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Letters from England

Sower of the Word

June 1, 1966

Dearest Mom and Dad,

            Saturday afternoon found us at Belton (on the Rutland border en route to Peterborough) and a Sheep Dog Trial. It was a beautiful sunny but cool day. The field was covered with buttercups – a lovely, bright yellow amidst the lush green of the British pasture.

            A man and his dog would enter at the near end of the field and wait while 5 sheep were placed at the far end. Then, on a signal, his dog would skirt the field, coming up on the far side of the sheep completely unnoticed. By obeying the command of his master, which was given either with a tin whistle or the fingers-in-the-mouth variety, the dog would bring the sheep back across the field, around a given post, back across the field through two gates, back to the post where they were to stop and be separated by the shepherd (3 and 2, followed by 4 and 1 only if the run was going really well and he felt he had the time), then herded into a corral, and finish by herding through a gate into another corral.

                                    Sketch

            The field was huge. It’s an amazing distance to be covered and a small wonder the dog could even hear the signals against the wind for some of the work at the far end. To see the teamwork between man and dog was absolutely great!

Few came near even completing the course. They were judged on following the course, obeying commands, not getting the sheep excited (which really separates the men from the boys), time, etc. It was a fascinating sight!

            Much love,

                        Mary

 

 

Dearest Mom and Dad,                                                                        June 1st, 1966

            You might know! – days on end of clear sky and a bright sun, and Ann is down with what Dr. Bostock calls “The Walmsley throat”. Shucks! I’m anxious to try to photograph as much of colorful, historical Leicestershire as I can before August – and finding sunny days has been such a problem! And now that there are some, I’m stuck!  Never mind.

            We did set off for Poor Richard’s Well and Bosworth Field Monday afternoon (Whit Monday was a holiday) and managed to find it at last – but only by extensive trespassing, which wasn’t appreciated by the farmer’s wife. There is a public footpath which goes part way across the field, but it peters out before coming to the well and leaves you standing at a gate leading into a pasture, staring some cows in the face!

            We figured we’d come too far to quit, so we excused ourselves (to the cows) and proceeded onwards through the farmyard until we found the well. It really is silly – the well is fenced off as a national monument with appropriate signs and historical explanations of the importance, etc., etc., yet there’s no right of way to it! Consequently, people read about it being there, are anxious to see it (there’s so little else historical importance in Leicestershire!) and just set out to find it, wandering around until they stumble on it. If the farmer would just put up a couple of signs and direct people to it in a friendly way, he wouldn’t have all this meandering around.

           

            Roger came home one night last week absolutely green with envy – Peter Sneath had grown a slime mold to 3 ½ feet in a beer bottle at home! – all a single cell! Not to be outdone, Roger promptly sterilized a beer bottle and prepared his little bugger for deposit in same; but alas, we hadn’t the proper food in the house. No oats – ony bran flakes. “That’s all right. Let’s try the bran flakes” – but no go. I tell you, slime mold likes oats.

 

            Whitsunday was confirmation Sunday at Coventry – again, a carefully planned service which was ever-so-meaningful. We said “Good morning” to one of the clergy with whom we had spoken before. He sent us to the Provost, wh’d already heard of our Coventry-enthusiasm. The Provost extended an invitation to come down and spend a weekend so that we could attend a staff meeting on Monday morning, “which is the crux of the whole thing”. Fabulous! We’re working out details for depositing children – otherwise just Roger goes. We’re fascinated.

            Much love,

                        Mary.

 

 

Dearest Mom and Dad,                                                                                    June 7, 1966

            Ann’s bug is more serious than we suspected – no school all this week or next week. Ugh! And of course, next week is my week at Coventry and then Hampton Court. I’ll have to dream up something extremely clevber – like having Ann go over and keep Vicky company or some such thing!

            She’s beginning to feel better now, although it’s been ten days since she started all this.

            The reports from school come dribbling in (formal grades are given only at the end of the years on the report cards). Julia did not do tooooooo badly on the French (her teacher at school admitted that it was pretty amazing for 3 years’ worth in one year). She came in first in her music (as I would hope and expect) and fourth in her class in English (I think). Ann got the highest mark in her class on her composition (English essay), which is especially amusing when I recall how the headmistress had an example of the child’s writing on her desk at our interview last fall and it was pointed out how appallingly inadequate her writing was – childish, sloppy, careless, etc., etc. All of which was true enough. Now I’m certain the SHE, Miss Moore, will feel certain that Sir Jonathan North School has salvaged this child from a backward, underdeveloped nation’s educational system. Jolly good!

 

            Our entertainment evening at Guides Friday night was a crashing failure. Dorothy’s disappointment in the Vicar and the way he runs things was so comp0lete that she lost every ounce of interest in the fun-raising project. So completely detached from the whole thing was she that she greeted the few paying family and friends with her warmest smile and cheerfully sold them refreshments and then let the entertainment take care of itself while she sat in the back of the room, smiling.

            Because the whole thing had been done in less than a fortnight’s time, every single skit was woefully lacking in polish – so much so that the girls themselves begged for a postponement. Captain said it was impossible. It was all I could do to talk them into doing their best with what they had managed to scratch together. It was not good. (And again, it was the grammar school girls who didn’t even try, whereas the others at least tried and tried HARD).

            Never mind. It’s over. One rides the ups as well as the downs when one is “attached” to a Guide Company – AND one learns lessons. #1) although it is excellent policy to try to follow up and do ALL program requests that come from the ranks, I think there are times to say “No, it just won’t work”. #2) on such a big request as having people pay for an evening of entertainment, the request should come from more than two girls. #3) Never ask people to pay to see entertainment unless it is very, very good, parents included.

