Still Sizzlin’ In Old Orchard Beach ~ Has No One Told her Summer’s Over?

And summer did end as we arrived in Old Orchard Beach a few late-Septembers ago. It ran out on us while we driving up route 95 from Boston and broiling in an hour-long traffic jam caused by roadworks just north of Saco. The late summer sun bore down, dust clouds from fleets of excavators blew up, the young woman engineer yelled above the din of men and machinery, and we crawled along, inch by inch, praying for the turn to Ocean Park, our actual destination. Cousin Jan had driven down from her alpaca farm in Richmond, taking a swift ‘time out’ between alpaca babe deliveries. She would be waiting for us at her beach cottage to hand over the keys. We would be staying there for the next week before driving on to the farm.

Praying is of course apt behaviour for Ocean Park. The community has its origins in 1881 when the Free Will Baptists founded a family summer resort there with the object (then and now) of providing “opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal (in) a non-denominational, interfaith setting”.  The Tabernacle Temple meeting hall, among the pines and maples, is still there and much used. And, in keeping with its reflective origins, the surrounding settlement is sedately picturesque: tree-lined lanes, genteel small hotels, boarding houses, and homes, both  holiday and residential. The local people we met there were mostly retired, perhaps a touch eccentric, and often with English connections.

Two miles along the ocean front, Old Orchard Beach could not be more different, the coastal strip lined with down-scale boarding houses, motels and fast food kiosks, all the fun of the pier – a mass of holidaying humanity. Except it wasn’t when we walked there on our first morning. The sky and sea were grey, streets were uncannily empty, tourist shops and the funfair already wrapped up for the winter. So soon! we said.

Summer was definitely done. It was thus a huge relief to find a coffee shop that was still alive and ready to serve us, and it was while we were drinking our take-aways at a table outside that I spotted the header mural on the side of a house wall beside an empty lot. Some of you will have seen it before, but I thought it was just the thing for a pink square reprise – a piece of high summer out of time, a girl forever having fun beside the sea.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

In the Pink #9   Today  Becky’s taken flight – up, up and away.

Thursday’s Special: gold Inside

In the afternoons, Cousin Jan’s cottage by the sea in Southern Maine fills with September sunshine. Everything about the place is golden: scent of old timbers, sand in the floor boards, the sun bleached covers of the cushions. The play of light makes me think of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu  or Colette’s Le blé en herbe. You want to curl up like a cat, absorb the warmth through every pore, and dream. The cottage has just the places to do this too. You can slumber, lulled by the breeze in the garden pines and the neighbours’ wind chimes. Later, as the day’s warmth fades, you can blow the dreaming away, walking briskly along the beach that stretches for miles, the Atlantic rolling in at your feet.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Thursday’s Special: Gold Inside

This week at Lost in Translation, Paula has invited guest blogger, Ron, to share his insights on interior photography. Follow the link to see his wonderful work. And then go here to see Paula’s and other bloggers’ responses to the challenge.

Off Season and Off Centre at Old Orchard Beach

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It was late September when we headed for Southern Maine. By ‘we’ I mean Graham, my sister Jo and her chap, Bob, and I. The trip had been Jo’s or G’s idea, we couldn’t agree who had started it. But it felt like a jaunt, or as G put it later ‘Four Go Mad in Maine and Mass.’ We were going with the aim of meeting up with our third cousin, Jan, whom I had never met (being away in Kenya when she and Craig had visited the UK). Jo had met them, though, and shown them around Shropshire. Now Jan had kindly invited us to stay in her beach cottage for a week before travelling on up to Richmond to the family alpaca farm.

The day was hot as we drove up from Boston, but already I could feel summer slipping away. There was a dreamy, dusty air about the small towns we drove through, the civic gardens still brightly neat with flowers, yet with that ‘nearly over’ look.  Salem, Gloucester, Portsmouth, Kittery, Biddeford, Saco,  we passed on through, except for a quick pit stop at Kittery, and our first taste of Maine clam chowder. The first of many ‘tastes’ I should say, since we all became hooked on the stuff.

