Then & Now – Two Grandfathers With 82 Years Between Them

This photo from 1930 was taken in Polperro by John’s father, Victor Winchurch when he was about 16. John’s grandfather, Percy is sitting on stone in front of the house with his wife and mother in-law on either side of him and John’s aunt is the child off to the left. I probably should add that when this photograph was taken, Percy was not a grandfather yet and would not be until John was born twelve years later. (you can double-click for more detail in the image)

I didn’t get the angle quite right, but I took this yesterday of John sitting in the same spot as his grandfather eighty-two years earlier. It’s pretty amazing that the fence in front of house still looks the same.

This photograph was taken in 1932 and has John’s father in the image. You probably can’t pick him out since John looks more like his mother. Take a guess and I’ll tell you later in a comment on this post. One more thing, if you look up to the right you can see a white structure on the hillside and it’s in the photo below with John.

Here’s the same white building in the image with John’s dad and his friends taken eighty years later with John standing near it. The next time we go to Polperro, I’m going to get John to sit where his dad was sitting and shoot it from that angle. I like to do this when I can and have several posts where you can see a then and now shot.

If you click on this link from 2010, you can see a sweet one of John as a boy and some black and white images his father took before John was born alongside my photos of the same places eighty years later.

After seeing the photo on the rock, John and I had almost decided that there was a great deal less vegetation leading into Polperro eighty years ago until we had a look at this photo of his father’s group of friends cycling into Polperro taken on the day of the rock photograph. We walked up this road on the way back to Lansallos yesterday and it’s interesting to see that it’s actually changed very little.

Through The Valley Of The Sheep – On The Path To Polperro

 

John and I set off yesterday on a coast path walk that was new ground for us. While we’d been to Polperro in the past, we had not walked the path we took yesterday. This shot reminded me of a trip I took the summer of my 20th year to the dusty Greek island of Ios. The lone tree with all the sheep around it took me straight back in time except it was cooler here and green, with the only dust being that our feet kicked up in a few well worn places when we picked up the path later.

It’s always easy to spot when you’re in an area where you may run into sheep. Walking the coast path can sometimes take you through farmers fields and while you are free to walk on the designated path, you must be very careful not to do anything that scares the sheep if you stray off it. Dogs have to stay on a leash and there can be serious repercussions if a farmer catches a dog chasing the sheep.

Sometimes following John can mean diverting from the path … ‘ Don’t mind us,’ I tell the sheep as we walk right through their seaside café.

He can often get ahead of me when I linger to take … ‘ Just one more photo ‘ an expression he’s heard me use many times since we met. You can see John in the distance if you look to the right.

Here’s another shot of John that I took while running to catch up.

Because we were walking through a field, we had to hop a fence or two to get back on the coast path … John went first.

Then I showed him my technique for climbing over barbed wire fences.

Not long after, we walked into this lovely space as we came down the coast path.

I stopped to touch the nose of the chestnut colored horse on the way down to the beach.

Before I went down, I turned back to photograph the horse on the hill. I liked the balance in the space between the horse and the tree.

There’s John off to the right … waiting for me, again.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day. I loved the lines in this photograph … that’s John enjoying the view for a minute before continuing on into Polperro.

Polperro is one of my favorite fishing villages in Cornwall and is different from others in a few ways I’ll come back to in another post.

We walked into the village next to the harbor coming from the direction near the tip of the trees you see slightly off-center in this photograph. You climb up and down a lot of hills on the path to Polperro.

We were halfway back to where we started by the time we reached this spot. Our goal was a visit to the Talland Church on the hill before going on to where we left the car. From here it didn’t look as if we had far to go, but as anyone who drives through the lanes here will tell you, a quick trip can take longer than you think and even more so when you are walking rather than driving through the lanes.

I was in a hurry to get to the church before the sun changed too dramatically as I was worried about losing the light. We took a wrong turn that carried us right past this view and I loved the way I was able to show the church and the fairy balanced in the same shot.

After a few more hills we reached our destination, although not our final one of the day.

