England 40 Years Ago — April 12, 1981

I thought it was really something the day we flew a kite in church, but last Sunday was the limit. There was a stripper in the pulpit! A young minister who had been at St. Mary’s a few years ago was preaching on Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet and acted out the scene. He removed his stole and used his surplice as a towel, then went on to say Jesus removed his outer garment as he unbuttoned the black part of his vestments.

One day this past week I did nothing but run! We picked up Mr. Clewes (the gardener), drove to Walton, went to Co-op on the way to coffee at Penny’s in Redhill, drove home for lunch, back to Reigate to return Clewes, and then home again. Don’t want many days like that! I started cooking dinner at 6:45.

At Penny’s we met a woman and her son coming out. At first I thought she had been invited for coffee, but it was worse than that. At 7 that morning, she, her husband, and son rang the doorbell and asked, “Weren’t you expecting us? Didn’t you get our letter?” They had written asking for breakfast after landing from an 8-hour flight from Ghana en route to Wimbledon. Penny, only 3 weeks this side of the due date for her baby, had to rustle up breakfast for 7 with no advance warning. I told her to sit down and put her feet up after the woman left, but she and her 6-year-old proceeded to make shortbread. Penny plays the clarinet and hunted up some duets for clarinet and piano. That was fun to sightread with her.

Monday our girls went to play with the girls from NJ – Nancy and Lynda M. The next day Kate, $, and I walked to the next town, Tadworth, via footpaths and met the M. family on the street there. We chatted for a few minutes, walked back to Walton, and met them walking down the street there! That afternoon the older girls were here, the younger ones floated between this house and Lynda’s, but had tea here. Wednesday all four had lunch and tea here, playing together 6.5 hours. They played well until the very end when the younger ones locked out the older ones. It was just as well they were busy getting ready to go to Holland to see the tulips in bloom; think they’d had enough of each other for a while.

Thursday we had all to ourselves. We drove to the supermarket in Banstead, the one the ladies usually go to from here. What a race track! I couldn’t stand to shop there all the time. Think I’d put it off until we were starving! We went early, found a parking place easily, but found the store full of rushing people. When we left, it took me ten minutes to maneuver out of the car park where 10 cars were lined up waiting for the next available space. Give me dear old Co-op any day!

EUREKA! We found crystal jelly!!!! Lisa was almost embarrassed at the way I carried on, but she was excited, also. We came right home and made it up. Have you guessed I’m talking of Jell-o? This is Royal brand, and it’s the first time we’ve found gelatin that is powdery – all the others are semi-solid, rubbery globs to be dissolved. This tasted better than their jelly, but not as good as real Jell-o. I’m going to make Jell-o once a week when we move back to the States!

We drove to a scenic place close to here, Box Hill, and took a short walk. It was very hazy; we must go back when we find a day that is crystal clear.

Kate and John $ on Box Hill

Kate, $, and I walked to Walton to do some shopping. We found a towel holder I’ve been looking for, flower seeds, a good pastry blender, and a salt pig! I asked for a cobweb brush and was told I was looking for a cornice broom. Live and learn.

Friday we shopped at Co-op, the freezer center, Boots, and a carpet store before picking Caroline up. She is the girl Lisa’s age who lived across from us in Reigate. She was here from noon Friday until afternoon Sunday. What a pleasant time we all had! Much of the time I hardly knew there was an extra girl here because all three would disappear together. Friday afternoon we again went to Box Hill for a longer ramble. The girls went down what felt like a mountain to the River Mole which has stepping stones across it. Several were out of place, they were afraid Kate would fall in, so they didn’t go all the way across. We must go there on a hot day to fall in – it’s only two feet deep and is considered a river!!! $ and I stayed toward the top of the hill for our walk.

Caroline, Lise, and Kate

Saturday John and Kate shopped in Epsom, a lovely town not far away with a fair-sized shopping area. He found lots of nice shops, and Lisa and Caroline were left here to enjoy themselves. Later the three from this house played outside with the three from next door. We had an impromptu tea party – six girls outside having “fizzy” drinks (soda) and biscuits (cookies) while the adults had tea inside. Jennifer and Vivien exclaimed over our new map of England. They said the counties are drawn differently on older maps and have longer names. Ours had Cambridge, Gloucester, Warwick, etc. where older maps show them with “shire” on the end.

They also told us more about this house. It was built in 1910. During the first world war, the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, lived in a house on the next street. Many of the big houses around, including this one, were rented by the cabinet members. There were private telephone lines linking them! Our neighbors haven’t found who rented this one.

After we finished tea, we asked if they would like to see the rest of the house. They jumped at the chance. They said English people don’t show their houses unless very good friends move to a new place. They were eager to see the lay-out here. We have servants’ bells, but they have the box in their kitchen. The bells still have their labels, though they no longer work. There was a day nursery and a night nursery! The girls are disappointed that they can’t use them to signal from our house to theirs!

This morning Caroline, Lisa, and I went to the earliest service at St. Mary’s. I wanted to get back to cook, and the girls to see the space shuttle take off. We’d watched the non-take-off Friday. John and Kate went to St. Peter’s where they were having communion. Kate was thrilled to see that everyone in the church went forward; she was so pleased to get a blessing when she went with John. They were also given crosses made from palms, though not nearly so elaborate as the ones Louise Koepchen makes in Setauket. I missed singing the Palm Sunday hymns.

