England 40 Years Ago — October 12, 1980

Here I am again after a wonderful visit with my folks. It was so good to have people to share son John $ with, to have help in the kitchen, buffers for the war zones between the girls, and to catch up on all the news that somehow never gets written.

The only disaster during their stay was a visit we had from the Lutheran pastor who has refused to give Lisa communion. She had taken a class and was regularly taking communion at our home church. The pastor said he will consider giving her a blessing at communion time as he does for infants. [This was a blessing, after all. We didn’t go back to the Lutheran church, preferring to go to English churches for the rest of our time there.]

I was summoned for a conference with the head mistress about Kate. I don’t know why being called in makes me feel I’m to be reprimanded, but I was glad when it was over. Miss Kinman suggested we either get a tutor for her or put her in a lower form. I was shocked to find that poor Kate had been struggling with 4th grade work as if she’d skipped a grade. We had made it clear that she was with children a year younger during our first interview, and the woman then told us she would be in 2nd form. I thought Kate was with the right age group and that Lisa was with those a year younger than herself. Turned out Miss Kinman always likes to keep youngsters in the correct age group, but now understands why we wanted the other arrangement to begin with. Kate talks happily about school now and seems to be doing well. She is getting her preps done by 5:30 or 6 every night.

Mother had her hair done at the hairdresser’s where I get my hair cut. She told us that she could hardly understand the first girl who washed her hair, kept asking her to repeat things, and explained that she had a hard time understanding different accents. The girl said, “You’ll really have difficulty with the owner who comes from Germany.” The owner started work on her, and Mother found she could understand every word the first time!

Someone asked what a common is, and Lisa popped up with the answer. She said it was an open place and anyone who is common can go there.

One morning my father woke earlier than I did and busied himself making biscuits for breakfast. That’s the first time I’ve ever come into a pre-opened kitchen – every drawer and cabinet was open because he was searching for the ingredients. The biscuits were delicious!

Last weekend we went to Dover, saw the hovercraft, had glimpses of the huge castle there, and drove on to Deal to go through the coastal artillery fort built by Henry VIII. I enjoyed that scalloped castle, though it is stark and not a beautiful dwelling as some are. We also drove through Canterbury, though not too close to the cathedral.

Family at Deal Castle

We also drove through the Knole property where everyone enjoyed the semi-tame deer. We went on to Leeds Castle, the most lovely castle we’ve seen so far. Someone commented that it is a fairy-tale place. Parts of it are ancient, parts just old, but gorgeously furnished.

It was quite cool while my folks were here, and one evening they and I became chilled while sitting talking. I did the quickest thing I could think of and got us each a blanket. John came to the door, stopped short, said we looked like furniture with dust sheets, and offered to turn on the heat. It’s funny that I never considered heating the whole house. I was too well-trained in survival techniques from winters in Stony Brook.

One day while the girls were in school we drove to a large estate where the gardens are open to the public. The four large lakes are lovely, just like landscapes painted by English artists.

One of the lakes at Sheffield Park, with the stately home in the background

We kept on the move and realized it was terribly windy when we got back to the car to eat a picnic lunch. My folks did the sensible thing and climbed in the car, but I kept $ in the stroller to feed him. We would have had wall to wall cottage cheese if I’d turned him loose in the car. His hair was standing straight up, and he’d squint up his eyes to see the food coming toward him. That baby never ate so slowly! He finally finished, and I started changing him which I couldn’t do on top of peanut butter sandwiches in the back seat. The wind was whistling around the corners of the car, but I battled on. Had to hold $ with one hand, the dry diapers in place with another, and felt it might be easier to manipulate the pins with my teeth. At this point a real gust picked up the stroller and started hurtling it down a hill. A wild hook with the foot missed, and on it sailed. Somehow I finally got it all together, much to the amusement of a couple calmly eating their lunch in another car. Nice to know I provided mealtime entertainment.

One day I was working in the kitchen while $ thumped around, and I was unaware he had climbed the stairs and headed straight for the shower room. I found him happily chewing on the drain strainer and sitting in the wettest puddle. He lived up to part of his nickname – Sopper. I wonder how many times he’s done that, and I thought the wetness was from another source.

Kate left her hairbrush within someone’s reach, and the whole upstairs got the brush-off. Stirred up the dirt so effectively that I was able to fill the carpet sweeper quickly.

The afternoon my folks left, John $ didn’t sleep well. I think he was cold. I climbed in my snug sack and held a nap in my lap. He slept for an hour before it was time to get the girls from school.

My dad playing with $. $ used the night table to climb up on the bed in the guest room.

We celebrated $’s first birthday by letting him chew on a pretty birthday card or so, opening presents, and eating cake. He loved his new dog, disdained the new harness, and smacked his lips over the cake. Thank you all for his gifts, cards and birthday wishes. I don’t think he is any the wiser after this milestone, but hopefully we have pictures to show him in later years.

Today the girls were invited to dinner and a long walk with the family across the road. They were having two cousins from boarding school also.

Tomorrow John’s aunt and uncle arrive, and we’re looking forward to their visit.

Happy Birthdays to Bill, Bob, and Kathie. Also to everyone else I missed!

40 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — October 12, 1980

    1. I’m pretty sure that pastor would not have wanted Lise to have something that was not available to the youth of his church. Early communion was new in Missouri Synod in the early 80s. It was a blessing for us, because we went to many other churches we would never have seen.


  1. What an account of 40 years ago. Drafty and chilly rooms are the norm in many European towns. I can relate to that and learned to layer my clothing with lots of wool. Did I miss something with the $? A name of dollar or simply money. Refusing one communion would make me leave and never return. Stodgy is the word which comes to mind with the Lutheran preacher. Thanks for a fun account of England.


    1. When our son was born, his four-year-old cousins called him John Spensive, which I translated in my head as “expensive”. We were using two names to distinguish him from his father named John. I began to spell the name $pencer, and the short version is just a dollar sign. It still comes in handy.

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  2. That’s someone’s home in the background photo of Sheffield park? Wow! Rich people, go figure! What wonderful times. So glad they are recorded for us to get a glimpse of. Love the castles.


  3. Those are very picturesque photos you took Anne. What a treat to look back now with such fond memories when it was all a whirlwind when you were there, so much to see and do that you couldn’t always stop to catch your breath. Your parents had a nice visit and then it was back to business as usual again. $ was a live wire and kept you on your toes!


  4. Loved this letter, Anne!
    Loved Lisa’s definition of a “common”!
    You may have explained this elsewhere, but I forget: What did/do you call $ when speaking of him? Easy to write, but what do you say? “Oh, dollar, come here please.” ? 😀


    1. I generally call my son John Spencer to distinguish him from his dad named John. My dad, however, remembered an old cartoon series that featured Johnny Dollar, and that’s what he called him. A great uncle called him Dollar.

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            1. Sonnert came through an experience $ had. His friend Bob began to call him Juan, and $ didn’t like that. He asked him not to, but his friend continued calling him Juan. $ then called him Bobbert. Bob never called $ Juan again. We were teasing one day, and $ became Sonnert, and I was Mommert. Lise has referred to herself as Daughdert. Silly, I know, but we have fun together.

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