Leaving Sussex for London

Sept 13th, 2014

We headed to the village after breakfast for one more look around.  When we got back, Lin had a video of the history of Billingshurst.  Of course she has lived here all of her life, so she could pick out a few errors in the more modern history.  It was interesting hearing about the village, built on the Roman Road of Stane Street. The oldest building is St. Mary’s Church where my ancestors worshiped, early documentary evidence begins in the 1100s!


St Mary’s Church

There are many timber framed buildings throughout the village dating from the Middle Ages to the 1700s.  There is a wonderful old pub there called “The Six Bells”, which I think I’ve visited on each of my holidays here.

The Six Bells-Billingshurst

It really is a fun and interesting village to check out.  It’s close to Horsham which is also worth the visit.  After a very nice home cooked lunch and visit with Lin’s daughter and grandson, Claire and Warren, we had to walk down to the station and say our goodbyes.


Saying goodbye at the Billingshurst Station

The Billingshurst Train station is a great building in it’s own right.  Many of my predecessors worked for the railroad in Billingshurst so I’m very interested in the history.  The last time I visited,  2 years ago, the signal box was here.   The Grade II listed structure is thought to be one of the country’s oldest working signal boxes dating back to 1876.  The signal box was moved to Amberley Museum and can be seen as you come into the second station.

Billingshurst Signal Box


It’s time to get it all together and head north to London.  It’s been a great visit and I know when I’m home thinking about all of the things that we did and saw, the laughter, the hugs, I’ll again start longing to return.  This is always when my next plan starts to form.  Right now though, I’m anxious to get to London, as I love it as well.  London is the world in one place and I just like to be there.

It takes about an hour to get to the station where our friend Tim will pick us up.  This night we’ll be having dinner and catching up with our good friends and then planning our time here in London.





Sheffield Park

September 12


Sheffield Park House

Today Lin and Richard drove us to Sheffield Park near Hayward’s Heath.  I highly recommend a visit here if you are close to Sussex!  Plan to be there for some hours because it is huge and spectacular!

The landscape garden was laid out in the 18th century by ‘Capability’ Brown so right away you know it has good bones. It was designed around a series of four lakes. Beautiful scenic paths take you through glades, through woodlands,  all around the lakes and over bridges.  You can bring the family, the kids can run around and you can be re-charged in the beauty and bounty of this garden.  It’s not like a commercial garden where every bed is perfect and not a bloom out of place.  It’s in a very natural setting with every season having a turn to dazzle.


One of four lakes

Bring a picnic and relax on one of the expansive lawns, but don’t forget to bring some extra bread or grain for the ducks.  We had such a nice walk here and so many reasons to come back.  There is an ongoing list of events and things to bring the kids to see and do.  For instance, in January there is a “lost tools” hunt for kids called “Frosty Tools”.  The gardeners leave tools around an area of the park and the kids get to go hunt for them.  There are kite making workshops, Valentine’s Day tea, walks to see the changing colors in fall.  My favorite thing they have going for adults is the Christmas Stroll, “to walk off the excesses” of the holidays.  Choose from the Turkey Trot, Plum Pudding Promenade, Mince Pie Meander or Christmas Cake Constitutional.  So creative!


Me in front of a willow

Some of the history of the park: Sheffield Park  estate is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  In 1538, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, entertained Henry VIII here.  In 1876 a cricket pitch was laid out on the grounds.  During World War II the house and garden became the headquarters for a Canadian division.  The estate was split up and sold in lots in 1953. The National Trust purchased about 40 ha in 1954, it now owns up to 80 ha.  My cousin told me she had read that the house is now sold and turned into individual flats with a price tag of around 1 million pounds each! It’s got to be because of the spectacular views!


The Palm Walk

We didn’t plan ahead and bring a picnic, so headed out around lunch time for Chaily and a pub that caught Richard’s eye on the way in.  The King’s Head Inn on East Grinstead Rd. The food was good and it wasn’t too crowded, we didn’t feel rushed and just relaxed with lunch and a glass of wine, then headed back to walk off the lovely desserts we all had.