 

            Enough of that. Two dinner parties with lots of nice people: with Hans and Monica Kornberg who head for Woods Hole next week (lucky bums), and then Saturday night with another couple we met at the wine-tasting dinner. Very nice.

            I received a phone call this morning inviting me to a coffee one morning next week by someone I’ve never met but our Saturday eve hostess told her of me, etc., etc. She’s the one who felt as badly as we about the school situation and is trying to make up for it all by herself personally! On Saturday night I overheard her say that she has never really enjoyed her children, that it’s only been very recently when her eldest learned to read that she has felt any real enjoyment with her at all, that having an intelligent child is the most important thing she wants out of parenthood, and that she’d simply die if her child didn’t get into a grammar school. When she opened the conversation at the wine-tasting dinner, she asked me if I wasn’t pleased with the educational system; when I told her that I didn’t think she’d like my answer because we’d been denied the opportunity of having any contact with the grammar schools, she was visibly shaken. On hearing this, both her husband and another fellow in the Education Department came over and were SO incredulous and SO ap0ologetic. It’s unbelievable how blind these “have’s” are to the facts of what’s available – or not available – for the “have-nots”.

            Delicious home-cooked food in any case. Most enjoyable evenings.

 

            Another Guider Campfire training (which means “singing”) last night. I’m getting a good collection of songs – can hardly wait to get back and get singing. It’s been a long time.

            Julia’s been pondering over what instrument to study next year … has come to no conclusion. I say piano with Henry plus choir is a good combination, although I’d love to see her learn to play her recorders properly and to sing properly. Fie on Germantown Friends! Oh, well! She’s all fired up about going to Belgium. She’s had two delightful lessons with Francoise – strictly conversation en francais – comes home singing and laughing! Absolutely great, great, great!

 

            Roger’s feeling the pinch of time more and more. I popped in at the lab to ask a simple question Monday and on leaving asked whether or not he still thought he’d be home late. He remarked quite seriously that it looked later and later with every interruption! And then this morning he got up BEFORE 6:30 – that borders on lunacy! God knows what it’ll be like by late July!

 

            Dad, Ann forgot to say that she’d like you to send the stamps – and now she’s asleep again, so I’ll say it for her! Busy work while she’s feeling slow – and she’s really enjoying it. It’s quite an education – pleasurably!

            I’ve also been invited to the huge Guide Rally in Lincolnshire on an airstrip on June 25th which Lady B-P will attend, also to luncheon before with the V.I.P.’s and tea afterward. I’m almost certain Dorothy or someone may be going from here, so I’m tempted to have Julia and Ann come along with them. When Lady B-P realizes they’re about, surely she’ll want to say “How-do-you-do”! Of course I’ll do my best to get them to Hampton Court, but it’s a gamble as to whether or ot Lady B-P would be there the last week in July. That’s the only time left, really, before we go, what with Julia in Belgium and us leaving some time for packing after we return from a week’s camp July 6th and before our departure from Leicester on the 18th or so! Imagine!

            I did write to Elizabeth – got the “info” on what-to-wear (uniform) in return as well as an invite to luncheon that day – what a peach. Would that I’d met someone like that here in Leicester that I could have really gotten to know well, someone I could really talk with and enjoy on equal footing.

            I’ll be good with Dot Robinson. Can’t remember whether I mentioned having lunch with her after the Abbey Service. Hope not. It almost ruined the day for me. But it will be fun for me to have a chance to chat with some Senior Scouts. This is a weak link in my chain of Girl Scout experiences, and I look forward to it greatly. After all, my Julie is but one year away and is growing into it so fast – I’d better have some acquaintance with Seniors soon!

            Any brainstorms on how on Mary Walmsley, a Girl Scout leader with internation experience, could wrangle her way to the Convention in Detroit? I’ve never been to one and would dearly love to go ….

            Would Dad like to come stay with us while you’re in Japan? – for a long or a shorter visit? We sure would love to have him!

            We may get faked out of our boat-ride again by the dock workers’ strike, which they threaten to do! Can you beat it?

            I’d best mail this before they don’t have denominations big enough to cover the postage!

            Much love,

                        Mary

P.S. We’re tracking down a yard-of-ale for a souvenir to be properly mounted over our “mantle”!!!

 

 

 

Dearest Mom and Dad,                                                                        June 9th, 1966

            Did I ever mention how tickled I was to get Dad’s long letter? As a matter of fact, I was recounting his tale of the gift of good-ol’ manure which ended up next to the neighbor’s screened-in porch last night at a get-together at the County Commissioner’s “house” at Barrow-on-Soar. Such a lovely spot – really breathtaking. At one time this must have been a lovely, lovely place; it still is very nice, but the day has sadly passed when such places can be kept properly. What was once a manicured lawn (a large part of the front lawn) is now a beautiful pasture; yet it really makes not that much difference because the house is just up and over the crest of the hill. They have cleverly kept manicured that part of the lawn within sight of the house, so that this meadow can be meadow without bothering the effect. As you stand in front of the house, the lawn disappears over the hill, edged on either side by the most beautiful old, old, trees I’ve ever seen – pines, a gorgeous blue spruce, deciduous trees of several kinds, rhododendrons, etc.  Between the viewer and the Leicestershire countryside in the distance (just below the ridge so that only the tops show) are 2 or 3 huge red beeches in all the glory of that deep, red beech color. Absolutely magnificent! And off to one side was a path among the trees that twisted out of sight, luring us to explore. As we meandered along this path, we stumbled on the abandoned tennis court now hatching weeds but bearing the ugliness of having been doused with weed-killer. It was then that I thought of Dad and his endeavor to beat-the-weeds “naturally”.

            I have yet to see a manure compost heap in England. They have such a good thing in the grass cuttings that they don’t seem to go after manure as we do.

