England 40 Years Ago — October 18, 1981

Lisa says she’s quoted the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” The reply came back, “Satisfaction brought it back.”

John $ had such a good time on his second birthday. While I was making his cake, he pretended to be a chimney sweep. As I went looking for him, he slipped upstairs to play with his dad’s pipes. The best mess was the licking of the spatula from his cake batter.

John $pencer with his birthday cake
$ opening gifts with Kate holding his new outfit

$ loves real telephones as well as toy ones. He can even have a pretend one in the bath! As the water was going out, he used the stopper on a chain as the ear piece and the over-flow fixture as the mouth piece to send important messages in the Evisneps language.

Loraine (John’s good friend and former secretary from NY whom a few of you don’t know) arrived Tuesday night. She’d had a week’s coach tour of Scotland and told us about the marvelous weather and lovely sights. Wednesday she met some new friends in London for an ALL DAY tour of the city and came back with her tongue hanging out. Sights included Madame Taussaud’s or however you pronounce it and spell it, changing of the guard, a brewery, an embroidery or tapestry works, the Tower, St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. Of course, they got out at each place and had a thorough tour with lots of walking.

Thursday and Friday she elected to stay with me to see how daily life moves in the suburbs. We “did” Walton in the rain, going to the butcher shop, green grocer, Cullen’s, the bakery, and looking at everything in between. Friday we went to Redhill to see Co op, Woolworth’s, Boots, and the freezer store. Reigate got a quick walk up and down the high street. When Kate came out of school, we drove to Godstone, doubled back for Lisa, went to Dorking, Box Hill, and home. That night the next door neighbors came for dessert so that we had a nice sit-down visit.

Our children, John, neighbors Catherine and Phillipa and gift to $ from them

Saturday Catherine (neighbor who is Lisa’s age) went with us to Heathrow (emphasis on the “row” of that name) to take Loraine. Kate was at Philippa’s delayed birthday party seeing, or rather crying over, Charlotte’s Web. It seems they were all nine crying when they emerged from the cinema. Beefburgers, baked beans, sausages, chips and a thickly coated chocolate cake soon had them in high spirits again.

We put Loraine to work professionally while she was here. John’s and her former boss called from NY to give John an order, but he couldn’t hear me on the phone, being hard of hearing. I shouted to him that Loraine was here, so he told me to give her a pad and pencil and put her on. I did. She took the message in shorthand which fascinated Kate. I was so glad she was here at that particular moment!

One night the funniest thing happened. I’d prepared a Christmas pudding the week before so that she could have one here with us. I mentioned what was coming, so John put on a Christmas record. As the flames were dying down, Loraine produced the crowning touch with a Christmas gift for each of us! She’d brought Smurf Christmas tree ornaments! What a laugh we had!

Loraine more than earned her keep. She kept $ out of untold numbers of things, refereed several sibling fights, and I found Kate in bed with her one morning reciting poetry for school! As you can imagine, we were very sorry to see her go.

An Adventure Shared with Sadie

Sadie wasn’t allowed in the helicopter, but she was very much a part of the lake adventure. Son John $pencer took a photo of Sadie in the canoe with him, showing Rose standing up on the paddle board in the distance.

Here is a good close-up of Sadie on the board with Rose. They laughed about the danger of falling off. Rose hinted that $ was waiting to see her fall into the cold water and would have laughed. I’m sure $ would have phrased it as being concerned she would take a splash. In any case, it was Sadie who fell in the water. Rose had to pull her back on the board.

This was $’s birthday, which we celebrated much later that day.

Forty years ago, this was the boy with his cake.


John was amused that $ went back to eating olives and crackers after having cake. It reminded him of the family story that after our wedding, his sisters ate dill pickles with wedding cake. I don’t know about you, but I like my cake standing alone!


Rose came from Washington state to be with son John $pencer on his birthday. What a glorious reunion it was for him and Sadie! We enjoyed watching the dog run to each of us, so happy to have us all under one roof.

