England 40 Years Ago — November 30, 1980

When John $pencer plays with a ball, it reminds me of a baseball player, only $ does his sliding while he’s chasing the ball.

I knew it! I knew someday when we played musical beds no one would be in the right place in the morning, and it finally happened! There had been a scary show on TV that we watched about natural phenomena. First Kate came, then Lisa. The girls were in our bed together, and we in theirs separately. At 5:30 John $ woke up – it was terribly cold, so I think he’d been running around his crib to keep warm and ran into something. At any rate, at the getting up time, he and I were out of bed. Several nights this week the girls have elected to sleep in the same bed, partly for company and partly to keep warm.

$ got his measles vaccine and didn’t bat an eyelash while getting it. We’d made the appointment ahead of time, were ushered into a hallway to wait, and taken almost immediately by the nursing sister (not a religious term) who gives all the immunizations. Didn’t cost a cent, directly, that is. I’m sure we’re paying through the nose for such as this in taxes.

Our fish pond was poisoned. We can’t prove it, but we think one of the men working on the trees washed a can of petrol or oil in the water because it had a film on it. Clewes was the one who discovered it, because one of the fish was floating on the top of the water, and the others gasping for air at the surface. Lisa and Kate rescued two, but one is not doing well at all. John bought them a rectangular fish bowl made of plastic, a green bridge and two plastic plants. Looks nice. At first the girls were upset for the fish. Then Lisa said, “Think how Mr. Clewes must feel because he put so much work into the cleaning of the pond. We’ll clean it out ourselves next spring.”

We got something on Thanksgiving Day that you didn’t – regular mail delivery! Of course, it wasn’t a holiday here. However, we got the Thanksgiving card from Stony Brook on Thursday. I was thinking of all of you in the states as we were getting ready for our feast. We ate in the evening, so we were probably stuffing ourselves about the same time as you were.

Shortly after the girls and I came home from school, John arrived with Chris from New York, John from North Carolina and Phil from Kansas, all people who work with him in London. Chris had brought paper plates and napkins with big turkeys on them, two Hallmark cookie cutters, decorative posters which the girls had taken to school with them and brought home in time to stick up before they arrived, canned pumpkin and sweet potatoes. All this John had brought home days before, but Thursday she brought gifts for the girls – chocolate turkeys!

We began eating shortly after 5. They ate so much that they asked if dessert could be delayed. We all got sleepy, but Lisa and Kate kept us awake. The guests got up from the table after having pie and went right to the station to get the 10 p.m. train. We all had such a good time.

During the night of Thanksgiving there was a terrific storm with rain blowing ice at the windows to make a big racket. I woke and knew someone would be with us soon. Yes, Kate came first. As she was getting her pillow, Lisa invited her into her bed.

$ has found he can open the door where the tennis rackets are kept. There are holes drilled at the bottom of the door, probably for ventilation, and he can open the door by pulling it with one finger. He had a merry time among the sports equipment and spider webs until I found him. Put up the gate inside the door to keep him out. That was fine until the weekend when we wanted to hear the Christmas records playing in the study and had to use the gate at that door.

Have we ever had snow!!! It is supposed to be fairly rare here, but we had it anyway. Friday afternoon I looked out the window and saw the Downs looked white. The thought went through my mind that it could be snow, and sure enough, in a few minutes it was snowing mightily until the trees in the next street were blotted out. I ran to pick up as many apples from the two far trees as I could. I even called a mother of a girl from school to see if they ever dismiss school early. She just laughed. She said when it snows during the day, it’s always gone by tea time. It stuck more up here on the hill than elsewhere, but the mother said they never close school early for anything! I was concerned about getting out of the driveway. Should have gone out there earlier, but I thought I could make it. Backed up repeatedly, only to slip and slide half way up. Finally got a broom – don’t think there is a snow shovel in Reigate – and brushed off as much as possible. We made it! Other sections of the town didn’t have much sticking, but ours lasted several days. Had more during the night, too. It was fun having Merrin in the car on the way home, because they hardly ever see snow where she lives in Australia. She said they had none to speak of last year here, so this was the most she’d ever seen.

