Logan’s Church Program

Neighbor Logan and his parents were involved in the service of lessons and carols at their church. Below, nearest the camera, was Shawn singing in the choir. We were watching it on John’s monitor.

I should have taken a photo showing the sanctuary, beautifully decorated by Shawn. The church uses her artistic skills throughout the year. The music was wonderful – well-chosen pieces sung with precision. The choir and accompanists did a great job, despite all being masked. I can’t imagine singing while wearing a face covering.

Bob’s role was off-camera, recording Logan’s reading the second lesson on our lawn. Below is an old-fashioned screen shot taken with my camera. Logan was the only child in the program, and he read with clarity and expression. We were proud of him. The service was a lovely worship experience.

England 40 Years Ago — December 21, 1980

Merry Christmas! We’ve started out the week in fine fashion with [John’s first cousin] Harold’s arrival. He landed almost an hour early and didn’t have any hassle with customs. He breezed in laughing and joking, and we’ve been having a great time. John is relaxed after almost clearing his desk Friday, staying until 10 and getting home after 11. The girls are so happy to be out of school and able to stay up later.

Cousin Harold — unmarried here, now 40 years later the grandfather of four

I bought a certain green vegetable in the freezer store by looking at the picture. I had the funniest feeling I suddenly couldn’t read. The label had three languages: Passierter Spinat which sounds like a cross between a football player and a piano, Epinards Haches which could be Innards Hatching and Gehakte Spinazie which sounds to me like you are rushing down to the pawn shop to hock something. You linguists will recognize Spinach.

Everyone has heard of New Yorkers, Riplians, Memphians, etc. but do you know who people are from Liverpool? Liverpudlians!! What do you do with Charlotte, Monroe and Stony Brook?

John $ had a cold early last week; he was like a time bomb. You didn’t know whether to run for cover from the fallout or advance like a bomb squad protected by a tissue vest.

The school Christmas program was marvelous. Kate’s form sang two long carols and used rhythm sticks. The second form also sang two selections, and then the upper three forms did a mime program. I think most of the performers were in the third form with the fourth and fifth doing all the choral work. There wasn’t a hitch in the whole program – everyone moved precisely where they were supposed to. The children acting out the Christmas story were so well-behaved; you could tell at times they found things amusing, but the giggles seemed to start rising, get to the throat, and were firmly pushed down again so that the face never cracked. The angel costumes were clever, and Gabriel had a more elaborate set of wings. I had a hard time with Gabriel, though, because she looked just like Big Bird when she folded her wings. The music was wonderful – interesting composed songs all done from memory with excellent diction. Discipline and hard work were certainly on display.

Christmas is a good time for homes to be broken into, especially if a lighted tree is visible with gifts under it. Here places are not burglarized, but “burgled.”

The greatest toys are free. $ likes potatoes! He sneaks into the larder at every opportunity to grab a couple. I must remember to look through them to see if any have teeth marks. He mainly likes to juggle them or use them as stilts for the hands when crawling.

The handwriting book arrived on Wednesday, the 17th, the day school was out. Thank you ever so much for sending it quickly. Kate has done 12 lessons so far and is doing very good work. Think the influence is going to help Lisa’s writing and mine! Please let me know how much we owe you.

The home group Christmas party was fun. Barbara C did baby sit for us, so we could be the last to leave and not worry. They wouldn’t assign us something to bring, so I took a fancy Christmas bowl full of pecans newly arrived from Tennessee. What a hit they made! One person had heard of the nuts before, but most had never known about them. We had a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, sprouts, carrots and steamed pudding. There were several other things, but we understand that sprouts are the mandatory vegetable. The pudding was very moist – I must steam mine just before serving and do it for hours. Penny says she steams hers five hours the first time and five hours again the day it’s served. We also learned how to serve it; it should be flamed, cut in tiny wedges and smothered in cream and brandy butter.

The girls and I went to the open air market that is held every Thursday in Redhill. What a sight! People were milling about the stalls until we almost couldn’t move. Some stalls were nothing more than a make-shift stand while others had material stretched on a frame over and to the sides of them. It had the flavor of an old country fair; some of the merchants were actually hawking their wares, keeping up a running chatter to lure in customers. I think you could buy almost anything there from hand-carved coconuts for birdhouses to carpets. We saw sheets, numerous places selling jeans, a butcher!, two fruit stands, jewellery (I’m right on that English spelling!), antiques, handbags, materials, candy, toys, and even shoes.

