PICNIC THAT WASN’T, BUT WAS 💖

Intriguing, don’t you think? The Picnic that Wasn’t, but Was? Another post that requires a cup of tea, or maybe it’s iced tea where you are (do you KNOW they do NOT have iced tea on any menu in the land of tea?🇬🇧). They don’t! So we drink pink grapefruit squash mixed with ice water instead! Life is good! MUSICA.

Dark dark dark . . . As it drew nearer to Picnic Time, we were watching the weather and it wasn’t looking good. Everyone’s phone said something different weatherwise . . . but mostly, it didn’t look good. Carrie said she was bringing lots of waterproof tablecloths … Joe and I found a Home store and bought huge canvas dropcloths with plastic on the bottom, waterproof, just in case it poured in the morning, and then the sun came out. We could put our pretty table cloths and blankets on top of them. Was the hope.🙏

This would actually be our third picnic here . . . the first one was with Rachel in 2004 … We were staying at Stourhead, and noticed people having luv-lee little picnics all over the lawns, under the old trees, next to massive blooming rhododendrons, with birds singing . .. we wanted to do that!!! So we did, we made every little picnic treat as you can read above, and had our “best day ever” in the magical garden at Stourhead. This picnic was the inspiration for our Girlfriends Picnics ever since. It was just too good not to share!

The ducks and geese brought their babies over for bites of biscuits. That’s how good it was.💖

This gorgeous lawn was our actual picnic destination, and despite forecast, it was a little hard to give up! But what if? We needed Plan B.

I was busy fretting when Joe noticed a sign in the courtyard near the parking for Stourhead . . . right across from us. There he is, taking a photo of it.

A traveling chef! How interesting . . . so he went to introduce ourselves, talk to them, and see what they might be doing after Breakfast on Sunday! A very long shot, they were supposed to lock up and go home around 10:30 am, but it was our only hope!

We walked inside, what a beautiful room, perfect for us! (Is a picnic really a picnic without grass? I’d say yes if that grass is WET.)

Meet Laura, Izzy, & Jo! They’re English girls of course, and traveling chefs! They were at Stourhead to serve the triathlon which ended after breakfast on Sunday.  So we asked if they’d be interested in doing a POP-UP PICNIC after breakfast! They agreed to stay on to give us an indoors for our rainy day picnic, thereby saving the day! They’d have hot coffee and tea and soft drinks and they’d be,“making more bakes” for us!!! Serendipity! In case you live in England and need a pop-up food event, definitely contact irresistible.dezzerts@gmail.com. They were wonderful to us … pretty much guardian angels, and everything they made was delicious!🇬🇧💞

I couldn’t believe we were going to have this beautiful room for a last minute saving grace! It couldn’t have been more perfect . . . Another miracle!💝

Siobhan and Rachel showed up early to help … everything was a GO . . .We were ready, but in our minds, we were still holding out for a surprise in the weather . . .☀️

Love them SOOOO much, these two English girls … 🌷🌷🌷

Anyway, it wasn’t to be . . . we woke up to this ⛈, and made the executive decision, no, no wet grass for us . . . we will choose the chairs in the cozy room where there is tea!

And the clock struck noon . . . a year in the planning, a year of anticipation, and the moment had come …I almost don’t like things to actually come anymore. I’ve fallen in love with anticipation and I don’t want it to be over!

But everyone was coming, and coming from everywhere, and it was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be…. We walked out front to start steering everyone to the warm room . . . Here we have Carrie’s husband Stuart, their dog Buddy, Christie, April, Nellie (April’s mom), Jack, who belongs to Carrie, Dianne, and Siobhan … old car, old house, lovely photo op. Hugs hugs and more hugs.💞

Janice from Northern California brought the bunting and everyone started decorating . . .🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧What to tie it to? Where there’s a will, there’s a way . . .So festive, more girlfriends arriving … some separated on their tours, meeting again with their ship girlfriends … this is Kathleen and Sharon, and that’s Belinda hugging Rachel …

More decorating . . .

In the last post, I showed you the lovely lamb bunting made from our name tags by Sharon to celebrate our girlfriends on Twitter  . . . Sharon brought it to our talk on the ship.👏

She made it in honor of Barbara Urbank, a wonderful woman we knew on Twitter and quite recently lost. She is still in our hearts . . . and it felt good to have her along with us.💖

It looked perfect with Jan’s Jubilee bunting!

