The Dog Days Of Summer Come To Cornwall

After all the rain and grey days last week, Monday was beautiful. It was a Bank Holiday here and John reminded me last night that it’s the last one we’ll see before Christmas.

It’s no wonder then that it all went to the dogs yesterday … in our village at least. It wasn’t actually all about dogs, but the dog show was a huge draw and much of the afternoon was spent judging and being judged.

 

I was asked along with John and several other people to photograph the event for our Parish magazine. I had a hard time remembering to photograph more than what interests me, but when I reviewed my 222 photos, (can you say overkill) I found I had managed to capture enough to present a good overview of the day even though my photos were a bit dog heavy.

Speaking of dog heavy, I’m not sure I’d like to feed this big boy. I sat next to him earlier and he was a very well-behaved, but he wanted to cuddle when he saw a smaller dog crawl into my lap.

There were loads of different breeds.

This little dog was in an event for older dogs who were referred to as veterans which meant dogs over ten years old.

I had a chance to play with these puppies when I caught up with them later outside the pub.

This is one of our neighbors. She runs marathons with her Dalmatians and unless something changed over the summer, only three of these dogs belong to her.

My friend Patrice once offered shelter to a friend of hers who came with what she referred to as a damnation versus a Dalmatian because it was so uncontrollable and made her miserable. She was happy to see the back of it as they say here when the dog and her owner found a new place to live. Let me clear about the Dalmatians above, they are always very sweet and well-behaved and completely different from the experience Patrice had with the big D.

There’s so much going in this shot and you might think it too busy, but I love seeing all the different actions and knowing that many of these people live in my community. You may remember the little girl in the sunglasses from this post. She’s always a cutie!

This little girl was loving her puppy.

Waiting patiently for the judge’s decision.

There was a good variety of food with burgers and sausages being sold here. I didn’t have one, but I did see a happy dog scarfing down a hamburger that had been dropped accidentally .

There were other nibbles too like the scones and jam you see here.

If you got tired of dog watching there were different games you could try like the girl above.

Lots of boys seemed keen to do this one and had what looked like a bit of competition going with their scores.

Splat the Rat seemed like the most fun to me, but I tend to like games that involving whacking something. It’s a good stress reliever.

 

My friend Tina was making dreams come true yesterday and she told me later that this was the first time this little boy had ever had his face painted.

You could pick up bargains too as people set up tables and sold off a variety of things.

Here’s a shot of some more of my neighbors. Andy looks very stern in the background, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him without a smile. I love the shot of Gary with the teddy bear. I actually followed him for a few yards trying to catch just the right shot of the bear next to one of his colorful tattoos. This was my favorite.

There were quite a few vintage cars on the village green including an American made Chrysler Imperial (blue car) that you see in this shot. It’s so wide that I’m not sure how it makes it through most of the lanes around the village. The black Austin Seven (about 1935) was my favorite.

Here are a few more that caught my eye. Even though I loved the Austin Seven, if I were going to own one to drive it would be this silver one. I’d have to keep my scarves short and inside the car though so as not to end up like Isadora Duncan.

You could get out of the sun if you wished in the Village Institute ( it was a one room school originally) and pick up some jam or artwork to take home with you too.

Many people had a Kelly’s Cornish ice cream while others finished the day at the pub. I passed by this mobile dairy treat on my way to find John who was sitting with friends in front of the pub enjoying a pint in the afternoon sun.

The best part of my day happened earlier with this young puppy. He was totally irresistible and so cuddly and calm that I had trouble giving him back. I expect I’ll see Ziggy again since his owner is local.

He’s such a beauty and at the risk of sounding like Paris Hilton, look how his eyes match the color of my shirt. (I know dogs are not accessories)

I took this myself and he was a little distracted. I had trouble getting us both in the shot and in focus so I gave Ziggy first priority.

The photo below is my favorite as he gave me a little kiss while I was trying to stay steady and snap the shot. I love the light in this one. It looks like the last days of summer.

Hazy Dog Days & Puppy Love - Ziggy Kissing Elizabeth

Go Directly To Jail

This morning I was stuck. WordPress was not working properly for me and even though I kept deleting and starting over, my photographs would not go up in the order I wished. After trying a few times, I got irritated and then I thought, Right, I’ll just put them up in reverse if they won’t load the normal way!

What you see below is what I wanted in the beginning. It did require thinking about it differently and going at it from another direction which is interesting if you consider the images and subject for this post.

