England 40 Years Ago — January 25, 1981

Eleven months till Christmas!

This week just past I spotted a woodpecker that looks much like our Downy, but larger. I understand it is not often seen in this area.

Lisa wanted to stay after school for a road safety film badly enough to walk home! It took her only half an hour. Even she was surprised at the early hour; having worked up an appetite, she thought it must be close to dinner time. A little later she walked to Merrin’s to get an assignment. She may not realize how English she acted that day!

We watched lots of TV and kept the radio on for news of the hostages. I was surprised how much time they devoted to the story over here. Many people I’ve met shopping and at school have stopped me to say how glad our people are free at last. [Iran set American hostages free after 444 days in captivity.]

At the library the parking was even tighter than usual, and a lady squeezed her car in next to mine so that she couldn’t even get out of her door. Five more cars were lined up out into the busy street waiting to get in, so I knew I had to try to get out or walk out of the lot pretending I didn’t have a car there. As I began to maneuver, a nice man directed me with hand movements. I could have sworn I was going to crunch into the car behind, and I certainly hoped he could see better than he could hear. (He was wearing a very conspicuous hearing aid.) If I had hit that car, he might not have heard it! In very little time he had me out! I’ve heard of several people who pray to find a parking place, but I prayed to get out of that one! The Lord sent me a helper right when I needed it.

Instant replay might not have been used New Year’s Eve, but it was Tuesday. I think I saw President Reagan sworn in at least eight times. After hearing it that often, I’m persuaded he INTENDS to do a good job.

Language is a living thing, constantly changing, so much of what I write about may not apply a year from now. However, at this moment the term “OK” would translate here to “Right!”. On TV a person had a demonstration prepared, walked out to set up equipment, said “right”, and launched into the explanation. If I asked someone to do something for me, the answer would be “right”. Maybe that’s why the English have the trait of being correct, always “right”.

On a rainy day I parked close to the store, got $ in his push chair, saw a glove lying on the pavement and thought, “Some poor bloke has lost a glove. Won’t want it after it has been out in this weather.” For some reason I put my hand in my pocket and found I was the poor bloke! Glad I noticed it then and not later.

One morning I went several houses down the street for coffee with Mary H. She and her husband, Kenneth, are involved with youth work, running house parties for teenagers. He is an ordained minister and is an honorary curate of St. Mary’s. I discovered the place where they run these camps during holidays is a school we investigated for our girls. Now I can imagine what they do, since I know where they do it! Kenneth came in while I was there, recovering from a visit to a dentist. He said he steeled himself in the chair because the dentist was very young and came at him so enthusiastically!

I learned a new word from Mary. She said, “Dogs and children always head for the flex.” I had her repeat it three times, trying to understand it. Finally she walked over and picked one up to show me. She was so taken aback by my ignorance of the word that she looked it up in the dictionary! The word “flex” is short for flexible insulated electric cable. I should hope so! It continued by saying, in the US, it means “cord”. I’d say extension cord. It’s the four letter words that can get you into trouble!

Have I mentioned that the postmen deliver mail on their bicycles? I saw one the other day going down hill, standing on one pedal so that his bike was more a scooter than a bike. I’m sure it speeded delivery not to have to dismount.

Barbara C came here for coffee. She is the one who called and offered to baby sit for us before Christmas so that we could go to a dinner. This coffee business that is so standard here is the easiest thing. You invite one to any number of people, set out “bought” biscuits (cookies), give them a cup of coffee and relax. That particular morning I learned more about hospital stays for new mothers. It seems that you are required to be either in hospital or have someone at home with you for 10 days after your first baby. For the second or more they keep you in hospital 24 -48 hours and send you packing!!! Barbara is a kindred spirit in one way– she doesn’t care for gardening and does none of it!

Barbara and I compared the difficulties of cutting young boys’ hair. Her older son has two “crowns” she said. I would have called it “cow licks”, but I don’t think that is the proper name for it, either. Anybody got the correct term for the funny swirl of hair at the top of the head that refuses to go any way but the way it grows?

