Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sunrise Over Black Friday

We are back in Easton again, for the T**********g (sorry, lads) long weekend.

But I was surprised to see that Britain's having Black Friday too. And behaving very badly over it, as happens whenever we take on American customs, Halloween being another example. What with the Archers staging a turkey pardon, we'll soon just be one country and this blog will be obsolete.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The T Word

 In deference to my feathered friends above, I will not be mentioning T**********g. But I hope everyone else has a happy one all the same!

Monday, November 24, 2014

In Post-Apocalyptic Buffalo

Where we ventured for some Christmas shopping, the roads are mostly clear. It was odd how there was hardly any snow until we reached the southern suburbs. Then, suddenly, there it was.

 At City Hall, what looks like an operations centre was winding down

Though the TV crews were still hopeful ..

(I sympathise but let's hope they'll be disappointed)

In places, mopping up was still going on

Some names suddenly looked appropriate

 Though getting to them might be an obstacle course

 TJ Maxx car park was a maze..

Though the piles were being efficiently despatched

And looked quite orderly

 If a little grubby

In places

And in Starbucks, life went on.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

  Lives on in America.  Hubby returned from the office with a fistful of faxes (remember those?) that had suddenly started clunking out of his dusty machine. "Don't Be Caught With Extra Weight On Your Roof!"  "Free Estimates on Roof Repairs and/or Snow Removal!" "Roof Collapses Are Happening!"  "With More Snow on the Way, then the Addition of Rain and Temperatures Expected to Rise, the Weight on your Roof will Cause it to Fail!" "Emergency Snow Removal and Roof Repairs!" "No Job Too Big or Too Small!"  
  As they say, if there's a buck to be made........

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Big Thank You

 To all the kind people who've been asking me if I'm OK. Apparently the Buffalo Snowmageddon has hit the headlines in London, Prague and Ljubljana as well as the rest of the world.  I have to say, very sheepishly, that we have got off lightly. Only about six inches last night.

 And that's probably about it for now. It's warming up for a few days - though that will spell trouble for the areas that got eight feet. Where's all that water going to go? The irony of it is that our local ski resort - the one place that could have done with it - didn't get a piece of the action.* They must have been cursing. Of course they could always get a helicopter with a giant scoop, hoover up the snow from the Buffalo Bills' stadium and dump it on Holiday Valley. Just a thought. *UPDATE I have since been corrected by intrepid friends who actually skied today. It appears they had a bit of snow after all!

He's all right too.

 So's Woody...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


  Winter Storm Knife, Snowvember, A Significant Weather Event, whatever its latest moniker is, we in Cattaraugus County haven't had a piece of it. Yet. Our snow covering is still relatively meagre.

On the other hand our friends in a village near Buffalo just told us they got five feet in one day and could barely get out of their house. They heard a big crash and a snow-covered branch fell and pulled down their power lines and the box from inside the house. A heroic utility crew managed to struggle up their extremely long drive on foot in chest-high snow and fixed it.
   There's been plenty to take away from the news reports in the past couple of days. All the neighbours helping each other. The chap with the backwards baseball cap taking in a stranded motorist. Baby Lucy Grace delivered in the fire station by two nurses who just happened to be stranded there as well. The TV reporter sticking his hand into a snowdrift and saying, "This is no ordinary snowdrift - it's got a car inside it." I wonder how many takes (and snowdrifts) before he got that one right.
  My favourite bizarre bit was when Governor Andrew Cuomo got taken on a tour of the trucks stranded with their drivers on the New York State Thruway (sic) which I thought was supposed to be closed to all non-essential traffic. TV cameras showed him knocking on a truck cab window. "Just imagine", I said to hubby, "You're a poor stranded truck driver; you wake up from a snooze and see Andrew Cuomo banging on your window." For some reason he thought this was terribly funny.        

