Spring Ice

Before going out to walk, I looked at two thermometers. The one on the deck showed it was just above freezing, while the one on the back porch proclaimed it was just below freezing. Maybe I should check what the birds were dealing with. From the top, the birdbath didn’t look bad.

Here is a selfie of the ice and my hand.

Taking the ice out of its mold, I set it on the railing. Can you see the round hole in the top where I poured in very hot tap water?

On a hunch that the underside would be interesting, I turned the mold over. There seem to be strands of ice from the rocks to the surface, working to tie them in firmly. When I showed grandson David the photos, it occurred to me that the rocks were poking above the water. I have little scientific knowledge, but I wonder if the rocks were colder than the water. That could explain why there was extra ice attached to them.

Ice couldn’t argue with Spring sunshine. When I thought to check on the rocks three hours later, they were dry, though sitting on damp wood.

Changeable Weather

I know it’s Spring when I look at the thermometer, throw on appropriate layers, walk outside for a while, and shed clothing as needed. That’s why I had a long-standing agreement with Connie and Marla for hanging a jacket on their mailbox near the stop sign. After they moved, I asked for the same permissions from Harmony and Lise across the street. This week I pulled off the hat and jacket before reaching the end of our driveway. No special permission needed!

Later that day, Connie came for our every-other-month lunch. While Albert is being groomed, she spends the time with us. I love this schedule that insures we keep in touch. We had hoped Shawn could join us, but communications were awry. John took a photo of us. After it was too late, I realized the lovely decoration on Connie’s sleeve did not show to advantage. I am wearing one of the new tops the neighbors picked out for me from the thrift shop. “They” say the best thing to wear is a smile, and we both kept those on.

England 40 Years Ago — March 28, 1982

I love Kate’s phrases. As John was teasing her, she said, “Mommy! Can you behave him?”

It just doesn’t DO for me to stay up too late! We had a marvelous time at the home group, but got home at midnight. The following day, dinner was a disaster. The pastry slid willy-nilly off the meat, jello unmolded from the new bunny mold into a wiggly heap, and $ poured a pint (that’s 20 ounces here!) of milk onto the floor. It was almost enough to make one swear off church meetings! Thank heavens we didn’t have guests for that meal!

Canterbury, on a lovely warm spring day, has a magical busy-ness. I got the feeling of pilgrims bustling about, even though St. Thomas a Becket’s shrine was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538. At right is an entrance to the cathedral area through the archway on the right.

We saw the place where the tomb had been and the deeply worn stone steps leading there. The Black Prince is buried there, as well as Henry IV, the only king interred in Canterbury.

John had as much trouble as I did finding a place to park in Brighton, with one difference – he found one! I finally got to see the elaborate inside of that exotic Indian/Oriental fantasy, the Royal Pavilion, built by the Prince Regent (later George IV). We even had a delicious lunch in one of the upstairs rooms. Most of the furniture was designed specifically for each room, so they matched in style and upholstery. The columns, wall decorations and gigantic chandeliers, called gasoliers by a guide, were fantastic. I was fascinated with letters on display of the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert, the widow he secretly married.

Brighton Pavilion
Pavilion from another angle

The Bible is right again – the more you ask for, the more you get. We were in the middle of an argument with a child when I sent a quick one up: “Lord, please solve this one and the ones to come when John won’t be here.” Immediately, with split-second timing, the phone rang! My brother Bob was on the other end saying he and his girls are coming to visit in June. That solved June for me, and when I turned around, the present problem flitted out the window in the excitement.

We had a gorgeous early summer day to drive near Bath to Longleat – the stately home of the Marquis of Bath. The house is 400 years old, a huge place, but the sizes of the rooms were livable. Even years ago people wanted souvenirs to take home, and the Thynnes were no exception. Displayed in the house was the shirt, complete with blood stains, that Charles I wore for his execution. I was very surprised when the guide pointed to two door facings from the Taj Mahal.

Longleat from our car

There were three dining rooms – one last used in 1923 where we saw the silver wired to alarms, another where the guide showed a dining room that the family uses when there are no guests. The present Marquis has celebrated two silver wedding anniversaries – 25 years with each of two wives. He still lives in the house, as do two sons and their families.

Longleat dome
Drawing room
Drawing room

The grounds were beautiful, originally landscaped by Capability Brown. We were fascinated by one large old tree with a plaque saying it was planted by George III when he came for a visit!

So many ancestral homes are in jeopardy because of the steep inheritance taxes, and Longleat is no exception. Behind the house is an amusement park with a railroad we had to ride, a garden center, maze, and shops. Across the valley is the safari park, Europe’s first. We were amused at the cartoons displayed in the great hall, all poking fun at a peer of the realm keeping animals.

