Monday, January 20, 2020

Cheeky Ospreys

 Our feathered friends in Florida seem to have an inflated sense of their own importance. Yesterday morning I looked up at the - well, not sure you can call it a spire - of Epiphany Cathedral

 And noticed it was under occupation.

 I know you can't see them too well from my phone camera but I can assure you that the penthouse suite has been taken. Mr and Mrs Osprey were looking snootily down at the parishioners trying to avoid bumping into each other getting out of the car park - as happens in church car parks the world over. I don't know if the ospreys are long-term tenants but there's something amusing about birds just taking for granted that some structure has been built especially for them. It's also wonderful how they've adapted to the modern world.
  Florida birds seem to be particularly presumptious. Whole flocks of ibises, the size of chickens  frequently descend on the garden and last night I was kept awake by a screech owl annoyingly hooting just outside the bedroom window like an extra in a horror film.  No, we're the ones who ought to get out of the way. I read recently that, some hundred years ago, the Florida bird population, particularly the snowy egrets,  was greatly depleted because people were hunting them for their feathers, feathered hats being big business. When the fashion for plumes filtered down to the less reputable classes, the upper classes stopped wearing them - as tends to happen.  Which was very good news for the birds. Perhaps they're now getting their own back.

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Golden Beach Pea-Souper

Dateline: Golden Beach Florida

 You expect to see fog in western New York and of course there used to be a lot of it in London but a pea-souper on a Florida beach is something special. This was a morning a couple of weeks ago. Is there a Gulf of mexico out there? 

 It didn't deter this lone fisherman. Good of him to wear red.

You couldn't even see the fishing pier.

The waves were putting on a good show though.

And the wind had blown the sand into interesting patterns.

 In the fog, everything seemed more mysterious, like the footprints in the sand.

Yea? So what?

The fog crept over the land too.

Florida is full of surprises. But one thing you can be sure of - at least it wasn't freezing fog.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

On Homesickness...

Dateline: Golden Beach, Florida

An observation...
Whether I'm in Florida or Western New York, despite both being happy places to live, I still get the occasional bout of homesickness for Blighty and the British way of life. Sometimes it can take just a tiny thing to bring it on. Like the time I glanced at the local paper back in Olean and saw the World Cup referred to in minuscule print at the bottom right hand corner of the sports pages, as the Men's World Soccer Championships. OK, maybe that wasn't such a tiny thing.
  This time it was the little word "carolers".

  In Britain, chaps like these are called "carol singers". Here, the expression is just a little bit different. Like "road work" instead of "road works", in the hospital instead of "in hospital" and so on. Yes, the photo is captioned "Christmas Carolers". I don't know why these seemingly insignificant differences have so much more of an effect on me than the obvious  words like "cookie" for "biscuit" , "sidewalk' for "pavement", etc. It's that almost unnoticeable difference that makes me realise I'm a foreigner and we are two nations divided by a common language. And I can't help thinking, "Why can't they just call them carol singers?"  But on the other hand, why should they?
Then I wonder how these little difference came about as the language evolved on each side of the Atlantic. Interesting.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 - What, Already?

The Blog is back in Florida, having spent a splendid family Christmas in Ohio, where there were vestiges of some odd-looking white stuff on the ground.

We've stayed before in this place called  Easton, which has a copious shopping district with a faintly British theme.

If you look very closely, you can see that the street sign reads "The Strand". Bond Street is somewhere nearby too. Though Easton tries hard to be London at Christmas, it somehow lacks the atmosphere of the real thing. It does, though, have an Irish pub (sic).

With an array of football (our kind) shirts and scarves

I didn't notice a Man United one. "Is this", I asked the barmaid sternly, "an ABU pub?" Understandably, she was a bit flummoxed.
 "Anything But United?" I added helpfully.
 Not wanting to lose a customer, she searched for the right answer,
"Of course!"
 Which of course was not the right answer. (Except after today's result I'm feeling a little ABU myself).
   It was in general a harmonious Christmas, though a certain family member, who happens for his sins to be a Tottenham Hotspur fan,  played the devious trick of gifting hubby and me Spurs scarves and taking us off to yet another hostelry, a den of Spurs fans,

to watch the Boxing Day action.

The Ohio Spurs supporters proved to be well-mannered and a little subdued, apart from when Harry Kane scored his magnificent penalty.

Some might say, of course, that they had a lot to be subdued about. (All right, I know, I can't talk.)

  And now 2020's crept up on us like a thief in the night. I notice that some Americans of our  generation have taken to celebrating "English New Year", as in sister-in-law's text, "Happy New Year! We're celebrating it in British time and having an early night!"
  My own Slovene ancestors had a weird superstition that whatever you did on New Year's Day, you would do for the rest of the year. Apart from exceptions like winning the lottery, I would think that it would be safest to stick to routine, boring things throughout January 1st, or you might get a little too too much of what you wish for.
Happy 2020 from Golden Beach!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Christmas Comes Alive!

