England 40 Years Ago — March 15, 1981

Prepare to envy us! We went to a service at King’s College Chapel and drooled over the sound of the choir. It was marvelous. The building is one of the simplest we’ve been in — just a big stone hall with lots of lovely strained glass, but little decoration aside from some carving in the woodwork. The altar is very plain with the focus on Rubens’ Adoration of the Magi. The sound is more glorious than anything. This is the first church we’ve been in that microphones were not used. Even little St. Mary’s in Reigate has a public address system. It was hard to hear spoken words, but the music was easy to understand.

Kings College Chapel

We drove on the extra few miles to Ely Cathedral. Ely is pronounced with a long “E”. It is a much older building — Norman, in fact, with a much narrower body than newer churches. A number of hundred years ago the tower fell down and was replaced with an octagonal lantern tower under which they have now placed the altar. It is beautiful. The boy choir there is also superb. That church is really dedicated to worship. They have sung services every day of the week, even if there is no congregation in the middle of winter!

Ely Cathedral

Have you ever noticed it is an instinctive reaction to put your hand up when something hits your head? I was walking $ under some trees on the pavement (sidewalk), and there were birds overhead. Need I say more? Ugh! Lisa kindly tried to locate the spot and clean it with a towelette. It didn’t help being in Ely, far from home where the service was posted as lasting 45 minutes, but due to the special procession was an hour and a half. I was the one with something in my hair, but John was the one who developed a crippling headache and went to bed as soon as we got home. Unfortunately, $ only went to sleep two hours after his bedtime. The first part of the day far outweighed the last part.

We also walked around the quadrangles of the various colleges in Cambridge before going to Ely. We went to church in King’s, wandered into Trinity, and recognized St. John’s from a picture on a record jacket.

We were surprised that the schools spill over the lovely little river, with picturesque walking bridges spanning it every few yards. I was surprised to see students wearing their robes; I knew they still did during the week, but didn’t know they did on Sunday, also. This was really a city of bikes with low concrete bike racks everywhere. They are blocks with slits that the front wheels fit into.

$ has a little collection of matchbox toys. He always sets them on their wheels. How does he know to do that?

Word of the week: voucher = coupon.

Micklefield School called to ask us to get in touch with Dunottar, since Lisa was offered a first place; they are waiting for withdrawals to make their second offers. We were waiting to see where we were going to live. I went on and called the school and was told it didn’t matter where Lisa lived, she was accepted regardless. Whew! Things are falling into place.

For the second time since we’ve lived here, someone asked me if Americans really have pancakes on the same plate with bacon and eggs and pour maple syrup over all! Have any of you done such a thing or heard of it being done? This is a research project; please respond. [For the record, I would pour maple syrup only on the pancakes.]

Bejam, the freezer center [selling only frozen foods] in Redhill, moved to its new building up the street. What a spacious shop it is now! All the aisles can accommodate two, maybe three, carts abreast. The old store was one way only due to tiny aisles.

The sun is coming our way! Thursday we got up at the usual time, 6:30, and I fixed breakfast without turning on a light.

There was a home group meeting this week. We studied scripture in preparation for a renewal weekend that started yesterday. The whole group was there — the first time I’ve seen everyone at one time. The prayer time after the study is really special; it is an unhurried time with random participation of short prayers by anyone who feels led to pray. We are so aware of the Lord’s presence. Electric!

Friday I made brownies before breakfast, got everyone delivered to train and school, shopped at Co-op, and came home to enjoy having Mary H. and Pat S. for coffee. Mary grew up in the country in a house out from a small village near here. Pat was born in the north, but has moved around. Both ladies have husbands who have divinity degrees, but no parish churches. Ken is an associate curate of St. Mary’s but runs house parties (camps) at a school during term breaks. Tim has been a chaplain and a boarding school headmaster. He and Pat were involved in some capacity at Cheam years after Prince Charles had left there. The school Tim just left was tiny — 100 boys and 10 masters — and all in a tiny place with no village life. Pat is reveling in all the people here and an active church.

They discussed education for my benefit. Children go to school until they are 16. About age 16 they sit “O” level standardized exams, the “O” standing for ordinary. At that point they either begin work, go to a technical college, or more schooling to get “A” levels. At 18 then, they can go to work, or if they have done well, on to university. University is a much higher thing than college. The higher your grades, the better the school that will accept you. I was wrong — college comes after “A” levels. It is “O” levels, “A” levels, college or university. [The letters from England were written with a manual typewriter, and there was no going back!]

Big news! We got the house yesterday! You can continue to write to us at the New York address as usual. Loraine arranged for someone else to forward things to us. Bless Loraine! Our new home address is Churchfield, Breech Lane, Walton on the Hill, Surrey, KT206TY, England. Please include “on the Hill” because it might go to Walton on Thames if you don’t.

John signed the necessary papers and handed over a bank check at the estate office in Epsom. On the way to the house, we saw the race course, Epsom Downs. Jeremy W., the owner’s son, went through the inventory with us, showed us some of the peculiarities of the house, and introduced us to the people who live in the other half of the house. Jennifer and Vivien (that’s the French masculine spelling; don’t know how he signs his name) invited us in for a moment and offered to help us in any way they could. Nice people. They have three daughters aged 9, 12 and 15. They have laid down the law to their kids as we have ours: “No SHRIEKING!!!”

While we were doing the above, our girls were taking care of $ and doing a good job. He began to cry after we got home and was awful. Guess that’s the price you pay for the first half being so good. We went back to the house to let the girls explore, taking a few things with us as we went. I picked up the instruction booklets to bring back with me to read up on all the major appliances.

The grounds are bigger than I thought with a nice-sized rose bed to the side, crocuses in the lawn, a little rock garden at the back, the orchard, and a fish pond with resident frogs lurking about. It’s lovely. I think we’re really going to enjoy living there.

29 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — March 15, 1981

  1. This was a fact-filled trip! I enjoyed the photographs of the churches and schools. It looks like John $ had a little tent to reside in in his pushchair…and that he was conked out asleep near the end. 🙂

    Just for the record, I never knew anyone who put maple syrup on the bacon and eggs also, although we did eat them all on the same plate.

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    1. John $ was nestled in a raincoat for the push chair. It was tied to the stroller and had a hood and an opening for his face. I thought it was the neatest invention to keep a baby dry, well at least his outer clothes.

      Thanks for your comment about maple syrup. It’s good to have a fresh review.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Anne, such lovely memories from your time here and I’m impressed with your detailed and long letters! 😀 Ely and Cambridge are not far from us and I love both places although haven’t been lucky enough to see a service in either place! Blimey, I didn’t realise gowns were common during the week at the university. At St. Andrew’s they were the norm, rather a must, for Sunday service and still think this is the case! Aren’t traditions special and endearing?!

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    1. We liked observing traditions in England, though we sometimes didn’t understand them. It was marvelous to wander around Cambridge and attend a service at Ely. John noticed that one of the basses in the choir sang much of the service from memory.

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      1. I’ve just heard the singers whilst they were rehearsing and it is sublime … a sat for an hour and just floated away on the music. With all their practive I’m not surprised they know the music off by heart. It’s wonderful you had such a great time in the area!

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        1. I’m thrilled the singers are still sublime and that you heard them. Three or four times a year we went to evensong at St Thomas in Manhattan when we knew the boys were singing. Now that we are 800 miles away, we listen to their taped services. They model their choir on the English tradition.

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    2. We saw many young people wearing black gowns in Cambridge. I’ll bet they don’t do that now. We were a impressed that people in general wrote more formal clothes than Americans. Our gardener always write a shirt and tie when he came to work.

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  3. I loved this letter. Your new place sounds lovely. I too enjoyed Cambridge and loved wandering the grounds of the University. As for pouring maple syrup over everything, it is more of a Canadian thing I believe. I put it in my Amanda in Alberta book.

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  4. Oh, how lovely. Sylvia Plath attended Newham college. I would love to see it and the Kings Chapel looks amazing. Sorry about the bird, if I were there, I would have taught it a lesson for doing that to you! And Surrey, Cary Grant was from Surrey I think. I hope you post pictures of the new house and grounds. The garden sounds lovely with the pond.

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    1. I wish you had been there to catch that naughty bird.

      I think there will be photos taken at the new house. How I wish I had taken more pictures of ordinary things! We tended to pose while traveling, and I’d much rather see things we dealt with every day.

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  5. What a lovely place to visit. King’s College Chapel looks quintessential England. As for the “pancakes on the same plate with bacon and eggs and pour maple syrup over all” question, I have one friend who does that. It looks awful to me, but she says it tastes good. Not so sure myself…

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  6. I like my syrup just on the pancakes but it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone pour it on bacon and eggs as well. I have one daughter that when we go out to eat orders pancakes (with syrup) and an order of fried mozzarella cheese sticks. She then dips the cheese sticks in the syrup. She claims it is the best thing ever. I think it’s weird!

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    1. After many years of eating naked French fries, I began to enjoy dipping them in ketchup. That’s really not so different from dipping cheese sticks in maple syrup. I draw the line at ketchup with sweet potato fries.

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  7. The old buildings in England are so steeped in history – if those walls could talk as they say. You have such nice photos of everywhere you visited – what a keepsake, not only the slides you made, but the photos scanned into your computer to look at anytime you want, and now to pop onto with the blog. That bird! He didn’t like Americans I guess or perhaps he was just ornery. Yay! You got the house you wanted and those yellow crocuses I thought was a carpet of dandelions at first.

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