England 40 Years Ago — September 13, 1981

We watched the first in a series about Winston Churchill on the telly, and I particularly enjoyed the scenes filmed at Blenheim and Chartwell. There were outside shots of both, a dining room scene from Blenheim, and recognizable backgrounds of the bedroom and dining room of Chartwell. It was like history coming alive to see these things taking place in rooms we had been in!

Had someone inspected our parcels at the end of a shopping trip, they would have known the opening of school was near. Six pairs of shoes and nine library books demolished the morning.

Phillipa and Catherine went with us to Gatwick Airport just to watch planes. We’d noticed when driving near Heathrow that Phillipa got terribly excited at the sight of planes (aeroplanes). It was fun to be with them on their first visit to an airport – enthusiasm unbounded! We first went to the observation deck, then wandered around the major terminal areas.

[I’ve added the photo below, just because it shows the four girls I wrote about in this letter. It was the first day of term for Lisa. You may remember that we rented half a large house that was owned by neighbors at the bottom of our garden. The other half was owned by the parents of Phillipa and Catherine. These girls were the same age as Lise and Kate, and we loved the fact that they were constantly in and out of each other’s homes. For over a year they were closer than cousins.]

Phillipa, Lisa, Kate, and Catherine

Cooperation was the name of the game one day when Kate went with me to Co op and Lisa volunteered to water all the roses while I was setting out about a hundred pansy seedlings.

John $ has no need to talk. He doesn’t fight having his hair washed, but doesn’t relish it, either. He picked up my hand, put it right on the shampoo bottle, and said emphatically, “UH..UH!!”

John has been in pain recently. He woke up with a stiff neck and tingles around the shoulder. A day or so later as he was writing at his desk in the office, his arm became numb. Not about to play games if something were serious, he sped to a doctor. X-rays showed that the bones in the left of his neck have settled too closely together and must be pinching nerves. The doctor advised aspirin, said it should go away in a week, and if it didn’t John could consult a neurosurgeon or osteopath. His health has been so good all his life that we’ve decided having 40 staring him in the face this week must be his undoing.

We wanted to go somewhere close by since John felt better walking about but not sitting. I drove us and Phillipa to Guildford. The car park we found had entrances directly to stores. Many major London stores have branches there – Marks and Sparks, Debenhams, C and A, A and N, etc. We walked along the deep canal running through the downtown area of the city. Imagine, if you can, a car with three wheels, the solo one being in the REAR! We are used to seeing the three-legged variety, but the one wheel is in the front. This one was really different. We walked cobbled streets closed off for pedestrian malls and wandered in a lovely toy store. The height (literally) of the tour was seeing the ruins of Guildford Castle high on a hill. The gardens flowing from one bed of colourful flowers to another were the prettiest I’ve seen since we moved to England. Each bed was a different fancy shape cut out of lush grass. No camera! You’ll be amused when I tell you the featured tall plant in several groups was maize (corn)!!

Napping, I tried to rouse myself when I heard Phillipa insistently saying, “We’ll cope. We’ll cope.” There were no more distress sounds, so I went on drifting. Kate came quietly to stand by the bed to wake me by staring at me. Works every time! How can I pretend to be asleep feeling those eyes boring into me? She proudly announced, “We (meaning Phillipa) changed a dreadfully dirty nappy. Could you take care of it in the loo while we put on his clean one?”

Wow!! Phillipa said, “It looks terrible when YOU do it, but it’s not so bad when I did it myself.”

Afterwards we had a special tea with homemade biscuits to celebrate.

England 40 Years Ago — September 6, 1981

After a whole year of living here, I made another discovery. To = of and past = after! We sent word to the neighbors that their girls should be ready to go with us at a quarter of nine the day we went to Blenheim Palace. Jennifer told me later they did a bit of head scratching and decided we meant before the hour rather than after. They would have said a quarter TO nine or a quarter PAST nine. They never say three thirty, either; it’s always half past three. (Be sure to put “Aah” in half and past.)

