We Met on Monday

Former neighbor Marla has Sundays and Mondays off. She has to miss our lunches when her dog Albert is groomed, so we met on Monday.

Anne, Shawn, Marla and Connie

We also celebrated Marla’s recent birthday. Can you guess she is a Big Foot fan? The shirt says, “Big Foot saw me, but nobody believes him.”

Do you know anyone who likes Big Foot?

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.

Sadie’s Drinking Fountain

When Sadie and I came back from walking, she checked the drip bowl for water as I plugged in the fountain. It was dry, of course, since the leak had not yet begun. Hearing the water flowing in the fountain, she decided it would be much more elegant to drink standing up. She didn’t say if it were more efficient or not.

[Grammarians and proofreaders — Barbara, Ellie, Nancy, Chrissie. Would you comment on “if it were”? That was proper usage when I was in school, but I suspect common usage today would be “if it was”. I tried looking it up on line and got hopelessly lost. I would like to know what is proper usage today.]

My New Game

Thanks to neighbor Bob, I have a new game. Bob repaired a faulty wire in the electric line to the front porch. After John cleaned out the angel fountain, I set it up again and ran it. I hoped the fountain would work better in its new position. It didn’t. It has leaked for seven years, because the water clings to the under side of the middle pool instead of falling into the pool below. Changing the slant at three different levels did nothing. This year I added some plastic film to encourage the water to fall straight down instead of running back to the base and dripping. There is one improvement. The sound is better than it has ever been.

The new game is a race. I plug the fountain in, read a devotional book, and work the daily game of Set on line. I win if I finish before the drip bowl on the floor is full. I’ve done well, except for the days the scripture readings are exceptionally long.

Sadie was on the porch with me after our walk. She was sure the fountain was her new watering hole. She wasn’t quite tall enough to get water from the lowest pool, so she helped herself from the drip bowl.

If anyone has another idea to fix the fountain, please let me know. Sadie can get her water elsewhere.

FAT!

I was happy when the cancer test came back negative a few days ago. I had cancer seven years ago – diagnosed on June 1 and removed on July 1. You don’t take life for granted after that. Although there are no guarantees, I expected to feel free longer than a few days. John put his hand on my back this morning, paused, and asked, “What is this?”

There was a lump on my shoulder blade. Although I couldn’t reach it, I could see it in the mirror. He went on to his doctor’s appointment in Asheville, and I walked to the stop sign. It was a sobering walk, with lots of things going through my head. It’s best to pray before panic sets in. By the time I got home, I had seen two paths ahead. It would not be my choice which to take, but I could choose to ask God to lead the way. John had suggested I call the doctor’s office, and I got an appointment for early afternoon. He was home in plenty of time to drive me. As I sat in the waiting room, a message came on the phone that a young family member has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Doctors will be considering the next step. What a blow! Lots more prayer is needed.

Amid all this serious stuff, get ready for amusement. The doctor’s assistant asked many questions, typing things into a computer. After she left, Dr. Ramsey came in and glanced at the computer. She examined the lump briefly and said in a pleasant voice, “It’s fat. Nothing to be concerned about.”

My brain went into overdrive, processing an hour’s worth of material in a few seconds. Fat has been the bane of my existence all my life. How can a serious lump be FAT??? It can’t have been there long, because the dermatologist would have noticed it a few months ago. FAT??? I’ve been worried about FAT lumping around my back? How useless! That inch I lost around my waist – are you telling me it was FAT creeping up my back, unnoticed and unhated? FAT deposits, you say? No! I make a deposit at the bank, and that is good. I made a fat deposit here, and I want an immediate withdrawal.

Having good manners, I let her talk. She explained that fat accumulates under the skin and is not dangerous. If it becomes painful or bothers me, all I need to do is call her, and she’ll set up an appointment with a general surgeon. She measured it and was most reassuring. I thanked her profusely for seeing me quickly and putting my mind at ease.

I went out to the car and immediately told John the news is good. It isn’t cancer. It is FAT!! Of course, I didn’t stop there. I want a transplant! You remember years ago a doctor told me I’d lost the fat pads in my feet? Well, I want that lump on my back to be transplanted to my left foot. What good is it on my back? Let’s put it somewhere useful. FAT!! OK. Shall we go home and have lunch?

For those who pray, please thank God with me that my cancer has not returned. Also, please pray for healing for our young family member and for guidance for her doctors. I appreciate it. God bless you.