$ was impressed with the giraffes, whose knobby knees we looked up at from our car. He’s still imitating the monkey that sat on our car. Just at feeding time we saw the lions, tigers, and wolves pounce on their pieces of meat.

Before going into Salisbury, we saw Old Sarum. It had the deepest moat we’ve ever seen, 11th century ruins of a cathedral, and a fort.

Old Sarum moat
Ruins of the cathedral
Old well at Sarum

We didn’t find out the extent of damage to the cathedral of Salisbury until after the evensong service. At 2 a.m. vandals had entered through a small window and set fire to the altar and a side chapel, though all we saw at first was the charred altar. In an effort to clear the vestiges of smoke, the huge doors were thrown wide open. The church had been closed all day and was reopened just before the service.

The church is renowned for three things – the tallest spire in Europe (404 ft.), one of the oldest clocks of its kind in England, and in the library one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta. We liked its setting in wide green lawns. Some cathedrals have other buildings so close that it’s hard to see the church, but not this one.

Salisbury close

[Forty years after we were at Salisbury, I have one other note to add for those of you who have sent or received on-line cards by Jacquie Lawson. She uses the singers from the choir of this cathedral on the sound tracks, and most big church drawings are based on the cathedral.]

We spent the night at the Red Lion Hotel – a medieval coaching inn with tiny passages that turn sharp corners and go up and down many levels. The rooms were cozy with many lovely touches. Sewing kits were little stuffed pillows fixed to the vanity, holding needles, thread, pins and safety pins. Attached to the walls were built-in electric kettles with a cabinet holding cups and the makings of tea and coffee.

Unfortunately, John became ill just before dinner and chose to go to bed rather than eat. The girls and I were leery of coping with $, but everything went smoothly in the hotel restaurant. Lisa took him to her room while Kate and I finished eating; the entertainment was brushing his teeth with Lisa’s toothbrush!

Sunday morning John’s innards felt better, but I can’t answer for the way he faced the world. I’ll leave it to your conjecture as to what happened to his razor blade.

Wells is a small jewel of a town with spring water gushing out of a fountain just outside the walls of the cathedral. We read that there are seven wells, though only this one is prominent.

Wells spring

The west entrance of the church can’t be seen because of scaffolding for restoration work, but the inside is exquisite. An unusual feature is the inverted arch work which holds up the central tower. We sat in the front row of the quire next to the boys – 18 of them and only one wearing glasses.

Vicar’s Close

Beside the church is the oldest complete street in Europe – Vicar’s Close – where all the houses were built in the 14th century. On the other side of the church was a moated enclosure for the bishop’s palace, still in use as a residence.

Bishop’s palace

We feasted on a traditional Sunday lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at the Swan Hotel nearby. Then we drove to Glastonbury to see the ruins of the Abbey where King Arthur is supposed to be buried.

Glastonbury Abbey
Another view of Glastonbury Abbey
Supposed site of King Arthur’s tomb

Legend has it that the Holy Grail is also there, brought by Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph had leaned on his staff, the staff sprouted into a thorn bush, and he knew he had to establish a church there. During the Civil War (England’s, not ours) the tree was cut down, but a new one was started from a cutting.

Family with new thorn bush

On the way home we drove through Cheddar, now as famous for a commercialized natural wonder (a gorge) as for cheese. With a speed limit of 70 miles per hour on motorways, we scooted home in three hours.

We’re leaving on our last continental holiday April 1 and won’t return until the 20th. Then we’re having guests almost till the date John is to return to New York to start work.

Superlative Podcasts

I lost contact with Nick when he switched from blogging to pod-casting. I’m thrilled that he contacted me, and I am now back in the loop. If you have ANY interest at all in classical music, please listen to one. Nick talks briefly about a selection and plays it. Instant pleasure! There are usually several in each podcast. There are now almost 40 to choose from, with a new one every week. I love the title, Perfect Pitch.

This is the blurb that appears on the web site: “Perfect Pitch brings you a whole new approach to classical music. For experts and beginners alike, Perfect Pitch is an accessible, relaxed, and informative dive into the best classical works over the centuries and some of the fascinating stories behind the music and their composers.”

It is very easy to access with the link here. Listen with your computer, tablet, or cell phone. If you like what you hear, please share with your relatives and friends. Nick loves to share his passion for music with everyone. He told me this is a mission, not a commercial enterprise. I’d say, “Mission accomplished!”

Thrift Shop BonANNEza

I never dreamed of having personal shoppers at a thrift shop, but that is what happened. Those special pickers were none other than our “awn” neighbors Dawn and Shawn.

Dawn knew the thrift store was going to throw out clothing for lack of storage space. She texted me, asking what size top I wore. Shawn joined her, and they picked out things for themselves and ten tops for me! Ten (10)!!!

