England 40 Years Ago — September 14, 1980

Kate’s finger is getting better, though looking awful. John took her to the casualty department Monday night, and she came home beaming with the impressively large bandage on it. She was told to keep it on for five days, but it fell off before then. You should have seen some of the funny looking things I fashioned to keep it padded. This morning I tied one on so hard that she lost the feeling in the finger, then fixed it so loose that it fell off as she was walking. I’ll get good at it when she no longer needs anything.

One night John worked late, and we got behind a little milk delivery truck on the way back from the station. Many of them have three wheels and are electric, as this one was. However, this was late at night, the battery must have been one step away from zero power, and it whirred and wheezed up a slight incline. It was the funniest thing, and I nearly fell out laughing. John was embarrassed and afraid the driver would notice me draped over the steering wheel howling. You could almost hear it saying, “I think I can. I think I can.” I didn’t stick around to see if it did.

As I was feeding John $, his attention was diverted toward the girls. He turned his body, head and eyes away, but left his mouth behind and open for the next bite!

Everyone kept telling us to go to Sutton to a certain store for some school clothes. “It’s straight up the road that goes over the Downs,” they said. We found the town with all its one-way streets, couldn’t find the store or a place to park, rain began, and we returned home defeated. I hate to think how hard it is to get to a place that is difficult to find.

The Sutton day brightened up when we saw $ stand alone for the first time. He was by my bed near where I was mending some clothes, and Kate pointed to him and said, “Look what John is doing!’ Hasn’t done it since, but I’m sure he will in time.

Thought for one day – it’s no wonder I dislike cutting fingernails and toenails, for there are 100 of them under this one roof! I’m only responsible for 80. I ignore 40 of those and cut the 20 that scratch me.

Do you know how to get your money’s worth here? You get value for money.

On the 11th I saw the first squirrel since leaving the States. It was a gray one and looked just like those we’re used to.

Bought a second-hand sewing machine that was a gross mistake – it works better than my big one at home, and I’m going to be spoiled. I re-sewed the seams on the girls’ napkin cases for school and made Kate a case for her comb that is required. Also, about five garments have been mended. Nice.

Walter R. was here for dinner Thursday night. He is one of John’s good friends from the New York office and was in town for a week.

Friday we went to Cathy D’s for coffee. [Cathy had stayed with the Methodist minister’s family in my home town for a vacation. Her minister and the Ripley man had swapped pulpits for a short while.] She’d also invited Vivienne somebody who described her house as the one with the peeling paint. Our landmark is a dead white birch in front. The morning was fun, both ladies being able to tell good stories and pointing out some of the things they feel are odd about the British. They said their countrymen are noted for their eccentrics. Cathy went on to tell a story about a young German fellow she knew who said he hated the British. One day it was raining, he was hurrying to put up his umbrella and duck into a big store, and that was the moment he said he decided to love the English people. He suddenly realized he was on an escalator with his umbrella still up and held over his head. Not one person laughed or paid any attention to this odd sight! Cathy said people probably thought there was another crazy Englishman!

Saturday the doorbell rang twice so that only I could hear it. The first time Jehovah’s Witnesses found me in robe and rubber gloves, the second a doctor from St. Mary’s saw me with a dressed body and undressed hair, just washed. Ugh! Being proper English people, though, they didn’t comment.

Lisa has fallen into the habit of calling John, “Dud.” It’s half funny and half disrespectful. If I don’t watch out, my name will be “Mud.”

Today we went to Winchester Cathedral expecting the morning service to be at 11. It had been at 10:30, and we arrived in time for the anthem.

Winchester Cathedral

This was my Sunday to be in charge of the time bomb who began to test the acoustics as the anthem was ending. He doesn’t cry, but just lets out sounds like an owl. I wandered around outside with him, taking pictures, listening to the music which came through faintly, and heading for the car when rain started. The others weren’t far behind. They stayed for choral Eucharist beginning at 11:30 until communion was being served. Somewhere John read that that church is the longest of its type in Europe. Gothic, John tells me.

