Sweet Indulgence – A Key Lime Pie Birthday In Cornwall

Key Lime Pie In England - John Winchurch

I’ve always been a cake fan when it comes to birthdays, but after last week, I think some of the best birthdays may be those that begin and end with pie. Such was our day last Friday when we had a breakfast of coffee and homemade Key Lime pie for John’s birthday.

Later on we split a slice for a snack and then finished off the rest of the pie after a lovely dinner at the recently revamped St Mabyn Inn which is definitely going to be one of our new go to places in Cornwall.

In between our marathon pie moments we went out for a bit of exercise and managed to visit Trerice, one of our favorite local National Trust properties for a walk and a bite of lunch, (but no pie) as well as a seaside visit in the afternoon to the beach at Bedruthan Steps. 

We took loads of pictures if you want to have look through to see what a warm day in late September looks like in Cornwall.

Trerice, Cornwall UK - Elizabeth Harper

First stop as I mentioned was Trerice, a Elizabethan manor house near Newquay. It’s always gorgeous even in bad weather and I’m never surprised to see something new.

Well, almost never.

Gates at TrericeWhile backing up to get a shot of the house through the gate, I captured one of those unexpected finds I sometimes experience on outings with John. ( See photo below)

John Winchurch - Trerice - Elizabeth Harper

Yep! That’s the birthday boy jumping into my shot. It’s good to remember that playfulness doesn’t end at a certain age.

Trerice- Garden View of House - Elizabeth HarperI am not sure there is anything to say here other than oh, or maybe ah! Except that I think this was the prettiest Trerice has looked and it was a perfect place to begin our day out.

Trerice Front Garden - Elizabeth Harper

Thinking Spot - ELizabeth Harper

 There are benches all around the grounds that call out to you as you walk past … Come on over, rest a while and think about life.

Resting At Trerice - John Winchurch

After lunch I spent some time inside the manor house while John moved quickly through it and on to a bench in the garden to soak up some sunshine. If it’s sunny and I can’t find him this always the kind of place I look. He likes to pause for sunshine break and would tell you that he prefers to get his Vitamin D the natural way.

Bedruthan Steps -Elizabeth Harper

Not long after finding him in the garden we were walking down the path at Bedruthan Steps, a place that will always have special memories for us.

Bedruthan Steps - Elizabeth Harper

Beach at Bedruthan Steps - John Winchurch

P1040197

Elizabeth Harper

John Winchurch - Beach at Bedruthan Steps

Sorry this one is a bit in the shadows. I’m still learning to use my new camera and it was so bright outside I did not notice the image  was too dark. It’s a cute one of John though so I wanted to post it. This was where he was standing when he took the two pictures of me above.

We stepped through an opening in the rocks as the tide was going out to find this little private beach spot. The Cornish coast has loads of lovely places like this with few people.

Steps to Beach at Bedruthan StepsAfter swishing through the water a bit and drying our feet in the sun it was back up the long set of steps.

Bedruthan Steps - ELizabeth Harper

A last look back before heading home and dinner at the St Mabyn Inn.

Key Lime Pie

The ‘ before ‘ shot of pie that was gone in a day. I can’t believe we ate the whole thing.

Keeping Secrets

I’m terrible when it comes to keeping happy secrets. I tend to drop hints and go on about how excited I am or how much I’m looking forward to the big reveal. It must difficult for the person on the receiving end to hear enough to sort of work it out, but not quite.

My dad used to have a room at Christmas that he would announce was the staging area in the weeks leading up to the big day, saying it in such a serious way you’d have thought our guest room had been turned into a temporary war room and he was planning an invasion rather than wrapping gifts to put under the tree.

The last few days have been a bit like that here as I tend to lean towards the dramatic in much the same way as my dad. I posted a quickly made sign on the door before running off to work on Saturday as I was doing a bit of prep work for an important event.

Today is John’s birthday and we’re having a family party to celebrate on Saturday. As it’s a special birthday ending in O, I’ve been working on a few things in private down the hall in my studio space.

I mentioned the sign to John as I left saying there were things spread about in there that I didn’t want him to see so I’d posted a sign to remind him. I told that trusted him completely which is true, but I didn’t want him to forget and breeze in for something without thinking.

