And to think I got the news from the Washington Post...
I'd been looking forward to the jokes about telegrams from the Queen on his 100th... He made us laugh. He was always there. Oh how we'll miss him!
Update: The demolition up the road has continued apace. At one point it was like being in the vicinty of an earthquake. Our house was literally shaking. So much so that I stormed off to give them a piece of my mind. "We're demolishing a house lady", was the gruff reply. Well yes but could you do it a bit more gently? This is what the poor house looks like now.
It turns out there was so much noise because they were also demolishing a (presumably perfectly good) swimming pool. That is apparently even harder to demolish than a house. And then the new house will surely also want to a pool so they'll have to start digging all over again.
Our short cul-de-sac, or dead end street, as they call it here is in chaos. The house on the corner is being renovated, the people opposite are having a swimming pool put in and two doors down they turned up this morning and are in the process of demolishing the poor little place completely. This is happening everywhere at the moment. On our walk the other morning we met a wild-eyed man shaking his head, "Every time I come by here, another house has disappeared. I'm scared to leave my house in case it's not there when I get back!" I know how he feels.
The result is trucks, lorries, backhoes and bulldozers waltzing back and forth all over the street with their incessant beeping. You take your life in your hands trying to weave your way through them. Every so often there's a crash and a bang and a crunch and then the infernal beeping starts again. Oh for some peace and quiet.
I hope the results will be worth it. Everyone is happy with the house on the corner, which is of the mid-century "Sarasota school".
Encouragingly they are bringing it back to its original design, after it had spent years suffering under ill-advised alterations with the wrong sort of roof completely. Sadly the house being pulled down wasn't considered worthy of the same treatment. I just hope they don't replace it with some giant monstrosity squeezed into a small space, which seems to be the trend, so they can show off to the neighbours. These neighbours won't be impressed.
By the way hubby has just come in with an anecdote from his barber. Apparently a chap on Casey Key, the local billionaires' row, didn't like looking at the yellow house next door, "I'll give you five million for it." he said to the owner. "Not for sale", said the owner. So the original chap moved so he wouldn't have to look at a yellow house. The problems some people have.
A forlorn traffic sign on Harbor (sic) Drive. Evidently someone ran over it with a steamroller. That's what looks like a bit of their car next to it.
Funny thing is that it's been there for weeks and no one has repaired it.
This is possibly because we are in the midst of battlefield season. The powers that be can't possibly keep up with all the fender benders, fatal and near fatal crashes, mangled motorbikes (and you don't have to wear a helmet here) and all the other detritus scattered over the roads of south-west Florida.
The other day a cement truck careered into five cars on the motorway - they'd slowed down because of an earlier accident, apparently a turned-over truck carrying sewage.
It is carnage every day for many reasons - listed by one of my neighbours as a catastrophic combination of too much traffic in holiday season, too many visiting drivers who don't know where they're going, plus too many people who shouldn't be on the roads at all, resulting in people swerving across six lanes to make a left turn ("Oops - nearly missed my turning - sorry!") flinging themselves into wild U-turns or dithering till just before the next car comes along to scoot across the road. Throw teetering holiday cyclists into the mix and - yikes. They say it will get calmer after Easter. If there's anyone left.
I have resisted for a while weighing into the subject de jour (oh for the good old days when "H and M" was just a Swedish fashion chain) but since it in some way concerns transatlantic differences it's not entirely irrelevant. Full disclosure - I am with the majority of older British people on this, if recent polls are correct, so, having exhausted throwing cushions at the television with steam coming out of my ears, I was a little reluctant to discuss it with my American friends, opening my words with, "Don't get me wrong, I love your country, I love Americans but...." Imagine my surprise when they were sympathetic, the words, "dirty", "linen" and "public" featuring prominently. But then they are eminently sensible people.
Having said that, Americans and Brits do often misunderstand each other. There are differences in the language and there are differences in culture, attitudes, manners, what's acceptable and a lot of other things. There are whole books on the subject. Self-promotion for example, is a vice in Britain, a virtue in America ("Not with everyone!" I hear hubby call out. All right, with a lot of people then.)
Now when I came to America there were times when I misunderstood what hubby and his family were saying to me. I misunderstood when I threw a drinks party and all the guests inexplicably turned up with mountains of food, "What - isn't what I'm giving you good enough?" I misunderstood American wedding etiquette and found myself the only one wearing a hat and feeling stupid, "Why didn't anyone tell me!" I misunderstood when hubby described a dinner I prepared as "quite good." I was devastated. "But it was meant as a compliment!" he said. Because "quite good" has a slightly different meaning here.
I immediately called Oprah but she wasn't interested in an interview. Oh well, I will just have to accept my lot and blend in politely.
I came across this in the ethnic foods section of Publix Supermarket:
Note that they had to explain about the dates. Here in the US, they do the month first and I'm always getting it mixed up. I nearly got hubby's date of birth wrong on some very important document. I have, I hope, mastered driving on the right but there's always something else to get used to.
Meanwhile it's interesting that they have Jammie Dodgers in the ethnic foods section. I never even tried them in the UK but here I couldn't resist buying them as a Valentine's gift for hubby as I noticed they had little red hearts. Nostalgia I suppose for a Britain that I didn't actually experience. As well as the JDs they have McVities digestives, jelly babies- American kids miss out, only having beans - and speaking of which, Heinz baked beans - the nasty kind in lurid tomato sauce in a turquoise tin you only get in Britain even though it's an American company. After my first unpleasant experience of baked beans on toast at a schoolfriend's house back in the day, (we had central European cuisine at home) I swore I would never eat them again but at hubby's insistence I'm gradually recovering and coming round to the American version, which can be passably good in a stew. They wouldn't dream of eating them with orange tomato sauce here.