Blenheim Palace
Fountain garden

Monday was a Bank Holiday. We stayed at home, though John was on the phone quite a bit since Europe and the US were open for business. John $ and I walked to Old Tadworth where I found the fishmonger and poulterer. I must return to sample their wares.

The highlight of that day was the horse race in the garden – Kate on John and $ on Lisa. Philippa was here all day, and we briefly met Catherine’s friend Brigitta who has a Canadian accent but is Danish.

Tuesday I intended to run errands in the afternoon, but Mr. Hughes (owner of our first house Tymberly) called to say he was coming by with a package. He and Mrs. Hughes were so nice – said they felt we’d taken good care of the house and that they were able to move right in. They are going to put the house on the market because their four children are grown and they don’t need the space. The package was a pair of Kate’s jeans we’d left in Oslo.

We met Paula (a check out girl) at Co op, did our shopping and went on to Woolworth’s in Redhill and Reigate. After lunch we took her to Polesden Lacey for the afternoon. Lisa and Kate have been there several times, but there was a new dimension that day. Each child was given a clip board of questions if they wanted to participate in the quiz. There were several things to look for in each room such as two golden fish in the drawing room and who gave a cabinet in the library. What a marvelous idea! It kept children interested and quiet for ages! I know other parents appreciated it as much as I did. Lisa and Kate did very well; think they only missed two things – the number of soldier jars and the pink lobster in the hall.

In that mansion, one elderly crippled lady was slowly making her way around the house. She smilingly studied $ for a few minutes and said, “I wish someone would hold me up in a harness!” I felt like telling her I was sure she wouldn’t be as much trouble as one small boy.

I had thought Paula might mention future plans, but she didn’t. She has finished working in Co op and expects her baby to be born in November or December. We are really going to miss her when we go shopping.

The girls kept $ in the car for the 15 minutes it took for my hair to be trimmed. Then we picked up Caroline and her French guest, Muriel, to spend the day with us. Several hours were spent watching the Royal Wedding on tape. They also played tag outside and got out all the Fischer Price toys to play with in the entrance hall.

Thank heavens for understanding neighbors! They accept the love behind funny gifts. I made Phillipa a birthday cake – chocolate cake with fudge frosting. I almost misspelled her name with her sister standing at my elbow advising two “L’s”. After the cake was delivered, I heard Catherine in our hall saying in a concerned whisper, “Don’t tell her, Lisa.” Lisa replied, “Aw, she’ll just laugh.” Louder, “Guess what, Ma! You left the ‘A’ out of birthday!” Who could help laughing? We talked about”birth-ay” the rest of the day. What was just as bad was that the frosting appeared to have set, but the weight of the piped border pulled half the decorations half way down the side of the cake.

We were invited to tea next door to celebrate the birth-ay and have some of the cake. As Phil cut her slice of cake, she screamed. I had visions of maggots in the middle, but it turned out to be a custom here to make a wish and scream as you cut. Phew!

Yesterday Lisa elected to enjoy a day by herself while the rest of us went to the Cotswolds for the day. She had lunch next door and was with Catherine much of the time.

We were slightly north west of Oxford seeing the mellow yellow stone buildings of this area. All the towns seem squeezed together surrounded by mile upon mile of lush farm land.

Modern house in the Cotswolds

We walked around Bourton-on-the-Water where the River Windrush ripples through the center of town. Behind an inn is a model of the village in 10/1 scale built of concrete and slate. The buildings are about 2 to 3 feet high, and you walk around the streets. The model is complete, even with running water for the river. We were surprised to find the model inn had a model behind it – about 3 feet x 3 feet. Even it had running water for the Windrush! In that model was the tiniest model of the village, just as cute as could be.

Near Chastleton we went through a dusty, ill-kept manor house that made us appreciate the sparkle and shine of all National Trust houses. If it were dusted and polished, it would be impressive. I was intrigued with the 425 year old book of Roman History bound in wood with pages NOT yellowed because of the linen content. Also there was the carved Bible box the Archbishop of Canterbury, who happened to come from the area of Chastleton, had presented to King Charles I at the scaffold where he was executed.

