England 40 Years Ago — April 12, 1981

I thought it was really something the day we flew a kite in church, but last Sunday was the limit. There was a stripper in the pulpit! A young minister who had been at St. Mary’s a few years ago was preaching on Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet and acted out the scene. He removed his stole and used his surplice as a towel, then went on to say Jesus removed his outer garment as he unbuttoned the black part of his vestments.

One day this past week I did nothing but run! We picked up Mr. Clewes (the gardener), drove to Walton, went to Co-op on the way to coffee at Penny’s in Redhill, drove home for lunch, back to Reigate to return Clewes, and then home again. Don’t want many days like that! I started cooking dinner at 6:45.

At Penny’s we met a woman and her son coming out. At first I thought she had been invited for coffee, but it was worse than that. At 7 that morning, she, her husband, and son rang the doorbell and asked, “Weren’t you expecting us? Didn’t you get our letter?” They had written asking for breakfast after landing from an 8-hour flight from Ghana en route to Wimbledon. Penny, only 3 weeks this side of the due date for her baby, had to rustle up breakfast for 7 with no advance warning. I told her to sit down and put her feet up after the woman left, but she and her 6-year-old proceeded to make shortbread. Penny plays the clarinet and hunted up some duets for clarinet and piano. That was fun to sightread with her.

Monday our girls went to play with the girls from NJ – Nancy and Lynda M. The next day Kate, $, and I walked to the next town, Tadworth, via footpaths and met the M. family on the street there. We chatted for a few minutes, walked back to Walton, and met them walking down the street there! That afternoon the older girls were here, the younger ones floated between this house and Lynda’s, but had tea here. Wednesday all four had lunch and tea here, playing together 6.5 hours. They played well until the very end when the younger ones locked out the older ones. It was just as well they were busy getting ready to go to Holland to see the tulips in bloom; think they’d had enough of each other for a while.

Thursday we had all to ourselves. We drove to the supermarket in Banstead, the one the ladies usually go to from here. What a race track! I couldn’t stand to shop there all the time. Think I’d put it off until we were starving! We went early, found a parking place easily, but found the store full of rushing people. When we left, it took me ten minutes to maneuver out of the car park where 10 cars were lined up waiting for the next available space. Give me dear old Co-op any day!

EUREKA! We found crystal jelly!!!! Lisa was almost embarrassed at the way I carried on, but she was excited, also. We came right home and made it up. Have you guessed I’m talking of Jell-o? This is Royal brand, and it’s the first time we’ve found gelatin that is powdery – all the others are semi-solid, rubbery globs to be dissolved. This tasted better than their jelly, but not as good as real Jell-o. I’m going to make Jell-o once a week when we move back to the States!

We drove to a scenic place close to here, Box Hill, and took a short walk. It was very hazy; we must go back when we find a day that is crystal clear.

Kate and John $ on Box Hill

Kate, $, and I walked to Walton to do some shopping. We found a towel holder I’ve been looking for, flower seeds, a good pastry blender, and a salt pig! I asked for a cobweb brush and was told I was looking for a cornice broom. Live and learn.

Friday we shopped at Co-op, the freezer center, Boots, and a carpet store before picking Caroline up. She is the girl Lisa’s age who lived across from us in Reigate. She was here from noon Friday until afternoon Sunday. What a pleasant time we all had! Much of the time I hardly knew there was an extra girl here because all three would disappear together. Friday afternoon we again went to Box Hill for a longer ramble. The girls went down what felt like a mountain to the River Mole which has stepping stones across it. Several were out of place, they were afraid Kate would fall in, so they didn’t go all the way across. We must go there on a hot day to fall in – it’s only two feet deep and is considered a river!!! $ and I stayed toward the top of the hill for our walk.

Caroline, Lise, and Kate

Saturday John and Kate shopped in Epsom, a lovely town not far away with a fair-sized shopping area. He found lots of nice shops, and Lisa and Caroline were left here to enjoy themselves. Later the three from this house played outside with the three from next door. We had an impromptu tea party – six girls outside having “fizzy” drinks (soda) and biscuits (cookies) while the adults had tea inside. Jennifer and Vivien exclaimed over our new map of England. They said the counties are drawn differently on older maps and have longer names. Ours had Cambridge, Gloucester, Warwick, etc. where older maps show them with “shire” on the end.

They also told us more about this house. It was built in 1910. During the first world war, the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, lived in a house on the next street. Many of the big houses around, including this one, were rented by the cabinet members. There were private telephone lines linking them! Our neighbors haven’t found who rented this one.

After we finished tea, we asked if they would like to see the rest of the house. They jumped at the chance. They said English people don’t show their houses unless very good friends move to a new place. They were eager to see the lay-out here. We have servants’ bells, but they have the box in their kitchen. The bells still have their labels, though they no longer work. There was a day nursery and a night nursery! The girls are disappointed that they can’t use them to signal from our house to theirs!

This morning Caroline, Lisa, and I went to the earliest service at St. Mary’s. I wanted to get back to cook, and the girls to see the space shuttle take off. We’d watched the non-take-off Friday. John and Kate went to St. Peter’s where they were having communion. Kate was thrilled to see that everyone in the church went forward; she was so pleased to get a blessing when she went with John. They were also given crosses made from palms, though not nearly so elaborate as the ones Louise Koepchen makes in Setauket. I missed singing the Palm Sunday hymns.

Yesterday we invited our former neighbors to have Sunday lunch with us, since they had planned to pick Caroline up. They agreed and offered to bring the sweet. We knew we had to rush because their older daughter is singing Messiah in the same production we were involved with, but she has been going on Sundays. Everything was ready; we were just sitting down, and then we had to get up to watch the space shuttle take off. When someone mentioned THE WEDDING, Gillian said they were charged a pound extra for Caroline’s camp fee because the leaders decided to rent TV’s to put in the fields so they won’t miss the big event! When it was time for them to leave, Lisa pulled such a face that Gillian invited her to go home with them until after tea. That extended their visit by another four hours. All in all, we’ve had a very pleasant week of holiday.

