England 40 Years Ago — December 7, 1980

Last Sunday John and the girls went to an Advent carol service at St. Mary’s that was dramatic. The church, at one point, was in total darkness; one large candle in the center of the church was lit, and from it, others, until the youth group that was doing that part of the service had spread light into all the corners of the building. The hymns were all Advent ones that John was familiar with.

The new entrance into Co-op from the parking lot was open Monday. What a delight! It saves so many steps in this cold weather.

One of the Micklefield ladies, Eileen, invited me to a coffee at her house. She is Irish, raised in Dublin. Nichola, another guest, is an identical twin who never swapped identities with her sister. I asked her if they had ever tried to fool anyone, and she said they were required to wear identification bracelets in school to prevent just that kind of thing! Fanny was also there; she runs a farm shop where John went to buy our Christmas tree. I couldn’t believe she had a son named Angus. All I picture is a cow! And, last, there was Liz who is a church goer. She told the tale about her mother who always said, “Oh! Shakespeare!” when angry. Liz was almost grown when she discovered that was the name of a writer and not a swear word. Two of the four ladies had gone to boarding school; one loved it and one hated it. The two other mothers would consider sending their girls away when the time comes. All said it would really depend on the child as to whether they would be sent away. I really enjoyed meeting and visiting with these women. John $ got into the potted plants only twice. I solved the problem by feeding him cereal pieces VERY SLOWLY.

In the U.S. things are straightened out. Here people get things “sorted out.”

I was so glad John $ helped me clean house one day. He found a plate from his dad’s midnight snack under the living room chair and called my attention to it. Not much later the door bell rang, and there was a visiting health nurse. She said she had come to tell me about the services of the medical practice; I had the feeling she was also checking to see that we didn’t live in a hovel and that our children weren’t battered. I asked if they ever checked healthy children routinely. The place to go is Shaw’s corner clinic just down the road where they will weigh, measure and check $. It’s called a developmental check. I must make an appointment soon. The lady who came is a trained mid-wife, a nurse and is qualified to teach. She has 400 families to check on, is available to answer questions about child rearing, and gives immunizations.

I believe I’m right that they don’t do a 4th DPT here. We should be able to get the 4th polio immunization.

Names are something. I was introduced to Judy Catt from New Zealand. Her daughter is Victoria. She missed her chance. Why didn’t she name her Katherine and call her Kitty?

We were rather rudely awakened this week. $ was making noises about getting up, so I pried myself out of the warm bed, groped for slippers, and caught a Fischer Price toy instead, and it landed with a thump and a loud ring from a bell inside. Now you may not think it the usual thing to store such a toy in one’s bedside table, but in this house it is logical. Daddy John hopped up quicker than ever for the real alarm. I was more alert than normally! $ keeps us on our toes!

Fish report: both are doing fine, just as lively as can be. Wouldn’t have believed it a week ago.

So often I report what Kate says because she can get things royally mixed. This week it was Lisa: “Can we have a piece of John for bread?”

Mr. Wolters, the agent, arrived unannounced this week. $ came in handy as an excuse for certain things being out of place. He and I were standing in the kitchen as Clewes rolled the barrow by, and Clewes told me later he looked in as I waved to him and was sure the corrective collar Mr. Wolters wears was the collar of a vicar. He couldn’t figure out why I was bringing the vicar into the kitchen.

I wanted to point out that the school has non-uniform uniforms. This being the year of the change of suppliers, some girls have the old uniform and some the new — a motley group.

In deploying Christmas decorations around the house, I dropped a small candle over the banister. The race was on – $ at the bottom of the stairs and me at the top. I could just see him reaching it first and chomping on it like a cigar. I won, however.

You know how I often laugh when I shouldn’t? This time I did it to myself. In putting $ in the push chair, I got the shoulder strap from my purse tangled in his feet. The more I tried to undo it, the more twisted he became. I got tickled, began to laugh aloud, and looked up to see a Micklefield mother staring at me. Made me laugh even more. Finally $ had to be taken completely out before I could get him untangled.

