England 40 Years Ago — April 12, 1981

I thought it was really something the day we flew a kite in church, but last Sunday was the limit. There was a stripper in the pulpit! A young minister who had been at St. Mary’s a few years ago was preaching on Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet and acted out the scene. He removed his stole and used his surplice as a towel, then went on to say Jesus removed his outer garment as he unbuttoned the black part of his vestments.

One day this past week I did nothing but run! We picked up Mr. Clewes (the gardener), drove to Walton, went to Co-op on the way to coffee at Penny’s in Redhill, drove home for lunch, back to Reigate to return Clewes, and then home again. Don’t want many days like that! I started cooking dinner at 6:45.

At Penny’s we met a woman and her son coming out. At first I thought she had been invited for coffee, but it was worse than that. At 7 that morning, she, her husband, and son rang the doorbell and asked, “Weren’t you expecting us? Didn’t you get our letter?” They had written asking for breakfast after landing from an 8-hour flight from Ghana en route to Wimbledon. Penny, only 3 weeks this side of the due date for her baby, had to rustle up breakfast for 7 with no advance warning. I told her to sit down and put her feet up after the woman left, but she and her 6-year-old proceeded to make shortbread. Penny plays the clarinet and hunted up some duets for clarinet and piano. That was fun to sightread with her.

Monday our girls went to play with the girls from NJ – Nancy and Lynda M. The next day Kate, $, and I walked to the next town, Tadworth, via footpaths and met the M. family on the street there. We chatted for a few minutes, walked back to Walton, and met them walking down the street there! That afternoon the older girls were here, the younger ones floated between this house and Lynda’s, but had tea here. Wednesday all four had lunch and tea here, playing together 6.5 hours. They played well until the very end when the younger ones locked out the older ones. It was just as well they were busy getting ready to go to Holland to see the tulips in bloom; think they’d had enough of each other for a while.

Thursday we had all to ourselves. We drove to the supermarket in Banstead, the one the ladies usually go to from here. What a race track! I couldn’t stand to shop there all the time. Think I’d put it off until we were starving! We went early, found a parking place easily, but found the store full of rushing people. When we left, it took me ten minutes to maneuver out of the car park where 10 cars were lined up waiting for the next available space. Give me dear old Co-op any day!

EUREKA! We found crystal jelly!!!! Lisa was almost embarrassed at the way I carried on, but she was excited, also. We came right home and made it up. Have you guessed I’m talking of Jell-o? This is Royal brand, and it’s the first time we’ve found gelatin that is powdery – all the others are semi-solid, rubbery globs to be dissolved. This tasted better than their jelly, but not as good as real Jell-o. I’m going to make Jell-o once a week when we move back to the States!

We drove to a scenic place close to here, Box Hill, and took a short walk. It was very hazy; we must go back when we find a day that is crystal clear.

Kate and John $ on Box Hill

Kate, $, and I walked to Walton to do some shopping. We found a towel holder I’ve been looking for, flower seeds, a good pastry blender, and a salt pig! I asked for a cobweb brush and was told I was looking for a cornice broom. Live and learn.

Friday we shopped at Co-op, the freezer center, Boots, and a carpet store before picking Caroline up. She is the girl Lisa’s age who lived across from us in Reigate. She was here from noon Friday until afternoon Sunday. What a pleasant time we all had! Much of the time I hardly knew there was an extra girl here because all three would disappear together. Friday afternoon we again went to Box Hill for a longer ramble. The girls went down what felt like a mountain to the River Mole which has stepping stones across it. Several were out of place, they were afraid Kate would fall in, so they didn’t go all the way across. We must go there on a hot day to fall in – it’s only two feet deep and is considered a river!!! $ and I stayed toward the top of the hill for our walk.

Caroline, Lise, and Kate

Saturday John and Kate shopped in Epsom, a lovely town not far away with a fair-sized shopping area. He found lots of nice shops, and Lisa and Caroline were left here to enjoy themselves. Later the three from this house played outside with the three from next door. We had an impromptu tea party – six girls outside having “fizzy” drinks (soda) and biscuits (cookies) while the adults had tea inside. Jennifer and Vivien exclaimed over our new map of England. They said the counties are drawn differently on older maps and have longer names. Ours had Cambridge, Gloucester, Warwick, etc. where older maps show them with “shire” on the end.

