We sadly said farewell to sister Barbara, Thom, and their four children as they started on the last leg of their homeward journey. We had such a great visit with them and hated to see them go. Now to keep my mind off sadness, I’ll go back to the beginning of our holiday.
We timed our departure well – just as kings of the Middle Ages left their castles when the plumbing was over-loaded, we left home at 3:30 a.m. after the upstairs toilet overflowed twice.
We all missed John $, but we know he was happier staying with the Aunt Barbara and Uncle Thom in England than he would have been cooped up in a car going to Norway. Wasn’t it a mind-boggling offer for a family of six to care for a temporary orphan? We hesitated, not wanting to ruin their holiday, but the temptation was too great for that extra freedom for us to insist we would take him with us. When we returned two and a half weeks later, $ was as happy as a clam. He learned to say Amen after grace, to take off clothes which have been partially removed, and to pull people down on the floor to play with him. He has seen more of London than I have, having been treated to trips to the zoo, museums, and stores.
On the way from the South of England to the North, we stopped in Durham and heard a boy choir rehearsing for a concert. It made the church so alive. The two notables buried there are St. Cuthbert and Venerable Bede.
In Newcastle we boarded a ferry and discovered our cabin for the 25-hour trip was larger than one in a Pullman car. The bathroom was tiny, but even equipped with a shower.
The first port of call was Stavanger, a delightful town of little white wooden houses, tiny streets, and flowers. We had enjoyed watching the steep hills of Norway pass by for several hours before getting our first good look at the country at Stavanger. All the trees were pushed up on the steeper parts of the hills. The backdrop of mountains appeared painted behind the crystal clear row of hills near the harbor. We soon left that town and sailed to Bergen.
Finn F., a broker who does business with John, met the ferry, led us to our hotel, and arranged for his family and ours to eat at a downtown hotel. We ate shrimp cocktail and a delicate Norwegian catfish with herbs. [John explained that Finn’s family welcomed our coming. If John had been there alone, they would have had to stay at home while Finn went out with him. Since John had his family with him, Finn’s family was included. We all enjoyed it.]
I’m sorry there are no photos to share, but it does make for a shorter post.
We’ve had a marvelous time with John’s sister Chris, Steve, and children Barbara and Chrissie. Surprisingly, our girls didn’t complain about having to go to school while Barbara and Chrissie were free to do what they wanted. Two days they spent more time in London than Lisa and Kate did in school.
It’s been so much fun for me to have someone to giggle with. Do you know, I almost believed I had become more proper, until Chris came when I reverted to my normal American self. I know John was glad to have someone around to talk about stuffy, serious things with.
John $ got hold of the stick we use for pulling down the attic stairs. I thought it harmless enough until I saw him swinging it at the ceiling light fixture as if it were a pinata.
The relatives arrived Tuesday and came home with John on the train. We insisted Steve had to sit in the front immediately so that he could get a good view of left-hand driving. He properly appreciated it. I don’t know whether he might have shaken with pleasure of seeing us or fright at being on the wrong side of the road.
I was home bound for two days while the car was in for repairs. Some garage in Epsom was supposed to do something on a part and return it to Walton, but they goofed. The car was inoperable overnight; the mechanic offered to have a man drive me to Reigate to get the girls in the afternoon and to send the same man to take them to school the following morning. What a God send! Those two days our relatives were in London, anyway, so the lack of a car did not hamper us unduly.
Wednesday they took a bus sightseeing tour and then saw Westminster Abbey and Cathedral, a street fair, Buckingham Palace, and the Royal Mews where the carriages and horses are kept. I’m sure they saw more than that, but it’s all my fuzzy brain remembers. I found most interesting their telling that the coaches were all labeled saying who is to ride in which one for the Royal wedding. The signs also tell which would be used in case of rain. What happens if it rains during the ceremony, but not before? For that the weather forecasters need coaching.
Thursday, among other things I’m sure, they saw the changing of the guard from the vantage point of center front and later shopped on Oxford Street. That day they saw some of the preparations for the garden party the Queen had at Buckingham Palace in the afternoon.
Chris had her conducted tour of Micklefield with the headmistress, Miss Kinman, Friday morning while the rest of us wandered the town of Reigate. The 10p car tour included our last house and church. Boots and Woolworth’s were experienced before we greeted Paula and friend in Co op. Following lunch, Chrissie helped Mr. Clewes while Barbara and I explored a footpath and Chris drove the car. Later Steve had a chance and said he’d rather drive on the wrong side than feel like a sitting duck in the passenger seat. Dorking and Box Hill tours brought us circling home.
Chrissie was a big help to Mr. Clewes – he said he wouldn’t have finished clearing up the debris if she hadn’t helped. Barbara helped me in the kitchen, and one night I’d have never gotten the meal on the table if she hadn’t arranged the salad and fixed the appetizer. Many thanks, girls.
Yesterday we went to Windsor Castle. The day we went with my brother and his family, I felt it was on the other side of everywhere, since I was driving. John seemed to have no trouble finding his way quickly and easily. We lucked out on the parking, too, finding a lot open just across the street from the nearest visitor entrance to the castle. I think I enjoyed seeing the State Apartments more this time since I’ve read so much more English history than I had before the first visit. Couldn’t have had anything to do with the fact that I had charge of $ the first time and not the second!
We saw boys rowing down the Thames practicing for a regatta. I’m glad to have seen that, since it is another British institution.
While we were looking across the green to the buildings where the royal family stays when in residence, several soldiers marched up to inspect the sentry there. We howled at the high pitched, cracking voice of the tall soldier in charge. It seemed so out of character for him to have such a voice. I signaled John to walk $ around behind the soldiers standing near us so that we could get him in the picture with them. John said later that $ was frightened when they first marched up. From the perch on his father’s shoulders, $ ogled them until they marched away.
We had been invited by Mr. Wolters, the agent for the house in Reigate, to come to the Claygate Flower show. It is his pride and joy, since he is the head of the organizing group. There were a few tents with displays, but the biggest drawing card seemed to be the carnival rides. It was the highlight of the day for four girls.
While the fathers took the children for their thrills, Chris and I trooped through the tents. I was shocked at how few entries there were. Perhaps I thought it would be like the Mid-South fair, and that it wasn’t! In many cases, there was only a first prize, there being no other entries in that category. The most popular entries in the pet tent were rabbits and parakeets. There was one common alley cat calmly lying in his cage, having won first prize since he was the only cat there. I struck my funny bone.
There was a small band of bagpipes and drums that marched in the central roped-off area. Their bright red kilts were striking, and we noticed the daggers in their socks. I was surprised to note that they all played the same notes; you could tell by watching their fingers.
We found Mr. Wolters in the secretary’s tent and spoke to him for several minutes. Just a few days ago he’d sent our three children crown coins minted in honor of the Royal Wedding. We are so glad to have these keepsakes.
This morning all except $ and I drove to see St. Paul’s Cathedral and to worship at the Abbey. While I took a bath, John $ emptied my gadget drawer in the kitchen. Now he is scattering the contents of the desk drawers all over the bedroom.
We tried to get a picture of $’s pose when Chris and Steve left their bedroom door open. He strutted in and made himself at home sitting on the clothes in their open suitcase as if it were a golden throne. He was reading a romance novel belonging to Chris.
Back to Windsor – Bob, I took special time to look at all the carvings by Grinling Gibbons this time, thanks to your sparking of my interest. I was glad to be able to recognize lots of the portraits, too, from my reading.
Soon the rest of the clan will return from London. We’ll have a quick bite, and go through the awful time of saying goodbye to people we’d rather not see the backs of.
John $ has now gathered the scattered items and put them in the laundry basket, pushing them around the room barge style. Why do we buy toys?
We’re leaving for Norway next Saturday. We’ll see Bergen, Oslo and parts of Denmark and Sweden. Think we return here August 13.
Grandson David and the catbird have nothing to do with each other, except that I took their photos on consecutive days. If I’d used film, you could say I was on a roll.
As I walked near the overgrown sheep pasture, I became aware that a bird was flitting from weed to weed. It was gray, but I couldn’t see it clearly. Right now the camera has better focus than I do, so I zoomed in and shot it. The bird was agitated, probably because its nest was nearby. Its call reminded me of a cat. Bingo! It had to be a catbird. The photo confirmed it – an all-gray bird with a black cap. It’s the first time I’ve seen one here in the mountains.