The first full day Rose was here, they set out to go hiking. They came home exhilarated. Hiking was great on a beautiful day, something they have done many times. What happened as they drove home was the very special part. $ noticed a helicopter in Maggie Valley. He had wanted to take Rose up in one for her birthday when he visited her in Washington. It cost $1,000 for an hour’s ride. They found the ride here was affordable.

It was marvelous to see the mountains from above.

Having this adventure together was fantastic.

I asked them to pose with their souvenir – several photos in a booklet. They said a complete set of photographs was being sent to them via email.

I loved sitting and talking with them, hearing about the corn maze they viewed from above, their thrill at being over the mountains, and the excitement of the older woman who was going up after them.

As we talked, they sent me the pictures above, and I put them on the Aura frame. Within a minute or so, Kate texted from New Jersey that she was looking at them on her phone, which is connected to our frame. If Lise had been awake in Denmark, she would have seen the same thing simultaneously. What an adventure this had been, and how easy it was to share it!

England 40 Years Ago — October 11, 1981

There is lots of rain here these days. The way people talk, it is the usual for autumn (NOT fall) weather.

Below is a photo of autumn colour in the town where we lived, Walton-on-the-Hill.

Having said that, I must hasten to add that today, a Sunday, we had a perfectly gorgeous day of sun and brisk breezes that made us want to get up and go somewhere. Catherine and Phillipa went with us to the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court. Those of you who have seen Hampton Court saw the chapel from the balcony. We were invited to park free of charge in a special parking lot and walked around a side way to get into the chapel. We were among the first to arrive, were seated in the congregation, then later invited to go into the choir. The sidesman (usher) said, “Since you are all ladies, would you like to sit on the women’s side in the choir?” John was outside with John $ at the time. They reserve the back row of the choir for women on one side and men on the other.

There were a fair number of people there to worship with the choir of men and boys. The men were fantastic; the boys were not as precise as many we’ve heard, but lovely, nevertheless. I thought the sermon the best of any we’ve heard outside the parish churches we’ve been to. The man took a text, developed it, and didn’t quote any works of fiction or radio broadcasts. After the benediction, we sang “God Save the Queen.” I felt so stupid to know the tune so well and have not the foggiest notion of the words. We wondered if it was sung because it’s a royal chapel.

After the service everyone was invited for a drink in the chapter house. We were intent on finding the car with John and $, but missed our way and ended up following the others. When we came to a dead end and everyone else was going into an apartment, we began to swim upstream. One kindly usher saw us and asked if we had lost our way. He walked back with us, telling us that we were invited for the social hour. I explained we had to find the rest of the family, and he quietly said, “You could tell him about it afterwards.” In any case, we saw parts of the palace that are normally closed to the public.

We had a drink of lemon squash at the car and drove on to Richmond on the Thames. We ate lunch at the Golden Egg, a chain of semi-fast food restaurants. After a walk along the Thames seeing swans, long boats, and ducks, we drove a short way to Ham. Ham House was built in 1610 and remodeled in 1670. Most of the furniture was original to the rooms they were placed in, having been redone by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale at the time of remodeling of the building. The whole place overlooking the Thames was gorgeous, especially the carved panels about the stairs. I enjoyed the floors with beautiful designs all in wood. The ceilings were equally ornate.

We often walked right by Mere Pond when running errands in the village.

Lisa laughed at me for feeling sorry for the Queen. I read that when she dines alone or with only family members she eats meat, salad and a vegetable for lunch and dinner. No appetizers, no soups, no desserts. She does have a choice, ticking off desired items the day before from menus sent to her. The day I read that I fixed myself a mouth-watering sandwich of thin home-baked bread, crisp bacon, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, and layers of snappy lettuce. As this feast ascended toward my mouth, I said, “Poor Queen.”

Warrants are issued to merchants or companies who supply the royal household with any item for over a period of three years. This entitles them to put the appropriate crest on their adverts, delivery wagons and letter paper. The Queen has issued the most because her household is so large – including Buckingham Palace, Balmoral, Sandringham, Windsor, etc. The Queen Mother has the next largest number and Prince Philip fewer still. Most of his are on sporting goods. I presume Prince Charles hasn’t issued any up till now since he hasn’t maintained a separate establishment. $’s first pair of shoes had the Queen’s crest on the insole, and it took up the whole heel part of the shoe! This week I picked up a high-class can of baked beans with her crest! I can’t imagine her eating baked beans, can you?, but someone in her household does.

