This week I’ve read a book that could very well be the sentimental story of a romantic Victorian bestselling novel, but the story isn’t fiction. It did happen in real life. And it’s not an overstatement to say that the story of Mary Jones changed the history of the world. Her amazing journey, though it happened 217 years ago, remains a tale well worth telling.

Jared got me this book a few months back along with a few other books that are sitting in my desk.

Mary Jones (1784-1864) was born into a very poor but devout Christian farming family in a tiny village called Llanfihangel-y-Pennant located at the foot of Cader Idris mountains in north Wales. Around the time of her birth, there was a revival going on in Wales and a Calvinistic Methodist preacher named Thomas Charles who was ministering in a chapel in a market town called Bala, made sure that Sunday Schools were taught at churches in the nearby villages. Mary had to walk three miles each way to attend a school started by local Methodists in another village, Abergynolwyn.She learned to read and desperately wanted to have her own copy of the Bible but her mother, who became a widow when her husband died before Mary turned 5, was too poor to buy one for the family.  The nearest Bible to her house was in a farm about two miles away which is a long hike for a little girl to do everyday but Mary would often go to read God’s Word whenever she could. At the tender age of 9 she decided to save up her money and for 6 long years she had amassed a total of 17 shillings just enough to buy herself a copy of the Bible. Seventeen shillings is 85 pence in decimal coinage, but back in 1800 it was worth about £40 — a huge sum of money at a time when that amount was a labourer’s one year and a half wage.

So in the summer of 1800, with a bag filled with bread and cheese, the money to purchase the Bible, and a clog (which was too expensive to be worn for the long hike but she would have worn before she knocked on the door of the preacher’s home), Mary walked 25 miles from her home across the treacherous Welsh mountains to Rev. Thomas Charles house in Bala. The rough track over the mountains would have been very rough and lonely to traverse but Mary walked on her own very determined to buy a copy of the Bible she so desperately wanted. 


However, when she arrived at Rev. Charles home, she received a disappointing news that the delivery of the Bibles from the printers in London had been delayed. But Mary was graciously offered to stay in the house of the minister’s maid, where she stayed for three days until the Bibles were delivered from London. She would no doubt have welcomed the opportunity to recover from the exhaustion of the long walk before her return journey. Once the Bibles arrived, the preacher gave Mary not just one, but three Bibles for the price of one. Mary then retraced her steps back home to her village, carrying her clogs and the three Bibles, which would have made quite a heavy load for a 15 year old girl to carry since Bibles back then were huge and bulky.

Rev. Thomas Charles was so moved by Mary’s story and was inspired to help establish the British and Foreign Bible Society. Since that day in 1800, over 217 years ago, the British and Foreign Bible Society has become Bible Society — a charity committed to faithfully living out their mission that the Bible should be made available for every man, woman and child in the world.

The story of Mary Jones can best be told in her own words. Here’s what she said during an interview a few months before her death in 1864:

“One stormy Monday morning I was walking to a farmhouse about two miles from my home, a gentleman riding on a white horse and wearing a cloth cape came to meet me and asked me where I was going through such wind and rain. I said I was going to a farmhouse where there was a Bible, that there wasn’t one nearer my home, and that the mistress of the farm said that I could see the Bible, which she kept on a table in the parlour so long as I took my clogs off. I told him that I was saving up every halfpenny this long time to get a Bible but that I did not know where to get one. The gentleman was ‘Charles of Bala’, he told me to come to Bala at a certain time, that he was expecting some from London and that I should have one from him.When the time came my mother put the money and a little bread and cheese in one end of the ‘wallet’ and my clogs in the other, and I set off for Bala on a fine morning, resting where there was a stream of clear water, to eat the bread and cheese. I came to Bala trembling and knocked at the door of Mr Charles’ house. I asked for Mr Charles and was told that he was in his study at the back of the house. I was allowed to go to him and he told me that the Bibles had not arrived. I started to cry because I did not know where to stay. He sent me to stay with an old servant of his who had a house at the bottom of his garden, until the Bibles came. When they came Mr Charles gave me three for the price of one. I set off home with my precious burden, I ran a great part of the way, I was so glad of my Bible”.


