England 40 Years Ago — December 14, 1981

We had quite a snow storm on the 8th of December. First we heard reports on the radio that driving was hazardous north of London. When we left for school, there was rain and sleet; by the time I got back up the downs, snow was settling (sticking) on the grass. An hour later a friend arrived for coffee, having passed many cars stranded on the big highway. There must have been two inches on the ground before it stopped at 1 and the sun came out.

Our half of the house has the green door on the right.

Sanding lorries were out fairly quickly so that I didn’t run into any difficulties getting the girls from school. The signs on the trucks read: “Gritting in progress.”

John had gotten to work on time, but his two Norwegian co-workers came in at noon because of frozen switches. John left work a little early, and we were able to go to the home group Bible study that met in a house on Reigate Hill.

$ has been admiring the Christmas trees in Reigate High Street and is trying to say the words. After John put ours in the living room, we led $ in. He drew in his breath, ran toward the tree and reaching out his hand said, “Christmas tree!” Immediately withdrawing his hand, he said “No!” Poor thing was anticipating our reaction to his reach.

Friday it was snowing hard at 4 a.m. – my instinct woke me to see it! John walked to the station, calling on the phone to say the roads were clear. We set out at 8 in mush. I would have turned back except I’d finally gotten an appointment to have my hair cut and didn’t want to risk going to Germany with a mop on top of my head. I went into Micklefield with Kate, telling Miss Kinman and Mrs. Smith that I’d run an errand in Redhill and come back for her. I wouldn’t attempt the hill at Dunottar. There was a cancellation at the beauty shop, and Lisa had her hair trimmed. We ran to Bejam’s and Boots before heading back to get Kate in Reigate.

Things went well until we were nearing the center of town. We crept. I turned down the school road, went in for Kate, waited for her to get her things together, drove up one back street and got into the queue on the hill one car ahead of my former place! I was so thankful to get home without incident. The trip took 4.5 hours!

$ liked the snow. The girls made a small snowman, and I saw $ talking to it. First he said, “Hey-o. Hey-o.” When there was no answer, he threatened it, saying, “Snow, I’m gonna punch you in the nose if you don’t answer.”

By evening the major roads were well salted, and we sailed to Redhill with no problem. Penny and Andy had us for dinner, introducing us to a couple (man and wife) as Andy and Mike. It took a while to discover which was which. Andy was short for Andrea. She’s in banking and he in nuclear energy.

Saturday night we went to the neighbors in the other half of our house for dinner. Catherine and Philippa had dinner at our house and spent the night, so our girls were entertained while we were out. Jennifer said they don’t entertain very often and they had to invite all those they “owed.” They had 30!!! We had a chance to talk to some of those we’d met at the party they gave to introduce us around, and we met the other two couples who share the first part of the driveway. I was delighted to find out that Charles H had gone to King’s at Cambridge and used to be a reader at services! He also mentioned that his father was a vestryman at Hampton Court Royal Chapel, so he’d worshiped there many times, also.

Jennifer served a cheese dip with crackers, chili con carne (which was not spicy hot), rice, salad, French bread, blackcurrant mousse, treacle tart, meringue cake, and fruit. She served the food in the kitchen, and we sat in the living room to eat. John and several others sat on the floor because all the chairs were taken. It was great fun.

The forecast for Sunday was “grim.” It was grey all day, but nothing fell until late afternoon. We had a small fright, though, when we ran water into a hand basin in the downstairs bathroom, and it didn’t run out. As some of you remember, the drain pipes in the south of England are usually on the outsides of the buildings. We tried boiling water, but the drain was still frozen. Finally I poured hot water into the drain area outside, and the water ran out. We boiled water in all our pots and went running around pouring it down all the drains. I think it had been about 18 degrees in the night. No more trouble.

During the day it became warmer and began to snow about 3 p.m. The wind was fierce – gale force in some places. That’s when Philippa and Kate agreed to join me for a walk to the pond! We had a great time struggling to walk against the wind. My glasses were so encrusted with snow that I could hardly see. We were rewarded. Got to walk on the pond! There were others there, one with ice skates gliding around. Kate had no fear walking on the ice, but Philippa didn’t want to try it. When I walked out on it, she agreed to follow, but wasn’t comfortable. I was glad we did it, because it doesn’t happen often.

Kate and Philippa
Philippa and Kate

The weather was so extreme that John and I made rash statements about no one getting to school the next day. We couldn’t have known that the temperature would continue to rise and that it would rain most of the night. We were all sure we’d be marooned at home today. It was slippery getting out of our drive, but beyond that it wasn’t bad. The lights kept flickering until we prepared the kitchen fireplace and got out candles, but the electricity never went off.

I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced three major snow storms in less than a week. It was fun while it lasted, but now we’re hoping for less severe weather so we can get to Germany and back.

Merry Christmas! I probably won’t be writing until the new year.

33 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — December 14, 1981

  1. It snowed once when we were in England. Of course, I grew up in the prairies and was used to lots of snow. But it was rare there and everyone was amazed that we still went for a drive to Whitby. It was beautiful with the sun glistening off the snow on the Abbey.


  2. Freshly fallen snow is always so pretty – even though I’m not a big snow fan. John $ is talking up a storm and conversing with the snowman is especially cute. Good thing you always had your camera handy Anne as you captured such nice photos while in England, whether at historical venues, or just enjoying the beauty of the snow.


      1. Speaking of pictures, you have a new profile picture without glasses. Very nice! I know what you mean with the bulky camera. When I was on the Scandinavian/Russia tour back in 1983, I had a 35mm camera and several lenses and lugged it all around in a big camera case. A nice couple from Texas was on that trip and they had a very compact camera, smaller than a Kodak Pocket Camera which I used for decades before the 35mm camera. They took some pictures of me in various tourist sites as I did of them and we exchanged photos after the trip. Their photos were as crisp and clear as any of mine taken with the camera and all its paraphernalia I was lugging around.


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