England 40 years ago — August 3, 1980

August 3, 1980

The question was asked in a letter if we saw the moon. Funny, but so many things are different that it took me by surprise to think we see the moon the same!

We’ve been to Anglican churches until today when we drove into Kent to go to a Lutheran one. It is very small and terribly modern, but they used the liturgical setting we are used to. Nice to have something familiar for a change. The pastor is from Wisconsin and his wife from Canada; been here 25 years.

Someone suggested fired (sic) chicken as American, and I’ve done that – cooked it on a grill here. Fried chicken is beyond me – always greasy and undercooked inside. I’m more busy with housework here: bigger house, no baby food, girls who sleep through first serving of breakfast, etc. We also entertain the gardener twice a week for lunch, run to French lessons, and try to play tennis once or twice a week.

We’ve had a nice week. Went to the library and post office Tuesday. I’ve squeezed in the reading of two books – one about the upper classes and one about Windsor Castle. That afternoon Carol H appeared on our doorstep to introduce herself and her 8-year-old daughter, Mary Anne. Invited the girls to go swimming at the school up the street, but only Kate went. She was asked to stay to tea afterwards, so we picked her up after getting John from the station. She’d had a marvelous time.

Carol was a stewardess for Pan Am 15 years ago and was based in San Francisco. She’s rather glamorous, very slim and wears eye make-up when wearing shorts. Wow!

Wednesday Lisa stayed in her nightgown all day watching TV and reading. That’s probably the last time for that to happen since they are getting to know the children in the street. There is too much going on to be that lazy!

Kate went with me to the hair dresser’s for a hair cut. The lady did a nice job for £1.20. I was amazed at the low price after reading how expensive salons here are supposed to be. I must call the neighbor who suggested this place to tell her how pleased I was. The shop felt about 10 by 10 and was further shrunk by having three customers and three beauticians in it plus Kate and $! I thought she could stroll him about outside, but she wanted in on the action. Didn’t stop talking the whole time I was in there. Maybe that’s why the lady cut hair so fast. I bet next time she’ll stuff hair in Kate’s mouth! Well, she didn’t talk all that much. I had a chance to learn that the owner comes from Germany and that one asks for FRINGE instead of BANGS.

Doubled my dry-power Thursday when I was shown a hook and line (sounds like fishing terminology) outside. Celebrated by doing four loads of wash and getting them all dry!!! I try to refrain from asking the girls to watch for rain because I remember hating being put on guard like that as a child. I felt I should go out to scan the sky and maybe shake an umbrella in its face when I really had no intention of interrupting my own fun for guard duty.

Ran hurriedly to town Thursday to buy swim caps for the girls because they are required at the local pool, and one can’t borrow a cap for two years. Kate again swam as a guest of neighbor Carol. That day Mary Anne and Alexander (10) came here to play after swimming. Both Lisa and Kate swam Friday, and they let us know it is 25p each. I’d much rather pay than be beholden to neighbors. We daringly invited them for tea that day. I say daringly because I don’t really know how to do teas. Bumbled through it in my usual clumsy style. We probably should have gone into the living room, but I don’t allow children to have food in there. Even the dining room would have been better, but $ was awake and wanting to share in the eating. So, we had tea in the kitchen. Only Carol and Mary Anne were here; Alex was playing with a friend. After tea Carol went home to get her racket, and she played tennis with the girls for an hour. She gave Lisa some good pointers. Mary Anne (8) plays as well as I do! I make no moves to play when anyone else is about – can hide behind $ as an excuse!

Yesterday John worked hard resorting things in boxes and got everything extra put in the attic. Mary Anne and Alex were here much of the afternoon playing the game “Life.” I can’t believe how well these four children play together. Amazing.

Late afternoon we went across the street to the home of Gillian and John for a sit and chat in their back garden. It was so pleasant, warm with a gentle breeze blowing, and they had brought out a large carpet for John $ to crawl on! Also had placed three toys on it for him. Such thoughtfulness! Their daughter, Katherine, was away camping, but Caroline (Lisa’s age) was there. They were shy with each other, despite having swum together before and played tennis, so that they didn’t begin to enjoy each other until time to leave. Neighbor John is an identical twin, and Gillian says she can’t tell her husband from his twin on the phone! She says they both have the same peculiar way of walking, too! He is a barrister in London.