SO fun to see Carrie and Jack again!

Everyone! Christie, Sharon, and Nellie!

Tour buses picked up many of our girlfriends at the ship and for the last 8 days they had been falling in Love with the English Countryside like everyone does the moment they lay eyes on it … now the buses had brought them back for our picnic … and had stopped to pick up bagged lunches for the picnic. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Mary’s darling hat!

I went table to table with my camera, wanting to catch these smiles from Monica, Chris, and Tom.

This is Victoria reminding us of a photo taken in Beatrix Potter’s Garden ….our last picnic, in 2016 … this is that photo:

She was saying let’s do it again! The only photo I have of the four of us in Beatrix Potter’s Garden, poor Stuart’s head got chopped off!, Jack too . . . So Henry the VIIIth of the photographer!

Did better this time … with the new inclusion of Buddy. They took pictures of us . . .


And we took pictures of them! That’s Belinda, Jane, Victoria, Nicoline, Diane, and Nancy . . .

Darling Nellie and her daughter April who came over to pick up her mom in London so they could wander together!

These girls (and Jerry) were still feeling the glow of the Cotswolds where they’d been touring for the last week!

Luci ~ in her bling hat ~ wish you could see how it sparkled … she had so many compliments on that hat she said she needed to open a concession!🇺🇸

Nicoline, Patty, Belinda, me, and I think that’s Anne? Creative Nicoline made gorgeous travel diaries, and we’re all looking at them!

Gabri and Nicoline from Holland, talking with Siobhan ~ they met at our first Stourhead picnic, and then in Beatrix Potter’s Garden, and now again, here they are!💞

Anne brought her book . . . several people brought books … they ended getting lots of signatures besides mine . . . they became a sort of year book!

We were all writing in them!✍️

There was time to get into some really delightful conversations . . .This is Ellen, she is a flight attendant from Texas. She wasn’t on the ship, she had a layover in London, hoped on a train and got over here in time to join us! 💓

Here are Rachel and sweet Heather . . .💟

As she does, Rachel brought her famous BROWNIES for EVERYONE … here’s she’s handing out to-go bags for their trips back to London!💛

Dave, another one of the good guys, and Nancy …💘

So, time for class photo, Girlfriend’s Picnic, that Wasn’t, definitely but WAS, 2022 … Everyone lining up . . .

I’m still taking pictures . . . wishing I had step ladders for the faces in the back . . .where are the bleachers when you need them?

Then I get in . . . I tried to bend my knees, but I see now, it really didn’t work!!!

So I turn the camera back on our luv-lee paparazzi!📸

Nancy, Siobhan, and Dianne ~ It didn’t rain! It spit a bit, but even so, I don’t think anyone missed the grass! 👏

Cutie Pies . . . Mary and Victoria 💝

This little thing from Victoria is coming home with me!♥️

Me, Victoria, Melissa, and Patty. Kindred spirits.💞

Melissa brought me her FOSB club card from 1992! Was so fun to see it again! Kellee used to put one into every order back then, maybe I should see if she would do that again! I have to turn it upside down so you can see the “very valuable” part …💖

Luv-lee Jan ♥️

Patty and Diane💞

And so it was, the clock had ticked the hour, the church bells rang, the bus drivers lined up, and off they want, brownie baggies in hand, to London and their next adventures. Hugs goodbye, till we meet again, and we walked back to our cottage . . . 

to take the last pictures commemorating this amazing day… 

Carrie! Get in here!
We look like we all just jumped off the roof like the girls in Practical Magic. A little curtsying and inside we went . . . to drink tea and hash it all over ~ and now, two weeks later and I’m still feeling the glow! Thank you all… I know I saw some of you stow-aways flitting through the trees . . .

Ever since then, we’ve been doing what we love to do, exploring this green and pleasant land, stopping in antique stores, eating in pubs, wandering through history . . .

Taking the back roads through the hedgerows, loving the fields of wildflowers … 🥀

the constantly changing skies . . . sometimes, the sky is so big, you can seriously see the curvature of the earth. Probably not, Joe says, but I think, okay, but probably SO!

Of course the darling villages festooned with bunting to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee which will be going on here in England for the next week … She has given the whole country a four day weekend and the preparations are UNBELIEVABLE!!! Cutest country EVER.🇬🇧💞

Houses right on the street, you can picture it filled with horses and wagons… what a treat to see this, and it’s real, Walt Disney didn’t do it!

