We had our first real storm on 29 October 2013. Because it was the day before the feast of St Jude Thaddaeus, it is being referred to as the St Judes storm. Normally they don’t name the storms around here, but this time someone suggested it and it just caught on. The storm and its effects killed two people and had winds up to 99 mph in some places. All we noticed was rain, wind, and lots of tree leaves and branches down. However, there was one strange occurrence — a 10-meter wide beach ball was blown from its rooftop perch above the Old Street roundabout in east London, creating an improbable obstacle for commuters just before the morning peak. Bystanders captured images of the rogue beach ball bouncing around as cars and buses attempted to dodge it. The beach ball had been tethered to the building since April as a publicity stunt by a company redeveloping the site to build an energy-efficient office block. The other crazy part was they shut down trains and cancelled schools because of the pending storm, called “once in a decade”. I guess it was really bad in some parts of the United Kingdom.
The weather is cooler and we have resorted to wearing boots and gloves a few times. However, most days still have some sun, so I am happy! I know it will get a lost worse before we ever get around to spring time. We have been able to keep walking most mornings, unless it is raining heavily. We have a new past-time — watching for rubber bands as we walk. The missionaries in our district have been collecting them to make a rubber band ball. We started noticing them as we walked, so we pick them up, make a pile, and deliver them to district meeting each Wednesday morning. The original creator of the rubber band ball, Elder Terry, was asked to make an emergency transfer to another zone in the mission. There is a new elder who needed some support and training in our zone, so they switched places. So every time we see a rubber band we remember Elder Terry!
We have been spending some time finding inactive members whose names are on the ward list but no one knows anything about. So far they have been at the address given, but they are not interested in the church. However I must say that the English people are very polite and respectful, they have all been very nice even when they didn’t really want to talk to us. The same politeness is found in their driving — they take the logical route when two cars meet on a narrow road — and flick their lights or wave a hand in thanks. I really like that! I will definitely miss the logical driving when we return to the states. No wonder they don’t have many traffic lights; you don’t have to pull over for police or ambulance either, unless you know you are in their way. You just clear them a lane and keep driving. Makes so much sense!
We are also visiting the older single people and widows. They have such interesting stories to tell, and they can easily explain things that still puzzle us, or tell us the phrase that is used locally for something. Recently we have been helping with the “poppy appeal”, which begins 1 November and ends on Sunday, 10 November (this year). It is a campaign for donations to care for veterans who need help. We were able to stand in the nearly shopping mall holding a box of paper poppies that you pin on your lapel or stick in your button hole. About half the people passing came right up, put a pound or so in the can, and took a poppy. They also have a booth with poppy-related items (earrings, pins, badges, teddy bears in knitted sweaters w/poppy, etc). All money spent over cost goes to the campaign. A couple in our ward is heavily involved and let us help them with their booth. We will do it several more times this coming week, and there is a ceremony on Remembrance Sunday (like our Memorial Day) at the local old church in Orpington. We hope to attend the parade and ceremony.
We were invited to a lunch and a dinner appointment with families in the ward. For lunch our music chairman invited all six of us missionaries to Tobys Carvery. We could choose ham (gammon here), turkey, beef, or pork roast with all the sides and gravy, including a Yorkshire pudding — which is not pudding at all, but a cup-shaped bread product that you can fill with gravy. I saw them in the store but thought you put the pudding inside — nope, just eat it with gravy! That evening we had curry for dinner — Elaine’s first time. The dear sister made it mild so she could eat it! They also served naan breads of different kinds, mango pudding (to counteract the curry), and a luscious 3-layer chocolate cake from scratch. It felt like Thanksgiving twice that day!
The little poppy booth at the local mall