            The meeting culminated with a talk by 2 gentlemen from the Leicester Youth Service Association – a tax supported organization semi-attached to the Education Committee (boo) group whose aim is to coordinate the several groups working with youth. They have funds to dispense – lots of funds – and the Guides were glad and eager to hear about it and take advantage of same; BUT they want some help with their programs, too – naturally. It’s only when they get down to specifics that the screws are felt – “We have a couple of girls who would like camping experience. Would you take them along with you?”  As they’re referring to ages 14 to 21, he really means older Guides or Rangers, all of whom are so highly skilled in camping arts that allowing two strays to tag along would really be a drag as well as unfair to those Guides who don’t qualify for the outing as yet. It’s a sticky-wicket. I suppose these problems are everywhere nowadays in the era of cooperation and mergers. It reminded me of the efforts of the Protestant Churches to unite. My immediate reaction is to tell such girls that, if camping appeals to them, then join the Girl Guides. I’ll give it more thought.

            Julie came home absolutely bubbling -0 a man had come to the school for an assembly-type program on woodwind instruments, including the history of and a demonstration on. She was completely taken with the sopranino and wants one desperately, realizes it’s an F instrument, which she knows is like the alto, but wants to learn to play it/them and just simply CAN’T WAIT!

            “Oh, and, Mommy, I came in first in my class in geography!”

            Jolly good – but little ol’ Ann is sitting here still feeling soggy and slightly stunned because the doctor has just come and gone and said she has bronchial pneumonia and NO Guide camping next week end! Your letter about going to the Vineyard is a life-saver, believe me!

            Oh, yes, Dad, with regard to a sopranino recorder, Julia added: - “and I’ll need a bigger suitcase, and Granddad will have to come visit us so you can get his help on making me one for a sopranino AND a soprano AND also a tenor!”

            Can’t remember whether or not I told you that Julie, Daphne and I san “There was an  Old Woman as I’ve Heard Tell” (as best my brain could recall and write down the three parts from however many years ago! 20 or more?) for that ghastly entertainment last Friday night – from which the net income was 4 pounds!  The Vicar wants more, says the Guides are responsible for new radiator covers, cloth at that, to the tune of 15-20! Dorothy says “nuts.” I say “No go here – that man is nuts.”

            Back to song – Daphne felt in need of assistance last week, so we asked Jill and Jennifer to help. Jill blew the whole thing – got uncontrollable giggles – it was awful. Well, now there’s a music competition at school in a fortnight and Julia has asked Daphne and another pal to “have another go”. They’ve agreed and are working on it, without me! I tell you, this eldest grand-daughter of yours is taking off, and it’s a wondrous sight to see!

            Canadian Hell-Drivers are at the Stadium Frioday night – I suppose driving noisy cars through hoops of fire, etc, etc.  Scott can hardly wait!

            Sent Scott off to the barber by himself all primed on how to tip! He managed okay, he said – “Here’s a 6-pence for you,” which was gratefully received. He’s growing, too.

            Much love,

                        Mary

 

 

                                                                                                            June 13, 1966

Dearest Mom and Dad,

            We’ve just returned from our weekend in Coventry. It was, indeed, as stimulating and inspiring as we had hoped. All that we have sensed with regard to its “with-it-ness” is consistent with what we participated in yesterday and today – and the staff are, as you might expect, 100% top-notch wonderfully GREAT people. What a pity to be almost-leaving when we discover them and they us! Here are people we can really talk to with complete understanding and amiability – true friends in each and every one!

The Provost was the one who had extended the invitation, his secretary booked us in a “family” hotel, which means Heathfield-quality and boiled cabbage in a typical English cuisine! Fortunately, we didn’t have to eat there! We said “hi!” after the service, and he promptly invited us over for sherry at his place, which was really very, very nice of him. He was most apologetic about not being able to feed us as well, but it worked out splendidly as Roger and I knew a marvelous spot for some really good chow and then Roger had work to do. We attended Evensong late in the afternoon, wandered around the shopping center, and then returned to our hotel for more work. I spent this time working on organizing my comparison of Guiding/Scouting here and there, which is really interesting. And then we fell asleep listening to the Cincinnati Reds give the Mets a hard time on my little never-to-be-without portable radio.

            This morning began with Communion in the Chapel of Industry with the Bishop celebrating, followed by breakfast with the staff. The agenda for the morning’s staff meeting included Bible study for an hour, the Provost’s business for an hour, and the rest of the staff’s business for an hour – all around a huge table with the few visitors participating, watching, listening, absorbing. Absolutely fascinating! – especially because of their relationships with each other as well as the scope and nature of their ministry … the type of challenge that faces them and the way it is handled. It was so great to be there – not to mention being made so welcome and involved. Of course it’s always over the last glass of sherry and dinner that friendships are cemented. We hated to leave, and they appeared reluctant to have us go. Roger had just gotten going on moral decisions being forced through new scientific achievements, etc., and the issue of the role of the laity in the church’s mission is always good for hours. Oh, well . . .

            The Provost, it turns out, is the main force behind what’s going on in Coventry. He’s a most appealing and unusual person, entirely dedicated to what he firmly believes. When we mentioned how we wanted to take so much of it back home with us, he said, “Who’s your bishop? I’ll come see him. I’ll be seeing him in October anyway. Yes, I’ll come to your parish church,” etc., etc., and I’m sure he means every word of it!

            Actually there are several churches in the states that are already using Coventry’s form of worship, the two mentioned today being in the south.

