England 40 Years Ago — November 23, 1980

Lisa says of her brother, “He’s a clever little freak.”

The uninitiated would wonder why the toilet brushes are on the backs of the toilets, the bathroom waste basket is on the hamper, and the bed crowned with a clock, hand lotion and a tissue box. Things on tables recede inch by inch, as if the tide is going higher week by week. I’m afraid the passerby will soon think the refrain here is, “NO!”

Guess who John saw this week – no less a person than the Queen of England! The King of Nepal had arrived at Victoria Station, was met, and processed by open coach to Buckingham Palace. John was waiting for his lunch appointment to arrive at the restaurant and could look out the second floor window with the clearest view. I saw it all later on TV, but seeing it in person was marvelous he said. Also saw Prince Philip and Prince Charles.

Bet you think you know how to pronounce the names “Launders” and “Saunders.” In America, yes, but here the “d” is pronounced as a soft “g”. Comes out “Laungers” and “Saungers.” Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?

This week our car had her 5,000 mile check-up. I had a little blue Renault to drive. Wouldn’t start very well, but once you got your foot on the gas pedal, away she went! The electric locks were the most fun. Instead of a button there were plastic jiggers in which a red stick would pop up when the lock was engaged. I unlocked the car to put John $ in and discovered undoing one undid them all!

We’re getting ready for Thanksgiving. This past week I de-cobwebbed the house with the special wire brush on the end of a bamboo pole. I try to think of this as just removing cobwebs and not dwell on the fact that they were once INHABITED!!

I almost witnessed an accident. When I got on the scene a little red VW was overturned, and I could hear the screams from quite a distance away. In reconstructing the event, I think $ stood on the toy car, reached in the toy box, and tumbled in. When I got to his room, all I could see under the partially open box was a pair of streaming eyes and one little hand trying desperately to push up the top which was resting on his head. The shock of it wore him out – sang him two songs, and he fell asleep!

The old dead tree at the front of the property was removed this past week. The tree surgeons also “stopped” the row of trees between the back garden and the tennis court. They trimmed 5 or 6 feet off the tops and squared off the bottoms. Certainly looks different. I comfort myself that most of it will have grown back by the time the owners come back. Looks scalped.

I finally got everything together that we needed to begin getting a doctor. Didn’t take much, but I kept forgetting to do it. Here you have to ask a doctor if he will accept you on his register. I made the first call and got a very friendly and informative lady who told me just what to do. She explained that Dr. Ingram, who I think lives on this street, would accept us. It helped to give our address and the assurance that we wouldn’t be here more than 18 months more. She told me to hang up and call for an appointment. Did this, and the appointment lady asked if I was the one who was just talking to someone else in the office. They work not more than three feet apart, but have no switching equipment for the phone, so you have to hang up and dial another number.

Took $ to see about his immunizations. Dr. Ingram was interested in seeing what is being done in the States, but explained that they don’t do rubella for boys at all and they don’t do mumps. He didn’t think he could even get the serum for that. He did agree to do measles, polio and DPT. He wrote down the measles vaccine and told me to come back this week because they do shots only one day a week. There was nothing like a routine examination – no weighing, no looking at ears, etc. I was just asked if there were any questions or anything he should see.

I had 45 minutes to kill after dropping off the girls for school and the time for the doctor. The two things were only one street apart, so I couldn’t see battling rush hour traffic for that. $ and I took a nice walk and discovered a whole block of offices and workrooms for the blind. The shop wasn’t open, but there were some nice looking things inside.

Have I mentioned that there is a super drying rack hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen? Now that the heat is on from time to time, it is an excellent place to dry things. All the clothes get hung on hangers before dangling from the rack, and we have to eat without getting the coat tails of things in our food. (Usually things are removed before breakfast, and we eat in the dining room at night. It is mostly me dining among the clothes.) The other day Kate and I were eating, and she’d moved her stool under a particularly long nightgown. We hadn’t been there long before she was playing with the hem of it and finally tied it in a knot under her chin!

Yesterday Lisa went to Natasha’s birthday party which lasted from 1:45 until 7!! They assembled, went to the school which her brother attends for three short plays put on by the boys, and came back for a meal of hamburgers, chips (French fries) and cake. Today she went to Andrea’s party. Philippa’s parents were going somewhere and asked us to take her, and they’d pick the girls up. Merrin also needed a ride. So, we had Philippa go to church with us, picked up Merrin, and drove a fair distance to get to the party. It was nice to put the car away and have Lisa delivered back home.

