Saturday, 27 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

My Brasilian friend and I drove up to Beaufort, South Carolina on Christmas Eve.

It’s about 430 miles away, and it took 8 hours. We stopped every 100 miles to change drivers and stretch our legs.

We’d not breakfasted so we, with some foreboding on my part, went into a International House of Pancakes in the north central town of Starke, FL, for breakfast.

I was pleasantly pleased with the quality of my food – an omelette with fresh fruit as a “side dish”. Our waitress, Emily was an absolute sweetheart, so I tipped her well.

Starke is typical of many small towns in inland Florida. It is an hard scrabble town, with a great deal of poverty. We passed a supermarket – a branch of a chain which I thought had gone out of business years ago the “Piggly Wiggly”. These smaller supermarkets used to be the backbone of rural southern towns, with some also in the north. In many places they are being “done-in” by Wall-Mart.

Beaufort is a small, but quite grand town in the Low Country of South Carolina. It has a number of very fine antebellum mansions.

Our hosts, the Pinkhams live about 20 minutes drive from down-town, in a quite idyllic small “development”. There’s is one of (say) 80 homes on the edge of a tidal marsh. Each house is quite different in style, and there are no MacMansions.

Cdr. Wendy Pinkham USN is the daughter of my dear friends Don and Barbara Hauler. She is married to Charles, a wonderful stay at home father, and they have three of the nicest sons you could hope to meet – Charles Jr (Chip) (4), Chris (12) and Nicholas (10).

Wendy’s brother Mark was with us, together with his wife Marcia and their daughters Lindsay (18/19) and Lesley (16/17).

The senior Hauler’s other son, Gary, with his partner Ed were unable to be with us.

So we were the senior Haulers, the younger Haulers with their daughters, and the Pinkhams with their sons.

My guest and I shared a pop up camper which was surprisingly roomy, with two huge beds, which were very comfortable.

It was altogether a wonderful Christmas with super people. My guest enjoyed every moment - his first time with an American family for Christmas. And they all liked him!


I was too tired for “Midnight Mass”, so I went to St. Helena’s on Christmas Day. There were about 120 in attendance, and we were told that there had been a total of 1,500 people at the three Christmas Eve services.

The Church was “fair to middling” in terms of friendliness, and the singing was unenthusiastic. The Celebrant and Preacher was (retired) Bishop Alden Hathaway, of whom I have known for many years.

He is a hale and hearty kind of man. His 13 minute sermon used many 10 cent words, but said very little.

After Church as I offered tobacco incense in the parking lot, a parishioner approached me. She had seen that I was alone, and offered an invitation to Christmas dinner if I needed one. That was just so gracious and cool!

I had never before visited the Low Country. It is incredibly beautiful with its tidal creeks, rivers and marshes. I gloried in the beauty.

We spent some time in a nature reserve on Hunting Island, walking the beach in warm Christmas Day weather. It is a lovely spot.

I will add some photo’s tomorrow. They will include Low Country scenery, Beaufort and St. Helena’s, and members of the Hauler/Pinkham families.

It was a Merry Christmas!

On our journey home, my good pal Ben called to invite us for dinner. How very wonderful not to have to cook, after another eight hour ride. We chowed down on some pretty decent Chinese takeaway food.

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