Thursday, November 29, 2007

Home Alone

I was going to have a rant about the story of a British teacher who has been found guilty by a Sudanese court of insulting religion by naming a teddy bear Muhammad. Well I should say she let her class of 7 yr olds pick the name and 20 out of 23 of THEM chose Muhammad. She's been sentenced to 15 days in prison and will then be deported. Like she'd want to stay in that country anyway ??

But plenty of others have voiced opinions and I'm not going to add to the circus. I think the whole philosophy of hard line Muslims can be shown up for the nonsense it is by the following excerpt from a followup BBC article :

Ibrahim Mogra, chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain's interfaith relations committee and an imam in Leicester, says the name should be reserved for boys. "Some of us believe we are assured of heaven if we name our children Muhammad."

Ah but what about the '70 virgins' ? Sorry but that explosive bonus is a bit harder to get.

Holy crap, when I think of the 80 years of good honest Catholic living and the thousands and thousands of hours of praying that she did, my sainted mother will be kicking herself that all she had to do was call me Muhammad !!

But I'm not going to rant. Well not more than I just have. It's just all too silly.

Tomorrow morning (Fri) Deb and Den will be leaving to fly back to Michigan as Deb has organised a twin baby shower for her two daughters-in-law who are 'heavy with child' right now. They'll be back on Monday evening.

I don't envy them. The outside temp here right now is 82F. The temp in Houghton Lake, Michigan is 18F (and it says with the wind chill, it FEELS like 3F). Somehow I don't think they'll be wearing their usual attire of shorts and t-shirts while up there. Oh lordy no.

So for 3 days I'll be here on my own......well of course the ferocious finger eating Pixie will be with me. Thanks to her, my left index finger end is now the size of a grapefruit, excruciatingly painful and the colour of Michael Jackson pre-Thriller.

But I'm a man, so you can discount one of those descriptions. Well ok two of them.

No, no, no. I still say that little dark blood scab to the left of my nail is pretty black looking. Yes it is.

The thing is, one tends to hold any sore appendage away from ones body to protect it from accidentally coming into contact with......basically anything. So for the last two days I've been giving totally innocent passersby the finger, so to speak. We were in a Wendy's today and I went to scratch an itch on the left side of my head and two huge 'dudes from the hood' glared at me as if I'd just spat in their (go large) soda drinks. It was a tense moment.

I'm hoping to use this time alone to catch up on the 100 or so tv shows I've downloaded and not watched yet. I don't feel right putting on my headphones and watching them when Deb/Den are here so now I can forgo the phones and let rip. I'll also feel less inhibited using Skype to talk with friends as it's a bit bizarre talking into a microphone when others are around. I call it "Amy Whitehouse Syndrome" and it should be avoided whenever possible.

I'll also be fitting my tv show viewing around walking, cycling and, of course, swimming. I mean I didn't come to Florida to spend all day inside. Oh no. I can do that in Leeds.

Here the sky is blue, the sun is warm and the pool is heated to a lovely 84F. What's not to like about that ?? Well I'm not supposed to get my finger wet so that IS a problem. I could pop a condom over it but I can see that backfiring big time. I'd be dozing on a sun lounger by the pool when several deafening shrieks wake me from my slumbers. Mrs. Horowitz has fainted in the shallow end with my discarded condom stuck to her forehead. I'd have to leave the pool area muttering that the old biddy probably hadn't seen a condom for 30 years so what was she doing fainting in the first place ?

20 minutes later Mr. Horowitz would be at my door with a twinkle in his cataracts, asking if I'd any free samples !!

Maybe I'll give swimming a miss for a while.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

That's What I Get For.............. a Pixie update and thinking the dramas were over.

On Monday night Pixie was taken out for her last pee/poop of the day when she suddenly walked underneath our golf cart. She let out the same high pitched yelp that we'd heard when she had been picked up and ruptured a disc last month. This time the yelping went on for about 7 or 8 awful seconds as if someone was standing on her paws and not getting off.

I rushed out to help and immediately put my hand in to see if I could get to her, thinking she'd become trapped underneath and somehow twisted her back trying to get out. Doing this while she was in this state was understandable but, looking back on it, not the best move I've ever made. But you just don't think rationally - you want to help and you certainly want the pitiful noise to stop.

So she bit me and got me good. Right on the end of my index finger as that was the closest 'meat' to her teeth. I withdrew my hand, somewhat quicker than it had gone in and using the torch I had with me, surveyed the damage. Pixie had stopped yelping by now and when I moved the torch beam back to the ground, she was right by my foot and her tail was wagging !

I suddenly realised I was dripping blood all over her head and back. A combination of the depth of the bite, it's location and the fact that I'm on blood thinner medication, all meant that I was leaking blood faster than Arnie's stunt double.

When we decided we'd had enough fun for the night and were encouraging Pixie to return inside, we noticed she was dragging her back legs just as she had done after popping her back and before her surgery. Oh my God was she paralysed again ???

I had to go to the bathroom to take care of my finger as I was dripping blood over everything. I heard Debby saying.....oh she's walking !! I came out and sure enough, Pixie was up on all 4 legs, albeit wobbling quite a lot on the back ones. What a relief. Again thinking back on it, the wagging tail was the first clue that she wasn't paralysed but I'd forgotten about that.

