England 40 Years Ago — September 28, 1980

September 28, 1980

I saw something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before this week. With the sun shining, blue sky showing, and only fluffy white clouds overhead, I saw and felt rain! I was tempted to ask the first person I met on the street if I felt what I thought I did, but I chickened out. Drove on home and saw a lovely rainbow arched across the sky. I wasn’t dreaming!

One night John was late running for a train, didn’t check the board carefully and went to Gatwick Airport. I was helping Kate with her preps (homework) and went out to search for him in the car when I realized how late it was. I was in time to save his walking up the steepest hill, anyway.

The day before my parents arrived, I whizzed through the shopping, going to a supermarket, the freezer center, and a green grocer with a quick time out in one parking lot to take off the nappy next to John $’s skin. There was a reason for that, as you can imagine, and he didn’t seem to mind having a half-wet one put back. All of that was accomplished on a one-hour parking ticket. One can’t always move that fast because sometimes there is no hurrying an Englishman.

Thursday the folks arrived. John had called the airport to check on the flight and discovered it to be an hour or so early. He rushed off to be there, waited until almost time for the girls to go to school, drove like mad to get home, and had me drive the girls to Micklefield while he played with John $. The driver’s seat wasn’t cold before he was back in and on the way to Gatwick. He waited and waited – nothing compared to the 2 ½ hour wait the folks had going through the passport peeking line. Their feet found it hard to be civil when they got here! The girls were so excited that they were in the car in a flash when I went to pick them up at school.

We keep telling people what a large house we have. It was so large that Dad lost his teeth. He made no mention of it, so I was a little surprised to draw bathroom curtains and find a grin lying on the sill. I exclaimed over them, and he said, “There they are!”

“How did you eat dinner?”

“It was terribly hard!”

Later I heard Kate telling young friend Marianne, “My Granddaddy has teeth he can take out.” We persuaded her it wasn’t proper for her to ask him for a demonstration.

John $ has had a cold, so we didn’t go much of anywhere Friday, since he seemed to need extra sleep. Both Lisa and Kate were invited to the Hull’s across the street for supper, so I quickly revised the menu to include all the things I know they’d love to miss.

Yesterday we saw Stonehenge. [No photo this time around.] I was shocked to see it just out in a field by the side of the road. How tiny it looked! I expected huge things visible for miles because of the photos I’d seen of it. It did appear much more impressive close up, which is the view everyone is used to. The weather was not the best, nor did it help that Dad had no protection and Lisa had forgotten her raincoat. We went to see the stones in shifts! Forgetting the rain gear was nothing compared to what I forgot – John $’s food and bottles!

Thanks to John’s spotting of a chemist (drugstore), I was able to sprint across a busy street and purchase a training cup, lonely and dusty, high on a shelf. That did the trick. We stopped for lunch at a family restaurant where baby food was served and poured the milk into the cup. That evening we found another chain that also served baby food, and John $ ate high off the hog.

After Stonehenge we went to a big house called Vyne. Never did discover the reason for the name. Anyway, it was an old thing that had survived the rebellion because one of Cromwell’s right-hand men had bought it. It was elegant. In a long gallery there was scheduled a flute concert for later in the evening. I thought I’d heard snatches of melody drifting around, and sure enough, when we got to that gallery, the young lady was practicing. Sounded lovely. As we were going out, the lady manning the ticket desk asked how we’d liked the house. She answered one of the girls’ questions as to who lived in the house, and she said she did, with her husband and two dogs! When she realized it was suddenly pouring cats and dogs and we didn’t have enough rain-proofs to go around, she told John how to bring the car from the lot right near the door. Wasn’t that kind?

So many of these old homes have art hanging on the walls. I wish I knew more about it. There was one verified Holbein and one they thought by Holbein of Henry VIII. Dad loved the huge table, and I liked the chapel. One of the stained glass windows was supposed to have Catherine of Aragon, who had stayed in the house at some time. Kate loved the acoustics in that chapel and made the most of them with her clogs. The rather disapproving elderly lady showing that room said, “She’s a noisy so and so, isn’t she?”

My parents in Vyne.

This morning we went to St. Mary’s, which turned out to be the family service. It was so terribly informal that I said it out-Baptisted the Baptists. Dad said, yes, he felt right at home. They even sang one chorus that he knew, and I heard him sing in church for at least the second time in my life!

All over England it was the Harvest Thanksgiving service day, according to the sign we saw later while driving. At St. Mary’s the vicar called the children forward, and they filled the aisles carrying home-grown vegetables, store-bought fruits and canned goods. I think they were piled up before the altar. There were huge bouquets of flowers on every pedestal and apples piled on the ledges. They called for volunteers for the next day to dismantle all the food and deliver it to needy families.

After sandwiches at home, we drove to Brighton. I had wanted to see the Pavilion, which we did – twice driving by. Couldn’t find parking nearby. That was OK; I understand the outside is much more interesting than the inside. We did park near the beach and wander for a while on the promenade. The girls got their feet wet, and Granddaddy got his pants wet chasing the waves!

John $, John, Grandmother, Lisa, Kate, and Granddaddy

G’mother and I were fascinated by the little enclosures that lined the walk that people evidently rented for long periods of time. Some were wall-papered, and all must contain chairs. Many people were sitting half in and half out of the sheds, reading.