After church today went to Knole, one of the largest private houses in England. The outside was impressive, but we weren’t allowed to see much inside.

[Kate was smitten with the deer wandering around near the car park.]

Kate and Lisa with a deer at Knole House

Leftovers in the Neighborhood

Neighbors Shawn and Holly had a fun idea for a street party on Sunday. Early in the afternoon they suggested we bring leftovers to share, and the response was a resounding YES! We converged at the appointed time and began laying out our dishes on a long folding table on Shawn’s lawn. As soon as most of the food was there, a dark cloud moved overhead, accompanied by thunder and raindrops. You should have seen us scramble! I picked up a heavy glass pitcher and two trays that might have slid off, and the fellows lifted the table onto the porch.

Before even thinking of filling our plates, we admired the rainbow in our yards. I’m sure Holly was aiming at her house where half the bow was. I wanted to catch the other end in our yard. That’s when I realized that trees continued to grow after we moved here six years ago. Our ugly tan house was barely visible. It takes a little imagination to see the rainbow in the middle of the picture.

Rainbow in the center. Trucks are in almost every photo from the South.

We settled down to eat, and everyone looked at the camera at my request. What a cooperative bunch! Only Logan and I were missing. Left to right were Jeff, David, Bob, Joyce, Dawn, Holly, Shawn, and John. This is the whole cast of characters who often appear in my posts, residents of the five houses at this end of the short street.

When an adult left the area, Logan sat down to eat. This should have been a video, because Logan was swinging his leg as he ate and the cat wandered by. That was action eating. Logan was very helpful in fetching things, cleaning up, walking Joyce home in the dark, and carrying our chairs back to our porch. He’s always a bright star in the ‘hood.

Logan’s Exuberance

Neighbor Shawn had her hip replaced, and she was back home less than 24 hours after the surgery. I was stunned and thrilled that it was so very quick. Logan (10) stayed with us while Bob picked her up. We didn’t know exactly when things were happening, so we walked to the creek. That’s where we were when Bob called from Sorrell’s (service station on the highway). He brought Logan to us at the fire station, and the fun began. As we started up the steep hill, Logan ran ahead, skipping and twisting in the air. I asked for a repeat to share with everyone.

Logan began to jump the ditch, and the ditch petered out before Logan did.

He had a ball of glow-in-the-dark slime in his hand, and he repeatedly threw it high in the air and caught it. His luck ran out near the top of the steep hill, and the slime landed a short way down a ravine. He could see it and knew he could get it, but it was in a brier patch! Thorny wild rose bushes snagged his clothes and scratched his arms and legs. I tried to suggest ways for John to help him, but he retrieved the ball all by himself. I was impressed that when he lost the ball, he took responsibility for the accident, planned a way to get it back, and did it alone. What a boy! I will also add that this spot scares me. I walk in the middle of the road there, because the slant of the pavement and my trifocals make me feel like I could roll into the deep ravine and never be able to climb out. Logan is responsible, resourceful, and BRAVE!

After breakfast Logan launched himself on the exercise bike. I recorded it about the third time he did it, very impressed that he got on from the rear.

Logan’s energy never flagged. I think if I were his mother, I’d need two naps a day and three on Sunday.

I prefer to write about upbeat, happy things, but we all know life has somber moments. While Bob was getting Shawn from the hospital, they got the news that his brother died in Florida. He had battled cancer for some time, and today was the day he was called to his eternal home in heaven. For those of you who pray, would you please pray for peace and strength for this loving Christian family? Thank you.

England 40 Years Ago — July 28, 1980

We are about to go out to McDonald’s! John treated us to Wimpy burgers last night, and it cost over $10!! That hurts. [It’s a matter of perspective. In 2007 I’d be thrilled to feed fast food to five people for only $10, and in 2020 I’d faint at the low price.]

I wrote before about some of the things we were glad to see when our possessions arrived from the States. Only one set of things seemed to be missing for two days – the hooks that hold up the crib mattress! John carefully wired it up so that $ could sleep in it, since he’d been falling through the holes in the play pen netting. I gingerly set $ in the crib that night, and before I could turn around, half the wires gave way. He had been standing, and after it fell, $ was still standing. That baby has some cool composure! Never cried, just stood there on the floor looking puzzled.