Mary died in 1864 at age 80 and was buried at the churchyard in Llanycil (above photos), not too far from where she was born. She came to be known not only for her faithfulness to the Lord and to the church where she was a member of, but also for her generosity and her love of the Word of God. She reads her Bible right through from cover to cover four times in a year. She also memorised a large portions of the Bible that even in old age she could very well recite the Scripture to herself after she had become blind and could no longer read it to herself. Of the three Bibles which Mary received, only two survive. One of them is now owned by the Bible Society and on display in their archive at the University of Cambridge. The other copy is in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. The third was given to Mary’s son John who emigrated to America in 1890 where it may have disappeared. (Images show two of Mary’s Bibles that survived and are now housed at the National Museum of Wales and University of Cambridge. Images: Bible Society) 


While reading this book, I was reminded once again that so many Christians have sacrificed, some gave their lives — were burned at the stake — just so we could have an English translation of the Bible. Today we simply take for granted having the Word of God at our fingertips. The story of Mary Jones is very moving and highly inspirational; it certainly is one book I’d highly recommend to Christian parents to read to their children from a very young age.

Note: Featured image and the two photos of Cader Idris mountains are from Wales Tourism. Mary Jones would have traversed that landscape from her home to Tala.


Now that I got some basic sewing techniques under my belt (that is, after I made a shift dress, skirt and top)I decided that it was time to get into a more challenging project. I have some Liberty of London fabrics from the summer sale that I had originally planned to make into vintage style dresses. 


I love shirt dresses; got six of them and Adiben recently gifted me with a new one from her recent trip to the Philippines. If I had to choose a favourite era, it would be the 50s and the 60s. I love the long and slender shapes, the tiny waist and full skirts, the hats and gloves, etc. — more conservative and certainly more classic in style and design. But I must say that the bright colours, the ‘Mary Quant London look’ of the 60s isn’t my favourite.


When I visited the V&A Museum ‘History of Fashion Gallery’ on my first trip to London, I learned that London, not Paris, became the center of the fashion world for the first time in the early 19th Century, and that the influence of the British in worldwide fashion didn’t begin nor did it stop with The Beatles. Apparently, with the worldwide fame of The Beatles, British influence swept into all parts of life, especially clothing and music.

Now, on to the sewing project!

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I made a pattern on my own for the first time — a shirt dress that I’d like but I wasn’t too sure if I did it right. So I went to my mentor once again, and because Tita Mely already taught me how to use a pattern as a guide to cut the fabrics, this time, she showed me how to do it straight into the fabrics using only the body measurement.

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She’s been sewing for over 30 years and it was amazing to watch her do all of that.  Two meters is enough for the 3/4 sleeves shirt dress.

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After a couple of hours tutorial, I came home with a fabric that’s been cut according to my specifications and complete with the interfacing, markings, etc.

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And because I forgot to tell Tita Mely that I wanted two secret pocket on my dress, I had to do it on my own. I just measured the palm of my hands and added 2-3 inches allowance then attached it to the fabric.

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Connecting the arm hole and sleeves together was the most challenging task I have so far encountered in sewing. I had to redo it 3x! As you can see in the photo above, it’s not a pretty sight with needle marks on the delicate fabric.  Liberty of London Tana Cotton Lawn fabric is the finest cotton available in the market with a silk like texture so, it’s fragile and requires careful sewing. Thankfully, I didn’t damage the fabric and was able to perfectly attach the sleeves after the third attempt. 

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Tita Mely had given me some instructions on how to do the shirring of the skirt and how to attach it to the top, which I gleefully did without a hitch. For the sleeves, I forgot to ask her about the ruffles I wanted to add and decided to do it on my own without her advice. Because there wasn’t enough fabric to double it up, I wasn’t very happy about it.

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The last work was sewing the buttons and button holes. Since I never made a button hole in my life I had to refer to the Sewing Machine Manual on how to do it. It’s straight forward but takes time to master. I practiced it 3x on a piece of cloth before I finally did it on the dress. I found some buttons at a Haberdashery in Notting Hill that perfectly matched with the fabric albeit rather costly.

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It took me two hours for five days to finish sewing the dress. And it turned out beautiful, if I may say so myself.  This is exactly why I sew — start with a fabric that I love, and I enjoy the creative process of making the pattern, picturing what I want to make, sewing it, and then turn it into reality.

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It is a summer dress; it’s already autumn here but I decided to wear it to church for the first time last week. Jared took some photos of myself — not very good but these are the only photos I got with the new dress on. By the way, I had a petticoat worn over a slip (plus a black and white photo) to complete the 50s look.  Although I love dresses and skirts, and only wear jeans/trousers in the autumn and winter months, trousers are definitely on my ‘project list’ over the next few months.


One day last summer I woke up to a wonderful surprise — one for the books indeed! You see, I love the West End musical shows and Shakespeare’s stage plays but whenever I bring up the subject of wanting to watch a new show, Jared would always say, “Sorry my dear, it’s just not my cup of tea. Why don’t you invite one of your girl friends to watch it with you?”  


