England 40 Years Ago — November 29, 1981

I think John $ approaches a neat, clean house the way a writer faces a clean sheet of paper, or an artist a canvas – eager to make his mark and show what he is capable of.

Every once in a while my mother sends us a large cartoon from the Sunday comics which features a little boy with lots of energy. The pictures show his trail through house and yard jumping on beds, riding the dog, climbing a tree, playing in a sand box, watching a neighbor work in a garden, wading through puddles, riding a bike, peering in the garbage, etc. He generally arrives back home telling his hard-working mum he has nothing to do. I think John $ would be pictured that way, only trailing behind holding on to his reins (harness) for dear life is his harried mum – Me!

Ten people came to our house for the home group from St. Mary’s in Reigate. This is the first meeting John and I have been to this season. It was so good to have fellowship with devout Christians again. One of the new people in the group was Lisa’s main teacher at Micklefield last year. Mrs. Freeman asked if Lisa were here and if she could talk to her. She went to the top of the stairs for a long chat with Lisa and Kate.

I can’t remember ever seeing snow the day before Thanksgiving – had to be in England for that! Up here on the plateau it snowed all morning with nothing to show for it but a drippy roof. Looked pretty, though. The snow, not the drippy roof.

Thanksgiving came with a minimum of fuss since much of our routine continued; it didn’t feel like a holiday to me until John came home from the office early. John G had flown into Heathrow that morning, took a nap at home, then appeared in the office to drive John out. They came just 10 minutes before I would have had to set out on the school run. They did it instead, and I put the finishing touches on the dinner.

We also enjoyed Udo K and his wife, Tina, while Lisa talked non-stop with their 15-year-old twin girls and Kate flirted with their 11-year-old son. The boy loved playing with the trains set up in area near the fireplace.

John took Lisa shopping in Epsom, buying two pair of shoes and a top! It took a lot of tact and the patience of Job on his part. I think he has more to spare than I.

$ has learned to put on his jackets and sweaters by the good old Montesori method. He’s so proud of himself.

Today must have been the most marvelous of Advent Sundays we’ve ever had. We arrived at Winchester Cathedral in time to walk all around the church, finding Jane Austen’s grave and seeing this longest of Medieval churches. The girls and I sat near the front of the packed church – every seat taken in the first two sections reaching half way back. Most seemed to be regulars greeting each other and smiling at us. What warmth!

The choir was superb, singing one of my favorites by Ralph Vaughn-Williams. I went up for communion and was shocked later to see John approach the altar with a sleeping $ in his arms. The sermon was erudite, but with a simple message.

We ate dinner (roast beef for others, salmon for me) at a tiny restaurant with most attentive staff. $ ate like a pig with good manners and behaved beautifully.

The great hall still standing from the castle was also within walking distance and featured King Arthur’s round table hung high on the wall. (It’s several hundred years too new to be authentic, but is old nevertheless.)

Two original gates in the city wall remain, one with a lovely little church built right over the opening.

Church over the gate

Walking back to the car, we again stopped in the cathedral to buy a few little things and the Christmas tape done by their choir. We reveled in the glorious sound all the way home.

16 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — November 29, 1981

  1. After York, Winchester is my favourite city in England. I have been twice. The first time I couldn’t visit Jane Austen’s grave as they were filming in the cathedral. I was so disappointed as she is my favourite author. So the next time I made sure to pay my tributes. I was also given an excellent tour of the cathedral which has an interesting history and is filled with stories. Lucky you to have attended a service there.


  2. Anne, no wonder you were in awe of the service at Winchester Cathedral and it sounds like a heavenly time was had by you all. I love York Minster, Ely Cathedral and although impressed with Canterbury Cathedral I found there were just too many tourists. I had no idea Winchester was one of the longest medieval ones and I’m now keen to travel there one day! Thank you for sharing your letters and they bring back memories of my time as a child in the 1980s and still a newcomer to England.


    1. The people at Winchester were very warm and welcoming. I don’t think we ever went to a service at Canterbury. We did worship at Westminster Abbey several times. Tourists were not the problem. The sermons were cold and secular. This was offset by liturgy and divine music. I wonder what it would be like now.

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  3. I had two little boys just like your John $. One of them was so bad he was sometimes called ‘the bomb’ because that is what his room looked like after he was through with it. The other could mess up, but would clean up too.


  4. I love how your writing makes me feel like I was there. It takes a moment to remember I am not there and…..it’s a few decades ago. I didn’t realize there was a Montessori method of putting on jackets and sweaters. Good to know it worked.


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