England 40 Years Ago — October 23, 1980

If all the mailing agencies involved are efficient, you will be getting this earlier than usual. Thought I’d write today (Thursday) before we take our trip this weekend when I’m sure to be in a non-letter writing mood.

John $ stays busy, even during nap time. He went to bed with his sweater on, and I found him later with it off! I might button it up if this continues; might deter him five minutes.

There was a coffee at school for parents of new children which I felt I had to go to. I could smell the coffee a block away and knew to avoid it. (So much coffee here is undrinkable – they call it HIGH ROAST, which in plainer English means BURNED.) I concentrated instead on conversation. The head mistress introduced me to one of Lisa’s teachers who chatted for a while and then led me over to another. All the smooth introductions reminded me of sorority rush week. The report on Lisa is that she has adjusted beautifully and does good work. Mrs. Fitzhugh said Kate is a willing worker, though awfully slow, and is very popular with her classmates. Kate is ahead in maths and can sound out words that the others can’t, though they criticized her jerky reading. Both girls have been hounded about presentation of work; this means their work is sloppy. Lisa’s is looking much better.

Kate’s teacher is new to this school. She’s just come from a school in the east end of London where she had 48 in her class. 38 of these were foreigners, and she claims most of them didn’t know how to eat with a knife and fork. She thinks having 16 in her form is just super.

Got my hair cut and told Bridget how much Mother liked her set. I’d just finished complimenting her when a cat streaked past John $’s pushchair. He began to cry. One of the young girls in the shop asked for permission to pick him up, and he cried even harder. Finally I held him; all the while Bridget never missed a whack of the scissors! I haven’t dared examine this cut closely. As soon as we went out, he quieted down and acted as if he were a model baby.

I’ve had a catch in my back for several days and decided to try the treatment that worked the first night – a hot bath. A hot bath at night does not equal a hot bath in the afternoon. I was undressed, standing poised in the tub with feet wet when I heard the doorbell. Voices were heard, but whose? Redressed, descended the stairs and found Lisa’s French teacher there wondering if she had set up a session with Lisa. She hadn’t. We made arrangements for Lisa to go with her then, and I’d pick her up in an hour. Right then I knew the time in the tub would be limited and not as relaxing as it should be. The water just would not get hot, just teasingly lukewarm. $ came and peered in the water; you could tell by the expression on his face that he wanted to throw all the toys he could find in with me. Then he was diverted by something else – the biggest play-thing in the house. The bathroom door! He sat there swinging it back and forth for all he was worth, making of it a giant fan that would have been welcome on a 90-degree day. Needless to say, it was not a welcome breeze! Back in the clothes and into the car to pick up Lisa! I told the backbone it just couldn’t ache because I didn’t have time for it.

Photo labeled “Three Children” doesn’t seem to belong anywhere else. I had none for this letter.

I was dancing attendance on the washing machine when I heard giggles and thumps close to me. Upon closer inspection, I found the cat door moving in time with the giggles. John was on the inside having the best time trying to peek out the little opening.

John $ led Kate a merry chase this afternoon. She decided to play “follow the leader” with him, copying his every move. He crawled under chairs and over table supports until she was almost worn out. That’s what you call really low-down fun!

Today I did some preliminary shopping for a Thanksgiving dinner. I know where to buy a turkey, was able to find cranberry sauce, but looked in vain for pumpkin. I know I’ve seen it in some store recently, but I can’t remember what store or where. Oh well, you can bump into mince meat every other aisle!

I thought Kate was doing so well with her preps, getting through by 5:30 or 6 each evening. The teacher looked at me as if I were crazy when I mentioned it the other night. She said the girls don’t really have preps until the next year, she just gives little things for them to do at home to get them in the habit of working at home. Could have fooled me.

John has been working very hard in the office, and we are looking forward to a leisurely trip this weekend. We plan to drive to Newcastle upon Tyne, taking the whole day Saturday. John asked around the office today to see what people would suggest we see in that area. (This is the very northern part of England, just short of Scotland.) Someone said this is the 900th anniversary of the building of the new castle. Another said the new castle is a sooty old thing near some interesting trains. Doesn’t that sound funny?

We think we’ll stay there two nights, maybe three, and take side trips during the day. John isn’t planning to go to the office until Wednesday. If the weather is impossible, we’ll perhaps come home and relax. It will be so nice not to have to get out of bed spinning one’s wheels.

England 40 Years Ago — October 19, 1980

The most fun part of our week was having Aunt Val and Uncle Haakon staying with us. They flew into Heathrow from Oslo and caught a bus that brought them right into Reigate. I checked the bus stop every 15 minutes, and we met with no trouble. [That must have been the truth, because I might have remembered getting them if it had been troublesome.] They spent the first two full days in London, going in with John, and the third day poking around Reigate. I think they squeezed as much into their stay as was possible. It was simple to drop them off at Gatwick. [Heathrow was quite a distance away from our house, but we could see planes landing and taking off from Gatwick if we walked across the street to the top of the hill we lived on.]

Aunt Val and Uncle Haakon

John $ did a somersault out of his pushchair in Bejam’s [a store] but was kept in by his new harness. There he was, hanging upside down and was too surprised to cry.

Lisa and I identified the jay (bird) this week. It is a big bird, but has movements similar to our blue jay, though it isn’t colored the same.

I was cutting up toast to make bread crumbs, having a tough time of it, so sharpened the knife. Later I forgot what a good job I did on the blade and sliced myself. I found it hard to roll out pastry while licking the blood off the thumb every two seconds.

I’ve had several embarrassing things happen since we moved to England, but the worst yet has to be the time I dropped six eggs in the store this week! No one blinked an eyelash! I found a girl in the store who said she’d clean it up, and the check-out girl wouldn’t charge me for them, even though I told her to. The one that fell in the sugar display didn’t break, and I could see that two had broken on the floor. Couldn’t imagine where the others were until I was emptying the basket and found them broken all over the things I’d loaded in it. Yuck!

