England 40 Years Ago — March 4, 1981

Lisa was accepted by Dunottar School. We hope it won’t make any difference that we won’t be living on this street; the headmistress had almost promised to accept her even if her common exam papers weren’t up to par for her age group. In talking to Miss Kinman (hesdmistress of the present school) this week, we were told Lisa did very well on the exams. One of her best marks was in French!!

I thought to ask someone where the name Dunotter came from and was told it is the name of a castle in Scotland.

John and I went again to see the house we’re supposed to be getting. This time Mr. Wilson was there, as well as his wife. Both are delightful people. We found that he is a patent attorney and frequently flies to the US on business. Sounds interesting. They discussed a few things with us and then left us to wander around on our own. John was mentally rearranging the living room, and I was organizing the kitchen in my mind. We do hope everything goes smoothly. Just this morning we got the rental agreement in the mail and didn’t agree with it! Someone from the estate agent’s office called to tell us to disregard it because the Wilson’s solicitor had not been given the correct facts. I’ll say! They even had the name wrong.

One day I shopped for a dishwasher. Officially they do not “do” portable dishwashers here! The third store I went to said they could sell a reliably stable trolley to put under a regular dishwasher. The forth store discovered one company that sells them with casters.

Lisa had a school outing to see The Prince and the Puppets in Croydon. They went via coach and got back at exactly the time they’d predicted.

Both John and I were able to go to the conference set up with Kate’s teacher. They have one conference during the year with all the parents. Lisa’s is scheduled (did you pronounce that right?) several weeks hence. Mrs. Fitzhugh (she spells it with a capital haich and pronounces it Fitz-ooo) said Kate seems to understand all the principles of maths, but is so terribly slow to work out problems. Her ideas for compositions are good, but she has trouble writing them out because she is so slow in writing. We were reassured that she works hard and does not daydream. What more can one ask?

I bought some Gooderstone carrots. Hope they taste better than stones! They look like slender carrots from home — normal ones here are terribly short and thick, though surprisingly, rarely woody.

John $ got his oral polio vaccine. The normal schedule here is to give three D.P.T. plus polio at 6, 8 and 12 months. We had to wait for a while, and at first $ was shy of meeting smaller children and babies. Didn’t take him long to get used to them and begin to run up and down the narrow hall.

Thank you for several replies about the yellow ribbons used in relation to the hostages. That’s the easiest research job I’ve ever carried out! The New Zealand woman who had asked me was glad to know what it was all about.

I’m always a little apprehensive when Mr. Wolters, the agent, has an appointment to come here. He’s never been anything but nice — better start that again because I can see I’m going to get into trouble ending it. He’s always been kindness itself. This time he came in with a tin, handed it to me, and said his wife had made us some Welsh cakes!!! I’d sent some sourdough bread and muffins home with him at previous visits. I was so surprised that she, whom we’ve never met, would do something like that. We know she is not well and is waiting to go into hospital. The Welsh cakes have the texture of cold biscuits — appear to be rolled out, cut, baked on a griddle, and sugared. Delicious. Mrs. Wolters came from Wales, so I presume these are authentic.

Kate has now had her first group violin lesson after school. The school arranged for a music shop to deliver the instruments to school, so all we had to do was sign the papers and pay for the hire of it. She is so enthusiastic and has done her bow exercises without being reminded. Lisa had requested flute lessons, but they are having difficulty getting a teacher. Miss Kinman said the flute is so popular these days that there just aren’t many good teachers free.

$ has done very well with a two-handed cup with no trainer lid, even the first day! Readiness has a lot to do with learning, doesn’t it?

Picking up a crying baby in the dark can become quite a shock. $ cried, I picked him up, then turned on the light to check his bottom. It was his top he needed changed — there was blood all over one blanket and his sleeper. He must have fallen against something because there was a hole in his gum. I laid him on his back, played with him until the bleeding stopped, and put him back to bed minus his favorite blanket. The trick was to turn out the light before he realized he was minus anything special. Got it washed and dried before he woke the next morning.

John and I had signed up to sing Messiah at St. Mary’s on Good Friday. Last night was the first rehearsal. We had tried unsuccessfully to get the edition they requested — makes it so much easier if the director can refer to page numbers. When we walked in the church, there was Tony L. loaning copies of the correct edition from the library! We can use these until the performance, but of course, can’t mark them.

