England 40 Years Ago — July 19, 1981

We’ve had a marvelous time with John’s sister Chris, Steve, and children Barbara and Chrissie. Surprisingly, our girls didn’t complain about having to go to school while Barbara and Chrissie were free to do what they wanted. Two days they spent more time in London than Lisa and Kate did in school.

Chris and Steve

It’s been so much fun for me to have someone to giggle with. Do you know, I almost believed I had become more proper, until Chris came when I reverted to my normal American self. I know John was glad to have someone around to talk about stuffy, serious things with.

John $ got hold of the stick we use for pulling down the attic stairs. I thought it harmless enough until I saw him swinging it at the ceiling light fixture as if it were a pinata.

The relatives arrived Tuesday and came home with John on the train. We insisted Steve had to sit in the front immediately so that he could get a good view of left-hand driving. He properly appreciated it. I don’t know whether he might have shaken with pleasure of seeing us or fright at being on the wrong side of the road.

I was home bound for two days while the car was in for repairs. Some garage in Epsom was supposed to do something on a part and return it to Walton, but they goofed. The car was inoperable overnight; the mechanic offered to have a man drive me to Reigate to get the girls in the afternoon and to send the same man to take them to school the following morning. What a God send! Those two days our relatives were in London, anyway, so the lack of a car did not hamper us unduly.

John $ reading to his sisters in school uniforms and cousins

Wednesday they took a bus sightseeing tour and then saw Westminster Abbey and Cathedral, a street fair, Buckingham Palace, and the Royal Mews where the carriages and horses are kept. I’m sure they saw more than that, but it’s all my fuzzy brain remembers. I found most interesting their telling that the coaches were all labeled saying who is to ride in which one for the Royal wedding. The signs also tell which would be used in case of rain. What happens if it rains during the ceremony, but not before? For that the weather forecasters need coaching.

Thursday, among other things I’m sure, they saw the changing of the guard from the vantage point of center front and later shopped on Oxford Street. That day they saw some of the preparations for the garden party the Queen had at Buckingham Palace in the afternoon.

Chris had her conducted tour of Micklefield with the headmistress, Miss Kinman, Friday morning while the rest of us wandered the town of Reigate. The 10p car tour included our last house and church. Boots and Woolworth’s were experienced before we greeted Paula and friend in Co op. Following lunch, Chrissie helped Mr. Clewes while Barbara and I explored a footpath and Chris drove the car. Later Steve had a chance and said he’d rather drive on the wrong side than feel like a sitting duck in the passenger seat. Dorking and Box Hill tours brought us circling home.

Chrissie was a big help to Mr. Clewes – he said he wouldn’t have finished clearing up the debris if she hadn’t helped. Barbara helped me in the kitchen, and one night I’d have never gotten the meal on the table if she hadn’t arranged the salad and fixed the appetizer. Many thanks, girls.

Yesterday we went to Windsor Castle. The day we went with my brother and his family, I felt it was on the other side of everywhere, since I was driving. John seemed to have no trouble finding his way quickly and easily. We lucked out on the parking, too, finding a lot open just across the street from the nearest visitor entrance to the castle. I think I enjoyed seeing the State Apartments more this time since I’ve read so much more English history than I had before the first visit. Couldn’t have had anything to do with the fact that I had charge of $ the first time and not the second!

We saw boys rowing down the Thames practicing for a regatta. I’m glad to have seen that, since it is another British institution.

While we were looking across the green to the buildings where the royal family stays when in residence, several soldiers marched up to inspect the sentry there. We howled at the high pitched, cracking voice of the tall soldier in charge. It seemed so out of character for him to have such a voice. I signaled John to walk $ around behind the soldiers standing near us so that we could get him in the picture with them. John said later that $ was frightened when they first marched up. From the perch on his father’s shoulders, $ ogled them until they marched away.

We had been invited by Mr. Wolters, the agent for the house in Reigate, to come to the Claygate Flower show. It is his pride and joy, since he is the head of the organizing group. There were a few tents with displays, but the biggest drawing card seemed to be the carnival rides. It was the highlight of the day for four girls.

While the fathers took the children for their thrills, Chris and I trooped through the tents. I was shocked at how few entries there were. Perhaps I thought it would be like the Mid-South fair, and that it wasn’t! In many cases, there was only a first prize, there being no other entries in that category. The most popular entries in the pet tent were rabbits and parakeets. There was one common alley cat calmly lying in his cage, having won first prize since he was the only cat there. I struck my funny bone.

There was a small band of bagpipes and drums that marched in the central roped-off area. Their bright red kilts were striking, and we noticed the daggers in their socks. I was surprised to note that they all played the same notes; you could tell by watching their fingers.

We found Mr. Wolters in the secretary’s tent and spoke to him for several minutes. Just a few days ago he’d sent our three children crown coins minted in honor of the Royal Wedding. We are so glad to have these keepsakes.