Brighton

Drove on to Alfriston to see a clergy house that was built in the 14th century. It had the most beautiful thatching on the roof. The village itself was most picturesque, but we were too late to take pictures of it or to have time to wander around. Thought we saw three hang gliders hovering above the hills as we left the village. I’d love to go back there some day.

We’d carefully warned the folks not to drink the water upstairs. Dad took a cup of water up with him, and he caught Mother drinking from it. He hit on the perfect way to ensure she wouldn’t drink any more. He said, “My TEETH are soaking in that!”

44 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — September 28, 1980

  1. My goodness, this letter was chock full of all kinds of things–fun, merriment, history, culture, not to mention forgetting the baby food and bottles and having to put a “half-wet” nappy on because I assume you were out of clean dry diapers. :). Enjoyed this letter very much–thank you for sharing.

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    1. My dad’s teeth were amusing. I grew up when he was losing his teeth, so I took it for granted. He was a dentist who took good care of his teeth, but it must have been gum disease that caused him to lose them. It seems that could be inherited. Two of my children are fighting to keep their teeth right now.

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  2. What a delicious letter! One you can really get your teeth into.
    The Vyne …. The word ‘vyne’ is thought to be either Vine or Vineyard. Vyne as a name, came to England at the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 – so it could be that the beautiful house, called The Vyne was originally called this because of a particular Vine growing on the land on which the property was built, or could be because the land belonging to the house, had a Vineyard.

    My friends house – is called One Oak – but the original Oak Tree had had to be cut down following a bad storm maaany years ago. When my friend and her husband bought the property, some 30/35 years ago, she vowed she would grow a new oak tree on the land in order to honour the name.

    So, like One Oak – which at that point in time, didn’t have a visual clue to the reason for it’s name, so its possible that The Vyne has lost its visual name reference which would have given you a clue to it’s name.

    I’m loving these letters Anne. I hope you have plenty more to share, as they give us such a luscious insight to a short time ago history, direct from a living person. I LOVE them all.
    Thank you so much for sharing these letters with us. ~ Cobs.x

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    1. Thank you for reading these old letters. We lived in England for two years, and I typed the week’s happenings on Sunday evening. John took it to the office to be included in the packet that went to the NY office. His secretary sent a copy to our mothers. Because he has a historian’s heart, he saved the originals.

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  3. How wonderful that your parents were able to visit. I know my parents would have loved to visit us here in Spain. Sadly dad is no longer with us and mom is unable to travel anymore. We did take them to England in 1989 to visit Paul´s family. They loved it. I have a great picture somewhere of my cowboy dad drinking tea in a dainty china cup in a tearoom. Hilarious! Everywhere we went people wanted their picture taken with him in his white Stetson and kids called him JR. Great memories. I loved all your pictures.

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    1. Your dad was a larger-than-life character. My dad was almost as out of place in a tearoom as yours. He spent much of his spare time hunting and fishing. That doesn’t jive with drinking tea from a delicate cup.

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  4. I love your memories and the photos that go with. I remember seeing Stonehenge and thinking “that’s it?” Somehow it didn’t live up to its hype. Your photos are so clear. My pics from my travels in England at about the same time are a grainy mess.

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  5. Oh, my dear sweet Anne, how I envy your life. It all sounds so wonderful. What adventures you have had. What sights you have seen. I’m afraid my biggest adventure is the time I tricked Salem into eating something green off of the teenager’s bedroom floor and I had to hide from him all day. I love the fireplace in Vyne, I could so curl up in front of that!!!!! Please keep posting the letters and pictures.

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    1. You had a grand adventure, even if you did have to hide from Salem. We had a small coal-burning fireplace in both of the houses we lived in. That was cozy. It’s too bad we couldn’t have had a cozy cat to complete the scene.

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  6. Love these letters! So funny about your dad’s teeth. And that pic of U. John with the pipe brought back happy memories. For his health, I’m glad he stopped, but I used to love the smell of the smoke. Every now and again, I get a whiff when I’m out and about, and it always brings back happy memories.

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  7. This was a fun post with your Dad who sounds like a lively character and nice to see both your parents. I was surprised what you said about Stonehenge. I never went to visit it when we were in England. I don’t know if I’d heard of it back when I was there, also around the same time, 41 years ago. It is like “The Little Mermaid” statue in Copenhagen. I looked forward to the day we would see it on our tour and it is truly a “little” mermaid. I pictures a huge statue but it was just a life-sized woman as I recall. A fellow blogger went to Ireland and wanted to see the Blarney Stone and said the same thing. You have it in your mind that it will be bigger than life.

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      1. Yes, this is true. All the photographers take the shots up close, so we can’t help but think that. That’s great Lise walks to work, especially since she was enjoying walking to the Creek with you and John and for exercise after losing the weight. No commute is the best reason of all.

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  8. What glorious adventures & sights!! What are rain-proofs? Brollies? 😀 Or maybe rain ponchos?
    Wow, you saw Stonehenge!!! (A funny aside; my John and I have little pieces of cardboard we keep on a shelf near the door so when we go out we use them for pushing elevator buttons etc. [Covid protection, see?] And the way they are piled up looked like Stonehenge, so that’s what we call them now. As John will be leaving, I’ll call out “Do you have your keys? Wallet? Phone? Stonehenge? Lol!)

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