Friday, May 12, 2023

Stunning Houses! Dream Homes!

 Dateline: Golden Beach, Venice, Florida

A major conversation topic when I set off on my early morning power walk with my neighbours is house sales and house prices. Which makes Golden Beach no different from London. Despite rising interest rates, house sales here show no sign yet of calming down. The pretty cottage up the road has just sold and I hope the new owners will be of the Small is Beautiful persuasion and not want to pull it down and build their own version of Mar a Lago - which is happening all too often around here. 

 There are some transatlantic differences in the way estate agents/realtors conduct their business. Here they don't sell "houses", they sell "homes". Once you've got that linguistic nuance out of the way, there are other, far more pronounced differences. Just read the blurb on the online house ads, which I'm far too fond of browsing. In Britain it'll tell you stuff like how many bedrooms and how close to the railway station. In short it's about the house. Here in the US it's all about how you will live your life once you're lucky enough to buy the house, sorry, home. Well, for a start you're going to be doing a lot of "cozying" [sic].  As in "Cozy up in front of the wonderful stone fireplace in the great room. Play a game of cards in the dining room while you’re cooking a crockpot of chili in the kitchen. "

   Like it or not, you're going to be the host/ess with the most/est, "Picture Sunday brunches with friends and family! You'll love the extra-large kitchen that opens to the spacious laundry room with ample shelving for your canned goods and supplies! The formal dining room is wonderful for those sit down, holiday dinners! And while the chefs are busy whipping up their gourmet dishes, your guests will have plenty of room to roam between the parlor and formal living room - each displaying a beautiful fireplace!"  Presumably keeping their sticky fingers away from the family silver.

   Next, you're going to be doing a lot of coffee sipping (it's always "sipping", which sounds more genteel, I suppose, than slurping or chugging). This may happen on the patio, or the  balcony or, if you've dished out enough dosh, by the (always) sparkling pool. When it's time to watch the sunset, you'll change to a "cool drink". Intellectual pursuits aren't forgotten,  "The spacious master suite features a beautiful fireplace and sitting area, great for an evening in with a book." 

   And in case you don't know what to do with that "office/bedroom/flex room with closet", worry not - it'll be "perfect for those guests who come to dinner and never want to leave." 


 You'd better lock your guests up and get some rest because you'll be leading an adventurous life, "This active and social community hosts many events and gatherings, one is sure to peak [sic] your interest". But if you, "Take a spin on your golf cart and enjoy the beauty around you and your friendly neighbors", just don't run them over. They could turn nasty.

   And if you're risking buying  that partly-demolished beach house in a town devastated by Hurricane Ian, you can still enjoy "priceless pleasures only such an island location can provide; and be blown away (oops) by its renowned sunsets."

    A neighbourhood in Britain is merely "sought after" (or in some cases "sort after" - a weak grasp of grammar uniting estate agents on both sides of the pond); here you won't have to let your imagination run riot - they'll do it for you,  "No loading up the car, no walking across streets with your beach gear, no waiting in traffic looking for a parking spot. Just bring your friends and family and walk out to the beach to enjoy the blue waters and beautiful Sunsets of West Coast Florida! Enjoy live music while dining or (of course) having coffee. 

 The agents also offer dubious sartorial advice, "Pack your flip-flops, your Paradise is waiting!", or, scarily,  "No shirt! No shoes! No problem!"

  Unless they're actually falling down, houses for sale in Britain are invariably "stunning". Here, though, they're  always "your dream home", offering the "life you deserve". Amazing how they know.

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Dry

 Dateline: Golden Beach, Venice, Florida...

aka the Florida Sahara....

We came back from Britain to find ourselves in a desert. I've never seen it so dry here. My neighbours tell me it did rain once in the last few weeks but it seems to have made precious little difference. The soil, meagre at the best of times, is now just a fine powder. The poor orchid tree at the back which is usually a festival of white blooms at this time of year, is virtually bare. Though the one at the front, the Tree that Came Back from the Hurricane, is still hanging in there. Still more bush than tree but maybe that will change.