The guide pointed out some hideous antlers and said it had to be explained. It seems that one of the early owners of the manor house had been to Denmark to a castle there and had been impressed with antlers. He took the measurements and had a set carved for himself in England out of wood. Then the fake horns were mounted on a funny looking animal head and mounted on the wall. At some later date someone painted a brown body on the wall that did nothing to enhance the original antlers. I think this house seemed to have belonged to more real people than those in which odd things were weeded out by people of good taste and breeding.

Catherine spent the night with us last night so she could go to church with us this morning. She, Lisa, Kate and I went around the corner to St. Peter’s. John will go this evening.

Do you want to know what a “gang kit” is? It is not a packaged version of West Side Story. It is $’s pronunciation of “blanket”, still a very important part of his day and night.

This afternoon Phillipa and Kate went to the parish children’s party down the lane. They started off with pony rides, a tug of war, jumping mats, and such and went on to a barbeque in the rectory garden, ending with a service in church. The weather couldn’t have been better – sunny, but not hot.

Speaking of weather, I don’t think it has rained during the day at all since we returned from our holiday. It may have rained or sprinkled once or twice during the night. This is so different from the cold, wet time we had for the first several months after we arrived here last summer.

Our tomato plants are doing fine, showing small green tomatoes in profusion. I don’t know when they might decide to turn red, but when they do, we will be inundated. I’ve already planted indoor ones for the winter. We’ll have to wait to see if my black thumb is turning green or just molding.

England 40 Years Ago — August 30, 1981

When Derek B, the rector, heard from Kate that we had been to Norway, he said he loves brown cheese. His deadpan humor is hilarious: “All English cheese tastes like soap. There is one good one, but I forget its name.” Turning to his wife, “Pat, what is the name of that good cheese that has maggots in the middle? Ah, yes, Stilton.”

Lisa was complimenting Kate on her thoughtfulness to a guest and said, “You’re getting quite hospitalic.”

This is a photo not related to anything I wrote. Caption says $ loves hats. It is Kate’s uniform hat. Aim was no good.

I have searched England for a dolls’ baby bottle that will hold water. Doesn’t seem to exist. Phillipa has loaned me her Tiny Tears for working with John $ and potty training, but no bottle. [The idea is to let the toddler feed the doll and see it wet its pants afterwards.] We’ve tried $ on the pot for two days, but he simply doesn’t get the idea. Even when we stuff him with salty snacks and lots of drinks, he only wets about four times a day. Bet that would make some women jealous!

We’ve spent several afternoons working jigsaw puzzles. Princess Diana in all her white finery billowing about her is something else again. [I wish I had that puzzle now. I don’t know what happened to it.]

We spent a delightful afternoon with the neighbors who lived across from the last house we had. Friends of the family were there – Kirsten who is Lisa’s age, Bryony who is 11 and goes to Micklefield, and their mum, Lorna. First everyone but $ and I went swimming at Dunotter, the school on our former street. $ loved watching on the sidelines, but the extreme heat got to us, and we went out in the sunshine to cool off. Caroline has a French girl as a guest; her family wanted to improve her English so sent her over for two weeks. The poor girl was really thrown in the deep end, if you ask me. She looks tired – and with reason. It’s a real struggle to try to follow a strange language. Both Muriel and Caroline want to see our recording of the Royal Wedding this week.

The girls have been good about running errands in the village. My voice has been out of commission for almost a week; I’ve diagnosed my trouble as either emphysema or pneumonia. I’ve been tickled at the various reactions of the people who call on the phone. I scared the telex room man who called to report to John; he must have thought with such a wild voice, I must be totally out of control. It was obvious he thought he’d gotten hold of a nut and couldn’t wait to hang up. Others are sure they’ve gotten the wrong number or that I’m at death’s door. The neighbor girls like to make me talk to see what will happen next; our girls are used to it by now.

Another stray shot of Kate, Phillipa, and $

Friday night Sarah M, the assistant of John’s boss, came home with John for dinner and spending the night. All were up early Saturday to set off for Dunkerque (Dunkirk), leaving John $ and me to play together in near solitude. We had a good time. I fed him lunch and then went next door for a sandwich with the neighbors. That was a nice interlude.

