Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Farewell Blustery Beach

Dateline: Golden Beach, Venice, Florida (but sadly not for long)

On Easter weekend the surf was up and the beach was blustery.

 The clouds scudded

And the sea churned

 An ominous grey colour. A couple appeared, hopefully, with rolled up towels but soon changed their minds. It wasn't a day for swimming.

The tide was rushing and roiling, devouring half the beach. A buffeted great egret flew overhead. Still it hasn't made it easier to say goodbye as the blog heads north on another road trip. As always, who knows what the next few days will bring.
See you in a week or so, in very different spring surroundings. Until then, watch this space...

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Look Who's Here!


Frankie Comes Through for Easter

I had been on tenterhooks. Would Frankie the Frangipani flower before I left?  A few weeks ago, things started getting hopeful.

 Slowly, slowly I was seeing some progress.

And then just in time ..

The blooms sprouted as if by magic from what in the winter looked like dead deer antlers. Another of Nature's Easter messages. They are so exotic it's ridiculous, the waxy blooms that make up those Hawaian garlands and grace the ears of countless B movie stars. To top it all, they're suffused with a heady, almost artificial perfume that would belong at the Walmart cheap air freshener counter if it didn't come straight from the flower and thus be, well, just glorious.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 20, 2019


As I was driving along, I saw something dangling from the car roof over the windscreen. A leaf? No, when I got home I observed it was more like a mangetout with legs.

A big mangetout

It seems he dropped, whether by accident or design,  out of the tree outside the Lutheran church hall where I'd parked for my French conversation group and then clung on for dear life. Luckily I had the soft top on.  Perhaps he was a Brexiteer.  He must have had an exciting journey. Anyway I transferred him to the hedge and hoped he'd find his new home congenial.

He blended in pretty well. Isn't nature wonderful! So is Google. I put in "Florida large green insect" and got a swift answer.  I believe my friend was a Katydid. What Katy Did - one of my favourite children's books. Funny how life catches up with you.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Lady of the Beach

Dateline: Golden beach, Venice, Florida

   It is a truth universally acknowledged (ugh, what a cliche..) that dogs are not allowed on the beach.

I have many friends with delightful dogs who would love to take them for a little paddle but they're law-abiding citizens and know that, in a town where you can't turn a street corner without bumping into someone walking a dog, universal permission for pooches on the beach would lead to mayhem. And there is, by the way, a dog beach. Not every dog's cup of tea perhaps but it's there, if they're desperate.

  Well, not quite universally acknowledged. The other afternoon, I was sitting on the beach reading my book when I perceived a vision looming up out of the haze. There, along the seashore, in skimpy bikini and Florida tan, strode a lithe lady of a certain age walking a small dog. No, actually, not walking the dog. The dog was loose and running around and eyeing my chair  with an ominous interest. I asked the apparition, "Excuse me, are you aware that dogs are not allowed on the beach?"
  "Yes", she smiled. And happily continued on her way.  I muttered something about, "Rules are for everyone you know", and cast exasperated looks at the other people along the beach who turned a blind eye as the Lady sashayed past. Just like the London Underground.
  I mentioned it to my neighbours later and was depressed at their response.
  "Oh not her again! She's always there. I've tried talking to her twice and she still comes back. The first time she claimed she didn't know the rule. Now apparently she's trying another tactic. Just smile and ignore."
 Well, what does one do? Take her photograph, follow her to her house, note her address and report her?  As my neighbour said, the police probably have better things to do. And we ordinary citizens are left helpless with a perfectly sensible but totally unenforceable rule.
  How very sad for this poor lady, having reached a stage in her life when she should know better,  to feel so brazenly entitled, so convinced that rules don't apply to her. Human nature is a strange thing.  If I got told off I'd be hugely embarrassed and mortified. But, as another neighbour commented, with the way kids are brought up these days, their every whim indulged, things are only going to get worse.
 On the other hand, a different type of sign might just do the trick.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

A Small Scenery Change

Last week it was a bit of this. The sort of view from your bedroom you don't get in Florida.

And a fabulous lot of this ...