And so well and severally chowdered, we sped on northwards up route 95. The trip was taking longer than we had reckoned on. Being the end of the  holiday season, the highways department had started digging the road up for what seemed like miles. We could spot  no useful turn off, and we were keyed up in the knowledge that Cousin Jan was meeting us at the cottage with the keys at 3pm.  Back at the farm, the alpaca moms were busy having babies and she was on tight schedule.

But then just when we thought we’d never get there, there was the sign we’d been looking for.  Ocean Park. We turned off the highway into the maze of pretty lanes and avenues that make up this quaint seaside community.

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Our destination was in fact just a step away from the beach, in what had started out as a single storey, verandahed cabin, but later had been jacked up on cinder blocks to provide another floor. The verandah had been enclosed and turned into two rooms. Jan told us that the cottage had originally been the 1920s retreat of an Englishman who had lived in India. Many of his books were still on the sitting-room book shelves where he had left them. He had apparently later created the lower floor for his mother  so making two little houses in one.

Jan was sitting out on the lawn reading when we arrived. The sunlight had that honeyed September glow, but the sea breathed autumn at us. Jan was worried we would be cold at night since the cottage had no insulation. She had come armed with extra duvets from the farm. It was an odd feeling that meeting. Although we were strangers, I felt instantly embraced by family affection. For one thing, Jan so looked like my Aunt Evelyn.

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Apart from the occasional and poignant call of a passing train (a sound we grew quickly to love), Ocean Park is a serene and leafy enclave. A place out of time. Most of its houses date from the late 19th century when the Free Will Baptists founded a family summer resort there. The presence of water and a grove of trees were requisite for such a retreat, while religious and educational meetings and all round self-improvement were the focus of the gathering’s activities.  The Tabernacle Temple meeting hall is still there amongst the pines and maples.

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Meanwhile, a couple of miles along the beach, the resort of Old Orchard Beach aka OOB, could not be more different.  In season it is teeming with humanity, the coastal strip lined with cheap boarding houses and motels. It is not the sort of place we would normally go to in any season, too much razzamatazz and bustle, junk takeaways, and nowhere to buy real food. But now, at summer’s end, it did hold a certain doleful fascination – you know, the kind of fascination of the David Lynch Twin Peaks sort.

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IMG_0058 - CopyWhat else can you say, off-season resorts are simply desolate. When summer ends they lose their reason ‘to be’; the body is there, but someone has switched off the blood supply. We wandered up and down empty streets, feeling somewhat perplexed. Most of the shops were shut.  The rides at Palace Playground had been wrapped up for the winter. There was scarcely a soul around.

It was only when I had a notion to take the Downeaster train to Portland, and we ended up in the library, trying to find out how to buy tickets (the station machine being terminally out of order), that it was all change. Inside the library it was humming with cheerful librarians and  young moms with kids. And so just when we thought we were all alone on Planet OOB, lovely human life was discovered. The librarian even let us use the phone to reserve train tickets, and then print them off from her computer. So thank you Libby Library, you surely know how to give good service – in or out of season. We hope, too, that by now you have reached your building fund target. ‘Support Your Local Library’ – that’s something we all need to do.

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copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

 

Follow the links for more bloggers’ off season off centre posts:

Ailsa’s Travel Challenge Off Centre at Where’s My Backpack

Off-Season

Sounds of Portland Head

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It stills the mind, listening to the sea. The chattering monkey mind shuts up. Gives in. Surrenders to the inward rush of waves, the rhythmic retreat. But add in the doleful wail of a lighthouse foghorn, and something else happens. A door in the imagination swings wide: images of storm-lashed fishing boats, a ship off course, the warning blast resounding on fog-laden seas,  the tremors of anxiety as seafarers hear that sound and know of invisible danger ahead. Shoals, sandbanks, submerged rocks?

