England 40 Years Ago — November 29, 1981

I think John $ approaches a neat, clean house the way a writer faces a clean sheet of paper, or an artist a canvas – eager to make his mark and show what he is capable of.

Every once in a while my mother sends us a large cartoon from the Sunday comics which features a little boy with lots of energy. The pictures show his trail through house and yard jumping on beds, riding the dog, climbing a tree, playing in a sand box, watching a neighbor work in a garden, wading through puddles, riding a bike, peering in the garbage, etc. He generally arrives back home telling his hard-working mum he has nothing to do. I think John $ would be pictured that way, only trailing behind holding on to his reins (harness) for dear life is his harried mum – Me!

Ten people came to our house for the home group from St. Mary’s in Reigate. This is the first meeting John and I have been to this season. It was so good to have fellowship with devout Christians again. One of the new people in the group was Lisa’s main teacher at Micklefield last year. Mrs. Freeman asked if Lisa were here and if she could talk to her. She went to the top of the stairs for a long chat with Lisa and Kate.

I can’t remember ever seeing snow the day before Thanksgiving – had to be in England for that! Up here on the plateau it snowed all morning with nothing to show for it but a drippy roof. Looked pretty, though. The snow, not the drippy roof.

Thanksgiving came with a minimum of fuss since much of our routine continued; it didn’t feel like a holiday to me until John came home from the office early. John G had flown into Heathrow that morning, took a nap at home, then appeared in the office to drive John out. They came just 10 minutes before I would have had to set out on the school run. They did it instead, and I put the finishing touches on the dinner.

We also enjoyed Udo K and his wife, Tina, while Lisa talked non-stop with their 15-year-old twin girls and Kate flirted with their 11-year-old son. The boy loved playing with the trains set up in area near the fireplace.

John took Lisa shopping in Epsom, buying two pair of shoes and a top! It took a lot of tact and the patience of Job on his part. I think he has more to spare than I.

$ has learned to put on his jackets and sweaters by the good old Montesori method. He’s so proud of himself.

Today must have been the most marvelous of Advent Sundays we’ve ever had. We arrived at Winchester Cathedral in time to walk all around the church, finding Jane Austen’s grave and seeing this longest of Medieval churches. The girls and I sat near the front of the packed church – every seat taken in the first two sections reaching half way back. Most seemed to be regulars greeting each other and smiling at us. What warmth!

The choir was superb, singing one of my favorites by Ralph Vaughn-Williams. I went up for communion and was shocked later to see John approach the altar with a sleeping $ in his arms. The sermon was erudite, but with a simple message.

We ate dinner (roast beef for others, salmon for me) at a tiny restaurant with most attentive staff. $ ate like a pig with good manners and behaved beautifully.

The great hall still standing from the castle was also within walking distance and featured King Arthur’s round table hung high on the wall. (It’s several hundred years too new to be authentic, but is old nevertheless.)

Two original gates in the city wall remain, one with a lovely little church built right over the opening.

Church over the gate

Walking back to the car, we again stopped in the cathedral to buy a few little things and the Christmas tape done by their choir. We reveled in the glorious sound all the way home.

England 40 Years Ago — November 22, 1981

At the beginning of the week the butcher, Mr. Luf, handed me an envelope that he said they’d had since the Saturday before, hoping Kate would come in. Her face lit up when she saw it after school; she opened it, and her mouth dropped open when she discovered a one pound note with a lovely birthday card. She flew out of the house to go over and thank the two men and a boy who had signed it. [The butcher shop was easy to reach using a footpath. Kate often went with me and occasionally ran over by herself to buy eggs.]

This nation is changing over to the metric system faster than the US. I was looking for shoe laces and found them marked in cm only. I know what 1 cm looks like, but I couldn’t visualize 60 of them end to end. Solution: I found a ruler in the stationery department, and the problem was solved.

I was invited to a coffee to meet two ladies who live in this area. Eileen B had the get-together in Reigate not far from Micklefield school. I don’t know how she got to know the other two, one of whom has a son at Micklefield, and the other with a son in school just down Breech Lane. All three of us visitors had a toddler in tow, so the visiting was at a minimum. Did find out that the husband of one is a builder, and the other a stunt man! At the moment he is working on the Pirates of Penzance.

On a rainy day John $ had his Wellingtons on, and I was able to lure him to town by going from one puddle to another. The rector replied to my martyred air, “You’re only young once. If you jump in puddles when older, they lock you up.”

$ loves to pull cereal out of the cabinet

The day the car was in the garage for servicing was the day the assistant matron of Dunottar called to say Lisa was ill. I don’t believe I’ve ever fetched her from school in the middle of the day. Luckily I was able to call the garage to find the car was finished and return the call to the school to confirm that I would be picking Lisa up in half an hour. Had to get John $ just as he was going to sleep for his nap, walk to town, get the car, and drive to Reigate. Brought Lisa home and helped her to bed before going back for Kate. Lisa felt better soon after getting home, so it wasn’t anything serious.

I’ve noticed that in speaking of kinfolk, English people refer to their “relations.” The friendly girl who pumps petrol in Reigate said, “When I went to visit my parents, my relations drove me down.” To me “relations” conjures up a bunch of people you have to struggle to get along with, as in “keeping up good relations with so and so.” I’d take relatives any day!

