An envisioning . . . 1982 and a long afternoon in the old house in Portreath up by the sea.

Oh to be here.

Cornwall with winds that sigh and sing as they swoop around the harbor while seagulls soar in a short dance back and forth to Ireland and an even longer one between the icebergs all the way to Canada.

Mug after mug of peppermint tea and scones still warm from the bakery. Quieter than the flat in London but no sconces there like these, let alone the rolled cookies with the whipped cream middles, the kind the doctor said not to eat.

A sister coming the next day and the children the day after. Husband off looking at the fishing boats. A woman from the village cleaning everywhere. A good thing. All the bedrooms not used in years. No, auntie not very sociable and only inviting two at a time and that only for Guy Fawkes Day and never for Christmas or Easter. Must have seemed easier, no decorating what with the bonfire on the beach. But everything else forgotten and the back wing almost entirely filled with dust.

Books to sort out in the old office and a need to do something. Funny. Used to having more than enough to do and the absence of anything annoying.

The books done, their old covers clapped, and the desk in the morning room. Always locked but no one to know as long as everything is put back where it was.  Back of the blotter to draw a chart and the top drawer opened. Old calling cards in stacks like ancient toast on one side, love letters tied with pink ribbons in the back and invitations from ancient parties and debutante balls up in London. A box within a box with an old scrapbook in the middle like a bird’s nest with a perfect egg.

Old Christmas cards and pressed flowers from beaux long forgotten but a photograph at the bottom with 1875 scrawled on the back. Great Grandmother’s sister, it must be. Hair the right color and the others all blondes.

Not this house. No. A dinghy to sit on in bare feet and a pair of oars to hold. That summer house in the Isle of Wight, it must have been. Every summer they went until the year it was sold after the war. Lloyd George and no more money from the coal fields in Yorkshire. Portreath, yes, but not the other. No. Fifteen bedrooms at least and its own little beach. Five maids just to keep the lights turned on at dusk and the little children kept from chasing crabs into the sea.

But a memory .  . . A lady with a brother who is an earl and grand but just in one’s head . . . .the rest blown away and never coming back . . . . maybe it will . . . .maybe not.

Princess Marie or May of Hesse-Darmstadt. July, 1878
Princess Marie or May of Hesse-Darmstadt. July, 1878. Younger sister of Russia’s last Tsarina. Photograph in the public domain. via

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