I squealed as we drove into the town where we’d be staying next . . . here in East Anglia, a place we’ve never been … perfect for exploring and discovering and learning ~ even discovering, once again, how MUCH there IS to learn!!! You forget when you sit waiting for a dread disease to disappear week after week, year after year, don’t you? Travel, getting out of our boxes in even the tiniest way, huge help to overcoming the “I’m so sick of this” blues!💖

I have to give you this one taste of serendipity before I go! Three days ago, we spent the day wandering around a WWII Airfield Museum for the American 95th Bomb Group at Horham. 8,000 American soldiers descended on this tiny village (350,000 came here during the war where we worked together with the Brits to kick some butt for Democracy) ~ it was so touching and the perfect place to celebrate Memorial Day and remember.🇺🇸🇬🇧 There are airfields all over this part of the country and so many memorials. History is very much alive here. Of course you talk to everyone you meet … This interesting English man (above) was there following his passions ~ as it turns out, he’s a historian. He said there was a book I must look for … written by an American soldier who, while stationed in England during the war, rode his bike everywhere, and fell in love with the English Countryside … 💞

I wrote it down of course. . . the next morning, I was tweeting with Trudy Lindsay (a friend I met at Beatrix Potter’s cottage) ~ out of the blue, she wrote, “Since you’re staying in the area, you must look for a book by John Appleby called Suffolk Summer.” Well, that sealed the deal, I needed to go on a book hunt. Not ten minutes later, Rachel texted me this photo to say this book was in her pile to bring to us when they arrive (today actually!). Wasn’t that enough off-the-wall impossible serendipity? Apparently not…

Later that VERY same day Joe and I drove to Bury St. Edmunds, a town we picked off a map, to see what we could see. We wandered through this HUGE ruined abbey, built around 1000 A.D., torn down during the reclamation … it must have been like a small city, it went on forever! I read Pillars of the Earth, so I think I have SOME vague idea of what went on there … 

We got closer and closer to the Cathedral, following little paths, up crunchy stone stairs ~ And then, on a wall … was THIS!!! We had no idea it would be here … we knew Martha’s Vineyard was named for the 2-year-old little daughter of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold who discovered the island … but had no idea of the connection to Bury St. Edmunds. Martha is buried here in the churchyard. What are the chances?

 But, still more around the next corner. Here, you can discover it, the same way I did:

IMG_0333  ⬅️ Just Click Here! It might take a little time to load, but it’s worth it! Turn up volume for actual demonstration of squealing . . .💞

So beautiful . . . imagine this rose garden when that lavender blooms!!!

But we’re not done yet . . . Connections never stop coming …

Up the path I went, turned to the right to go around that hedge into the Cathedral where we could hear singing . . .but just as I turned the corner . . . THIS …

IMG_0349 . . .

Yes. John Appleby AGAIN, following us through the English Countryside! Isn’t that wonderful??? I can’t WAIT to read his book!!! John Appleby, whatever else he was, which I’m going to find out, is proof positive that, what is true for him, is true for all of us . . .

So around the side of the Cathedral we walked, to go inside, to listen to the choir sing Evensong (which was beautiful by the way, angel voices soaring to the rafters) … I looked back to see this . . .

And noticed . . . how wonderful! Look close, this house was built right INTO the old Abbey wall, into the ruin ~ You saw it in that first video ~ I noticed it from the back while in the rose garden … now look at the ruins above the house in this photo, and the wall going to the ground on both sides … HOW DO THEY DO THIS?? Don’t tell me, I know it’s magic.

It was a whole row of cottages… built into the ruins … ruins on the front, and “new” house on the back…

Then we went to a restaurant for lunch, and this was on the wall! But of course, we already knew that!! And today Ray and Paul come to stay with us for a few days to show us how English people celebrate a “JUBBLY” . . . 

Still getting to know our newest little cottage. We call the bathroom “Tipperary,” because it’s so far away, a long, long way, to be exact . . . but it’s cute and we love it.  It’s a cottage that wants to be a castle and I’ll tell you about it in the next post. As a bonus, we stopped by to see Carrie and Stuart at their home in the Cotswolds, and she’s just given me permission to show ADORABLE photos! Something to look forward to! Sometimes there are no words, and sometime there are a WHOLE BUNCH OF WORDS! Hope you are enjoying your armchair trip through the English Countryside! Bye for now dear ones. Be good to yourselves!

