England 40 Years Ago – July 6, 1980

I am embarking on a trip down memory lane and invite you to join me. John had a two-year contract to work in London beginning in July of 1980. I plan to publish the letters I wrote then, 40 years after I mailed them back to our relatives in the States. I had the idea when reading the blog A Hundred Years Ago. Click here to see her introduction. Sheryl posted entries from the diary of her grandmother 100 years after they were written. When she finished that material, she began posting recipes from 100 years ago.

July 6, 1980

Tymberlie [the name of our rented house] has hot water restricted! Notice to all potential guests: you have to reserve water ahead of time because the heater is on a timer. However, the device can be overruled. I have visions of being undressed, waiting for the water to warm and realizing I haven’t turned the switch downstairs.

Tymberlie the day we made an offer to rent it

We’ve had a busy week. Monday I decided to bake cookies, despite having only one broken American measuring cup. (Forgot to pack the measuring spoons in the suitcase.) The results were amusing, but edible. I think their flour and baking powder are vastly different. We’re blessed in having one cookie sheet in the kitchen – no pie plates or baking pans. Twice I’ve boiled a whole chicken, but now I’ve acquired a pan and can bake one. Once we had rhubarb downside up pie – stewed the rhubarb and topped it with pastry done on the cookie sheet.

Our kitchen in Tymberlie before we moved in

John stayed home Tuesday waiting for the car to be delivered. It was, and we went to the police station to be registered. John first drove to take the driver to the train station. I don’t know how he felt, but I had to drive John the next morning. What a shaky experience! I wasn’t sure where I was going because everything looked different on the way home with only Kate to hold my hand. John had the advantage of having walked the streets before. In any case, I’m glad the newness has begun to wear off.

I’d barely gotten myself home and my nerves steadied when the doorbell rang. It was Clewes, the gardener. He SAID he loves children, so I let the girls “help” him all day. The girls wanted him to eat lunch with us. Can’t you imagine the level of eyebrows of our high-class neighbors if they knew we’d entertained the gardener for lunch? Not only that, but I had him demonstrate how to make tea.

Thursday John stayed home to bake in the sun. He’s had a heavy cold and had lost his voice the day before. The head of the office over here was worried about him and thought a day off would be in order. John was concerned that sitting in the sun all day would result in his appearing to have been on holiday and mask his miserable head with healthy-looking colour (British spelling). He could have passed for one of the upper class sitting in a deck chair in the garden with his nose in the air.

Miss Kinman, Headmistress

Meanwhile, we girls and John $pencer went to Micklefield School for a look around. We chatted with the headmistress and saw several classes. It was suggested they might come in for a full day nearer the end of term. (School closes 23rd July!) They will not be tested until September, by which time their brains will have atrophied, along with my spelling.

Would you believe there are two (2) mail deliveries a day here? Yes, right to the house – right INTO the house, as a matter of fact. There is a slight rattle at the front door, and junk mail comes flying into the hall! (Junk mail because all our good stuff comes via NY.)

As you’ll see when you come to visit, much of the plumbing is outside the houses here. Not out-houses, just pipes. Several times I’ve heard gurgling noises, run to the window, and seen water from a sink disappearing into drains outside. I can tell when John is showering because his used water comes down, raising steam, in the area where I hang clothes to dry. The washing machine empties outside the back door along with gutter run-off. I can see it now – the house is full of people, all using water in their rooms, the rain is draining off, and the whole house is suddenly spouting water in all directions like a NY fire boat or a big fountain in a public park. We’ll float away in watery glory!

It’s common here to buy appliances without plugs! There are so many variations in European plugs that they’ve given up and just sell things with a wire dangling. You supply and install it yourself! Yesterday we became more American by acquiring a hair dryer, a mixer, and a TV. Now I feel right at home by saying every 10 minutes, “No, you can’t see what’s on right now!”

We went to the Reigate church this morning where there is a boy choir. The nursery for babies was across the street, so we decided to chance it with John $ in church. Now I know why the English frown so at babies in church. $ let loose during the prayers, and the screech echoed from wall to wall. I rushed to the back and couldn’t open the door! I glared at the nearest innocent man and ordered him to open it for me. Could have died on the spot. In a few minutes John brought out the stroller, and I walked that bad baby home. He made NOT ONE SOUND all the way home!

Below is a photo of Lise taken that month. She was 11 years old, and John $ was 9 months.