Category Archives: More English Than the English

Do You Hear What I Hear? With a Voice as Big as the Sea, Christmas in Charleston 2015

I met delightful people from England on the tour today.  We had Christmas Pudding with tea, the steamed plum puddings in vintage molds from the world of Charles Dickens. We compared receipts.  They boil theirs for hours.  I just walked home with my husband from two Christmas parties, with the temperature in the upper 60’s tonight, in the 70’s during the day this week.  There is a magic in Christmas in Charleston walking South of Broad at night that is a hush and a wonder, with the clear Christmas lights matching the twinkle of the stars in the dark night above.  All is calm; all is bright, with Christmas wreaths and garlands of cedar and pine with red bows on our piazzas and doorways. We have a fruit board above our door, a tradition of the family we bought our house from almost 18 years ago. It is a gift from Ruth Edmunds every year.  Camellias are coming into bloom, and calamondin oranges and persimmons are turning ripe orange.  My neighbor has a “popcorn berry” wreath from the Chinese Tallow tree that is a work of art by the Gullah culture selling at the Four Corners of Law at Broad and Meeting.  All is well.  All seems right with the world; for in our dark streets shineth The Everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Him tonight.

John the Baptist as the prophet Isaiah foretold it, was a voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Have you noticed that people everywhere will talk about traffic and road work like the weather in their surroundings?  John the Baptist, though in the wilderness, observed what his culture saw happening in the background surrounding their daily lives. The enemy was encroaching. They were making inroads to their world of the Holy Land. The Romans were doing the unthinkable; they were building a high stone road in the desert to get this Holy Land territory they had conquered and were incorporating into the Roman Empire.  Their stone roads of many layers were built to last.  With the money we spend on roads, maybe we should consider the once a millennium building of roads by the Romans.

Just as John the Baptist saw the Romans were building high stone ways  in the desert to connect the Roman Empire, John the Baptist was hearing what God was saying to them on the reverse side.  God was saying, “I want to come to you, suddenly and speedily.  Get prepared!  Make straight in the dry, neglected, barren, desert wastelands of your life a new road, a highway for our God.”

Have you noticed the world is getting surprised by alarming ”suddenlies”? The terrorist attacks come on us suddenly, like September 11, like the mass shootings in Charleston’s Emmanuel Church on Calhoun Street, like the Paris and San Bernardino shootings. That Voice as Big as the Sea is saying to all flesh, to those with ears to hear, that we need to be prepared for the Lord Jesus’s Second Advent. His first Advent was sudden.  “And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, Glory to God.  And Peace on earth and Good Will be unto all men.”  He says His Second  coming will be suddenly, like a thief in the night, and who may abide the day of His coming?  Those who hear the Voice as Big as the Sea, go out into the still of the night and listen to the Still, small Voice.  He is saying the echoing words louder than ever, Prepare ye the way of the Lord’s return.  Make straight pathways in your brain, and in your habits to be prepared to receive Him when He comes again. To as many as receive the Messiah, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. Every generation must be expectant and pass on the preparedness to the next, for as I show on my tour with the Guilloche pattern in interior woodwork, the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

Do you hear what I hear?  Leave me a comment or call for a tour reservation. Tours are at 9 am with breakfast, ending with tea at lunch time.

Merry Christmas!

Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-708-2228

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Filed under Calamondin Marmalade, camellias, Christmas in Charleston, English steamed pudding in vintage molds, More English Than the English, persimmons--puddings and sorbet, The Holiday Season

Christmas in Charleston Tea Party Private Tour 2014

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a good read must be in want of a hot cuppa tea.  Reach over to the wall and pull the needle pointed bell pull and have your scullery servant put the kettle on for a pot of tea.  Now, start singing, “I’m dreaming of a white-less Christmas!  Just like the ones I used to know,” in Old Charleston.  Just think, no snow to shovel, no salt to smear your windshield, no bones to break slipping on the ice!  I know you may really miss all that, but you will adjust in no time.  “Oh, the weather up North is frightful, but down South it’s so delightful.  And since you are invited on my tour to go, leave the snow, leave the snow, leave the snow!”

