Friday, December 31, 2010

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes !

It's been all going on here these last few days.

Despite what the money grabbing retailers would have us believe, Christmas is over and so is 10 past 8pm....or 2010 as most people call it. Roll on 11 past 8pm I say.

It's no wonder my checks bounce !

Here in chez Bobwhite in sunny and warm again Buttonwood Bay, we've been dismantling, moving around and generally having a grand old time with the living room 'stuff.' The tree, its lights and all its decorations were boxed away yesterday and as this left a huge gap in one corner, it had to be filled. With a chair. Sorted.

Today has been a bit more technical as we needed to dismantle the huge entertainment centre to rearrange its parts and this involved a lot of cable work by yours truly.

I AM the Cable Guy.

Cutting a long story short, unlike the actual work involved, it didn't pan out as we'd hoped it would and the centre had to be put back the way it was. We did move it a bit and while it was in pieces, it allowed me to redo the cables so that they are now all hidden behind the back panel of the entertainment centre and if anyone wants to add another unit, it'll have to be over my dead body.

The tv, cable box, dvd player, cd player, external speakers and Wii are now all powered up and spread around the centre in a visually and acoustically pleasing arrangement.

And before you say the unit looks dirty, it's just distressed people, distressed !

Over the next day or so, Deb's "Precious Moments" figures will go in the top slots and those down the sides which, sadly, face away from the unit and cannot be seen from a front view.

The Wii has been a Christmas success. So much so that at 11pm last night, as a reward for all our hard work, we (or Wii) did a spot of boxing, canoeing and tennis which would've been hilarious for any passing park resident to have seen but being after 9pm, that was highly unlikely.

Even on this side of the pond, tonight is New Year's Eve and lots of events are going on in the park to help residents see in 11 past 8pm. Sadly most won't make it past 9pm in real terms but the hardier ones will no doubt be out singing and dancing in the streets cometh the hour. If I'd a lump of coal handy I'd go First Footing but it might be hard explaining my presence to a half asleep, gun toting senior citizen standing in their doorway at 12:01am.

So Happy New Year wherever you are and here, to end with, are a couple of Scottish NY toasts which probably need translating for most of you but in the spirit of the New Year, I'm not going to !

"Lang may yer lum reek wi 'ither folks coal !"


"May the best ye hae ivver seen be the warst ye'll ivver see.
May the moose ne'er lea' yer girnal wi a tear-drap in its ee.
May ye aye keep hail an hertie till y'r auld eneugh tae dee.
May ye aye juist be sae happie as a wuss ye aye tae be".

Health, wealth and happiness to you all.

Monday, December 27, 2010

They Think It's All Over...It Is Now !

So that was it then. Christmas. Been and gone for another year. Living room carpets across the land are showing signs of festive wear and tear and there is that strange stain on the settee where Uncle Albert was sitting when the Lady Gaga concert was on the telle. Or maybe it was the Queens' Speech. Bit of a Royalist, is old Uncle Albert. Bless. Must remember to put down a plastic sheet if he makes it till next Christmas.

Of course it's still the long Christmas weekend in the UK as Christmas/Boxing Day fell on a Sat/Sun and so Monday and Tuesday are holidays too. That stain isn't going to get looked at for a few days yet !

Over here in t'colonies, we had ham for our 'bird' on Christmas Day. No legs to pull, no dark meat/white meat to fight over and no wish bone to...make a wish over. There was enough for the 5 of us on the day and for the five of us to eat till 2011. It doesn't seem to matter if it's ham, turkey, duck, goose or bull elk, it seems there is always enough left over for soup and sannies every day till New Year. After that the curry sauce gets added for the last few meals and around January 3rd, we sigh collectively and look forward to something different for a meal. Anything but what we've eaten for the previous 10 days !

"Anyone fancy a bit of spam tonight ?"

"Oh sweet Jesus, YES PLEASE !!!"

We went to Mass on Christmas eve. Not exactly midnight Mass (come on, midnight is a time unknown in God's waiting room land) but at 5:30pm, close enough ! It was fun. A bunch of kids dressed up in appropriate costumes and did a sort of a take on the Nativity which involved an older kid asking each of the 'visiting' kids 3 key questions as they came down the aisle......