Neighbors on Labor Day

Our marvelous neighbors can pull a party together in 18 hours. John and I texted six households, and four were available to celebrate Labor Day. The photos show the crowd from each end of our porch.

Since my posts have become my memory, I’ll list the people. Deb, Joyce, Jeff, John, Logan, Mark, Bob, Dawn, Shawn. Deb and Mark are college friends of Shawn and Bob, visiting for the day. Mark was too far away for me to hear him, but I enjoyed hearing about Deb’s background. Her dad was in the service, and she lived in 18 different places before she was 18 years old. All the states were on the east coast. The state she enjoyed the most was South Carolina.

When Joyce asked what she should bring, I said our impromptu gatherings should be run like a come-as-you-are party. Instead of coming to a party dressed as you are at that moment, you should bring food that is already in your house. She immediately said she would break that rule, because she has very little that is extra. She keeps mostly foods that she eats on a regular basis. I might envy that. We could feed a small army for a day or so by pulling things from the freezer and the pantry.

For the foodies: Our table had hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, condiments, salsa dip, chips, baked beans, potato salad, warm blueberry muffins, cantaloupe, and TWO pans of warm Brownies. I told Joyce that Brownies were always welcome. It turned out that two kinds of Brownies were doubly welcome. The ones that Joyce and Shawn prepared were different, so of course everyone had to eat both. Indulgence at its best! A year or so ago our pot luck non-planning resulted in a different set of Brownie doubles, ones made by Holly and me. It’s safe to say that Brownies are very popular in the US.

Did you celebrate Labor Day?

England 40 Years Ago — September 6, 1981

After a whole year of living here, I made another discovery. To = of and past = after! We sent word to the neighbors that their girls should be ready to go with us at a quarter of nine the day we went to Blenheim Palace. Jennifer told me later they did a bit of head scratching and decided we meant before the hour rather than after. They would have said a quarter TO nine or a quarter PAST nine. They never say three thirty, either; it’s always half past three. (Be sure to put “Aah” in half and past.)

Blenheim Palace
Library
Fountain garden

Monday was a Bank Holiday. We stayed at home, though John was on the phone quite a bit since Europe and the US were open for business. John $ and I walked to Old Tadworth where I found the fishmonger and poulterer. I must return to sample their wares.

The highlight of that day was the horse race in the garden – Kate on John and $ on Lisa. Philippa was here all day, and we briefly met Catherine’s friend Brigitta who has a Canadian accent but is Danish.

Tuesday I intended to run errands in the afternoon, but Mr. Hughes (owner of our first house Tymberly) called to say he was coming by with a package. He and Mrs. Hughes were so nice – said they felt we’d taken good care of the house and that they were able to move right in. They are going to put the house on the market because their four children are grown and they don’t need the space. The package was a pair of Kate’s jeans we’d left in Oslo.

We met Paula (a check out girl) at Co op, did our shopping and went on to Woolworth’s in Redhill and Reigate. After lunch we took her to Polesden Lacey for the afternoon. Lisa and Kate have been there several times, but there was a new dimension that day. Each child was given a clip board of questions if they wanted to participate in the quiz. There were several things to look for in each room such as two golden fish in the drawing room and who gave a cabinet in the library. What a marvelous idea! It kept children interested and quiet for ages! I know other parents appreciated it as much as I did. Lisa and Kate did very well; think they only missed two things – the number of soldier jars and the pink lobster in the hall.

In that mansion, one elderly crippled lady was slowly making her way around the house. She smilingly studied $ for a few minutes and said, “I wish someone would hold me up in a harness!” I felt like telling her I was sure she wouldn’t be as much trouble as one small boy.

I had thought Paula might mention future plans, but she didn’t. She has finished working in Co op and expects her baby to be born in November or December. We are really going to miss her when we go shopping.

The girls kept $ in the car for the 15 minutes it took for my hair to be trimmed. Then we picked up Caroline and her French guest, Muriel, to spend the day with us. Several hours were spent watching the Royal Wedding on tape. They also played tag outside and got out all the Fischer Price toys to play with in the entrance hall.

Thank heavens for understanding neighbors! They accept the love behind funny gifts. I made Phillipa a birthday cake – chocolate cake with fudge frosting. I almost misspelled her name with her sister standing at my elbow advising two “L’s”. After the cake was delivered, I heard Catherine in our hall saying in a concerned whisper, “Don’t tell her, Lisa.” Lisa replied, “Aw, she’ll just laugh.” Louder, “Guess what, Ma! You left the ‘A’ out of birthday!” Who could help laughing? We talked about”birth-ay” the rest of the day. What was just as bad was that the frosting appeared to have set, but the weight of the piped border pulled half the decorations half way down the side of the cake.

