The Pirates of Pendennis

SH-Cornish pastyEvery year, Edie Wolfe takes a vacation with her younger sister, Rosamund. Most of the time, they rent a cottage on one of the Champlain Islands or travel up to Montreal, Quebec.

But this year, they decided to treat themselves to a long vacation in England. They’ve been talking about doing this for years.

Of course, Edie is writing emails home and sending pictures to her family and friends.

I thought you would enjoy reading them too.

I hope you enjoy today’s Carding Chronicle. Please share it with your friends.

Carding is a fictional town in Vermont that’s celebrated in four novels (so far). You can find links to them all after Edie’s description of her travels in England.

This week, Edie and Rosie are enjoying themselves in Falmouth in Cornwall.


Hello folks,

Rosie and I are now in Cornwall, in the city of Falmouth so named because it sits on the mouth of the River Fal.

I think I’m in love. Living in Vermont gives one a fine appreciation for land that rises and falls (see below) and the flattest thing in this charming place is the river. And maybe some of the main thoroughfare which goes by the name of High Street or Market Street or Church Street, depending what part of it you’re walking on.

Falmouth landscape
View of Falmouth, England rising from its main thoroughfare, High Street.

It was rather rainy the day we arrived so we decided to make it a museum day. Falmouth is the home of the wonderful National Maritime Museum which details the amazing history of the port and has a Pirate School for kids.

Piracy in this part of the world is not the stuff of legend, it’s the stuff of reality. Piracy was big business here for decades, especially during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The long arm of her navy did not extend this far west so the men (and some women) who called Falmouth home took what they wanted, when they wanted, and where they wanted.

And yes, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that Elizabeth (and her minions) looked the other way quite a lot because many of the victimized ships were Spanish.

Aye, there’s the rub.

Pirates may be regarded as either thieves or entrepreneurs, depending on what side of the mainmast you’re standing. If you were a Spaniard during the Tudor era, you’d describe the pirates of Falmouth as bloodthirsty thieves. But if you were the British Royal Navy, you’d be glad of them because you benefited from the pirates’ boat-building skills. They were innovators in the craft, and as their knowledge spread through the Elizabethan world, the British navy’s ships (and their sailors) became the masters of the world.

(There’s a superb book about the history of Falmouth and the origins of its piracy called the Levelling Sea by Philip Marsden—highly recommended.)

This is a good example of something my father used to say: “At the base of every fortune is a crime.”

Pendennis Castle
Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, England

After our trip to the museum, the winds changed so that we could hike up to Pendennis Castle. Built by King Henry VIII, Pendennis is situated on a high bluff right at the mouth of the Fal and the view from up there is stunning. (see below)

Harbor from Pendennis Castle
View of the Fal River as it meets the sea from Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, England

This spot has been used and abandoned more than a few times, including during World War II. It is now maintained by the good folks of English Heritage. We roamed all over the inside and outside of Pendennis (those stone spiraling staircases gave me pause because they’re so narrow and steep), and then settled in with the crowd to enjoy two men who showed off the boom and bang (and it is LOUD) of the guns and cannons used during the Tudor period.

Yeah, the kids loved it.

I think I could spend a lifetime here in Cornwall and never have enough hours in the day to thoroughly enjoy everything this special place has to offer. Because it reaches so far out into the sea, Cornwall benefits more from the Gulf Stream than any other place in England. That means you can grow just about anything here and they’ve got the gardens to prove it.

Camellias at Trelisik
Dogwoods at Trellisick Garden in Cornwall

We’ve been to three of them: the idyllic Trebah, the subtropical Trelissick (Lowarth Trelesyk in the Cornish language), and the amazing Eden Project.

Our AirBnB host here in Falmouth is Kevin Bishop, and he was kind enough to introduce us to his parents, Janet and Brian, who brought us to Trebah. There’s a great winding path up, down and around the slope that takes you to the sea that’s full of rhododendrons, waterfalls, monkey puzzle trees, and incredible plantings.

One of the great differences between what I think of as American gardening ad British gardening is the English use of shrubs and trees which, to my eyes, makes a far more interesting landscape, especially over a large area. I know I couldn’t possibly grow most of what we’re enjoying here but I can sense more shrubs in my future once I’ve back home in Carding.

