Missing The Good Stuff

Sometimes when I am in bookstores I stop by the discount table to see what I might find there that’s a good read. I say sometimes because I don’t always do it. It’s not because I don’t want to take the time to rummage through or because I think I won’t find anything of value there, but more a case of how I feel when I find really good writing laid out there for just a few dollars.

I know what it takes to sit alone and write and write and write … sharing bits of reality or imagination hoping that the effort will have some impact on a reader somewhere one day. So when I see good authors on the clearance table that never made a ripple in the book world who have quietly slipped by unnoticed, I get a bit depressed even if temporarily because I can’t help but think, what if that happens to me.

Of course, not having published a book yet one might think my momentary angst a bit premature, but I do feel for really good writers whose story appears to go unnoticed. That said I want to be sure you don’t miss out on a piece that really touched my heart a few days ago. Mariellen Romer has written about a life event that had a lasting impact and I hope you’ll take a minute to stop by her place and have a read .

You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

I Never Picked Cotton

It seems like forever since I’ve posted. You would not believe what I have been doing since arriving in Atlanta a week ago last Thursday. I’ll share some that later, but first I want to tell you a story my friend Patrice told me when I spent the night with her not long after I got here.

Patrice bought a cool older home in a great old Atlanta neighborhood not long before I moved to the UK and she spent some time showing me around and telling me the significance of all the little ” pretties” as she likes to call some of her mother’s things that she inherited, as well as some of her own special possessions.

When we got to the room in the picture above, she pointed to the stalk of cotton you can see on the left and said that every day when she goes to work she looks at that cotton and thinks that as difficult as her day might be, it won’t be as hard as that of her grandparents who picked cotton as sharecroppers on someone else’s farm to feed their families.

Patrice and I are alike in many ways and I completely get the appreciation she has for the struggles of the generations before her and her everyday gratitude and acknowledgement of how their efforts helped to provide her with a different set of opportunities for her own life. Due to the hard work of those cotton picking grandparents, her parents both had a chance to graduate from college and she herself went on to get advanced degrees from several universities.

I can look back at my family history which is filled with similar stories of folks doing hard work or doing without and while I’ve never picked cotton, my brief stints in a chicken factory, chocolate factory, and textile mill while working towards a university degree made me appreciate the difference in doing a job every day that involves hard labor versus one that might be less physically demanding.

We all do what we can to make things better for our children and for the generations to come, but sometimes when we’re grumbling about how hard we have it it’s nice to remember the folks that came before us and what they did to help ensure that our lives were a bit easier as a result of their actions.

I was thinking this morning about the stories my grandmother told me about cutting fields of sugar cane and how the sharp stalks cut her hands and the stooping and bending made her back feel like it was breaking. I need to confirm the details of this in a few days with my Aunt Betty, but I feel sure she told me this story more than once when I was a teenager. I wish I had paid more attention back then.

Feel free to share a family memory if you’d like of someone in your family who made it easier for you to have a better life.

Here’s a little Johnny Cash singing ” I Never Picked Cotton. “

Home Cooking – Love Southern Style

A Meat & Three

In the American South where I have spent a fair amount of my life, the expression  ” A Meat & Three ” means home-cooking to anyone looking to fill up on food that makes them think of family meals and Sunday dinner after church at Grandma’s house.

Nobody does this type of meal better than my step-mom Cullene and today after years of enjoying her cornbread muffins, I discovered how she makes them so perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

It’s a secret she learned from her mother and I’m glad I took a moment at lunch to find out just how it’s done. I’ve been eating Cullene’s cornbread muffins since I was twelve and only now thought about asking how she makes them so taste so good.

I’ve made them for John a few times and I have to say I don’t think he has been that impressed with mine. Cornbread muffins are not high on the list for meals in Cornwall, but armed with the secret to the crunchy outside I think he may find them more to his liking next time we have a southern style dinner of  ” A Meat & Three.”

Oh Atlanta – An English Rock Band Sings Me Home

Georgia State Capital

In March of 1979, the English rock band Bad Company released their fifth album, Desolation Angels which contained a song that many Atlantans may recognize called, ” Oh Atlanta.” For those born too late to have caught the Bad Company version, Allison Krauss included it on a CD of hers in 1995 along with covers of some of her other favorites.