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DARLING GIRLFRIENDS ON THE QUEEN MARY 2

Well HELLO darling girlfriends. It’s Queen Mary 2 time! Can you believe it? I really do not know where to start!!! Time has been racing and now I’ve been staring at this blank page for about an hour! So many good things to tell you! So I will take the terrifying advice of William Morris
who said, “To begin, begin.” And start in the regular place with MUSICA! Okay, here we go!

I must say, to begin, that every dream and hope I had about this adventure we’ve embarked upon has come true to the nth degree. It’s been amazing, nothing short of a little miracle. We did it! “Doing it” isn’t always as easy as it sounds. I know because it took me years of thinking and wanting, but finding reasons and excuses to stay close to the familiar, before I took the, actually kind of scary, leap to DO IT. To GET myself on board that SHIP Joe and I spoke of at our very first meeting… the one we’d been dreaming of, and actually GO out into the unknown! To step forward in time in order to go back in time. Then, what  you find out, it that everything over here, is just as calm and quiet as it is at home, but so very different too, and beautiful and educational and historical, and then you just know you will have to do it again. And this time it will be much easier. The first time, and actually each time after, is a door opener. A heart opener. A curiosity maker. A memory maker. A sensory extravaganza. There is earned pride in taking such a leap. The rewards are profound.💖 

I know I’m right because I’m writing to you from our rented cottage in the English Countryside, on a small desk inside that downstairs window on the left of the front door, where climbing roses are just about to bloom, from a place we know and love so well called Stourhead, in Wiltshire, England🇬🇧. The brilliant blue sky outside that window is filled with huge white cumulus clouds (the same sky you are under right now), and wood pigeons are cooing the British national anthem of birds, “My toe huts bet-tee.” The breeze that blows the curtains is filled with the scent of yellow azaleas because the park beside the lake is filled with them; bells ring the hour at the 12th century church across the green, and I’m drinking my favorite Earl Grey Tea with Lavender “A Fine Romance” Tea because? You’re right, I brought it with me! And two cups too! Our little taste of home. We’re all settled in in a foreign country where nothing is the same as home, it’s all an adventure, in the land of our ancestors. But that’s JUST the beginning.😱

In case you are new to my blog and don’t know what I’m talking about, a year ago I wrote here that “Joe and I would be sailing on the Queen Mary 2 to England on May 1st 2022,” and asked, “Would anyone like to come along?” I gave a phone number where people could sign up. You can read more about it in the last 5 or 6 posts … Anyway, we had NO idea if anyone would join us, but we had a year to think about it, wait, save, plot, and plan, get passports (some of us, for the very first time👏), and along the way, anticipation grew, escape from Covid was warily anticipated (have you seen this commercial?🤣), but we forged on in complete determination🔨, we packed, found people to take care of our petty pets, took Covid tests required by Cunard, shivered with happiness when they were negative,

and on the appointed day, we fought New York traffic during a huge bicycle race, and got our piles of luggage to the dock! This was our “Can you BELIEVE this” moment! Standing in front of the huge, magnificent Queen Mary 2, unloading the car. (If you look close, you’ll see I’m wearing my “girlfriend” skirt, it’s the second trip for my jacket, and first trip for the Laura Ashley hat!) Many of you who are NOT new to this blog but could not join us, are stuffed inside our suitcases, ready to be smuggled aboard, others are coming along as armchair travelers, but, as promised, you’re all with us now, so here we GO, one and all!!!

Long lines of excited travelers greeted us at check-in . . . everything slowed down because of Covid; masks required in all public places. My darling Joe had all necessary pen-types just in cases. I needed a hat rack so I could run to the bathroom.

By the time we got up the gangplank, into the mirrored elevator, and down the long, long corridor to our stateroom, our bags had already been delivered to the room! We ran out to our deck to see the view, and this was IT!!!! Isn’t that WONDERFUL?? We hadn’t run into ANY of our girlfriends yet. Plus, Rachel and Paul, dearest old British friends (I wrote about them in A Fine Romance, and many times on this blog), flew over to join us for the crossing, but were ALSO stuck in the bicycle traffic trying to get to the ship. They even closed freeway exits for those bikes! But we made it anyway!