1) Who are you ?
2) Where are you from ?
3) Why are you here ?

A few kids claimed to have come from lesser known countries like Rome and Bethlehem but we didn't care. The cute little one dressed as an angel got lots of awwwww's, laughs and even applause when she answered question No.2 with.....Heaven. Kids eh ?

There is a part of the Mass where the priest says "let us give each other the sign of peace" and the idea is that we shake hands or hug or even kiss the people closest to us and say "peace be with you" or something similar. I'm not one for the hugging or kissing part and always settle for a firm manly handshake. Well, you never know who could be behind you ! Uncle Albert for one !

It's all a bit stressful for me and a few minutes before the words are spoken, I tend to sneak a look around me and mark out my targets. I don't want any old perv squeezing my hand a bit too eagerly and so I like to get an early glimpse of who to avoid and who to reach out for. I mean a 20 yr old hottie 3 rows back is fair game in my book and I'm not averse to a bit of a stroll to get my sign across ! Or my email address come to that.

Anyway on Friday, we were coming to that part of the Mass and I spotted a woman across from me getting out a bottle of that hand sanitiser gloop and liberally smearing it on one hand and after putting away the bottle, smearing it over both hands. She used so much of it that it was dripping onto the floor. I was so mesmerised by this action taking place BEFORE she went looking for people to shake hands with that I totally missed the priest saying his phrase and was late to the party, so to speak.

I suddenly realised the man in front of me had partially turned around and had been already offering his hand to me for a few seconds. Dennis, next to me, also had his hand out and as a friend, I wanted to shake his first. So I did. I then went to accept the sign of peace from the man in front but his wife had just whispered something to him and as my hand went out, his retracted. She said something to him again and his hand came at me again but by now I'd taken mine back and was already looking for that 20 yr old. I saw his outstretched hand at the last minute and went for it......but after another whisper from his wife.....yep, back it went.

Anyone observing this religious 'hand jive' would've been in hysterics but it just puzzled me at the time. Why weren't we meeting and greeting, for goodness sake ? Then, in a moment akin to the revelation to St. Whatshisname on the road to Damascus or Bali or somewhere, it hit me. I noticed the dark glasses and then, the cane. HE WAS BLIND !

The whispers had been his wife trying to time things to let him know if there was a hand near his or not.

"He has it out now."

"No, it's not there anymore."

"It's there again now."

And so on. If we'd been in sync, we could've shaken hands from the get go and moved on. Him to someone else with his wife's help and me......well to wherever that cracking hottie had moved to. But oh no. Smeary sanitised woman had played havoc with my mojo and I was all over the place from the off. I just kept feeling sorry for the poor sucker who took her hand first up.

"Peace be with y......WTF lady. What have you been DOING ? "

Mass eh ? Mass with kids eh ? Mass with kids and blind hand shakers eh ? All too stressful for a Christmas Eve I can tell you. I was quite relieved to get out and back to the sanity of the real world.

But standing just outside the doors, blocking my path to normality, stood the priest....shaking everyone's hand. I had a panic attack.

Taking my cue from what had gone before, I improvised. I spat on my hands, rubbed them together and as the priest was poised for a shake, I gave him a two handed high five, said "sorry I'm blind" and marched on to the car park without a backward glance.

As with Uncle Albert and our house, I'm not sure I'll be welcomed back at that Church anytime soon.

Peace be with you all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Christmas To One And All

Oh the weather outside is brightful
But the dvd fire is so delightful
And since we've no place (we need) to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow !!

Yes dear readers, it's Christmas Eve Eve and with pressies under the tree, tinsel on my flip flops and a gentle sorocco wafting across the palm fronds, things are well in hand for The Big Day on Saturday....or Sunday if you're in Australia !

Oh sure there is ALWAYS more to do like cleaning, baking and buying me even more pressies, but in general, we're in good shape here. There will be no turkey to buy, fresh or frozen. This is America remember, and generally speaking, turkeys can now run free and enjoy themselves until Thanksgiving next year.

In some yet to be determined store freezer chest, a fattened ham is lying in wait for us to adopt it. But remember, a ham isn't just for Christmas ! Mercifully, it will have no little face for us to look upon and so there will be more glaze than gaze to deal with.

