England 40 Years Ago — November 16, 1980

A week ago on Sunday was Remembrance Day here, and we found it so meaningful. Lisa and I were impressed with the trumpet in church, and when we saw a replay of the morning’s activities when the Queen and lots of others laid poppy wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldier, we heard the same melody by a corp of trumpets. Seems to me that in the US it is just an excuse for another holiday, but here they really set out to make people remember what they went through during wars.

I must report that cold weather has helped the washing machine. It must like a cool climate. Now it is willing to release the clothes as soon as they are through being washing or dried. This saves countless trips and hours of time because I so often did the initial jiggle of its door latch and then forgot to go back five minutes later.

John $ helped with the shopping this week – after I’d packed the items in my basket, he calmly reached out and helped himself to half a dozen eggs. Dropped them all into the shopping trolley. I rescued two whole ones and the four broken ones. Made somewhat of a mess on the floor, but not as bad as the time I dropped some. I was able to use what was left in the shells for Kate’s birthday cake. The cake was one of the lightest I’d ever made, so maybe shaking up the eggs was a good idea.

There is no photo of the lightest cake I ever made.

$ has turned several things into walkers – a kitchen chair, tall stool and large plastic carton in which some soda was delivered by the milkman. He also has taken a step or so – the first I noticed was this past week when he had been holding to my knee while I was sitting and turned, took a step, and lurched toward the counter. Couldn’t really class that as walking, though.

Kate quoted, or misquoted, from a message sent to her, “Tell you mother we NEARLY enjoy her letters.”

Do any of you still have the November Reader’s Digest around? Look on page 40. John was reading, noticed the ad and thought he was reading a local publication. He suddenly realized this was a picture taken in Reigate for an American magazine! Mr. Clewes, the gardener, was able to tell me where the shop is – just a few blocks from our house! I looked up the telephone number, and sure enough, the one in the ad is the real number! Later that day the girls and I drove past it to look at it. Small world!

We duly celebrated birthdays this week. John made a point of getting home much earlier than he has been. We ate together, had a treasure hunt, opened gifts and took pictures. Lisa was very grateful for everything she received. I think she thought her special day would be the bleakest ever with no family or friends around to help celebrate. She said it wasn’t nearly as bad as she’d thought. So, thanks for all your cards, gifts, phone calls, thoughts, and prayers.

Nothing is sacred around here. $ loves to check the loos to see if anyone has left the toilet seat open for him to play in the water. This week he found something better – toilet paper dangling within reach! He’d unrolled enough to go from the bathroom upstairs to the one downstairs! I penned him up long enough to slowly rewind every last sheet! Bet in another month or so I’d make a good spy – able to size up a situation ahead of time in just a few seconds. Wonder if spies are ever trained that way?

John was talking to a tree surgeon here to assess what work needs to be done when the man volunteered information about the Mehrling name. He said he had been doing some genealogical research and came across the name repeatedly. It is a common name in some little town in Austria where many of the Mehrlings carve religious figures from wood! That would really be fun to find, wouldn’t it?

John couldn’t believe it when the phone rang and his sister Barbara was on the other end. The girls were so excited at hearing cousins Tonja and Anders.

John $ is still fighting a cold, so I stayed home with him while he napped. The girls and John walked to church and heard a good enough sermon to come home quoting a lot of it to me. I used the quiet time to start my own study – read lots of Peter. Just scanned the gospels and the first part of Acts to see what was mentioned about him by name. Interesting.

This afternoon Kate went for a long walk with me and John $. I’m just beginning to notice footpaths running all through Reigate, but you can’t explore them by car! She and I went on the path that begins across from St. Mary’s. It was a lovely walk with hedges and green meadows on one side and wooden fences with gates to enter people’s gardens on the other. It ends up almost at the beginning of the High Street in town. We came back another way using the walk I’ve been wanting to see because it is behind the wall that is so close to the street on the road we use bringing the girls home from school. I saw at least three other paths I’d like to explore another time.