The generation gap in our house is amusing. It was shown in a non-verbal controversy over toys. Kate was having her hair washed, and $ decided she needed toys to play with. He threw in all he could reach, and she just as quickly slung them back in the toy tray.

John $ has a casual disregard for clothes. He is constantly crawling out of his booties and would probably leave his pants behind as well if they weren’t firmly anchored over his shoulders with straps.

We had a busy weekend. Chris G, who works with John, came out Saturday afternoon to see the sugar shakers in the antique/junk shop. She’d been wanting one, was aghast at the prices in London, and was eager to see the ones here. While she was looking, I bought a toast rack, a neat gadget that will keep the toast from getting soggy! I had seen one a few days ago but forgot to buy it while concentrating on something else. This one was 50p cheaper. We walked along the High Street just looking and came on home. I enjoyed walking without my usual encumbrances.

Chris spent the night with us, and this morning we went to Canterbury Cathedral. The weather was very cold. They got chilled sitting in the choir during the service; $ and I got cold walking around waiting for them. Warmed ourselves with hot tea, sizzling chips and steaming hamburgers. Then we felt warm enough to walk along part of the old wall. The music was glorious in the church and worth the effort. Drove around the town and home. $ was so good – only cried about two minutes the whole day!!

Canterbury Cathedral

58 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — December 7, 1980

  1. The cathedral is lovely! Kitty Catt, that’s hilarious!! You should have told her that. You’re so funny. Keep sharing the letters. I’m so glad people wrote letters and that you kept yours all this time.

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    1. Generally, family members do not give you feedback. The greatest compliment I ever had was my mother telling me she used my letters for her book club program. Her friends were very complimentary, and she let me know it.

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  2. I meant to ask you if you have ever seen the series, Call the Midwife? I think PBS ran it in the UK. Your visit from the local midwife/comminity murse reminded me of it.

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    1. I’m surprised at the details when I wrote only once a week. If I tried it today, I’d probably have only two paragraphs.

      Writing once a week was my schedule. My mother and I wrote each other, both sitting down on Sunday to type out a letter. In 1964, I lived 1,200 miles away from her, and we couldn’t afford long distance calls. It was a good habit.

      Did you live near your mother at any time after you left home?

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      1. When we were in Germany in the 50s, my mother-in-law wrote several times a week, she always wrote such newsy and funny letters. Those were the days of letter writing. Written correspondence is now a thing of the past, too bad.

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          1. My first mother-in-law wrote all of her letters by hand, so did I as a matter of fact. This was in the 1950s. We were in the military then and moved around. I did not have a typewriter at that time (I don’t think she did either.)
            I still write personal letters by hand…in fact I write a lot of my draft posts by hand .

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          2. The average housewife didn’t necessarily have a typewriter around back in the 50’s…students and writers might of course, but handwriting was the thing. We learned typing in high school for those of us girls who were not “college bound.”

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            1. In the 50’s, I didn’t have time to take typing, so the teacher loaned me the manual and I went through all the lessons. That was one of the best things I ever did.

              My mom had her mother’s old typewriter, and that”s what she used to write my brother and me. We each had a portable for college, which came in handy for letter-writing later.

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              1. Typing has always been valuable to me, and also Gregg shorthand which I used in everything I ever did. I was a student, but also newspaper reporter covering city and school board meetings… I was not in college early on, not until I turned 50 actually. (Late bloomer.) 🙂

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                  1. I always say my shorthand was one of the three most influential subjects I ever studied. Latin was one of the three…invaluable I think to anyone who reads and writes in English. I forget the third… I mean to say these subjects were invaluable to me personally because of my future lines of work, all involved writing and linguistic skills.

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                    1. Yes. Math was always my nemesis, but the concept of it fascinated me. The technical aspects still mystify me, although I have discovered that I am much faster to solve a problem in my head than on paper. When my oldest was learning the New Math came out, and when I was exposed to it….I found it very helpful. If I think too hard about math or other thought systems it confuses me.

