Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Road Trip Scenes: Leesburg and Marshall's Manor

 Sister-in-law and I meandered rather more than usual on this year's road trip south. All those wonderful Olde English towns and villages in Pennsylvania and Virginia - we'd like to have spent much more time in all of them. But we were especially entranced by Leesburg, Virginia. Who would have thought we were in the US?

All right, there are pseudo English pubs all over America but this one - and its village street - looked more authentic than most.

Leesburg had also been the home of General George Marshall - he of the post-Second World War Marshall Plan to rescue the shattered European economies - who lived there in a house with the, at least partially, English name of Dodona Manor.

We were shown round by Elizabeth, a delightfully enthusiastic high school student, who had acquired an impressive knowledge of all things Marshall (and a sideline in all things Churchill) - very refreshing to meet someone that age with such an appreciation of history. She should go far.

This was the famous terrace where Marshall sat with his guests, including President Harry Truman.

I'm a sucker for exploring museums of the recent past and here almost everything was authentic. You can imagine the General and his wife Katherine relaxing here in the post-war years. Marshall led the American delegation to the Queen's coronation and was the only non-royal to sit at her table. If you look very closely you can see that her photo, next to the vase on the table, carries a black ribbon. She had died just a few weeks before our visit. 

Here's the early radio/TV. Marshall enjoyed baseball commentaries, apparently.

Here was Katherine's hatbox collection, or some of it.

And her tea service.

And her hubby's shoes.

The Chinese parasol (behind the hatpins) was a gift from Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, a frequent visitor.

I couldn't get enough of the 1940s decor.

Not to mention the kitchen.

With some appropriate accessories.

Someone must have had fun designing the displays.

Even in those days Americans had giant fridges. (While the British were still keeping their milk cold on the windowsills...)

Marshall, who also served as Secretary of State and Defence and won the Nobel Peace Prize,  came across as a decent, modest, principled man who genuinely wanted to do some good in the world  - current politics on both sides of the pond could do with a few more like him.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Golden Beach Dodges a Bullet

 Dateline: Golden Beach, Florida

We breathed a huge sigh of relief when we heard that Hurricane Ian had left our house unscathed. It had been due to hit us head on, then in the last few hours veered slightly southwards - good for us but very bad for poor Fort Myers Beach, which was, by all accounts, obliterated. Part of our garden fence blew down and we lost our orchid tree but that's relatively minor compared to what happened to others. 

Having just arrived we've been picking up bits of tree and propping up what's left of the fence and tying it up with hubby's boat lines, which should withstand a gale. 

Even here, the streets tell a doleful story.

Remember the beautiful Royal Poinciana tree with its orangey-red blossoms?

Here's all that's left of it now.

At least this road sign is still standing, after a fashion.

Palm fronds and branches are piled up in front of the houses.

And the streets are still lined with piles of debris. The trees that survived are looking a lot thinner, shorn of leaves and limbs.

A utility pole hanging by a thread.

And the air rings with the sound of chainsaws.

Up the road in Historic Downtown the hundred-year-old theatre was practically destroyed, roofs taken off buildings and mobile homes splintered. But thank God we didn't get a storm surge with flooding up the inlets and gullies. Further inland, the riding stables survived but was flooded and for a time there was no way to feed the horses. They are appealing for funds to help - horses obviously aren't a priority for the official disaster relief. One farmer lost 250 cows, which died of shock.  On our road trip south, sister-in-law and I drove through the little rural town of Arcadia. There was still a lot of flooding, the road we wanted to take was closed and we saw at least three RVs - giant caravans - turned upside down, one standing on its end against a tree. Practically every house had a damaged roof, covered in bright blue tarp. Most poignant of all, a pile of personal possessions thrown out by the roadside - furniture, toys, clothes, all drenched and ruined.

Earlier we'd driven along the northern Florida coast which suffered a serious hurricane a few years ago. The town of Mexico Beach had been flattened, as Fort Myers Beach is now. But rows of spanking new houses in pretty pastel colours were going up - on stilts to avoid a storm surge. The triumph of hope over experience. 

More on the road trip coming shortly. Watch this space....

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Autumn Colours and Autumn Mist

 Our frequent ritual - walking to our neighbour's pond and the reflection of the leaves in the water.  

A single heron flapped off into the distance, the first one I've seen here.

Maples mixed with fir trees loom over the dried out goldenrod.

And walking back to the road again along a timeless path. In the summer frogs croaked in the damp spots alongside but now it's getting chilly, they're silent and hunkering down.

Our neighbour has to do a lot of mowing. They love their grassy expanses here.

A peep through the trees at the lake at the top of the lane.

And on the other side, the forest.

I see Rudolf's got a new outfit.

A classic scene in these parts - the mist rising over the hills.

Not so much fun in the early mornings when it's blanketing the roads. The local drivers around here still haven't learned to drive with their lights on.

Now it's back to packing for the trip south...

PS the deer were back again - "Oi!" I shouted, banging on the metal biscuit tin we keep for just this purpose, "What do you think this is, Richmond Park?" They just sneered, flicking their white feathery tails and cantered off nonchalantly. They know you can't hunt near a house. Heaven help the rhododendrons this winter.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Scenes from an Autumn Garden

 Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

Hello again after a long time, due to extremely erratic internet (Vodafone mobile wifi (sic) is not to be recommended) in London and France. But we're back briefly in Cattaraugus County now and to a very different garden, full of the easy-going Autumn disarray, which I love.   

Our one bright red maple didn't have that many leaves left, but enough to get the picture, as it were.

The sun is shining but it's chilly, which isn't a bad thing; it won't be such a wrench to go south, even if we'll be spending quite a while clearing up debris from Hurricane Ian. Thank God a friend sent photos and the little Golden Beach house is still standing - the garden fence is another matter. But we'll tackle that when we get there.  Meanwhile we've got a couple more days to enjoy the beautiful autumn here.

Who needs New England?

The stall up the lane is done for the year, the Farmers' Market down to its last few shivering diehards but the new buddleia appears to be thriving.

And some geraniums still bloom among the fallen leaves.

The chipmunk acorn relay has clearly been and gone, the miniature stripy teams shinning up and down, up and down the big oak tree,  some breaking off twigs, others gathering the spoils below.  The lawn grass is littered with debris and discarded acorn hats. This was a bumper year for acorns so Chippy and co will be happy.  

Less welcome guests clearly made themselves at home while we were away.

I snapped the photo quickly through the mosquito netting before chasing the blighters off. Don't worry, they'll be back. It's a losing battle. But at least we can try to save the rhododendrons again with some judiciously-placed netting. That's a task for tomorrow, after hubby's put the boat away.