England 40 Years Ago — December 21, 1980

Merry Christmas! We’ve started out the week in fine fashion with [John’s first cousin] Harold’s arrival. He landed almost an hour early and didn’t have any hassle with customs. He breezed in laughing and joking, and we’ve been having a great time. John is relaxed after almost clearing his desk Friday, staying until 10 and getting home after 11. The girls are so happy to be out of school and able to stay up later.

Cousin Harold — unmarried here, now 40 years later the grandfather of four

I bought a certain green vegetable in the freezer store by looking at the picture. I had the funniest feeling I suddenly couldn’t read. The label had three languages: Passierter Spinat which sounds like a cross between a football player and a piano, Epinards Haches which could be Innards Hatching and Gehakte Spinazie which sounds to me like you are rushing down to the pawn shop to hock something. You linguists will recognize Spinach.

Everyone has heard of New Yorkers, Riplians, Memphians, etc. but do you know who people are from Liverpool? Liverpudlians!! What do you do with Charlotte, Monroe and Stony Brook?

John $ had a cold early last week; he was like a time bomb. You didn’t know whether to run for cover from the fallout or advance like a bomb squad protected by a tissue vest.

The school Christmas program was marvelous. Kate’s form sang two long carols and used rhythm sticks. The second form also sang two selections, and then the upper three forms did a mime program. I think most of the performers were in the third form with the fourth and fifth doing all the choral work. There wasn’t a hitch in the whole program – everyone moved precisely where they were supposed to. The children acting out the Christmas story were so well-behaved; you could tell at times they found things amusing, but the giggles seemed to start rising, get to the throat, and were firmly pushed down again so that the face never cracked. The angel costumes were clever, and Gabriel had a more elaborate set of wings. I had a hard time with Gabriel, though, because she looked just like Big Bird when she folded her wings. The music was wonderful – interesting composed songs all done from memory with excellent diction. Discipline and hard work were certainly on display.

Christmas is a good time for homes to be broken into, especially if a lighted tree is visible with gifts under it. Here places are not burglarized, but “burgled.”

The greatest toys are free. $ likes potatoes! He sneaks into the larder at every opportunity to grab a couple. I must remember to look through them to see if any have teeth marks. He mainly likes to juggle them or use them as stilts for the hands when crawling.

The handwriting book arrived on Wednesday, the 17th, the day school was out. Thank you ever so much for sending it quickly. Kate has done 12 lessons so far and is doing very good work. Think the influence is going to help Lisa’s writing and mine! Please let me know how much we owe you.

The home group Christmas party was fun. Barbara C did baby sit for us, so we could be the last to leave and not worry. They wouldn’t assign us something to bring, so I took a fancy Christmas bowl full of pecans newly arrived from Tennessee. What a hit they made! One person had heard of the nuts before, but most had never known about them. We had a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, sprouts, carrots and steamed pudding. There were several other things, but we understand that sprouts are the mandatory vegetable. The pudding was very moist – I must steam mine just before serving and do it for hours. Penny says she steams hers five hours the first time and five hours again the day it’s served. We also learned how to serve it; it should be flamed, cut in tiny wedges and smothered in cream and brandy butter.

The girls and I went to the open air market that is held every Thursday in Redhill. What a sight! People were milling about the stalls until we almost couldn’t move. Some stalls were nothing more than a make-shift stand while others had material stretched on a frame over and to the sides of them. It had the flavor of an old country fair; some of the merchants were actually hawking their wares, keeping up a running chatter to lure in customers. I think you could buy almost anything there from hand-carved coconuts for birdhouses to carpets. We saw sheets, numerous places selling jeans, a butcher!, two fruit stands, jewellery (I’m right on that English spelling!), antiques, handbags, materials, candy, toys, and even shoes.

It used to be a step up to travel by air while others crawled on the ground. $ found the airport to be a step up – the Fischer Price airport, that is! He pushed it to the sink and stepped up to see what he could see.

I was commanding Lisa to cease and desist saying, “Cut it out!” I couldn’t continue my anger when she solemnly looked me in the eye, raised her hand to eye level and made scissory motions and sounds in a half circle in front of herself.

We went to the party at toddler play group so I could play carols on the piano for them to sing. Don’t know what I would have done without the girls. Lisa had to hold the music because there was no music rack on the piano, and Kate held onto $. Penny, who runs the thing, had asked the girls to help Father Christmas by handing him the gifts. Penny saw my good carol book, browsed through it, and was excited at finding the Polish carols. She asked to borrow it to copy those pages because Andy’s father is Polish and she wanted to try to learn some for him. Penny brought the book back that afternoon, came in for a cup of tea, and we talked for several hours while my girls entertained her little girls. We all had such a good time.

$ is taking two to ten steps at a clip now. His trouble is that he’s trying to run before he learns to walk! One day he stooped to pick up a toy and was able to stand up again.

My walk has changed since we folded up the play pen – it’s a shuffle so as to avoid tripping over toys, with a quick flick to right or left to propel toys to the sidelines. There are no rules in this game!

John and the girls put up the tree last night. John said it looks German/American. We certainly haven’t seen any Christmas trees here pretty enough to write home about!

Harold slept while we went to church this morning. We ate dinner, went for a drive in the country and had tea. Now all but $ and I have gone to church for the service of lessons and carols. It is supposed to be like the one at King’s College. I may not miss it entirely because they took our brand new tape recorder!! If they are in a good spot, we’ll save it for the rest of you to hear.

Hope all of you will have had as wonderful a Christmas as we are going to have!!

24 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — December 21, 1980

  1. Hee, hee. I love the pushing of things to climb on them. Adorable. And who hasn’t heard of pecans? Even 40 years ago? Seems odd. You should have taken a pecan pie and blown their minds!!!!!!!

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