By April of 1979 I was on my way to basic training leaving home at eighteen after joining the US Army right around the time ” Oh Atlanta ” hit the southern airwaves. The irony now is not lost on me that a song I fell in love with 31 years ago was written about my hometown by an English band that I loved as a teenager. While I dreamed a lot of dreams growing up, the one I am living now was never one I considered back then.

As my flight leaves my home in England for my old one in Atlanta, there’s at least one song I know I’ll be listening to once we are airborne. I’ve been humming it for days now and if you’d like to have a listen you can click on the link below.

Oh, Atlanta, hear me calling, I’m coming back to you one fine day.

~ Mick Ralphs

Power Shots & Love Lines

Earlier this year while John was driving us to Tenby Wales, I spotted this sight and I shouted something like, ” Stop, please … I want to take a picture! ” Being the patient and accommodating man that he is, John pulled the car over so I could take a couple of shots that would probably not appeal to many.

I pulled these two photographs today because they reminded me of how often John puts my needs first even when he’d rather be doing something else. He’s been busy lately helping me get ready for my upcoming trip to my home in Atlanta, Georgia where I’ll soon be for the next few weeks.

He’s been patient and calming even when travel worries have left me a bit stroppy. I love some of the new words I discovered after moving here. Stroppy is a perfect description for my mood lately and I think it’s because I’m really going to miss him. As an independent, space loving woman, this represents a big shift for me.

Even though we’ve only been together for about two and half years I’ve come to love sharing my time with him. I still need of lot of time to myself, but there’s something really easy about the way we move in each other’s lives and space and if we were dancing, I’d say we had definitely mastered the steps.

Of course I’ll have fun on my trip home to the US and it’s going to be good to spend time with Miranda and Cullene and the rest of my family and friends, but now while any family gathering is still sweet, not having him there to share it makes it feel a bit incomplete.

I’m not gone yet, but soon I’ll be writing from the other side of the Atlantic where the high temperatures and humidity may be just enough to distract me from missing him too much.

I’ve already scheduled a run/walk/hike with a blogger friend, Jules who John and I met on the TMB a couple of years ago along with her husband. If you’re reading me from Georgia and want to meet up to say hello, you can leave me a message here and I’ll get in touch with you. We don’t have to brave the heat like Jules and I will be doing … I am content to sit in a cool air-conditioned space and drink iced coffee with you instead.

A Last Look Back

In the small village where John and I live I’m becoming known for almost always having a camera in hand and some people will actually comment if they see me without one. I don’t think it took our July 4th guests, Jamie and Barbara long to see that visiting us meant most moments were likely to be documented. Here’s a last look at a few more images I captured during their stay.

I was standing in the hallway at Lanhydrock shooting this image when Jamie walked by and I caught him looking at the mirror on the wall below.

That’s me in the reflection, but due to flash restrictions it’s a bit grainy from shooting in low light.

Barbara, Jamie and John walking towards the old caretakers cottage on the Lanhydrock property.

Barbara and Jamie standing at the signpost for the Rumps which we walked first and Port Quin which we walked later that afternoon. Please notice that the arrows point in opposite directions … we did a lot of walking that day.

Jamie set off at a good pace right behind John while I waited for Barbara who you can just make out in the right hand corner.

Not too steep yet …

Now this is a bit steeper. Can you see the ant-like figures of Jamie and Barbara in the center of the photograph? (click on it to enlarge)

More color from another direction.

The dragon looking piece of land in the center is known as The Rumps.

Barbara and Jamie take a seat near the Laurence Binyon memorial in front of The Rumps.

Here’s one of us sitting in the same spot.

A few of my favorite cuties or ” dinner ” as John would say.

Looking back from Polzeath in the direction of the Rumps.

The beach at Polzeath in the distance. (click to enlarge)

Cottage at Port Quin (click on to see the barking dog)

Looking back at Polzeath

John, Jamie, and Barbara on Jubilee Rock with what looks like a stormy sky behind them.

Notice the carvings on the rock … according to a site called, Oliver’s Cornwall ” The massive 8 foot high granite boulder was said to have been carved by Lt. John Rogers to celebrate the 1810 golden jubilee of King George III. If Rogers was the carver he must have been a skilled mason as the detail of all the work in still crisp after almost 200 years. All is apparently original except for an 1897 addition for Victoria’s golden jubilee. Detail includes Britannia, the Royal and Cornish coats of arms and those of local families, a plough, and two mason’s marks, a compass and square.”

