Tuesday, 27 June 2017

What I Did In My Holidays ...

I taught for nearly forty years, and every year you can bet that by September 10th my nine-year olds (give or take) would have had to write a piece on 'What I did In My Holidays'. Yes, I was a spectacularly predictable pedagogue, and this was one of my mainstays. In my defence, every one of my colleagues presented their long- suffering charges with the same challenge, so I'm not going to feel too badly.


However, to atone, here's my piece for 2017.


My 'SmarterThanMe' 'phone does this really clever thing. It takes it upon itself to make a mini-movie of surprisingly random photographs, fades them in and out, and supplies a musical theme to embrace a second sense. I am absolutely impressed, and very grateful. There are some surprising additions, the Labour Manifesto pops up between an arial shot of Crater Lake and advice on how to fend off a mountain lion, but that's OK, I like it.


Anyway, the mini-movies are proving a marvellous aide-memoir to scenes that might otherwise have slipped away for good, and I am grateful. So what DID I do during my holidays?


Train Rides Two. One long, the other very long. Colorado, Utah, California

Pennsylvania Avenue. Long. Hot. Washington Memorial closed, African-American Museum amazing.

Camper van 6 days Yosemite. Waterfalls, rumours of bears, handsome rock formations, with people suspended from them, spectacular views. Just go.

Friends: Stephen in Florida, John and Linda in Omaha, Darlene and Steve in Redmond. The Hanner Clan in Bellevue. Thank you!


Saw Bison, wolves, pelicans (captive) flowers (wild), a Lego exhibition, terracotta warriors, butterflies in a hot-house, an alligator, a few bald eagles, several hummingbirds, prairie dogs, Jack the dachshund, lakes, mountains, deserts, oceans, and forests.


Not really sure how to wind this up after all that. Maybe a few photos?








Wednesday, 24 May 2017

What IS It With Flowers

What IS it with flowers??


I know all about their seductive wiles: flashing their skirts at the complicit bees

Yes! I know this ...


But HERE's what I see:


Stars in the skies of paradise.

Offering something so bright, so lovely,


That I am compelled


To stop.


Wide eyed, to feel the joy of them -


I have been known clap my hands! (True!)


I'm SO


Like that.


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.