England 40 Years Ago — December 6, 1981

When Mrs. Wilson (owner of this house) came for coffee, she asked if we’d celebrated Thanksgiving. She’d seen a cookery programme (English spelling) on TV on which a turkey was done and a discussion of our holiday took place. She laughed and told of one Thanksgiving she and her husband spent in the US on business. Mr. Wilson accepted two invitations that day, one for lunch and one for dinner. When she heard what he’d done, she was aghast, knowing our Thanksgiving equals their Christmas Day feast. The lunch was with friends who excused them from over eating, but they partook of both.

She expounded on the “trimmings” they have with turkey for Christmas dinner here. One must have slices of ham, bacon rolls and chipolata sausages. Creamed onions, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, bread sauce, and individual mincemeat tarts are also obligatory. I think our Thanksgiving meal is easier!

Kate was home two days in a row feeling sick. (I’ve learned to be careful in the use of that word. English people mean “throwing up” for “sick”. The word for not feeling well is “ill.”) Kate would turn white and moan, but nothing happened. Jennifer said Catherine had felt that way last weekend, even feeling giddy and light-headed. Must be a weird bug.

Only in England – playing Christmas carols and making holiday cookies, we could look at fresh roses from our garden we’d put on the counter! Catherine, Lisa and Kate helped me make Norwegian Christmas cookies, Berlinerkranser.

John was able to buy a Christmas tree cut this past week! The one we had last year was miserable, needles falling before it was brought into the house. This one has to last longer because we’ll put it up before we fly to Germany on the 17th. We plan to return on Boxing Day (Dec. 26), meeting John’s parents at the airport.

Lisa went to a friend’s birthday party – a dinner from 6 – 9 p.m. She said they had a lovely fried chicken dinner and they played some marvelously different games. The house is an old Victorian mansion divided into three homes, but the rooms are tremendously large. Lise’s friend has her room on the 4th floor.

Today we went to church at St. Paul’s, the first time I’ve been there since the Royal Wedding, though the others went once before. It was a lovely service with a great sermon. The preacher said the second Sunday in Advent is Bible Sunday; that must be the Anglican version. John made it through the whole service with $ in the back of the church, though the little one did not fall asleep this time. I could never manage $ like his father does. On the other hand, I doubt John would put up with him in the supermarket!

John kindly dropped me off at the Tower of London so that I could see the crown jewels, only it was closed. This year the Tower and the Jewel House will not be open from November to March. Luckily he hadn’t disappeared and we were able to make other plans. We went to the Zoo instead.

John $ went to that zoo with the Brownworths last summer, but he didn’t tell us much about it. Meanwhile he’s learned many names of animals from books and got quite excited at seeing the giraffes and monkeys. We nearly keeled over laughing when he imitated the sounds of the frisky sea lions. Other people looked at us and couldn’t stop grinning.

[There were no photos to go with this letter, probably, because I knew we’d be traveling to interesting places later in the month.]

Neighbor Bob to the Rescue!

John heard an awful noise about 1 a.m. That, coupled with the sound of rushing water, made him and David rush under the house. They couldn’t find a cut-off for the water or electricity to the pump. Son John $pencer helped look, too. Sadie did what she could to help – she barked. In desperation, John called neighbor Bob, who got out of bed and came over. Bob did something with a pressure valve, solving the immediate problem. He then found the emergency cut-off for the pump, so we know where that is the next time we need it. How grateful we are that Bob answered his phone and came to the rescue! We have the best neighbors!

Are you wondering why there are no photographs of our crisis? I slept through it all! I’m here now though, to thank Bob for coming to help us. You are a fantastic friend and neighbor, Bob. God bless you.

Family Time

Two days after Thanksgiving, Lise and I finally walked all the way to the creek. In trying to get good images of our faces, we failed to feature the water. We were happy, though. Sadie was not. We split at the stop sign, John going home with Sadie as we continued to the creek. She repeatedly stopped, pulled back toward us, and whined. Family togetherness was important to her!