In the interests of Harold’s head, John relocated the angel mobile. John’s cousin Harold is coming for Christmas, and he is tall. I’d always wanted the mobile in a stairwell, and that is where it is now. Those angels really fly around and around. After a birthday party yesterday, John tied Kate’s huge balloon on the mobile, and that makes it go even faster.

We walked to church, walked home and left the push chair in the hall. Later I heard $ being too quiet; found him standing in that stroller helping himself to papers on the table. While I’ve been writing this in the dining room, $ opened the cabinet with the china and put a salad plate on the floor — gently, thank heavens! Just now he opened the door with the glasses for the first time and had his hand on the handle of a ship mug when I shouted at him. I’m glad he let go before withdrawing his hand.

Lisa and I had a long walk this afternoon with $. Found the public bowling green hidden away by a footpath! Love this town!

Both photos in this letter were shown before, but they really seem to belong here.

Reading the Slippers

Daughter Lise said she was not using the step stool to get up on the high bed, but she would spring and roll to go to bed. Just after we got up, I was in her room and saw the evidence. By reading the slippers for placement and direction, I knew which side of the bed she was using and that she went head first. The evidence was right there on the floor.

A little later she walked to the creek with us, and her now-sneakered feet stopped for her to pet CAT. It was foggy, making CAT’s house look a bit spooky.

Grandson David, son John $, and Lise played disc golf at the rec center. She had David take her photo to mark the occasion. Last week David thrashed about in a brier patch to retrieve a disc, and another day he swam in the creek (brr!) to pull out a disc that was hung on a rock under water. This day $ lost a disc that was quite visible – on the roof. I’m sure they didn’t want their games to be that exciting.

COVID Thanksgiving

Almost everyone’s Thanksgiving celebration was different in this viral year. We went to church via a recorded service, since there were no services in the building. There were no neighbors for dinner and only one special guest. Laurel, a friend from the church choir, was going to spend the day with her cat, but she agreed to spend the afternoon with us. What a delight she was! She brought liveliness and a party spirit to our table.

John $, Laurel, John, Lise, and David

For the foodies: We had the basics for Thanksgiving dinner – turkey, gravy, dressing, homemade cranberry sauce, cranberry frozen salad, butternut squash, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry-mince pie, and Aldi’s cheesecake slices. I was lazy and did not bake the usual pumpkin cheesecake.

I hope everyone had some special happening for this strange Thanksgiving Day.

England 40 Years Ago — November 23, 1980

Lisa says of her brother, “He’s a clever little freak.”

The uninitiated would wonder why the toilet brushes are on the backs of the toilets, the bathroom waste basket is on the hamper, and the bed crowned with a clock, hand lotion and a tissue box. Things on tables recede inch by inch, as if the tide is going higher week by week. I’m afraid the passerby will soon think the refrain here is, “NO!”

Guess who John saw this week – no less a person than the Queen of England! The King of Nepal had arrived at Victoria Station, was met, and processed by open coach to Buckingham Palace. John was waiting for his lunch appointment to arrive at the restaurant and could look out the second floor window with the clearest view. I saw it all later on TV, but seeing it in person was marvelous he said. Also saw Prince Philip and Prince Charles.

Bet you think you know how to pronounce the names “Launders” and “Saunders.” In America, yes, but here the “d” is pronounced as a soft “g”. Comes out “Laungers” and “Saungers.” Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?

This week our car had her 5,000 mile check-up. I had a little blue Renault to drive. Wouldn’t start very well, but once you got your foot on the gas pedal, away she went! The electric locks were the most fun. Instead of a button there were plastic jiggers in which a red stick would pop up when the lock was engaged. I unlocked the car to put John $ in and discovered undoing one undid them all!

We’re getting ready for Thanksgiving. This past week I de-cobwebbed the house with the special wire brush on the end of a bamboo pole. I try to think of this as just removing cobwebs and not dwell on the fact that they were once INHABITED!!