It used to be a step up to travel by air while others crawled on the ground. $ found the airport to be a step up – the Fischer Price airport, that is! He pushed it to the sink and stepped up to see what he could see.

I was commanding Lisa to cease and desist saying, “Cut it out!” I couldn’t continue my anger when she solemnly looked me in the eye, raised her hand to eye level and made scissory motions and sounds in a half circle in front of herself.

We went to the party at toddler play group so I could play carols on the piano for them to sing. Don’t know what I would have done without the girls. Lisa had to hold the music because there was no music rack on the piano, and Kate held onto $. Penny, who runs the thing, had asked the girls to help Father Christmas by handing him the gifts. Penny saw my good carol book, browsed through it, and was excited at finding the Polish carols. She asked to borrow it to copy those pages because Andy’s father is Polish and she wanted to try to learn some for him. Penny brought the book back that afternoon, came in for a cup of tea, and we talked for several hours while my girls entertained her little girls. We all had such a good time.

$ is taking two to ten steps at a clip now. His trouble is that he’s trying to run before he learns to walk! One day he stooped to pick up a toy and was able to stand up again.

My walk has changed since we folded up the play pen – it’s a shuffle so as to avoid tripping over toys, with a quick flick to right or left to propel toys to the sidelines. There are no rules in this game!

John and the girls put up the tree last night. John said it looks German/American. We certainly haven’t seen any Christmas trees here pretty enough to write home about!

Harold slept while we went to church this morning. We ate dinner, went for a drive in the country and had tea. Now all but $ and I have gone to church for the service of lessons and carols. It is supposed to be like the one at King’s College. I may not miss it entirely because they took our brand new tape recorder!! If they are in a good spot, we’ll save it for the rest of you to hear.

Hope all of you will have had as wonderful a Christmas as we are going to have!!

Logan and Lily Spread Christmas Joy

Neighbor Logan (10) and his niece Lily (8) bopped over to visit for a little while. It’s always fun to see them and listen to them chatter. We got a kick out of the footage from the outdoor cam, showing them running over here at top speed.

When conversation lagged, they said they should go because they were going to bake Christmas cookies. Again the only speed was fast. If you can see it clearly, the clip shows that Logan beat Lily up the steps.

Logan wins

I was taking a nap when they came back, but John was there to receive their Christmas card and a lovely tin of fudge and festive cookies. What a treat! I read the card and lingered over the signatures, because each had signed his own name.

The children may have made a special trip to bring a nativity scene Logan made for us. John found a special spot to hang it on our tree.

Nativity scene by Logan

I always make my bed, but I was glad it was still neat that day. Lily saw it from John’s office and said, “I like your bed.” Yes! Funny how four little words can make one glow.

Three Hoods

I’m not writing about hoodlums or neighborhoods, but clothing hoods As I layered up for our morning walk to the creek, I realized the three items I was wearing each had a hood attached. Many windbreakers have hoods, as do sweatshirts. Mine did, but so did my Christmas top. I should have asked John if I looked like a hunchback, wearing all those hoods.

We saw this scene as we went down the steep hill. Along with a blue sky, we saw clouds that were probably releasing snow on the mountaintop.

England 40 Years Ago — December 14, 1980

Did you know there is no Santa Claus here? The English call him Father Christmas. His wife is Mrs. Christmas!

I heard Lisa calling for help and found her locked in the loo upstairs. Must run in the family. She was able to unlock it after I had tried several times from the outside.

Monday I went to lunch at Enid G’s (mother of Merrin who is Lisa’s friend). Met an Ann there who is also Aussie, but just came from six years in the Fiji Islands. She said she had to adjust to having a live-in maid. At first she couldn’t have the girl clean unless she herself was also working. By the time she left she could have the girl vacuum under her feet while she read a book. In talking about pets, I learned that Australia has a nine-month quarantine. That is, you can bring your animal in for the wait only after you have a permit to bring it into the country in the first place!

Kate’s class was doing a project in school Said Kate, “Mrs. Fitzhugh brings such small needles that you can hardly find them on the floor.”

Heard a commotion upstairs and ran to find the wardrobe doors open, vacuum hose down, various shoe polishes scattered about, and a wire hanger hung on $’s socks and his arms tangled in the straps for the Johnny-Jump-Up. A movie of that boy would run like a cartoon! The same day he turned over the laundry basket and proceeded to climb on top. Later he pulled the extra oven shelf from beside the stove so that I tripped on it.

John $ has learned to point. He sat at the table, smiled, pointed, and I turned around to see who he was smiling at. Nobody. Left me with the funniest feeling!