The Eden Project is as much a wonder to visit as it is a wonderful story. In 1995, this spot in St. Austell was a clay pit, rather desolate and played out. But Tim Smit and a team of invaluable friends and advisors had an idea that grew out of their work together in the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Smit and company had been so inspired by Heligan, they wanted to continue their work and build an ecological showcase that not only brought people and botanicals together, it would be proof that reclamation and recovery of the land and soil is possible.

Biodomes-Eden Project
Biodomes at the Eden Project, St. Austell, Cornwall

There are a lot of lessons to be learned here.

Eden opened in March of 2001 and by June of that year, over a million people had visited. Since then, this spot has grown in size and in the number of avenues visitors can explore. You can stay here, go to school here to earn a degree in sustainability or work as an apprentice among many other options.

Heather in bloom at Eden Project
Heather in bloom on the walkway to the biodomes at the Eden Project, St. Austell, Cornwall. And yes, it smells heavenly.

The centerpiece of the project are the two enormous biomes (pictured above) that rise from the earth. From a distance, they look like mounds of soap bubbles. One of them—the Rainforest Biome—houses the largest “rainforest in capitivity,” as the Edenites say, while the second—the Mediterranean biome—displays an amazing variety of plants that like hot, dry weather from cacti to cork trees and the grasses of Australia to tulips.

Bee sculpture-Eden Project
Huge wooden bee sculpture outside the biodomes at the Eden Project, St. Austell, Cornwall

What an amazing place!

Dragon at Eden Project
A friendly dragon at the Eden Project, St. Austell, Cornwall

Back in Falmouth, we took the recommendation of our host and spent the day on a cruise from the Prince of Wales dock up the river  to the ancient city of Truro. These Enterprise boats function as hop-on, hop-off trips so we hopped off to visit Trelissick Gardens.

Falmouth from river Fal
View of Falmouth from an Enterprise boat, Cornwall.

Okay, I’m running out of adjectives to describe the gardens here—wide sweeps of lawn with a view to the River Fal and the sea beyond, stone-sided paths guarded by trees and trees and trees of all varieties, riotous color among the shrubs, a beautiful house that’s being restored by the National Trust…and…and… (see below)

House at Trelisik
Conservatory of the house at Trelissick Gardens, currently being renovated by the National Trust, Cornwall, England.

 

Rosie and I were in raptures.

And then there was the easygoing trip back to Falmouth by boat where we treated ourselves to a supper of Cornish pasties (pronounced pass-teas) at an Oggy Oggy.

Oggy Oggy is a chain of restaurants in this part of the world that specialize in pasties. Gawd they were good.

By the way, no one’s quite sure where the term “oggy oggy” comes from. Some believe it’s a Cornish word or phrase meaning pasty while others believe it comes from a common cheer that you hear at soccer games where one side yells “oggy, oggy, oggy” and the other side replies “oy oy.”

Nope, doesn’t make any sense to me either.

Kevin has been a great guide to Falmouth and Cornwall. He was born in this city and it is easy to see how much he loves this enchanting place. We spent the better part of a day with him as he introduced us to rugby (more interesting than I ever expected) and then took us over to the north coast of Cornwall where we walked Gwithian Beach. You can see Godrevy Lighthouse from here. If you’ve ever read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, this is the spot that inspired her.

Rugby game-Penzance
A rugby match in Penzance, Cornwall. The home town team, the Pirates, won.
Gwithian Beach
Gwithian Beach on the north coast of Cornwall.

Yeah, I’m totally in love, can you tell?

Unfortunately, our week here is coming to and end. But Rosie and I have already promised ourselves to come back.

Oh, one more note before I close—if you think that Americans love their dogs, you’ve never been to England. Canines rule here. (See below.)

Love until next time,
Edie

Brits and their dogs
The British people are totally in love with their dogs. This was not the only canine we saw being wheeled about in a pram.



You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, is now available for your reading pleasure.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday morning without any further effort on your part.

If you’d like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

Pasties and Pirates—Aaarrr!

Every year, Edie Wolfe takes a vacation with her younger sister, Rosamund. Most of the time, they rent a cottage on one of the Champlain Islands or travel up to Montreal, Quebec.