Lisa’s friend Caroline H came over for dinner Friday night. I wanted to serve something children would like, so did pigs in a blanket. She thought they were sausage rolls, ate one, refused another and was too polite to say what she thought of them. I wonder if she’s ever had hot dogs before. ???

Kate’s friend from school, Anna L, came to play Saturday. Kate wasn’t sure of the last name, but thought it sounded like “lawn.” It’s a Dutch name – the father being from Holland and the mother from Finland. They met at Cambridge in an English class for foreigners [probably before the term English as a second language was used] and courted for seven years before marrying and coming to live in England. He is in the chocolate trade.

We finally found someone more shy than Kate! When Anna’s mother was leaving, Anna burst into tears and begged her mother to stay. She did, for an hour! Later she slipped out, and Anna didn’t seem upset to find her gone.

John $ has experienced mittens for the first time. He peered at them, snatched at them, and tried to pull them off. After his walk, he had gotten them off, but they were hanging by the connecting string which ran from one hand, up the sleeve, behind the back and down the other sleeve. He picked it up over and over, trying to drop them over the edge of the changing table. When that failed, he exasperatedly jerked first one and then the other, producing a see-saw effect.

Changing John’s nappies requires great strength and ingenuity. He hates being changed, constantly trying to wriggle away. I’ve put pants on him while he was sitting, turning and crawling away. Today I hit upon a new strategy. I laid him down with his head and shoulders hanging over the edge so that he worried how to get back on the table rather than how to get away from me! The only disadvantage is that it left me with one hand to pin with, the other being required to hold that wiggle!

Happy baby on the changing table

Today we went to Clandon Park, a house owned by the National Trust and certainly the most beautiful we’ve seen so far. Petworth was grand, but not a match for Clandon. Since this one is so close to us, we hope to be able to take most of our visitors there if the house is open. Today was the last day of this season. The entrance hall is so large that I think you could fit our Stony Brook house into it! The plaster work is stupendous and the colours (English spelling there) are so vivid. I especially enjoyed seeing the kitchen in the basement with its huge roasting spits and series of pulleys to help in moving gigantic cooking pieces.

Clandon Park

I’ve another list of products and their country of origin that I’ve been jotting down. I should go to a map and make sure I know where all these places are – a good assignment for all the children in the family! We’ve had some bananas from Equador and others from Costa Rica. We have rubber gloves from Malaysia, almonds from Spain, onion powder from Italy, brown sugar from Guyana, salami from Belgium, broccoli from South Africa, garlic from France, canned tomatoes from Bulgaria, and mozzarella cheese from Scotland.

A couple stopped us after church today to tell us their daughter, Annette, had recognized Kate from school. They knew we were the ones from the US and wanted to welcome us. They spoke glowingly of a trip they had several years ago to Atlanta where come Baptists had taken them into their homes. I don’t think they told us their names. The woman said she recognized me from seeing me at the school. I just smiled because I didn’t remember seeing her. I hope I’ll remember her tomorrow! Lisa’s French teacher saw her and spoke to her, and another lady from the school seemed to recognize us. I have the feeling that one is likely to bump into more people one knows here than in Stony Brook! Isn’t that funny? It’s a big town, but perhaps we’re meeting the core people.

I thought I had a lot to write tonight, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. We think of all of you often and do appreciate all the letters we’ve been getting.

Oh, forgot to mention that I was thinking how well Lisa had done with her retainer. Not more than three days later at 4:30 a.m. she brought it to me with a broken wire! We found one half of the case with John’s toys and the other under the back seat of the car. I wrote the letter of explanation and John saw to mailing it in the pouch back to Lisa’s orthodontist in Setauket. We hope it won’t take long to fix and return. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is quicker than taking the mouth from Stony Brook to the next town, Setauket.

There! That finishes this epistle!

England 40 Years Ago — October 12, 1980

Here I am again after a wonderful visit with my folks. It was so good to have people to share son John $ with, to have help in the kitchen, buffers for the war zones between the girls, and to catch up on all the news that somehow never gets written.

The only disaster during their stay was a visit we had from the Lutheran pastor who has refused to give Lisa communion. She had taken a class and was regularly taking communion at our home church. The pastor said he will consider giving her a blessing at communion time as he does for infants. [This was a blessing, after all. We didn’t go back to the Lutheran church, preferring to go to English churches for the rest of our time there.]

I was summoned for a conference with the head mistress about Kate. I don’t know why being called in makes me feel I’m to be reprimanded, but I was glad when it was over. Miss Kinman suggested we either get a tutor for her or put her in a lower form. I was shocked to find that poor Kate had been struggling with 4th grade work as if she’d skipped a grade. We had made it clear that she was with children a year younger during our first interview, and the woman then told us she would be in 2nd form. I thought Kate was with the right age group and that Lisa was with those a year younger than herself. Turned out Miss Kinman always likes to keep youngsters in the correct age group, but now understands why we wanted the other arrangement to begin with. Kate talks happily about school now and seems to be doing well. She is getting her preps done by 5:30 or 6 every night.

Mother had her hair done at the hairdresser’s where I get my hair cut. She told us that she could hardly understand the first girl who washed her hair, kept asking her to repeat things, and explained that she had a hard time understanding different accents. The girl said, “You’ll really have difficulty with the owner who comes from Germany.” The owner started work on her, and Mother found she could understand every word the first time!

Someone asked what a common is, and Lisa popped up with the answer. She said it was an open place and anyone who is common can go there.

One morning my father woke earlier than I did and busied himself making biscuits for breakfast. That’s the first time I’ve ever come into a pre-opened kitchen – every drawer and cabinet was open because he was searching for the ingredients. The biscuits were delicious!

Last weekend we went to Dover, saw the hovercraft, had glimpses of the huge castle there, and drove on to Deal to go through the coastal artillery fort built by Henry VIII. I enjoyed that scalloped castle, though it is stark and not a beautiful dwelling as some are. We also drove through Canterbury, though not too close to the cathedral.