The church home group met at our house this week. I have no idea how many groups there are; must be scads. Five people came to ours that night.

The days can be so dark now as we approach the shortest day of the year. I usually have the lights on to drive the girls both ways to school and home. It doesn’t bother me, but it is enough to notice. If there are clouds overhead, it can stay almost like twilight all day. I think it makes homes and stores look so warm and cozy when it’s dark and there are lights on.

I was on the phone for a short while and came out to find $ brushing his hair with the toilet brush. Perhaps he thought it was the Johnny brush.

[I never mentioned $ in the cloakroom, so I’ll include his photo here. As far as I could tell, “cloakroom” was often used as the name for a half bath. Ours had a toilet and sink and certainly no place to hang coats. We kept the door open, because it smelled bad if air didn’t circulate there. This was the only toilet on the ground floor.]

School will “break up” for the holidays on the 17th of December. It breaks me up to hear that expression for school closing.

At the home group they discussed the Christmas party for this week. We were unsure if we could go, mainly because John gets phone calls at home, but the others thought it was because of sitter problems. The following day Barbara C called to offer to sit for us! She had stayed with Rob and Mary’s children while they came to our house; when they mentioned wanting us to come to the party, she called. Isn’t that something?

The light in the entrance hall has been out and we knew it wasn’t the bulb. Lisa learned how to turn it on – you flip the switch and run upstairs and jump hard in the middle of that hall. Makes you wonder about the wiring in this place!

Without looking ahead, try to define a play yard. I discovered it isn’t outside except in the summer. It’s inside mostly and measures about one square yard. Yep, a play pen.

The burglar alarm had its six-month check up. A man (called an engineer) came to test it, making all the different systems work. He had buzzes in the closet, clangs outside the house, and nasty bells inside the house. Bet a musical person could almost play a tune with it.

To save time, I gave $ his lunch to feed himself while I jotted a note. Without thinking, I held the pencil in the hand I picked up his cup with, and he went cross-eyed looking at the pencil while drinking.

John $ is a boy in a hurry. He actually slithers down the stairs! He stretches out his arms and legs, has his whole body undulating, and rides down mainly on his stomach. I must admit, he has plenty to ride on!

[This photo is an action shot, probably taken when he began taking several steps at once.]

$ has also acquired an English polish recently. Unfortunately I had to remove it as best I could with a tissue. I was polishing shoes when he suddenly galloped across the floor on all fours, jumped up, and struck three fingers all the way to the bottom of the gooey polish. Navy blue, for your information. Yuck!

People in the home group had talked about a float that would go all over town, and I was so glad they told me ahead of time what it was all about. Friday evening I heard a loud speaker and then Christmas carols. By the time the float came into view, we had our money ready. A car or truck was completely covered with a lit up house and Santa, I mean Father Christmas, gaily waving from the chimney. A dozen or more people were running along with it and darting down to each house to collect money for the Round Table. This organization uses the money to buy medical equipment for local use.

We’ve had one little group come caroling. The custom is for groups to go from house to house singing and collecting for worthy causes. When the three boys started singing at our front door, I first thought one of the children had turned up the TV too loud. Realized it was for real and opened the door to find these three lads cheerfully singing. I asked who they were collecting for, and they said, “Ourselves.” I was told you’re expected to give 5 or 10p to such people and 50p if you recognize the charity they’re working for.

In looking for a good source of heat, I decided to put the angel chimes over the stove (cooker here). Now when I have a meal under way, things are not humming, but tinkling.

Found out when and how to use Christmas crackers. They are small favors like ones we used to have at birthday time and are decorated for Christmas here. Just before the Christmas dinner everyone stands in a circle, crosses hands, and helps each other pull the crackers. I think they make a noise when pulled and have a hat, favor, and motto inside. You’re supposed to wear the silly hats during dinner. According to Mary G, that’s the one time English people unbend and act silly! We have them already, but I don’t think I’ll require cousin Harold to wear a hat during dinner! Can’t see John doing it either.

Logan Reads by Light of the Star

Neighbor Logan (10) practiced reading a lesson to be taped and incorporated in a service at his church. He chose our nativity scene as the set for his reading, and the star provided enough light for him to see the words. He did a fantastic job. We hope to see the service with this video in it.

After the third take, we looked at it on the tablet. Normally we think of the director sitting in a chair, but Bob was the camera man. Shawn, the director, was standing behind him. When everyone approved the final version, our quiet lawn returned to normal.