Anyway, since then she's almost fully back to how she was before the golf cart incident although I don't think she's quite as steady on those back legs yet.

As for me, I went to bed with my finger washed and covered with a plaster. I had Pixie in my room so I could respond to anything out of the ordinary during the night and was reading my book in bed (me, not Pixie) when thoughts of tetanus came into my head. That was it. As a confirmed hypochondriac I knew I'd not get any sleep unless I investigated further, so I got up and searched t'internet for help.

Oh if only it was that easy. I got more confusing and conflicting advice about what to do if you're bitten by a dog than I really needed at 2am. Keeping the wound under running water for 5-10 minutes seemed to be a universal truth. I hadn't done that. Do not use antibacterial cream or ointment. Damn, I HAD done that. You'll probably need a tetanus shot. I'd no idea when I'd last had a shot.

I sought advice everywhere. Emails to still sleeping friends who had dogs and so MAY have been bitten at some time. Posts on pet forums. I even used Skype later on to talk with a friend who rang NHS Direct on my behalf for advice. The tetanus issue remained unresolved. Did I need one or not ? Geez it was only a little bite on the end of my finger after all.

In the end, after getting about an hour of troubled sleep, I decided I needed to try and find out when I'd last had a shot and so I rang my doc's office back in the UK. That was fun. NOT. Receptionists do not suddenly speed up and become efficient even when you tell them you're ringing from 5,000 miles away and it's costing a fortune. I was put on hold. I was finally told that such information wasn't on my medical record. Wonderful. She then suggested I ring the following morning and make use of the doctor call back service if I wanted to actually speak with my doctor.

I reminded her I was in America and actually heard her say "oh we can't ring you there". I never exepcted them to........never intended to make use of the call back service. I didn't need to talk with my doctor. I just wanted to know when I last had a tetanus shot.

I decided to get one here. I needed peace of mind.

So now I was going to make use of my expensive medical insurance for the first time in 18 years.
I read the Endsleigh policy booklet and the instructions for making a claim and rang the US number - for some company called ISIS. After several minutes of musak, the line went dead. I rang again. After several more minutes of musak I got a person. Success. She took my details and opened a file on the incident and gave me a reference number. I was told to go to a web site (of another company - GMMI) and enter my location and I'd get a list of approved 'providers' from which to make my choice. Fabby.

I got onto the site and a drop down list gave an impressive menu of specialists covering acupuncture to zenophobia. I picked 2, family practice and general practice. I picked a 10 mile radius and hit the search option. No results. I made it 100 miles, the furthest possible. No results. I unchecked the 2 specialist choices and left it on 'no preference'. Hey maybe a gynecologist could give me a tetanus shot. Why not ?

No result.

Holy crap I'm in mid Florida, not mid Sahara Desert.

I called back and got the same lady. She asked for my location. I could hear her typing and finally she're right. NO SHIT, LADY !!! Did she think I was lying ??? I guess so. I said now what ? She said now I could go to ANY doctor or hospital and just mention yet another insurance name and ask them to ring for authorisation to treat me.

After talking it over with Debby, I decided to ring her doctor here in Sebring and use this as an opportunity to be registered in case I have some medical problems in the future. Fine. I ring them and give them the name of this latest insurance (sub)company and they don't use them, never heard of them and aren't prepared to ring them.

A foreigner could die in this country before being seen !

The receptionist adds helpfully, "we take cash"

So does WalMart lady but I'm not going there for a tetanus shot !

I ring lady 1 again and put this new development to her. Yes it's fine for me to pay cash, get the receipts and send them, with a copy of my policy and they'll reimburse me - minus the £40 excess (co-pay) I signed up for. I'm good to go.

I'll draw a verbal veil over the doctor visit as you, my dear and faithful readers, are probably falling asleep by now. It was......different. I'll just summarise it all by saying....lots of forms, weight and blood pressure taken, lots of questions, saw a nurse, saw the doctor, got my bite cleaned and dressed, got a prescription for antibiotics and ta-daaaaaaaaaa, got my tetanus shot.

I was also offered a flu jab but I couldn't work out a way to get that into the treatment for a dog bite and so decided the insurance company would refuse to pay for it. I'll take my chances with flu.

The doc visit was $110, the prescription (with added peroxide and bandaids) was $25 but the peace of mind was, as they say, priceless. I'm now registered with a lovely lady doctor, I have even more pills to pop daily and best of all, my jaws shouldn't lock together anytime soon. I'm also relieved of washing up duties for a while and that's a huge bonus. I may never play the violin again but I couldn't before. Old joke I know.

We'll never know what went on under the golf cart that night as Pixie isn't telling. It's high enough off the ground that she shouldn't have got stuck. Not normally. The thing is, with her current odd way of walking, she does arch her back a lot. Maybe she DID get stuck a little and turned in a panic to get out and twisted her back. I guess that would've hurt a lot, considering her surgery was only 4 weeks or so ago and maybe she was simply just scared out of her little head. We donno.

Now I have more forms to fill in and I can't believe trying to get some of this money back from the insurance company is going to be straightforward. It never is. I sense another blog post may result.

If it does, you'll be the 2nd to know.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another Pixie Update

We took Pixie to the vet hospital again yesterday as it had been 2 weeks since her last visit and I have sinned, Father.

Opps, sorry. Force of habit. Once a Catholic....................