I cleaned house (yes, I really did!), ending in $’s room where he was acting tired. Playfully put him in the crib and stretched out on the bed across the room. Discovered why, when sitting in the room below, I think it sounds like the under side of a trampoline. He stand, runs, and dives among the blankets time after time. Comes up giggling and cutting his eyes around looking for mischief.

Last night we had the Johansens here for dinner and to play with the trains. Bjarne thought John was teasing in the office about having trains. He should know John never teases about IMPORTANT subjects!

John $pencer and his dad

Randi (the pretty wife) kept exclaiming about the SIZE of this house and how much cleaning would be involved. Their 13-year-old son, Jens, played for ages with the trains and included the girls in his playing. We thought his poise and grasp of history was amazing. Being an only child has some advantages! I loved listening to Jens talk. He’d learned English in Norway, probably with a British accent, but goes to the American school. Half his words are English, and some are SO American. I was surprised at his willingness to talk. Every once in a while he translated something for his mother.

Coping with English life is different for each family. Randi wanted special fish for Christmas dinner and didn’t know where to begin looking. Bjarne called the Norwegian Club, asked where they got their supply, and went there.

Lisa woke feeling sick this morning. She has now vomited twice and feels better. John stayed with her, and we had $ in the crib at the same time. John has now gone to evening prayer.

There is no better way to get to know a town than on foot. Today Kate, $ and I drove to town where parking lots (car parks, that is) are free on Sunday. We explored Slipshoe street, the oldest street in Reigate, I believe. It’s also the shortest and narrowest. We went down a residential street where I found my favorite house name of the day — Clutter Cottage.

End of paper. God bless you all.

On another sheet were a couple of paragraphs about wedding banns that I wrote to my brother and his wife. I’ll include them here.

Wedding banns — I must try to find out more, but I’ll tell you my idea of it. About three weeks before the wedding, the names of the engaged couple are read in church, and people are admonished to declare if there is any reason why these people can’t be married. Names are read three weeks running. I think it would be included in the service in the parish church of both the bride and groom, that is where they were baptized, as well as in the church they may have joined at the present time. It stems from the time when records were strictly local affairs and it wouldn’t be too hard for a man or woman to marry several times in distant places. I know in old novels, right after the wedding ceremony, the couple always go to the registry (part of the church) to sign their names on the book that stays in the church. It may still be done. [I think they showed Prince Charles and Lady Diana signing the book at St. Paul’s, or at least the anchors talked while it was done.]

Also in novels where the groom is in great haste to have his loved one to himself, he always has had the foresight to have a special license tucked in his pocket as he whisks his bride away, only two sentences after proposing to her. This is the only alternative to waiting the weeks for the reading of the banns, but I don’t know how you obtain a special license.

[I don’t know where I found my information 40 years ago, but it took only seconds to get it with a few keystrokes on the computer. Reading of banns | Weddings (yourchurchwedding.org) ]

21 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — January 25, 1981

  1. 11 months until Christmas. Ha! When we visited Europe, I was amazed at all the birds. ALL of them were new and exciting to me, just like your bigger-than-a-downy woodpecker. I never heard of reading the banns, but it is an intriguing concept! I wonder how many weddings were derailed by them?


  2. Not only do I always laugh when I read these letters, but I always learn something as well. Salem chews on the flexes often! It is a very bad habit, and I laughed out loud when I read how Reagan “intended” to do well. I didn’t know about the banns, as my human eloped ages ago. So fascinating.


  3. My daughter’s dog chewed her way through a cord and did electrocute herself, but not fatally. She got a little crazier than she had been, though it was pretty subtle since she was pretty crazy to start with! We had no idea a dog would even do that.


  4. I remember hearing or reading about publishing of banns – maybe in a movie or a novel? Maybe visiting a cathedral. The picture of John and John $ is very nice … John $ is getting so big and tall (maybe those shoes as they have a little lift to them).


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