Wednesday, October 17, 2018

On Sailing and Stalin

Buffalo marina on an autumn day and here's Titanic 2 (names have been changed) up on the trailer and ready to head down to the neighbour's barn in Cattaraugus County. There was something of a traffic jam on the retrieval ramp - with only a few days to go till the marina closed for the winter, several others had had the same idea, including the noisy restaurant, which was busy hauling away its several various floating docks.  They had to go up the ramp too. Meanwhile we were huffing and puffing and heavy lifting  and attending to all the little details that sailing boats have. It's like undressing an Elizabethan duchess. "I can't fathom" hubby panted, "Why this always takes so long."

Way in the distance you can see to the left, behind the autumnal trees, Buffalo's art deco city hall (I'd say it's more like the Stalin Gothic you get in eastern Europe but it doesn't have a spiky top). It will be a long time before we see this view again.
  And the other way, the pretty 19th century lighthouse - too bad the other buildings in the marina don't match, being a triumph of neo-brutalism.

The blog will shortly be on its road trip south to Golden Beach. I already feel quite nostalgic for autumn frosts - even though, in this bizarre year for weather, we haven't had one yet.
  And speaking of the above, I was trying to book a hotel room for one of this year's destinations and got into one of those "chats" on line with an employee. "Hello", he typed, "You're speaking to Stalin, how can I help you?"  After a frisson of alarm, I was very kind and resisted a comment. He must get them all the time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Poor Panama City

 Three years ago sister-in-law and I, on our annual road trip south, drove through north-western Florida and the panhandle. As you can see, we took a delightful coast road and in Panama City in a restaurant right on the beach...

....had the best fish-and chips to be found outside Britain. It helped that we were pretty hungry and it was a glorious sunny day. How different things must look there now after Hurricane Michael's apocalyptic devastation.   It's almost impossible to find words to describe it.  Ironic that I'd commented on the houses on stilts that we saw all along the coast, saying how well-prepared they were for hurricanes.  As last year, after Irma, we thank God that Golden Beach was well out of Michael's range but are keeping the people up north in our prayers. My heart goes out to them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Last Hot Day...

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, Western New York State

  ..Will be tomorrow, they say. Then the temperatures plunge some 25 degrees. It's a swizz - since we've been back it's been rain, rain and more rain.  The apples on the grass are a squelchy mess.

  But today the sun shone and I'd planned an al fresco lunch with friends.  This can be unwise in America because of the preponderance of flying insects exuding varying degrees of menace. But this is autumn and hubby had used a flamethrower on the wasps' nest in the lawn. 
  On the menu were bison burgers from our neighbour, Jeff's herd.  There's nothing better -  plus British apple and blackberry crumble which is always a hit with my friends here.  I said to hubby "What's the betting someone starts mowing."  (For the full gen on the local lawnmower menace, click here.)      Well fate was certainly playing tricks with me today. Just an hour before our guests were due to show up, several trucks appeared and started doing something very noisy with the surface of the lane. Plus everywhere stank to high heaven of tar.   Of all the days to pick...Thankfully they moved along pretty quickly. Just as I'd heaved a sigh of relief, guess what happened? Yep, a mower revved up. And the last surviving wasp buzzed us, bent on revenge.  But there's nothing a good lunch and plenty of ice cold sauvignon blanc can't surmount.
  The jungle, having been neglected for much of the summer, is, admittedly, unruly

But the rose surprised us with an encore.

And I'd found pumpkins for the doorstep  from the same chap we get excellent sweet corn from on the way to Ellicottville. He didn't disappoint - his pumpkins were fat and perfectly round, not with one side flattened like the specimens from the supermarket.

The hydrangeas looked pretty round the bird bath

Not many autumn colours this year but the sun was shining through the trees

And some cheeky mushrooms were popping up. 

These were truly bizarre.

I need advice from my Mushroom Mania friend. He would probably cook up quite a few meals after foraging in our jungle but I'm not about to try it. I'll stick to bison burgers.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Out of the Frying Pan into....

