airplane), and the ocean waves were crashing all around on the outer shores. The ground looked brown, with some dusting of snow, but on the eastern side, there was some green (it is probably not the Emerald Isle in winter). Then, there was a short stretch of water and we saw England’s shores, landing shortly thereafter in Manchester.
We were met at the small airport by Elder and Sister Dredge, the office couple, who drove us to President and Sister Bullock’s lovely mission home. There were daffodils and tulips brightening up the rooms. President and Sister Bullock asked us to tell them about ourselves, and we sat there in a daze and went blank. We were so tired (it was 2:00 a.m. at home and we hadn’t slept in a day) that we just stammered and looked at each other. Guess there isn’t much to tell, or at least they are now convinced there isn’t. Way to start off on the right foot, Blains.
After a brief interview with the mission president, Sister Bullock offered a wonderful assortment of fruits, cereals, yogurt, and other things to eat. We ate, were given some food to take (that we left in the car and didn’t find for two days), and driven to the mission office. There we loaded our UK chip for the GPS, picked up supplies, and got our car. Luckily, the Dredges lead us to our apartment as we followed in our little blue car.
The adventure of driving on the left-hand side of the road was a first a bit hair raising for me, since I was on the passenger side and could see how close we were to other cars and the curb. There’s a tendency for people switching from left to right steering wheels to ride the curb, so it takes some practice to get the car on the road where it belongs. The roads are also very narrow and when cars are parked, you have to go around them in the other lane (which amounts to a one lane road half the time). It only took a few times out and Elder Blain adapted quickly to the traffic (only once turned on the wrong side of the road and ran a car into the other lane and another time folded the rear view in, stopping within a hair of tearing off another car’s mirror). We backed out of that one—whew!
The Church member who took us to get some groceries the first day we got there said she’d knocked her rear view off when she first got here. I can’t say I’d do as well as Elder Blain. There are too many cars coming from all different directions and you yield to the ones coming in from the right even though they seem on the wrong side of the road. Too much to think about! I’m grateful he’s doing the driving or we probably wouldn’t have a car by now.
17-19 Feb.-New Experiences
Our activity thus far has been centred (English spelling, if the spell check will allow it) upon trying to adjust to the time change, get unpacked, organized, and find food. The zone leaders took us out to get some business done yesterday.
The third day here, we got some pillows. Elder Blain had nothing for his wee head. I brought my own pillow and sharing it didn’t work, since I’m a pillow hog. We tried to keep each other warm, since we just couldn’t get warm. It snowed every day we’ve been here, but it never sticks, though it is cold. Luckily, the sun breaks through in between flurries. It is very beautiful everywhere, with green moss growing on everything.
We have noticed Magpies just like in Utah, but they have an English accent! There are also some of the biggest, fattest pigeons I’ve ever seen lurking everywhere.
I like the English public bathrooms. They are built for total privacy with none of those cracks in the corners of the partitions. Everything is very clean. We have towel warmers in both bathrooms that barely warm the towels, but any warmth is great. I stand by the water heater because it is the warmest place in the flat. We do have a small portable heater that helps. The long thermal underwear is coming in handy and we hope to stock up on more soon.
The English are doubly safe with their electrical outlets. Everything has to be turned on even if it is plugged in. The cars have no gear to put them in for park, so you have to use hand breaks. It can be driven in manual or automatic.
The towns are more like villages, small with quaint buildings, though the city in the distance looks large and probably quite modern. Most the buildings are red brick and built in a Tudor style. Some of the churches here date to the 1500’s and we saw some very old, moss covered, headstones as we walked past several churches, though we didn’t have time to go look around.
Can you imagine how old everything here is? The roads have been built for thousands of years, and they go every which way. Crosswalks, depending on how they are marked and which lights are flashing, are a pelican, puffin, Pegasus, or zebra crossing. The driver’s manual says you should do commentary driving by talking to yourself about what you are going to do, because it is an aid to concentration.
20 Feb. - Love the Brits Already!
The British are very proper and polite and some seem shocked if you greet them on the street. They seem not to trust those of us with missionary name tags and skirt around us if they see them. That is the total opposite of what we experienced in Georgia where anything religious was met with friendly conversation and great respect (plus everyone said, “How ya doin’?” on the street). Of course, the South has always been extra friendly like that and much of the USA is more like England.
As a whole, the older generation is not very religious; though the missionaries are having great teaching opportunities with the younger generation ages 20-30. I’ve noticed some English persons do not like to wait in lines and become very impatient and annoyed with hold ups, much the same as in the U.S. They are straight-to-the-point when speaking and will cut you off with an “I get it” if you dally too long explaining something. I now understand my ancestors much better just being here a few days. My mother’s side of the family was not demonstrative, spoke little, and got straight to the point about things. Since my great-grandmother (Hugil) came from England (Yorkshire area), I see how the British way of being was passed down. It is fun to see the differences in cultures and appreciate how we are all unique and different in many ways and the same in others.
Brits love the word “pop” here. You pop your name on the signature line, pop yourself to some place, pop over or pop in, or pop something into something. It is written on the advertisements (Eng. Spelling). The British have a wry sense of humor, and I’m missing some of it because I don’t know when they are joking. They are delightful folks and we’re going to love it here!
21 Feb. – Snow Day in England
Today, we woke up to a whole three inches of very wet snow. Everything gets shut down when this happens. Since it is Sunday, Feb. 21, we got calls early to tell us all Church meetings are cancelled. We used about four hours meeting with the zone leaders and then the Stoke missionaries to discuss the members in the wards. There are over 400 members not attending Church. That should keep us very busy.
Single women and single mothers are a majority in the wards. Stoke Ward is short on Priesthood leadership and it is also difficult for them to run the ward with hardly enough people to fill callings. Newcastle Ward has a fully staffed ward and more active members. Both wards are very welcoming. Stokes Ward Relief Society president is a young single sister from Mauritius (an island off the coast of Africa) who once served a mission in Manchester. People from many different cultures and countries have settled in Great Britain. Because of the influence of India, the people here are very big on curry. We’ve been told we need to tell everyone about the ward curry night coming soon.
