Celebrating the Fourth of July

We went to church with Logan, because he was reading the lesson for the day at his church. We thought the way it was put in the service was lovely. Shawn came from the choir and joined Logan at the microphone. She led the congregation in prayer after he read the lesson.

Mid-afternoon, the neighbors met in the street for a cook-out. This photo includes everyone who was there. There was no favoritism, just a distant shot that showed no one to advantage. We had a wonderful time being able to mingle freely. It was the first time we had seen Frankie in over a year, because of COVID 19.

Frankie, John, Dawn, Jeff, David, Logan, Shawn, Bob

David and Logan played the card game Set, taking time out to eat a few bites. They hadn’t played against each other for weeks, and they were merciless. After the party broke up, they let me find a few sets in several games as they continued the fierce competition in our house.

After dark, Shawn and Logan brought chairs to our driveway and joined us to watch lovely fireworks set off by neighbors up the mountain. That was a lovely close to a very pleasant day.

Blood Pressure

A routine visit to a doctor’s office brought unexpected laughter. The technician rolled the blood pressure machine in and slapped the cuff around my arm. It seemed to go through its program normally. She looked at the display and exclaimed, “All zeroes!”

I asked, “Does that mean I’m dead?”

“No!” she replied. IT’S dead!”

Photographs of a Thank You

We were quite busy before Logan’s birthday, and we did not buy him a gift ahead of time. He had been visibly excited about playing the card game Set that daughter Lise showed him before she went back to Denmark. The day before his birthday, I told him that I would check with his parents. If no one was planning to give him the game, I would order it immediately. The package arrived a few days later. By then, his house was full of company – two aunts and a cousin. John saw the cousin outside playing and asked him to send Logan over. That is where this story begins.

John handed Logan the gift, which though wrapped, was not a surprise.

Logan turned to John to say thank you. Can you see the intensity in that straight back? He said the words clearly and with feeling. He couldn’t have practiced to say it more perfectly.

John nodded toward me as Logan was turning to repeat his thanks. Seeing the camera, he flashed a brilliant smile and posed with the game. Ah! A boy after my own heart! There were years of training behind that smooth, sincere expression of gratitude. Let’s have a round of applause for Shawn and Bob! Good job! Well done!

England 40 Years Ago — June 28, 1981

We’ve had a full week with my folks still here. We went to Wakehurst Place Gardens in West Sussex. The mansion seems to be unoccupied, but the grounds are gorgeous. The place is kept up by the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew and administered by the National Trust. I liked the water way where the little stream fell over rocks in many falls and rested in pools before continuing downwards. One pool had the largest goldfish I’ve ever seen in my life.

One afternoon we got the girls from school just as they finished lunch to go to a National Trust house that is close to here. [Judging by the photos, we must have seen Polesden Lacy.] Since the place only opens at 2, we couldn’t see the house and get back to Reigate by 3:15. Lisa was thrilled to be getting out of school even though they missed no classroom work; on Tuesdays they have triple games, meaning three periods that the whole school troops up to playing fields for organized games. Kate was a little concerned that she would miss a break in school, but she enjoyed changing out of her uniform and looking like a tourist. We had seen the house when we first came here, but my folks hadn’t. I saw things this time around that I’d missed before – traveling cosmetic box and a lady’s “necessary” (tiny sewing and repair kit). $ liked figurines displayed on his level and pushing his own stroller in the garden. He didn’t last too long in the house, so we went out to the entrance hall and chatted with the lady collecting tickets. She and her husband do the cleaning of the place! She was filling in for a vacationing ticket taker. She said, “We give it a proper do every Monday and Friday when the house is closed to the public.” The roses and the peonies in the gardens were superb.

John and I both passed our stiff English driving test one day before the law stated that we had to. If you stay here for more than a year, you are supposed to have taken your test before that first year is up. We now feel like quite superior people! Mother and Dad have now “done time”; they kept $ from 9:15 – 11:45 during the tests and from 3 – 5:30 while I was getting Lisa’s new Dunottar uniform from the outfitters who supply the school. That poor baby would have become glued to his push chair if I’d had to drag him everywhere. At left is a photo of our having tea outside at our house.

We went a second time to the open air market, buying a few things for them to take home and enjoying seeing all that is for sale. We ate lunch at a National Trust house, Clandon Park. The lunch was delicious; $ behaved nicely until we went through the house, and my folks got a chance to wander through an historic building by themselves while $ and I gamboled on the lawn. His attention was soon riveted on two horses; he practiced saying “horse” until I think anyone could understand him.