We were invited to tea next door to celebrate the birth-ay and have some of the cake. As Phil cut her slice of cake, she screamed. I had visions of maggots in the middle, but it turned out to be a custom here to make a wish and scream as you cut. Phew!

Yesterday Lisa elected to enjoy a day by herself while the rest of us went to the Cotswolds for the day. She had lunch next door and was with Catherine much of the time.

We were slightly north west of Oxford seeing the mellow yellow stone buildings of this area. All the towns seem squeezed together surrounded by mile upon mile of lush farm land.

Modern house in the Cotswolds

We walked around Bourton-on-the-Water where the River Windrush ripples through the center of town. Behind an inn is a model of the village in 10/1 scale built of concrete and slate. The buildings are about 2 to 3 feet high, and you walk around the streets. The model is complete, even with running water for the river. We were surprised to find the model inn had a model behind it – about 3 feet x 3 feet. Even it had running water for the Windrush! In that model was the tiniest model of the village, just as cute as could be.

Near Chastleton we went through a dusty, ill-kept manor house that made us appreciate the sparkle and shine of all National Trust houses. If it were dusted and polished, it would be impressive. I was intrigued with the 425 year old book of Roman History bound in wood with pages NOT yellowed because of the linen content. Also there was the carved Bible box the Archbishop of Canterbury, who happened to come from the area of Chastleton, had presented to King Charles I at the scaffold where he was executed.

The guide pointed out some hideous antlers and said it had to be explained. It seems that one of the early owners of the manor house had been to Denmark to a castle there and had been impressed with antlers. He took the measurements and had a set carved for himself in England out of wood. Then the fake horns were mounted on a funny looking animal head and mounted on the wall. At some later date someone painted a brown body on the wall that did nothing to enhance the original antlers. I think this house seemed to have belonged to more real people than those in which odd things were weeded out by people of good taste and breeding.

Catherine spent the night with us last night so she could go to church with us this morning. She, Lisa, Kate and I went around the corner to St. Peter’s. John will go this evening.

Do you want to know what a “gang kit” is? It is not a packaged version of West Side Story. It is $’s pronunciation of “blanket”, still a very important part of his day and night.

This afternoon Phillipa and Kate went to the parish children’s party down the lane. They started off with pony rides, a tug of war, jumping mats, and such and went on to a barbeque in the rectory garden, ending with a service in church. The weather couldn’t have been better – sunny, but not hot.

Speaking of weather, I don’t think it has rained during the day at all since we returned from our holiday. It may have rained or sprinkled once or twice during the night. This is so different from the cold, wet time we had for the first several months after we arrived here last summer.

Our tomato plants are doing fine, showing small green tomatoes in profusion. I don’t know when they might decide to turn red, but when they do, we will be inundated. I’ve already planted indoor ones for the winter. We’ll have to wait to see if my black thumb is turning green or just molding.

The Kiss

When they were reunited, they had eyes only for each other. The world didn’t exist inside their bubble. Can you hear him tell her he loves her? She could do nothing but dance for joy.

John $ and Sadie

Son John $pencer said he felt he had been away for a month because of all he and Rose packed into their week in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. Sadie, if she could register time, would insist it felt like TWO MONTHS. She moped while he was away, not eating and not going for walks with us. It was marvelous to see her world tilt the right way again.

$ bent down to pet Sadie, then he knelt to get closer. She examined his bag, not looking for drugs like an airport dog, but searching for the faintest scent of her beloved Rose.

Many thanks to husband John and Rose for aiding in this production. A few days before, Rose sent me the souvenirs I wanted from their trip, photos. John backed the car into the drive so that $ and Sadie would be visible as I filmed from the porch.

John and Rose

England 40 Years Ago — August 30, 1981

When Derek B, the rector, heard from Kate that we had been to Norway, he said he loves brown cheese. His deadpan humor is hilarious: “All English cheese tastes like soap. There is one good one, but I forget its name.” Turning to his wife, “Pat, what is the name of that good cheese that has maggots in the middle? Ah, yes, Stilton.”

Lisa was complimenting Kate on her thoughtfulness to a guest and said, “You’re getting quite hospitalic.”

This is a photo not related to anything I wrote. Caption says $ loves hats. It is Kate’s uniform hat. Aim was no good.

