Logan and Sadie

I decided to take Sadie for a walk late in the afternoon, hoping to add another mile to my total. Walking, even at my pace, would be good for this high-energy dog. It might have been a humdrum outing, but I heard running footsteps behind me, and there was Logan (10)! He asked if he could go with me as he pulled on his jacket. Sadie was very excited to see her two-legged playmate. In an instant she rushed at him, jumping for joy. After passing two leashed dogs at the top of our street, she began to play roughly with Logan. I don’t like her jumping on him like that. As I held her tightly, she backed out of her collar! When I fumbled getting it back on, Logan clicked the collar easily. Sadie escaped again. I am so relieved she didn’t run away. Who knew an afternoon stroll would turn into a wrestling match? Thankfully, Sadie calmed down, and we walked to the stop sign without further trouble.

The sunlight was fading quickly as we headed home. Logan agreed to hold Sadie and pose, because he knows I love taking photos of him. You can see the golden light of a fall afternoon surrounding boy and dog. We got home as dusk deepened, when it would have been dangerous to walk on the road.

Still Only One Candle!

Yesterday was son John $pencer’s birthday. I used several of the photographs from his first birthday 40 years ago in a blog post, but I didn’t use the one showing him with his birthday cake. I liked the-deer-in-the-headlights pose.

John $pencer on his first birthday

He agreed to a non-flash photo this time around, and his smile was my reward. I was amused to find he still has only one candle on his cake. He was fun at one, but his stories have improved dramatically.

The cake was put together with things I had in the house. The layers were devil’s food cake, chocolate moose tracks ice cream, and whipped topping. M & M’s were sprinkled on top, and we had just-made hot fudge sauce to ladle over it. The sauce would have made cardboard taste good.

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.

Sadie’s Training

Sadie has been training me quietly and effectively. I used to put pillow shams and a bolster on the recliner at night, but no more. That is Sadie’s favorite place in the bedroom. When she tried to get on the pillow-filled chair, either she fell back on the floor, or the pillows scattered. This morning, she had her arm possessively on the armrest. Would you argue with a dog over recliner rights?

You woke me up!

One of Sadie’s favorite activities is playing with her blanket. Son John $pencer throws the blanket over her head, and she charges at him and bites at his hands. Usually the dog lasts longer than the human. I learned NOT to play that game, because I didn’t get my hands and arms out of the way quickly enough.

I was standing near Sadie when she wanted to play. She took the blanket in her mouth and shook it, depositing it at my feet. She looked at me and said with her eyes that it was my turn. I didn’t move. She nudged it with her nose until it covered her eyes, and then she began to lick my toes. Ugh! She won, but I don’t think she played by the rules.

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!

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.


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.