Get The Handcuffs Out – I’ve Been A Bad Girl

On the morning of the London Marathon, John and I stopped by a Burger King at the Waterloo train station for a coffee and a little breakfast sandwich. I grabbed some napkins like I always do especially when I think it might be a messy meal and went upstairs where we found a table with a great view of the station.  At one point during breakfast I happened to glance across the room to see the sign below hanging all big and bold on the wall right in front of me.

After a read through, I looked at the table where I had dropped the napkins when we sat down.

Taking a quick count, I had nine on the table and I thought … whew, not as bad as all that until I looked down in my lap to see napkin number ten.

Going Solo – Road Tripping In Southwest England

Yesterday was a day of exploration for me. Since moving to Cornwall I’ve not had the same need to be in the drivers seat as I previously did in the US. This change in position from driver to passenger and the ease at which I made the transition surprised me having been somewhat controlling when it came to driving in the past.

My previous career in pharmaceutical sales kept me on the road daily for years and I’ve driven back and forth across the US and as far north and south as you can go on several occasions with all manner of short trips in between. I drove for a couple of years on the German autobahn with no set speed limits in my late teens and early twenties while stationed there during my army tour of duty.

Having been to the UK three times before meeting my husband John, I had a rental car each time where I was the designated driver. While much of that driving was limited to the wide open spaces of the western part of  Scotland, I did make the trip twice from Isle of Skye to a London airport covering a distance of 650 miles, all while sitting on would normally be the passenger’s side of the car, while driving on what would be considered the wrong side of the road in America.

And did I say, the car has a manual transmission as many do here and because I sit on the right side to drive, I have to shift with my left hand. It’s not as hard as I thought it might be, but you can see why I was content to enjoy the ride with John behind the wheel.

So you have to wonder with all of that driving experience, why make such a big to-do about yesterday’s excursion. My solo road trip was important because it was the first time since moving here that I drove alone and for such a long way. I’ve done a few trips alone of five miles or less and I know that thirty miles isn’t really that far, but this trip had me pointed in an unfamiliar direction as I made my way to a village in Devon to meet up with a new friend.

Armella, is an American who lives in St Louis with her British husband. Over the last few years she has done an amazing renovation on a property that she and her husband inherited from family. After finding me through an Expat Blog site, she sent an email a few months ago and yesterday, I fastened my seatbelt and went for a little ride … alone.

It was actually pretty easy once I got underway. I did make a wrong turn at one point, but followed my intuition until I found my way to the pretty little village where Armella and I met for lunch at the White Hart Inn and Pub. I also had a chance to see the work she’s had done on the property during a tour of the rental house before her new tenant moves in a few days.

I didn’t take any photographs of the rental property as there was scaffolding blocking much of it with work being done to an outside wall, but I do have one or two of Cardinal Kiss Cottage named for a love of the St Louis Cardinals, and the three x’s on the outside wall that offer additional wall support. After one of her renovation folks referred to the x’s as kisses, she decided kiss should be part of the new name.

Armella will be back and forth from the US to the UK for a while as she isn’t quite ready to retire to Devon yet, but after spending only a short while with her I could tell it’s only a matter of time before she’ll be one of my more permanent neighbors.

Cardinal Kiss Cottage (See the Church to the right)

Notice the river that runs past the cottage, you’d never guess that CKC was an abattoir before it became a holiday home for Armella and her husband.

The upstairs window in the bedroom.

The amazing view from the window above.

St Bridget’s Church Bridestowe

No Friend Of Mine – Facebook And Me

Couple in Conversation by Johannes Von Stumm

I have come to see the benefits of Facebook over the last few years especially since moving to the UK. It’s an excellent way for me to keep in touch with friends I miss from the US and also to follow some of the happenings in our village here in Cornwall. I tend to be pretty careful when someone “friends me” given previous issues with a woman who stalked us in the past.

Although I don’t post our every move, occasionally I do have something on there that would be more information than I want someone who is not a friend knowing about me. I have checked all the privacy boxes to ensure that friends only and not friends of friends can follow and I study fairly carefully even a request from someone who attended the same high school to be sure we even need to be friends.

I usually note their politics and religious views partially out of curiosity and a mild concern that they might find me a bit shocking if we differ substantially and also because I find it interesting to see the major changes thirty years later. Seeing someone I remembered as a wild child in the 70′s now pop up with a friend request looking more like their mom or dad and identifying as a conservative Christian can throw me for a minute.