England 40 Years Ago — April 5, 1981

Did I write about going to church last week? John and Lisa had gone to St. Mary’s for communion, and Kate and I to St. Peter’s for Evensong and sermon. We didn’t want to be late, so ended up being the first there. As we walked in, the man was standing in the aisle ringing the bell to call the worshipers and reached for the prayer books without missing a stroke. Kate wanted to sit in the very first pew, but I insisted that I’d rather sit halfway back so that we’d have someone to follow as to when to sit, stand, or kneel. The congregation behaved as so many do in the States – back fills up first. Wouldn’t you know no one sat in front of us? I had to keep my head turned slightly to see what to do!

Monday John, $, and I did the inventory of Tymberly with Mr. Wolters. It was a trying time. Mr. Wolters counted every fork, every doorknob, every vase. He was entirely correct to do it that way, but it took forever. The inventory for that house is a book, well filled. We did the initial inventory for Churchfield in half an hour, and it is only two pages.

Lisa came home asking about the spelling of “draft” – it is “draught” here, but pronounced draft. Can you imagine playing a game of draughts (checkers) in the same room with a draughtsman who is trying to eliminate draughts from under the door? Boggles my mind. John said they use “draught” in shipping, but it rhymes with “ought”. He’s right, it ought.

There is nothing like moving to change your view of things. In Stony Brook I mainly faced East; in Reigate, North; in Walton, South. The position referred to is that which faces the kitchen sink.

I tried the little butcher shop down the lane and found his meat to be good. He said he likes New York; spent a month with a friend in Hauppague!!! Small world!

April Fool’s Day behaved as you might expect – rain when we don’t need it. I had to use Liquid Paper on “need”. Couldn’t let you see that this typewriter first wrote it “kneed”.

I waited at Micklefield for Mr. Clewes, but because of the weather I can’t blame him for not coming. Went on to Co-op in Redhill, back to Walton to put away the groceries, to Reigate for a hair cut, to Walton, to Reigate to pick up the girls, and home. Then I fed $ and made Brownies for the girls to take to school the next day.

The last day of each term is only half a day. There is very little accomplished – they have an assembly to give out awards and at break time they have the eagerly awaited “feast”. Everyone shares all kinds of candies and cakes that they are forbidden to bring on all other days. Normally they are allowed to take only biscuits or fruit. All the children came racing out of school in high spirits, and I wonder how many mothers faced tummy aches later. Luckily, we didn’t.

The first day of freedom, Lisa slept late, and Kate went with $ and me shopping. Later the girls played in the garden with Georgina and Catherine (two of the girls next door). $ loved the freedom to chase Frizbees and taste delicious looking rocks.

Philipa, Kate, John $, and Lise in the back garden

Kate’s complaint whilst practicing her violin – “My hands are soggy!” It would be hard to play the violin with soggy hands, wouldn’t it? She and I finally decided she meant greasy.

Yesterday Jeremy (rental manager) took out one cabinet unit in the kitchen to prepare for the insertion of the dishwasher. I can hardly wait!

Today Lisa and I are going to St. Mary’s for the morning service. Kate and John will go to St. Peter’s for Evensong.

England 40 Years Ago — March 29, 1981

This has been a work week. I made a discovery as to the probable origin of the “sit in”. Years ago some woman was probably doing housework with a toddler helping by sitting wherever she wanted to clean. John $ helped in just that way.

Monday dawned early, but not bright. It had rained a lot; the car doesn’t take kindly to dampness, and it wouldn’t start. John walked to the station, but the girls stayed home from school. In the afternoon the rain let up so that Kate, $ and I could walk to the village to the greengrocer and to a tiny grocery down a footpath pointed out by a neighbor.

Tuesday we found an advert (they don’t say “ad” here) in the parish church magazine for car hire with driver. Had to pay $10 to get the girls driven to school! A young man came from a garage to try to start the car and succeeded, and I was able to get food and begin cleaning Tymberly (the first house we had).

Four days had roughly the same schedule (did you pronounce that right?). I dropped the girls off at school, shopped, cleaned the old house, had lunch, $ fell asleep in the car on the way to Churchfield (the name of our present house), and we went back to pick up the girls.

Gillian asked me over for a cup of coffee Thursday to get away from the grind for a few minutes. We had a lovely chat sitting in the sun in her kitchen. She served Brownies saying that since I gave her the recipe and some American baking powder, her children haven’t let her quit making them. I was able to go back across the street and work another two hours after a proper break.

Friday the door bell rang at eleven, and I opened the door to Gillian holding a tray with two cups of coffee and a square of coffee cake! Wasn’t that sweet? We sat in my sterile kitchen for that snack. A refreshing break can certainly make one attack the work with vigor afterwards.

A car pulled in front of Churchfield just as I was about to unload the last of the stuff from the other house. Dorothy M and her two daughters came to introduce themselves. They’re from New Jersey and are friends of our house mates. Her husband, John, grew up in Garden City and is the ranking officer of American Express for this area of the world. They’ve been here two years and don’t know how much longer they might stay – could be years more. The parents and younger daughter love it here, but the older one has taken longer to adjust. Nancy, almost 13, didn’t complain to me, but her mother said things had been rough with her. Lynda, 10, sounds like the British! She even eats the way they do. These two girls often play with Catherine and Philipa, so we hope to see more of them. They live down one street and through a short footpath. This village is so small that everything is within walking distance.

I got tickled at some of the stories Dorothy told. She said they often get lost, but don’t admit it to the girls. They say, “We’re practicing making u-turns.”

I gather I fared better than she did the one time I went to Sutton to try to shop. I couldn’t find anywhere to park and just turned around and came home. She said she got so turned around in all the one-way systems they have in that town that she couldn’t find her way back. After several u-turns she spotted a little old lady walking and asked her the way to highway 217, explaining that she needed to find her way back home. The lady said, “Well, dearie, if you came on the 217, take the 217 back.”

Yesterday John worked at Tymberly while the rest of us stayed home. He was scrubbing the walls and ceiling of the shower room and getting the furniture back in the right rooms.

[Below, the photo shows Kate and $ running in the back garden. Through the hedge you can see a glimpse of the modern house built by the owners of our house. They still have a nice bit of land defined by tall hedges.]