Come here and set your feet to a saner tempo.  You will think you are in a Dickensian London.  The warm days are producing a  gentle fog at night over the water and at the morning’s light.  Many houses have the soft glow of gas lights on either side of the front door donned with a fresh wreath. With the indigenous materials in abundance to work with of magnolia leaves, popcorn berry trees, and shaggy cedar, there is an Old World look about us that makes even those from off feel they have arrived home.  We keep all the other places from seeming natural. Christmas is when we are looking most authentically ourselves, dressed up for the Holidays, like my husband tall and handsome in black tie, his tails flying as he dances to Beach Music, our South Carolina State Dance.  You should have seen him at our daughter’s debut dancing with the tall and beautiful Miss Elizabeth Scarborough, a Taylor Swift impersonator on stage last summer in Myrtle Beach and Charleston debutante this season.  HOT!

My beloved went out this afternoon on what we call “de bo-at’ –Gullah for our family boat, and zipped over to Morris Island with “the boys” to play Bocci on the beach today.  How was your first Wednesday in Advent?  While he and his constant companion, Chesterfield, our English Springer Spaniel, were gone experiencing a slice of Lowcountry heaven, our college graduate first born daughter, Olivia, and I put up live green cedar garlands and red bows on our second floor porch railing overlooking the Ashley River.  It is great to have her home for the holidays.  With days of sun and laughter like today, the green garlands may have golden highlights before Christmas is over! Turkey Gumbo was delicious tonight, my reward after emptying the spice cupboard, cleaning, consolidating, and reorganizing it while Hubbie was out..  Whew!  I love that organized feel and easy turn of the rotating spices.   I cleared out about a dozen salt and pepper disposable canisters meant for the boat making my husband laugh with hilarity and incredulity when he saw them in his cubbie.

Christmas Cake preparation was the real achievement tonight after plowing through my mother’s and my hand written, hand cut and pasted recipe book that will not close. Picture a wide V.  Brandy is poured over the glass bowl of currants and sultanas with care, in hopes that your family soon will be here.  There will be English steamed Christmas pudding in vintage molds, mince meat tarts, and baked ham with muscadine and peach chutney. It’s the Hap-Happiest Time of the Year! Come let us spread some cheer to you and yours.  My brother and I both will be making and baking my dear English mother’s Christmas recipes, comparing notes, keeping our English- Charleston family traditions alive into this next generation, as she has past them down to us.

My tours are week days from 9 to 1:30, starting with a full Southern breakfast and the fattest Christmas tree overlooking the Charleston Harbor.  This house on High Battery is dressed to the nines for Christmas.  We also go into the house of the doctor who delivered me. (Thank you, Dr. Wilson! Thank you, Mumse!)  His ceiling is probably the most elaborate with more layers in the plaster and woodwork than any house in Charleston. I love the acorn, and egg and dart motif. It was built in 1856 by a signer of the Ordinance of Secession.  Christmas 1860 is the focus of our history on my Christmas in Charleston Tea Party Private Tour.  Camellias are our winter flower in bloom in our gardens.  I will take you into one that won a national garden award, in which I am the only guide allowed in by the owners, who are hard working,generous friends of mine.

The greening of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, known in the 18th century as the most elegant church in the English colonies, will be this Friday, as will the Garden Club of Charleston’s decorating of the Joseph Manigault House.

Call me to reserve a spot on my private tour as I take small groups. The tour ends with an invitation to a High Christmas Tea at my home on Tradd Street.  I hope to see you soon.  843-577-5896  Laura Wichmann Hipp