We ate at a Japanese restaurant after church and were impressed with David’s choice of tempura chicken. What a mountain of food, beautifully arranged! He said it was delicious.
Putting up a porch swing/seat was amusing. It did not come with a chain for hanging, so David climbed into it from a ladder to test it out. Yes, it was very comfortable.
He wiggled around in it until he looked like a colorful caterpillar with blue and green stripes. Don’t you wonder what he would have turned into if he had waited for metamorphosis to occur?
John and grandson David had a thrill of a lifetime with Gil, a church friend. Having heard John talk about the train club in Tennessee, Gil offered to fly them down for a meeting. Fog was a concern until the last minute, but it was clear enough for them to take off. They flew around fluffy clouds and looked down on the mountains. The views were magnificent. John was impressed with how many huge homes were built high on the sides of mountains. Both liked seeing the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs along the ridges. Here are a few of the photos David took.
Because of this special adventure, Gil was not with his wife Linda on her birthday. She told John not to change anything, since Gil promised to take her out both before and after her special day. They were free the day after, so we went out to lunch after church to celebrate.
John $ has been trying to say “Mr. Clewes”. His best effort resulted in calling the man to his face, “Cuckoo”!
We’ve had a heat wave. At least that’s what the natives say. John, in London, was under heavy skies. He had two inches of rain and some hail and lightning so close it made the hair on his neck stand up. We in Walton were outside chasing $ in the sunshine, and we’re only 15 to 20 miles away. We heard no thunder.
Since the temperature was so warm, we’ve spent time outdoors. $ loves to lull you into thinking he will stay put, and then streak off under full steam. We found a way to slow him down. Simply removing his shoes prevents him from running on the gravel. At first he stayed on the lawn, but has gradually ventured further, though not at high speed.
Our nasturtiums are blooming! Granted, Mr. Clewes did dig up the ground and plant the seeds, but I watered, weeded and fed them. I’m still surprised my black thumb didn’t do them in.
With the car in the shop, nowhere to go and nothing to do, John $ was at loose ends. I gave in and let him play with water in the kitchen sink. It would have been a good selling point for a new mop! He flicked water a radius of five feet. I’m sure at times he looked like a magnified version of a bird taking a bath.
While walking home from town, I met the lady who’d invited me to see her back garden. She introduced herself to me – Mrs. Gilder, said with a hard “G”. I took her some warm bread, and her husband retaliated with another lettuce and spinach. They told me to send the children up on Saturday for a cabbage. I sent the three off with Brownies to give the couple, and they returned with lettuce, cabbage and a cucumber! The girls were shown the garden and a marvelous clock in the sitting room while Mrs. Gilder enjoyed grappling with $.
John and I were invited to a social party at the house behind us, where the donations were to support the conservative party. We met a commercial artist who came from the small village of Ockley noted for a band of pilgrims who left there to settle Guildford, CT. Also met Mr. Gardiner, the MP, who during the party got up on a strong box and made a speech about the riots going on in this country. I thought it slightly incongruous of us to ponder on disorder while standing in a lovely rose garden under a clear sky. The other guests didn’t seem surprised at the speech, so I presume it was the proper thing to do. The audience whiled away the speech time with men rattling the change in their pockets and ladies shifting feet balanced on heels in soft grass. Had it been a religious meeting, there would have been murmured “Amens”. What we heard were softly spoken “Here! Here!” rumblings to signify agreement.
Yesterday we went to the school open day where all the rooms were open for inspection by parents. Last year we went to this function, and I was scared silly at all the work staring the girls in the face. It isn’t so frightening when you consider that it’s a show of all that has gone on for a whole school year. The walls were covered from floor to high ceiling with art work, term papers exams, needlework, student drawn maps, charts of class projects and exhibits. All rooms had fresh flowers that had been arranged by the children, and Lisa’s room had an impressive display of pottery. A separate room held the samplers, pillows, and clothes made by the upper forms in their sewing classes.
After viewing the children’s work and speaking to their teachers, we went to Priory Park in Reigate for the Olde English Fayre. We didn’t have time to go through it, but walked on the edges seeing the various stalls of games, cake sales, bicycle proficiency contests, hamburger stands, floats, ice cream hawkers, second hand books for sale, new cars on display, and antique stalls. From a distance we saw the jousting! The horses the men rode were dressed in the colours of their clothes and shields. Horses thundered down the course, while the men used their skill to hit targets with their long poles. Many people involved in the fair were dressed in costume; we even saw the court jester! It was a most colourful affair.
