Thursday, May 26, 2016

Back to the Real New York

  After a trip away, I'm reacquainting myself with western New York. I couldn't help a hollow laugh when I read an article in a British paper about "bringing wild life into your garden."  For us, it's the opposite problem - how to keep the wild life out of the garden. For one thing, the rabbit population seems to have multiplied and looks suspiciously fat.
  Before we went away, hubby had left some planks leaning up against the porch wall. Eventually, when we can find someone who feels like doing it, they're intended for repairs to the house. But in the meantime and in our absence, someone has put them to good use.

We now have to creep around our own porch as if we were intruders, avoid using the side door or even sitting on the porch lest we get a loud tirade of scolding from the nearest tree.
The crabapple is looking good though.

 Fortunately someone kindly mowed the grass, though the flowerbeds are a jungle.

We are off again this weekend (Memorial Day holiday/Bank Holiday Monday) but back next week. The pleasures of weeding await..

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Other New York 8: One Big Park

Well wouldn't you know, the next day was bright and sunny. We strolled down to Central Park, past some of those canopies that posh American blocks of flats seem to love. I spied a couple of porters, aka doormen, in different livery chatting. Probably sharing gossip about their eccentric residents.

London has a lot of parks; New York has one big one. So if you don't live near it, you're out of luck.

But if you do live near it, it's a delight. We were in the northern part, which isn't so well-known. There's a vast reservoir, named after Jackie Onassis (did she jog around it or swim in it?)  and some interesting rock formations.

Central Park was partly designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, America's latter day Capability Brown, who also designed parks in Buffalo. Goodness, that man got around.

What's the story behind this?

Or this?

 The tulips in the City were doing better than ours back home in the sticks.

As were the daffs.

 The pond was waiting for water.

The botanical gardens, still bare in places were a genteel refuge from the traffic noise and hustle-bustle.

Though of course they had to make it official

Was this tree coming or going?

At the very top of the park, Harlem Meer. The quaint boathouse is not a quaint boathouse but a Discovery Centre.   Pity.

There was apparently an old convent.

 Walking back, some more New York flowers.

And a tiny front garden

Later that day, this was the scene when we got back to Buffalo.

 However, as this blog has been remiss in keeping up with the times, it's looking a little better now.

Coming up:  Road Trip Time Again!

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Other New York 7: What a Shower

 The South Street Sea Port is an interesting old restored neighbourhood.

This was a ship chandlers, a name very evocative of the old days.

The pigeon made me feel quite at home.

The lighthouse looked interesting.

And guess what. On closer inspection, it proved to be a Titanic Memorial. The unfortunate ship, of course, never made it to New York. The survivors got there on the Carpathia, a few days late. While making a Titanic documentary for the BBC,  I once interviewed the delightful daughter of Captain Rostron of the Carpathia, who, on a freezing day, welcomed me with hot soup just as her father must have done for the rescued all those many years ago.

 But what we had really come all this way to see was peaking tantalisingly above the chimney pots.

Not so much peaking as "Peking", a great old sailing ship, one of the last to carry cargo around Cape Horn. There is a fantastic video about this, narrated in his old age by an amateur crew member called Irving Johnson. Since seeing it we'd always wanted to see Peking. (Which, incidentally had a later existence in Britain as one of the Shaftesbury Home Arethusa ships and also served in the Royal Navy as HMS Pekin.  )

Well we reached the museum, waiting outside for it to open at the lesiurely hour of 11am. And when we got in we were told that, no, we couldn't tour the ship because it was "going to rain". Note the "going to". It was not currently raining. It did not rain for a full hour (I kept a record.) But no, the jobsworths were deaf to our pleas. "This ship", I pointed out, went round Cape Horn in ferocious storms many, many times, with all hands mostly intact and you're bothered about a bit of rain?" We offered to exit the ship at the first drop of rain. None of it helped.  They were totally unmoved, willing slaves to Health and Safety if it killed them. And they added insult to injury by cheerfully pointing out that the ship was about to be returned to Germany, its original home, so this really would have been our last chance to see it. I really nearly lost it at that point.

 Not to mention that we had to pay five dollars admission to see one measly gallery with little in it but some photos and history we could happily have seen online.  The excuse for this was damage from Hurricane Sandy, which, as I recall, happened four years ago.
What a pathetic show. The crew of the Peking would have been bemused.
(I contrast all this with a recent visit back in Blighty to the SS Great Britain in Bristol - gorgeously restored, plenty to see, no nonsense about rain, just a sensible warning sign to be careful not to slip. I suggest the South Street Museum apparatchiks go and take a look.)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Other New York 6: Memorials

It was a cold, drizzly afternoon in downtown New York City

The new Freedom Tower, built to replace the ill-fated World Trade Center loomed through the mist. The last time I was here,  a few years ago, it was still Ground Zero, a vast hole in the ground gradually turning into a building site. Now there are two new memorials, stark, grey, chilling and powerful, great, cavernous pits with waterfalls and the 9/11 victims' names inscribed around them.

It was reminiscent of the  Flight 93 Memorial  in a field in Pennsylvania which I visited a couple of years ago.  Nearby, the new transport hub looks like some bizarre bird poised to land.

After the attacks,  historic St Paul's chapel was a base for firefighters and other helpers.

When I was last there, the box pews were still in place but now they've been removed, presumably because of all the visitors. Although the one where George Washington sat in very different times is still there.

Now it's part museum

 Part shrine

Police from all over the world sent badges and other tokens,

Among them what looked like a a British policewoman's hat.

Tables are covered in memorabilia. The photos, the messages.

It's all deeply moving and still overwhelmingly sad.

 I was in London at the time, working flat as an editor for BBC World Service News. I didn't have time to take in the horror, though one evening managed to escape to Verdi's Requiem at the Albert Hall, the second-last night of the Proms. The conductor dedicated the performance to the victims. Everyone in the audience was crying. But we were thousands of miles away.

One of the old pews is against a wall. They've kept it to show the scuff marks left by exhausted firemen who lay down in their boots to catch some sleep.

 This trip, I didn't manage to take in the new museum - that's one for the future.