The back of Winchester Cathedral, taken while I walked baby $

Then we drove on to Tucktonia near Bournmouth. I left out an “e” in that name; would you know where to put it? This place is a model landscape having miniatures of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, Westminster, etc. It is outdoors, has trains running all around, boats sailing in waters, airplanes taxiing, figures playing cricket and much more. The trains were almost LGB scale.

Near the entrance of Tucktonia

Big Ben is taller than I am, but I could look down on Buckingham Palace. We all enjoyed it a lot. This is one place where strollers are allowed, thank heavens! Photos below show Lisa with Big Ben, our family before Windsor Castle, and Tower Bridge. [Years later Lise looked for Tucktonia on the internet and found it has been dismantled.]

Below are photos of St. Paul’s Cathedral, front and back, and Lisa with Westminster Abbey.

I know what you’re going to do. You’ll reread this letter and realize my math isn’t much worse than my spelling because 20 digits aren’t accounted for. That’s exactly John’s complaint when he gets scratched by one of those odd 20 that haven’t been taken care of.

Clewes has begun praising my cooking, probably wondering what else he’ll get if he keeps it up. I’m going to turn the tables on him and praise his gardening. After one of these praise sessions he told me that he firmly believes NO ONE does everything perfectly, just daring me to disclose my weak points, no doubt. I ‘fessed that I was a failure at shopping for clothes, and wouldn’t you know it, he was here the day we came home from Sutton with our tails between our legs! Maybe that’s what is wrong with my attitude – we assume the wrong posture before we get out!

33 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — September 14, 1980

  1. I enjoyed the letter this morning, and the photographs are wonderful! You may be in the elite crowd who has actually seen the back of Westminster Abbey. 🙂
    It is a shame that Tucktonia no longer exists–wonder what happened.

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  2. I love Winchester Cathedral and have visited twice. It is where Jane Austen is buried which makes it very special. But it has an interesting history too. I so enjoy these letters home.

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  3. 1) Milk floats, the little electric vehicle that delivers milk, are still around. They’re electric so as not to wake people in the early morning for deliveries. When I moved here I read “Notes from a Small Island” by Bill Bryson and he mentioned milk floats. I thought they were drinks made up of milk with a scoop of ice cream in it. The family burst out laughing explaining milk float = little milk truck.
    2) Value for money is still said as a phrase (I’m in procurement and I use it every day!), though they will still say things like “pass the buck” or “people will pay top dollar” for things.
    3) We have lots of grey squirrels but the super cool red ones are on the Isle of Wight!

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    1. This is exciting to get an up-to-the-minute report live from England!! At the time I wrote that letter, I hadn’t learned that milk was delivered from a milk float.

      I didn’t realize you’d hear “pass the buck” or pay “top dollar”. Interesting.

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  4. These are great memories Anne. What an experience to get acclimated to England, manage the family, with a baby no less … it sounds hectic sometimes but still fun. I laughed at the “Little Milk Truck That Could” (maybe) story too. You got to take in all the sights too and I’ll bet that time in England just flew by.

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      1. It sounds like it was super – what a great opportunity. The tenant at work had a son who went to law school. He helped out his father while going to law school doing research, compiling packages or mailing out items, but after graduation, there were no jobs available. His father could not hire him – not enough work and he didn’t have much experience. He saw an ad in the “Bar Journal” for a one-year internship in London at a barrister’s office – he had experience in litigation, so it sounded like a good idea. He was accepted by just a telephone interview and went there for an entire year. He really liked it and had never traveled out of Michigan, let along internationally. He finished the year and returned home with some experience and now works at Legal Aid as a staff attorney.

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              1. That was nice people came to visit you – a great opportunity for them and fun for you. Steve’s family didn’t visit but they Facetimed with him once a week (so that was nice, better than being so far away with no one you knew). He stayed at a bed and board nearby so just walked to work.

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