Yesterday we drove to Bath (be sure to put “ah” in that name) and first went through Bath Abbey. For over 1200 years a Christian church has been on that site. St. Augustine was in Bath in 603! The present church was begun in 1499 and completed in the 17th century. Further back in history, the Romans built baths to take advantage of the only hot springs in Britain soon after AD 43. Amazing! These buildings were covered over with later construction and not discovered until 1878. We could see where excavating continues today along with displays of Roman coins, statues, and mosaic tiles. Most of the rest of Bath is Georgian – the time when it became a spa for the upper classes. The streets are unusually wide for England and the buildings much like those in the Federal style in the U.S.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the Pump Room where people gathered to drink the waters and socialize and the Assembly Rooms where dances and concerts were held. These two places feature in almost every Georgian and Regency novel. I felt like I was seeing places where my friends had been! We tasted the mineral-laced water and were glad we didn’t have to drink much of it. Under the Assembly rooms is a museum of costume. Clothes were displayed beautifully on models, and many were grouped in room settings. The old court dresses looked as if yokes had dropped from shoulders to hips and were covered by the fancy dresses. Some were over a yard wide flaring out from 18 inch waists; from the side they appeared to be only five inches wide. There were quite a few things from the 1700’s up to winners of last year’s fashion awards. I thought the dresses from Queen Mary, the Queen Mother and the Queen were most interesting.

The ancient Roman baths were fantastic. We understand people are allowed to swim here one day a year.

On the way home we stopped to see a country mansion, Dyrham Park built by a minister of William III. The feature the children enjoyed most was a couple of 3-day-old peacocks. [At some point we saw a hand-cranked merry-go-round. I think this was near Hampton Court, and therefore out of order here.]

Mr. Clewes had told us that there was to be an air show this weekend, but of course we made no attempt to find out where it was to be. We saw some of it! Out on the open road, we happened to look round to see six to nine planes performing fancy stunts in the air.

Today we went to Westminster Abbey for the morning service. We sat in the second row in the nave; I was first in and so almost on the steps to the altar. I could have reached out and tickled the feet of the man reading the scripture lessons. The choir was superb, as usual. We did notice the novice choir boys dressed in red robes, but without the white tops, sitting near the organ console. We haven’t seen them there before. I saw the man in charge of them tap one boy on the shoulder during the service. Wonder what he did wrong. John said these very young boys were brought out of the service after the anthem was sung; they had black capes to wear over their red robes as they were marched back to their dorm.

The shortest and quickest way to London on Sunday mornings goes just on the edge of the suburb of Wimbledon. John kindly drove us by the tennis club since there were no games today and no traffic. Our neighbors who had seats on the center court said they spent an hour trying to get out of their car park! We noticed signs at the stadium stating the price of admission is two pounds. That is really cheap. You wouldn’t be allowed in the center court, but could wander around to any of the other 12 to 18 courts where many of the famous players would be playing. Of course, the best way to see tennis is to sit in front of the TV set where they broadcast hours and hours every day. I think they are on live from 2:30 until 7:30 and then begin the reruns of all the important games of the day. It was fun to see in person where all this activity takes place.

Perfect Pitch

I’ve just listened to the first podcast of Perfect Pitch and want to recommend it to anyone and everyone. What a marvel! I first met Nick as a blogger who wrote Manuscript Notes on WordPress. The podcast is a sparkling version of the same magic. The link is here.

Nick talks about music in words everyone can understand, and he picks marvelous pieces to illustrate his points. In the first podcast he tells how he started listening to classical music and how he pronounced Chopin’s name. Included are selections of Bach, Schubert, Chopin, and Beethoven.

If I were a Victorian lady, I’d swoon over his lovely English accent. His words and the music he chose are superb. Please do listen and prepare to be entranced.

Logan’s Birthday Eve

We knew neighbor Logan was going to spend the day with us while his parents had appointments, but we didn’t expect him to walk to the creek with us. He left his house wearing slippers on his feet and caught up to us at the top of the street. We waited as he ran back home for shoes and rejoined us. He has an inventive mind, so a walk with him instantly becomes a fun adventure. Did I say walk? Logan hardly ever walks. Here is a video clip of his running down the steep hill. By running ahead and coming back, he easily doubles the mileage we walk.

Once at the creek, Logan found a stick that became his silent saxophone for a few moments.

Sadie loves to play with Logan, even though he tricked her to pick up a stick. She won, because she stopped him from throwing it into the stream.

On the way home, Logan slid down a banister. Life is more exciting when his feet are off the ground.