Merrin, the girl from Australia, called Lisa this afternoon because she’d forgotten to bring a certain book home from school. She walked up, played games with Lisa and walked home. I forgot to ask if she remembered to take the book. Must have.

John, meanwhile, was studying Sunday School lessons. He does a lesson with each girl Sunday afternoons, if possible. We had thought of going to Canterbury today, but the weather didn’t look good, $ wasn’t well, and John had a scratchy throat. Lisa discovered that Caroline across the street has flu, so we may be in for a long winter.

John was asking at the office what were their customs at Christmas. He says they don’t do any celebrations on Christmas Eve. They mentioned liking the idea of having special things both Eve and Day and thinking it was American. They said the very religious go to midnight church services as well as the service on Christmas Day. I must ask some of our local church friends what the customs are here.

I’ll tell a story John told me because I don’t know that he would take time to tell it. He and several others from the office were entering an elevator, sorry, lift, talking about British Rail. They were saying that delays are blamed on funny things like wet leaves, etc. A man already in the lift asked in an obvious American accent, “Are you talking about the Long Island Railroad?” I think John must have nearly keeled over. [He commuted on the Long Island for 30 years, and delays were really blamed on wet leaves.]

34 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — November 16, 1980

  1. I found all of the stories this week entertaining and/or interesting…I NEARLY enjoyed them. Okay, really did enjoy them–do you suppose they meant really or dearly? 🙂

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  2. Was the second photo with a cake the second lightest cake you ever made? It looks good! Did you ever meet an Austrian Mehrling? Or see one of their carvings? I can’t wait until the next installment of The Mehrling’s Take Over England. I love it.

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    1. I’m sure the cake in the photo was a bought one. That’s what Lisa would have longed for. Kate was satisfied with something homemade. Evidently I didn’t think it picture-worthy. We definitely would have had two cakes, because each girl always had her own. Their birthdays were one day apart — three years minus one day. Bad planning.

      We never met another Mehrling in Europe. For that matter, the only Mehrlings we ever knew were John’s parents and sisters. I think I looked in the Manhattan phone book and found only one listing.

      Thanks for reading these old letters.

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        1. There wasn’t competition between the girls regarding birthdays. That’s probably because each one had a family party and a friends’ party. They could choose menus and friends with no input from a sibling. Their interests were always completely different — still are! I’m thankful to say that they are civil to each other.

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  3. I enjoyed this post a lot, not nearly. Haha! I mean what more can I ask for? There is cake and fun with toilet paper. Really interesting these letters. Does it feel like a lifetime ago, Anne?

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    1. I still remember most of the things I wrote about. Yes, many years have passed, but the personalities of all but the baby have remained the same. I guess I view it all as a steady progression.

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  4. I love these letters. What wonderful memories! My two youngest brothers were born on the same day, 9 years apart. Mom made sure they each got a cake of their own.

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  5. How exciting the girls were born with such close birthdays … and John $’s birthday was not that long ago in your 40 years ago posts. John $ was a handful and I have to laugh at what he does. I never had siblings, nor babysat, so am not familiar with babies and toddlers and their antics firsthand.

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  6. on a unrelated matter Anne,I wanted to warn you about the coming Thanksgiving celebrations. We experienced a huge surge after the holiday. I suspect your country is going to go critical 2 weeks after Thanksgiving? I know your a very social person so please be careful during this time!

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    1. Thank you for your concern. We all need to be careful constantly. Our daughter from Denmark is coming tomorrow. She has been working from home and will be extremely watchful while traveling. She was here last Spring and said she wore a mask the whole way and used hand sanitizer often. I hope your family and friends were not affected by the uptick in virus cases.

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  7. Happy Birthday to Lisa!

    You should tell John $ that his toddler playing-with-toilet-paper phase was the same as the one many kittens go through! 😀

    Enjoyable post, Anne!

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