You Got to Have a Dream . . .

You got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gon-na make a dream come true . . . Happy Talk, South Pacific

I have news.  It goes with Musica.

My news has something to do with this enchanting little English cottage.  But first we have to get into the way-back machine.  Are you in?  Comfy?  OK, here goes:

Twenty-six-ish years ago, I was sitting on a red leather stool, talking to my girlfriend, at a clam bar in a wonderful restaurant here on the island (gone now) called the Ocean Club.  I sat at the bar, across from an aproned bartender who was shucking oysters, placing them on a plate of crushed ice, in front of a huge gilt-edged mirror that went to the ceiling, reflecting tall open windows that went all the way around the room.  I was wearing a long, narrow, pin-striped skirt with a wide leather belt, high-heeled boots, and a white linen, high-collared shirt.  I know what I was wearing because the person I met that night remembers; he’s one of two guys who sat down on the empty stools next to us.  I leaned past the tall one to say hello to the one I already knew; he said hello and, over restaurant clatter of silverware, conversation, and music, he introduced me to the stranger.

His name was Joe. We were sitting almost shoulder to shoulder and were rather instantly simpatico; he seemed to be a very nice person.

For a little background, this pleasant encounter took place at about the same time I had decided I was finished with men forever. My heart had become so tattered by life; a sad divorce that left me feeling identity free and minus any personality; and then, from years of trying to find love again in all the wrong places; I had finally given up.  It was all just too fraught with danger.  No more, I said to the wall in my kitchen, toasting myself with my teacup in the reflection of my kitchen window.  It wasn’t the way I’d thought my life would go; but obviously I was meant to be alone.  I’d come to terms with it.  I had a tiny little house in the woods with a wonderful garden where wild blueberries grew; I was painting a cookbook; it almost substituted for love.

Joe seemed nice, he was very friendly; it wasn’t long, that first night, before he was feeding me from his plate, which is what he does.  He seemed harmless too.  He was five years younger than me for one thing.  A baby.  A very cute, tall, baby, but still, a baby.  Even though I had been told by two different forseers of the future, a palm reader and an astrologist, that I was going to fall in love with a tall man with a beard; I did not recognize him.  I discounted what they said because I was not a beard person.  Even though, years before, I had asked my diary for a 6’2″ Leo who could cook and even though Joe told me he was a Leo and he ran a restaurant and cooked there, still, I did not recognize him.

Our conversation, that night, went everywhere.  I learned that he loved Fred Astaire, (have I told you that I love Fred Astaire?  I do!!) which was unheard of in any of my relationships with any men ever, they didn’t even know who he was.  Joe had Fred Astaire albums!  He’d sailed on a ship to England with his mother when he was twelve.  I dreamed all my life of sailing to England!  All the Fred Astaire movies had such things in them. We talked about that a lot.  The conversation was fun, but he was still too young for me; I had completely convinced myself there was never going to be any more love in my life; I felt secure because of it, my heart was now safe, protected from the ravages of caring about someone too much.  It was another five months before Joe and I had our first date.  Even then, I was surprised he asked me out, and almost didn’t go.  Then I thought, he’s a nice kid, he comes from a big family, he cooks, I have nothing else to do, it’s winter, OK; I’ll go.  I thought these were probably the same reasons he asked me out!  Nothing else to do. Just a friend.  Blah blah blah.

Luckily, that isn’t at all what he thought, and pretty soon, neither did I.

Which brings me to my news.  It’s almost my birthday.  Joe and I had our 25th anniversary in February.  That’s when Joe said, dreamily, “Let’s go back to England for your birthday.”  No!  Silence.  Can we?  More silence.  Thinking noises, ticking of clock, sleeping on it.   We’ve been trying this idea on for size ever since, mulling it over; doing the pros and cons.  There are big cons: we absolutely should not go.

We have kitties; our newest kitten is only eight months old; how can we leave them?  It will kill me.

I have to finish my Breakfast Book!

It’s too expensive, we shouldn’t be spending money right now.