Outside we went to the back of the ship, where we’d decided to meet for bon voyage, the kick-off for our eastbound crossing on this gorgeous ship, and what did we find? All these happy, brave, adventurous people! We introduced ourselves, putting faces to names, some of whom we’ve known through my blog and other social media for years. It was just the beginning! The ship was still docked and Ray and Paul hadn’t shown up yet, among others! In the end, there were 90 of us kindred spirits on board!!! And don’t think there weren’t guys, because there were, adorable guys who shied away from the first photos, but slowly integrated becoming full-fledged girlfriends by the end! My cup runneth over.♥️

Gifts, cards, notes, letters, were exchanged … I made ship journals for everyone. And see the round pin above? In honor of the Queen’s 70th, I made a Crowned Corgi ID pin. Everyone got one, so we would recognize our fellow travelers when we ran into each other in the elevators! Pin = kindred spirit!💞

I left places inside the diaries so later everyone could add their photos…📸

They went very well with our Platinum Jubilee remembrance bookmarks!👑 Did you get yours? Click HERE, use card stock if you can, regular paper is good too, glue the two sides together, cut around and voila! A little dog to put his nose out over your book!

When Paul and Ray arrived, I saw them coming across the deck … we ran into each other’s arms and hugged for so long and didn’t even THINK about taking pictures… it had been 4 years since we’d been together. NEVER let that happen again! (Being apart that long OR forgetting to take pictures of our wonderful reunion!💖)

It was like that for all of us … been trapped by Covid for a long time. Here we were, freshly tested, outside, ON THE QUEEN MARY, in full hug-mode! It was so freeing!!! Twitter girlfriends were there in force… Adorable Nicole, the connector of the group, Sharon, and darling Belinda, known as Belle.

Nicole made a felted Jack pin for me . . .(I was also wearing my Girl Scout pin along with my Corgi ID)

I took him off his lace backing so you can see all the DETAIL Nicole put into this tiny Jack, complete with whiskers, green eyes, and a mustache! Plus a very soft belly just like the real thing!💋

and Nicole also made a felted Elsie dog for Rachel!!! We LOVED them.👏

Jack was feted in other ways too, this darling bon voyage card came from Nancy. Look at Jack’s hat ala Petey! And excellent job of painting Jack’s face!!!💞

Look what Kim made! Two darling pillow cases she hand-embroidered herself! I mean, really! Here they are on the bed in our new cottage! She even embroidered the date! Very much like the art I did for A Fine Romance! We’ll be using these for a very long time! ❌⭕️

My ship from A Fine Romance! 

The gifts flew back and forth . . . This is Cheryl 💖 ~ with the Magner’s “Peah Ci-da” we sent to everyone’s stateroom with a box of heart-shaped candy to welcome them aboard. Look at Cheryl’s camera …isn’t it cute and old-fashioned looking? That is actually just your basic iPhone cover! It’s from Emily in Paris! Isn’t that smart? Here, she told me where you can get one!

I told everyone about where and when we’d be meeting next… This was Sunday, Rachel and I would give a talk on the Magic of a Handwritten Letter on Tuesday in Illuminations Theater ~ Our group had reservations for the Planetarium on Thursday, and a meeting for us was set up in the Atlantic Room on Friday.  We stood outside yakking until it started getting chilly, the ship still hadn’t sailed (probably stuck behind the bikes!) . . . and lots of us had dinner reservations at 6pm, so off we went feeling so blessed …

Ray and Paul came to our room for a proper reunion, to get some champagne and stay warm until the ship started to sail! Celebrating our 30th year of friendship that all started with a letter! If you think about EVERYTHING that’s going on here, it’s all completely impossible, although, here we are! 

It wasn’t long before the boat whistle (the one from the famous Queen Mary, christened in 1936) roared its low notes over the harbor and echoed a farewell to New York, a most magical sound that makes everyone dream of far away places. Slowly we began to pull away from the dock gliding past this thrilling view of the symbol of America. As touching to our British friends as it is to us. 🇬🇧🇫🇷🇺🇸 And PS, thank you France!

We were ALL cameras the whole way out to sea, taking pics and videos of sailing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, so close we could see the people in the cars! When they built the QM2 they had to keep her “short” enough to get under that bridge! She’s a mere 23 stories high!

 This was Rachel and Paul’s first trip across the pond at sea level! An exchange our two countries have been doing for a very long time! I’m reading the book Ben Franklin in London … He was still an Englishman at the time of his first visit to London, and it took him 7 weeks to get there! We only have 7 days!

Dinner our first night . . .