Former neighbor Connie was here for lunch while dog Albert was being groomed. We turned it into a birthday party for Logan. Connie was telling him about her gift as he opened it at the table.

Logan waited patiently for us to sing Happy Birthday to him before we cut the cake.

I thought he would tumble to the fact that we were celebrating his birthday as soon as he came in the house, because the balloon was on the kitchen counter before lunch. As John fixed it to his chair, he asked, “That’s for me?” He assumed it belonged to John, along with the huge balloons that showed 80 for his future birthday. We all enjoyed the pre-birthday party, and now Logan is 11 years old.

Dad won, Lise

Daughter Lise owns Birthday Month. Everyone who knows her has heard that she celebrates her birthday for a whole month. It was a family tradition, of sorts, because her grandfather’s patients brought him gifts for days before and after his birthday. She was the one who put a name to it, and it worked well, since her special day is near the middle of the month.

Sister Barbara and Thom stayed with us for a few days, then we drove to South Carolina to meet sister Chris and Steve. They had a surprise birthday celebration for John, since we won’t be together in September. That set a dangerous precedent. John now claims Birthday Season! The three posed for a sibling photo.

Chris, John, and Barbara

Barbara took what I think of as the official party photo of the birthday boy.

Birthday strings are attached!

The lighting wasn’t the best, but this one showed all of us.

When we got home, John agreed to pose with the pair of balloons that show his age, come September. He doesn’t agree with the number, though. At age 70 he started counting backwards, so he says he is approaching 11. He told grandsons David and Nathaniel that when he reaches age 2, he expects them to push him around in a wheelchair like he pushed them in strollers. I have yet to hear them agree to that.

Lise, you can still have your Birthday Month, but Dad beat you to Birthday Season.


John’s cousin Harold and wife Susan spent an afternoon here to visit with us and Barbara and Thom. You should have heard the laughter ring out from the back porch! The photo shows the first cousins – John on the left, Barbara in the middle, and Harold on the right.

It’s hard for me to think of Harold’s being retired. He was just a boy when John and I got married. Here he is at our rehearsal dinner 57 years ago.

Harold lived in Memphis, so I saw him almost every year when I went to visit my parents fifty miles from his home. He was all grown up when he visited us in England, so we didn’t see him often after that. We all had years to catch up on via funny stories and anecdotes.

Daughter Lise was a teenager when Susan married Harold. She idolized Susan and always loved being with Harold. I’m sure she would have given her eye teeth to be with us that afternoon.

Easy Falls

Our agenda for family visitors included two waterfalls and lunch at Square Root in Brevard. We began at Sunburst Falls, a favorite of grandson David and me. Barbara and Thom entered into the spirit of the thing by posing with the falls.

Barbara went out on the boulders with David, while Thom stayed on the road to take videos. He caught the flighty action of two Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, natives of the region.

Shooting the falls

I took a shot of the pool below the falls. In this one, I can see the depth of the water that is missing from most of my photos of it. [Note to self: you are babbling. No one cares about this.]

When you look at the two desserts we shared, you’ll know why we try to keep moving. We had Key lime pie and a chocolate cake with a fanciful name that included Spoonful. It probably should have been called Calorie-laden.

Looking Glass Falls is always a stunner. As usual, I stayed at the top while others went down the switchback stairs to the base of the falls. The day was not hot, yet there were swimmers in that cold, cold water. Barbara and Thom put their fingers in to experience it. I think David would like to swim there on a hot day, but I don’t know if anyone else would want to.

Let the Good Times Roll!

John’s sister Barbara and husband Thom are always enthusiastic about walking to the creek with us. They had driven eight hours the day before and welcomed exercise. Knowing a photo at the creek is obligatory, they posed nicely. Dog Sadie was with us, too, and she behaved beautifully – sitting and staying seated whenever a car passed us. In 24 hours we had mentioned every sibling and all the children and grandchildren. If I had nothing better to do, I’d count them.

The creek doesn’t show, but it is there behind their elbows.

All six of us sat down for breakfast together. Son John $pencer exclaimed, “I have angel bacon!” and held it up to show us.

Cleaning was the number one project the day before. John $ pitched in to help, and John did most of the vacuuming. Poor Sadie distanced herself from the noisy machine, and she probably sensed something was about to change. I used toddler talk and tone to her, saying, “You don’t understand what’s going on, do you?”

From just around the corner I heard, “Right, Mom. I’m 41 years old, and don’t understand anything.” He and I both laughed.

This is how I know I’m slowly becoming a gardener. The state of the garden matters to me. I begged the roses to hang onto their full blooms until Barbara and Thom could see them.