Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pelican Plunges

Having deserted us for a while, during the toxic red tide, the pelicans are back. They flap along in convoy,  then suddenly stop and plunge - a little like WW2 doodlebugs, the signal for a spectacular splash into the sea. It's hard to catch them with a camera, or at any rate with my camera. A smaller seagull bobs on the water beside them, waiting to get the leftovers, just as the pelicans themselves hang around fishing piers and the herons around fishermen on the beaches.

 The pelicans are like a cabaret I can watch for hours, ugly birds but endearing.

So is his little clockwork friend.

Below, a rather erratic video. Watch at your own risk.

Meanwhile, outside the house where we're staying, a high-level conference is taking place.....

...accompanied by frenetic, high-pitched conversation. Obviously, they are all on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Well-Dressed American Bed

   Our junk shop saga is at an end - for now. Our house looks a million dollars, if I say it myself.  And I have learned several new skills, including how to dress a bed.  I can't think how I went through decades of life in Britain without learning how to dress a bed. Or even knowing that such a thing as dressing a bed existed. But in America, if you want to sell your house, or rent it out, or just anticipate the neighbours having a little snoop around, you have to do it. So I bit the bullet. We obtained a "bedroom set" as a job lot; it was brand new and though the brocade effect and the fringes were not quite to my taste, well, hey, you never know who might absolutely love it. And most people have done, apart from one person, who, like a recurring nightmare, didn't like the fact that the bedside lamps were pink. Tough. Someone else thought the lampshades were too dark to read by. We changed those but stopped there, not wanting to end up like Aesop's miller, trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no one.
    So, after studying copious magazine ads and furniture shop ads, I can with some authority give you the ingredients for a well-dressed bed. And before I start, you can forget about duvets. They are not popular in America. You need colour-co-ordinated, sorry, to be absolutely correct,  colOR-co-ordinated sheets and pillowcases and if you're in a cold climate (this doesn't apply in Florida) a sort of naked duvet called a "comforter" on top of the sheet, the top part folded back. . So far so easy. Then you need a skirt.  Just like American Christmas trees , American beds need skirts so they don't show their legs.  When, after much trial and error, I worked out how the skirt went, (under, not over, the mattress) I moved on to the next stage, the sham. A sham, to my mind, is one of the most revolting of American inventions. It's a sort of cover you put over a pillow so it blends in with the bedspread. But do you put the pillow in a pillowcase first? Do people take it out of the sham to sleep on it, or tuck the sham behind the other pillows, or, slobbishly, just go ahead and sleep on it sham and all, so you don't know whether to wash the sham or not. (or indeed don't know if any sham you may find on your bed in a strange house has been washed or not) or, as I have frequently done, chuck it on the floor?  Nobody can tell me.  And after your common-or-garden sham, you have a European sham, which is square, rather than rectangular. Then you arrange a few cushions and a sausage-shaped bolster in a fetching display and only then do you realise you've forgotten to put the bedspread on. So you have to undo the whole thing and start again.  I can't think why Americans need so many cushions on display on their beds. They are of no use except for pillow fights.  Our particular bedroom set had another strip of material with it which I eyed in horror, tried every which way on the bed and still couldn't work out where it went. I think it was meant to be a matching curtain but I'd had enough. I threw it in the wardrobe and shut the door.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Antique Auto Antics

 We legged it down to Venice Airport for the antique (sic) car show.  Pretty well anything over 25 years old is an antique car in America, so our expectations were limited.   But we were not disappointed. Far from it......

Awestruck spectators.....

...admiring the neat little touches.

Some cars gave away their age.

Others didn't need to.

There were fins galore....

And all the colours under the sun...


....venerable marques.....

......and celebrities.

Even the drinks came vintage style.

For some it was just too much

Though help was on hand

And everyone seemed to have a good time

It;s the first time the Devereaux-Kaiser Antique Car Show has taken place at Venice Airport.  What they didn't expect was that the world and his wife would show up, especially as it was free.   The queues for the restrooms, aka facilities, stretched half-way across Florida and judging by some of the comments, especially from the gals, heads are going to roll.
  Otherwise it was a great success, an all-American nostalgia fest as old-timers reminisced, "That's Aunt Mary's car!" or "My Grandpa had a Cadillac just like that one!"  Not everyone was enraptured though.  Someone, evidently a long-suffering spouse, was heard to grumble, "It's like watching paint dry."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Meeting the Neighbours

Just down the road, by the lake next to the dog beach.

I wonder which toothpaste he uses.

A nice pair of shoes - sorry, legs..

I'm amazed at the signs you see frequently in Florida, "Do not Feed the Alligators". Now who in their right mind would.... well, only in America.  My favourite Florida alligator story concerns a friend who moved down to a house in Jacksonville, on the east coast. The house backed into a canal and one morning, when she first arrived, she was out in the back garden playing  with her grandchildren, when she spied an enormous alligator sunning himself on the deck. She nearly jumped out of her skin, scooped up the grandchildren, ran hell for leather into the house, bolted the door and grabbed the phone to call the emergency services. 
 "How can I help you?" said a calm voice on the end of the line.
 "I'll say you can!" my friend screamed down the phone,  "There's a giant alligator on my deck! Like, GIANT, like fifteen feet long! What do I do?"  There was a slight pause, then the calm voice responded, "Is he bothering you, ma'am?"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Alarming Juxtaposition

Venice, our Florida base, has a fabled dog beach.