The King’s Head Inn

The price to get into Sheffield Park, I thought was reasonable at  £9.90.  If you’re visiting from overseas, you may want to look into getting a pass to National Trust properties.  I have done this on several occasions and it’s really a good value.  You can get a seven day pass for £25 and a fourteen day pass for only £30!  It gets you into hundreds of special places around England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  It’s also really easy to get online.  One year I ordered three online and when I got the envelope, it had been ripped open and one out of three passes was missing.  I called the office of the National Trust and they sent a new card to my friend’s house in London for me to pick up.  I truly expected them to say “sorry you’re out of luck, buy another one.”  I thought that was pretty awesome!


Lin and Richard

September in Sussex


This was the longest flight I’ve had so far going to England.  It may have just felt that way.  After the usual chaos and panic of getting ready and a two hour flight to L.A., we had a three and half hour layover.  We started our trip off with dinner at Sammy’s Wood Fired Pizza.  I should not eat gluten, but that didn’t stop me.  I’m on vacation dammit and I’m going to eat all of the lovely things I’ve been craving for the last couple of years.  I find out later why that was a really bad mistake, but I digress….

Neil and I were  very excited about going together on this trip, it’s been an emotional year, both good and bad and we really need this time away.  Going to a place that I’m very familiar with but he’s never been to is kind of weird for both of us.  He, because I usually wait for him to take the lead and me, because what if he doesn’t see it the way I do?

Of course travel is always an iffy venture.  I was certain I booked the tickets through British Air, which I have always had a good experience with.  Instead it was through American Airlines which I have not.  Honestly it was fine except that the seats were the smallest I’ve ever sat in for a ten hour  international flight.  The movies were great, the food was fine for airplane fare.

Billingshurst Station

We arrived at two the following afternoon, got through customs with me warning my husband not to joke around with the officer asking questions.  They are known not to have a sense of humor. However, the woman that checked us through was awesome and it all went off without a hitch.  We bought our ticket on the Gatwick Express and headed south to Sussex to meet our cousins.  They were waiting there and it’s so nice to have those hugs and catch up time with people that you know and love.  They took us straight back to their lovely, comfortable very British home and a great home cooked meal, then it was time for some much needed sleep.

Linda and Richard are my fifth cousins who I met doing genealogical research in 2001.  They are really, really amazing hosts, much better than I can ever hope to be.  They have taken such good care of me on five other occasions and this was no exception.   They cooked us nice food, drove us around, gave us gifts and even gave up their own bed for our comfort.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for that!  Here is a beautiful watercolor that Lin made for me as a gift.  I will cherish it always!

There are so many beautiful and interesting things to see in Sussex! I love just walking around the villages, stopping in at shops, maybe picking up a few things that are different than I can get in America.  It was nice to show Neil where my family originated, walk in the church yard, see the WW1 memorial that has one of my ancestors name engraved on it.  I love the hardware store there in Billingshurst and go in it on every visit just to  see what interesting things they have that Home Depot does not.

Lin was keen on showing us St Botoph’s Church in Hardham in the Horsham District of West Sussex.  Built about 1050, it has wall paintings from about 1100.  A really interesting and important church, amazing!

Inside of St Botolph’s Church

Lin and Richard then drove us around the gorgeous country here.  We stopped at the town of Petworth which is mentioned in the Doomsday Book.  We walked around the town and stopped in at a few antique shops and St Mary’s Catholic Church.  Petworth was bombed in World War ll in Septemberof 1942, when a lone German plane tried to bomb Petworth House.  It missed the house and landed on the Petworth Boys’ School in North Street. Twenty eight boys died along with the headmaster and assistant teacher. So sad.  I think most of us relate the Blitz only to London, but they also bombed much of the rest of England.

The parish church of St Mary, Petworth

We then drove past the Goodwood Estate which was having a car event of some kind and we got to see lots of vintage cars.  Just up the road is a Rolls Royce factory and there were dozens of new cars lined up outside.  Apparently they were heading for the car show at Goodwood as well.

