England 40 Years Ago — April 19, 1981

Do you know what a mail truck is called here? I’ll give you time to think while reading this.

The heating system went caput in the early hours of Tuesday, and the speedy people in this country were able to get a repairman (engineer) to fix it by Thursday afternoon. Heaven forbid we have an emergency! Actually, this house is well prepared for systemic failure. We were able to use an electric immersion heater for hot water, and could have lit fires in two fireplaces. Luckily, the weather was fairly warm.

One day we went for a long walk at a nature preserve, Leith Hill, drove along back roads and on to a second visit to Silent Pool.

Kate and Lisa with azaleas at Leith Hill

The weather all week has been glorious. So lovely, in fact, that there has been no rain and we had to water our new plants by hand since there is no outside tap on this house! One day we fixed up a bucket brigade; I held down the bulb in the toilet which made it overflow into a pipe that empties just outside the front door near the plants that needed water. Lisa, Kate, and Philippa manned the pitchers and doused the flowers. We thought it was a good idea until we found a puddle on the carpet in the bathroom.

Lisa, Kate, and Philippa as bucket brigade

Penny S. has a friend whose mother has just gone blind. The lady has had failing sight for some time, and the last operations were unsuccessful. Understandably, she is very low. Penny asked me to go see her. I intended to, but got stuck at home over-seeing Clewes and waiting for the boiler to be fixed. I did call her on the phone and hope to see her soon. She said she had taught school in Pennsylvania for a year and still hears from her friends there.

Good Friday Kate invited Philippa to go with us to her church, and she did! The rector had a good sermon giving Barrabus’ view of Good Friday. I never thought of it from that perspective. Philippa came home with us and stayed from 10 to 7. I’m surprised the girls didn’t get tired of each other. She went home to get her food so they could have a picnic together.

Meanwhile Lisa invited Catherine to go to London for a service. The two girls and John went on the train to St. Paul’s for the Bach St. Matthew Passion. They left here at 4 and returned at midnight. John said it was one of the best he’s ever heard. The church was full – think of that when you watch Prince Charles’ wedding this summer – and the congregation sang the chorales. Glorious! He recognized a counter-tenor who sings at St. Mary’s. That man was in the choir. The other man he knew happened to sit right in front of him – a man John had entertained in the office because he is on the board of directors from a South African company. That man and John spent the intermission (called interval here) talking.

Mr. Wilson, owner of this house, appeared on our doorstep and handed us a basket of creme eggs for Lisa and Kate. He had another for the girls next door. Wasn’t that sweet? These creme eggs are the standard sweet for Easter. It’s a little smaller than a normal egg, has a shell of chocolate about 1/8 inch thick, white filling, and a round of yellow representing the yolk. [I found them in the States about 20 years after we first had them in England.] There are also hollow chocolate eggs in the stores, but no rabbits and chicks. I was told children color eggs, but there seem to be no kits for it. Wonder if they use food coloring. We skipped that custom this year.

Yesterday we went to the Claremont Landscape Gardens – begun in the 1700’s and recently restored. It features an ornamental amphitheater, lake, island, grotto, and camellia garden. We were glad we took advantage of the good weather because today has been rotten.

We’ve had rain, sun, and wind today with chill temperatures. We wanted to try something different, so picked out a church by the listing of music in the paper. Went to Grovenor Chapel near the American Embassy in London because they were to do a Palestrina Mass. The service was Anglo-Catholic, much like St. Mary the Virgin in New York. There were few people there, the pastor came out to give a few announcements, and I began to wonder if we were in the right church. He disappeared, but was soon back with fancy robes of gold and red accompanied by two others dressed like he was and three men in white. He admitted later while thanking various people for their work this past week that he couldn’t have done his part in the complex service without the coaching and rehearsing of someone who knew all that had to be done. This was his first Easter service there.

What a disappointment the sermon was! He picked a text from a novel and jokingly told people not to look for it in their Bibles. Good grief! He went on to say that everything had been said that needed to be said at the Easter Vigil service the night before. I thought he’d have done better to do a recap of that than talk about a novel.

The music was delightful. John wonders why churches with good music can’t come up with good sermons, too. Those with lousy music often have good preachers. John $ didn’t fare too well, so John took him for a mile walk. He cried lots at some point and instantly fell asleep as we started the trip home. We stopped for a McDonald’s hamburger to tide us over until I could get the dinner cooked. This was at Epsom – you’ve heard of Epsom Salts and Epsom Downs. This town is one of the closer big ones to Walton.