Flaming desserts did not lick the fire extinguishers in the ceiling the way they did on another trip, almost drowning the people at the table. Sopping wet men with buckets trying to stop it, some laughter, lots of picture taking, and finally, at the end, they stopped it. Very exciting. But that didn’t happen this time! All quiet for our delicious crepe suzettes with ice cream… mmmmmmmm. 

We walked the Promenade deck almost everyday to drink in the sea air. Three times around equaled one mile. We knew when we saw them put the cushions on the lounge chairs in the morning that it would be a nice day.

And those cushions were out almost every day. We had amazing weather! The sea was flat, the wind was more like a breeze, I was so proud of the ship for putting her best foot forward for my Girlfriends! Zero seasickness! I’d been nervous, you know when you get 90 friends to join you, you PRAY you will not be making them sick!!!🙏 

There were afternoons in the Chart Room listening to lovely violins while drinking our favorite Magner’s Peah Cid-ah. That stuff is SO delicious. May be blasphemous to say, but it’s as bubbly as champagne, maybe more, and it tastes BETTER! I wish we could get it in America. The stuff they sell us isn’t the same. I need to look into this. Call up Ireland and find out what’s up with the Magner’s in America!  

We took pictures of ourselves in the elevators… Me and Joe both with our masks under our chins just in case you’re wondering what happened to our necks!

Early mornings, I made tea and wrote in my diary… at 7 am each day, they brought breakfast on a tray… fruit and eggs and oatmeal, anything we asked for, Joe’s Bangers and Beans of course.🤪 Internet connection was squidgy at best. They gave us some Twitter on our phones, but every time I touched my computer it was all over. Nothing. Then I looked outside, and thought, okay. I get it.🌊 

We ran into girlfriends everywhere we went ~ this is Luci and Jerry in our dining room. Barbara, Cheryl (with the cute camera), and Dianne too, stopped to visit with us most every night ~ Our girlfriends were everywhere, we met them in the hall, in the elevator, in the Commodore Room, out on deck, in the exercise room, once I was outside on the balcony in our stateroom, I heard a familiar voice, it sounded like Nicole. I leaned over the rail, peered between the life boats to the deck below, and sure enough, there she was on a lounge chair. I called out to her, she looked up and waved👋, and when the man she was talking to looked up, it was Paul!!! Extra small world on a ship!

Here we are, planning our trip and catching up. Ray has a “thing” about Petey’s smiling face, thinks *perhaps* he has bad intentions, which he absolutely does NOT, he’s a very good boy … but note how he is appearing in this photo? She says she didn’t do it.🤪 Sure Ray. Look at her face! 🤣 SHE’S the scary one!

Tea on the deck for sunrise was amazing… the weather was so nice, it was the first place I went every morning.

And everyday the TV in our room gave us our bearings … you see that little swerve? The Captain decided to go around some weather!

Stairways between each floor, exercise bikes, the Promenade deck, were like lifelines, we so we could eat. We moved so we could eat.

All dressed up with somewhere to go! Joe behind us taking pictures…

I told Paul he looked like James Bond, so he pulled out his guns!

And this cutie pie, I could not resist.💞

On Tuesday … I brought my computer with a slide show I’d made for our presentation. I combined Rachel’s photos with my own and between us we pretty much touched on the entire 30-year span!

They hooked us into our microphones.

And despite the fact that my computer screensaver with Joe and Jack was projected on the screen . . . something was wrong…

I couldn’t make it go. Nothing was working and we had no idea what to do! Mainly because A. I left the battery charger for my computer at home in America. I know, brilliant. Now we were on an English ship trying to use the foreign charger I had borrowed. Everyone tried to help. Everyone DID help, but finally the person Rachel called “The Young One” (because she was!) ran out of the audience, jumped onto the stage, flipped a switch, and voila! There it was. She got a round of applause, and my undying gratitude because it was, as they say, getting ridiculous.

The whole time we were fiddling with the machines, it was doing this outside, just toddling along with the breeze. Because we kept reminding ourselves, we were on a SHIP, on our way to England!