Richard treated us all to delicious fish & chips, Neil’s first authentic English!  The place was called Andy’s Fish Bar, in Chichester.  The portions were so huge I don’t think anyone actually finished the whole meal.  I find it amusing because whenever I’ve had a conversation with anyone from the UK about food, they will mention the large portions in America.

Arundel Castle

We stopped at Arundel Castle on the way back and walked around the town a little bit.  I had always wanted to see this castle because while doing genealogy, I remember seeing the name “Arundel” in my mother’s family history.  I later found out that what I remembered was “Arundel, Maryland”.  Big let down, thought it meant that we came from royalty!   It was too late to go into the castle by this time so we went in to a little tea shop and had a dessert.

Back home for nice dinner and conversation, talking about all of the lovely things we got to see today and looking forward to more tomorrow.

Coming To You Through a Nice Haze of Jet Lag

It’s always nice to come home after a vacation with lovely memories to tide you over until the next trip.   We did and saw so many things and many of our plans did not happen.  We never made it to the Tate Modern or the Tower Bridge Experience.   The things we did do though were spontaneous and enriching.

Leaving for England (2)

The best part of this particular trip over to England was sharing it, finally, with my husband.  There were things that he didn’t appreciate, like the crowds of people in London.  However, there was much more that he really appreciated.  He actually told me that he now understands my passion better!  Happy day, he’s already talking about our next trip over!

Of course the time passed too quickly.  I will be writing about all of the wonderful things we got to see and do.  The most important of which were the people we know and love and the complete strangers that we got to interact with.  Neil started conversations with people on the train, on the street and wherever we went. Unusual for my normally private husband, but like I said before “traveling changes you”.

My next trip to Blighty

It’s happening, I’m finally planning another visit to England and I couldn’t be happier! This one was actually my husband, Neil’s idea.  He asked me if I would like to go with him, he figured that since I wasn’t going to grow out of this obsession with England phase, he should check it out as well.  I am ecstatic, especially since he’s never shown any interest in going before now.

We have been married for almost 39 years and the last time we took a real vacation, just the 2 of us, was our honeymoon. We went skiing at Mammoth Mountain in Southern California.  I had to take lessons because I had never been, he had raced the cornice there.  I was more interested in the food, Burger’s Burger’s (is that place still there?)  yum.  It just seemed that after that, we started a life together, had 3 daughters, and then it was kids and dogs, and going on trips with other families.  When our kids got big enough to leave, we either went away with other couples or separately.  You see, I like history and food and culture, he lives and breathes auto racing. You can see my surprise here.  But he really does seem interested in going this time and I aim to show him all of the things that make me long to be there.

Billingshurst print by Patricia Hall, it hangs in my living room to remind me of where my family hale from.

So, we will spend a few days visiting cousins and friends and London, then just take off, the two of us.  We are not making a firm plan, but waking up and just seeing which direction we feel like taking that day and then heading that way.  We’ll use the excellent Information Service that seemingly, every city, town and village has.

Of course, he’ll have to see London Tower, take the bus tour and, keeping my fingers crossed, The Garden Museum.  If these things don’t entertain him, there is always this:

We are going in September, but he will have a good time looking out for this sort of thing!  I’m hoping there is a tour of the Goodwood Estate and that we can prevail upon my cousins to take us:)  At any rate, I have a fantastic holiday to look forward to, people to see and places to go.  New ideas to write about and a completely different perspective.  Going with someone that has absolutely no idea what to expect will help me see my beloved island through new eyes,  from someone that I love and admire, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Ahh, to be in England

Where most of my roots started

Love the countryside

Quaint and lovely

St. Mary’s Church-Billingshurst

The boats of St. Ives

Yummy Cream Tea

Market Day in Ludlow

Thames & Big Ben


I will end this post with a quirky British phrase that I just found online,  it made me smile as I’ve been watching a marathon of “Land Girls”:

                        “Good grief, man. What are you waiting for? Stop acting like a big girls blouse and put some welly into it”!