...and now I'm back to sea level.

As someone famously quipped, "Where did it all go wrong?" 

Anyway, be assured that the blog is busy counting its blessings.  Meanwhile, early morning on Golden Beach was peaceful, with just a couple of sharks' tooth fishermen diligently searching - while I was away, it seems, many of the Jan/Feb/March seasonal visitors upped sticks and left. As my neighbour put it, you could almost hear the Island breathing a sigh of relief. (And talking about searching for sharks' teeth, I heard that someone caught a shark off the pier and proceeded to extract its teeth. That's not cricket.)
   There was also someone on the beach I hadn't met before.

Consulting the bird book, it looks like a yellow-crowned night heron but I could be wrong.

  But more excitement is looming. May marks turtle season and Golden Beach goes into full turtle mode. First the steep sand cliff that appeared on the beach after all the wind and waves (take my word for it) is going to have to be flattened - expect "heavy machinery" working against the clock. They haven't managed to finish the downtown roadworks on time but turtles are non-negotiable.

 Then all the houses along the beach have to dim their lights at night, or else invest in special (undoubtedly very expensive) glass for their beachside windows.  Even the street lamps are muted to a yellow colour. And woe betide anyone who leaves the odd deckchair out. That's so the newly-hatched baby turtles, trying to find their way to the sea, don't get confused. The beach probably has more rules and regulations than the motorway.

Well we wouldn't want to lose it.

It seems on the mend now, after the curse of the red tide.

I walked past by some remaining jungle. Let's hope we get to spare it from the encroaching developers.

 And by the Likely Swamp, an anhinga was stretching out its wings.

It's good to be back - though, alas, just for a few more days. I shan't be here to see the turtles crawling their way up the beach to lay their eggs. Put that light out!

Thursday, March 28, 2019


The blog will be on travels for a couple of weeks but back soon,  so watch this space...
Meanwhile some happy tidings from Britain for once. Yes, he's really at the wheel!


*(Dear American friends, I am talking about soccer and a man called Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, aka the Baby-Faced Assassin. And a club called Manchester United. Look them up. )

Books and Bluster

Dateline: Golden Beach 

  It's been a blustery couple of days. The surf's up again and walking with my neighbours (yes, spell check, I mean neighBOURS) this morning felt bracing. We passed a man wearing a green puffa who looked as if he was out for a hike on the Yorkshire moors, or a flat version thereof. The conversation often turns to books and I to a familiar grumble. Why do British books published in America change words to suit American readers? I've read plenty of American books in my life - starting in my childhood with Little Women and What Katy Did, not to mention Little House on the Prairie. They were full of American words and sayings and I didn't need a translator. It's actually interesting to learn that our languages do have differences and how people across the pond express things. And it's not that mentally challenging. It seems to me it's nothing but an insult to American readers, who are not stupid. But I suppose they think it's all about maximising sales and $$$$.
   The current book for the library book club is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry , about which I could say many things, primarily that, if you are looking for a story to cheer you up, this is not it. It does however have some good descriptions of Britain and is actually written by someone who lives there and knows it - unlike various other book club books purporting to be about Britain that I've had to suffer through. But what do you know, up pop "zucchini" and "push pin" and "funeral home" and so on and so forth. Hubby is reading the new biography of Churchill by Andrew Roberts - bought in America. He's enjoying it, apart from the occasional mild explosion,  "They're at it again!  'Soldier servant' substituted for 'batman.'" Which is what they did with the  Downton Abbey American version. It's probably one of those things I'm never going to be able to change but I'd just love to know the reason why.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

When it Rains in Florida

This is by way of consoling friends elsewhere who might be a little jealous. Yes it does rain in Florida.

 And when it rains it really rains.

 Nothing like sodden palm trees to give you a real lift.  And while my friends up north are enjoying the end of the ski-ing season, I managed, in solidarity with them, to fall flat on my back in three inches of dirty water while trying to negotiate a car park in the flattest place on earth. "Never jump over puddles" my neighbour said with an "I told you so" look.
  Well that was last weekend. Today was a little better.