This is not meant as a negative comment or judgement, but more as a recognition of who they say they are and what they believe. I tend to be fairly liberal politically and my thoughts regarding faith are not absent, just personal, and I don’t share too much in that area. I feel like my Facebook friends are an interesting slice of my world and a pretty diverse group of folks.

There is room for almost everybody on my friends list if I know you or perhaps knew you thirty years ago. I respect the varied viewpoints of others and really only have a few guidelines when it comes to someone I wish to share information with on Facebook. Big points for me go to those who practice kindness and consideration when expressing a differing opinion.

Bluntly said, I am sick to death of nasty, snarky, comments, only intended to create conflict that do nothing to promote positive change. When my daughter Miranda was growing up I used to say to her, ” You can tell me just about anything, how you say it will have a huge impact on what I hear and on whatever outcome you hope to achieve.”

Recently, I received a Facebook Friend request from someone I went to high school with. I took a look to see if I remembered them noting that yes I did in fact go to school with them, then I noticed Christian and conservative, no problems with that, but then I got to this bit of nonsense …

“DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE [sic]. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH [sic] FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN”

Now you can say a lot in opposition to President Obama’s policies or any number of things he is suggesting or supports and I will engage in a conversation with you and work to do it in a respectful way even if we disagree, but when I read this kind of garbage we no longer have anything to talk about because you have shown me who you are and I am not interested in your “friendship.”  It’s not Christian, it’s not kind and I am not interested.

Sadly, after looking over the hate filled Facebook page with the Obama Prayer, there appear to be at least 1,153,595 people who share her feelings and as such are better able to be her friend.

London Marathon 2010 – Oh My Aching Feet

Let me begin by saying that while I have run several marathons in the past, I watched this one from the sidelines on Sunday. John and I went to London a few days ago to watch his eldest daughter run in the London Marathon. She did really well finishing with a great time proving that proper training can make for a better race. We walked all over the race course covering at least 13 to 14 miles ourselves hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but with no luck.

Normally, I could cover this much ground without repercussions, but my shoes let me down badly making me miserable after about 7 miles. I had worn them before for city treks, but I was nursing big blisters on the balls of both feet by the time we made it back to the hotel. Ouch!

It was pretty exciting to be on the spectator side and be able to snap photographs and shout encouragement to the runners. Tower bridge was packed with people and I had trouble getting high enough to snap exactly what I wanted unlike this guy who was way up high on the bridge.

Not everyone was watching the race. I caught the guy below catching up on some email.

I ran out of water during our London walk about unlike the runners below who seemed to have a sip and then toss the rest. During races in the US, water is usually in an open cup making it easier and less wasteful than the bottles that Nestle was giving to runners.

Although there were crowds everywhere,

the London police ( in yellow) had things well under control …

making sure everyone who wanted to … could make it to this location …

or this one if you needed medical help.

This time I was glad to be like this little guy, watching from the sidelines.

Unlike this one though, I was too tired from walking all day to have much appetite.

After it was over, you could spot the runners sporting shirts with LonDone on it and hear people saying in passing to them, well done!

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

People are always asking me if I find things very different having moved from the US to live in the UK. I go on about tumble dryers and food differences and of course the ways in which American English differs from British.

What really amazes me though and honestly sometimes catches me by surprise are moments like this one yesterday when I walked into a shop to see this sleeping dog lounging on the sofa. Clearly used to calling the space his own, he barely budged when I took a series of photographs until I moved in a bit closer to give him a little pat on the nose.

All of a sudden I began to smell the worst odor and thought at first that it might be coming from the now awake pooch. I thought surely the noxious smell could not have come from this cutie. There was a very large Irish Setter on a leash sitting a few feet away while the two women it was with were looking at the ceramic lamps on sale and I glanced over at it suspiciously.

I’m not sure why I decided it had to be the big red dog sending out the toxic fumes, but as the two women with him moved away to another part of the shop, I hurried out to meet my husband John who was waiting for me at the start of the path that would take us back to our car. He was walking in front when I heard a noise behind me and turned to see a woman with what looked like the dog I had photographed only a few minutes before as it lay splayed out on the sofa.