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                    2. I feel as if I almost get-it, but understanding maths concepts escapes me. I managed to get a 3…(three) on the GRE math exam. In fact I did rather poorly on the GRE in general…theoretically I am something of a paradox,, in that if I wasn’t already half way through the doctoral program, I likely wouldn’t have made it at all. My advissor remarked that the test is intended as a marker of aptitude for grad school, but obviously since I was doing quite well it was a moot point. 🙂 My brain tends to overload and panic at exams or tests of any kind…deep thinking short circuits I guess.

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                    3. Not really funny, just odd and proof that sometimes test scores simply do not indicate an individual’s ability. I absolutely panic when in a timed exam…my brain becomes a turmoil , and I am unable to think clearly. When I completed the academic portion of my doctorate work, and became ABD (all but dissertation) it didn’t involve written timed exams. The last thing was to explain my thesis to a panel of advisors, and since it was specialized oral information about my topic to my doctoral committee, it was not as threatening to me. I did not finish my dissertation, although the department gave me an extra year, and I was on the final draft. I am kicking myself for not finishing, but at the time I had a lot of things going on, Bob had just died recently, and I was building our new house and lots of other excuses.

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                    4. I have a similar failing when I’m trying to talk on the phone, or whatever, I make a little outline to prompt what I want to say. When called on to make any kind of oral presentation I make a list….or use notecards. One of my profs used to call me the “notecard queen.”

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                    1. I laughed that I should have read this comment along with the previous one. We were both very specific about our ages — you with the 1/2 and I saying my birthday is next week.

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                    2. Gotta keep up with those halves! I told John of our conversation about age. He laughed and said that when he saw his doctor Thursday, the doctor said John was pushing 80. He bristled and said he was only 79 1/4. We all found it amusing.

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                    3. That is funny. I told my Doc that I hoped to squeeze out another ten years at least. He always says I’m not as old as I always say I am. Usually when I am there it is to accompany my son, who is 57; he has many medical issues. I have been fortunate so far. , fingers crossed. I do try to be careful especially on snow and ice, I took a couple of bad falls which didn’t result in anything broken, but made me more cautious. I do use a cane, when I can find it. 🙂 My soninlaw is just about 67, but he might as well be 100, moans and growns about how old he is.

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                    4. My son is 41 and having more health issues than I do. I laughed that you use a cane when you can find it. I had a diary of cane stories the 2.5 years I needed one to walk.

                      We are trying to be very aware of icy conditions, knowing they are not good for us.

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                    5. My grandmother fell on ice and broke her hip when she was around 60…I have her beat by almost 30 years. I had crutches once for a twisted ankle, but that was enough for me. My nifty red metal cane from Walgreens is great, and it has a square cane tip that lets it stand up by itself…so when I walk into a place…presto! The cane is standing there. lol

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                    6. A bright red cane that stands alone! What could be better? I still have a green one and one with fading birds on it. Twice I loaned them to neighbor Shawn when she had her knees replaced.

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                    7. It’s a darker red shade. It cost about $30, which I thought was exhorbitant, but it is worth every penny. Even the rubber-like stand was alone $22. The cane stands up by itself, but once it fell over and clunked my cat Sister on the head…she was amazed! I stand it up now so that if it falls it doesn’t hit anything…makes a loud “clunk” because it is heavy metal.

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  3. I can just picture all those scenes. Too funny about Kate’s word mixup. And it was interesting hearing the different takes on boarding school.

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  4. It always sounds like you met a lot of interesting people and there was never a dull moment whether it was at home or out and about. I liked the “Oh Shakespeare” and learning later that it was a real person’s name. And speaking of names, a fellow blogger is Welch and her has a seeing eye dog and a cat named Angus. Zena does not write a lot of posts, but I will be reading along and she mentions Angus and I have to try to remember what member of her family is Angus.

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