I found the traditional thing to serve on Easter is a Simnel Cake. Years ago it was served on Mothering Sunday because so many girls went into service, but were always given that day off to go home. That was the only day they went home! Now it has shifted to Easter. The cake is a fruitcake with a middle layer of marzipan baked in the cake. After it has cooled, it is topped with a thick layer of marzipan, 11 eggs of marzipan decorate the top edge, and a chicken coming out of an egg is in the center. I did all that the day we waited for the boiler to be repaired.

My homemade version of a Simnel cake. We still have the mugs.

Before I forget – a mail truck is a post van. Did you guess it?

I remarked to someone that I hadn’t seen any iris here. That must have been before they started to come up. We have clumps and clumps right under the kitchen window!! I don’t know that it is the kind of iris I’m used to; will see when they bloom.

All the trees have a greeny haze about them, while some are in full leaf. The fruit trees look like they will burst because they are so full of blooms. Daffodils are fading, tulips are out in riots of color.

We have huge hedges bordering our garden, most of them still clinging to old brown leaves. Caroline told us they are a common hedge here; when young, they keep their green leaves year round; older ones shed theirs. I wish they’d hurry up and turn green.

We rejoice with Susan that her doctor is making encouraging comments after her surgery last week.

This coming Saturday we go to Cornwall for a week. Mail will probably be delayed, so don’t get upset.

Happy Easter!

Watching TV

32 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — April 19, 1981

  1. I agree with John about churches with lousy music often have good preachers and vice versa. I’m sure you’ve explained somewhere and I missed it, but why were living in England back then? Just curious

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John worked for a shipping company that moved from Manhattan to London. They wanted a smooth transition, so they moved a number of employees over there. John had a two-year contract. They were two of the best years of my life.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I liked the Simnel cake, because I think marzipan is marvelous. Few people refuse to eat sweets in our house, so I presume the cake passed muster. It must not have been spectacular. I never made it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In all my 70 years I’ve never tasted a simnel cake. I think hot cross buns were the standard fare when I was young. The weather sounded nicer back then but as Easter is a moveable feast it varies a lot. I used to wonder what visitors from other countries made of our Green and Pleasant Land until about 40 years ago when my cousin’s teenage son visited and every other word was “quaint” but not in a nice way. Come to think of it, I wonder if I was quaint too.
    Huge Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m certainly glad I made your aQUAINTance.

      What did I know? I must have read about the simnel cake and thought it was traditional. I baked hot cross buns before and after our stay in England. The cake was more eye-catching, though.

      xxx Simnel Hugs xxx


  3. It’s good to be reminded that there can still be beautiful and momentous moments even when all is not copacetic.


  4. I love seeing the photos of your young family in the 1980s. You and I raised our children at about the same time. I never would have guessed “post van”. Now I need to Google “Simnel cake”.


  5. I love the photos. The azaleas are amazing. They are so big, I wonder if they attracted bigger birds? The cake looks interesting. I would take a bite and try it if I were there. And I would love to play with little $’s eggs. He’s a cutie. Well, for a little human, that is!!


  6. Well I’ve never heard of a Simnel Cake – that was interesting. Canada was big on fruitcakes like England – wedding cakes were made of fruitcake and often were sliced and wrapped up so guests could take it with them. The top layer was saved for a first wedding anniversary or the the birth of a baby. That’s what my mom told me, though I’ve not seen any pictures of what they had when I was brought home from the hospital. Kate and Lisa look happy here and what a great picture of John and $.


      1. Yes, they do make fun of it and I don’t know why. All Canadians eat fruitcake. My grandmother always had one in her fridge year around and my mother loved fruitcake and we got a small one every Christmas for her.


          1. I don’t think my mom or grandmother ever made them – but whenever someone came to Toronto to see my grandmother, they brought along a fruitcake. If she had people visiting, she put on the kettle to make tea and pulled the ham out of the fridge. In Canada they eat kaiser buns … Canadians just call them “kaisers” – they are a flaky bun, that is the consistency of a baguette in that it breaks apart when you eat it … crumb go everywhere. Staples at my grandmother’s house: tea, ham, kaisers and fruitcake. Good memories.


    1. Yes, I’ll give you credit for linking post and mail across the ocean.

      Daughter Lise was in England several years ago and drove by the two houses we rented. Both looked just as she remembered them.


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