England 40 Years Ago — February 1, 1981

Has anyone ever told you to go fly a kite when discussing church attendance? We heard it last Sunday. The vicar made a kite and flew it in family service! He started with the framework, which makes a cross, saying that is the basis of true life. Quoting Scripture all the way, he continued with red material for the blood that covers our sins. Here in England they use two strings for flying a kite — has it changed in America? One string stood for Bible reading, the other for prayer. The tail is love which makes such lovely patterns in the sky. Here they have humongous tails; Kate and I saw one on Redhill Common not long ago. When he’d finished, he had all the children blow as hard as they could while the curate hoisted the kite up on hidden strings to fly from the rafters. Cute.

Inside photo of St. Mary’s church in Reigate

A lady came by leaving catalogs for plastics and housewares, something like a Fuller Brush brochure; this line is named “Betterware”. In thumbing through it, I found a gadget for holding up the cord of an iron called FLEX holder. Was I glad to be educated enough to know what they meant!

Kate has come to love her school hat and only takes it off to go to bed. She sometimes shares it with $ who doesn’t properly appreciate it. He has learned how to put it on and take it off.

Snowdrops are blooming, and daffodil shoots are two inches high.

$ loves to take a stroll about the garden when we get home from school. He has his own ideas about where he wants to go.

We’re in the habit of having afternoon tea after $’s walk. Kate and I have tea; Lisa has milk. It’s a nice break and a habit I plan to continue when we return to the States. I asked Merrin if they have tea in Australia. She said they do, but it’s really dinner.

One day I saw a funeral procession coming slowly down our street. The hearse stopped; two limousines pulled in behind, and the drivers went into the house next to the Hull’s and brought out flowers to put in the boots of the cars. Then they started up the cars and pulled into the drive to pick up the family. I wonder if the person who died had lived there. Haven’t seen anyone on the street to ask.

John had told me he hadn’t gotten petrol, but I didn’t think of getting it the next day. The day after that, the girls prayed us down to the closest station. They even prayed it open, because at first we saw no one about. Whew! It cost 17 pounds to fill her up. [At that time, it would have been equal to about $40, which is nothing unusual for 2008 prices.]

I went to Ann O’Connell’s for coffee. She was one of the first people to speak to me outside the school. I rather think she felt sorry for me being a newcomer and remembering how she was not spoken to for ages. She claims there are a few to this day that would not reply to her if she spoke to them! She thinks they are waiting for a proper introduction! Ann’s parents live in the same house with her, and what a house! It looks like a church from the outside, but she said it was a Victorian school. There are odd-shaped stairs, balconies inside, odd windows and French doors. It is filled with antiques from all over the world. I’ve heard Ann mention going to auctions — the big name ones in London. I think she buys for others as well as herself, but it’s rather vague. The house is so unique and different that I could imagine it as a stage setting for a play.

Ann’s parents were there, as well as a young neighbor named Una. John $ was so rambunctious that I never talked to her. Mr. and Mrs. Harding helped run after $ and carried our conversations back and forth around the living room. I knew Ann had lived in India until she was 14, so asked her mother if she had grown up in England. She replied, “If you knew British accents, you’d know I have an Empire accent and didn’t grow up here.” She went on to tell that there were 13 servants in her house and that she had never seen a vacuum cleaner until they moved to New Zealand in the 50’s. Mr. Harding had been in aluminium (accent on “min”) but left when things got bad after England pulled out of India. He said there were threats to his life and promises that his daughter would be kidnaped. He liked New Zealand, but hated Australia. He couldn’t stand the familiarity and heartiness of the Aussies! Don’t think he’d like Americans, either, but he was nice to me.

I said to Enid, Merrin’s mother, that I don’t think I’d like having the seasons upside down at Christmas time in Australia. She said it hasn’t felt like Christmas here with the cold! What about Christmas cards, I asked. She laughed and said she’d never thought about it, but they were all snow scenes!!! Someone went to extra trouble to send them one with a kangaroo on it this Christmas. Found out they do have milk delivery there. That’s the first time I’ve heard of it outside the U.K.

I couldn’t figure out why $ had a “runny tummy” as one person said here. Met another mother at school with a girl his age, and she mentioned her girl was teething. I ran my finger around his gums and found 8 points of eruptions! No wonder he hasn’t been his normal self! I’ll be more careful the next time I put a finger in his mouth — it’s getting more dangerous!