The whole of the rock is covered in carvings including the top where they’re standing.

This cool picture of them is one of John’s photographs and was taken from the top and backside of the Jubilee Rock.

No trip to our little village is complete without a quick visit to the buttercup field (even though there are few buttercups left in July) and a photo at the footbridge that crosses the water and leads to it. So we’re saying goodbye here to Jamie and Barbara and hoping that the rest of their UK visit goes well. Safe travels.

If I Could Talk With The Animals

Okay, so I know this peacock doesn’t really qualify as an animal and I should be embarrassed to post a photo of me looking seriously in need of a fashion makeover, but this image taken by John on July 4th is so typically me that I decided to toss my vanity out the window and share it.

In addition to showing you some less than flattering pictures in this post, I’ve decided to let you in on something you may not know about me yet. It’s nothing too shocking and some of you probably do it too … at least with your pets at home. I like to talk with animals and that includes just about anything that creeps, crawls, walks on four legs, or flies.

Living as we do with so much nature and wildlife around, I find it easy to see how Beatrix Potter created the circle of animal friends that she did and the magical way she gave them human characteristics and voices of their own through her children’s books.

I’m not sure what John thinks when he hears me call out to wooly sheep like these, but sometimes he likes to answer for them when he hears me say,” Morning, girls. ” If he happens to be nearby, I’m likely to hear him respond in his very best high-pitched girly sheep voice, ” Morning, Elizabeth.”

Today while John and I were cycling up on the moor we had a chance encounter with some of the wild ponies that roam free. As you can see below, not all the ponies were feeling wild and standoffish. The little one below was quite comfortable with me letting me give it a little hug before getting back on my bike to ride.

This pony was so tame that it was content to stay close when John rode up on his bike a few minutes later.

We stopped by a neighbor’s house on our ride and I had a chance to hold a ferret for the first time. If you’re interested in owning one yourself they have more babies that can be had for ten pounds each.

The photos below are some John took a few months ago when the Gorse was in full bloom. I was trying to get a new pony to let me take a few photographs when the moorland horse below decided she’d be happy to give me some of the attention I was trying to coax from the pony. I didn’t know she was behind me until she gave me a little nudge.

Once she bumped me, I turned and saw John documenting my surprise.

She got a bit aggressive and no amount of talking as in, ” Hold on a minute while I get to my feet, ” mattered enough to keep her from gently knocking me about. I won’t mislead you into thinking that she suddenly found me so irresistible that she couldn’t leave me alone … it was the carrots I had with me that made so popular with her.

Made In America

There is something about seeing an American flag planted firmly on English soil even for a day that makes my expat heart beat a bit faster. Driving down the lane six days ago to James and Gillian’s home for their annual July 4th celebration, I felt a kind of excitement similar to that from childhood, the one reserved for Christmas morning and the hope that Santa might have answered the dreams of a wistful child.

I wondered to myself and even aloud several times to our American guests if the flag would be there like last year. It seemed impossible to think that it wouldn’t since I had seen it properly folded as an American flag should be, and tucked in a box the week before when talking with Gillian about the party plans for the day.

Still, the part of me that doesn’t like to be disappointed was holding back a bit of enthusiasm and expectation, just in case. In case of what I’m not sure, but nothing pleased me more than seeing the flag airborne as we came down the lane.

I don’t think I ever felt as giddy in all the years I’ve seen it flying including the times when I stood saluting the flag as a soldier in uniform while serving in the American Army. Perhaps it has something to do with making a home in a new country that makes me realize and value a few things differently … things I may have taken for granted before moving to the UK.

I don’t want to get too deep and philosophical in this post. I’d like to show you instead how we all came together with our mixed lot of British spouses along with some unmarried but permanently settled Americans and those working here who will likely go home to America to live one day.

I want to show you the fun. I think it was a good experience for our visiting American guests, Jamie and Barbara and one they may talk about when sharing their UK trip with friends back home. I can’t help but wonder what they’ll remember though and what mattered most to them that day.

It would not be a proper American celebration without a little ” baseball ” although for me to call it baseball would be a stretch. In Gillian’s version, (I can’t remember if she called it baseball so I’m taking a bit of creative liberty here) you had a choice of what type of ball you wanted hit or kick and also a choice of bat, racket, or use of a cricket bat for smacking your ball of choice.

The kids all seemed to love it and the adults were willing to continue to play even as the rain came down.