We stepped to one side of the narrow path so the woman and dog could pass and I said to John that I thought that had been the dog I had caught napping. A few seconds later an overpoweringly familiar stench hit my nose and I knew that I was looking at the moving backside of the odoriferous culprit whose sleep I had disturbed in the village shop giving a new meaning to the old adage, ” let sleeping dogs lie. “

Bringing It To The Masses – No More Twitter Bashing

Photo by Stephanie Roberts www.littlepurplecowphotography.com

If you have been reading me for very long you may know that I have been following the progress of reuniting a mother with her daughters. Jen Lemen has been at the center of it all working tirelessly to reunite Odette and her girls. News was tight as Jen Lemen struggled through all manner of delays with visas and immigration issues only to be held up by the ash cloud that affected so much of the air travel around the world last week.

There are many who supported Jen along the way in her efforts to bring Odette’s daughters out of Rwanda and back into the arms of their mother. I have rarely been good with delayed gratification and when information about their progress had all but dried up through blog updates and Facebook, I went to Twitter to find some answers. I’ve never been a fan of Twitter believing that there was no information I needed that I could not wait for if necessary. Minute by minute updates seemed on the face of it a waste of time, both for the reader and the tweeter so I while I had an account, I really did not use it … until last night when I became anxious and impatient for information on the final stage of their journey.

Yesterday, I watched as Stephanie Roberts, Dave Lemen, and Jen Lee tweeted the arrival and reunion of Jen and Odette’s daughters. I can’t remember how I first “met” Jen Lemen, it could have been through Shutter Sisters or perhaps Meg Casey who shared a house for a while with Odette and was there to share the joy yesterday with Odette and her girls at the airport.

Twitter made it possible for me to be a part of it all too as it was happening and I found myself holding my breath in anticipation as the updates came in. Seeing the tweets as the van left for the airport and Stephanie’s pictures along the way, I felt as if I had an inside seat as the joyful group made its way from one state and into another for the long anticipated arrival of Odette’s girls.

Once at the airport, Stephanie kept shooting out images and word updates and when the girls I arrived, I cried a few happy tears of my own after reading Stephanie’s tweet, ” They are together ” along with the image of hers that you see above. Jen Lee has a beautiful post this morning that can give more details about Odette’s story and how she and Jen Lemen first met.

I so love happy endings especially when it marks the beginning of something even more wonderful and new. I encourage you to click on the links and read more about their amazing journey … it’s guaranteed to make you smile.

Moving It Outside When You Feel Stuck

When I am trying to write a story and get stuck in a particular place I find the best and most helpful solution is to take it outside. Lately, I have been mulling over a missing transition piece in a novel that I am trying to transfer from my imagination to the hard drive of my Mac.

Most of it so far as been fairly easy, flowing like a river after a rainstorm, fast and furious leave me no choice but to hang on and see where the momentum wants to carry me. In the last week or so the river has slowed and forked off in several directions leaving me at the mouth of the tributary trying to look far enough ahead to see which branch to follow. My arms are getting tired of rowing in place so I am moving my  ‘office’ outside today to see if I can decide on a direction and get back to some forward motion.

In a few hours, I will be headed to Lanhydrock which never fails to inspire. I’ll be carrying my camera, a notepad, and a thermos full of hot coffee and will hopefully return with a more complete map of the river and sense of direction … story direction that is, because I know where I am going even if my characters don’t.

Here are a few pictures of what today’s office will offer as a workspace taken from a visit last year. If you wish to share tips as to what works for you when you feel stuck, I love to see your thoughts in a comment below.

Friends With Benefits

If you are American you are probably are familiar the expression, friends with benefits that I’ve used as a title for today. John thought it meant having friends who receive state benefits when I asked him what he thought so after explaining the American meaning of the phrase to him, I decided to add a link for those reading who might need more information. I’ll be using those three little words a bit differently today to illustrate a few of the benefits I have discovered after making new friends here in Cornwall.

My husband John and I have a great life together which I would say is only missing two things, one of which I barely notice now, but most of my American readers would think impossible to live without. I know I did at first and still struggle a bit with it on some of the cold and wet days that seem to stay with us for long stretches in the winter.

Georgia winters are cold and wet too so that was nothing new, but making it through the damp days without a tumble dryer as Brits call the other half of the washer/dryer combo was a whole other beast. John thinks they are a waste of energy and has never owned one. Two years into a dryer-less life, I find that I have adjusted to hanging them on a clothesline in all sorts of weather and I am no longer ” bovvered “ as Lauren Cooper might say.