If we go anywhere, it should be to see my parents, I miss them!

BUT, we thought pragmatically: we are healthy, my parents are healthy, the kitties are healthy and life is short.  Maybe next year my knees will give out, or Joe’s back, or Girl Kitty will get sick; something could happen.  We should go now, and go out west afterwards.

So, we are.  We called the Kitty Babysitter and asked what he was doing from May through July; he said he would love to come live in our house; he promised big love and ball-throwing for the kitties; so Joe bought the tickets at Cunard last week.

This is me on the last trip we took to England in 2004; we dreamed, saved, and planned for this trip since the day we met.  I look calm, but inside, every fiber of my being is jumping for joy because I’m standing on the deck of the QEII (which has since been retired).  We are about to sail down the Hudson, past all the twinkly-lit-up buildings of New York City; that’s the Queen Mary 2 in the berth next to us.  And come this May, we’re doing it again, for two months, from New York to Southampton, this time on the Queen Mary.  We have unfinished dreams to fulfill in England.  I haven’t been to Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District!  I want to fill my inspiration cup; to see all the gardens we missed the first time, to visit loved ones over there.  It’s been a long time since we took a vacation, all we seem to do is work. We need a moment to meander with no particular place to go!

For example, look at this place we found sitting on the side of the road last time.  We pulled in, drawn like magnets; stayed the night, had tea, then a room-service breakfast on a tray, propped on feather pillows in the flowery wallpapered, high-ceilinged room; afterwards we wandered through the garden listening to the bees . . . it was all serendipity, an accident.  If I saw a picture like this, I would think it wasn’t real.  But it’s real all right, just sitting over there, in clear view of anyone passing by.

Einstein said, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” We need some of that residue.

You need more Musica?  How about this one . . .

I’m not going to tell you where we are going this time, because I want you to be surprised.  Yes, we talked it over and we thought we’d take you with us! Through the magic of the internet, a travel blog!  Maybe you’d like a little arm-chair view of the Atlantic Ocean over the ship’s rail?  Thought you’d enjoy seeing the English tea they serve everyday at four o’clock on board the ship?  Hoping you’ll like old houses and walking through very old and gorgeous English gardens (the bluebells will be in bloom!); and enjoy pictures of pub food, and probably pictures of English dogs and kitties; maybe some of you would like to go to the Lake District for a visit to Beatrix Potter’s house too?  Maybe even a weekend in London? Joe’s been working it out so we’ll have as much wireless service as possible (there will be places where there isn’t any; it’s going to be spotty, but I’ll do the best I can to update the blog with photos and video).  Our only real drawback is not being able to send fragrance through the internet.  The sea, the gardens.  But oh well; the Flower moon will be full the day after we sail; I checked.  Moon over the water.  Oooo la weee.

Remember this diary I kept on our 2004 trip?  To make up for the fact that the Breakfast Book is going to be late, I thought I’d keep another diary this time, sort of like it, only cuter; one that will go to print and be published just as soon as we get back.  In it, along with photos, watercolor drawings, recipes, garden views, and stories of this trip, I thought I’d tell the whole saga of meeting Joe, our first date, and how we decided to throw our lot together and try to make a go of it, since without him, who knows if this dream could have ever come true.

Now. Dream. Part II, the sequel. The countdown has begun.

Join us, on the other side of the bridge . . . for this story is proof that somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream, really DO come true.  XOXO

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709 Responses to You Got to Have a Dream . . .

  1. Barb says:

    Hello Susan,

    What a beautiful love story of you and Joe, thank you for sharing. Over the top with joy here for the both of you ready to embark on a Magical journey to England to live out a dream come true. Looking foward to every minute of the trip we all get to share with you. Best Wishes and Safe Travels

    Barb from Ludlow, MA

  2. Karen Aamodt says:

    What a wonderful trip it will be. I will enjoy following your travels. How great you’re taking us with you.

