Scotney, Sedlescombe, and Sisters

We were able to visit Scotney Castle on a recent trip to Hastings to attend an open house for one of our young single adults who is leaving on a mission this month. We tracked several places to visit on the way to the afternoon affair.

scotney castle
Scotney Castle is really two houses, the new one built by Anthony Salvin in 1837 for the Hussey family. This architect was the one who picturesquely ruined the original medieval castle and moat. It is a shame that he did so, but have to agree that he did it beautifully!

Scotney ruins

The first picture is the old house; some of the ruined part is shown in the second picture above. Below is the Hussey home.Scotney Castle

Another part of the trip was to visit six little towns or villages of our ancestors in Sussex County. We drove through them all, stopped at most of the parish churches, and scrounged around some of the grave yards. This time we were successful finding a few tombstones with family names in Sedlescombe. We took pictures and have uploaded those pictures onto

We continue to visit the six wards in the stake, meeting with our YSA and encouraging them to attend Institute. I have been trying some new recipes for the dinner, and some have become favorites (chicken enchiladas) and some are confusing (clam chowder — Sister Young, we call this creamy soup!). We have a fall social coming up to start the new course (Doctrine and Covenants) and we are planning to serve Cafe Rio… not that our YSA have ever heard of it, but the missionaries think it is the best. Sister Young learned how to make shredded chicken for a missionary moves and was shocked how easy it was! She will also try a new recipe for Nutella cheesecake that night. Wish her luck!


Hurry before it’s September!

Very late on our August blog — but it did get done before September! We have had some very warm days in the 80’s which with no air conditioning have been very hard. We keep the windows open with fans in opposite windows to keep the air flowing. It has been hard to sleep in the humidity, so we purchased a humidifier also. Suddenly it cooled down and we are in the 60s and 70s so that is much better. We are starting to see the very first leaves turn colors, so fall is coming quickly.

We have been visiting more local sites, this is Leeds Castle, which is perhaps the most impressive one from the air. It has a huge moat so the castle seems to be floating on water.
This is the Tower of London with some of the 888,000 ceramic poppies that will be placed between July and November in remembrance of those who lost their lives in WWI.


We have had another funeral in the ward and another wedding, one of our young single adult ladies who found a returned missionary while at a YSA convention. They were married at the chapel, travelled to the local registrar to register the marriage, returned for the reception and then went to the London Temple to be sealed. It is required by law here that they are married civilly first, then they are encouraged to be sealed the same day at the temple. The happy couple have moved to Norway, his home country.

Our daughter and her partner were able to come and visit us for the weekend before heading to Paris for the Women’s Rugby World Cup. We enjoyed visiting the London Zoo and other sites. They also announced that they are expecting our fourth grandchild in February 2015!

The Windsor Castle-legendary place tourism destinations

This week was moves and there were so many missionaries coming and going that it took three days to shift them all around. We had 10 go home and 20 new ones. We drove missionaries on Tuesday and on Wednesday, then bought, delivered, and put together furniture for the Hastings sisters’ new flat. Then we helped serve breakfast and lunch for the mission leaders conference. After cleaning up after lunch, we and the other senior couple went to Windsor Castle which was near by. The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by succeeding monarchs and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe.It is used by the queen and her family nowadays; they spend many weekends there. It is very large, very beautiful, and very well maintained. The changing of the guard happens every other day, but we missed it. They have turned the old (interior) moat into a garden, which is a nice way to keep it useful.

Well, we have been here over a year now, as of September 8th we will only have nine months left. We have a list of things we want to do and places to go so we can fit them all in before we are gone. We continue to be busy, happy, and mostly healthy! We love you all and miss you when we aren’t busy. Please keep in touch by email or facebook!