They also told us more about this house. It was built in 1910. During the first world war, the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, lived in a house on the next street. Many of the big houses around, including this one, were rented by the cabinet members. There were private telephone lines linking them! Our neighbors haven’t found who rented this one.

After we finished tea, we asked if they would like to see the rest of the house. They jumped at the chance. They said English people don’t show their houses unless very good friends move to a new place. They were eager to see the lay-out here. We have servants’ bells, but they have the box in their kitchen. The bells still have their labels, though they no longer work. There was a day nursery and a night nursery! The girls are disappointed that they can’t use them to signal from our house to theirs!

This morning Caroline, Lisa, and I went to the earliest service at St. Mary’s. I wanted to get back to cook, and the girls to see the space shuttle take off. We’d watched the non-take-off Friday. John and Kate went to St. Peter’s where they were having communion. Kate was thrilled to see that everyone in the church went forward; she was so pleased to get a blessing when she went with John. They were also given crosses made from palms, though not nearly so elaborate as the ones Louise Koepchen makes in Setauket. I missed singing the Palm Sunday hymns.

Yesterday we invited our former neighbors to have Sunday lunch with us, since they had planned to pick Caroline up. They agreed and offered to bring the sweet. We knew we had to rush because their older daughter is singing Messiah in the same production we were involved with, but she has been going on Sundays. Everything was ready; we were just sitting down, and then we had to get up to watch the space shuttle take off. When someone mentioned THE WEDDING, Gillian said they were charged a pound extra for Caroline’s camp fee because the leaders decided to rent TV’s to put in the fields so they won’t miss the big event! When it was time for them to leave, Lisa pulled such a face that Gillian invited her to go home with them until after tea. That extended their visit by another four hours. All in all, we’ve had a very pleasant week of holiday.

England 40 Years Ago — April 5, 1981

Did I write about going to church last week? John and Lisa had gone to St. Mary’s for communion, and Kate and I to St. Peter’s for Evensong and sermon. We didn’t want to be late, so ended up being the first there. As we walked in, the man was standing in the aisle ringing the bell to call the worshipers and reached for the prayer books without missing a stroke. Kate wanted to sit in the very first pew, but I insisted that I’d rather sit halfway back so that we’d have someone to follow as to when to sit, stand, or kneel. The congregation behaved as so many do in the States – back fills up first. Wouldn’t you know no one sat in front of us? I had to keep my head turned slightly to see what to do!

Monday John, $, and I did the inventory of Tymberly with Mr. Wolters. It was a trying time. Mr. Wolters counted every fork, every doorknob, every vase. He was entirely correct to do it that way, but it took forever. The inventory for that house is a book, well filled. We did the initial inventory for Churchfield in half an hour, and it is only two pages.

Lisa came home asking about the spelling of “draft” – it is “draught” here, but pronounced draft. Can you imagine playing a game of draughts (checkers) in the same room with a draughtsman who is trying to eliminate draughts from under the door? Boggles my mind. John said they use “draught” in shipping, but it rhymes with “ought”. He’s right, it ought.

There is nothing like moving to change your view of things. In Stony Brook I mainly faced East; in Reigate, North; in Walton, South. The position referred to is that which faces the kitchen sink.

I tried the little butcher shop down the lane and found his meat to be good. He said he likes New York; spent a month with a friend in Hauppague!!! Small world!

April Fool’s Day behaved as you might expect – rain when we don’t need it. I had to use Liquid Paper on “need”. Couldn’t let you see that this typewriter first wrote it “kneed”.

I waited at Micklefield for Mr. Clewes, but because of the weather I can’t blame him for not coming. Went on to Co-op in Redhill, back to Walton to put away the groceries, to Reigate for a hair cut, to Walton, to Reigate to pick up the girls, and home. Then I fed $ and made Brownies for the girls to take to school the next day.