Sadly the passion flower vine - an indirect hurricane victim, having been butchered of necessity to make way for our restored garden fence - is just one plant that seems to have died completely. We expected rain today but nothing happened and the percentage chance went down, down, down.

There is, however always a bright spot. The frangipani branch I broke off from the parent tree and stuck in the ground appears none the worse - in fact you'd think it was actively relishing its environment.

The parent isn't doing too badly either.

And there's still water in the Gulf

Or there was at dawn on Saturday. Though, ominously, these patches of seaweed could be precursors of the gigantic blob of sargassum - all 13 million tons of it - that's allegedly heading purposefully for Florida.

We may be back up north when it hits, so won't need to hold our noses, but we'd better not get too smug.  It may still be there to welcome us when we get back.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

A Happy Easter from Across the Pond!

 Greetings from a London that's letting us have some sun for a few days (all change on Monday though). There are spring primroses ...

....and other flowers springing outside our building

and though the trees on Wimbledon Common are still bare, 

there's plenty of new life out there...

It seems that every time I come back, there's something new. Now we can't go more than twenty miles an hour on our road and we'll soon have to pay 12.50 just to drive my venerable car out of the gate, thanks to the Mayor of London's new Ultra Low Emission Zone, aka the Dreaded Ulez. 

But in the little park around the corner life goes on. You can just about see the moorhen sitting on her nest - the upside down buildings are a reflection. Spring sun on the water makes even the back end of the medical centre look sharp!

So, wherever you might be, enjoy the blessed message of Easter!

Monday, March 20, 2023

A Brave Bloom

You may remember our casualty from Hurricane Ian - the poor orchid tree in the front of the house that had graced us with its pretty scented blooms for several years.   And then how it started sprouting again from the stump.....

.....well it's a bit bigger now and what's more, it's actually flowering!

It's more of an orchid bush than a tree but the flowers are still lovely.

We were finally able to rebuild our garden fence but some people are still waiting for their repairs and, south of us, in Fort Myers Beach, which was badly hit, there are forlorn patches of land for sale where a house used to stand. Mind you they still want an arm and a leg for the land - on which you can build your mega mansion, supposedly fortified against whatever nature can throw at it. No more small, modest houses, sadly. It will be a very different neighbourhood. 
Meanwhile, here in Golden Beach, the orchid tree/bush is doing its best to cheer everyone up.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

A Little Comfort in a Crazy World

 The Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota are always a good bet for a relaxing, inspiring visit. Well we needed to relax after battling the horrendous traffic on US41, the Tamiami Trail, at its worst in the current tourist season. The Gardens' big exhibition at the moment is gloriously imaginative - linking Louis Comfort Tiffany's  stained glass designs with the Marie Selby flowers and plants. It's good to choose a time to go when the afternoon sun plays its coloured patterns on the ground.

This pavilion, in the shape of a Tiffany lamp, is a prime photo opportunity. The  peaceful serenity is deceptive - you have to wait till all the people taking selfies get out of the way.

There are glass installations round every corner.

Cleverly set among the succulents and Florida flowers.

Here's an impressive fig tree - the flowers in between the roots planted for a Tiffany effect - though you might not want those roots too close to your house.

Tiffany got a lot of his ideas from nature.

And it's all a magnificent backdrop for the  Gardens' famous orchid display.

Though nothing can match the wonder of a real, live bloom,

Shocking pink glass

Teams nicely with a shocking pink orchid.

Not to mention the pink trumpet tree. (You will gather that it's nice and warm here in Florida... apologies to you people from chillier climes.)