When we first moved in, Catherine and Philippa told us everyone in the village is nice except the grump who runs the post office. They told us to steer clear of him whenever possible. I found that he was, indeed, a sour person; and all I do is hand him my Braille work once a month. You can imagine my horror as I went in to buy these funny brown envelopes when Kate marched up to the window. She picked John $ up so he could peer through the grill and told the man it was the first time he’d walked in the post office. I was imagining he’d keep a sharp stick to poke at little people like I’d poke at spiders, but he smiled and asked how old $ is!!! What a shock!!! Kate seems to inspire some people to be friendly when I can’t.

Two in the toy box

England 40 Years Ago — November 16, 1981

Sorry I missed writing last week. Birthday week is always a hectic time. Nine days ago Kate had four friends spend three hours here for a party, including games and lunch. They are of an age to cooperate nicely and eat heartily, so we all had a good time.

Lise with Kate and her friends for Kate’s birthday party

Thank you all very much for all the notice of the girls for their birthdays. They both had all their cards displayed in their rooms. The real birthdays, which fell in the middle of the week, we celebrated by having them choose their menu and by having their dad home from work early.

Kate on her 10th birthday

Lisa had four friends for a slumber party. Two I know quite well – Catherine S and Caroline H – but Emma H and Janet S were new to me. All were so sweet and interesting to talk to. We feel both girls have some lovely friends.

Lise blows out the candles on her cake.
Lise is 13. The girls’ birthdays are one day apart.

Before long I may have to arrange to shop without John $ or find some horse blinders to fit him. After I’ve put a few purchases in my basket that hangs on the handle of his push chair, he peers into it and helps himself to anything he fancies. I bought bananas; he grabbed them, and before I could think “NO” he’d bitten a little of the skin. By the time I got home he’d worked one little finger into the hole and began to fish out the banana bit by bit.

The English believe in charity and start training their children for it early in life. Every Friday at Micklefield they take up a collection for some organization. Last week, of course, was Poppy week – donations for Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day). At Dunottar various groups organize things to bring in money for their favorite charities. There have been Rubic cube contests, a game of net ball between students and faculty, and pony rides at lunch break. Adults, too, are not ashamed to walk the streets and pound on doors to raise money.

Lise, at thirteen, has decided it is the thing to run down her parents. I nearly laughed aloud at the conversation among the girls as we came home from school for Lisa’s slumber party. She was going on about how OLD her father is, and it was absolutely the wrong group to air that. The three other girls who came from Dunottar are the youngest in their families, and two of them have a sibling engaged to be married in the coming year. Caroline said, “My father is 50”, in a placid tone, and the other two said theirs are 51. End of conversation! Lisa knew very well that John just celebrated his 40th.

Yesterday we drove through the autumn countryside taking back roads toward Arundel Castle (emphasis on the “a” as in “apple”). It wasn’t open – most things aren’t now – but we did see the village and outer walls. It was beautiful and imposing. We drove on to the sea and walked beside the pounding surf with the crisp breeze stinging our faces. Refreshing.

Saturday we invited neighbors Jennifer and Vivian for a quick cup of tea and a taste of carrot cake. When I mentioned the name of the cake, they rolled their eyes slightly, having never heard of putting carrots in cake. They decided it was edible. We were discussing beverages, and they said the reason people put milk in the cup before pouring the tea goes back to the time real china cups from China made their advent here, along with tea. The English people knew china was much more delicate than whatever they had been using, so they put the milk in first to keep the china cups from breaking from being suddenly heated by the hot tea. They pointed out that it has never been the custom to put milk in coffee first; it is always served separately.

That’s all the news for now. I hope to reply to several weeks’ worth of letters that I haven’t gotten around to before.

England 40 Years Ago — November 2, 1981

Kate had last week off for half term, and Lisa got only half Friday and Monday. One day Kate and I set out for Bodiam Castle in East Sussex. This castle was built in 1386, was probably burned during the civil war and gradually decayed for 200 years until it was cleaned up and presented to the National Trust. It’s a compact fortress surrounded by a lovely moat. After we walked through and around it, we tried to get home on small roads. Took forever, but it was fun.

Kate enjoyed being outside working with Mr. Clewes. He was able to get her to practice her violin by telling her he was sure she couldn’t really play a tune. Another day she went to the office with John, staying the full working day. She was really tired when they got home and chose to stay at home the following day just diddling around.

John took Friday off, we pulled Lisa from school, and off we went to Paris for the weekend! The first fun thing was riding on the hovercraft across the Channel. We just looked at each other as our “flight” was called. They always referred to it as flying! The vehicle takes about 25-30 cars and extra foot passengers. The loading is relatively quick. Passengers leave their cars being lashed down by the crew and go to either side cabin to sit in airline type seats. Hostesses ask each adult if they wish to purchase anything from the duty free shop and bring your items to your seat. Kate and I decided to go to the loo and understood why they urge you to remain seated most of the time – it’s almost impossible to walk! The girls who work in the craft are used to it. John says they have their sea legs. They trot up and down the aisle with little difficulty while Kate and I lurched the few steps we walked.