            One of the hardest points of business this morning was giving an unequivocal go-ahead to the staff person in charge of drama. He wants to put on “West Side Story” in the Baptistery next November using staging 20 feet high, including a platform built completely around and over the font! It really is a wrench to even consider cluttering up the cathedral that way. The Provost himself admitted that, as strongly as he believes in drama in the cathedral, as soon as the scaffolding appears he just stays clear of it if he can. The Precentor was just plain opposed; he doesn’t even want Shakespeare’s “ Antony and Cleopatra” in the ruins next month. It was all most interesting and thought provoking. It demands constant soul searching. The rest admit that if you believe in drama in the cathedral, you must be willing to put up with the clutter.

            We returned to Leicester to find the house in good order but Ann looking as weak and pale as ever – and small wonder as she refuses to eat! I don’t know what game she’s playing now, but if it’s “I-don’t-want-to-go-to-school” again, she needn’t bother because I doubt she’d make it in any case. Ho hum!

            However – I’m off to London and Hampers day after next and pray that Mother’s absence shan’t mean complete discobobilation. My Cadette Scout continues to rise to the occasion beautifully. If she makes 1st class, I say she deserves it because she’s been asked to rise to occasions (and real emergencies)  that many other children don’t have!

            Much love,

                        Mary

 

P.S. Thank you very much for sending me the information. Julia.

 

 

 

                                                                                                June 16, 1966

Dearest Mom and Dad,

            I spent the train ride coming down to London recalling as best I could the items on the agenda of the Coventry Cathedral staff meeting, knowing full well that once in London so many other things would happened that I’d never manage to remember after all that – and I’m so glad I did!

 

1.) staging “West Side Story” in the Baptistery, completely covering the font with a

platform and including 20 feet of scaffolding – getting a promise of unanimous

outward support from each and every staff member.

2.) whether or not the lessons are read beautifully, especially with guest readers.

3.) helping the Provost get rid of one old lady in particular who always ties him up after

            every service, both indefinitely and painfully!

4.) cross-booking the Unity Chapel

5.) limiting sermons to 15 minutes.

6.) hospitality for another German youth group

7.) concern over secretarial misprints, the need for a proof reader.

8.) selecting better hymns.

9.) scheduling all Evensong services for the same hour, rather than 5:15 one day and 5:30

another.

10.) a marvelous discussion of the meaning of the word “glory”.

 

            That’s all I could remember and, anyway, by then I was in London.

            How very, very sweet it was of Elizabeth to have me to lunch. It made all the difference in the world in my looking forward to coming. She had cleverly arranged to have Mary Grant sit with us, as she is the one handling Julie’s trip to Belgium. And Betty as well, of course. It was so nice. They all send you their VERY fondest regards, of course!

            I’m tickled that Betty’s brainstorm of a channel swim is getting on so well. They’ve had marvelous news coverage; the girls are all selected, I believe, and are in training. Betty is MOST pleased with the whole project. Jolly good!

            I spent the afternoon pleasantly strolling around Buckingham Palace and finding myself a lovely spot in the shade of a tree by the lake in the park where I could just sit and think, feel the breeze, and smell the waters. It was just what I needed. I realized what a long time it had been since I sat on the grass and hummed like Pooh – tiddle-de-pum!

            We were joined at 5:30 by “Briggsy” (Countess Gravina or some such), a grand person – lots of kidding and mush fun – and slipped into an outdoor pub for a short snort before going along to the Cloth Workers’ Hall on Dunster Court, Mincing Lane East – all with the two dogs, of course! It was a hot sunny day, and that gin and bitter-lemon was sheer heaven! – with ice, too!

            We arrived at the Hall to find the queue of queues. Lady B-P was on the stairway giving each and every Guide “the squeeze” and a little chat, so we slipped by and got a head start on the sandwiches and cakes – lucky thing, too, as they disappeared fast.

            The “other speaker” was the Master of the Cloth Workers. He just sort of rambled on about the Cloth Workers’ connections with the Royal Family and about the jewels in the badge hanging about his neck which came from somebody-or-other’s crown – all of which is terribly, terribly important to members of the Commonwealth, and this being a party of the Commonwealth Circle, he was well received.

            Lady B-P made no formal speech but was wonderful in her way of having each country’s representative stand up and then chatting on a bit. Such a delightful character!

            In the “How do you do’s” that followed, a Mrs. Powell came up to me and swore we’d met – she even knew the date and place – at Girl Scout Headquarters in NYC last September – she was SURE of it! I allowed as how I was in England that day. Being more or less embarrassed and in order to cover up, she went on to recall what a lovely day she had there and it was all due to a mistake made by Mrs. Edgar, etc., etc.  I let her finish before I told her who I was. Poor dear!  That’s why I looked familiar, it seems! And she was supposed to look me up and lost my address and felt so sorry to ear about Annie being ill that she promised to mail her some badges from Scotland this morning, which I dare say she did, so sincere was she. Grand person – hope I get to see her again.

            And then out to Hampers. Elizabeth had forewarned me that two nieces were here, one with a broken ankle home from Kenya and the other with a husband who was just popping in” from Beirut and is VERY, VERY DEAF!

 They had all been to Ascot and were “really terribly, terribly tired, you know”, so they went to bed and we went into the kitchen and raided the icebox! Sat down to rather a gorgeous feast, at that! And chatted happily until bedtime, which was soon thereafter.

            After much encouragement to “sleep in”, I succumbed, did so, and ended up eating breakfast WITH THE DEAF ONE!  But we had a good time chatting about the horses, which one to bet on, and the scandalous jockey who quit one horse at the last moment in lieu of a “better bet” and how immoral it was after being financed through training, etc.  Mrs. Searle came and joined the lively (and loud) discussion, admitting in her own quiet way that she always picks winners even though she never actually puts the money on them – batting average around .550, so the says! “If in doubt, drop them out!” – quote Mrs. Searle.