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

But I Shouldn't Complain

  Since just an hour north of us in the south Buffalo suburbs, they are in the middle of an extraordinary "Snow Event." (The British have blizzards; Americans have Snow Events.) There's a state of emergency, a travel ban and they're calling in the National Guard.
  Some places are expecting no less than 70 inches in the next day or so. Cripes. Down here in Cattaraugus County, we're suffering Siberian cold but that's about it. I'll stop complaining. For now at least.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Too Much Too Soon

 Driving in snow is not one of the foremost pleasures in my life. All right, there isn't that much around yet (thank goodness we don't live in Buffalo- they're supposed to get 2 feet tonight) but I didn't grow up with it in London and the less of it I do the better. And it does seem to have come around much too soon this year. That's global warming for you.
  So here we go again, churning through the slush.

The tedium of following a snowplough.

The excitement of a white-out..

The challenge of trying to stay in the tracks.

 (And here's proof that it's all come too early.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

November Snow

 I was right. Sort of.

Nothing as bad as the storm that hit the mid-west but a lot more than the little taste we got last week, Oh well, here we go again. Slushy roads, grimy cars, shovelling....
  Of course a lot of people are very excited because deer season starts properly tomorrow (until now it's just been bows and arrows). The local paper is saying it will be nice and easy for the hunters as they can follow the deer tracks in the snow - and see the creatures better. Not very sporting, I say. Though I do have mixed feelings. The two thornless blackberry bushes are already looking a lot smaller than they were. Thornless blackberry bushes + hungry deer =  BIG mistake.  I have now rigged up a sort of Fort Knox around them with deer (sic) netting though I don't think it'll do much good. The deer are far too wily for that. Still, I insist on not letting the brutes get the better of me. I and the blackberry bushes will go down fighting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November Sun

 Is it the calm before the storm?

A perfect November day, bathed in warm light.

The trees, bare and beautiful, the lane calm and quiet.

A logging path among fallen leaves winds up the hill.

The big pond silent, just a few geese gathering in the distance.

Tree trunks reflected in the water.

 A hillside in designer grey and beige and just a touch of gold.

 Even the lawn mowers are silent now.

 The quiet broken only by the cry of a bird and a rustling somewhere in the dappled shadows.

The goldenrod that swamped the late summer roadside still bravely stands to attention.

The evening light coming much too early since the clocks changed.

And on the other side of town the Allegheny River, probably looking much as it did centuries ago,

Such pure, peaceful warmth surely can't last, can it?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Poppy Day

 Means nothing to Americans. I remember some girl saying to hubby and me "How cute! You and your husband are both wearing matching red flowers!"  They do have Veterans' Day on 11/11 but that's something different. It celebrates the living Veterans as well as the dead. But I still bring out my British poppy (I got a friend to send us a couple) which is looking the worse for wear but better than nothing. Hubby has one from Canada, which is sort of stiff and velvetty but at least they have them there.

Americans do sell smaller paper poppies for Memorial Day, in May but they're very hard indeed to come by - although we did find someone selling them in Dunkin Donuts and bought up a bunch.
  Incidentally, the Fall of the Berlin Wall (25 years - can't believe it! Oh those heady days of '89...) also apparently means little to some Americans. I overheard a quiz on the radio when I was at the dentist. "The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago. Now, which country was it in? Was it Poland? Czechoslovakia? ... OK they did offer East Germany as one of the options. I didn't wait around to see if anyone got it right.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Meanwhile, Back in Western New York...

We've been back a few days, just in time for a bit of snow.

Along with some cold wind, just to make it more exciting.

Florida seems very far away.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Little Distractions en Route

Leaving Charleston, we headed south and couldn't resist this little distraction

I got some peach cider for hubby. Of course when Americans talks about cider, they mean non-alcoholic stuff. Our sort they call "hard cider". And grits are nothing to do with road but look like the sort of thing Oliver Twist asked for more of in the workhouse, only worse. They come into their own, however, when properly prepared with cheese, shrimps and so on.

Georgia likes to pride itself on being the peach capital of the world but in this case South Carolina jumped the gun. "Lowcountry" sounds wonderfully swampy and murky but it's cuisine is pretty good.