I once met a very pleasant British lady at the ethnic section. She was looking for Branston pickle, which they didn't have that day. I suppose you never know what's going to be in the shipment from Blighty. We chatted in a polite British way about the weather and such but neither of us felt pushy enough to ask for the other's phone number and I suppose we both regretted it afterwards. Americans would have known each other's medical details, family scandals, phone number and email in 10 seconds flat.
But one good thing about the ethnic section is that, unlike the supermarket in rural western New York, you can always depend on it stocking Marmite. So the world has not yet come to an end.
Mercifully GB wasn't named on a recent survey of the Ten Best Local Beaches. Good. People can go south to Caspersen - plenty of room there, or the dog beach if they're so inclined. We like our peace and quiet here. There are no cafes, fitness areas, interactive displays, souvenir shops, no, not even any lifeguards. But, guess what? There is a duckpond!
A duckpond on the beach! That was a surprise. The channel that goes out into the Gulf has gradually changed position and is now mostly closed in. I walked past and had a look at it the other day and did a double take.
Of hope - metaphorically speaking. The passion flower vine, which was ruthlessly decapitated by hands unknown last year, is making progress, painstakingly crawling its way along our ricketty wooden fence with an occasional spurt of glorious colour.
And amazingly the politically incorrect Confederate jasmine has thrown out a couple of blooms. Does it know it's February?
The chilly weather of the past few weeks has warmed up, though it's still very windy.
And, wonder of wonders, hubby and I got the Phonecall, (and the Text and the Email) all buzzing and beeping and ringing and vibrating in a simultaneous cacophony to present ourselves for our first Covid jab, or shot, as the Americans say.
It was one of those days when I breathed a prayer of thanks that we're in the United States of America. After all the uncertainty and chaos of trying to sign up in all kinds of different ways, the event, when it happened, exemplified so much that's good about this country. We drove to a redundant shopping mall, requisitioned for the purpose - there was a natty little video on the website showing you exactly where to go - and joined a long, long queue that snaked all the way around echoing corridors, surreally interspersed with the remnants of happier days, shopping trolleys, a former children's play area, signs pointing to stores long closed down. But the queue shuffled steadily forward, never stopping, everyone dutifully six feet apart. Every few yards we were met by a cheerful volunteer - Florida driver's licence? Great, awesome, now you can put it away - we shan't be asking you again. Consent form? Thank you - now just go that way, to that desk. Here's a number, someone will tell you what to do next and so on. And everywhere someone did. One woman was a discrepancy - evidently one of those who regularly turn up at the end of the day hoping for a left-over jab. A jolly paramedic explained patiently that, no, we don't do that. Then at the last stage in a vast warehouse of a room, stripped bare of all its tills and display racks, we sat in neat ranks of socially distanced chairs that emptied themselves in strict order - Your turn now - go to number four - until finally a reassuring nurse in blue latex gloves holding number four aloft, next to her serried rows of syringes of precious Moderna. She must have already done it hundreds of times but still ran through all the questions again with a smile and dispensed advice about moving your arm afterwards so it wouldn't ache. Then she wrote down the exact time the needle went in so we could sit in yet more neatly placed socially distanced chairs for exactly fifteen minutes.
It couldn't have been done better but the weightiness of it struck me - that we were in the middle of a - well, not quite horror film - but some dystopian dream. That is mass vaccination. Thank God for it but what times we live in.
Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, as I often say it's sort of the equivalent of the Cup Final. With the Buffalo Bills out, I suppose we will root for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - well they do have the same owners as Man United and they do have Tom Brady, currently one of the few American football players whose names I know. He is no spring chicken at 43 but handsome and said to be pretty good. (I admit that's a little like saying Lionel Messi is said to be pretty good.)
Tampa Bay is sort of our local team, being an hour and a half or so up the coast. Hence this display in the supermarket.
Dateline: Golden Beach, Florida
And the surfers were like so many ants in the water.
and even a daredevil windsurfer racing back and forth.
While on the subject of the lads above. I can't resist appending the following:
Pretty scenes at the jetty yesterday on a chilly January day by Florida standards. There was one diehard surfer in the water, paddling along in a wetsuit. The sky was like a design magazine, full of trendy grey and yellow. A few people who'd hoped to come to Florida for some winter sun were in denial, braving the elements in shorts and T-shirts.
5) (Best of all) I can talk to myself while walking around the supermarket in my mask and no one notices. let's be grateful for what we can get.
People in Britain used to talk about something called the "cricket test" (a controversial phrase coined back in the day by Conservative politician Norman Tebbit) suggesting that if you were an immigrant and supported your country of origin instead of England at cricket, you were deemed in some minds not to be really British. Well here we have the football test, as exemplified by hubby yesterday. The Buffalo Bills were playing a Florida team, the Miami Dolphins, in a match the significance of which was unclear to me but evidently extremely important. "Who are you going to support?" I asked him. He looked at me as if I was mad. "The Bills of course, what did you think?" And he spent the afternoon deliriously thumping the air and screaming "Yessssssssss!!' Observe the numbers below. The Bills earned 56 points! 56! Wow! Even I know that's one for the history books (The fish (sic) did get a few more later but the Bills still won magnificently.)
I'm happy for the Bills, who have some of the most loyal supporters in the country, who turn out to cheer them on in the most evil western New York snowstorms. They haven't had much good fortune over the years, though at least they were saved the ignominy of being sold to Canada. Now Bills fans can dare to hope that they might - just might, reach the Super Bowl. There are still some obstacles on the way but explaining them is above my pay grade.
So I can't blame hubby. I'm not about to start supporting the Tampa Bay Rowdies instead of the Red Devils either. Of course we're talking about proper football there. Those two sides are never likely to play each other.