William the Conqueror, Charles Darwin and the Parsons ancestors

Battle Abbey gate house

We finally were able to go see Battle, where William the Conqueror changed English history in 1066. We had been waiting for good weather, which has finally arrived. Sunny days at 68 degrees are marvelous! The battle was fought between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy (now known as William the Conqueror) and an English army under King Harold II. William assembled a large invasion fleet with cavalry, infantry, and archers or crossbowmen. Harold marched the rest of his army (entirely infantry) south to deal with the threatened Norman invasion and took a defensive position at the top of Senlac Hill. The battle opened with the Norman archers shooting uphill at the English shield wall, to little effect. The William sent the spearmen forward.  The infantry was unable to force openings in the shield wall, and the cavalry advanced in support. Eventually Harold was killed and his army overwhelmed. Battle Abbey was founded by William at the site of the battle, and historical sources state that the high altar of the church was placed at the site where Harold had fallen.


Painted organ at Hellingly (pronounced Helling-lye) parish church

After Battle we visited some castles and then some parish churches where Sister Young’s PARSONS family was christened/buried. The most impressive site was the organ at the parish church in Hellingly, which was painted and very beautiful. We had never seen an organ with the pipes painted before. We were able to go into each of the churches as well as look at the headstones for family names. Most of the surviving stones that could be read were from the 1860’s and later. Any family names we found were for people buried in the 1900’s, way after her ancestors came to Utah.


Parish church at Brede, Sussex, England where James PARSONS was christened.

After touring Battle Abbey and grounds, we visited several castles in the area and then some of the parish churches where Sister Young’s PARSONS family were christened/buried. We read all the tombstones at each church, most of which were from the 1860’s or later. The few family names were dated in the early 1900’s, way after her ancestors came to Utah. However it was great to tour the churches and villages where they had lived.

Herstmonceux Castle

One of the castles was Herstmonceux Castle, where we were surprised to learn that it was an alternate location for the observatories and scientists when Greenwich became too busy and too many city light. The castle is not open to the public because it is being run by a Canadian university which does research there. But the grounds were beautiful and had a wonderful “Magic Garden” that made us wish our granddaughters were here to explore it with us!

The grounds of the castles were lovely with many gardens and unique flowers. This particular flower was a large sphere, at first with spiky points which then opened up into little blue flowers.

Sister Young had been having more problems with pain in her arms and hands, and a day at the temple was very uncomfortable even with a pain pill. The next day we participated in a service project with the Orpington Ward, where she was on the crew clearing out the orchard at a Girls Guide Camp. Did you know that stinging nettle helps you with pain? For two days she felt like her arms and hands were shooting out electrons constantly (note to self: wear gloves). But the pain was not noticeable, and has been better since.

downe house
Downe House, where Charles Darwin lived

On Monday we went to Downe House with the sister missionaries on their p-day. This house is where Charles Darwin and his family lived to 40 years. It is only a few minutes away from our flat, and was very interesting. We toured the house and the gardens, which were extensive. This is where he wrote his famous books and did his experiments and research. His ten children grew up in the house, which had been restored on the first floor to look like it was when they were there. The second floor was a museum and interactive exhibit hall. The vegetable and flower gardens were extensive and beautiful.

As a wonderful end to an eventful week, we were able to skype with our ward in Corpus Christi for their third hour combined adult meeting. The theme was “Hastening the Work” and they asked us to talk about serving a mission. It was fun and the technology behaved very well. Hopefully what we shared was of interest to them.

Star Trek and Harry Potter

We went to a Star Trek concert at Royal Albert Hall. They showed the latest movie (the one where they are all younger) with accompaniment from a full orchestra and choir. Because at points the music overwhelmed the spoken word of the movie, it was subtitled. It was an amazing experience, and we really enjoyed it. They do this pretty frequently, and we may catch it again another time and another movie.

We have completed our year of studying the Book of Mormon in Institute, and we had a nice recognition ceremony and full-on banquet (salmon, ham, quiche, and much more). We are now starting the summer class on studying the scriptures. It will be a more informal experience with lots of applications.