The other thing I miss is having my own dog. We travel so frequently that it really is impossible to consider getting one. It would be too hard on the dog to board at a kennel and too costly as well. So for now we remain dog-less at least in our home anyway.

You see everywhere I go in this village there seem to be dogs and some people don’t stop with one, they have two or three. So there are always plenty around to play with like Cherry and Nigel’s new puppies that I had an opportunity to photograph in the churchyard on Saturday.

Remember what I said earlier about friends with benefits … well, having a chance to play with sweet puppies like Alfie and Dougie are two of the benefits that go with having Cherry and Nigel as friends. Not that those too aren’t great on their own, but letting me cuddle up to their new boys makes it just about perfect.

Remember what I said about having not one, but two …

I almost can’t stand the cuteness whenever I am around these two.

Dougie chasing Alfie through the primroses.

Looking for something to nibble.

Striking a pose.

Alfie discovering someone else on the scene.

Mark and Nigel trying to get Dougie to pose while Alfie pretends he is a patch of white primroses on the ground in between them.

Dougie doing his best to look aloof.

One of me in the pub with Alfie … pubs with dogs … heavenly!

Reading When I Should Be Writing

A variety of books litter the landscape of my new studio space with those from my own pared down personal library mixing in with the plastic protected books belonging to the public one. Scattered throughout the house, they can be found in a variety of places such as my desk, the daybed, and dare I reveal it, even the bathroom. I tend to read two, three, or even four books at the same time and an impromptu visit to our home might lead a visitor to think that there are more than two readers in the house.

I have noticed that John tends to read one book before starting another, always leaving it on a small table next to his favorite chair in the living room. I hesitate to call it his chair as he will always offer it to guests and has frequently said that I should sit there whenever I feel like doing so.

Occasionally, I take him up on his offer and when I make a move to change places when he comes into the room, he will say, ‘Stay,’ and choose a place on the sofa settling in so comfortably and with such little fuss that I can see he really means it when he tells me that I am welcome to sit in what I think of as ‘his chair’ anytime I wish.

Going back to how I read instead of where, I tend to treat books the way some people do food by going on word binges instead of fried chicken or Hagen Daz ice cream. That said, anyone who knows me well can tell you of times when I have made a meal of the partial contents of four or five pints of my favorite flavors of what most would consider dessert rather than dinner.

Because I like a variety of taste and texture in my food, I generally buy the flavors with crunchy nuts, toffees, or cookie dough, always rounding it out with my favorite, Hagen Daz vanilla. That vanilla would be my favorite seems strange to me even based on my desire for the variety that comes with a mix of flavors and textures. I think there must be something in the silky denseness of the vanilla that acts almost like a glass of milk along side a plate of cookies. After all the taste testing of the other flavors, the vanilla brings things back to a simple, almost palate cleansing final taste.

Lately, I have been scarfing up books instead of ice cream, unsure whether it’s the result a too tight waistband or a desire for more facts and fantasy. You see, I go from book to book depending on which room of the house I happen to be in at the time. If I am sitting at my desk, I may be reading Write Away, by Elizabeth George which is a gift to writers wishing to become novelists. I have read a few on this subject and her writing/teaching style makes perfect sense to my brain which tends to absorb information in through the right versus the linear left.

If you popped into the family loo, you would find a very dated travel guide to Tenby, Wales complete with advertisements, black and white images, and old maps from 1929. I have been using it for research and it is just one of several well preserved travel guides that belonged to my husband’s grandfather who documented much of their families travels in the old photographs that John still has today.

In my personal bathroom, you would see a copy of The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe that I picked up in a hurry during my visit to the library last week to drop off books. I can never leave books behind without grabbing up a couple on my way out. I noticed it because of the color of the book spine which may seem odd, but color can often attract me to a book when browsing long before I notice the title or author’s name.

Of course even when in a hurry, descriptive blurbs that begin with words like, ‘epic and painstakingly researched,’ along with ‘ spiritual quest and murder,’ draw me in and when I see phrases like, ‘richness in writing,’ it quickly goes into a special bag that I reserve for trips to the library.

Yesterday morning I was still musing over The Lady Elizabeth, by Alison Weir which I had finished just before going out for a run. It was an easy read that provided a somewhat fictionalized version of Elizabeth I’s early life, written by an author known more for her nonfiction. Alison Weir doesn’t appear to depart too far from her normal role as a historian as she weaves her own version of Elizabeth I’s life before becoming queen into a dramatic tale based on historical fact.

