Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Doing Something Different

This will be a very different Christmas this year. Ray and I are spending the festival away from home for the first time! Christmas Day and Boxing Day with Hannah, Luke and one-year old bibliophile, Finley, followed by a few days with all the family at Kate's home with Darren, nearly two- year old Frank and Jen and family.


Since Jen, Kate and Hannah moved away to their own homes, the Christmas Holidays has been evolving.


I remember the childhood years, when everybody believed in Santa. Santa was allowed to show up whenever he liked, but the rule for the children was, "Play in your rooms until 8am, THEN get us up!" Santa had obligingly left stockings at the foot of beds for the purpose.


Having secured a bit of a lie-in, we the parents, then presided over the grand opening of the big presents around the tree at a reasonably decent hour. Dolls, bicycles, electronic toys and books gradually giving way over the years to scarves, different kinds of books, and beauty products ... One constant though, was Santa's Little Helper, otherwise known as Dad, passing around the black plastic rubbish bag for immediate disposal of the discarded wrappings.


Preparation for big dinner always began during, Carols from Kings College, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve. I would return from Midnight Mass and peel, scrape chop and slice to the accompaniment of divine music from a heavenly choir.


The dinner menu was unvaried, capon, (or turkey in latter years) Betty Crocker's bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, sprouts and carrots with cranberry sauce and gravy. Pudding was always the same too - everybody got to choose. So for the week before the Big Day I would be baking: Sticky Toffee Pudding, Texas Millionaire Pie, Pecan Pie, and traditional Christmas Pudding with THICK custard (for Dad). I rarely made the Christmas Pudding, I admit, it was usually a bought one soused with extra booze.


Boxing Day was leftovers and Tuna Plait.


Wonderful, wonderful memories!


And now, our one family has become four families, and it's a delight to watch them make their own Christmas traditions, and wonderful to be able to share them.


I still get to do the puddings though.


Merry Christmas Everyone!



Tuesday, 12 December 2017


This is not my first trip to:

I came here three years ago with three dear people: Ray and two friends, Ursula and Jeanette. Appledore is quiet at this time of year. On the way to the delicatessen, I nodded and smiled to just a handful of people, but this is PERFECT.

You know when you book a holiday let, there are always a shelf of books?

Well, in 2014 I found ‘The Power if Quiet’ by Susan Cain, and it transformed my life. 

I am an introvert. I love my people in small groups. I am good at allowing others to take the limelight, I adore reading, gardening and solitary walks. I am absolutely at ease with my own company.

It’s not a question of disliking parties or noisy events or loud people - it’s just that I am exhausted by them. 

Susan Cain called me out, and here I am, taking time to do absolutely NOTHING! Except 

1. Shop

2. Eat 

3. Read:

4. Gaze out of the window 
4. Walk

All day. For  week! 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Shock! Horror! The Sausage Roll Scandal!

A.report published by the British Medical Journal exposes the sheer horror of the British Government's assault on the poor. Since 2010 there have been over 120,000 'unnecessary deaths' of sick, disabled and unemployed people.

Suicide. Starvation. Chronic diseases exacerbated by poverty. One hundred and twenty thousand.

A mother who can no longer care for her adult disabled son kills herself.

A former soldier dies because he can't keep his insulin at the correct temperature because his electricity has been cut off.

A woman dying of hypothermia in a home she can't afford to heat.

A homeless man freezing to death in a car park, because the night shelters have closed.

One hundred and twenty thousand.

Had these fellow-citizens died of influenza, it would be a public health emergency.

The Department of Work and Pensions, embarrassed by the statistics showing how many people have died within weeks of being declared, 'fit for work', no longer collects them.

Celebrities engaging in massive tax avoidance schemes go on television asking those of us without clever accountants to give to help children in need.

Does anyone believe this is right?

I tell you what gets me really, really, mad. The OUTRAGE by the right-wing media that Greggs the bakers replaced the infant Christ in a manger with a sausage roll. Not a WORD about the professor's report on the 'unnecessary deaths', mind you, forget them, here's a real issue ...

This is what I think, and it might shock you:

If your 'Christ' doesn't compel you to feed the hungry, tend the sick, help the vulnerable and shelter the homeless, you might as well worship a sausage roll.

I'm done.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Get Mad!

Yesterday at Gloucester Outdoor Church was a celebration and a sadness. Alex Cole, it's co-founder, is leaving. A dozen of us, congregants and trustees, sat under the bandstand in Gloucester Park and broke bread together. It was a moving ceremony. There was a party afterwards, with cake. 

We must look a funny old bunch to passers by. 

I shared a pew (read, 'folded blanket')  with a brand-new Christian, who we'll call Karen. 

