England 40 Years Ago — February 8, 1981

I forgot to mention something else the folks from India told me. There are different classes of beggars! Ann said that some get left-overs, and lower classes get food that has actually been on people”s plates.

Tuesday John went into the office late because we are house-hunting. We have not told the girls yet because we don’t want to upset them; we’ll wait until we have another house lined up. We got the final word a couple of weeks ago that the owners of this house are being recalled from Japan, and of course, want their house back. Our lease expires the first of April. John saw one house on his own, but the rooms were too small. The one we saw Tuesday was a handyman’s nightmare. We could live there if we have to, but prefer to look longer. The blurb on the house listed a two-car garage, but we couldn’t find it. Then we realized it is now two bedrooms and a small playroom. Yesterday we saw a dream house that is too far away and too expensive, but it was fun to look at. [We subsequently rented a house on the same street – the name of the house was Churchfield. We rented half the house, and another family owned the other half. They had owned the house next to the one I was describing here as a dream house and subsequently bought half of Churchfield.] In the dream house were five bedrooms in the main part of the house, living room, dining room, study, and playroom that had been the garage. It also has a tennis court and a staff flat!!! Off the living room is the sitting room, kitchen, bath, and bedroom for a maid or parents. Anyone want to come over to live and help us pay for all that? It is to the side and back of a church with a path from the garden into the church yard! Mr. Clewes has tentatively agreed to work for us if we have a garden that needs him.

I was being critical of Lisa and said, “Lisa, you can be so loud.” Said she helpfully, “I can be even louder.”

The Salvation Army came around last Sunday distributing envelopes for donations. They were dressed in uniform and covered the area rapidly. When a pretty young girl came to collect the envelope several days later, I had to admit that the baby had gotten it. Well, it was the truth! (Teacher Barbara might not accept that as an excuse; neither did this girl.) She immediately offered another, so I dutifully put money in it and handed it back.

Two nights in a row John was out late dining with Steve S from the NY office. John has always enjoyed him so much, and I was glad he had a chance to spend lots of time with him. The second night the girls and I cleaned house to get ready for company coming the next night. Kate tidied up while Lisa polished silver.

One of the nights John came in late, he waked me up getting ready for bed. We changed John $’s nappy, and I was waked several more times by various people bumping around. John had set the alarm an hour early to finish something that had to go back to NY via Steve, returned to bed, and set the alarm for the usual time. When it rang, I said it’s easy to get up because I’d had so much practice during the night.

Max and Renee A. came for dinner Friday night and got here before John was home from work. This is the couple who first invited us to their home for dinner when we had just come here. They have their fingers in every pie in church, so it is fun to listen to their views on what is happening. I asked them about the banns of marriage, knowing they would have that info, having married off all four children within two years not so long ago. I had written of this to one of you, but now I have more complete information and will share it with all of you. [I’ve already written some of this earlier, but this is a little different.]

It’s a very old custom going way back. It is called publishing the banns of marriage and is to be done three weeks in a row, after which the couple have three months in which to marry before the time runs out. The names of the couple and their home parishes are read, and then the congregation is asked to let the authorities know if there is just cause why they should not marry. These banns must be read in their home parish — where they were baptized — as well as the church they attend at the moment. For couples not having a church wedding, banns are posted on a board at the registry office for three weeks. The way to get around all of this is to pay a fee and get a special license.

I also asked Renee and Max about the registry book in the church. In novels, after the wedding service the bride and groom go into the registry to sign the book. In St. Mary’s this book is kept in a safe under the organ. For one of their family weddings the vicar brought the book out so that the wedding guests could see the signing (not at St. Mary’s). Once a year some higher up in the church inspects the records to make sure everyone is doing their job properly. Records are kept of all christenings and deaths there, also.

Yesterday Kate and I were walking $ when we heard a lot of hammering. I laughed when we saw the cause. The opening for letters in the front door was being opened and closed by a little hand with a little pair of eyes looking out. I waved, and it abruptly closed, only to be opened slyly for a peek. The little one inside was shy. Wonder when $ is going to discover we have one like that in our house!

We drove to London to St. Paul’s for the morning service. Were the boys glorious! That church is so big that the sound just rolls back and seems to keep going for 10 seconds. We sat in the front row in the congregation; could have sat in the choir if we were staying for communion. The front row is right where the royal family sits for special occasions, so we won’t complain about the seats.

After church we drove, trying to find Kensington Palace. All we found was the Kensington Palace Hotel, and we are thinking it’s the palace turned into a hotel. It was right where the map listed the palace. [I was wrong about that. Kensington Palace still exists in 2008. It’s still there in 2021.] On our way to Regent’s Park I navigated us on Mount Street and Curzon Street which always feature in old novels. We also went near Baker Street and saw the Sherlock Homes Hotel. Driving around the park, we saw where the zoo is, but could only see the giraffes over the hedges. There were some posh town houses overlooking the park, too. All of this was to fill time until the Tower opened; John said since everyone else had had a chance to go, he wanted me to get in. The girls and I walked to the entrance only to find that the jewels are not on display for the month of February because of maintenance to the building. This is what I particularly want to see, so we hope to go another time before the tourist season starts. $ had fallen asleep, so we drove through the St. Katherine dock area before coming home. It was a nice outing — certainly much easier than going to New York for part of a day.

Lisa will soon “sit” for the common entrance examination. At the age of 11 or 12 all children who hope to get in good schools have to take this series of exams. They are given in the lower schools, all on the same days, all over the world! The headmistress at Dunnotar assured us that they would accept Lisa if her grades were slightly lower than those of English girls since she hasn’t been here long. The last one will be the day before the Mehrlings arrive, so she will have double cause to celebrate. They’ve been preparing for this for weeks, using old exams as trials. Reminds me of all the hoop-la that New Yorkers went through for Regent’s exams.

End of paper. End of thoughts. [Also, there were no photos to go with the narrative. Soon we will have visitors, and there will be lots of pictures.]

31 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — February 8, 1981

      1. In our early years we loved flying to our destination and then driving to another destination after 3 days….and then another and another…….we did that for about 20 years….In the last four years we discovered cruising (which I said I would NEVER do) but was encouraged to try once. We never looked back……it is sooooo much easier for us. We cruise on medium sized ships with 500 passengers max and only on Regent South Seas Cruises. We cruise for a month and then stay a few days in our last stop before returning home. Regent flies us First Class, picks up our luggage at the house and provides 5 star hotel stays before and after the cruise. AND their tours are small (less than 15) and travel guides excellent. All geared for adults, no children. I miss it! Maybe next year or at the earliest, late this year!


  1. That Lisa, what a card! I find that most little humans can be quite loud. I would have shared the dream house with you! I just can’t pay rent. And to think, your butt sat on the same seat the Queen’s butt sat on!!!! How cool is that?


    1. I never kept a journal. Do you journal? I always wrote letters, though, and England 40 Years Ago are the letters sent to our families for the two years we lived in England. I try to post them exactly 40 years after they were written. I didn’t know John had saved them until about 10 years ago, when I typed them for the computer.

      As family and friends scattered, I wrote email messages to let them know what we were doing. I still do that and often send the same words in the blog.

      Our daughter Lise is the one with the travel bug. She lives and works in Denmark, and until COVID struck, traveled as much as possible. On her 50th birthday she was visiting the 50th country on her list.


      1. No, I have never journaled, but I have kept letters from family members……I am glad John kept yours, you forget what went on when, and what was the concern for the time. I like family history and try to write about things that went on in our family……(like how at least one person in every generation has changed their name)I took a writing course once and as I was apologizing for just writing about family, the instructor looked at me and said 100 years from now everyone will want to know what you were doing at the time and the other stuff will fade away. That is true too, because now the kids don’t even learn to write cursive, our letters will be like finding the mummies buried in the sand……..things have changed so much just in my time! I really enjoy your blog!
        How does Lise like living in Denmark? I will be away for a few days, so if you don’t hear fro me until Tuesday that is the reason why!


        1. Lise loves Denmark. The language at work is English, but she learned enough Danish to qualify as a permanent resident. I think she has lived there eight or nine years. She usually comes here for Thanksgiving.


  2. We didn’t go on our little vaca! BUMMER! The weather turned bad in Nashville and I was worried about the mountains near Asheville and the Smokies! I wondered how people went about getting residency in another country, so this makes sense….Have a job and learn the language…..


    1. The weather ruined our son’s plans, too. John $ was looking forward to his friend Rose coming this weekend from Columbia, near Nashville. She knew it wouldn’t be good to set out on icy roads. She’ll plan to come another weekend.

      Lisa changed the spelling of her name to Lise years before she moved to Denmark. I think she checked Facebook for “Lise” and contacted the responders from there. Several offered to let her stay with them for a short while, and she is still friends with some of them. She was able to find a basement apartment and begin job-hunting. First came a temporary job, and from there she found a permanent one.


  3. That’s too bad you had to up and move, but it is understandable too. I always found it interesting that people name the homes they live in. I am still watching the “All Creatures Great and Small” TV series and they mention names of homes or farms. Interesting about Lise needing to sit for entrance exams but nice they were cutting her a break as she was the new kid in town who had to get acclimated to the school regimen.


      1. That is awesome Lise got her master’s degree online. The fact that Lise knows so many languages tells me she is smart. Learning foreign languages is not easy. I have to say that when I learned French, I actually learned more about English grammar than I knew before. I took French in Canada – it was mandatory once you were in kindergarten or Grade 1 but just learning vocabulary words – had French for six years there. We couldn’t take a foreign language in high school as our millage was cut – 1/2 days of school in 10th and 11th grade and nothing except a basic curriculum in 12th grade. No college prep classes. I took French in college. My mother always said my father should have taught me to speak German.


  4. >I was being critical of Lisa and said, “Lisa, you can be so loud.” Said she helpfully, “I can be even louder.”

    Hahaha. That is so Lise. It’s so interesting reading these letters now that I am past the age you were when you wrote them. I remember reading them as a family when I was a kid. Always such a treat and now a super treat. Yay, Uncle John for keeping the treasures, and yay you for sharing them so we can all appreciate. Thanks for that.


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