England 40 Years Ago — September 21, 1980

Last Monday was John’s birthday. He said they made much of it in the office, scads of people stopping by his desk to wish him well. As a special treat for dinner, we had onion soup. The treat for the girls was that they were not required to eat it.

John $ seems to be practicing to be hard-headed. He goes to sleep with his head wedged up against the bumper in the cot (crib). I examine him daily to see if a callous has formed.

We did rather frantic shopping Monday and Tuesday for the girls’ clothes. We hadn’t been able to find a black sleeveless leotard or a reasonable raincoat. Bought leotards and cut off the sleeves, but paid through the nose for coats. They were over $50 each!! I must say they are lovely and very well made. I’ve forbidden the children to grow out of them for the next two years.

The Lord does still provide miracles on request. Lisa had really begun to carry on about living here, claiming that everything was awful and nothing good. It got worse and worse. I began to dread the first day of school.

Lisa and Kate the morning school started

Wednesday morning we got to the school, and Kate forged ahead, asked someone where she should go and disappeared. Lisa would have hidden behind my skirt if I’d had one on. We watched a hundred girls march before our eyes, and suddenly there was no one! Finally the headmistress appeared and promised to take Lisa where she belonged.

From that moment I dreaded returning for them. You can imagine my surprise when I caught sight of a smiling Lisa who said enthusiastically, “I’m going to like it here!” Merrin G, a girl who moved here from Australia last year, befriended her and showed her around. They were happy to find out that they live within walking distance of each other.

I don’t know what the procedure is at other schools, but at Micklefield the mothers are evidently required to be visible before the girls are let out. That first afternoon of school there were knots of mothers and little ones clogging the pavements, and you could hear and feel the excitement building up. The next days, the same groups appeared, though the excitement has worn off somewhat.

Neither a doctor nor a pharmacist has heard of Merthiolate here. [I don’t remember why I wanted it.]

Chatting with a saleslady from Australia, we learned that they can afford steak to eat, but not margarine. (That is pronounced marge-a-REEN.)

Went to the play group at St. Mary’s Friday. Penny S, the doctor I’d met recently, had organized it a year ago. She has helpers serve refreshments, and mothers of young children gather there to chat. Penny was busy, but introduced me to Katrina from Scotland. That’s the first time I’ve ever talked to anyone from there. She said the best thing about her home area is the air and the view. One has to go out to find a view here, she said, but can look out any window in Scotland and see something beautiful. Can’t help but think she is a little homesick. She has lived here a year. She thinks it would have been easier to move abroad! On my questioning that, she said it takes 13 hours of hard driving (in a little car) to get to her mother’s. On the other hand, it takes only 9 hours door to door to visit her brother in Canada. She was also telling me she had just joined the Presbyterian church here. I was surprised to learn it is a lovely stone church on the way to the station.

Mary G also came up to speak to me. She comes from Connecticut, has lived here eight years, and people have been telling her and me that we must get together. I really enjoyed talking to her.

John $ has placed us in a peculiar position which I am just now noticing. When I wait for the girls, I’ve become aware there aren’t any mothers with little children at the upper house exit. At the play group there don’t seem to be many with children in school. Guess this could give us a wider range of friends.

$ was playing with a long-handled bath brush and sat on it. He got so angry when he couldn’t pick it up easily that he hauled off and gave it a huge jerk. Prized himself off the floor!

Friday night John brought Frank F home for dinner. Frank changed companies before the move, but his new company is based in London. This is the man John most enjoyed in the New York office, and they had a good time that night.

Merrin came to play with Lisa yesterday. Her mother came to pick her up, and we had a chance to talk for a little while. They come from Sidney and will be returning there about the time we go back to the States. Merrin has about the whitest hair I’ve ever seen on a child, very white skin, but dark eyes. It is an unusual combo.

Kate is studying the Middle Ages in school, so we went to Hastings today after church. We stood on the ridge where Harold had positioned his Saxons and looked down on the valley from which William the Conqueror fought for the crown. The battle had raged all day until Harold was killed. William later built an Abbey on the site and placed the altar on the spot where Harold had died. Not much is left of the old buildings. The battle was in 1066.

Our family with a commemorative marker about the Battle of Hastings

After that we drove to New Romney to ride a little/big train [Romney, Hythe, & Dymchurch Railway]. This railroad links perhaps six towns. We got there late and rode from the middle of the line to one end and back. The cars are less than a yard wide, and Lisa is almost as tall as they are, yet you can crumple yourself up and get inside the cars.

Lisa, John $, John, and Kate riding in passenger car of Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

John found out that it is more than just a tourist thing – school children ride on it to get to and from school, and they run a special for shoppers on Fridays. Each car can hold about a dozen people. This was $’s fourth train ride.

We enjoyed watching the engine and tender on the turntable. I don’t have a good photo here of the train driver (engineer), but everyone enjoyed watching him. He was a dwarf and perfectly sized for that engine.

It looks like Lisa is taking a photo of the driver, but I don’t think she had a camera.

My parents arrive Wednesday, so if you don’t hear from us, you’ll know we’ve been busy.

36 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — September 21, 1980

    1. I doubt I will show up in the English series. I was usually behind the camera. Our visitors took photos, which they had developed in the states. I never saw them. Just imagine a beautiful version of me, please. It won’t be a bit like me, which is fine.


  1. It all sounds perfectly exciting. I don’t know anyone with a Scottish accent, although I like to talk in one from time to time. It’s fun. And I would love to ride the train sometime. As long as it isn’t going to the vet, it would be great fun! You look like you all just loved living in England.


  2. Practicing to be hard-headed – this made me laugh. Did it turn out to be good practice or? The photo of the girls is super cute. Their smiles are just lovely. I also enjoyed the note on the train. Makes me look forward to good train travel. I have not done it actually.


    1. Our son did turn out to be rather hard-headed.

      John loves all trains, so we’ve seen a number of them. When the girls were young, and before we lived in England, we took three long train trips. We went from New York to Chicago, NY to St Louis, and New Orleans to NY. All involved a night on the train.

      We did not travel by train in Europe because of all the baby equipment we needed to lug around.

      I hope you get to go on trains.


  3. You never have a dull moment – that is for sure. Living in a country where history is so rich was good for the girls too – not only “book learning” but seeing actual history would make learning fun. you have really done an admirable job documenting your time abroad. I’m looking forward to your parents’ visit in the next installment.


      1. Yes, I know, but I meant that you have documented those years for yourself in case you forgot anything over time. When I used to travel, after I got home and got the pictures back, I labeled each picture in the album with the name of where we were. When I scanned in all the travel photos and saw the I.D. info, I knew I would never have remembered all the sights (and sites) we visited. For the 3-week Scandinavian countries/Russia trip, I had saved a copy of the itinerary which came in handy recently. A new fellow blogger is a Finn and I said I was in his country and could tell him where I went – I only remembered the Sibelius monument. (I mention him to you as he was a musician.)


    1. That site was lovely.

      I think Lise likes onion soup now, and I’m pretty sure Kate would eat it.

      I’ve seen several train turntables in the places we have visited. It’s fun to watch an engine being turned around slowly.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The memories of living in England are most satisfactory. I never went back. The people we knew moved on, and the homes they lived in were just shells without them. The time was right for us to return to NY.

      I think $ did develop callouses on his head, but they were on the inside. He was a strong-willed little person. Thankfully, he has mellowed quite a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

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