Family at Deal Castle

We also drove through the Knole property where everyone enjoyed the semi-tame deer. We went on to Leeds Castle, the most lovely castle we’ve seen so far. Someone commented that it is a fairy-tale place. Parts of it are ancient, parts just old, but gorgeously furnished.

It was quite cool while my folks were here, and one evening they and I became chilled while sitting talking. I did the quickest thing I could think of and got us each a blanket. John came to the door, stopped short, said we looked like furniture with dust sheets, and offered to turn on the heat. It’s funny that I never considered heating the whole house. I was too well-trained in survival techniques from winters in Stony Brook.

One day while the girls were in school we drove to a large estate where the gardens are open to the public. The four large lakes are lovely, just like landscapes painted by English artists.

One of the lakes at Sheffield Park, with the stately home in the background

We kept on the move and realized it was terribly windy when we got back to the car to eat a picnic lunch. My folks did the sensible thing and climbed in the car, but I kept $ in the stroller to feed him. We would have had wall to wall cottage cheese if I’d turned him loose in the car. His hair was standing straight up, and he’d squint up his eyes to see the food coming toward him. That baby never ate so slowly! He finally finished, and I started changing him which I couldn’t do on top of peanut butter sandwiches in the back seat. The wind was whistling around the corners of the car, but I battled on. Had to hold $ with one hand, the dry diapers in place with another, and felt it might be easier to manipulate the pins with my teeth. At this point a real gust picked up the stroller and started hurtling it down a hill. A wild hook with the foot missed, and on it sailed. Somehow I finally got it all together, much to the amusement of a couple calmly eating their lunch in another car. Nice to know I provided mealtime entertainment.

One day I was working in the kitchen while $ thumped around, and I was unaware he had climbed the stairs and headed straight for the shower room. I found him happily chewing on the drain strainer and sitting in the wettest puddle. He lived up to part of his nickname – Sopper. I wonder how many times he’s done that, and I thought the wetness was from another source.

Kate left her hairbrush within someone’s reach, and the whole upstairs got the brush-off. Stirred up the dirt so effectively that I was able to fill the carpet sweeper quickly.

The afternoon my folks left, John $ didn’t sleep well. I think he was cold. I climbed in my snug sack and held a nap in my lap. He slept for an hour before it was time to get the girls from school.

My dad playing with $. $ used the night table to climb up on the bed in the guest room.

We celebrated $’s first birthday by letting him chew on a pretty birthday card or so, opening presents, and eating cake. He loved his new dog, disdained the new harness, and smacked his lips over the cake. Thank you all for his gifts, cards and birthday wishes. I don’t think he is any the wiser after this milestone, but hopefully we have pictures to show him in later years.

Today the girls were invited to dinner and a long walk with the family across the road. They were having two cousins from boarding school also.

Tomorrow John’s aunt and uncle arrive, and we’re looking forward to their visit.

Happy Birthdays to Bill, Bob, and Kathie. Also to everyone else I missed!

England 40 Years Ago — October 8, 1980

[Written by John to fill in the gap while I spent time with my parents.]

Just a quick note to let you know that all is well over here. Anne has been busy with her folks. We have enjoyed visiting with them.

Last weekend we did a considerable amount of traveling. On Saturday we went to Dover, Deal and Canterbury. On Sunday, after going to St. Mary’s, we went to Leeds Castle.

From a distance, we watched the hovercraft come and go from Dover. [There was no tunnel under the English Channel back them.]

Here is a side view of Leeds Castle.

Leeds Castle

Lisa seems to be doing very well in school – doing double duty on French and also taking Latin. Kate is not doing quite as well in adjusting. She is now in Form I, with kids more her own age level – but she constantly talks of tummy aches. So, we will have to watch her and give her extra help.

Fall fell last night – temp about 45 degrees at night and 55 degrees by day. Just had a tremendous storm with winds up to 86 mph, but today promises to be nice.

England 40 Years Ago — September 28, 1980

September 28, 1980

I saw something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before this week. With the sun shining, blue sky showing, and only fluffy white clouds overhead, I saw and felt rain! I was tempted to ask the first person I met on the street if I felt what I thought I did, but I chickened out. Drove on home and saw a lovely rainbow arched across the sky. I wasn’t dreaming!

One night John was late running for a train, didn’t check the board carefully and went to Gatwick Airport. I was helping Kate with her preps (homework) and went out to search for him in the car when I realized how late it was. I was in time to save his walking up the steepest hill, anyway.

The day before my parents arrived, I whizzed through the shopping, going to a supermarket, the freezer center, and a green grocer with a quick time out in one parking lot to take off the nappy next to John $’s skin. There was a reason for that, as you can imagine, and he didn’t seem to mind having a half-wet one put back. All of that was accomplished on a one-hour parking ticket. One can’t always move that fast because sometimes there is no hurrying an Englishman.

Thursday the folks arrived. John had called the airport to check on the flight and discovered it to be an hour or so early. He rushed off to be there, waited until almost time for the girls to go to school, drove like mad to get home, and had me drive the girls to Micklefield while he played with John $. The driver’s seat wasn’t cold before he was back in and on the way to Gatwick. He waited and waited – nothing compared to the 2 ½ hour wait the folks had going through the passport peeking line. Their feet found it hard to be civil when they got here! The girls were so excited that they were in the car in a flash when I went to pick them up at school.

We keep telling people what a large house we have. It was so large that Dad lost his teeth. He made no mention of it, so I was a little surprised to draw bathroom curtains and find a grin lying on the sill. I exclaimed over them, and he said, “There they are!”

“How did you eat dinner?”

“It was terribly hard!”

Later I heard Kate telling young friend Marianne, “My Granddaddy has teeth he can take out.” We persuaded her it wasn’t proper for her to ask him for a demonstration.