The last day of each term is only half a day. There is very little accomplished – they have an assembly to give out awards and at break time they have the eagerly awaited “feast”. Everyone shares all kinds of candies and cakes that they are forbidden to bring on all other days. Normally they are allowed to take only biscuits or fruit. All the children came racing out of school in high spirits, and I wonder how many mothers faced tummy aches later. Luckily, we didn’t.

The first day of freedom, Lisa slept late, and Kate went with $ and me shopping. Later the girls played in the garden with Georgina and Catherine (two of the girls next door). $ loved the freedom to chase Frizbees and taste delicious looking rocks.

Philipa, Kate, John $, and Lise in the back garden

Kate’s complaint whilst practicing her violin – “My hands are soggy!” It would be hard to play the violin with soggy hands, wouldn’t it? She and I finally decided she meant greasy.

Yesterday Jeremy (rental manager) took out one cabinet unit in the kitchen to prepare for the insertion of the dishwasher. I can hardly wait!

Today Lisa and I are going to St. Mary’s for the morning service. Kate and John will go to St. Peter’s for Evensong.

Good Friday, Behind the Scenes

I’m not normally in the choir at church for two reasons. I’ve lost half my range, and I’m a zombie when they have rehearsals in the evening. On Good Friday, John thought there were not going to be enough sopranos, so he asked if I’d be willing to sing with the choir. He knew I’d directed all the music at our last church and was familiar with it. I found it exciting to witness the action. Downstairs, all was serene and worshipful, but in the loft there was constant movement.

The organist put on shoes before going to the front of the church to accompany a cellist playing the prelude. John says she plays the pedals of the organ wearing socks and not shoes. My toes cringed at the thought. The organist’s daughter directed the choir. She normally directs music at the praise and worship service, but the music director is quarantined with his COVID-infected wife. What a time to be forced to stay home from your job! Heather was a marvelous substitute. While directing, she switched to singing alto, because there was only one other there. Grandson David does not show at the other end of the tenor section, and John was out of the picture. Perhaps you can see two people sitting before monitors as they were live-streaming the service. Another was downstairs with her phone, getting shots of the cellist and organist.

I turned to the front of the church where the young tech was videoing the people playing the prelude. The young man who does the audio had stepped away, but you can see his sound board all lit up. He plays the marimba next to the sound board. I don’t often hear that soft sound, but he usually plays when the congregation sings hymns. I was very impressed with the talents of all these people.

Despite the quiet hubbub upstairs, the service was very meaningful. As usual, we left the church in silence after the Bible was slammed shut. Requiescat in pace, dear Lord.

England 40 Years Ago — March 29, 1981

This has been a work week. I made a discovery as to the probable origin of the “sit in”. Years ago some woman was probably doing housework with a toddler helping by sitting wherever she wanted to clean. John $ helped in just that way.

Monday dawned early, but not bright. It had rained a lot; the car doesn’t take kindly to dampness, and it wouldn’t start. John walked to the station, but the girls stayed home from school. In the afternoon the rain let up so that Kate, $ and I could walk to the village to the greengrocer and to a tiny grocery down a footpath pointed out by a neighbor.

Tuesday we found an advert (they don’t say “ad” here) in the parish church magazine for car hire with driver. Had to pay $10 to get the girls driven to school! A young man came from a garage to try to start the car and succeeded, and I was able to get food and begin cleaning Tymberly (the first house we had).

Four days had roughly the same schedule (did you pronounce that right?). I dropped the girls off at school, shopped, cleaned the old house, had lunch, $ fell asleep in the car on the way to Churchfield (the name of our present house), and we went back to pick up the girls.

Gillian asked me over for a cup of coffee Thursday to get away from the grind for a few minutes. We had a lovely chat sitting in the sun in her kitchen. She served Brownies saying that since I gave her the recipe and some American baking powder, her children haven’t let her quit making them. I was able to go back across the street and work another two hours after a proper break.