The others came home much later than they had intended. They boarded the dirty coal ship and were fed a five-course lunch that lasted over two hours – everything superbly cooked. The tour of the ship took longer than they expected, so they were late leaving. A slow ferry and unhurried dock workers delayed them further. They got home at midnight.

The girls enjoyed their day in France, though they didn’t see anything they hadn’t seen before. Most enjoyable was being with Sten’s children whom they’ve seen on several work-related occasions before. Sarah was taken back to her home by the other family.

Today John went to morning service with the girls, and we’ve enjoyed the summer weather in the afternoon. We cooked, ate dinner outside, and even had tea outside. Pleasant.

Below are two photos of the lovely little town we lived in, Walton-on-the-Hill:

The travelers had to clean the car inside and out. It was filthy with fine coal dust.

England 40 Years Ago — August 11, 1981

Legoland was three-dimensional fantasy. I loved all the details – guard boxes for the Lego soldiers marching in front of the palace, delicate stairs and banisters, figures in native costume, a stave church, water locks that really worked, trains, and windmills – all made of Lego plastic building blocks. Photos only give you an idea of what the scenes look like.

[Getting a Lego driver’s license was a high point for Lisa. Kate, three years younger, did not grasp the knack of turning corners. One of these girls has spent the last 40 years laughing about it.]

Kate getting help

The ferry from Esbjerg to Harwich is the nearest to a cruise ship I’ve ever sailed on. There was a tiny playground for children, several restaurants and spacious cabins.

Our impressions of Norway were mountains, hills water, colourful wooden houses with bright tile roofs and lovely costumes for special occaions.

Sweden has larger shopping centers and easier parking than Norway and England. We loved the word “parkering”.

Denmark is full of brick houses and old brick churches with hardly any wooden buildings. Many small houses have red tiled roofs, are almost square, and have receding foreheads for roofs. Ends that normally peak have sloping triangular ends. Transformers for electricity seemed to be housed in obelisk towers – lots of wires running to and from them. They were often metal, though sometimes of brick with a tile roof. I particularly liked a double-lane bike path.

Flowers were everywhere in Scandinavia. It gradually dawned on us that we are used to gardens in England, and that is why we didn’t at first think they had an exceptional amount. Scandinavians are more likely to have flowers in boxes and on windowsills than around the yard.

As you may have guessed by now, we had a wonderful trip. So many of the things we did, we couldn’t have done at all had John $ been with us. At the end of the trip we could look forward to seeing our little fellow with John’s sister and her family.

These photos show our two families eating breakfast, playing with trains, and getting ready to leave.

You deserve an endurance medal if you are still with me!

England 40 Years Ago — August 10, 1981

At Aarhus we walked through the open air museum of old houses which had been taken apart and reassembled, coming from all over Denmark. It was something like Mystic Seaport or Williamsburg.

A prehistory museum had artifacts from the stone age and up. We were most impressed with the well-preserved man who had lived about the time of Christ. His throat had been slit, and he was thrown in a peat bog where the tanic acid kept his body in such shape that scientists could identify the seeds he’d eaten just before he died.

In Odense we lost all track of time reading all the labels in the Hans Christian Anderson museum. The poor fellow was indigent when young, fell in love three times, but never married, and lived most of his life staying with well-to-do people who befriended him. He repaid his hosts by entertaining them with stories, giving them his drawings, and cutting fancy paper shapes for them.

We saw the cathedral in Odense and discovered an organ concert scheduled for that evening. We ate at our motel, then went to hear the largest church organ in Denmark. Beautiful.

For dinner at the motel John and I had plaice fillets bonne femme with onion and mushroom sauce, boiled potatoes and home made ice cream with fruit sauce.

England 40 Years Ago — August 9, 1981

We arrived at the cathedral outside Copenhagen in time to hear the service going on and find all the doors securely closed. Felt as if the bridegroom came and we missed him.

In Odense we went to a railway museum which Kate and John thoroughly enjoyed. I saw a waiting room bench I’d like to have taken home; it was painted green and decorated with gold crowns.