Kate, $ and I went for a walk. We checked the little Post Office store to see if they had a map of Walton, but they were out. The lady said there were never many with Walton and the best thing to do was to borrow one. I tried at the news agent with success – he had a whole pile of small maps, reached for one, opened it out to show me where Walton was, then snapped his head up to look at me and ask, “You’re not lost, are you​?” That struck me as so amusing. He was simply sharing a map with me and suddenly became concerned with my welfare.

Kate wanted to stop at the greengrocer’s for fruit, but the place was mobbed. The shop is about as big as two bathrooms and with much more visibility outside looking in than when you can actually squeeze inside. My impression was that there were 20 people there, but there were more than likely only 5 or 10. We continued on to watch the swans and ducks, returned to the shop a few minutes later, and the place was empty! I’d much rather walk than queue up! We bought the fruit she was so hungry for and had some for lunch.

Lisa has given $ a new nickname which we found ourselves using more and more until Papa John heard it and banned it. Lise claimed $ made this sound, and from that she got his name. It’s “Beezoo”. Surely it’s not much worse than “Boopsie” (a name my uncle called me).

Today is Mother’s Day here. They refer to it as both Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday. John wondered if that day was to honor all those who have mothered children, perhaps to include nannies. No answer on that as yet. Kate made paper flowers and a cutout doily at school, and Lisa did an arrangement of real spring flowers to bring me.

This morning Lisa and John went to St. Mary’s in Reigate for communion at the early service, and Kate and I plan to go to St. Peter’s around the corner for Evensong at 6:30. Lisa helped pack up the goldfish to move them and picked up a few more odds and ends at Tymberly.

The weather has been grey and dreary for weeks, it seems. Yesterday the sky was as blue as could be, and the sun shone nearly all day. We had all the windows open and ate a picnic in the garden. Today it’s back to grey. The flowers do show up well in this weather, however daffodils look brighter in dim light, I believe. There are lots of daffies in the orchard and some in the back. Jeremy, the owner’s son who is managing this place, said the greenery close to the kitchen window is honeysuckle. Flowering trees are showing color, I mean, colour. This week we should see a hint of green on trees.

John just cleaned out some of the boxes and the play pen from the upstairs hallway. The hall is narrow, but how wide it feels now with all the items scattered around the house!

England 40 Years Ago — March 22, 1981

Just a quickie to let you know we did get moved. We had a beautiful sunny day — most unusual for this time of year. The weather and the men couldn’t have been nicer.

This past week I brought Mr. Clewes over here to see the garden. He noticed that the people behind us have a garden where not a blade of grass is out of place. Wouldn’t you know that’s where the owners of this house live?

Twice during an otherwise sunny day this past week, there was a mixture of snow and rain. After one episode I said to a sulky Kate, “Look! The sun is out again.” She grumbled, “No! I don’t want to look on the bright side.”

Kate was not sulky when she read a book to John $ in the old house. Kitchen shelf — two-thirds toys, one-third cookbooks.

Earlier in the week I came over several times to bring things to this house and do some unpacking of things already here. You should have seen me measuring a possible space for a dishwasher with John $’s help. He thinks the bendable metal is the greatest.

John $ at the old house. The bottle was empty. He still used a sippy cup to drink.

Both John and I went to school for the conference night for the older grades. All Lisa’s teachers say she is working at form level or above, but from the various things they said we don’t think she is exerting herself one little bit. She admitted the next day that she isn’t working more than she has to because she doesn’t want to. Grrrrr!

John and I have picked up a phrase that we’ve taken a fancy to. Here, instead of straightening things out or getting things settled, you sort them out. If you are muddled about something, you “sort yourself out” to remedy the problem.

The men came to pack for us on Thursday. I thought they’d do the china and crystal and thought nothing more about it. There were two who came, and they expected to put in several hours. I had to run around the house to separate rooms with them to point out what pictures and furnishings were to go and what was to stay. While they did other rooms, I organized the kitchen things by getting all the pots and utensils we’d need for the next two meals in one spot. I gave them sandwiches for lunch; they worked a little more, and then left.

Friday the same two men loaded everything into the van and pulled from the attic all the things of the owners that we’d stored. They pulled out about 12:30. We checked the house, stopped for sandwiches at the bakery, and came to this house. We waited and waited for the van and wondered what had happened to them. Finally they came with two more men they’d gone to pick up and they made short work of the unloading. We put $ in his stroller to watch the unloading and directed where everything was to go. They also unpacked! I was available when the china was done and was able to tell them where to put it. All the rest of the kitchen equipment was stuffed in drawers and cupboards. They did it in a logical manner, but not exactly where I wanted things. After they left at 5, I pulled everything out and re-stowed it. At the same time, John was re-doing all the books in the living room. We made a start on our bedroom and John’s room.

Gillian (neighbor across the street) had so kindly invited the girls to spend the night at her house and even insisted on picking them up from school!!! That left our minds completely free to concentrate on moving. I don’t know what state I’d be in now if I’d had to answer a thousand questions along with everything else. Gillian said she met some friends at Micklefield. Her daughter Caroline went there until just two years ago. We planned to get the girls Saturday morning, but Gillian insisted we come dressed in our work clothes at lunch time and have a meal with them! Nothing could have been kinder! We ate in the kitchen and had a lovely meal of beef and mushroom stew, leeks from their garden, mashed potatoes, green beans, and for dessert a choice of jelly (jello), applesauce, or fruit salad followed by coffee. It was so good to know we’d had a nourishing meal and I wouldn’t have to do more than get out sandwich materials for a later meal. Bless her!

I saw something in Gillian’s kitchen and couldn’t resist asking her about it. It was a funny ceramic thing, rather tall, but with the opening curved, rather like a curved pipe. She said it is a salt pig. It’s the only thing in which she can keep salt so that it doesn’t cake up. They are supposed to be readily available, so I’ll be looking for one. I never saw anything quite like it. [We still use the one we bought. This photo was taken in 2021.]

Shortly before the moving men left, Jennifer [neighbor who with her husband owns the other half of our rented house] came over to invite us over for a cup of tea. John said I needed a rest more than he did, so he kept $. I had a delightful time chatting with them. $ had fun climbing up and down the levels of steps in the moving van. The men left, $ went to bed, and we began to “sort things out.”