A sister in our ward lost her ex-husband and we took her to the funeral. While we were waiting for it to begin, the minister approached us and explained that the oldest son (her stepson) had asked that we not attend as he didn’t think the family would like it. We went to the car and read while she attended the funeral. She was having a hard time being there for her own sons as they mourned their father. We have also had another death in the ward, the father of one of our YSA families. He went in for an operation and complications took his life. We have had so many funerals in the year we have been here, but that is because we have an older-aged ward. We also attended a charity concert for a man who died just before we got here. The concert was to remember him (he was a musician) and to raise funds for the charity hospice that cared for him and two others in our ward. It was well attended and a nice evening. Elder Young sang as part of a group that night.

The last week we have had our son and his fiance visiting. They are both in the US Air Force stationed in Germany. We were able to spend three days with them; they went to the museums their other days here while we were busy. We had a zone training where Sister Young prepared lunch for 32 all on her own (we have been helping another senior couple do the cooking up to now). Luckily we have acquired a third slow cooker! Then the next night was the previously mentioned Institute banquet for 40. It was a stressful time, since we had to shop the morning of for each meal–we can’t fit very much into our small fridge and freezer, and put half of it in the church fridge on the way home from the store. Coupled with three late nights in a row, it has taken a toll on Sister Young’s health…but she is better today. We will have to watch that more carefully in the future.

While Doug and Sidney were here we took a tour of the Globe (Shakespeare’s theatre), saw the musical Wicked, and went to the Harry Potter Experience. The Globe was very interesting, we were most interested to see how well the theatre in Cedar City matched it. The stage was encased in black fabric for the current production, but otherwise looked very similar. We walked to Trafalgar Square, where they were having Brazil Day, part of the upcoming World Cup celebration. Football (soccer) is very popular here and the Cup is well watched and argued over. People are flying flags for their teams from windows, cars, etc. We grabbed something to eat and then walked around until it was time to go see Wicked, which we got half-price tickets for. Sister Young had read the book but it seemed little of the musical matched the book. We enjoyed the singing, costumes and stage, but had a hard time understanding the words. We did get the gist of the story, and it surely is a twisted fairy tale, especially the part about the tin man and the scarecrow!

The next day we toured Warner Brothers “Harry Potter Experience”. This was truly the highlight of all we have seen here (and Doug and Sidney agree). It was a great three hours of seeing the actual costumes, props, rooms, mockups and even a full size Diagon Alley. It was amazing–basically they packed up everything and brought it here (Watford) and set it up. Each section had a short video describing how it was used with cool trivia– the videos were the best part of many of the scenes.

Here is a display of wands used in the film, all labeled with who used them. Another room had the shelves and thousands of wand boxes, each with a hand-drawn label on the end. At the gift shop you could purchase a wand in a similar box from probably two dozen styles. We saw lots of kids carrying wands in the parking lot later, even though they seemed to cost about £17 or $25 each.

Maybe the best part of the tour was the 1/16 model of Hogwarts in a very large darkened room. This model took eight weeks to build but is amazingly intricate. This was used in all of the dementor attacks and flying dragons and brooms and parts where it was the backdrop in the green room. Overall, we would love more visitors so we have an excuse to go back! We are going to suggest this for a senior missionary outing as well.

Well, as of Saturday we have been here exactly half of our mission, and it has gone by so quickly! We are starting to make plans for after mission, realizing that it will creep up on us quickly. Also, Doug and Sidney will be married in July at the court house but will have the big ceremony celebration in Germany next spring, so hopefully we can have somewhat of a family reunion with that opportunity. Everyone, have a wonderful summer!


From royalty to onesies

Here is the promised picture of the missionaries dressed up in Chislehurst Caves. It was a wonderful p-day activity that they will always remember! From left: Elder Nohangoinaina from Madagascar, Elder Herrod, Elder Goldsmith, Elder Hale, Sister Gunnell, Sister Hickman all of USA. Great missionaries to work with!

