England 40 Years Ago — March 16, 1982

We had a short day trip to Greenwich (don’t forget it’s “grin itch”) while the girls were in school. Climbing around the Cutty Sark was a lark – Cutty Sark, I presume you know, was not originally liquor but a clipper ship. The brass on her was gleaming – hinges, handrails, porthole rims, step guards, etc. $ enjoyed watching the hoards of little school children on their outings. The Cutty Sark is by the Thames and just a walk away from the Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum, and the Royal Conservatory.

We walked up the steep hill to the Observatory and saw the clock built in a brick wall that proclaims Greenwich Mean Time. Its dial has 24 hours in Roman numerals; I’d know the time easily only half the time! A few feet away was a brass strip laid in concrete that is the world’s prime meridian, dividing the world into Eastern and Western hemispheres. Wow! It was like standing at the dividing point of the world!

I loved seeing all the old chronometers, astrolabes, sun dials, telescopes, and clocks. I felt if I had several years to absorb all that information, I might begin to hear the ticking of the universe. Going down a set of stairs, we could hear that peculiar music of many time pieces in symphony. To me that sound is second only to the sound of falling water. I could have listened to an hour whir away! My favorite was a big clock that said, “Cathack, thumb, whack” in definite triplet rhythm. Among the clocks were two watches that had belonged to Lord Nelson, one of which he had with him on the Victory.

Greenwich Observatory House
Queen’s House, Greenwich

At home Kate came leaping into the room to announce that her dad has lived 14,785 days.

I vaguely remember hearing that it isn’t necessary to wash a teapot after each use. It wasn’t until I questioned a really cruddy one in an antique shop that we were told this finer point of serving tea. “One should NEVER wash a teapot,” both husband and wife agreed. All that is necessary is to rinse it after each use. They claimed tea doesn’t reach a perfection of taste unless brewed in an encrusted and stained pot.

We were a little concerned at increasing evidence of recent snow as we drove from France to Luxembourg, but it was only on higher ground.

Trier, Germany, is reputed to be the most medieval of German cities. The cathedral was impressive.

Just down the street was the building that caught my fancy – the Porta Nigra – about four stories of huge stones making up a double archway, built by the Romans! In England we’ve seen flattened ruins, but this is the biggest standing Roman edifice I’ve seen. I know it wouldn’t look as big as a peanut next to the Coliseum in Rome, but when all I have to compare it with are mosaics, rubble, and a wall that’s falling down, I’ll stay impressed.

I had to grit my teeth during a long ride along the Moselle River, because I was dying to take a photo but had to hold a sleeping little boy. The vineyards on those perpendicular slopes seemed to be holding on by sheer determination. Every available bit of soil had precisely measured stakes holding the vines in place. The rows were up and down the mountainsides, often to the very top and down to the water’s edge. Cross-crossing little roads with hairpin turns provided access for cars. We drove up and up among the fields. I don’t know how people could cling there and do any work without starting a landslides of shale down the steeps (can’t call them slopes!).

We wondered why the suitcase seemed roomier; we thought perhaps we were really getting the hang of packing for traveling. No, there was a bit missing. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to whether $ mischievously took it, or I maliciously removed it, or John was too busy thinking of others to take time for himself. In any case, John C. was without a change of underwear. Somehow he didn’t appreciate it when I offered to share with him.

Though we carefully parked the car under the hotel in Trier, she refused to start the next morning. You can imagine our dismay early on a Sunday morning. A young man from the restaurant helped push the car, took John to a service station to borrow jumper cables, and used his own car to boost ours. Further disappointment – no go. As the man was about to drive off, John tried our car one more time, and she started. Relief! We had no trouble the following night, even though the car was parked in an exposed place.

Again, on higher ground, we found snow lying on the ground, though it didn’t hinder our trip to Cologne. The cathedral there is the most massive one I’ve seen and the tallest. I’d vote it the most beautiful in Europe. Despite the fact that the city all around was leveled during the war, the church had surprisingly little damage.

John came in to read the first page of this letter, then leaned over to read as I typed. I asked him if he minded if I wrote it before he read it.

We drove along the Rhine to Bonn, peeking at the river between some houses and scads of industrial parks. Then we had a front seat view on a Rhine River trip. In all honesty, I’ll have to admit it lasted only five minutes. We were south of Bonn and looking for a way across to return to Cologne on the other side. Being among the last in the queue, we were directed to the front of the last row and had a marvelous point for looking around without budging from our seats.

We saw the towers left of the bridge at Ramagen that was bombed during the war. The towers are not standing to the left of the bridge; only the towers remain of the bridge. It would help to write things out beforehand!

Overall, some trips are better than others. This will not be remembered as an easy one for John. The last night $ marched into the room, headed straight for John’s glasses, picked them up and did a Superman job on them – snapped them right in half without even a grimace. Then at 3 a.m. John rushed to the bathroom with his innards as scrambled as this word: haarrdie.

We were early for our ferry, so ducked down a street in Calais set in a huge apartment complex to go in the international Supermarche. We’d seen people interviewed on TV because they took a ferry and a bus from England to shop there for bargains. The store was the largest I’ve ever seen – ginormous, as we’d say in British slang. One end had food, and the other clothes, appliances, and even lumber. I think there were about 50 check-out counters. Opposite the check-out were several restaurants, snack bars, patisseries, and even a place for clothes cleaning. We bought cheese at about half the price we’d pay in England. I’m sure if we’d put our minds to it, we could have spent lots of money.

21 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — March 16, 1982

      1. I became quite interested for a few years in British military and naval history. I also visited Nelson’s HMS Victory


  1. I agree, never wash a teapot with soap and water. The tea will taste funny. I just rinse mine out after use and occasionally soak it in hot water and baking soda.


    1. Thanks for underscoring the proper way to treat a teapot. I adhered to that in England. We don’t have many people who drink tea here, so the pot is used only a few times a year.


  2. Anne, This letter showed-up just at the right time. (Sorry) The Prime Meridian bits got my attention, as the picture and your comments are perfectly-timed (sorry) for a sermon illustration for the end (sorry, again) of the End Times (really sorry) series. That is, if I still have permission after all this (sorry, sorry, sorry) time.


  3. Interesting about how to treat your teapot … that makes sense I guess, as long as you knew there were no germs or bacteria gathering – hmm. Sounds like bad news for John on this trip.


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