Southern Drawl

southern drawl

Do you think he had one? A southern gentleman makes me go weak at the knees, especially rich ones with boats… I am still in Charleston on the Cooper River and I love this shot with the astonishing Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in the background.

The Custom House reveals how much money was and still is made currently on the waterways of Charleston. Such an impressive building.
custom house

I watched with fascination at this sailing club out on the river – who the heck would take out boat #13. I thought sailors were superstitious?

Look at the sailboat on the right...

Look at the sailboat on the right…

It isn’t the southern waters unless there is a pelican. I love these friends just chilling together on a hot day.

FRIENDS

FRIENDS

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Kerry was stood up – WHAT?????

Kerry in open air atrium of King's Courtyard Inn, Charleston

Kerry in open air atrium of King’s Courtyard Inn, Charleston

The person that took this photograph of me in Charleston STOOD ME UP! I don’t recall ever being stood up before and especially not by a woman. Before your imaginations go off into the gutter about a bisexual fling in Charleston, it was just another lady guest at our beautiful hotel, The Fulton Lane Inn. I booked the hotel on Hotwire with one of those ‘don’t know which hotel is until you pay for it’ and was astonished at what a good deal it was. The hotel was right in the middle of historic downtown, perfect for a short stay.  To be honest, I expected it to be run down with cockroaches but it was truly a 5 star experience! To start with there was a complimentary breakfast which you could have delivered to your bedroom (for no extra cost) or eat in atrium of the main hotel, The King’s Courtyard Inn, where I am standing. Not only that, it was delicious – fresh pastries, juice, coffee, oatmeal, fruit etc. From 5 – 6 pm they had wine and snacks (also complimentary) in this atrium area, followed by dry or sweet sherry at 6.30 pm which you could take up to your room. This had to be a bargain break for me because Teddy had still not found work so it was perfect.

My beautiful spacious room at the Fulton Lane Inn

My beautiful spacious room at the Fulton Lane Inn

So, back to my date, I met her the first evening and she offered to take my photograph. She was a lovely lady who was waiting for her husband sail the boat up to Charleston from Miami. We had plenty in common so she asked me if I would like to meet up the following evening. I didn’t really want to, not because I didn’t like her, but I just wanted to be free without a timetable. Politeness, however, made me say yes. I organized my day around meeting her then and she dumped me.  My suspicion is that she looked at my blog and was put off by major depression or sexual fluidity!  On the second night, it was very busy with hotel guests and I felt awkward saving a seat for my date when there was a shortage. Eventually, I realized she wasn’t coming but that didn’t stop me talking to almost everybody. There were Americans, Germans and English people. I mentioned to one lady that my husband was adopted and she snuck away from her husband and mother to share a secret with me. A previously unknown son of her husband had turned up at their door. He wasn’t even aware of the son’s existence and hadn’t told her mother who was sitting at the next table. Isn’t it amazing what people share with strangers? Or is it just me?

There was a nice looking man sitting on the fountain so I just predated smiled at him instead. He was from Dallas, happily married and ‘bought’ me a glass of wine (you were obliged to tip the young server). We had a nice chat, he went to do some work emails and I went out to another river view rooftop bar for dinner. The first evening, I went to this lovely bar below at the Vendue Hotel.

The Rooftop Bar at The Vendue Hotel

The Rooftop Bar at
The Vendue Hotel

I loved looking one way at the water and the other at the historical spires – magical. The second rooftop bar was enclosed and less enjoyable but the food was good. I watched a Queen Bee of a medical practice hold court over all her male worker bees that had bow ties on – fascinating!

Husk Restaurant

Husk Restaurant

I really wanted to eat at this gorgeous restaurant but it looked like a Bunny and Teddy experience. The next time I will take him and stop predating innocent businessmen… 🙂

Church Street, Charleston

The French Huguenot Church

The French Huguenot Church

Never has a street been more aptly named. There was one wonderful church after another. The title photograph is of the French Huguenot Church – it is simply known as that. I noticed it particularly because it is painted a delicate pale pink with black cornichons. The Huguenot’s were French Protestants who escaped persecution from the Catholic Church. I loved the way they embraced the Protestant ethic and yet created a house of worship with a certain French soupçon of elegance. Below is the exquisitely simple interior with a startling blue chandelier, accentuated with the blue prayer books.