I let down both sides of the crib, pushed the one high end next to the wall, and had an instant cage for him to sleep in. We just left the mattress on the floor. Two days later we found the hooks with Christmas decorations. Where else? Actually, the moving men had labeled it so that we should have seen it, but we missed it in all the hassle.

We’re getting used to the shopping here. After we park and struggle with the ticket system, we drag along two or three shopping bags to the stores. The supermarket is the one where the pressure runs highest to get your things bagged. The check-out girl removes the things from the hand-held basket we lug about the store, punches out the prices, and expects you to have everything neatly bagged when she asks for the money. As soon as you get your change, you are expected to quickly whisk off with your purchases. I can almost hear them swear under their breaths, “Americans!” when I bumble.

The greengrocer in Redhill is marvelous. The ladies there pick out produce for you and add up the total as they go – all math being done in their heads!

Could someone in NY please look in your cupboard and see if you have Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix please? That’s the Herb Stuffing Mix I want. Could you jot down the ingredients for me? I have a recipe I want to use that calls for that, but of course, you can’t get it here. I think I can make a reasonable substitute if I know what they use. Thanks.

Yesterday we went to church in Westerham and on to Chartwell, Churchill’s home. We really enjoyed that. [This was the first time we went sight-seeing after moving to Reigate. We learned that it was better to see only one attraction per day, if possible. We had cultural overload at the end of the day.]

Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home

We also went to Hever Castle. Entrance fees here means just that – they let you in, but give you no free info! We bought a book about Chartwell, but just bumbled through the castle. We’re not sure whose it was or who lives in it now. [Bumbling idiots! We are now very aware of the famous people who lived in Hever Castle. Let’s wait to see if I write about our enlightenment in a future letter.] I was impressed with all the armor, and John with the high polish on the ornately carved wood. The grounds were beautiful with fancy-cut hedges and flowers.

Hever Castle

An Honorable Retirement

The gardening gloves were about two years old and still enthusiastic about working. In fact, they resisted retirement. They were permanently curved, ready to pull weeds at a moment’s notice. They chose to be among plants for their retirement photograph. We would have made a much better team if I had been more than a reluctant gardener.

The gloves did have another life and a different persona. I put them on the handles of the loppers for two reasons. I could always find them quickly, and they would dry between uses. I left them as inanimate objects, but they visually jumped at niece Julie when we went on the porch to eat dinner. Somehow the gloves leered at her and took a threatening stance. I had not seen that side of them, but Julie described it realistically. I’m glad the gloves have left the house for good and will not know I wrote about them. To be threatened by the wicked wisteria AND menacing gloves would be too much.

The replacement pair were made by the same company, and so far, they have behaved beautifully. I will continue to store them on the handles, trusting they will not misbehave.

Have you ever owned threatening garden equipment?

Logan Walks with Us

John and I were walking about an hour later than usual, because we ate breakfast with grandson David before he went to work. As we neared the stop sign, we waved at a passing car that we hadn’t recognized. We heard running footsteps, and there was neighbor Logan (10)! He and his parents were returning home, so he joined us to go to the creek. His sharp eyes see lots of things we miss. Today he pointed out a heart-shaped puddle in the road and nicely agreed to pose with it.

At the creek, he took a different way down to the water. He stepped on a wet rock, but he didn’t get his feet wet.

We observed white morning glory vines, and we found buds on a different vine that I think will open with purple blooms. Going up the steep hill, Logan found at least two four-leaf clovers. Smokey was standing in his driveway and responded to Logan’s running toward him. After the dog got lots of loving, he came down to us for a tummy rub. Having Logan with us added another dimension to our walk.

Chicken in a Bible Study

Four neighbors gathered for a Bible study, sitting outside six feet apart, following COVID-19 restrictions. Nobody batted an eyelash as cat Jasmine wandered through. However, when chicken Ariel hopped in our midst, we all but cackled. It was fun to have one of God’s creatures join us briefly.

My toes are not visible. I was wearing sneakers.

I looked in a concordance to see if cats or chickens were mentioned in the Bible. They weren’t; only a rooster had one reference.

England 40 Years Ago — July 20, 1980

[If you saw the original letter] I’m sure you can tell at first glance that our possessions arrived from the US. I found the typewriter, but not the proper paper or magic eraser gop from Loraine [John’s secretary in New York]. I’ll be eager to see if more replies come now that you can read the weekly epistle. Meanwhile, thank you to the regular correspondents who have been so faithful.

