England 40 Years Ago — October 23, 1980

If all the mailing agencies involved are efficient, you will be getting this earlier than usual. Thought I’d write today (Thursday) before we take our trip this weekend when I’m sure to be in a non-letter writing mood.

John $ stays busy, even during nap time. He went to bed with his sweater on, and I found him later with it off! I might button it up if this continues; might deter him five minutes.

There was a coffee at school for parents of new children which I felt I had to go to. I could smell the coffee a block away and knew to avoid it. (So much coffee here is undrinkable – they call it HIGH ROAST, which in plainer English means BURNED.) I concentrated instead on conversation. The head mistress introduced me to one of Lisa’s teachers who chatted for a while and then led me over to another. All the smooth introductions reminded me of sorority rush week. The report on Lisa is that she has adjusted beautifully and does good work. Mrs. Fitzhugh said Kate is a willing worker, though awfully slow, and is very popular with her classmates. Kate is ahead in maths and can sound out words that the others can’t, though they criticized her jerky reading. Both girls have been hounded about presentation of work; this means their work is sloppy. Lisa’s is looking much better.

Kate’s teacher is new to this school. She’s just come from a school in the east end of London where she had 48 in her class. 38 of these were foreigners, and she claims most of them didn’t know how to eat with a knife and fork. She thinks having 16 in her form is just super.

Got my hair cut and told Bridget how much Mother liked her set. I’d just finished complimenting her when a cat streaked past John $’s pushchair. He began to cry. One of the young girls in the shop asked for permission to pick him up, and he cried even harder. Finally I held him; all the while Bridget never missed a whack of the scissors! I haven’t dared examine this cut closely. As soon as we went out, he quieted down and acted as if he were a model baby.

I’ve had a catch in my back for several days and decided to try the treatment that worked the first night – a hot bath. A hot bath at night does not equal a hot bath in the afternoon. I was undressed, standing poised in the tub with feet wet when I heard the doorbell. Voices were heard, but whose? Redressed, descended the stairs and found Lisa’s French teacher there wondering if she had set up a session with Lisa. She hadn’t. We made arrangements for Lisa to go with her then, and I’d pick her up in an hour. Right then I knew the time in the tub would be limited and not as relaxing as it should be. The water just would not get hot, just teasingly lukewarm. $ came and peered in the water; you could tell by the expression on his face that he wanted to throw all the toys he could find in with me. Then he was diverted by something else – the biggest play-thing in the house. The bathroom door! He sat there swinging it back and forth for all he was worth, making of it a giant fan that would have been welcome on a 90-degree day. Needless to say, it was not a welcome breeze! Back in the clothes and into the car to pick up Lisa! I told the backbone it just couldn’t ache because I didn’t have time for it.

Photo labeled “Three Children” doesn’t seem to belong anywhere else. I had none for this letter.

I was dancing attendance on the washing machine when I heard giggles and thumps close to me. Upon closer inspection, I found the cat door moving in time with the giggles. John was on the inside having the best time trying to peek out the little opening.

John $ led Kate a merry chase this afternoon. She decided to play “follow the leader” with him, copying his every move. He crawled under chairs and over table supports until she was almost worn out. That’s what you call really low-down fun!

Today I did some preliminary shopping for a Thanksgiving dinner. I know where to buy a turkey, was able to find cranberry sauce, but looked in vain for pumpkin. I know I’ve seen it in some store recently, but I can’t remember what store or where. Oh well, you can bump into mince meat every other aisle!

I thought Kate was doing so well with her preps, getting through by 5:30 or 6 each evening. The teacher looked at me as if I were crazy when I mentioned it the other night. She said the girls don’t really have preps until the next year, she just gives little things for them to do at home to get them in the habit of working at home. Could have fooled me.

John has been working very hard in the office, and we are looking forward to a leisurely trip this weekend. We plan to drive to Newcastle upon Tyne, taking the whole day Saturday. John asked around the office today to see what people would suggest we see in that area. (This is the very northern part of England, just short of Scotland.) Someone said this is the 900th anniversary of the building of the new castle. Another said the new castle is a sooty old thing near some interesting trains. Doesn’t that sound funny?

We think we’ll stay there two nights, maybe three, and take side trips during the day. John isn’t planning to go to the office until Wednesday. If the weather is impossible, we’ll perhaps come home and relax. It will be so nice not to have to get out of bed spinning one’s wheels.

28 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — October 23, 1980

  1. Your description of English coffee and “high roast” – no wonder they all drink tea! Did you like drinking tea there after your stay? I’ve never been a fan of tea and I buy green tea thinking it is good for me and I just can’t get it down. John $ was not yet to his terrible twos – I’m wondering if he was less rambunctious by then?

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      1. I didn’t know that – we should have had high tea while in England but I don’t think we did.
        That must make the tea get cold or do Brits prefer it cold? My mom drank tea the last ten or so years of her life as coffee gave her such bad heartburn, but before that it was coffee. My father drank Postum as he had an ulcer for a while, then switched to tea, but just in a thermos for work, not often at hme.

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          1. I wasn’t aware of those steps … that is a whole art to making tea. I have not really had more than five cups of tea in my life. I told you grandmother bought me the teacup sets … maybe one day I should try using them.

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              1. I follow a woman who blogs about food – I really don’t cook and I think Diane followed me first. So I told her to go on Hormel’s website as they are giving away free masks that smell like bacon. So she put in her name and her husband’s to win one. She told me about a 3-D mask for Ramen Noodles. I Googled it – it is 3-D. Told Diane I never had Ramen Noodles and she was incredulous! If you want to try and win a Hormel mask for you or maybe fun for David, Nathaniel, maybe Logan, here is the site and today’s the last day to win a free mask: https://www.breathablebacon.com/

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                  1. I’m using a neoprene one when I go to the store (double actually as I bought a medium and large) but I am going back to bandanas now that it is colder out. I had been using disposable at the Park, though I’m in the minority there. If you smelled bacon all day, you’d continually be hungry!

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  2. Well, I’m a bit surprised by Little John’s reaction to a harmless kitty passing by, but babies are fickle. I did think adding a bunch of toys to the bath sounded like fun though. I have noticed that the little humans really don’t like the bigger ones to lounge around in hot baths. I guess you had to wait until they were grown before you could really do that.

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  3. I never lived out of the country and short vacations don’t count although I always got pizza withdrawal on my return. Here in the US living in different states can give you different food choices. North Jersey had a lot of really good food that was different from other places I lived but nothing beats the barbecue of the south.

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    1. I laughed that you asked about spinning my wheels. I did learn to get up slowly, the two and a half years I walked with a cane! My walk is normal now, and I can again spin my wheels when the need arises.

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  4. It’s charming to read these letters in light of the chaotic times in which we live now. I hope the vacation of which you write turned out to be a relaxing one. Sounds like you needed it.

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  5. Sounds like a busy time. I enjoy a cup of tea but not in England. They often drink it way too strong and always put milk in it without even asking. (and I didn’t like milk in my tea)

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    1. I could be wrong, but I think people in the north of England don’t use milk as much as those in the south. I liked milk in my tea after having it in England, and I still drink it that way. It’s nice to have a choice!

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      1. Hubby’s family is from the North and they put milk in their tea. It is so strong you can almost stand a spoon in it. They call it builders tea. They put the milk in first and then pour the tea in it. So you have to be quick and ask for no milk. I usually add water to it. They think I am strange, but that’s ok.

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  6. Can you recognize the location of your random photo? That bath experience sounded so painful. Makes me super appreciate cell phones.

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