The book also said the Queen always has her favorite blend of tea and an electric kettle that travel wherever she goes. Someone must always remember to pack her favorite soap. I feel sorry for her because I think half the joy of using products is in the trying of new brands. Poor Queen! Crest toothpaste tastes superb to me right now because I bought a really vile one put out by Co-op and wouldn’t let myself throw it away till it was finished. The Queen has probably never had the worst of toothpastes to compare with her best!

Another view of Mere Pond.

Friday night we had gale force winds whipping around. Were we evermore glad to be far away from tall spindly trees!

Yesterday Kate and Phillipa went with George to a charity bazaar. Kate didn’t buy anything, but Phillipa bought a pair of shoes for $ for 30p. She has a good eye; I think he could have worn them a month ago! Had to explain to her that they wouldn’t go on his feet, but I purchased them to give to a friend. I know Paula will be glad to get anything for her baby.

Lisa had a croupy cough and stayed home Thursday and Friday. We strung that guitar that Jeremy has loaned us, and she finished the beginner’s book! She’s enjoying it.

Once, and only once, the pond froze over while we were living there. Lisa and Kate were used to the idea of walking on frozen ponds from being on Long Island. We dressed in our warmest clothing, and the girls stepped onto the ice from the sidewalk in the distance here. Nothing could have been further from our minds the day this photo was taken.

Scared by a Dog’s Poop Bag

Sometimes grand-dog Sadie is eager to walk with me, and sometimes she hugs the bed and refuses to go outside. Today she danced at the front door, then stood still for me to attach her leash. Unlike yesterday, she got past the end of the driveway. I was walking confidently, my plan in place if we met Rosie. Rosie is a year old now and already bigger than Sadie. The last time we met on the road, Sadie almost pulled me off my feet, lunging at our neighbor dog. I recognized that as a danger sign. If I saw Rosie with Lisa or Harmony, I would wave and quickly walk the other way. That would get us out of their way, and we would scurry home.

As we walked, I scanned the road ahead like a radar. Not a human or dog was in sight. When I began to relax, I spotted it – a green poop bag – Rosie’s poop bag!! (Sadie’s bags are red.) That meant she had done her business close to her home, and she was behind me somewhere and eventually heading my way. I dawdled, letting Sadie sniff everything thoroughly. If we took long enough getting to the stop sign, Rosie could slip in behind us and get home before we turned back. Unfortunately, the sign is ON the edge of her property. We turned back, having gone as far as we were going.

Sadie’s poop bag

Sadie knew we were headed home and trotted quickly to get back to her breakfast. I obediently went as fast as I could, closer to a trot than was comfortable. What was the likelihood of our beating the odds for half a mile? A LONG half-mile? If we could only make it to the top of our street, we’d stand a chance of getting home without incident.

We made it! I released Sadie, and she bounded around three of our neighbor’s yards on the way to our front door. She has no idea why I praised her lavishly.

A question – Would you let a green poop bag frighten you??

England 40 Years Ago — October 4, 1981

If you’re not in the mood to read about one John $, you might as well put this down right now. Absolutely nothing unusual or extremely interesting happened this week; all that is written in my calendar book are incidents with a little imp.

John $ all of a sudden just stepped off into space and down the whole flight of stairs, never touching anything with his hands! He does this now from time to time, but when he’s in a hurry he flops onto his tummy and zooms down.

He is a great one for imitating whatever he sees. If one of the girls chokes at the table, he promptly tries, too. If someone spits out a bit of fat, $ partially chows and spits each mouthful thereafter. However, he doesn’t always get things in the right order. By imitation he has learned to wripe (that’s a cross between wring and wipe) his feet on the mat inside the door. One really rainy day he walked in, wiped his feet, and walked out again. Five times in a row he ran around the hall, carefully wiped his feet, and ran outside again. Guess it helped keep house dirt off the stoop!