You can see the rain in this shot especially if you click on the photograph. It’s a bit blurry as I was trying to protect my camera from what John will charmingly often refer to as a ” spot of rain.”

Our scorekeeper Mitt made notes throughout, but I don’t know if there was a winner as I fled for dryer quarters while the rest of the braver folk stayed at it.

Between the ball game and the meal that followed, I went on a walk and photographed a few colorful images not associated with the July 4th holiday.

You can just make out John in the background trying to get a shot of me while I was trying to coax this peacock into posing for a portrait and since my friend Cindy in the US mentioned she’d like to see a photograph of me from the 4th, I’ve added the photograph that John was taking in the shot above.

Then I spied a Dogwood tree still blooming even though it was July. In Georgia, Dogwoods welcome the spring months not the warmer months of summer.

After a the game was over and while the burgers were cooking, the adults divided into four teams for the ever popular quiz that is such a part of British life. At Gillian’s request, I had prepared a 20 question quiz of all American questions that carried us into the mealtime which is one of my favorite parts of the holiday.

Everyone brought some of their favorites and I brought Pioneer Woman’s sheet cake in mini-cupcake form as well a potato salad made from my family’s recipe. I don’t have food pictures as I actually put the camera down for a few minutes to eat, but the sing-a-long afterwards made for a few interesting shots.

We’re finishing up the dessert portion of the meal and getting ready to rock … er sing I mean.

Gillian and Tina chatting about the music … I think.

Gillian getting the children involved. They had instruments too.

I’m not sure what Tina said here, but it Barbara seems to have found it funny.

I like this photograph of a young father and an older more experienced one talking to the baby girl.

The always tender father-daughter moment although one might argue that she was searching inside his shirt collar.

Gillian with her children as they led us in song complete with hand gestures.

Now with the baby girl from the earlier father-daughter shot going to mom for the sing-a-long, Gillian’s MIL looks on at the song lyrics that Gillian prepared for the party.

My friend Jamie showing a little fan appreciation with his applause after the song ends.

Gillian always does such a great job with everything making a party for 30 or more seem like no trouble at all. I love the way she completes the evening with music and once again, I’m grateful to be included in her circle of friends. Her husband James certainly does his share too and while you’re not likely to see him with a guitar in hand he can make you feel welcome in any number of ways in addition to grilling the hot dogs and hamburgers to perfection.




Amber Waves Of Grain

American children grow up learning the words to the song, ” America the Beautiful ” and if you’re not familiar with it, this version by Jon Bon Jovi is well worth a listen.

“Amber waves of grain …” is one of the lines in the song and walking up on the fields of gold this weekend immediately brought it to mind. As much as I love living here in Cornwall with John, scenes like this can make me feel a bit homesick for the US. I’ve only seen wheat fields like this while passing through Kansas so it was not the wheat fields that made me homesick, but rather the song of America that came to mind.

I’ve been knackered since our company left Tuesday morning, worthless in terms of writing, but I still have some photographs from our July 4th celebration that I’d like to share tomorrow.

A Moo-ving Experience

When my American friends Jamie and Barbara arrived last Saturday to spend a few days with us during their visit to the UK, I wanted to be sure they saw some of my favorite places while they were here. On July 4th our day started with a little excitement right from the beginning when we took them by to see the bridge where this marvelous thing occurred back in February of 2008 and later John asked me a very important question.

You know the one I’m talking about, don’t you? The one with four little words that began with Will and ended with Me and led to this sweet day early last year. Since Helland Bridge is such a significant place for us we just had to take Jamie and Barbara by to snap a photo or two. As you can see in the series below it turned out to be a very moo-ving experience for them.

Jamie & Barbara At Helland Bridge

After taking a couple of photographs of them standing in the very spot where John asked me to marry him, I stepped off the bridge for some distance shots and happened to be in the right position to catch the cattle stampede.

Okay, so stampede might be a bit of an exaggeration, but see the man walking quickly towards them … he’s letting them know that now might be a good time to moo-ve. (sorry I can’t help myself)

I bet they thought they were leaving the country life behind for a few weeks when they left the small town where they live in the US.

You guys better hoof it.

There’s some serious traffic moo-ving behind you.

Looks like they’re safely off  the bridge.

Now if I can just get past this load of bull to catch up with them, we’ll be off to explore Lanhyrock.