Anyway it was a 3 hr round trip and we were in with the vet for all of 5 minutes so after that, we're not sure if that may have been the last visit. Yes Dr. Todd did give us an appointment for 2 weeks time again but we may just cancel it if Pixie is still doing well. You may deduce from this that Pixie IS progressing very well and can walk (up on her back legs) short distances all by herself.

And then tends to fall over !!

It's quite funny when she goes to vacuum up after us in the kitchen as the flooring there is lino. She's like a cross between a new born lamb and Bambi on ice. Her head and front legs are going forwards taking her towards any crumbs she may have spotted but the back legs are doing their own thing and going where the urge takes them. It reminds me of setting up a deckchair on Brighton Beach in gale force winds or trying to adjust a tripod on an uneven surface.

I must get it on video before this phase passes.

The rest of the time she can get up on her back legs and wander around for a few paces and when she does tip over sideways, she can haul herself upright again. She could do none of this 2 weeks ago and so the improvement has been huge.

Sadly, as we were warned, her bodily excretions aren't as under control as her legs but most of the time, bless her, she does alert us to her need to 'go'. Unfortunately these alerts are the same as the ones for 'feed me, 'pet and pamper me' 'there is someone exciting at the door' and 'for God sake change the channel, this show is crap'.

So all in all, we're very happy with her progress and more to the point, so was Dr. Todd. He pulled her back legs to and fro like they were a couple of Thanksgiving turkey drumsticks and drew us a little diagram to explain the 'lump' on her back that concerned me.

And that was it. Pixie had been howling in the exam room and I'm sure it was because she felt the dreaded pliars were going to be used on her again - to check for deep pain. Thankfully for all concerned, mainly Pixie, the very fact that she was able to walk so well meant there was no need to test for pain. Instead Dr. Todd gave her some treats while we talked and she was a happy pooch for sure. Much wagging of tail ensued.

In a previous update I'd told how I'd devised a technique for helping her walk outside when peeing and pooping. It involved a rolled up towel under her rear end and we'd walk beside her all hunkered over because the towel length was so short.

Debby decided to improve on my initial design and with the use of a strip of material and some stitching expertise, she created the device you see below. We're in preliminary discussions with James Dyson.

We present....drum roll please.....the (patent pending) doggie walking aid. As always, click on the photo to see a bigger version.

We don't need to keep the material taut most of the time as she can walk well enough now without it's support.

We really use it to give her a bit of help when she gets tired or sways and just plops down.

As both rear legs tend to splay out and to the front when she does her business, it helps to hold her up a bit so that bits of her don't come into contact with the rapidly departing bits of her.

For those of a squeamish disposition, I think that was stated as tactfully as I could.

She's on a very small dose of steroids (a quarter of a pill twice a day) and we've begun to lower even that dose to get her off them completely. She should be drug free in just over a week and can then start training for Iditarod XXXVI next March.

I doubt she'll be among the favourites.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You Know It's The Holidays When..............

The Holiday Season is upon us again. Seems like it happens every year.

Now if I was back home in the UK, I'd have to leave this post for a month or so as I'd be talking about Christmas and in mid November I just can't bring myself to do that.

But here in The Colonies there is Thanksgiving on Thursday and combined with Christmas, it's all called The Holidays. So we go around wishing everyone Happy Holidays and good stuff like that. I'm still not sure what reply to give so mostly I come out with a pathetic "Thank You" as if I've actively done something to deserve their greeting.

So how does one tell that this holiday season is approaching ?

Well even if you don't have a clue about the current date, there are numerous clues all over the place.

One bizarre clue on tv this morning was President Bush on the White House Lawn giving a press conference to pardon 2 large turkeys. I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't Michael Vick and Mike Tyson. It was 2 real honest to God turkeys. The incumbent President has done this every year since 1947 and as usual with most things GW is involved with, it doesn't always end well.

Actually, this photo is from a previous year and apart from his usual embarrassing ad libs to journalists, this year's pardon went relatively to plan.

"May" and "Flower" will not make it onto a Thanksgiving menu (even though, according to a Bush quip, VP Cheney wanted to call them "Lunch" and "Dinner"). The silence from the assembled hacks was deafening.

For many years, the pardoned gobblers were sent off to Kidwell Farm in Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia. A rather unfortunate park name if ever there was one.

But the times they are a changin' and these birds are being flown to Disney World where they will act as honorary Grand Marshals at the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. I could have sworn GW said 'first class' but I can't believe that. I'm sure in the hold of a military plane would suffice.........just open the bomb bay doors over Main Street USA and let them go.

I guess when they hit ground zero the carnage might traumatise a few kids but then this generation are so used to bloodfests on video games that they'd just cheer and call it the best Parade ever.

Given the choice I suspect "May" and Flower" would rather have had their necks wrung yesterday.

Another sign of the times (holiday times that is) are the commercials on TV. The word Christmas is rarely used as this allows the commercials to be shown ad nauseam (geddit ??) from now till sometime in mid January. Anyway, the word Christmas isn't PC anymore.

Right now the main commercials focus on Black Friday which I blogged about last year but for those who weren't 'with me' back then and don't live in the US of A, Black Friday is the huge sale day after Thanksgiving. You can pick up some amazing bargains if you're prepared to sleep outside the stores and manage to get through the doors at 6am faster than an Olympic sprinter on steroids. Even then I suspect all the REALLY good sale products have somehow managed to sell out and you'd be better of breaking into the cars and trucks in the employee parking area !!