One night John called from the railroad station in London to cancel my coming to meet him at the local station, because the trains were not running. He was so glad he did because neither of us had noticed the fog. The train he finally got was not very late, but the cars on the road between Redhill and Reigate could only go as fast as he was walking because of the thick fog. After he ate, the girls and I went for a walk to experience the soup first hand. It’s the thickest I’ve ever seen. The world seemed to end with the first row of trees in our garden, and only a glow came from the windows across the street. The next morning I looked at the trees in the back and thought someone had wrapped them with thread. It wasn’t very much, but there were strings fluttering in the wind. Lisa and I went out to touch one and found it to be frozen mist or flexible ice. You know me, I grabbed the camera and went out. [Those slides were too dark to scan, so I’ve lost the images.] Much to my chagrin, $ locked me out by slightly turning the lowest lock on the garden door.

Kate and I took $ for a walk to church in the morning and used our Christmas present hymn books. In the Anglican church they hand out tiny books with just the words of the hymns. We know so few of the tunes that it’s painful to try to sing. John remedied that by buying the music edition. John is presently going to Evensong. He likes that service because it is all sung. When we came home from church, we found he’d put the casserole in the oven and set the table! That’s a nice welcome, especially since we’d smelled other dinners cooking on the way home.

This afternoon the Hull girls went for a walk with us and showed us another new footpath. It was such a gloriously beautiful day that even John went.

End of paper; end of thoughts. We love you.

28 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — February 1, 1981

  1. I loved reading tis post Anne, your sense of humor shines through. Of course I was captivated by the Vicar building a kite in church! I think at this point very little I do in church would surprise my flock. Thank you for sharing such vivid memories. Blessings, Michele


  2. What a wonderful lesson your pastor taught using a kite as a metaphor. Snowdrops blooming and daffodils sprouting on Feb. 1 in England? Oh, how I am ready for spring here in PA. We just got a foot of snow yesterday and today, os no early spring for us, I don’t care what the groundhog says.

    I have never heard of frozen mist, but I would love to see it sometime!


    1. Winter did not last long in the south of England. We have been aware of your current storm. Daughter Kate lives in NJ. She went to work at her usual time today and knew she might be called back for an evening shift at the supermarket. As of a few hours ago, the manager was expecting to open as usual tomorrow. If the weather is as bad as they say, I hope the store closes early tonight and doesn’t open at all tomorrow. We’ll wait and see. I’ll be interested in how your snow ends and how soon you get out again. Would you run in snow?


  3. Wish I could have lived it all with you. What fun! Even the smallest human locking you out sounds like an adventure. The lady with 13 servants sounds scary. Anyone who has 13 servants sounds scary. But I bet I could break an antique or two. I’m guessing she didn’t have cats.


  4. Mary Agnes was just mentioning again (x1,000) that we need to get away. England, as I’ve mentioned previously holds a spot dear to us. I also made what must have been a funny when I said,” I wouldn’t want to rent a car though.” She asked “why not,” and I replied, “you can’t see a damn thing with all the Hedge Rows.” Poor John, no trains running. B Safe! Got my 2’nd shot last week, Being a Volunteer in the hospital moved me up one floor in the distribution elevator.


    1. I have a photo showing our car taking up the whole road between two hedgerows. That will come later in the series. The first few days of driving were frightening, having to remember what side of the road to drive on.

      That’s great that you’ve had the vaccine. We’re half way there. How about Mary Agnes?


  5. I follow a UK blogger who fills his blog with photographs, mostly of the sea, but since they’ve been on strict lockdown he is taking lost of woodsy photos. Every day there is no glimpses of snow and very green, yet it is January and now February. So it would be similar to your weather where you live now. You mentioned the Snowdrops blooming and I saw some a good month ago. They were up, their little white heads bobbing on the plan, then we got snow and freezing rain. The last time I saw them was Wednesday the 3rd and they were so bedraggled. I can only wonder if they are goners after the recent snowfalls and brutal cold. I’ve been walking past this house in the neighborhood for ten years now – the Snowdrops have never bloomed that early before. No daffodils for a while.


  6. What an absolutely fascinating post, Anne! And I notice you were getting more and more British as time went on – you wrote “petrol” and the “boots” of the car! Lol! What great memories you forged!


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