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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 3 (June 1, 1938.)

Letter from Retta

Letter from Retta.


Dear Helen, 13th April, 1938.

London has had a record March—the warmest for a hundred years. Every lunch time, the parks, the gardens, the converted church-yards (such as that charming open space by the Royal Chapel of the Savoy, so surprisingly hidden just off the Strand) have catered for the crowds of workers, mostly young, who come bareheaded, carrying their lunch packets and perhaps a newspaper, book, or fancy-work, to spend every available minute in the open. Each day, it seems, one can notice the further budding of the trees. The flower procession is more marked than in New Zealand. First there were the crocuses, which I saw first on a sheltered slope at Kew. Then suddenly they were in the parks, nodding their white and gold and purple heads at the strollers in the sunshine. All at once, two or three weeks ago, a glory of daffodils had taken their place, blooming simultaneously, as if each bulb had said, “This week we will blossom. All together now—ready!” Last week the daffodils in the square near here were browning. But everywhere the tulips are in bud, beside the curving entrance to Hertford House, near a gateway to Lincoln's Inn Fields, and in all the other gardens where I haven't been.

It's exciting. I'm wondering what will happen next. Last week I found out what is happening in the country. We took train from King's Cross to Hertfordshire, and then walked by a circular route for ten miles or so along footpaths and lanes. Twice only did we cross great North Road, with its strings of cars and horrid odour of petrol.

Surprises? Violets were still in bloom on banks beside the way; in a wood I saw my first English primroses, growing there so gaily and casually among the tree stems.

“What next? What will come after the primroses?” I asked our guide.

“At the top of this little hill you'll see.” We went up a narrow path, scuffling brown leaves with our feet, and then on either hand were dark green spikes, and, further in among the trees, the first blue-bells. It was wonderful, intoxicating.

We came, via public footpaths, through a park belonging to Lord Brocket, to the village of Lamford. Cottages, two hundred years old, nestle there. There is no village green with pump (we had passed by several) but we found a tea-shop, with its charming cream and green paintwork hardly dry, in the “upstairs” room raised above what had been the old village smithy. Bread and butter and strawberry jam and cups and cups of tea, while we sat at a green-topped table and gazed at the green of the park across the way. How we enjoyed it, and what a truly New Zealand thirst we quenched! Price? Sevenpence each!

Though I have read about the English spring and the English countryside, I had not realised its beauty. If I never come back to our bright, rough, new land of New Zealand, it will be because the English countryside has claimed me.