I almost witnessed an accident. When I got on the scene a little red VW was overturned, and I could hear the screams from quite a distance away. In reconstructing the event, I think $ stood on the toy car, reached in the toy box, and tumbled in. When I got to his room, all I could see under the partially open box was a pair of streaming eyes and one little hand trying desperately to push up the top which was resting on his head. The shock of it wore him out – sang him two songs, and he fell asleep!

The old dead tree at the front of the property was removed this past week. The tree surgeons also “stopped” the row of trees between the back garden and the tennis court. They trimmed 5 or 6 feet off the tops and squared off the bottoms. Certainly looks different. I comfort myself that most of it will have grown back by the time the owners come back. Looks scalped.

I finally got everything together that we needed to begin getting a doctor. Didn’t take much, but I kept forgetting to do it. Here you have to ask a doctor if he will accept you on his register. I made the first call and got a very friendly and informative lady who told me just what to do. She explained that Dr. Ingram, who I think lives on this street, would accept us. It helped to give our address and the assurance that we wouldn’t be here more than 18 months more. She told me to hang up and call for an appointment. Did this, and the appointment lady asked if I was the one who was just talking to someone else in the office. They work not more than three feet apart, but have no switching equipment for the phone, so you have to hang up and dial another number.

Took $ to see about his immunizations. Dr. Ingram was interested in seeing what is being done in the States, but explained that they don’t do rubella for boys at all and they don’t do mumps. He didn’t think he could even get the serum for that. He did agree to do measles, polio and DPT. He wrote down the measles vaccine and told me to come back this week because they do shots only one day a week. There was nothing like a routine examination – no weighing, no looking at ears, etc. I was just asked if there were any questions or anything he should see.

I had 45 minutes to kill after dropping off the girls for school and the time for the doctor. The two things were only one street apart, so I couldn’t see battling rush hour traffic for that. $ and I took a nice walk and discovered a whole block of offices and workrooms for the blind. The shop wasn’t open, but there were some nice looking things inside.

Have I mentioned that there is a super drying rack hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen? Now that the heat is on from time to time, it is an excellent place to dry things. All the clothes get hung on hangers before dangling from the rack, and we have to eat without getting the coat tails of things in our food. (Usually things are removed before breakfast, and we eat in the dining room at night. It is mostly me dining among the clothes.) The other day Kate and I were eating, and she’d moved her stool under a particularly long nightgown. We hadn’t been there long before she was playing with the hem of it and finally tied it in a knot under her chin!

Yesterday Lisa went to Natasha’s birthday party which lasted from 1:45 until 7!! They assembled, went to the school which her brother attends for three short plays put on by the boys, and came back for a meal of hamburgers, chips (French fries) and cake. Today she went to Andrea’s party. Philippa’s parents were going somewhere and asked us to take her, and they’d pick the girls up. Merrin also needed a ride. So, we had Philippa go to church with us, picked up Merrin, and drove a fair distance to get to the party. It was nice to put the car away and have Lisa delivered back home.

Kate was angry, came storming up the stairs and said, “I’m going to give up my temper!”

Family Fun in the Mountains

On her first full day here, daughter Lise asked the mountain to pose with her. It was pleased to comply.

Evidently, I am shadowing Lise.

We also took the ritual photo of us at the creek, although I cheated the creek of its rightful space.

Anne, Lise, and John

In Walmart, I noticed sweatshirts with masks pinned to them, and Lise found one she liked.

We had a lovely meal at Boccelli’s. It was open for take-out only for the longest time. What pleasure it was to eat hot food inside!

Grandson David measures boxes by whether he can fit in them. This one was a bit too tight.

As you can imagine, we are having a wonderful time together as the days fly by.

I Dusted the Tub

How do you define a mother’s love? Among other things, I always cooked for my children to show my love for them. This time I went far beyond that for daughter Lise. I performed a household chore that I despise – dusting. She is the only one who has ever taken a bath more than once in our tub. That’s why I dusted it before she arrived. Using water to clean it would have been a disaster.

