Monday, December 31, 2018

And a Venice Happy New Year!

From Caspersen Beach at sunset - just down the road and next to a nature reserve. It's said to be the best place for prehistoric sharks' teeth. 

From Epiphany Cathedral, lit up in red a few weeks ago to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians.

And all decorated for Christmas

From our brand new library - built to look as though it belongs in the other Venice.

I think the yellow ducklings in the fountain were just there for the grand opening..

From the flowers in the garden - the ones the rabbits didn't eat

From our feathered neighbours

And from our own dear Golden Beach....

Have a wonderful 2019!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Venice Happy Christmas

The decorations are up in the arboretum. During the day they look makeshift and insignificant, hiding in plain sight. At night they blaze into glory.

 As usual the trees are decorated by local groups and families.

 Here's Grandpa's Lake again. I still don't know what that's all about.  That's all it says - Grandpa's Lake. Perhaps Grandpa spent happy hours fishing there, or perhaps something more sinister happened. Could be the start of a suspense novel.

Some deer and a little Nativity scene in the back. Let's hear it for Nativity scenes in public parks. The more the merrier! (I've noticed that shopkeepers here will say "Happy... " and wait for you to fill in the gaps. As soon as you say "Christmas" they say "Merry Christmas" to you back. Does anyone seriously want to say "Happy Holidays"? In Britain that would make you think of Ibiza, or a wet summer in Blackpool.

 I saw these dark dancing figures and thought, gosh, golliwogs! Surely not! Has political incorrectness gone rampant here?  Actually, on closer inspection, they appeared to be gingerbread men, or ginger men, as the Americans say. 

The manatee statue with a wreath was a sophisticated touch.

You can't beat good old-fashioned Christmas trees.

I think in Florida they must sell special Christmas lights to put on palm trees.

Here's another version.

And another. The little lion symbolised the Lions' Club. Those are the great people who collect your used glasses to donate to the needy, among other charitable work.

The giant baubles were my favourite.

 There were polar bears


 And of course snowmen.

It reminds me of the story of a local man who heard that, somewhere, right up in the north of the state, it was actually snowing for the first time in years. So he piled his kids in the car and drove north for four hours just so they could experience playing in the snow.

 A very Happy/Merry Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

And Bridgebirds

This is what you definitely don't want to see, especially if you're in a hurry; the KMI bridge onto the island going up, probably to accommodate a sailing boat with a tall mast. The sailors aren't popular at rush hour. "They just chug up and down the intracoastal with their engines on; they don't even put their sails up. Don't they know folks are trying to get to work/home/golf/the beach?" is a fairly typical comment. 

Usually it comes down again fairly quickly but not before a substantial traffic jam's built up.

But interesting things can happen.  I was once on one of the other bridges when there was an accident and the whole queue of cars had to reverse off it again.  And the other day, a car stopped next to us that was almost identical to ours - a venerable Volvo estate. Hubby and the driver both simultaneously wound their windows down and simultaneously said,  "How long have you had yours?"
  And today, fortuitously, I was in just the right position to stop and look at a pair of nesting ospreys on a platform level with the bridge.

As usual I didn't have my proper camera. But I never get tired of seeing ospreys. And I'd never have got so close to them if the bridge hadn't gone up.

Saturday, December 15, 2018


You never know what you might see on the beach in the morning.  A couple of weeks ago,  the tide was out and these chaps were taking advantage of it to have a conference.

The colours in the water were extraordinary, blending in with the sky. Different every day and never a dull moment.
  Meanwhile it's been raining like Niagara Falls and there was an almighty thunderstorm last night.  We had some storm damage. It blew the ribbon off the Christmas bows we'd stuck on the carriage lamps in front of the house. I found it in a flower bed and patched it up as best I could. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Happy Chanukah Florida Style!

Dateline: Venice, Florida

 Hubby and I went along to support our Jewish friends at the Chanukah celebration in Centennial Park on Sunday. It had been raining cats and dogs all day so things didn't look hopeful but later the skies cleared as the Rabbi MC was confident they would. 
  The gazebo was dressed up for the evening and there was music from a sax and electric violin (I hadn't known electric violins existed but the sound was wonderful) sported by a couple of excellent Russian musicians.

The girl on the left had a miniature blue Menorah on her head.