John $ has had a cold, so we didn’t go much of anywhere Friday, since he seemed to need extra sleep. Both Lisa and Kate were invited to the Hull’s across the street for supper, so I quickly revised the menu to include all the things I know they’d love to miss.

Yesterday we saw Stonehenge. [No photo this time around.] I was shocked to see it just out in a field by the side of the road. How tiny it looked! I expected huge things visible for miles because of the photos I’d seen of it. It did appear much more impressive close up, which is the view everyone is used to. The weather was not the best, nor did it help that Dad had no protection and Lisa had forgotten her raincoat. We went to see the stones in shifts! Forgetting the rain gear was nothing compared to what I forgot – John $’s food and bottles!

Thanks to John’s spotting of a chemist (drugstore), I was able to sprint across a busy street and purchase a training cup, lonely and dusty, high on a shelf. That did the trick. We stopped for lunch at a family restaurant where baby food was served and poured the milk into the cup. That evening we found another chain that also served baby food, and John $ ate high off the hog.

After Stonehenge we went to a big house called Vyne. Never did discover the reason for the name. Anyway, it was an old thing that had survived the rebellion because one of Cromwell’s right-hand men had bought it. It was elegant. In a long gallery there was scheduled a flute concert for later in the evening. I thought I’d heard snatches of melody drifting around, and sure enough, when we got to that gallery, the young lady was practicing. Sounded lovely. As we were going out, the lady manning the ticket desk asked how we’d liked the house. She answered one of the girls’ questions as to who lived in the house, and she said she did, with her husband and two dogs! When she realized it was suddenly pouring cats and dogs and we didn’t have enough rain-proofs to go around, she told John how to bring the car from the lot right near the door. Wasn’t that kind?

So many of these old homes have art hanging on the walls. I wish I knew more about it. There was one verified Holbein and one they thought by Holbein of Henry VIII. Dad loved the huge table, and I liked the chapel. One of the stained glass windows was supposed to have Catherine of Aragon, who had stayed in the house at some time. Kate loved the acoustics in that chapel and made the most of them with her clogs. The rather disapproving elderly lady showing that room said, “She’s a noisy so and so, isn’t she?”

My parents in Vyne.

This morning we went to St. Mary’s, which turned out to be the family service. It was so terribly informal that I said it out-Baptisted the Baptists. Dad said, yes, he felt right at home. They even sang one chorus that he knew, and I heard him sing in church for at least the second time in my life!

All over England it was the Harvest Thanksgiving service day, according to the sign we saw later while driving. At St. Mary’s the vicar called the children forward, and they filled the aisles carrying home-grown vegetables, store-bought fruits and canned goods. I think they were piled up before the altar. There were huge bouquets of flowers on every pedestal and apples piled on the ledges. They called for volunteers for the next day to dismantle all the food and deliver it to needy families.

After sandwiches at home, we drove to Brighton. I had wanted to see the Pavilion, which we did – twice driving by. Couldn’t find parking nearby. That was OK; I understand the outside is much more interesting than the inside. We did park near the beach and wander for a while on the promenade. The girls got their feet wet, and Granddaddy got his pants wet chasing the waves!

John $, John, Grandmother, Lisa, Kate, and Granddaddy

G’mother and I were fascinated by the little enclosures that lined the walk that people evidently rented for long periods of time. Some were wall-papered, and all must contain chairs. Many people were sitting half in and half out of the sheds, reading.


Drove on to Alfriston to see a clergy house that was built in the 14th century. It had the most beautiful thatching on the roof. The village itself was most picturesque, but we were too late to take pictures of it or to have time to wander around. Thought we saw three hang gliders hovering above the hills as we left the village. I’d love to go back there some day.

We’d carefully warned the folks not to drink the water upstairs. Dad took a cup of water up with him, and he caught Mother drinking from it. He hit on the perfect way to ensure she wouldn’t drink any more. He said, “My TEETH are soaking in that!”

England 40 Years Ago — September 21, 1980

Last Monday was John’s birthday. He said they made much of it in the office, scads of people stopping by his desk to wish him well. As a special treat for dinner, we had onion soup. The treat for the girls was that they were not required to eat it.

John $ seems to be practicing to be hard-headed. He goes to sleep with his head wedged up against the bumper in the cot (crib). I examine him daily to see if a callous has formed.

We did rather frantic shopping Monday and Tuesday for the girls’ clothes. We hadn’t been able to find a black sleeveless leotard or a reasonable raincoat. Bought leotards and cut off the sleeves, but paid through the nose for coats. They were over $50 each!! I must say they are lovely and very well made. I’ve forbidden the children to grow out of them for the next two years.

The Lord does still provide miracles on request. Lisa had really begun to carry on about living here, claiming that everything was awful and nothing good. It got worse and worse. I began to dread the first day of school.

Lisa and Kate the morning school started

Wednesday morning we got to the school, and Kate forged ahead, asked someone where she should go and disappeared. Lisa would have hidden behind my skirt if I’d had one on. We watched a hundred girls march before our eyes, and suddenly there was no one! Finally the headmistress appeared and promised to take Lisa where she belonged.

From that moment I dreaded returning for them. You can imagine my surprise when I caught sight of a smiling Lisa who said enthusiastically, “I’m going to like it here!” Merrin G, a girl who moved here from Australia last year, befriended her and showed her around. They were happy to find out that they live within walking distance of each other.

I don’t know what the procedure is at other schools, but at Micklefield the mothers are evidently required to be visible before the girls are let out. That first afternoon of school there were knots of mothers and little ones clogging the pavements, and you could hear and feel the excitement building up. The next days, the same groups appeared, though the excitement has worn off somewhat.

Neither a doctor nor a pharmacist has heard of Merthiolate here. [I don’t remember why I wanted it.]

Chatting with a saleslady from Australia, we learned that they can afford steak to eat, but not margarine. (That is pronounced marge-a-REEN.)