Yesterday I went into the post office with ten pounds (which is equal to about $16.00 of our dollars); bought seven stamps and mailed two letters, and received a pound and a few pence in change. Yikes! It looks like I won’t be mailing much.
Adjusting to our dollar being worth less than the pound ($1.60 in the American dollar is equal to one pound here).
As we shop, we found out lots of items are baby size compared to American packaging. The kitchens are very small with little cabinet storage and the refrigerators are the size of a bottom cabinet (they are actually in the bottom cabinet!). The washer/dryer combination takes a 2.5 pound load and it is also in a bottom cabinet. We have no racks on the walls to hang towels in the bathrooms or kitchen. There is one medicine cabinet over the toilet in one bathroom and no storage other than that in either bathroom. Appliances are larger in the trophy homes here, but they still have the two handle faucets and all toilets fill in the tank, not in the bowl. You flush and the water gushes out into the bowl and takes about two flushes to really get a flush (about like the low water ones do in the states).
People are very into the green thing here with recycling. A majority of the population uses their own bags for groceries and many products are packaged “green.” The potato chips (they are called crisps here and the British LOVE them) are excellent and the bags are huge with small individual bags in them. The crisps package carries a written apology from the company for not having bags that are recyclable yet, but reassure us they are working on it.
Eggs are all brown, free range, with feathers and such still stuck on some of the shells (depending on the brand you buy). The assortment of bread is fantastic and priced lower than in the states. Bread has to be stored in the fridge so it doesn’t mold. A half gallon of milk is $3.00 American money. I haven’t learned the measurements equivalencies yet, though. Elder Blain is good at the math equations to convert things to liters, Celsius, and such. He figured out the oven last night. If I want 350 degrees, I put it at 180 Celsius.
I have discovered that drying things in the closet where the water heater is only takes two days, instead of four. Once we figure out the clothes dryer, that should solve the problem.
Today is a good day to get ahead on our scripture project. The mission president has asked us to choose three colored pencils and use a different color to mark in the Book of Mormon as we read. We mark one color for all passages that refer to the name of the Saviour (Eng. Spell) in any way, one color for all passages that are the actual teachings of the Saviour, and one color for all passages that refer to or describe His attributes (or any Christ like attributes). It slows our reading down but causes us to take more time to pay attention and get more out of it. I LOVE the Book of Mormon! Every time I read it, there are more insights and the Spirit teaches me truth.
We are very fortunate to live in these last days when these scriptures have been brought forth to testify of Jesus Christ, verify the Holy Scriptures as found in the Bible, and enlighten us further about our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness and Eternal Life, which is available for all people who choose to accept the gospel.
I love being a missionary! The gospel can bring such joy to those seeking something better in their life.
22 Feb. – In Some Ways it’s Like Going Back in History
One of the true luxuries we enjoy in our flat is a really deep, long bath tub. The lights in the bathrooms are turned on with pull chains. There are hand-held shower connections on the tub and in the stand-alone shower. It completely empties the boiler (water heater) if the tub is filled, but it is worth it for a relaxing soak once in a while (well, we’ll see how worth it after the electric bill comes). The shower is an instant heat type that warms the water as it is used, so it never runs out of warm water (nice).
Every bathroom fixture has a plug on a chain to fill the basin with the mixture of cold and hot water from the separate taps. So far, it is easier just to use one tap until it gets too hot and switch to the cold if more rinsing is needed. The water tastes great and it is cold, so I’m enjoying that with no chlorine taste, though someone said they think they do put it in. There is no fluoride added to the water, but I think they purchase their own fluoride rinse, since we found a bottle in our medicine cabinet when we moved in. It seems the British are more concerned about healthful things for the body, since many of the grocery items will state they have no artificial color or flavor.
There are no built in closets in the bedrooms. Free-standing wardrobes are the thing. Remember The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe? Well, it hasn’t changed a bit here because even the large new homes have no closets. The doors of the wardrobe aren’t deep enough, so you cannot be shut without smashing your clothing. We leave the doors open. We won’t have any clothes get damp and mildew with the air circulating, so that is a plus. We do have a coat closet with hooks (no pole) and the closet where the water heater resides.
23 Feb. – Learning the British Ways
We bundled up and got to the Newcastle town centre this afternoon, after doing more laundry in our tiny washer and vacuuming up all the fuzz balls from our new sweats that keep getting caught in the short carpet. There is no pad under the rug, so it feels like walking on cement. I discovered the water heater (boiler) closet is called the drying closet, so no wonder drying the clothes in their works. The top shelf in there has wood slats spaced apart and the bottom shelf is just a regular shelf over the boiler. There’s just enough room to put the ironing board and vacuum in there.
As we walked amongst the shops, we found an all-a-pound type store, so we found some items we still needed there. We went to town to pay one pound and ninety eight pence for a small trash bin (garbage can). Apparently, because we used it to carry the rug we purchased yesterday, the checker thought that was our carrier and didn’t charge us. By the way, all checkers everywhere sit at their counters, which mean the British are smart in that they take care of worker’s backs. It probably costs the system less in the retirement years with fewer people needing medical help due to back problems. The U.S. could save some bucks in health care if that example was followed.
Elder Blain still cannot get the ATM to take his card, so consequently mine is the only one working and it is a slow process with the limit they place on us for how much we can take out each day. We need to build our British bank account so the rent and other bills can get paid. It’ll all work out soon, I’m sure. We did let America First Credit Union know via e-mail that there is a problem.
I was able to send off a couple e-mails in response to ones sent to me, but several of the kids aren’t getting the messages because they keep bouncing back. Since we have little time to catch up on much at the library with the time limits on the computers, we aren't able to trouble shoot the problem right now.