But once in a blue moon, even if it’s not his cup of tea, sometimes Jared will drink it for me.  He had, in the past, accompanied me to watch a couple of West End musicals (Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables) but I was the one who made all the arrangements, all he had to do was to simply dress up and go with me.  Last month however, he was the one who decided to buy the tickets, had chosen Much Ado About Nothing albeit rather secretly. He’s well aware that a summer season performance at the Globe Theatre was on my ‘must do’ list for the summer. And yes, he happily went to watch a Shakespeare play with me — a second time for us both at The Globe Theatre.

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Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespeare’s most emotionally challenging stage play to watch in my own humble opinion. (I’d put Romeo and Juliet only second to Much Ado).Matthew Dunster’s adaptation of this classic tale is pretty much in line with the prevailing political thought, or rather ‘culture’ of the day. First, there’s a gender swap, Don John, Don Pedro’s irascible bastard brother, became  Doña Juana (played by Jo Dockery), a nod to the voguish gender-swap and feminist movement agenda. Second, the police-chief Dogberry (played by Ewan Wardrop) became an American moviemaker. As soon as he appears on stage he puts on an American accent and offensive remarks about the US of A are thrown in for good measure with the audience roaring with laughter (except probably for Jared and me) — again, this is in keeping with the current political atmosphere with the British media making fun of President Trump and America. Third, the action was transposed from Messina in the 16th century to Monterey in the early-20th-century, particularly during the 1914 Mexican Revolution — again, the whole play satirises the trend toward political correctness and all of that wishy-washy liberalism. Those are three quibbles I have, but as far as the production goes, it’s a decent enough show.

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As it’s set during the Mexican Revolution, it features sombrero-sporting men carrying guns, ladies in colourful dresses with guns hanging around their waist, and of course, there’s gunfire at different moments throughout the performance.

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The story of two pairs of lovers — Hero and Claudio, Benedick and Beatrice with the intriguing conspiracy of Don Juan (or rather Doña Juana), make for a very interesting  plot. But as various acts unravel, it was Benedick (Matthew Needham) and Beatrice (Beatriz Romilly)who are involved in a real drama for most of the play, criticising each other from a distance rather than declare their love for each other.

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The play has all the exuberance of a Mexican fiesta — the mariachi band playing Latin music, the colourful outfits and the foot-thumping Latin American dance moves. Watching the play not only made me wanna dance salsa and tango, but it also made me crave for tacos and burritos. 

It’s very entertaining; the most lively and colourful Shakespeare production I have seen. The theatre was packed with loads of people even on their feet for three hours — those who preferred to stay on the Yard, the open space right in front of the stage, only paid £5). Apparently, Much Ado is so popular that even the matinee shows are packed all the time. Sitting for almost three hours in a hardwood bench can give you a bit of a pain in the bottom and may be back ache.  We hired cushions but they didn’t help so make sure to get up and stretch during the 15 minute interval. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who love the theatre, I’d recommend watching Much Ado. For those who haven’t been inside The Globe Theatre, take the opportunity to watch any of the summer season performances before they closed their doors for the winter months.

Note: All images are from The Globe website. Photography is strictly prohibited during the performance.


Osborne House, the royal seaside palace on the Isle of Wight, is the main reason why I wanted to visit this island. I came across some details about this place many years ago while reading the book Queen Victoria: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert. 

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This island is easy to get to from London, less than 2 hours by car, bus or train and then via ferry from Southampton docks.  The diamond-shaped island is situated just off England’s south coast and is referred to as the Diamond of the South. It has been one of Europe’s most fashionable holiday destination since the 18th Century when it became a favourite weekend retreat for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.


My friend Kristine and I got to visit the island about a month ago. We were hoping to explore Osborne House but sadly, we didn’t get to do it.

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Upon arrival, our first destination was the western tip of the island called The Needles. The place is pretty much like a leisure park but the highlight was the chairlift (ski lift) to the beach to see Alum Bay’s brightly coloured sands. We got a quick glimpse of the stunning scenery especially on our way up but because I am acrophobic (that is, fear of heights), the very high & steep ride down was quite frightening for me. I had to tightly close my eyes and hold on to the bar for dear life as I felt the significant huge drop to the ground haha!

 The colour is due to the mineral content of the sand
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 We had lunch at one of the restaurants here then we drove around Tennyson Down through the villages of Freshwater and Freshwater Bay.


The quintessential English thatched roof cottages can be seen all over the island.


There were also some very modern ‘East Hampton style’ cottages.

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I asked our tour guide what’s the population of the island and her only response was, “Nobody really knows the exact population because a lot of homeowners are only here for the summer or the weekend.”  Then we drove along the military road towards the southern tip of the island. The stunning scenery made the half an hour drive a little bit more enjoyable. 


There were hikers, cyclists and campers all over the island.


Camp sites abound with loads of caravans and tents.

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We stopped to enjoy the views at St. Catherine’s Point, the island’s southernmost tip.

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It was a gorgeous day but quite windy.

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FYI, Kristine and I didn’t talk about twinning, we just happened to wear the same Breton stripe T-shirts. St. Catherine’s Point was our last stop instead of Osborne House. We were 5 minutes away from Queen Victoria’s seaside palace when the tour guide asked the driver to turn around because of the little traffic on the way there. Only to be told, as soon as we got to East Cowes docks, that the ferry was delayed for half an hour. For some reason, the 30-min delay turned out to be a long two hour wait. It was too late to turn around as loads of vehicles were already on a queue behind us.


The tour guide should have made a phone call before she made the decision to cancel the Osborne House tour but she didn’t. So for two hours we sat on the bus, got up to stretch, walked a bit, had snacks, and sat down again bored out of our wits haha!

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Nevertheless, we had a great time. The island has its own unique charm and is worth visiting. It would be nice to visit again in the spring/summer of next year and stay for a night or two. Joining a tour group wasn’t too bad. It was a tour company recommended by a Japanese friend of mine and her experience was significantly different from ours. Her group was able to visit Osborne House and an old village in East Cowes — both places were in our itinerary but they changed it at the last minute. There were only a dozen of us in the group excluding the tour guide and the driver. For anyone interested to visit the island, I’d suggest you either drive, take the train or bus (don’t join a day-tour) and stay on the island for a night or two. (I gotta drag Jared to do this with me next summer.  )

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I look forward to visiting Isle of Wight again. Hopefully, to do some camping and hiking. And of course, to explore Osborne House so I can finally tick it off of my bucket list.


The 31st of August was just a normal day for us in London, rather unusually bright and sunny, not grey and wet like the day before so we went to Kensington Gardens for a picnic at around 1PM to enjoy the warm sunshine. We were in our usual spot, behind The Orangery, and just as we were about to eat our ‘Chinese take-away’ (we don’t always eat sandwiches and crisps every time we go out for a picnic, you know!?  ), we spotted and heard a helicopter hovering above us. We were then reminded that it was Princess Diana’s 20th death anniversary. After eating I grabbed a book from my handbag and started reading it but the sound of the helicopter bothered me so much that I decided to put it away and told Jared I was going to walk around the park towards the front gates of Kensington Palace.


I wasn’t expecting to see a huge crowd but there were at least 200 or more people standing around the gates plus a hundred more sitting on the grass in front of the palace. As I was starting to read a few letter tributes I spotted a familiar face — Andrew Morton — the official biographer of the late Princess of Wales. He wrote the explosive book that shook the British monarchy to its very core — Diana, Her True Story. I’ve read some other books he wrote over the years and I’ve seen him on tv being interviewed about his books numerous times hence, he looks familiar. I was too shy to approach him but thought there might not be any other opportunity like this. So, I mustered enough courage and walked towards him. Rather bashful I said, “Hi. You’re Andrew Morton, right?” He gave me a warm smile big and a reply, “Yes. I am.” With a silly grin, probably even blushing a little, I said, “My name is Elna Smith. I’ve read some of the books you wrote and my favourite so far is ‘Diana Her True Story’ which I’ve read in 1993.” “Have you, really? He replied, “You must be very young then. Are you just visiting London?” he asked. “Oh, no.” I interrupted, “I am originally from the Philippines but I’ve lived here in this neighbourhood for over 17 years. You mind if I ask you some questions about Princess Diana?” He gave me another big smile and said, “Sure. Go ahead.” And I sure did take the opportunity to ask him some questions about the late princess, and he candidly answered them all. It was a really nice chat I had with him. He was incredibly gracious and kind. A real gentleman indeed.


I thanked him and asked if I could have a photo with him; he was happy to do it and even asked a lady standing nearby to do it for us. Interestingly enough, no one else other than myself recognised him. But a lady who took our photo, she was standing right next to us, overheard our conversation and she introduced herself as a German tv/radio host, and asked Andrew a couple of questions about Princess Diana. He then asked where the nearest loo is and I told him, The Orangery or Royal Garden Hotel. He smiled, said thank you and walked away. Afterwards, I ran back towards The Orangery thrilled to tell Jared about my rare encounter with the famous royal biographer. 


At around 6PM Jared and Trystan were already tired playing football while I was about to finish reading my book when we decided to pack up and go home. But I told Jared, ‘I’ll walk towards the front gates and have another look at the crowd. I might spot another famous personality, may be someone very close to Princess Diana. I’ll see you in half an hour!’  And off I went back to the palace gates . . . 

Bareface and massive sunnies! Had I known I’d be doing selfie/photos with some famous book authors that day, I’d have put on a bit of make up haha!

Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I got there, I saw Ken Wharfe, Royal Protection Officer of the late princess — just saw him being interviewed on ITV a couple of days prior. He wrote two books ‘Diana Closely Guarded Secret’ and ‘Guarding Diana Protecting The Princess Around the World’ — I’ve read the first one but not the newly published 2nd book.


I tried to do what I did to Andrew Morton — introduced myself, asked some questions, and asked for a photo with him. Unlike Andrew Morton, Ken Wharfe was very serious but kind enough to stop and have a little chat. But he was with someone, a younger man, probably his assistant or bodyguard (who knows?  ), who told him they have to go. They seemed to be in a rush that I only managed to ask him one question: ”What was Princess Diana like behind the camera?” His answer was, “Complicated but witty.” 


I then walked over towards the front gates to check some of the tributes and take some photos. And as I was heading home, I spotted another familiar face! This time, it was Arthur Edwards — a journalist/royal photographer who became Princess Diana’s trusted friend. He wrote a memoir, ‘Diana: The People’s Princes – A Personal Tribute in Words and Pictures’ — another great book I’ve read about the late princess.


Mr Edwards was having a serious conversation with someone, probably another photographer, when I spotted him. I lingered for about 10-15 minutes and waited until he walked away; then I ambushed him.  No, I didn’t. He’s an elderly man — probably in his late 70s; as he walked away I simply followed him and started talking to him.


I had a brief but nice chat with him. He’s such a charming old man — gentle, sweet and kind — what I envision a grandfather should be. I truly respect and admire him. Mr Edwards didn’t make any money from his book — proceeds go to Princess Diana Memorial Fund. Apparently, he is in good terms with the royal family and especially with Diana’s two boys who sometimes invite him to special occasions. It was really heartwarming to hear a few stories about Princess Diana from a man who captured not only the joys but also the heartaches of the late princess.


The next morning, 1st of September, I did my morning run at the park and saw more people leaving flowers in front of the palace gates. While running, I got a phone call from Tina; she wanted to see me at Kensington Gardens where she was heading with Lucia. We then met up and sat in one of the benches in front of the palace. Tina’s grieving over the recent death of her sister-in law and niece and was greatly distressed so I listened to her talk about it and just tried to encourage her.


In the evening just before the park closed down, Jared and I walked over to Kensington Palace once again to have one last look at the tributes before they are finally removed.


There were more flowers, handwritten notes, photographs, candles and other tributes on display. So much more than what I saw earlier in the day.


I was telling Jared on our way to the park that during Princess Diana’s funeral twenty years ago I skipped work and was glued on tv for almost a day; and when I spotted the funeral cortège moving solemnly down the streets of London I cried the first time I saw William and Harry walking behind their mother’s casket. It reminded me of losing my own father at a young age and I tried to imagine myself in their shoes — what it would be like for the young princes to have lost their mother. I said to Jared, ‘I have meet you a few months after she died, and who would have thought back then that three years after Princess Diana’s death I’d be living in London, in the same neighbourhood where she lived for many years.’


Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would end up marrying a foreigner, much less a British-American. You see, I didn’t dream about living abroad or marrying a white man. My goal was simple — to marry a Filipino, someone who could support a big family so I wouldn’t have to work, I wanted to be a housewife and raise three beautiful and smart kids. But life happens not according to our plan but God’s.And yes, His plan is always the best. I promise, I’m not gonna bore you with my love story though I must say that it’s a rather amusing story full of drama and comedy including death threats, church division, etc.


Sorry I digress. Back to KP, it was starting to get dark and there were only a handful of people hanging around. Jared insisted on taking some photos of myself; I was barefaced and refused but relented after he told me this might be the last time the whole nation will celebrate Princess Diana’s death anniversary. Jared showed me the photos he took of and said, ‘You have to blog about this occasion, about meeting those book authors yesterday, and include this beautiful picture of yourself.’  I had a big laugh and said, ‘Sige na nga!’ (Okey then). 

Note: Although royal sighting has been the norm around here, and I’ve seen some of the most senior royals (blogged about it  last year —here’s the link), I have yet to see Prince Harry in person.