Went to the play group at St. Mary’s Friday. Penny S, the doctor I’d met recently, had organized it a year ago. She has helpers serve refreshments, and mothers of young children gather there to chat. Penny was busy, but introduced me to Katrina from Scotland. That’s the first time I’ve ever talked to anyone from there. She said the best thing about her home area is the air and the view. One has to go out to find a view here, she said, but can look out any window in Scotland and see something beautiful. Can’t help but think she is a little homesick. She has lived here a year. She thinks it would have been easier to move abroad! On my questioning that, she said it takes 13 hours of hard driving (in a little car) to get to her mother’s. On the other hand, it takes only 9 hours door to door to visit her brother in Canada. She was also telling me she had just joined the Presbyterian church here. I was surprised to learn it is a lovely stone church on the way to the station.

Mary G also came up to speak to me. She comes from Connecticut, has lived here eight years, and people have been telling her and me that we must get together. I really enjoyed talking to her.

John $ has placed us in a peculiar position which I am just now noticing. When I wait for the girls, I’ve become aware there aren’t any mothers with little children at the upper house exit. At the play group there don’t seem to be many with children in school. Guess this could give us a wider range of friends.

$ was playing with a long-handled bath brush and sat on it. He got so angry when he couldn’t pick it up easily that he hauled off and gave it a huge jerk. Prized himself off the floor!

Friday night John brought Frank F home for dinner. Frank changed companies before the move, but his new company is based in London. This is the man John most enjoyed in the New York office, and they had a good time that night.

Merrin came to play with Lisa yesterday. Her mother came to pick her up, and we had a chance to talk for a little while. They come from Sidney and will be returning there about the time we go back to the States. Merrin has about the whitest hair I’ve ever seen on a child, very white skin, but dark eyes. It is an unusual combo.

Kate is studying the Middle Ages in school, so we went to Hastings today after church. We stood on the ridge where Harold had positioned his Saxons and looked down on the valley from which William the Conqueror fought for the crown. The battle had raged all day until Harold was killed. William later built an Abbey on the site and placed the altar on the spot where Harold had died. Not much is left of the old buildings. The battle was in 1066.

Our family with a commemorative marker about the Battle of Hastings

After that we drove to New Romney to ride a little/big train [Romney, Hythe, & Dymchurch Railway]. This railroad links perhaps six towns. We got there late and rode from the middle of the line to one end and back. The cars are less than a yard wide, and Lisa is almost as tall as they are, yet you can crumple yourself up and get inside the cars.

Lisa, John $, John, and Kate riding in passenger car of Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

John found out that it is more than just a tourist thing – school children ride on it to get to and from school, and they run a special for shoppers on Fridays. Each car can hold about a dozen people. This was $’s fourth train ride.

We enjoyed watching the engine and tender on the turntable. I don’t have a good photo here of the train driver (engineer), but everyone enjoyed watching him. He was a dwarf and perfectly sized for that engine.

It looks like Lisa is taking a photo of the driver, but I don’t think she had a camera.

My parents arrive Wednesday, so if you don’t hear from us, you’ll know we’ve been busy.

England 40 Years Ago — September 14, 1980

Kate’s finger is getting better, though looking awful. John took her to the casualty department Monday night, and she came home beaming with the impressively large bandage on it. She was told to keep it on for five days, but it fell off before then. You should have seen some of the funny looking things I fashioned to keep it padded. This morning I tied one on so hard that she lost the feeling in the finger, then fixed it so loose that it fell off as she was walking. I’ll get good at it when she no longer needs anything.

One night John worked late, and we got behind a little milk delivery truck on the way back from the station. Many of them have three wheels and are electric, as this one was. However, this was late at night, the battery must have been one step away from zero power, and it whirred and wheezed up a slight incline. It was the funniest thing, and I nearly fell out laughing. John was embarrassed and afraid the driver would notice me draped over the steering wheel howling. You could almost hear it saying, “I think I can. I think I can.” I didn’t stick around to see if it did.

As I was feeding John $, his attention was diverted toward the girls. He turned his body, head and eyes away, but left his mouth behind and open for the next bite!

Everyone kept telling us to go to Sutton to a certain store for some school clothes. “It’s straight up the road that goes over the Downs,” they said. We found the town with all its one-way streets, couldn’t find the store or a place to park, rain began, and we returned home defeated. I hate to think how hard it is to get to a place that is difficult to find.

The Sutton day brightened up when we saw $ stand alone for the first time. He was by my bed near where I was mending some clothes, and Kate pointed to him and said, “Look what John is doing!’ Hasn’t done it since, but I’m sure he will in time.

Thought for one day – it’s no wonder I dislike cutting fingernails and toenails, for there are 100 of them under this one roof! I’m only responsible for 80. I ignore 40 of those and cut the 20 that scratch me.

Do you know how to get your money’s worth here? You get value for money.

On the 11th I saw the first squirrel since leaving the States. It was a gray one and looked just like those we’re used to.

Bought a second-hand sewing machine that was a gross mistake – it works better than my big one at home, and I’m going to be spoiled. I re-sewed the seams on the girls’ napkin cases for school and made Kate a case for her comb that is required. Also, about five garments have been mended. Nice.

Walter R. was here for dinner Thursday night. He is one of John’s good friends from the New York office and was in town for a week.

Friday we went to Cathy D’s for coffee. [Cathy had stayed with the Methodist minister’s family in my home town for a vacation. Her minister and the Ripley man had swapped pulpits for a short while.] She’d also invited Vivienne somebody who described her house as the one with the peeling paint. Our landmark is a dead white birch in front. The morning was fun, both ladies being able to tell good stories and pointing out some of the things they feel are odd about the British. They said their countrymen are noted for their eccentrics. Cathy went on to tell a story about a young German fellow she knew who said he hated the British. One day it was raining, he was hurrying to put up his umbrella and duck into a big store, and that was the moment he said he decided to love the English people. He suddenly realized he was on an escalator with his umbrella still up and held over his head. Not one person laughed or paid any attention to this odd sight! Cathy said people probably thought there was another crazy Englishman!