Bodmin Jail, also known as Bodmin Prison, probably didn’t allow much deviation from their standard way of doing things. Rules were necessary to maintain order and it was funny that today’s post would not behave properly.

Bodmin Jail is a collection of old buildings that are mostly falling apart. A few have been restored and you can have a meal in the restaurant or stay overnight as part of a ghostly evening, but most of the buildings are not in use. Unlike historical ruins in America, walking and exploring are permitted and John and I stepped through an old main door and into a former cell without any problem.

Standing in a cell built for one, I wondered what prisoners thought when they stared out through the windows. I found it scary and confining as you might expect a prison would be especially one with such history. Bodmin prison was the first British prison to have individual cells and I wonder if that was better or worse than sharing with another person. They were keen on punishing with silence and isolation and I was surprised to see they had windows. I wondered if prison officials thought that watching others walking free might increase the pain of incarceration.

You can get an idea of the size of the space in the cell by the photo above. John had just stepped out and I was shooting from very near the window. I looked online trying to discover what the long narrow trough was used for. John suggested it might be for waste disposal since there was no indoor plumbing.

As Bodmin Prison was built in 1779 I’m not surprised by the lack of facilities, but it is odd that I could not find anything to tell me why the trough was there. There’s a good bit of info on this site, but be prepared to have to decipher a bit as John and I both agree that it could use some editing.

This same shot appears on the website I mentioned above and I took it in one of the first cells you see once you are inside the main hall. I can only assume that the photographer was as nervous as I was about being in a place where people were once publicly hanged for their crimes and like me, did not feel like photographing the other cells. I did poke my nose in a few others, but I was moving fairly quickly.

This was just one building that housed prisoners. I can’t imagine the despair at being sentenced to serve time here especially when you read about how minor some of the crimes were.

There was no one about guarding the area and one could easily climb around if feeling brave. John never seems to need as long to absorb the details when we see new places and I’m not usually bothered about lingering behind to snap a few more photos before hurrying to catch up with him, but on this trip when I heard him say he’d had enough and was going on, I decided I’d seen enough too and left with him.

 

 

When Your Name Is Irene

Bodmin Moor (Click to Enlarge)

Even though we are a long way from the threatening fury of Irene’s arrival, it has been the topic of conversation here. Last night at the pub we shared a table with some friends from the village chatting over the week’s events with, Ian and Irene.

You may remember Irene from the photo below. It was taken at the pub back in January and she’s sitting in exactly the same place as she was last night while we talking about the hurricane that has so many Americans now running for cover.

I know Hurricane Irene has been spreading herself around and she’s caused millions of dollars in damages as she’s blown through the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas in her flight plan.

That Irene and our Irene have nothing in common, but she did share a few of the comments and jokes she’s had to endure since Hurricane Irene made the news.

Irene & Elizabeth

John is the weather watcher in the house. Most days, I barely pay attention to what’s happening weather-wise. That seems to have changed since he gave me Dora and I find myself feeling a bit grumpy lately that the weather has made it so uninviting to ride.

Living in Georgia, I took good weather days for granted. In Cornwall, we have a fair amount of rain and it’s usually not an issue for me, but it’s been cool and wet for the last week and I find that despite a long hot summer in Atlanta, I am not ready for summer to be over here.

Summer Flowers - August 2011

We’ve got a break in the clouds so I’m heading out in a few minutes to squeeze in some exercise and move my moodiness out the door. I’ve got loads to do today and no reason to whinge on about weather and inconvenience when so many are in such a scary situation.

Thank goodness we have ways to track deadly storms and prepare for them. I have friends scattered up and down the eastern coast of the US and I’ll be tracking their movement, watching as they hopefully provide updates on Facebook and Twitter or blog about their experiences with Hurricane Irene.

Here’s hoping you stay safe and dry wherever you are today.

Would God Send A Message In Online Ad?

The other day I saw something flash across my computer screen that at a glance looked like the words, “Need help praying?”

Taking a closer look, I saw that the words were actually “paying, not praying” and while I felt a little disappointed it made more sense.

Who doesn’t need a little help paying these days? Very few seem unaffected by the world’s changing economy, but for a half second I was thinking, Yes, I could use some help praying.

Other people seem to do it so easily talking about it online in Facebook and in their blog comments. I see it all the time and requests saying,”Prayers needed” are often met with a one word response, “Praying.” Sometimes my Facebook page looks like one big prayer chain with long lists of people joining in.

I never do. I watch from the edges not holding out much hope for the person in need especially if prayer is all they have left.

Don’t get me wrong, it looks like a comfort to be part of a support system where people believe that someone greater than themselves can heal their loved one, save their house from foreclosure, or bring them a loving partner if only they can raise enough voices to God in prayer.

I just feel so used to handling whatever happens that praying about it feels a bit like tossing my hands in the air and giving up control.

In my younger years when I heard people say, “I’m giving it up to the Lord” I would think and sometimes argue that I thought God gave us a brain to think with and we should handle things on our own.

And what if despite all the prayers … the loved one dies, the house is lost to the bank, and no loving partner is revealed? Does that mean God wasn’t listening?

I did a lot of praying when I was a child, when I believed that prayer was like a hotline to God’s ear and I will still offer up a gentle request sometimes when I’m on an airplane and someone else in control, but prayer feels more like a “just in case” sort of action now, rather than one based on any firm faith or belief.

It’s the contradictions of the seemingly faithful that give me pause, the people who pray out loud, “Bless us O Lord,” while turning away from those in need, or the church leaders who pray about avoiding sin and secretly commit heinous acts themselves.

Sometimes I wish for a burning bush. I know I’m not Moses and I don’t have any people to lead, but I sure have a few questions I’d like to ask God.

The seeker in me wonders if the praying versus paying ad might have been a spark for my burning bush moment, perhaps a flicker of a flame meant to catch my eye.

Sending A Little Sunshine To A Heart In San Francisco

Sunflower Daydreams

I stumble across blogs like most people who read them. By taking a moment to follow a link or a comment, I sometimes end up in place I would hate to have missed.

Guilty With An Explanation is one of those places. I can’t remember how I got there, but I always look forward to reading posts written by the woman I’ve come to know as ‘Heart In San Francisco.’

There’s so much to read about in Susan’s life and she shares it with humor and empathy for others despite the sad role she is in with her husband Flip. His early onset Alzheimer’s and her search for healthcare solutions highlights what is missing for people in his condition.

Although she writes about Flip and his changing needs, her blog is not just about Alzheimer’s and I always leave with something to consider.

Susan writes so beautifully that I often feel as if I am there with her silently witnessing the moments of her life. Her post today had me sitting in the car with her watching from the front seat as she tried to elicit a smile from the man in the toll booth.

I’m sending her a few sunflower photos to say I see her even if the man in the toll booth has become immune to the smiling face of a friendly stranger.

Facing The Sun

Adding More Light To My Life

You might be tired of hearing how wonderful my husband is and may well be thinking, “John, John, John, can’t she talk about anything else!”  It’s just difficult not to share when he does so many things that make me smile.

Todays topic: A DIY Photography Light Box 

While I was in Atlanta, I sent John a couple of links to several DIY light box examples. I thought having one would be useful in photographing items for a vintage shop I’m setting up online. I would have been content with a light box made of paper like this one, but John made a lovely and more lasting one with some extra wood and paint he had in the garage.

It’s sitting on a small stool in this shot.

 

I have some white paper to drape inside for things to sit on and the sheet above should work as well. Add a bit of light and I think it will be perfect. I hope to announce the shop opening in a few weeks so you can see how well it works when the images go live.

 

When Your Reputation For Alcohol Precedes You

Exmoor Ales - Empty Glass

For some people this empty glass is an invitation to buy another round. They do that in our village pub. Buying rounds in they way they do was new to me. It might well be the same in the US, but due to my lack of alcohol consumption, I don’t have much experience with these things.

I tend to have a camera in hand more often than a pint when we’re at the pub and I’m always trying to capture the best images I can using a small point and shoot camera without a flash so as not to disrupt the naturalness of the scene. The image above I shot standing on a picnic table outside the pub while looking in through a window. I don’t think anyone saw me that time, but sometimes I do get funny looks.

This poorly lit image of John was taken on the restaurant side of our village pub. He’s drinking a cider (I think they taste like apple juice gone bad) and I’m having my usual diet lemonade which is like a diet Sprite. On quiz night I splash out as John would say and go for a double.

Elizabeth Holding Jess At The Pub

Here’s a shot John took of me last February holding one of my favorite pub pooches. Jess tolerates me cuddling her for a bit, but her gaze is never far from her John who I wrote about here. (It will make you smile)

I was sitting on the same stool last night holding her as I joined John and some of the other Friday night regulars who stop in for a drink and to catch up on the week. It’s a nice way to relax with friends and I make do just fine with my diet lemonade or diet Coke.

Most Saturday nights we have live music at the pub and tonight we have a local family doing their annual night in August where they’re billed as the Spriggs Family Robinson.

A group of us are meeting at the pub this evening to support Jos, Connie, Rebecca, and other Spriggs family members, and as we were confirming our arrival times among our group last night I said, ” I might even have some alcohol! ”  As I am so well-known for not drinking anything with more kick than a bit of carbonation, this comment quickly elicited a rousing chorus of ” Oooooo! “

I’ll let you know tomorrow if I decide to splash out or spend the evening as I usually do with my camera and a diet drink.

I think I need to consider my options carefully as it seems that I have a bit of a reputation to maintain now.

 

A Family Connection – 105 Years Later

Percy Winchurch - Winchurch Brother's Bicycle Shop 1906

Bicycle parts have been arriving in various sized packages over the last few days as John decided recently to remake his favorite bike. I say favorite because we now have five. That’s right, five bicycles for two people and while we don’t have as many as in the photo above, the garage is looking a bit like a bicycle shop these days.

John’s grandfather Percy probably did a fair amount of bicycle maintenance and building himself back in 1906 when he and his brother Roland owned several bike shops in England. They switched to automobiles well before John was born and he still remembers the garage where they sold and repaired cars until a few years after Percy’s death.

When I talk to people about my new bike and what it’s like to climb the hills with three gears, the men, and it’s usually just the men, will say something like, ” You must have one with Sturmey-Archer gears? ” Not knowing much about bicycles before being gifted with Dora, I’ve found a new level of interest in the history of Sturmey-Archer and 3-speed bikes.

I asked John for a photo of his grandfather’s bike shop the other day and was delighted to see a connection to the past in a way. If you click to enlarge the photo, you can see the wording in the center of the store window advertising Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gears.

While my interest in gears will never equal John’s bicycle knowledge, the writer in me wishes she could chat with the young Percy Winchurch of 1906. I imagine he would have been interested to learn that Sturmey-Archer gears and 3-speed bikes would still be popular despite the ability to choose from more modern bikes with as many as 27 gears for hill climbing and speed.

Based on the stories John tells of the grandfather he loved and admired, I think the 24 year-old Percy would have been most interested in the lovely grandson he would have one day. A first grandchild who would be born when he was 60 and would grow up to do many things, including surprising his American born wife with a gift that would curiously resemble the 3-speed bicycles with Sturmey-Archer gears like those in his shop 105 years earlier.

Here are a few advertisements from a very interesting Sturmey-Archer website.


What Do You Mean I Can’t Drive Your Car …

Mini Driver No More - Elizabeth Harper

I’m grounded.

After 35 years of getting into a car, fastening the seatbelt, and turning the key in the ignition, I no longer can do that … at least not in this country, for now.

Moving to the UK has its challenges and some are easier to understand than others. I can understand why I should have to take a written test to prove I know the rules of the road here, but having had a valid driver’s license for 35 years in the US, I would think I might be able to skip the driving part of the exam.

I know you’re probably thinking, ” Oh good grief Elizabeth, just take the test and stop moaning about it! ” I might think the same without knowing the rest of the story.

While I was stuck in Atlanta this summer John opened the annual bill from his auto insurance company to find that it had jumped from a reasonable 180 BPS (about $295 US) to over 700 BPS which is about $1150 dollars.

Calling to discuss the huge increase, he discovered that my provisional license which is like a learner’s permit in the US had caused the rate increase. It seems after 35 years of driving I now have more in common with a teenage boy than the other 50 year-old female drivers out there.

Being a sensible man when it comes to money, John did what I would have done and took me off the policy grounding me until I can pass the test and be eligible for a more reasonable rate of insurance. I have to wonder if my 35 years of driving will be acknowledged by the insurance company when I do pass or will that part of my life be as non-existent as my credit rating.

That’s right, I have no credit rating anymore either. I still have one in the US just not over here, but that’s another post that perhaps I can combine with a one titled, ” What do you mean I’m not qualified? ” or maybe one I’ll call ” What about my university degree and years of professional work experience, doesn’t that count? “

Sorry, I think I slipped over into the beginnings of a rant for a second. I’m back now.

Getting behind the wheel with no car insurance means hiring a driving instructor. Yes, I did say a driving instructor. Never mind that I’ve driven from Scotland to London three times in a rental car and loads of places between Cornwall and London, I can only drive on my American license for a year before being required to get a UK one and that year is long gone.