Oh when did I get to be so cynical ??

Another clue to the time of year - gas prices increasing. Over the next 2 days, most of America will be on the move. By road and by air, millions will suffer long lines at airports, long lines at car rental locations and even longer lines on the nations interstates.

Actually traffic jams aren't usually an issue here as whenever one occurs, they quickly build another lane and traffic flows again. That explains why a 36 lane highway now goes right into Cretinville, Arkansas (Pop: 247 with the birth last night of Silas Buttonmeister Jr) even though a few years ago all it had was a 2 lane dirt track. Everytime Chuck "John Deere" Jones drove his tractor along the road at 5mph and caused a 3 car jam to build up behind him, a new lane was added.

For the money grabbing petroleum companies, these are happy times indeed. Slap a few extra cents on a gallon of gas and it'll make no difference at all over Thanksgiving. People will still drive. Oh sure they'll moan and bitch about the extra cost but......sure as eggs are lemmings, they'll still drive. There is a homecoming gene in every true American and it kicks in at this time of year. The commercials play on it and offer minute long saccerine laden mini masterpieces with the head of the enlarged family standing over the (close your eyes "May" and "Flower") beautifully cooked turkey making a speech about family, good times and being thankful - with no mention of airport chaos, road rage or even Uncle Mort who was last heard of heading West into Big Bend Natl Park when he should've been with them in New Jersey.

( And yes I realise my suspect phrasing back there makes it sound like it's the deceased turkey making the speech. Enjoy )

With gas prices here approaching half what we pay in the UK (I noticed today that it's almost £1/litre now in my hometown of Leeds and that comes to £3.79 for a US gallon and so, at current rates, $7.76/gallon), many motorists are having to make life changing decisions about what they drive and where they drive it to. But at Thanksgiving, those sorts of thoughts are far from uppermost and anyone looking down on America from above over the next couple of days would think the country is being overrun by ants on a Cecil B. DeMille scale.

Us ? Well we're staying in the park and having our Thanksgiving meal with friends. Last year we went to the community centre and shared the meal with a hundred or so other park residents but this time there will be just 5 of us around the table.

No planes, no cars, just a few hundred yards along the park roads.

So Happy Holidays to anyone who reads this post and to Uncle Mort, I suspect they're getting you a GPS for Christmas !

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'll Never Look At My Bike In The Same Way Again !!

I like cycling.

I really like cycling here in Buttonwood Bay as the weather is lovely and hot and the roads within the park are (mostly) as flat as the proverbial pancake and smooth as a baby's butt.

I quite like the bike I have here. It was a pressie about 4 years ago and it's one of those ones where the frame under the seat is not attached to anything......if that makes sense. The suspension is awesome and I could ride over several collapsed residents before I'd notice even the slightest bump. I may well have done so in the past - who knows.

So I like my bike. I like it a lot. But that's it. Ok I may have said to someone at some time that I love it. I probably said it when it was given to me - as you do with a pressie.

"Oh I just love it" I may have said to show how much I........well how much I appreciated getting it as a pressie. Like you do. It didn't mean anything. You know how it is.

Robert Stewart has a bike. He lives in Scotland. Not that that's pertinent. I don't think.

Robert loves his bike. A lot. Really REALLY loves his bike.

But here the story goes off down some weird perverted path that only a Scot and his bike can take. I'll let the BBC article take it from here but it raises ....sorry.....a few questions in my mind ranging from bolting doors to being deaf.

But putting aside the NUMEROUS questions of what sexual gratification you could possibly get from a stationary bike (the real thing as opposed to the label given to a lady of easy virtue), then what puzzles me is what law did he break - or more to the point, why was he charged with it ?

Can't you do pretty much whatever you want, sex wise, in a hotel or hostel room as long as it doesn't hurt anyone ? Ok so his partner of choice was a bike. Stop tittering. Would he have been arrested if the cleaners had burst in to find him on top of something he'd had to inflate ?

Like a bike tube ? No stop it. Forget the bike thing for a minute.

I just don't see a crime here. I see someone who might need therapy and a few sticking plasters.
I certainly don't see someone who needs to be on the Sex Offenders List for 3 years !

Maybe a Halfords Offenders List but even that would be a bit harsh.

No, I don't think the punishment fits the 'crime' in this case. It's still funny though. Good for a laugh in the pub or over a meal. Thanks Robert.

Norman Tebbit would be proud that you remembered his infamous, but misquoted, words from 1981. Thing is, I don't think he meant them to be taken SO literally.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Birthday

Not a who but a what.

Cryptic enough for you ?

Leeds is 800 years old today - if one can trust exactly when it's charter was signed in 1207. Why it didn't happen before noon is beyond me. Har har.

It was supposedly given it's John Hancock on 12th November so for most people, that makes the old girl 800 today.

But as it was mentioned in the Doomsday Book as early as 1086 as a Saxon village with a population of about 200 so I'm not sure why we're not celebrating it's 921st birthday instead ? I guess these sort of things need to start from whenever a charter is signed - whatever that means.

To add to my confusion, Leeds was granted city status as late as 1893 so on THAT basis, maybe it's only 114 years old.

