Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cornwall, Day 3: St Michael's Mount. a Picnic.

It ended the way it began - beautifully. This day held not only the loveliest of walks and the tastiest of scones, it held enchanting moonlight and the discovery of a chocolatey sorbet. Yes! Did you know that there was such a sorbet as chocolate? I didn't, being more familiar with the fruity kind (this is dangerous, and may present itself as a temptation I can not promise to resist.

The loveliest of walks took me toward the cliffs surrounding the town, passing beaches and empty tea shops (it was early) and quirky little cobbled streets. I was mostly alone as I walked, but after a while I came upon a young father pushing his baby in a pram. It was fun to overhear his conversation with the baby because he was very sweet with her. He spoke as if she could understand, and his face beamed out each time she smiled. Which was a lot. They were a mutual admiration society.

This was the sweetest thing. But then they disappointingly turned left and I continued, wending my way home to the fisherman's cottage. For we two had plans. We:

  • made a picnic
  • took it on a bus to Penzance
  • grabbed a bus from Penzance to Marazion
  • walked across to St Michael's Mount
  • toured the castle at the top
  • grabbed the next bus back
  • ate at the local pub, which turned out to be fabulous
  • and fell into exhausted heaps at the end.

Oh -  and I'd better not leave out the scones we had this afternoon! THE best so far, my dear Readers. And they were last year, too.

Hip-hip-hooray! for the Digey Food Room! Once again they have done it. They have fulfilled the promise of a good scone: warm, substantial (without being horrid and thick), sweet, tasty, and textured-to-perfection. We shall watch, and wait, and see if a better one comes along. But it is doubtful, my friends; seriously doubtful. 

The triumph at the end of this day was the lovely walk along the harbor, crowds thinning, weather still warm enough for comfort, and the moon smiling down upon us. We sat eating our chocolate treats, and considered the day a success.  
I kept thinking of that young father, and of the bright future he is ensuring. Such gifts weave a strength into this world of ours, that's what. One smile at a time.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cornwall, Day 2: The Search Is On

Not exactly bright-eyed, we climbed out of bed to gaze upon our first full day in St Ives. It was breathtaking.

For sea lovers, a glimpse of the shoreline of St Ives is the ultimate high - a high of highs that no one needs chemicals to produce. And the shore was so very close! We became suddenly energized and ready to get out into it.

But then one of us suggested a 'toast party'. Terrific! We had everything we needed for a toast party from the nearby cooperative, along with the delicious coffee provided for us by the owners (bless them). Next up: church. 

We chose to attend the local parish Church of England, just steps down the lane. As we approached, their bells began to ring along with the bells of the several other ancient churches nestled around. Enchanting!

We found our seats just as the music, and the processional began. White robed men and women walked in their formation from the side, the cross being carried as we all kept watch. From somewhere there was the aroma of incense. So this would be 'high church' - well enough. It would also be a sung Eucharist, something I find irresistible: the age-old words, spoken and sung, began their work and together the people followed and joined in.

I loved the organist! Are you shocked, dear reading Americans, that there even WAS an ORGANIST?! There was, and he was splendid (forgive me for not missing the presence of a worship band). White haired, superior posture, expressive in the way he moved toward and around his keys. It was exciting to watch! What's more, he didn't miss a note, not one note. And this is coming from the SconeLady whose father could not bear a missed note to reveal itself in his presence.

And next, the sermon was excellent. Worthy! Both of us learned, and appreciated, and needed Matthew 21.

In the afternoon we two walked up to the Castle for a cream tea. The search for a perfect scone is well and truly on, and this was our first Cornish sampling. Alas! The scone was cold (even though I requested twice - somewhat embarrassed - that it be delivered warm). The presence of jam and clotted cream did not noticeably help, and so it was probably not a scone worthy of the great chase. But the wait staff was cheerful, and that is a thing not to be scorned.

But really. If a tea room goes to all the trouble of producing and advertising cream scones, wouldn't you think they would want to serve them WARM? (I ask you).