Family Reunion in Sussex 2002

One year after our first visit to England there was another family reunion, this one in the town where our family came from, Billingshurst.  Marcie and I decided we couldn’t miss it so we planned a short trip of one week.  We would be staying with our cousin Linda and her husband Richard, but did fly into London for a night or two at Fox Hill B&B to renew our friendship with the Haigh’s.

It is really great to get to know our family of 5th generation cousins.  We’ve been talking via internet and letters for the past year and here we are visiting in person.   The only way to learn about another culture is to stay in homes and B&Bs rather than big chain hotels.  This was going to be great!

Linda and Richard are amazing hosts and couldn’t do enough to welcome us.  They gave us a lovely tea with lots of little cakes, in fact this is where the previous story of Marcie and I expectantly waiting while Linda made tea, so we could learn how to make an “authentic cuppa”.  So funny how you get these notions from TV and movies.

Linda’s daughter Claire planned the entire reunion.  Claire is the one that has really done the family research.  She is the one that posted on all of the genealogy sites, looking for ancestors.  She really did a terrific job and found from the parish records, the internet and good old fashioned sleuthing many of our families homes, farms, work places and graves.  And so “The First Gravett Tour”, as this reunion was called, was born.

But for the first day Linda had acquired a hall close to her home in Billingshurst for all of us to meet.  Claire had made up a family tree that wrapped around the room and it was fun and interesting to follow the lines and meet the others that connected a few hundred years ago.  Claire and Linda made masses of food and Claire even did a cooking demonstration of some of the old English food that our people would have eaten way back when.  She actually made mead, a beer made from honey, a bit sweet for me, but I’m sure it’s an acquired taste!

If I kept a journal of this trip I can not find it.  However, I do have the itinerary and it was a lofty plan.  So for the second day we loaded ourselves into cars and hit the road in search of family haunts.   In Billingshurst we visited no less than 9 places where Gravetts lived, a plaque in St Mary’s church with our name on it, and 13 graves in the church yard.  We then moved on to Adversane to see a few houses and a granary that were once owned by the family.  We visited Wisborough Green, Petworth, Chiddingfold, Dunsfold, Cranleigh, Ewhurst, and Rudwick each containing homes, businesses, graves, and places where our ancestors walked, lived, loved and died, fascinating! 

There were over 20 of us in all and we had a grand lunch at The Blacksmith’s Arms pub, talking and laughing and uniting in our quest for the past. There are so many mysteries in my tree that I have yet to find the answers to.  When I retire I plan to put in the time to find them out and leave that knowledge with my children.  I am so grateful for the things I have found out about the people that came before me and indeed gave me the life that I have now.  It’s the stories that have come down through generations.  I love it when I find a connection and I think “yes, this is why I feel about this the way I do, it makes sense now”.  So many parts of your life you think are just random and then you find out another clue and it becomes clearer.  Gotta love that!

I’m so grateful to Claire for doing the research and to have the opportunity to go back to the land where part of my family originated.  Just to be where they were and to be able to visualize how they lived.  You can never know really how their life was and I know that.  There is enough story teller in me though to be able to imagine their lives in a fanciful way, not reality I know, but endearing to me just the same.  In this way they are remembered and maybe they go on and are not forgotten.  I sincerely hope that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will keep me alive in the same way:)

Melrose, Scotland

I wanted to write a bit about Melrose, Scotland today.  It is the reason that my genealogy got a kick start back in the late 90s.   Aunt Betty, my father’s sister, did research for years and generously shared her findings with me.  Because I was raising my 3 daughters, I didn’t have the time or money to do much research on my own.  She sent me a family tree that went back a few generations, something to get started with she said.  I refer to it often.  It’s really special and in her beautiful penmanship, she was a teacher once upon a time.  Now that she’s gone, I really appreciate the value and how much it’s helped me over the years.

