Bedruthan Steps – A Closer Look At A Special Place

Some of you may remember this photograph taken recently by a visiting friend from America. You may have also seen this post where I tell you that only a few minutes after stepping off the plane in Cornwall for the first time to meet John face to face, he brought me to this magical place.

Even in February it was obvious that Bedruthan Steps was spectacular with its jagged rocky face extending into the sea and the cliffs with signs that warned walkers not to go too close the edge, but allowed one to decide where the edge was for themselves.

Because we usually visit this location on the anniversary of that first meeting, it is generally windy and cold and while you can go down the hill behind us in the picture and up the other side, there is a locked gate during many months of the year when the steps behind it are considered too dangerous and slippery for people to climb up and down.

Two days ago we arrived with my sister Margaret and found the gate unlocked. It was my first time to walk on the beach at Bedruthan Steps and not a memory I am likely to forget. Here are some pictures from that beach walk.

Going slowly, we make our way carefully down the steep steps.

Here is a hazy look back at the steps after we reached the beach.

This gorgeous golden sand was everywhere.

John climbing through the rocks to reach another beach.

More people followed us through the opening. I like the informal triangular point they lined up into without knowing. Margaret is in the center with her camera raised.

Off they go back through the opening leaving us alone on the beach once again.

Here’s a windblown sister snap taken by John.

Leaving only our footprints behind we go back to the other side as well.

Dogs were everywhere and all seemed well-behaved and happy to have their time in the sun.

This is a classic Margaret pose with her weight balanced just so and her camera in hand.

A little kiss of thanks before we go for introducing me to this lovely place.

Then it’s back up the steps we go with John leading the way.

Here is a shot from the top of the stairs.

Here is one of John with Margaret behind him coming up even more steps on the way back to the car.

Ugh!   We … are … almost … there … whew!

Taking a last look back, you can see where the first photo was snapped down near the wall and the group of people standing there. (click to enlarge)  I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with photos today, This is only a few of the photographs from our time on the beach and it was difficult to choose which told the story best so I went with more rather than less.

Last Night Of The Proms 2010 – Hyde Park

I know The Last Night of the Proms is more than just a big patriotic sing-a-long, but for this American it was a dream night that I had imagined being a part of since first becoming aware of it several years ago. If you’ve ever had an opportunity to be in a mass of 30,000 flag-waving people singing in unison, you will know exactly what I mean.

Even though I tried to watch with an eye for detail so I might retell my experience, I found myself singing loudly along with the rest of the people gathered in Hyde Park and focused more on what I was feeling and less on observing others. Knowing that this night was part of the plan for my birthday week in London, I had brought back two American flags from my last US visit to wave in what I knew would be a sea mostly Union Jack and English colors. Flags from other countries were represented in spots and I even saw Confederate flag with what looked like Elvis’s face superimposed over its center.

Rarely does an experience deliver the excitement one imagines it will, but being in Hyde Park on September 11, 2010 did that and more. In addition to fun, I had a chance to see up close how some Brits celebrate their love of music with an opportunity to dress up in some wildly patriotic outfits along with a few folks in more traditional formal attire. The Last Night of the Proms ends a two month series of concerts at The Royal Albert Hall and include Proms in the Park on the last evening. It is on this final night that gestures get grander and people show a side that makes you wistfully happy to be part the singing crowd regardless of your nationality.

Some people dress up but don’t seem to want their picture taken. Oops!

The flag tribute in the photo above to the NYC Firefighters was a touching memorial to those who died on September 11, 2001

I like NY shirt on the man in the photo above.

I snapped a couple of photographs with this group and after giving them a quick look at my images, I showed the man who is giving me a thumb’s up how to adjust his Canon G11 so he might pick up an accent color like I was doing for my images that night. I love this cool feature on the G11. It turns out that I gave a little tutorial to a man who spends a fair amount of time in front of the camera instead of behind it. You can see more of Mike Brewer here.

Even though ” No Glass” signs were posted and bags were checked, we saw quite a few folks breaking the rules.

Dancing was happening everywhere with all ages and throughout the evening.

This was an American artist from New York, but I’m afraid I cannot remember her name. Feel free to help me out and I will go back and add it. (Big thanks to Pete who left Nell Bryden’s name in a comment … see more about Nell here)

Check out the Confederate flag with Elvis. Someone told me in our hotel that rooms were full because of the Proms, the Pope’s visit, and Elvis.  It seems they were expecting them ( The Pope & Elvis, though not together)  later in Hyde Park.

Vibram Five Fingers

I wore my ” Monkey Feet ” to the Proms.

Margaret taking in the scenery as things were getting started.

Click on this one to see the field of flags.

John’s eldest daughter took this with her new iPhone. He still looks pretty tan from his channel sailing a few weeks ago.

The fireworks gave a nice finish to things after a less than rousing version of, ” God Save The Queen.”  Do have a look and listen to at least two of our group sings so you can get a feel for how it felt to be there.  Rule Britannia” and Land of Hope & Glory ” are just two from the evening, but they will give you a chance to see what I’m raving about.

Twenty-Three Without Me

Recently, while walking alone through the village churchyard, I came across a scattering of hearts left on the ground after a wedding. I snapped a photograph deciding that these hearts must have been tossed at the bride and groom as they made their way up the path past friends and family who had gathered to witness and celebrate their commitment.

While searching through photographs of my daughter Miranda to find just the right one for today, I saw this tiny heart and thought how perfectly it illustrated what I want say. Today Miranda turns twenty-three and like the last two birthdays, she is doing it without me. She’ll have other people sharing her day who love and care for her, but I will miss seeing her make a wish as she blows out her candles and digs into her cake.

I left a gift bag with presents and a card when I was in Atlanta last month and will hopefully have a moment to see her on iChat today, but I wish I could be there to give her a big squeeze and tell her I love her in person. Children grab onto your heart as soon as they make their way into the world and no one tells you how difficult it will be to let go after all the years of hanging on so tightly.

I’m still learning how to negotiate this shift in our relationship and sometimes I stumble. Well able to navigate her own way through life now she doesn’t need much from me most days except perhaps the sense that I am here along the edges of her life like the well wishers at a wedding who while standing close enough to offer loving support are not the main focus.

Last year and the one before I left a small scattering of heart stories about Miranda along with some early photographs that can be found here if you missed them. In rereading those birthday posts I see that my message hasn’t changed … it is still mostly about loving and learning to let go.

Born four days after my own birthday, my birthday wishes while blowing out my candles have included thoughts of her health and happiness for the last twenty-three years. This year was no different. I sure hope all of my birthday wishes come true.

Saturday Night Fun

This image was taken last night at an event in London that I have wanted to go to for a very long time. It was even more amazing than I had imagined it might be and I have some photos I think you are going to enjoy later and maybe a bit of video too.

I snapped the photograph above of John after dark with my new camera. That’s right … my new camera! John gave me a Canon G11 for my birthday. Can you believe it? What a sweetheart thing to do. I’m still learning how to use it, but I have already taken about 3000 photographs since opening it on Friday. I am editing the Saturday photographs down to a more reasonable level and should have them up tomorrow.

Can anyone guess where we might be  …

Day One – Elizabeth Turns Fifty

Infant Elizabeth With Dad

Fifty years ago today I made my way into the world at 2:02 am. Born two weeks before I was due, I was rooted out of the womb early when my mother’s doctor suggested I looked big enough to deliver and as he was going on vacation, an earlier delivery might work better for them both.

The photo above is one of the earliest I have of my newborn self and my dad happens to be holding me. I’ve no time to write this morning as Margaret and I are off to meet up with John for some fun around London, but I did want to say thank you for the sweet birthday comments you’ve left over the last 9 days.

I’ll be back in a day or two after I recover from our London journey with loads more stories and photos. See you then.

Day Two – Unexpected Gifts Of Spirit

Tower Of London (Lower Right)

Yesterday was a day where I felt contemplative for the most part. The Underground line we needed was overcrowded and Margaret and I made our way on trains that made me feel a bit claustrophobic. After much waiting, we finally arrived at the Tower of London which had a fair amount of people milling around and we split up like we tend to do taking as Margaret put it the other day, “ separate field trips.”

Having been to the Tower before, I went more slowly than I would when exploring a historical space and spent a lot of time thinking about the lives of the people who had lived within its walls as both the keeper and the kept. There is no escaping the burden and responsibility of those who had the power and those who coveted it.

As the afternoon wore on a rainstorm came up suddenly, sending people hurrying for shelter and I went in search of my sister. I was tired of thinking too much anyway … stuck as I was on what memories we leave behind when we die. It is difficult not to think about when all around you are the stories of those whose lives were impacted by their own actions or those of others.

All Hallows By The Tower

All Hallows By The Tower

Walking away from the Tower, we came across a small church of great significance. All Hallows by the Tower has been as they put it a “ A Christian Beacon on Tower Hill since 675 AD. ” If you are ever in London, I would suggest you visit this place where The Saxon Abby of Barking founded the church as their literature states in 675 AD.

Underneath in a crypt there is a small museum complete with tiny cobblestones from a Roman floor and other evidence of city life for almost 2000 years. There is a link to American history as well as details about the almost total destruction it suffered during WWII.

All of its history and artifacts made for interesting reading, but the important part of our visit was found as one usually expects or hopes in its service. Margaret and I happened to arrive as they were getting ready for a something called a Taizé Service which is a short service using prayer, chants and silence. Simple and meditative was just what it was with a perfect mix of scripture readings and music made up only of voices.

All Hallows By The Tower

It was exactly the thing I needed to lift my spirit and an unexpected gift on a day heavy with too much contemplation and dark thoughts. There was biblical reading about, “ all those who seek me “ and the service finished with a simple prayer that ended gently with the words … “ Have the courage to live your life.”

Afterwards when I stepped outside on to a wet London sidewalk and looked up to see the image below, I couldn’t help but remember from the bible stories of childhood about the message from God found in each rainbow. It was an interesting finish for a doubting, but still seeking ” Thomas.”

While I don’t usually ask for gifts and I am generally funny about receiving them, I wonder if I might ask for one from those of you who are reading this today. It doesn’t matter if you come across this after September 10th, I will still see a comment if you leave one for me. If you would … please take a second to tell me your favorite post I’ve written here at Gifts of the Journey or maybe a little something about yourself if you’d rather.

I’ll be back tomorrow with Day One, the final post of the big birthday countdown and I want to say thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting over the last few days in particular. It makes all the writing mean just a bit more to know it matters to someone other than just me.  xo


Day Three – Margaret Breaks The Rules And I Get Into Trouble

Growing up I always thought of my sister Margaret as the one who could be counted on the follow the rules and I think that is generally still true. You can reasonably expect her to be pretty well behaved until it seems, she has a camera in her hands. Now I’m not saying I’ve been embarrassed in any way by her public behavior, but she has been as they say here, ” told off ” quite bit. That said I want to give you an example of what I mean using a combination of our images.

Remember yesterday when I talked about our trip to Buckingham Palace … follow the picture trail below for the rest of the story.

We arrived a bit later than we should have for the changing of the guard and came right in time to be in the middle of a police officer on horseback working to keep the gates (that open) clear of people. She was not alone in this task. There were other officers on foot shouting to clear the path.

Margaret took this one of me (with the backpack to the left) as I sauntered across trying to catch a photograph of the guards at the gate without stopping. Be sure you click on this to see the police officer in the upper left corner trying to move a woman on who seems to be trying to take his picture.

Margaret managed to snap this one while the officer was shouting, ” Madam, Madam, MOVE ON Madam! ” I was watching thinking she didn’t hear him, but she later told me that she had heard him. This is where I began to think I might need to keep my eye on her.

Okay, I did climb up on the wall but lots of people do that … right?

The next thing I know Margaret is taking pictures like this one.

And a few more like this one.

Hmm, I wonder what she is thinking here.

Uh oh?

Why is she looking at this?

Margaret ?  Hello I think you’re being watched!

Pssst … I think that Guard on the right is looking at you!

Yes, I’m right he is looking at you!

Good grief, Margaret … you are so going to get us in trouble. I’m happy to pay the 17 pounds it takes to get the tour. Leave that lock alone!

One little push here and …

…. we’re in!

Seriously, this is the real way we took most of our photographs of the outside of Buckingham Palace, all except for the one after our tour where I got told off for taking a photo of her too close to the exit door into the garden.

I was so startled that it came out blurry. Hanging out with Margaret I may have to get used to being told off for trying to get the odd picture or two. Wait until I tell you what happened during our trip the V & A Museum yesterday. All I can say for now is, there’s a new way of spelling trouble and it begins with an M and ends with T.

* Update: Based on some on the concerned comments I received below and through emails, I want to clarify that this blog post was meant to be funny and in no way did Margaret do anything wrong at Buckingham Palace. She was not picking the lock at the gate, she was taking a photograph and the gate was open afterwards which enabled people to step up and pose with the guards and Palace directly behind them which the guards seemed to have no problems with at all. So as you can see, there is nothing to worry about it was  just me trying to make the story more fun than the typical series of tourist shots documenting the changing of the guard.

Day Four – Elizabeth & Margaret See Buckingham Palace From The Outside – In

My dad would have been really tickled (chuffed, excited) to know that his girls paid a visit to The Queen’s home in London. If you remember from an earlier post, my dad liked the combination of Elizabeth and Margaret and chose our names accordingly. I think it must have been because he grew up in a time when he saw more images of The Queen and her sister together especially since she was born only about eight years before him. I wish I had asked more questions about his reasons before he died.

I feel sure The Queen never even thinks about all the strangers trouping through her grand and glittery State Rooms, but I certainly had a few thoughts while viewing this spectacular part of the palace which is open each year for viewing during the summer.

I have some interesting insights into our visit yesterday along with some funny bits too which I will talk more about in a later post. I promise not to to share all the photos though because it turns out that Margaret shoots as many as I do. Between us I think we both ended the visit to Buck House with a combination of over 700 images. I’m including only a couple of mine from yesterday along with an image I took towards the end of our day when our tourist fatigue was beginning to show.

Elizabeth & Margaret Taking A Break

Day Five – London’s Covent Garden Where Some People Go To Connect

Elizabeth Harper - Mac Store Covent Garden -London 2010

After arriving early yesterday in London, Margaret and I spent a short time figuring out a few transportation details and made our way to Covent Garden to see the impressive new 3-story Apple/Mac store and to check our email.

Most people would probably head for a more famous and historical destination like the Tower of London, but with a week of exploration before us we thought a quick email check and Facebook update (mine) was the thing to do first. We had an impromptu photo shoot outside the store later after noting a few things inside that we both coveted.

She took this creative snap of me on her new ( the very latest ) iPhone which is way cooler than the antique one (the first one released) that I still use. She has a cool app that can make images look a variety of ways and I chose one that made my photograph look old and a bit dated which seemed appropriate for a place where people have gathered for hundreds of years. Of course, I mean Covent Garden silly … not the Mac store.

So there I am with my Macbook in hand, coming to you almost live from London.

A quick note before we begin our adventures for today, I am able to check in from time to time so please leave a message or comment if you’d like especially with any last minute things we should not miss on our trip. I printed out all of your suggestions from this previous post and have it with me now.

Thanks again to each of you who took time to share some of your own London experiences and I want to add that do I intend to respond (after London) to the very kind comments you have been leaving me over the last few days especially those from this tender post. I’ll be back later tomorrow with Day Four in the countdown towards my big birthday and likely some stories about today.