Behind the scene

Jumping into Christmas

John brought out Christmas mugs, dishes, and ornaments while daughter Lise was still here. The day after she left, he put up the tree and decorated it. We have never had such a lightning-quick transformation, and I doubt the record will ever be broken. This activity did not violate the unwritten rule of waiting until after Thanksgiving to begin Christmas.

It is unproven, but I suspect he wanted everything in place before December guests arrived. Church friends Susan and Martha came for lunch. Being in the “risk” category for COVID-19, we didn’t come near each other, and they wore masks except while eating. Time will tell if we were careful enough. It was delightful to have unhurried conversation instead of brief greetings and distant waves.

Susan and Martha

We have been extremely blessed to be able to see family and neighbors during lock-down. Just for laughs, here is a photo of irrepressible Logan using chocolate or nuts to enhance his appearance.

Thanksgiving Wrap-up

My request for a photo almost made grandson David late for work, but he was willing to pose with the finished family puzzle. Some of the crew stayed up quite late finishing it. I liked niece Chrissie’s stance, leaning on grandson Nathaniel. I’m pretty sure Nate was on his knees.

Chrissie took this photo the day before of Lise, David, and me.

Friend Linda chose photos from our family reunion to have the puzzle made. This is one we will work again and again.

The suitcases were packed and ready to go when Nathaniel did the mirror ritual. John, Chrissie, Lise, and son John $pencer were there for the final photo.

Daughter Lise had been with us two weeks before flying back to Denmark. After she went through security, we had a few more minutes with Chrissie in the airport before she boarded her plane to Massachusetts, and then we drove Nathaniel to Charlotte. I don’t know how far John and I drove, but Lise was over the ocean and Chrissie almost home when we returned to our house. This had been a most satisfying visit.

England 40 Years Ago — December 7, 1980

Last Sunday John and the girls went to an Advent carol service at St. Mary’s that was dramatic. The church, at one point, was in total darkness; one large candle in the center of the church was lit, and from it, others, until the youth group that was doing that part of the service had spread light into all the corners of the building. The hymns were all Advent ones that John was familiar with.

The new entrance into Co-op from the parking lot was open Monday. What a delight! It saves so many steps in this cold weather.

One of the Micklefield ladies, Eileen, invited me to a coffee at her house. She is Irish, raised in Dublin. Nichola, another guest, is an identical twin who never swapped identities with her sister. I asked her if they had ever tried to fool anyone, and she said they were required to wear identification bracelets in school to prevent just that kind of thing! Fanny was also there; she runs a farm shop where John went to buy our Christmas tree. I couldn’t believe she had a son named Angus. All I picture is a cow! And, last, there was Liz who is a church goer. She told the tale about her mother who always said, “Oh! Shakespeare!” when angry. Liz was almost grown when she discovered that was the name of a writer and not a swear word. Two of the four ladies had gone to boarding school; one loved it and one hated it. The two other mothers would consider sending their girls away when the time comes. All said it would really depend on the child as to whether they would be sent away. I really enjoyed meeting and visiting with these women. John $ got into the potted plants only twice. I solved the problem by feeding him cereal pieces VERY SLOWLY.

In the U.S. things are straightened out. Here people get things “sorted out.”

I was so glad John $ helped me clean house one day. He found a plate from his dad’s midnight snack under the living room chair and called my attention to it. Not much later the door bell rang, and there was a visiting health nurse. She said she had come to tell me about the services of the medical practice; I had the feeling she was also checking to see that we didn’t live in a hovel and that our children weren’t battered. I asked if they ever checked healthy children routinely. The place to go is Shaw’s corner clinic just down the road where they will weigh, measure and check $. It’s called a developmental check. I must make an appointment soon. The lady who came is a trained mid-wife, a nurse and is qualified to teach. She has 400 families to check on, is available to answer questions about child rearing, and gives immunizations.

I believe I’m right that they don’t do a 4th DPT here. We should be able to get the 4th polio immunization.

Names are something. I was introduced to Judy Catt from New Zealand. Her daughter is Victoria. She missed her chance. Why didn’t she name her Katherine and call her Kitty?

We were rather rudely awakened this week. $ was making noises about getting up, so I pried myself out of the warm bed, groped for slippers, and caught a Fischer Price toy instead, and it landed with a thump and a loud ring from a bell inside. Now you may not think it the usual thing to store such a toy in one’s bedside table, but in this house it is logical. Daddy John hopped up quicker than ever for the real alarm. I was more alert than normally! $ keeps us on our toes!

Fish report: both are doing fine, just as lively as can be. Wouldn’t have believed it a week ago.

So often I report what Kate says because she can get things royally mixed. This week it was Lisa: “Can we have a piece of John for bread?”

Mr. Wolters, the agent, arrived unannounced this week. $ came in handy as an excuse for certain things being out of place. He and I were standing in the kitchen as Clewes rolled the barrow by, and Clewes told me later he looked in as I waved to him and was sure the corrective collar Mr. Wolters wears was the collar of a vicar. He couldn’t figure out why I was bringing the vicar into the kitchen.

I wanted to point out that the school has non-uniform uniforms. This being the year of the change of suppliers, some girls have the old uniform and some the new — a motley group.

In deploying Christmas decorations around the house, I dropped a small candle over the banister. The race was on – $ at the bottom of the stairs and me at the top. I could just see him reaching it first and chomping on it like a cigar. I won, however.

You know how I often laugh when I shouldn’t? This time I did it to myself. In putting $ in the push chair, I got the shoulder strap from my purse tangled in his feet. The more I tried to undo it, the more twisted he became. I got tickled, began to laugh aloud, and looked up to see a Micklefield mother staring at me. Made me laugh even more. Finally $ had to be taken completely out before I could get him untangled.

The generation gap in our house is amusing. It was shown in a non-verbal controversy over toys. Kate was having her hair washed, and $ decided she needed toys to play with. He threw in all he could reach, and she just as quickly slung them back in the toy tray.

John $ has a casual disregard for clothes. He is constantly crawling out of his booties and would probably leave his pants behind as well if they weren’t firmly anchored over his shoulders with straps.

We had a busy weekend. Chris G, who works with John, came out Saturday afternoon to see the sugar shakers in the antique/junk shop. She’d been wanting one, was aghast at the prices in London, and was eager to see the ones here. While she was looking, I bought a toast rack, a neat gadget that will keep the toast from getting soggy! I had seen one a few days ago but forgot to buy it while concentrating on something else. This one was 50p cheaper. We walked along the High Street just looking and came on home. I enjoyed walking without my usual encumbrances.

Chris spent the night with us, and this morning we went to Canterbury Cathedral. The weather was very cold. They got chilled sitting in the choir during the service; $ and I got cold walking around waiting for them. Warmed ourselves with hot tea, sizzling chips and steaming hamburgers. Then we felt warm enough to walk along part of the old wall. The music was glorious in the church and worth the effort. Drove around the town and home. $ was so good – only cried about two minutes the whole day!!

Canterbury Cathedral

One FULL Day

Niece Chrissie was here only one full day, and it was certainly full. Four of us walked to the creek. John and I let the young beauties pose with Jonathan Creek.

Daughter Lise saw the bag of horse cookies on the counter. We went out for a photo shoot with DW and Vixen, our horse neighbors. Having the horses back, after being gone for several months, was a delight for neighbor Joyce and us. In fact, we saw Joyce earlier, petting them when we set out for the creek.

Lise gives DW his treat,
Vixen has her treat from Chrissie

Lise requested Christmas dinner for her last night here, only we would have the standard Danish dessert instead of English Christmas Pudding. For the foodies: we had Chicken and Stuffing casserole, carrots, frozen cranberry salad, cranberry sauce, and lime Jell-O salad.

Grandson Nathaniel pretended to be in a food coma before he headed for bed. Son John $’s ghostly presence can be imagined behind the candles. David had his share of the meal when he came home from work.

Lise posed with the dessert she had me prepare. I forgot to get her to write the name in Danish. It was basically a rice pudding of cold rice, whipped cream (substituted frozen whipped topping), sugar and almond flavoring. I left out the slivered almonds for the one who doesn’t like them. Cherry sauce was passed around to go on top for flavor and a pop of color.

Lise explained that this dessert is always served on Christmas Eve, the day Danes celebrate the holiday. One whole almond is stirred in, and the one who gets it is given a prize. It seems there is always a huge amount of pudding for people who are much too full to eat it. Everyone is required to take a serving, and if no one finds the almond, the dish is passed around until the almond is found. Lise had stories about people who found the almond early on and hid it until all the dessert was eaten. They were shameless!! Thankfully, Lise took pity on us and admitted that she got our almond on the second round.

Lise holds the almond.

The prize was a marzipan pig Lise brought from Denmark. We cut it up and ate it so quickly that we didn’t hear it squeal.

Oink! Oink! And the winning almond