            And then they were dressed and off! Such a magnificent transformation I’ve never seen – from house coats and slippers and bat-around clothes to shantung dress and coat, morning coat and top hat. If ONLY I’d dared take a picture, but I am perhaps too sensitive to the desire for privacy people like Lady B-P have. I had heard – and can easily sympathize – that she HATES picture-taking in her home, so no pictures. Not from me, anyway. Just the treasure of a memory – that scene in the hallway saying good-bye to “the Ascots”!

            She then went to work at her desk, and I toured the Royal Apartments. It was raining – hard – the first REAL rain we’ve had in weeks, literally. She was most upset with the idea of me getting my shoes soaked lest they not dry out before I havge to pack them, so off with her own and onto my feet they went (they were the same size) – and I went off to view the gardens in Lady B-P’s shoes!

            The afternoon tea with Dot Robinson was something from the very start. She evidently asked the Chief if she might bring 40 girls to tea (It’s hard to imagine inviting yourself in the first place, much less 40) – then changed it to 26, then to 16. The day before the Chief called to verify the last figure and was told 20. All set.

            At 10:30 a.m. on the day of the tea Dot calls and announces that the number is now 40. It’s just plain incredible to me. The Chief was visibly and verbally upset, and Mrs. Searle made no bones about the fact that she thought it was pretty poor (to me – not to “Milady”). I see no earthly reason why every Girl Scout traveling through England need have tea withy the World Chief Guide – in her home. It’s an absolute invasion of privacy on the one hand and a privilege that should be saved for Gueen’s Guide equivalents at best. Yes, every Guide and Scout in the world should shake her hand and have a few words, but this bringing 40 (two day ago it was 70) in to tea is TOO MUCH. Sorry …

            Lady B-P and I did have a lovely, quiet lunch together – just the two of us. It was grand. She was so relaxed and happy and seemed to be enjoying herself.

            At 2:30 Dot Robinson appeared, a half hour early. It seems that she’s returning to the states tomorrow and wanted to get some stamps or something and a mug. Here again, I could tell Lady B-P didn’t want to part with the mug, but she lacks the capacity to say “no” to anything. There used to be 3 mugs. The other two were borrowed similarly and have never been returned … one shattered in a normal breakage situation; the other just never came back. Not only did Mrs. Searle tell me this, but one of the nieces as well – and how the Chief HATES being plucked before she dies.

            Dot didn’t remember me at all – not at all surprising – but recovered well and we got along well. When the girls came, the Chief talked to them on the steps outside, shook their hands as they entered the apartment, and then they dispersed throughout the flat to enjoy their “tea”. Half the girls had taken a 10 p.m. flight from Boston last night and were bleary-eyed with fatigue – and none of them appeared to get too much out of being in the Chief’s home. The handshake is the thing – and it’s important and meaningful, but not at the expense of this invasion of privacy and danger to the Chief’s health.

            By the time they had all gone, she was so visibly tired that I was all for her taking a nap. But like my Scott, she’d have none of it – it’s out to the garden instead! So with baskets and clippers, arm in arm we strolled out to the garden and had the loveliest hour in silence with the birds and insects. It did us both a world of good. I had to laugh to myself when I realized I had come all the way down to London town to sit on the grass and dig in the garden! Things I haven’t felt like doing in Leicester at all – and such absolute indispensables for me, Mary Walmsley!

            As we were returning from our quiet hour in the garden, a man and his two daughters approached from the formal gardens. The Chief went over to them and said, “Oh, there you are!”

            Knowing she had nothing on the calendar for the evening, I didn’t quite dig it, but after a few moments it became increasingly apparent that they would be joining us! Needing time at home to cover her forgetfulness, she very cleverly talked them into seeing the sunken garden on the way back. The minute they were out of sight she grabbed my arm, and at a good Scout’s Scout’s-pace we made tracks for the kitchen to see what was there! Sure enough – she had extended the invitation, marked it in her book, but failed to note it with Mrs. Searle! Fortunately, Mrs. Searle knows to leave huge quantities of cooked food in the frig, so that we just simply pulled out some platters already arranged, rearranged them to serve more, and set more places at the table – acting very much like two school girls caught red-handed!

            The gentleman turned out to be the Director of Gilwell, the Scout training center. I’ve forgotten his name. His most charming wife was waiting here, all the while (with “the Ascots”, who had to go eat elsewhere!), and two darling daughters. It was a most delightful meal – except that the Chief couldn’t/wouldn’t sit still – a sure sign of fatigue. She looked very tired, but by bedtime (and they did kindly leave early) she looked better and tumbled in. And that’s where I am – upstairs in bed with the Chapel bells ringing “Bedtime”.

            I’m off for Leicester in the morning, hoping to find Ann much stronger and Scott better. He sounded chesty and so was left at home with Ann – taking no chances.

            Sorry I feel so strongly about Dot Robinson. At least SHE doesn’t know how I feel. I did right by you there.

            It was quite a thrill to have the Chief introducing me to these girls this afternoon: “Before you all came, you got a card of welcome and introduction. Who’s name is on it?” They all dug into their regulation black purses and pulled out the card. From my perch at the top of the stairs looking down, I could see that every-so-familiar “Gene Edgar” signature flashing all over the stairway. And then the Chief sasid in her bombastic way, “AND THERE’S HER DAUGHTER!” with that wonderful, big smile.

            Must turn out the light or dawn will be upon me. It’s at around 4:10 these days!

            Much love to you both,

                        Mary

 

 

Dearest Mom and Dad,                                                                        June 20, 1966

            My Ann has quite all of a sudden turned poetic and is ever-so-anxious to know whether or not she’s any good! What do you think?

 

          God’s Hands

 

God’s right hand came out tonight

Underneath the moon’s bright light.