At Dawn’s suggestion, I’ll donate the ones I can’t use to another shop. According to the label, one was two sizes too large. My friends had good eyes, though, because I squeezed myself into that tank top. By definition, it had no sleeves. I failed the sleeveless scale 30 years ago and won’t try again. One top didn’t look good on me, though it would be great for someone else. The third reject showed dangerous cleavage. I’ll pass this one along to someone who is much more willing to flirt with danger than I am.

The slideshow presents clothes that originally cost more than I would pay, and I am delighted to have them. One still has the original store tag! The photographer, using only one hand, did not do a good job, but you can get an idea of the lovely things Dawn and Shawn chose for me. Thank you very much, dear neighbors.

Pleasure Amplified

Grandson David has enjoyed his new car, getting used to the way it handles on the road and exploring the bells and whistles. On David’s first day off after getting it, John went outside with him to admire it and see its special features.

I laughed when he hopped into the back of the car and pointed out how he could transport trains and stow camping gear.

Just then a truck pulled into our driveway, and Shawn, Bob, and Logan hurried to inspect the car with us. They looked at the inside as Bob sat behind the wheel, all the while saying how great the car is.

They even looked under the hood! Bob and Logan searched for the hook release after David popped it open. We all admired the spotless innards, and I noted it was color-coded, as the salesman had said it was.

NOTHING could have added more to David’s pleasure than hearing their enthusiastic comments. They spent quality time rejoicing with him. It was focused, uplifting, and affirming – just perfect!

England 40 Years Ago — March 21, 1982

A dozen eggs and one small boy is a potent combination. I wondered why he was content to play with a shoe box all the way home, then found it was the EGG box! It could have been worse, I guess, for he only cracked two and broke one over an old quilt. The quilt needed washing, anyway.

Seeing a baby asleep on an aeroplane isn’t an uncommon sight, but I wonder how many parents see their little ones using a plane as a pillow? $ couldn’t “hatch” his big Fisher-Price aeroplane as he does all his matchbox toys, so he chose it for a pillow, and thereby slept on an aeroplane in his cot.

Much to $’s and John’s pleasure, we took a local train from Reigate to Reading sitting in the last seat on the train, watching the world go by backwards. It was fun to see towns we know by car from a different angle. There were eight tracks going through the Reading station – the center for all trains going West. To speed things up, we took the express back to Redhill, this time in the front seat where we could see the tracks.

Our friends, Barbara and John C, came to spend the day with us Saturday. Their two red-headed boys love trains and thoroughly enjoyed the new layout John had completed at 3:00 a.m. that morning. For that matter, $ was intrigued with it as soon as he saw it and the girls as soon as others began playing with it. After our noon dinner, we went for a long rambling walk past the golf club and looping back around through the town. It seems to be the thing to do after a heavy meal, except at night when it’s dark. We found out that John C grew up across the main highway from here and knows Walton quite well. He remembers a windmill that was one of the few things demolished by a flying bomb in the war. He was also aware of some of the nobility who had put the golf club on the map.

After our ramble, we had a hearty tea – more like a Sunday supper. The children certainly put away the food, probably because of the exercise and having more familiar foods to choose from.

I’ll bet Vivien would be surprised to find he was a direct answer to prayer. We and Philippa were all ready to hop in the car Sunday morning, but the car wouldn’t start. Both John and I tried it repeatedly. John walked in the house in disgust while I gave it one more try. When it still balked, I said, “Lord, if you want us to go to church in Chichester Cathedral, then you’ll have to get this buggy going.” With that, Vivien tapped on the window, suggested we push the car to the front door, and use a hair dryer on the spark plugs. I took a photo of the proceedings. The car sprang to life, and off we went. A one-second prayer resulted in a five-minute miracle.

Despite our late start, we parked a few yards from the church and walked straight into an elderly man who guided us to the steps of the choir. He instructed a younger man to seat us where the GIRLS could see the BOYS singing. There were six men and eleven boys, five of the eleven wearing glasses. The choir was perfectly balanced, and their diction was so good that I understood every word. The slideshow below shows the steeple, the separate bell tower, and an area inside where repairs were being made.

We felt this cathedral, though one of the oldest in England, is the most progressive. They have preserved the ancient parts while constantly adding new things. There is a small side window by Marc Chagall, a flag that Sir Francis Chichester had flown on his boat, and a brilliantly coloured tapestry woven in 1966 hanging behind the altar.

The shopping area of Chichester is still enclosed by Roman walls, and much of it is for pedestrians only. We saw the market cross – a Gothic structure with clocks – at the cross roads in the center. In a long row of shops was an ancient church that took our fancy; it had been turned into a delightful little religious book shop. We ate a delicious dinner in a restaurant called the Vicar’s Hall, housed in a former church building.