But finally, we were off and running, telling our story, celebrating our years of friendship, impossible though it was, since we came from different countries, and didn’t meet in person until 6 years after we met through the mail. Our “talk” was much longer than what I’m going to show you … but in a nutshell …

Ray and I were lucky to be born in the last hurrah of “real” letter writing (especially her, since she is 20 years younger than me, and missed a lot of it because of that! Poor thing.😂), so we still have some of our old letters to share.💌 But that era was taking its very last gasp when she wrote me the first time to tell me how much she loved my book Vineyard Seasons …. my only book to be published in England, and as fate would have it, she happened upon it, loved it, and wrote me to tell me so! Of course I wrote her back. The rest is herstory.

In our short period of correspondence the communicating world has changed wildly! It’s gone from snail mail, to fax, to email, to text, and now zoom ~ for many years a long distance call to another country was financially unthinkable, but that changed and we finally heard each other’s voices for the first time when Princess Diana was killed in Paris and we were both a sobbing mess.💔 That’s when the bond was set indelibly and forever, when Rachel took a peach rose and put it with the sea of flowers for Princess Diana at Kensington Palace in my name, it was so thoughtful of her, our friendship was set in stone.🇺🇸🇬🇧💞

Finally a year later, Rachel came to my house for her first visit… and her first Thanksgiving. We had everything in common, books, movies, cooking, England, America! She knew words to the same songs I did.

Then it was our turn to go to England, take my nieces on the Queen
Elizabeth 2 for a picnic with Rachel’s lovely parents in the garden of the house where Rachel grew up. Back and forth we went for each other’s birthdays, getting to know each other’s families. She fell in love with Paul, and we fell in love with him too. And it’s never ended and never will … and for proof if anyone needed it, here we were, ALL aboard the glamorous Queen Mary 2, speaking to friends we’d both made through books, letters, and social media over the last 10 to 30 years or so! What a small SMALL world we have made for ourselves. Everyone is just around the corner!

I love it in here, don’t you? Everyone is so nice! Kind. Giving.💝 

At the end of our talk, Paul got up and spoke and made everyone laugh, while Joe ran out the back door for fear he might be called on to speak next! Not really, he heard all the sweet words Paul spoke about their friendship which put the frosting on the cake. What girlfriend doesn’t love it when their husbands like each other! Lucky!💘

YUP, they’re keepers.

Sharon had made a beautiful banner out of my name tags to honor Barbara Urbank, a very special girlfriend many of us knew on Twitter that has recently gone to heaven and is sorely missed. Sharon spoke a few words, telling us about her friendship and why she made the banner, she made us all cry, and I started taking photos from the stage . . .

Then Rachel and I came down, where I kept taking pics . . .

I took a video of the banner … let’s see if it will go up here IMG_9034 

Yes! If you click  on it, a new page should open, click on the tiny spot in the middle and wait till it loads and I do believe you’ll be able to see it! (Maybe it only works on a computer?)

Finally Joe took over the camera . . . and took about 700,000 of these.  

LOOK HOW LONG THIS IS! AND I HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE PICNIC YET!!! But I don’t want to leave anything out … it’s harder to go back! As it always seems to be, I may have to divide this is two parts. Same thing happened with Fairy Tale Girl, and now, Distilled Genius. There’s always too much!!!

Soooooo, After the talk, I signed books, Joe, Rachel and Paul did too! The books were now like yearbooks, everyone was signing! We hung out, visited, had just a lovely time… and then it was time for pear ciders!

On the in-between days, there was more of the above, more walking, sleeping, eating, curled up reading, laughing, exploring the wonderful ship’s library . . . etc. My diary says: “Had breakfast in our room, then Joe and I walked 3 miles around the deck next to the big wide Atlantic. Beautiful day! Met Ray and Paul out there, her just back from massage, him in shorts, fresh from gym. Will meet in Commodore Room before lunch.” So it was like that… 

While we were sitting in the Commodore Room, we met these lovely people sitting right next to us and guess where they are from? Yup. Martha’s Vineyard. Practically neighbors. They heard us talking. What are the chances? They must be much better than I think because this keeps happening. Hope to see them when we get back!

On Thursday, it was time to go to the Planetarium, which was actually a little bit of a disappointment, to me anyway, since we had seen a show before and it was SO inspiring, it almost made me cry, but this was a different show, more swirly pink and blue sky stuff about global warming (which almost made me cry too, but for a different reason), not stars and planets zooming in and out of the great black infinity, which is such a good thing for crossing the ocean! Here, you can read what it was supposed to be as I wrote it in A Fine Romance!⬇️ (Read it in your spare time, which now you don’t have any because I already took it all!)

