Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Tales From The Vicarage ~ Mr. Jones

This is a revised post, first posted in 2012 when I called it:

How I Sent The Vicar Down The Straight And Narrow

I spent about two and a half years in London in the late 1950s - early 1960s. At first, I went to school and lived with a Polish count and his family. They were poor, refugees, lived in Ealing a London suburb. They rented rooms to add some income. They were intellectuals, he worked for a literary magazine, and all sorts of interesting writers and musicians visited their home. 

After I left the Polish family and spent a summer in Sweden, I looked for a job as an au pair, someone who helps out with children and does some light housekeeping. 

I don't remember how this came about, but I got a job in a  British vicarage, located in Lee Green, Kent. I was to look after a four-year old boy, named Stephen. The other members of the family were Mr. and Mrs. Smith, their daughter Janet and eldest son Robert. I believe they were around 12 and 10 years old at the time. 

Other family members were an orange cat, named Ginger, a rabbit named Biscuit, and a guinea pig that the kids gave to me. There was also a stout woman, named Mrs. Plummer, who came in and did the heavy housekeeping for the family. Mrs. Smith worked outside of the home and Mr. Smith, the vicar, worked at home. They were a wonderful, warm and caring family. The children welcomed me with open arms and I felt at home from the moment I arrived. 

The kids and their pets.

I only worked about half a day, around lunch and early afternoons. Janet and I often went to her riding school and rode horses. My favorite was called Everest, a huge, but friendly horse. We would go on field trips with the horses, riding through the beautiful English countryside. After all the studying of the previous year, it was an easy and peaceful life. 

Everest and I after a muddy ride.

I often went to church with the family and learned about the Church of England. I didn't have to go as part of my job, but the vicar was a charming man, a wise man, and his services were really great. The vicar was also compassionate and kind to the many people who would come to the vicarage for a variety of reasons. Many of them came because there was a need; a need for a talk with the vicar; a need for some direction, some advice, or some assistance.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

One day, the door bell rang and when I answered it, I found Mr. Jones outside. Mr. Jones was bit a socially inept, a little off and difficult to be around. On this particular day, he was clearly agitated and insisted he had to see the vicar at once. I knew the vicar was home, so I invited Mr. Jones to step into the hallway. I looked for the vicar, but couldn't find him anywhere. The vicarage was a huge old house with all sorts of nooks and crannies. I opened a couple of doors, just to check, including one to the room where the coal that heated the house was kept. And there I found him! Imagine that, the vicar, a man of God, was hiding in the coal bin ~ well, almost! 

Me and my Guinea pig.

He told me to tell Mr. Jones I couldn't find him. I told him that this man is in some sort of trouble and he really needs to talk to you, so you better go and see him. The vicar said,"no, he just talks and talks and I'm busy." I said, "you're supposed to see these people and help them. And I will not lie for you." This went on for a while, then the vicar relented and met with Mr. Jones.

The next morning, the call came. Mr. Jones had died, unexpectedly, the evening before. The vicar was in shock when he told me. He thanked me for insisting  he talk to Mr. Jones, who had gone home afterwards and then had a fatal heart attack.

Much to his credit, the vicar owned up to this in church the following Sunday. Not to hiding in the coal bin, but to his own reluctance and my insistence on the day that Mr. Jones died. 

I'm know the vicar never forgot me and the lesson he learned that day. 


  1. What a forceful person you must have been at a very young age! And dear straight and honest.
    I too was an au pair for about five months, at first with a lovely family in Hampshire and then with a not so nice family in London. I left them very quickly and went back to Germany. To be a foreign au pair was usual for girls who wanted to study as well have a safe home at the same time. Does that job still exist?

    1. I think they still have au pairs. When I came to the US, it was called a Mother's Helper. That's what I was when I arrived here. More duties, cleaning and such. So good to hear from you. We do have some things in common.

    2. Yes Friko and Inger ... au pairs abound - Princess Diana was the obvious one ... but apart from that - they are around and employed. Many in high society molly coddling all around - but I'm sure many help out - being taking skiing to look after the kids, and yachts and holidays ... not sure how the simple pleasures you experienced are there today - in this slightly different world. I had a friend who went over as an au pair - she ended up working for the British Consulate in New York - married an American and lived happily ever after ... her two sons are very American. Cheers Hilary

  2. Great story!
    I'm impressed by your insistance that the vicar talks to Mr.Jones! You did the right thing.

  3. Wow! What a powerful story!! Just shows we need to live like any day might be the last for us or someone we know. You sure did the right thing! I love seeing these early pictures of the beautiful you!

  4. it was a good thing he listened to you, I belive I would have done the same as you, told him I would not lie for him. good job and I know he was so happy you talked and he listend

  5. Vicar learned a lesson from his children's au pair. I hope he was humbled.

  6. Good for you for making the vicar see what he needed to do. God used you that day!!!

  7. Mr Jones, I am sure he had that feeling of impending finality, and what a wonderful person you were to insist.Thank goodness the vicar finally relented. And how brave to own up and confess to his hiding in the coal cellar.Lovely old photos.

  8. A great story Inger - you must've been a force to reckon with lol A lot of my friends from the Continent came here first as au pairs - it was a great way to see the world.

  9. Wonderful story Inger and I was impressed that you insisted Mr. Smith meet with the man. I'm sure I would have just said "OK" and let him hide. You saved him from possibly years of regret. Well done.

  10. what an amazing episode for a young girl to deal with in such a situation!
    you showed your true spirit in how you handled it. with integrity and finesse. he's forever grateful I'm sure.
    and you were … no... make that ARE absolutely gorgeous! I love old pictures! it made the story come to life!
    be safe out there in the desert. our town has panicked. they've cleaned out the toilet paper shelves!!!
    good grief. I mean... I know it's bad. but we don't even have any cases yet that I know of.

  11. My goodness! It's a good thing you intervened. Well done.


  12. What a wonderful story. You told it so well that I was hanging on every word. You did quite a good deed on that day, and it must have taken courage to insist that the vicar see Mr. Jones.

  13. wow, what an interesting life you had back then...enjoyed reading this and seeing the photos.

  14. Hi Inger - well that taught him ... good for you - but good for him too ... admitting the error of his ways - how funny to hide in the coal hole ... I lived in a Rectory with my father - and there were three bolt holes - one being the coal store. Love the story ... cheers Hilary

  15. Hi Inger - can't believe I never left a comment on this post - which I love ... it's so British and is a wonderful exposition of a few episodes of your life over here, before you went across the pond.

    It's interesting what we can do as youngsters ... that we might not have done as adults - brought back a couple of memories for me too ...

    So enjoy your tales of 1950s/60s England ... but hope we'll get to see some about early Stockholm - when you can ... that hiding in the coal hole ... they were a range of classic tiny rooms ... boiler, coal store, outside toilet, and extra pantry area ... a couple of the houses my parents owned had those ... and my brother's house here - til it caught fire in the great storm (luckily only that part - not the whole house) ... when they rebuilt but changed that bit of the layout to a 21st century living space.

    Thank you ... loved it - hope all well today - take care ... Easter Saturday in a world that's upside down - all the best - Hilary

  16. Hi Inger - As you know I loved this ... and have written to you about it - it is so English in its tone. Great to see another post up ... and I'll be emailing again soon - take care and all the best - Hilary


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


Related Posts with Thumbnails