Harry Potter and the Magna Carta

201401StPancrasStationHotel

Our January trip into London with the senior missionaries began at St Pancras Train Station/Hotel for an Italian lunch. The building is big and beautiful, inside and out.We then walked across the street to Kings Crossing station, where the famous Platform 9 3/4 resides. They have done a marvelous job with bright shops and beautiful old building architecture.

IMG_3089  Platform 9_threequarters

This friendly smiling young man showed us how it was done.

201401ElaineBritishLibrary

We walked down the street to the British Library, which has a room of special books and printed items that have been collected and/or purchased to preserve them for future generations. It was fascinating to see original handwritten musical scores by Beethoven and other famous musicians, original handwritten lyrics by the Beatles with the accompanying stories, examples of the Gutenberg Bible, sacred texts from Islam and Buddhism, da Vinci drawings, and several copies of the Magna Carta. Unlike our US Constitution where there is the original copy, the Magna Carta was copied for each baron signing the document. There was no photography allowed, so we have no pictures from this part of the trip.

We are organizing the February senior outing, which will be lunch followed by their choice of three museums, all next to each other and surrounding the Hyde Park Chapel and Visitors Centre. The museums are the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum. We have seen parts of each of them. This last trip we saw one floor of the Science Museum, which has many engineering marvels, space capsules, and boats and planes.

IMG_3022

Elder Young’s favorite part was the Cray supercomputer, which is cut away so you can see the millions of wires in the central core.

IMG_3042

Sister Young’s favorite part was the Babbage Difference Engine (an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions — precursor to our calculators). This was never produced when it was designed in 1822, and this is a small scale example of what it would have looked like.

The weather has gotten colder and wetter, with several storms. We are so grateful for our nice warm flat. This week is pretty crazy — Elder Young has finished the Europe Stake Young Single Adult Program webpages he has been working on since April 2013. The pages went live this week and we are already getting comments from senior missionaries who will use the pages. He has also been spending 2 hours per day with driving lessons or practicing to pass his driving test tomorrow. He passed the theory test on paper with flying colors, but this is the actual driving test — in a standard car — with a driving inspector. He is very stressed about passing the test and remembering all the little things that must be done a certain way. Thursday we will be going to the temple (and Costco) and then Friday and Saturday are sister exchange days where we will be driving sisters back and forth so they can do some training. Each of these travel days takes about 6 hours (including flat inspections at both ends). Sister Young has been working on sewing curtains for the sisters in Hastings, who have a large flat with so many windows that don’t have curtains. Next week will be transfer day, and the word has come down that the majority of companionships will be changing. That will be another 6 hour day on the road for us, followed by dinner and a lesson at Institute. These are the nights we have hot dogs and chips with cookies for dessert, something that can be prepared ahead or right before the meeting.

Advertisements

Shopping for American brands!

Last week we had a zone training conference with 30 missionaries from the Maidstone zone. Sister Ottley, another senior missionary, and I prepared lunch for the group. We served sweet and sour pork over rice, bread, and veggies with chocolate cake for dessert. This cake recipe is the first time I have made a cake from scratch, and it is sinfully good! The Ottleys don’t have a car (they live further into London) so she has to bring the food on the bus with her. So we try to transport the bulk of the meal to lessen her hassle.

Our mission president shared some end of year numbers with us as he helped us think about setting our goals for this year. The mission has 10 zones (one of them a digital zone), with 22 zone leaders, 11 sister trainer leaders, and two Chinese trainer leaders. Sister trainer leaders have been established because of the greater number of sister missionaries since the age change. Chinese trainer leaders have just been added because we keep increasing the number of Chinese-speaking elders (we have Spanish-speaking sisters too). Chinese elders serve in London, Oxford, and other places where there are great numbers of Chinese people.

The last three months of 2013 was a time to really strive to meet goals. The mission had 36 baptisms in each of October and November, and 44 in December. That finished the year with 330 baptisms, below goal but still impressive. Impressive that is, until you realize that we have almost doubled the number of missionaries — so we should be doubling the number of baptisms! On the other hand, our district has three baptisms tonight and five more scheduled in the near future. Our missionaries are starting the year out well!

