Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Faux-Pas in the Fog

There's something beautiful about these foggy summer mornings, the valleys filled with a candy floss of mist, our lane transformed into a stairway to mystery.

Trouble is, though, it always gives rise to one of my pet peeves - drivers who drive without their lights on. And there's no place on earth like Cattaraugus County for drivers driving without their lights on. More often than not in silver-grey coloured cars. I've tried flashing my lights at them but they don't understand. Flashing your lights here means you're warning someone that a police car is lying in wait around the next corner.
  But this morning, as yet another culprit emerged, semi-invisible, out of the fog, I nearly flashed my lights. I was so exasperated that I even nearly honked my horn. Then a primeval instinct for self preservation suggested that perhaps I shouldn't do it. There was something about the odd-looking contraption stuck on the car's roof. Sure enough, as it went past, I saw the letters emblazoned on the side. SHERIFF.  Phew.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I'm All Right Jack

Meanwhile, back at the garden shed..

My friend Clematis Jackmanii, or as I call him, Jack Daniel's, though I say it myself, is having a good year. He is about the only plant in the garden so far, touch wood (Americans say "knock on wood", which is too cumbersome*) untouched by slugs.

*another example of how the same expression has evolved with slightly different words. Why, for example, do Americans say "Road Work" and we say "Road Works"? Funny, that.

Monday, July 20, 2015

And Today...


Who needs Disney World when you've got western New York? There are no queues here.
Now, I ask myself, why are rabbits (note, not as plump and pretty as the ones on Wimbledon Common) so adept at eating my flowers and so stupid when it comes to road sense? Deer are the same. This one chose the exact moment when a car was speeding down the hill to dash right out in front of it.  It missed him by a miracle. I wonder if he knows how lucky he is?

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Oh, wait a minute. If you look closely, mum and TWO bambis.....

You can see why they have the spots. You never know who's up our lane early in the morning. The day before,  I saw a magnificent fox running across the road - not like the poor skinny ones in London. This chap was all muscle and huge bushy tail flying out behind him, the sun glinting off his red fur. He ran with long strides, like a racehorse, sadly too fast to get a photo.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Back to the Swamp

After two days of torrential rain and crashing thunderstorms, the water in the pond up the hill is muddy brown, as are all the rivers. It seems the weekend was a false dawn and we've reverted back to living in a swamp with mosquitoes lying in wait like snipers every time we stick our heads out of the door.  As for the slugs. Don't ask. I have now tried everything including bribing small children with large amounts of money. One collected 260. It was a drop in the ocean, as it were. And perhaps counterproductive. Since then, slugs from far and wide have converged on Lawrence acres in solidarity with their fallen brethren.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Garden Walk

Which, in itself, is of course a misnomer. No one walks anywhere in America. Well maybe they've rediscovered the pleasures in New York City but this is not New York City. So a Garden Walk involves driving, with the help of a map and finding the numbered houses that have bravely offered themselves up for scrutiny.  I went on one of these walks a couple of years ago and came back with a strange mixture of despair and inspiration. despair at the contrast between these manicured gems and my own jungle and inspiration to Do Better. Now I have realised something. American gardening....

..is not like English gardening. Americans are in their element with Neat and do it beautifully. Neat, Spaced Out Symmetrically and Lots and Lots of Mulch.

In our jungle, what with weeds, woodchucks, rabbits, deer, tree roots, not enough time and far too many of the aforementioned slugs, we don't do Neat. We aspire to a sort of English cottage/woodland reverie look and convince ourselves that weeds, sorry, wild flowers, are OK too,

Another difference - the phenomenon of the Vast Manicured Lawn. So many Americans around our way love to be surrounded by lawn, lawn and precious little else. They don't use it for anything - golf, croquet, keeping horses or whatever, just, presumably for gazing at and anally mowing from dawn till dusk, thus making weekends a living hell for those of us who love peace and quiet.  The newer and more sophisticated the mowers (the rider kind, obviously) the louder the noise. It's like being surrounded by an army of maddened mutant hornets.  There is a theory for this - that possessing an enormous lawn which one doesn't actually have to grow stuff on, is a sign of having arrived. The one-time colonists can imagine themselves Lords of the Manor back in the old country, a sort of nose-thumb at George lll and the Downton Abbey lot. Hubby has another theory, that it's a subconscious leftover from the days when one had to worry about attacks from marauding enemy, Indians or otherwise. It's good to keep a clear view of your surroundings.
   Then,  there's the, possibly contradictory, phenomenon of No Fences.  No sign of where your land ends and next door's starts. I mentioned to a few people on the Walk that I couldn't be doing with that and got some polite but puzzled smiles.
  Another Americanism - what we would call a garden is not a garden but a yard, which hardly does it justice. A garden is what we would call a vegetable patch or a herbaceous border - or just a flower bed.
   Back to the Garden Walk and below is a natty way of growing herbs.

Altogether the Garden Walk was great fun and it being a small town, a way to meet a lot of old acquaintances - and some new.

 And what's more, it was actually a sunny day.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Graduation Time

Spotted on a street in our local town. Note the bone, aka scroll, says "Congratulations". We're a bit past graduation time now but I'm always fascinated by how obsessed Americans are with the concept. A lady in my exercise class this morning bemoaned the fact that she'd been travelling and missed her granddaughter's graduation. I wanted to say that she looked far too young to have a granddaughter at university but before I got the chance,  she added "from Pre-K". That's nursery school to you and me. Yes, America has a graduation ceremony from nursery school, where the kids wear cardboard mortar boards and presumably march in to "Land of Hope and Glory" as they do for the more grown-up ones, which include graduation from Elementary School, which is called Eighth Grade Graduation and of course High School. I don't know why they use "Land of Hope and Glory" (minus the words) for graduation ceremonies but they do. Another reason why the Last Night of the Proms would mean something totally different this side of the pond.  By the time they get to graduate from university, they must be sick of the sound of it and have enough scrolls to paper the walls. I suppose it all adds to a sense of achievement and oodles of that quality du jour, "self-esteem". And a chance for parents and teachers to say "Good job!" Which is American for "Well done" and is all too frequently heard in the presence of small children managing to do very ordinary things. Still, I bet they looked sweet.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Try Ducks ....

 ....comes some helpful advice from my cousin in California. They apparently love to eat slugs. Now here's an extraordinary coincidence. I've just taken delivery of some ducks.

I fear they won't be much help. But they are very sweet and capture beautifully the Essence of Duckness, comical, practical and purposeful. They can't fail to cheer me up. The artist, Gary Rubin,  is from Amelia Island, Florida and I happened to drop into his gallery, when I was there last week (on which more later) saw these chaps and fell in love. Apparently they are Spanish ducks, or, more correctly, Duck, Duck Goose, as the painting is called  but they remind me of home and my old university, York, which was built around a lake where ducks abounded and much enriched our lives.