We are looking forward to meeting with the bishop in Newcastle Ward tonight and getting our first twenty names to visit and try to activate. It is snowing lightly, so I hope the meeting isn’t cancelled.
24 Feb. – Questions of the Soul
We were walking in the town centre today heading to our car when a man sitting in his car called out to us. We went over to the car and he was sitting there cupping in both his hands a pass along card of the Preston temple. All he said to us was, “Where do we go after we die?” He went on to tell us he had baby son die in his arms years ago. He told us more of his thoughts and life challenges, but wasn’t interested in having anyone meet in his home to answer other questions he may have and teach him more about the gospel and the significance of the temple. We wondered where he’d gotten the card and realized where when he said, “A Scottish lad gave it to me.” Then we knew Elder Hyde and Elder Makechnie are always on the job out spreading the glad news of the restoration and God’s Plan of Happiness.
27 Feb – Cricket Is the Thing Here
We met a member’s no-member husband today. We’ll call him John. She was at work, but he invited us in for a visit. He is a very nice guy who told us he was home because he couldn’t go out as a current illness kept him from being able to drive. He told us that previously he had a series of illnesses that about killed him and he has been finding it difficult to not be able to be as active as he has always been.
As we visited, we found out John was a champion cricket player who still played when he could. He explained some things about cricket and let us hold the cricket bat. It is fairly heavy and a person would need a strong arm to swing it. We’d love to go watch John play.
As we talked, our host told us he wasn’t religious, so we assured him we weren’t there to pressure him into anything. This hospitable young man has the type of personality that makes friends easily and he has a great sense of humor. We loved a story he told us about some shenanigans he pulled on a friend who had gotten married. These ideas were very creative so I intend to use some of them on my own family someday. Watch out on April Fool’s Day in the future!
As we left, Elder Blain bore a testimony telling John that he has a Heavenly Father who knows him and loves him and to think about why he lived through the illnesses that almost took his life. John said that might be something to think about. His wife later told us that he read scriptures that night with her for the first time where he’d never been willing before.
2 March – What a Gas!
Elder Blain filled up the car with petrol today. It took 32 liters that amounted to $6.46 a gallon if figured in dollars. Fortunately, the little car we drive gets fabulous gas mileage. I don’t think we’ll ever complain about gas prices again!
3 March – Training, Traveling and Taxing
We survived taking an hour drive on the motor way to go to Manchester today for the new missionaries’ “training camp.” As always, the role plays we’re put through are challenging, but it is a good way to find out where one needs to study more and what areas need improvement. For me, ALL areas need improvement. I didn’t realize we are so rusty after being off a mission for only 2 ½ years. The teaching style is quite different than our last mission, so we have a lot of things to learn to be confident in sharing these very effective ways to introduce the gospel to others.
We had a taste of the “less is more” approach at the MTC. The training now emphasizes being brief, to the point, and allowing people to feel the Spirit. There is much more companion sharing back and forth as contacts are found. The young missionaries are great at it, so we have excellent role models from whom to learn. In fact, the more experienced young missionaries are the ones who do all of the training, teaching, and conducting meetings. We wouldn’t know they aren’t executive trainers from some large company . . . oops, I guess they are senior trainers from a perfectly structured organization. ( :
It takes two to drive on these streets because there is so much traffic coming from everywhere. One has to be the lookout and help the driver keep on the correct side of the road when there is an occasional lapse of the brain into USA autopilot. It can be an intense experience. Elder Blain is calling the round abouts “roused abouts.” I say, me friends, that is very descriptive of the dizzying experience. Perhaps a little more like playing car roulette.
We are keeping our fingers crossed that we actually get internet and phone connected tomorrow. I spent an hour yesterday being frustrated trying to get a text to return a confirmation that we’d be home for the installation only to find out today that we cannot text on our phone! This company gave us no phone number to call them except for one that will charge us if we call for help. We are a “team,” they say. Ha! Every call is charged here and many things have extra taxes and charges. Hummmmm, I’m beginning to understand the history of America better. The USA better watch out or it’ll be right back where it started!
5 March – To Be or Not to Be Connected . . .
We are told we will have a phone on the 18th now, but it will only be local. We cannot use the Vonage until the internet is connected. We shall see. I have given up on expecting anything. They may get it in by the time we leave. They say they do not know when they will get around to putting in the internet. It could be a month or more after we get the phone. Patience is a virtue I’d rather not be practicing at the moment, especially where it concerns communication with the outside world—family in particular. It hasn’t helped my adjustment with homesickness, though I am doing better the busier we get.
5 March - It’s Doo-vay, Duck (cute or endearing person is a “Duck” in Newcastle): (I think it is “Love” in London)
I, the ‘lil ‘ol hick from the hills, have now received a proper education on bed clothing. When shopping for sheets, I was informed by the sales clerk, with a smile, “We don’t use top sheets over here because we use duvets.” Oh, THAT is what we’re using on our bed as the bedspread. They use them on top as well, but it apparently doubles as the top sheet. We cold blooded westerners have added several blankets under our duvet and I didn’t want the wool blanket next to my skin, so a top sheet was needed. We bought a flat bottom sheet to use as our top sheet. Brilliant! (As they would say over here).
March 15 – The Good, the Strange, and the Beautiful
It is the day after Mum’s day here (Mother’s Day). The mothers all received a lovely bouquet of daffodils. Imagine if we had Mother’s Day in Utah this early, there’d be no flowers!
Elder Blain and I spoke in Sacrament today. We have discovered the British sense of humor is quite subdued because they don’t laugh out loud in Sacrament as they would at the same things they do in the U.S. Yet, they are truly jolly folks who loved to banter back and forth. It is so noisy in the wards with the visiting between meetings and at the beginning and end of meetings that someone has to stand and shush everyone.