But this year, they decided to treat themselves to a long vacation in England. They’ve been talking about doing this for years.

Of course, Edie is writing emails home to Carding, Vermont along with pictures of her adventures with Rosie.

This week, Edie and Rosie are enjoying themselves in Falmouth in Cornwall.

Here’s a yummy sample of tomorrow’s Carding Chronicle. Please share it will all your friends—or anyone who loves good food.

SH-Cornish pasty

Did You Know It Rains in London?

SH-London EyeEvery year, Edie Wolfe takes a vacation with her younger sister, Rosamund. Most of the time, they rent a cottage on one of the Champlain Islands or travel up to Montreal, Quebec.

But this year, they decided to treat themselves to a long vacation in England. They’ve been talking about doing this for years.

Of course, Edie is writing emails home and sending pictures to her family and friends.

I thought you would enjoy reading them too.

Carding is a fictional town in Vermont that’s celebrated in four novels (so far). You can find links to them all after Edie’s description of her travels in England.

I hope you enjoy today’s Carding Chronicle. Please share it with your friends.


Dearest folks,

Rosie and I are at the end of our first week in England and I have to tell you that the word “whirlwind” has taken on a new meaning for us. As you can imagine, every turn we take in London reveals something more fascinating than the turn before and we’ve been neck-deep in history ever since we landed at Gatwick Airport.

Our AirBnB hosts, Leigh and Mary Parker, could not be nicer, pointing us in the right direction while explaining the inexplicable. In spite of that, we’ve still managed to get turned around more than once but we quickly discovered that if you stand still and look woebegone, someone will stop to ask: “Are you lost? Can I help you?”

First things first, of course, so we were out buying umbrellas and Oyster Cards right away. Oyster Cards function like gift cards, and are used on the trains, the tube, the buses, and the ferries (known as Thames Clippers) that carry people all over London. There’s a rumor that the umbrellas will keep you somewhat dry while you’re doing that.

Rosie and I have become particularly fond of the Thames Clipper service. We’re staying not too far from Greenwich (with its Royal Observatory and a HUGE park and the Cutty Sark and a great street market) and there we can board the ferries that take us through the heart of London without traffic or crowds. It’s a great way to sightsee.

So let’s get to some of our pictures!

London Eye
The London Eye seen through the window of a Thames Clipper

Cue the theme from Sherlock. That’s what I hear in my head every time I see the London Eye. This picture (above) was taken through the window of a Thames Clipper. It’s the best way to see the whole thing. And yes, it turns so slowly you have to watch carefully to see it move.

During our research for this trip, we found lots of recommendations for Borough Market so we wandered around until we found it.

Borough is built, literally, under London Bridge, spilling out onto some of the adjoining streets. Vendors have been selling their wares here for a thousand years and the place is packed with buyers for the incredible cheese (see below), produce, fish, breads, coffee, spices, and eatables of all sorts.

Cheese at Borough Market
Checking out the cheese in Borough Market, London, England

Borough Market is located in the section of London known as Southwark (pronounced suth-ick). Like many places in England, Southwark centers around a cathedral of the same name. This is the part of London where William Shakespeare hung out and the replica of his Globe Theatre and the Tate Mordern Museum are just a short walk from the church. Along the way, we found this street performer playing “Singin’ in the Rain” on a tuba that spouted flames.

Yeah, I know. Go figure.

Flaming tuba-London
Street performer outside the Tate Modern Museum in London, England. He was playing “I’m Singin’ in the Rain.”

As you stroll through the city streets, you can brush medieval walls with your fingertips and find clots of Roman stonework here and there.

I am getting such a kick out of this.

Next day, we rode the Clipper once again, this time further up the Thames to Westminster pier where we planned to visit the abbey of the same name.

Juggle in Covent Garden-London
Juggler in Covent Garden, London, England

Rosie and I decided to take the long way ’round to squeeze our way through Covent Garden where we caught the last part of this juggler’s act (above). Yep, that’s a man balancing on a ladder while he talks and juggles and removes articles of clothing. We found out that the women in the information booth that’s on the edge of the performance area have a regular bet on what color underwear our juggling man will be wearing each day.

