Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Forty Years On

The Empire Builder is a train. It runs out of Chicago's Union Station: A palatial structure frequented in a Holywood Heyday by the stars of stage and screen, especially screen, but in August 1977, by me. 

I am headed for King St Station in Seattle. I am feeling like a pioneer, heading west into Unknown Territory. I am already sick to death of trains, having rattled across Pennsylvania,New York State, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to get this far. I have, Wisconsin, Minnisota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington State still  to come, and they are all BIG in the sense of WIDE. I appreciated 'wide' by the second day of trailing across Wisconsin at 20 mph because that was all the track could bear. I know I couldn't actually walk faster than the train: it just felt like it. 

Like all rugged pioneers I travelled 'coach' - a euphemism for having nowhere to lay my head. I roughed it. It was tough. At the end of three days, I was in need of a bath, a hair wash, a pillow, a sleep. 

I tease Ray about it all the time. He had talked me into the long route across this amazing Continent with the promise of mountains. I longed to see mountains, southern England, whilst enjoying its own special beauty,  lacks them. Wales and Scotland claim them, but to be honest, they're a tad on the low side. I was slavering with anticipation. The Rockies - a range of mountains, real, high ones, with a snow line and forests, and valleys with lakes. We went through them, of course we did, but at the dead of night, and not a peak or a valley did I see. 

So I have been a bit disgruntled for forty years, and now I have let it go. 

The California Zephyr also departs from Chicago, but I didn't clamber aboard until Omaha, Nebraska. This time I have a bed, and a private cabin and meals included. It feels like cheating. 

Did you know, from the first glimmer of light to the sun appearing over the horizon takes more than hour?? How can you get to be 66 and not know this??? It does. It was amazing to watch, first day in. 

Second day: The Rocky Mountains. From Denver Colorado to Provo, Utah I watched the mountains and the desert unfold from the comfort of the Observation Lounge. And that wasn't all - Ray had thrown in the Sierra Navada range too. 

Time to go. Off to Yosemite in a Camper Van. 


Monday, 24 April 2017

It's What Friends Are For!

This is my first visit to the American South. I have been visiting the US for forty years, and the farthest south I've been (in the east, that is) is Washington DC way back in 1977. 


It's a pleasure to be here, guests of a friend of my husband from the Forest of Dean Chess Club in Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire. Stephen has a holiday home here in Davenport, Florida, which is a LONG way from Mitcheldean! 

Today we visited Mount Dora, which reaches a lofty elevation of 184ft. This is lofty for Florida. 

Lovely little lakeside town. Here are the photos, you can judge for yourself:

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The True Democrats

In August 2015 I watched a rank outsider, a pacifist, socialist, a vegetarian, jam-maker romp home against a skilled and polished set of opponents to become leader of what is now, thanks to him, the largest Social Democratic Party in Europe.


I am referring to Jeremy Corbyn, and as those who read my blog will know, I joined the party during his acceptance speech, having voted as a Fabian.


Jezza, as I hardly ever call him, has had a rough ride since August 2015. Establishment figures of every hue have mounted a pretty relentless campaign of vilification against him: HIM, personally, not his policies: I remember a few of the squalls of outrage: he doesn't bow, he doesn't wear a tie. He rides on trains, he rides a bicycle, he is weak, he is a bully, he has no charisma, he is a cult figure ... And on and on and on.


What I first noticed about him was, that he always answer the questions put to him. I was, frankly, amazed! Politicians have 'Media Gurus' that train them in avoiding doing so, by any means possible. If appreciating that he treats me with that kind of respect makes me a dupe of a Cult Figure, so be it.


Moving on. Having joined the Labour Party I am now faced with a choice. Will paying the fees and turning up for the vote suffice, or should I get involved. I got involved. I started going to meetings. There are six of us who meet regularly, eight sometimes, though hundreds have joined the Party in our region recently, few others come to meetings.


I am now the Chair of our Branch, because I caved when it looked like no-one would stand, and here I am leading meetings giving away jobs, smiling a lot.


I like talking about myself, I expect most bloggers do, but this isn't about me. I breezed in, and as I once made abundantly clear if the bastards finally get their own back, and Jeremy Corbyn is ousted, I'm off! I do a great flounce. I know how to cancel a standing order!


Cherry looks at me and says, quietly ( she is a quiet person) " You can't. There's too much inequality"


I looked at Cherry, and Chris and Roger, the old-timers, so recently enthused by the arrival of a true left- winger as Party Leader. They know the score, they sit it out year after year, doing the donkey work, knocking on doors, distributing leaflets: a thankless task in a Tory town.


These are the true democrats. They do what they do because they want people to know things can be different. They give people a choice.


And Corbyn? Well, if the attack-dogs hound him out of office, he'll carry on doing what he's always done: Steadfastly standing up for the vulnerable, defending public services, calling out the profiteers and the war-mongers. And me? How could I possibly let Cherry down.