England 40 Years Ago — January 4, 1981

Got the date right the first time! [January 1 was a Friday in 1981 and 2021.]

All last Monday was taken by the driving home from Rotterdam. We did get home a little earlier, though, than planned. When we drove up to the ferry terminal we found the ferry was just about to disembark for Folkestone. Took that rather than wait for the Dover one; landing point was just a few miles south. The boat shoved off just minutes after our car was stowed. That’s the way to do things!

$ and I had a quiet day when everyone else went to the Tower of London on the 30th. I don’t think there were many tourists there, so they got good views of everything. That evening we celebrated Harold’s birthday. He had been given the choice of no dessert or the dessert of his choice. He picked a pecan pie and then keeled over laughing when we brought it out. I thought the candle stuck in a pie was funny-looking and was surprised he shared my feelings. When he could talk after all the laughter, he said what got him so tickled was that he suddenly reached the age of one candle. It must have made him feel ancient. It isn’t very funny in the telling, but we did get a kick out of it.

I can tell Christmas is almost over. Just looked over at the train card holders and see the caboose has collapsed its rear wheels and is sitting down like a recalcitrant mule.

New Year’s Eve Harold went to London alone to do more sight-seeing while John diddled around here. Kate, $, and I walked to town. I was planning to get something at Knight’s, but it was closed. We went to a grocery instead and stocked up on the cheapest peanut butter in town.

We didn’t plan any festivities to see the new year in, just stayed up talking. Shortly before midnight we turned the TV on and saw the camera positioned on Big Ben. The shows of various parties and entertainments continued soon after. They had no instant replay like we do in the states! The bells of St. Mary’s [the church we go to in Reigate] were pealing away on the windy, frosty air. That was one of the nicest sounds of the day.

I don’t know where in the world the new year was coming in when it was almost 4 AM here, but $ got up to celebrate at that time. Thank heavens he went back to sleep. He would not have had good company with me that day if he had stayed up!

During New Year’s Day Kate said, “I’m going to Royal my Smurfs.” ??? We watched to see what would happen. She made a paper hat for each one and crowned them. Now we know.

We know of nothing that was open on the first, so just stayed home. Poor Harold said he was suffering withdrawal symptoms because there were no football games on TV. He used his energies to play Monopoly with Lisa.

On Friday a family from church was here for dinner at noon so their whole family could come. Normally their girls, 4 and 6, eat their last meal of the day at 5 or 5:30.

P. explained that the older girl had asked her to tell me that she never eats much at noon. Her napkin never came off her plate! However, she did the thing most grown people don’t know to do when not eating, she sat and entertained us so that no one noticed that she didn’t eat. I was slightly shocked that neither girl would drink milk but would ask for and gulp soda. The parents are both medical doctors.

I’d been dying to ask A. if he started out in his medical training intending to write, and he said no. He was planning to practice, but along the way edited and wrote for medical magazines in school. After all his training was finished, he did practice for three years. He said it was terribly frustrating because he was not given enough time to treat people as he wanted. P. echoed that saying that she was given double time when she first started practicing because she was new. They allowed her six minutes per patient in general medicine instead of only three. She said it was faster to write a prescription for a cold than to try to explain to people that they would be better off to go home, drink fluids, and rest. They both talked as if they’d love to practice in the states but wouldn’t make a move, at least a permanent one, because of all the family ties here. [The last time I asked, probably in 2007, John said there was a book or so by Dr. S. on the shelf at Borders.]

Yesterday the girls and John took Harold to the airport. They were disappointed to find long lines and to learn that the computer was out of order. The good seat Harold had reserved was no longer his. We just hope he didn’t get stuck in a middle seat.

Also yesterday Lisa went to a party at Pippi’s house. The invitation said “fancy dress”, so Lisa had asked her if that meant a party dress. Pippi made some reply that Lisa took to mean yes. Turned out to be a costume party, but they said she could just be Alice in Wonderland in her graduation dress and with long hair. Don’t think it bothered her. She had not been feeling well, but we coaxed her to go anyway. Were we glad! Many of those invited had called up to cancel because of illness. She had a great time.

John brought pizza home for the rest of us last night. He began to feel worse and worse with the cold $ so generously shared with us. He went to bed before the girls and didn’t get up until 10 this morning. He kept $ while the rest of us walked to church.