She told this to me years before I started my research.   According to her, our distant grandfather, James Melrose from Melrose Scotland, was the first of this side of the family to come to America.  The way it came about is that he was kidnapped at the age of 12 and pressed into service on an English ship and never saw his family again!  This is what good adventure stories are made of, think of Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.   Now,  when I first heard this story, I was very young and I pictured my distant relative very like James MacArthur who played the lead in the Disney movie of the same name!

As I started my research, it was important to me to try to get the facts straight and not jump to romantic conclusions.  I actually wrote to a history professor (sorry, I can’t remember his name, it was saved 4 computers ago).  At any rate, he advised me that while that is an exciting story, they usually didn’t take young boys (he was 12 at the time).  A more likely scenario is that he signed up as a cabin boy to see the world.  It is apparently what young men did in those days for an adventure.

He must have traveled for a few years and I think he probably did go back to see his family.  He met and married Mary Thompson from Carlisle, North England at some point, and probably closer to 20 than 12.  He is also mentioned in a supplementary book of the DAR for collecting fire wood for the American solders during the Revolution. He died in 1783 in New Jersey, and his son moved to West Virginia. It was his grandson, Archibald Melrose that moved to Grayville, Illinois where my father was born and raised.

The first place I wanted to visit when I started my research was Melrose, to see for myself where it all started for my father’s family going to America.  As fate would have it I learned of my cousins in Sussex and wound up starting there.  I am so happy for that and for the relationships that were forged.  However, I do so want to go to Melrose for many reasons.  I also want to point out that I have been in touch over the years with many people that are doing family research.  I have run across a few that I am distantly related to through the Scottish Melroses.  I got an email from one of them who was also from America and actually went to Melrose to check it out.  He looked up some Melroses that are still living there and knocked on the door. Apparently they were not at all impressed that they have relations in the US and really were not interested in starting an acquaintance!  Like all Americans, we think that the world revolves around us and everyone should be thrilled to be in our sphere!  I say that with all humility and humor and have learned the error of my ways over the years:)

Here are a few things that interest me about Scotland and Melrose:

The history-Melrose Abbey, Robert the Bruce and his heart being buried there, you can’t get a better story than that.  War, loyalty, love, respect, it’s all there in a bit of history if you have the intellect to be interested in history.  Also my own history, where the family lived, the graves if I can find them, the country where generations built their lives.

The rugged beauty of Scotland, I can’t say enough of how it affects me and I haven’t even been yet.  I’ve only watched it on TV and movies and read about it in books.  I have a longing to see it that I can’t explain:)

The food-I have heard that Scotland has the best and most pure salmon in the entire world ( I read it somewhere) Neeps & Tatties, Scotch Eggs, Shortbread… I will most likely not taste true haggis, but I will go for the vegetarian option.  I mean no disrespect to anyone, but it really doesn’t even look appetizing:)

I will end with this lovely dessert that I experienced in London, still it is a Scotish recipe and very delicious! I give you

Raspberry Cranachan

Happy Travels!

A Few Favorite English Gardens

When I think of gardening, I think of England. A cottage garden to me is an English garden.  So, when I go over I tend to visit a few gardens just because they make me feel so good to be in them.  But also to get ideas, learn some history and try to soak up a little knowledge to take back home.  Plus some of my best vacation photos are from English gardens.  ( I will admit here that I have a difficult time getting my pictures to post on this site, I am working on it.  In the meantime I thank Google images. I do try to only post photos that are close to ones I actually have in my albums).

Kew Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, between Richmond and Kew in southwest London, houses the world’s largest collection of plants.  If you’re interested in gardens and plants, it’s a must see.  Plan to spend the entire day here, it’s massive, with 300 acres of beautiful and diverse plants and buildings to see.  It’s astounding to think that it was created in 1759 and still going strong.