Today the girls and I walked to St. Peter’s for the 11 o’clock service advertised on their board in the front of the church. We wondered what was going on when we saw so many cars quietly parked and only four or five people waiting to go into the building. The board, we were told, was about 15 years old. The newer one had been taken down to be repainted with the new rector’s name. The hymn we were hearing was the end of the service we thought we were headed for. For years the main service has been at 10. Now we know. The man who gave us the information advised us to buy a parish magazine inside. Then he slipped in, handed us one, and refused to let us pay for it!

After dinner John went to Redhill for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. He said it was glorious. The congregation got to sing all the chorales. There was even a tea break in the middle, and the people brought out their thermoses. He felt satisfied that he had truly worshiped.

This afternoon we cleaned up the old carriage we’ve lugged around with us and outfitted it with the stroller seat. We walked through the little village to the duck pond and down one footpath. This is going to be another facet of English life. A brisk walk of two minutes brings us within sight, sound, and smell of cows! We hear no traffic tucked back off the high street, and I doubt there is much, anyway. This may be the type of place where everyone knows everyone else. The shopping will be easy – small grocery, fruiterer, butcher, post office, two gift shops, hardware, dispensing chemist, blacksmith, luncheonette, two pubs and three or four antique shops are just around the corner. Don’t think I’ll buy anything at the blacksmith’s. This is so different from the traffic choked streets of Redhill and Reigate.

Our girls have still not met the girls we share the house with. I found out their names – Georgina, 15; Katherine, 12; and Philipa, 9. Don’t feel we can invite them in here until the entrance is free of its mountain of boxes.

The green door is ours. The red door is for the family with three girls. We have only half the house.

The house is old, don’t know how old, but the ceilings are quite high and the walls thick. We haven’t learned how things sound – I heard Kate calling me, and I had to search all over the house to find her. Turned out she was in the next room to begin with. We can’t hear $ crying if we are downstairs.

Back of the house. We have the sections on both sides of the back door.

The girls have a week and a half of school till the end of term. Then comes a month off. One week of that will be spent in Cornwall.

England 40 Years Ago — March 15, 1981

Prepare to envy us! We went to a service at King’s College Chapel and drooled over the sound of the choir. It was marvelous. The building is one of the simplest we’ve been in — just a big stone hall with lots of lovely strained glass, but little decoration aside from some carving in the woodwork. The altar is very plain with the focus on Rubens’ Adoration of the Magi. The sound is more glorious than anything. This is the first church we’ve been in that microphones were not used. Even little St. Mary’s in Reigate has a public address system. It was hard to hear spoken words, but the music was easy to understand.

Kings College Chapel

We drove on the extra few miles to Ely Cathedral. Ely is pronounced with a long “E”. It is a much older building — Norman, in fact, with a much narrower body than newer churches. A number of hundred years ago the tower fell down and was replaced with an octagonal lantern tower under which they have now placed the altar. It is beautiful. The boy choir there is also superb. That church is really dedicated to worship. They have sung services every day of the week, even if there is no congregation in the middle of winter!

Ely Cathedral

Have you ever noticed it is an instinctive reaction to put your hand up when something hits your head? I was walking $ under some trees on the pavement (sidewalk), and there were birds overhead. Need I say more? Ugh! Lisa kindly tried to locate the spot and clean it with a towelette. It didn’t help being in Ely, far from home where the service was posted as lasting 45 minutes, but due to the special procession was an hour and a half. I was the one with something in my hair, but John was the one who developed a crippling headache and went to bed as soon as we got home. Unfortunately, $ only went to sleep two hours after his bedtime. The first part of the day far outweighed the last part.

We also walked around the quadrangles of the various colleges in Cambridge before going to Ely. We went to church in King’s, wandered into Trinity, and recognized St. John’s from a picture on a record jacket.

We were surprised that the schools spill over the lovely little river, with picturesque walking bridges spanning it every few yards. I was surprised to see students wearing their robes; I knew they still did during the week, but didn’t know they did on Sunday, also. This was really a city of bikes with low concrete bike racks everywhere. They are blocks with slits that the front wheels fit into.

$ has a little collection of matchbox toys. He always sets them on their wheels. How does he know to do that?

Word of the week: voucher = coupon.

Micklefield School called to ask us to get in touch with Dunottar, since Lisa was offered a first place; they are waiting for withdrawals to make their second offers. We were waiting to see where we were going to live. I went on and called the school and was told it didn’t matter where Lisa lived, she was accepted regardless. Whew! Things are falling into place.

For the second time since we’ve lived here, someone asked me if Americans really have pancakes on the same plate with bacon and eggs and pour maple syrup over all! Have any of you done such a thing or heard of it being done? This is a research project; please respond. [For the record, I would pour maple syrup only on the pancakes.]

Bejam, the freezer center [selling only frozen foods] in Redhill, moved to its new building up the street. What a spacious shop it is now! All the aisles can accommodate two, maybe three, carts abreast. The old store was one way only due to tiny aisles.

The sun is coming our way! Thursday we got up at the usual time, 6:30, and I fixed breakfast without turning on a light.

There was a home group meeting this week. We studied scripture in preparation for a renewal weekend that started yesterday. The whole group was there — the first time I’ve seen everyone at one time. The prayer time after the study is really special; it is an unhurried time with random participation of short prayers by anyone who feels led to pray. We are so aware of the Lord’s presence. Electric!

Friday I made brownies before breakfast, got everyone delivered to train and school, shopped at Co-op, and came home to enjoy having Mary H. and Pat S. for coffee. Mary grew up in the country in a house out from a small village near here. Pat was born in the north, but has moved around. Both ladies have husbands who have divinity degrees, but no parish churches. Ken is an associate curate of St. Mary’s but runs house parties (camps) at a school during term breaks. Tim has been a chaplain and a boarding school headmaster. He and Pat were involved in some capacity at Cheam years after Prince Charles had left there. The school Tim just left was tiny — 100 boys and 10 masters — and all in a tiny place with no village life. Pat is reveling in all the people here and an active church.