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cornwall, Day 1: Playing Houses

We landed on our feet, but it was an uncertain start. The SconeLady left something important in the taxi!

Alright, now that I have confessed this near miss, I can joyfully tell you that we reached the taxi man's boss, who through a crackling dispatch reached him, who through the crackling dispatch said yes he had the important item and would have it there in short shrift. Danger averted! Frightened thoughts calmed and (almost) forgotten. Adventure back on track!

And so, we were at last turning the key to our fisherman's cottage near the shore. The sweetness of the place enchanted the SconeLady, and surely her husband as well. We dumped all our belongings in a haphazard way, then locked up and went to scope out our new town. The darling harbor village was out in full force, showing off its charms left and right. Lights were bright, couples were out for a Saturday evening stroll, children were in their prams, fast asleep. It was a time for fun.

We wanted to find the most British looking pub we could. You might ask how a British pub could not look British, but it has happened before. We wanted a pub that was warm and friendly, with the occasional shout out and perhaps darts flying somewhere. A lit fireplace would also be nice. We really just wanted to be reminded of when we lived this side of the Pond. 

We found a pub, cozy and boisterous and jolly, all in one. We squeezed into a tiny booth at the top, edging our way by unspoken agreement up to the furthest spot from the music below. I am not saying, really, that the music was bad. I am just saying that it was loud. That is all. As a musician myself, I try to steer clear of these judgments (I remember once looking toward the back of an audience and seeing a woman sitting with her hands pressed over her ears. Oops).

So we sat, he with his pint, me with my Pepsi, and talked. We still hadn't caught up on all of each other's news...or, at least we tried to talk. Soon it became apparent that the music would preclude this effort. And so we drank our glasses empty, and left.


Groceries were carried back, and soon the welcome feeling of playing 'houses' settled in. Placing each item in its own rightful spot. Thinking of what I might make with it, tomorrow. Planning as I worked. All the fun of a fun holiday, in advance. Still at the early stages. Still wide-eyed.

And getting sleepier by the minute! But I must describe to you first the quirkiness of the cottage we are in: a cottage with FOUR FLOORS in it. That's right, a room at the very bottom (kitchen), with a room above it (sitting room), with a bedroom above the sitting room, and another bedroom above that. FOUR! Hmm. This bears some thinking. But it is so darn cute that I can almost forgive its many steps.

In the meantime, here's to adventures! Here's to beaches! Here's to cream scones!

I'm diving right in.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/markdodds/4322857175/">J Mark Dodds [a shadow of my future self]</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Saturday, September 27, 2014

England, Day 13: a Bend in the Road

Paddington Station stretches below me as I write, people dashing from one end to the next with great purpose. I am happy for them and their purpose - no one looks particularly distressed or fragmented as they blur from place to place. But I am especially glad for my own small self, because I am not alone as I sit here. Next to me is my companion of years, the firmly loyal and cheerful man who may have the beginnings of jet lag. In short, the SconeLady's husband!

We sit waiting on a comfortable leather couch overlooking this most famous of places. Before us is the detritus of a pot of tea, a coffee, and sandwiches which (unexpectedly) were superb. Fresh. Soft. Generous. From above us drifts the careful and cultured voice of the lady announcer, reminding of departures and abandoned baggage. There is an hour before train time, and we await our own departure for all points South. 

London transport is a study all its own, and one day I would like to study it. Yesterday, a Friday, it was a little bit overwhelming as I found myself surrounded and borne swiftly off. This was especially so in the morning (forgive me for not remembering it would be rush hour), noon (not quite sure what) and late afternoon - the other rush hour. In the morning I was on the Underground between stops when I was suddenly caught up in a sea of black suits - everyone walking fast, everyone apparently late for work. Black really was the favored color, if it is a color, and it was all terribly professional and business-like. And then there was me in my traveler's clothes and sneakers.