And this was a nice, nostalgic touch.

A propos of nothing, sister-in-law called this the bow tie bridge.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy Election Day

 And in the time-honoured British practice of not reporting election details once voting has started I will refrain from adding any further comment. Phew.

More on the road trip and our brief escape to Florida shortly.....

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Charleston: Charm, Grace and Tourists

After lunch at the Rivertown Bistro in a beautiful little town called Conway, in South Carolina (a place offering "endless mimosas" - Buck's Fizzes to us British - and interesting food like crispy chicken thigh sandwiches with sweet potato chips, aka crisps, only spoilt by a latte which tasted of cinnamon, as Americans will put cinnamon in practically everything if you'll let them,) we headed on south to Charleston.

Charleston, Rhett Butler's city, the place where he yearned to find "something left in life of charm and grace".

One of the jewels of America is now tourist heaven.

Though you can still find oodles of charm, wherever you look.

Provided of course you stay in the quaint, buzzing historic district, where, unless you want to pay through the nose, you have to put up with a little eccentricity in your accommodation. (A historic inn hubby and I stayed in on a previous visit, all four-posters and ceiling fans, had a tin of cockroach bait in the wardrobe).  But never mind. It's worth it to be able to walk everywhere.  There's the French quarter and the cobbled streets..

Working gas lamps..

...the bay front where Confederate socialites with a death wish stood on their balconies, looking out over the water to Fort Sumter and toasting the opening salvoes of the Civil War with champagne.

There's St Philip's Episcopal church..

.. whose surroundings are for all the world like an English cathedral close, straight out of Trollope, all mellow stone and climbing roses.

 With a shady old churchyard thrown in. On a previous visit, it was May and the city was bathed in the scent of jasmine.

 The earliest Charleston houses have sideways porches. The less road frontage, the fewer taxes. Not much has changed there, then.

 Here's one of the many grand hotels we did not stay in. Observe, also, one of the city's modes of tourist transport.

Here's another. There seems to be rivalry between the mule carriages and the horse ones (see above). The latter like to describe themselves as a "donkey-free zone".

I wonder if they've spotted this.

Gracious buildings abound, this one fronting the market selling hand-smocked children's clothes and other tasteful ephemera.

The sign above the door says

As in London, it's worth looking upward for picturesque touches.

This being one of the main shopping streets.

 There's just too much to take in..

You need days to explore everything.

And wallow in the ambience

and the architecture

And peek through wrought-iron fences and into hidden gardens

Not to mention tasting the food, though the tourist-trap restaurants aren't always all they're cracked up to be. You need to choose carefully.  Here is the Low Country Bistro's recipe for she-crab soup, a local delicacy.

And here's St Mary of the Annunciation, the first Catholic church in the Carolinas and Georgia, established in 1789.

With a magnificent unwreckovated altar.

 A spectacular ceiling.

Galleries and old wooden box pews (I had a strange feeling wondering what crinolined southern belle or doomed Confederate soldier had sat in mine before me.)

And a cemetery again.

They do a glorious sung Sunday Mass too, with no holding hands or caterwauling cantor or "Good Morning Everyone" .   I almost felt myself back in England, except everyone was impeccably dressed.

There appears to be no end to the charms of the city.

 Even hotel room doors have a sense of history

Though I had the impression that there's still a slightly snooty side to some of Charleston's long-time residents,  a closed little world that tourists don't get to see on their carefully conducted mansion tours. A friend who lived there for a while rented someone's coach house. The owner, she said, never acknowledged her presence all the time she was there. (Which sort of bears up my theory that, few though there are, there's no snob like an American snob. Unlike the really ancient European aristocrats, with nothing to prove, they haven't yet learned that to be truly noble is to be nice to everyone.) To a certain extent the city plays on the exclusivity - shops sell books about etiquette , hospitality, flower-arranging and "Charleston style". Visitors snap them up to feel they can get a little piece of it.

But so what, it's still a fabulous place to visit. This has it about right...