Monday, March 20, 2023

A Brave Bloom

You may remember our casualty from Hurricane Ian - the poor orchid tree in the front of the house that had graced us with its pretty scented blooms for several years.   And then how it started sprouting again from the stump.....

.....well it's a bit bigger now and what's more, it's actually flowering!

It's more of an orchid bush than a tree but the flowers are still lovely.

We were finally able to rebuild our garden fence but some people are still waiting for their repairs and, south of us, in Fort Myers Beach, which was badly hit, there are forlorn patches of land for sale where a house used to stand. Mind you they still want an arm and a leg for the land - on which you can build your mega mansion, supposedly fortified against whatever nature can throw at it. No more small, modest houses, sadly. It will be a very different neighbourhood. 
Meanwhile, here in Golden Beach, the orchid tree/bush is doing its best to cheer everyone up.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

A Little Comfort in a Crazy World

 The Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota are always a good bet for a relaxing, inspiring visit. Well we needed to relax after battling the horrendous traffic on US41, the Tamiami Trail, at its worst in the current tourist season. The Gardens' big exhibition at the moment is gloriously imaginative - linking Louis Comfort Tiffany's  stained glass designs with the Marie Selby flowers and plants. It's good to choose a time to go when the afternoon sun plays its coloured patterns on the ground.

This pavilion, in the shape of a Tiffany lamp, is a prime photo opportunity. The  peaceful serenity is deceptive - you have to wait till all the people taking selfies get out of the way.

There are glass installations round every corner.

Cleverly set among the succulents and Florida flowers.

Here's an impressive fig tree - the flowers in between the roots planted for a Tiffany effect - though you might not want those roots too close to your house.

Tiffany got a lot of his ideas from nature.

And it's all a magnificent backdrop for the  Gardens' famous orchid display.

Though nothing can match the wonder of a real, live bloom,

Shocking pink glass

Teams nicely with a shocking pink orchid.

Not to mention the pink trumpet tree. (You will gather that it's nice and warm here in Florida... apologies to you people from chillier climes.)

Tiffany's middle name is appropriate.  Beauty is indeed a Comfort in our crazy world.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Crazy Driver Season


  It was only a matter of time. A few weeks ago, hubby was going up Harbor Drive (pictured)  when a car coming from a side road ploughed (plowed) right into him, spinning his beloved old Volvo  and writing it off.  And then a few days later, he witnessed the car in front of him entering a four-way-stop crossroads (I always think these are fiendish, relying as they do on other people's good manners - it would never work in some countries I could name) and another car hitting it.  When hubby drove off, understandably shaken, the horn on one crippled vehicle was still surreally blaring.  And a couple of days later he saw a cyclist defying a red light all but get himself killed. And I once had a massive pick-up truck reverse into my little car with a sickening crunch. 

 This time of year, the end of every unscathed journey is a blessing. We stagger back into the house mopping our brows and breathing sighs of relief, "You wouldn't believe what I saw that driver do!"  Likewise with friends' tales - of drivers swerving across four lanes because they just remembered they had to make a left turn, drivers taking a chance and crossing the road in front of you with inches to spare, more often than not with a trailer in tow, impatient drivers slaloming through the palm trees in the central reservation (median), drivers shooting red lights, drivers mowing down cyclists and pedestrians. The 70mph speed limit on the motorway (Interstate) is a mere suggestion. It's either a race track or a car park (parking lot) depending on where the latest pile-up's occurred.
    To survive we live by our wits. Any car poised to enter traffic, until proven otherwise, is a mortal foe.  We were driving down a suburban road and saw such a car. "He's not going to go is he?" I said as we got closer, "No he can't possibly go". And just as we reached him, "He's going to go!" I screamed and hubby slammed on the brakes just in time. The driver, tired of waiting, had decided it was time to go, whether anyone was coming or not. 
  It's my theory that motorists around London can be aggressive and obnoxious but they mostly know  what they're doing and where they're going. Whereas here in coastal Florida there's a fatal combination of  bewildered tourists, frustrated locals and some people who, let's face it, shouldn't really be driving at all. Except, unlike London, there's not much in the way of public transport. There are visitors wobbling along, helmetless, on their holiday bikes, groups of pensioners (retirees) seeing how fast they can go in their golf carts, motorcyclists, also frequently helmetless, weaving in and out, downtown shoppers and their dogs sauntering nonchalantly in the middle of the road. Signalling left or right appears to be optional. Rules are ignored (see above again). And of course all of us are capable of making the odd stupid mistake.

Every winter season the huge influx of traffic gets worse,  with congestion - and roadwork(s) trying to deal with the congestion - just adding to the toxic mix. And as yet more lanes are added, yet more houses are built.   And yet more lives are lost. Hard to know what could be done. Oh for the quiet country lanes of Cattaraugus County, (preferably without the snow) - or for the 93 bus!

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Back to Beach Time


I've been neglecting the beach. In between lots to do, chilly weather and the vestiges of the Red Tide cough-inducing algae menace, poor Golden Beach somehow slipped through the net.  But the other day I made amends. You are so lucky, I had to remind myself, we have our own neighbourhood beach just a short stroll away. It seems somehow ungrateful not to take advantage.