Those of us who draw breath tend to start counting our ages from the day we do so and taking that as a guide, then I'd have to think Leeds began when Freddy Eadweard and his good lady, Udela sauntered into the general area known now as Briggate and decided to stay a while. I'm sure it looked a bit different back then although the City Varieties was probably still advertising that years pantomine. With Ken Dodd in the lead role no doubt. He's about that age.

So after Freddy and Udela did a spot of begatting (I read my bible and begatting was very popular back then) and a few more geographically challenged Saxons wandered in during panto season, I'm sure it didn't take long for Leeds to grow to that population of 200 in 1086.

Obviously a LOT more begatting went on after that as the population is now over 720,000 (estimates vary) to make Leeds the 3rd largest metropolitan area in the UK................or about 1.2% of the entire population if you want to belittle 'us' any more.

I'm not going to sing it's praises as for one thing it'd be a short song. It has probably the most hated team in British soccer so at least we're at the top of that list. I'll leave it at that.

But I like round numbers and 800 is a nice round number. I'm not likely to be blogging when the 114 (city) becomes 200 or the 921 (Doomsday) becomes 1000 so I'm going to fall in line with those who regard the city as being 800 today.

Even for some of the residents here in Buttonwood Bay, that's still an impressive age.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Watering Hole

When Deb's brother and his wife came for a visit on their way down to Key West, we wanted to take them to the local eatery called 'The Watering Hole'. Just a word of info here : this official site for the restaurant wasn't designed with Firefox in mind so it's really only accessible using Internet Explorer.

It's as far removed from being a chain restaurant as you could possibly get and the word 'unique' hardly does it justice.

But it was closed. Sunday you know.

So we went to R.J.Gators instead and I posted a blog about that experience at the time.

Last Saturday we again decided to go to TWH as Deb and Den really wanted me to see it. As it has a sign out by the roadside advertising a live 14' gator on the premises, I REALLY wanted to go there too. I mean that's not something you often see on a restaurant sign in North Leeds after all.

As with a lot of the eating establishments in Florida, the outside of TWH gives little or no insight into the glories to be found within. I'm not sure why this is, but it is. We've been to many places up and down this state (especially in the Keys) and had wonderful food served to us inside a restaurant that, from the outside, looked like it would collapse at any moment or be declared a health risk even by the dubious standards of a 3rd world country.

I vividly remember eating at a place in Key West that had chickens running around that would sometimes jump up on our table to get at our food.

Anyway this is the outside of The Watering Hole.

Not the most welcoming place you've ever seen. In fact I'd go so far as to say it positively screams "keep on going, nothing good happening in here"

It reminded me a bit of the bar in 'From Dusk Till Dawn' even though that was in Mexico and was a huge imposing building.....and full of vampires.

But apart from that............

Anyway the solitary bike and the bars all around the place and the lack of windows - all made it hard to know if it was closed again or if we should even venture in if it WAS open. If I'd been a passing tourist, I know I'd have kept on going - but like a lot of places here, they rely more on word of mouth to get the customers in than how appealing the actual building looks.

It's the old 'don't judge a book by it's cover' thing.

Over to the right of where I'd been standing for the above photo, was THE sign that tends to grap your attention from the road.

Sadly 'Bully' the questionable live gator, moved about as much as this sign. If he was alive, then he had long since lost any interest in entertaining the customers.

Bully was in a huge cage with a mesh so fine you couldn't get a finger through. I couldn't even get a photo as the area was so dark that the camera needed flash and that just lit up the bars of the cage.

I just saw a gator shape and yes, it WAS large. But as a live attraction, he was worthy of being in Madame Tussauds or playing the lead in CSI Miami.

But back to the actual restaurant. You park around the back and first come to a raised wooden seating area which although covered, was still outside. It had a kind of thatched roof and yet was full of large ultra modern tv screens showing the usual mix of NASCAR and US football.

You walk on and go through large doors and arrive at another seating area and yet it's also the corridor into the main part of the restaurant. At the end of this corridor, just as it opens out into the large seating area, they have set up 2 examples of their signature meal which is based around Alaskan King Crab legs.

The platter on the left had one crab leg and a filet mignon along with potatoes, fruit bowl and so on. This full meal was about $46.

The other had 2 crab legs and was $50.

I put a 25c coin (a quarter) on the price tag of the meal on the right to try and give some scale. Those legs were HUGE and to get that meal for the equivalent of £22 (the one with the steak) sure seemed a deal to me.

But we were having something less grand and definitely less expensive. After we'd ordered and were waiting for the food to arrive, I went off to see the gator and take pics of the whole place.

This photo is a view into the body of the restaurant from our table. It was 'relaxed' to say the least but the atmosphere was enlivened by a whole load of golfers who must've been in a tournament nearby. The talk was all about the missed holes in one or the par that could and should have been a birdie.

The usual lies about lies (little golf joke there).

It was VERY dark in the restaurant and the flash on my camera could barely pierce the gloom.

I've had to alter the brightness in Photoshop just to see the people at the back and to remind myself of the layout of the place.

This was more important that a technically perfect image and it's one of those times when a photo will simply be a memory jogger in years to come.

I've already said that the layout of the place was bizarre but some of the wall 'art' was equally bizarre.

Here is a gator skull but it appears to have been some sort of devil gator as it has horns. I assume it's a made up skull but who knows. It was certainly a talking point and beat the hell out of the usual sporting posters or pretentious artworks you often find in restaurants. It also added to my earlier idea that we'd stumbled into the Florida version of 'The Titty Twister' .