And for other dressing up, it is rather common here for adults to wear onesies pajamas, even in public! Here is a group of teenagers we saw at the London train station, celebrating a birthday. We didn’t know them but they gave permission for a picture.

photo (25)

Our latest senior missionary expedition was to Bath, three hours west of us. It is our longest trip yet. Bath is a beautiful city, given a royal charter in 1590 but settled long before that with a history from the Bronze Age, Celts, Romans, etc. There are three natural hot mineral springs in the original city area, used in the past and still functioning and available. The main bath has been restored to its Roman glory and you can tour the entire facility to see the waterworks and artistic effects. We did not have time for this tour but would like to go back and do it.  Bath may have been the site of the Battle of Mons Badonicus )about 500 AD) where King Arthur was said to have defeated the Anglo-Saxons. A temple was constructed in 60–70 AD, then a cathedral in 1088, and then Bath Abbey in the 1500’s which still stands today. It is famous for the “Jacob’s ladders” on the front with angels going up and down from heaven. 


Most buildings in Bath are made from the local, golden-coloured Bath limestone, and many date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The dominant style of architecture is Georgian, and it makes the central old city look very homogeneous. There are no “new” buildings, they all fit together harmoniously. Two intriguing architectural pieces are the Royal Crescent and the Circus. They are both oval-shaped buildings — the Circus has three buildings in an circle, the Royal Crescent is in an oval arc. The Royal Crescent has 30 houses in it  but you can’t tell where they start and stop because the facade is so perfect. Behind the facade the houses are willy-nilly shapes and sizes, they look really crazy from the back of the building.


We had lunch with the other senior missionaries, then went on a 2-hour tour of the city, walking around these important and fascinating places. It rained off and on but wasn’t too bad, and the explanations were very interesting. Another important part of Bath is the pride they have in being the home of Jane Austen (for four years) and where she wrote two of her books, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

A very pleasant surprise on our trip from Bath to the London Temple, where our YSA were singing for a fireside. We drove right past Stonehenge! We couldn’t stop because we were running late, but you can no longer go near it as it is now partitioned off. So we probably saw as much as we could if we stopped.


We continue to be involved in singing in the ward choir, and Sister Young and two other sisters from the ward sang a trio a few weeks ago. Elder Young has an upcoming solo in a few weeks. We also sang in the choir for Stake Conference, and Sister Young was asked to repeat a talk at stake Conference that she had given in another ward last month. We just had our ninth baptism for the year! Our ward goal was eight, something we never thought we would make since we had had only one baptism in the past two years. But the work is moving forward, and wonderful people are joining the Church. It has been interesting being involved in the teaching of investigators from other countries like Lithuania and Albania. We have been able to order Books of Mormon in their native languages, and the virtual missionaries from the Temple Visitors Centre have been able to set up skype lessons with missionaries from those countries to help work with the people.

We sent home our closest senior missionary friends a few weeks ago, and because they are not being replaced, we have been working to shut down their flat. We had to sort out all the furnishings and supplies and give them away or arrange for large furniture pieces to be stored until needed again. We have the flat inspection this week, and then that should be over with. We were able to acquire some items for ourselves, like a third slow cooker. We have a small one for our food, a large one for Institute, and we need all three when we cook for Zone Training and feed 30 missionaries.

We hosted a Indexing Night for the ward to teach the youth and adults how to index, and then a Genealogy Workshop for the members and community. We had two non-members attend who were very interested and came with names to input into FamilySearch. We will be doing this monthly and hope that others will come in the future. Our Europe Area Presidency has named June the “month of invitation” and this is one of the activities that people can be invited to participate in.

Well, in 15 days we will have been here half our mission, and only have one year to go. It has gone so fast, and we are enjoying it very much. We miss you all but love emails and family hangouts!

Old trees, ships, and underground caves

We started the week with flat inspections. Usually I would not mention them, since we do them monthly. But this time we got locked into the basement garage of the building while trying to access the gas and electric meters (we have to submit a monthly reading to the mission office). After trying every door, button and emergency lever, we finally called out the driveway to some workmen who were taking a break nearby. They looked up the code (our code did not work from inside) and let us out. Another weird bit is that our lights in our flat keep tripping the fuse while we are gone. We come home to no lights, but everything else works, it doesn’t affect the plugs. Guess we will have to tell the landlord!