Upon arrival in Aarhus, we settled in our fairly spacious room and headed for the restaurant. The motel itself was dinky looking from outside and didn’t prepare us for the exquisite restaurant. The service was French style, the most elegant we had on the whole trip. The food was marvelous – and at that, we weren’t sure what we were getting. The menu was in Danish; the waiter could speak little English and knew few names of foods to describe them to us. I finally asked him what he liked best and ordered that. Turned out to be a thick pork chop with sauce, pineapple slices and water cress served with rice and two little pots of sauces. John had chopped steak covered with onions, and the girls a kind of beef stew. This was also the most expensive meal of the trip.

My jaw dropped when I noticed the hand basin in the motel bathroom – it boasted the first built in metal stopper that we have seen in all Europe. The last one we used was in Stony Brook more than a year ago!

The toilets come in all sizes – or rather, heights. The family room in Sweden with bunk beds had a very low toilet in the bathroom, probably for the benefit of small children. I always wondered half way down if I were aiming right. The toilet in Copenhagen was Just Right, and the one in Aarhus should have been equipped with a step stool.

It afforded much merriment in the car at the Danish word for entrance – infart. Exit – outfart, and a town we passed near – Middlefart. A bus of tourists was labeled right on the front – Tourisfart.

I took the photo below at some point in the trip. We must have been about to board a ferry and found this scene amusing. As cars waited, a petrol cart worked the line. How convenient to have your tank filled when you were forced to sit in your car!

England 40 Years Ago — August 8, 1981

Breakfast in the hotel in Copenhagen was a buffet of cold cuts, cheeses and tasty Danish pastries – the real thing!

We were staying near the palace and walked by to see the guards walking. Every quarter hour they click their heels, fold their arms across their chests to hold their guns, and stroll around. They don’t have the rigid discipline of the English guards.

Royal Palace
Palace Guard
Kate at a guard station

A ride in a harbor boat brought us to the little mermaid statue.

Little Mermaid seen from tour boat
Our Mehrmaid with the Little Mermaid

On the walk back to the hotel we saw old row houses built for seamen in the 1600’s. [Lise said this was near her bus stop when she worked in a building near the Little Mermaid.]

European cities have public toilets galore and places to buy expensive sodas on every other corner, but no water fountains! We got so thirsty walking around on dry, hot days, but didn’t want to lug heavy water around all the time.

We found an ad for a 100% Danish restaurant that welcomes children and was within walking distance. There was even a children’s menu! – unheard of in England at a good restaurant. Kate chose chicken; Lise, beef, and John and I fried fish. His had Bearnaise sauce, and I had the sauce with shrimp and asparagus again.

Birds were on the table when we sat down; their calling cards prompted us to request cleaning of the tablecloth. The waiter solved the problem to HIS satisfaction by cheerfully turning the dirty cloth over.

England 40 Years Ago — August 6, 1981

Sweden is a land of broad valleys near the sea, and the wheat harvest was in full tilt. We drove from Oslo to Helsingborg, spent the night and began our exploration of Denmark. We really didn’t see enough of Sweden to be able to compare it with Denmark and Norway.

On arrival in Copenhagen, John was told at the desk that the room he had booked was not available! Would you believe we slept in the loft of a warehouse? That’s the luxurious warehouse at right.

Actually the whole hotel was a converted warehouse right on the water front. We were given a two-story room on the top floor, which was better than the one we’d booked. The lower level had the bathroom and living room with convertible sofa. Up the open curved stairway was the sleeping loft with king-sized bed. We liked the huge exposed beams – at first to look at, and then to hang the wash over when we found no laundry open on the weekend. The window in the roof opened, and really kept the rooms cool.

This is the only photo where I can’t tell the sisters apart.

We arrived in Copenhagen at the height of summer weather. Half of Europe seemed to be thronging the pedestrian streets. We wandered along the shopping area and into Tivoli gardens.

We thought the entrance fee for our family at $6 was expensive, so we stayed to get our money’s worth. After a couple of hours, I thought the park benches worth the price!

Kate cooled her feet.