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, Western New York State

  Well hello again!  After a few weeks of travelling, the blog is back at base - for a couple of weeks at any rate, before it heads south.  The travels included a Brexit-obsessed Blighty and just when I'd had my fill of political playground argy-bargy, what happened? I arrived in the United States to more of the same. Once again the air is rent with the sounds of axes grinding, toys crashing out of pushchairs and ancient skeletons dragged screeching and rattling out of their cupboards. 
  I would suggest calming down and having a nice cup of tea or, as my Dad was wont to say, a few convivial drinks (though under the circumstances the latter might not be entirely appropriate.) But I fear it's gone beyond that. 
   As a foreigner I don't think I should enter the fray but I would gently suggest to my American friends that, had they never severed their ties with their mother country , they might not be having this particular set of troubles. I don't recall judges in Britain being selected or opposed because of their political, social and ethical views. They're mostly chosen because they're good at the law and with little public fuss. Nor do their personal lives seem to enter into it much. But then we Brits don't have a Constitution to fight over. And Supreme Court judges Stateside have a crucial role, you could say, in running the country. They, rather than the elected politicians, have made some of its most  momentous decisions.  Hence there's a lot at stake and people get understandably twitchy about getting the right person in. I'm not sure if that's exactly what George Washington and his friends intended but there, I  suppose, you are. 
  So on to other things. We arrived back to find the jungle still hanging in there in its last autumn gasp, 

the sedum perky as ever

Though one of the hardy hydrangeas had mutated alarmingly

And against all odds, the sumac appeared to have been struck by lightning yet again. There's not much left of it. Time to call it a day I think.

That's what I should be doing with this gardening lark. But the Home Depot (America's answer to B and Q) had a good deal today on perennial asters. And I thought I might as well buy some more bulbs. I never learn.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lookback to a Foggy Lane

These are my late summer early mornings

The mist in the valley like a basket of candyfloss

 Unvarying and ever changing

The sound of acorns and apples dropping from the trees

 The distant foothills of the Allegheny Mountains

 And the sun finally coming out.

There are worse places in the world.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Lookback: Pinky Up

  I have previously mentioned a fairly new attraction in our local town, the Union Tea Cafe. The cafe seems to be going from strength to strength and has become the lunchtime meeting place for le tout Olean.  The place to see and be seen. They even sell T-shirts now saying, "Pinky Up!" (For my British friends, your pinkie is your little finger. They think cocking your little finger is the posh way to drink tea. It would be cruel to disabuse them.)  They still have a portrait of the Queen 

 and other British-themed memorabilia, like a genuine Essex policeman's helmet. I'm surprised it hasn't been stolen yet. (For my American friends, a common fate of an Essex policeman's helmet).
  Visiting for the first time in a while, I noticed a new addition

Instinctively my heart leapt and then sank again, remembering that all doesn't augur well for the coming season. I also learned from a young family member about to start college that all the girls in her school had crushes on European footballers, Ronaldo in particular. That's interesting. Maybe real football will finally take off in America. I should also report that hubby gallantly and quite on his own initiative flew the England flag along with the Stars and Stripes on our flagpole while the World Cup was on. It's still there. We haven't got the heart to take it down.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lookback: Mushroom Mania

Herewith some mushrooms that sprang up in the jungle, aka our garden. I'm a dab hand at mushrooming in France and Britain, so long as the mushrooms I pick are only edible boletus, aka penny buns or ceps, which are wonderful fried with onions and scrambled eggs. I don't touch anything else. And I don't touch anything in America.

 The other day, though, the Pfeiffer Nature Center nearby offered a "Mushroom Mania" experience. Here's the expert, Garrett Taylor, with regulation basket and in the backround,a quaint old wooden house with a hatstand with a genuine pith helmet on it and fabulous views where he gave us a preliminary briefing.

I'm not going to tell you what all these mushrooms are - I didn't manage to take notes but this was one that eats insects - a carnivorous mushroom.

 And these are Indian pipes, which are really a kind of flower.

I just enjoyed the way they look. It's been a fabulous late summer for mushrooms with all the rain we've had. The forest literally smelt of mushrooms, a comforting woody smell.

They complement their surroundings beautifully.

 This below was a coral mushroom - waxy when you rub it with your fingers.

 And these looked like icing flowers on  a cake.

The purple jobs were everywhere in all shapes and sizes.

 I liked this one, popping out a tree. It looked as though it belonged as part of the decor of a house from Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles - one of my secret pleasures.

This was almost like a stone sculpture.

All the yellow blobs were chanterelles - definitely edible. A veritable goldmine. They like to hang out near oak trees.

Here are the contents of Garrett's basket.

And one he says is good to eat - though please don't take my word for it.

Here's some more of the haul spread on the ground.

As for these little ones on the tree bark. They allegedly do funny things to you. If you pick them up, it's a felony. If you leave them on the ground it's not. Be warned.

We didn't take any home but compensated with a sack of chanterelles which we were still enjoying several days later.
  But I was right to be wary. Ceps in America aren't exactly the same as the European ones and many have the reputation of being bitter and not good to eat. In France they're mostly all good, unless they're bright orange or red. I think I'll stick to just looking.