Sunday, January 31, 2016

Flashback to Florida: Horses for Courses

As you read this, the blog has winged its way back up to the frozen north, though not so frozen at the moment, which is a great relief. But there are still some memories of Florida to (as the Americans say) share with you...

Take the day we went to the Horse Show. I was pleasantly surprised to find Fox Lea Farm, an interesting equestrian venue, very near us. I used to indulge in this sort of thing back in the day, so I was keen to see how it differed from the good old British horse show.  This was a rather more serious affair than Cattaraugus County Fair The day we went, there was no showjumping, which is fine for us connoisseurs. We get to be the only spectators apart from friends and family. There was a type of American version of a working hunter class. (A hunter, in this case, being a horse used for fox-hunting, though I wonder how many of these glossy specimens would be allowed on a mad chase across the muddy countryside, just as car show cars spend their lives being carried in trailers.)

I have bittersweet memories of working hunter classes, which are  judged on style and appearance as well as performance.  At one infamous one -well actually it was a working pony class, Tara, my Irish mare of blessed memory refused the first (tiny) jump which was us out of the reckoning.  These competitors were far slicker, admirably plaited and polished. I've noticed that American riders are sticklers for style, heels well down, toes slightly turned out, very conscious of the position of their hands. Note they were riding "English" which I believe is considered posher than "Western"  - a whole different discipline, judged on suitability for roping cattle, rounding up outlaws etc.

 They have the full beauty treatment beforehand - and that's just the horses..

The show ring too

Was impeccably groomed.

Like American horse races, they seem to prefer dirt to grass, though there was a grass "Grand Prix" ring. It reminded me of Hickstead showground in Sussex in its early days - complete with grassy bank, though the grassy bank was a lot lower than Hickstead's, possibly to comply with Health and Safety.

I noticed the competitors and officials saved their boot leather by travelling around in golf carts. I did actually see a horse being exercised behind a golf cart but didn't have my camera handy, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Oh yes, Health and Safety...

 Don't look at me, mate, butter wouldn't melt...

 It was all great fun and made me feel quite nostalgic. I hope we'll be back.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mailboxing Florida Style

A while ago I theorised about the American habit of standing a mailbox outside your house, especially with regard to our western New York neighbours. Here now is a Florida selection, though the distance to walk to your box is much shorter. 

Here's a nice way to incorporate a little horticulture. Easier in a warm climate.

Is this modern art, or just saving on digging a hole?

Well it was inevitable....

Just a minute, haven't we met before? What have you done with the baby?

This one looks a little northern late-summer-ish. Perhaps the owner is homesick.

Now that's more like it.

 Just when the postie thought it was safe..

More darned bills and junk mail!

All this serendipity is reason no. 546789 for not living in a gated community where mailboxes, front doors, toothbrushes etc all have to look the same.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Crates and Barrels

 Saturday morning and a roiling sea again

White flecks flew past me - I thought they were birds at first but they turned out to be flecks of foam. The ocean's edge resembled a giant bubble bath. A very cold bubble bath.  There was a practical sandstorm blowing, stinging the backs of my legs.

And look what had blown onto the beach. Florida rule no 1456: secure your dustbin.

This proved to be more interesting. A crate, blown, not from someone's house but much more mysteriously..

from the darkest depths of Davy Jones' locker, encrusted with the trinkets of the deep. What a tale it could tell.

 By the airport, palm trees tossed their locks in the wind.

Some lost in the process

Further on, another souvenir. Glad I wasn't under that one.

The Likely Swamp suddenly looked much wider

In the afternoon, things were quieter

 Though the trees in town were still being mightily blown

Now, I have to say, it is actually cold. Near-frosty cold. But not as bad, of course as it is up north. Thank you everyone who's sent emails from England hoping we're not buried in a snowdrift. But funnily enough, even western New Yorkers have escaped the worst of the snow. They don't like to be linked with New York City. No fear.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Different Kind of Sunset

Not from the beach this time but from our back garden, which Americans, of course, call a back yard.  Which always makes me think of either a scrap metal dealers or a prison.

Ours is a very pretty back garden and the sunset was pretty too.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Wild, Wild Weather

On Saturday night all hell broke loose  - thunder, lightning, rain pounding against the walls and windows. The power went out for half the night. The next day, every warning under the sun was out - riptides, high waves, high winds, red algae, you name it. We took a look at our beach, where the waves, with a little stretch of the imagination, were well on the way to resembling Niagara Falls...

But that was nothing compared to the top of the island, where the jetty had been closed, presumably for safety reasons but that didn't stop a long slow crocodile of cars nosing up there to see what was going on. What was going on was pretty spectacular

With spray splashing wildly up over the rocks

 And believe it or not, there, in their wet suits, were a bunch of intrepid (or crazy) surfers

 Battling the California-style waves

 They were in there somewhere..

Phew, there he goes..

 Meanwhile I wonder if their parents knew what these kids were up to...

But we were lucky. The worst damage in our neighbourhood seemed to be downed palm fronds in their dozens, although we did find an unidentified piece of someone's roof in our back garden.  In nearby Sarasota, things were much worse. A tornado just missed a church, another destroyed a house on swanky Siesta Key and tragically, two people were killed when the winds hit a trailer. Not quite a hurricane but bad enough.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

When I Grow Up .....

Oooh Mum, I mean Mom, can I have a mailbox too?

More mailboxing coming up shortly.....

Monday, January 11, 2016

Golden Beach Scenes

I never tire of walking past what I call this likely-looking swamp, just around the corner. I haven't seen any interesting fauna in it yet but who knows? It is so very Florida.

 Meanwhile, late afternoon on the beach and someone's out casing the joint.


 He doesn't mind getting his feet wet. Since the beach was   "renourished" (an unappetising word), there seem to be fewer shells and I would assume fewer delicacies. The shark's tooth prospectors with their long rakes have disappeared too.

 Uh-oh, someone forgot to tell them this isn't the dog beach. They'd better scarper before the local vigilantes rev up their zimmer frames.

Always there and always changing, the silver pre-sunset light on the water.

 There were some decent-sized waves too and I'm told, a few red flag warnings out. People were swimming on New Year's Day but it's got colder. More like real Florida January weather with some north winds thrown in.

 There are sea birds and land birds and we are the land birds.

So to speak. View's good, though.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Clouds and Breakers

We came to glorious weather which wouldn't last  - New Year's Day swimming off the beach - bigger now they've brought in more sand.  The cloud formations ...

were awe-inspiring

The next day, dawn over Golden Beach, as lovely as ever. Just a couple of fishermen, intrepid walkers

and seabirds.

There's nothing like it. My favourite time of day, especially as it's now snowing in western New York.