The girls had carnival rides, and we bought food. I was amazed at all the people. According to a tourist guide 40,000 people stroll in Tivoli every day. I think we met them all! From the restaurant where we ate dinner, we heard a band and saw a tight-wire act. The free concert that evening was a treat – two pianists playing Haydn and Brahms. Sitting for the music helped our sore feet so that we felt like strolling further to enjoy the lavish display of lights around buildings, over walkways, under water and in the trees.

Several times in Denmark we ate fried plaice with a sauce of asparagus and shrimp. It seems to be a national dish, and what a good one!

England 40 Years Ago — August 5, 1981

Our family went out alone to do a few errands in Oslo. John and I did one errand together, then split while leaving the girls in the car. Much to my surprise, I got lost and couldn’t find the car! I almost broke out in a cold sweat, but then found the right parking lot.

We went to museums to see a part of a real Viking ship and a reproduction of another. Also saw Kon-Tiki and Fram.

Part of a real Viking ship
Reproduction of a Viking ship

We went to Frogner Park, the one with lots of statues.

Seeing the ski jump, Holmenkollen, was fantastic. It’s where the next world’s cup match will be held. This is a view from one side.

They have just finished extending the gate at the top; I was very uneasy that high up with the gentle summer breezes almost howling. Kate joined me in those feelings. I can’t imagine anyone being willing, much less eager, to step out and sail down on skis.

For dinner we had home made soup and Norwegian pancakes. After that the Osnes girls stayed home with the boys while the rest of us went to visit Hal and Bjorg at their apartment. What a lovely home! The colors and woods and fabrics are so warm. Bjorg served Julekaka, coffee cake, a chocolate biscuit and candy dessert with coffee, then a choice of 7-Up or a non-alcoholic Norwegian beer often served to skiers. We were glad to have tasted it, but decided the taste would have to be acquired.

England 40 Years Ago — August 3 and 4, 1981

August 3 Olag and I went shopping in downtown Oslo taking the six children with us. We had a picnic between the palace of the king and the parliament building. Olag had prepared open face sandwiches of cold cuts, cheese, and brown cheese on waffles. We were royally entertained by a band and soldiers drilling. To cool us off we had ice cream cones. What a treat! The ice cream was so much better than anything we’ve had in England.

Riding the T-Banen was much like riding a clean New York subway of years ago. It was very convenient to walk to from the Osnes home, let us out at the shops we wanted to explore, but cost a total of $10 round trip for the 8 of us.

In the supermarket near their home were the cutest miniature shopping carts just the right size for 2 – 6 year olds to push beside their mothers. On further thought, it might be that since food is so expensive there, you can only afford to fill one of those tiny carts.

For dinner that night we had fried fish pudding, boiled potatoes, mixed vegetables and cherry cake. They put slices of tomato and springs of dill on the fish pudding and made it look festive.

August 4 We made a leisurely start for the Osnes summer house south of Oslo. Eivind’s parents seemed glad to see us swoop upon them without warning. In one trip down the only access to the house from land, a steep footpath, we managed to carry bathing suits, towels, food for two meals, a grill and charcoal. The children paddled about in the freezing water, went in the rowboat with Mr. O, and had fun running and yelling.

The house was right on the fjord with a lovely level yard in front. The cottage had four bunk beds, a living/dining room, kitchen and no running water. At the moment all the water is walked down in bottles.

Kate was impressed with the toilet facilities. She said, “I’ve never seen a loo and a garden shed all in one!”

For middag we had grilled hot dogs, rolls, potato salad, Olag’s homemade cloudberry cake, and the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever eaten. Putting sugar on those berries would be like pouring syrup over a candy bar. They were perfect just as they were.

We relaxed and talked with the senior Osnes couple before leaving for World’s End. The boulders are all rounded at the tip!

Our families at World’s End

We picked a few raspberries beside the road, had a picnic of cheeses, cold cuts, home made rolls and cake.

Vertical picking of raspberries

The drive back to Oslo was pleasant in the evening twilight and mist. As an extra special treat the girls were allowed to stay up till after midnight looking at home movies. We saw clips of John’s sister’s family in Oslo and all the movies from the O’s year in the US.