Tiffany's middle name is appropriate.  Beauty is indeed a Comfort in our crazy world.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Crazy Driver Season


  It was only a matter of time. A few weeks ago, hubby was going up Harbor Drive (pictured)  when a car coming from a side road ploughed (plowed) right into him, spinning his beloved old Volvo  and writing it off.  And then a few days later, he witnessed the car in front of him entering a four-way-stop crossroads (I always think these are fiendish, relying as they do on other people's good manners - it would never work in some countries I could name) and another car hitting it.  When hubby drove off, understandably shaken, the horn on one crippled vehicle was still surreally blaring.  And a couple of days later he saw a cyclist defying a red light all but get himself killed. And I once had a massive pick-up truck reverse into my little car with a sickening crunch. 

 This time of year, the end of every unscathed journey is a blessing. We stagger back into the house mopping our brows and breathing sighs of relief, "You wouldn't believe what I saw that driver do!"  Likewise with friends' tales - of drivers swerving across four lanes because they just remembered they had to make a left turn, drivers taking a chance and crossing the road in front of you with inches to spare, more often than not with a trailer in tow, impatient drivers slaloming through the palm trees in the central reservation (median), drivers shooting red lights, drivers mowing down cyclists and pedestrians. The 70mph speed limit on the motorway (Interstate) is a mere suggestion. It's either a race track or a car park (parking lot) depending on where the latest pile-up's occurred.
    To survive we live by our wits. Any car poised to enter traffic, until proven otherwise, is a mortal foe.  We were driving down a suburban road and saw such a car. "He's not going to go is he?" I said as we got closer, "No he can't possibly go". And just as we reached him, "He's going to go!" I screamed and hubby slammed on the brakes just in time. The driver, tired of waiting, had decided it was time to go, whether anyone was coming or not. 
  It's my theory that motorists around London can be aggressive and obnoxious but they mostly know  what they're doing and where they're going. Whereas here in coastal Florida there's a fatal combination of  bewildered tourists, frustrated locals and some people who, let's face it, shouldn't really be driving at all. Except, unlike London, there's not much in the way of public transport. There are visitors wobbling along, helmetless, on their holiday bikes, groups of pensioners (retirees) seeing how fast they can go in their golf carts, motorcyclists, also frequently helmetless, weaving in and out, downtown shoppers and their dogs sauntering nonchalantly in the middle of the road. Signalling left or right appears to be optional. Rules are ignored (see above again). And of course all of us are capable of making the odd stupid mistake.

Every winter season the huge influx of traffic gets worse,  with congestion - and roadwork(s) trying to deal with the congestion - just adding to the toxic mix. And as yet more lanes are added, yet more houses are built.   And yet more lives are lost. Hard to know what could be done. Oh for the quiet country lanes of Cattaraugus County, (preferably without the snow) - or for the 93 bus!

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Back to Beach Time


I've been neglecting the beach. In between lots to do, chilly weather and the vestiges of the Red Tide cough-inducing algae menace, poor Golden Beach somehow slipped through the net.  But the other day I made amends. You are so lucky, I had to remind myself, we have our own neighbourhood beach just a short stroll away. It seems somehow ungrateful not to take advantage.

So I took myself off with a beach chair and a book and sat in my favourite place, as the little ruddy turnstones picked and pecked their way around me, friendly and fearless, looking for goodies in the sand, while, out over the water, pelicans plunged like knives into butter. Far away on the horizon fishing boats chugged past. And in the middle distance, a pair of dolphins gamboled along, close enough to see the sleek oily black of their backs. Their fins still make me nervous. A friend of a friend saw one for the first time and screamed, "Shark!" Everyone laughed but she had a point. A fin is a fin, even on an innocent dolphin. And there are sharks here of course, not all of them prehistoric and benignly surrendering their teeth to the searching tourists and their rakes.

I know I should do this more often. But I realise that, over the years, I've slipped out of the excited, romantic phase that is tourist mode. The main thing about our beach is that it's there - to sit on in the sunshine and walk along in the quiet dawn and meet friends to gaze at the sunset.  A bit like living in London and not going to the theatre for ages but being constantly reassured that, should I want to go, the theatres are there. And should I want to go, our beach is there. What a luxury.