Thursday, August 31, 2017

Strolean Round Olean

Strolean was a recent event in our local town, Olean (Get it?) They've beautified Union Street, introduced five European-style roundabouts (don't worry, neighbours, I'm sure you'll soon learn to love them) and want to encourage people to stroll around, also in European style, visiting the businesses and restaurants.  Bring it on, I say. To kick off, they had Strolean, with stalls set out outside the various businesses. For me, it didn't start off too well. I was going round one of the roundabouts when a chap on a bicycle, looking like Father Christmas on a summer holiday, sporting a red shirt and a white beard came round it the wrong way. Not only that but when I hooted frantically, he swerved towards me and shouted "Yah!" On second thoughts, perhaps some people will never learn to love the roundabouts and like staging their own mini-protests. Anyway, Strolean was a very nice idea, even if the day was a little windy and involved some struggling with stall canopies.

This sign was outside the whisky shop. A "mashing ' class sounded interesting.

On another day, perhaps. The singer outside the Beef n'Barrel was good. I hope some more people came along later in the day.

Meanwhile the bourbon bottle windchimes gyrated in the breeze. They almost made me get over my wind chime phobia. As long as no one hangs them anywhere near my house.

This is the logo of the local American football team, the Buffalo Bills. American football is not my first love but I wish them well. It's about time they had some luck and success in the new season. If Man United can come out of the starting stalls at a gallop, so can they.

Here's one of the fabled Olean squirrels. Remember how London once had cows appearing all over the place, painted with different designs? Well Olean has squirrels.

I like this row of flat-fronted shops - so charmingly American.

Sadly a lot of the nice old buildings in town got pulled down due to "Urban Renewal" (sic). That included what, by all accounts, was a magnificent old theatre.
I think the gentleman below is supposed to be a gangster. There were a few of them here in Prohibition times.

A peak inside the windows of an old closed- down pharmacy. The wooden cabinets which housed lotions and potions are still there.  Too bad so many local businesses have shut up shop. Maybe the new, appealing road layout will bring some back.

A sweet way to advertise your insurance business.

There were some "antique" cars too.

This old Ford was my favourite.

A small crowd had gathered around this energetic performer.

Though I don't know why he was dressed as Billy Bunter.

I asked hubby if they ever had Billy Bunter in America and he said no.  I don't think they'd dare revive him now. Body-shaming, I think it's called.
  I have to say I had no idea how many interesting businesses there were in town. I munched a (American style) scone sample from the new Union Tea Cafe and rather rashly bought a flamboyant fluffy winter hat from the Alpaca Farm. I think I will take it to London.
  The best of luck to them all.

Monday, August 28, 2017

More Fog Frustrations

At risk of sounding like a broken record, here's an open letter to my American neighbours:

Usually I love you cheerful drivers who, unlike London ones,  don’t honk at me to hurry up,  have rescued me from embarrassing breakdowns, snowdrifts and a double deer accident. But in these late summer days,  I often find myself driving into town through thick fog. The fog sometimes lifts, sometimes comes down suddenly , sometimes settles prettily in the valleys. You all must be used to it by now. It isn’t a new phenomenon introduced by aliens, or a by-product of the internet age. Fog in all its many guises has been with us for millennia.

 Now I come from fog central. You must have heard of London fog - you can even buy it in cans. It set the scene for the murderous doings of Jack the Ripper, the sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes, the novels of Charles Dickens.   It's better these days of course but we still have to deal with it.

   And let me tell you a secret about  how we deal with it. When we leave in the morning for work , or to go to the gym,  or grocery shopping and it’s foggy,  we reach for a gadget that we all have in our cars. This is usually found on a type of stick sprouting from the steering- wheel column. It involves moving a switch to the “on” position. And when you’ve done this (it only takes a second),  something devilishly clever happens.  Lights come on on the outside of the car. Two white ones in front and two red ones behind.  And what do those lights do? No, they don’t  help you see better, they help others see you.  And guess what, you can do it too!
  For a great country that produced Thomas Edison and landed the first man on the moon, that’s not so hard to grasp, is it?
 Please please, dear Cattaraugus County neighbours, have mercy on this poor foreigner who is terrified for her life every time she has to turn onto the Five Mile Road on a misty morning- PLEASE  put your lights on in the fog!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Beautiful Bemus Point

Sometimes,  amid all the frustrations of life, you get a magic moment.
  Hubby and I were contemplating where to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Rural western New York isn’t big on what Americans call “fine dining”,  though there are one or two decent places specialising in local delicacies like chicken wings in spicy sauce and beef on a salty bun.
  This time we decided to give them a miss and headed eastwards towards a lake with the unpronounceable name of “Chautauqua” – which in one of the Native American languages might mean “bag tied in the middle”, or, on the other hand,  might not.  Hubby used to keep his boat there and remembered a restaurant with a pretty sunset view over the water.

 The restaurant was in a little lakeside settlement called Bemus Point. 

 With just a few concessions to tourism.

   In 1811, one Thomas Bemus started up a ferry service with a log raft across the narrowest point  of the lake, the middle of the “bag”, in other words.

 And the ferry has been in continuous use ever since,

 more for nostalgia than anything else, now they’ve built a motorway bridge.

  Quaint houses decorated the lake shore, with their quota of summer daisies, purple coneflowers  and yellow black-eyed Susans.

  A few boats bobbed in the docks and seagulls perched on the posts. On the ferry ramp, a solitary fisherman patiently waited for a catch.

