England 40 Years Ago — October 19, 1980

The most fun part of our week was having Aunt Val and Uncle Haakon staying with us. They flew into Heathrow from Oslo and caught a bus that brought them right into Reigate. I checked the bus stop every 15 minutes, and we met with no trouble. [That must have been the truth, because I might have remembered getting them if it had been troublesome.] They spent the first two full days in London, going in with John, and the third day poking around Reigate. I think they squeezed as much into their stay as was possible. It was simple to drop them off at Gatwick. [Heathrow was quite a distance away from our house, but we could see planes landing and taking off from Gatwick if we walked across the street to the top of the hill we lived on.]

Aunt Val and Uncle Haakon

John $ did a somersault out of his pushchair in Bejam’s [a store] but was kept in by his new harness. There he was, hanging upside down and was too surprised to cry.

Lisa and I identified the jay (bird) this week. It is a big bird, but has movements similar to our blue jay, though it isn’t colored the same.

I was cutting up toast to make bread crumbs, having a tough time of it, so sharpened the knife. Later I forgot what a good job I did on the blade and sliced myself. I found it hard to roll out pastry while licking the blood off the thumb every two seconds.

I’ve had several embarrassing things happen since we moved to England, but the worst yet has to be the time I dropped six eggs in the store this week! No one blinked an eyelash! I found a girl in the store who said she’d clean it up, and the check-out girl wouldn’t charge me for them, even though I told her to. The one that fell in the sugar display didn’t break, and I could see that two had broken on the floor. Couldn’t imagine where the others were until I was emptying the basket and found them broken all over the things I’d loaded in it. Yuck!

Lisa’s friend Caroline H came over for dinner Friday night. I wanted to serve something children would like, so did pigs in a blanket. She thought they were sausage rolls, ate one, refused another and was too polite to say what she thought of them. I wonder if she’s ever had hot dogs before. ???

Kate’s friend from school, Anna L, came to play Saturday. Kate wasn’t sure of the last name, but thought it sounded like “lawn.” It’s a Dutch name – the father being from Holland and the mother from Finland. They met at Cambridge in an English class for foreigners [probably before the term English as a second language was used] and courted for seven years before marrying and coming to live in England. He is in the chocolate trade.

We finally found someone more shy than Kate! When Anna’s mother was leaving, Anna burst into tears and begged her mother to stay. She did, for an hour! Later she slipped out, and Anna didn’t seem upset to find her gone.

John $ has experienced mittens for the first time. He peered at them, snatched at them, and tried to pull them off. After his walk, he had gotten them off, but they were hanging by the connecting string which ran from one hand, up the sleeve, behind the back and down the other sleeve. He picked it up over and over, trying to drop them over the edge of the changing table. When that failed, he exasperatedly jerked first one and then the other, producing a see-saw effect.

Changing John’s nappies requires great strength and ingenuity. He hates being changed, constantly trying to wriggle away. I’ve put pants on him while he was sitting, turning and crawling away. Today I hit upon a new strategy. I laid him down with his head and shoulders hanging over the edge so that he worried how to get back on the table rather than how to get away from me! The only disadvantage is that it left me with one hand to pin with, the other being required to hold that wiggle!

Happy baby on the changing table

Today we went to Clandon Park, a house owned by the National Trust and certainly the most beautiful we’ve seen so far. Petworth was grand, but not a match for Clandon. Since this one is so close to us, we hope to be able to take most of our visitors there if the house is open. Today was the last day of this season. The entrance hall is so large that I think you could fit our Stony Brook house into it! The plaster work is stupendous and the colours (English spelling there) are so vivid. I especially enjoyed seeing the kitchen in the basement with its huge roasting spits and series of pulleys to help in moving gigantic cooking pieces.

Clandon Park

I’ve another list of products and their country of origin that I’ve been jotting down. I should go to a map and make sure I know where all these places are – a good assignment for all the children in the family! We’ve had some bananas from Equador and others from Costa Rica. We have rubber gloves from Malaysia, almonds from Spain, onion powder from Italy, brown sugar from Guyana, salami from Belgium, broccoli from South Africa, garlic from France, canned tomatoes from Bulgaria, and mozzarella cheese from Scotland.

A couple stopped us after church today to tell us their daughter, Annette, had recognized Kate from school. They knew we were the ones from the US and wanted to welcome us. They spoke glowingly of a trip they had several years ago to Atlanta where come Baptists had taken them into their homes. I don’t think they told us their names. The woman said she recognized me from seeing me at the school. I just smiled because I didn’t remember seeing her. I hope I’ll remember her tomorrow! Lisa’s French teacher saw her and spoke to her, and another lady from the school seemed to recognize us. I have the feeling that one is likely to bump into more people one knows here than in Stony Brook! Isn’t that funny? It’s a big town, but perhaps we’re meeting the core people.

I thought I had a lot to write tonight, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. We think of all of you often and do appreciate all the letters we’ve been getting.

Oh, forgot to mention that I was thinking how well Lisa had done with her retainer. Not more than three days later at 4:30 a.m. she brought it to me with a broken wire! We found one half of the case with John’s toys and the other under the back seat of the car. I wrote the letter of explanation and John saw to mailing it in the pouch back to Lisa’s orthodontist in Setauket. We hope it won’t take long to fix and return. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is quicker than taking the mouth from Stony Brook to the next town, Setauket.

There! That finishes this epistle!

27 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — October 19, 1980

    1. I suspect Uncle Haakon was worn out after traipsing about London. I’m sure he would have responded if I had let them know I was going to take a photo. As it turned out, that was the ONLY one I took. My bad!


  1. Your description of meeting your Aunt and Uncle at the bus stop makes me wonder – how did we ever make connections in the days before cell phones?

    I love the list of products and their country of origin. I should do that with my next shopping trip.


  2. So funny picturing the toddler human hanging upside down!!! And who doesn’t like pigs in a blanket? I would have eaten her share! My human would be very interested in someone who works in the chocolate trade. What fun living there must have been. I bet all the felines have a cool accent!


    1. I wouldn’t have had a camera handy to take a photo of $ hanging upside down. Even today, I hope I would rescue him instead of reaching for the camera. With me, you never know. Tell your human that I never met the classmate’s dad who dealt in chocolate. What a missed opportunity! I’m so sorry I can’t report on feline English accents. As far as I can remember, I didn’t meet a single one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aw, too bad you didn’t get to meet an English cat. That’s okay, I hear through the grapevine that they are a tad snooty. But I would like to know first hand one day if it is true.


  3. I just love this series. I love the photos too, which really hit home with the fashion and style we thought was so cool back in the 70’s and 80’s. Journaling like you have done, is just priceless. Keep these coming, Anne!


  4. I remember having mittens that were connected with a string that ran through the coat sleeves. Seems like a very smart thing. We never lost our mittens. I wonder why we don’t do that today.


  5. John $ is a live wire … were the girls that rambunctious when they were babies? You had a week of calamities but at least your wounds healed up enough to type up your next letter to keep the folks back home filled in. The retainer story makes me remember one 4th of July, I still had braces and a wire came loose … I always had wax to plaster on a wire that rubbed my cheek but in this case it was very ragged and my father had to reach in with his tinsnips as it was a holiday weekend. The orthodontist, who was not a kindly fellow, accused me of chewing on Kraft caramels or gum. I did not do that and got annoyed with him.


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