I’ve been adopted by two very peculiar people, being a magnet for that sort of thing. I’m sure I wear a sign only they can see that says, “Attach yourself at the hip here all ye different folks looking for a lifelong friend!” I’m a sitting duck if I try to be the good missionary and sit on the back row to be there for people who may be a bit shy about coming to a meeting. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do that anymore because it’s where I get captured by those who draw more attention to us than we’d like. One is overly large, loving, and waaaay too touchy, but she is mentally deficient so she just doesn’t know that most people do not welcome that much physical contact. She is a sweet soul who just loves everyone.
The other character is a very intellectual type who comes to church in a manic mode and loudly comments on what is going on during the meeting and sharing his weird philosophies on religion. He says he has written at least 600 poems, but only a few are good and that I need to come to his bungalow (which is a mess but he says that doesn’t matter) and see all his books I need to read.
Last week, a member of the bishopric caught me, after they sent my new friend off in a taxi, and warned me about him. Apparently, he has known him since he was young (about forty years) and he is no longer a member of the church, since he has chosen other ways to live. He has had many mental problems over the years, but won’t stay on his meds. Hum, that sounds like something we are familiar with—bipolar. He IS a very interesting character, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled when he zipped into the meeting yesterday and promptly sat close to me and began to go on with his loud ramblings. Poor guy. He sure has a good singing voice, though, and I do enjoy listening to him. When I complimented him, he turned up the volume on the next song, which prompted Elder Blain to say, “He sure gets into the singing.” Of course, Elder Blain is sitting on the other side of me and doesn’t get too much of the drift of what is going on or being said except to know the man is loud. Needless to say, the Stoke Ward thus far is winning hands down for entertainment and interesting experiences at Church.
15 March – A Baptism Coming!
Today we teach a woman who has committed to baptism after we met with her for a couple hours last week. She had been meeting with missionaries for 31 years! She should know more about the church than I do. She is very humble and intelligent, studying scriptures continuously, asking deep questions and her mind just churns with thoughts attempting to make everything fit logically. Sounds like the way I was before I joined the Church. A person should approach it spiritually first and then the pieces fall into place, but then I didn’t learn that until much later and she’s just now learning. She says it is like a puzzle finally being put together. All those missionaries who have taught her throughout the years probably never thought she’d accept the gospel.
The current missionaries had taught her for 18 weeks and dropped her because she is what they call an “eternal investigator.” We met them at church and asked if we could drop in for a visit. Yes, she and her husband attend once in a while; they pay tithing, and know the Book of Mormon is true. She said she was reading the Book of Mormon the other day and she all of the sudden know that Joseph Smith is a prophet. She mentioned that she’d finally decided to give up tea and coffee and had gone 10 days without it and didn’t even miss it. That has to be a miracle. Her husband still likes his occasional beer. They are such a kind and hospitable pair. We certainly enjoy visiting them. This week is horse racing week and he’ll be very much involved in it because they’ve had horses and he loves the races.
16 March - The Saga of the Mystery Table
The day we arrived, we were told someone in Newcastle ward has a table and chair set for us. Then, we were informed it was ruined because of water and mildew damage. We told them we really didn’t care what shape the table is in, as long as it stands. The chairs were upholstered and weren’t salvageable. We asked about when we could see the table enough times to finally give up. Then, the other ward (Stoke) said they’d find us one within the week. That was a month ago.
Everyone asks each week if we have our table yet, but one never appears. Yesterday at church, I caught the dear brother who originally said he had the table and asked if it would fit in our car. He said it should. I told him we’d pick it up tomorrow. He said we’d better look at it first. So, now he will call us today when he is at his shop so we can meet him there. Anyone want to take bets on us getting a table today with the way our luck has been going? I’m ready to get a piece of plywood and throw a cloth over it. Elder Blain is doing all of his work on the floor and the end table, which can’t be doing his back any good, though he is not complaining. I just want to be able to eat at a table instead of off the kitchen counter! I AM complaining. Two chairs would be nice too, but that’s probably being extravagant.
A member gave us a lovely big microwave that doesn’t sound like it’ll explode at any moment like the one the mission gave us. It is all part of the adventure and we are just laughing about the whole thing. It really is fun being on a mission because of all the little peculiarities that crop up that make one appreciate the abundance we enjoy at home. Oh, how little we really need to survive!
17 March – Quite Posh We Are
Posh is like the highest class you can be here (like the Queen). Well, we feel quite posh now that we have an acceptable palace with an actual table. We picked it up yesterday and there was mildew all over it, but we threw it into the car and brought it home to clean it up. I’m terribly sensitive to mold these days, so I had a coughing fit and we had to put the chair cushions out of the house while we worked on the wood, which was easy to wipe down since we’d already taken a soap scrubber to it outside. I then threw the two cushions into the tub and ran water on them while I used a bar of soap. It seemed to do the job even though the material is probably dry clean only. I now have a heater running at them and we will see if the mildew smell is killed so we can actually use them on the chairs. They’d be so much better than these hard wooden folding chairs we are using.
Remember the Duvet? There was one for 2.99 pounds in the store (with a matching pillow cover) and I purchased it for a table cloth because the table cloths were ten pounds. If it gets dirty on one side, I’ll just turn it over because it is the same on the other side. So we have moved up in the world and are no longer paupers.
People enjoy the biking and hiking trails here—lots of them and all very beautiful. You animal lovers would get a huge kick out of the many, many different types of dogs being walked everywhere every day. Many of them are quite portly; since I am sure they are pampered. We laugh at the different breeds and how they move along with their owners. Sometimes when they pass each other they try really hard to make friends but the owner drags them along without breaking stride. We have seen some running in a large grassy area where they can be off their leashes and visit other dogs. It isn’t a dog park per se, but far enough off the road to be safe. Everyone is expected to pick up after their dog. I am sure you are aware of how dog crazy this country is.
We saw the highest spot in Staffordshire today off in a distance. There are the remains of an elaborate summerhouse built in 1754 on top of the hill. Some people think it is a medieval castle because Mow Cop has been around since medieval times. We could see the outline of what is left standing from a long distance away.