This morning all except $ and I drove to see St. Paul’s Cathedral and to worship at the Abbey. While I took a bath, John $ emptied my gadget drawer in the kitchen. Now he is scattering the contents of the desk drawers all over the bedroom.

We tried to get a picture of $’s pose when Chris and Steve left their bedroom door open. He strutted in and made himself at home sitting on the clothes in their open suitcase as if it were a golden throne. He was reading a romance novel belonging to Chris.

Back to Windsor – Bob, I took special time to look at all the carvings by Grinling Gibbons this time, thanks to your sparking of my interest. I was glad to be able to recognize lots of the portraits, too, from my reading.

Soon the rest of the clan will return from London. We’ll have a quick bite, and go through the awful time of saying goodbye to people we’d rather not see the backs of.

Back row: Barbara, Lisa, neighbor Catherine. Front row: Kate, Chrissie, neighbor Philippa
What a jolly crowd of relatives and neighbors!

John $ has now gathered the scattered items and put them in the laundry basket, pushing them around the room barge style. Why do we buy toys?

We’re leaving for Norway next Saturday. We’ll see Bergen, Oslo and parts of Denmark and Sweden. Think we return here August 13.

42 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — July 19, 1981

  1. I always enjoy your letters when you were in England. With John $ learning the ways of the world, there was never a dull moment, huh? I wish I had my letters from when we were in Germany…such memories. πŸ™‚

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      1. Good for John…an archivist after my own heart. As nice as those letters were at the time, there value is multiplied many times by being saved and reissued decades later.

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          1. I spend a lot of time re-reading my own posts on my blog πŸ˜‰ For awhile there I was writing what I think was pretty good stuff, poems especially…if I don’t save them now they will be gone. No one will even know they existed. Sorry…I seem to be in one of rainy-day moods

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              1. Actually I love rainy days. Recently my mood has been slightly sour at times, it seems that some things that I know are slipping away. Maybe my recent birthday has me down. Also, I’ve never been so frustrated at my posting efforts,

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                  1. Fridays are usually OK, but they (the biorythym people) say that every other week on the day you were born the sine curves dip into the negative, … it seems that way with me. Its not as if I’m a novice, been figuring out how to do things for 10 years. Everytime I think I’ve got it they change it. πŸ˜‰

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                  2. By the way, Anne, thanks for putting in your two cents yesterday, right when I needed a sympathetic word. Who says blogger pals aren’t as good as in the flesh ones? Thanks.

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                    1. Blogger pals can react quicker than in-the-flesh ones, depending on your situation. We all need sympathy occasionally. I selfishly want you to be at ease with blogging as you used to be.

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                    2. I appreciate that. A couple of other blogger pals responded to my hysteria as well. Thanks guys. WP support was less than sympathetic…they hurt my feelings. (I know, “poor baby…” πŸ™‚ My daughter next door is a computer guru of sorts, but not really familiar with WordPress.

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  2. This post brought back so many happy memories. I remember Uncle John waking us up in the morning with his “wake wakey rise and shine…” poem. I also remember doing cartwheels on your lawn. While we got our work done, here it the written proof of my memory from another time when I told you Mr. Clewes had taught me to waltz. Must have been that day I was helping. The music at church was beautiful. Even for my nine-year-old self. I remember the excitement of the big upcoming wedding, trying to get the guards to laugh, seeing Piccadilly, and really enjoying the swings ride at the flower show. They made us take off our sandals before the ride started. As it picked up speed I was happy, but it was also funny trying to find them after the ride stopped. Thanks for the trip down memory lane there πŸ™‚

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  3. My goodness, family resemblance is strong in this crew! I love the photographs of the folks all scowling in the guard pictures–looks like John $ was not the only one. Plus, the picture of him on the suitcase is priceless–that is baby contest stuff! πŸ™‚

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  4. Sounds like fantastic family visit. I wonder whether John $ knows how his antics from back hen cause such laughter now. I have all the crowns from 1951 Festival of Britain until they lost their sense of design altogether in the 1980’s Since I collect coins I have some much older ones too. I’m saving them for my grandson. I wonder if our children still have theirs .We tend to do the pageantry quite well and he State Coaches are really nice aren’t they. I’m glad you still have these memories.
    Massive Hugs

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    1. I’m not sure where my children’s coins are. I think we gave the keepsakes to them some years ago.

      I didn’t see the state coaches, because I stayed home with the baby. I did get to see the crown jewels at a later date, though.

      No one does pageantry like the English! I’m glad we saw some of it in person.

      Majestic Hugs

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  5. So did you get to see the wedding procession in person? The leaving in the carriage or the kiss on the balcony? How exciting. Too bad I couldn’t have entered the contest in the pet’s tent. I’m sure I could have given that cat a run for his money!

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  6. How fun and I like seeing the full regalia with the bearskin hats too. I will look forward to reading about your trip to Norway, Denmark and Sweden. I went to those countries (as well as Finland and Russia) as part of a three-week Scandinavian land tour) back in 1983.

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