  Yesterday I found myself helping out at a Living Nativity. I'd never been to one before but Jennifer, who runs the local riding stables, the wonderful  Windsong Farm  needed volunteers to help load up three horses,  two chickens, a Basset cross called Daphne and a lamb, along with assorted saddles, bridles, decorations, halters and hay to get to the Nativity site.  The donkeys, including last year's baby, Whimsy, had gone on ahead. Another farm had provided some goats.  In the absence of camels in this neck of the woods, the gallant steeds,  Digger, Merlin and Halo, were to carry the three Wise Men.
  Undaunted by a slight hiccup, in the shape of a flat tyre on the trailer - well the Wise Men were meant to be late to the party weren't they? - we reached Bethlehem, aka the field behind the Wawa garage, where shepherds were sitting around a smoking, sparking fire pit and Mary and Joseph  proudly displayed the Baby Jesus.

Who was blissfully soaking up the atmosphere.

 The spectacle was organised by the First Baptist Church, which also provided the costumes.

The horses were old hands at this game, having done it a few times before...

 ...lights and all....

plus, (take my word for it) a poinsettia boutonniere atop one's tail. Been there, done that.(Just don't tell them they're supposed to be camels)

Faith the lamb, in a natty red jumper, wasn't old enough to have been around last year but acted like a true professional.

 And Daphne

Just had a tummy-tickling ball.

 More! More!

All change for the Wise Men, who let someone smaller have a turn.

 Meanwhile, it being a bit of a cool and windy night, ladies served up some slightly un-Biblical, if welcome, hot chocolate, topped with the requisite deliciously melting mini marshmallows. If you weren't there, what a pity. You missed a little slice of the real spirit of Christmas.
And a Merry/Happy Christmas to all friends here and back across the pond!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

On Go the Lights!

Dateline: Golden Beach, Florida

We'd seen the trees in the arboretum lit up for Christmas before but this was our first lighting up ceremony. Parking was like gold dust - there was a party at the Community Centre across the road, which didn't help but as soon as we got there we felt the special atmosphere. A children's choir was singing at the gazebo..

Some people had brought picnics and tables and chairs and sat eating dinner.  Spectators of all shapes and sizes

milled around, waiting for the 5-4-3-2-1!  Here's our very own Golden Beach tree...

....a live oak embellished with hanging sharks' teeth, the blue water, the sand and the sunset - oh and the new lifebuoy we just paid for.
And one of my favourites - hubby's Coastguard Auxiliary tree, with Santa in his sailing boat.

The trees were all individually decorated by local organisations or in memory of someone. The big baubles always look good.

So do the lights on the flame vine pergola

A view across the park.

There were quite a few proper Nativity scenes this year.

Candy canes much in evidence

A youth orchestra took over from the choir and played Christmas music

Stalls offered food and drink and there was plenty of merriment.

Here's a very Florida touch - a decorated golf cart, a popular form of transport here.

More baubles

A nice traditional Christmas tree.

And another Florida touch - a decorated palm tree.

You can of course buy special lights for them.
  It was a delightful family occasion, everyone joining in, kids running around happily and having their pictures taken with Santa, grownups walking the paths and their dogs, admiring all the trees. They said there was so much interest this year that they'd run out of trees and bushes to decorate.  Community spirit in Venice is alive and well!The evening ended with a procession of six hundred cyclists festooned with lights. Sorry not to have a pic of those - hubby and I made our getaway in time.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Road Trip 6: Finally Mount Dora

Our next stop was Mount Dora, a Florida town we'd had our sights on for a while. But when we've tried to visit in previous years there's always been something to scupper our plans. Most recently an art fair - which they seem to do a lot of - clogging the streets. It's not called "Festival City" for nothing. You could kiss goodbye to parking anywhere. This time we had more luck. In fact Mount Dora more than proved its worth. For starters there was the sort of lunch place I look for in my dreams.

Shaded courtyard, tinkling fountain, decent food - snapper, lobster bisque, the works. We had walked around looking for some little hidden place off the main drag and saw umbrella tops peering over a fence. It was called The Goblin Market. It sounded as if it belonged in one of the tweer parts of Cornwall but it was a very pleasant surprise..
  The town was full of quaint shops.

And after lunch we took in the Modernist  Museum, with an exhibition about Memphis group design - lots of thought-provoking invigorating stuff - bright colours and stark shapes, the sort of furniture  you wouldn't fill your house with (unless you were David Bowie, who'd owned a lot of the objects)  but have just one piece as a feature. Although even that might be too much for hubby. All somehow unexpected in a small town in Florida.

And then..

The "Modernist Museum Shoppe". Something distinctly "only in America" about that one.

If you can find a day without an art fair I'd thoroughly recommend Mount Dora. Here's the view over the Lake.

Called Lake Dora. There's even a lighthouse.

  And then, the next day, we trundled into Golden Beach ...

...sister-in-law dropping me off and heading south to Naples. We love those road trips but at the end you always want to say "If I never see another hotel or restaurant again it'll be too soon." Good to be home.