The hovercraft is about as noisy as a prop jet. After the engines rev up, it slowly rises up in the air and slithers off the sloping ramp onto the water. I think all of you would enjoy it, with the possible exception of Julie and Chrissie. The return flight was rough because the sea was not calm, but we just enjoyed being bumped around. It could be compared with flying in an airplane through turbulence. It took half an hour to go over and 45 minutes to return, and the fare has been reduced so that it is the same as going on a regular ferry.

We were surprised at the openness of the countryside on the way to Paris. It is empty land! All is farmed or used for industrial purposes, but there are few towns and only a few houses in sight from the highway. The city itself doesn’t seem to be surrounded by suburbs like most cities we’ve seen; you’re in the country, and then suddenly in the city. The traffic was something else again! It took hours for us to work our way to the hotel near Orly Airport, and this was at 3 in the afternoon. After we settled in the hotel, we decided to take a drive toward the city while waiting for the dining room to open. We figured the traffic couldn’t be heavy on the way in and past rush hour. It was. We found ourselves squeezed along with the crowd before trying to make a block and reverse our direction. One block took half an hour. That is not an exaggeration! We were so glad to find the hotel again, though we’d wanted to eat in an outside restaurant (by outside I mean not at the hotel, not outdoors). We ate, put down a tired little boy and went to bed ourselves.

Saturday we had a later start than planned, but did get in Versailles to see the Palace. What opulence! The innards are all marble, gold, mirrors, chandeliers, and paintings. It boggles the mind that a few people could live in that way when the rest of the country was in abject poverty. No wonder they parted Marie Antoinette from her head!

It seemed a fairly long way to Chartres (pronounced “sharts”, I think). It was worth it for the view of the cathedral from a distance. That church is considered by many to be the most beautiful in the world. It sits on the top of a steep hill and seems to be a beacon to the world for miles around. We worked our way up steep lanes seeing what a medieval French town must have looked like. There were times the Peugeot had to squeak between two buildings; an American car simply wouldn’t have made it. All parking places were taken above ground, so we went into an underground car park. It was a marvel – two concentric circles held hundreds of cars, and you’d never have guessed it was there close to that ancient cathedral.

The stones are obviously very old, and the floor from the back up to the chancel is cobbled like an old street. It’s the first time we’ve ever been in a church with such a rough floor. By late afternoon on a cloudy day you could almost not see the ceilings. The windows glowed with a soft light, and the colours were the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

We walked into the shopping part of town to find people scurrying about and business as lively as could be at 5 in the afternoon. Most impressive were the flower stalls doing a brisk business in potted plants. We later found out why. We had forgotten it was Halloween and the next day All Saints’ Day. It seems to be the custom in France to decorate graves with plants for All Saints’ Day. On Sunday EVERY cemetery looked like a flower shop! We saw numerous glowing spots of colour in the landscape on the drive back to Calais (that ends with “lay”), and each one was a cemetery.

We found out that hand-knitted Norwegian sweaters are very absorbing items. I hope you enjoyed the above description because I’ll now tell you how the day started out. $ wouldn’t eat breakfast, whimpered in the car as we drove away to go sight-seeing, so I took him on my lap. You guessed it. He let loose with all the orange juice he’d insisted on drinking. It kept coming and kept coming. Got on the car carpet, my legs, and all over $, mostly on his sweater. The sweater absorbed a great deal. We immediately turned around to go back to the hotel, and I washed out everything by hand while John and Lisa cleaned the car. He and Kate searched until they found Woolite, and soon the sweater was smelling sweet again. We took the ice bucket from the Holiday Inn and started out again. Every time $ looked green, cried, or burped, I shoved his head down that little plastic bucket. Luckily, nothing else happened. We did enjoy our day and got to see much that we’d wanted to.

Sunday we walked around the inside of Notre Dame looking at all the beautiful windows. What a treat to hear the bells pealing and resounding down through the church, though it wasn’t loud at all inside! We stayed for part of the service until $ had had enough. The boy choir was so much better than we’d have thought. Many French choirs sound terrible compared to English or German ones, but this was an exception. People kept streaming in to attend the service. It was very moving.

The Seine flows right by the church, all hemmed in by stone banks. A short way down the street is the Eiffel Tower, and we also drove to see the Arc de Triumph or however you spell it. If I can’t spell English, I know you’ll forgive my French.

This morning (Monday) Kate was supposed to go to school, but threw up three times instead. Lisa has been very kind to her, fetching her drinks, books and such. I washed three loads of clothes, spread Carpet Fresh in the car, and returned overdue library books. I’m so glad Kate can aim at a bucket and not do her thing on me! Tomorrow all should return to normal.

Paris is surprisingly open with very wide boulevards, unlike London’s narrow winding streets. John said the man who helped design Paris also had a hand in the design of Washington DC. Most of the areas we were in came from this period.

England 40 Years Ago — October 25, 1981

Deviousness comes early to some. $ has decided he doesn’t like milk. When I was caught on the telephone at lunch time, he crawled out of his chair onto the table, lifted the lid of the teapot and neatly poured his milk into my tea, closed the top afterwards and looked as smug as could be.

There was heavy, heavy rain while we were in route to school. Going down the very narrow and steepest part of the back road down the Downs, I saw the car ahead of us go into a skid. Fortunately, it didn’t hit any in the line of cars waiting to get up the hill. Whew!

