“There was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe -- the only lady private
detective in Botwana -- brewed tea. And three mugs -- one for herself,
one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a
detective agency really need?”
Alexander McCall Smith,
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
'I take a few quick sips. "This is really good." And I mean it. I
have never tasted tea like this. It is smooth, pungent, and instantly
"This is from Grand Auntie," my mother explains. "She
told me 'If I buy the cheap tea, then I am saying that my whole life
has not been worth something better.' A few years ago she bought it for
herself. One hundred dollars a pound."
"A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway."
Junot Diaz, Professor of Writing,
Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction, 2008
I love to write!
And that's what my recent blogging hiatus has been about.
Writing book length fiction.
My posts will be short and sweet and infrequent because I'm choosing to visit more than post.
I just hate to miss a thing!
Have a Blessed week!
Do you have a story you'll write 'someday'?
I want to tell you about
a go-at-your-own-pace workshop I've been doing.
It's called The Plotting Workshop (Makes sense, right?)
I've been happy with the workshop and hope if you have ever thought about writing a novel you'll take a minute and check it out.
Mid 1960s. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and March of the Wooden
Soldiers has been watched.The high school homecoming game has been
played and lost. Dinner has been eaten, toddlers at the children's
table, older children around the coffee table. It doesn't take much
urging to convince a couple of the older cousins to take us youngsters down
to the high school fields so we can examine the smoldering remnants of last
night's homecoming bonfire.
Oh the glamour of older
cousins with their peace signs and long hair, fringed jackets and flannel
shirts, love beads and bell bottom blue jeans. We skip along behind
our slim hipped and hip teen cousins like country mice following the
Pied Piper. Occasionally we stop and collect acorns or a very
fine pine cone, which our older cousins dutifully admire. Impossibly
kind, these cousins are worthy of our devotion. We
worship them just slightly less than Santa Claus and Superman.
In our neighborhood gaudy mums and pumpkins brighten the porches. Curbside, leaves are heaped in piles waiting to be burned. (When
I think of Autumn and childhood I see old men in plaid wool coats and
winter hats with ear flaps standing guard over a smoldering pile of
leaves.) The leaf piles are huge to us children. We leap into the
mounds of orange,red, and rust. We wade through knee deep streams of
autumn color releasing the scent of leaf mold into the cold air.
at the house we pour in, red cheeked and sweating in our heavy winter
coats. We enter our little yellow cottage, the one my father built, on
a wave of fresh air tinged with the scent of wood smoke, flooding the
room with high pitched chatter, all talking at once.
While we are
gone the dishes have been done, and four generations of relatives are crammed around the kitchen table. They squeeze in tight to
make room for neighbors and more relatives who arrive for dessert.
There are pumpkin and mince pies. These are
homemade pies. They are heavy homely pies, the edges pressed down
with the tines of the fork the way they have always been made in our
My little brothers are so proud to have helped they describe in
excruciating detail scraping the inside of the pumpkin, carrying of the 'pumpkin guts' out to the compost. They eat two pieces
of pie apiece. I have been wishing for fancy bakery pies, ones with
crusts that are carried home in boxes tied with red and white string.
think back to the day the pies were baked. Sun streamed through yellow
and white gingham kitchen curtains . A Del Shannon song was playing on white Bakelite radio on
the counter. My beautiful mother, in pin curls and penny loafers,
sang along as she dumped the pot of cooked pumpkin into her big yellow
mixing bowl. My brothers climbed onto the counter. They were still
for the moment and quiet, paying rapt attention to the pie making
look at our homemade pies. In retrospect, the store bought version seem
meager and anemic. My dad takes a bite of pumpkin pie and declares it
the best ever made. I think so too.
day is winding down. The little ones are growing cranky. Grand parents
and great grandparents are ready to leave. My brothers and the other
boys, who have been well behaved all day, are getting rambunctious.
mother settles us at the coffee table with red and green construction
paper, white paste, Dennison's Christmas seals,and blunt tipped
scissors. It is time to make our paper chains. One link for each day
from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Each evening before bed we will tear
one link from the chain until there are none left. The chains grow
longer and longer.