Seems that pink was the color of the day.

From Covent, we located Westminster Abbey queued up to get inside. While we waited, I spotted this sign for Saint Margaret’s Church, a small place of worship next door.

St. Margaret's Church sign
Sign outside St. Margaret’s Church next to Westminster Abbey, London, England

This simple stone structure is beautiful in its lack of ostentation. But what really caught my eye was this sign explaining who some of its past parishioners were.

I want to draw your attention to a particular name that you may not know but you should. That’s Caxton, as in William Caxton, the first person to print books in the English language. In fact, he translated the first book of fiction and the first work of non-fiction into the English language.

I know that bumper stickers like to claim that “if you can read this, thank a teacher.” But strictly speaking, that’s not correct. You should really be thanking William Caxton. Before he revved up his printing press in this area of London, English speakers were just that—speakers. Now when all communication is oral, you don’t need to concern yourself with spelling or grammar or punctuation. But as soon as you want to communicate via the printed word, the writer and the reader have to agree that the only way to spell “apple” is “a-p-p-l-e.” Otherwise, you can’t understand one another.

So Caxton, in his role as printer, started the process of regularizing our common tongue on paper.

Can you imagine setting out to do that? By the way, he’s responsible for some of the quirky spellings we still have in English such as ghost, through, rogue, and thought as well as common words such as happiness, achievement, gardening, and pottery.

Very important man, and now you know his name.

Rosie and I got separated as we wound our way through the abbey because I lingered in the Poets Corner for quite a while drinking in the names of authors whose work I have cherished my whole life like George Eliot and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

When I finally rejoined her outside, she pointed above our heads at one of the sculptures over the front door. “Did you know there was a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. here?” she asked.

Martin Luther King Jr-London
Statue of Martin Luther King Jr. above the front door of Westminster Abbey, London, England

I didn’t. The fact that the British honor King made me feel wistful. Throughout history, we have martyred our oracles and paladins, have we not? The living, breathing human being would be so preferable to the statue.

The next day, we decided to take a break from the London crowds to spend some time in Greenwich. What a splendid small city.

Our walk through the royal park ended at the Royal Observatory (below). Not only is the history of the chronometer on display (what a profoundly important development in the history of human kind), there are dozens of small and large astrolabes. I fell in love with these artifacts and their lovely curving designs and intricate engravings. There’s something rather wizard-like to them.

Royal Observatory-Greenwich
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England

Then we wandered down the hill, watching the London skyline grow ever larger on the horizon, until we reached the National Maritime Museum. Of all its displays, it was the wide variety of figureheads that I enjoyed most. (below) Then it was into Greenwich town proper.

Figureheads-Greenwich
Display of figureheads in the Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England

Rosie and I have a habit of wandering down narrow streets because there’s always something interesting to find along the way. This picture (below) was in the window of an art gallery that we passed on the way to Greenwich market where I bought my first souvenir, a small dragon fashioned out of copper wire.

Art in Greenwich
Art in window of gallery in Greenwich, England

Of course, this is just a wee squidge of what we did all week. I have to say, I am so enjoying the British people. They are helpful and smart and witty. I don’t think we’ve had a conversation yet when we didn’t end up laughing.

And then there’s the beer and great fish and chips and cream teas and really old buildings next to very new ones…and eating lunch in a 500 year old restaurant…and…and…

…we’re off to Falmouth in Cornwall on the train in the morning—the land of pirates and pasties (that’s pass-teas, not the things that strippers wear).

Will write soon!

Love,
Edie


You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, has just been published! You can find them all on Amazon or you can order them through your local independent book store.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

If you’d like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

Edie Wolfe Does London

Every year, Edie Wolfe takes a vacation with her younger sister, Rosamund. Most of the time, they rent a cottage on one of the Champlain Islands or travel up to Montreal, Quebec.

But this year, they decided to treat themselves to a long stay in England. They’ve been talking about doing this for years.

Of course, Edie is writing emails home and sending pictures to her family and friends.

I thought you would enjoy reading them too.

Here’s a taste of tomorrow’s Carding Chronicle. Please share it with your friends.

SH-London Eye

 

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.