Keeping Company With Poldark In America


It’s the wee hours of cool morning in October as I write this and if the weather follows the direction of the last few days, I shall be peeling off the added layers rather quickly. Such variations in Georgia temperature are no surprise to me and I am looking forward to mild days well into November as is usually the case. I’ve been working and sleeping at my daughter’s house for the last few days. There are always projects to be done and I enjoy doing what I like to call my “gifts of service.”

Evenings are generally quiet when I sleep over at my daughter’s house. By choice she doesn’t have cable TV or internet service so I tend to read or watch something from her DVD library at the end the day. I’m usually knackered from a hard day of clawing back her backyard from the woods that try to reclaim it or picking up the castoffs from the “ Circle of Nine “ as I like to call the tall pine trees that guard the East end at front of her property. Never in my life would I imagine that so many pine cones could fall from a group of trees along with loads of pine straw and broken bit of tree limbs and sticks. This time of the year it’s a challenge to get the grass clear of debris long enough to cut the grass.

Lest you think this post all about gardening and projects, I wanted to talk about how I’ve been keeping company with Poldark in the evenings lately. I sent my daughter the first season for her birthday and had no idea I would be watching it while I was here. John and I are keen Poldark fans having watched the original series from the 70s before Aidan Turner made the character Ross Poldark, his forever, for a new generation of viewers. Based on the Poldark novels by Winston Graham, it follows the lives of the Poldark family and the miners who live in Cornwall during the 18th century.


While there is much more to Poldark than just the male lead, according to the news media a great many women seem to be quite taken with Aidan Turner’s good looks and moody portrayal of Ross Poldark. While I can appreciate a smoldering look and nice set of abs myself, it is the coast of Cornwall and the wide open sky over Bodmin Moor in the first season of Poldark that has me longing for my Cornish home. Even I am surprised to find myself getting a bit teary watching some of the outdoors scenes set in places that look so familiar, and when I mentioned it to my daughter last night she said, “ You’ve only been away for six days! “


I didn’t tell her first feeling of homesickness began when I was watching the series after she’d gone to bed on day two of having my feet back on Georgia soil.


Two days!

While I may not be “ Proper Cornish “ as a native might say, I can see that I’ve put down roots that have grown deeper than I had realized.

Earlier this year, John and I put our home on the market after a trip to Tenby in Wales. John grew up there and has always loved it and wanted to move back. While I enjoy our visits to Tenby, I found it a bit busy for me with its normal population of 5,000 or so. The number rises during tourist season and one would think 5,000 a laughable amount for someone who once lived in the city of Atlanta with its millions of people rushing about. That said, it was on a visit in early March that I told John I thought we should consider a move after having seen a house for sale on a quiet street within walking distance to the harbor.

Tenby harbor is often photographed and is a lovely place to live, but in the end it is not Cornwall and after having our house on the market for three months with a lot of interest including a full price offer from a couple who after a second viewing thankfully decided the narrow lanes from the main highway to our village would be too intimidating, we mutually decided not to sell.

The house I’d admired in Tenby sold within two weeks of viewing it and after that we realized there was a shortage of available homes there that would meet our needs, we then shifted to villages near the sea and on the coast path in Cornwall. Again, the properties available were priced so high and required so much work along with a fair amount of isolation for daily travel that we decided to stay where we are.

Sometimes one only needs to move forward with an idea of “ what if we moved to … “ to realize that the best place is the one you already call home.

John and I both have been rolling stones when it comes to houses, with similar histories of never have lived one in place for long. Before moving to Cornwall, I had never lived in the same house for more than four years. Funny to think that at 47, four years was my max time in one house. John has been in our house for almost twelve years and is quickly reaching a new record himself.


Deciding to stay where we are was an important decision for us both and represents in a way a next level of combined commitment. While our commitment to each other has only grown stronger since meeting in 2008, our love of different locations such mine for the Isle of Skye and John’s for Tenby has always held a whisper of possibility. Committing to a future solidly grounded in Cornwall and in the village where we live has sense of two trees with separate roots now growing together in the same direction.


If you’ve not seen Poldark, I would encourage you to lay on your hands on the first season before seeing the second which is available in US as well as in the UK. My photos of Cornwall though they be a good representation cannot show you the wind off the sea or give you a proper sense of the weather changes that happen on Bodmin Moor that make it both welcoming and slightly hostile at the same time.

There is a rugged beauty to the moor and the sea and coast Cornwall that needs to be experienced to fully appreciate. If you cannot see it in person, the Poldark series can give you a better feel for the area we are so fortunate to call home.

Lastly, a note of thanks for all who have welcomed me back to blogging and your kind thoughts about the words and images found here. I’m a bit rusty, but I am sure I will find a pace that works even if it’s not the two postings a week I’d hoped for just yet.

One Boy’s Life & Mine

John Winchurch - Sea Cadets - Wales (Double-click to enlarge)

If you look, you can see my husband in this photograph watching with eyes that are no longer a boy’s, but not quite a man’s yet either.

Growing up in Wales he had the benefit of living half a mile from the harbor in Tenby where he sailed the boat he built with his younger brother’s help. They were both Sea Cadets and for a while John thought he’d join the Royal Navy when he was older. His father talked him into waiting. ‘ Go to University first,’ he said,’ you can always join the Navy afterwards.’

By going to the University at Cardiff, John chose a different path than the one he imagined as a boy and although he never joined the Navy, he still loves the sea. He doesn’t look back the way I tend to and he doesn’t waste energy on regret. Most of my life, I’ve learned by observation and his way looks more peaceful than the route I usually take.

I’ve spent years reading books on letting go, forgiving yourself, and moving on, but living side by side with such a peaceful loving man, I find myself absorbing his natural way of living more in the moment. While I am not wholly a woman without worry and likely never will be, I can see myself changing as my tendency to cast wistful glances of regret over my shoulder at the past, slips away a bit more each day.

It’s funny how the decisions in our life seem to stack up like dominos with those made years earlier affecting the path we find ourselves on later. Fifty years after this photograph was taken and when the time was right, John’s path converged with mine.

I think about that when I look back at decisions I’ve made in my life, especially the ones that I’ve wished I could undo, but one thing done differently and it would all be different.

Can you find my future in the photograph …

Nesting, NaNoWriMo, & Getting Ready For Labor

Tenby Harbor, Wales 2010 (click to enlarge)

I’ve been busy lately getting ready for a month-long project that will likely be a bit painful in its production. For the last three or four years I watched wistfully as others talked about their own birthing experience with NaNoWriMo and wished that I could spend the month of November totally engrossed in turning out at least 50,000 words hoping to have a reasonable first draft for a novel at the end.

Work and travel commitments have kept me from being able to focus on it in the past and even though I now have a part-time job, I plan to work my life around getting this done. I won’t totally abandon my blog, but you may only see me here a few times a week during November.

I’ve had an outline tucked away on my computer since going to Wales last March with John. He took me to his favorite haunts and shared loads of stories about the years he spent there as a teen. One tiny detail in a story he told me lit a spark that has evolved into the beginnings of what I hope will be an exciting, read all night, can’t put down, novel with a twist.

Elizabeth Harper - Tenby 2010

I bet you’re wondering why I’m standing on the steps in this photo … after reading the historical marker above my head, I politely insisted John snap a photo of me standing under it. I’ve had my photo taken in London at another house where this famous female author lived and was excited to see she’d been here too.

I’m not sure whether I’d been touched by the muse at this point in our trip. I can’t remember the exact moment when my idea began to take shape, but I clearly remember what John said that inspired it.

You will too when the story is told as it’s pivotal to the storyline.

George Eliot

When you add up the inspiration, location, and content for my novel …  seeing this commemorative marker makes it feel even more pressing that my story should be completed.

How about you … is anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo this year or do you have any experience with it that you’d like to share?

Reading When I Should Be Writing

A variety of books litter the landscape of my new studio space with those from my own pared down personal library mixing in with the plastic protected books belonging to the public one. Scattered throughout the house, they can be found in a variety of places such as my desk, the daybed, and dare I reveal it, even the bathroom. I tend to read two, three, or even four books at the same time and an impromptu visit to our home might lead a visitor to think that there are more than two readers in the house.

I have noticed that John tends to read one book before starting another, always leaving it on a small table next to his favorite chair in the living room. I hesitate to call it his chair as he will always offer it to guests and has frequently said that I should sit there whenever I feel like doing so.

Occasionally, I take him up on his offer and when I make a move to change places when he comes into the room, he will say, ‘Stay,’ and choose a place on the sofa settling in so comfortably and with such little fuss that I can see he really means it when he tells me that I am welcome to sit in what I think of as ‘his chair’ anytime I wish.

Going back to how I read instead of where, I tend to treat books the way some people do food by going on word binges instead of fried chicken or Hagen Daz ice cream. That said, anyone who knows me well can tell you of times when I have made a meal of the partial contents of four or five pints of my favorite flavors of what most would consider dessert rather than dinner.

Because I like a variety of taste and texture in my food, I generally buy the flavors with crunchy nuts, toffees, or cookie dough, always rounding it out with my favorite, Hagen Daz vanilla. That vanilla would be my favorite seems strange to me even based on my desire for the variety that comes with a mix of flavors and textures. I think there must be something in the silky denseness of the vanilla that acts almost like a glass of milk along side a plate of cookies. After all the taste testing of the other flavors, the vanilla brings things back to a simple, almost palate cleansing final taste.

Lately, I have been scarfing up books instead of ice cream, unsure whether it’s the result a too tight waistband or a desire for more facts and fantasy. You see, I go from book to book depending on which room of the house I happen to be in at the time. If I am sitting at my desk, I may be reading Write Away, by Elizabeth George which is a gift to writers wishing to become novelists. I have read a few on this subject and her writing/teaching style makes perfect sense to my brain which tends to absorb information in through the right versus the linear left.

If you popped into the family loo, you would find a very dated travel guide to Tenby, Wales complete with advertisements, black and white images, and old maps from 1929. I have been using it for research and it is just one of several well preserved travel guides that belonged to my husband’s grandfather who documented much of their families travels in the old photographs that John still has today.

In my personal bathroom, you would see a copy of The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe that I picked up in a hurry during my visit to the library last week to drop off books. I can never leave books behind without grabbing up a couple on my way out. I noticed it because of the color of the book spine which may seem odd, but color can often attract me to a book when browsing long before I notice the title or author’s name.

Of course even when in a hurry, descriptive blurbs that begin with words like, ‘epic and painstakingly researched,’ along with ‘ spiritual quest and murder,’ draw me in and when I see phrases like, ‘richness in writing,’ it quickly goes into a special bag that I reserve for trips to the library.

Yesterday morning I was still musing over The Lady Elizabeth, by Alison Weir which I had finished just before going out for a run. It was an easy read that provided a somewhat fictionalized version of Elizabeth I’s early life, written by an author known more for her nonfiction. Alison Weir doesn’t appear to depart too far from her normal role as a historian as she weaves her own version of Elizabeth I’s life before becoming queen into a dramatic tale based on historical fact.

She does however allow herself the liberties needed to help the reader feel as if they were tucked behind a curtain ease-dropping on a conversation between Elizabeth and her sister Queen Mary in much the same way that some of her characters did in the book described by one reviewer as, ‘an exceptionally perceptive as well as imaginative interpretation of the most significant monarch in English history.’

Ms Weir’s book carried me so throughly back to the 16 century that I found myself wondering if the famous queen had ever traveled to Cornwall as I was running past structures that predated her birth. Moving in the direction of Helland bridge which was built in 1381 before renovations in the 15 century left it in its present state, I thought about how long ago she ruled and how the bridge on which John proposed to me, had already been in use for 152 years by the time she was born in 1533. I love a book that has such a hold on to me that it stays in my imagination as this one did even after reading the last word.

This morning I began another book I took from the library called, The Widows of Eastwick. Some of you may remember a movie made in 1987 called, The Witches of Eastwick. With a cast of characters played by American actors Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer along with singer turned actor Cher, it was a hit with movie goers looking for something different on a night out. A mix of comedy and gothic horror tied up with a loose red ribbon of sensuality, it worked in reverse as some movies do and sent me in search of the book almost before I had licked the last of the buttery popcorn off my fingertips.

Remembering how much I enjoyed the The Witches of Eastwick, I picked up the sequel which begins three decades later and started reading. I was only a few pages into it before I began to notice the writing and not just the story line. This can happen for one of two reasons, not surprisingly reserved for writing I consider either very good or very bad.

Shades of grey writing tend to be the everyday meat and potatoes of word assemblage for me and while bad writing is more akin to a cold reheated fast food hamburger with wilted lettuce and a slightly off pickle, really good writing is like a meal made up off all your favorite foods along with an appetite that turns you into the most voracious nibbler of all time. With authors I enjoy the most, I tend reread certain sentences or whole paragraphs directly after having it read it the first time.

Being someone that doesn’t always check the author when reading a book especially one picked up during a hurried trip to the library, I sometimes have no idea who I am reading at the time. There are authors who can write something like, ‘We are all swaying on the makeshift rope bridge that society suspends above the crevasse.’ that make it impossible for me not to pay attention to the writer whose words I am reading.

I was not surprised to flip the book over to find the author was John Updike whose novels have won a variety of awards including the Pulitzer Prize. I can see already that this new book will be a more leisurely read as is my way when beautifully done. Occasional gluttony may be one of my sins, but when it comes to feasting on a well written book, I only worry when it takes me away from my own work. Well … that and the fact that the sedentary life of a reader and writer can over time cause as much damage as a Hagen Daz binge when trying to keep ones aging backside from increasing in size.

As much as I would like to keep reading Updike’s book this morning, I think I should lace up my shoes and go out for quick run first and be thankful that the village shop doesn’t stock Hagen Daz before I settle in for the days reading, I mean writing, of course!