When I came in from work he said when asked that he had stayed out as requested, but asked me what was the significance of the upside down snail on my sign.

I thought, snail, sign, what … until I realized he was talking about the eye I’d added which was meant to imply, ‘I’m watching you!’

‘Upside down snail,’ … he makes me laugh!

I’ll have birthday photos on Monday after the gift giving and party on Saturday. I have a special present I brought back from the US that I can’t wait for you to see either.

I wish I could say more, but you never know who might be reading.

Happy Birthday, John!

Time Of Death – Reading The Obits & Waiting

I dreamed my mother showed up last night. She looked ten years younger than when I last saw her in 1994 and she came with a message.

She breezed into the room where I was sitting as casually as if she’d not been missing  from my life for the last 18 years and said in a loud voice, ‘I’m dying,’ much the way one might say, ‘I’m here’ after having arrived at their intended destination.

Before I could think how to respond she pulled a printer, already out of its box, but new and unused, from a handbag that looked like something Mary Poppins might travel with, an image totally incongruent with who my mother was when I was a child.

I took it from her when she offered it to me saying nothing as I did so, but inside my mind was a race track of whirling questions each thought like a numbered car going round and round with the lead car representing the overriding thought, a printer, 18 years of silence and you bring me a printer for my computer?

I considered for a moment that it might be a peace-offering of sorts although I’m not sure why as she had not said, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I wish things had been different’ or any one of many things that might have made room in my heart for healing.

Instead she walked about the room looking out of the window and checking the corners much like someone might go behind a cleaning crew, on a mission to find an overlooked speck of dust.

Her voice sounded unnaturally upbeat for someone sharing details of their funeral arrangements and the one-sided conversation seemed more as if she were planning a big wedding than an end of life ceremony.

I was still sitting in the same chair I’d been in when she arrived, holding on to the printer that I’d foolishly assumed was a gift. As she listed from memory all the things still left to do, I slowly realized that the printer was to be used to complete the tasks for her funeral and rather than an end of life reconciliation, what she really wanted was a personal assistant.

My mother’s birthday is only a few weeks away and I wonder sometimes if she remembers mine as I do hers or if she’s forgotten it as easily as she seems to have forgotten me and my sister, Margaret.

Our three birthdays all occur within 28 days of each other making it difficult for me to let hers slip by unnoticed.

I always notice and I wonder … is she still living and how will I know when she’s not?

Given her upcoming birthday, I’m not surprised to be dreaming of her now or even that she might be dying. Checking the obituaries is the only way I know she’s still alive, a sad end to a mother-daughter story that I feel sure began quite differently when I was born in 1960.

I wonder how many other adult children search the internet for signs of a parent’s passing and if there is any peace for them or closure when they find it.

If you’ve got a story similar to mine, perhaps you’d like share it in a comment below.

Burning Love

Today is John’s birthday.

It’s the fourth one I’ve been able to share with him and while he doesn’t like to make too much of his own birthdays, he goes out of his way to make mine special. Right about now you may be thinking, “If it’s John’s birthday, why are we looking at a picture of you blowing out candles?”

Let me tell you a story …

Remember when I wrote here about being in Scotland for my birthday? Well, we were there because John had big a reunion nearby with former colleagues from the television station where he’d worked before retiring. A few months before the event, he noticed the date was on my birthday and he kindly asked if I would mind going that evening.

Once he was sure I was fine with sharing the day, he began planning how he might make it memorable for me too. He knows I love a trip to Scotland so it was big part the fun we had on my birthday and our evening finished with a small carrot cake in our hotel that night after the reunion. The cake part presented a little problem though.

I’m a big believer in candle blowing and wish making on birthdays. There’s something hopeful, thankful, and celebratory about the act that feels necessary to me and I can’t imagine a birthday without it.

John is not that bothered by it on his own birthday but he knows how important it is to me. We took the cake with us on our outing thinking we might have it during our day out in Scotland, but stayed in motion so much that we decided to save it for after the reunion. When we rushed in to shower and change for the evening, we realized that we didn’t have a way to light the candles for the cake.

He went out to buy some matches or a lighter and was gone so long I was beginning to worry. I didn’t know that since we were in a hotel in the center of Carlisle and it was evening that the shops would be closed.

Poor John searched everywhere for an open shop to get what we needed and finally ended up a good distance away in a pub that he was familiar with from his days of living there. They didn’t sell matches, but the guy behind the bar gave him a box they had for the pub’s use.

After hearing about his search, I asked him how far he’d had to go before finding them and was really touched when he said, ” About a mile. “

Life with him is like that. A million little sweet gifts of service that say love. I am a fortunate woman to have found this gentle man and I am so happy to be able to celebrate another birthday with him today.

Of course I had to save the matches … I’ll use one later to light a candle or two for John and hope to post a picture here later today of him making a wish.

Here’s a photo to save the spot for now. I think of this look as his determined face. I’ve seen it before although it does look a bit different with the beard and all.

I imagine this was the expression he was wearing all around Carlisle a few weeks ago and it makes me smile just thinking about it.

Not Half, But Whole – Remarriage & Children

Bryan Cooper, Cullene Harper, Jennie Harper, & Elizabeth Harper - April 14, 1975

Young children can’t always grasp the concept of how they are related when parents divorce, find new love, and have more children with new partners and spouses. When they each bring children from previous relationships to the new family, the soup becomes an even more complicated mix of half and step siblings making it sometimes necessary for a flow chart of sorts when explaining family ties.

I’m the eldest of four girls with only two of us having the same set of parents. Born in 1962, Margaret and I are two years apart. Ten years later, our sister Pam was born into our mother’s second marriage. I remember hearing words like half-sister then and even though I was a reasonably intelligent 9-year-old, I was a bit confused by the concept especially having only just met four step-siblings that I don’t remember ever seeing again.

By 1974 my youngest sister, Jennie, was born on Easter Sunday and being halfway through my thirteenth year, I had a better understanding of the half not whole concept at least in theory. Nicknamed Bunny, by her granddad, she was the child of my dad and my stepmom, Cullene.

Margaret and I were living in Tennessee when the news came of her birth, having been moved away from Georgia by our mother after a judge decreed my dad should be able to see his children more than one Saturday a month.

By the time Jennie was celebrating her first birthday in the photo above, I was living in Georgia with my dad and Cullene watching them navigate through territory that looking back, was more recent and familiar to me than it was to them.

Jennie was born to Cullene when she was forty having passed the age when she thought she’d ever have a child and with twelve years between my dad and his last diaper change, I’m sure he felt as if he were learning everything again for the first time.

In my life with my mother and sisters in Tennessee, I had been largely responsible for overseeing Pam’s care and knew the kind of childcare things that an older sibling knows when there’s a big difference in ages. ” Watch your sister, ” was an all-encompassing directive that could include bathing, feeding, or playing, and I was good at it.

While planning my escape to Georgia only six months before this picture was taken, I hadn’t realized that saving myself might mean losing my sisters. After I left, my mother cut off all communication and moved my sisters to another state changing my sister Margaret’s last name in the process. I lost my relationship with Margaret for the ten years that followed and four-year old Pam grew up with no memory of me, a situation that she and I have never recovered from. Despite my previous efforts, Pam and I are strangers.

In the image of above, you can see me hanging on to my sister Jennie’s birthday hat. After my move, I remember feeling as if I were free-floating and barely secured, much like the hat with only the tiniest bit of pressure keeping me grounded and in place.

That I am only half in the picture feels like an apt metaphor for how I felt about my life then. Everything familiar was gone and even though I was finally safe from the life I had been forced to keep secret, I was struggling to adjust to one without my sisters, Margaret and Pam, and my mother too, despite her treatment.

I began this post with a whole different focus. I was looking for a cute photo to add to a Facebook greeting for my sister’s birthday when I found this one. Having recently had a conversation with John about children and how little they may understand the half versus whole concept when new siblings arrive, I was struck by the memory of this time in my life and today’s writing shifted direction.

My youngest sister Jennie is 37 today, an age I remember so clearly it feels like five minutes ago. I’m sure she would say I’ve been trying to boss her around her whole life while dispensing advice as if I were a third parent or an older aunt, but I have always seen her as my sister, the baby for sure, but always whole and never half.

Although not the big birthday post I’d envisioned, I want to say, ” Happy Birthday Jennie,” from your sister Elizabeth, who once felt half, but now understands whole.

Sisters - Elizabeth, Margaret, and Jennie Harper - 1974

Never Alone – Birthday Wishes For Margaret

It is a struggle to find childhood photographs of my sister Margaret taken alone as most of our childish history documents us together, sitting or standing side by side. On Margaret’s birthday today, I searched my files to come up with the perfect image of her by herself but with little success. I would suggest that the universe is sending us a message that Peanut Butter and Jelly are meant to be together while John might say it was the cost of developing film in those days that would have children always paired up in photographs.

This image of Margaret fishing at five is one I remember well. She caught her first fish and dropped the pole with the fish still on the line in her excitement. She did a little happy dance that day that still makes me smile.

She is still five in this photo taken with our first pet, a cat the adults named Useless.

This one is one of my favorites with Margaret looking straight into the camera.

Dressed as a Brownie … I don’t remember this period, but she looks pretty cute.

Here she is only nine, but she’s giving a look to the camera that I recognize still 39 years later.

I discovered this first birthday picture of Margaret blowing out a candle about an hour ago and John graciously rescanned the others so you can see them better.

I have enjoyed having this time with Margaret over the last month. It is rare that as adults we are able to take time away from our daily lives and responsibilities to spend time with a sibling and I certainly appreciate Margaret coming all the way from Alaska to experience a bit of my life here with me.

It is her last day in Cornwall as she begins her long trip back to Alaska tomorrow and I have no idea what we will do today, but I will be in the kitchen in a few minutes making a specially requested chocolate cake for her. It gives me great pleasure to be able to sing a happy birthday chorus in person to Margaret today and I hope this new birthday year brings her sweetness and joy.

A Seaside Visit Today For This Birthday Boy

Today is John’s birthday and while he would rather not have too much notice made, I have a sweet pile of presents or “pressies” as some might say here and his requested blackberry crumble with candles and ice cream for later. (Okay, he didn’t ask for candles, but he needs them to make a wish … right?)

As soon we pull ourselves together this morning, we will head south to explore several places where we can walk on the beach and touch the sea. We won’t be taking any little pails and shovels like John had in the photo above, but I expect we will have plenty of fun just the same. I was thrilled when he mentioned going to one place in particular when I asked how he wished to spend his birthday.

Cadgwith is a sweet little seaside village which looks much the same as it did in 1930 when his dad at sixteen took this photograph while the family was in the area on holiday. I plan to take John’s picture as close to the thatched cottage on the right as I can get and will edit this post to include it when we return. (If you click to enlarge this, you can see John’s grandmother on the left.)

Photo by Victor Winchurch, Age 16 - Cadgwith, Cornwall 1930

I am so pleased to be able to share a third birthday celebration with this lovely man who changed my life so dramatically only a few years ago. Happy Birthday John!

* If you are reading this through email or other subscription, please refresh to get the edited version. I had an old family photo from the wrong village and had to correct it.

Updates & Additions … I am back as I promised with some pictures from our day. These were taken 80 years after the one above and another one taken the same day 80 years ago.

Cadgwith 2010

Color Cadgwith 2010

( I added the color version of Cadgwith by special request for Dorothy I mean, Kim who wanted to see OZ * see her comment below)

I took this photograph this afternoon of John standing where his grandmother stood 80 years ago when she was two years younger than I am now. I was a little closer to my subject than John’s dad was in 1930. I also thought you might enjoy a few more from today that go with the original taken 1930.

Photo By Victor Winchurch – Cadgwith, Cornwall 1930

My image from today is below.

Cadgwith, Cornwall 2010

Here is a last image before I say goodnight, It is one I took of John while he was photographing from what is likely the same spot his father did when he was still only a sixteen year old boy. I bet his dad would have loved digital photography. Remember you can click any image to enlarge. Click twice to make it ginormous.

John Winchurch – September 27, 2010