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!”

Sadie Speaks

I was proud of myself for sitting by the side of the road when GrAnne told me to. The grandsons call her Gran, but she’s GrAnne to me. I like to put a little growl at the beginning of her name. They say, “SADIE! CAR! SIT!” I don’t know how to car-sit, but I’ve figured out they are pleased if I sit down when a car goes by.

Today I sneaked in GrAnne’s room before she got out of bed, and I settled down in the recliner.

Why on earth was she doing getting down on the floor? That’s my territory!

Was she sick? I touched her face with my paw.

She told me it was OK, that she was doing her stretch and exercise routine. I tried to lick her face to show my approval. She recoiled and said “Eyywwww.”

I decided it might be best if I supervised her from a distance.

In a little while she was on her feet where she belongs, and we walked to the creek. I looked for the squirrel I jumped at yesterday, but it was hiding. John and GrAnne wondered why I pulled so hard the last quarter of the walk. I wanted to get home to breakfast. They haven’t realized yet that food is more important to me than it is to them!


Our conversation turned into a contest, which I lost. I was laughing at myself and shared what I did at the bathroom sink. I used a hair band to keep hair away from my face. After washing my face, I raked the band off and tossed it in the waste basket instead of putting it back in the drawer. It had served me well for several years and did not deserve that treatment. I quickly retrieved it and almost apologized to it.

John said he had done something similar. He opened the garbage pail to empty the coffee filter. After shaking out the grounds, he threw in the permanent filter, as well.

The clear winner was son John $pencer. He broke his silence at the mention of coffee. He was taking care of two chores at once – putting away clean socks and emptying coffee grounds. You can imagine where this is going, can’t you? He threw his socks in the trash and realized something was not quite right when he dumped coffee grounds all over his clean t-shirts.

Have any of you carelessly tossed away something by accident and quickly retrieved it? We can’t be the only ones!

September Fun Days

We finally met John’s sister Chris and husband Steve from South Carolina to celebrate all our birthdays. Four times a year we plan to get together, but many things intervened this past year. Chris arranged to have the other sister, Barbara and husband Thom, join us with a video call from New York. It was like old times to have the six of us chatting.

Steve, Anne, and Chris

Rain was pelting the area when we were ready to leave, so we waited for it to let up. This is the only picture I took of brother and sister together.

I always try to take a photo of people when they walk to the creek with us. Today was debut day for Sadie! We were testing her new leash, and it worked well.

Sadie and John at Jonathan Creek

Logan came over after going to school on line. He was here when John $pencer gave Sadie a bath and could see the peanut butter trick firsthand.

I got tickled when Logan said he was going to balance a balloon on his nose. The flash worked for the first shot and not for the second. I was lucky to catch the moment, even if the lighting was not good.

Camera Not Handy! September 2000

Daughter Kate and her boys spent the afternoon with us. It was almost unbearably humid, so I retreated to my air-conditioned bedroom where Nathaniel (7 months) was sleeping in a portable crib. Before long David (5) joined me on the bed. I read three books to him before he began constructing a tent with blankets. The baby slept for an hour and a half, then began to whimper. David kindly handed him a toy and put the pacifier in his mouth, a process that was repeated many times before Nathaniel began to protest earnestly. I wasn’t ready to give up the cool air, so I jotted a note to Kate on a scrap piece of paper I keep beside the bed.

I wrote, “Kate, Nathaniel wants his mommy,” and asked David to take it to his mother.

This is what the boys looked like that month as they played in the Narthex at church.

David returned, saying he had given her the note, and resumed his cycle of playing and trying to keep Nathaniel happy. After a while I scooped the baby up and headed downstairs. Kate was sound asleep on the sofa. Between her thumb and forefinger was my note. When I told John the story a day later, he laughed and said someone had probably warned David not to wake his mother. He had delivered the note, alright, but it had no visible effect on that sleeping form.

S’mores on Labor Day

Grandson David worked a full shift on the holiday and came home to eat his warmed bison burger, prepared earlier by Uncle John $pencer. We had been longing for S’mores, a common campfire dessert made with Graham crackers, milk chocolate candy squares, and marshmallows. David’s mom had left the extra fixings from our July 4th celebration. The grill was long since cold, so David and I roasted marshmallows over a candle before assembling our S’mores. They tasted good, although they would have been better among laughing relatives.

Marshmallow over the flame

Sadie is always ready to party, but when all is quiet in the house, she curls up to sleep. I found her in the living room. The pillow just happened to be at just the right angle for her head. Sweet dreams, Sadie.