At least the horned gator was happy and laughing when it died.

I continued my walk through this large and 'different' restaurant. The gator skull was guarding yet another room which was both a seating area and gave visual access to the kitchen.

At one point, when we were actually eating, a light mist appeared from this kitchen area and then it became quite thick smoke.

A lot of the kitchen staff came out and I asked a server if someone was grilling Bully back there.
She laughed in that sort of "what a dick" way and carried on. It seems something had briefly caught fire but it never got beyond creating a bit of smoke which soon dissipated.

As these photos show, wood featured heavily in the construction of The Watering Hole.

Add subdued lighting and you were left with an overwhelmingly dark and fairly unwelcoming atmosphere.

I've found that a lot in America actually. I think it's a nationwide idea that no one really needs to be able to read the menu or even see clearly what they're eating.

Personally, unless I'm wanting a romantic atmosphere, I don't appreciate needing to have the menu 6 inches from my face to be able to read it and then to be stabbing blindly at my plate, never quite knowing what my fork is going to have on it.

I'm exaggerating of course but replacing the 40 watt light bulbs with a few of 100 watts would be first on my list of improvements...........unless the cook has something to hide !!

Still on my travels around this cavernous restaurant, once I'd poked the 'almost' live gator in the eye with a tooth pick and got no reaction, I moved across this latest room and came upon an expanse of grass with artwork along the back wall to add to the idea that we were now deep in the Florida everglades - having a meal with a gator 25 feet away.

Like you do.

So in this photo we see more diners on the right, then the mini everglades to their left and just out of shot on the extreme left, 14' of the most tranquil caged gator you'd ever wish to meet.

All this wandering had given me an appetite and I headed back to my table where my meal was just being served. I'd ordered the Norwegian salmon and got a slab of fish that could have fed a family of 4. I placed my fork on top of it for scale. I know it came with it's own scales but that's another story and a joke I'll maybe use another time.

I wasn't that taken with the fries (overcooked and much too salty) and the other menu items were odd to say the least.

I mean why have a garnish including banana and a strawberry with salmon ? It was all too Gordon Ramsey for me but the salmon was delicious and I took half of it back home to have the following day.

I can't remember what Debby and Dennis had but they weren't overly impressed either. It was a real experience eating there but we'll not be rushing back anytime soon.

As we left, we passed by the outside/inside area just before the car park. Having gone to the official site and read about the place, I now know this was a Seminole Chickee Hut that was added in 20o3.

A what ? Oh you know, a Chickee Hut. It's a large Tiki Hut for chickens. Oh behave.

Go Google it if you're that bothered.

Here is a corner of the hut with Dennis sniggering at the antics of a local hobo who had just said something much too rude (but very amusing) to be repeated in a family blog.

So that was The Watering Hole.

Bizarre. Different. Unique.

I'd hate to condemn it based on one meal and, after all, we didn't try any of the steaks for which they are famous.

So this jury member is still out but if I had to recommend a local restaurant that will live long in the memory and has a live 14' alligator on the premises, I'd have to say, give this place a try !

It ticks all the boxes.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Whatever Next ???

Several posts ago, I mentioned some of the crazy 'sports' that one could now follow on tv.

I'm not sure if this latest one will ever make it onto Sky Sports or ESPN or even the hallowed portals of the BBC but, as America is involved, I'm sure it will one day.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Chess Boxing !!

When I heard of this, I admit that images of 2 muscle bound and soon to be brain dead men trying to knock 7 bells out of each other with huge inflatable chess pieces came to mind. That might have been quite amusing in a sort of "It's a Knockout" sort of way. For once that old TV show title might have made some sense. Throw in Stewart Hall as the referee and I think we'd have a ratings winner.

Anyway Chess Boxing isn't like that. Oh no, it's much more serious.

We have the 2 muscle bound men of course. They come in under the ropes and glare at each other in traditional fashion. They pull on the ring ropes and bounce up and down to get themselves psyched up for the contest ahead. But there are no boxing gloves, no gum shields. Not at this point anyway.

The bell goes for round 1 and the boxers sprint from their respective corners and...........putting on headphones, sit down at a chess table set up in the middle of the ring. WTF ???

After 4 minutes of playing chess, the round ends and they have a one minute rest. I'm sure the sweat must be pouring off them by now as those Ruy Lopez and Sicilian Defence moves can be so exhausting.

Ding Ding.........Round 2.......and this time they come out in more traditional fashion complete with gloves and gum shields and try and knock the bejesus out of each other for 3 minutes.

End of Round 2.........Round 3 is back to the chess. Probably best if I quote the official rules from the relevant WCBO section :

Chessboxers go through alternating four-minute long rounds of chess and three-minute boxing rounds with a one-minute break in between. A maximum total of 11 rounds are fought out—six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. The fight begins with a round of chess. Each player has a respite of 12 minutes during the game of chess, which means the maximum duration of the whole chess game is 24 minutes. A K.O. or checkmate can lead to an early win, and the fight can also be cut short if a player exceeds the chess time limit or the referee decides the fight has to be aborted. If the game of chess ends with a tie, it is settled with the points earned in the boxing rounds. If the boxing fight ends with a tie, the player who had black on the chessboard wins.