Daughter Lise and her nephews loved playing games together. Exploding Kittens was the choice that evening.

All too soon, it was time for the mirror ritual. When Nathaniel is leaving, whoever is around witnesses the lowering. He checked his appearance before the mirror was too low for him to see his face.

I asked for family time before going to church, but John had scheduled a meeting. The boys and I walked around the church property, enjoying being together. Having talked about the sound of crisp autumn leaves, they magnified the experience. What fun!

Before driving Nathaniel back to Charlotte, we ate at one of our favorite restaurants. We enjoyed being together until time to say goodbye at his dorm.

Anne, John, David, Lise, Nathaniel

England 40 Years Ago — November 29, 1981

I think John $ approaches a neat, clean house the way a writer faces a clean sheet of paper, or an artist a canvas – eager to make his mark and show what he is capable of.

Every once in a while my mother sends us a large cartoon from the Sunday comics which features a little boy with lots of energy. The pictures show his trail through house and yard jumping on beds, riding the dog, climbing a tree, playing in a sand box, watching a neighbor work in a garden, wading through puddles, riding a bike, peering in the garbage, etc. He generally arrives back home telling his hard-working mum he has nothing to do. I think John $ would be pictured that way, only trailing behind holding on to his reins (harness) for dear life is his harried mum – Me!

Ten people came to our house for the home group from St. Mary’s in Reigate. This is the first meeting John and I have been to this season. It was so good to have fellowship with devout Christians again. One of the new people in the group was Lisa’s main teacher at Micklefield last year. Mrs. Freeman asked if Lisa were here and if she could talk to her. She went to the top of the stairs for a long chat with Lisa and Kate.

I can’t remember ever seeing snow the day before Thanksgiving – had to be in England for that! Up here on the plateau it snowed all morning with nothing to show for it but a drippy roof. Looked pretty, though. The snow, not the drippy roof.

Thanksgiving came with a minimum of fuss since much of our routine continued; it didn’t feel like a holiday to me until John came home from the office early. John G had flown into Heathrow that morning, took a nap at home, then appeared in the office to drive John out. They came just 10 minutes before I would have had to set out on the school run. They did it instead, and I put the finishing touches on the dinner.

We also enjoyed Udo K and his wife, Tina, while Lisa talked non-stop with their 15-year-old twin girls and Kate flirted with their 11-year-old son. The boy loved playing with the trains set up in area near the fireplace.

John took Lisa shopping in Epsom, buying two pair of shoes and a top! It took a lot of tact and the patience of Job on his part. I think he has more to spare than I.

$ has learned to put on his jackets and sweaters by the good old Montesori method. He’s so proud of himself.

Today must have been the most marvelous of Advent Sundays we’ve ever had. We arrived at Winchester Cathedral in time to walk all around the church, finding Jane Austen’s grave and seeing this longest of Medieval churches. The girls and I sat near the front of the packed church – every seat taken in the first two sections reaching half way back. Most seemed to be regulars greeting each other and smiling at us. What warmth!

The choir was superb, singing one of my favorites by Ralph Vaughn-Williams. I went up for communion and was shocked later to see John approach the altar with a sleeping $ in his arms. The sermon was erudite, but with a simple message.

We ate dinner (roast beef for others, salmon for me) at a tiny restaurant with most attentive staff. $ ate like a pig with good manners and behaved beautifully.

The great hall still standing from the castle was also within walking distance and featured King Arthur’s round table hung high on the wall. (It’s several hundred years too new to be authentic, but is old nevertheless.)

Two original gates in the city wall remain, one with a lovely little church built right over the opening.

Church over the gate

Walking back to the car, we again stopped in the cathedral to buy a few little things and the Christmas tape done by their choir. We reveled in the glorious sound all the way home.


Our Thanksgiving celebration began when we drove to Charlotte to get grandson Nathaniel. Friend Sarah went out to eat with us before she drove to her home for the holiday.