Friday the door bell rang at eleven, and I opened the door to Gillian holding a tray with two cups of coffee and a square of coffee cake! Wasn’t that sweet? We sat in my sterile kitchen for that snack. A refreshing break can certainly make one attack the work with vigor afterwards.

A car pulled in front of Churchfield just as I was about to unload the last of the stuff from the other house. Dorothy M and her two daughters came to introduce themselves. They’re from New Jersey and are friends of our house mates. Her husband, John, grew up in Garden City and is the ranking officer of American Express for this area of the world. They’ve been here two years and don’t know how much longer they might stay – could be years more. The parents and younger daughter love it here, but the older one has taken longer to adjust. Nancy, almost 13, didn’t complain to me, but her mother said things had been rough with her. Lynda, 10, sounds like the British! She even eats the way they do. These two girls often play with Catherine and Philipa, so we hope to see more of them. They live down one street and through a short footpath. This village is so small that everything is within walking distance.

I got tickled at some of the stories Dorothy told. She said they often get lost, but don’t admit it to the girls. They say, “We’re practicing making u-turns.”

I gather I fared better than she did the one time I went to Sutton to try to shop. I couldn’t find anywhere to park and just turned around and came home. She said she got so turned around in all the one-way systems they have in that town that she couldn’t find her way back. After several u-turns she spotted a little old lady walking and asked her the way to highway 217, explaining that she needed to find her way back home. The lady said, “Well, dearie, if you came on the 217, take the 217 back.”

Yesterday John worked at Tymberly while the rest of us stayed home. He was scrubbing the walls and ceiling of the shower room and getting the furniture back in the right rooms.

[Below, the photo shows Kate and $ running in the back garden. Through the hedge you can see a glimpse of the modern house built by the owners of our house. They still have a nice bit of land defined by tall hedges.]

Kate, $ and I went for a walk. We checked the little Post Office store to see if they had a map of Walton, but they were out. The lady said there were never many with Walton and the best thing to do was to borrow one. I tried at the news agent with success – he had a whole pile of small maps, reached for one, opened it out to show me where Walton was, then snapped his head up to look at me and ask, “You’re not lost, are you​?” That struck me as so amusing. He was simply sharing a map with me and suddenly became concerned with my welfare.

Kate wanted to stop at the greengrocer’s for fruit, but the place was mobbed. The shop is about as big as two bathrooms and with much more visibility outside looking in than when you can actually squeeze inside. My impression was that there were 20 people there, but there were more than likely only 5 or 10. We continued on to watch the swans and ducks, returned to the shop a few minutes later, and the place was empty! I’d much rather walk than queue up! We bought the fruit she was so hungry for and had some for lunch.

Lisa has given $ a new nickname which we found ourselves using more and more until Papa John heard it and banned it. Lise claimed $ made this sound, and from that she got his name. It’s “Beezoo”. Surely it’s not much worse than “Boopsie” (a name my uncle called me).

Today is Mother’s Day here. They refer to it as both Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday. John wondered if that day was to honor all those who have mothered children, perhaps to include nannies. No answer on that as yet. Kate made paper flowers and a cutout doily at school, and Lisa did an arrangement of real spring flowers to bring me.

This morning Lisa and John went to St. Mary’s in Reigate for communion at the early service, and Kate and I plan to go to St. Peter’s around the corner for Evensong at 6:30. Lisa helped pack up the goldfish to move them and picked up a few more odds and ends at Tymberly.

The weather has been grey and dreary for weeks, it seems. Yesterday the sky was as blue as could be, and the sun shone nearly all day. We had all the windows open and ate a picnic in the garden. Today it’s back to grey. The flowers do show up well in this weather, however daffodils look brighter in dim light, I believe. There are lots of daffies in the orchard and some in the back. Jeremy, the owner’s son who is managing this place, said the greenery close to the kitchen window is honeysuckle. Flowering trees are showing color, I mean, colour. This week we should see a hint of green on trees.

John just cleaned out some of the boxes and the play pen from the upstairs hallway. The hall is narrow, but how wide it feels now with all the items scattered around the house!