Sanctuary of St. Mary’s, Reigate

John doesn’t have better hours at work, but we do see more of him because the commute has been halved [compared to travel time in NY]. The weather has been cool and rainy. We’ve had the heat on low most days since we arrived. I think it is two or three miles to the railroad station. John $ has adjusted beautifully. The girls have done well, being forced to play together. There is a girl across the street Lisa’s age, but she is still in school. Her holidays begin Thursday. The church is large and full! We had to sit in chairs in the aisle today.

History has been made! Never before has our household received a letter from each grandfather!! In the same week, that is. I appreciate all your efforts to help me with my spelling, or lack thereof, but it’s hopeless. Just laugh and go on reading.

So far the weekly letter is going via New York, and our ally there is the one who copies it and sends it on. Eight or nine cheers for Loraine!! That’s about how many copies there are. [I thought there were only two copies being made!]

Loraine with $ at our house three months before we moved to England

Mary H. came by Monday. Her husband had preached at church the day before, and we were introduced because they live on our street. She is so nice. She asked if I’d had trouble finding anything, and I said cocoa. She had it on her list, too, found some and bought me a tin of it, delivering it on Tuesday. At Mary’s prompting Vera P., a widow, and Gillian H. across the street (with the girl Lisa’s age) also knocked to introduce themselves.

Wednesday I picked up Anne-Marie N. and her three children to go to the train station, because she won’t drive here yet. We went to Victoria station, were met by our husbands and walked to the office for an official welcoming party. $ was marvelous. He loved his first train ride so much that he just sat on my lap, almost motionless. He loved the bits of rich tidbits we kept his mouth stuffed with. The girls were with the other children at a conjuring show (do you know what the translation for that is?) and were given T-shirts with the company flag on it saying, “I’m a Golar Girl.” They had ordered a tiny boy one for $, but he must grow a bit to fit it.

Thursday our things came from the States. John took the day off to direct operations. First three men came in a small van, and then the container came. The driver did not unload anything other than himself, but slept in the cab much of the time. They came after 9, left before 12, and their office girl called to say they wouldn’t be here until after 1. When John told her they were already here, she asked if it was the right shipment. Confidence builder. The movers were very nice, even moving some of the more hideous pieces of furniture into the attic to make room for our junk. They also offered to unpack all or part of the cartons.

I’m trying to think what one thing was most welcomed. We feel more at home with all our books, records and art. Still, I didn’t hug them as I did the pencil sharpener. Funny what you can appreciate when you’ve done without! Three weeks without coffee certainly sharpens your taste for that first sip! I looked through about six boxes for two days to find all the parts of the simple drip coffee maker. John exclaimed over big glasses for drinking iced tea. Kate was thrilled to get her game, “Drive Yourself Crazy.” I just asked Lisa, and she couldn’t think of anything. John replied to the query saying he was so relieved to see that van pulling in that he couldn’t pick out any one thing he was over-joyed to see.

Lisa has had two French lessons. Likes it. [The school asked that Lise be tutored, because her class had already had a year or so of French. We didn’t know it at the time, but she had a gift for languages. She now is comfortable speaking English, French, German, Danish, and Farsi.]

Yesterday we went to lunch with Renee (pronounced Reeny) and Max A. whom we’d met at church. They lived for years and years in East Africa until he retired from Barclay’s Bank and now is a grammar school bursar. Their four children grew up there and in boarding schools in England. All four children, three of them girls, were married within 18 months! They now have five grandchildren under the age of 2 ½ and expect two more shortly. They were so understanding of our children. The girls were urged to explore the lovely house, and John $ used the nursery. She served lamb which I was able to swallow, potatoes, cauliflower, peas, fruit salad for dessert, coffee in the living room, tea later with ginger cakes and Swiss tarts.

Today we went home from church with Mary and Tony L. who have Helen, 15, and Peter, almost 13. He is an electrical engineer with Philips and went to Cambridge. She served turkey from the U.S., stuffing with bacon, bread sauce with a pleasant onion flavor, peas and broad beans [new to us], potatoes, and for dessert a choice of summer pudding, lemon meringue pie, or ice cream. Coffee followed in the living room. In both homes the meat was on the plates when we sat down and the vegetables passed around. Both places have electric kettles.