Soon we are not tall enough to hold them off the
ground. And then our dad holds them high over his head and still
the last links brush the ground. Christmas is never going to come, we moan. It's so far away!
to us the space between Thanksgiving and Christmas is very big. So much
will happen between now and then. The Advent wreath must come out at
church, and week after week, another candle lit.
There are hundreds of
math problems, vocabulary words, and geography lessons between us and
Christmas. There will be a school recital, and a Sunday school pageant.
There will be songs to learn, and verses to memorize. The first
Christmas special airing in ten days is barely a flicker of light on the
horizon. Christmas is out there, in the vast reaches of time and space but it is too far to comprehend.
We drag our paper chains into our room . We say our prayers, climb into bed. It has been a wonderful day and we don't want it to end. "Wait," we cry. "I want to tell you something."
There is nothing to say, except goodnight but we hang on to them for as long as we can. None of us know how fast the decades will pass and that in fifty years we will still hang on to them as long as we can, "Wait," we will tell them at the door, and on the phone. "I want to tell you something."
"Tell me in the morning," is always the reply, their promise to be with us tomorrow.
Mom and Dad loop the paper chains over the ends of the curtain rods. We drifted toward sleep, hearing their voices, soft in the other room. We fall asleep watching the paper chains in the moonlight. They hang
there in the dim light, the promise of something good.
Wishing you all a blessed and healthy Thanksgiving. God Bless those serving our country and God Bless America.
steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
1:3-4, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may
be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Blessed is the man who
remains steadfast (or perseveres) under trial, for when he has stood the
test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those
who love him.”
I will be the first to admit it. My family has too many ghost stories. I think it is because we notice things.
Maybe it is inherent in families of farmers, fishermen, and
nature lovers; one is taught to notice things. The ripeness of berries
and when to net the strawberry plants. The chatter of birds in the
Spring. The way leaves turn over on their branches before a summer rain.
The ripple and patterns on the water that means rip current, or fish
feeding. The sound of geese flying South for the winter. (The mustiness
of old ashes on the hearth on a rainy autumn afternoon. The scent and
crackle of a wood fire burning. The flicker of firelight along the base
of a door.)
I am sure the noticing things was originally a matter
of survival for my family and the habit never died out. Judging by the dates on the
cemetery stones they were good at it, for my ancestors lived to ripe old
ages. Even the Pre-Revolutionary War ancestors, and not just the Scandinavians. All
of this nature and nurture distilled into our genetic make up eventually trickled down to me, a clumsy, absentminded child with bangs
perpetually in her eyes. A tow-head with seven freckles and piercing blue eyes. A child with an unfortunate habit of noticing things. This story took place near my hometown, in a small community on a barrier island between the ocean and the bay. On the west side of the bay is one of the last great wildernesses; the
Pine Barrens.When summer ended and the tourist and summer people went home they took with them the long soft glow of summer evenings and the bright gaudy light of boardwalks and amusement parks.
They took the noise, and the fun, and the warmth. We were left with Hurricane season and
the fathomless ocean in front of us, a forest full of bears, the Jersey
Devil, and men with guns (hunting season) behind us. Keep your eye on the ocean. Do you want a wave to take you, our mothers would yell. Stay outta the woods. Some elbow with an itchy trigger finger will mistake you for a deer. It was enough to make one jumpy. This story took place during the Fall. Now let me tell you something about Fall in that place at that time. I'm talking about the late mid century. The thing is, one was surrounded by a lot of grand and
immense Nature and it was dark. Dark and creepy.
And there were old
houses, and older cemeteries backed by woods. Animals lived in those woods and come dusk they looked to creep closer to the house and eat the freshly fallen mulberry leaves, and the corn left out for them by generous housewives, and the pumpkins lined up by the porch. And a person who had been quietly playing Barbie dolls or with her brothers trucks suddenly found herself outside in the quiet gloaming. She could sense the stillness of waiting, could feel eyes watching. A person who noticed things felt the tinge of their anxiety as they gather there in the darkening woods.
