England 40 Years Ago — August 18, 1980

From now on, please presume we have company if the letter is delayed. Not too many weeks ago someone was sure half of us were in hospital when the letter didn’t arrive on time. I had planned to write last night, but during dinner, John C. got this funny look, pushed back from the table, said he was afraid he was going to be sick and to please excuse him while he took a nap. So, instead of calmly writing here, I cleaned up the kitchen, entertained Gerhard (college friend), and got the children to bed. John felt much better when I woke him to change into pajamas. Must have been a quick virus. Now back to the beginning of the previous week.

Last week was Holiday Club at St. Mary’s. It’s similar to Bible School in the mornings, but includes the whole parish for that plus games in the afternoons and two special evenings. Kate (8) determined she would go, thinking neighbor Mary Anne might go with her. Mary Anne didn’t go, but Kate went right ahead! I went with her to find her group the first morning, and she did fine! The morning sessions were from 10:15 to 12. Lisa disdained to go. She’s determined not to enjoy anything here.

Monday afternoon we went to Priory Park for the afternoon games. Lisa and Kate joined in, and I went window shopping in town. They played all sorts of games, and I rather think Lisa didn’t like it because it was all strange to her and she couldn’t beat everyone else. That lasted each afternoon from 2:30 to 4. Tuesday afternoon we went down to watch Hunt the Hairy. What fun most of the children had! They filled squeeze bottles with water and hunted for the specially dressed young leaders to chase and squirt. The Hairys were drenched from head to toe before a halt was called. It was like watching something in a movie to see all these children – must have been 100 – 200 there – swirling over the green lawns like waves on the beach as they chased the Hairys. Lisa and Kate didn’t join in, but we had a good time watching. Afterwards there was something at the church itself called Sizzle the Sausage, which I think was a cook-out. Kate didn’t want to go by herself and I had to fix dinner for the rest of us. One other afternoon we went to watch the goings on, this time a team game of youngsters against leaders.

It seemed so odd for a church group to use public land until it dawned on me that they don’t have separation of church and state here. I don’t know where the funds came for the Holiday Club, but all youngsters in the parish were invited – meaning all residents in this town, I guess. Kate came home with a few pictures she’d drawn, but they don’t have elaborate things to do as with Concordia publications.

Kate went every morning, which was the time they acted out Bible stories and sang songs – the more Christian part of the week. We had meant to take her to the park Saturday afternoon but forgot about it. Sunday, yesterday, they had a family service at church, and she enjoyed that because they had a sword drill right in church and sang songs she’d become familiar with during the week. I was so proud of her for over-coming her shyness and entering into things. As you can imagine, our week was hectic getting her there and running errands in the allotted time. It’s nice not to have such restrictions today.

One morning Lise and I went to the freezer center and stocked up on a freezer full of meat. I bought a quart jar of mayonnaise there. You’ll never guess the cheapest brand I’ve seen here – Hellmann’s!!! I am trying to get as much food in the house as possible to save trips the rest of the week. Went to Co-op four times and the freezer center twice.

Thursday Clewes began cleaning out the pool at the bottom of the garden. The children asked him to, and he finally did it. What an awful job! He cut down a big bush or so, cut back stinging nettles, and dragged broken glass and the bottom of a bird bath from the murky depths. Yuck! The girls were interested in helping and really pitched in Friday. They scrubbed the sides which were slimy green and the bottom which was slate gray. The whole thing was beige when they got through! They hauled bucket after bucket of water down there. John asked about gold fish, but the man said not to get any until the middle of this week while the chemicals settled out of the water.

Friday Lisa began working on the pool before Clewes came. She caught three frogs and a newt, put them in a bucket, and left them on the front stoop. At my protest, her reply was, “They’re my GUARD FROGS!” With a daughter’s imagination like that, what chance does a mother have?

Saturday John was out shopping with the girls, and I knew I must wash my hair before Gerhard arrived. The problem was what to do with John $. Finally I hit on a good solution. I put him in his room with toys, closed all the doors except those allowing a path from his room to the shower room at the other end of the house. I could tell from the shower where he was by the sound of the toys. He was closer when I heard a truck thump and racing down the hall when I could hear a musical push toy. Then I could hear his talking sounds and spoke to him. In a minute he got so quiet I couldn’t imagine where he was. When a boy gets quiet, it’s time to be suspicious. I shut off the water, turned and looked down, and there just visible below the shower curtain were two little hands happily splashing in the water at my feet.

Gerhard arrived at least an hour before we expected him. He called from the railroad station, so we had time to change clothes quickly before John drove to get him. Luckily it was a beautiful day and I had gotten all my laundry dry for a change before we did a load for him. He and John hung it out while I cooked dinner. We sat up quite late and had a nice visit.