Last night the girls and I were awakened by terrific wailing. I opened the door to $’s room, and he crawled out of the wreckage of his cot. He was shaking so much that I tucked him in bed with his dad where he wriggled down and pretended to sleep while I put the cot back together again without the help of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. $ kept playing possum until I got settled for sleep, at which time he exploded into action. It was quickly to bed for him then.
We’ve rented a video recorder so we’ll be sure to see some of the Royal Wedding. There was a mix-up about the delivery of it. I waited all one day for a truck that didn’t show up. When the clerk at the store found we live on the same street as he does, he offered to bring it by. Normally these things are installed by the delivery man, but we were assured that it integrated with the TV so that the TV works, but we can’t seem to activate the system that preempts a channel. If we fail to get it going, we’ll have to call someone from the shop for help. There must be some simple thing we aren’t doing right. Grrrr!
I forgot to tell you the temperature of the day that was the hottest here. The English people were mopping their brows when the mercury sat at 84 degrees. They didn’t seem to understand that it would have been considered a cooler day to those battling steady 90’s. If there is one thing I could choose to bring back to the U.S., it’s the weather!
Few hours later: John rechecked all the connections to that recorder, and I turned a few dials. Suddenly we had the thing in tune. We’re not sure what did the trick, but we’re in business now.
[Can you believe I went a whole month without taking a photo? Maybe some were lost, because I thought I took the camera to the Olde English Fayre.]
Chrissie at Word Quilt (https://chrissie.blog/2021/07/06/posting-process/) wrote a post about her method of writing a story about a vacation with lots of photos and stories. She’s an expert with WordPress. I knew I would learn new ways to do things, and I did. She asked that readers share their process. This is mine, and I encourage you to skip it if you aren’t interested in technical things. Do read Chrissie’s method, complete with video.
My procedure differs from hers, because I write where I am most comfortable – with a word processor. Following is my list of things to do:
Upload photos to the computer. Put ones I want to use in a folder and rename them with date and brief description.
Open the word processor and begin writing the story. I flip back and forth from photos to words by pressing the alt key and tapping the tab key. (That action switches between the last two windows opened.)
Write a paragraph about each picture or set of pictures.
Copy the words and paste in the WordPress block editor. (Highlight the whole document and press Control/C. In the block editor press Control/V.)
Put the cursor at the end of the first paragraph and click on the + sign to add a block. Change it to an image block. Go to the photos, making the explorer window small, and drag and drop the photo into the image block. I usually click on the image and use the menu bar to center it. Go to the next paragraph and repeat as needed.
If there are several photos to go with one paragraph, I choose Gallery and drag them in. It’s also fun to use Columns, using three columns for three photos. (Change each column to image before dragging a picture to it.) I also use Columns to put words in one and a photo in the other. It looks prettier to center the words vertically.
We went to church with Logan, because he was reading the lesson for the day at his church. We thought the way it was put in the service was lovely. Shawn came from the choir and joined Logan at the microphone. She led the congregation in prayer after he read the lesson.
Mid-afternoon, the neighbors met in the street for a cook-out. This photo includes everyone who was there. There was no favoritism, just a distant shot that showed no one to advantage. We had a wonderful time being able to mingle freely. It was the first time we had seen Frankie in over a year, because of COVID 19.
David and Logan played the card game Set, taking time out to eat a few bites. They hadn’t played against each other for weeks, and they were merciless. After the party broke up, they let me find a few sets in several games as they continued the fierce competition in our house.
After dark, Shawn and Logan brought chairs to our driveway and joined us to watch lovely fireworks set off by neighbors up the mountain. That was a lovely close to a very pleasant day.
A routine visit to a doctor’s office brought unexpected laughter. The technician rolled the blood pressure machine in and slapped the cuff around my arm. It seemed to go through its program normally. She looked at the display and exclaimed, “All zeroes!”
My name is Suki, my human is a writer, and this is about my world. The world according to Suki The Cat. My humans smell funny, look weird, and I can't understand a thing they say, but they feed me, so hey, what are you gonna do?