Cat

We didn’t see Cat very often this winter, but she has begun coming out to walk with us again. This is the lovely animal whose owner said, “She belongs to my daughter, who named her Blake. I just call her CAT. My wife and daughter persuaded me to let the dog in the house, but this cat is never coming further than the garage.”

I tried to get a good picture of her this morning, but most of the ones I took were blurred because she was moving. She came running up her driveway and straight to me to be petted. After a good rub, I started walking, and she ran ahead. When she stopped, she looked around to make sure I would rub her again. This went on, in our usual fashion, until we were out of sight of her home. She got sidetracked by some interesting sight and rejoined me when I came back from the stop sign.

CAT waiting to be petted

Cat has a bad habit of running in front of cars. Most of the people who live here know to watch out for her, and they creep past her. I don’t usually pick her up, because she hates it. This morning I had my hand on her, so I picked her up. It was awkward to hold her as she struggled, but I managed to wave at the driver. On the way home, I grabbed her again and waved. I know about six of the neighbors’ cars, and I didn’t recognize this one. It pulled slowly forward and paused as the window came down. A voice inside said, “You cheated.”

I laughed when I found myself looking at my son. He had heard stories of Cat, but this was the first time he saw me with her. Wouldn’t you know he’d catch me trying to protect her??

The Caesars

John opened the box from Amazon while I cleared the table after lunch. I wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing, and he suddenly said with conviction, “Lars is an excellent writer!”

We have been thrilled by his books before, so he was just underscoring something we already knew. John loves history, too, so he can compare Lars’ fresh words with the thousands of history books he has read through the years.

“Listen to this,” John said. “Unfortunately, in the bloodsport of Roman politics, money, ambition, and talent were necessary ingredients, and the elder Caesar lacked all three.”

This is one sentence from page two of The Caesars Vol. 1 by Lars Brownworth, published in 2021. When son John $pencer came in, John read aloud another sentence or so. $ put his name next on the invisible sign-up sheet to read the book. If anyone can bring dusty ancient history to life, it is Lars. I do not normally choose to read history, but my name is third on the list.

England 40 Years Ago — March 22, 1981

Just a quickie to let you know we did get moved. We had a beautiful sunny day — most unusual for this time of year. The weather and the men couldn’t have been nicer.

This past week I brought Mr. Clewes over here to see the garden. He noticed that the people behind us have a garden where not a blade of grass is out of place. Wouldn’t you know that’s where the owners of this house live?

Twice during an otherwise sunny day this past week, there was a mixture of snow and rain. After one episode I said to a sulky Kate, “Look! The sun is out again.” She grumbled, “No! I don’t want to look on the bright side.”

Kate was not sulky when she read a book to John $ in the old house. Kitchen shelf — two-thirds toys, one-third cookbooks.

Earlier in the week I came over several times to bring things to this house and do some unpacking of things already here. You should have seen me measuring a possible space for a dishwasher with John $’s help. He thinks the bendable metal is the greatest.

John $ at the old house. The bottle was empty. He still used a sippy cup to drink.

Both John and I went to school for the conference night for the older grades. All Lisa’s teachers say she is working at form level or above, but from the various things they said we don’t think she is exerting herself one little bit. She admitted the next day that she isn’t working more than she has to because she doesn’t want to. Grrrrr!

John and I have picked up a phrase that we’ve taken a fancy to. Here, instead of straightening things out or getting things settled, you sort them out. If you are muddled about something, you “sort yourself out” to remedy the problem.

The men came to pack for us on Thursday. I thought they’d do the china and crystal and thought nothing more about it. There were two who came, and they expected to put in several hours. I had to run around the house to separate rooms with them to point out what pictures and furnishings were to go and what was to stay. While they did other rooms, I organized the kitchen things by getting all the pots and utensils we’d need for the next two meals in one spot. I gave them sandwiches for lunch; they worked a little more, and then left.

Friday the same two men loaded everything into the van and pulled from the attic all the things of the owners that we’d stored. They pulled out about 12:30. We checked the house, stopped for sandwiches at the bakery, and came to this house. We waited and waited for the van and wondered what had happened to them. Finally they came with two more men they’d gone to pick up and they made short work of the unloading. We put $ in his stroller to watch the unloading and directed where everything was to go. They also unpacked! I was available when the china was done and was able to tell them where to put it. All the rest of the kitchen equipment was stuffed in drawers and cupboards. They did it in a logical manner, but not exactly where I wanted things. After they left at 5, I pulled everything out and re-stowed it. At the same time, John was re-doing all the books in the living room. We made a start on our bedroom and John’s room.

Gillian (neighbor across the street) had so kindly invited the girls to spend the night at her house and even insisted on picking them up from school!!! That left our minds completely free to concentrate on moving. I don’t know what state I’d be in now if I’d had to answer a thousand questions along with everything else. Gillian said she met some friends at Micklefield. Her daughter Caroline went there until just two years ago. We planned to get the girls Saturday morning, but Gillian insisted we come dressed in our work clothes at lunch time and have a meal with them! Nothing could have been kinder! We ate in the kitchen and had a lovely meal of beef and mushroom stew, leeks from their garden, mashed potatoes, green beans, and for dessert a choice of jelly (jello), applesauce, or fruit salad followed by coffee. It was so good to know we’d had a nourishing meal and I wouldn’t have to do more than get out sandwich materials for a later meal. Bless her!

I saw something in Gillian’s kitchen and couldn’t resist asking her about it. It was a funny ceramic thing, rather tall, but with the opening curved, rather like a curved pipe. She said it is a salt pig. It’s the only thing in which she can keep salt so that it doesn’t cake up. They are supposed to be readily available, so I’ll be looking for one. I never saw anything quite like it. [We still use the one we bought. This photo was taken in 2021.]

Shortly before the moving men left, Jennifer [neighbor who with her husband owns the other half of our rented house] came over to invite us over for a cup of tea. John said I needed a rest more than he did, so he kept $. I had a delightful time chatting with them. $ had fun climbing up and down the levels of steps in the moving van. The men left, $ went to bed, and we began to “sort things out.”

Today the girls and I walked to St. Peter’s for the 11 o’clock service advertised on their board in the front of the church. We wondered what was going on when we saw so many cars quietly parked and only four or five people waiting to go into the building. The board, we were told, was about 15 years old. The newer one had been taken down to be repainted with the new rector’s name. The hymn we were hearing was the end of the service we thought we were headed for. For years the main service has been at 10. Now we know. The man who gave us the information advised us to buy a parish magazine inside. Then he slipped in, handed us one, and refused to let us pay for it!

After dinner John went to Redhill for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. He said it was glorious. The congregation got to sing all the chorales. There was even a tea break in the middle, and the people brought out their thermoses. He felt satisfied that he had truly worshiped.

This afternoon we cleaned up the old carriage we’ve lugged around with us and outfitted it with the stroller seat. We walked through the little village to the duck pond and down one footpath. This is going to be another facet of English life. A brisk walk of two minutes brings us within sight, sound, and smell of cows! We hear no traffic tucked back off the high street, and I doubt there is much, anyway. This may be the type of place where everyone knows everyone else. The shopping will be easy – small grocery, fruiterer, butcher, post office, two gift shops, hardware, dispensing chemist, blacksmith, luncheonette, two pubs and three or four antique shops are just around the corner. Don’t think I’ll buy anything at the blacksmith’s. This is so different from the traffic choked streets of Redhill and Reigate.

Our girls have still not met the girls we share the house with. I found out their names – Georgina, 15; Katherine, 12; and Philipa, 9. Don’t feel we can invite them in here until the entrance is free of its mountain of boxes.

The green door is ours. The red door is for the family with three girls. We have only half the house.

The house is old, don’t know how old, but the ceilings are quite high and the walls thick. We haven’t learned how things sound – I heard Kate calling me, and I had to search all over the house to find her. Turned out she was in the next room to begin with. We can’t hear $ crying if we are downstairs.