Lise, Nathaniel, Sarah, and John

At our house, we had the ritual of the mirror.. As Nathaniel pretended it was very heavy, Lise helped him lift it. Nate puts the mirror high when he comes and lowers it on leaving.

First up on Thanksgiving morning was prepping the turkey. Son John $pencer provided the bird, and chef Nathaniel agreed to cook it. When it was ready for the oven, Nate posed with it. We all liked his pajamas, so David labeled the photo, “Turkey pose and bed clothes.” John $ let Sadie have a preview.

While the meal was cooking, Lise worked a jigsaw puzzle. This was a special puzzle from a dear friend who took photos from my blog this year to design the collage. John $ and David were spectators.

Nathaniel pronounced the turkey done.

We enjoyed both the food and the conversation. We were too full for dessert, so we adjourned for several hours. After having the sweets, we sat back and let the words flow. It was a magical time, when family stories and jokes began to flow. Hearty laughter and gentle teasing were most enjoyable.

John $, Lise, John, Nathaniel, and David

For the foodies, we ate turkey, dressing, gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, frozen cranberry salad, pumpkin cheesecake, and cranberry mince pie.

We hope everyone had many things to be thankful for this year.

Helping Older Folks

It’s marvelous to have daughter Lise here to help me. She laughed when I said I’d lost my eyebrows, and she quickly found a solution. My eyebrows didn’t matter at all when I was wearing glasses all the time. People probably assumed I had brows, but mine blended in with my skin. I thought a brow pencil would be the answer, but what color should it be? I am no longer brown-headed, and black would be overkill. Lise found taupe. It seemed perfect to me, forgetting that I couldn’t see to apply it. She bailed me out over the weekend, and grandson David recorded the event for us.

When we were at a restaurant later, David thought it was amusing that the only people at the table looking at their phones were the old folks. Brother Bob and I were comparing apps for hearing aids. I set mine to mute sounds behind me, but I couldn’t hear any change. He thought he didn’t have such a setting, but he found one named “restaurant”. He heard a difference instantly. Our voices were clearer, and the ones behind us faded away.

Lise found a cart for me to use in the kitchen, and she and John put it together. Our freezer is always so full, making it hard to find things. I had been pulling a chair over to pile food on it while looking. This is going to be much easier and kinder to the fingers.

Like most older people, we try to be self-sufficient. It’s marvelous to have younger ones who see problems and solve them.

England 40 Years Ago — November 22, 1981

At the beginning of the week the butcher, Mr. Luf, handed me an envelope that he said they’d had since the Saturday before, hoping Kate would come in. Her face lit up when she saw it after school; she opened it, and her mouth dropped open when she discovered a one pound note with a lovely birthday card. She flew out of the house to go over and thank the two men and a boy who had signed it. [The butcher shop was easy to reach using a footpath. Kate often went with me and occasionally ran over by herself to buy eggs.]

This nation is changing over to the metric system faster than the US. I was looking for shoe laces and found them marked in cm only. I know what 1 cm looks like, but I couldn’t visualize 60 of them end to end. Solution: I found a ruler in the stationery department, and the problem was solved.

I was invited to a coffee to meet two ladies who live in this area. Eileen B had the get-together in Reigate not far from Micklefield school. I don’t know how she got to know the other two, one of whom has a son at Micklefield, and the other with a son in school just down Breech Lane. All three of us visitors had a toddler in tow, so the visiting was at a minimum. Did find out that the husband of one is a builder, and the other a stunt man! At the moment he is working on the Pirates of Penzance.

On a rainy day John $ had his Wellingtons on, and I was able to lure him to town by going from one puddle to another. The rector replied to my martyred air, “You’re only young once. If you jump in puddles when older, they lock you up.”