And so we say goodbye to London and all its charms, for a time. We will exchange it for the sweeter attractions of a harbor, and green grassy cliffs, and eager seagulls. Perhaps a wood burner to ward off the chill. And I am thinking - scones! We will be in a cottage with a kitchen, so who knows? Maybe the SconeLady will turn her hand to baking.

Whatever. With or without a rolling pin, it will all be good, my dear Readers. There will be scone opportunities galore, for it will be Cornwall - the land of limitlessly exquisite Cream Teas. Join me here as I seek them and find them along the way. One in particular calls..the cream scone from the Digey Room. The gracious host who loves to discuss his methods and his history. With no strict agenda laid out, we have time. We have interest.

We have each other.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Thursday, September 25, 2014

England, Day 11: Miss Saigon and Le Beaujolais

I will fall asleep tonight thinking again about Vietnam. And why, you might ask, would the SconeLady be thinking of such? Hasn't it been a very long time, and weren't we all just glad to be clear of it? Maybe, but I can't help it right now because we just saw the London production of Miss Saigon. No one who experiences that can just fall asleep willy-nilly. 

I am one of the lucky ones who got to see the original production, starring Lea Solanga in the early 1990s. It was so powerful that I thought of it for ages afterward. Friend Rosie went to it with me then, and we went together again today. If you don't know the story, it helps a bit to know that it follows along the themes of Madam Butterfly, and is just as touching. 

To see a London production of anything is to see excellence. The matinee lasted 3 hours including the Interval, and it all was so intense as to be certainly exhausting for the cast. They then had to go almost straight back and do it all over again. That is dedication. And it felt to us as though they did it all especially just for us. That is originality.

We wandered the London streets afterward, discussing this, until it was time to meet the family at Le Beaujolais Club. Le Beaujolais Club, dear Readers, is a Club of all clubs - with a superb menu and a welcoming, hugging, laughing proprieter. A truly superior human being! From the appetizers to the cheeses at the end, there was nothing we needed that did not make its way to our table.

And now - sleep. I will be thinking of

  • a young Vietnamese girl who fell in love with a GI
  • a loud and amazing helicopter that seemed to fly straight over us and onto the stage
  • an audience that was as amazed and shocked by it all as we were
  • the wonderful people I then shared a meal with
  • their wonderful young people
  • the imminent arrival of the SconeLady's husband (!)
This last will be the sweetest of all the exciting things that are going to happen on this beauty of a trip! It A massive privilege.

So here's to wonderful trips filled with interest, and kindness, and generosity. And best of all, here's to the advent of the SconeLady's husband!

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

England, Day 10: The Ferry

I was searching for the ferry when I saw him. We were both stepping along a narrow lane in our search, and I could hear him thinking out loud as he went. It was something about expenditures. I caught up, passed, and then went on ahead toward the edge of a river.

I knew there would be a ferry boat landing, because friend Rosie had told me about one. I wanted to see it, and to ride on it. There would be a superior view of the historic quayside of King's Lynn, and I was ready. The usual daily 10 miles had already been walked, and so some sight seeing seemed in order. Soon I came to the river's edge, and the ferry.

The elder gentleman then came along, in deep conversation with a kindly lady carrying numerous packages of shopping. "It was the best 25 pounds I ever did spend," the man exclaimed. "Never a better."

I was wondering what he had spent it on when he continued, "Oh yes, 49 years ago next November I laid it all out at the registry and bought myself the National Trust."

"How did you buy the National Trust! I asked.

"25 pounds it was, laid it all out at the registry, and got meself and the wife a membership. We never go anywhere unless they have a National Trust property,"

This was interesting news. Every time I had wanted to visit a National Trust property it was hugely expensive. For two, it was more than this man's 25 pounds, I can tell you that right now. "You mean you have a pass that is for a long period of time?" I asked.

He became animated. "Oh yes, oh yes, this pass I now have (and he began to dig for it) "is pure GOLD. It is an original Life Time Pass!"

The lady with whom he had been chatting now joined back in. "Ooh, that's lovely! A Lifetime Pass. I wish we had one of those. They're far too dear, now for me..." This excited our narrator even more. "No! No one can get them now, not for 25 pounds! Not even for a thousand pounds! That was the best 25 pounds I ever spent."

At this interesting juncture the ferry made its approach and we began to board. The ferryman maneuvered us all safely on, then away we went for the five minute journey.

More conversation took place (mostly surrounding the expenditure of pounds), until we reached the other side of the river. We had about 20 minutes to walk down a path to view the lovely cluster of ancient buildings that formed Old Lynn. This I did, and as I walked back toward the ferry, the elder gentleman came along and paused next to me. 

"Are you going to visit any National Trust buildings?" he asked. 

"Ah, well I would certainly like to," I acknowledged. "Is Hampton Court one of them? I've always fancied going to Hampton Court."

It turned out that Hampton Court was exactly the ticket, in his opinion. "Oh YES!! I have been there. It is the highest of quality, that one is."

"Is it perfectly huge? I've heard that it might be."

"Immense! You had better be ready for a lot of walking, and a lot of steps. And, it's DARK, Miss, very dark."

I asked about this. He explained that too much light tends to fade the furniture and the wall hangings, so the light is muted.*

"A lot of National Trust buildings are dark, you will find. They keep them all dark like that. Be careful or you might just trip and fall."

I made to walk onward, as the ferryman was ready to start. "Well it was nice meeting you," I said.

"And you!" he said cheerfully. "I hope to see you some day at a National Trust. I'm 78 years old now, and 49 years ago next November I scraped together enough money to join. Maybe you will join..."

He began to walk on, his final words fading as he went ... "It was the best 25 pounds I ever spent..."

I looked back at him, reflecting upon the one pound fifty cost of the ferry. It was actually the best one pound fifty I ever spent.

See you along they!
the SconeLady

*it is also true that those ancient buildings had fewer and smaller windows, due to the 'window tax'.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

England, Day 9: Tea, Cake, and the 'Donk'

A pot of tea and a bit of cake really does hit the spot after a round of shopping. I know, it should have been a scone. But Debenhams didn't have cream just at that moment, so what would be the point? There actually was a scone, ready made with jam and cream already spread in between the split layers. It looked beautiful! But those of you who have followed this space realize already what the trouble would be: there can be no way to warm up a scone when the cream is already in it. Do you feel I am being picky? Perhaps I, the SconeLady, should lower her standards a bit, and eat a cold scone?

I could have, and almost did. In fact, the standards had dropped quite dangerously and the tea lady had actually placed the creamy scone upon a white porcelain plate. That was when I spied this bit of cake, and remembered that there is nothing wrong with some cake in a time of cold scones. She kindly changed my order and arranged a slice of lemon cake just for me.

It was delicious.

I really liked that tea lady because I overheard her in the kitchen, enquiring as to whether there might be some fresh cream about? For the American lady? Trying to go that second mile for me. The gracious Brits - there's just nothing like them.

I am sitting now in a jeep with the iPad, typing away with two fingers as Rosie feeds and grooms the donkey. The 'Donk', along with two pretty horses, saw us pull up and immediately began making their way towards us (her). Rosie is their favorite person just now, because they know something good always happens whenever she appears. I believe we might call this love a 'cupboard' love: "food and warmth, hands that caressed, voices that reassured.." Cupboard loves such as the one felt by the bear Mr. Bultitude for Mrs. Maggs (That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis, 1945), who gave him a tin of golden syrup every Friday. 

It is lovely to have people like Mrs. Maggs nearby. Or the tea lady, going that second mile in order to make the day of a stranger. 

Or like Rosie, who seems to find people and animals gathered about her on a frequent basis. I am one of them, who feels that something good always happens whenever she appears. These three women have at least one thing in common, I have noticed. They are all Englishwomen. 

Those gracious Brits - there's just nothing like them.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady