Accidental Meetings – A Place Where Past And Present Intersect

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Most of my friends and family know of my fascination with photographing old churchyards and cemeteries. I can get lost in a one for hours if left alone and I was delighted when I first came to Cornwall to find John living in a village with a lovely church only a short walk from home.

Since marrying him and moving to the UK, I’ve spent a lot of time in the churchyard especially when I felt a need for a quiet moment, not that it’s very busy or noisy in our village of 500. It’s a peaceful spot to watch the birds fly in and out of the church tower or to photograph the seasons as they change and I used to stop there for a rest at the end of a run. Even though my runs have become more of run/walk in the last few years, I still like to have a look around when I’m passing by.

I am always interested in photographing the gravestones, especially the old ones, and I notice when I spot an unusual name. The gravestone below first caught my eye because it is next to one (not in the picture) that has Elizabeth on it. I know it may sound strange, but I always look for headstones with John and Elizabeth lying next to each other. Click here to see a post about a churchyard over looking the sea where I posted some gorgeous photos and wrote more about how we always seem to find our names together.

Like any small community, you can discover a lot about its history through the names on the gravestones. Unusual names like, Axworthy tend to make me head for my computer pretty quickly to see what I can learn, but I have to admit that until I met a member of the Axworthy family last Sunday, I had not followed up on the research.

The Return 2009

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day in the UK and I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who was born in the cottage which use to house the old post office for our village. She moved away when she was seven, but still comes back a few times a year to have a bit of lunch and a look around the village. I recognized her maiden name right away when she told me because Axworthy is one of the more interesting names in the churchyard. She was in the pub with her son and daughter-in-law who told me she still lived in a village nearby.

Gwendoline Axworthy

Gwendoline Axworthy

After she told me her name and where she had been born, her son mentioned that there was a photo on the wall in another  room of the pub that had some of their relatives in it. I went around ‘borrowed’ it and after talking about the men in the photograph, I asked her permission to take a picture of her holding a copy of the photo of her great-grandfather, Austin Axworthy and great-uncle, Edgar Axworthy.

Cornwall 2013

They are sitting in front of the cottage/post office where she was born in 1926. While I don’t think there are Axworthy’s in our village anymore, there are certainly Pengelly’s living here. Tom Pengelly was the postman according the family.

I was pleased to meet such a delightful woman with a history and link to this place that has become my home and I was happy that she and her family gave me permission to use the photo and share our meeting online.

The stone cottage she was born in has changed a lot over the years. You can just see the edge of it where the women are standing in the doorway in the photo above.

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In this old black and white photograph provided by Shirley Runnells, the cottage that housed the old post office is on the right side with the phone box near the doorway. With a family living upstairs, I can’t imagine there was much privacy when trying to use the phone. The two cottages attached to it were later joined to form one.

Cornwall 2013

I took this photo taken last week and while you can’t see it, there is a window behind the blue car that used to be the doorway to the middle cottage. I am not sure when the two became one, but the old post office was housed in the white cottage until 1999.

Cornwall 2013

The stone cottage across from it is the ‘Old Smithy.’ I am not sure why we still call it that when we don’t have another blacksmith in the village.

When I researched the Axworthy name, I confirmed that it was Saxon in origin, something John had already told me, and the earliest recording of it in writing was during the reign of Henry VIII when Harry Axworthy was christened in 1542 in Lezant, Cornwall.

It might be easy for some to take the history of a place for granted, but in a country where you don’t have to go far to see something like the Celtic cross which marks the intersection of two lanes on the left in this photo, it’s difficult not to occasionally imagine the ghosts of those who lived here before me.

Talking with the great-granddaughter and great-great-grandson of the man in the photograph may have answered a few questions, but the real gift was more of a day-dreamy one as I imagined the lady before me as a baby and young girl learning to walk the same paths I’ve come to love in the village where we live.

Have you ever had an accidental meeting of a similar sort? 

Our Cornish Christmas – An Open House – Part I

I wanted to throw open our doors and invite you in for a Christmas coffee and some Hello Dollies. I hope you’ll be able to stay a few minutes and say hello. I may even give a house tour if you are interested in seeing what we’ve been up to here.