There was a children's choir and children on a bouncy castle and lots of families helping themselves to latkes and such. The mayor made a speech and later, as it grew dark, there was a commemoration of the eleven victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack in October, which was one reason why we'd wanted to come. Teenagers carried flaming torches to make a human menorah and made touching little speeches about each victim. A woman walked by wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirt. There's quite a big contingent of Steelers fans down here, where everyone's come from somewhere else, which is why everyone's so friendly. Though sadly there were other people wearing T-shirts marked "security"

Although we're not Jewish we felt very moved. There was so much warmth and a real feeling of solidarity. A lady gave me a little candle to light. I explained that I was just a visitor, "That's OK! Welcome!" she said.
  Later, a local policeman started the lighting of the big Menorah.

 Afterwards we drove down Tampa Avenue, which so far has dodged the horrendous roadworks (but not for long). The palm trees had their Christmas lights already. Surreal Florida.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

What's Happened at Golden Beach?

Dateline: Golden Beach, Venice, Florida

It was good to renew old acquaintance with Golden Beach, still serene on a cloudy morning.

A large cigar had been washed up. Well OK, a spectacular piece of driftwood.

 It has its own beauty in the fog. On this morning we couldn't even see the fishing pier. And best of all, not a soul around.

But alas, there had been trouble. While neither of the big hurricanes touched us, there was a menace lurking beyond the horizon.

This poor, huge fish - the length of a bicycle - had apparently succumbed to it, as had countless smaller fish whose sad corpses littered the sand. The culprit was the Red Tide of noxious algae - it's always been there but this year it's particularly bad, causing coughs, sneezes and breathing problems for people and death and destruction for fish, dolphins and manatees and there is, apparently not a thing they can do about it. People are blaming it variously on too much fertiliser, global warming and politicians but in truth even so-called experts can't agree on just what causes it and just why it's been so extensive and immovable lately. It differs from day to day. If the wind's from the east, things are fine, if from the west, you can pick up the rotten fishy smell as soon as you open the door.  They say it may be dispersing into smaller sections. Lets hope so.
  But it hasn't deterred people from wanting to live here.  Here's yet another monstrosity going up in what used to be a bit of wild jungle.

What's with the huge, high entrances, like some sinister faux-cathedral from some nightmare dystopian future?  They seem to be getting higher and higher. Everywhere there are new, big houses on the way.

People are no longer content with the small, pastel-coloured island cottages that made this beachside community so charming.  More are being pulled down every year and replaced with something three times as big. Even retired couples with no children around want some gigantic vanity home. And all over the county, all over coastal Florida, more and more housing estates are going up, cramming more and more people in and more and more cars on the roads that are death traps already. (One local development, built hastily of wood, which is not a sensible material to be toying with in Florida,  has already had to be demolished before it was even finished because the wood got too damp. Serve them right. May the termites get the rest)
  What's to be done? Well probably nothing can stop so-called progress. Sadly, one of my neighbours bumped into some people looking to buy, who said they'd read that this was top of the list of places to retire to. Which cad and bounder compiled that list? Please! Send people to Orlando, Miami, The Villages, anywhere but here!   Lies. It's all lies. This is a terrible place. Keep away!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Road Trip: Home Across the Sunshine Skyway

We stayed overnight in Gainesville - an attractive university town and again the only place we could get a hotel room - and sampled a Japanese restaurant with a weird ordering system, which was surely not a successful tactic because that's all I can remember about the restaurant, except that I had softshell crab that was more soft than shell.  
  We drove though the strange little village of Micanopy, sleepy and shrouded in Spanish moss, not much there but antique shops and we always seem to pass through first thing in the morning when nothing's open. 

I was sure there used to be a good second hand bookshop there but if there had been one, it had gone. There was an armour shop though.

As hubby would say, how about that! There's a slightly overgrown, middle-of-the-jungle look about Micanopy, which, no doubt, it cultivates to the fullest extent of its Old Florida credentials..

This is the land of oak canopies, the Spanish moss trailing like Miss Havisham's rags.

 But pretty soon we were into posh equine territory.

 I always wonder at the horse farms of Ocala, the place where racehorses from up north spend the winter. There are miles of them. Each with identical fences, each field home to a few dainty thoroughbreds. Each entrance grander than the last

And the last

Some Irish connections here maybe?

This time we did see something different - an interesting cross-country course, all fashioned from wood.

 "Pull over!" I kept urging sister-in-law, always trying to capture that Stubbs-perfect horse scene. In a moving car with a cheap mobile phone this isn't always easy. We kept overshooting the best ones. Then finally I saw this. I think you get the picture.

 Then south and west and over Tampa Bay on the Sunshine Skyway bridge. This is always a heart-lurching moment - not far to go now!

 Then the obligatory stop to take a pic of the bridge. I must have umpteen of these.

An old man sat selling baseball caps in aid of old soldiers. We are indeed in one of the few places where youth doesn't reign supreme and quite right too.