Kate was angry, came storming up the stairs and said, “I’m going to give up my temper!”

England 40 Years Ago — November 16, 1980

A week ago on Sunday was Remembrance Day here, and we found it so meaningful. Lisa and I were impressed with the trumpet in church, and when we saw a replay of the morning’s activities when the Queen and lots of others laid poppy wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldier, we heard the same melody by a corp of trumpets. Seems to me that in the US it is just an excuse for another holiday, but here they really set out to make people remember what they went through during wars.

I must report that cold weather has helped the washing machine. It must like a cool climate. Now it is willing to release the clothes as soon as they are through being washing or dried. This saves countless trips and hours of time because I so often did the initial jiggle of its door latch and then forgot to go back five minutes later.

John $ helped with the shopping this week – after I’d packed the items in my basket, he calmly reached out and helped himself to half a dozen eggs. Dropped them all into the shopping trolley. I rescued two whole ones and the four broken ones. Made somewhat of a mess on the floor, but not as bad as the time I dropped some. I was able to use what was left in the shells for Kate’s birthday cake. The cake was one of the lightest I’d ever made, so maybe shaking up the eggs was a good idea.

There is no photo of the lightest cake I ever made.

$ has turned several things into walkers – a kitchen chair, tall stool and large plastic carton in which some soda was delivered by the milkman. He also has taken a step or so – the first I noticed was this past week when he had been holding to my knee while I was sitting and turned, took a step, and lurched toward the counter. Couldn’t really class that as walking, though.

Kate quoted, or misquoted, from a message sent to her, “Tell you mother we NEARLY enjoy her letters.”

Do any of you still have the November Reader’s Digest around? Look on page 40. John was reading, noticed the ad and thought he was reading a local publication. He suddenly realized this was a picture taken in Reigate for an American magazine! Mr. Clewes, the gardener, was able to tell me where the shop is – just a few blocks from our house! I looked up the telephone number, and sure enough, the one in the ad is the real number! Later that day the girls and I drove past it to look at it. Small world!

We duly celebrated birthdays this week. John made a point of getting home much earlier than he has been. We ate together, had a treasure hunt, opened gifts and took pictures. Lisa was very grateful for everything she received. I think she thought her special day would be the bleakest ever with no family or friends around to help celebrate. She said it wasn’t nearly as bad as she’d thought. So, thanks for all your cards, gifts, phone calls, thoughts, and prayers.

Nothing is sacred around here. $ loves to check the loos to see if anyone has left the toilet seat open for him to play in the water. This week he found something better – toilet paper dangling within reach! He’d unrolled enough to go from the bathroom upstairs to the one downstairs! I penned him up long enough to slowly rewind every last sheet! Bet in another month or so I’d make a good spy – able to size up a situation ahead of time in just a few seconds. Wonder if spies are ever trained that way?

John was talking to a tree surgeon here to assess what work needs to be done when the man volunteered information about the Mehrling name. He said he had been doing some genealogical research and came across the name repeatedly. It is a common name in some little town in Austria where many of the Mehrlings carve religious figures from wood! That would really be fun to find, wouldn’t it?

John couldn’t believe it when the phone rang and his sister Barbara was on the other end. The girls were so excited at hearing cousins Tonja and Anders.

John $ is still fighting a cold, so I stayed home with him while he napped. The girls and John walked to church and heard a good enough sermon to come home quoting a lot of it to me. I used the quiet time to start my own study – read lots of Peter. Just scanned the gospels and the first part of Acts to see what was mentioned about him by name. Interesting.

This afternoon Kate went for a long walk with me and John $. I’m just beginning to notice footpaths running all through Reigate, but you can’t explore them by car! She and I went on the path that begins across from St. Mary’s. It was a lovely walk with hedges and green meadows on one side and wooden fences with gates to enter people’s gardens on the other. It ends up almost at the beginning of the High Street in town. We came back another way using the walk I’ve been wanting to see because it is behind the wall that is so close to the street on the road we use bringing the girls home from school. I saw at least three other paths I’d like to explore another time.

Merrin, the girl from Australia, called Lisa this afternoon because she’d forgotten to bring a certain book home from school. She walked up, played games with Lisa and walked home. I forgot to ask if she remembered to take the book. Must have.

John, meanwhile, was studying Sunday School lessons. He does a lesson with each girl Sunday afternoons, if possible. We had thought of going to Canterbury today, but the weather didn’t look good, $ wasn’t well, and John had a scratchy throat. Lisa discovered that Caroline across the street has flu, so we may be in for a long winter.