Intrigued, I resolved to take a look and not having a dog myself, felt a little furtive, letting myself in through the double Fort Knox-like gates into a small enclosure, then through another set of gates, onto the path that leads to the beach proper. No self-respecting American beach is without its lengthy list of rules and regulations and this was no exception.

(It's long been my belief that, all over America, there are happily employed people who like nothing better than making up new rules. Hubby points out that this is because there are too many lawyers in America. He of course can say this as he's one himself.)

One wonders what constitutes suspicious activity among dogs. Also, I wasn't absolutely sure what mutt mitts were until I googled them. They are what you think they are. 
Despite this, the dogs seemed to be enjoying themselves, as did their owners. They galloped up and down, ears flying. So did the dogs.                                    

It seems, though, that only literate, or highly observant dogs should use this beach:

And they would do well to pay very close attention to that sign.  Because, very near it, is another one:

Which seems to me a rather alarming juxtaposition.

Watch this space to see out who else I met that day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Golden Beach Sunset

The scene around 6pm today...

.... and a little later

 and finally....


The Junk Shop Odyssey Continued

  To update you on our furnishing odyssey,  modesty precludes me from telling you just how successful we have been. We could now write a book on Florida junk shops, sorry, thrift stores.Among other emporia, we've scoured Divine Consign, Goodwill, Rags to Riches, The Elephant's Trunk, Blessings and the Treasure Chest, we've supported Dog Adoption, Habitat for Humanity, the Unemployed, Abandoned Cats, Abandoned Horses, the Humane Society, the Salvation Army and  the Episcopalian Church. (noting in passing that the Church and the animal charities get all the best stuff. )
  Of course it's easy to get obsessed and to curse the fact that the lamp you just bought for a song in one place showed up again in another at half that price. Oh well, can't win 'em all. Not only have we got some seriously classy furniture for our house but we've also met some truly delightful people.  Like the chap in Divine Consign who rooted around in the dusty warehouse to find enough bolts for our bed frames. He got all of them bar one and then the next time we were in, he remembered us and produced another.  And after all that, he turned out to be a Brit from Derby.  Then there was the man from whom we bought the beds - virtually brand new - who offered to lend us his own SUV for any other furniture we might want to shift, seemingly undeterred by the fact that we were complete strangers.   Another couple, from whom we bought a pristine set of patio furniture, turned out to be from Buffalo.  Florida is like one huge refugee camp, after all and everyone seems to be willing to help everyone else. But it's a revelation too, to see the length of the queues on half price clothes day at Goodwill. They stretch all round the shop. It's not all affluence here by any means.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Of Funnel Cakes and a Duck Pluck

Here's someone off for a stroll down the road. Fortunately, he wasn't heading for the Rotary Club Art Fair.. he would not have been amused..

Though he could have joined in with the entertainment..

This l'il light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!

There was quite a bit of art...

...and quite a bit of food....

..American fair food tends to be fried. Fried Snickers bars, fried cheesecake, fried macaroni cheese and so on.

A typical funnel cake, basically a mass of deep-fried batter,  has 760 calories and 44 grams of fat. 

Meanwhile,  the temperature in Western New York is minus 20C.  And in just over a week, we'll be back there. I'd eat a funnel cake just to stay in Florida a little bit longer....

Shipwreck Update

Before dawn yesterday and she was still there, a light glowing eerily from the masthead...She seemed to have edged further into shore.    As the sun came up, I took a closer pic.

Extraordinary to think the owners would just leave such a beautiful boat marooned for so long.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Shipwreck on Golden Beach

High drama here this morning!  I puffed out for my dawn jog on the beach. The wind had been howling all night and there was a nip in the air for the first time since we'd come.  I pulled my hood over my head and tried to keep moving.  The beach is a sad sight at the moment. The infamous "red tide" of poisonous algae,  which sometimes lurks off the Florida shores, had hit a number of fish, whose sad remains have been littering the coastline for the past couple of days. Locals were hoping the winds would push it away. But this morning, something rather bigger had washed up.

  There was no one around. I didn't have my phone with me so jogged back to the house as fast as I could in my unfit state to get hubby and the car, hubby being a sailor who might be able to help. By the time we got back, a small crowd of interested locals had gathered with dogs and cameras and early morning cups of coffee.

But we were too late to effect a heroic rescue. Apparently the boat had  not slipped its moorings, as I first thought (no moorings nearby, hubby patiently explained) but had sailed too close to shore last night and beached. The occupants had already been rescued by a jet-skier, someone told us. Actually, they could probably have easily jumped out for themselves.  "I thought it was a UFO!" said one of our neighbours, wandering up, shoes in hand, "the way I saw the lights moving on the beach last night."

An elderly shark tooth collector had found something. "Thought I'd at least get their oar back for them!"
   "Maybe we can claim salvage rights", someone else said, hopefully.

Meanwhile the humiliated vessel, piled high with high tech equipment which evidently hadn't done its job, what remained of her dinghy dangling uselessly from the stern, was left high and not quite dry, waiting for her owners to come and take her home..