This will be my 5th consecutive Christmas in Florida so I'm pretty used to the t-shirt and shorts regimen by now. Palm trees and sunshine may have been my recent Christmas backdrop but unlike everyone in the UK, there are plenty of natives here who have never experienced snow. While it's lovely to not have to wrap up like Nanook of the North and trample across snow, sludge and frozen homeless people every time one leaves the house, I do miss those countryside scenes where the unbroken layers of snow blanket the fields as far as the eye can see and the occasional group of long dead, but still picturesque, horses stand by ice covered fences to complete the Christmas card setting.

Where is Thomas Kinkade when you want THAT scene immortalised in paint.....and light ?

So what do we have here to get me in the Crimo mood ? Well with only blue skies, palm trees and sunshine to look at out the window, I'm putting a heavy load on television, dvds and our memories. I've already watched The Snowman and I'm sure It's A Wonderful World will be along shortly. I actually forked out $7.50 at Wallyworld the other day and bought one of those dvds which 'play' a roaring log fire on your telle and has carols as its soundtrack. They now produce different dvds with artistes like Celine Dion, Andy Williams and if you're really unlucky, Kenny G being responsible for the soundtracks. I think if I was ever given the one with Kenny G, I'd be throwing it onto a real log fire faster than you could say 'please kick the chair away !'

I have a gloriously decorated tree to look at in the living room and it already has an impressive assortment of brightly packaged pressies under it. I'm happy to announce that this assortment has been spreading like a BP oil slick over the last few days and by Saturday, we may have to be tossing the smaller ones aside to get to the 'good stuff'. Survival of the biggest and all that. Take no prisoners.

So it's not a bad substitute for a proper winter experience and it's much less messy. No dripping wellies by the door; no gently steaming hats and coats in the porch; no tracks across the carpet by those who decided to ignore the 'no shoes please' sign under the door wreath.

Instead we have all doors and windows wide open and right now Nat King Cole (without his Merry Old Men) is belting out another classic Christmas tune and the dvd log fire is blazing away festively on the Vizio 47" LCD HDTV, providing an impression of heat and warmth that we really don't need.

Admittedly it's not for everyone. Having experienced both, I know which one I prefer and that's why, health and pension willing, I hope to keep coming back to Florida every Christmas. Here in Sebring with its population of around 10,000, two or three cars in a line is a traffic jam and you can park for free outside every store. People smile and wave and wish you Happy Holidays (thereby managing to upset nobody and everybody at the same time) and don't look like burka wearing terrorists when out shopping.

It's different but I love it.

In case I don't post again before Christmas is over, I hope you all have a wonderful time wherever you may be.

Now where's that dvd remote - I fancy a different log fire effect and want to fan the flames by switching to widescreen ?!?


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When Downsizing Is Good !

Sorry for the false advertising from the last post (last post....hehe) but there really wasn't much of anything to tell about our shopping trip after the car scouting trip yesterday. We went to a Publix, got a few essentials and that was it. Dullsville.

But I guess it did give me a good opportunity to show, by way of artistic interpretation, just why we need to downsize the truck and get a smaller vehicle.

Behold 'the beast' in the Publix car to a fairly typical European sized car, like a 4 door Clio in fact. The first photo shows the relative length differential and the second photo shows the pretty glaring width disparity.

Look I'm British and I like to show off that I know lots of different words, ok ?

Even in America, with it's large vehicles, large drivers and large fries, parking this truck still requires wing mirrors the size of my house windows and a man with airport paddles to guide us in the last few feet. We're quite used to climbing down to find we've unwittingly reversed over a couple of shopping carts and, occasionally, one with the shopper still attached.

In a one ton dually, no one can hear you scream !

Oh one thing about the shopping. I was fascinated to see potatoes individually vacuum packed.

I'm sure 'we' sell them like this somewhere, Harrods or somewhere, but it seems like packaging overload to me. And I guess I wouldn't be me if I didn't post 3 photos when 1 would do. So here are some fruits I've never seen before although, to be fair, once beyond apples, oranges and bananas, everything becomes exotic to me.