Saturday the doorbell rang twice so that only I could hear it. The first time Jehovah’s Witnesses found me in robe and rubber gloves, the second a doctor from St. Mary’s saw me with a dressed body and undressed hair, just washed. Ugh! Being proper English people, though, they didn’t comment.

Lisa has fallen into the habit of calling John, “Dud.” It’s half funny and half disrespectful. If I don’t watch out, my name will be “Mud.”

Today we went to Winchester Cathedral expecting the morning service to be at 11. It had been at 10:30, and we arrived in time for the anthem.

Winchester Cathedral

This was my Sunday to be in charge of the time bomb who began to test the acoustics as the anthem was ending. He doesn’t cry, but just lets out sounds like an owl. I wandered around outside with him, taking pictures, listening to the music which came through faintly, and heading for the car when rain started. The others weren’t far behind. They stayed for choral Eucharist beginning at 11:30 until communion was being served. Somewhere John read that that church is the longest of its type in Europe. Gothic, John tells me.

The back of Winchester Cathedral, taken while I walked baby $

Then we drove on to Tucktonia near Bournmouth. I left out an “e” in that name; would you know where to put it? This place is a model landscape having miniatures of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, Westminster, etc. It is outdoors, has trains running all around, boats sailing in waters, airplanes taxiing, figures playing cricket and much more. The trains were almost LGB scale.

Near the entrance of Tucktonia

Big Ben is taller than I am, but I could look down on Buckingham Palace. We all enjoyed it a lot. This is one place where strollers are allowed, thank heavens! Photos below show Lisa with Big Ben, our family before Windsor Castle, and Tower Bridge. [Years later Lise looked for Tucktonia on the internet and found it has been dismantled.]

Below are photos of St. Paul’s Cathedral, front and back, and Lisa with Westminster Abbey.

I know what you’re going to do. You’ll reread this letter and realize my math isn’t much worse than my spelling because 20 digits aren’t accounted for. That’s exactly John’s complaint when he gets scratched by one of those odd 20 that haven’t been taken care of.

Clewes has begun praising my cooking, probably wondering what else he’ll get if he keeps it up. I’m going to turn the tables on him and praise his gardening. After one of these praise sessions he told me that he firmly believes NO ONE does everything perfectly, just daring me to disclose my weak points, no doubt. I ‘fessed that I was a failure at shopping for clothes, and wouldn’t you know it, he was here the day we came home from Sutton with our tails between our legs! Maybe that’s what is wrong with my attitude – we assume the wrong posture before we get out!

England 40 Years Ago — September 8, 1980

Someone commented last Sunday that there must have been a wedding because of the confetti. The girls picked up a few pieces, and we discovered it was paper in the shapes of hearts, flowers, horse shoes, etc. The only confetti we had seen before was made up of tiny pieces of shredded paper.

In talking of beds, we discovered that what we call a cot (folding bed) they call a ZED BED. They’d probably write it as “Z bed”, but of course pronounced Zee as Zed. A baby’s bed is a cot here, not a crib.

It’s odd that some differences show up at once, and it may take a long time for other things to come to one’s attention. I noticed the other day that the home where Lisa has her French tutoring has no front door knob. Then I happened to look at our door, and we don’t have one either!!

John $ is getting frisky. This week he chased me around the kitchen table while I was using a brush and dustpan. He wanted to play with the dirty thing, and I was working as fast as possible to get the mess cleaned up and avoid him. He had a small wooden toy in each hand while crawling and sounded like a child running on stilts.

One afternoon John $ scooted for the stairs, went up three and came back down time after time. He actually discovered for himself how to come down. I was SO IMPRESSED at how smart he was. Since then he has run up the stairs at every forbidden opportunity and absolutely refuses to try to come down. So much for my pride!

We went to the school to pick up a new uniform list, and Kate wanted to read it. Lisa was pushing John, and Kate and I were walking side by side. All of a sudden I heard a thumpy ring and found Kate not beside me – she’d walked right into a lamp post!!! I wished I’d caught her first expression with a camera. I tried my best to soothe her, but that is hard when one is doubled over with laughter. Lisa controlled herself better than I did and managed to calm her down. All that really suffered was Kate’s dignity.

The children and I went to Barbara C.’s for coffee. She’d also invited a woman with two girls, the older of whom is entering Micklefield this term. The woman is a doctor who decided not to practice until her children are older! It was a very pleasant morning. Both the doctor, Penny, and Barbara are active in home groups – church people who meet in homes for different activities such as Bible study, meals, games, etc. Penny invited John and me to join her group. Penny also runs a play group that meets Friday mornings. Ladies with young children take their little ones to the church hall and watch them play while the ladies talk. This is not a sitting service because I don’t think you can leave your child there unless you stay. After school starts, I may go. She said she is looking for committed Christians to be part of the group. Evidently many who come are not “committed.” I don’t know if that is a statement of their lack of faith or lack of church work.

The tea bags I buy have no tags! Gardener Clewes said some brands do have tags, but I haven’t bought any of them yet.

They don’t have sidewalks here – only pavements.

John $ and I had quite an adventure in the car. I had dropped John C. off at the station and drove on to the car place where I had an appointment for a little more work they had not finished the previous week. I had spoken for a car to hire (not rent), but they had none at all. They decided to do the work while I waited. I put $ in the push chair and waited. Before too long they finished and I drove off. Meanwhile, the girls were still in bed at home and not with me. About half way home $ wriggled out of his car seat. I clamped a hand on him until I could get to a place to pull off, but had to go through a round-about. In the middle of that crazy circle he grabbed the shift stick and put the car in neutral! I was able to get off the road, tie him down, and continue but somehow in the excitement missed a turn. I was so glad to get home in one piece. The whole time I was gone was under an hour and a half, but it felt like three! I came in telling the girls that I was there only because the Lord had been with me!

