Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Farewell Florida

Here's just a little more from the Sunshine State, to keep me going until the autumn.

Forgive me while I puzzle over whether this was sunrise or sunset but it was pretty anyway!
Meanwhile, hanging a bunch of bananas in your garage is not unusual in Florida. These belong to our neighbour. If the weather turns cold while they're ripening on the tree,  they need some tlc.

And very tasty they were too.  Floridians are very generous with their produce. People often want fruit trees and then miscalculate, ("Help, can't someone take all these oranges/lemons/avodados off my hands?") We are always willing to oblige. Our only fruit tree is a calamandon, with small, bitter fruit that makes great jam, if jam-making were my scene. I prefer something you can just pick off a tree and eat.
   Meanwhile this is someone else's bougainvillea.

 More lavish than our puny one. It's the sign of  a true Floridian to recognise that these shrubs, which, to outsiders, epitomise living in a romantic, sub-tropical paradise, are actually the bane of gardeners, full of wicked hidden thorns. There's a moral there somewhere. Likewise the Spanish moss, which drapes over live oak trees, beautiful from afar,

 is ugly-looking close-to and full of nefarious pests. Don't even think of bringing any home.

Here's another imaginative mail box. It makes a change from dolphins and sea shells.

A rare sight here, Mr Proudly Deplorable would find many more kindred spirits in western New York.  (Not to mention West Virginia, though I fear the recent stay of execution may be too late for the poor coal towns.)

A world away.

I expect it will be a while before I see another palm tree.

 But in the meantime there's the burgeoning northern spring and summer to look forward to.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Collies and Cabers Part 3

The blog is on its travels so posting will be intermittent for the next couple of weeks. But watch this space - you never know!

Meanwhile, more from the magnificent Sarasota Highland Games.

It was an event for all ages to sport their Scottish credentials - or at least sympathies.

With a few touches to accommodate the Florida sun

Such as extra lightweight kilts

The best bit of course was tossing the caber.

An event taken very seriously

I was impressed by the dedication of the strapping participants

Some of whom come from as far afield as Illinois and Canada.
That's one of the great things about America. Whatever your sport, interest or hobby, you can find kindred spirits to enjoy it with you.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Collies and Cabers Part 2

My favourite part of the Sarasota Highland Games - incongruous under the scorching sun, which got hotter by the minute (even the phone was perspiring) - was the Sheepherding (sic) exhibition.

The sheep trotted around amiably while various different dogs showed off their skills.

One Man and His Dog it was not. Each border collie came running in accompanied by raucous music - its own personal tune.

It didn't quite suit the occasion but this is Florida after all and not some dewy Yorkshire moor. At one point they asked for volunteers from the stands to stand in line while the collies did a slalom, herding the sheep in and out. Very impressive.

Last time we were at the Games, a few years ago, a couple of the sheep made a run for it. There was panic as everyone thought they would bolt straight onto busy Fruitville Road. The dogs really earned their grub that day.

To be continued. (Get ready for the cabers).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

And As the Weather Gets Worse

 With one of the pleasures of western New York life - getting stuck behind a snowplough.

This one pictured on the road to Buffalo. There's a lot more snow now - I would say I shovelled around six inches from the garden path this morning - though still not enough to merit a state of emergency. I hear one or two of the schools were pretty miffed that they had to close. It's those wimps in Albany and New York City dictating things.  We're hearing the plow (sic) monsters rumbling up and down the lane several times a day. A last chance for the drivers to earn their keep I suppose. There can't be that much more snow to come.

 But time, I think, for another flashback to Florida.Watch this space.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Florida Flashback: Collies and Cabers Part 1

As eight inches of snow are predicted by this time tomorrow, I fancy a Florida flashback and here's a taste of a great American day out we had in February.  The glorious occasion, under the baking Florida sun, was the Sarasota Highland Games.  First stop, some sustenance.

Hubby complained that the strawberries were tinned and the cream synthetic. Wimbledon it wasn't but never mind. This chap was trying on a kilt.

It doesn't say if they're one-way.

Kilts of all shapes and sizes were everywhere, even on the little kids. They take their heritage very seriously here. And in America you can always find kindred spirits.  Note the dirk stuck in his sock.

There were all kinds of ethnic Scottish foods on offer - haggis and chips, bangers-in-a-bun and chips, fish and chips. I regret to say that I had a deep-fried Mars bar and chips. You have to try one at least once in your life.

Aftr everyone sang "Flower of Scotland", the bands geared up fpr the Parade of the Clans.

 Whole families took part. The cowboy hat was a nice diverse touch.

 Everyone's Scottish at the Highland Games.

And there was a British car show too


 But the best part was still to come...
Watch this space...

Friday, March 10, 2017

Into the Cold

Dateline Cattaraugus County

It was, at first, a gentle homecoming. The weather was mild, the birds were singing, I could even sit on the porch listening to the trills and chirps and the shrieks of the bluejays, watching a couple of hardy chipmunks, Chippy Mark lV and Chipolata perhaps, foraging busily around. There was a red streak as a cardinal (of the feathered kind)  landed on the crabapple tree. and little green shoots were already shoving upwards in the flowerbed.
  But then things went rapidly downhill....

 It is now getting cold. Seriously cold.

So as I sit huddled in a blanket, watch this space for some more flashbacks to Florida.....

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Eating Alligator

We had friends staying and decided to take them, on the recommendation of our neighbours,  to see a slice of "Old Florida". It was called Snook Haven. We'd seen the sign from the road but never actually been there. We rumbled down a seemingly endless cart track and ended up at a collection of wooden shacks by a lazy river.

The Myakka River. It looked a likely place for our scaly friends.

Accidentally or otherwise.  I would not want to canoe there.

Though we spotted some intrepid kayakers.

They say suntan lotion makes a good condiment. A bit like mayonnaise.  We eventually found how to get into the restaurant ..

and discovered where the alligators were. They were all indoors.

Climbing the walls, on the ceiling, making themselves useful..

And above all, being eaten.

They taste like very rubbery fried chicken - or frogs legs if you've ever had them. The smoked beef sandwich was a much better bet. Of course everyone wants to say they've eaten alligator.
But the best part of Snook Haven was the famous banjo band.

 Hordes of people had come to listen, bringing deckchairs, sitting at picnic tables.

 It really was a different Florida. Touristy or not, it was a fun day out. The neighbours were right.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Flotsam and Jetsam

It's funny what you can find on the beach, especially early in the morning.

Apart from the usual suspects

 Every day, every tide, brings something different. For example I discovered where the Likely Swamp, which  runs under Harbor (sic) Drive (and fascinates me with its exotic quality and the feeling there might be alligators lurking, though I've never seen one here),

runs out to the sea. Except it doesn't quite run out to sea. There's sand in the way.

Somebody lives here. A little crab, perhaps. He's just swept out the hallway.

 Here are the sad remains of his bigger brother

The Red Tide of toxic algae has hit us badly this trip. More often than not, the beach and its environs have sounded like a consumptive ward, with people coughing. Signs tell you, if you're affected, to find another beach. Too late, though, for this baby shark. Whose is the mysterious footprint on the left?

But here's something prettier - someone made a little Christmas garden among the dunes, painting the pine cones and carefully dotting out the shells. They must have searched hard. This is not a great beach for shells.

And I wonder what the story is behind this. A tyre? A rubber ring? A lifebelt from some stricken ship from long ago?

 No treasures, exactly, but never a dull moment.