They discussed education for my benefit. Children go to school until they are 16. About age 16 they sit “O” level standardized exams, the “O” standing for ordinary. At that point they either begin work, go to a technical college, or more schooling to get “A” levels. At 18 then, they can go to work, or if they have done well, on to university. University is a much higher thing than college. The higher your grades, the better the school that will accept you. I was wrong — college comes after “A” levels. It is “O” levels, “A” levels, college or university. [The letters from England were written with a manual typewriter, and there was no going back!]

Big news! We got the house yesterday! You can continue to write to us at the New York address as usual. Loraine arranged for someone else to forward things to us. Bless Loraine! Our new home address is Churchfield, Breech Lane, Walton on the Hill, Surrey, KT206TY, England. Please include “on the Hill” because it might go to Walton on Thames if you don’t.

John signed the necessary papers and handed over a bank check at the estate office in Epsom. On the way to the house, we saw the race course, Epsom Downs. Jeremy W., the owner’s son, went through the inventory with us, showed us some of the peculiarities of the house, and introduced us to the people who live in the other half of the house. Jennifer and Vivien (that’s the French masculine spelling; don’t know how he signs his name) invited us in for a moment and offered to help us in any way they could. Nice people. They have three daughters aged 9, 12 and 15. They have laid down the law to their kids as we have ours: “No SHRIEKING!!!”

While we were doing the above, our girls were taking care of $ and doing a good job. He began to cry after we got home and was awful. Guess that’s the price you pay for the first half being so good. We went back to the house to let the girls explore, taking a few things with us as we went. I picked up the instruction booklets to bring back with me to read up on all the major appliances.

The grounds are bigger than I thought with a nice-sized rose bed to the side, crocuses in the lawn, a little rock garden at the back, the orchard, and a fish pond with resident frogs lurking about. It’s lovely. I think we’re really going to enjoy living there.

England 40 Years Ago — March 4, 1981

Lisa was accepted by Dunottar School. We hope it won’t make any difference that we won’t be living on this street; the headmistress had almost promised to accept her even if her common exam papers weren’t up to par for her age group. In talking to Miss Kinman (hesdmistress of the present school) this week, we were told Lisa did very well on the exams. One of her best marks was in French!!

I thought to ask someone where the name Dunotter came from and was told it is the name of a castle in Scotland.

John and I went again to see the house we’re supposed to be getting. This time Mr. Wilson was there, as well as his wife. Both are delightful people. We found that he is a patent attorney and frequently flies to the US on business. Sounds interesting. They discussed a few things with us and then left us to wander around on our own. John was mentally rearranging the living room, and I was organizing the kitchen in my mind. We do hope everything goes smoothly. Just this morning we got the rental agreement in the mail and didn’t agree with it! Someone from the estate agent’s office called to tell us to disregard it because the Wilson’s solicitor had not been given the correct facts. I’ll say! They even had the name wrong.

One day I shopped for a dishwasher. Officially they do not “do” portable dishwashers here! The third store I went to said they could sell a reliably stable trolley to put under a regular dishwasher. The fourth store discovered one company that sells them with casters.

Lisa had a school outing to see The Prince and the Puppets in Croydon. They went via coach and got back at exactly the time they’d predicted.

Both John and I were able to go to the conference set up with Kate’s teacher. They have one conference during the year with all the parents. Lisa’s is scheduled (did you pronounce that right?) several weeks hence. Mrs. Fitzhugh (she spells it with a capital haich and pronounces it Fitz-ooo) said Kate seems to understand all the principles of maths, but is so terribly slow to work out problems. Her ideas for compositions are good, but she has trouble writing them out because she is so slow in writing. We were reassured that she works hard and does not daydream. What more can one ask?

I bought some Gooderstone carrots. Hope they taste better than stones! They look like slender carrots from home — normal ones here are terribly short and thick, though surprisingly, rarely woody.

John $ got his oral polio vaccine. The normal schedule here is to give three D.P.T. plus polio at 6, 8 and 12 months. We had to wait for a while, and at first $ was shy of meeting smaller children and babies. Didn’t take him long to get used to them and begin to run up and down the narrow hall.

Thank you for several replies about the yellow ribbons used in relation to the hostages. That’s the easiest research job I’ve ever carried out! The New Zealand woman who had asked me was glad to know what it was all about.

I’m always a little apprehensive when Mr. Wolters, the agent, has an appointment to come here. He’s never been anything but nice — better start that again because I can see I’m going to get into trouble ending it. He’s always been kindness itself. This time he came in with a tin, handed it to me, and said his wife had made us some Welsh cakes!!! I’d sent some sourdough bread and muffins home with him at previous visits. I was so surprised that she, whom we’ve never met, would do something like that. We know she is not well and is waiting to go into hospital. The Welsh cakes have the texture of cold biscuits — appear to be rolled out, cut, baked on a griddle, and sugared. Delicious. Mrs. Wolters came from Wales, so I presume these are authentic.

Kate has now had her first group violin lesson after school. The school arranged for a music shop to deliver the instruments to school, so all we had to do was sign the papers and pay for the hire of it. She is so enthusiastic and has done her bow exercises without being reminded. Lisa had requested flute lessons, but they are having difficulty getting a teacher. Miss Kinman said the flute is so popular these days that there just aren’t many good teachers free.

$ has done very well with a two-handed cup with no trainer lid, even the first day! Readiness has a lot to do with learning, doesn’t it?

Picking up a crying baby in the dark can become quite a shock. $ cried, I picked him up, then turned on the light to check his bottom. It was his top he needed changed — there was blood all over one blanket and his sleeper. He must have fallen against something because there was a hole in his gum. I laid him on his back, played with him until the bleeding stopped, and put him back to bed minus his favorite blanket. The trick was to turn out the light before he realized he was minus anything special. Got it washed and dried before he woke the next morning.

John and I had signed up to sing Messiah at St. Mary’s on Good Friday. Last night was the first rehearsal. We had tried unsuccessfully to get the edition they requested — makes it so much easier if the director can refer to page numbers. When we walked in the church, there was Tony L. loaning copies of the correct edition from the library! We can use these until the performance, but of course, can’t mark them.

I enjoyed the running chatter of the director — he is really witty. He can request the same thing five different ways! The practice goes from 7:15 to 10:15. I sat by red-headed Audrey Taylor who is interested in Tudor history, mainly economic and political history of that period. I believe I heard her right — said her husband is 22 years older than she is!! Wow!!