We then drove a short distance to the ruins of Fishbourne Roman Villa – a huge place that is now partly covered by a town. It’s amazing what the experts can deduce from rubble. The introductory film put forth the educated guesses as to when the various parts of the buildings were erected, how rooms were changed, the name of the owner, the fact that children of high-born parents lived there, and that the decaying building was destroyed by fire. They had carefully uncovered the oldest mosaics in England made when St. Paul was preaching around the Roman Empire!!!!

Mosaic at Fishbourne

Below are photos showing a mosaic at the Roman villa and a mug decorated with an image from the floor. We bought the mug 40 years ago and still have it in our collection.

Lock and Heart-Shaped Rock at the Creek

When John and I walked to the creek on February 12, someone had left a juice pouch, a lock, and a heart-shaped rock high above the water.

Two days later the pouch was gone, but the other items were there in approximately the same position.

On March 3, I took another photo to show nothing had moved. This time I put a date on it.

The next time I went down, the lock had a new position.

Some time between March 10 and 19, both lock and heart were gone.

I’m amazed that the items stayed beside the stream for roughly a month. Granted, the weather was cold and few people were wandering about. How I wish I knew who put them there and who took them away! John’s last time to walk all the way to the creek was the day we found the lock and the heart rock. I think if only the rock was there, I would have brought it home as a memento of our walks to the creek.

A Most Exciting Day for David!

Grandson David knew his day off would be different, because he was slated to run the sound board for the Lenten service. He’d had general instructions and observed a time or so, but there is nothing like sitting in the command seat! He said he made one mistake, but no one in the congregation noticed.

Amy, the music director, was in the choir loft and thought to take a photo and send it to John and David. Wasn’t that thoughtful? I particularly appreciated it.

Earlier in the day we went with David to the Subaru dealer in Asheville, as he began looking for a car to buy. There was nothing that interested him, but he had begun the process. As we drove home, the salesman texted him, asking if he might be interested in a new car that was due to come in soon. David said yes. We hadn’t been home long when word came that the car was delivered and was there on the lot. The fellows went back, planning to see the car and wait for the church service to begin. It takes about 45 minutes to get to Asheville, so they wouldn’t come back home.

David texted me, and I’m sure if there had been wires involved, they would have sizzled. He test drove the car and agreed to buy it!!! On that high, he rushed to church and ran the sound board. His concentration must be superb.

Back of the cashier’s check

Normally he is on a very late schedule, but David got up quite early to go to the bank. His face was all smiles as he held up the cashier’s check.

Next stop was for insurance. His grin was even broader when he knew the car was insured.

At the dealership, he signed papers in the showroom while the car was cleaned and gassed up. After choosing a service agreement, the salesman sat in the car with him, showing him all the bells and whistles. David knows a lot about cars and probably didn’t learn anything new, but they went through the checklist.

They brought a sign out for him to hold, while the salesman and I took a picture. After shaking hands all around, David was left alone with his car for the first time.

I couldn’t see the screen very well in the bright sunlight, but I asked David to pose beside the car. It looks like he took it under his wing.

The last photo at the dealership shows him in the driver’s seat, ready to start the car. I leaned in and said, “Nobody is looking. Hug the steering wheel.” This was a private moment, not to be intruded upon by a camera.

We stopped for a sandwich at Culver’s. Normally David would have loved a milkshake to go, but he wouldn’t take food in the car on its first day. I have a feeling this vehicle is going to stay a lot cleaner than my old car, Snot. After lunch we drove in tandem until David turned off to go to work. I felt sorry for him, having to work a full shift after a very exciting morning.

There is one thing I failed to do. I didn’t lean in the car and get a whiff of that new car smell. I shall do that tomorrow.

Bed Head or Windblown?

My hair got up on the wrong side of the bed, and I stopped to take a photo of it just before walking with John. As predicted, the wind was blowing. I figured my bed head wouldn’t matter. Here are the before and after photos. You can vote for a winner, but I think they are equally bad.

I got up earlier, hoping to get home before the sun blinded us. That turned out not to be a problem. We saw Logan dribbling a basketball on his porch, and he ran out to speak to us. John said, “Want to walk with us until it’s time to go to school?”

He ran back inside, emerging in moments with Shawn at the door. We waved at her and set off up the street with Logan. He began talking about songbirds, having seen a robin recently. We were impressed when he said he has a small book of North Carolina birds and identified a towhee. Way to go! I didn’t try to identify a bird until I was 40 years old, despite my mother’s life-long interest. Logan has started at age 11. We love that young man and admire his active brain.

Bob picked him up at the big bend. He waved from the back window, and we did the BIG WAVE, as usual. What a fun way to start our day!

When we returned, I wanted a photo of Joyce’s daffodils. A video seemed the best medium on a windy day. I tried to get the attention of the flowers, but they had their backs turned to me.