England 40 Years Ago — December 14, 1980

Did you know there is no Santa Claus here? The English call him Father Christmas. His wife is Mrs. Christmas!

I heard Lisa calling for help and found her locked in the loo upstairs. Must run in the family. She was able to unlock it after I had tried several times from the outside.

Monday I went to lunch at Enid G’s (mother of Merrin who is Lisa’s friend). Met an Ann there who is also Aussie, but just came from six years in the Fiji Islands. She said she had to adjust to having a live-in maid. At first she couldn’t have the girl clean unless she herself was also working. By the time she left she could have the girl vacuum under her feet while she read a book. In talking about pets, I learned that Australia has a nine-month quarantine. That is, you can bring your animal in for the wait only after you have a permit to bring it into the country in the first place!

Kate’s class was doing a project in school Said Kate, “Mrs. Fitzhugh brings such small needles that you can hardly find them on the floor.”

Heard a commotion upstairs and ran to find the wardrobe doors open, vacuum hose down, various shoe polishes scattered about, and a wire hanger hung on $’s socks and his arms tangled in the straps for the Johnny-Jump-Up. A movie of that boy would run like a cartoon! The same day he turned over the laundry basket and proceeded to climb on top. Later he pulled the extra oven shelf from beside the stove so that I tripped on it.

John $ has learned to point. He sat at the table, smiled, pointed, and I turned around to see who he was smiling at. Nobody. Left me with the funniest feeling!

The church home group met at our house this week. I have no idea how many groups there are; must be scads. Five people came to ours that night.

The days can be so dark now as we approach the shortest day of the year. I usually have the lights on to drive the girls both ways to school and home. It doesn’t bother me, but it is enough to notice. If there are clouds overhead, it can stay almost like twilight all day. I think it makes homes and stores look so warm and cozy when it’s dark and there are lights on.

I was on the phone for a short while and came out to find $ brushing his hair with the toilet brush. Perhaps he thought it was the Johnny brush.

[I never mentioned $ in the cloakroom, so I’ll include his photo here. As far as I could tell, “cloakroom” was often used as the name for a half bath. Ours had a toilet and sink and certainly no place to hang coats. We kept the door open, because it smelled bad if air didn’t circulate there. This was the only toilet on the ground floor.]

School will “break up” for the holidays on the 17th of December. It breaks me up to hear that expression for school closing.

At the home group they discussed the Christmas party for this week. We were unsure if we could go, mainly because John gets phone calls at home, but the others thought it was because of sitter problems. The following day Barbara C called to offer to sit for us! She had stayed with Rob and Mary’s children while they came to our house; when they mentioned wanting us to come to the party, she called. Isn’t that something?

The light in the entrance hall has been out and we knew it wasn’t the bulb. Lisa learned how to turn it on – you flip the switch and run upstairs and jump hard in the middle of that hall. Makes you wonder about the wiring in this place!

Without looking ahead, try to define a play yard. I discovered it isn’t outside except in the summer. It’s inside mostly and measures about one square yard. Yep, a play pen.

The burglar alarm had its six-month check up. A man (called an engineer) came to test it, making all the different systems work. He had buzzes in the closet, clangs outside the house, and nasty bells inside the house. Bet a musical person could almost play a tune with it.

To save time, I gave $ his lunch to feed himself while I jotted a note. Without thinking, I held the pencil in the hand I picked up his cup with, and he went cross-eyed looking at the pencil while drinking.

John $ is a boy in a hurry. He actually slithers down the stairs! He stretches out his arms and legs, has his whole body undulating, and rides down mainly on his stomach. I must admit, he has plenty to ride on!

[This photo is an action shot, probably taken when he began taking several steps at once.]

$ has also acquired an English polish recently. Unfortunately I had to remove it as best I could with a tissue. I was polishing shoes when he suddenly galloped across the floor on all fours, jumped up, and struck three fingers all the way to the bottom of the gooey polish. Navy blue, for your information. Yuck!

People in the home group had talked about a float that would go all over town, and I was so glad they told me ahead of time what it was all about. Friday evening I heard a loud speaker and then Christmas carols. By the time the float came into view, we had our money ready. A car or truck was completely covered with a lit up house and Santa, I mean Father Christmas, gaily waving from the chimney. A dozen or more people were running along with it and darting down to each house to collect money for the Round Table. This organization uses the money to buy medical equipment for local use.

We’ve had one little group come caroling. The custom is for groups to go from house to house singing and collecting for worthy causes. When the three boys started singing at our front door, I first thought one of the children had turned up the TV too loud. Realized it was for real and opened the door to find these three lads cheerfully singing. I asked who they were collecting for, and they said, “Ourselves.” I was told you’re expected to give 5 or 10p to such people and 50p if you recognize the charity they’re working for.

In looking for a good source of heat, I decided to put the angel chimes over the stove (cooker here). Now when I have a meal under way, things are not humming, but tinkling.

Found out when and how to use Christmas crackers. They are small favors like ones we used to have at birthday time and are decorated for Christmas here. Just before the Christmas dinner everyone stands in a circle, crosses hands, and helps each other pull the crackers. I think they make a noise when pulled and have a hat, favor, and motto inside. You’re supposed to wear the silly hats during dinner. According to Mary G, that’s the one time English people unbend and act silly! We have them already, but I don’t think I’ll require cousin Harold to wear a hat during dinner! Can’t see John doing it either.

26 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — December 14, 1980

    1. We had a gardener when we lived in England, and I felt like it was an intrusion. He came with the house, and we were required to oversee him and pay him. He shared many stories with us and was very kind to the children, but I’d rather have not had him.

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  1. Your tiny human looks sooo cute, it makes me miss the ones here being so small. Then they start screaming and I don’t miss it at all. I wonder what Father Christmas is bringing them all? I hope it’s in the next letter!!!!

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  2. As always I enjoy your throwback to the 80’s. You make me think back in time to what I was doing then. I remember one Christmas eve, perhaps 80 or 81 working traffic enforcement on I-84, Radar enforcement specifically. Instead of the wide brim Stetson, I wore a red Santa Hat. If the individual being pulled over was not really endangering and I noticed children in the car, I approached with a bag of candy canes, a verbal Warning and a plead for them to slow down and stay safe for Christmas. Fun times on I-84 in CT, back in the day. Be safe, hi to all.

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  3. Anne, you capture the English idiosyncrasies perfectly! 😀 We never end up wearing the cracker hats either! As for the weather, your explanation of dull days as fulltime twilight sums it up exactly. Haha! Oh, I remember those fluffy loo seat covers!

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    1. Thank you for this enlightening comment. I wrote what I observed, not knowing whether I was seeing things correctly or not. I found English people totally delightful, and our two years flew by. Speaking of loos — to this day I could point out the pub in the high street where the loo had no heat in February. Brr! It was not the only one.

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      1. Anne, it wasn’t just the pubs with no heating … schools were notorious and my primary school at the end of the 70s never had any heating. Bitterly cold and to top it all, this was our changing room for PE!

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  4. I’ll bet $ slept good from all the mischief he got into on an everyday basis and you too from chasing after him or monitoring him. I love all the idioms you come across and no doubt if you didn’t understand what the equivalent word was, you felt you should not ask.

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