It came out in a faintly form

Of some clouds which looked forlorn.

 

I sat down and was lost in dreams.

My dreams were real, or so it seems.

I dreamed for an hour and then looked out

And saw God’s left hand, big and stout.

 

The clouds were small, puffy and grey,

Which matched ‘cause ‘twas a very dull day.

I sighed with envy for that cloud

‘Cause it soared through the air so very proud.

 

          Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

 

Yesterday’s elegant sunshine

Was simply too elegant to decline,

So I sunbathed in that elegant sunshine

Until my back burned just as much as my spine.

 

Today is dripping wet with rain.

It is such an awful shame

Because in that hot, sunny Spain

They can claim no dripping we rain.

 

Tomorrow will be sunny, I hope.

‘Cause my spirits are down in a slope.

The weatherman better make sure

That the day is sunshine pure.

 

 

          The Haunted House

 

Down the road a little ways

Is a haunted house with a purple vase.

I always sneak down to its little front door

To snoop around and to explore.

 

But when I get down there, It seems to me,

I always see things which aren’t there to see.

Then I always turn around with a jerk of fright

And run until the house is out of sight.

 

The things I see are ghosts and goblins

With babies which look like sewing bobbins.

I also see witches with their big, black brooms

Stirring liquids with gigantic, wooden spoons.

 

            I think it’s pretty good, myself! And all just spilled off her pen today!!!!

                        Love,

                                    Mary

 

 

Dearest Mom and Dad,                                                            June 21, 1966

            A few other random memories of my visit the “the Chief”.

            After speaking to the forty Girl Scouts on the steps up to her flat, she went to the top to shake each hand as the girl entered her home. As the last hand was being shaken, we noticed a gentleman who had been passing by coming up the steps with outstretched hand saying, “Excuse me, Lady Baden-Powell, but may I please just shake your hand? I’m ever-so-sorry to bother you. I don’t want to interrupt, but may I just shake your hand?”

            She was absolutely wonderful; of course she’d shake his hand and wouldn’t he like a cup of tea? I’ve yet to see an Englishman turn down a cup of tea!

            It was turned over to me at that point, so I ( feeling very much like a devoted grand-daughter) ushered him in, fixed him up with some tea, and chatted with him while she went on with the Girl Scouts. He’d been in the movement for 44 years, is now a District Commissioner, had seen her speak but had never shaken her hand. Well, it was the thrill of his life!

            I gave her two beautiful opportunities to invite Julia and Ann to tea or at least for a handshake, but neither got a rise. I’m convinced she feels completely lost with young children nowadays. She’ll sit and chat enthusiastically with the leaders, but it just doesn’t come naturally to speak with the children. In fact, I don’t think she speaks particularly well to the girls either, but maybe my observations are too limited in number.

            Mrs. Searly mentioned the spoon you sent her. She’s a gem. I couldn’t help but think that she in her position is to “Milady” as a Big Mary was to “Ma’am” in our house… a servant, yes, but filled with self-respect and dignity, ever-so-proud of doing a good job, and happy in that job.

            Lili, the new cleaning-woman, is most enthusiastic about her employer, even went so far as to exclaim, “And she even has her own teeth!”

            Lady B-P’s garden is so romantic! As she herself explained: “The original wall is still around it, delineating the old garden where Henry VIII and Elizabeth I had the food raised for their tables. And my flowers are growing in the same soil. Isn’t that ROMANTIC?”

            I was quite taken with her “family”, such as they were – characters all, but such delightful characters. Two nieces (her sister’s children) who call her “Mum” (the sister having died when they were about 5 and 6). One is really a peach – Christian – home from Kenya. We had some wonderful chats together. Also her grandson, Robin, who’s sort of a sneaky, shadowy fellow – real sponge, but SO charming, 28 and still a student but not really studying, living in the annex, raiding Gran’s frig, but not dining with hr. All very peculiar, but so charming!

            And the “Blind Slave” – HOW impressive! Really impressive! Her “Darling” was a highly talented fellow, most remarkable – one of the men of the century, I’d say.

            Much love,

                        Mary.

 

 

Dearest Mom and Dad,                                                                        June 23, 1966

            Today’s a “typical English Day”! The poor sheet has been on and off the clothesline however many times trying to get less damp. As I picked up the next round of medicine, the chemist smiled bravely and said, “that Glorious uncertainty!”

            Julia’s getting better and promises to be fit for Belgium, and now Scott is having his turn. Ho hum – but at least spirits are high on all counts.

            What a fabulous proposal Isobel’s letter brought! I only hope we can measure up to your expectations. It was the word “articulate” that made Rog and me hesitate on behalf of the children, but I’m certain they’ll crash through well enough. We’re absolutely overwhelmed! And Rog says I might as well stay for as much of the convention as I like once I’m there!

            I haven’t done a thing about your secretary. It’s no longer in the window – and, well, I just haven’t done anything about it. Unless you really want me to pursue it, I shan’t, as I fear I might select something you wouldn’t love and then it would be such a waste.  

            Lady B-P’s reactions to the Boy Scouts’ changes were immediate and strong. It’s harder for her to accept the long pants because she things of the working uniform, not the dress uniform – and so many boys in this country can’t afford both. As for dropping the word “Boy” – her reaction is your reaction: why bother? But is was doing away with 3 of the 10 laws that really upset her, and I must confess I whole-heartedly agree. Just between you and me (at her request), she was so upset that she sent a letter to THE Committee responsible for the changes and said she would resign immediately from their organization were it not for the World Organization of Boy Scouts who ALL have followed the example of England, the parent country, and have never had any difficulty in seeing the value of the original ten laws. She knows only too well that the Boy Scouts in England are presently loosing organization and therefore are trying desperately to find new life – BUT – we just disagree on how this should be done. I myself (and she agrees, of course) think the fundamentals of Scouting as outlined by B-P are still pertinent and of great value; if anything need be done, it’s to get back to them and quit mucking about.