Nave of French Huguenot Church

Nave of French Huguenot Church

St. Philip's Church

St. Philip’s Church

Above is St Philip’s Episcopal Church which is the grandest on the street. Another tourist later told me that the church keepers weren’t very friendly (well, they are Protestants – I am sorry but there is always a lapsed Catholic devil sitting on my shoulder). There is always a fine line between visiting a historic site and respecting that it is a current house of worship. No talking, flip-flops or chewing gum, please! There were some very distinguished guests in the graveyard and it was so serene on a hot, steamy Charleston afternoon.

Well, Charles certainly has a lot to answer for...

Well, Charles certainly has a lot to answer for…

church street

Both churches were in the French Quarter. The streets were a charming mix of old and new.

St Philip's Graveyard

St Philip’s Graveyard

It was only after I left Charleston that I remembered about the Charleston Church massacre more than a year before, at the Emanuel African Methodist Church. The victims of this hate crime, their relatives and the people of Charleston give us something to aspire to in this horrific week. Dignity, sorrow and forgiveness.

St. Mary’s of the Annunciation, Charleston

stained glass

This is a beautiful stained glass window in St. Mary of the Annunciation’s Catholic Church, the first Catholic Church in South Carolina. The original building was founded in 1789 but this is the third church on the same site. It is quite an unusual architectural design for a Catholic church and I don’t think I have ever seen one quite like this.

St. Mary's of the Annunciation, Charleston, SC

St. Mary’s of the Annunciation, Charleston, SC

I went early to visit and to my delight was the only person there. Old churches and mosques can be so busy with tourists that you miss the reverential feel of an ancient place of worship. I went straight to light a candle and this time I prayed for everyone. The church was relatively small but so beautiful, especially inside. Just as I left, I remembered to bless myself from the font and be grateful for all that I have.

St. Mary's Nave

St. Mary’s Nave

Behind the church was a lovely little graveyard but these were the saddest little gravestones I have ever seen. They must have been for stillborn children because there was no name, just a single date. So sad, and yet touching that they had been remembered in this way.

stillborn graves
My maternal family name is McHugh, it is an Irish name and not that common with that spelling. So, at least one of my namesakes had money because this is a fancy memorial.

Rich ancestors?

Rich ancestors?

This is the first time I have ever seen a McHugh stone in a graveyard, except for my own family. Recently we discovered McHugh’s in America who had emigrated generations back and we even have a mysterious photograph of my great-grandmother taken in Boston when we thought she had never left the farm in Sligo? One American McHugh I spoke to was very disappointed that my pure Irish heritage was tainted in so many ways. The dropped me like a hot potato – get it? Potato? Irish? I am pretty sure that my snobby Conquistador ancestors would feel much the same way. 🙂
Charleston is full of churches of every denomination and I tried to visit as many as possible, including their fascinating graveyards. More in the next post.

Bloody Dolphins!

Do you see the dolphins?

Do you see the dolphins?

Bloody dolphins! I know they are invisible but there is a mummy dolphin with two cute little babies, diving in and out of the water. Diving in precisely when I took each shot… Despite my fear of deep water I love to be near it and took advantage of a little water taxi service in Charleston that takes you upriver to the Aquarium, across the Cooper river to Patriot’s Point where the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier is now a military museum, then to the Marina, and then back to the center of the Historic district. It was $10 for all day use and I just loved it.

Water Taxi Charleston

Water Taxi Charleston

Charleston is a peninsula, with two rivers on either side leading out into a wide estuary and then into the Atlantic Ocean. It was curiously hot during my stay and very humid (even more than Houston) and the water was soothing to both my dry eyes and soul. My desperation to snap more dolphins made me put up with being in a tiny boat across a major shipping lane – eek!

This is how deep the Cooper river must be....

This is how deep the Cooper river must be….

When we lived in the north of Scotland (for almost 20 years) we were close to the Moray Firth, home to the most northerly group of bottle-nosed dolphins. The water is warmed by the North Atlantic Drift supporting plants and creatures that would normally not live in such a cold climate. Despite being on the coast thousands of times we only saw the dolphins ONCE! I am sure they were always there, laughing hysterically as they do, hiding when we watched for them. They had a bad reputation as fearsome predators and would regularly beat up the poor little porpoises. It was man’s fault, as ever, because we had over fished their territory and there was a battle for food.