If you want an idea of what it is like here, just think of San Francisco and the houses that are built against one another and then multiply that by a million or so. Everywhere you look are dwellings of various sizes with doors painted different colors situated side by side. We can look out over the city when we go out the secure entry of our flat. At night, the lights go as far as you can see and in the day there are houses and other buildings as far as the eye can see.
Our flat has a buzzer to let people in when we pick up the intercom on the wall. Once a person gets into the hall, there’s another door to go through which opens into a small foyer where there are four doors. We are #2. There are four locks on our door. There are internally bolted locks on the top and bottom of a very heavy, solid door, a chain lock, and a dead bolt. It is a fortress. The windows all have locks. It seems many of the nicer flats are like this. We do know we have a larger place than some people’s homes, yet it is still smaller than the apartment we had in Georgia.
It has been sunny almost every day here and the Crocuses are coming up, along with daffodils and many other beautiful flowers. It isn’t too humid lately because there’s been no drizzle or rain. I can tell when my hair actually behaves much better than when we were in Georgia or out at the coast. There is often a little wind that is quite cold. I actually went out two days now without my huge green wool coat. Of course, I had on seven layers of clothing on top and three on the bottom, plus long warm knee highs. I’ve not gone a day where I haven’t worn thermal underwear and the bottoms go to my ankles. No one can see because the skirt is long and the socks are high. Elder Blain is comfortable going out in his suit unless it is raining; then he’ll wear his long coat.
Today, while out driving, we pulled out like we were driving in the USA and I yelled, “We’re on the wrong side of the road!” Elder Blain said, “I know,” as he did a quick pull to the center of the road in front of a post that is there for the cross walk. He always says he knows and it just cracks me up because he would go merrily on his way in some cases if I didn’t say anything. A couple of times he has thanked me, but I think most of the time it is a man pride thing. Our last mission president said he had to train himself to say, a calm, nice “Thank you,” every time he was corrected because it bugged him so much to have his wife telling him what to do when he was driving and he’d react with something less than kind words. It was against the rule to say a thank you with gritted teeth or in a sarcastic tone. We missionaries who drive have been directed to on the lookout and as alert as if we were the driver. When backing the car, I have to get out of the car and direct the process like a good missionary. All I care about is that we are still driving with no dents in the car! It will be a miracle if we leave here unscathed. Pray. ( :
I have to go now to turn on the cooker (stove) and put a pan on the hob (hot plate on the stove to) and run the daily mini wash that is beating the clothing to death because there isn’t any way to adjust the length of the wash cycle. We’ve totally given up on the so-called dryer. Luckily, with the warm sun in the morning, things are drying within a day or two. We are having hamburger on baps (buns) for dinner. As a side dish, I am having some beet roots (cooked beets) that have always been a favorite veggie.
Ode to Haggis
Robert Burns, a famous Scottish poet, wrote a poem to Haggis that is impossible to understand because it uses antiquated words from the Scottish language. Elder McK., our zone leader from Scotland, doesn’t even understand it. Haggis is a mixture of ground liver, heart, and stomach; with barley and whatever else is in it (it is hard to tell, since it looks like dog food). Elder McK. wanted to be sure we had a traditional Scottish feast. He fixed the Haggis and we mashed up the potatoes. He poured baked beans, Haggis, and some corn all over the potatoes and mashed it all together. That is how we ate it and it was really good (as long as you didn’t look too closely at it or think of what it is made of (it used to be mixed in the stomach of a goat). We had to go get a potato masher and a peeler to do the potatoes. The peeler was a pain to use because it doesn’t move like the ones we have at home and I had to keep pulling the peelings out of it when they got stuck. I feel like a child just learning to use utensils.
Lucky we had enough plates to use for the four of us. Elder Blain and I ate on the salad plates and we gave the Elders the dinner plates. When we arrived, the kitchen stuff the mission provided was a toaster, non-electric frying pan, two cooking pots, a couple large plastic bowls, a food grater, two dinner plates, two salad plates, two bowls, six forks, knives, and spoons, and six plastic glasses and cereal bowls. We have purchased an iron (that ruined one of my skirts the first time I tried to use it), scissors, glass drinking glasses and a variety of sizes of plastic storage containers with lids, and a few necessary utensils, like a hand can opener, a bread knife, a small paring knife, and small plastic cutting boards. The can opener cuts the top of the can off and leaves the sharp edges. Since we wash the dishes by hand, there’s no problem of running out. . It is always surprising how little we need to survive.
18 March – The People the Savior Visits
We woke up to another lovely sunny day ready to take on what the day brings (after all the morning scriptures and study, etc.) to visit people on the list the bishop gave us. Our primary assignment is to work with the Bishops in the wards and with the ward counsels to bring back the lost sheep. We also teach Preach My Gospel lessons or read scriptures. We took off for the day’s adventure.
One sister we dropped in on helped us remember why we are here. She lives in a very humble flat and has a variety of illnesses that make it difficult for her to get around or to do anything for herself. Fortunately, the social services system is wonderful here and people are going into her home in a couple days to clean up. She has very faithful visiting teachers and home teachers, but hasn’t been to church for a long time. Our Bishop has been a bishop for five years and he says he has never seen her.
This poor woman’s husband sent her a text on a cell phone to tell her he was leaving her! They were married 37 ½ years, have four children, and were endowed and sealed in the temple. The long list of problems she and her family have is almost unbelievable. She said her faith was beginning to get a bit weak, yet she offered to say the prayer when we were leaving. She wants us to teach the Preach My Gospel lessons and bring scriptures to uplift her spirits, since she has difficulty reading because of a problem with her eyes.