            Not knowing whether or not she does such drastic things (as writing that letter) often, I know not what to think of the measure of concern she holds. She did say she thought there was a chance they’d rescind. There again, I don’t know.

            I do believe it’s not long pants or 7 versus 10 laws that makes the difference, but GOOD Scouting. I can’t help but be reminded of the church: with Coventry as my example, I would conclude with confidence that it’s neither the communion service nor the antique prayer book that is the “problem” but rather the sincerity of presentation that makes the difference. I have long felt fortunate in never having had to suffer any anguish intrying to accept the church’s teachings as presented – nor have I had that much difficulty in finding God in Action in my life. What tortures many people go through to even find the ground floor!

            Speaking of such weighty subjects – I must tell you about this “stream of consciousness” that poured out of Scott the other day when he and Mark were feeling particularly giggly and silly. It went something like this: “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under the table, and then Jesus sang, ‘Feed the birds, feed the birds’.” There are times when a parent must blush at his/her best attempts to educate his/her young properly going into the vernacular!

            Scott is GREAT on hymns nowadays! Because they sing some every day in school, he really knows several really well. I have to think of Barbarie and Uncle Chester and how they always had special favorites. I think it’s great!

            My turn to blush! – Dad’s black box arrived minutes before we left for Europe, sat here by itself for a month, and got tucked in a corner when we returned. It has been unearthed and is kept very busy with coins going in and out, in and out!

            Hurray for the Venetian package arriving! One reason I had it sent to you was (admittedly) to get you working on ideas for the proper shade. I had thought of a white shade with some royal blue tracery on it of some sort – nothing more definite than that. Probably more than the one color. I’m curious to know what you think.

            Another American family has arrived, he to work with Bob Pritchard until February. Three children: a girl, 16 and boys, 14 and 12.  The school problem is about to be tackled again. We wish them the best of luck. Their children are 90+% students, so it will hurt even worse if they’re given the same treatment. My heart goes out to them as each day they await a reply and hear nothing.

            I asked Romalyn (the daughter) if she was a Scout, and she said, “Yes, I’ve been a Scout for years.” She’s now a Senior Scout from Manhattan, Kansas, (where the tornado struck recently and clobbered the university and town and their friends’ homes but not their own) but has no letter of introduction or anything. All her leader said was, “Don’t come back without going to Headquarters in London and getting a pin” – some pin you can only get at H.Q. in London and no other place! I have no idea what she’s referring to.

            I asked Romalyn if she were a 1st Class Scout as a Cadette. Her answer this time was “I don’t know.”  I guess I was visibly shocked because she immediately began explaining how and why she doesn’t remember finishing the work or whether or not she was ever awarded the badge! It really seems impossible. Even Ann and Julia couldn’t understand that. I allowed as how I was SURE Daphne Brown would never forget receiving her Queen’s Guide, and I promised then and there that no girl in a troop of mine would ever be hard up to recall receiving a 1st Class Award.

            Oh! There’s so much to be done back home!

Time out for a chat with the window-washer. 4/6 for all windows cleaned on the outside! I wish I could take him home. He runs a close second to the chimney sweep!

            Report cards have arrived. Julia’s is better than Ann’s for the first time. She was 1st in her class in music and geography, 3rd in language (English grammar) and math, 7th in composition, 12th in science, French, and history, and perfectly DREADFULL in Art and Crafts!  I say, “GOOD SHOW!”

            Annie was 1st in English composition and music, 3rd in French, 11th in geography, math, and science, and 24th in history, and DREADFUL in Domestic Science and Art and Crafts. I say, “GOOD SHOW!”

            Both forms had 32 girls.

            Last night was parents’ night at the school, giving us an opportunity to go to the teacher with any queries with regard to the report. We went, took one look at the queues, and were not willing to wait. We really had no queries.

            So we picked up Abe and Roman Eisenstark, the newly-arrived Americans, and introduced them to our favorite pub, the (thatched) Craddock Arms! MUCH nicer than queuing at a school!  I’ve fallen in loe with gin and Dubonnet and a slice of a lemon. Luvly! Roger got the formula last night, so we can bring it home. Gorgeous!

            Time to watch Wimbledon whilst I iron. That, too, is “luvly” …

                        Much love,

                                    Mary

P.S. Does anyone know whether we might expect to make a late ferry the same day the U.S. docks in NYC? Or should we plan a stopover? Or should we leave our car in Woods Hole anyway?

 

 

* * * *

 

 

                                                                                                June 30, 1966

Dearest Mom and Dad,                                                           

            Except for me, the house is empty for the first time since before Whitsun! I was all set to blaze all sorts of trails in organizing myself toward our return journey when Roger, on leaving for the lab, cheerfully reminded us all that he’ll have another sabbatical coming in six years and isn’t that fabulous? Frankly, not today, thank you. It’s hard enough to uproot completely, much less to think of re-establishing oneself at home knowing full well there’ll be another transplant in a short time, especially for those who like long-range plans….

            The Lincolnshire Rally was a typically British occasion. The luncheon with Susan Coltman ( County Commissioner for Lincolnshire) was delightful – small, but very friendly. I found myself seated between the Lord Lieutenant (like Governor) and Beryl Cozens-Hardy. It made me think of you, Mom, at the Philadelphia Girl Scout Convention years ago, asking me, “And who am I about to sit next to?” Answer: the Honorable May Richardson Dilworth, later presidential hopeful!