One lady uses scales for accurate measurements, and the other swears by a gizmo that has lots of measurements marked on it. Both are excellent cooks!

Would you like a description of our marvelous washing machine? It sits, ostracized, in a little room by itself. No wonder; it’s been naughty. It whirs, sighs, and sometimes tries to giggle, but usually gurgles. Being a front loader, it shows what is going on inside, but not what it is thinking. It tumbles one way for a few seconds, pauses to do nothing for longer than it does something, then changes its mind and goes the other way. I think it does one wash and four rinses; all I really know is that it takes one to one and a half hours for one load. [In the States, my machine never took more than half an hour to wash a load.] I take it easy on Sunday and do only two loads; two to three is the norm for other days. Today the drain got clogged, so the floor got an unexpected baptism. (Cross between Baptist and Presbyterian because it was more than a sprinkling and less than a dunking.) At the end of all this violent activity the machine sits smirking and absolutely refuses to give up the clothes nicely. Since the first day I wrestled with it, I’ve used a CAN OPENER to pry it open. Hope it hurts!

Then comes the fun of drying, or what passes for the exercise of drying. First, the clothes start out in the glassed over area beside the house hung neatly on the single line. If it fails there, it is brought in to the rack over the kitchen table and in danger of flying food. Third station is a rack in front of the water heater. Last try is for it to be stuffed in and around radiators. When the heat is on, things dry, only to be moved into drawers where they promptly feel damp again. It really isn’t bad; I’m just trying to make a good story. I think you can understand, though, that if good Catholics can give up meat on Fridays, our family should be able to give up clothes one day a week!

Parking was a source of frustration at first, but now, it too, is a joke. Being used to awful-looking parking lots in front of every store in the States, I didn’t like the idea of central parking with all the walking and lugging of things. What I didn’t realize is that there are nice little car parks tucked away in all sorts of places. Instead of meters there is a machine mounted in the center of the lot for everyone to use. You turn a knob to choose one hour or three, put in money, and sometimes get a ticket with the date and time stamped on it. This you are to peel the backing from and stick on the inside of the windscreen to show what time you paid. Just as often as the things work, they don’t work. The time I paid for 16 hours of parking near the railway station, I got a ticket, but nothing was printed on it. So far no five pound fine for us.

There are so many things one doesn’t think of when settling in a new place. For instance, we didn’t buy soap on that first frenzied swoop through the grocery. There are 7 (seven!) sinks in this house! There are 8 locks to check before going out. Also, there are all the thunks you have to learn – thunks being the amount of push it takes to make the refrigerator door shut fully, etc. So far the car doors take the most energy. Then there are the things you’d have to grapple with anywhere such as changing a very wet baby. John $ doesn’t LIKE to be changed, nor does he LIKE dirty pants. I wish he’d make up his mind. The nappy flip is the time you realize a different end is up from the time you started. You see, he really prefers to be changed bottom up. I’m getting better at it, but it is still hard to snap up 10 snaps on a stretch suit while he’s lying on it and pretending to swim the English channel.

That’s enough for now. All around me bodies are trudging off to bed.

Logan’s Plastic Face

Neighbor Holly shared some squash and a cucumber from her garden, sending Logan over with a heavy bag of veggies to let me choose what I wanted. I thought that a novel way of sharing in these viral times. While he was on my porch, he asked if he could come over to visit, and of course, I was thrilled. He got his parents’ permission and was soon chatting while I finished my lunch.

We have hardly seen Logan since the pandemic began. I was impressed with his conversational skill, showing that he had been maturing all the while. Being ten years old, he also communicates silently with his face. I was tickled at his contortions and asked if I could take a few pictures. Bless his heart, he has always been very cooperative.

My favorite shows him touching his nose with his tongue. He said only a low percentage of people can do it. If anyone reading this can touch your tongue that way, I’d love to know it. You are special!

Can I Help You?

It would be nice to have a warning when fast food customers are going to be rude or demanding, acting like “Friday People”. Grandson David would never be goofy to a customer, but he fantasized about his approach if he knew a Friday Person were coming to the counter. He morphed into a goofball in front of my eyes, changing his stance and widening his eyes before leaning in close to ask if he could help me. My laugh was immediate, and I ask for repeat performances regularly. We decided we needed to record it. Happy Friday!!