So I’m grounded for now until I hire an instructor and pay more money (my learner’s permit or provisional license) cost about $82 dollars. The test fees will be another 93 BPS or about $150 US and don’t even ask what an instructor will cost. Just know that it’s enough to go away somewhere nice for the weekend or a week depending on how many days you can squeak by with before being tested. I haven’t called yet so I don’t know if there’s a required minimum.

When you have an instructor you drive their car for the driving portion of the test and I assume that may drive the cost up a bit. I’m so unenthused about the process and the cost factor that my Highway Code Handbook is still largely unread. I move it from one place to another around the house ignoring it as I can’t help feeling a bit offended by my loss of mobility and parts of my previous identity.

It’s like being 16 again only this time I’m a high-risk teenage boy.

Today’s challenge is to read and study the book and maybe call the instructor to see when I can get back on the road again. Ugh!

Stuck In The Middle Of A Housing Market Gone Mad

This summer I got stuck in Atlanta.

When I went home in April I thought I would see my family and sign new leases with my tenants like I’ve done each spring since moving to the UK. The folks who were in the house had assured me a few months earlier that they loved living there and wanted to stay another year. What I did not know was that some of them could not stand each other.

Some of you may remember my house pictures and post from April. While I was beginning to feel a bit anxious about the rental situation then nothing could have prepared me for the drama that followed when last-minute decisions were made by some not to stay. Earlier in the year I had turned away several groups wishing to rent the house and was shocked by decision of some of my tenants not to renew only thirteen days before the lease expired.

 

With so many people are struggling to survive a housing market that has flatlined, renters have their pick in my old neighborhood. My house is right downtown only two blocks from a large university so students have long been a feature of what is still largely a collection of 1920s and 30s bungalows.

Too many of these houses have been modified to cram as many students in as possible and those less desirable homes have lost rental opportunities to the cheaper condos a short drive away leaving many vacant houses priced at rock bottom prices.

My house has never had any trouble renting and price has never been an issue. As one of the nicest (everyone’s words, not just mine) homes in the neighborhood and only two blocks from campus it has never been empty as it was this summer. Students needing summer housing lock in well before May and if you miss that window the next opportunity is August just before fall session begins at the university.

By the time I posted this one post and later another, my tenants had given me their short notice and I was resigned to being stuck there for an indefinite time. I had not planned on this and with an already too tight budget, I quickly went into a bit of a panic about what to do next. Knowing that I would not likely find renters for several months, I decided to list it for sale.

Foreclosure Mentality

You don’t need to live in the US to know what has happened to the housing market, but I was not prepared for just how bad it really was until I was sleeping in an empty house hoping a potential buyer might fall in love with it as I once had.

Thankfully, I had never used my house as an ATM for quick loans so I was not upside down on my mortgage, but I did pay quite a bit for it eleven years ago even though I bought it before prices escalated to the inflated values we saw before the market collapsed. Once I decided to sell in May, I listened to my realtor and priced it at what we thought appropriate based on the comparable home sales in the area.

The problem with comps is that it’s hard to find good ones in a market gone mad for foreclosures and in the end the only way I could have sold my home would have been to drop the price below what I still owed despite having owned it for eleven years. Add to that the cost of improvements during those years and the 20 % I put down on it when I bought it and you can see some of the reasons why I went into such a downward emotional spiral in May.

The idea of selling at a loss was not the only reason for my misery. As with any house that has been your home, there are all kinds of memories attached that need more time to process than a quick decision to sell allows and it felt like an unexpected death in a way. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but that house was more than just a place to live when I bought it and held a lot of dreams for my future within its walls at one time.

I went with a realtor who offers what he calls Budget Broker services which is perfect in today’s economy. Even though we could not get it sold in the two months we had it listed, I got a feel for the market and will be happy to work with Kraig again when the market shifts.

For now my former home will need to be a rental and I feel fortunate that it is in a location where renting it is still an easy process.

I’ve had good luck generally with renters. Most honor their commitments without any issue and the biggest problems have been those involving my rigid no pet policy.

So you might imagine my surprise when one tenant had a screaming fit in the front yard complete with f-bombs and name calling along with threats to disrupt my attempts to show the house to potential buyers. Given her unhinged state I was not surprised to receive a series of emails where I was called all manner of things including a ” psychotic old woman.” I may have the order confused as I think “stupid, stupid, woman ” came first.

Given this sudden descent into the land of crazy, you can see why I thought I was better off not renting anymore. There’s a longer story attached to this past tenant and there were several early signs that I ignored. That won’t happen again.

I have a good bit more to share about my long summer of ” lost and found,” but I’ll leave it here for now with the much quoted words of Maya Angelou.

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”