England 40 Years Ago — September 13, 1981

We watched the first in a series about Winston Churchill on the telly, and I particularly enjoyed the scenes filmed at Blenheim and Chartwell. There were outside shots of both, a dining room scene from Blenheim, and recognizable backgrounds of the bedroom and dining room of Chartwell. It was like history coming alive to see these things taking place in rooms we had been in!

Had someone inspected our parcels at the end of a shopping trip, they would have known the opening of school was near. Six pairs of shoes and nine library books demolished the morning.

Phillipa and Catherine went with us to Gatwick Airport just to watch planes. We’d noticed when driving near Heathrow that Phillipa got terribly excited at the sight of planes (aeroplanes). It was fun to be with them on their first visit to an airport – enthusiasm unbounded! We first went to the observation deck, then wandered around the major terminal areas.

[I’ve added the photo below, just because it shows the four girls I wrote about in this letter. It was the first day of term for Lisa. You may remember that we rented half a large house that was owned by neighbors at the bottom of our garden. The other half was owned by the parents of Phillipa and Catherine. These girls were the same age as Lise and Kate, and we loved the fact that they were constantly in and out of each other’s homes. For over a year they were closer than cousins.]

Phillipa, Lisa, Kate, and Catherine

Cooperation was the name of the game one day when Kate went with me to Co op and Lisa volunteered to water all the roses while I was setting out about a hundred pansy seedlings.

John $ has no need to talk. He doesn’t fight having his hair washed, but doesn’t relish it, either. He picked up my hand, put it right on the shampoo bottle, and said emphatically, “UH..UH!!”

John has been in pain recently. He woke up with a stiff neck and tingles around the shoulder. A day or so later as he was writing at his desk in the office, his arm became numb. Not about to play games if something were serious, he sped to a doctor. X-rays showed that the bones in the left of his neck have settled too closely together and must be pinching nerves. The doctor advised aspirin, said it should go away in a week, and if it didn’t John could consult a neurosurgeon or osteopath. His health has been so good all his life that we’ve decided having 40 staring him in the face this week must be his undoing.

We wanted to go somewhere close by since John felt better walking about but not sitting. I drove us and Phillipa to Guildford. The car park we found had entrances directly to stores. Many major London stores have branches there – Marks and Sparks, Debenhams, C and A, A and N, etc. We walked along the deep canal running through the downtown area of the city. Imagine, if you can, a car with three wheels, the solo one being in the REAR! We are used to seeing the three-legged variety, but the one wheel is in the front. This one was really different. We walked cobbled streets closed off for pedestrian malls and wandered in a lovely toy store. The height (literally) of the tour was seeing the ruins of Guildford Castle high on a hill. The gardens flowing from one bed of colourful flowers to another were the prettiest I’ve seen since we moved to England. Each bed was a different fancy shape cut out of lush grass. No camera! You’ll be amused when I tell you the featured tall plant in several groups was maize (corn)!!

Napping, I tried to rouse myself when I heard Phillipa insistently saying, “We’ll cope. We’ll cope.” There were no more distress sounds, so I went on drifting. Kate came quietly to stand by the bed to wake me by staring at me. Works every time! How can I pretend to be asleep feeling those eyes boring into me? She proudly announced, “We (meaning Phillipa) changed a dreadfully dirty nappy. Could you take care of it in the loo while we put on his clean one?”

Wow!! Phillipa said, “It looks terrible when YOU do it, but it’s not so bad when I did it myself.”

Afterwards we had a special tea with homemade biscuits to celebrate.

16 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — September 13, 1981

  1. I hope John’s neck healed as quickly as expected. I know all the stores you mention except the last A and N and I’m left wondering if it was a store specific to the South. The three wheeler sounds like a car known as a Messerschmitt but I’m not sure, we had a lot of foreign made cars at that time. Well done the girls for tackling the nappy, they obviously hung on to their lunch. The first time can be difficult. It’s good you celebrated afterwards.
    Humongous Hugs

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    1. I think John’s pain went away fairly quickly.

      I envied my girls, too. I was the only girl my age on my street, with no others in walking distance. My brother had two boys his age, and there were two girls who were a couple of years older than he was. Of course, those girls had nothing to do with us.

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  2. I hope Jon finally found some relief, I know what that feels like since my shoulders and right side of my body still have numbness, even after neck surgery and having a herniated disc in my back. You just have to get used to the numbness, but at least the pain is gone.

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  3. The sisters and their British words, phrases and means of conveying them are so funny … it’s so easy to pick up the words and phrases too … “nappy” and “loo” and so many other words. Your family had such a good experience in England.

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      1. I can tell you did Anne and the lack of language barrier (forget the different expressions) made it all the more special. Living in a foreign country where you didn’t know the language would not be as enjoyable. My friend Carol’s husband was an engineer at GM and they were transferred to and lived in Shanghai for four years. They had a driver at their disposal (as part of his job and so they didn’t have to drive in the congested City), but they did not speak the language – even the driver spoke no English, so yes, they had each other, but felt quite isolated. Unfortunately, they returned to the U.S., bought a home in Honeoye Falls, NY and then GM downsized and he was laid off shortly thereafter.

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