We attended a musical production called “The Lamb of God” by Rob Gardner. It was put on by the Young Single Adults in 19 stakes in the south of England. They did such a great, professional job! Even the programs were professionally done. They had 50 in the choir and 30 in the orchestra, with many more involved behind the scenes. We have been involved in Rob Gardner’s “He is the Christ” but this was even more amazing! We really enjoyed it, even though it was an hour drive to the other side of London to attend.

We also attended a fireside at the London Temple Visitors Centre with our very own Julian Jones (retired CES — religious education) and Savannah Stevenson, an actress currently playing the part of Glinda in WICKED in London. She is a church member and is also the actress playing Mary in the new Bible videos the Church has made. She spoke about her experiences in the theatre, playing Mary, the theatrical set in Goshen, Utah, and her testimony of Jesus Christ. It was a wonderful night.

We have also had the opportunity to add another activity to our repertoire — helping with the meals at the mission office for missionaries who are headed home. The couple who has been helping are leaving for home next week, and we volunteered to take their place. We helped prepare two meals for the 30 missionaries going home last week. They spend their last two days of their mission at the mission office (staying in the temple accommodation center). They are able to walk the beautiful grounds, attend a temple session, do exit interviews with the mission president, have a testimony meeting and several nice meals together. Then on Wednesday morning they all headed off on buses, trains, or airplanes for home.

We had a 2-hour break between the missionary meals and took the opportunity to pop over to see a 4,000 year old yew tree near the temple. It is in the middle of a church graveyard and was pretty impressive. The trunk has split and is hollow, and you can see the supports that hold up the various branches. The tree has grown around these supports at the top. There is a small wooden door hinged to the tree on the back side. The trunk is gnarly and really intricately swirled. It is very smooth from the many hands that had touched it over the years.

The newest blossoms around the area are the fields of yellow rape. This is a crop that is known as safflower in the US. It produces vegetable oil called “rapeseed oil” that is used a lot here. Unfortunately, the beauty comes with a cost as it is an allergen. We haven’t had many symptoms other than sneezing and itchy noses.

This month’s senior missionary outing was to Greenwich. We also saw the Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship built in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line. She was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, before sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion. She has a beautifully-shaped hull covered in copper to impede the growth of barnacles and keep her fast. More than thirty pictures were taken on set during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. The ship was placed in her current position and opened for public tours in 2012. The best part was the very informative display of tea boxes as you walked through. Even the floor was tiled with tea box panels.


Under the ship, which is suspended in the air to reduce strain on the hull, there is a display of figureheads that was very intriguing.


After touring the ship, we walked through a tunnel under the Thames River to a viewpoint on the other side. We could see the ship,  Old Royal Naval College  (part of the University of Greenwich now), and the O2, a giant sports dome that includes an indoor arena, a music club, a Cineworld cinema, an exhibition space, piazzas, bars and restaurants. We then walked through the historical park area and up a VERY steep hill to get to the observatory and the prime meridian. It was hard to photograph, but here is Sister Young’s shoe pointing to the line and the names of the cities of Dallas and Los Angeles with their degrees from the meridian.


On Monday we took a p-day with the younger missionaries in our district and went to Chislehurst Caves. A short 6-minute train ride and a short walk brought us to the private part of the caves. The public part offers tours and historical information — the private side is owned by a night club that has muscial events and provides access to the caves for gaming (think Warhammer with real people). One of our investigators works there and got permission for us to tour on Monday (they are usually only open weekends). The original caves were small and were excavated for the chalk and flint trade. They served as a public air raid shelter during the war. Now the private side has many “walls” built to provide gaming scenarios. At the end of our tour the missionaries dressed up as knights, king, lady in waiting, peasants, monk, etc. The guys had so much fun fighting with swords, shield, lances, etc. We took lots of action shots (like Matrix). We will exchange photos from all the missionaries and then post the best here next blog.