But it was still fun because I got to see everyone again . . . and probably no one knew it wasn’t the right show but me.👍 I hope!

I brought Petey and Peter to the show because I knew Diane was bringing her Hitty Lynn doll … of course they had to meet!

Did I tell you Paul brought Petey a Peter? He did! They bonded immediately. So now I have TWO dolls to haul around England! 🤣

The next day we were off to the Atlantic Room for our last meeting before the ship landed in Southampton and we would all go off on our respective tours, at “the pointy end of the ship” as Paul calls it! (I call it the “front,” Joe says “bow!” (Paul calls Martha’s Vineyard “Martha’s” … he calls Cape Cod, “Cod.” Never listen to him!)

It was a long narrow room, with chairs lined up across from each other, a room usually filled with game tables. Perfect for our meeting. My favorite part is when each person stood up and told their name and where the were from. Exclamations, “Oh! You’re from Minnesota?” Or, “I live in Santa Barbara too!” We had husbands and wives, sisters, best friends, mothers and daughters, and mothers and sons too!

Me and Christie HAPPY!

Jeremy & Lisa, sweetest “sherpa” in the world Richard, & his darling wife Mary, and is that Beth? I have to say, contrary to my Grandmother’s admonition, there was NOT a single creep in the crowd! You’ll be glad to know!💞💞💞  

They were all adorable! Paul was in the center, and loving it! As suggested by the very creative Kim, I cut up tiny bits of paper and put them in my hat, and if someone wanted a pen pal, they wrote their name on the paper and dropped it back into the hat, and then drew another one out. Till everyone who wanted a pen pal, had one! A penpal with an automatic something in common!💞

Hugs with Nellie and Rachel!

And Joe, being his crazy sweet self, finding it unbearable to throw away our Country Life Magazines, brought these from HOME for a giveaway, and it worked, they were all taken! 

Our last evening was just as wonderful as every moment before it… smooth sailing, clear skies, warm winds, gentle rocking to sleep (which is saying something when you’re coming into the English channel!).

Moon looks full, but half of it is actually moon glow, it was just a half-moon that night!

To try to tell the true beginning of this amazing trip would be almost impossible because it’s been one thing leading to another for a very long time. Just before we left for the ship I found a note Joe sent me after our very first meeting in 1986 where we discovered we had a mutual dream of sailing to England like they did in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. He ended his note with “Let’s meet soon and discuss our travel plans…” We didn’t HAVE any travel plans! But something in him seemed to know we would. He was right, that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. My other dream is that someday my girlfriends could meet. I knew the world would be better if they could. And now. OMG. Look at that. Another one come true. I can’t thank you all enough for coming. I loved every second of it!

And suddenly the hands on the clock clicked forward and our dream had become a memory … it was time to go! The English Countryside was waiting! My heart was beating like a drum.

After lots of waiting and jostling with our luggage,  we were off … Destination: Stourhead. In 8 days we would celebrate our coming back together with a picnic in the park. That was the plan… 

Off we went, like living in a dream, the blue skies, the wide fields of yellow rapeseed, the hedgerows, the charming stone houses … it was all still here. In the meantime our girlfriends went off to the four corners … to the Lake District and Hill Top for some, to Jane Austen’s House for others, to  Hidcote Garden, or Stonehenge for others. History in the making. I wanted to be alongside every one of them to hear the oohing and ahhing that HAD to be coming from them around every bend in the road.💖

I am going to wait until next time to show you around Stourhead and do the picnic … I think you can see why! Don’t worry, it won’t be too long! You’ll need to rest up anyway, after this post!

In the meantime, Rachel, Siobhan, me, and Carrie all say Hello, SEE YOU AT THE PICNIC!💖 (We look like we just jumped off the roof like in the movie Practical Magic!😂)

P.S. Many of you know the webstore was down all last week. Broken again! But it’s back up now.👏 Also, just before we left, the color proofs for the cover of Distilled Genius arrived for approval! I wanted to show you!They did a great job on the color, don’t you think? I can’t wait for this book!! Everything is right on schedule… Also, taking a little poll, if we were to do another printing of one of the old cups, which one would it be? Might be able to get it in time for Christmas… but it doesn’t have to be a Christmas cup, it could be anything. I could re-do the Queen Elizabeth cup! If you wanted . . . After all, this is her year in history, no one has ever been on the throne for 70 years before. This is a first! Let me know! Love you! ❌⭕️❌⭕️

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