She's late-thirties, struggling. 

I wonder, what does, "struggling" mean to you? To Karen, it's trying to live down a life of every type of abuse, it's trying to cope with severe depression, and it's coming to terms with limited access to her teenage children, who are in foster care. 

She's in tears. 

"I have to 'phone in every month to say if my circumstances have changed (to receive Universal Credit). The man I spoke to sounded distracted, I think he was talking to someone else. My call wasn't recorded, and I got sanctioned for not calling in." "Sanctioned". Read, "Punished with the threat of homelessness and starvation, for (in this case NOT) forgetting to make a 'phone call."

"They say it's to to teach me a lesson." 

Now I'm in tears.

Oh, Karen appealed, and her rent was reinstated, but for the rest, she's not believed. She's told she  can apply for a loan, which she would then have stopped from her benefits payment. 

When did we allow our politicians to use hunger to, "teach people a lesson?" I never voted for it. Did you? Is THIS what we have become?


If a pet-owner deliberately starved a dog, they'd be in court. We're doing this to PEOPLE, people, and IT MUST STOP! 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Living On The Edge

This cute little dog is homeless. Her name is Princess Elsa Louise, but we call her Elsa. Since 18th May when her owner, Carrie, left a violent partner, she has been living on the streets. 

I met Elsa at the Salvation Army Citadel in Gloucester last Monday. Carrie collapsed in the porch, suffering the onset of a diabetic episode. She was brought in, stabilised, and asked where she needed to go. 

So Elsa and I accompanied Carrie, who is sick, remember,  on a merry-go round of visits here and there to get some help. First stop, the Nelson Trust in Brunswick Square. A woman's charity, working hard to find Elsa a home. Carrie could be housed, but Elsa? Not proving easy. And as Elsa won't leave Carrie, that's a problem. So, no luck there. 

"Carrie's blood glucose level is over 30, I say, may we call an ambulance?"  No. "There's a walk-in clinic in Eastgate St. Take her there." OK, so Elsa and I drive Carrie to the clinic. There's a security guard on the door.

"Sorry. No dogs." Elsa rolls her eyes. Carrie  has a note from a doctor. Elsa is an alert dog. She will lick Carrie awake if she begins to slip into a coma. 

The man in uniform  can't take a doctor's word for it. "They'll send you a certificate" He says. "Well, that's not possible is it? " I ask, "Carrie has no address to send it to ..." 

"I'll ask."

"You can go in," says the security guard a few minutes later. I smile at him. He'd made an effort. "Thank you!" 

By now Carrie's blood -glucose level has been critical for more than twenty minutes. 

"I'm sorry," says the Receptionist. "You can't be seen here, you have to go to the Homeless Healthcare Team in Great Western Road."

So Elsa and I drive Carrie round to the Homeless Healthcare Team. I have known the staff who work there, for some time, as Gloucester City Mission, that I volunteer for, shares the building. These people are AMAZING.  It's lunchtime, and the clinic is closed, but Leslie checks Carrie's bloods and fetches the doctor straight away. 

"You should have sent for an ambulance immediately!" The doctor is very concerned. Next time, I'll know, I think. 

So the ambulance comes and Carrie is distraught. "Who will take Elsa??" 

And Elsa, the homeless chihuahua, comes  home with me. 

After a few more misadventures, Elsa returns to Carrie:they are  now in temporary Bed and Breakfast accommodation in the city. 

"I even have a tv!" Carrie is ecstatic. 

When I ask Carrie if the owner knows she has her dog with her, she becomes a bit vague. I have my doubts, but, fingers-crossed. To be evicted for breaking rules renders you, 'intentionally homeless" and back on the streets indefinitely. 

Please, God, no. 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Stupid And Cheerful

Her name, I believe, was Dr Joy. 

I was half listening to a Podcast. Which may have been 'This American Life' and the narrative was about  a woman who, for many years, had consulted a radio Agony Aunt.

The caller first tapped Dr Joy for help over a boyfriend, sometime in the seventies. "Dump him." Says Dr Joy with no hesitation. Which, after a year, "Duped by a Dolt" duly did. 

There followed decades of advice-seeking:more flawed relationships, family problems, financial hitches, the usual sort of thing. What caught my attention was Dr Joy's answer to life's most intractable problems, you know the ones: a person who will never take, "No!"for an answer; the boss who  will run you into the ground and will never give you the credit you deserve;;the customer-service person who missed the memo about the customer being always right: the solution? "Stupid and Cheerful" 

It took a while to sink in.

So if ever you catch me grinning inanely at you, happily explaining how silly of me, but I am totally unable to comply with your wishes for a trivial but totally irreversible reason:"Stupid and Cheerful."  Brilliant. 

The podcast draws to a close. I am on the edge of my seat. I want to know more. Sadly the story does not have a happy ending. After decades of taking Dr Joy's advice, the caller embroils  herself in a string of dead-end affairs that she is  too  embarrassed to tell Dr Joy about. On extricating herself, she decides to call Dr Joy's show to thank her for her years of great advice,  only to learn that she has died two days earlier.

Today's lesson is two-fold. 1.Don't wait until someone dies before remembering to say thank you. 2. Everyday. Sit in front of a mirror and practise "Stupid and Cheerful" Both of these nostrums are recipes for a happier and more fulfilling life. 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Oh, For Christ's Sake!

I am so saddened by some of the terrible things that are written in the media about the poor, mmigrants, the 'other':especially by "Christians"! You want to know what Jesus REALLY taught ? 

A Franciscan worldview: 

"Who are you God, and who am I?" 

Going To The Pub:1

 My earliest memories of a Public House are of family outing to the King's Head in Upton St Leonards.

It would have been a warm summer evening. Kids are not allowed in the pub, but there is a garden, with a wooden shelter and a grassy playground. A bottle of pop a bag of crisps (Smiths, in a blue and white packet that comes with a twist of oiled paper containing salt.) Mum and dad drink Watney's Pale Ale.

Supper was a Melton Mowbray pork pie, with cold pickles.

There were games to be played 'Grandmother's Footsteps', 'Hide and Seek', British Bulldog', 'In And Out The Bluebell Windows', 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush', and 'What's The Time Mr Wolf'?' I teach them to my grandchildren now. 

And there were chants and rhymes, running and laughing ... lots and lots of laughing.

Ball games, skipping games, handstands, cartwheels and Tag. 

Always sunny, always suffused with joy. Evening falls and I can see Dad lifting a tired brother Mervyn over his shoulders as we trudge home down Winneycroft Lane and to bed.       

Thursday, 27 July 2017

On My Mind

On my mind

I am going to tell you what I have been about.
No need to brace yourself, it is mundane stuff, but,
Deserving, I think, of record:

I wonder, I thought, ( and here, this being a low-budget poem, I advise insertion of your own quotation marks)
I wonder if I might garden in my pyjamas?
It's Warm, and Humid, and I considered it
OK, weather-wise, at least.

Besides, I reasoned, why bother to change? The hedges are high and the neighbours about their business. 
From pyjamas I came, and to pyjamas I will return, so,
It's just a matter of cutting out the trousery-bit
In between.

So I gardened in my pyjamas.

I hoed the herbs with careful attention to detail. 
With new hoe.

(£15.95 from Spear and Jackson, good for another nine years, eleven months, and twenty-four days ..) 

Coming close to a blooming foxglove, I turned up it's trumpets
And marvelled at the multitude of ants also
About their business. 

The cranesbill leaves I noticed, not sure that I approved, are laced with bug work.

And so on. 

There's something a little sixty-sixish about gardening in pyjamas. 

I think, when I was younger, I would have looked upon it as a worrying sign. 

Now I know, and I am laughing, it's no such thing.

When the hedges are high, and the neighbours about their business, you can do

What you bloody well like and really, REALLY not 

Give a damn. 


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Holiday Snaps

Ray and I returned on Sunday from a lovely relaxing holiday in Estapona, Spain, with our daughter Kate her husband Darren and baby Frank. I took lots of photos, mostly of flowers, I paddles in the Med, swam in the pool, drank beer in shady squares and  visited an orchid house and ate. Lots. See for yourself:

Thursday, 13 July 2017

One Wednesday Morning

I hit myself on the ankle with the Paschal Candle, an extraordinary event that arises from Fr Aidan being on sick leave and myself, ever helpful, lending Fr Barnabas a hand (last Sunday) with a Baptism. (Welcome, young Charles David, to the fold.)


"Ouch, that hurts!"I protest, silently, as I process up the aisle with the Paschal Candle, which is considerably taller than me, and features a heavy brass base. Note the absence of profanity. A cause for pride.


The upshot of this minor injury is, yesterday, I stayed in the Mission Hall instead of doing my usual, which is roaming the streets of Gloucester with a trolley full of drinks and sandwiches for the 'Not Actually Managing At All' segment of the population. The drinkers, addicts, mentally ill and others with complex problems, that beg and borrow to keep their heads above water, and don't get much to eat or drink without the charitable efforts of the rest of us.