Ok, are we all with it now ?? I'm not sure I am. The way I read that last bit is that if the chess game is a draw and the boxing bit is a draw, then someone could become world champion just because they played with the black chess pieces. That seems a little unfair to me.

Yesterday the Light-Heavyweight World Championship took place in front of 1200 enthusiastic fans in the storage depot of a club in Germany. It was Germany v The USA and local favourite, Frank "Anti Terror" Stoldt, defeated American David "Double D" Depto after a checkmate in the 7th round.

By all accounts it was a grueling match but the person or persons I feel sorry for are the ones who have to nip into the ring between the boxing rounds to set up and then remove the chess table, board and pieces. How does that work ? They must be lifted over the ropes but what if a piece gets moved or falls off the board ? Chaos would ensue with burley aides getting involved and cries of 'cheat' and 'fixed' coming from the masses.

"Ok sorry lads. Fred's elbow nudged one of those little horse guys and we donno where it should go. I know it's round 9 but I guess we'll have to start again. Never mind, eh."

I think even Stewart Hall would struggle to get out of that ring in one piece.

Moving On

It was a close call but I got my 2000th visitor yesterday after all. Thanks to every one of you and keep visiting.

This morning we took Pixie for her vet appt and Dr. Max was cautiously optimistic with her progress. She still can't walk or even get up onto her back legs but she sure reacts to being nipped now. He used his plier tool 3 or 4 times on both her back paws and Pixie yelped every time.

So did I.

I know it has to be done but to hear her hit a note that only other dogs (and dog owners) can hear is very upsetting. She always looks back at us as if to say "I'll be good in future, honest. I didn't mean to poop on the floor this morning but my ass IS dysfunctional you know"

So Dr. Max said he was 80%-85% optimistic and we'll take that. We take her back in 2 weeks time for another checkup. It's almost a 4 hour round trip for a 10-15 minute checkup but it's still the nearest vet hospital. We have a good vet here in Sebring but these checkups are all part of the overall surgery and followup that was paid for just over 3 weeks ago.

We just need to continue with the twice daily therapy, give her a quarter of a steroid pill twice a day and see how things go.

We're cautiously optimistic now too but can't wait for her to regain bladder and bowel control. That'll be a joyous time for us all. Running her out of the house several times a day with a piece of kitchen roll slapped to her butt isn't my idea of fun. However, walking her around, holding her ass up with a folded up length of towelling IS fun. It's a real hoot actually and gets plenty of comments from passing walkers.

There is quite a high skill factor involved as if you hold her up too high, her back legs never touch the ground and it's all a bit pointless. Too low and she's dragging her legs like dead twigs and as well as looking awful, will risk giving her sores. Just right and it should eventually stimulate some form of basic locomotive action to begin - although we've yet to see it.

So as with a lot of things in life, it's a question of getting the right balance.

I've created a couple of posts already about my own 'walking back to happiness' routine after my 2nd heart attack and this is just another version of it (and should ensure I get more blog hits - it's amazing how many people Google this lyric).

I can't wait for the day I can take Pixie out for a proper walk again and we can be thankful that our 6 legs are fully functional. She's quite happy and contented 'in herself' but I bet she could live without ever seeing those pliers again.

You and me both, girl.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I started this blog on 4th May 2006 and it took me until 7th June 2007 to rack up my 1000th visitor.

1000 in 13 months. I was Johnny-few-friends.

I'm hoping to get my 2000th visitor by the end of today. I only need 16.

1000 in 5 months. Small numbers, I know, but you all keep me going - so thank you very much.

I don't really trust my main statistics software so just for today (Wednesday 7th) could EVERY visitor please create a comment and let me know where they live. Just that. No complicated text (unless you want to). Just let me know the town and country and then I'll see if my stats software is anything like accurate.

Even if you've found me by accident and are about to go elsewhere, please spare a minute.

I know that typing in the anti spam word can be a pain and hard to get in one go - but please persevere.

Once again thank you to everyone who has read my blog over the last 18 months - I love seeing repeat visitors. It gives me a warm glow.

Either that or my microwave seals need replacing !!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Maleleine McCann - Who ?

This is a pure unadulterated soapbox type rant. I just need to have a blowout and then I can move on. I may upset some people, but it's just my personal rant and it doesn't make me a bad person !

I simply long for the day when the title of this post becomes a reality. I know it was a very sad and possibly tragic occurrence but for God's sake can we all just let it drop now. If there are any DEFINITE developments, then by all means lets us know but stop these seemingly endless reports and entire tv shows about this family when there is no justifiable reason for them...........unless to 'keep this story high in the public consciousness'.

That's just not acceptable.

I have never known a couple who have so manipulated the media for their own ends so effectively for such a long period of time. There is yet another show on UK tv tonight about them called "McCanns : The Witch Hunt"

The blurb for the show states that the tragic disappearance of Madeleine has been described as the human interest story of the decade. Excuse me, but by whom ? The show's producers presumably. It goes on to say........but have the media compromised their journalistic standards in the hunt for the next big headline and are Madeleine's parents paying the price.

Journalistic standards ? Isn't that an oxymoron for a start ??? And as for the parents paying the price. Holy crap but that's rich. Lets have a program about where the 'fighting fund' money has gone. I'm sure the little people who donated their hard earned money to various funds would like to know how it was used. I'm sure they didn't expect any to be used for mortgage repayments.