Yesterday we invited our former neighbors to have Sunday lunch with us, since they had planned to pick Caroline up. They agreed and offered to bring the sweet. We knew we had to rush because their older daughter is singing Messiah in the same production we were involved with, but she has been going on Sundays. Everything was ready; we were just sitting down, and then we had to get up to watch the space shuttle take off. When someone mentioned THE WEDDING, Gillian said they were charged a pound extra for Caroline’s camp fee because the leaders decided to rent TV’s to put in the fields so they won’t miss the big event! When it was time for them to leave, Lisa pulled such a face that Gillian invited her to go home with them until after tea. That extended their visit by another four hours. All in all, we’ve had a very pleasant week of holiday.

46 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — April 12, 1981

    1. The Jello craze lasted a few months after we moved back. I grew up in Tennessee where conjealed salads were obligatory. We called them Jello molds in NY. We don’t have Jello very often now.

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  1. Wow, this was a busy week for a holiday week! I am tired now, so I might go back to bed! I had to laugh about the exuberance over finding powdered gelatin, even if it was not ‘real’ Jello-o. I still recall the morning Dad got us all out of bed early to watch Alan Shepard launch into space, saying “this is making history.”

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    1. I’m sure I used Jell-o frequently when we settled back into our house on Long Island. When we moved back from England, we stayed with John’s parents until the tenants had moved from our house. He was already working a new job, so I went to visit my parents in TN with the children. When we came back, we moved into our house. I’m sure the pantry had several boxes of Jell-o, which I prepared often. Now? Not so much. We have several recipes that call for Jell-o, the kind with a number of ingredients. We tend to save those for holidays and special events. I never think to make it with fruit and/or nuts.

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      1. I am not a big jello person, although it is not bad for diets, I would guess, but I always used cool whip to kill the taste and I don’t know that I have room for cool whip in my new dietary regime, although, funny, I have heard that there is always room for jello! M

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        1. You make me wonder if I really like the taste of Jello. I use it as glue to hold fruits, nuts, and cottage cheese together. A few months ago I followed a recipe that called for Jello, applesauce, and lemon juice. There may have been a few other ingredients, but it was the most unJello-like dish I’d ever tasted. Maybe you should count yourself blessed for not liking something that is simply sweet and has no redeeming culinary quality.

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            1. I don’t know how I found Pastor Laurence, but I’ve enjoyed his posts. Yes, I had a notice that you had commented, and I appreciated it. I enjoy blogging so much, especially the chance to chat with so many wonderful people.

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              1. I do not read all of his posts because he writes every day, I could never keep up. But I do follow him and try to read something every week. I agree, blogging has proved to be an unexpected blessing, an international community of souls.

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                1. I have kept up with nearly all the blogs I follow, but I may fall behind next week. Our daughter from Denmark is coming for a month. She will continue working (on Denmark time) and hopes to spend time with us. She’ll take lunch time to walk to the creek with us, and she’ll eat her dinner as we eat lunch. This should enable her to get the COVID vaccine with a day to spare.

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  2. I liked the post, but especially the pictures – how fun of the girls up in the big tree and what a gorgeous backdrop to Kate and John $ on Box Hill. I have not had Jell-o in ages. We had it with fruit cocktail mixed in or those canned mandarin oranges. I had a tonsil which grew back removed in 1987 a few days before Christmas and for Christmas dinner, I was still on Jell-o per the doctor’s orders. My mom made up green and red jello with Cool Whip and that was my Christmas dinner. Mom had Chunky Soup which she had in a separate room so the smell would not be tantalizing to me.

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    1. My mother put fruit cocktail in Jell-o, and I swore I’d never eat that combo again. Your Jell-o story is special. I had no idea a tonsil could grow back. Mine were removed when I was five years old, and they stayed removed.

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      1. We had the Jell-o/fruit mix a lot through the year, more in the Summer as it was a refreshing treat. I didn’t know they could grow back either, but the original ENT doc left what was referred to as a “tonsil root” … it grew back. I was always getting sick and would get colds or sore throat. The new ENT looked in my mouth and said “we’ll snip out that tonsil and you’ll be fine.” And it worked.

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  3. What a start to the post! Mindboggling and I’ve never heard of such incidents. The girls look so happy in the tree – and I’m trying to see a safe way down for them! As for the map – how could it leave out the ‘shire’?? That’s integral to the places and most unusual. A lovely post, Anne and full of the joy of your time here.

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    1. That big tree had branches that were close to the ground, so it was easy for the girls to climb up and down. Caroline lived there all her life, so she knew places to go and things to do. Joy is exactly the right word to describe our two years in England.

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  4. I was informed at seminary the two most important moments of a sermon are the introduction and closing. (I always imagined people sleeping between the two). Your opening was eye-opening!

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  5. Reading an earlier comment I remembered that we loved fruit cocktail in red Jello. I think I enjoy the most how “ordinary” your life was in England. You still had to shop and find things like a paper towel holder. I have to keep remembering that you weren’t tourists, but actual inhabitants.

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          1. I remember my mother had some kind of harness on my brother. I remember watching her lift him out of the street when he stepped off the sidewalk and her arms were full.

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