There was an open night at Dunottar for parents of new girls. It was a free for all in the dining hall – parents and teachers milling about and trying to talk about the school and the girls. The president of the board of trustees calmed everyone down by making a speech mostly on financing and nearly put me to sleep. Rather pointless, I thought, but I was glad to see what a couple of Lisa’s teachers looked like.

Why are weeds so strong? Our telephone was out of order for two days, and the engineer (repairman) found that a vine near the kitchen window had broken the wire!!!

Did you know that ground nuts and monkey nuts are very familiar to all of you? Both are names for peanuts!

I asked the girls if $ had seen people feeding horses on a TV show they’d watched together. The following day he kept shoving food at the mouth end of his wooden riding giraffe.

It was bound to happen sometime. I was so thankful $ had on dry pants and that I hadn’t an important appointment looming over me. In fact, it was leisure time that got me in trouble! I was intent on getting $ to walk happily with me to the butcher shop for fun and exercise and didn’t discover until I returned home that I’d left the key inside. Since thieving is a national pastime, I’d carefully locked and double locked all windows and doors. Mrs. Wilson was home, but couldn’t find her key. Vivian took a look all round but could only suggest breaking a window. Finally Mrs. Wilson made a second stop up here to say she’d at last located Jeremy, who was working nearby, and would come with the key in 10 minutes. They were all terribly kind and understanding. Even had a cup of coffee next door while waiting – a treat I’d not usually allow myself!

When I read this newspaper headline, “Many axed quangoes are still awaiting legal death,” I had to know what on earth “quangoes” were. Even after reading 20 inches of the column it made no sense. On to the dictionary! “Quangoes” – acronym for quasi-autonomous national government organization. Surely they deserve a quick death to put us out of our misery!

Passing the pond, Kate was asking where the young swans were. She said, “Where are the swignets?”

Despite heavy rain we thoroughly enjoyed seeing Warwick Castle. Here in England you just ignore the rain as much as possible. I’ll admit that was a bit hard to do at Warwick Castle. There was a long hike from the car park to the outer walls of the castle, and quite a walk to the barbican.

Outer wall of Warwick Castle

Inside the walls of the castle

The buildings on view are arranged around a large courtyard, and you duck in for a bit, then back out in the rain to dash to the next part. It was a bit hard to see with rain streaming down my glasses while outside and the fog that instantly whitened out everything as soon as I stepped inside. In the lower regions, we never knew if the squishing of our feet signaled we were squeezing water out from the last puddle or letting more in from the puddle just entered.

There have been fortifications on that site since the 900’s! The state apartments are impressively luxurious. We saw a handkerchief and a saddle that had belonged to Elizabeth I!!! In the library I was most impressed with the water colours. The picture had been done by members of the Warwick family several hundred years ago. I knew water colour painting was a general hobby among the upper classes, but I never imagined they would be so exquisite. The ones on view were about 9”x12” with the finest brush strokes imaginable and vibrant colours. I would have guessed they were done by a master painter had I not read otherwise.

The tiny tower steps going round and round were both treacherous and steep. The passage way couldn’t have been more than two feet wide, and the sharply curving stone steps were so narrow that our feet wouldn’t fit flat even on the outermost part. John carried $, Lisa held our guidebooks, and I had a camera and pocketbook in one hand, the other holding Kate who was scared to death. There was a warning to the elderly and infirm that more than 200 steps were ahead. After puffing up and holding our breath on the way down, we FELT elderly and infirm! We saw the room high in the walls where soldiers stood ready to run to any part of the wall needing reinforcements.

Photo from the tower

We easily found a lovely modern motel, but finding dinner was another matter. The motel dining room didn’t open until 7:30, and we had a tired little boy on our hands. We searched three towns to find something that was open, suitable and affordable. Evidently English children are not expected to eat after 4:30 when traveling. We found numerous fish and chips shops, but they had counter only – no where to sit to eat. Fried fish eaten in a car on a rainy night held no appeal. Likewise Indian food and Chinese take-aways. We finally settled for a pizza place. What a lovely surprise! It was newly decorated with lots of light wood, had a menu that included vegetables, a charming waitress who exclaimed over how “gorgeous” $ was, and we had no need to rob a bank before entering.

Kenilworth from a distance
Entrance to Kenilworth

Sunday at 5 a.m. $ arose ready for a full day and wouldn’t postpone the start of it. John drove him around the countryside before dawn to keep him happy while the rest of us got our beauty sleep. He saw Coventry Cathedral and the massive ruins of Kenilworth Castle by moonlight. After breakfast he took us all to see the towering walls of pink brick that are all that remain of Kenilworth.

John’s timing was splendid, as usual. We found Stratford upon Avon with no trouble, spotted a church, parked the car, and walked in just before the service began. It happened to be the burial place of Shakespeare! After the service we went up in the chancel to see the grave of him and his wife, Anne. Also on display were photostats of his baptism, marriage and burial pages taken from the church records.

Church and grammar school

I had left church before the sermon to remove $ and walked about the town scouting the historical places and finding a restaurant. While waiting for the service to end, I went behind the church and found the River Avon lined with fishermen. Within sight were waterfalls and locks. While enjoying the scenery, I idly watched a narrow boat being rowed down the river. As it came closer, I realized the five boys in it were very young. The man in a track suit running on the opposite bank was their trainer. He shouted, ran, had them stop, shouted some more, and really put them through their paces. Bet the fishermen loved that!