About half an hour after we got home from church, John commented on how dark it had gotten. I looked out to see a very gray day. Soon we saw rain, hail, and snow coming down all at once. Not much later the sun was shining again, the sky was blue, and there were fluffy white clouds hung in the sky. Kate and I took $ for a walk up on Redhill Common, exploring some of the paths and finding a bricked pond on the north side. There was a fantastic kite flying with the longest tail I’ve ever seen. We all came home with frozen ears.

Now John has driven the car to church for choral evensong. I’m eager to find out what that is like. The rest of us are home listening to $ try to tell us it is tea time. Must stop and feed him.

Bed time for one and tea time for others. We’re thinking of all of you at the beginning of this year and hope to see as many of you as possible during the course of it. God bless you.

66 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — January 4, 1981

  1. Delightful. I got caught out on the fancy dress situation once too. Who would have thought a fancy dress was a costume? Sounds like $ is starting to talk. Thanks for sharing this letter. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The fancy dress term was misleading to me, but we weathered that hiccup with an understanding hostess.

      Do you know what a “flex” is, Darlene? I didn’t write about it in a letter, but a neighbor in England made a statement about a dog getting a flex. We both struggled to understand each other. Finally she got up and showed me what she was talking about. A flex was an extension cord. Why flex? She thought it stood for flexible electric insulated cable. xo

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No, I hadn´t heard of a flex. But when I met my British hubby, he told me his uncle was a joiner. I thought he meant someone who joined lots of clubs. It wasn´t until later I found out he was a carpenter!


  2. Harold made a good dessert choice! My youngest son, whose birthday is on Dec. 4, also selected pecan pie for his birthday treat. I would not have thought there would have been computers at the airport in 1981!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I would love a pecan pie with a candle in it!! Maybe if I were there, she would Royal me too? Sometimes I feel like I should be a prince or even a king. What fun. Gee, 3 minutes to treat someone, I wish the Vet would only take 3 minutes. Then it might not be so bad. Thanks for the funny letter again. Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  4. I love how the girls adapted to the new situation, going to parties, dressing up their Smurfs. It was a wonderful experience for your family to get to live there instead of being tourists.


  5. This is so beautifully written Anne. I had no idea you wrote like this. I’m so erred when it comes to reading blogs while you’re so faithful to me. Please accept my apology. It’s a lovely site and the piece, so visual. Your Friend.


    1. I don’t expect anyone to read what I write. Blogging is my excuse to get to know people through what they say.

      Your posts are magnetic, drawing people in. I’m very thankful for your friendship. I hope you have a sparking day.


  6. I like how the dates from then have lined up with the dates of now. The little girl who didn’t eat but was charming company, how lovely is that? Most interesting to see you refer to the one computer at the airline being broken. Just one, the one that did it all!


  7. Anne, I love reading your posts from the past and chuckled at ‘I’m going to Royal my Smurfs.”! So much I recognise from my own childhood at the time and it’s interesting to read about the differences in the languages!


  8. I didn’t know the Smurfs were around for that long (if your reference is to those blue trolls) and I was surprised to see that the airlines were using computer reservations 40 years ago. Maybe I think that is odd, since I never used my first computer until around 1990. Maybe England was much more tech-oriented than we were here in the U.S.


  9. Hiya Anne! Been busy around here. Just trying to catch up with some posts! I must’ve missed something though – who is Harold?

    Love your writing, it’s so descriptive, I can picture everything so clearly! How was Rotterdam? I went to Amsterdam with my ex (on our honeymoon in 1967!) along with London, Brussels, Copenhagen and Paris. Average 5 days in each city. But Athens, Greece – 3.5 months. It so broadens the mind when you travel, don’t you find?!

    Your mention of the 6-year-old not eating her food – I hope that was a short-lived phase. It reminded me of a time I was out with friends at a restaurant (oh how I miss those days now!!), and the wife of someone – whom I didn’t know – just pushed the food around on her plate. And yes, talked a lot, or mostly got us to talk, so the attention would be on us and not her. I think she had just one bite, maybe two, of her hamburger, and nothing else. She was a verrrrry skinny lady.


    1. Harold is John’s first cousin who came to visit us in England. You should see him now. He has a full head of silver hair and is the grandfather of four. He is still just as much fun as he was 40 years ago.

      Rotterdam was nice. That was our first trip to the continent. I was taking care of a 3-month-old by myself while John, the children, and Harold were on the ship. That was the reason for our trip — the shipping company had a ship in port.

      The two-bite hamburger story takes the cake!

      Liked by 1 person

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