Back of the house. We have the sections on both sides of the back door.

The girls have a week and a half of school till the end of term. Then comes a month off. One week of that will be spent in Cornwall.

Nathaniel’s One Day Visit

Grandson Nathaniel came for two nights and one day to celebrate his birthday. One turns 21 only once in a lifetime, and it should be very special. I’m just going to imagine that we had a glittering party with friends and family in high spirits. The meal was an epicurean delight, ending with a luscious dessert without candles. Gifts were cute and amusing. Reality was going out for lunch and driving up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to find it socked in with heavy fog. We loved being with him, though.

David had Sunday off, giving him a chance to enjoy his brother. We walked along a paved trail with exercise equipment along the way. Some of the stations had instructions showing what could be done. David went for the high bar.

Nathaniel took a low bar.

They are very strong, and I doubt either of them ever spent much time in a gym. And to think, I have to exercise just to walk straight!

England 40 Years Ago — March 15, 1981

Prepare to envy us! We went to a service at King’s College Chapel and drooled over the sound of the choir. It was marvelous. The building is one of the simplest we’ve been in — just a big stone hall with lots of lovely strained glass, but little decoration aside from some carving in the woodwork. The altar is very plain with the focus on Rubens’ Adoration of the Magi. The sound is more glorious than anything. This is the first church we’ve been in that microphones were not used. Even little St. Mary’s in Reigate has a public address system. It was hard to hear spoken words, but the music was easy to understand.

Kings College Chapel

We drove on the extra few miles to Ely Cathedral. Ely is pronounced with a long “E”. It is a much older building — Norman, in fact, with a much narrower body than newer churches. A number of hundred years ago the tower fell down and was replaced with an octagonal lantern tower under which they have now placed the altar. It is beautiful. The boy choir there is also superb. That church is really dedicated to worship. They have sung services every day of the week, even if there is no congregation in the middle of winter!

Ely Cathedral

Have you ever noticed it is an instinctive reaction to put your hand up when something hits your head? I was walking $ under some trees on the pavement (sidewalk), and there were birds overhead. Need I say more? Ugh! Lisa kindly tried to locate the spot and clean it with a towelette. It didn’t help being in Ely, far from home where the service was posted as lasting 45 minutes, but due to the special procession was an hour and a half. I was the one with something in my hair, but John was the one who developed a crippling headache and went to bed as soon as we got home. Unfortunately, $ only went to sleep two hours after his bedtime. The first part of the day far outweighed the last part.

We also walked around the quadrangles of the various colleges in Cambridge before going to Ely. We went to church in King’s, wandered into Trinity, and recognized St. John’s from a picture on a record jacket.

We were surprised that the schools spill over the lovely little river, with picturesque walking bridges spanning it every few yards. I was surprised to see students wearing their robes; I knew they still did during the week, but didn’t know they did on Sunday, also. This was really a city of bikes with low concrete bike racks everywhere. They are blocks with slits that the front wheels fit into.

$ has a little collection of matchbox toys. He always sets them on their wheels. How does he know to do that?

Word of the week: voucher = coupon.

Micklefield School called to ask us to get in touch with Dunottar, since Lisa was offered a first place; they are waiting for withdrawals to make their second offers. We were waiting to see where we were going to live. I went on and called the school and was told it didn’t matter where Lisa lived, she was accepted regardless. Whew! Things are falling into place.

For the second time since we’ve lived here, someone asked me if Americans really have pancakes on the same plate with bacon and eggs and pour maple syrup over all! Have any of you done such a thing or heard of it being done? This is a research project; please respond. [For the record, I would pour maple syrup only on the pancakes.]

Bejam, the freezer center [selling only frozen foods] in Redhill, moved to its new building up the street. What a spacious shop it is now! All the aisles can accommodate two, maybe three, carts abreast. The old store was one way only due to tiny aisles.

The sun is coming our way! Thursday we got up at the usual time, 6:30, and I fixed breakfast without turning on a light.