  3. Katherine says:

    I love it!! I cannot wait to see everything you have to show. I’d love to go to England one day…

  4. Kathleen says:

    How exciting! Thanks for taking us along. May your trip be be filled with beautiful memories.

  5. Julie Turcotte says:

    I have to tell you I am so excited about your trip because I have been to Beatrix Potter’s home and Lake District when we lived in England! Truly, hardly a day goes by when I don’t think about her home and our time there–beautiful, inspirational and something you have to see for yourself! I am trying to copy plants from her country garden for my own this year! You will LOVE it! Enjoy!

  6. Merri says:

    Oh this is so perfect. I am sitting here dreaming of going to the Lake Disctrict to meet a beuatiful person whom I have only known via e-mail. He has helped me to pull my life together, and I cherish him. I so love the fact that you validated my dream, and that it is possible, and that it will come into being as long as I keep dreaming about it. How magical and enchanting to have hit up this website in a rather hoping for spring mood, and to have found spring, and my drem all in one fell swoop, to say nothing of getting my yarn fix as well. thank you!!!! Blessed Journey of the soul!!!! Merri

  7. lynn says:

    What a wonderful story, and how exciting that out of this next journey will come a book! Yeah! Another inspiring Susan Branch book!

  8. Carol says:

    So glad to finally know part of the story of you and Joe! Here’s something that might be of interest to you:
    Europe’s Most Secret Villages
    Smarter Travel 3/27/12

    Lower Slaughter, England (in the Cotswolds) was one of ten enchanting villages in this article (scroll down in the article):

  9. Cindy Johnson says:

    Okay, I’m on board for the trip. The cottage, the flowers… I can’t wait. How will you have time to knit? You will be too busy sending us pictures! Thank you for inviting us.

  10. Randi Bault says:

    I totally love that picture of you and Joe giving you “the big Dip”. How utterly romantic! You both look so happy! Please do write more about your courtship. I’m a sucker for love and romance. <3 <3 <3 —<—<–@ <3<3<3 Your Friend Randi

  11. Lisa Jorgensen says:

    You are living a beautiful life. I hope someday my husband and I can take a trip to England also to see my relatives and Beatrix Potters house. I hope to be doing my art like you. You are an inspiration! It will be so exciting to follow you on your trip. Enjoy every moment!

  12. Mary says:

    Oh, Susan!! How incredibly wonderful – to return to England!! I am so thrilled that you are taking us along! England has always been the place I have wanted to visit the most!! I can hardly wait to go there vicariously thru you!
    I love the story of you and Joe! I will most definitely be buying your diary about the trip and you & Joe!
    Love from Mary in Fresno, CA (in Arizona presently)

  13. Theresa says:

    Good Morning Susan

    I have been awake since 3am…puttering while my children sleep…I want to thank you for all your blogs these past weeks. My youngest ( 12yrs) is in a play this weekend..” Midsummers Night Dream “…she is the character ‘ SNUG ‘…lol…too cute with her thick mane of hair scattered out in multiple ponytails…but thanks to you and Joe’s outing in Hingham Ma…my children and I will go to The Snug to celebrate after Easter…how cool…its a surprise for the kids…I work Mon thru Fri…and so miss my evenings with them…but this 2nd shift is only till October.

    I really love your honesty in your blogs Susan…and you have embraced my heart with hope….sometimes the business of life masks the heart because I am so focused on my childrens everyday lives and their future…but your blog allows me to slow down and take a nice deep breath……Life really does carry a new beginning each day…

    I am so happy for both of you and your trip back to England. Thanks for taking everyone along…PS ..Happy belated birthday…and tell the kitty sitter hello for me… he over 50…tee hee hee…Take care…..

    • sbranch says:

      No, he’s a youngin. Sorry 🙂 Lovely comment Theresa, thank you so much. We have beautiful hearts on this blog, so happy you are one of them!

    • Katy Noelle says:

      Dear Theresa, I know just what you mean about refocusing, taking the deep breath and the experience of fresh beginnings. You put life into such lovely, down to earth words – wishing you the very best!