What came to my mind after visiting this sweet lady was, “. . . comfort those who need comfort, lift up the arms that hang down . . .” There is much need in the world and many lonely people. We felt the Savior’s love for this woman and felt prompted to assure her that no matter what she is going through, He does understand and love her. Her trials are hard, but He just asks that she endure faithfully through them. She will gain strength through having the faith to pray regularly and ask for help. Yes, in this world we do have trials, but Christ promises great blessings and compensation for all suffering we are required to experience. By our trials, we become who He needs us to be.
As we walked to the car, Elder Blain said, “If helping people in her situation is all we do for the Lord on this mission, it will be worth it.” The wards don’t have enough people to cover the huge number of less actives and others with great need. We’re so fortunate in Utah to have so many members that we can have two teachers in each Primary class. These wards cannot get enough members to fill the positions. One of the counselors in the bishopric serves as the ward mission leader. This dear man has serious health problems and uses a cane to walk. He does not own a car, so he has to take taxis to all the meetings. This faithful man has a smile on his face and is upbeat all the time; laughing and joking and brightening up any place he goes.
One thing we especially like here is the multi-cultural population. There are people from everywhere here. In our mission, there are Elders from Germany, Estonia, Samoa, Finland, Italy, Scotland, Ireland, Africa, England, U.S., and just about anywhere else there are members. Some are barely learning English and it is marvelous the progress they are making in their struggles to learn the language. I wonder if the Elders from the other countries will have an English accent. If they have an American companion, that will get confusing!
21 March-Six Meetings on Sunday
The Relief Society President just dropped off some lovely towels for us that were donated by someone in the ward. They will brighten up the place. Very generous and kind members reside in both wards. Lucky us.
It was a little foggy this morning, but soon the sun was shining in. The fog was from all the rain we had yesterday. Elder Blain and I spent the day getting in and out of the car and knocking on less active member’s doors. Since we were prepared with rain coats an umbrella, we did okay sloshing around. We only found three people home, one had moved, and two turned us away at the door and asked for no more visit (they were polite about it). One couple we found home told us why they’d fallen away from the Church and not attended for 15 years. The woman said members judged her and said things to her that made her feel she wasn’t accepted in the ward. The man told us the ward dwindled in membership and he and his wife would show up for an activity and they were the only ones there. Earlier in his youth, he was always going to Church and to all of the activities, but his family fell away and he was the only one left attending regularly. It got so there weren’t many his age to do things with, so he started hanging out with a group of young men who were into other things rather than religion.
These two people were very nice and have so much to offer to strengthen the ward members if only they would give it another chance. She said she attends The Church of England every Sunday and feels welcomed and comfortable there. He doesn’t attend any church, saying, “I wouldn’t go to another church, but I’m not ready to return yet.” They said they still have their food storage and don’t drink alcohol. When we asked if they remembered how they felt when they gained a testimony of the Church, and they both got a special look of reminiscing something very pleasant and said they did remember. Though they remembered, they seemed to be in the spot many Christians are as they seek an easy religion that doesn’t interfere too much with their busy life. Some people have too much to do to take time for what matters most in the end. Consequently, they weren’t interested in being taught Preach My Gospel lessons, but were very hospitable and allowed us to have prayer with them before we left.
This experience reinforced the importance of member interactions, how damaging a large population of members dropping out, or not supporting activities, can be. There are always two sides to the story, though, and one can suppose this couple stopped doing what they needed to do to keep their testimonies of the Gospel. It made me realize how easy it is to fall out of activity if we are not ever diligent in keeping the commandments. The Book of Mormon is full of stories like this, people being blessed and peaceful, then forgetting God, becoming hard-hearted and having their minds blinded.
Being on a mission helps one understand more deeply how difficult it was for Christ to get people to follow Him. Then, after He was crucified, the Apostles traveled all over taking the message of the Gospel. Some people accepted the teachings and became Christians, but it was a small number. All who understood the great plan of salvation whereby everyone can return to live with Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, were eventually killed because of their beliefs. Truth was lost for centuries. Now, with the restoration of Christ’s Church as He organized it while on the earth, things haven’t changed much. The LDS Church has always had persecution and many were killed for their beliefs, just as in Biblical times. It seems Satan rallies people to fight against truth, which is the biggest threat to his being able to claim the world as his own.
22 and 23 March - Prayers Answered
Be it known, in the last two days, those of you praying for our safety, prayers were answered. First, neither one of us got sliced up in the bathroom when the mirror fell off the wall, and second, we had a breakdown on the way to zone conference in Stretford, but managed to get there safely and on time.
While we finished up our morning study, we heard a horrible crash at the other end of the flat. Running to see what it was, we saw glass had shot out from the bathroom as far as our bedroom wall (about 18 feet away). The large mirror in the bathroom had suddenly fallen off the wall and shattered into large and small pieces. There were shards of glass in the toilet (long and sharp and large—like knives), in the sink, and one perfect triangle of glass stabbed into the floor and upright as if a huge knife had been dropped there by someone playing mumbly peg. If someone had been in the bathroom at that time, I hate to think what could have happened. It took forever to pick it all up, but within hours we had a workman replace it and also the one in the other bathroom. Apparently, the mirrors were not hung properly and the hangers turned ever so slowly until the one mirror slipped off. The other one was working that direction. The property manager was probably afraid of being sued because she was here immediately, took pictures, and got the man here within a couple hours. I kept the other mirror and placed it at a lower level, because I had needed something I could see from the waist down to check my skirts and had not wanted to pay the prices they were asking here for a cheap mirror that would do the trick. The remaining evil mirror is now in a safe spot where it can’t kill us.
As we drove to zone conference on the 23rd, we got half way there (it is a little over an hour drive), and someone honked and pointed at the car. I thought they were honking because Elder Blain drives rather slowly. Then, another car honked and pointed, so we slowed down and noticed what looked like smoke or steam coming out of the engine. We were on the motorway, so there was no place to turn off, but luckily a turnoff was up a ways. I was ready to jump out if the car was on fire and leave poor Elder Blain to fend for himself. He got us off the highway and on to a side road where there was only one drive as far as the eye could see. It just so happened it was very close to where we turned off and we were able to stop the car there. As he got out, he lifted the bonnet (hood) carefully and antifreeze and steam exploded over his trouser (pants mean underwear here in England) legs but somehow didn’t burn him or hurt his suit. He called the mission office and they told us we had an emergency assistance card, so that guy came within a half hour and plug a leak in the radiator, then followed us all the way to Stretford to be sure we got there safely.
It was a great spot to break down, though, as I took advantage of the lovely scenery and walked down to road a bit to take some pictures of horses standing in a field with some lovely old oak trees. The repairman also pointed out an old telephone booth hidden by a tree on the main road. It was very old and he said it could well be the only remaining one in the United Kingdom, since most were removed or demolished. Luckily, this one had been preserved as an historical piece and I got pictures of it.
At zone conference, I finally got my box that the girls sent for my Christmas present (I had asked that they wait and send me a box for my Christmas this year because I knew it’d be even better of a present that way). I cannot describe what a joy it was to open that box and see notes and sweet, thoughtful gifts and some stuff I’d wanted from home. It is amazing what one communication from home can do for the spirits. The communication from home is what has kept me going through this long drought without much contact. Seth and Courtnie were the only family we could get on the phone today when the other missionary couple loaned us their phone to make calls to the states. Everyone else was at work or had an answering machine take our message. That was great to hear a familiar voice and catch up a bit. It was even a joy to hear the voices on the answering machines! Family really does mean everything and it is hard to describe how it feels to make some contact with loved ones. We still have no idea when our phone and internet will be working, but we are learning to be patient, since it is out of our control. The lack of communication has made homesickness worse, but we are doing okay. It just makes us all the more appreciative of home and family.
24 March - Ahhhh, Spaghetti Bolognese and the Best Evening Ever (very posh)
A member and her non-member husband (the cricket champion) invited us to dinner. He fixed the meal and is he ever a fantastic cook! He watches the food shows and picks up tips there, but is a natural at cooking. They provided us an evening fit for the queen.
There were candles burning throughout the house providing a peaceful and lovely ambiance. The table looked like it had been cut from Better Homes and Gardens, with the prettiest looking salads sitting there waiting to be devoured. They were works of art and I just had to sit there and soak it in for a bit before savoring it.
This couple is delightful to visit and we enjoy their stories. Brilliant personalities. The crowning glory of the meal was Elder Blain’s absolutely favorite spaghetti Bolognese. Ever since we’ve been here, he has been devouring the canned version of it and can’t get enough, but this was the real made-from-scratch marvel. It was served with garlic bread and I ate so much of everything I about blew up. On top of that (I swear they were going to kill us with their kindness), he’d had his mother make two very special desserts—a delicious apple pie and an exquisite dessert called Lemon Roulade. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a fancy dinner anywhere in our life. We couldn’t describe our gratitude for this couple making us feel so special with all the trouble they went to in providing us with such a wonderful evening.
26 March - People Haven’t Changed Much in Six Thousand Plus Years
Today was another heavy work day going to house after house after house. At least it wasn’t as the last time where it rained all day. Most the people weren’t home or had moved. Some hadn’t been at the address for several years. We had one visit with a woman whose husband died a short while ago. We’ll be teaching her once a week.
I asked one man on the street, “What would it mean to you if you knew Jesus Christ was alive and had restored His original Church on the earth?” He said it would be wonderful but no one can know that. I told him there was a way to know and we’d be glad to talk with him about it. He was very polite, but he said he wasn’t interested. Not interested in knowing that? We are wondering how many people are getting their one and only (or last) chance on this earth to hear this message in these last days. We can feel the Savior’s love for the people we meet and a portion of His sorrow. Since the days of Adam, many people were more concerned with earthly pleasure instead of spiritual things. The scriptures say the natural man is an enemy of God, but the natural man is his own worst enemy if it keeps him from the path to eternal life.
Elder Blain had his fish and chips day and we attended a mission correlation meeting in the evening. We fell into bed exhausted but happy to have at least made a bit more progress in finding ward members and visiting those who need support or uplift.
27 March - Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged
I hate to think how those who lost the Easter competition feel towards us tonight. We were asked to judge the Easter entries for the Newcastle Ward’s activity. There were bonnets, cards, cookies (called biscuits here), traditional cakes, Easter gardens, poems, and decorated eggs. That was a lousy position for us to be placed in, but we were assured it would be totally anonymous. HA! They announced us as the judges after the event and we had to hand out the certificates! Everything was nice, so how in the world can you pick only one winner? Neither one of us think there should be that type of thing in the first place. Just let everyone display their talent for all to enjoy. The poem we chose ended up being one of a published poet in the ward, so we made a good choice, but the other people probably felt bad since their poems went up against his and they were good also. I won't get caught in that situation again!
Daylight Savings Time starts tomorrow in England. It is only a couple weeks behind the states. Our zone leader called to remind us and said that we’d lose some sleep but it was better than showing up to meetings and hour late tomorrow.
28 March - The Humble Shall be Exalted
The sister we have been meeting with to read scriptures and bring back to Church walked in with her crutches today! I was waiting at the door in case she came and it made my heart leap with joy when I saw her smiling face. This woman is amazing! The faith and courage she has to have to call someone for a ride (we cannot give members rides in the mission car) and take the bus home. She has to get Botox shots in her leg to keep it from curling under her and making it so she can’t walk. She is in pain all the time and still has great difficulty walking, yet made the huge effort to be at Sacrament meeting. She could only manage to sit through one meeting, so I asked a member if she could take her to the bus stop because I couldn’t imagine her going down the hill on her crutches. She must weigh all of 75 pounds. The member took her home instead of leaving her at the bus stop. Everyone greeter her warmly when they saw her and I hope she felt welcomed and loved. It is a fearful thing to return to Church after being gone many years.