I enjoyed the running chatter of the director — he is really witty. He can request the same thing five different ways! The practice goes from 7:15 to 10:15. I sat by red-headed Audrey Taylor who is interested in Tudor history, mainly economic and political history of that period. I believe I heard her right — said her husband is 22 years older than she is!! Wow!!

John talked to a man who works for Aramco and comes from Boise, Idaho. Other men in the choir were former boy choir members who had trained at St. Mary’s. They think the present choir is not worked hard enough; in their day they had rehearsals 6 days a week! One of them has a fantastic tenor voice.

We rushed home to find the phone ringing, Lisa tired, and Kate dead to the world on the couch. It’s good there are a limited number of these evenings planned.

Today (Saturday) has been an unhurried day. John and Lisa ran some errands, both girls went to Marianne’s to play for a while, and now we are enjoying being inside because there is quite a wind blowing the fine rain. It’s cozy to look out at the miserable weather and know we don’t have to go out again.

Can’t think of any more news at the moment. Hope all of you are fine.

Mistake in the Shower

With dismay, I realized I had a dollop of conditioner in my hand instead of shampoo. There was no easy way to get it back in the bottle, and a penny-pincher would not willingly waste it. Even the stingiest miser would not want outside help at that point. Don’t even try to imagine the scene. I know what I did, but not how I did it. I opened the shampoo, put some in the other hand, and proceeded to wash the hair with one hand without losing the conditioner in the other. Using two hands, the rest was easy – rinse, apply, and rinse again. It’s comforting to know that my brain could solve an unexpected problem while preparing for the day.

England 40 Years Ago — March 1, 1981

We had a marvelous visit with the Mehrlings, it just didn’t last long enough. A week ago in Cherbourg we wandered into a church for a tiny part of the service. An unknown liturgy in an unknown language isn’t as worshipful as one would wish. We wandered along some railroad tracks (wonder why?) and took a nice drive around the countryside.

A church we drove by

It felt as if we spent most of the day waiting for the time to get on the ferry. The crossing itself was pleasant — not so many people on board on that trip, and John $ slept with little trouble. We got home at midnight. It was pleasant not to have to get up early and rush the next morning.

$ and I stayed home when everyone else went to Canterbury and drove to Dover and Hastings. I had a very quiet day, and $ slept a lot.

That night Mom was telling a story and said, “…had their eyes glued on the game.”

Kate asked, “Who was glooming?”

Mom, repeating herself, said, “Tonja had her eyes GLUED on the cheerleaders.”

Kate said, “Oh, she was GLUEING?”

Tuesday was a very cold day. The folks took a walk, shortened I suspect, by the cold. Lisa and Kate were back in school. John called home to say the estate agent had notified him that the house we’d put money on had been sold out from under us. We couldn’t do anything about it until this weekend when we went out looking again.

The engagement of Prince Charles brought much comment and a TV special to which we were glueing our eyes. It’s fun to be part of this celebration. The step-mother of Lady Diana is the daughter of Barbara Cartland, the novelist. That romantic writer will soon be the step-grandmama-in-law of the Prince of Wales. I find it amusing that the one who makes up stories about royalty will be linked with them in real life.

Wednesday we walked around the shopping area of Reigate and walked to the church from home. I tried again to get a picture of the inside of the church. On the way back, we stopped to look at that crazy tree in the church yard that looks like snakes or pipe cleaners attached to a trunk.

Thursday the M’s went to London to shop, lunch with John, and do a little sight-seeing. I juggled Mr. Clewes, the gardener, and Mr. Wolters, the meticulous agent. Everything was fine. Later I got in a rush getting tea, and I didn’t listen for the silence that spells trouble. I turned around to find $ had a piece of coffee cake in one hand and a big muffin in the other! I’d put the plate a little too close to the edge, and he just helped himself. To ensure he’d get to keep his prizes, he quickly took a big bite out of each one.

Friday we took the folks to the airport and continued our house search. We saw a town house in Redhill that was interesting but a bit small. The ground floor had the garage, entry and kitchen. The first floor (which we’d call the second floor) contained the lounge and big bedroom with no cupboards. Third, or second, had three tiny bedrooms and the bath.