I'll certainly be looking for them when I get back to England - when I'll be able to whiz into a parking bay in one smooth motion !!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Life In These United States

I've decided to write some blog posts about my time in the US....for no other reason than the photos or events will be about subjects that are so different to anything I'd experience in my life back in the UK.

These posts may be quite dull for everyone else but they'll remind me of my time here and God knows that with my memory these days, I need all the help I can get.

This afternoon we went out around a couple of local car dealerships looking Well SUV's to be precise as that's the type of vehicle Deb & Den want to replace the one ton truck they have right now. The truck has served its purpose as a hauling machine and with the 5th wheel sold, they can downgrade to a smaller that uses gas and not diesel, has a better turning circle than the Queen Mary and doesn't need a fill up every 15 miles.

While Deb was doing the serious looking, I admit I went wandering off, enticed by the bright, shiny colours and alloy wheels of totally impractical vehicles. Ok not impractical for a young, single man about town stud, like wot I am.

I think I'll suspend the comments section for this post !

As I claim to be more of a parrothead than a petrolhead, I've no idea what these cars are, but I know I liked them. Yes, yes Camaro, Mustang blah, blah, blah. I really mean I don't care - they just looked pretty and if I ever cash in some of my Nigerian lottery winnings, I could see myself zooming along the sunny Floridian Interstates in any of them !

At the final dealership, we were about to leave when a customer arrived in this....thing. We heard him coming when he crossed out of Georgia and by the time he reached us, the ground was vibrating like a marital bed on honeymoon night.

Once it came to a rest and the surrounding cloud of toxic waste finally cleared, the bodywork descended several feet like ET's neck and out stepped the biggest man I've ever seen who wasn't green and bursting out of his pants.

I did ASK if it was ok to take a photo of his car as I really didn't want to see him angry.

So all in all, car shopping is somewhat different here. I never saw any 1.2 litre cars like mine (unless they were being stored in the trunks of the others) and rear view cameras, cruise control, usb ports, bluetooth and built in satnavs were standard on fairly basic models. Prices were relatively low, as were miles per gallon figures. I think that the 50mpg my Renault Clio gives me back home is so alien to most vehicles here that I may well ship it over next winter - I could drive from Sebring to Houghton Lake with just one fill up along the way !!

After the car shopping (just a scouting mission), we went grocery shopping - but that's for another post.......

There's Nowt So Queer As Folk.

That's a common expression to be heard in parts of Northern England (mostly in Yorkshire although those across 'the border' in that other county might claim it too) and it simply means that in this world, there is nothing (nowt) as strange/odd (queer) as people (folk).

This came to mind just now when I got an email via CBS News as the report mentioned the word 'Leeds' and I've set Google alerts up to email me when such a word pops up on t'interclacker. This way I never miss out on home news, although I'm well aware that other towns and cities of the same name exist in other countries. Even here in the US of A.

And so it was, dear reader, that when I noticed the article headline ("Crossbow Cannibal" Killed Women, Ate Bodies), I was quite relieved to see that it came from CBS News and was OBVIOUSLY a report from another Leeds. Surely not MY Leeds.

I clicked on the link and read the words with mounting horror and disbelief and I advise those of a 'nervous disposition' not to bother following my lead. How could this happen in my hometown ?
I mean football violence, yes. That's a given. Even the occasional armed robbery. But THIS ?

I mean this guy had no class. Never mind the lack of fava beans.....where was the chianti ?

No but seriously, I can hardly believe this happened anywhere in England, never mind Leeds. It just goes to prove the saying above although I never thought it would be SO apt.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What To Buy An Alcoholic ?

Saw this in a store here last month. It seems you can use one end as a bottle opener and if you REALLY can't wait, then just use the other end !

The perfect Christmas pressie for the alcoholic in your life who can manage a bit of DIY when sober.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Buttonwood Bay Golf Cart Parade 2010

This post will be short and sweet, a bit like the parade.

It was originally slated for last Sunday but as we were in the middle of a very cold snap then, it was postponed until tonight......and it was a bit cold and miserable tonight as well.

As a result we had a very low turnout - 4 entries as far as I could see - but as it was dark, I may be wrong about the total.

Anyway here are photos of the hardy 4 and it was a shame that a combination of the weather and the postponement meant that there WERE only 4 as it was clear a lot of hard work had gone into decorating these carts. I particularly liked the simulated fireplace between the stockings on the front of Number 2.....very inspired and a sure winner in my book.

And I realise I've included the back end of Number 3......but it was more interesting than the front !

There did seem to be a late entry at one point in the parade and 'as we go to press', I'm still not sure what it was doing there ! Still, as is the way with most things in Buttonwood Bay, we welcomed these nice folks and hope they enjoyed the fun.

Breaking News : Number 3, the fire truck golf cart, won 1st prize. It was flatbedded in from the golf cart company in Sebring and so might have been classed as a ringer - but in the spirit of Christmas, well done them.

As a result, Number 2 cart came 2nd and so well done to our friends, Clair and MK, who in my unbiased opinion were totally robbed !

Ok so I AM biased but then it's also my blog !

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The People Of Aldi

Lemme set the scene........the Aldi store, Sebring. Mid afternoon. Slight south east wind. Temp about 72F. Sunny.

....behind the checkouts, a young couple have been temporarily stopped from leaving by a little old lady who is beaming in at their baby who is in its car seat and in their cart. The little old ladies' hubby has gone on out through the door and suddenly realises he's on his own. Making good use of his walking stick, he returns to the store and very slowly walks up to the small group. He looks at his wife, looks at the baby and then taps his wife on her shoulder to get her attention and with a theatrical wink and timing worthy of the best stand-up comedian says............

"If you want one of those, just let me know" !!!!!!

Everyone nearby cracked up and. for once, this was a senior moment we could all enjoy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The People Of Walmart - Again

This time there will be no photos as I'm not ranting about the customers but the employees. Well a few specific employees. Yeah I know, soft targets !

Last Saturday I got a new Vizio LCD 47" HDTV from Walmart and having lugged it home and set it up, everything was great, apart from the colour and sound. These are kind of important features for the enjoyment of any tv, I think you'd agree.

The colours were an awful blend of pink/red and yellow and the sound was, well, not there most of the time. I tried every setting possible, and believe me this tv has more settings than at a Bar Mitzvah table.


As Vizio have an online chat facility as part of their web site, last Sunday I spoke with Randal in N. Dakota. Of course it might have been Bharadwaj from New Delhi but I do think it was Randal as for one thing, he understood me !

We did a few things and the colour problem was soon sorted. But still no sound. When he asked me to remove the power cord, hold in the power button for 30 seconds and then connect the cord again, I began to suspect the worst. If he'd asked me to stand on one leg while doing this and then rub my head counter clockwise, we'd have had a serious falling out and I'd have been looking for the hidden camera.

But after this the sound returned and having bade Randal a fond farewell, I enjoyed the tv for the rest of the day.

Monday morning dawned cold, sunny and, once the tv was powered on, soundless. I tried everything Randal had suggested the day before and again, the sound came back. This annoying problem went on for a few days but once the sound came on, it would stay on the rest of the day. It obviously just didn't like nights !

By this morning I'd had enough and went onto the Vizio chat option again and......there was Randal. Now I know that N. Dakota is sparsely populated but surely Vizio has more techs at their call centre than just good ol' Randal ! Anyway he was obviously having a stressful morning as he didn't want to deal with me and just said they'd send an engineer out to fix the sound problem...but it would be over a week. I said no thanks and said I'd just take it back to Walmart for a new tv.

So I rang Walmart, Sebring to make sure they had one in stock. After being passed to the Electronics Dept, I waited. A good 3 mins later someone answered with a grunted "hello." I asked if they had my model tv in stock as I needed to return mine.

"Hang on," she said.

Another 4 mins passed........

"Right, what tv was it ?"

All that time just to find a pen and paper ???

I gave her the information.

"Hang on," she said again.

7 mins passed.

"No, we don't have any," she said.

"Oh, and I don't suppose you can tell me when you are likely to get any more in," I said more to myself than her as I somehow knew the answer.

"Hang on," she said.

3 minutes passed.

"I've found one," she said.

"WHAT ? Really ? You've found one ?" I spluttered, wondering just where she'd found it !

"Yes," she said, with little enthusiasm.

"Could you please put it to one side for me as it may take me a couple of hours to get this mostly silent tv back to you," I asked.