John talked to a man who works for Aramco and comes from Boise, Idaho. Other men in the choir were former boy choir members who had trained at St. Mary’s. They think the present choir is not worked hard enough; in their day they had rehearsals 6 days a week! One of them has a fantastic tenor voice.

We rushed home to find the phone ringing, Lisa tired, and Kate dead to the world on the couch. It’s good there are a limited number of these evenings planned.

Today (Saturday) has been an unhurried day. John and Lisa ran some errands, both girls went to Marianne’s to play for a while, and now we are enjoying being inside because there is quite a wind blowing the fine rain. It’s cozy to look out at the miserable weather and know we don’t have to go out again.

Can’t think of any more news at the moment. Hope all of you are fine.

England 40 Years Ago — March 1, 1981

We had a marvelous visit with the Mehrlings, it just didn’t last long enough. A week ago in Cherbourg we wandered into a church for a tiny part of the service. An unknown liturgy in an unknown language isn’t as worshipful as one would wish. We wandered along some railroad tracks (wonder why?) and took a nice drive around the countryside.

A church we drove by

It felt as if we spent most of the day waiting for the time to get on the ferry. The crossing itself was pleasant — not so many people on board on that trip, and John $ slept with little trouble. We got home at midnight. It was pleasant not to have to get up early and rush the next morning.

$ and I stayed home when everyone else went to Canterbury and drove to Dover and Hastings. I had a very quiet day, and $ slept a lot.

That night Mom was telling a story and said, “…had their eyes glued on the game.”

Kate asked, “Who was glooming?”

Mom, repeating herself, said, “Tonja had her eyes GLUED on the cheerleaders.”

Kate said, “Oh, she was GLUEING?”

Tuesday was a very cold day. The folks took a walk, shortened I suspect, by the cold. Lisa and Kate were back in school. John called home to say the estate agent had notified him that the house we’d put money on had been sold out from under us. We couldn’t do anything about it until this weekend when we went out looking again.

The engagement of Prince Charles brought much comment and a TV special to which we were glueing our eyes. It’s fun to be part of this celebration. The step-mother of Lady Diana is the daughter of Barbara Cartland, the novelist. That romantic writer will soon be the step-grandmama-in-law of the Prince of Wales. I find it amusing that the one who makes up stories about royalty will be linked with them in real life.

Wednesday we walked around the shopping area of Reigate and walked to the church from home. I tried again to get a picture of the inside of the church. On the way back, we stopped to look at that crazy tree in the church yard that looks like snakes or pipe cleaners attached to a trunk.

Thursday the M’s went to London to shop, lunch with John, and do a little sight-seeing. I juggled Mr. Clewes, the gardener, and Mr. Wolters, the meticulous agent. Everything was fine. Later I got in a rush getting tea, and I didn’t listen for the silence that spells trouble. I turned around to find $ had a piece of coffee cake in one hand and a big muffin in the other! I’d put the plate a little too close to the edge, and he just helped himself. To ensure he’d get to keep his prizes, he quickly took a big bite out of each one.

Friday we took the folks to the airport and continued our house search. We saw a town house in Redhill that was interesting but a bit small. The ground floor had the garage, entry and kitchen. The first floor (which we’d call the second floor) contained the lounge and big bedroom with no cupboards. Third, or second, had three tiny bedrooms and the bath.

Across the street from the one we lost was a large house that had been divided into two parts. The owner had lived in it, converted it into two separate flats, and built a new house behind this one. [A peek into the future — this is the house we lived in until it was time to return to the states, although I didn’t know it at this point.]

In Banstead was a house that made you feel you had to hold your breath all the time because the rooms were so tiny. The dining room was an addition with no heat, and we decided that might make the children eat faster with the chatter of teeth to hurry the chewing. It was a bit far from schools in Reigate, too.

After picking up the girls from school, we saw the last house of the day on the top of a big hill. It had been a mansion, but the top two floors had been gutted by fire. The top was removed, and the ground floor made into a house. The ceilings were high, the rooms spacious, but oddly put together. Two bedrooms were on one side of it, the other two beyond the lounge and kitchen. The view was fantastic, but I didn’t like the kitchen with the dishwasher in a utility room. Part of the house was locked off, reserved for the owner. It was creepy. The young owner who had just gotten married a few weeks before had left all sorts of personal possessions strewn about. The arrangements of flowers must have been from the wedding!

Yesterday the girls went to films at Micklefield (Kate’s school) while John and I waited to hear about the house. Our offer was accepted for the house in Walton on the Hill. We’re afraid to say much about it since anything could happen before the papers are signed. This is the one that is divided (not against itself, I hope). It has a green front door! On the ground floor is the big lounge-dining room, kitchen and shower room. Upstairs there is a study that will be $’s room, two small bedrooms with their own sinks, and a huge master bedroom. Also a bath in blue. We will certainly miss having an extra bedroom for guests. Our garden extends to the back with an orchard to one side. We’ll take Clewes with us. One of the nicest things about the house is the owner, who happened to be there while we were looking at it. She seemed to be such a happy person, as did her son who had just moved from that house to one of his own. As we were leaving, she said, “If this doesn’t suit you, I hope you find one that will.” She even spoke to $!! Most people ignore him and hope he’ll go away.

Yesterday afternoon Lisa complained of headache and a tummy ache. John conducted his usual test for fever by kissing her forehead to see if it were hot. She misunderstood and said, “That didn’t make me feel any better!” The days of kissing away a hurt are long gone for her!

English people don’t try things; “they have a go.” If they were offered the Braille slate to try, they’d say, “I’ll have a go at it.”

Kate, explaining she needs to rent a violin for the lessons at school, said, “They measured me and said I need a HOUSE size.” We thought that sounded a bit big for her, but she insisted that’s the way she heard it. We’ll check into a HALF size.

This morning I went to communion at 8, and John and Kate to morning prayer at 11. I think it a bit extravagant, but it’s nice to have 3 or 4 services to choose from each Sunday. Lisa has head and throat problems at the moment. We know she’s been exposed to scarlet fever and mumps at school. Any time a contagious disease is reported at school, they send a note home stating the illness and the last day the child with it was in school.