 We sat admiring the lake. It seemed too cloudy for a good sunset but the food passed muster, even if spicy chicken wings had made it to the menu.
  Afterwards we strolled through the village, past a shop selling live bait,  “Our worms catch fish or die trying” and an ice cream shop where I joined the queuing kids and got a “baby-sized” cone – more like baby elephant size, this being America. There were a couple of gift shops, or, more specifically, shoppes, a tiny Catholic church and not an awful lot more.  Except for some newish holiday flats that would have looked more at home  in Florida, glitz and commercialisation had largely passed Bemus Point by. 

And everyone we met said hello. 

  We walked down to a building that called itself the “Village Casino”,  which didn’t augur well but it proved to be a venerable dance hall and the only gambling in evidence was in the shape of a few old-fashioned amusement arcade machines, the kind where you try and fail to fish out a toy.  On the walls were photographs from the 1940s and 50s of big band stars and singers who’d performed here once upon a time, including Count Basie and Frank Sinatra, no less. 

 And further back towards the village was an old, wooden hotel with rocking chairs on the porch.

And more selfie ops out front.

There was a piano lounge,  a dining room with chintzy wallpaper,  a telephone booth now converted into a cash machine. It’s a short season. The hotel is closed in winter when the lake freezes over and the only tourists are intrepid ice fishermen.
  A display on a table told us the hotel had a ghost – actually several ghosts, all very friendly, including a  “kind and benevolent” nun, who’s “watching over” things.  A photo of some party-goers sitting on the stairs claimed to show her hovering spookily on the landing above.  It looked more like a guest in her nightie complaining about the noise but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
  We walked back outside and looked towards the lake, still wallowing in our happily nostalgic feelings. Suddenly the clouds parted a little and the vestiges of a pink sunset blossomed across the sky. While we watched,  the unexpected happened. Out of nowhere,  the strains of a lone trumpeter echoed over the water, playing, poignantly, beautifully,  “Taps”, America’s equivalent of the Last Post.  We traced the sound to the balcony of one of the flats. The musician leaned out and waved,  “Bet you wondered what this old geezer thinks he’s doing!”
  “You made our day!” we called back. It was perfect, just perfect. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The (Further Yet) Adventures of Chippy

Back against the maple tree - quick. Not sure what's going on with those peanuts.

Better come out further and have a little recce. It's holey ground here, after all. Lawn's like a Swiss cheese, she and hubby are always complaining.  Hard to see me - eh?

 Aha - got one!

 My, life is good when Chipster and Chipolata are elsewhere engaged. Not to mention that pesky red squirrel. Better make the most of it! Acorns are looking good too. That's when you need teamwork. One of you up the tree gnawing through the twigs, the other chaps waiting on the ground. Give it a couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Jungle Blooms!

 Starting out in the early morning mist

The usual time for my slug-hunting expeditions, the triumph of hope over experience.

Gradually the sun comes out

And things start looking lively. The burning bush to the right is taking its time. Japanese beetles ate most of the top of it, so don't look too closely.

Amazing that this trumpet vine started from just a tiny shoot from brother-in-law's garden.

I resisted these ubiquitous chaps for a long time but they do so well here - if you can keep  the pests off 'em.  When I first started, I used to wonder why the petals kept getting shorter. As for the foxgloves, I keep hoping they'll come back but so far I've had to keep planting new ones.

 The English country cottage look is starting to get a bit overgrown

A forest garden, more like. It's quite a feat to find some sunny spots.

We grumbled about all the rain for most of this miserable summer but somehow it must have paid dividends. The garden phlox are prettier than they've ever been.

 And for the first time this year, the vines have met at the top of the arch leading to lands beyond.

Those hardy hydrangeas are on the rampage

 I like this delicate combination

 Another shot of the coneflowers - in the sun, this time

And just for fun, another of the phlox with a few of the pushy yellow rudbekias getting in on the act.

And to top it off, a brazen lily.

 It may not be all-American neat, there's not much mulch in sight but considering it started from nothing, it's doing OK. Anyway it's my jungle and I like it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Friends at the Farmers' Market

 Our farmers' market has not been blessed with good weather this year. Practically every Saturday morning, it seems, there's been wind or rain or both but the intrepid stallholders have kept calm and carried on..  Happily the best lettuces in the world are back this year, Granny's Cookie Jar, with its excellent pies, is still going strong and there's now a coffee stall and someone selling fancy teas and body lotion too, though I do miss the goats' milk body lotion stall - that was the best!   
  Incidentally I asked why no one sold pickles. Well would you believe it they are not allowed to sell pickles.Jam yes, pickles no.  Pickles! Since when were pickles a controlled substance? The nanny state marches on...
  Also marching on are my friends from Flanigan Farm just over the hill in the next village. 

You may remember Olivia the  Picasso Pig?   This is not she. His name is Finigan, which I may not have spelled properly. Apologies if that's the case.

 Unfortunately I'm told Olivia has become a little cantankerous and lost some of her PR skills.  The goat family are a good substitute though.

I had been wondering about approaching Rent-a-Goat to help with the denser parts of our jungle, which no one on two legs is prepared to come out and tackle.

Apparently these companies supply the goats and a portable fence to stop unfortunate misunderstandings, you provide a bucket of water and sit back while they munch and everyone's happy. Trouble is, most of the Rent-a-Goat companies seem to be in swanky places like California and the more expensive suburbs of New York City, where people can't have that much of a jungle but would like to assuage their green consciences. So far as I know there are none in Cattaraugus County, though I'm happy to be contradicted.