She does however allow herself the liberties needed to help the reader feel as if they were tucked behind a curtain ease-dropping on a conversation between Elizabeth and her sister Queen Mary in much the same way that some of her characters did in the book described by one reviewer as, ‘an exceptionally perceptive as well as imaginative interpretation of the most significant monarch in English history.’

Ms Weir’s book carried me so throughly back to the 16 century that I found myself wondering if the famous queen had ever traveled to Cornwall as I was running past structures that predated her birth. Moving in the direction of Helland bridge which was built in 1381 before renovations in the 15 century left it in its present state, I thought about how long ago she ruled and how the bridge on which John proposed to me, had already been in use for 152 years by the time she was born in 1533. I love a book that has such a hold on to me that it stays in my imagination as this one did even after reading the last word.

This morning I began another book I took from the library called, The Widows of Eastwick. Some of you may remember a movie made in 1987 called, The Witches of Eastwick. With a cast of characters played by American actors Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer along with singer turned actor Cher, it was a hit with movie goers looking for something different on a night out. A mix of comedy and gothic horror tied up with a loose red ribbon of sensuality, it worked in reverse as some movies do and sent me in search of the book almost before I had licked the last of the buttery popcorn off my fingertips.

Remembering how much I enjoyed the The Witches of Eastwick, I picked up the sequel which begins three decades later and started reading. I was only a few pages into it before I began to notice the writing and not just the story line. This can happen for one of two reasons, not surprisingly reserved for writing I consider either very good or very bad.

Shades of grey writing tend to be the everyday meat and potatoes of word assemblage for me and while bad writing is more akin to a cold reheated fast food hamburger with wilted lettuce and a slightly off pickle, really good writing is like a meal made up off all your favorite foods along with an appetite that turns you into the most voracious nibbler of all time. With authors I enjoy the most, I tend reread certain sentences or whole paragraphs directly after having it read it the first time.

Being someone that doesn’t always check the author when reading a book especially one picked up during a hurried trip to the library, I sometimes have no idea who I am reading at the time. There are authors who can write something like, ‘We are all swaying on the makeshift rope bridge that society suspends above the crevasse.’ that make it impossible for me not to pay attention to the writer whose words I am reading.

I was not surprised to flip the book over to find the author was John Updike whose novels have won a variety of awards including the Pulitzer Prize. I can see already that this new book will be a more leisurely read as is my way when beautifully done. Occasional gluttony may be one of my sins, but when it comes to feasting on a well written book, I only worry when it takes me away from my own work. Well … that and the fact that the sedentary life of a reader and writer can over time cause as much damage as a Hagen Daz binge when trying to keep ones aging backside from increasing in size.

As much as I would like to keep reading Updike’s book this morning, I think I should lace up my shoes and go out for quick run first and be thankful that the village shop doesn’t stock Hagen Daz before I settle in for the days reading, I mean writing, of course!

Public Libraries & Me

Date: 16/04/10
REMINDER: LIBRARY ITEMS DUE BACK SOON
According to our records the following items are nearing their return date.
Please return or renew them as soon as possible as fines may be charged on overdue items. Please be aware you may not be able to renew your items if the item has been reserved or your account has expired.
Please contact us if you have any query regarding this notice.


Recently, I received this noticed for three days prior to my books reaching the deadline for their return. I have loved public libraries for almost as long as I have loved books, but I must confess, I have not always been diligent about returning my borrowed books in a timely fashion. The first thing I got when I began my transition from America to England was a library card for the Cornwall public library. I began checking out books right away and I must admit I have been late getting them back a couple of times, but nothing too horrible or so I thought until recently.

This time as it drew close to the return date, I began receiving email updates each day letting me know it was almost time to return my books. When I got the first one I thought what a great idea, but with another coming each day, I began to wonder if I was on some sort of list. You know, the kind where someone out there feels like you might need a little instruction or guidance to put you on the proper path.

I decided I was being a bit silly thinking that this might be some sort of behavior modification program designed for people like me until I returned my books yesterday on the last and final day before they would be overdue. And while I can’t say for sure, I think I might have seen a look pass between the two librarians along with a subtle head nod if you know what I mean. Now I am wondering if there’s a repeat offender list for book borrowers … and if so, am I on it?

Bought or borrowed, I hope you are getting your nose in a few good books and I promise if you ever loan me one, I won’t keep it so long that you have to ask for it back.