An eventful morning ensued. I have been away since early April, swanning across the USA, then catching up at home, doing this and that. Dave, Our Leader, greets me warmly. He used to be a Catholic, so he would understand my happening with the brass base of a very large candlestick. He now belongs to one of those independent churches that do so much good around the place. I like him. He hugs. Pope Benedict didn't approve of hugging, so we tend to shake hands now. Rather a pity, I think.


There are a few changes. Michael the community artist is absent. Cancer, I hear, not doing so well. Not coming back. He used to take a group for pottery, he will be missed. Some discussion about what to do with his materials. I am sad. I liked Michael's quiet unassuming presence, I admired his gentle refusal to get saved.


Cafe Guru are still providing a nourishing stew. Lots of organisations express interest in what we do. This small business actually does something. Week after week, year in, year out, the cafe sends in a hot meal for our sixty or so takers. They don't advertise the fact, they just do it. I tell everyone I know to go there.


It's a fraught morning. One young man thinks another young man is trying to take his stuff. Shouting and a punch-up, quickly resolved. Sam, with his underpants on the outside of his trousers, gives an impromptu sermon on the fact that all Christians are hypocrites and are going to hell: some good-hearted applause, including from the Christians. Then I chat to Maggie.


She speaks softly, I have to move closer to listen. We are friends. As her story draws to a close I'm in tears. It has taken her four years to open up and it's no wonder.


"I kept my daughter away from men, no father, no grandfather. No uncles, for fifteen years." Oh my God! Fifteen years??? "She's married now, and has children." Maggie beams with pride. Can you guess why I'm weeping?


"Don't cry, don't cry for me!" Maggie has not asked for sympathy, she has just asked for the right to tell her story.


No name, Maggie is not her name, no location, this did not happen here. Just her story:


"I wasn't put in the laundry, because of my chest. You know what that was like, you've seen the film. All that steam! I was in the orphanage until I was sixteen. We worked all day every day, from the time I was thirteen, and were given £13 a month." ...


"When our abusers became grandparents to girls - we went to the police. We couldn't let what happened to us happen to another child ... "


A ghastly story, Maggie didn't go into a lot of detail. She, her and her sister, won their case and received compensation. A lot of it. But:


"I couldn't let go of it, the compensation didn't help, not for years and years, not until I got cancer. Funny. I thought I was going to die, and I let go. Now, I'm free."


"For years and years."


The next time I hear another abuser gather his family around him and swear his innocence, I'll remember Maggie, and how HER innocence was stolen, her body used for the gratification of perverts employed to take care of her, her peace of mind destroyed, her mental health never fully recovered.


"I'm not crying for you, Maggie, but for the children still suffering from bastards like those." I said, which was partly true.


So a piece that started with a light-hearted run-in with a large candle, ends sombrely. I think that's the point. In the middle of the ordinariness of my lovely quiet life, a brutal reality intrudes, and I weep.




Monday, 10 July 2017

Family Reunion

Carol (Wood) Hensley is my oldest friend. We met in 1965 (mid-teens) in the Fourth Form at Ribston Hall High School For Girls, that bastion of middle-class privilege that let we working-class girls in to teach us our place. I have touched on this before, but even now I amazed that I STILL categorise myself as, 'a working-class child,' why the hell do I continue with it? Never again. So, getting beyond the basis for my socialism: we were friends right back when I swooned over Bob Dylan and she the Pretty Faces. She scratched 'Pretty Faces' on her desk and inked it in, I remember regarding such behaviour as curious, without wanting to do it myself.


Today was her mother's memorial service. Carol casually invited me, as I was one of the few people around who remembered the Wood family back in the sixties, and I was pleased to go.


The chapel and crematorium are in my old stomping ground, Coney Hill, Gloucester. My brother Adrian and both my parents are buried there, so I combined the memorial with a visit to their grave to tidy it up and put some fresh flowers on it. I also tidied up Baby Annabelle's grave next door, as my mother always used to - it is tiny, and overgrown: the little Cherub and the Father Christmas much in need of a wash. There must come a time when parents of a baby no longer feel the need to come where she isn't, but my mother was sentimental, and so, I guess, am I.


I was an observer. There for Carol, certainly, as in weeks to come when we talk about it, I'll know how Penny has aged, and how good the children were, and what a good job the humanist celebrant made of the service..


An observer soon knows the groups. The distant relatives not seen since Leslie Wood's service back in 2003, relieved that no-one mentions the promises to meet up that were never kept.


Kathleen's friends, ripe with reminiscences, some of them, judging by the shushing and giggles, not entirely respectable.


The immediate family, pulling together. Their politeness to me: "Well, Dominic, the last time I saw you, you were a gangly teenager with very blonde hair!" It's been a while.


