A front garden sample...
And by contrast...
OK, now time for some Christmas cheer - so here's some....
The Coastguard display at the Arboretum -
The Christmas palm tree. Well come to think of it palm trees are probably more authentic than Santa and reindeer in the snow. As we await the Florida end of the Omicron deluge most people are getting on with their lives and trying to make the best of Christmas. Merry here, Happy in the UK. Wherever you are, enjoy it!
It's a magical time, to walk and think and gaze out over the water and collect shells and I cherish it.
Trouble is, no matter which direction I take, I manage to meet my nemesis - a dog walker.
He'd just blithely walked past the sign.
Well actually that sign is an interesting variation. Mostly they say "No Dogs on Beach". I wonder what sort of other animals people have been bringing to the beach to inspire it. There are plenty of animals already on the beach - crabs, rabbits, raccoons, bobcats, but they don't read too well. Or pretend they don't.
A couple of weeks ago a man was standing by the water and calling his dog to join him, "C'mon Buddy!" Buddy was a bit reluctant at first.
"I see", I observed, "that your dog can read and you can't."
Buddy then proceeded to chase me, getting more and more excited, his lead trailing and nearly tripping me up until I had enough, "Will you please call your dog!"
The man evidently decided to punish me by doing nothing. Finally after a major loss of temper on my part, he emitted a reluctant, "C'mon Buddy". Needless to say, Buddy took no notice.
The trouble is, they have a rule but absolutely no way of enforcing it. If every dog owner in Venice - and they are legion - decided the rules didn't apply to them we'd have complete mayhem.
I hasten to point out that there is a dog beach just down the road, so they have no excuse.
After our British Pub lunch we checked out Shamrock Park, which sounds as though it should be a genteel bit of suburban greenery with a duckpond and a bandstand. In fact it's a real wilderness.
I once overheard a chap at the farmers' market who claimed there were Komodo dragons in Shamrock Park. Possibly, possibly not. "Perhaps he meant iguanas", my neighbour said. Iguanas being those giant lizards from down south that fall out of trees in the winter, frozen solid, but then perk up again when it gets warmer. We once saw one the size of a dachshund waddling along the pavement in Palm Beach. It gave me a turn, I can tell you.
We didn't see any iguanas - or Komodo dragons - in Shamrock Park but we did see a small snake.
Which was quite enough excitement for one day. Of course the other famous inhabitants of Shamrock Park are my old friends (see below) the gopher tortoises, with all the rules and regulations surrounding these most mollycoddled of Florida's fauna.
In fact we hadn't even got to the park yet when we saw one inching its way along the middle of the road. I wondered whether we should stop and help it out of the traffic but that would constitute disturbing it and I didn't want to be sent to Guantanamo Bay. I hoped it could muster a turn of speed if necessary.
Then on the path by the intracoastal waterway we saw another one,
...evidently looking for some lunch. I wanted to point it in the direction of the British Pub but sausage rolls probably weren't its thing.
It was a nice way to spend Sunday. We had lunch at the British pub, which does a mean Bloody Mary.
in fact - correction - a stupendous Bloody Mary. In addition to the requisite fish-and-chips and meat pies, it also offered sausage rolls and Scotch eggs. I decided to go for it, wondering how they would match up to what I used to eat in the old days. (Funny how I never liked Scotch eggs back in the UK but suddenly started to miss them when I got here.) I was a bit dubious at first - given it's so hard to find proper bangers here - but one bite of the sausage roll and I went all dewy-eyed and imagined myself back on Wimbledon station platform wrangling with a hot, greasy, flaky handful. The British pub's sausage rolls were neither flaky nor too greasy but there was a whiff of something authentic about them. Any port in a storm. American-style Scotch eggs are also pretty good with a thinner, crispier outer layer and less of the pink sausage meat. If you get one in a fancy bar in New York City, it's usually soft boiled, which has a whole different feel to it.
The ladies' at the British pub is easy to find:
I finally understood the waitress's ( sorry. server's) directions to "Turn left at the Queen."
And then we were were off to a little wilderness experience. Watch this space.
Well here we are again in Venice, Florida - to be correct we arrived a month ago but, well, it takes time to sort these photos out.
The beach was still there to greet us, I'm happy to say.
So were the weeds, unfortunately (I'm working on it - watch this space!)
You'll never believe how fast weeds can grow in the hot, humid summer, until you come to Florida. (Western New York in June is bad but nothing like this.)
Though the Mexican clover does make what's left of the lawn look pretty. At this time of year there's quite a carpet of it.
The birds still rule the roost, as it were.
We were in Florida and on the look-out for manatees, also - and aptly - named sea cows. I'd only seen one in an aquarium before. During the winter they gather in warm waters, particularly around power stations, so it's a good time to see them. Unfortunately we were too early for that but at least the Homohassa Springs Wildlife Park (trying saying that in a hurry) promised some semi-tame ones that were there year round. It proved to be an interesting place for all sorts of reasons. For a start, guess what this is.
Gopher Tortoise Enforcement Policy. Gosh.
Our next overnight stop was Wilmington, North Carolina, another place with a chequered history - blockade running in the Civil War for example - and some beautiful old houses. From our hotel window we could see a battleship from a more recent conflict.
And something more modern, looking a little lonely.
As always we wished we could have stayed longer to explore.
Further south on the road to Charleston we drove the Sweetgrass Highway, dotted with stalls selling intricately hand-woven baskets. The stalls apparently run in families - one weaver we spoke to said she was the last of hers to be interested. The young generation just couldn't be bothered, she sighed. The baskets were eye-wateringly expensive but exquisite.
Sorry to say we by-passed Charleston (with its beautiful architecture but also its bustle and crowds) this time, though you can take a look back to this previous post from an earlier visit, which has plenty of photos.
Then fate took a turn. As we happily bowled along, sister-in-law's phone somehow found its way down a narrow slit in the state-of-the-art console of her state-of-the-art SUV and remained firmly stuck. A minor disaster, relatively speaking but we realised it was beyond our powers to sort it out.
We did hope to see something of Savannah - city of cemeteries and Spanish Moss and yet more history but the hotel which had promised us the historic district turned out to be on the historic riverfront, which wasn't quite the same thing. Plus there were roadworks and building works all around. Once we'd worked out how to get into the hotel, we got a warm welcome.