$ loves to peek in kitchen cupboards to see what he can see. He found some old hard candy that had cemented itself to the shallow candy dish. Before long he picked it up and tried to extract one piece. Impossible. It didn’t take long for him to figure out what to do – he held the dish and licked the whole mound of sweets. I stalked him with a camera round and round the kitchen. He would grin so wickedly, give a quick slurp on the candy and put the dish down again so I couldn’t get photographic proof of my tale.

$ licks hard candy
Candy smeared on the face

Have we mentioned that Lisa is continuing her flute lessons? She started at Micklefield, but Dunottar doesn’t offer instruments other than the piano. We discovered that her teacher lives in the next town, Tadworth, and made arrangements for her to have a lesson on Saturday mornings. John took her and picked her up last week, but yesterday she walked home on her own. It took her about half an hour.

Kate has her group violin lesson after school on Thursdays. It lasts half an hour. I can pick her up and still have time to spare before Lisa is released from school.

This morning I went to St. Peter’ s by myself. It was dedication Sunday; we renewed our baptismal vows as a congregation and after the service processed around behind the church to the grave of the founder of this church where some prayers were said and the Doxology was sung.

John is taking the girls to London to meet Loraine [John’s whiz of a secretary in NY] at her hotel. She flew overnight from NY and is supposed to have time to get settled in before they get there. The plans are for them to go to one of the big churches for Evensong since this is the only Sunday Loraine will be in this area. She leaves on a bus tour of Scotland tomorrow and will be with us in Walton on the 13th for a few days. We’re looking forward to that.

We think of all of you often and appreciate your letters.

Would Balloons Lie?

John’s sisters provided the definitive balloons when we celebrated his September birthday in June. He would be 80 years old.

Chris, John, and Barbara

He posed with them when we brought them home.

Meanwhile, he kept explaining that he was counting his age backward from age 70. Grandsons David and Nathaniel were told that when he reaches two, they should push him around in a wheelchair like he pushed them in a stroller. John is now 11 years old. When the balloons could no longer support themselves, I hung them from the mantel. We would keep them on display until the birthday was over. I noticed them when we came home from church and asked John to pose with them. There, for everyone to see, the balloons were declaring his shrunken age – ELEVEN!!

England 40 Years Ago — September 27, 1981

Last week in the continuing series on Winston Churchill we saw a scene where a man is sitting on the red carpeted stairs inside Polesden Lacey. The show is on very late and is so filled with political talk that if it weren’t for trying to spot the places in the background, I might fall asleep.

Polesden Lacey

I think I wrote a year ago about being so happy to find the absence of white baby shoes which I loathe. Boys wear T-bar buckled shoes which I think only girls would wear in the US. I’m so used to seeing them now that they don’t appear girlish. I was thinking how marvelous it’s been to avoid the tussle of keeping toddler’s shoes tied when I felt a tug at my foot. John $ had untied MY shoe! I can see the race will be on – I’ll be dancing jigs to keep my feet moving while he will be making attacks at every pause.

Kate was a bit slow getting ready for school. I said, “You don’t have time to play in the mornings.” She replied, “I don’t have time to play in the afternoons, either.” Poor thing, she’s right. We should have a big bell and a fireman’s pole to speed things up in the morning. Kate often takes a bath with John $, dresses, eats breakfast, gets together her school things, and practices her violin in less than an hour.

$ loves to take things from my gadget drawer in the kitchen. Lately his favorite has been a red measuring spoon which he smokes like a pipe. It’s so realistic to him that I expect smoke to come out one of these days.

Kate has been having a real struggle with preps (homework). The crunch comes late in the afternoon when she’s tired, John $ wants to play, and I’m preparing dinner. We tried a new system that is working for the moment. I allow her a certain amount of time for each segment of work, and she tries to finish before I ring a bell. That seems to help her concentrate. Lisa does all her work shut up in her room, so she is no distraction to Kate. But John Spencer! He is total distraction from tossing head to wiggling toe! I wish Kate had enough determination to work in her room alone, but she just can’t seem to do it.