The last “exciting” thing that has happened is that the tax documents for the mission car, which is to be displayed in the front windshield, have not been received by the mission office yet. So as of today, we cannot drive the car until that arrives. It might get interesting having to walk, ride the bus or the train like the younger missionaries!

Castles and cathedrals

Sister Young saw this on Facebook and wanted to spice up the treats after the Institute lesson (can you see the ball in the dolphin’s mouth?). It was surprising that the men were more responsive than the women! Sister Young also cooked Brussel sprouts for the first time (and ATE them!) after learning how to do it right from the sisters in the ward. She has been sharing her food items with them too, including whipped sweet potatoes, lemon bars, and taco soup.

Spring has officially arrived, with daffodils, tulips, cherry blossoms, and more. The gardens are beautiful and the days are warmer. We haven’t dared take our winter coats to the dry cleaners YET, but we will soon!

Last week we asked special permission to visit Dover Castle, which is outside of the mission boundaries, but only one hour away. Another senior couple, the Ottleys (who serve in a nearby ward as MLS missionaries) are going home next month and this was the last thing they had not been able to visit yet. So we drove with them and spent the entire day there.  It is the largest castle in England; founded about 1160 and has been described as the “Key to England” due to its defensive significance throughout history. In the Napoleanic Wars, there was a need to house more soldiers, so tunnels were dug as underground barracks. In WWII the tunnels were converted first into an air-raid shelter and then later into a military command centre, military phone exchange, and underground hospital. The castle is located above the White Cliffs of Dover at the place where it is the shortest crossing to the continent, and have protected England for over 20 centuries. 

King’s bedroom in the Great Tower

St Mary in Castro (Castle) Church was built in 1000 AD and is now within the castle walls. It is still used for services for the Army and local people. Next to it is a Roman lighthouse called a Pharos (in picture), probably built about 130 AD. It is open inside all the way up, and was once used as the church bell tower.

We toured the castle and were able to see two reenactments by actors. Here you see Sister Young discussing an ancient map with King Henry II. The king hosted visiting dignitaries from other countries at this castle.

On the way home, we stopped to visit Canterbury Cathedral. It is one of the oldest and most famous Dhristian structures in England. It is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England and symbolic leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It was founded by Archbishop Augustine in 596 AD and he reused an old Roman church. It is famous for the murder of the archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 by knights of King Henry II (they used to be friends).

We have officially switched to “British Summer Time” which brought the clock forward an hour. We also had Mothering Sunday, and figured out that Mother’s Day cards would only be available now, and not in May when we would want to purchase them, to we bought some to tuck away for later. We thoroughly enjoyed General Conference and the Women’s General Meeting. We were able to watch two sessions live and recorded the rest to watch later. The last session we watched Monday morning while we fed breakfast to the elders and sisters in our district. This week will be very busy, as we will be transporting sisters between Purley and Hastings and back again for exchanges. With the new Sister Leaders, they go on exchanges with other companionships for training. If we drive them back and forth on both days (6 hours each day) it allows the zoneleaders to attend to missionary work instead of taxi work.

We also have three firesides and a musical program this week. One fireside is our usual YSA one with (local) Elder Herbertson of the Seventy speaking on hope. The next one will be a special treat, as one of the senior missionaries at the Hyde Park Visitors Centre is a professional theatre organist. He will accompany the classic silent film by Cecil B. DeMille, King of Kings. Then Saturday we will attend a musical production put on by the Watford YSAs (one of Rob Gardner’s programs). Sunday evening we will attend a fireside at the London Temple Visitors Centre with a discussion between our own Brother Julian Jones (retired CES) and Savannah Stevenson. Savannah is currently starring as Glinda (the good witch) in Wicked in the West End theatre. She also played Mary in the New Testament church films. We are really excited to have all these opportunities and to visit different places. Our next senior outing will take us to Greenwich, and we will report on that in a future blog. Finally, a shout-out to all the family members with birthdays in April, with special emphasis on our youngest granddaughter Fern, who turns one next week. We will miss her first two birthdays but at least she will remember us on her third one!