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There was none of this kind of drama on the day we went to Portland Head Light. The morning’s sea mist had dispersed to dreamy afternoon sunshine. We watched a huge cruise ship sail out of Portland. People milled about the gift shop and ate ice creams. September in Maine – what could be nicer?

The Portland Head Light is the state’s oldest lighthouse, built at the behest of President George Washington between 1787 and 1791. Apparently government funds at the time were very tight and the story goes that the President ordered the masons, Jonathan Bryant and John Nichols of  Portland, to use materials taken from the fields and shore and haul them to the site by oxen.

The original plan was for a 58-foot tower (17 metres), but when it was done it was realized that the light would not be visible beyond the headlands to the south. A further 14 feet (4 metres) was required, at which point Mr. Bryant quit, leaving Nichols to finish the job and build the small house beside it. The Light was dedicated by the Marquis de Lafayette and first lit on January 10 1791 using 16 lamps fuelled by whale oil.

The first keeper was Captain Joseph Greenleaf, an American Revolution veteran. For his pains of manning the Portland Head Light, Greenleaf was allowed to live in the keeper’s house and fish and farm nearby. He received no pay. By June the following year he had had enough. He wrote to the authorities telling them of his travails. For one thing in the winter the ice would form so thickly on the lantern glass it obscured the light, and he would have to go up there and melt it off. It is hard to imagine what kind of effort this would have involved, and in alarming conditions too. In 1793, until his death two years later, he received an annual salary of $160, which by today’s values would be around $4-5,000.  Not exactly riches for saving life and property from treacherous seas.

Portland Headlight

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Ailsa’s travel challenge: noise

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

sunday stills: Get your pumpkinhead now

 

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We had left Maine in late September sunshine, heading for Boston on the last leg of our journey before returning to the UK. We arrived mid-afternoon after mooching around Portsmouth. The sun lasted long enough for a fine view of Jamaica Pond, and then the rain moved in. By supper time it was cold and dreary and we did not feel like walking far from our B & B. We wandered a couple of blocks up and down Centre Street, looking for somewhere to eat. Nowhere beckoned, but at least the red glow of Costello’s sports bar looked welcoming. And it was welcoming. A query about the best brew on offer very quickly led to this:

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DA-DAAH! A round of applause for Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale.

I have to tell you that this was a whole-body experience. The rim of the glass came coated in caramel, sugar and cinnamon, which then proceeded to dribble down the sides. And all over our hands, which then required clean-up trips to the rest-room. But never mind. The ale was delicious, and required further sampling, and more de-sticking, and finger-licking. To hell with it. Who needs supper.

I now discover that this ale was created first in 2002, and that the Shipyard Brewing Company had its beginnings in Kennebunkport Harbor ME. In 1992 entrepreneur Fred Forsley joined forces with English master brewer, Alan Pugsley and started Federal Jack’s Restaurant & Brew Pub. This was the birthplace of Shipyard ales, but so popular were their English and seasonal ales, they soon had to move production to bigger premises in Portland ME.

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The other thing you need to know is that Pumpkinhead Ale is strictly seasonal, and only available between August and November. So get yours now. It is described as “a crisp and refreshing wheat ale with delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor”. 

I’ll second that, or even third it. But just to finish off, and continue in the seasonal vein  (since autumn has definitely come to England a month early), this last photo was taken at a farm shop just outside Kennebunkport. It’s the sort of quite understandable confusion that might arise after a beer or two. Chin-chin!

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copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

 

 

Sunday Stills

Forever Summer

 

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The fun fair was wrapped up for the winter, the pier shops barely open, and there was already a strong hint of autumn in the air when we went to Old Orchard Beach. We were too late. The sky was grey. We had missed all the beach fun. But then as we were mooching up the main street, wrapped in coats and searching for coffee, I spotted this mural on the side of a building. And so it was, in a corner of this out-of-season town, that summer never ends.

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

Word Press Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’

Container Mania: Maine Make-do and Memories

 

 

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The Farrell domain is full of containers of the rural and artisanal variety – too full, says the Team Leader. He murmurs the word ‘cluttered’. I close my ears. These are artefacts to think by.  They resonate with story.  (See  also Basket Case, the story behind my Nubian mats.)

Yet even G was beguiled  by this American sugar bucket or firkin, once used for collecting sap from maple trees.  Not that we knew this when we first spotted it in the Ocean Park antique store in Southern Maine. The elderly owner of this  ‘going-out-of-business’ curio emporium was having a sale. He did not mention the maple syrup, but called the bucket  a farm ‘make-do’, pointing out that the replacement handle was a length of horse harness, and that in its latter days it was probably used for doling out animal feed.

I instantly pictured my own rural upbringing in Cheshire (England). When I was small my parents rented a house on a large farm. I often used to help the farmer’s wife feed the hens, carrying a bucket round the orchard chicken run, and tossing out handfuls of corn to  happy, healthy hens. So you can guess what happened next.

Sold. One ‘make-do’.

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 The ‘make-do’ now sits on the kitchen window sill, and further reminds us of the kindness of Cousin Jan who was the reason we went to Maine in the first place. She let us stay in her magical Ocean Park cottage.  (Thank you, Jan and Craig, and happy anniversary to you both).

The bucket makes me smile for other reasons too. The Stars and Stripes came free when we bought it – a give-away  on account of the flag’s deficit of stars. It only has 48, and thus pre-dates 1959 and the admission of Alaska and Hawaii to the USA. I recall the brittle humour of the dealer who gave it to me. It turned out he was married to an English woman, who coincidentally just happened to come from G’s home town of Wolverhampton. He said he met her during ww2 when he was stationed  nearby. He was thus a bit of an antique himself, although you wouldn’t have known it to look at him. He said he was giving up the shop to concentrate on doing shows instead.

So there you have it. My justification for container mania (and I haven’t even mentioned the Polish potato basket which I use to store my onions, or the Zambian gourd that holds my cooking salt). This plain, rustic bucket simply goes on accruing meaning, a bit like Rumpelstiltskin weaving gold from farmyard straw. Which of course makes me wonder about the craftsman who made it, and the generations of family members who used it, and the circumstances by which one individual decided that, despite the broken handle, there was still good and useful life left in it, and so applied a length of harness strap to keep it going for another generation or two.

But for G, who would ever de-clutter if I gave him the chance, he has own reasons to be well-disposed towards the make-do.  Now that he knows it was probably once used for collecting sugar sap, he recalls the bright winter days of his Ontario childhood, the crisp air filled with the scent of hot maple syrup. For every year, at the winter maple syrup festival, freshly gathered sap would be boiled up outside in a big vat, and then thrown, sizzling, onto the snow-covered ground for some taffy pulling, and then much delicious eating. He speaks of this memory so vividly that I almost believe it to be my own…

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

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Life Entwined at Ogunquit

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Cee’s ‘Circles and Curves’ challenge is giving me the chance to  show again this work by New England sculptor Antoinette Prien Schultze. ‘Life Entwined’ is circular in every way – suggesting not only the cycle of human life and love, but also the turn of the seasons, the circle of time itself.

It is made from Vermont Danby marble and weighs 4 tons. You can see it in the beautiful shore-side garden of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in southern Maine. I have written more about the Museum HERE. It is one of the most beautifully situated galleries in the world, and well worth a visit for the setting alone.

Another fine thing about Ogunquit is the Marginal Way, a cliff top path along the rugged shore. It was here I found this natural sculpture which also fits the challenge.

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copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

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For more about Ogunquit Museum of American Art see my earlier post:

Only One Ogunquit: the little gallery by the sea

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