England 40 Years Ago — March 22, 1981

Just a quickie to let you know we did get moved. We had a beautiful sunny day — most unusual for this time of year. The weather and the men couldn’t have been nicer.

This past week I brought Mr. Clewes over here to see the garden. He noticed that the people behind us have a garden where not a blade of grass is out of place. Wouldn’t you know that’s where the owners of this house live?

Twice during an otherwise sunny day this past week, there was a mixture of snow and rain. After one episode I said to a sulky Kate, “Look! The sun is out again.” She grumbled, “No! I don’t want to look on the bright side.”

Kate was not sulky when she read a book to John $ in the old house. Kitchen shelf — two-thirds toys, one-third cookbooks.

Earlier in the week I came over several times to bring things to this house and do some unpacking of things already here. You should have seen me measuring a possible space for a dishwasher with John $’s help. He thinks the bendable metal is the greatest.

John $ at the old house. The bottle was empty. He still used a sippy cup to drink.

Both John and I went to school for the conference night for the older grades. All Lisa’s teachers say she is working at form level or above, but from the various things they said we don’t think she is exerting herself one little bit. She admitted the next day that she isn’t working more than she has to because she doesn’t want to. Grrrrr!

John and I have picked up a phrase that we’ve taken a fancy to. Here, instead of straightening things out or getting things settled, you sort them out. If you are muddled about something, you “sort yourself out” to remedy the problem.

The men came to pack for us on Thursday. I thought they’d do the china and crystal and thought nothing more about it. There were two who came, and they expected to put in several hours. I had to run around the house to separate rooms with them to point out what pictures and furnishings were to go and what was to stay. While they did other rooms, I organized the kitchen things by getting all the pots and utensils we’d need for the next two meals in one spot. I gave them sandwiches for lunch; they worked a little more, and then left.

Friday the same two men loaded everything into the van and pulled from the attic all the things of the owners that we’d stored. They pulled out about 12:30. We checked the house, stopped for sandwiches at the bakery, and came to this house. We waited and waited for the van and wondered what had happened to them. Finally they came with two more men they’d gone to pick up and they made short work of the unloading. We put $ in his stroller to watch the unloading and directed where everything was to go. They also unpacked! I was available when the china was done and was able to tell them where to put it. All the rest of the kitchen equipment was stuffed in drawers and cupboards. They did it in a logical manner, but not exactly where I wanted things. After they left at 5, I pulled everything out and re-stowed it. At the same time, John was re-doing all the books in the living room. We made a start on our bedroom and John’s room.

Gillian (neighbor across the street) had so kindly invited the girls to spend the night at her house and even insisted on picking them up from school!!! That left our minds completely free to concentrate on moving. I don’t know what state I’d be in now if I’d had to answer a thousand questions along with everything else. Gillian said she met some friends at Micklefield. Her daughter Caroline went there until just two years ago. We planned to get the girls Saturday morning, but Gillian insisted we come dressed in our work clothes at lunch time and have a meal with them! Nothing could have been kinder! We ate in the kitchen and had a lovely meal of beef and mushroom stew, leeks from their garden, mashed potatoes, green beans, and for dessert a choice of jelly (jello), applesauce, or fruit salad followed by coffee. It was so good to know we’d had a nourishing meal and I wouldn’t have to do more than get out sandwich materials for a later meal. Bless her!

I saw something in Gillian’s kitchen and couldn’t resist asking her about it. It was a funny ceramic thing, rather tall, but with the opening curved, rather like a curved pipe. She said it is a salt pig. It’s the only thing in which she can keep salt so that it doesn’t cake up. They are supposed to be readily available, so I’ll be looking for one. I never saw anything quite like it. [We still use the one we bought. This photo was taken in 2021.]

Shortly before the moving men left, Jennifer [neighbor who with her husband owns the other half of our rented house] came over to invite us over for a cup of tea. John said I needed a rest more than he did, so he kept $. I had a delightful time chatting with them. $ had fun climbing up and down the levels of steps in the moving van. The men left, $ went to bed, and we began to “sort things out.”

Today the girls and I walked to St. Peter’s for the 11 o’clock service advertised on their board in the front of the church. We wondered what was going on when we saw so many cars quietly parked and only four or five people waiting to go into the building. The board, we were told, was about 15 years old. The newer one had been taken down to be repainted with the new rector’s name. The hymn we were hearing was the end of the service we thought we were headed for. For years the main service has been at 10. Now we know. The man who gave us the information advised us to buy a parish magazine inside. Then he slipped in, handed us one, and refused to let us pay for it!

After dinner John went to Redhill for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. He said it was glorious. The congregation got to sing all the chorales. There was even a tea break in the middle, and the people brought out their thermoses. He felt satisfied that he had truly worshiped.

This afternoon we cleaned up the old carriage we’ve lugged around with us and outfitted it with the stroller seat. We walked through the little village to the duck pond and down one footpath. This is going to be another facet of English life. A brisk walk of two minutes brings us within sight, sound, and smell of cows! We hear no traffic tucked back off the high street, and I doubt there is much, anyway. This may be the type of place where everyone knows everyone else. The shopping will be easy – small grocery, fruiterer, butcher, post office, two gift shops, hardware, dispensing chemist, blacksmith, luncheonette, two pubs and three or four antique shops are just around the corner. Don’t think I’ll buy anything at the blacksmith’s. This is so different from the traffic choked streets of Redhill and Reigate.

Our girls have still not met the girls we share the house with. I found out their names – Georgina, 15; Katherine, 12; and Philipa, 9. Don’t feel we can invite them in here until the entrance is free of its mountain of boxes.

The green door is ours. The red door is for the family with three girls. We have only half the house.

The house is old, don’t know how old, but the ceilings are quite high and the walls thick. We haven’t learned how things sound – I heard Kate calling me, and I had to search all over the house to find her. Turned out she was in the next room to begin with. We can’t hear $ crying if we are downstairs.

Back of the house. We have the sections on both sides of the back door.

The girls have a week and a half of school till the end of term. Then comes a month off. One week of that will be spent in Cornwall.

32 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — March 22, 1981

    1. We were in that house about 16 months, if I remember correctly. I tried to imagine what it was like to live in the whole house before it was converted into two homes. I think we had the main entrance, the drawing room, and the morning room on the first floor. The kitchen would have been in the other side of the house Upstairs we had three bedrooms and one bath. The other half had a room or so in the attic, which we did not have.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. I always wanted to live in the mountains. My brother and our son were in NC. The real estate taxes on Long Island were through the roof. We couldn’t afford to stay there unless both of us were working full time. So, we HAD to leave, and we wanted to leave. Long Island was home for 45 years, and I loved it. We still miss dear friend there.

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                1. It is beautiful here. We can see mountains in every direction. Our house is on a lower slope, so we are never in danger of being flooded. Mostly we drive in big roads in valleys. For spectacular views, we go up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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    1. The angle wasn’t good for that shot. I, of course, know what it looks like and didn’t realize how others would see it. The bottom is as wide as the opening. A cup of salt would cover the bottom with lots of room to spare. It is very handy to have right there on the counter. The pig was on the stove for the picture, because the counter was messy when I wanted to take it.

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    1. We loved both houses we lived in, as well as the neighbors. We were young, so the move wasn’t bad. Half our belongings were stored in NY, anyway, since both English houses came furnished. That’s something that your daughter makes pottery salt pigs. I didn’t know they had them in Canada. I’ve never seen one here.


  1. That’s a cute picture of John $ with the big bottle and chubby cheeks. I was waiting for a ceramic pink pig with a lid on it, maybe like a sugar bowl. My mother had little clay bear that she bought for brown sugar from a catalog called “The Country Store”. You had to soak the terracotta bear, let it air dry a little, then stick it in the brown sugar and it kept it soft … it worked.


      1. My mother should have just used Tupperware as the terracotta bear only looked cute and was not functional. My mom was not baking as much the last few years and she had her sugar in the sugar canister and went to use it and it had formed into what looked like an iceberg, solid and she had to chisel at it to get it out of the canister. Even then, only a little came out, and resorting to running it under hot water didn’t work either.


          1. I misspoke in my comment as it was white sugar in the canisters that sat on the countertop. They were metal and there must have been a tiny crack or opening of some type and air got in. My mom went to get some sugar for something one day and it was hard as a rock, like an iceberg. We couldn’t break up the sugar and could not use the canister anymore. It was part of a set and same size as the flour canister. Now you can just buy the sugar in a plastic container which is better as it’s airtight. We used to keep the brown sugar in a Tupperware or Rubbermaid container with the bear to use on oatmeal.


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