In Relief Society, I met a sister who has managed to begin attending church after many years of hardship, bad relationships, and trials with addiction to alcohol. She has been clean and sober for 16 months. I asked her if she’d like the Preach My Gospel lessons to have a refresher on the gospel basics and she said she’d love it, so we now have four people we are teaching.
The lady we are supposed to baptize on April 9th says she needs a “wee bit longer” to prepare. She doesn’t want to commit to something unless she knows she will live it 100% and never fall away. I am not sure anyone can know for sure how faithful they will be. Life circumstances test us and we can only prove our love for God by staying faithful through them. Part of our test here is to prove we will trust God no matter what we’re required to experience, and that proves a challenge for many. It would be ideal if everyone who is baptized could make a firm commitment that carries them on, but if they don’t attend they can’t renew those baptismal covenants they made with God and they don’t really understand the purpose of taking the Sacrament each week. It is very hard to regain the Holy Ghost and one’s testimony after leaving the Church.
We will keep praying for everyone to find their way and for us to stay on the path. Eternal Life is worth working for since it is the biggest “prize” (as stated in the scriptures).
29 March -Oh Lovely Communication!
I got my first letter from Brandon! It was a big surprise since we have received only one other personal letter and everything else has been business. With the cost of postage, the e-mails are certainly the way to go, but having an old-fashioned letter to hold in one’s hand is still something special. Being able to touch the writing and know the person’s hand was on the page brings them closer. It is hard to describe, but it is sort of like having a Kindle with the scriptures. If I’m not holding the scriptures in my hand and turning the pages, being able to make notes and highlights; knowing the kids gave them to me . . . it is just much more personal and I can love my scriptures and hold them to my heart. I’m not sure how that’d work with an electronic gadget.
30 March - Earth and Her Ten Thousand Flowers
It is raining today (same yesterday) and the Daffodils and Crocuses are popping up everywhere. They are wild, I guess, because they are in the woods and sprinkled in lawns and other unlikely places. Birds and squirrels are outside all the time. The birds singing were the first thing that I noticed when we arrived in England. Everywhere there are various sizes of pigeons. Some we saw today are about the size of chickens! They do leave their mark, but the frequent rain seems to keep things watered down and cleaner than it would be in Utah.
We are still seeing every breed of dog imaginable being walked by faithful humans. Obviously, the dogs here own the people. Many cats own people as well, to the chagrin of Elder Blain when we visit (ha, ha).
The English journalism is wonderfully entertaining here. Some of the language I cannot find in the dictionary so I don’t know what they are talking about. Here are some samples:
“A 46-year-old man was made redundant from Wedgwood after 17 years” . . . redundant means no working in the previous career or out of work.
“The heir to the property was in a huff with his parents—‘They don’t think I can wipe my bottom’ (I’m sure he can—he’s 41)—and there was a sign on the door saying ‘bell not working, come in and shout.’”
Headlines: “Driver died after car span out of control.” “Pervert jailed for owning 7 floppy discs.”
“. . . It took more than a year for his fate to be sealed after Pope Benedict announced his resignation.” (talking about a priest)
“. . . it suggests the vehicle was travelling at around 72mph at the start of the tyre mark.” “. . . he was not wearing his seatbelt, but that the nature of the crash meant it would not have saved him anyway.”
There’s a cartoon poking fun at how long it takes people to get medical procedures done with the socialized medicine programme (everyone complains): The man is holding the phone and is hollering to his wife in the other room and the date is October 21, 1991: “It’s the ‘ospital, thee specialists appointments come threow . . . August the 10th 1996 . . . would 3:15 bay convaynient? (His wife looks like she’s ready to fall on the floor).
Road sign: "The Safety Cameras (to catch you speeding) Are Not in Use" (thank you very much)
That is just a taste of the interesting reading of late (the neighbor brings us the newspaper once in a while).
The great bargains in food here are: 7 oz Cadbury bars with hazelnuts and a variety of other kind are about $1.23 in U.S. money. Of course, Cadbury is here in the UK, but it has been bought out by Kraft.
Cheeses of all kinds cost about five times less here. The best breads, like the Hovis brand, with 8 different roasted seeds in it, is about $1.50 (no preservative or artificial anything in it). It would be considered specialty bread in the U.S.
The yogurt is probiotic and very good. Activia is popular over here and not too expensive, but the larger containers of yogurt are a better buy and they have active cultures with more probiotics in them.
Apples are about half what they are in the states. All produce is wonderful and economical.
They have a drink called “squash” that comes in a variety of different fruit and flower concentrates. The need to have a 12 to one mix of water, lemonade, soda water, or something else added to them. There is this elderflower cordial that someone had at a ward activity and Elder Blain drank it with only a tiny bit of water. He says it reminded him of the stuff that he had to drink for a colonoscopy, which makes him throw up. Consequently, that is one thing off his list. I may have mentioned I’ve taken pizza (nasty taste) and fish and chips off of my list because they make the chips soggy with vinegar and my home made fry sauce can’t even make them taste good—too greasy! Ercell loves that battered fish, which tastes good like everything out that has lots of fat in it. He is in seventh heaven with his chocolate bars, fish and chips, and cheese. I’m still craving a daily tiny bag of salt and vinegar crisps.
8 April – The Internet is UP! No phone yet.
Just got a wonderful picture book from Teri with the family in Disneyland! The Jake and Olivia are so darling and they look like they had a ball. Of course, Ginger, Teri, and Jim are lovely as well. It made us very happy to see their smiling faces. Family IS everything!
Missions are Fun
Preston Temple photo taken 21 Nov. 2010
A missionary is someone who leaves his or her home for a little while so others can have their families forever.
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Note: The Blain's England Manchester Mission blog is a personal blog that is not endorsed, approved, or sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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Our Mission Scriptures
Our Mission Scriptures:
"Oh, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart . . . Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth." Alma 29:1-2 (Book of Mormon)
" . . . be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (Bible)