England 40 Years Ago — May 17, 1981

Our car is holding a grudge against John. For the second time it refused to start to take him to the station, but would go to take the girls to school. Naughty! This happened on a Monday morning, to boot. I scooted to Safeway after dropping the girls off and parked under the store. That store is supposed to be one of the largest in the London area, so I can find things there that are not stocked elsewhere. It’s fun to wander the aisles when the store isn’t busy.

The frogs had a rude shock when John $ joined them in the pool. I think he wanted to test the water with his toe, but one leg went in up to nappy level. As I whirled around at his whimper, he was lying half in and half out of the pool. Mr. Clewes was feeling sorry for him, telling him that he would soon dry out, and then picked up the drippy boy to comfort him. I said I wanted him to cry and be upset so he wouldn’t do it again. I lost that one!

Photo taken six months later, after gardener Clewes put a screen over the pond

Jackie F., the American who lives just up the street, came for coffee one morning. She was on her way to the international store in Epsom, asked me to go, but understood that John had to be fed. She says that store has many American things such as cake mixes, corn chips, and hot dogs. I’m going to go when I get a chance just to see what all is there. Cheerios is another thing she mentioned. The thing our family is most hungry for at the moment is plain old pancake syrup. I don’t think this store carries it though, because Jackie said she is having her next guests bring as much as they can carry.

Jackie’s husband works very near the Gotass-Larsen offices in London. Their only son has learning problems and goes to a special school within walking distance of his father’s office. She kept talking about Berry, her husband, until finally I asked how the name is spelled. She said it really has an “a” rather than an “e”, but she can’t pronounce it correctly. I thought I was the only one with problems like that, though I can pronounce “Barry”. “Pin” and “pen” still get me.

One afternoon after school we went to Dunottar to the second-hand uniform sale. Most schools have these, and it is an inexpensive way to assemble the outfits. We were delayed by Kate’s violin lesson after school, so didn’t have much to choose from by the time we got there. We did get a pair of gym shorts. The idea of uniforms in school is good, but you should see some of these oldies. It’s amazing to me in what condition some people’s clothes are in; you’d swear some schools are boarding places for orphans.

While listening to the radio weekday mornings, John has heard this phrase many times: “An articulated lorry has shed its load on the flyover.”

Yesterday we went to Dorking to wander around. It’s a lovely town with lots of shops that we’ve driven through countless times on our way to other places. [We haven’t driven through shops, but through the town.] We didn’t buy a thing, but did peer in all the antique shops for a coat rack. Even furniture shops don’t know where to go to find coat racks! Same applies to the clerks in the shops.

We came home the back way via Box Hill and got out to see the view. It was clearer yesterday than I’ve ever see it here.

Today Kate has a cold and doesn’t feel well. John and Lisa have gone to the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral where the music is to be by a good Lutheran, Hans Leo Hassler. Kate and I caught a youth service on the telly while $ played with trains.

The girls have school this week, but will be off another whole week after that for mid-term. Then it’s a long haul till the end of school in July.

One-Thud Morning

Daughter Lise noticed sun on a mountain as we came down the steep hill. When we came back, I paused in the middle of Jonathan Creek Highway while John and Lise continued to the other side. This is the best shot I’ve taken so far of the highway we cross to get to the creek, and the sun-splashed mountain shows clearly.

We live out from town. This is the connecting road to I-40.

The Thud game began right at this point seven years ago. We are careful crossing this highway, because many vehicles go far beyond the speed limit. Once in a while we miscalculate the speed. It’s a close call if you almost run and your heart rate increases dramatically. We say THUD! exactly as the car comes to the point it would have hit us if we hadn’t hurried. When Lise walks to her office in Copenhagen, she plays the Thud game when crossing busy streets. She has to watch out for bicycles, as well as cars.

There was a car heading toward me in this photo. By the time I put away the camera and crossed the road, that car was close. I said Thud! as I rejoined John and Lise.

A Couple of Days with Nathaniel

Grandson Nathaniel is at university in culinary arts, so he had a suggestion for lunch when we asked for it. We enjoy going to independent restaurants, especially when recommended by a local. Lise was excited about the place, even before we entered. A new sign on the door stated that anyone fully vaccinated for the COVID virus could enter without a mask. Freedom!!

I got a kick out of the photo taken in poor lighting. I immediately saw a giant halo over Lise’s head and a small ghost rising out of the table to menace her. Two people couldn’t see the ghost when I showed them. I was left wondering if I had paranormal powers, seeing a ghost clearly when others couldn’t. The head is over the black dish on her plate, and his arms are raised over his head. It seems more visible when viewed slightly right of center. If you see it, I’d enjoy a yes vote in a comment.

Angel Lise threatened by a streaked white ghost over her plate

Skipping the mirror ritual, Nathaniel went right to work in the kitchen. He had promised Lise he would make croissants with some of the Danish butter she brought him. Son John $ came in to greet him, and the two of them started their banter in fake English accents. They think of the most outlandish things to say. $ backed against the counter when he thought I might record their nonsense. I wanted to, but respecting his privacy was more important.

An hour and a half later, Nathaniel was really into it. Can you see the columns of butter standing to the left of the mixer? All of it was used in the lamination process before he went to bed. We know all the croissants were consumed at once the last time he made them for a group. We hope David will be home from work when they come out of the oven tonight.

This morning he baked cardamom blueberry muffins for breakfast. What a treat! I told the family to enjoy that perfection. They all like soft muffins, and mine tend to be crisp around the edges. I should have taken a photo of the empty dish, showing their popularity. Too late!

Lise on Vacation

Daughter Lise worked the first half of her COVID visit, and now she is on vacation. She always loves relaxing with Sadie. The dog considers the green recliner her own, so when Lise sat in it, Sadie jumped up and pushed her way to the back.

Four of us were free on grandson David’s day off. We celebrated by having lunch at the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After eating, we went outside to the observation deck to see the mountains stretched out before us, or in this case, behind us.

Lise hadn’t seen Looking Glass Falls recently. John found a parking spot only a few steps from where this photo was taken. David and Lise went down to the base of the falls, while I enjoyed the sights and sounds above.

We drove upstream to see the water before it crashed over the falls. The sticks here were too large to be rescued.

Rescuers of Sticks

Our family has become rescuers of sticks that are stuck in creeks. It all began on grandson David’s day off. We had eaten a heavy meal and went to the town recreation center to walk by Richland Creek. All of us enjoy the sound of gurgling water, so we sat on a bench to soak up the sound.

While there, we noticed a stick trapped by a rock. It was a challenge David and daughter Lise couldn’t resist. There were two attempts, one with a stick that was too short and one that was just right. Success!

This stick was too short.
There it goes!

Another day Lise noticed one stuck on our measuring rock. This is the rock we look at to gauge the depth of the water. After almost every rain, something will get hung up on it. It was Lise to the rescue!

Sadie loves water and sticks. She walks in every puddle and stream she can get to, lapping up some water as she goes. Sticks draw her like a magnet. When Lise took her down the bank to Jonathan Creek, she pulled Lise to one hanging there. She followed family precedence and tugged it free. Unlike humans, she might have jumped in the water to follow it if she hadn’t been restrained.

Here is a great stick.
I’m going to grab it.

England 40 Years Ago — May 10, 1981

I don’t have much to write this week, since we had a quiet spell after that great holiday in Cornwall. John was home last Monday because it was a bank holiday, and most things were closed. It was so nice to get a few things done around the house with no pressure to go anywhere.

John tried asking for a ruler in the office, but was met with blank stares. What he was told he wanted was a measuring stick.

The car gave us a trying time by refusing to start one morning. John had to walk to the station while I continued working with it. Finally started. Whew! It seems to take several days before extreme moisture works its way into the spark plugs, and then you have to crank and crank away to get it dry.

Barbara C. is one of those who loves children, and I knew I could relax having John $ with me while I was at her home for coffee. Her 3-year-old played so nicely with $, and they have tons of little cars and trucks. John didn’t make a sound the whole time we were there, just played with one toy and then another. We two ladies just sat basking in the sun streaming through the windows and had a long chat.

She spoke of getting over a cold and still having catarrh. I was so glad she put that word in context so I could dope out its meaning. Sounds much nicer than “runny nose”, doesn’t it?

Two days we took Susie S. home from school – she is the 5-year-old daughter of the two doctors who just had a new baby. We were thrilled to see the baby. Took him several blue sweaters Mom had knit for John $. Penny’s eyes lit up at sight of them, because she said she had only pink things after two girls.

Last night the neighbors who share a roof with us had a party to introduce us to some of the people who live in Walton. All of them, with the exception of the rector and the Wilsons (owners of this house), had children the ages of ours. The adults were served elegant finger snacks, and all the children sandwiches. Georgina had helped her mother with the food and over-saw games outside for the children. Suzette Marsh has two daughters at boarding school, one she brought who is Kate’s age, and a 6-month-old boy named Charles whom they preface with “prince”. The couple who live in the house named “The Merlins” explained that it was easier to repaint the sign as it was than to rename the house; they guess the name has to do with the magician. The MacPhersons from Scotland were hard to understand, but brought with them their weekend guest who had just arrived that morning from New York. He sounded like home! The Berrys told funny stories of the training of their pony to pull a trap. It was a delightful party, and so nice to know who belongs in some of the houses I’ve seen here.

We began a game with Kate’s name while on holiday, so will write a few. What happens when Kate leaves office? She abdikates. How do you make her happier? By plakating her. When she’s convalescing, she’s delikate. Her favorite coconut is desikated. How do you talk with Kate — you communkkate, of course. When she’s done something wrong, we adjudikate. When she’s moving fast, we tell of the action in the predikate. Do you think I should stop this and eradikate? When Kate is ill, she is helped by being medikated. She points to things to indikate. If she ever creaks with age, she’ll rustikate. What is the best mode of transportation for her? To skate. When she writes her first book, it will be dedikated. Her vocation must be Katering. For that she’ll move to Katerham. She would never lie, but might prevarikate.


Neighbors with Morning Coffee

I was going to text neighbor Shawn as soon as we got home from walking to the creek. There she was, on the porch sipping her morning coffee.

“May I come over?” I asked.

She replied, “Of course. Come try my new chair.”

As we sat down, we saw neighbor Jeff striding up his drive, holding a cup of coffee. He was on his way to my house to pick up an envelope from John having to do with the road association business. Dog Dolly barked at him like he was a stranger, so he came on the porch and sat down to wait for John. Shawn said, “I’ll get Bob. He wouldn’t want to miss being with the neighbors.”

Bob came out with his coffee as their two dogs and a cat wandered among us. I was amazed that Dolly and Jasmine cuddled together, but I guess they made their peace long ago.

We called John over when he started to Jeff’s house, and he took a chair. It was all like a movie, with everyone gathering before the real action started. The next bit was pure entertainment. We asked why Logan wasn’t in school. Shawn explained Logan has a cold, and they would have to go through the daily COVID routine of answering questions and having his temperature taken. If he had gone inside and coughed or sneezed, they would probably have had to go back to get him. Getting out of her chair, Shawn said, “I’ll get Logan. He knows the words by heart, since he hears it every day.”

Logan came out, smiled at everyone, and launched into the spiel he hears every morning. It was hilarious. I did not understand a single word that came out of his mouth like machine gun fire. It was the standard COVID drill, which you’ve heard many times by now. You are asked if you have a cough or fever and if you’ve been with anyone who has the virus. Perhaps there are five questions, but you would never have known that listening to Logan. Bob said it should be recorded, so Logan went through it again with Bob’s phone trained on him. I wish I hadn’t forgotten my camera, because I would love to have had that.

The impromptu gathering broke up when John left for an appointment. We all went back to our normal lives with spirits boosted. What a marvelous way to begin a day!

My Scales LIED

Daughter Lise and I have had friendly rivalry over weight while she has been here. She wants to get back to what she weighed several months ago, and I’m always eager to shed a few pounds painlessly (oxymoron, I know). Several days this week we weighed the same!

Frankly, it’s surprising we haven’t gained more than a couple of pounds, considering the places we’ve eaten. On David’s day off, we went to the Sweet Onion in Waynesville. For the foodies: Lise and I had pot roast and mashed potatoes. David had salmon with a drizzle of sesame, lime, and teriyaki.

Normally we don’t have dessert after a restaurant meal, but the waitress rattled off the three items on the menu. David’s and Lise’s eyes lit up. We ordered the triple chocolate cake with ice cream and split it three ways. They posed with it, looking over-eager.

That afternoon Lise told me the digital scales were not being truthful. She found out by accident. Stepping on, she noted the numbers and stepped off. Almost immediately she got back on the scales. The second time, she weighed three pounds less. Three pounds!!! This morning I saw my number was the same as it had been for several days. Remembering what she said, I stepped off, waited for the memory to clear, and stepped on again. Wow! Three pounds lighter!!!

Lise thinks the three-pound difference happens only once a day. After the scales have been used, they are set correctly for the rest of the day. Has anyone ever had scales that lie to you in the morning and backtrack in the afternoon? I wouldn’t mind one with a ten-pound difference.

Brackets for Walking

The brackets are two clips from the surveillance camera on our porch. Several months ago there was an incident in the neighborhood that caused almost everyone to get a camera. Since then, I’ve enjoyed it as a toy, often waving toward it as I go in and out. I remembered to look at the activity this day and saved the ones of our going out to walk and coming back home. Lise keeps me laughing throughout the day. You can imagine what the day was like with this as the beginning.

In the time between the bracket videos, we enjoyed seeing the sun come up to shine on top of the mountain. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it’s the kind of thing we see often. At this point we were on our way to the stop sign.

Sadie and Lise


Daughter Lise and her friends passed pleasant hours playing games during lock down in Denmark. She bought games here to take back. One of them was Azul, a game with pretty tiles and oddly concocted rules. The photo is blurred, as was my mind when playing. Grandson David and Lise talked strategy aloud, helping me to a big win that night. Next time I’ll play quietly, prepared to lose on my own. I’m good at losing games of strategy.

Amusement and pleasure joined when we met former neighbors Connie and Marla for lunch. We see each other on Facebook, but real face-time is far better.

You’d think we were doting on a toddler, the way we acted when Lise bought Sadie a decorated cookie from the dog bakery. My first priority was getting a shot of Lise giving it to her. Having brother and sister together with the dog was next.

I couldn’t resist John $’s tenderness. We all love Sadie, but $ is her first choice here at our house.