The afternoon’s shopping expedition finished me off. We bought school shoes for fifty pounds, which is over $100. We got outdoor shoes, sandals and ballet slippers for both girls. I realize that is six pair, but heavens! What money!

We were expecting company Saturday night, but the man called it off because of conjunctivitis. His, not ours.

I’m worried about John C. He bought a transformer for the trains Saturday and hasn’t hooked it up yet. He was trying to finish a big job he’d started outside and took the whole day carting us around yesterday (Sunday). I’ll think him more normal when he hooks it up!

Yesterday we went to the Lutheran church, picnicked by the road side, drove through Canterbury without stopping and went on to Dover. We got stuck in a traffic jam coming home that was worse than a New York jam. If that had happened while we were all in our little car, we would have ended up with relativitis.

The white cliffs are beautiful; we walked along the promenade, and the girls ran down to the water just to be able to say they’d had their hands in the English channel.

We went through, or rather, up to Dover Castle, one of the oldest fortifications in England. After going all around the square keep, we went in and climbed up to the top. There were displays of armor, a model of the battle of Waterloo,and a fantastic view from the top. Also went through an exhibit of costumes used in the series Henry VIII, some series about Elizabeth and some other historical people. That is, TV series. The girls were so thrilled to see them in person, having just watched the end of Henry.

Today Kate slammed the front door on her finger. There was lots of blood, a big flap of skin, and a few screams. I thought it looked pretty good, but neighbor Carol was concerned and told me which hospital to take her to. I’m waiting for John to come home to see what he thinks.

Neighbor Mary Ann bought a new fish, decided her bowl was too small and asked for permission to put three of her pretty gold fish in our pond. Everyone, including the fish, seemed to like the idea. I thought the fish belonged to her brother, but maybe not.

England 40 Years Ago — August 31, 1980

I apologize for last week’s letter which John intimated wasn’t worth reading. I waited until too late at night to start, and we all know what happens to me at night!

We’ve had a good week, and I’m still enjoying the memories of my brother’s visit. Today I served Baked Grits to the Mary and Tony L. They loved the grits, wondered about having the recipe, but backed off when I said we’d had it flown over special delivery! [Susan and Bob brought the grits to us.]

Last Monday John was outside, and I saw him suddenly shade his eyes and look up. He is sure he saw the my brother’s plane go overhead! The time was right, and he said he could identify the Delta tail. That reminds me of when we were waiting for them to arrive, John having already left to go to the airport. Every once in a while Kate would say, “I hear a plane. It must be theirs.” It seemed odd to me, but then I thought that we have often listened for trains in Stony Brook or for the bus, and that is all she was familiar with. So often we are the ones flying and being met.

I’m not sure I mentioned it last week, but it hit home to me how far away all of you are. I had all the linens from the beds of Bob and his family washed, dried, and put away before they could have gotten to Atlanta. And as you might have guessed, one does not hurry the drying here!

[At some point we drove by a field for the game of bowls, which I think was near the shopping area of Reigate. We must have gotten out of the car, judging by the photo I took. I looked up the rules for the game, but there were too many permutations for me to get a clear idea of what we saw.]

Kate and I had a different shopping Tuesday at Co-op. We’d dropped Lisa off for her French lesson, parked and got a sticker, and realized we’d left John’s stroller at home. She agreed to help carry heavy things back to the car, so we set off with me carrying $. On the return I had one heavy bag and $ on my hip, like a bag of potatoes. Gee, come to think of it, he doesn’t weigh much more than a sack of spuds. I should have had an extra bag with me and stuck him in one. Wonder what he would have thought of that.

Wednesday Mr. Wolters, the agent, came here to discuss house business with us, John having taken the day off from work for it. Clewes said, “I hope he’s in a good mood.” Clewes dreads his visits and transmitted a little of that to me. Mr. Wolters is a very meticulous man. Let me describe him. He’s in his 60’s or 70’s, dresses extremely neatly, even wearing an ascot tie over his neck brace. I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of him! He appeared promptly that day bearing gifts!! He presented each girl with a “sensitive plant”, explaining that he grows them to give away. They are marvelous! They fold up their leaves if you touch them, and even droop on the main branches if you rub the branch. They also go to bed between 6 and 7 at night. That evening the girls checked every few minutes to see if there was something in nature that actually wanted to go to bed so early! They did. I thought the poor plants would be worn out much earlier for all the exercise they got, opening and closing. I was as guilty as they – great fun!

A little later before we did the grand tour of the house, Mr. Walters brought out another gift – a crown coin minted in honor of the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday. He had one for each girl and handed me one for $. He said he thought it would be a nice keepsake since they were here in the country when the event took place.

We went over questions we had about the inventory book and discussed some plumbing work. While Mr. Wolters was here, some of the system went on the blink, so he immediately put in a call for a plumber. We also walked around the grounds discussing upkeep of the plants. We all breathed a little easier after he refused the invitation to lunch and left.

That night we went next door for an after-dinner drink to visit with that couple and meet the people in the next house down. We had a pleasant time, and I was just about to suggest we go home when they served coffee and cookies. Then we had to stay longer. The girls stayed home with John $, and Lisa stayed up reading until 11:30. We were home about midnight. Ken C. works for Phillips, as does Peter B. Ken seems to be upper management, while Peter must be much lower. Peter’s wife, Pat, is a teacher in the Priory School. Doris C. doesn’t work.

[I still remember a story Ken told on himself that night. He didn’t know what a big deal Thanksgiving was in the US. He was traveling on business and accepted two invitations for Thanksgiving dinner, one at noon and one that evening. He ate heartily at the first and could hardly bear to put anything on his plate at the second.]