            I had a great time. Everyone is always curious about my unique position of being an American G.S. Leader attached to a G.G. Company and so pleased that I’ve found the experience a positive one. Beryl will be going to Tokyo and the Philippines and India with you. Great!

            From the luncheon we proceeded to the airfield where there were reserved seats for us all – me between the High Sheriff and some Colonel somebody-or-other. The Chief arrived with the Honorable Beryl Cozens-Hardy in an open car, waving and smiling to the thousands of girls standing about. The Brownies then welcomed her en masse as the heavens opened.

            One word from the Chief, and we all were moved into the hangar for the parade. Considering this spontaneous and random rearrangement of hundreds of people, it went off well. By the time the Queen’s Guides Awards were to be made, the sky had lifted, so outside we went for the pageant. The pageant itself was very well done – very well done – and the rain managed to hold off until it was over – JUST!

            The V.I.P.’s and me were fortunate in having pink tickets for tea at the Officers’ Mess – little tables set up with sandwiches and sweets and served most properly – but the girls merely went back into the hangar and ate an apple, if they had thought to bring one.

            It was POURING by the time we returned from tea, so the Chief’s speech and the “Campfire” were held in the hangar. The girls were asked to sit down on that wet hangar floor – ugh!  Doreen Whitehouse, fabulous song-leader and good pal of Phyl Ramsell, started distracting them from their plight with singing. By the time she turned the mike over to Lady B-P, the girls were completely absorbed in the program. It was a masterful job done well under LOUSY conditions.

            The day had been much for all, so the Chief spoke only briefly, but I shall never ever forget the faces of that sea of Brownies surrounding her, the wide-eyed look of wonder and awe! Absolutely marvelous! What joy it must give the Chief to see that expression in all those young children! Earlier on, when the Brownies were greeting her at the beginning of the ceremonies, Lady B-P leaned over to Susan Coltman and asked whether or not the Brownie Program will be changed. She was so pleased, so very pleased, to hear that it will remain as founded.

            After the Chief’s talk, Doreen wasted no time in concluding the program – rather than try to continue with her scheduled campfire of ½ hour or more. And luckily, too, as everyone was set and cold and tired.

            Doreen things mass campfires never work anyway. She feels that the whole idea of a campfire is sitting informally around a fire and singing, etc., - that a “campfire” for 7,000 is completely ridiculous! She had put in a request for no fire but rather a “bouquet” of flowers instead as the children are always distracted by leaping flames. Very good idea, but still … it really is a wild idea, I agree.

            I saw her again Monday night at a Training Session and chatted with her again. That may be as close to Phyl Ramsell as I get. Would that there were some Guiders in Leicestershire that I could really commune with like that!

            Now all efforts are turned to Wimbledon on TV daily (absolutely MAGNIFICENT) and getting Julie off to Belgium. She continues to be thrilled about it and very confident in her Scouting and camping ability. Really great!

            Ann pulled another one of her “I don’t want to play the flute” bits - this time by whacking the instrument across the back of a chair. She got thrashed by her Dad. I confess I just wept in sadness and frustration. God only knows what churns inside that child, but she’ll wear us both out in bringing her to adulthood. Actually, the flute wasn’t as ruined as she thought; Mr. Quarmby fixed it in fifteen minutes. It’s her method that we don’t like. I had a wonderful chat with Mr. Quarmby. He agrees that Ann loved her flute lessons when she was well prepared; he admitted that she like him and he liked her and that she has talent. “But,” he said, “that’s a queer one you have, Mrs. Walmsley!”  Thanks, Mr. Quarmby! SO no more flute. He feels pretty certain she’ll go back to it someday. She knows the instrument belongs to her and is fixed and waiting for her IF she ever wants it. School’s out. We’re going home soon. Maybe she’ll straighten out soon.

            The Americans got into the schools of their choice with no difficulty whatsoever. It seems that Hans Kornberg, bless his heart, really laid the Head of the School Board out at a meeting last winter, pointing out that Leicester University would never amount to a hill of beans if they can’t attract renown visiting faculty due to a narrow-minded school board. So when the Eisenstarks went to the headmistress first instead of going downtown (as we advised),, their child was accepted. Downtown was then given the chance to okay the move, which they daren’t oppose!

            All that is well enough. It remains tragic that this need be done in the first place. Roger and I spent an evening with Dorothy and Lesley last night, and hearing Dorothy’s attitude toward Secondary Modern children working toward G.C.E. exams made us both so upset. The system perpetuates itself because everyone completely accepts the stratification of society by I.Q. - it’s incredible to American ears. At home it’s been SO LONG since I.Q. was the ONLY criteria for advancement, placement, opportunity, the future – everything – that we simply can’t believe that these people are unaware of “the WHOLE person”.

            Enough … Today is early closing (Thursday), to I must hie to the shops before lunch time. My last chance to complete Julia’s equipment.

            Much love,

                        Mary.

P.S. Haven't forgotten about Ajit, but it's a bit awkward, especially with Roger so reluctant to take time off, sick kids, and J leaving us for a while. I will keep it in mind.

            Julia has decided to study recorders properly - so I'll definitely try to contract Mrs. Schmidt somewhere, some time.

            Hans Kornberg sent us a postcard from Woods Hole. He's at the Marine Biology Lab until August 30th. He's also the chairman of the Biochemistry Department here at Leicester - grand fellow - wonderful wife, Monica - 4 young kids. They all LOVE America, and we hope they can come over to the Vineyard one day between August 27th and 29th!

            Ron and Hazel Cooper (owners of 1, Skelton Drive) are also in Woods Hole with Hans. ANYWAY - Hans knew perfectly well the picture on that postcard would make us even more anxious to get home! I think I'll send him one of Leicester University and say "Miss you - don't you wish you were HERE?!?

            Love,

                        Mary