So I took myself off with a beach chair and a book and sat in my favourite place, as the little ruddy turnstones picked and pecked their way around me, friendly and fearless, looking for goodies in the sand, while, out over the water, pelicans plunged like knives into butter. Far away on the horizon fishing boats chugged past. And in the middle distance, a pair of dolphins gamboled along, close enough to see the sleek oily black of their backs. Their fins still make me nervous. A friend of a friend saw one for the first time and screamed, "Shark!" Everyone laughed but she had a point. A fin is a fin, even on an innocent dolphin. And there are sharks here of course, not all of them prehistoric and benignly surrendering their teeth to the searching tourists and their rakes.

I know I should do this more often. But I realise that, over the years, I've slipped out of the excited, romantic phase that is tourist mode. The main thing about our beach is that it's there - to sit on in the sunshine and walk along in the quiet dawn and meet friends to gaze at the sunset.  A bit like living in London and not going to the theatre for ages but being constantly reassured that, should I want to go, the theatres are there. And should I want to go, our beach is there. What a luxury. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Big Hand for Ukraine

  You have to love this country.  Our bit of Florida - and not just our bit - is a useful place to be if you like classical music. It's common for renowned orchestras from chillier climes to gravitate here during the winter months. We went to a performance of an excellent Polish orchestra in nearby Sarasota which will this winter also be welcoming the English Chamber Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic among others -  all glad to get out of the cold. But last week was special. Here in our snazzy High School Performing Arts Center (sic) we, in little old Venice, were privileged to encounter, for one night only, the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine.

  "We've got to get to this", hubby exclaimed and snared us a couple of tickets. As expected, the event was soon sold out - they urged us to arrive early if we wanted to have a hope of parking.  The conductor, Theodore Kuchar,  made a short speech. They'd arrived in the US six days previously and this was their sixth concert. There were going to be forty concerts in the US altogether. Forty! And they played their hearts out as if this was the only one. Dvorak's  From the New World was particularly poignant. Everyone of them, the conductor said, had families, parents, siblings, children, in Ukraine, some of them fighting. They were doing their own sort of fighting.

They didn't need to work much on hearts and minds here in Venice. They already had our hearts. There's a big expat Ukrainian community nearby, with two Ukrainian churches and right at the start of the conflict, a giant truck appeared in the library car park collecting clothes, blankets, medicines, anything that might help.  An endless queue of cars edged its way round the car park, people handing over bundles and bags,  people shouting "good luck!" So many wanted to do something, however small. 

The audience at the concert stood and cheered and shouted "bravo",  several waving Ukrainian flags, one girl wrapped in a giant one. The back row of the orchestra unfurled their own flag. It was heartwarming and unforgettable.

Wonderful, hubby said, but they need more than cheers.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Books Corner: Lost in Translation


   A neighbour has placed this bibliophile fox next to his Little Free Library. One of the nicest things to happen in local communities these past few years has been the proliferation of those wooden boxes on sticks where you can exchange books. Though second hand book shops probably aren't thanking them. My idea of heaven is sunshine, coffee and a good thriller, preferably a good British thriller. And you can get a lot of those here from libraries little and large.

  There is, however a fly in the ointment. As I've complained before in these pages, there are few things more calculated to bring out my latent Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells syndrome than British books republished in American translations. 

  A recent example is The Appeal, by Janice Hallett. British author, British characters, book set in Britain. It's a clever novel, based entirely on emails and texts between the various protagonists and I was enjoying it when I noticed something odd. The amounts in the charity appeal on which the story is based were written in dollars. Dollars? Surely even the dimmest reader would understand that the Brits do things in pounds. And then, horror of horrors, a character faced with an emergency dialled "911". In Britain. That wouldn't get them very far, except perhaps to the mortuary. I had already encountered this same atrocity in a previous British book and had a friendly correspondence with the author, who said it exasperated her just as much as it did me but she was powerless to do anything. The American publisher insisted on it. 

  I note that Philip Pullman had a rant about this in the Times the other day. I hope someone takes notice  but if a writer of his stature can't do anything about it, I wonder who can. Perhaps it's up to American readers (and I haven't met a single one who approves of the practice) to put their collective feet down. After all it's nothing other than insulting. Do the publishers think Americans are stupid or what? Note that it doesn't happen the other way around. When I was a child I happily read American books like Little House on the Prairie and What Katy Did, which were full of American words. I understood them perfectly well and it was a good learning experience. Yes, America has different words for things. Interesting. 

If you read a book set in another country you might just want to know how people there speak and not be confused by artificial mid-Atlantic mish-mash.

 The American translations I've found  infiltrating British books include "football shoe", "row house", "baby carriage",  "drapes", "dollhouse" and "garbage can" (although they forgot to change it from "dustbin" again further on) and that's just what I scribbled onto a bookmark in one reading session.

If I was back living in London I could get the good old original British edition from the library. But not here.

Why? I would dearly love an answer.