Across the street from the one we lost was a large house that had been divided into two parts. The owner had lived in it, converted it into two separate flats, and built a new house behind this one. [A peek into the future — this is the house we lived in until it was time to return to the states, although I didn’t know it at this point.]

In Banstead was a house that made you feel you had to hold your breath all the time because the rooms were so tiny. The dining room was an addition with no heat, and we decided that might make the children eat faster with the chatter of teeth to hurry the chewing. It was a bit far from schools in Reigate, too.

After picking up the girls from school, we saw the last house of the day on the top of a big hill. It had been a mansion, but the top two floors had been gutted by fire. The top was removed, and the ground floor made into a house. The ceilings were high, the rooms spacious, but oddly put together. Two bedrooms were on one side of it, the other two beyond the lounge and kitchen. The view was fantastic, but I didn’t like the kitchen with the dishwasher in a utility room. Part of the house was locked off, reserved for the owner. It was creepy. The young owner who had just gotten married a few weeks before had left all sorts of personal possessions strewn about. The arrangements of flowers must have been from the wedding!

Yesterday the girls went to films at Micklefield (Kate’s school) while John and I waited to hear about the house. Our offer was accepted for the house in Walton on the Hill. We’re afraid to say much about it since anything could happen before the papers are signed. This is the one that is divided (not against itself, I hope). It has a green front door! On the ground floor is the big lounge-dining room, kitchen and shower room. Upstairs there is a study that will be $’s room, two small bedrooms with their own sinks, and a huge master bedroom. Also a bath in blue. We will certainly miss having an extra bedroom for guests. Our garden extends to the back with an orchard to one side. We’ll take Clewes with us. One of the nicest things about the house is the owner, who happened to be there while we were looking at it. She seemed to be such a happy person, as did her son who had just moved from that house to one of his own. As we were leaving, she said, “If this doesn’t suit you, I hope you find one that will.” She even spoke to $!! Most people ignore him and hope he’ll go away.

Yesterday afternoon Lisa complained of headache and a tummy ache. John conducted his usual test for fever by kissing her forehead to see if it were hot. She misunderstood and said, “That didn’t make me feel any better!” The days of kissing away a hurt are long gone for her!

English people don’t try things; “they have a go.” If they were offered the Braille slate to try, they’d say, “I’ll have a go at it.”

Kate, explaining she needs to rent a violin for the lessons at school, said, “They measured me and said I need a HOUSE size.” We thought that sounded a bit big for her, but she insisted that’s the way she heard it. We’ll check into a HALF size.

This morning I went to communion at 8, and John and Kate to morning prayer at 11. I think it a bit extravagant, but it’s nice to have 3 or 4 services to choose from each Sunday. Lisa has head and throat problems at the moment. We know she’s been exposed to scarlet fever and mumps at school. Any time a contagious disease is reported at school, they send a note home stating the illness and the last day the child with it was in school.

Thanks for the news of Susan (my brother’s wife). For all of you who have been praying for her — the body scan showed no tumors.

That’s all the news for now. Hope all of you are fine.

COVID, Back Then and Soon

On the way to Charlotte, taking grandson Nathaniel back to school, we went to a church we’ve been to twice before. It is one we particularly like. It’s a beautiful gray stone church on a winding mountain road, and a rushing stream borders the property. Inside is even more attractive, because the people are very friendly and worshipful. They use the old standard liturgy and sing the chorales that guide your thoughts in deep channels. Like icing on a cake, the pastor chants the service easily and precisely.

John couldn’t tell from the web site if this church was even having a service on Sunday morning. No one responded to email or a phone call. What a surprise to pull into the parking lot and find it full! An unmasked man walked to the entrance and went in. We followed and found the church as full of people as it had been in past years. There were paper bulletins and hymn books in the pews, something we hadn’t seen for a year. Even more shocking, one man shook our hands to welcome us! We might have thought we were in a time warp, except there were a few older couples wearing masks.

We found out the aunt of the pastor’s wife died the day before, and they would be leaving to go to the funeral and on to Colorado where their grandchild was born a month early. No wonder no one responded to email and web messages!

What we saw at the church was almost pre-COVID behavior, where things looked much like they did a year ago. I wondered if that is what our church in Asheville will be like some months from now.

I know the governor of NC issued more relaxed COVID guidelines the previous Friday, but I hadn’t read them. After church we went to a tavern Nathaniel chose from his phone as we drove along. It was in a small town near Charlotte. Masks were the only thing that screamed COVID. People sat at the bar, and tables were not as far apart as they probably were before. We used plastic menus instead of paper ones. I didn’t feel like I was being followed by an army of workers wielding disinfectants while silently cursing me for breathing. This may be a preview of how restaurants will be in the months to come.

How lovely it will be when the freedoms of the past and those of the present feel similar!

Nathaniel’s Quick Visit

Grandson Nathaniel had Saturday off, and we made the most of it. He finished work the night before at 9 pm, and that’s when John picked him up in Charlotte. They were back at our house by midnight, and everyone went to bed. Over breakfast Saturday, Nate had us laughing.

Rose brought her artist sister to a cabin in the mountains to paint for the weekend. Rose and John $pencer went hiking two days to give her plenty of time to paint. I asked for a quick photo to show that her visit overlapped Nathaniel’s for a few minutes.

Later in the day I asked Nate to pose with his degree earned nine months ago. It says “Associate in Applied Science Cum Laude”. Are we proud? You bet!! He is over half way through his junior year now.

We had tea well past the proper hour. I got out our 40-year-old teapot from England and warmed it. Nathaniel weighed the loose tea and set a timer for the steeping. He is more precise than I would have been, and it was worth it. He chose a cup and saucer that had belonged to my grandmother, and I took one that commemorated our 25th wedding anniversary. Clunky mugs were not suitable for our tea.

Nathaniel skipped the mirror ritual this time. The official photographer had gone to bed when he arrived, and the family scattered quickly the next day. The day he left, I asked him to pose, showing the mirror had not moved. He bent his knees, petted Sadie, and stuck out his tongue.

We went to church on the way to Charlotte, but that’s another story. To show the brothers together, I asked the boys for a fast picture as Nathaniel was heading for his dorm. It was a quick visit, but very satisfying.

England 40 Years Ago — February 21, 1981

Guest writer! John’s mother wrote this on Hotel Sofitel stationery.

Dear family in Stony Brook,

Here we are situated in a very lovely French Hotel in Cherbourg, France. It’s about 5:30 p.m. French time which is one hour earlier than Greenwich time which is six hours earlier than Standard Time. We have just returned from a very interesting trip through Normandy countryside. What a delightful area! There are many, many old farms here, apparently occupied by several generations. They are all made of brick or stones cemented together. The farmers were out cutting down the hedgerows which break up the fields into small plots. Our main objective was Utah Beach where Dad landed on D-Day. We walked on the beach, climbed up and down the dunes and looked at the remains of the gun emplacements which were partially dug into the dunes.

It was a peaceful scene today as the tide receded. The shore was lined with shells (sea) all so different from June 6th, 1944. We saw the monument erected in commemoration of the 4th Division. There were a few landing craft there as well as a half track and a landing craft — all left over from the war.

Dad with the monument to the Fourth Division, landing at Utah Beach 6/6/1944

We stopped in a little restaurant across the street from all of this where, after much grunting and gesticulations we made our wishes known. Between the proprietor’s little knowledge of English and our equally little knowledge of French, we made out fairly well. She was so anxious to please, and we were so hungry — equally anxious to please. We had cheese or ham sandwiches on French bread.

This is a church in Normandy that we saw as we drove around

We were met at the airport by John, Anne and little John. It was so good to see them. The only one who has changed is little John. In the afternoon, after a good nap, we went with Anne to pick up the girls at school. They both have grown and look fine also. We had afternoon tea when we returned home followed by dinner later. We saw the girls’ rooms and some of their treasures. Lisa has taken some pictures which she was anxious to share with us. John C. went to the office after meeting us, so he came home a bit later for dinner. Their house is very nice — giving them plenty of room. The girls and I toured their garden, seeing the fish pond and tennis court. We also did some bird watching, which is always so much fun.

The weather is not like NY when we left on Wednesday. There were occasional snow flurries on Wednesday with cooler temps — just barely above freezing. In spite of this there are a few flowers in the garden. It’s an interesting country. There will be so much to talk about when we return home.

We hope you get this letter before we return, but at any rate you will know we have been thinking about you.

Much love to each one of you from us all.

Dad and Mom

England 40 Years Ago — February 20, 1981

[Written on hotel stationery in Cherbourg] We get around, don’t we? At the moment we are with John’s parents on our way to see the beach where Dad landed during WWII.

A correction on Valentine’s Day — they don’t celebrate it much in England, but we were amused at the staid Times. They had several pages of tiny Valentine messages, some hilarious!

Took John $pencer to the clinic to have him checked. He weighs 23.5 pounds. They had the most marvelous scales for children — there was a railing built in it so that a child could stand and hold on while being weighed. Normally children are checked there at age 1 and 3, interspersed with home visits by the visiting health nurse. The huge waiting room of the clinic was brightly painted and filled with lots of toys. $ loved it.

Our neighbor, Doris, was telling me she had been a volunteer constable after her son grew up. She was dressed in the regular uniform so that people didn’t know which women were professional and which volunteer. To start off, she had training at Scotland Yard! Then she walked a beat with a paid cop. Think she said she did it for nine years. Now she’s a volunteer at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Anyone can go in that office to ask for help; the workers have huge files they can consult to find what agency or organization could help them. The Cooks are driving from New Orleans to Washington DC in May. John got his super-duper travel books from Loraine in NY to loan to them. Anyone in Tennessee like to meet our neighbors? If so, we’ll give them your name and address.

Speaking of the invaluable Loraine – she quit, so she will no longer be our great ally in the NY office. A thousand cheers for Loraine for all she’s done for us! Would you pray that she finds a new job that she’ll like? Thanks.

The girls have now been told we’re moving. They were excited! We haven’t talked much about the new house because we won’t know for sure we’ve gotten it until March 2 or 3. Will tell you more then.

Lisa walked in asking Kate, “You want to send love and kisses to cousin Barbara?”

Kate enthusiastically said, “Yeah!”

Lisa: “Good. I already typed it.”

The Mehrlings arrived at Gatwick Thursday morning raving – not raging – about Laker. A most pleasant flight, they said. The girls were very excited at seeing them outside school that afternoon.

The next day we were up at the crack of dawn — almost heard it breaking. We stuffed ourselves in the car and drove to Southampton. The ferry to Cherbourg is more luxurious than the one at the Dover crossing. There are cabins on board, though we just lounged around in the reclining seats. Some of us did — Grandma and John C. grappled with $.

In Cherbourg Mom and Dad ate dinner with Lisa and Kate downstairs in the attractive hotel restaurant while John and I sat with $. Then we had our turn. What a marvelous meal! Real French cooking! The service was impeccable, as it usually is on this side of the world.

$ has a canvas cot (crib) that he did well in. Early this morning he began to giggle, and I realized the funny feeling in my toes belonged at the other end of that giggle. He’d climbed onto my bed and sat on my feet.

We went to Utah Beach and walked along where Dad came ashore on D-Day.

Climbing over German concrete bunkers was interesting. We picked up shells and enjoyed the sound of the breakers. $ was a bit confused by the shifting sand under his feet.

The houses here are so different. A typical new one is of concrete, small and cute, with folding shutters and white curtains drawn back. Old stone houses are often connected to the barns with a quadrangle in the middle. Tiny villages are very picturesque, though lacking color in the winter.

A small village in Normandy

It seems that mail is delivered to homes in small boxes hung on the outside of houses — not through the door as in England. In the morning we saw housewives and children walking home from the bakery with long loaves of bread under their arms and not wrapped at all! Speaking of bread — it certainly is as delicious as its reputation. Sandwiches are made with small loaves of crusty bread, sliced through the middle. Croissants are tender and flaky, a real treat. We whipped through a grocery to buy fruit and yogurt; I spotted shelves full of Gerber baby food which you can’t get in England. Of course, $ no longer needed any after we found it.

We watched the ferry come in where we landed the day before. The front of the ship opens its mouth and spews forth cars. At the same time, stairs were rolled to the side of the ferry so that foot passengers could stream off.

England 40 Years Ago — February 15, 1981

John $ (1 year, 4 months old) is a sight. He loves cardboard boxes. If he sneaks past me into the larder, he snitches a box or so. He slowly and deliberately climbs in, sits a few seconds with a satisfied grin on his face, and tries to hop out. One leg makes it and one doesn’t. He then starts running to get away from it and drags it along after him until he trips or lifts the foot high enough to clear it.

Penny S invited the children and me for tea one afternoon after school. It was a proper tea. We had lovely finger sandwiches of ham, cucumber, tomato, and various breads with butter, fruit, chocolate cake, marzipan cake, and tea. A feature of the family room was a huge rocking horse that even adults can ride! Penny loves creating things and had a sampler on the wall plus a painting or so she had done herself. She likes to sew, knit, and cook besides keeping up with the medical journals. While we were there, Andy came in from a filming session. His partner directs and he produces films — this one on severe childhood allergies.

I made some buttermilk and took it to Renee. She said her mother used to get it in the country to make scones. She wanted it for an American salad dressing.

Many do pronounce “scones”with an almost short “o” in this area. I think it is more that we put the “o” further forward, and they almost swallow it. I prefer to pronounce it with the North Carolina “o”.

Lisa, speaking of fourth formers at school: “Accidents are prone for them.” Can’t you just see an accident lying down in front of each girl? Taken literally, that would mean disaster lies in wait for them.

Kate was given a Good Conduct pin to wear every day on her uniform. I think it means she went several weeks with no mark against her name. I don’t know if she has to give it up at a particular time or always has the threat hanging over her that it will be taken away after any infringement of rules. Nothing is ever absolutely clear about her!

Lisa got in the car and asked me if I thought she had almost fainted one day in school. Then she proudly showed me the Prefect pin she had on. She was called up before the whole school and had the pin put on by the headmistress. It’s quite an honor, particularly since she’s been in the school such a short time. Many of the duties she has already been given as a member of the oldest class such as serving food, helping watch out for smaller children, running errands, and presiding at a table at lunch.

Lisa’s vocabulary is still growing. She explained that something was being “interpretated”. I think that would be wrong on both sides of the Atlantic.

Eileen B came for coffee one morning. She is such a kind person — she seems to exude it. She is the fifth of eight children. All but she and a sister in Michigan live in a three-mile radius of their mother in Dublin. She was a secretary before her two girls were born; her husband, Derek, is an architect.

Thursday Lisa had her first exam in the common entrance exams, the French oral. I would think this is the one she would be least prepared for, having had it such a short time. I thought the procedure interesting. The regular French teacher gives the test with another teacher there to run the tape recorder and see that there are no irregularities. The child is given a paragraph to study for a short time, reads it aloud in French, and then answers questions on it — all in French. There is a prepared list of 20 general questions from which the teacher picks 10 for each student.

Cathie D came for lunch after work one day. I was glad she works until 1:00 because I had to pack in a lot before she came. John had stayed home so that we could view a house first thing after the girls were dropped at school. It was cancelled, but I still had to take him to the station and get the shopping done. Put $ down for a nap, let Mr. Clewes in, retrieved the groceries from the hall, collected the milk from the doorstep, and then began the quiche and Brownies for lunch. Fixed the salad and appetizers while giving Clewes his lunch and feeding $. By the time she came, I was ready to sit down! She had time to drive to school to pick up the girls with me before her son was due home. Her big news is that she is to become a grandma in June.

The girls took heart cookies to school to share with all the girls in their class. The English don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in school, and not much seems to be made of it at home, either. I could understand, since the cheapest cards cost over $1.50 each.

The bottom dropped out of $’s world at 4 a.m. I found him standing on the floor between the wall and the crib, near the corner where the hook had hopped off the frame. He must have been dumped unceremoniously with little advance warning. It didn’t upset him very much; I think he was confused and didn’t know what to do.

John and I saw a house yesterday that is lovely, but has tiny rooms. The owner has two other families seriously looking at it, and they want it for several years. Understandably, she would rather they have it, since she may be gone for six years. The choice at the moment is the handy-man’s nightmare and the manor house on a postage stamp.

Alistair and Sheila C came to see the trains and have dinner with us last night. He is the office manager at Gotaas-Larsen and is one of the men who was so kind to us when we first came here to house hunt. He loves trains, especially real ones. Sheila told of such interesting things. She came from West Yorkshire, had taught school in Spain, been in Paris six months, and was governess for two girls (children of jet-setters) where she lived mainly in Argentina and visited the family chateau in France and the flat in New York. Some of the characters she described you wouldn’t believe in a novel! Lisa’s eyes widened when we found that she is presently a headmistress. I think Lisa sat up straighter and was amused to discover “heads” without authority over you are most interesting.

Alistair’s parents were Scots, but he spent most of his growing years in Alexandria, Egypt. His father was a banker, doing verbal and written business in English, French, and Arabic. He dredged up several words in Arabic for Lisa. He and his mother spent some of the war years in Africa.

Today we had Sunday “lunch” with the Hulls across the street. She said they’d enjoyed having an American meal with us and planned an English meal. We had roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, cabbage, beans, fruit salad, and mincemeat flan. I believe the cabbage, beans, and most of the fruit had come from their freezer via their own garden. We had coffee in the sitting room near the fire, and their almost 16-year-old played with $ which certainly helped our conversation. Then we all went for a walk on the common. Not only did the fresh air do us good, it kept $ pleasantly occupied. A very delightful time would describe our feelings. They met several people they knew, and I felt right at home when we met Penny and Andy whom the Hulls didn’t know.

Just watched a programme (British) on the Confederate Air Force in Texas. John was glad he saw it because he will be teased about it tomorrow in the office.

There were no photographs to go with this letter, so I’ll give you a preview. Below are John’s parents, soon to visit us, with Lisa and Kate. I suspect this might have been taken the day they arrived, since they are well-dressed and the girls are wearing their school uniforms.

Valentine Special

Neighbor Logan (10) is our family sweetheart, and he spent several hours with us on Saturday when there was no school. He wanted us to tell his parents that he did not look at the computer while here, and I forgot to send that message. The only electronic thing he did was practice sending swiped messages to John on the cell phone. He watched me text his mother and wanted to try it. It’s a fast way, though prone to errors. You drag your finger to the letters of a word, and when you lift your finger, the app proceeds to the next word. He and John exchanged short messages, amid much giggling on Logan’s part.

The lad has a high energy level and is never still for long. He doesn’t bounce off the walls, though. He began to play with the old office chair that John uses as a footstool. Bringing it into the kitchen area, he put a spin on it. I didn’t catch his fastest rate.

Logan steered the chair all around the room with full theatrics. I get tickled at all the things he tries. He is careful not to bump into things.

I was also amused at the lunch table. I always give him a choice of cutlery – utensils like we use or a child’s set. I bought the plastic fork, spoon, and pusher when Logan had almost outgrown it. The pusher caught my fancy, and I thought Logan might use it until his nephew Sufi was old enough for it. The thing is, neither Sufi nor his younger brother Pico has eaten with us.

The utensils are construction vehicles. I hadn’t looked at them closely and didn’t realize there were words on the backs of the handles. Logan turned over the fork and and read the words on the back. They said, “CONSTRUCTIVE EATING.” He could read before he went to kindergarten, so it should have been no surprise to me that he read it aloud easily. I giggled, anyway. It’s always fun to be with our favorite child in the neighborhood.

On the spoon handle: CONSTRUCTIVE EATING

This was our Valentine’s Day breakfast – chocolate brioche buns, one for each of us. Next time I’ll roll more chocolate chips inside. Would you agree with me that you can never have too much chocolate?

Like Old Times

It had been weeks since we visited with neighbors Shawn and Bob, so we got together for a long chat. How satisfying it was! Cold weather has always cut down social interaction, but these COVID days, everyone thinks twice about being inside together. We thoroughly enjoyed catching up on news. There was one new person partying with us – Sadie. She was so excited at seeing them that she could hardly keep four paws on the ground.

Sadie adores Logan (10). She forgot all our rules and gleefully jumped on him. Having three dogs at home, Logan can take care of himself, but he shouldn’t have to. Sadie wedged herself in half of Logan’s chair and kissed him. Bless his heart, he was still posing nicely for the camera. I really appreciate that.

I missed getting a photo of Logan bringing me a Valentine balloon. They know I love balloons, and this one was different from all I’ve had before. Bear Hugs! What could be nicer?