Knowing that it is only the same deer, or opossum you've seen all summer doesn't stop that frisson of fear that tingled a persons' spine. It was dark, and unseen eyes were watching. Time to go inside. I had a personal best of 3.5 seconds from back yard to back door in such circumstances.
So here we had a family full of People Who Notice Things living on the fringe of a dark, creepy woodland where the trees moan and sing in the wind at night. Did I mention that? Pine trees sing! Look it up. They the sing in the cold dark night.
On a cold dark night with a nor'easter coming in and the wind singing in the pines and rain lashing the windows it is easy to be frightened by creaking boards and strange shadows. No one is telling ghost stories on a night like that. We tell our ghost stories in the daylight over the tea pot. Or, we tell them at Christmas when we are all together and good will and laughter and the high one gets from a 2,000 calorie dinner keeps the heebie-jeebies away. This story took place on one of those ominous afternoons when darkness and storms seem to hover close by. My grandmother told this story and the part I played in it a few weeks after it happened, surround by family.
Thanksgiving Dinner at my grandmothers! Cousins playing tag. Foot races and obstacle courses outside the big craftsman style house. Piles of vividly colored leaves to jump in and burrow under.Skeins of geese doting the pewter sky. Uncles in the garden discussing manure and side dressing versus compost. My grandmother's sister, collectively known as the Grands, arriving in their B54 bomber size Buick. Aunts setting the table. Pie from our apples. Cranberry sauce from cranberries grown on the home farm. Mashed potatoes and turnips the Grands planted, and grew and dug. The titter of ladies in the kitchen. White tablecloths and Blue Willow dishes. After, when we children were curled on blankets asleep, or watching TV like my brothers, or curled up with Bobbsey Twin books like myself and my two older cousins the adult settled down with coffee and to talk.
One of the Grands, Jannie, nudged my grandmother,"Oona, did you tell anyone about the happenings at the Paulison house? Did you tell them?" My grandmother looked uneasy, "It wasn't worth going into. It was nothing." "Nothing," crowed Jannie. "I liked to have fainted on the spot.Tell 'em the story Oona!" My grandmother shrugged one shoulder. From the corner of my eye I saw my grandmother glance my way. I turned a page, feigning total immersion in my book. "Well," she said. "You know the Paulison House. The big white house, blue shutters that I do." My grandmother and her sisters and been in service at the house in the 1920s and had cleaned for the family off and on since then.
"Windswept Cottage, they call it. Same family forever," Jannie added. "Oona and I worked there as teenagers. Straight laced. Thought Oona and I were wild, headed for Hell in a hand basket," She snorted. "They must have been straight laced if they thought plain living Baptist farm girls were wild." An uncle said. "We had beaux," Jannie explained. "Go on. Tell the story." If you knew the house, my grandmother explained, you knew that it sat between protective sand dunes, there were beautiful flower gardens on the north and south sides, a large sand and gravel parking area on the west, as well as a wind break of trees and bushes by the road. The east side windows offered egress to a wide veranda and unobstructed ocean views. Anyone who stepped out of the house would be observable until they rounded a corner. The drive was long, the view un-obscured. "And you know anyone walking up or down the dunes leaves footprints. It takes at least a few minutes for the wind to wipe them away."
"But there were no foot prints." Jannie explained. "And the doors to the veranda were locked. There should have been sand inside, or foot prints out. There should have been something." My parents, aunts and uncles looked perplexed. "If he were real. There should have been something." Jannie insisted. She rapped the dining room table with her finger. "If who was real?" My dad asked. "The man in the library," Jannie sputtered. "Aren't you listening? The ghost!" It was that first real cold day in October. Mrs. Paulison had called my grandmother. Can you open the house? We're coming down from the City for the weekend. She asked. My grandmother agreed and since I was home from school and I went with her and Jannie. I played on the beach for awhile but the weather grew threatening so I came inside by the kitchen door as Jannie was pouring hot water into a Brown Betty tea pot. My grandmother walked into the kitchen carrying a box of soft cloths and a tin of silver cleaner. "Just in time," she said. "After tea we can polish the silver, and you, Miss Susie, can pick some flowers for us to arrange. The only thing left then is the library. I wanted to give it a vacuum but the old gentleman is in there."
