England 40 Years Ago — December 30, 1980

Editor’s note – When I read this in 2020, I realized I must have written it by hand in the hotel room. I was afraid of forgetting details.

After Christmas 1980 We started our trip before dawn on the 27th of December and watched people’s lights come on all the way to Dover. It was lovely.

The white cliffs obediently shone for pictures – think Harold got a shot of the moon and the cliffs from the ferry. There was just enough movement of the water to make walking a matter for conscious, careful thought. We began to realize we’d left home country when the announcements were unintelligible. Harold and I had a few uncertain moments when a waiter looked at our English money and mumbled lots of French to himself.

We were thankful to have Harold in the navigator’s seat, both to read maps and to remind John to drive on the right side of the road. He only headed left once. It took six hours to drive from Calais to Rotterdam. We couldn’t believe how absolutely FLAT the land is. The roads are marvelous – wide, fast and empty. We’d be willing to trade these for a few roads in England!

The situation of the Hilton couldn’t be better – overlooking a huge round-about for cars, trams, buses and bicycles.

Tram tracks are on the inside of the circle.

Last night John got us settled in our rooms and went to the ship (the excuse for our being here). He came back around 2 a.m. The rest of us watched the drama of traffic from nine floors up. There are special lanes, slightly divided from car traffic and pedestrians, for bicycles only. The reason – they are very well-used, attesting to the statistics of bike-riding in Holland.

We watched a heated argument between a policeman and people involved in an accident. From the motions being made, we think one car nipped another in the fender and drove off. We thought the man doing most of the talking was the driver, but someone else drove off as he walked on down the street. There must have been 15 spectators on the sidelines at one time!

We ate breakfast together and then split up. I elected to keep $ close to the hotel while the others went to the ship. If everything goes as planned, they’ll be on board while the ship moves from one berth to another. I took a two-hour walk and saw where a ship is on display, saw lots of barges, ships, yachts and beautiful sailing vessels and walked in a museum that was free. I thought $ and I would benefit from that free warm air to get thawed out. One can certainly speed through a museum when the language is foreign!

After that we walked to the Euromast – a building on a needle. There is an observation place and a rotating restaurant. I might have been tempted to go in if I’d had someone to share the responsibility of $. He began looking rather red, so I hoofed it back. Saw large umbrellas set up on the sidewalk sheltering hardy fishermen. There are apartment buildings built right in the water with barges tied up alongside. Must be some way to get there because cars were parked under the buildings.

I felt I could manage a meal at McDonald’s – golly! In the hotel room, I heard a little thump, and turned to see $ crawling away from the crib where he’d been. I mistakenly thought he might sleep. Don’t know how he climbed out. Anyway– back to the hamburger story. The place was two-story, and I couldn’t manage a baby, the stairs, and the food. Luckily there were high tables on the ground floor so that I could park $ underneath and throw him morsels as I ate. He put away all the meat and cheese from a cheeseburger!! His first McDonald’s hamburger ever – in Rotterdam!

One of the buildings $ and I passed while walking

The rest of the gang came in having eaten a hearty meal aboard ship and spent time in the recreation rooms. The ship did not change berths – may do so later when John and Harold are back there.

The Dutch people decorate their homes and apartments for Christmas in a more elaborate fashion than I’ve ever seen before. Lovely. Through almost every window we saw trees, wreaths, decorative hanging things, and white frosty designs on the windows.

All of us plus one Norwegian wife rode on a tram. You pay on the honor system! No one checked tickets at all while we made the round trip on Route #5, though John said they do spot checks at random as on British rail. We were amazed at the numerous canals and waterways all over this city. Amsterdam must be something special if it is noted for canals, because Rotterdam has plenty without that fame.

A view from the tram

We ate again in the hotel restaurant. When John $ got antsy, Lisa offered to take him to the room. John left because his taxi was waiting, but Kate was still eating and I had to sign the bill. Lisa suddenly appeared without $, saying breathlessly, “John crawled out of his diaper and it’s lying in the hall. Come quickly!! THE JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD! I think she’d left him with a Norwegian boy, but I’m not sure. I sent her back with instructions on how to put on a disposable one. Rushed up to find a Norwegian teenage girl coming out of my room. She may have done the job. It was on backwards, but that covered the problem. Might add there are two other families from Gotaas-Larsen having a total of seven rooms in a row. The seven children (not including above streaker) are having a grand time. I think they’re playing Uno in the hall. Must check.

Supposed to return to Reigate tomorrow.

England 40 Years Ago — September 8, 1980

Someone commented last Sunday that there must have been a wedding because of the confetti. The girls picked up a few pieces, and we discovered it was paper in the shapes of hearts, flowers, horse shoes, etc. The only confetti we had seen before was made up of tiny pieces of shredded paper.

In talking of beds, we discovered that what we call a cot (folding bed) they call a ZED BED. They’d probably write it as “Z bed”, but of course pronounced Zee as Zed. A baby’s bed is a cot here, not a crib.

It’s odd that some differences show up at once, and it may take a long time for other things to come to one’s attention. I noticed the other day that the home where Lisa has her French tutoring has no front door knob. Then I happened to look at our door, and we don’t have one either!!

John $ is getting frisky. This week he chased me around the kitchen table while I was using a brush and dustpan. He wanted to play with the dirty thing, and I was working as fast as possible to get the mess cleaned up and avoid him. He had a small wooden toy in each hand while crawling and sounded like a child running on stilts.

One afternoon John $ scooted for the stairs, went up three and came back down time after time. He actually discovered for himself how to come down. I was SO IMPRESSED at how smart he was. Since then he has run up the stairs at every forbidden opportunity and absolutely refuses to try to come down. So much for my pride!

We went to the school to pick up a new uniform list, and Kate wanted to read it. Lisa was pushing John, and Kate and I were walking side by side. All of a sudden I heard a thumpy ring and found Kate not beside me – she’d walked right into a lamp post!!! I wished I’d caught her first expression with a camera. I tried my best to soothe her, but that is hard when one is doubled over with laughter. Lisa controlled herself better than I did and managed to calm her down. All that really suffered was Kate’s dignity.

The children and I went to Barbara C.’s for coffee. She’d also invited a woman with two girls, the older of whom is entering Micklefield this term. The woman is a doctor who decided not to practice until her children are older! It was a very pleasant morning. Both the doctor, Penny, and Barbara are active in home groups – church people who meet in homes for different activities such as Bible study, meals, games, etc. Penny invited John and me to join her group. Penny also runs a play group that meets Friday mornings. Ladies with young children take their little ones to the church hall and watch them play while the ladies talk. This is not a sitting service because I don’t think you can leave your child there unless you stay. After school starts, I may go. She said she is looking for committed Christians to be part of the group. Evidently many who come are not “committed.” I don’t know if that is a statement of their lack of faith or lack of church work.

The tea bags I buy have no tags! Gardener Clewes said some brands do have tags, but I haven’t bought any of them yet.

They don’t have sidewalks here – only pavements.

John $ and I had quite an adventure in the car. I had dropped John C. off at the station and drove on to the car place where I had an appointment for a little more work they had not finished the previous week. I had spoken for a car to hire (not rent), but they had none at all. They decided to do the work while I waited. I put $ in the push chair and waited. Before too long they finished and I drove off. Meanwhile, the girls were still in bed at home and not with me. About half way home $ wriggled out of his car seat. I clamped a hand on him until I could get to a place to pull off, but had to go through a round-about. In the middle of that crazy circle he grabbed the shift stick and put the car in neutral! I was able to get off the road, tie him down, and continue but somehow in the excitement missed a turn. I was so glad to get home in one piece. The whole time I was gone was under an hour and a half, but it felt like three! I came in telling the girls that I was there only because the Lord had been with me!

The afternoon’s shopping expedition finished me off. We bought school shoes for fifty pounds, which is over $100. We got outdoor shoes, sandals and ballet slippers for both girls. I realize that is six pair, but heavens! What money!

We were expecting company Saturday night, but the man called it off because of conjunctivitis. His, not ours.

I’m worried about John C. He bought a transformer for the trains Saturday and hasn’t hooked it up yet. He was trying to finish a big job he’d started outside and took the whole day carting us around yesterday (Sunday). I’ll think him more normal when he hooks it up!

Yesterday we went to the Lutheran church, picnicked by the road side, drove through Canterbury without stopping and went on to Dover. We got stuck in a traffic jam coming home that was worse than a New York jam. If that had happened while we were all in our little car, we would have ended up with relativitis.

The white cliffs are beautiful; we walked along the promenade, and the girls ran down to the water just to be able to say they’d had their hands in the English channel.

We went through, or rather, up to Dover Castle, one of the oldest fortifications in England. After going all around the square keep, we went in and climbed up to the top. There were displays of armor, a model of the battle of Waterloo,and a fantastic view from the top. Also went through an exhibit of costumes used in the series Henry VIII, some series about Elizabeth and some other historical people. That is, TV series. The girls were so thrilled to see them in person, having just watched the end of Henry.

Today Kate slammed the front door on her finger. There was lots of blood, a big flap of skin, and a few screams. I thought it looked pretty good, but neighbor Carol was concerned and told me which hospital to take her to. I’m waiting for John to come home to see what he thinks.

Neighbor Mary Ann bought a new fish, decided her bowl was too small and asked for permission to put three of her pretty gold fish in our pond. Everyone, including the fish, seemed to like the idea. I thought the fish belonged to her brother, but maybe not.