Post Script  I went to the Garden Club Tea at the Joseph Manigault House yesterday.  You must see it dressed up for Christmas as it would have looked in the time of the Manigaults, the early 1800’s. It is on the corner of John and Meeting Streets across from the Charleston Museum. It is open for tours daily. Out of the corner of my eye, I detected clutter on the stairs to the third floor.  Just as my children would leave toys where they last were playing, so too there are 18th and 19th centuries toys as if where the Manigault children last left them before being called down to dinner.This Christmas Tea for Garden Club members yesterday is the only time this museum house is used for entertaining as it was designed to be with homemade tea fare and coffee punch. Garden Club members keep up the garden all year.  I went with my fellow member, June McKnight, who was responsible for the pomanders hanging in the windows in an upstairs room. She is coming over to make some more with me for my windows, too!  Everyone was congratulating June on acing the City of Charleston Guide exam.  She made a 98!  The last time it was offered, sisters Therese and Mary Helen were two of four to pass out of 40!  It is an oral and written exam.  June has been interning with me and will be helping me with tours.  Like my precious, late mother, who did the tours with me for 25 years, June is a pretty,petite, elegant, and very well read lady.  She is reading everything she can get her hands on to do with Historic Charleston, all the classics.  I am encouraging her to have some available for you to purchase from her since she as well as I highly recommend them and quote from them on our tour.

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Charleston Festivals Launch First Signs of Spring with Walking the Preferred Mode of Transportation

Francis Marion Square is full of white enclosed tents  for the Wine and Food Festival that began March 6.  Bacchus is there in the spirit of conviviality, mirth, and enjoyment of all good tastes and comradeship in which Charleston abounds.  “Ho!  Everyone that thirsteth. Come ye to the water!”  It started wet and chilly here, but chances are not as chilly as where you are, from what I see on the news.  No snow and ice are to be found here.  “For lo, the winter is past.”  Red Bud is in bloom and the purple Japanese Tulip tree, what you may call Magnolia.  “Daffy Down Dilly is come up to town; in her yellow petticoat and her green gown.”

We were kindly the guests of Lisa and Glenn Kline of Houston, who bought our beloved kitchen house on Legare Street.  The Wine and Food Festival culminated with the Jazz Brunch at the Gov. Thomas Bennett House in the garden.  It was actually warm!  The sunshine day was what you picture more of Easter  than the day we spring forward.  Our table started with the most delicious poached egg on an open face benne seed biscuit with an artistic sprinkling of tomato bits and candied bacon, baby arugula, melting Gruyere cheese , and lemon mayonnaise. My husband, who is used to only the best homemade fare, aptly said,”This is not your salad for the masses.”  We then found out it was only our table and one other who had that menu.  I told our server to tell the chef how impressed we were.  Rick Widman at that next table popped over to say it is on the menu at HIS restaurant, 208 King Street KITCHEN, next door to his Fulton Lane Inn, where he used to have the Victoria House Inn.  I have done tours for years out of his inns but never imagined he would venture into the realm of restaurants.  We do break out of the box every now and then, as has his daughter, Lauren, home for sunshine from phd studies in psychology from Wheaton C0llege in Illinois.   She is called to take her counseling skills to places of need around the world, perhaps Turkey.  See KITCHEN208.COM for her dad’s restaurant with great fare and fresh air.

CAMELLIAS are in full bloom, our winter flower that peeks in late February, early March.  I have a platter mounded on my table of choice camellias from the 19th century summer home of the Draytons of Magnolia Plantation, owned now by the Shelbournes in Summerville, some of our best friends and our teenage Godson, Sloan.  While my husband was on a quail shoot at Edisto, I got a spur of the moment quick get-away to bask in their company, home, and camellia garden over last weekend, just as people on my tour get away with friends to invest themselves in what really refreshes the soul, time apart spent with loved ones in a beautiful place like Charleston.  I awoke to see the windows full of camellia bushes, gargantuan in size, all in full bloom.  You can imagine the choice camellias there from the Drayton’s time in the 19th century.  Magnolia Gardens and Plantation now has the largest planting of different varieties of camellias in the world.  Gardens here were designed to peek for the highlight of the social season, The Races, held at Washington Race Course in the 18th and 19th centuries, now Hampton Park.  Plantation owners were the breeders and trainers of these magnificent thoroughbreds.  Camellias compliment the season of festivals beginning today.

Charleston Art and Antiques Forum,  celebrating 300 years of Georgian architecture in Charleston,  is March 12-16.   Our own Tom Savage, past curator here of the Nathaniel Russell House before moving on to the White House and now Winterthur, will be back home speaking at the Forum.  Charleston Antique Show sponsored by Historic Charleston Foundation is unlike any other in its quality of furniture and fine arts as well as in the authenticity of the Old Charleston experience.  It’s no flee market.  The prices reflect it.  You get what you pay for, and it is worth it.  It is March 21-23.

Overlapping the Charleston Antique Show, the city swings into high gear with The Festival of Houses and Gardens, March 20-April 19.  All through college I was their indispensable volunteer docent for these spring candlelight tours for the Historic Charleston Foundation, being moved hither, dither and yon, to wherever they had a need.  The rest of the year I gave tours on weekends and holidays of the Edmonston -Alston House and the Nathanial Russell House.  Frances Edmunds, the director for almost 40 years, was my role model and tutor.  I was blessed to receive a dual education while in college at The College of Charleston, the best a home grown girl could have.  I rose to be Assistant Administrator of the Edmonston-Alson House at 21 E.Battery, a job I stepped into when I graduated from college.  Remembering to lock the door behind me was a challenge!

Come as soon as you can get down your icy road or onto a flight out of your snow and sleet.  I hear there are new great flights into Charleston.  Spring comes in March to Charleston.

WALKING is the best way to see Charleston.  Whoever calls me first can determine the mode of transportation for that day, our feet, or my van.  As on a golf course, the price is the same whether you walk or ride.  As I wrote this paragraph, a lady called for a 60th birthday celebration in Charleston, cheering that they get to walk April 1st. We start with breakfast on the Battery in one of the mansions overlooking the Harbor.  Walking, we stay South of Broad.  We go into the home of the doctor who delivered me, unsurpassed in antiquities and plaster and woodwork.  We see gardens and end with High Tea at noon in my house overlooking the Ashley River.  I gave a walking tour to a happy Yoga class here from Texas for a retreat.  We covered so much of the nooks and crannies of Old Charleston on foot.  They inspired me to stay active with walking tours offered as well as my van tour. Varnetta, who works for me,  spoke to them at High Tea at my house in her Gullah dialect, saying, “My Daddy was a fushamun cross de Cupper…”  I told Varnetta while making the tea fare together that there was no one else in the world I’d rather be with preparing for this group.  We are a team.  You can meet her on Tuesdays and Fridays, she who my husband calls the core of our family’s sanity.  I can’t wait to hear from you as your plans shape up to visit the Holy City of Charleston, which like George Washington, was first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of all Americans.–Laura Wichmann Hipp–843-577-5896

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Spring in January and February in Charleston

January and February are the best kept secret in Charleston.  The camellias are in bloom, cultivated for the social season when Charlestonians and plantation owners were in town for the races.  Magnolia Plantation is not to be missed with their world renowned collection of camellias in bloom now, which peak in February.  Those who wait til spring miss our spring like winter, especially refreshing if you live in environs where you see nothing green all winter.  Bulbs are coming up.   We are to ourselves again after the many visitors of autumn and Christmas.  It is quiet.  We have time get to know you better.

It is also the season of Lowcountry oyster roasts.  My family and I went to the SAVE THE LIGHT oyster roast for the Morris Island Lighthouse last Sunday.  I stood at the same spot for HOURS eating steamed oysters.  People would go away from our table and come back hours later to say, “You still here?!”  If anyone wants to have an oyster roast, my husband roasts some up for 6 or more.  He is renowned for doing it the old Charleston way.  He builds a fire in our old brick outside chimney; he puts a metal slab over the fire and piles on the Lowcountry oysters, ” locals” we call them.  Essential then is the wet burlap sack to put over the oysters so that they steam, roast, and smoke.  Where does one get a burlap sack these days?  Only those who are committed to LOCAL oysters know that secret!

Thank you to all who made 2011 a great year.   A young couple loitered after my last tour of the old year, waiting till everyone else left after Tea.  The young man had a guilty look.  Finally he  outed with it.  It was not my money of which he wanted to rob me;  it was another English Plum Pudding,  for the road.  He explained, “I’ve never had anything like this before.”

I also served  Hoppin’ John with a refreshing twist:  Field Peas with chopped Roasted Beets,  Ginger,  Meyer Lemon, and dried cranberries, inspiration from The Taylor Brothers, for whose cooking demonstration I first made it.  I made it it New Year’s Day for our family gathered at Aunt Dee’s.   I am using my home grown Meyer Lemons before a freeze comes along.  I was not as wise last year.  I am making Meyer Lemon Sorbet, my favorite, and Meyer Lemon Curd with scones.  Yesterday I baked two persimmon pies, which filled the house with their wonderful aroma.  You have to wait til the persimmons look soggy or they will taste like chalk.  We have a tree in back.  We have something new for the eyes to see, persimmons and calamondin oranges in my camellia flower arrangements.  Winter joys of life in Charleston keep us in good spirits until the full bloom of magic culminates in spring.

I am still up to my eyeballs in Calamondin Marmalade.  I cannot work in the front garden without a passerby wanting to know what that tree is with tiny oranges.   I gave tiny jars for party favors at a fabulous  New Year’s Eve dinner party with our friends at Cathy and Harry Gregorie’s, owners of GDC.  I ran out this morning of the marmalade jars I took with me to a citrus lecture at the Garden Club of Charleston.  Don’t worry; I am making more.

We are now in the 151st year since the War Between the States began at Ft. Sumter, April 12, 1861, in Charleston, “That Hellhole of Secession.”  One of the houses we visit is my friend, Francess Palmer’s, on East Battery with a dead on view of Ft. Sumter, where was fired the shot that was heard around the world.  I never tire of the sunlight on the water, the ever changing views of white caps or lazy glassiness where dolphins are jumping  and white sails are gliding by.  To add more value in these times to the tour and to highlight the history as seen from the Battery, I am offering a full, hot Southern breakfast in my friend Francess Palmer’s home and  B&B.  It has been in her family for three generations. I first went there for her debutant party when we were 18.  The Big Band from her grandparents era played on the lawn under a full moon.  There as we gaze at the view of Ft. Sumter,  I  talk about the history of this War of Northern Aggression!  You come to understand why Southerns had the audacity to call it that.

Our own  house had been Francess Palmer’s uncle’s.  We have owned it for 14 years this winter, having bought it from the Edmonds, who lived in it for 30 years after the Palmers.  I cried when we moved in.   I did not want to give up my home I had bought before marriage on Legare Street, where my tours had ended with tea in the garden.   I said I was only moving here because I loved my husband.  Preston in my face said, “Mark my words.  You’re gonna love it!”  And HE WAS RIGHT!  Sunlight and moisture for a citrus grove and flower garden, a view of the water, open air circulation and good sea breezes, SPACE for family living and for entertaining you, my guests,  all contribute to my love for our home.  Though it is old enough to have problems, its assets outweigh the responsibilities…so far anyway.  Your one hundred dollars each goes to the preservation of this historic Charleston house, be it ever so humble.

I realize I am living the life of my gregarious father, Fred Wichmann.  He is the epitome of Charleston hospitality, inviting strangers in who he meets often through sailing or through real estate.   Despite all the “strangers” I have had in my house, when I put everything back in their proper place, they are all there.   No one has taken from me yet after six years of my private tours.  I use old things for my enjoyment and that of of my guests as they were used in 18th and 19th century Charleston.   Thank you for being the people to whom  this Holy City of Charleston was meant to be hospitable.  Lafayette was amazed at Charleston hospitality when he visited here in 1825, saying there were so few inns or hotels because Charlestonians were so hospitable, “they would take you into their homes be you prominent or indigent.”  Read the first translation ever published of “Lafayette in America, 1824-25”, until now hidden in the French language.

I meet some of America’s nicest people on my tour.  I don’t want to let them go.  And so, I invite them in!   I learn from them.  Jump in and tell me something if it is on your mind.  I learned from Johnny Kicklighter that a scene I show of an old print of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, was on a South Carolina dollar bill and a Confederate bill.  I did not know that connection.  It is a scene of him loving his enemy, doing good to those who mistreat you.  Marion is sharing with hated but lost Redcoat Tarleton hot sweet potatoes just pulled from the fire. That picture tells the story of the heart of Charleston hospitality.  This value is an aspect of Charleston that once understood completes the picture of who we are.  Until newcomers get this understanding that it is more blessed to give than  to receive, they are not going to be regarded as belonging.  We are not a gated community of arrogant rich people trying to keep everybody else out.  We are an open city with a heritage and culture that is still alive,  to be shared,  and which has defined us for centuries.  This sentiment I learned growing up in Charleston and from Elizabeth Verner Hamilton, poet, gardener,  and daughter of Charleston artist Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.  I am sharing my larkspur seedlings, which came from ones she shared with me decades ago.

I do my best in my humble efforts to give you that experience of Charleston that has persisted from generation to generation.  My tours are once a day at 9 a.m. with entrance into private homes and gardens. At the end of my tour I invite you in to my home.   After my last tour of the old year, a man moaned, “A hundred dollars!”  “Y-es”, I replied holding my breath.  “This tour is worth MUCH more than a hundred dollars a person! ” he exclaimed,  to my relief.  May God bless us, every one.–Laura Wichmann Hipp– Call 843-577-5896 for reservations.

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More English than England, There is No Place Like Charleston, America’s Top City by Conde Nast

Though I am of necessity to all things English born with my mother being a native of the British Isles, yet having just returned from an unexpected visit to England, I have to admit, I could not wait to get back to Charleston.  Granted, this visit was not a pleasure trip.  I was in a new, modern,”sculpture” town visiting my Auntie Edie Breyer in Princess Alexandra Hospital, where she lay after a stroke last Wednesday after 98 years of living on her own in another village.  There in this new, unknown town I stayed for five days in a modern hotel, it being the nearest to the hospital, though  a 45 minute indirect walk through busy traffic.  I carried my old brown wicker English shopping basket to and fro containing my Sainsbury edibles, my books, extra cardigan, and wallet, looking more English than the English.  After walking through a roped off rape crime scene the first day,  an essential part of my route, it took me a few days to decide to be my effervescent self and greet people with “Good Morning”.  The English in this town do not look you in the eye or offer greetings.  There is a wariness and unease.  I found, however, that as I greeted each person on my routine walk each day, their old habits fell into play.  The ladies in particular would return with a cheery “Good Morning” and a smile as if remembering that all was well with the world after all; however, the men would glance furtively with their eyes, not turning their heads,  as if to say, “Do I know you?  I don’t think so.”  Returning from the hospital to my hotel after dark each evening, I left off greeting.

The new middle to low income housing in England is an attempt to make living more human scale without highrises.  But I am from Charleston, which as a Gullah “Weggytubble Lady” with her wheel barrow said many years ago,” Cha’ston keep all t’other places from seemin natchal.”  There was nothing historically comely to rest the eyes upon architecturally.  I am spoiled having in Charleston a daily feast visually on every street.  My mind would retreat to the Charleston scene of the  etched glass door at 5 East Battery, my friend, Francess Palmer’s home, which has been in her family for three generations.  I pinch myself every time I see my reflection in the glass with the morning sunlight dancing on the harbor reflected behind me.   As part of my morning routine on a tour, I  go  to this preserved home on the Battery with my guests.  I have never taken it for granted.  Being in another daily routine in an unromantic part of England, put me in someone else’s shoes for a week of my life, a self imposed fast of all things aesthetic.  Now I have the actual daily experience similar to many to contrast with what I bring visitors to share every day with me in Charleston.  I always hope that visitors will take mental flash shot images of Charleston to which to return when in the daily, dull routine of life, a place of serenity from which to draw, to retreat and refresh.  I found myself following my own advice,  dipping in to the images of Charleston, contrasting my daily life to those of this town in England, counting my lucky stars that I get to return to Charleston, where as Rhett Butler said, “There’s still grace and charm left in the world.”

My thanks to the few people who were kind and understanding though disappointed to miss my tour.  I am glad I went, though it was a hard trip.  My Auntie Edie’s mind is still there, though she cannot speak.  I did finally decipher some of her scribble with her left hand.  The first word she wrote with great effort was “pay”.  She wanted to pay for me to have gone to the trouble and expense to come visit her.  She nodded her head vigorously, thrilled that I got it!  But of course, there was no pay necessary for the duty of love and family.  Pointing out my diamond wedding ring convinced her not to worry.  The next she scribbled was “Go to Loo”, quite an ordeal for a stroke victim of 98, but with help from the wonderful staff, we managed to get her there three times that day.  The major literary work she had been trying to write, I finally got the last day.  “Tell (Auntie) Pam to feed Tara (her beloved cat)!”  as if she would not know to be doing that.   Auntie Edie never married.  She has lived for her cats as she said once I live for my children, knowing their likes and dislikes, as no one else can.

Reading by her side to her The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, her favorite of CS  Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, singing hymns from the 1916 little black Bible with Church of Scotland hymnal in the back, cleaning her nails and giving her a manicure, and getting her using manipulatives from the physical and occupational therapists’ “gym” next door became the highlights of our days together.  She would conduct music as I sang, using her head to keep time.  With her good hand she would applaud onto the lifeless hand.  Though in a stroke ward with open doors and windows where sound traveled, no one ever complained of my singing.  The tunes and words brought back old associations for others I could see as one lady smiled and looked contented and  another made inaudible sounds fervently praying along.  There are four stroke patients to each room.  One attractive  lady never gained full awareness, sleeping always.  They are ministering angels, the staff who work with these stroke victims daily, unflaggingly patient, showing their kind hearts that drew them to this profession and the Judeo-Christian heritage of hospitals in the United Kingdom.  And yet, it takes a loved one sitting by their side to attend to all the difficult to communicate needs.  The staff does not have the  time to spend to figure out what each is trying to say.  Being there to “translate” helped.  It was a maternal instinct to drop everything and go, an indebtedness to  Auntie Edie as the eldest member of our English family and her hospitality to me in my staying with her in my early years of travel and study in England.

Though I was desperate to see my husband, children and Charleston again, I wept when I left her, such is the debt of gratitude I owe my mother’s half sister.  She was only 7 when her mother died.  Twenty years after her birth and her father’s remarriage, my Auntie Pam and my mother were born.  Out of these unexpected extra children has come help for the present for this  century old spinster, who would have been otherwise alone in the world.

If you have loved ones in hospital or a nursing home, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust  corrupt, nor thieves can break in and steal, and make it a part of your daily routine to visit and stay by their side.  “Though the way be cheerless, I will follow calm and fearless.” No matter where we live or what our daily life is like, we have so much to be thankful for if we have our health and faith.  We can break up the monotony of those who are in prison in their own bodies by attending to them.  God bless those who already do this act of charity or are caregivers at home.  “Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”  I see The Holy City of Charleston  preserved as a place of refreshment for visitors who are following the weary and heavy laden way in which they should go, keeping their homeland strong, doing the hard work needs to be done.

“Still the weary folk are pining for the hour that brings release

and the city’s crowded clangor cries aloud for sin to cease

and the homesteads and the woodlands

plead in silence for their peace” — Henry Scott Holland, 1902

I hope you can take some time set apart and see Charleston, South Carolina with me.  I look forward to meeting new friends every day  Despite this necessary unaesthetic side of England in a  hospital,  I am exploring taking a group on a tour to England and Scotland next summer .  I did it three years ago and have some wonderful  new ladies ready to sign up.  I will be working out the expenses and itinerary.  We will see private English and Scottish  Country Houses and gardens far from the Madding Crowd.  Let me know if you are interested.  You have to have come on my tour first of Charleston.

–Laura Wichmann Hipp-843-577-5896

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