While we were driving to the airport, neighbor Shawn’s grandson Pico explored our porch. He loved the trains and took the yellow boxcar back to her house. She texted me that he had done it, but I couldn’t see the photograph she attached until we got home. Isn’t he cute?

Pico and the boxcar

Lise loves pumpkin pie, and I always make one for her when she visits in November. This year four of us ate half of it at one sitting. If she doesn’t get enough to satisfy her, I’ll make another one. At the time she ate her slice, she had been awake and traveling for 24 hours. I think she looks pretty good to be as tired as she must have been.

Lise’s pumpkin pie

England 40 Years Ago — November 16, 1980

A week ago on Sunday was Remembrance Day here, and we found it so meaningful. Lisa and I were impressed with the trumpet in church, and when we saw a replay of the morning’s activities when the Queen and lots of others laid poppy wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldier, we heard the same melody by a corp of trumpets. Seems to me that in the US it is just an excuse for another holiday, but here they really set out to make people remember what they went through during wars.

I must report that cold weather has helped the washing machine. It must like a cool climate. Now it is willing to release the clothes as soon as they are through being washing or dried. This saves countless trips and hours of time because I so often did the initial jiggle of its door latch and then forgot to go back five minutes later.

John $ helped with the shopping this week – after I’d packed the items in my basket, he calmly reached out and helped himself to half a dozen eggs. Dropped them all into the shopping trolley. I rescued two whole ones and the four broken ones. Made somewhat of a mess on the floor, but not as bad as the time I dropped some. I was able to use what was left in the shells for Kate’s birthday cake. The cake was one of the lightest I’d ever made, so maybe shaking up the eggs was a good idea.

There is no photo of the lightest cake I ever made.

$ has turned several things into walkers – a kitchen chair, tall stool and large plastic carton in which some soda was delivered by the milkman. He also has taken a step or so – the first I noticed was this past week when he had been holding to my knee while I was sitting and turned, took a step, and lurched toward the counter. Couldn’t really class that as walking, though.

Kate quoted, or misquoted, from a message sent to her, “Tell you mother we NEARLY enjoy her letters.”

Do any of you still have the November Reader’s Digest around? Look on page 40. John was reading, noticed the ad and thought he was reading a local publication. He suddenly realized this was a picture taken in Reigate for an American magazine! Mr. Clewes, the gardener, was able to tell me where the shop is – just a few blocks from our house! I looked up the telephone number, and sure enough, the one in the ad is the real number! Later that day the girls and I drove past it to look at it. Small world!

We duly celebrated birthdays this week. John made a point of getting home much earlier than he has been. We ate together, had a treasure hunt, opened gifts and took pictures. Lisa was very grateful for everything she received. I think she thought her special day would be the bleakest ever with no family or friends around to help celebrate. She said it wasn’t nearly as bad as she’d thought. So, thanks for all your cards, gifts, phone calls, thoughts, and prayers.

Nothing is sacred around here. $ loves to check the loos to see if anyone has left the toilet seat open for him to play in the water. This week he found something better – toilet paper dangling within reach! He’d unrolled enough to go from the bathroom upstairs to the one downstairs! I penned him up long enough to slowly rewind every last sheet! Bet in another month or so I’d make a good spy – able to size up a situation ahead of time in just a few seconds. Wonder if spies are ever trained that way?

John was talking to a tree surgeon here to assess what work needs to be done when the man volunteered information about the Mehrling name. He said he had been doing some genealogical research and came across the name repeatedly. It is a common name in some little town in Austria where many of the Mehrlings carve religious figures from wood! That would really be fun to find, wouldn’t it?

John couldn’t believe it when the phone rang and his sister Barbara was on the other end. The girls were so excited at hearing cousins Tonja and Anders.

John $ is still fighting a cold, so I stayed home with him while he napped. The girls and John walked to church and heard a good enough sermon to come home quoting a lot of it to me. I used the quiet time to start my own study – read lots of Peter. Just scanned the gospels and the first part of Acts to see what was mentioned about him by name. Interesting.

This afternoon Kate went for a long walk with me and John $. I’m just beginning to notice footpaths running all through Reigate, but you can’t explore them by car! She and I went on the path that begins across from St. Mary’s. It was a lovely walk with hedges and green meadows on one side and wooden fences with gates to enter people’s gardens on the other. It ends up almost at the beginning of the High Street in town. We came back another way using the walk I’ve been wanting to see because it is behind the wall that is so close to the street on the road we use bringing the girls home from school. I saw at least three other paths I’d like to explore another time.

Merrin, the girl from Australia, called Lisa this afternoon because she’d forgotten to bring a certain book home from school. She walked up, played games with Lisa and walked home. I forgot to ask if she remembered to take the book. Must have.

John, meanwhile, was studying Sunday School lessons. He does a lesson with each girl Sunday afternoons, if possible. We had thought of going to Canterbury today, but the weather didn’t look good, $ wasn’t well, and John had a scratchy throat. Lisa discovered that Caroline across the street has flu, so we may be in for a long winter.

John was asking at the office what were their customs at Christmas. He says they don’t do any celebrations on Christmas Eve. They mentioned liking the idea of having special things both Eve and Day and thinking it was American. They said the very religious go to midnight church services as well as the service on Christmas Day. I must ask some of our local church friends what the customs are here.

I’ll tell a story John told me because I don’t know that he would take time to tell it. He and several others from the office were entering an elevator, sorry, lift, talking about British Rail. They were saying that delays are blamed on funny things like wet leaves, etc. A man already in the lift asked in an obvious American accent, “Are you talking about the Long Island Railroad?” I think John must have nearly keeled over. [He commuted on the Long Island for 30 years, and delays were really blamed on wet leaves.]

Anne Flips her Lid

It was my fault the sun was so high in the sky. I lay in bed reading comments and blog posts that had come in during the night instead of getting up when the alarm rang. The sun was welcome to warm our backs at the creek. When we turned to walk home, it was piercingly bright in our eyes. John shaded his face with a hand, while I just squinted. On the way up the steep hill, my hat had a suggestion. It said, “Pull the brim down, silly.”

I’ll bet the hat got its wisdom from friend Karen, who knitted it for me several years ago. I flipped the edge and felt instant relief from the unrelenting sun. Anything that dramatic should be recorded.

Would you agree the camera did an excellent job with this one-shot selfie? It must have been on auto-pilot, because unlike a cell phone, it has only one lens. Good going, Cammie!

Logan’s Chocolate Punishment

The way I’ve written about neighbor Logan, you’d think he walked on water and never did anything wrong. He is a normal ten-year-old, and he succumbed to chocolate temptation. This is how I knew about it. A couple of hours after Shawn said they would come for lunch to celebrate her birthday, she asked if I would please not serve dessert. That put me on the spot, because I had just finished cooking a dark chocolate pudding. Almost in a panic, I texted her, explaining that the dessert was already made. The choice was hers – we would not have any dessert at all, or we could have a dollop of pudding. She wrote back that a tiny serving would be fine. Logan had sneaked some of his Halloween candy after she told him he could have it the next day. I’ll bet this was a classic case where the punishment hurt the parent more than the child. We’d all roll with it.

Lunch was very pleasant, since Logan’s manners are quite good. He entered into the conversation and sat quietly while waiting for us to finish. I had my mind on making coffee before bringing out the dessert. Maybe that’s why I forgot to put the candle in Shawn’s pudding and didn’t take a single photo. After David came home from work, I put the candle in his dessert. It is pictured with an orange to show how small it was.

No one complained about the diminutive dessert, though we joked about it. I suggested we set a timer to see if we could make it last five minutes. The challenge was accepted. We did it! All four of us still had a bit in our glasses when the timer rang.

The next day I laid out the glass beside a normal teaspoon and the demitasse spoon we used to eat the pudding.

The spoon was too big for the glass. We used the spoon right way up until it wouldn’t fit, then we turned it upside down and used the handle to finish.

And the rest of the story? John, David, and I had normal portions of pudding before going to bed. I was surprised to realize the tiny one was far tastier, probably because we concentrated on making it last.