  Though the surf is still up from the cold snap.
  This week has been what Americans call "spring break", a sort of cross between half-term and the Easter holidays. Local schoolkids are on the loose and the beach actually has more sandcastles than zimmer frames. Older spring-breakers, those of university age, are more notorious in their behaviour though they tend to seek out livelier places than this. Which is fine by me. This morning it was like Piccadilly Circus on the beach  - I spotted all of four other people.
 Meanwhile back at base here's the orchid tree in the sun.

And boogie-woogie too

 Charlie the mocking bird has been up on the electricity cable - his favourite place - running through his repertoire of different songs. Who needs Spotify? Thank goodness he seems to have given up imitating the telephone, which used to send me running into the house every five minutes. A couple of mourning doves just had a domestic at the bird bath. Probably a good thing I couldn't understand their language.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Spring and St Who?

  Americans will tell you that tomorrow is St Patty's Day. Back where I come from, Patty is a girl's name, though perhaps they just can't pronounce "Paddy." Odd, because, when I try to say "water" in America, no one understands me. There was the famous incident of the flight attendant who struggled for a long time to decipher what I was saying and in the end asked hubby, "What did she say?"
"Wahdurr" said hubby.
  We are in for corned beef and cabbage at our neighbourhood party tonight. Again, I had many Irish friends back home but never got served corned beef and cabbage. "It's an Irish-American thing", someone explained.
  Meanwhile, spring has sprung in Golden Beach. Our white orchid tree is rampant.

Boogie-woogie is in great form

Even Amanda, the straggly alamanda, has made an effort

 And Franky Panky is actually sprouting!

 Alas, we're not likely to see the sublime frangipani flowers before we leave for Up North, though there will be some left in October.
  As you can see, today is a little murky. I went for my usual early morning run on the beach, passed on the way by an elderly cyclist in Full Lycra who called out imperiously, "Stay close to home. It may start raining."
  "Who do you think you are? My mother?" I muttered, "I'm perfectly aware of the state of the sky." Perhaps, I said to hubby afterwards, he was used to bossing his wife about. No, hubby corrected, "He is used to being bossed about by his wife and was taking it out on you."
 I recovered my good mood on the beach

Though it was probably a good thing I didn't encounter the dog-owner who'd left incriminating footprints.

I could have tracked her (it's invariably a her) back home I suppose, but life's too short.  My friend the egret was there was usual.

Though I just missed getting a photo of an osprey flying overhead, an enormous fish flapping in its talons.
  Back on the road, a race had just finished. The temporary traffic sign said "runners" but most of them were walking. Well good for them for trying.

  And another sign of the season - a baby donkey at the riding stables!

 She's an adorable ball of white fluff and scampers around, kicking up her heels.  But she has not been named Patty.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Getting Away From it All

As the traffic gets crazier, the pavements more crowded, as bulldozers invade more and more swathes of flat Florida countryside, as one more small, pretty Golden Beach house falls in a cloud of choking dust and one more monstrosity rises in its place, as the cacophony of obsessive home improvements whines and screeches through the days, there is, incredibly, some peace and quiet left.  It might be found on the beach at dawn, with these the only other footprints.

The company is unobtrusive

 Or busy fishing

In its own way.

 The sun rises over the palm trees, briefly obscuring the man-made landscape.

And I find the last thing I would have expected in the Florida grass - a mushroom. Well it has been raining a bit.

And at Snook Haven today, crowds of people sat listening to banjo music and munching deep fried alligator and smoked beef (I have to give them a big plug - even with the seething hordes, the food was wonderful and the staff delightful and obliging quite behind the call of duty). But if they'd turned and looked at the Myakka River behind them they'd have found it little changed from the old days when panthers howled in the forests and bootleggers sheltered here with their contraband of illicit liquor.

Though even the river was a bit crowded.

The water was a rich, rusty brown and, I suspect, interesting things gambolled in the murky depths. I wouldn't be too keen to go canoeing here.

But for a few seconds you could slip into a timewarp. An antidote to the voracious new Florida that encroaches on it just a little more every day.