There is every kind of garden that you can possibly imagine here.  The Palm House, above, is truly amazing to be in.  Full size palm trees and other tropical plants inside a beautiful Victorian greenhouse.  I always try to imagine how they managed to build structures like this in the mid 1800s.  Huge iron beams and sheets of glass, it’s mind boggling.  There is Kew Palace with a medicinal garden that only has plants that were grown in the 17th century.  I loved this garden with it’s wattle fencing and bee skep, very interesting.  There is also a gallery, several other greenhouse structures, the Great Pagoda which was built in 1762 and at it’s highest point is 163 feet tall!  Also a museum, library, conservatory, orangery, and one of Europe’s largest compost heaps.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Waterlily house with giant waterlilies that will hold the weight of a man, truly amazing.  My friend Peggy has a relative that helped develop the lilies and then went on to be head gardener of the Missouri Botanical Garden!

There are guided tours, a tram that helps you get around, several cafes and a very nice gift shop where you can get lovely books and seeds.

Buckingham Palace Garden

I’ve actually seen more of this garden in magazines and on TV than in person, but I did get to do the palace tour on my first trip over and you get to walk through part of the garden at the end of the tour.  There are 2 1/2 miles of gravel paths in the 42 acre site with lush shrubs and borders.  It is beautifully kept (of course) and there is a 19th century lake with lovely weeping trees.  I guess I like it for what it is and what it represents to England and London especially.

The Queen has opened it up to guests on a few special occasions and it was one of 3 Royal sites that the Queen allowed archaeologists to excavate in 2006.  I saw it on television and they were able to verify some earlier designs and building placements.

Kensington Palace Sunken Garden

The beautiful Sunken garden was planted in 1908 and is relaxing to be in.  We just stood and looked for the longest time because it was so tranquil and attractive.  I’m not sure if there are other gardens at Kensington because the park surrounding it is so vast and beautiful, but the Sunken garden is definitely worth a look.

Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote is the quintessential English garden created by an American horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston! In the Cotswolds close to Stratford-on-Avon.  It is really lovely with multiple paved pathways, secret gardens,  long views and so much color everywhere. You ooh and ahh over a hanging vine and turn around to clusters of fragrant roses and then walk through hedges to discover something even more gorgeous, it doesn’t stop.  I wanted to put every plant on my wish list!  Really breathtaking!

From my journal when I went in 2001 “Room after room of natural beauty separated by interesting shaped hedges.  We had to move aside for blooms spilling over into the walkways”.

Stockton Bury Garden

This garden is tied with the garden at Parham House for my favorite gardens to visit (so far).  I loved everything about it, from it’s history  to the Tithe Barn Restaurant.  I’ve never seen anything so perfect and wonderful, parts of it have been there since 660!  It was originally a village that took care of the daily life of monks.  There is a granary that is covered with an espaliered wisteria, also a climbing hydrangea and a climbing fuchsia, beautiful.  Following a grass path is a long walk with peonies, shrubs, flowers of all kinds and at the end a huge round ivy covered building with a pointed roof that is a pigeon house.  The entire interior has little pigeon holes peppered about with a revolving ladder. Ingenious really, the monks could randomly pick eggs to eat!  Across a wide asphalt drive is a 1/2 round grass area with bird house up on the walls of surrounding shed like buildings, than a columned house with a lawn like Tara in Gone With the Wind.  Everywhere there are stone troughs, fountains, birdbaths, interesting benches, assorted pools, all around gorgeous plantings.  Through a gate and another grass walk to a perfect kitchen garden, a large and small greenhouse and this is only the beginning of this amazing garden. It isn’t large, at only 4 acres, but it is packed with everything you imagine a garden should have.  It really is a magical place.

Parham House

I absolutely loved this place, the house itself, the history and the lovely garden. My cousin Linda took Marcie and me here on our second visit to England.  It’s not far from where she lives in Sussex, and such lovely country.  The foundation stone to this beautiful house was laid in 1577, and if walls could talk I’m sure they would have some interesting stories.  The owners housed 30 evacuees children from London during the second world war.

 The garden is so well laid out and has such interesting plantings and sculptures.  There is a perfect miniature two story brick house called a “Wendy House”, which is not something that I was aware existed before I went here. The house sits on 875 acres, including an historic deer park.  It also boasts a Pleasure Garden, a Walled Garden, a maze, a dovecot, and a medieval church. It was opened to the public starting in July of 1948, you should really go, you won’t be disappointed.