The most interesting character, to me, was Steph, a women in her fifties, I'd say, a first cousin, who had never been allowed to mix with Carol and her sisters. Aunty Betty had married above herself, and all contact with her family was forbidden.


Steph's parents are dead, and she is delighting in her discovery of the only family she has now, she being an only child of a father who was an only child.


How strange it must be to have been forbidden a family! What kind of snobbishness, what degree of awful compliance, could possibly lead to such a nonsensical state of affairs? People are peculiar, families particularly so.


I was in conversation with a Canadian on Saturday who marvelled at how we Brits cling like Velcro to the ridiculous class system. I seconded her amazement. She would have been very entertained by this family and it's story of wealth, estrangement and inestimable loss.

Thursday, 6 July 2017


I fixed the shower curtain back up just now.  My nearest and dearest frequently remark, just this side of admiration, that I don't know when to give up; it is truer to say,I believe, that  I do not know HOW to, which is sometimes problematical, but I have learned, for my 
sanity, not to look upon defeat as failure.

So this is the third time I have put the shower curtain up.  The first time was, with regard to longevity, the most successful effort to date. The drill would not penetrate,to any great degree, the hardboard that covered the ceiling.  I don't know why this should be so, however, it wouldn't, but for a fraction of an inch, three times, which was enough to screw in three small hooks to hold up the cord that held up the shower curtain and this for five months until a near and dear one decided to take it down to wash.  

The hooks fell out, wouldn't go back in, so that was that.The second attempt was, and I am not ashamed to admit it, genius.  I could tell that what was needed was a rail, and such I could have contrived but for the sheer effort involved. 

We are talking about a week ago last Thursday, and I am recently returned from camping in a field in a small tent -the tent being held up by two extending plastic poles made both rigid and flexible at the same time by an elastic rope that goes through them like Brighton through a stick of rock. Ah-ah!  and Eureka!  I stretchecd a tentpole across the space, first before, then after, threading the shower curtain through it. Voila!  

The crack and bang that served as a fanfare to the collapse of my ingenious artefact was spectacularly loud, though fortunately neither the bath nor its occupant suffered any permanent damage as the tent pole and shower curtain descended into the foam.

Today's effort was rather more prosaic.  If I tell you it required 3/4 yard of 60cm wide white sticky-backed plastic, 54cms of double sided carpet tape and a pair of scissors, I shall leave you to work out how I did it.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Marianne North

I recently returned from a visit to California, where my focus was, you'll not be surprised to read, it's flora.

Decades of flower spotting have given me an connoisseur's eye, and anything unusual elicits a cry of, "Stop!" Which must sometimes, regretfully, in the interests of safety, be ignored.

I am good. A white bee-orchid picked out ( but not picked!) in a mass of foliage besides lake Bled in Slovenia elicited admiration from fellow walkers, but my golden moment was spotting a man orchid ( which is green) from a grassy bank in Cyprus AT DUSK! Even my husband, whose hobbies run more towards chess and trains, was impressed on that occasion.

All well and good, but who, you may be wondering, was Marianne North? A nineteenth century botanical Illustrator, who got to California before most people, and painted. Her work inspired me to get off the trails, recklessly ignoring the "Beware Mountain Liions" signs, and look. Her works are displayed in a purpose-built gallery at Kew Gardens. Do go and see. 

Here is my California Selection:


A Trapper's Home


Rainbow Falls Yosemite


Yosemite Falls


California Flowers



Lake Tahoe
Marianne North
Marianne North Gallery, Kew Gardens, London UK


Thursday, 29 June 2017

Fun With Iambic Pentameter (For Fans of Downton Abbey)

The Elopement

What a kuffufle: Hear the tirade!

The chef's ran off with the scullery-maid!

Her Ladyship's fainted, and when she comes to

No-one'll escape the hullabaloo!

"How could these ingrates do this to me? 

They KNEW Lady Westmorland's coming to tea!"

The chauffeur, who loved her, won't leave his bed

And Pardoner, the gardener's, locked in his shed

(He had a crush on Monsieur, though nobody guessed

He stayed in the closet, at his lover's behest.) 

His lordship has wisely left for his club

Constitutionally unable to withstand the hubbub.

He was wounded in the whatsits during The War,

And leads a much quieter life than before ... 

Bounty, the mastiff, rolls over, plays dead -

And King Henry's armour now stands on its head.

The Tweeny, when quizzed, swore not to know

That Nancy (the hussy) was planning to go.

And what, you might wonder was the fate of this pair?

Decamped, with no character, they might have despaired!

But no! Holed up in Brighton, renowned for it's crooks,

They're living off the proceeds from cooking the books! 

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. 


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: