England 40 Years Ago — March 1, 1981

We had a marvelous visit with the Mehrlings, it just didn’t last long enough. A week ago in Cherbourg we wandered into a church for a tiny part of the service. An unknown liturgy in an unknown language isn’t as worshipful as one would wish. We wandered along some railroad tracks (wonder why?) and took a nice drive around the countryside.

A church we drove by

It felt as if we spent most of the day waiting for the time to get on the ferry. The crossing itself was pleasant — not so many people on board on that trip, and John $ slept with little trouble. We got home at midnight. It was pleasant not to have to get up early and rush the next morning.

$ and I stayed home when everyone else went to Canterbury and drove to Dover and Hastings. I had a very quiet day, and $ slept a lot.

That night Mom was telling a story and said, “…had their eyes glued on the game.”

Kate asked, “Who was glooming?”

Mom, repeating herself, said, “Tonja had her eyes GLUED on the cheerleaders.”

Kate said, “Oh, she was GLUEING?”

Tuesday was a very cold day. The folks took a walk, shortened I suspect, by the cold. Lisa and Kate were back in school. John called home to say the estate agent had notified him that the house we’d put money on had been sold out from under us. We couldn’t do anything about it until this weekend when we went out looking again.

The engagement of Prince Charles brought much comment and a TV special to which we were glueing our eyes. It’s fun to be part of this celebration. The step-mother of Lady Diana is the daughter of Barbara Cartland, the novelist. That romantic writer will soon be the step-grandmama-in-law of the Prince of Wales. I find it amusing that the one who makes up stories about royalty will be linked with them in real life.

Wednesday we walked around the shopping area of Reigate and walked to the church from home. I tried again to get a picture of the inside of the church. On the way back, we stopped to look at that crazy tree in the church yard that looks like snakes or pipe cleaners attached to a trunk.

Thursday the M’s went to London to shop, lunch with John, and do a little sight-seeing. I juggled Mr. Clewes, the gardener, and Mr. Wolters, the meticulous agent. Everything was fine. Later I got in a rush getting tea, and I didn’t listen for the silence that spells trouble. I turned around to find $ had a piece of coffee cake in one hand and a big muffin in the other! I’d put the plate a little too close to the edge, and he just helped himself. To ensure he’d get to keep his prizes, he quickly took a big bite out of each one.

Friday we took the folks to the airport and continued our house search. We saw a town house in Redhill that was interesting but a bit small. The ground floor had the garage, entry and kitchen. The first floor (which we’d call the second floor) contained the lounge and big bedroom with no cupboards. Third, or second, had three tiny bedrooms and the bath.

Across the street from the one we lost was a large house that had been divided into two parts. The owner had lived in it, converted it into two separate flats, and built a new house behind this one. [A peek into the future — this is the house we lived in until it was time to return to the states, although I didn’t know it at this point.]

In Banstead was a house that made you feel you had to hold your breath all the time because the rooms were so tiny. The dining room was an addition with no heat, and we decided that might make the children eat faster with the chatter of teeth to hurry the chewing. It was a bit far from schools in Reigate, too.

After picking up the girls from school, we saw the last house of the day on the top of a big hill. It had been a mansion, but the top two floors had been gutted by fire. The top was removed, and the ground floor made into a house. The ceilings were high, the rooms spacious, but oddly put together. Two bedrooms were on one side of it, the other two beyond the lounge and kitchen. The view was fantastic, but I didn’t like the kitchen with the dishwasher in a utility room. Part of the house was locked off, reserved for the owner. It was creepy. The young owner who had just gotten married a few weeks before had left all sorts of personal possessions strewn about. The arrangements of flowers must have been from the wedding!

Yesterday the girls went to films at Micklefield (Kate’s school) while John and I waited to hear about the house. Our offer was accepted for the house in Walton on the Hill. We’re afraid to say much about it since anything could happen before the papers are signed. This is the one that is divided (not against itself, I hope). It has a green front door! On the ground floor is the big lounge-dining room, kitchen and shower room. Upstairs there is a study that will be $’s room, two small bedrooms with their own sinks, and a huge master bedroom. Also a bath in blue. We will certainly miss having an extra bedroom for guests. Our garden extends to the back with an orchard to one side. We’ll take Clewes with us. One of the nicest things about the house is the owner, who happened to be there while we were looking at it. She seemed to be such a happy person, as did her son who had just moved from that house to one of his own. As we were leaving, she said, “If this doesn’t suit you, I hope you find one that will.” She even spoke to $!! Most people ignore him and hope he’ll go away.

Yesterday afternoon Lisa complained of headache and a tummy ache. John conducted his usual test for fever by kissing her forehead to see if it were hot. She misunderstood and said, “That didn’t make me feel any better!” The days of kissing away a hurt are long gone for her!

English people don’t try things; “they have a go.” If they were offered the Braille slate to try, they’d say, “I’ll have a go at it.”

Kate, explaining she needs to rent a violin for the lessons at school, said, “They measured me and said I need a HOUSE size.” We thought that sounded a bit big for her, but she insisted that’s the way she heard it. We’ll check into a HALF size.

This morning I went to communion at 8, and John and Kate to morning prayer at 11. I think it a bit extravagant, but it’s nice to have 3 or 4 services to choose from each Sunday. Lisa has head and throat problems at the moment. We know she’s been exposed to scarlet fever and mumps at school. Any time a contagious disease is reported at school, they send a note home stating the illness and the last day the child with it was in school.

Thanks for the news of Susan (my brother’s wife). For all of you who have been praying for her — the body scan showed no tumors.

That’s all the news for now. Hope all of you are fine.

23 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — March 1, 1981

  1. Anne, your writing capture the time perfectly and carries me back to my childhood. I had no idea Barbara Cartland was step-mother to Lady Diana – how did I miss that? How organised of the school to send notes of contagious illnesses! Your trip across the Channel seems to have been relaxing although I remember that sense of waiting for the ferry back home and finding things to do but not too engaging as time was short! Lovely to join you and reminisce about the ‘80s! 😀

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  2. Oh my! That little John is so funny, I don’t know why anyone would ignore him. I hope there might be pictures of the new house coming. It sounds great. Especially the grounds. Well, give me a slice and coffee cake and a muffin and I’ll have a go at it!

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  3. House-hunting! We have done that so many times. (23 since 1967) When we got to Thomasville in 2000 we came with the intention of putting down roots and being stubborn enough to find out what the “long haul” residency is about.
    $’s fierce fistful of cakes is a classic! Guess that cements he and Nate’s connection with food!

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  4. Did Lise end up with scarlett fever or the mumps? We will have to wait until the next installment to find out I guess. 🙂 Funny how Kate is misunderstanding some British words. I had a devil of a time getting used to the conversations in the “All Creatures Great and Small” series that ended a few weeks ago. After a few weeks I was better thankfully. I remember when Lady Diana and Prince Charles got engaged and I don’t think I knew that Diana’s stepmother is/was the daughter of Barbara Cartland, the novelist. I watched the wedding of Diana and Charles before going to work and a co-worker was so enamored with the royal couple, she named her firstborn Diana.

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    1. No, Lise didn’t get scarlet fever or the mumps. She would have liked it for the drama, I’m sure.

      We were traveling to Denmark when Diana and Charles married. John’s sister and family were staying in our house, and they tape recorded the coverage for us.

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      1. The pomp and circumstance was amazing to watch. Especially the carriage ride. I also watched the weddings of Kate and William and Meghan and Harry. The latter was more modern and not as eloquent as he is so far removed from the throne.

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          1. I love the pomp and circumstance of it all. I watched Diana’s funeral too … a different type of pomp and circumstance sadly. I remember I taped it to watch later that night as we had errands that day.

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