  14. Brenda says:

    May you have a beautiful trip and thank you so much for taking us along.

  15. Janet Conn says:

    I am so excited for you and Joe for this wonderful trip. Thanks for taking us with you. I also loved the story of how you met. I, too, met my husband several months after I swore off men forever and had decided my life would be just fine on my own. Sometimes, I think we must come to that realization before the prince shows up. We met at a bachelorette party (long story). Life is funny and ironic. Eighteen years later, I am so happy my heart was open to another possibility. : )

  16. Susan, I just read your post about traveling back to England!!! So happy for you and Joe. I just returned from Israel and Rome and had the most wonderful time, along with my friends. I cried reading your post because unlike your husband Joe my husband Joe hates to travel. Its so much more fun with the one you love. I am soo happy for you. Have a fantastic trip…..I’ll be following on your blog. Love, Angel

  17. Katharine says:

    How lovely to take the Queen Mary to England. I didn’t know that they were putting the old gal out to sea again. Is this the same Queen Mary that has been berthed (I think that is the right term for ship parking) in Long Beach forever?

    My husband and I have been married for 23 year and ten of them we spent estranged. We reunited this past November. It hasn’t been a grand romance this time because in addition to dealing with our issues we’ve had problems with our 14 yr old daughter. I’m hoping that by our 25th, which will be October 1, 2013, we can go on a romantic journey too (even if it’s just a mini cruise to Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico). This June we will have known each other 25 years. I was 25 and he was just shy of 30 so of course we are 50 and almost 55 now. Whew! time flies fast!

    I hope you and Joe have a lovely time and I’m looking forward to seeing your blog and more.

    • sbranch says:

      How romantic! So happy for you! The Queen Mary has a II after its name — it’s a new ship — but I would LOVE to sail the old one. We went and stayed on it in Long Beach when it was a hotel.

  18. sharon says:

    Oh, Susan, you are so sweet to take us to England with you. I can’t wait—-I Am ALMOST (not quite) as excited you. I will probably never get to sail on the Queen ship, so this is the next best thing! You are such a good picture-taker & describer/story teller, this will be so enjoyable. Thank you, thank you.

  19. Jann says:

    Hello Susan,
    I have enjoyed your books from the beginning and I have never posted on a blog before but I read yours. I wait, I check and then enjoy.
    I was thinking as you are comming here to England wouldn’t it be good if you could have a cup of tea with your English friends. Nothing formal just friends. Then I thought you would just not have the time so much to see and do. Hope you have a wonderful trip. From a very beautiful Guildford Surrey England


  20. Jessie Wasser says:

    Hello Friend,
    You must be a very happy girl with something so wonderful to look forward to. My hubby and I hope to go to England in 2 years when he retires, it will be more of a “sports theme” vacation, he loves rugby, cricket and soccer and wants to see many matches when we are there. Our trip will also be two months long, I will be looking forward all your travel blogs as I will be taking notes on all the interesting places you visit, to plan for my own trip. Happy journey and God Bless. Jessie

    • sbranch says:

      Well, in case you aren’t a sports person, there is PLENTY to do over there, something for everyone!

  21. Betsy Butler says:

    When you’re in the Lake District, try to have tea-or just visit-a hotel and restaurant called Lindeth Howe ( Beatrix Potter owned this house and her mother lived there. I had tea there and they served scones on slabs of slate! When I took the cruise on Lake Windermere, I saw John Ruskin’s house from a distance and it looked interesting. It’s called Brantwood ( Two other places that might be worth checking out in the area are Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage ( and an Arts and Crafts house called Blackwell ( But Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top is the best of all. Wait until you see the doll’s house in the Treasure Room!

  22. Laura says:

    I can’t wait!!! Oh yes PLEASE take us along to the Beatirx Potter house!!!! I love Miss Potter!!!


  23. Julie Kidd says:

    I too can’t wait to read the tale of how you and Joe found love. I always find myself saying “aww” aloud and grinning when I read about you and Joe. I’m glad to hear that you did decide to go to England. I hope you both enjoy yourselves and are safe. The kitties will do great with their sitter (although I’m sure you will miss them immensely). Have fun you two! And thank you for taking all of your readers with you on your journey.
    <3 Julie

  24. Sandi Skeels says:

    IsThe Cottage ~~ to drool for …from The Holiday movie !! Sure looks like it to me from all the times I’ve watched the movie!
    May the travelin’ Gods Shine Upon You and Joe…oh what fantastic memories are coming YOUR way!!
    And thanks in advance for all the sharing YOU do to let “us”enjoy it too!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      It does look like it, but it’s not! England is just full of that kind of charm!

      • Sandi Skeels says:

        Well somebody (tht being moi !)was having a senior moment!! Went back and looked on another of my favorite’s ” Hooked on Houses “websites …and she does an entire blog on the Holiday movie Cottage ..NOT EVEN CLOSE ….

  25. Karen D says:

    Oh, how marvelous!
    I am just getting caught up on the blogs – been sooo busy… and I am SO HAPPY for YOU! I went to England for the very first time last May and totally loved it! I happen to be lucky enough that a cousin of mine recently moved to Ascot. Wished we could have stayed longer and seen more… As it so happens though, we went to Harrods and I bought a jar of lemon curd there. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I found a jar of clotted cream in a store! Well, you know what that means… I just had to make scones, of course! Naturally, I used your recipe ( who else would get it just right?) and they were perfect! It was just like a foodie time warp – zoom! right back to England!
    But not nearly as wonderful as the Queen Mary! Wow,wow,wow! I love cruising – actually it is my favorite relaxing vacation. But to cruise on the Queen Mary and then spend a month and a half in England and Then Cruise Back!! Holy cow! THAT should catch you up on all the vacations you’ve been missing! I like the way you two think! And it’s not so far away – just the right amount of time to enjoy the anticipation of it all – Fantastic! I am so excited for you!

  26. Katy Noelle says:

    688 comments???!!!! Oh, I hope that this won’t be the straw that broke the camel’s back…. =)

    I, too, need to register that I AM SOOOOOooooooo JEALOUS!!! I have big dreams of going to England, again, someday. On my own, this time and not on the two week whirlwind bus tour. I don’t know how – I don’t know when. and, Hilltop farm is right at the top of the list of things to see, along with some of those Cotswold’s gardens (it’s a small country, right – heehee! ;)) and, now, some very dear blog friends that I’ve been ‘penpalling’ for a couple of years, now. You are very, very generous to even think of taking us along! Thank you! Now, I have a big smile on my face – like it’s ‘the next best thing’. I really do like seeing things through your eyes!

    Simply, I loved reading about your love story! =D

    I hope that it’s a wonderful adventure for you both!!!


    (You can just tell by all of the extra exclamation marks that I am exTREMEly excited! guffaw guffaw guffaw! but, it’s true! =])

    • sbranch says:

      I’m just as excited as you are! Miracles of computers! I will try to find really fun things to show everyone!

      • Katy Noelle says:

        I know that you mean you will be looking for the extra special gems to share but I don’t think it will be too hard to find things that are magically unique. It’s such a wonderful thing for our hearts, minds and bodies to go to a place that’s so different – we see everything in such a fresh way – fully alive – fully awake (although, that can sometimes feel a bit surreal, too, I guess. =])

        You are so lovely to respond (especially to my breathlessly excited ramble! =D). I’ve mentioned it before – you’re so down to earth – your enthusiastic heart gets right into our own hearts and draws a response right back out of them. but Theresa said it really much better in her comment above! Thank you for sharing yourself with us – I trust that you know how and when to keep filling that bucket of yours that overflows back out to us – wishing you the best and everything that you need! Really, I’m wishing that we could, somehow, ‘pay you back’…. 😉

        Please take lovely care!

        Katy xo

        PS and, oh, so embarrassed…not looking for a response – just pouring a little heart back out to you…. xo

  27. Yvonne Harvey says:

    Oh, Susan, I am so very happy for you and Joe…and for me! I will be right there along with you both on this fabulous adventure of yours. My husband David and I just got back from a fabulous week in Marbella, Spain so I’m just catching up on your blog. There is something magical about traveling with your one-and-only. We are going to start planning our trip to England, Ireland and Scotland, so your travel blog will be perfect inspiration for our trip. I’ve never travelled by ship before so I’m especially looking forward to that part! I’m so excited for you!!!

  28. Sheri O. says:

    This sounds like an incredible love story! I can’t wait to read the rest!

  29. Lisa R (northern Arizona) says:

    Just returned from a week long trip with my sweet man, and waiting was your beautiful post about your trip, and the life you share with a sweet man of your own. I am so very excited for you! A most glorious dream come true!! And what a heartfelt gift you are so generously giving, including us to be a part of your trip. I am happy to just see your pictures when you return, if that’s how it works out, because I am so thrilled to know you two get to fulfill this dream together! My very best wishes to you.♥

    • sbranch says:

      The only foreseeable trouble will be wireless access . . . it’s not everywhere . . . there will be “dark” spots, but we think we’ll be able to get around it! Won’t know until we try!

  30. Ohhhhh!!! I cannot wait until we can all go to England together!!! Thank you so much for taking us with you…..I am totally excited!!! <3

  31. Cheryl Danley says:

    I’m SO excited to tell you that my hubby and I will be celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary May 23rd, and to celebrate, we’re heading off onto our first ever cruise. But, instead of merry old England, we’re headed to the Carribean! But, someday, I’d LOVE to go to England! And, I was wondering….did you happen to take any pictures inside that adorable little English cottage that you’re standing in front of? Oh, how I would LOVE to see what it looks like inside! Would it be a bed and breakfast by any chance? Love you! <3

    • sbranch says:

      It’s the cottage on the property belonging to my girlfriend! We’re staying there again this time, I will be sure to take photos! The best is the roses that cover it, and the bathroom window that opens with no screen . . .

  32. Laure says:

    Susan, I loved this post and I think it is a wonderful idea for you to write a diary and then publish it! I can’t wait to see it and to go along with you and Joe on your trip. Your posts and Willards always make me smile; I love your love of old-fashioned charm, old Hollywood and all things cozy. Thanks for sharing!


    p.s. A great place for tea in London is the Orangery at Kensington Palace! You. Will. Love!

    • sbranch says:

      We will be in London with our dear friends . . . I have just emailed her the link to this place with the plaintive cry “How will we ever choose???” How will we ever??? I don’t know! So many delicious tea places in London, and we will only be there for three days. I am not so much of a city person in England because I’m so in love with the countryside; but this place looks wonderful!! Thank you Laure.

      • Laure says:

        I hope you have a chance to go! Wherever you grab your cuppa in London, I know you will have the tea time of your life! 🙂

  33. Karen says:

    My parents met on the the first Queen Mary…. oh so romantic….

    • sbranch says:

      We stayed on that boat when it was docked in Long Beach! How wonderful your parents met on it!

  34. Lacy Younger says:

    Wow,.. I stumbled upon this by accident while searching ‘images’ for the Tinker Cottage in NH.. Then I saw the image of you in front of the adorable cottage in England (I am a freak for cottages.. AND. a huge Beatrix Potter fan,.. AND in need of a good love story right about now. So perhaps it’s no accident that I was ‘brought’ to your page. Crazy,.. very inspiring and sweet. I too write (songwriter and children’s books). The music career has gone well but I have yet to publish my 3 children’s books because I am dragging my feet on how to approach the artwork. Anyway, you seem like a kindred spirit. Congratulations on finding love and living your dreams! I will be playing in England Oct 12th through 16th in Lancaster, please come to a show if you happen to be near by. I plan on visiting the Lake District after my shows!

    Lacy Younger

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