England 40 Years Ago — December 26, 1980

Thought I’d start the letter early this week because we are planning to go away tomorrow. In the excitement of going to the continent, I may forget all about Christmas!

The recording of the lesson and carol service was not good. John wanted to keep the recorder out of sight so as not to distract worshipers, but it was too muffled. Too bad.

We began celebrating my birthday by getting up early. Thanks for all your cards, one of which arrived on the very day! I had an extremely quiet day with only $ for company, the others going to London and doing a bus tour with a good look at Westmister Abbey afterwards. They may have done other things; can’t remember.

Playing musical beds could be dangerous. So often if Kate comes in, I mumble something about getting her pillow and stumble into her bed. The thought hit me one morning when waking in her room, what if she had been sick all over the bed? What if she thought she saw a burglar in her room and I went down the hall to bump into something very real? I must remember to ask questions next time!!

We all went to Hampton Court Tuesday. What a marvelous place! And we had it to ourselves! Nobody in their right minds would be sightseeing the day before Christmas Eve. All the outdoor things were closed for the winter, but just seeing the inside was almost overwhelming. The guards had nothing to do but watch us, so they spent their time entertaining $. There was wood carving that I thought looked like the work of Grinling Gibbons, and sure enough, it was. The paintings, tapestries, beds, etc. were so elaborate.

The family from across the street came for dinner Tuesday night. Luckily we had set the time for 7, so I was able to get everything together after we got home from Hampton Court at 2:30. They didn’t know what to make of cornbread and pecan pie, but they gamely tried it. The information I gleaned from the evening is that barristers and lawyers DO wear robes and wigs in court! Both Gillian and John trained in law, though she does not work at present. She has a wig, too! Traditionally the wigs are made of horsehair, but most modern ones are of nylon. It lasts a lifetime if you take care of it – care being to flick the dust off and store it in its little container.

After cooking for that crowd, doing Christmas Eve and Day dinners for just five was a snap. We had roast pork the 24th and Christmas pudding steamed for hours — moist, and topped with brandy butter that Gillian had brought for us for the holidays.

On the 24th John and Harold went to London to see the Tower, but found it closed. They walked miles and miles seeing all kinds of interesting things and ended up at Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. A retired guardsman picked them up as affluent tourists and told them all the details of the change and where to stand for the best pictures, also pointed out the Queen’s bedroom windows and offices, Prince Charles’ several offices and bedroom suite. He was a gold mine of information. In return, they treated him to lunch at his pub. It was probably a fair exchange for all the pleasure he brought.

Meanwhile, the girls and I went to Co op for a last shop before the stores closed for four days. $’s cashier friend handed us wrapped gifts for each of the children! I thought she might have something for $ because she kept asking if we were coming Christmas Eve, but I never dreamed she’d do something for the girls, too. We had given her birthday cut-out cookies for her birthday December 1, but we did not get her anything for this holiday. She gave the girls a doll in a little bottle (like ships in a bottle, but more appropriate for girls) and $ a shirt with a tiger printed on the front.

Harold offered to keep John $ while we went to the service for children at 5 Christmas Eve. I hesitated to let him, knowing how the little one can act when tired, but he insisted it would be fine. Wasn’t that kind of him? Harold still had his good-natured grin on his face when we got back, but $ had cried a lot. Harold claims he likes to be around children every once in a while just to strengthen his resolve to remain a bachelor. I’m afraid he got good reinforcement that night!

The service was alive, in fact, crawling with activity. All children were asked if they would like to take part, and those wanting to carried big puppets of the holy family in procession and shouted the correct responses. The organist preached the sermon! A good one, too, based on Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. He is a reader in the Anglican church, so has had some training beyond that of normal laymen.

There were children of all shapes and sizes there. The one that got our attention most was a streaker – a little girl two months younger than $ that ran up the aisle on all fours every time the mother tended the two other LITTLE tykes. The funniest expression was on the face of the man in the pew ahead of the baby when she sneaked under his feet, picked up his hat, and tried to put it on her own head. The hat was being returned to the rightful owner when she nipped to the pew behind and tried to pinch the kneeler. For the sake of the organist-preacher, it was good the mum gave up and took all three out. Lisa told us later that their last name is Butcher, so guess that’s why they are cut ups.

We walked to church Christmas morning – a lovely blue-sky day. What a packed church! We were 15 or 20 minutes early and had to find chairs separately. $ was good due to mouthfuls of dry cereal. I think that’s the first service he’s made it through since we arrived here exactly six months ago. After the main service at 11, there was communion at 12:15 for those who wanted to stay. John and I stayed while the others walked on home. We moved up to the choir stalls along with about 20 or 30 others. I imagine most of the congregation had taken it at the midnight service. Harold and John started out for that service, but the car had been left out in the rain too long and wouldn’t start. By the time they had spent ten minutes trying to start it, they wouldn’t have gotten seats in church had they walked. They watched two services on TV instead.

This toy is still in our garage in 2020!

Today, Boxing Day, is another glorious day. It’s nice not to be rushing off anywhere. Couldn’t anyway, because we HAVE to get some washing done. All the stores are closed, anyway.

The children are enjoying playing with their new things and fighting. They must enjoy fighting because they do it so much! Harold has told them they can fight all they want today, but WATCH OUT when we all get squeezed into that car together! He’s good to have around.

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

      1. I was laughing as he decided no kids based on his visit! We had friends of the family and they were getting older but wanted kids and asked my mom if they had a child or adopted one, if it could live here and my mom would get the child so it learned manners, was well-behaved, toilet trained, etc. and they would raise it the rest of the way. They were not joking and the look on my mom’s face. Her quick retort was something to the effect of “this is a child we are talking about, not housebreaking a puppy!” Needless to say the topic was never brought up again and they remained childless.


          1. I know! Seems incredible doesn’t it? I forgot to mention the payment for raising a child to kindergarten age. They made the proposal while I was still in high school and they said they’d put me through college/university wherever I chose to go and for as long as it took for my degree. The offer was still declined.

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  1. This is the first one of your recent posts that I am reading and replying-to on my “mainframe,” usually I do my poster friends’ at night on my tablet. For some reason “it” will not allow me to comment from there. But I insist on trying, and invariably fail to post because I can’t remember my WordPress password So, after writing lengthy witty and chatty interactive comments to your posts, I get stuck at the “password” stage and lose my words of wisdom forever. (It happens with other of my blogging friends as well.)

    My password record notebook lives on my mainframe desk, and if it ever gets lost I will be lost forever in cyber-limbo. I think I’ll look at the notebook/password right now. 🙂


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