England 40 Years Ago — February 14, 1982

You can live for years in a place and not know something is available until the crunch comes. Kate forgot to go to the bathroom in the morning, failed to take time at school, and was in dire distress when we were checking books out of the library. It would have been another 45 minutes until we’d reach home. I told myself it wouldn’t hurt to ask and was surprised when the librarian went for a key. My first thought was that it must be nice if they keep it locked. We had to go to the rear of the building, grope our way in, and find the loo. It wasn’t until we were leaving that I found the light switch. Talk about austerity – there was a light and an old toilet, no sink and no toilet paper. Kate would agree it was better than nothing.

It might not be so unusual for a 2-year-old to hand you a $10 bill, but I knew immediately that John $ had been into something! I haven’t seen a $10 bill for at least a year! I deal in pounds and pence now.

I knew something was up by the tone of John’s voice; he shouted, “Anne! I need you up here immediately.” The closer I got to the bathroom door, the more piercing the screams. Kate was almost in hysterics kneeling rigidly in the tub wailing over her spots. We immediately suspected chicken pox which none of the children have had yet. She finally trusted us enough to accept the fact she wouldn’t be an outcast of society.

The reactions of various people to Kate’s illness were amusing. The doctor laughed when I asked if she wanted to diagnose it in her surgery, on a house call or by telephone. She chose the telephone. Kate appreciates $’s actions the most: whenever I put a cooling lotion on her spots, he lifts his shirt for the same. Lisa said, “Well, you’re always wanting to do things first, and now you have.” John kindly told her we don’t need a dog for a pet because we can call her “Spot.”

She seems to be having a mild case without too many spots and not a lot of itching. According to a baby book, we should be able to take our short holiday next weekend before the other two come down with it in about a fortnight. Meanwhile, it certainly is handy having John home so that Kate doesn’t have to go with me in the car to get Lisa to and from school. (Kate doesn’t like to stay in the house by herself.)

Last night John and I left Lisa in charge when we went to dinner at the home of the fellow who took John’s job at work. Also there were the bachelor lawyer, John G, and their friend from work Udo with his wife, Tina. The last three were our Thanksgiving guests, as well. We had a great time. They have a lovely modern home tastefully furnished with fine antiques. The large dining room table was of yew. I couldn’t believe the dinner she put on the table – prawn salad, chicken in a gourmet sauce, beans, roast potatoes, sprouts, profiteroles (small cream puffs piled in a pyramid and covered with chocolate sauce), cheese, mints, and a concoction of sponge cake, meringue, whipped cream and strawberries. We found out she works full time preparing tax returns, and her busy season lasts from March to December!! The man originally comes from Lincolnshire.

The conversation I found most interesting was about au pairs. This couple have had an au pair for years since the mother works. Young girls from other countries sign up with agencies to get this work, usually being about 18 years old, and the purpose is to improve their English while seeing parts of this land. In exchange for their room, board, small amount of spending money, and one day off a week, they do light housework and mind children. Most often they come for only one year, so I presume this couple have had many over the years. The general rules are roughly the same; you can require six hours of work a day. Their present girl is from Yugoslavia, though we didn’t see her because she was out for the evening.

[There were no photos to go with this letter.  These days, I think an American hostess would be pleased if someone took a picture of a fancy meal she had prepared.  Wonder what the reaction would have been 40 years ago???]

36 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — February 14, 1982

  1. The meal sounds great! I learned that the concoction of sponge cake, meringue, whipped cream and strawberries is called an Eton Mess. Poor Kate. I would have been just as concerned about the spots. Did the other two get it?

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    1. That is awful indeed! My bro and sis and I had them all at the same time. I remember Mom putting blankets over the windows to block out the light, and making us stay in bed in the dark. I know there were risks, but sometimes I think it just gave her an hour or so without dealing with us. 🙂

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  2. Yikes! Chicken pox and only one child got it. That’s almost a miracle. I have a scar from scratching one itchy spot open. Unfortunately there weren’t any vaccines for it when I was a kid. I remember being miserable.

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  3. Yes,
    When anybody on saw chicken pox then can’t going outside. Stay at home for 7 days. No get any medicine. Only for rest .

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  4. My family was slated to go on vacation, so when I got the chicken pox I stayed with friends who had had it already. Then they came back and I got to entertain my little sisters through their bout. I am glad they invented the vaccine, especially since shingles is an after effect of chicken pox.

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  5. Oh lovely – the chicken pox. Did Lisa and $ get them as well? My mom joked that I had chicken pox and measles the same year … one on her birthday, the other for Mother’s Day. I went with my father to Germany in 1969 – we went the three of us again in 1979, but in 1969 I brought home an unusual souvenir. I was really struck by the quality of paper towel in Germany. It was rough like paper towels that come out of the dispenser – bumpy and thick and a funny dark pink color. I remember bringing some home to show my mom and grandmother. I thought the bathrooms reminded me of a gas station bathroom and that toilet paper went right along with it.

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      1. They lucked out then! I have a chicken pox scar in the middle of my forehead – my mom said don’t scratch, but the scab likely got knocked off from my pillow. Around the holiday, ideas of having COVID parties to get the whole family infected at the same time were circulating. They likened it to having a party so everyone could get the chicken pox at the same time like back in the day. I never remember people doing that. I got mine from school.

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          1. I never had either and when the Omicron virus was raging after the holidays, people decided to just “get it over with” and get in a room with others, share their drinking glasses, eating utensils, etc. and likened it to “chicken pox parties” they had when young. I never cease to be amazed these days.

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