Lisa continues to love Dunotter despite the hard work. Schools in England give double preps over the weekend (they’d say “at” the weekend). I think Lisa worked about six hours this weekend to get through. I’ll be glad to get back to the American system!

Because of all the trading John is doing at home, a new telephone line was ordered. A quite likable young chap came early Friday to do the work. One can see why the British telephones are no match for American ones. Any time we had work in the US, one man would appear, size up the work in minutes, and have the job finished in an hour or so. This fellow wandered around for an hour deciding how he was going to put in the line. He went about his tasks leisurely, said he couldn’t get the line over the trees without help, called twice for another man, waited around doing the part he could do by himself, and finally left when I went to get the girls from school. He said it was no use starting another job because he had only an hour and a half until quitting time. The thing that was holding him up was that he was afraid of throwing the line with a heavy object attached because he might hit someone on the footpath. My offer to act as sentry was kindly refused. He is supposed to come first thing Monday morning. Time will tell!

John has been feeling somewhat better this past week until yesterday when the pains in his arm came back in full force. Thank you all for your kind wishes for him. Think you’d better forget the wishes now and PRAY for him! He said he felt miserable wherever he was, so why not go somewhere interesting? Today we went to church in Westminster Abbey where the boys were back from their summer holidays and sounding as divine as ever. There was a rather sophisticated sermon on a simple text with not much point to it, but still, it was better than some we’ve heard there.

We were thinking of several outdoor things to do, but came out of Burger King to find rain pelting down. We headed for the London Museum of transport, driving around in ever widening circles trying to find a parking place. We found ONE in half an hour, and that one was blocked by a big German bus. The city was really still full of tourists. We gave up when we found the only place to park was a garage that charged a minimum of 4 pounds 20.

We headed for Kensington Palace not far away where Princess Margaret and soon the Prince and Princess of Wales will live. Queen Victoria was born there, also. We weren’t sure if we saw the actual building or not because of the huge park surrounding several buildings. Traffic and small commercial buildings came between. At least we know what the area looks like and what these royal persons see as they come and go.

I had often wondered if royalty ever got behind the wheel of a car, because I only see them being driven in big cars or state coaches. The Prince of Wales was pictured driving Lady Di back to Windsor after the races at Ascot, so I figured he drove. Just last night, I sat to read one of the papers the Brownworths had left, and it mentioned that both Prince Andrew and Prince Edward drove themselves to the final wedding rehearsal, even mentioning the type of car each owned. Prince Andrew, the elder of the two, almost collided with a cyclist the paper said. Prince Edward is a very careful driver, having just recently passed his driving test.

John $ fell asleep in the car on the way home. Usually he wakes up when we get home, but today he was out cold. We slipped out of the car, opened a window, and left the front door open with the car just outside so we could hear him when he woke. Wonder what he thought when he woke up?

John says the NY office will be closed to our mail traffic and that you are now to write to an address in Miami. The plan now seems to be to have one pouch a week in both directions.

Logan’s Most Amazing Game

While neighbor Logan was waiting for John to play checkers with him, I put the Set game on my computer and cell phone so that we could play each other on line. Logan is an expert at the game, and he trounced me in no time. We played another game which was disappointing for both of us. A message flashed on the screen that I was a spectator. No matter how many times I chose a correct set, my score did not register. Logan continued playing, of course winning every single set.

Logan said, “I want to play on the computer. You take the phone.”

I got the first score, and seconds later he got one. The pattern was repeated a couple of times.

“Logan,” I asked, “are you waiting for me to score before you play?”

He simply answered, “Yes.”

I knew he could have finished the game all by himself in minutes, but it took me a while to realize he was deliberately keeping our scores equal. Isn’t that amazing? An 11-year-old figured out how to level the playing field for a very inept opponent. Only when I began to write this did I realize why he swapped places with me. You see, the phone chirped when a score was made, but the computer was silent. He listened for the chirp and immediately knew I had scored and he could play to make it even. I am flabbergasted that someone so young could come up with a scheme like that. My heart is applauding loudly.