The church was locked which is generally not the case with village churches at least during the day, but we didn’t mind so much after finding a well placed bench with a view of the sea.

When Memory Fails You

The Ghost Next Door by Wylly Folk St John. Illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

I’ve read Kyran Pittman’s work for longer than I can remember beginning with her first blog, Notes to Self. I think I found her around 2006 when I discovered there was a community of folks doing something called ‘blogging.’ Her talented husband, Patrick created a logo for me back in 2007 which helped me track time through old emails, but I’d be hard put to come up with an exact date.

All this chatter about memory, dates, and Kyran Pittman is due to a comment I left on her  website, Planting Dandelions a few days ago.

It turns out that in addition to our expat identities as women who married and moved for a love met online, we both collect owls.

Owls you say … stifling a small yawn perhaps.

I’ve loved owls from childhood when I read a book written by my Aunt Wylly called The Ghost Next Door. Kyran recently wrote about her owl collection and asked if any of her readers had collections as well. I left a comment sharing a brief bit about how my aunt was responsible for the start of my owl collection and how her book had influenced my choice of collectables when she’d asked me around age eleven if I had a favorite animal I might like to collect.

Everything I said was true except my memory of the book cover which is ironic when you consider that it’s been sitting on a bookshelf in every place I’ve lived over the last 40 years  except for those that occurred during my transient time in the military.

In my comment I said there was an owl on the cover with love in its eyes, but as it turns out the book cover I was recalling was not mine above, but the one below, a reprint from much later and one I’ve only seen online.   

See what I mean … there’s the ghost child Miranda holding the owl with love in its eyes.

Kyran left a followup comment to mine asking where she might see the book cover and it was then I remembered that my first edition copy had the owl on the title page and not the cover.

You’re probably thinking ‘ so what ‘ unless you write or read memoir and know how important it is that your memories are accurate. Kyran will know exactly what I’m talking about as her book, Planting Dandelions is a memoir and is as she says ‘ … about becoming a family, while still belonging to myself. ‘

I write a lot about family and sometimes I can check in with them to see if our memories match knowing that while some of our experiences may mirror each other, how they affect us and what we remember, may vary a great deal.

Writing memoir is tricky. There are some things you can never forget as much as you might wish you could, while other memories shift just as my cover story did leaving me with an uneasy feeling about future stories. You can bet I’ll be tighter on fact checking in the future.

My brother-in-law, Leon is a writer, editor, and blogger and he has a cute disclaimer at the top of his blog that reads: ” Warning: The following contains opinions and ideas. Some memories may be accurate. ” I loved the ‘ may be accurate ‘ when I read it thinking how clever his warning was, but after my little mixup I wonder now if perhaps he was being more serious than cute.

There are things about The Ghost Next Door and my aunt that never get confused and I’ve written about her impact on my life and inadvertently my daughter Miranda’s in other posts on my blog. You can find them if you use the search space. (I’ve left you a clue below)

Aunt Wylly’s books were always mysteries filled with the kind of delicious clues a curious girl needs growing up, particularly when her home life is such that she needs a more pleasant distraction. Her books made me think and it does not surprise me that the still unfinished novel I began during NaNoWriMo has evolved into a mystery with a fantasy twist. As much as memoir appeals to me, I do like the freedom of making things up as I go when sorting out the plot lines in my novel.

Gifts From Wylly Folk St John

Gifts From Wylly Folk St John

I’ll leave you with the image above of two owl gifts that my aunt gave me when I was a girl. Both sit on a bookshelf in the studio space where I do most of my writing. The book is written in French, a language I never learned, and I’ve had it since it arrived in a birthday package on my 14th birthday.

I kept it all these years because it was a gift from Aunt Wylly never knowing that 34 years later I would marry a man in another country who would speak French and be able to read it aloud to me.

There are loads of memories that connect me to my aunt, some of which I may remember differently from time to time, but all tender and all connected to love.