Yesterday we went to St. Mary’s, had sandwiches for lunch, and set out for the vicinity of Tunbridge Wells. We walked through the ruins of Scotney Castle and all about the lovely gardens. The Castle was very old; when the Hussey family inherited it in the 18th century, they decided they’d rather look at a castle than live in one. They built a huge stone home on the hilltop, and for the romantic effect, demolished much of the castle to make it into an instant ruin! In those days ruins were considered romantic, more so than an old building well preserved.

Gerhard, John, Lisa, Kate, John $ at Scotney Castle
Kate and Lisa at Scotney Castle

We came home for dinner as described in the first paragraph, and Gerhard went in by train with John this morning. Today I’ve been trying to ready the house and ourselves for the arrival of my brother and his family tomorrow morning. Their plane is due in at Gatwick at 8 a.m.

42 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — August 18, 1980

    1. I was hooked on Hellmann’s because John’s godfather had a recipe that specified it. I still use it exclusively, too. No one else in the family will touch mayo voluntarily. Luckily, they don’t read my recipes.

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      1. I grew up eating “Miracle Whip” and I was way into my adulthood before I was introduced to mayonnaise. I have used Hellman’s ever since, but Randy still wants his Miracle Whip because it is what he grew up with also. It was also like discovering butter instead of margarine. 🙂

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        1. I’m not sure what spread we used when I was growing up. I cooked our first meal two weeks after we were married, when we got our apartment in Queens. How ignorant I was! There is no telling what salad dressing or mayo I bought. John survived.

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  1. Anne, I just loved this “letter” and it felt like it was really happening. How much everyone must have loved getting them! I laughed out loud at a couple of things (“Lisa…determined not to enjoy anything here” and “They’re my Guard Frogs!”–priceless.) And of course, the John $ making his way to the shower brought another smile. While he was way older at 5, I still recall the evening I came home from work exhausted, and ran a tub of bubble bath and was leaned back trying to get myself back together when J walked in, sat down in the floor, and said, “Mom, have you had a hard day?”

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us–today was such a good time to feel “normal” for a change. 🙂


    1. The castle is a National Trust property and is still open to the public. There are some lovely photos on the internet. This is the first time I’ve thought of going on line to see things we visited 40 years ago.


  2. These letters are so descriptive I feel “there” wherever “there” happens to be in your weekly reviews. We toured castles in Scotland and Ireland last summer and we have a new appreciation for the history of them. Love our Hellman’s!😄


    1. Thanks for joining me 40 years ago. That’s great that you had a castle tour. Seeing castles and cathedrals can change your life in small ways. I became aware that the US has very little history compared to countries in Europe.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just had a rummage through your 40 years ago in England posts and I just want to say I was born and raised in Redhill. The pictures of Reigate High Street were a bit unnerving, roughly how it looked when I last went there.


    1. Wow! We were in and out of Redhill all the time. John took the train there, and I often shopped at Co-op. Another blogger Googled Reigate and said she could recognize the buildings in my photo. I guess it hasn’t changed much. I told John your brief history, and he said what a small world it is!

      The people whose house we rented came back from the Far East earlier than expected. We moved to Walton-on-the-Hill, and John took the train from Tadworth.

      Were you in Redhill in 1980? If so, our paths could have crossed!


  4. Funny the difference between your daughters … Kate was more gregarious and Lisa made up her mind she just didn’t like it there and that was that! How different from now when Lise is an international traveler! I am surprised they did not keep more to themselves because they were feeling like outsiders in a strange country. John $ was oblivious to all this acclimation and just content to play with toys and splash at his mom’s toes.


    1. Kate had always been scared of everything, and I was amazed that she wanted to go where she knew no one. Lise made friends easily once she started school. The girls were always as different as night and day. Still are!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was more like Kate growing up, especially after we moved here and blossomed with more confidence after my stint working at the diner. It’s interesting how different the two girls were and still are coming from the same family environment!


    1. Lise was 11 years old when this post was written. We have laughed about her attitude to the move. Before we knew we were going, she came home from school telling us everyone was going to California. Therefore, we should vacation in CA. When John told her we were moving to England, she was adamant she was not going to like it. She got over it. I’d say it was a major milestone in her life. She was tutored in French to catch up with the English girls. She did that easily. We didn’t realize she had a flair for languages. Maybe I’ve mentioned to you that she speaks English, French, German, Farsi, and Danish. On her 50th birthday, she was visiting her 50th country. She went far beyond the things we did.

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