Thursday I took the car for servicing, a much-dreaded job. We were waiting for the plumber, so the girls stayed here while I dropped John off at the station and drove on to take the car. Had to drive almost to Gatwick to get to the place and nearly lost my cool when I found the car they would rent to me was straight shift. The nice fellow must have noted my panic, for he managed to find an automatic for me. Got home before 9, and no plumber. In fact, he never came at all that day! What a nuisance! I could have told him what was wrong – the whole system has arthritis. There is a strange swelling of the joints in a pipe in the cloakroom. When the boy came the next morning, he fixed the problem (restoring water, both hot and cold, to all taps other than the one in the kitchen). Gradually, one by one, the taps had failed the days before until there was cold water, and that only in the kitchen. I’d heated water on the stove for John to shave and $ to take a puddle bath in the kitchen. His solution – to scrape calcium deposits off the holding tank valve in the attic. Now doesn’t it sound like arthritis? Poor old house. [Cold water came directly from the street to the kitchen tap and to that holding tank in the attic. After we had lived there a few weeks, someone told us that birds often fell in holding tanks, and that’s why you shouldn’t drink the water except in the kitchen. That advice was too late. We’d already established the habit of brushing our teeth in our rooms. Another odd fact for Americans – English houses often had a sink in every bedroom. I think there were four or five sinks upstairs in this house.]

[We went to Dover on the English coast during August of 1980. I took a photo of the Roman lighthouse, said to be the oldest building in England. It must be the hexagonal ruin near the middle of the picture.]

Friday John took the girls to London to have them try on their uniforms for school. They had been delivered here, but we thought most of the things too large. The ladies reassured him that bagginess was the fashion! My only comfort is that the girls will grow and perhaps look better in the uniforms.

[This month I used all but three of the photos I took during August of 1980. The last is one of John. I have no idea where he was or why I took the picture.]

Yesterday John bought two carp, two eely things and two water snails to keep the goldfish company. They have been more active ever since.

Today, as I mentioned, Mary and Tony came for dinner after church. What I didn’t mention to you or them was that John was sick. He’d had a sort of stomach virus, thought he was over it, but had one last attack just at the time we were leaving for church. He wouldn’t chance going to church with the nearest loo across the road in the church hall. Of course, he wanted to go to church and also didn’t want to have to admit to the company that he wasn’t entirely well. We didn’t think he would give it to them, so we just blithely announced that he had stayed home with the baby. Luckily for me they had someone coming to their home at 4 because I began to feel green around the gills during coffee. [Going through the COVID-19 pandemic now, I’m horrified that we did not postpone the dinner.]

Served Lemon Rub Pie today, and Mary asked if there were any foreign ingredients before requesting the recipe.

Hope all of you are fine. We certainly do appreciate all the letters.

England 40 Years Ago — August 25, 1980

We’ve had a marvelous week with the my brother and his family [Bob, Susan, Kathie, and Julie]. They arrived Tuesday, and John took the morning off to get them from the airport. We stayed here, letting them unpack and get their feet back under them, until our washer-dryer came. Then we did a quick tour of Reigate and Redhill and walked in Reigate.

Bob, Julie, Kathie, and Susan. Background: John, John $pencer

They took a double-decker bus for a tour of London Wednesday, met Gerhard for lunch, and poked around the British Museum. [Susan and Bob knew Gerhard at college, too.] Wednesday I drove, and Bob navigated us to Windsor Castle. What an impressive thing it was! I’m so glad to have seen it. We ate pasties from a quick food place while sitting on a low wall surrounding a grassy area in the shadow of the castle. John’s push chair had to be left outside whenever we were in buildings, but we shared the burden of him, and he behaved very well.

Kathie, Bob, and Susan with crowds of people at Windsor Castle
The ancient keep at Windsor Castle with the backs of Julie, Bob, Lisa, and Susan. Katie aimed her camera at me.

Friday I’m not sure what all the tourists did – the company chauffeur took them around in the car, and they saw the changing of the guard, the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. They got home after John did!

Saturday we saw Petworth House, which Bob had wanted to go in for a display of carving. I was glad to hear him talk about it. [I was impressed by this portrait of Henry VIII by Holbein the younger. I knew Henry by sight! Bob talked about the wood carvings, a special interest of his because he had carved wood himself. The most impressive carver was Grinling Gibbons. He carved the most delicate pieces. If you have time, Google his name and look at a few of his works.]

Henry VIII amid wood carvings at Petworth

The house was interesting, but the grounds were more so, I thought. It had been landscaped by Capability Brown.

John $pencer, Julie, Lisa, Kate, John at Petworth House

That night we were late getting back to the house, so the men got fish and chips for us. That is certainly better than Wimpy burgers.

Sometime during the week Carol and her children came over to beg boarding for four goldfish, so my family got to meet them. They were setting off for a holiday for a fortnight. Mary L. also dropped by to return a bootie of John’s that had gotten lost at her house.

After church Sunday we had a chance to chat with Rene A. and have a quick hello with Mary again and Barbara C. I was so glad they got to meet these people.

Yesterday after sandwiches here at the house, we set out for a trek on Pilgrim’s Way. I’ll be glad to point out our walk to anyone who comes to visit – looks terribly far from our back garden!

View from our bedroom looking over Reigate to the North Downs, Pilgrim’s Way runs along the ridge.

[This ancient walkway linked Winchester to Canterbury along the south slopes of the North Downs. According to Wikipedia, the walkway has been in use for 3,000 years. In more modern times, people made a pilgrimage to see the tomb of Thomas Becket who had been murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.]

I can’t read the sign, but we were on Pilgrim’s Way.
Kate, John, and Bob carried the baby in the push chair over rough terrain.

The weather deserves a paragraph all its own. Would you believe it never rained on them??? It looked threatening several times. Even today after they left, the rain held off. Susan suggested we take a picture of rain here – they don’t believe all the stories they’ve heard of how wet it can be.

Kathie and Julie were so good with $; I certainly did appreciate all those helping hands. Lisa and Kate were happy to have a vacation from minding him.

Speaking of helping hands, once I went back to my room and found my bed made up before I was even thinking of getting that job done! Everyone helped set and clear the table.

That’s all for now. Hope to be in better writing form next week. Now that we’ve seen how much we can enjoy company, y’all come!