I have searched England for a dolls’ baby bottle that will hold water. Doesn’t seem to exist. Phillipa has loaned me her Tiny Tears for working with John $ and potty training, but no bottle. [The idea is to let the toddler feed the doll and see it wet its pants afterwards.] We’ve tried $ on the pot for two days, but he simply doesn’t get the idea. Even when we stuff him with salty snacks and lots of drinks, he only wets about four times a day. Bet that would make some women jealous!

We’ve spent several afternoons working jigsaw puzzles. Princess Diana in all her white finery billowing about her is something else again. [I wish I had that puzzle now. I don’t know what happened to it.]

We spent a delightful afternoon with the neighbors who lived across from the last house we had. Friends of the family were there – Kirsten who is Lisa’s age, Bryony who is 11 and goes to Micklefield, and their mum, Lorna. First everyone but $ and I went swimming at Dunotter, the school on our former street. $ loved watching on the sidelines, but the extreme heat got to us, and we went out in the sunshine to cool off. Caroline has a French girl as a guest; her family wanted to improve her English so sent her over for two weeks. The poor girl was really thrown in the deep end, if you ask me. She looks tired – and with reason. It’s a real struggle to try to follow a strange language. Both Muriel and Caroline want to see our recording of the Royal Wedding this week.

The girls have been good about running errands in the village. My voice has been out of commission for almost a week; I’ve diagnosed my trouble as either emphysema or pneumonia. I’ve been tickled at the various reactions of the people who call on the phone. I scared the telex room man who called to report to John; he must have thought with such a wild voice, I must be totally out of control. It was obvious he thought he’d gotten hold of a nut and couldn’t wait to hang up. Others are sure they’ve gotten the wrong number or that I’m at death’s door. The neighbor girls like to make me talk to see what will happen next; our girls are used to it by now.

Another stray shot of Kate, Phillipa, and $

Friday night Sarah M, the assistant of John’s boss, came home with John for dinner and spending the night. All were up early Saturday to set off for Dunkerque (Dunkirk), leaving John $ and me to play together in near solitude. We had a good time. I fed him lunch and then went next door for a sandwich with the neighbors. That was a nice interlude.

The others came home much later than they had intended. They boarded the dirty coal ship and were fed a five-course lunch that lasted over two hours – everything superbly cooked. The tour of the ship took longer than they expected, so they were late leaving. A slow ferry and unhurried dock workers delayed them further. They got home at midnight.

The girls enjoyed their day in France, though they didn’t see anything they hadn’t seen before. Most enjoyable was being with Sten’s children whom they’ve seen on several work-related occasions before. Sarah was taken back to her home by the other family.

Today John went to morning service with the girls, and we’ve enjoyed the summer weather in the afternoon. We cooked, ate dinner outside, and even had tea outside. Pleasant.

Below are two photos of the lovely little town we lived in, Walton-on-the-Hill:

The travelers had to clean the car inside and out. It was filthy with fine coal dust.

Son of the Congregation

At the end of the Sunday morning service, there was a blessing for Adam and his wife Emily. They moved to Indiana the next day for Adam to begin seminary. That, in itself, was special, but there was more to it. Adam grew up in our church, and his dad was the pastor back then. Pastor N moved away to serve other churches, but Adam stayed. After college he worked in the area and was very active in the church. He did many things, but I saw him running the sound board for our service and playing his marimba with all the hymns. His dad was invited to do the blessing. What a moving address it was! As the young couple stood before the congregation, Pastor N. recounted high points of Adam’s life and how God led him toward seminary. He said it was good Adam waited until he was sure that was what God was calling him for. Pastor N. was also 33 years old when he went to seminary.

People were invited to greet them at the front of the church. I took a bathroom break, and when I came back, only a few were there. Shirley, a grandmother who had been especially close to Adam, walked up. She was like a magnet. In a few seconds, everyone moved into a circle, drawn by an invisible force. They prayed softly, so low that I couldn’t hear them. It seemed like an impromptu laying on of hands in the Biblical sense. Since it was moving for me, I can only imagine what it was like for Adam, Emily, and Pastor N.

The amusing part was going on concurrently. Shirley’s grandchildren took full advantage of no supervision and were testing the acoustics loudly. My lovely friend Susan, a former teacher, rescued the situation. She didn’t shush the children, but sat down and quietly chatted with them. I thought that summed up Christian living. Some are called away from the world to pray, and others deal with practical problems in the world. Both are necessary. Both are blessings to others.

God bless you, Emily and Adam.