Labor Day 20 Years Ago

September 4, 2000 On Labor Day John and I went out to eat in the middle of the day. I knew we couldn’t go far, because John was slated for the late shift at Borders. We both wished to avoid the tourist crowds in Port Jeff, and neither of us wanted to spend a mint on lunch. We ended up at a diner. It was surprisingly busy, with people constantly coming and going. You know the old game of “what’s wrong with this picture” where you look at a drawing and pick out an incongruous item? It dawned on me that I was looking at one of those. In a booth close to us were three Chinese people. Now I know they have to eat like all normal humans, but I can’t remember ever seeing any Chinese people in a diner before. I hope they enjoyed their hearty meal as much as we did.

My dad and I laughed about Labor Day being a holiday where half the people work extra hard serving those who have the day off. John fit in the first category, I in the second. I began the day with newspaper in bed. Forget having breakfast in bed. That’s nasty! I can’t abide crumbs in bed, and that’s what breakfast is all about. No, I’d take a newspaper any day. I showered, dressed, fetched the paper from the road and lolled on the bed reading it and working the crossword puzzle. What a way to start the day! Of course, it helps that it was Monday, and I can usually work the easiest puzzle of the week with a pen. I finished reading a book, streamlined the start-up routine of the computer, went out to eat with John and resumed reading. Meanwhile, John was serving stressed-out people at Borders. The day was stacked against book sellers. First, it was Monday which is Senior Citizen’s day. Checking proof of age adds to the check out procedure. Second, it was an overcast day. Bad weather seems to herd people into the store in droves. Third, it was a holiday and fourth, it was the day before teachers return to school. John was working the late shift, so he dealt with teachers whining that the books they wanted were sold out. He felt free to criticize them, because all the teachers we know are much more organized than that.

Grampy (brother-in-law Thom’s dad) wrote about their Labor Day:

“About Labor Day. While others take a holiday, we just keep doing what we do every day during the year. Wake up, get up, wash up, eat up, dress up, try to think what day it is and then get our get up and go started. Then it’s time for a break. And when you don’t do anything it is very hard to take a break.”

Not Alone??

Few things are more delicious than taking a Sunday afternoon nap. We huddled in our jackets at outdoor church, ate a wonderful lunch at Fatz, and enjoyed the mountain scenery on the way home. Surely there was no better way to digest it all than to sleep for half an hour. I woke refreshed and turned off the alarm with 10 seconds before it would have rung. With eyes shut, I savored the moment.

I had the feeling I wasn’t alone. John was at his computer in the next room, and grandson David and son John $pencer were somewhere in the house. If they had come in my open door, they would have either tiptoed out or spoken to me. I didn’t hear anything and didn’t see anything, but I felt a presence. I moved an inch or so and found Sadie lying against me, as still as could be. What a surprise! I didn’t think she could get up on the bed. We had changed the mattress and springs to taller ones, and a topper added a few more inches. Evidently I slept through her great leap and her walking on the bed. It was marvelous that she didn’t nudge me or try to wake me up. From the hall, David saw the dog and came in. Sadie decided it was play time and tried to lick every inch of my arm. That got me up quickly! David saw Sadie jump off the bed, turn around, and take a standing leap back on it. I’ll never be alone for a nap again unless I shut the door.

Outdoor church looked like this a few weeks ago. Today there were more jackets being worn.

Apple Fritters in the Moat

A week ago, we brought home apple fritters and left them on the kitchen counter. That evening grandson David saw tiny ants on the box. Not only were they on the box, they were IN the box, crawling all over those lovely fritters. This time I was determined the ants were not going to feast on our treat. I filled a shallow bowl with water, stood a tall glass in the middle, added a plastic container to support the box, and put the fresh fritters on top. I knew the ants would not be able to swim to the glass and get in the box.

Fritter moat

David snickered when he saw the fritter tower. Son John $pencer saw us eating breakfast and asked, “Are you eating the Critter Fritters?”

Yes, we ate those ant-free fritters and enjoyed every bite.

Do you have a story of outwitting ants or mice?

Peanut Butter on the Wall

The title should be How to Bathe a Dog, but that would turn off people who have/will never own a dog. Son John $pencer spoke of giving Sadie a bath, and I wondered why he didn’t dread it. He said, “It’s easy. I put peanut butter on the wall.”

Sadie rolled in something smelly in our yard, making her socially unacceptable. I asked to observe the cleaning routine. $ smeared peanut butter on the tub wall before whistling for Sadie, and she trotted in eagerly. She didn’t struggle a bit as he lifted her into the tub. If she noticed when he rubbed in the dog shampoo and rinsed her off, she never let on.

I presume the trick is to know how quickly your dog will clean the wall. Of course, it would also be good to know whether the pet likes peanut butter. If you have used the p-butter method, please let me know if it worked for you. If you had a disaster, I will consider removing this post for the good of mankind and best friends.