Later that day……

Of course, after the reunion, none of us wanted to let go of our new cousins.  They invited us back to stay the night at Marjorie’s house, letting us know that it was far too late to get back to London.  As it turns out, Claire’s mother, Linda, was in the same hospital where we parked our car!  This is why she didn’t make it to the reunion that year.  Claire took us up to her room for a visit.  Her dad, Richard was also there, so we got to meet most of the family.  What warm and gracious people, it blew me away;  considering that we were virtual strangers, except for a few months correspondence.   We followed them back to Billingshurst and the church where our ancestors were married and buried.

St. Mary’s Church is so beautiful.  We are told that it was built in the 1700s.  By the time we got there, it was dusk and the church was locked, but as we looked in the churchyard for the graves of our family, the bells started ringing.  What an amazing feeling, it gave me goosebumps!  Some of the graves here are so old that they’re caved in.  Coming from Southern California where almost everything is post WWII, I had never seen anything like it.  Claire explained that the wooden coffins eventually rot away and they cave in.

She took us to her parents house where Richard and Neil, Claire’s brother, make us a cup of tea before driving us over to Marjorie’s for the night.  While there we check our email and discover that Jean is arriving at Heathrow first thing in the morning.  There is no way to get there in time and I start to get really anxious.  Because of 9/11 Jean’s flight was delayed and we had no way of knowing exactly when she would arrive.  Marcie suggests that we call Sue and Tim and get their advice.  Of course they came through for us and offered to order a car for her to be picked up and taken back to Fox Hill.

With that worry off of our minds, Richard and Neil took us over to Marjorie’s house a few miles away.  We were so glad that one of them drove our rental car and the other one followed because it was dark and the road was winding, we would still be looking for it!

We both really enjoyed our visit there and Marjorie was such a great hostess. We learned all about her husband and children, looked at old photos and just took a little bit of time to get to know each other.   She is so cute, she danced around the kitchen and told us she can still “cut a rug”.  She even did a couple of jumping jacks.  She reminded me of my Aunt Edee who was also a widow.  There was something about the determination to keep going, even though their life partner wasn’t there to go with them.

The next morning we got off to an early start, having a simple breakfast with Marjorie and then heading up to London; hoping that Jean arrived safely and was waiting for us at Fox Hill. It took us about two and a half hours, but miraculously we drove straight to the B&B without a hitch.  Sue explained Jean’s arrival for us and I was very relieved.

I still smile when I think of this story because I can so clearly visualize her coming out of customs and looking around for 2 familiar faces.  She later told me that she looked around and didn’t see me but she saw a sign with her name on it.  She thought it was interesting that someone else had the same name and hoped to catch a glimpse of them. She continued to look for us to no avail, but the man with the sign was still there.  Now,  here is this small Ukrainian woman in her 70s and the driver holding the sign was a rather large African man.  Can you just imagine him standing there probably getting a little frustrated because his passenger isn’t showing up. Finally Jean walked up to him and said that she was looking for her daughter in-law but  noticed that he has a sign with her name on it.  He said the magic words that included “Fox Hill” so she decided it was ok to take the car.

Being from Southern Cali, you tend to be a little apprehensive of every unknown.  Add to that the fact that as you get older you feel more vulnerable, which makes you more cautious.   I once would not get in a New York car service car because it wasn’t marked and how did I know it was a taxi.  My daughter that lived in Brooklyn at the time just shook her head, but really, I didn’t know and I wasn’t taking any chances.  As it turned out, I took a yellow taxi cab that was twice as expensive, the driver was rude and he was eating peanuts all the way to the airport.  You never know…

At any rate, she made it back and Sue gave her a cup of tea and then tucked her up in her room for a nap.  We were really excited to start our next leg of the trip with Jean along.  Not only had she been there 1/2 a dozen times, she has such a great sense of humor we knew it was just going to be fun!