Thursday, March 31, 2016

Making the Most of It

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York

Today has been balmy and windy - ominous weather. They say it's going down to the 20s at the weekend (Americans do Fahrenheit). So it's time to make the most of it. Like trudging up the lane to look at the lake - probably the best view we get from the road all year.

Admiring the early dafodils nestling among last year's fallen leaves

Which I'm leaving there for now - my excuse being I don't want the flowers to get cold.

Meanwhile I did some inspecting of deer damage, a traumatic annual ritual. This was once a rhododendron.  

And yesterday I discovered the mountain laurel I'd been nurturing for ten years had gone the same way. The deer have found a way of dismantling the nets.
   To cheer myself up, I took a little walk by our mountain stream. The weather was getting wild and woolly and several branches came crashing down.

Somebody's stocking up.

He knows winter is far from over yet.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter!

From Columbus, Ohio, hence this beautiful magnolia, which probably wouldn't stand a chance in a normal western New York spring - though perhaps this year's might be an exception. Looks like it will be a perfect day for egg hunts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

An Alien's Ambridge Lament

  You know one thing I really miss in America? Not having anyone to discuss  The Archers with.  It's my daily lifeline to Blighty.  I've tried to get American friends hooked on it (learn all about the chattering classes' view of a real English village) but they just can't get their heads around the idea of a radio soap. Those went out with ice boxes in America.

 So, for insights on the Rob/Helen domestic abuse story which is currently dominating all else and  taking "raising awareness" to new and terrifying heights,  I have to turn to the internet. And I find that no one out there seems to share my two main theories:
1) Helen is frequently seen as blameless, an independent, strong career woman turned into a gibbering wreck by her wicked, manipulative hubby. Rubbish.  Helen was always, as the Americans say, a flake. Don't forget that listeners used to nickname her the "Hell-Queen." Her career extended to running a small shop and making cheese for the family business. And call me old-fashioned but she brought a lot of her troubles onto herself with her poor choice of men and most of all by her selfish plan to have a baby minus man, just because she wanted one. Who was the control freak then? And then to jump into a relationship with a married man she hardly knew, disregarding all the early warning signs. (What about Jess's ominous words, "You don't know what you're taking on", or the time Rob told her to take her topknot down because it wasn't seemly for the future Mrs Titchener, not to mention the infamous tuna casserole episode?)  Plus she did her own fair share of lying and cheating, not least to her own mother.  Her false cheerfulness at her situation and constant denial of it to friends and family is becoming as irritating as Pat's puzzling inability, or refusal, to see that her daughter and grandson are in big, big trouble.   Not saying Helen's getting what she deserves, but let's get real here.

Having said that, Rob is as dastardly as they come and needs his just deserts,  which brings me to:

2) Has everyone forgotten Stefan?  The east European cowhand who disappeared after being the sole witness to Rob diverting the course of the flood and possibly causing the epic deluge on the village and the demise of poor Freda Fry. I don't want Rob to die horribly at the hands of either Helen or anyone else, briefly satisfying though that might be.  I want him to live and face his wicked deeds. So I'd like Stefan to come back, having wrestled with his conscience, go for a pint with PC Burns and spill the beans. Or, if Rob has indeed murdered him, for his family to show up demanding an explanation. They're not idiots in that part of the world, you know.
Oh and be quick about it.
My book club got very excited about "Girl on the Train" the other day. I do wish I could get them on to this!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Caught Red-Clawed

Thus miscreant has been pilfering the bird seed.

Red squirrels here are different from the European ones - much brasher. Although I have something of a guilty conscience with this chap, as, a few years ago, one of his ancestors came to grief in a confrontation with my car. Another succumbed to the neighbours' cat. But the family seems undaunted. Recently I had a conversation with a lady who lives the other side of town, up a hill. She religiously takes her bird feeder down on 16th March - not because of the squirrels but because the local bears come out of hibernation on that date and they love making off with bird feeders.. Amazing how they know it's 16th March.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Poor Sad Ski Slopes

Are a bit of  a sorry sight, though, pluckily, the resort remains open. Maybe I'll give it a try. It'll bring back nostalgic memories of spring mud-ski-ing in the Alps. The alpacas in the foreground couldn't care less (funnily, Americans say "could care less".) They wouldn't be seen dead on skis. Far too undignified. And western New York hills are in any case a joke compared with the Andes.
 Incidentally this is what the slopes should look like:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Unseasonable New York Spring

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York

   The blog has returned from a quick trip to Blighty where, I have to say, it was unfairly cold, although the daffs were out in force.
  I landed in Newark, which,is one of the western hemisphere's most charmless airports. You get through Immigration, you know you have to make a connection to Buffalo and you're absolutely on your own to work out how to get to the right terminal, via a cleverly-concealed train and then through another lot of Security, where the queues are endless. I wondered what happened to the British lads in front of me who had naively imagined that 45 minutes was enough time to make their next flight.  Dream on! You need to leave at least two hours. And the Buffalo flights invariably leave from the grottiest terminal,  which is invariably in the process of some sort of renovation and invariably full of seething humanity with nowhere to sit and nothing decent to eat and the smell of something fried and unappetising hanging over everything. I thought fondly of Heathrow Terminal Two, where I'd had a civilised Full English, delightfully served in a calm atmosphere and at a proper table and even more fondly, as I eyed the dodgy-looking tuna sandwich which was the only vaguely edible thing in Newark, of my last English Banger, probaby for a long time.
  But the worst thing was the heat. It was unbearably, stiflingly hot. I never thought I'd be crying out for air-conditioning. They had huge fans blowing away to little avail. It was, after all, early March and in early March, it's not supposed to be hot.
  And in western New York, early March is supposed to look like this.

Not this

Or, for that matter, this

And last night we heard, from the pond over the hill,  the spring peepers, the baby frogs with their sleigh-bell-like singing, harbingers of spring - but surely much too early?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Mentor, Ohio, Part 3: A Steely Mansion

Now how about this for an exciting place to stay? Admittedly not quite in Mentor but not far, it was another of those grand houses built by Ohio bigwigs in the old days. It's called Steele Mansion.

Now it's a B & B with lots of nice little touches.

Such as old telephones on the walls
 And in the bedrooms.

Though the plumbing left something to be desired.

Only joking.

This was interesting - a one time secret room used as part of the "Underground Railroad", which helped slaves escape to the north before the Civil War.

They used this window to get in and out.

These, I think, were old sleigh bells.

There were elegant lounges

 Lots of them

 Interesting antiques

Nooks and crannies

 Here's Mr Steele

 More old toys including one of those early teddy bears with the pointy faces

And a stylish rocking horse

Remember President Garfield (see below?)  Mr Steele donated the princely sum of one dollar to his monument fund.

In fact a room was dedicated to Garfield memorabilia, he being a local boy after all.

 Now this looks just like my old saddle. It would be considered quite posh in America, being an "English" saddle, as opposed to a "Western" one such as the cowboys used.

 Sleeping Beauty stayed here.

Across the street, you can see part of  Lake Erie College, apparently big on equestrian activities. The building in the distance looks like one of those wonderful old British Victorian asylums that have now been turned into flats.

 There were old photographs everywhere.

 I wonder who they were. She doesn't look too happy. "C'mon, Granny, get in the photo!"
"Well, if you insist but I'm not putting me teeth in."

But the most amazing thing about Steele Mansion was that, just 10 years ago, it was nearly destroyed in a fire. The photo shows some of the damage. Apparently someone was trying to clear icicles with a blow torch. Now the moral of that is......

 Very fortunately it was saved. I'm not in the business of advertising but I really don't mind giving Steele Mansion a plug. Not your ordinary B & B.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mentor, Ohio, Part 2: From the Fridge to the Freezer

You might have realised by now that I’m not a particular fan of American sports. I still can’t get my head around American football.  A schoolfriend once took me to a baseball game;  all I can remember was that it was the LA Dodgers and I fell asleep. Hockey is different. I can just about understand hockey because the rules are a bit like watching Man United v. Arsenal.  You have to get the ball into the net, except that it's called a puck and it's so small that none of the spectators can see it, which adds to the mystique. We're talking ice hockey of course.  Americans call the kind we used to play at school  “field hockey”. I don't know if that's a derogatory term but it sounds like it. 
    Hubby once took me to a Buffalo Sabres game (yes they do spell it like that) and the atmosphere was great, though we were sitting so high up in the giant arena that I could hardly see the players, let alone the puck.  And they put what you were supposed to shout on a big electronic board,  “Let’s Go, Woo-hoo” and so on. 
  This, incidentally is not the Buffalo Sabres' arena but the civic arena in Mentor, Ohio, quite near Garfield's house (see below).  A youth hockey tournament is in progress. We have a family interest, so we're supporting the team in white, the Ice Dragons.

Here's their star player.

 They put up a credible performance.  It's hard to clap though, wearing thick gloves.

Above are the teams shaking hands after, not before, a match. Professional hockey is notoriously rough, so I suppose they're trying to get them into good habits early. It's what's called the triumph of hope over experience.