England 40 Years Ago — November 16, 1981

Sorry I missed writing last week. Birthday week is always a hectic time. Nine days ago Kate had four friends spend three hours here for a party, including games and lunch. They are of an age to cooperate nicely and eat heartily, so we all had a good time.

Lise with Kate and her friends for Kate’s birthday party

Thank you all very much for all the notice of the girls for their birthdays. They both had all their cards displayed in their rooms. The real birthdays, which fell in the middle of the week, we celebrated by having them choose their menu and by having their dad home from work early.

Kate on her 10th birthday

Lisa had four friends for a slumber party. Two I know quite well – Catherine S and Caroline H – but Emma H and Janet S were new to me. All were so sweet and interesting to talk to. We feel both girls have some lovely friends.

Lise blows out the candles on her cake.
Lise is 13. The girls’ birthdays are one day apart.

Before long I may have to arrange to shop without John $ or find some horse blinders to fit him. After I’ve put a few purchases in my basket that hangs on the handle of his push chair, he peers into it and helps himself to anything he fancies. I bought bananas; he grabbed them, and before I could think “NO” he’d bitten a little of the skin. By the time I got home he’d worked one little finger into the hole and began to fish out the banana bit by bit.

The English believe in charity and start training their children for it early in life. Every Friday at Micklefield they take up a collection for some organization. Last week, of course, was Poppy week – donations for Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day). At Dunottar various groups organize things to bring in money for their favorite charities. There have been Rubic cube contests, a game of net ball between students and faculty, and pony rides at lunch break. Adults, too, are not ashamed to walk the streets and pound on doors to raise money.

Lise, at thirteen, has decided it is the thing to run down her parents. I nearly laughed aloud at the conversation among the girls as we came home from school for Lisa’s slumber party. She was going on about how OLD her father is, and it was absolutely the wrong group to air that. The three other girls who came from Dunottar are the youngest in their families, and two of them have a sibling engaged to be married in the coming year. Caroline said, “My father is 50”, in a placid tone, and the other two said theirs are 51. End of conversation! Lisa knew very well that John just celebrated his 40th.

Yesterday we drove through the autumn countryside taking back roads toward Arundel Castle (emphasis on the “a” as in “apple”). It wasn’t open – most things aren’t now – but we did see the village and outer walls. It was beautiful and imposing. We drove on to the sea and walked beside the pounding surf with the crisp breeze stinging our faces. Refreshing.

Saturday we invited neighbors Jennifer and Vivian for a quick cup of tea and a taste of carrot cake. When I mentioned the name of the cake, they rolled their eyes slightly, having never heard of putting carrots in cake. They decided it was edible. We were discussing beverages, and they said the reason people put milk in the cup before pouring the tea goes back to the time real china cups from China made their advent here, along with tea. The English people knew china was much more delicate than whatever they had been using, so they put the milk in first to keep the china cups from breaking from being suddenly heated by the hot tea. They pointed out that it has never been the custom to put milk in coffee first; it is always served separately.

That’s all the news for now. I hope to reply to several weeks’ worth of letters that I haven’t gotten around to before.