This is a Christmas decoration I put together using Christmas crackers. I learned that while shopping with John for our Christmas goodies at the grocery store that when I say we need some crackers we are more likely to end up staring at an aisle filled with these than something you serve with a cheese ball. For nibbling with cheese, I now know that I should be asking for cheese biscuits rather than crackers especially at Christmas.

This is our dining area off the kitchen. I prefer the table the other way, but it makes it hard for people to sit when they have to scrunch in next to the wall. We’re planning to redo the kitchen next year once we recover from having built the extension and by “we ” I mean mostly John so this area which is part of the kitchen will look different (bigger) by next Christmas.

This was a Christmas floral arrangement I made for the table. The batik on the wall was the largest “art piece” I shipped over and I was so glad to see it arrive in great condition. I bought the batik on a trip to Bali in 2002 and it was something several people wanted me to leave behind so they could have it. The crystal candlestick holders are very special because they belonged to my good friend Patrice’s mom, Marilyn and Patrice gave them to me when Marilyn died a few years ago.

Here is a slightly better shot of the batik.

You can see my Angel bowl that my daughter painted years ago looking down over our table. I hand carried it on my last flight from America. As good as my shippers were, I didn’t want to risk this special gift from her.

Here’s the other side of the space above … where my ingredients wait on the counter (work top) to create our Christmas dinner.

John made all these cabinets and built some more to hold my good china that made across the ocean in perfect condition. If you look at the countertop you can see a large bread bowl and a rolling pin. Both were made by my great grandfather Harper who was a blacksmith and a carpenter. I used the rolling pin when I made these yummy cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning and made a few extra for some of my neighbors. It was only my second experience baking with yeast and it held a few surprises.

The bubbling over piece was not one I’d anticipated would keep happening.

But the yield was marvelous as you can see below and this is just what I gave away. We which really means, I ate a bunch of them as well. I forgot to photograph the finished product, but you can go here to see Pioneer Woman’s rolls and her recipe which I followed.

Additionally, I made a sweet potato dish that once you’ve had it, all others pale in comparison. I even brought back the same canned yams I normally use from America, carrying them over in my suitcase. I thought this two pound can would be enough. Hah!  The measuring cup was only half full …

… which left me doing what you see below … cooking more sweet potatoes.

What you see here is me using my computer to follow Pioneer Woman’s cornbread recipe so I can use it in my cornbread dressing which came from her website too. That’s my grandmother’s mixing bowl you see there and if you look back by the computer you can see Miranda in a photograph taken in Paris when we were there for the millennium new year … a whole different story to come later.

My daughter Miranda is the child in the leather coat with the bag over her shoulder queuing for the her first visit to the Louvre.

Next on my list was a recipe we make at Christmas which needed raspberry gelatin and this looked like the Jello gelatin boxes back in America with the exception of being a different brand name. Plus, I knew that what I know as Jello they called Jelly so I thought this one be one familiar thing to work with even if the packaging was different. I set the water to boil and opened the box expecting to find a package of powder to dissolve and was surprised to find …

this … I had about a half second where I thought, what am I supposed to do with this? As John would say when I say something a little different because it’s an American thing, ” I worked it out.”

This is the first deep dish pumpkin pecan pie I ever made. I was so proud of it and it tasted as good as it looked. Well, …

… for a slice or two until it slipped from my hands and fell onto the floor making a nasty mix of broken glass and pie. I was so sad and slightly angry that I had not had a chance to fully enjoy my pie made with pumpkin mix brought from America. You can’t buy it here and I was really bothered by the fact that it was all wasted. So taking my last can of pumpkin and what remained of my pecans, I made …

… this!

Which looked like this when it was done and …

… like this just before I had the first piece. Mmm!

Maybe you remember John’s cousin Mary… she was visiting this past summer with her brother Michael when he suddenly had a heart attack and died. It was a sad time for us all. I wrote about it here, here, and here, if you’d like to learn more about her sweet brother.

This is what our guest room looks like now. I still need to build the padded headboard, but since Mary was staying with us for Christmas I had to save that piece for the new year. Do you remember back when I was reworking the curtains and the duvet and making the pillow shams and the bedskirt or dust ruffle … if not you can go here to read about it.


That’s all for now, have another cup of coffee and I be back with another plate of Hello Dollies and some more pictures in part II.