Margaret Harper, Wylly Folk St John, holding Pam Jones, & Elizabeth Harper

Margaret Harper, Wylly Folk St John, holding Pam Jones, & Elizabeth Harper

This photo was taken at my aunt’s home in Social Circle about the time I made my owl preference known. I couldn’t know then how much influence she would have on my life or how she would affect my writing years later.

Looking at her smiling in these last two images, I can’t help but notice there’s a bit of an owlish look to her and I’m surprised I never saw it before.

Thomas St John with Wylly Folk St John

The Gifts Of Friendship

Tell me I’m clever, Tell me I’m kind, Tell me I’m talented, Tell me I’m cute, Tell me I’m sensitive, Graceful and wise, Tell me I’m perfect – But tell me the truth.

~Shel Silverstein

Searching through a virtual mountain of photos of my dear friend Patrice, it was this image that made me pause and get a bit teary-eyed. Taken last September when she was here for a visit, it illustrates what I consider one of the best parts of our relationship … the quiet moments of earnest conversation and sharing.

Not long after Patrice and I first met, she gave me a tour of her home telling stories about different things as we went from room to room in a way very similar to what I might do. Knowing early on that I was a big reader and lover of books, we stopped in front of a bookcase where she had several books that were special to her heart.

At least one was written by Shel Silverstein, an author I knew about, but had not really read and it seemed meant to be somehow that this quote jumped at me when searching for one on friendship this morning. I smiled when I read it knowing that she would understand exactly why I chose this one.

Today is Patrice’s birthday and even though I can’t be there to help celebrate, I wanted to remind her how much I love and appreciate all the ways she has enriched my life with her sweet friendship. I celebrate the light she brings to my life and the many ways she has helped to illuminate the truth.

Happy Birthday, Patrice!

Patrice ... Celebrating the Light!

You can go here to see more photos of Patrice’s trip to Cornwall last year.

Unlikely Friendships

” Francis, Francis, why do you always wander away when I’m trying to talk to you?”

“I know she’s back, I can see her at the wall too, why don’t we waddle over and say hello, come on old boy, what can it hurt? ”

” You must think I’m crazy, Giovanni … that is a dog and it does not want to play! It looks as if it wants lunch! ”

 ” Francis, could you just try to get on with others a bit better, it’s a big world out there and I think we should explore more than this patch of water. What about a little trip to see what’s on the other side of this pond?”

” Alright fine, but just remember who’s leading this expedition!”

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There’s a place I like to walk where I always look for these two unlikely seeming friends when I pass by. In mild weather they sit in the river on one side of the house and in winter you can see them in the back garden at the edge of a small pond.

It seems funny to see a drake and gander always hanging out together like two good old boys who don’t seem to need anyone else. I like to create little vignettes when I see them and I find their constancy very comforting in a world where things often change faster than I would like.

I gave them names from history for today’s post and wondered if any of you might recognize who they represent?

Feeding The Spirit

Sometimes getting outside is just what a body needs. Yesterday delivered with a mostly sunny Monday and John and I took some time off to smell the roses … okay, there weren’t really any roses, but the flowers are beginning to pop here and it felt like a big hug from the universe to do nothing but what we wanted on such a gorgeous day.

I took this photo about a week ago thinking then how much it looked as it was saying, “C’mere you and let me give you a hug” which makes it perfect for this post as it’s what I’d like to do to say thank you for all the kind comments on the “Am I Blue …” post from Sunday. I heard from folks through Facebook and email as well and I want to be sure you know how much I appreciated your messages.

While winter appears to have left us, there are still reminders everywhere. Yesterday was the first time it’s felt seriously springlike this year with a mostly blue sky day and a warmth that allowed me to leave my coat behind.

Of course, I had to take a few photographs to share. The new shoots on this tree were so soft they reminded me of feel of a young boy’s head after a summer buzz cut when his hair even when cut super short, still has the softness his baby years.

This one was a surprise! As soon as I saw this butterfly, I thought that’s it, spring must really be here or this beauty would not be. I managed to snap only one slightly soft image before it flew off leaving me still marveling at how early it was to see it. (If any one knows what kind it is, I’d love for you to share it in a comment)

This tulip was inside one of the biomes at Eden Project which was our first stop of the day and I had to do some contortions to get it without climbing into the flower bed.

This yellow lovely was growing outside the biome and John said that it’s a Kingcup and member of the buttercup family, a flower I fell in love with for its beauty and its significance in our early relationship.

Things got steamy inside the rainforest biome making my lens go fuzzy faster than I could snap the shutter creating the moody shot above.

The purple pops in this image of this Dwarf Iris.

This Horsetail plant is one of my favorites at Eden Project and I went in close this time to photograph it at the beginning of the plant that looks and feels like a horse’s tail.

We had lost a some of light by the time I took this one, but it was back a bit later in time for a walk through the gardens at Lanhydrock.

While there was a good bit of green at Lanhyrock, (it’s always green in Cornwall) I had hoped to see some of the flowers that add to Lanhyrock’s charm. It was too early see more than a few blooming trees so after a quick look around and a sunny rest stop, we headed for home.

The face of a patient man waiting for a wife who has to always spend ” just a minute ” in the resale bookstore at Lanhydrock where sometimes there’s a treasure hiding in plain sight.

The Lanhydrock Gatehouse

Am I Blue …

A friend at work told me I looked tired yesterday. I’d noticed it before she mentioned it having seen the dark shadows under my eyes earlier that morning. I’ve been working more over the last few weeks filling in for someone who’s been out due to illness, but even with the added hours, my time at work requires a fraction of the energy required by some jobs I’ve had in the past.

I took a part-time job (one really I enjoy) to pay off an ugly amount of credit card debt I incurred when I was stuck in Atlanta last year and this week, I sent the last payment off to the two cards I owed.

You’d think I’d be celebrating, but I’ve been unable to rouse much enthusiasm. I also received an unexpected gift this week from a friend I met through work and it pleases me more than I can say to see it sitting on my desk now and to know the kind thought and motivation that prompted it.

John and I are both healthy and my family and friends in Atlanta are fine, but even with all the good, I still feel exhausted and blue.

My creativity seems to have disappeared and responding to emails from friends feels as if it’s more than I can do now. I think about calling family in Atlanta to connect, but even that feels like a struggle. Plus folks back home have their own worries and don’t need to hear me grumbling about some vague feeling of sadness that I can’t explain.

It’s not so easy to hide it from John and as I discovered yesterday morning, there’s no reason to keep it from him. After an exchange over breakfast that didn’t go well, I went back to his study and said that I may look happy and okay, but I’m not. I said I was feeling fragile, weepy, and sad and that I was going to need a little more gentleness than normal. He listened with understanding and is secure enough not to feel like he has to fix everything for me. Sometimes being heard is enough.

After running through a mental checklist searching for reasons and countering each negative with the bountiful list of positives in my life, I remembered what I seem to forget each year until I find myself deep in it again.

March and April are always tough months for me and with no good reason that I can find. You’d think after years of feeling what I’ve sometimes called ‘ The Easter Effect ‘ because of the time of year when it occurs, I’d be better prepared. But I forget until it’s here again sneaking up on me like it’s the first time making days that should be happy feel flat and difficult to get through.

I wrote about this feeling in a post titled ‘ Off Kilter ‘ in 2010 and after rereading the post and the comments it received, I am reminded that like Cindy La Ferle, I should be back to normal after Easter arrives.

April 8th … not too long to wait.

I wanted to share a couple of photos of a lone Grape Hyacinth that stayed with me this week during my gloominess. I found it intriguing that it appeared to be growing out of the rock.

I snapped the first photo a few days before going back for the next two because I wanted to show how it had found a tiny indentation in the long stone that acts barrier along the grassy edge of the village green. The most interesting thing about this for me was discovering how it was growing in the barest minimum of dirt.

Looking down into what was hardly more than a chipped place in the stone, I was impressed by the tenaciousness of this tiny plant and its ability to take root and bloom in a space where there was so little to sustain it.

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I’m sure I’ll be alright in a few weeks, but there’s no way I’m giving up sugar next year for Lent.