This time 17 years ago we were saying goodbye to my folks after our wedding. Today I said goodbye to John for a week and almost hello to my folks who arrive Tuesday for a two week visit. John will be in New York for a week.
Do you know how to tell someone here that he is crazy? “You’re a nut case!”
Had a crash course (not literally) to prepare us to take the very strict driving test here. Someone at the office suggested a 2-hour lesson, so we booked in for that at a driving school in Epsom. John kindly let me go first at 10:00 while he strolled $ around the town and ate at McDonald’s. At 12:00 John took his turn until 2:00. What a grueling thing it was! Before five minutes went by the tiny man said to me, “You just failed your driving test!” He was very pleasant – explaining that he wasn’t criticizing my driving, but preparing me for the test. I had failed to visibly check my rear view mirror every eight seconds. How picky they are here! It’s a fault against you if your wheels ever touch the curb. Each time you stop for a traffic signal, the handbrake must go on! He said I usually approached a stop too fast and took a little long to venture into traffic. By the end of two hours, I was almost afraid to go over 10 miles per hour, and that would have been a fault for not proceeding normally!
Kate brought a new friend home from school one afternoon. This girl moved to Reigate about six weeks ago, having lived in Yorkshire and Cornwall before.
John $ can now open the small oven of the cooker as well as fiddle with the controls of the dryer. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always am, to open the dryer door when the cycle is finished and find the clothes sopping wet. He can put more wet clothes back in the washing machine than I can put into the dryer. He can also throw more stones onto the front stoop than I can sweep off.
Yesterday the girls worked all morning at the school fete. Kate’s class was in charge of the raffle tickets, and Lisa’s of a stall selling anything red, white or blue. There were several games of chance, second-hand clothes, baked goods, games, toys, books, and plants for sale. We bought a shirt for $ and a pair of almost new Wellingtons for 20p. John bought the girls little mirrors with the school emblem on the back. The playground was gaily decorated, the event very well attended, and it was great fun.
In the afternoon the two Johns stayed home while we went with the womenfolk next door to the village May Pageant. (It had been postponed.) The parade of floats, clowns and a small band went through the town and to an open area. The new May queen was crowned, the dance of the May pole was performed, costumes were judged, an award given to the shop with the best decorations, and a clown performed. There were a few stalls selling cool drinks, plants, ice cream and chances to win goldfish. It seemed as if the whole village turned out for the affair. It was quite warm bringing on great thirst, so we all came home to have tea at our house. I opened the biscuit tin to find all the biscuits gone and had to improvise by making toast and serving it with lemon curd. It was nice to have a chance to sit and talk with our house-mates.
John needed to pick up some things from the office before flying out today, so we went to Westminster Abbey for church. (It is within walking distance of the office.) The choir was really on its toes today, the counter-tenors being especially good. We drove to Epsom where we ate lunch and John caught a bus to the airport.
This morning I picked up my parents from the airport. I dropped the girls off at a friend’s home to go to school with her girls. Despite my making two wrong turns, we met in the airport only 10 minutes after they finished the formalities. Couldn’t have worked out better; I might just have had time to get lost in the airport had I gotten there sooner.
They took a short nap, we got the girls from school and went to Box Hill, the nearest National Trust property with a fantastic view when you can see it. Of the four or five times I’ve been there, this day was the clearest. So many times the weather can be gorgeous, but slightly hazy.
After setting Mr. Clewes to work one day we drove to Leith Hill, a protected area noted for rhododendrons. We were able to see all the lavender ones; all the others were through blooming. The plants are more like trees here – we’ve never seen such tall ones.
We drove to Epson Downs race track, Epsom, Leatherhead and on to Ripley, Surrey. [Ripley is the name of our home town in Tennessee.] The folks said their council had been in touch with our city government back in my grandfather’s day. Dad also mentioned that he and Mother had sent a care package to the town here in England after the second World War. We took one picture, got lost, practiced a few U turns, and came home. [That one picture is missing, either lost or mislabeled.]
We treated ourselves to a cream tea in a hotel in a neighboring village. It was a great experience except for the price – rather steep. Scones were served with clotted cream and jam, and we had a plate of cake wedges. I thought we wouldn’t have enough food to keep $ happy (he eats more than Kate at times), but a cat that looked just like one we had in NY kept him occupied. That black and white cat entertained us by strolling under tables and coming almost within petting reach. The resemblance to Tor was uncanny – the only thing different was that he had a tail.
We watched quite a bit of TV in the afternoon as the Queen and her party arrived each day at Royal Ascot in open landaus. That race course is near Windsor. I put up with the horse races to see the people. Lady Diana was the big feature this year. All the men have morning dress and gray top hats; the ladies wear short dresses and the fanciest of hats. Also on TV were the preliminary matches for Wimbledon which begins tomorrow. Any time we aren’t out, I’m sure the oldest and the youngest of us will be lured to the screen to watch the games. The next door neighbors were able to get two tickets for the center court tomorrow. They said the children will be allowed to wander about watching the outer courts, and they will all take turns sitting with a parent at the center court.
Yesterday John arrived home from New York looking slightly rumpled about the mouth. From the account of how little sleep he got, I’m surprised he wasn’t in one heap. He slept while the rest of us went to Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home. He thought it would take us an hour to get there, but it was only half that. This time the girls and I saw much more of the garden than when we were there nearly a year ago.
Today we worshiped in St. Paul’s Cathedral and spent the afternoon at Hampton Court. $ learned how to get out of his push chair; he practiced getting in and out for an hour while I was walking him in the garden. Below is a sunken garden at Hampton Court.
Below, my parents at Hampton Court.
Note: for months I have added captions to photos. Today that wouldn’t work.