John was asking at the office what were their customs at Christmas. He says they don’t do any celebrations on Christmas Eve. They mentioned liking the idea of having special things both Eve and Day and thinking it was American. They said the very religious go to midnight church services as well as the service on Christmas Day. I must ask some of our local church friends what the customs are here.

I’ll tell a story John told me because I don’t know that he would take time to tell it. He and several others from the office were entering an elevator, sorry, lift, talking about British Rail. They were saying that delays are blamed on funny things like wet leaves, etc. A man already in the lift asked in an obvious American accent, “Are you talking about the Long Island Railroad?” I think John must have nearly keeled over. [He commuted on the Long Island for 30 years, and delays were really blamed on wet leaves.]

England 40 Years Ago — November 9, 1980

Early last week Gillian H came over to watch me make bread. I thought most recipes for bread were fairly standard, but evidently the English ones differ in several respects. They (Caroline was with her, being out of school for mid-term) exclaimed over the greasing of the dough before the first rising. Maybe that’s why the loaves here are so crusty and dry!

In return, I asked her to teach me to make tea, and she said, “Why, that’s so simple!” Might be simple to her, but there is a ritual to it. She brought the water to a boil, poured a little in the pot to warm it, poured that out, measured about two teaspoons for two cups of tea, poured on water, stirred it, and let it steep two minutes. Then she poured milk in the cups! She claims it makes it taste different to put milk in and then pour the tea, but says her husband disagrees with her. I’ve tried it several times, but it doesn’t taste as good as when she made it, and it was done here with my own tea! They disdain tea bags. Tea is poured out leaves and all; you just don’t drain your cup. If you were having tea in the sitting room, you’d have a bowl handy for the “slops” she said, if you’re having a second cup right away.

We had our interview at Fair Dene school. While waiting on a stair landing for the head mistress, who should come up to speak to us but Mary L [from church]! She is the Latin teacher at that school! The head was young and very pleasant.

Two days we had snow flurries and woke up to white on the ground Friday. Everyone exclaimed over it; normally none sticks until after Christmas. I had never seen snow with fall colors still dressing trees nor snow on hydrangeas.

View from our bedroom window

John had been after me to get the geraniums in the house, so I finally did it. It would have been comical to watch; there I was in the old horse-blanket poncho digging away while the wind blew the coat over my head. John $ was in tears as fancy company began arriving across the street for a school fete of some sort. The final indignity was blowing rain! I got half in the pots when a particularly stiff breeze came along and knocked them all over. Since I got them amassed on the desk in the guest room, I haven’t dared go near them. They say plants can feel when a threatening force comes near.

We went to Inger L’s for a proper English tea. Never mind that she is from Finland! We had toasted cheese sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, fancy biscuits (cookies), mincemeat tarts, and jellies (jello). She had put her old high chair out for $, though it looked finer than ours the day we bought it. Also had a plastic bib, cup and plate. He ate everything in sight!

The new Silverstone cookware got me in trouble. I was doing crepes one day when I noticed how slippery the pancakes were in that fine pan. I was tempted to try flipping them in the air. The first one flipped all the way over and landed in the pan, but on the side already cooked. The next one didn’t want to let go, and there I was gyrating with the pan while the crepe held on with 100 feet. The next to the last one did a beautiful flip, went right past the pan and landed in a heap on the floor. Tasted good, though, to the birds.

One’s burning ambition for an only son is not that he become a garbage collector. John $ has! At least it was clean garbage this week – he chewed on a discarded sliver of soap.

England 40 Years Ago — November 2, 1980

The day before our holiday up north was one to forget. I managed to break the washing machine, got upset, became angry when the repair service wouldn’t answer the phone, set the phone down none too gently and broke it! Finally put the phone together, only couldn’t get the cover on properly. You should have seen the mouthpiece hanging on for dear life, balanced precariously atop the little spindles, and the rest bared and looking naked. Later when the phone rang, Kate ran to answer it, took one look and backed away as if she’d seen a ghost. John got the cover put back later. Then back to the washing machine – I decided to empty it and found the problem! A disposable nappy had been included in that load, had stopped up the lint filter and prevented the water from draining. A quick clean and she was as good as new! From all those problems I rushed down for a quick chat at the toddler play group and had a good time. Thank heaven days like that don’t come too often!

Saturday we drove to Newcastle. Took all day, weather was drab until afternoon, and then we got to see some lovely scenery. Newcastle is in Northumberland at the top left-hand side of England. Not too far from Scotland! Wish you could have seen the luxurious suite of rooms John had for us. The girls had one bedroom with two double beds and a bath, there was a conference room next to it with a complete bath, and then our room just like theirs. Can you imagine five of us with three baths and three TV sets? I’m glad to say we used the baths and not the TV’s.

Sunday we saw Alnwick castle, but it was closed until spring. Still, the outside is little changed from medieval times, we read.

The thing we were all impressed with was Hadrian’s Wall. We all walked on it and explored one of the forts built as part of it. Unbelievable! It was built by the Romans from AD 122 – 130 and stretched 73 miles. Some of it was 20 feet high and 10 feet wide, though none of it is left standing that way now. It was abandoned in 383.

Walking on Hadrian’s Wall

Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall

Inside York Minster

Monday we drove around Durham and then on to York. It rained all day, but we refused to let that stop us. York is an ancient town with an old wall around it, and we walked miles. There were parking lots sprinkled around, but all were full. We finally found one out of town and walked in. The huge church there was marvelous. When we walked in, there was a Bach organ work being played with brass (live) on the cantus firmus. That’s the way to see and hear a church! Found the graves of Edward III, Queen Philipa and a son of theirs. Also I found interesting a plaque with the names of the organists of Yorkminster since 1400!! There weren’t as many names as you’d imagine! Maybe church organists are a long-lived species.

York Minster

The National Railway Museum is also in York. Their parking lot stayed full every time we checked, but we finally found public parking not too far away. $ tried out the acoustics, but the building was too large and the crowds too loud for him to use his sonar. John tried hard not to let his extreme happiness show, but the girls let loose and enjoyed themselves to the hilt.

Found the ideal way to introduce drinking from a cup to a baby: find yourself in a situation without the training cup and with your baby wearing his raincoat! Works well! $ drank a full cup of milk minus two gulps and four napkins full. It satisfied him enough for us to get back to the car and drive to find a motel.

The motel by the side of one of the major roads was very nice. We all squeezed into one room, $ being the first into bed, then Kate, Lisa, and us. Also had the worst meal we’ve had in England at a cafeteria nearby. We decided the food was tired.

Tuesday we drove home. It was a very nice trip, and we learned a few things that might help when we next set out.

I’ve just gotten some marvelous Silverstone nonstick cookware. I’m wondering if people ever coat little boys with silverstone so the dirt will slide off!

John $ has a unique way of descending the stairs. He holds his left arm and leg extended straight and uses the right appendages as cogs in a wheel to stop the motion when the speed gets too high. When he wakes up, he comes to with a bang. If you sit in the room below, it sounds as if a trampoline has been rigged up as a drum above.

Cut $’s hair this week. Afterwards, instead of giving him a lollipop, I let him chew on his comb.

I went to a home group meeting where the people were studying a book about Moses. Enjoyed the study and the folks there.

John and I went for an interview at the school at the end of this road and were assured Lisa would probably be accepted there in September. [She would graduate from her present school and had to find another.] We had a tour of the school and saw neighbor Marianne and the daughter of Lisa’s French teacher. There are 340 girls, of which 40 are boarders.

The girls, $ and I went to explore the Silent Pool. We’d seen signs to the parking lot between Dorking and Guildford but didn’t know what was there. It was a lovely pool, must be spring fed and as clear as could be. There were lots of leaves floating on the water, so we plan to return in the spring. We also wandered around country lanes looking for the other school John and I have an appointment to see.

One day I heard John $ softly bleating and followed the sound to the guest room. Found the light turned on, and the baby pacing on hands and knees all around one of the beds! He had sense enough to know not to get off the bed head first. Several days later we saw him try it again and found he’d gotten on the bed by climbing up and through a bedside table.

Yesterday Chris G from the office came for the afternoon. We picked her up at the train station and drove to Polesden Lacey, a big country home with some lovely rooms. According to the guide book, this house was loaned to the Duke and Duchess of York for their honeymoon. (They later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.) We saw the house, wandered around the grounds, and came home for a hot cup of tea. We had a leisurely dinner, put the girls to bed, and Chris went back to London on the train. We enjoyed her a lot. She kept telling John she wanted to come out to play with the baby, and she did. She held him in the car in preference to sitting in the front seat to see more.

Today we rode the Bluebell Railroad, a steam engine drawn train, of course. [Why didn’t I take pictures???] Then we walked briskly through Sheffield Park Gardens because it was cold and almost closing time. Lovely autumn colors!

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.