Thanks for the news of Susan (my brother’s wife). For all of you who have been praying for her — the body scan showed no tumors.

That’s all the news for now. Hope all of you are fine.

England 40 Years Ago — February 21, 1981

Guest writer! John’s mother wrote this on Hotel Sofitel stationery.

Dear family in Stony Brook,

Here we are situated in a very lovely French Hotel in Cherbourg, France. It’s about 5:30 p.m. French time which is one hour earlier than Greenwich time which is six hours earlier than Standard Time. We have just returned from a very interesting trip through Normandy countryside. What a delightful area! There are many, many old farms here, apparently occupied by several generations. They are all made of brick or stones cemented together. The farmers were out cutting down the hedgerows which break up the fields into small plots. Our main objective was Utah Beach where Dad landed on D-Day. We walked on the beach, climbed up and down the dunes and looked at the remains of the gun emplacements which were partially dug into the dunes.

It was a peaceful scene today as the tide receded. The shore was lined with shells (sea) all so different from June 6th, 1944. We saw the monument erected in commemoration of the 4th Division. There were a few landing craft there as well as a half track and a landing craft — all left over from the war.

Dad with the monument to the Fourth Division, landing at Utah Beach 6/6/1944

We stopped in a little restaurant across the street from all of this where, after much grunting and gesticulations we made our wishes known. Between the proprietor’s little knowledge of English and our equally little knowledge of French, we made out fairly well. She was so anxious to please, and we were so hungry — equally anxious to please. We had cheese or ham sandwiches on French bread.

This is a church in Normandy that we saw as we drove around

We were met at the airport by John, Anne and little John. It was so good to see them. The only one who has changed is little John. In the afternoon, after a good nap, we went with Anne to pick up the girls at school. They both have grown and look fine also. We had afternoon tea when we returned home followed by dinner later. We saw the girls’ rooms and some of their treasures. Lisa has taken some pictures which she was anxious to share with us. John C. went to the office after meeting us, so he came home a bit later for dinner. Their house is very nice — giving them plenty of room. The girls and I toured their garden, seeing the fish pond and tennis court. We also did some bird watching, which is always so much fun.

The weather is not like NY when we left on Wednesday. There were occasional snow flurries on Wednesday with cooler temps — just barely above freezing. In spite of this there are a few flowers in the garden. It’s an interesting country. There will be so much to talk about when we return home.

We hope you get this letter before we return, but at any rate you will know we have been thinking about you.

Much love to each one of you from us all.

Dad and Mom

England 40 Years Ago — February 20, 1981

[Written on hotel stationery in Cherbourg] We get around, don’t we? At the moment we are with John’s parents on our way to see the beach where Dad landed during WWII.

A correction on Valentine’s Day — they don’t celebrate it much in England, but we were amused at the staid Times. They had several pages of tiny Valentine messages, some hilarious!

Took John $pencer to the clinic to have him checked. He weighs 23.5 pounds. They had the most marvelous scales for children — there was a railing built in it so that a child could stand and hold on while being weighed. Normally children are checked there at age 1 and 3, interspersed with home visits by the visiting health nurse. The huge waiting room of the clinic was brightly painted and filled with lots of toys. $ loved it.

Our neighbor, Doris, was telling me she had been a volunteer constable after her son grew up. She was dressed in the regular uniform so that people didn’t know which women were professional and which volunteer. To start off, she had training at Scotland Yard! Then she walked a beat with a paid cop. Think she said she did it for nine years. Now she’s a volunteer at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Anyone can go in that office to ask for help; the workers have huge files they can consult to find what agency or organization could help them. The Cooks are driving from New Orleans to Washington DC in May. John got his super-duper travel books from Loraine in NY to loan to them. Anyone in Tennessee like to meet our neighbors? If so, we’ll give them your name and address.

Speaking of the invaluable Loraine – she quit, so she will no longer be our great ally in the NY office. A thousand cheers for Loraine for all she’s done for us! Would you pray that she finds a new job that she’ll like? Thanks.

The girls have now been told we’re moving. They were excited! We haven’t talked much about the new house because we won’t know for sure we’ve gotten it until March 2 or 3. Will tell you more then.

Lisa walked in asking Kate, “You want to send love and kisses to cousin Barbara?”

Kate enthusiastically said, “Yeah!”

Lisa: “Good. I already typed it.”

The Mehrlings arrived at Gatwick Thursday morning raving – not raging – about Laker. A most pleasant flight, they said. The girls were very excited at seeing them outside school that afternoon.

The next day we were up at the crack of dawn — almost heard it breaking. We stuffed ourselves in the car and drove to Southampton. The ferry to Cherbourg is more luxurious than the one at the Dover crossing. There are cabins on board, though we just lounged around in the reclining seats. Some of us did — Grandma and John C. grappled with $.

In Cherbourg Mom and Dad ate dinner with Lisa and Kate downstairs in the attractive hotel restaurant while John and I sat with $. Then we had our turn. What a marvelous meal! Real French cooking! The service was impeccable, as it usually is on this side of the world.

$ has a canvas cot (crib) that he did well in. Early this morning he began to giggle, and I realized the funny feeling in my toes belonged at the other end of that giggle. He’d climbed onto my bed and sat on my feet.

We went to Utah Beach and walked along where Dad came ashore on D-Day.

Climbing over German concrete bunkers was interesting. We picked up shells and enjoyed the sound of the breakers. $ was a bit confused by the shifting sand under his feet.

The houses here are so different. A typical new one is of concrete, small and cute, with folding shutters and white curtains drawn back. Old stone houses are often connected to the barns with a quadrangle in the middle. Tiny villages are very picturesque, though lacking color in the winter.

A small village in Normandy

It seems that mail is delivered to homes in small boxes hung on the outside of houses — not through the door as in England. In the morning we saw housewives and children walking home from the bakery with long loaves of bread under their arms and not wrapped at all! Speaking of bread — it certainly is as delicious as its reputation. Sandwiches are made with small loaves of crusty bread, sliced through the middle. Croissants are tender and flaky, a real treat. We whipped through a grocery to buy fruit and yogurt; I spotted shelves full of Gerber baby food which you can’t get in England. Of course, $ no longer needed any after we found it.