A frown creased Jannie's brow,"What old gentleman? I thought the house was empty. I didn't see anyone. I dusted in there first thing. " My grandmother shrugged. "I did the upstairs first, then went to do the library. I opened the door, saw the old gentleman sitting in the chair by the fire. I excused myself, and backed out of the room." "What did he say, "Jannie asked. "Nothing." Jannie frowned. "I didn't see any sign of someone living here when I was upstairs. None of the bedrooms are in use. There were no dishes in the sink or in the drain. No car in the drive." My grandmother twisted her hands, "Let's take a look around. Miss Susie, you stay close."
Together we walked through the house, checking door and window locks, looking in closets, and out windows. The library was as chilly as the rest of the house. The lights were off. There were no ashes in the hearth. The room smelled cold, unused, empty. Jannie examined the carpet, and rattled the french doors to the veranda. Outside the wind was picking up and clouds were piling up. Out by the road the tall pine snags were beginning to vibrate, producing a sound like high pitched moaning. With a last uneasy look around Jannie said, "Let's go do that silver." The silver polished in record time, we picked an armful of late blooming roses, some dusty miller, and some greens which my grandmother arranged in china vases. I carried the smallest vase, which we sat on the table in the entry way, the largest went on the mantle in the main parlor. Jannie carried the last vase, which would be placed in the library.
My grandmother switched on a lamp, talking nervously as Jannie carried the heavy vase into the room. I stepped inside and looked around with interest. It was a masculine room, full of bookshelves, paneling and heavy furniture. Oil paintings, mostly portraits, hung on the walls, and some mirrors hung at odd intervals. I noticed that from certain vantage points images were reflected, or appeared to float in the air. I studied the effect while My grandmother and Grandaunt Jannie adjusted the vase on the round table in the center of the room. "That's funny," I laughed. I pointed at the wall. "There are one too many shadows. There are three of us, and there are four shadows."
There was silence around the table as the grown ups digested the story. Several pairs of eyes looked at me. I looked up from my book and smiled. I had tried to explain about the shadow and the mirrors on the way home but Grandmother and Jannie had said we were not speak of that day. Ever. I thought maybe I should try again, but noted Grandmother's expression was pained and frankly, with only four weeks until Christmas I wasn't going to press my luck. *
*Story based on a mostly real event that happened almost but not entirely unlike this.
British have an umbilical cord which has never been cut and through which tea
flows constantly. It is curious to watch them in times of sudden horror,
tragedy or disaster. The pulse stops apparently, and nothing can be done, and
no move made, until "a nice cup of tea" is quickly made. There is no
question that it brings solace and does steady the mind. What a pity all
countries are not so tea-conscious. World-peace conferences would run more
smoothly if "a nice cup of tea", or indeed, a samovar were available
at the proper time.- Marlene Dietrich
"Reflecting the elegant nature of the hotel’s architecture The Ritz
London has a dress code in different areas of the hotel as follows:
Gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie for afternoon tea in The
Palm Court and for lunch and dinner in The Ritz Restaurant and Terrace.
In all other areas of the hotel (The Ritz Restaurant breakfast service,
The Rivoli Bar, The Long Gallery) and The Ritz Club, smart casual
attire is suitable. Please note that trainers or sportswear are not
permitted in any of the hotel or Club’s restaurants or bars."
Forget-me-not cups, or elegant blue?
Which shall we choose as souvenirs?
For me, I should choose the elegant blue. It reminds me of the lovely blue boxes from Tiffany's.