Friday, February 24, 2017

An Osprey Has Breakfast


Atop a telegraph pole, the fish dangling down at the side. He doesn't look too interested but that's just a ploy. Like those ancient hermits, he feels quite at home on top of a pole. Along the motorway you can see nesting platforms put up specially - and unlike cat baskets, they do get used. It's one of the beauties of the beach, to see an osprey fly by and dive for a fish.

A Bit More From the Ringling

My two favourites..
"Ploughing in Nivernais" by Rosa Bonheur. The caption described the oxen as "noble". A good word.  

And believe it or not, a modern art installation that's actually beautiful. Anne Patterson's "Pathless Woods".


 The 8,400 hanging ribbons were a forest


You could explore. "Mind the column in the middle", they warned.


You could brush through the ribbons like one of those screens in some old Italian riviera doorway. And totally lose yourself. Magical.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Rose Garden and a Sausage Tree

  Anything is possible in the Sunshine State. This, if you have never seen one before, is a sausage tree. I had never seen one before either but as we explored more of the Ringling Museum grounds (see below) we came upon this.


What is this freak of nature, we asked ourselves. Then we saw the little sign.


"Sausage Tree", it said. "Pinnata Kigelia", it said. "Africa", it said. Well you could have fooled me. A hair tree perhaps, or one of the BBC's fabled spaghetti trees perhaps, but a sausage tree? Must be those Africans having a joke. And then my companion spotted this:


Aha. It didn't look much like a hot dog, or a banger, though it could, at a pinch,  pass for one of those French andouillettes. This specimen was one of the few left on the tree. The others had all been eaten. And we found a sausage flower too, lying on the ground.


After which my companions, having had enough of walking, hopped on an obliging trolley.


I hopped on with them for a few yards, taking a pic of the Ringling mansion rapidly receding into the distance..


... then hopped off again at the sign for "Rose Garden". Of course, I didn't really expect to see a rose garden. It was January after all. There was a fetching shepherd.


And shepherdess

And then, lo and behold...

Roses in bloom.  Wow. Florida is truly a little miracle. I liked this dusky colour, or dusty - like an old artificial flower on a grave, except it was alive. It was called "Koko Loko".


Pretty - but I didn't catch her name.


This one was called "Chicago Peace" ..


Which some people might call an oxymoron. Here's Diana,  Princess of Wales. (Trust the Americans to have one.)


And this is Sweet Surrender.


With palm trees. Only in Florida.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Warbirds Are Go!

Dateline: Venice, Florida

America's equivalent of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was back in town today. We hoofed it down to watch from the airport perimeter fence. The Flying Fortress, the Liberator, the Mitchell and the Mustang were due to fly in from Tampa between 1 and 2pm but some people had been waiting a lot longer than that. All sorts of cars and trucks had pulled up on the grass. We stood, squinting at the sky and two of them swooped beautifully over us but of course I didn't have the camera, only binoculars.  Then came a third..


The Flying Fortress was coming in to land.


And here she is, taxiing by.


 And here's the Liberator, parked at the airport, with the Mustang in the distance.


Ironic to see these noble planes at the same airport where the 9/11 terrorists learned to fly (but not to land.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bob's yer Cat

You never know what you're going to find at Golden Beach. I was about to walk out through the beach access after my sunrise jog this morning and spotted something between the benches that didn't look as if it belonged there.


Someone's kitty? Well not exactly...


It was a big bobcat, completely unperturbed. He spotted me and instead of scarpering, started to saunter towards me.  He looked as if he wanted me to tickle him under his chin. 


Remembering the recent shenanigans reported in the local paper when one of his relatives broke into someone's house and nearly zombified the inhabitants, I was disinclined to oblige.  I retreated to a safe distance and waited for him to go away.  He certainly took his time before loping off in the direction of the next door block of flats. Lock up your dachshunds. 
   I thought the wildlife in rural western New York was exciting but this place is a veritable zoo. As well as the enormous coyote spotted last week sniffing around the dustbins round the corner on Coral drive, I've encountered, an armadillo, big black snakes on the patio and far too many rabbits and squirrels. Not to mention the neighbour down the road who was out sunning himself the other day.


And that's even without the birds.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Not Just a Circus Owner

 We finally got round to visiting the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. The Ringlings being the circus owners (see below). This was the collection that John and Mable (yes, she spelt it that way) Ringling amassed and built a gallery to house. The mediaeval church art was wonderful, except there was little in the way of signs and labels to say what it was. I loved this Madonna..


And this glorious altarpiece


And cherubs cradling the baby Jesus. This one we know was by Gaudenzio Ferrari (d.1546) who dabbled in art before he started manufacturing cars..


The 17th century artist of the painting below is known as the Master of the Sarasota Emmaus because they don't know much more about him. Could have been Dutch, could have been Italian. I don't think his atelier  was on the Gulf Coast of Florida.


 This was a Velazquez - Philip lV of Spain - got to be, with that chin.


And here, adding to the wow factor was a Rubens of the Archduke Ferdinand.


In the grounds were gargantuan banyan trees - those long snaky things are actually the roots. You see a lot of them around here.


And then towards the waterfont was the Ringlings' own mansion (I notice that word is used a lot more in America), called Ca' d'Zan. This means John's house in the Venetian dialect. Appropriate, since the stately pile was modelled on a Venetian palazzo.


We took the cheapo self-guided tour - which meant we could only see the ground floor.


This was the ballroom ceiling, depicting dancers.


 And this the living room. I've got a pink sofa just like that.


 You might have a thing or two to say about the Ringlings' taste but this door with coloured glass panes looking out to the bay was a nice touch.


This was one of Mable's more modest get-ups.


You'd have to be careful not to put your wine glass down on that chest.


The wrought iron door was to stop the dogs going into the dining room. Presumably the elephants didn't have a problem with it.


Drat - wouldn't you know, I just bought myself a plastic orange peeler. I could have had one of these natty silver jobs.


 Got to have the Flemish tapestries just like everyone else.


All ready for beans on toast - oh I forgot, Americans don't eat them on toast.


I liked the bar, though, but it wasn't open.


This was a fridge. Makes a change from stainless steel. And guess what, we've got that kitchen floor too!


 And this, presumably, was the microwave.


The Ringlings had a handsome boat, the Zalophus. They certainly had imagination when it came to names.


 They tied it up to their own marble dock.


 And here's a side-view of the palazzo.


I asked one of the museum volunteers in some astonishment, "He made all that money by running a Circus? But no, of course not, he had the usual side interests - railways, land, property, whatever. It was certainly a splendid place to visit and we weren't finished yet.
to be continued.