We watched the ferry come in where we landed the day before. The front of the ship opens its mouth and spews forth cars. At the same time, stairs were rolled to the side of the ferry so that foot passengers could stream off.

England 40 Years Ago — February 15, 1981

John $ (1 year, 4 months old) is a sight. He loves cardboard boxes. If he sneaks past me into the larder, he snitches a box or so. He slowly and deliberately climbs in, sits a few seconds with a satisfied grin on his face, and tries to hop out. One leg makes it and one doesn’t. He then starts running to get away from it and drags it along after him until he trips or lifts the foot high enough to clear it.

Penny S invited the children and me for tea one afternoon after school. It was a proper tea. We had lovely finger sandwiches of ham, cucumber, tomato, and various breads with butter, fruit, chocolate cake, marzipan cake, and tea. A feature of the family room was a huge rocking horse that even adults can ride! Penny loves creating things and had a sampler on the wall plus a painting or so she had done herself. She likes to sew, knit, and cook besides keeping up with the medical journals. While we were there, Andy came in from a filming session. His partner directs and he produces films — this one on severe childhood allergies.

I made some buttermilk and took it to Renee. She said her mother used to get it in the country to make scones. She wanted it for an American salad dressing.

Many do pronounce “scones”with an almost short “o” in this area. I think it is more that we put the “o” further forward, and they almost swallow it. I prefer to pronounce it with the North Carolina “o”.

Lisa, speaking of fourth formers at school: “Accidents are prone for them.” Can’t you just see an accident lying down in front of each girl? Taken literally, that would mean disaster lies in wait for them.

Kate was given a Good Conduct pin to wear every day on her uniform. I think it means she went several weeks with no mark against her name. I don’t know if she has to give it up at a particular time or always has the threat hanging over her that it will be taken away after any infringement of rules. Nothing is ever absolutely clear about her!

Lisa got in the car and asked me if I thought she had almost fainted one day in school. Then she proudly showed me the Prefect pin she had on. She was called up before the whole school and had the pin put on by the headmistress. It’s quite an honor, particularly since she’s been in the school such a short time. Many of the duties she has already been given as a member of the oldest class such as serving food, helping watch out for smaller children, running errands, and presiding at a table at lunch.

Lisa’s vocabulary is still growing. She explained that something was being “interpretated”. I think that would be wrong on both sides of the Atlantic.

Eileen B came for coffee one morning. She is such a kind person — she seems to exude it. She is the fifth of eight children. All but she and a sister in Michigan live in a three-mile radius of their mother in Dublin. She was a secretary before her two girls were born; her husband, Derek, is an architect.

Thursday Lisa had her first exam in the common entrance exams, the French oral. I would think this is the one she would be least prepared for, having had it such a short time. I thought the procedure interesting. The regular French teacher gives the test with another teacher there to run the tape recorder and see that there are no irregularities. The child is given a paragraph to study for a short time, reads it aloud in French, and then answers questions on it — all in French. There is a prepared list of 20 general questions from which the teacher picks 10 for each student.

Cathie D came for lunch after work one day. I was glad she works until 1:00 because I had to pack in a lot before she came. John had stayed home so that we could view a house first thing after the girls were dropped at school. It was cancelled, but I still had to take him to the station and get the shopping done. Put $ down for a nap, let Mr. Clewes in, retrieved the groceries from the hall, collected the milk from the doorstep, and then began the quiche and Brownies for lunch. Fixed the salad and appetizers while giving Clewes his lunch and feeding $. By the time she came, I was ready to sit down! She had time to drive to school to pick up the girls with me before her son was due home. Her big news is that she is to become a grandma in June.

The girls took heart cookies to school to share with all the girls in their class. The English don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in school, and not much seems to be made of it at home, either. I could understand, since the cheapest cards cost over $1.50 each.

The bottom dropped out of $’s world at 4 a.m. I found him standing on the floor between the wall and the crib, near the corner where the hook had hopped off the frame. He must have been dumped unceremoniously with little advance warning. It didn’t upset him very much; I think he was confused and didn’t know what to do.

John and I saw a house yesterday that is lovely, but has tiny rooms. The owner has two other families seriously looking at it, and they want it for several years. Understandably, she would rather they have it, since she may be gone for six years. The choice at the moment is the handy-man’s nightmare and the manor house on a postage stamp.

Alistair and Sheila C came to see the trains and have dinner with us last night. He is the office manager at Gotaas-Larsen and is one of the men who was so kind to us when we first came here to house hunt. He loves trains, especially real ones. Sheila told of such interesting things. She came from West Yorkshire, had taught school in Spain, been in Paris six months, and was governess for two girls (children of jet-setters) where she lived mainly in Argentina and visited the family chateau in France and the flat in New York. Some of the characters she described you wouldn’t believe in a novel! Lisa’s eyes widened when we found that she is presently a headmistress. I think Lisa sat up straighter and was amused to discover “heads” without authority over you are most interesting.

Alistair’s parents were Scots, but he spent most of his growing years in Alexandria, Egypt. His father was a banker, doing verbal and written business in English, French, and Arabic. He dredged up several words in Arabic for Lisa. He and his mother spent some of the war years in Africa.

Today we had Sunday “lunch” with the Hulls across the street. She said they’d enjoyed having an American meal with us and planned an English meal. We had roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, cabbage, beans, fruit salad, and mincemeat flan. I believe the cabbage, beans, and most of the fruit had come from their freezer via their own garden. We had coffee in the sitting room near the fire, and their almost 16-year-old played with $ which certainly helped our conversation. Then we all went for a walk on the common. Not only did the fresh air do us good, it kept $ pleasantly occupied. A very delightful time would describe our feelings. They met several people they knew, and I felt right at home when we met Penny and Andy whom the Hulls didn’t know.

Just watched a programme (British) on the Confederate Air Force in Texas. John was glad he saw it because he will be teased about it tomorrow in the office.

There were no photographs to go with this letter, so I’ll give you a preview. Below are John’s parents, soon to visit us, with Lisa and Kate. I suspect this might have been taken the day they arrived, since they are well-dressed and the girls are wearing their school uniforms.