Thursday, June 30, 2016


 A couple of weeks ago at Buffalo Marina, a family of geese were crossing the car park. Puzzlingly, they all seemed to be different ages.   And where were they heading?

 Ah - they were going to school.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Brexit-Free Zone

...Or at least I thought it was going to be. The American media have given it wall-to-wall coverage. And I thought they were bad enough with the Royal Babies. I have taken to hiding, as I don't think I can stand anyone else bouncing up to me and shrieking,  "What do you think?"  Of course, around here in rural western New York, the perspective is a little different from Wall Street's.  Many of my neighbours have long dreamed of seceding from New York state and the clutches of Albany and the Big Apple, which they don't feel represent their interests one jot. So they're seeing it as a David vs Goliath thing, the triumph of the little guy and are very excited. I was congratulated at the birth of the Royal Babies and now I'm being congratulated over Brexit. I got one of those chain emails originating with a woman who claimed she was so thrilled that she's now flying the Union Jack. Which is quite something from an American.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Comfort Paws

I got off a plane at Buffalo Airport yesterday and did a double-take. Here was a push chair but it didn't have a baby in it but someone else. And a sign. I'm a sucker for reading signs.

And in case you can't read it, here's what it said: "My name is Little Dude. Please ask my mommy if you would like to pet me!"  The nice girl with him was from a charity - she said she wanted to help stressed-out people getting off planes. And stroking sweet Little Dude might help them get their equilibrium back. Well it certainly beats massage chairs and all the other things they're dreaming up to compensate for queues, crowds, delays and the Curse of the Ziplock Bag.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Summer Comes to the Lane

A few days of near-perfect weather and along with the Dame's Rocket extravaganza (see below), we have fringes of blue forget-me-not-type flora bordering the road 

and the stream that runs under it. 

Early mornings, before the lawnmowers start up (and in between pickup trucks thundering up and down, always in a hurry) are blissful, the sun dappling the leaves. Just varied birdsong and the kissing-sound of chipmunks raising the alarm. It is, apparently, a bumper good year for chipmunks. The bleeding heart is actually in the black garden but it's looking good.  

 I could swear I saw some of these yellow iris-type flowers on Wimbledon Common.

 The call this Queen Anne's Lace around here.

 And it's back to the fog lying prettily in the valley.

 Now who's this, waddling by the side of the road?

 A concerned couple stopped their car and we had a discussion. It is definitely not, as you might think in Britain, someone's pet tortoise. It is, the lady assured me, a snapping turtle, who had chosen probably the most stupid spot in the county to lay her eggs. The next day she was gone. I hope she thought better of it.  I didn't mention that, a couple of years ago. I came to the rescue of a small turtle crossing the road and plonked it in the stream behind our house. I did put on my thick gardening gloves. This was probably an entirely wrong-headed thing to do but I'm just an ignorant foreigner - and a townie at that.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dame's Rocket Steals the Show

dateline: Cattaraugus County

We've long wondered at the glorious displays of pink, purple and white wildflowers on the western New York roadsides and in amongst the trees. Nothing speaks quite so much of early summer around here. They appear in June but never in the same place. 

Like the autumn leaves, they're at their best along the motorway where it's impossible to take a picture and in any case, I can't so them justice, just offer a poor sample.

They have a delicate, sweet scent and I wonder how they decide which colour to be, though they always succeed in making a perfect pattern.

 We assumed they were phlox but have since done some research which leans towards them being Dame's Rocket, Hesperis Matronalis,  Mother of the Evening and gilliflowers among other names.  They came from Europe and have settled in America, so I have some sympathy with them. I note that some politically correct states like Colorado call them a "noxious weed". And they are "prohibited" in Massachusetts. All the more for us, then.

We once tried digging some up and replanting them in the garden but it was hopeless. They won't be told where to grow.

 Though this year, some cheeky ones have appeared around my hopeless hydrangea, as though taunting it to bloom for once.

 They may technically be weeds but I'm not about to ask them to leave.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Brompton Oratory, South Dakota

There was no end to the surprises in this city, supposedly in the middle of nowhere. 

The Sioux Falls "Cathedral District" has some distinguished old houses - again, unexpected. I would have thought most of the architecture would be newish. St Joseph's Cathedral is some hundred years old and recently underwent an impressive renovation. The interior is quite glorious - it must have cost an arm and a leg but at least it looks like a church and not an in-the-round theatre or a gasworks.

Sunday Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi probably qualifies as one of my all time great American liturgical experiences. (Sadly there's not much competition).The proceedings were appropriately dignified, the choir was excellent and managed perfectly well without ladies in nighties prancing around the altar caterwauling some impossible tune and trying to get everyone to sing - sadly all too common in other places.
It reminded me a little of Brompton Oratory in London - and that's a real compliment. Hubby, being a traditionalist, said they could have included a bit more Latin but I'm sure they're working on it.
Afterwards we worked on brunch at a little downtown deli where hubby pronounced the poached eggs the best he'd ever had - now that's an even bigger compliment.
Then off to the airport with a little slice of Americana.

Thank you, surprising Sioux Falls and good luck!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk

Downtown Sioux Falls had an impressive permanent art show. This bear was called Big Flirt.

 A bit too Disney- like, if you ask me. It's actually a desert big horn. I assume the famous battle was fought over a little one.

  This is called Barborygmid 4. Don't ask me.

 Three Humpty Dumpties, or three hard boiled eggs ..

outside a quaint-looking diner, where we had brunch, or rather tuna and egg salad sandwiches. Incidentally, Americans call egg mayonnaise "egg salad". I learned that the hard way. Egg salad is not a salad with slices of hard-boiled egg on top. Likewise with chicken or tuna.

 The downtown had some pretty flowers and quite a buzz to it.

And two jolly baseball players. Come to think of it, that could be a pub sign. Doesn't have quite the ring of the Cricketers, though.

The sculpture was called "Day at the Park". I didn't get this at first. I think they mean a baseball stadium, which Americans call a ballpark.
to be continued.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Don't Fall in the Falls

Not that far from David are the famous Falls of Sioux Falls and the Big Sioux River. Niagara Falls they're not but they're interesting and a spectacular place to wander around.

There's a duck on that little island. We watched a duck seemingly fighting the current and desperately struggling out of the water. Then another one. Obviously they do it for the tourists. They know which side their bread's buttered.

We kep hearing ghostly train whistles. This looks like a working railway but there's nothing to stop you walking on it.

 There are of course the requisite cautionary signs.

And they went to a lot of trouble to draw yellow lines on the steps so you wouldn't trip.

Meanwhile people were happily clambering all over the rocks, which are a pretty pink colour.

 Something about it reminded me of Petra - though these weren't manmade ruins of course.

 Although if you look carefully in the distance..

 There are some genuine ruins -   the remains of an old mill, the Queen Bee mill, built in  1881. Of course when the first European settlers arrived, the place was just crying out for a mill.

This is what it looked like. The stone is Sioux Quartzite, quarried on site. The building was state-of-the-art at the time.

 And of course there was the requisite tourists' trolley bus.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

David at Sioux Falls

Last weekend, hubby and I had cause to go to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It may be in the middle of nowhere but Sioux Falls has a lot going for it. It has an interesting history, with boom periods connected to the railways and the meat packing industry and has reinvented itself as a prosperous centre of medicine and banking. It also has a fabulous 1940s style swing band which played at the wedding we went to. But it's also famous for having a replica of the statue of Michelangelo's David.

 And here he is with one of the snazzy new buildings behind, proving we weren't actually in Florence.

 But in Fawick Park.

Mr Fawick, who died in 1978, apparently made his fortune on clutches, transmissions, violins, sound systems and golf club grips. That's the American Dream for you.

 The irises were pretty too.
But why is it called Sioux Falls?

to be continued....