Back to Charleston – those too are Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. The rivers and estuaries are home to all sorts of seabirds and fish. It was a seafood lover’s paradise which was wasted on me but I did enjoy some really delicious food. Between the sea and the sun, I and every other tourist was as brown as a berry. There is no need to have a car in downtown Charleston as there are free bus services and easy walking with sidewalks everywhere. I didn’t notice many overweight people – it was quicker to walk to your destination than wait for a bus. It was a very short visit but I would have loved to have visited a plantation and got out into the real countryside.

On land for the next post but one last action shot from the person who is terrified of deep water.

I was leaning right over the taxi to get a shot of USS Yorktown.

I was leaning right over the taxi to get a shot of USS Yorktown.

The Slave Market

The Slave Market Museum in Charleston, SC

The Slave Market Museum in Charleston, SC

I considered writing about the beautiful aspects of Charleston, South Carolina but thought I would reveal its darker side first. This innocuous building might lead you to think that they sold anything other than humans. Charleston was somewhat of a hub for slave auctions which used to be on street corners. Despite owning slaves the residents didn’t want to see children and elderly people in shackles, so the auctions went indoors. This was one of 40 slave marts in historic Charleston at the height of slavery. When I paid for my ticket, I asked one of the docents if Native Americans were also enslaved. Apparently they were, but they were too good at running away. When they discovered the soil was great for growing rice, they really wanted slaves who were farmers.

It was a very moving exhibit, as you can imagine, and appalling to read about humans traded like cattle. I was not surprised but some visitors were deeply moved and the whole museum had a reverential feel, as well it should. Charleston was and still is a very wealthy city, reflected in the buildings and residents but I think it is important to remember why that is. No-one is without blame – some northern states had a horrible history of indentured workers including children and they may as well have been slaves. My own husband was born to an indentured servant at a farm in Scotland in 1958. It was well known that some farmers felt it was their right to have sex with the women. Teddy was the third sibling born to this 33 year old woman and given up for adoption. Glasgow, the city where I grew up, became rich on the back of shipping and tobacco from the Americas. It is no coincidence that many African American people have Scottish names.

Before I left, I spoke to the docents at the desk. I admired their museum and said we have not learned from our mistakes since the port of Houston is the hub of human smuggling into North America. They both looked at me blankly and I sensed that they felt I was taking something away from their story, which I was not. The ethnicity of today’s slaves may have changed and it is illegal but some of their stories are even more horrific than those in the museum. One of my friends, living a couple of miles from me, couldn’t get into her own street one day because of police vehicles. Her south-east Asian neighbor was trafficking young girls into prostitution but was living a regular middle-class life in an affluent area.

The next post will reveal a sunny and optimistic modern Charleston.

A typical cobbled alleyway in historic Charleston

A typical cobbled alleyway in historic Charleston

“Oh yes, she’s back…”

Happy Hibiscus

Happy Hibiscus

I have missed everybody and it’s great to be back. I’m not very good at following advice that I would give someone else but this time I did the sensible thing and took a break from everything. Work, blogging, socializing – if I had a cave I would have gone to stay in it.

My slow recovery and continued pain from the eye surgery was contributing to my low mood but fortunately my regular eye doctor has provided huge relief by inserting little collagen stoppers into my leaky tear ducts so that some liquid stays in the eyes. He said I had striations from the dryness which was causing pain up to the scale of 10. When I started researching my eye problem, I reduced a variety of factors that were contributing to my chronic dry eye. I cut back on my essential medication to a manageable level, stopped taking the painkillers and anti-histamines. Then I cleaned my diet – more Omega 3s, less caffeine, less alcohol and more vegetables. I walked every day for 3 or 4 miles and was vigilant with eye drops and cleansing.

It all helped but the honest truth is that I think most of it was a mechanical problem – the tear ducts were just not working properly. This is common, particularly in menopausal women but the less said about that the better… I am not having hot flashes – it just gets suddenly hot in the sub-tropics. 🙂 With more liquid in my eyes the vision is my post cataract eye is much better and I have super spidey vision with tiny writing. It’s a nice plus in a protracted recovery.

Last weekend I knew I was feeling better because I suddenly wanted to go on a solo trip with our air miles. We have been very thrifty (our water bill has increased from $10 to $10.10!) and it was a relatively inexpensive trip with a free flight and a fantastic Hotwire deal on a historic hotel in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. This week I will be telling you all about it. Sometimes you just need a literal break away.

This red link “Kerry chatting” will take you to a little video of me chatting in my dulcet Celtic tones – I just want to say thank you, literally, for all the support you gave me. It meant so much.