I just love how TV companies always put themselves above 'the media' as if they're not a part of it. They do shows about the paparazzi and conveniently forget the fact that when crowds of cameramen are fighting for yet more images of Paris Hilton or some other nonentity, TV crews are in the scrum too. Someone needs to tell them that having a TV camera with an ITN or BBC News identifier on it makes it no different to the camera of a paparazzi working for some trashy tabloid or sleeze magazine.

It seems that if a week goes by without some footage of a McCann going back to work or walking along to the shops, then we need a whole show dedicated to some aspect of their lives - lest we forget about them. Oh perish the thought.

Talk about the classic 'all publicity is good publicity' phrase. This couple have lost, or murdered, their child. All very tragic either way. But the only reason this event could possibly be described as the human interest story of the decade is because they've played the media game and come out stunning winners. Their images, words and thoughts have been in our faces relentlessly for months. Everyone from pop stars to footballers, politicians to the Pope have been roped into this media circus with the parents cracking the ringmaster's whip.

Enough already. I contacted McCannitis after only a few days and now I'm in danger of lapsing into a McCannacoma. This is when one's eyes glaze over at the very mention of the name and one's mind drifts off to some distant land where the name means nothing. That'd be just about any country outside of the UK....oh and America. Better add Australia. Then there's Portugal and Spain of course.....most of Europe, probably South America too. Certainly Mexico. All English speaking nations. The International Space Station ??

Dammit they've reached everywhere. The McCanns have managed something Rupert Murdoch could only dream about - global domination.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Remember, Remember

No Guy Fawkes here of course. So no bonfires and fireworks to look forward to. Actually it's pretty hard to buy fireworks here in the US - guns, no problem; fireworks, big problem.

In most states, fireworks that leave the ground are illegal. This doesn't stop people driving across state lines to get them if the neighbouring state doesn't have such a law. When you enter such a state, you usually start to see huge firework selling places right after the Welcome Station. In the days when I was a 2 or 3 week visitor to these shores, I never knew the significance of the large billboards advertising fireworks as if the place was something special. Now I know it is.

Halloween here in sleepy Buttonwood Bay came and went without much of a 'to-do'. We had the street party which had to go indoors and that was a sort of Halloween thing. But we got no trick or treaters as the park is a fair distance south of the town and anyway, the sign out by the road classes this as 'an active 55+ community' and this would probably put kids off visiting for treats.
Most of the residents would be getting ready for bed at trick time !!

I'm only joking. The park is a hive of activity up to about 9pm.

Many of the houses did have Halloween type decorations in the days leading up to the end of October and I spotted several ghostly ghouls and scary skeletons dangling from tree branches as I rode around the park roads. Either that or some residents had picked a bad time to commit suicide. I'll have another look as I take my bike ride today and if I spot a skeleton still dangling, I'll inform the front office........and the coroner !

Next comes Thanksgiving and those of us who are into decorations, will have inflatable turkeys, cornucopias and pumpkins all over the place. All these variations of the Thanksgiving theme sure makes rides around the park much more interesting for me as we don't have it back in the UK. Maybe we should. We have things to be thankful for, don't we ?

You can make up your own list cause I'm not going there.

After those decorations come down, it'll be Christmas time and the park will really go crazy. They put up so many lights on their houses that the park can be seen from the Space Station. If all the strings of lights were laid end to end........well it'd make it so much easier to use them the following year.

That was just my little joke about things being laid end to end. It's always wound me up. I mean when describing how many bricks were used to build something, they'll tell you if they were laid end to end they'd reach the moon and back. How helpful is THAT ? Not a lot if you don't know the distance to the moon. If all the rivets used in the Eiffel Tower were laid end to end, they'd go 3 times around the earth. ( I suspect the tower would collapse too ) And that impresses me.....why ? I just can't visualise that at all. For a start I've no idea of that particular distance and anyway, my brain can't deal with a distance more than the 3 miles to my local Sainsburys.

If all the times the words 'laid end to end' were laid end to end, well it'd be a whole lot of times indeed. There. I've wanted to get that particular annoyance off my chest for years and now I have. If all the times I've wanted................damn it's addictive.

So back to the fireworks.

Thanksgiving and Christmas and any other cultural high jinks at this time of year, come under the verbal umbrella of 'holidays' here. "Happy Holidays" you'll hear in greeting. "And Happy Holidays to you too, me old cock sparra, me old china, mate, pal, me duck" I cheerily reply. That confuses the hell out of them.

"Did that m-f just call me a duck ?"

"Oi, who you calling a m-f, ya chutney ferret"

Such witty banter would just never happen if they used "Merry Christmas".

I enjoyed going to organised fireworks displays back home. They did a great job in Roundhay Park for 5th November with the huge bonfire and the awesome 'ohhhhh' and 'ahhhhhs' fireworks. The 'ahhhhhs' would come from me when the fireworks exploded into a zillion colours up in the cold, dark, autumnal sky and the 'ohhhh' would come from me when some mom pushing a 3 baby pram would be looking skywards and so run over my toes. Thank you Guy Fawkes.

So there you have it, or not. No bonfires here this weekend - well unless Blanche mistakes the toaster oven for the tumble dryer again and her unmentionables go up in a blaze of polka dot flames.

That might be the closest we get to fireworks too.

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