At the Shakespeare Hotel we ate roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower, swedes (turnips) and roast potatoes. Having amply satisfied our stomachs, we began to walk.

Shakespeare Hotel

Shakespeare’s birthplace was a fairly large house very simply furnished. The house he bought when he’d retired from London was demolished one or two hundred years ago, but the foundations remain. Adjoining that is the house that belonged to his granddaughter, Elizabeth. The guide commented on how large the house is and how wealthy Shakespeare was. Both he and his wife came from good families, and he’d made very wise investments. Not far away was the home of William’s daughter who had married a doctor, John Hall. It, too, is large.

We drove in the car to Anne Hathaway’s cottage – the farmhouse where she lived while Shakespeare was courting her. The guide said they married when William was 18 and Anne 26 years old. Anne’s father was not poor, either; he farmed 90 acres!

Our family approaching the cottage

Standing near the door, I took the photo below to show the thickness of the thatched roof.

I was glad to see a visual history of plates – an old square wooden trencher with a large round depression for the meal and a small one for salt. That’s where we get the expression “square meal”. The wooden trencher was used in William’s day with only a knife and fingers to eat with! Next shown were pewter plates that came later, and then china. All these had belonged to the family – 13 generations of that family had occupied the house.

The sun had shown all day to spite the forecasters. We hit a few sprinkles of rain on the long drive home, but it wasn’t too bad. We decided the impromptu trips can be more fun than the well-planned ones.

England 40 Years Ago — October 18, 1981

Lisa says she’s quoted the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” The reply came back, “Satisfaction brought it back.”

John $ had such a good time on his second birthday. While I was making his cake, he pretended to be a chimney sweep. As I went looking for him, he slipped upstairs to play with his dad’s pipes. The best mess was the licking of the spatula from his cake batter.

John $pencer with his birthday cake
$ opening gifts with Kate holding his new outfit

$ loves real telephones as well as toy ones. He can even have a pretend one in the bath! As the water was going out, he used the stopper on a chain as the ear piece and the over-flow fixture as the mouth piece to send important messages in the Evisneps language.

Loraine (John’s good friend and former secretary from NY whom a few of you don’t know) arrived Tuesday night. She’d had a week’s coach tour of Scotland and told us about the marvelous weather and lovely sights. Wednesday she met some new friends in London for an ALL DAY tour of the city and came back with her tongue hanging out. Sights included Madame Taussaud’s or however you pronounce it and spell it, changing of the guard, a brewery, an embroidery or tapestry works, the Tower, St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. Of course, they got out at each place and had a thorough tour with lots of walking.

Thursday and Friday she elected to stay with me to see how daily life moves in the suburbs. We “did” Walton in the rain, going to the butcher shop, green grocer, Cullen’s, the bakery, and looking at everything in between. Friday we went to Redhill to see Co op, Woolworth’s, Boots, and the freezer store. Reigate got a quick walk up and down the high street. When Kate came out of school, we drove to Godstone, doubled back for Lisa, went to Dorking, Box Hill, and home. That night the next door neighbors came for dessert so that we had a nice sit-down visit.

Our children, John, neighbors Catherine and Phillipa and gift to $ from them

Saturday Catherine (neighbor who is Lisa’s age) went with us to Heathrow (emphasis on the “row” of that name) to take Loraine. Kate was at Philippa’s delayed birthday party seeing, or rather crying over, Charlotte’s Web. It seems they were all nine crying when they emerged from the cinema. Beefburgers, baked beans, sausages, chips and a thickly coated chocolate cake soon had them in high spirits again.

We put Loraine to work professionally while she was here. John’s and her former boss called from NY to give John an order, but he couldn’t hear me on the phone, being hard of hearing. I shouted to him that Loraine was here, so he told me to give her a pad and pencil and put her on. I did. She took the message in shorthand which fascinated Kate. I was so glad she was here at that particular moment!

One night the funniest thing happened. I’d prepared a Christmas pudding the week before so that she could have one here with us. I mentioned what was coming, so John put on a Christmas record. As the flames were dying down, Loraine produced the crowning touch with a Christmas gift for each of us! She’d brought Smurf Christmas tree ornaments! What a laugh we had!

Loraine more than earned her keep. She kept $ out of untold numbers of things, refereed several sibling fights, and I found Kate in bed with her one morning reciting poetry for school! As you can imagine, we were very sorry to see her go.

England 40 Years Ago — October 11, 1981

There is lots of rain here these days. The way people talk, it is the usual for autumn (NOT fall) weather.

Below is a photo of autumn colour in the town where we lived, Walton-on-the-Hill.

Having said that, I must hasten to add that today, a Sunday, we had a perfectly gorgeous day of sun and brisk breezes that made us want to get up and go somewhere. Catherine and Phillipa went with us to the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court. Those of you who have seen Hampton Court saw the chapel from the balcony. We were invited to park free of charge in a special parking lot and walked around a side way to get into the chapel. We were among the first to arrive, were seated in the congregation, then later invited to go into the choir. The sidesman (usher) said, “Since you are all ladies, would you like to sit on the women’s side in the choir?” John was outside with John $ at the time. They reserve the back row of the choir for women on one side and men on the other.

There were a fair number of people there to worship with the choir of men and boys. The men were fantastic; the boys were not as precise as many we’ve heard, but lovely, nevertheless. I thought the sermon the best of any we’ve heard outside the parish churches we’ve been to. The man took a text, developed it, and didn’t quote any works of fiction or radio broadcasts. After the benediction, we sang “God Save the Queen.” I felt so stupid to know the tune so well and have not the foggiest notion of the words. We wondered if it was sung because it’s a royal chapel.

After the service everyone was invited for a drink in the chapter house. We were intent on finding the car with John and $, but missed our way and ended up following the others. When we came to a dead end and everyone else was going into an apartment, we began to swim upstream. One kindly usher saw us and asked if we had lost our way. He walked back with us, telling us that we were invited for the social hour. I explained we had to find the rest of the family, and he quietly said, “You could tell him about it afterwards.” In any case, we saw parts of the palace that are normally closed to the public.

We had a drink of lemon squash at the car and drove on to Richmond on the Thames. We ate lunch at the Golden Egg, a chain of semi-fast food restaurants. After a walk along the Thames seeing swans, long boats, and ducks, we drove a short way to Ham. Ham House was built in 1610 and remodeled in 1670. Most of the furniture was original to the rooms they were placed in, having been redone by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale at the time of remodeling of the building. The whole place overlooking the Thames was gorgeous, especially the carved panels about the stairs. I enjoyed the floors with beautiful designs all in wood. The ceilings were equally ornate.

We often walked right by Mere Pond when running errands in the village.

Lisa laughed at me for feeling sorry for the Queen. I read that when she dines alone or with only family members she eats meat, salad and a vegetable for lunch and dinner. No appetizers, no soups, no desserts. She does have a choice, ticking off desired items the day before from menus sent to her. The day I read that I fixed myself a mouth-watering sandwich of thin home-baked bread, crisp bacon, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, and layers of snappy lettuce. As this feast ascended toward my mouth, I said, “Poor Queen.”

Warrants are issued to merchants or companies who supply the royal household with any item for over a period of three years. This entitles them to put the appropriate crest on their adverts, delivery wagons and letter paper. The Queen has issued the most because her household is so large – including Buckingham Palace, Balmoral, Sandringham, Windsor, etc. The Queen Mother has the next largest number and Prince Philip fewer still. Most of his are on sporting goods. I presume Prince Charles hasn’t issued any up till now since he hasn’t maintained a separate establishment. $’s first pair of shoes had the Queen’s crest on the insole, and it took up the whole heel part of the shoe! This week I picked up a high-class can of baked beans with her crest! I can’t imagine her eating baked beans, can you?, but someone in her household does.

The book also said the Queen always has her favorite blend of tea and an electric kettle that travel wherever she goes. Someone must always remember to pack her favorite soap. I feel sorry for her because I think half the joy of using products is in the trying of new brands. Poor Queen! Crest toothpaste tastes superb to me right now because I bought a really vile one put out by Co-op and wouldn’t let myself throw it away till it was finished. The Queen has probably never had the worst of toothpastes to compare with her best!

Another view of Mere Pond.

Friday night we had gale force winds whipping around. Were we evermore glad to be far away from tall spindly trees!

Yesterday Kate and Phillipa went with George to a charity bazaar. Kate didn’t buy anything, but Phillipa bought a pair of shoes for $ for 30p. She has a good eye; I think he could have worn them a month ago! Had to explain to her that they wouldn’t go on his feet, but I purchased them to give to a friend. I know Paula will be glad to get anything for her baby.

Lisa had a croupy cough and stayed home Thursday and Friday. We strung that guitar that Jeremy has loaned us, and she finished the beginner’s book! She’s enjoying it.

Once, and only once, the pond froze over while we were living there. Lisa and Kate were used to the idea of walking on frozen ponds from being on Long Island. We dressed in our warmest clothing, and the girls stepped onto the ice from the sidewalk in the distance here. Nothing could have been further from our minds the day this photo was taken.

England 40 Years Ago — October 4, 1981

If you’re not in the mood to read about one John $, you might as well put this down right now. Absolutely nothing unusual or extremely interesting happened this week; all that is written in my calendar book are incidents with a little imp.

John $ all of a sudden just stepped off into space and down the whole flight of stairs, never touching anything with his hands! He does this now from time to time, but when he’s in a hurry he flops onto his tummy and zooms down.

He is a great one for imitating whatever he sees. If one of the girls chokes at the table, he promptly tries, too. If someone spits out a bit of fat, $ partially chows and spits each mouthful thereafter. However, he doesn’t always get things in the right order. By imitation he has learned to wripe (that’s a cross between wring and wipe) his feet on the mat inside the door. One really rainy day he walked in, wiped his feet, and walked out again. Five times in a row he ran around the hall, carefully wiped his feet, and ran outside again. Guess it helped keep house dirt off the stoop!

$ loves to peek in kitchen cupboards to see what he can see. He found some old hard candy that had cemented itself to the shallow candy dish. Before long he picked it up and tried to extract one piece. Impossible. It didn’t take long for him to figure out what to do – he held the dish and licked the whole mound of sweets. I stalked him with a camera round and round the kitchen. He would grin so wickedly, give a quick slurp on the candy and put the dish down again so I couldn’t get photographic proof of my tale.

$ licks hard candy
Candy smeared on the face

Have we mentioned that Lisa is continuing her flute lessons? She started at Micklefield, but Dunottar doesn’t offer instruments other than the piano. We discovered that her teacher lives in the next town, Tadworth, and made arrangements for her to have a lesson on Saturday mornings. John took her and picked her up last week, but yesterday she walked home on her own. It took her about half an hour.

Kate has her group violin lesson after school on Thursdays. It lasts half an hour. I can pick her up and still have time to spare before Lisa is released from school.

This morning I went to St. Peter’ s by myself. It was dedication Sunday; we renewed our baptismal vows as a congregation and after the service processed around behind the church to the grave of the founder of this church where some prayers were said and the Doxology was sung.

John is taking the girls to London to meet Loraine [John’s whiz of a secretary in NY] at her hotel. She flew overnight from NY and is supposed to have time to get settled in before they get there. The plans are for them to go to one of the big churches for Evensong since this is the only Sunday Loraine will be in this area. She leaves on a bus tour of Scotland tomorrow and will be with us in Walton on the 13th for a few days. We’re looking forward to that.

We think of all of you often and appreciate your letters.

England 40 Years Ago — September 27, 1981

Last week in the continuing series on Winston Churchill we saw a scene where a man is sitting on the red carpeted stairs inside Polesden Lacey. The show is on very late and is so filled with political talk that if it weren’t for trying to spot the places in the background, I might fall asleep.

Polesden Lacey

I think I wrote a year ago about being so happy to find the absence of white baby shoes which I loathe. Boys wear T-bar buckled shoes which I think only girls would wear in the US. I’m so used to seeing them now that they don’t appear girlish. I was thinking how marvelous it’s been to avoid the tussle of keeping toddler’s shoes tied when I felt a tug at my foot. John $ had untied MY shoe! I can see the race will be on – I’ll be dancing jigs to keep my feet moving while he will be making attacks at every pause.

Kate was a bit slow getting ready for school. I said, “You don’t have time to play in the mornings.” She replied, “I don’t have time to play in the afternoons, either.” Poor thing, she’s right. We should have a big bell and a fireman’s pole to speed things up in the morning. Kate often takes a bath with John $, dresses, eats breakfast, gets together her school things, and practices her violin in less than an hour.

$ loves to take things from my gadget drawer in the kitchen. Lately his favorite has been a red measuring spoon which he smokes like a pipe. It’s so realistic to him that I expect smoke to come out one of these days.

Kate has been having a real struggle with preps (homework). The crunch comes late in the afternoon when she’s tired, John $ wants to play, and I’m preparing dinner. We tried a new system that is working for the moment. I allow her a certain amount of time for each segment of work, and she tries to finish before I ring a bell. That seems to help her concentrate. Lisa does all her work shut up in her room, so she is no distraction to Kate. But John Spencer! He is total distraction from tossing head to wiggling toe! I wish Kate had enough determination to work in her room alone, but she just can’t seem to do it.

Lisa continues to love Dunotter despite the hard work. Schools in England give double preps over the weekend (they’d say “at” the weekend). I think Lisa worked about six hours this weekend to get through. I’ll be glad to get back to the American system!

Because of all the trading John is doing at home, a new telephone line was ordered. A quite likable young chap came early Friday to do the work. One can see why the British telephones are no match for American ones. Any time we had work in the US, one man would appear, size up the work in minutes, and have the job finished in an hour or so. This fellow wandered around for an hour deciding how he was going to put in the line. He went about his tasks leisurely, said he couldn’t get the line over the trees without help, called twice for another man, waited around doing the part he could do by himself, and finally left when I went to get the girls from school. He said it was no use starting another job because he had only an hour and a half until quitting time. The thing that was holding him up was that he was afraid of throwing the line with a heavy object attached because he might hit someone on the footpath. My offer to act as sentry was kindly refused. He is supposed to come first thing Monday morning. Time will tell!

John has been feeling somewhat better this past week until yesterday when the pains in his arm came back in full force. Thank you all for your kind wishes for him. Think you’d better forget the wishes now and PRAY for him! He said he felt miserable wherever he was, so why not go somewhere interesting? Today we went to church in Westminster Abbey where the boys were back from their summer holidays and sounding as divine as ever. There was a rather sophisticated sermon on a simple text with not much point to it, but still, it was better than some we’ve heard there.

We were thinking of several outdoor things to do, but came out of Burger King to find rain pelting down. We headed for the London Museum of transport, driving around in ever widening circles trying to find a parking place. We found ONE in half an hour, and that one was blocked by a big German bus. The city was really still full of tourists. We gave up when we found the only place to park was a garage that charged a minimum of 4 pounds 20.

We headed for Kensington Palace not far away where Princess Margaret and soon the Prince and Princess of Wales will live. Queen Victoria was born there, also. We weren’t sure if we saw the actual building or not because of the huge park surrounding several buildings. Traffic and small commercial buildings came between. At least we know what the area looks like and what these royal persons see as they come and go.

I had often wondered if royalty ever got behind the wheel of a car, because I only see them being driven in big cars or state coaches. The Prince of Wales was pictured driving Lady Di back to Windsor after the races at Ascot, so I figured he drove. Just last night, I sat to read one of the papers the Brownworths had left, and it mentioned that both Prince Andrew and Prince Edward drove themselves to the final wedding rehearsal, even mentioning the type of car each owned. Prince Andrew, the elder of the two, almost collided with a cyclist the paper said. Prince Edward is a very careful driver, having just recently passed his driving test.

John $ fell asleep in the car on the way home. Usually he wakes up when we get home, but today he was out cold. We slipped out of the car, opened a window, and left the front door open with the car just outside so we could hear him when he woke. Wonder what he thought when he woke up?

John says the NY office will be closed to our mail traffic and that you are now to write to an address in Miami. The plan now seems to be to have one pouch a week in both directions.

England 40 Years Ago — September 20, 1981

We see so little of the neighbors who live under the same roof, that when they come over for a chat, we try to shoo the children outdoors. Phillipa had twisted her ankle in her own garden, tried to track down her own parents for sympathy, but they were busy getting ready to come over here. She came here for treatment. John filled a basin for a soak and sent four children outside. Quote of the week from Kate: “May we have umbrellas? It’s raining and we’ll get wet.” Would that we had such obedience ALL the time! We shepherded them all to the kitchen for a snack to keep them quiet.

John $ has a new way of going downstairs. He opened a book, began singing, then slid down each step on his bum, facing forward. It isn’t as efficient yet as the cog movement of arms and legs going down on the tummy.

Many of you will be happy to note we had leg of lamb for John’s birthday. It’s the first time I’ve ever cooked one! Surprise of surprises, everyone loved it and asked for seconds! After dinner the neighbors came over for a piece of birthday cake.

Kate’s first day of school, Wednesday, was successful. She had a good attitude to begin with, which is half the battle. Caroline H came here for the morning, we ate lunch, and Gillian took both girls to Dunottar School for Caroline’s La Crosse practice. The games mistress had Lisa join in some of the exercises. They were told secretly by a member of the staff that both are in the advanced section of their form and will be in the same classroom.

Kate on the first day of school this term

On Lisa’s first day of school, John $ and I walked her to the front door. The head mistress was there to greet new girls and tell them where to go.

I thought the rest of the day would be peaceful. Haven’t most of you at some time had the “help” of a two-year-old in making beds? The fitted sheet posed no problem since $ couldn’t get a good hold on it. When it came to the top sheet, he had his strategy prepared. I’d get the sheet in position and he’d dart around to pull it off with all his might, giggling all the while. I chased around several times before using my head: position sheet, hold with knees, lunge across to break $’s hold, tuck like lightning. Whew! After he stole the pillows twice, disrupted the quilt and the spread, he gave up. I’m glad he gave up before I did!

I made a statement early in the week about being in the car an hour a day. Wishful thinking! We leave at 8 in the morning, dropping Lisa first, then Kate, and I get home about 9. In the afternoon I leave at 3 and get home at 4:30. Kate is through at 3:15, Lisa not until 4. [Lisa was attending a new school, having aged out of her last one.]

Lisa came out radiant after her first day, saying how much she is going to enjoy going to Dunottar. Of the four girls from Micklefield, three of them are in the top class. Speaks well for the school, doesn’t it?

We’ve had lots of extra traffic in our town because the Ryder Cup Gold tournament is going on in our back yard. The club house is two to three blocks from here if you walk a footpath or two. We heard the roar of the crowd and saw the same brilliant rainbow they showed on the TV screen. Jennifer said they enjoyed the TV coverage because they take their dog to the gold course every day for a good run. Today we had the TV on watching the final bit of the ceremony, stepped outside, and heard the words first hand!

Last night George (nickname for Georgina next door) stayed with our children while we went to a farewell party for a couple of Americans in Gotaas Larsen. It was held in a small flat in Wimbledon and catered! I was surprised to see a man and woman in uniform attending to everyone’s needs. The cold buffet was beautifully laid out – chicken salad surrounded with lettuce, a delicate green mold decorated with slices of cucumber, lettuce salad, and tomato aspic with caviar. The unusual thing was mushroom rolls. They were warm buns filled with creamed mushrooms. The dessert was a choice of rich chocolate mousse or cheese and biscuits. I had a chance to chat with Phil H and John G whom I’ve met on many occasions. John G is the one famous for not liking anything in England. He did admit last night that he has mellowed somewhat and now enjoys his life in London, especially compared to the hurried pace of New York. Wonder of wonders! I also enjoyed talking to John’s good friend Udo K and his wife. There were about 20 to 25 people there.

I knew from seeing lots of horses around that this area supports riding in a big way, but I didn’t realize what a business it is. In a local leaflet dropped at all the homes was the statement that there are 20 commercial riding establishments in a radius of five miles!!! Riders were being urged to stick to their allotted paths.

This morning the girls and I went to the family service at St. Peter’s. John is going to try going to evensong. He is still in great pain from his neck bones down and has to walk around waving his arms frequently. I know many of you think he does it all the time, but this is exceptional. Wonder if he has warned the rector. Poor [Rector] Derek might think John is trying to speak in tongues and can’t get the words out.