There was a home group meeting this week. We studied scripture in preparation for a renewal weekend that started yesterday. The whole group was there — the first time I’ve seen everyone at one time. The prayer time after the study is really special; it is an unhurried time with random participation of short prayers by anyone who feels led to pray. We are so aware of the Lord’s presence. Electric!

Friday I made brownies before breakfast, got everyone delivered to train and school, shopped at Co-op, and came home to enjoy having Mary H. and Pat S. for coffee. Mary grew up in the country in a house out from a small village near here. Pat was born in the north, but has moved around. Both ladies have husbands who have divinity degrees, but no parish churches. Ken is an associate curate of St. Mary’s but runs house parties (camps) at a school during term breaks. Tim has been a chaplain and a boarding school headmaster. He and Pat were involved in some capacity at Cheam years after Prince Charles had left there. The school Tim just left was tiny — 100 boys and 10 masters — and all in a tiny place with no village life. Pat is reveling in all the people here and an active church.

They discussed education for my benefit. Children go to school until they are 16. About age 16 they sit “O” level standardized exams, the “O” standing for ordinary. At that point they either begin work, go to a technical college, or more schooling to get “A” levels. At 18 then, they can go to work, or if they have done well, on to university. University is a much higher thing than college. The higher your grades, the better the school that will accept you. I was wrong — college comes after “A” levels. It is “O” levels, “A” levels, college or university. [The letters from England were written with a manual typewriter, and there was no going back!]

Big news! We got the house yesterday! You can continue to write to us at the New York address as usual. Loraine arranged for someone else to forward things to us. Bless Loraine! Our new home address is Churchfield, Breech Lane, Walton on the Hill, Surrey, KT206TY, England. Please include “on the Hill” because it might go to Walton on Thames if you don’t.

John signed the necessary papers and handed over a bank check at the estate office in Epsom. On the way to the house, we saw the race course, Epsom Downs. Jeremy W., the owner’s son, went through the inventory with us, showed us some of the peculiarities of the house, and introduced us to the people who live in the other half of the house. Jennifer and Vivien (that’s the French masculine spelling; don’t know how he signs his name) invited us in for a moment and offered to help us in any way they could. Nice people. They have three daughters aged 9, 12 and 15. They have laid down the law to their kids as we have ours: “No SHRIEKING!!!”

While we were doing the above, our girls were taking care of $ and doing a good job. He began to cry after we got home and was awful. Guess that’s the price you pay for the first half being so good. We went back to the house to let the girls explore, taking a few things with us as we went. I picked up the instruction booklets to bring back with me to read up on all the major appliances.

The grounds are bigger than I thought with a nice-sized rose bed to the side, crocuses in the lawn, a little rock garden at the back, the orchard, and a fish pond with resident frogs lurking about. It’s lovely. I think we’re really going to enjoy living there.

Dementia and How I Acquired It

About five years ago daughter Kate and grandson David saw a video about tying shoes a new way. They tried it, and so did I. After a few weeks, the process became automatic. I no longer supervised my fingers with my brain.

Fast forward to the present. I tied my left shoelace and paused. Since I learned a new skill late in life, what would happen if I forgot how to do it? I would watch my fingers and translate action into words that I could write down, just in case. I stared in disbelief as my trusty fingers fumbled. The action should have been fluid, twisting the lace around and pulling one bit through the other. Nothing worked. I blinked, looked away, and tried again. Think! No! Don’t think! Go on auto-pilot! It was no use. I could not tie my shoe!

I took giant clown-steps to my desk so I wouldn’t trip on the lace ends flopping about. I flirted with the idea of finding a video, but that seemed dangerous. Would I recognize the correct method if I saw it on the screen? I read some blog posts, knowing my brain would focus on the words and forget that I couldn’t tie my shoe. Evidently that worked. I’ve worn shoes every day since, with the laces tied. No one can tell by my appearance that I have had a serious senior moment.

Instead of worrying, I should have an emergency plan. Hopefully, one of the three people living here will be available if it happens again. If not, I pray that neighbor Logan (10) will have his own cell phone by then. I will text him and ask him if he can come outside to play quietly tie my shoes for me.