$ loves to pull cereal out of the cabinet

The day the car was in the garage for servicing was the day the assistant matron of Dunottar called to say Lisa was ill. I don’t believe I’ve ever fetched her from school in the middle of the day. Luckily I was able to call the garage to find the car was finished and return the call to the school to confirm that I would be picking Lisa up in half an hour. Had to get John $ just as he was going to sleep for his nap, walk to town, get the car, and drive to Reigate. Brought Lisa home and helped her to bed before going back for Kate. Lisa felt better soon after getting home, so it wasn’t anything serious.

I’ve noticed that in speaking of kinfolk, English people refer to their “relations.” The friendly girl who pumps petrol in Reigate said, “When I went to visit my parents, my relations drove me down.” To me “relations” conjures up a bunch of people you have to struggle to get along with, as in “keeping up good relations with so and so.” I’d take relatives any day!

When we first moved in, Catherine and Philippa told us everyone in the village is nice except the grump who runs the post office. They told us to steer clear of him whenever possible. I found that he was, indeed, a sour person; and all I do is hand him my Braille work once a month. You can imagine my horror as I went in to buy these funny brown envelopes when Kate marched up to the window. She picked John $ up so he could peer through the grill and told the man it was the first time he’d walked in the post office. I was imagining he’d keep a sharp stick to poke at little people like I’d poke at spiders, but he smiled and asked how old $ is!!! What a shock!!! Kate seems to inspire some people to be friendly when I can’t.

Two in the toy box

Pre-Thanksgiving Gathering

My brother Bob and Beth had a Thanksgiving party ahead of the official holiday. They have done this for years, so that their daughters could be free to be with other families. There were 26 of us. Since Sarah and grandson Nathaniel arrived shortly after we did, I took several photos to show them and David with Lise.

Lise took this one to include me, along with John on the left and Bob in the middle.

The family magician Rick and his wife Myra let Nathaniel try out some of the sound effects as they were setting up the show.

Rick had an empty wine glass that suddenly had a goldfish swimming around in it. He wanted us to believe he had the second fish in his mouth and appeared to spit it into the glass. I have no idea how he did any of that. The two fish came from a spring on his property and would be returned there.

I turned the camera on a few members of the audience – Julie, Michael, Bob, Nathaniel, Sarah, Lise, and Myra were watching intently.

Rick had a conversation with Einstein, my brother dressed in a white coat, mask, and wild white “hair”. Rick pointed out that wearing a mask helped tremendously when pretending to be a ventriloquist. The dialogue was amusing, enhanced by Rick’s pulling a string to make the mouth go up and down. All Bob did was move his hands.

I took a quick shot of people in the kitchen after the desserts were put on the counter. Those in the background were Martha, Don, Beth, Nathan, Lise, and Kathie. I missed getting a photo of a number of people, but it doesn’t seem to matter much, with all the faces hidden behind masks.

Following is a short video clip of Einstein and Rick:

A Correction and my Apology

Months ago there was a post in which I quoted daughter Lise as saying there were double “l”s in Philippa’s name. I dutifully changed the spelling, although it didn’t look good to me. In subsequent posts, I spelled it with a double l. This week Philippa herself liked the post on Facebook. Attention, Anne! Philippa would spell her own name correctly!!! You’ve got it all wrong!

Philippa, I do apologize for having your name wrong so many times. I’ve been thinking about it, and maybe I have the answer. I wonder if I misspelled it 40 years ago, and Lise made the statement that I used two “l”s. I should have understood two were wrong, and one was correct.

The marvelous part is that Philippa and Lise reconnected on Facebook, and that lovely girl I knew 40 years ago is alive and well in England. In this photo, Philippa is the girl on the far right.

Sadie Welcomes Lise

Sadie jumped all over daughter Lise when we came in from the airport. There was no mistaking her extreme welcome. By the time Lise went to bed, the traveler had been up at least two full days, if not more. The following morning, daughter and dog were together in a much quieter way. Neither noticed when I took the photo.

We have since been for the morning walk, and Lise gave me permission to post the photo. Family members always have veto power.