The weather has been fierce and fine… we have had more than usual winter storms with gale force winds and so much rain that many places are flooded. It is not affecting us at all, but the basements in the London Temple, Manor House, and flats for temple workers have been flooded. Many trees are down and train service has been interrupted by debris on the tracks.

We have received permission to travel to the Army/Air base in Lakenheath. We drove up yesterday, it took about 1.5 hours to get there. We had to register for a retired service card and purchase coupon books that allow a way for you to pay the VAT (value-added tax) fee on purchases at the BX and commissary. We are not allowed to purchase petrol (diesel) on base. We spent quite a bit at the BX getting items that we could not get on the economy, or where they had a wider selection. It was wonderful to see home brand names! Then we shopped at the commissary, mostly writing down prices and seeing what was available. There are several things like tomato sauce and frozen pie crusts that do not exist in English stores. We don’t have room to store extra things nor room in the freezer to buy ahead, but it will allow us to shop for upcoming meals and activities with a certain menu. Probably the most important thing was that we were able to sign up for an APO box at the post office. This is considered an American address and will allow packages to be mailed with US prices — unfortunately they can only weigh up to ONE POUND. Anything larger than that is refused and returned. Oh well, it will allow us to receive our prescription medications by mail from the US, and that will save us some money. We will only be going to the base on a quarterly basis, so it is not a fast way to contact us by mail.

Our APO address is:

Larry Young
PSC 41 Box 6299
APO, AE 09464-0063
United States

Christmas holidays

We had a wonderful Ward Christmas party with a yummy dinner, a nativity play by the Primary, and Santa visited with his “elder” reindeer pulling a sleigh (magically transformed from a wheelchair). By the way, adult “onesies” (footed/hooded pajamas)  are the rage here and you can get them in all sorts of personas! 

IMG_2882

The Primary nativity play was so precious, and the costumes were even better than mine! I hope you can see the details on the baby lamb (she is the hot pink arm at the front) and the star. Orient is on his dad’s shoulders with his gold lame star costume. You can’t quite see the five points but you can see his sweet face poking through!IMG_2869

On Christmas Eve we had a district lunch at our flat, where we cooked foods that the elders had been missing while on their mission (the sisters make whatever they miss!). We ended up having “bacon baps” which are English bacon wrapped around a sausage on a dinner roll with butter and barbecue sauce. Elder Young like them, Sister Young refused to try them. We also had waffles — not very good waffles because they are sold in the bread aisle. No one here has heard of making your own with a waffle cooker, but we did have strawberries to go on top. This is Sister Finch helping cook the sausages. And the elders found some A&W root beer to top off the meal!

IMG_2912

We had reserved Christmas Day for the missionaries to skype their families and our own hangout video session. It turned out that the missionaries were able to skype at the homes where they were invited for lunch or dinner that day. So we had a wonderfully quiet day. In England you don’t go on vacation, you go on holiday. So we didn’t have a stay-cation, we had a holi-stay! We were able to video chat with all the kids and grandkids except Doug in Germany, and then we called and talked to him on the phone. All are doing well!

In other news, we met a daughter-in-law of a ward member whose parents were the mission president in Guam when we lived there. We didn’t ever know them but it was a cool connection. Another goalpost for the year was that Elder Young has passed the theory test for an English drivers license. They honor your US license for one year, and then you have to get an English one. It is a very long, very difficult and very expensive process. He has been studying and taking online practice tests for the last month. Now he can begin driving lessons, not officially required but socially expected before you take the actual driving test. Your instructor has to say you are ready to take the test before you will pass.

We have had two weeks off with no missionary meetings or Institute classes. However, our young single adults have been busy with dances and conventions all over. The traditional New Years Eve dance at Hyde Park Chapel is always a smash hit with YSA attending from all over England. They then walk over to see the fireworks at the river.

We hope everyone had a marvelous holiday season and are ready for a fabulous new year. As of 8 January 2014 we will have completed six of 23 months on our mission — just over one quarter of our time. It has gone so fast and we have learned so much! We love you all!