Saturday, March 29, 2014

Get Back in There!

Don't you know winter isn't over?

But there's something in the air. This morning we heard the honking of returning Canada geese overhead. The big pond at the top of the hill now has just enough of a break in the ice for them to take off and land. The first bear family of the year was spotted (not by me) scrounging for food in south Olean. And Chippy and Chipolata were out and about after a long semi-hibernation, sniffing disdainfully at my proffered peanuts. "Had to live on 'em all winter - if I never see another peanut again it'll be too soon." They seemed a little sleepy yesterday but today were scampering about and looked in remarkably good fettle. Of course, unlike in the autumn,  they're not storing up food but eating it and one peanut is probably a big breakfast for a small chipmunk,  especially on top of a lot of bird seed.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Back to the Freezer

Dateline: Cattaraugus County

 Where fans of the  Buffalo Bills  which is pretty well everyone around here, are mourning the loss of their owner, Ralph Wilson, who has passed away at the age of 95. Who knows what will happen to the team now?
 And as expected, it's still as cold as ever, with few or no signs of spring. I did manage a quick foray onto the ski slopes - probably the last chance this season - but the wind blew through my fancy Italian thermal shirt (40 per cent off in the Mountain Shop) like a hundred steel knives, so I had to call it a day. A pity, as the snow conditions were pretty good for March at the not-so-great elevation of Holiday Valley (aka the Aspen of the East).  Well, goodbye till next season. I rode the lift with a couple of chaps from Ontario, Canada, who think nothing of a two-hour drive to get there, since it's pretty flat in that part of Ontario. I'm lucky that it's only 20 minutes for me.
  Meanwhile, the garden still looks something like this, though the snow is getting patchy.

But don't worry, it'll be back. Even in a good winter, spring is at least a month behind London. And this hasn't been a good winter.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Watery Britain

Dateline:  South-west London 

As the sun sets over Wimbledon Common..

It's a watery scene.

Elsewhere, the worst of the floods have subsided but even on this high ground, the pond seems much bigger than normal, the land saturated but the ducks happy.

 Trees stand in water

 And giant puddles dot the fields.

 In the background, the famous old windmill observes and reflects.

Meanwhile in Western New York, the snow still lies on the ground, the temperatures well below freezing. I'll be back there soon, so must make the most of the London almost-spring.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Little Taste of Spring

Dateline: South-west London

I feel I'm cheating - getting a sneak preview. It'll be a few weeks before Western New York gets scenes like these - a flowering tree by Wimbledon Common and blossom litter on the pavement. (Actually a sidewalk to you Americans.)

Plus daffs out in force.

Add to that a waiter in the pub restaurant I went to who actually offered me a doggie bag to take the rest of my lunch home, just like they do in America. Unfortunately, also just like in America, he kept coming back every five minutes to ask if everything was OK. But he meant well. I get the feeling I'm experiencing the best of both worlds.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

More Finger Lakin: Gorgeous Organs

Who would have believed it? On a country road near Bristol (Bristol New York that is) an organ factory.

The old family firm of Parsons Pipe Organ Builders is still going strong. They were having an open day, along with generous offerings of coffee and doughnuts, to show off their latest restoration work. This massive beauty is destined for St John of Rochester Church in Fairport, New York.

Nice to know American churches still want organs and haven't all fallen prey to guitars and tambourines. Transporting them is an exercise in logistics too, involving massive trucks and many sacks of polystyrene peanuts...

The Parsons family have been involved in building organs since the 19th century and the family business was founded in 1921. . They've also recently worked at restoring a second great organ to George Eastman's (he of Kodak fame) former mansion in nearby Rochester. He was an organ enthusiast, to say the least. Sadly Kodak is sliding into oblivion but that's another story.

Pulling out all the stops. I don't know if this is Mr Bellows himself (forgive me if I'm wrong) but it does make a very fitting name for an organist.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Finger Lakin' Part 3

And here's the lake at last. Yep, that's a lake. A real Finger Lake. In fact, it's Canandaigua Lake. You can see the snow-covered boats and the boat docks and those little dots in the middle of the lake are ice fishermen, though their accommodation isn't as luxurious as some, which have heating, tvs, the works, all built around the fishing hole.

Apparently someone recently measured the ice in another Finger Lake, Keuka Lake and found it to be four feet thick.. You really could drive a tank over it.  (But I'm still not sure if I trust the neighbour's pond )

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Finger Lakin' Part 2

A house that got left off the last batch....

Meanwhile, the next day, the snow was coming down fast. Here's the entrance to a cemetery in the village of Bloomfield.

And how about this for an approach to your house?  A couple of years ago, my friends, who live here ,spotted a bear at the end of the drive.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Finger Lakin' Part One

A couple of hours from us is a region called the ":Finger Lakes" which I always think sounds a little creepy as a name but that's really not fair because the lakes are beautiful and formed long and thin like the fingers of a hand - with a couple of extra ones thrown in. Around them grow copious vineyards, the wine growing first popularised by a chap called Konstantin Frank, who once managed a collective farm in the old USSR and then upped sticks to New York state. If grapes could grow in Siberia, he reckoned, they could grow anywhere.
   Here's the pretty town of Canandaigua, on Canandaigua Lake. If you look closely you can see an Olde English House.   

And, as in many American towns, a lovely courthouse.

This house, by St Mary's Church, was once a convent.

The church itself has a nice, unwreckovated interior.

I'm amazed how so many of these upstate New York churches have such splendid stained glass.

And how the towns have such exquisite houses.

Unlike around our way, though, in prosperous lakeside Canandaigua, they're mostly in very good condition.

Like this street of small mansions which must have been a sight to behold in carriage horse days.

I think they call this style "Carpenter Gothic".

And at the end of the street, the grand entrance to Sonnenberg Mansion and Gardens - a place to come back to in summer, when the roses are out.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Woody the Downy Woodpecker

 With his chickadee friend

When it's 20 below, there's nothing like a bit of suet

 To warm the cockles of yer 'eart.