"Oh no we can't do that," she said sweetly. "We're not allowed to put tvs aside for customers as they move so fast," she added helpfully.

"It's a pity the same can't be said about you," I thought to myself but tactfully also kept to myself.

"But I can't go to all the effort of boxing up this tv, loading it up and taking it to the store only to find you've sold the only one you have in stock. Why can't you just put a 'do not sell' sign on it or put it to one side or anything," I pleaded.

"We can't do that," she repeated, and I realised I was losing this particular battle with common sense and basic customer relations.

I asked to speak to a manager.

"Hello, I'm the Electronics Manager, can I help you," said a man with a distinct 'south of the border' accent, if you follow my drift.

I told him the story and he repeated what the sales assistant had told me.

"We can't do that," he said, but in a more important management sort of way.

"Can I speak with the store manager please ?"

"The store manager isn't in today."

"Can I speak with the assistant store manager, please ?"

"Hang on."

12 minutes later someone picked up the phone and asked who I was waiting for ? I was tempted to say "Santa, but I'm not holding out much hope" but said the assistant store manager. The phone was dropped back onto the desk.

Although by then I knew that they had no intention of putting me in touch with the ASM, I didn't want to give in - but it was another battle I wasn't going to win and so I finally hung up. I rang the store again and asked for the ASM right away. A few mins later we were discussing the situation and she told me of course the tv could be put to one side for me and all I had to do was take the silent tv to the customer services desk and swap it over.

Ok where was this woman 30 minutes earlier ???!!! Oh no I had to get totally stressed out by the incompetent Sinitta and Jose who clearly moved at a snails pace and who could've learned a thing or two about decision making from Paul, the World Cup octopus. Where do they find/train these people ?

The nice ASM then said she'd find out if the tv was still in stock and I heard her using a walkie talkie or some such device to speak with the Electronics Dept.

"Jose (I've changed his name to protect his privacy and to make this post funnier)....have we a Vizio 47" LCD HDTV in stock" ?

A few seconds passed.

"We have ? Grrr-eat."

"How many ? Two ! Grrr-eat."

"Well put one aside at Customer Services will you ? Grrr-eat."

My flabber was well gasted by now. TWO ? What the hell ??? Have they a bunch of Vizio elves back there churning out these things ? In the space of 30 minutes the stock went from none to one to two so those freakin' elves are obviously much more efficient than the Walmart staff !!

I thanked the ASM and set about boxing up my silent tv.

Anyway, touch wood, all's well that ends well and I'm now watching AND LISTENING to my new Vizio 47" LCD HDTV as nature intended. It's taken a missed breakfast, a fair bit of heavy lifting and a good deal of stress to get to this point so thanks a bunch, Walmart. Your company mission statement (Save Money, Live Better), like your Sebring Electronics Dept staff, leaves a lot to be desired.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Never On A Sunday !

I'm not usually given to poking fun at religions/demoninations/faiths as I was brought up a Catholic and, God knows oy vey already, we've got enough bizarre rules and regulations of our own.

But yesterday Deb bought a new stove, or a cooker as we'd say back in the mother country. Before she used her flexible friend to buy this amazing device that does everything apart from cleaning itself......oh wait it does that too.......I happened to glance at the features and noticed the following :

Certified Sabbath Mode.

Hmmm this was a new feature to me and so, thinking it might have been developed by the fast food businesses to get families into their premises on a weekend, I went off for a quick surf.

I found this little gem......

Turning on an electric stovetop to warm food will initiate the flow of electricity to the burner. The halachic authorities have determined that electricity used as heat or light is considered fire. Therefore by turning on the burner one is creating a new fire. … Turning the dial on your electric stovetop may also initiate a light or icon on a control panel which would otherwise be off. This may be a transgression of kosev, writing, as well as molid. Even when the electric burner was left on from before Yom Tov, if one wishes to adjust the temperature of the burner there is also reason for concern. This is because, as a rule, one does not know if there is electric current running to the element at the time they wish to make the adjustment. Even when there is an indicator light showing that a burner is on, this may not be an indication that electricity is flowing to the burner at that moment. Rather it is indicating that the element is set to maintain the desired setting which it will maintain by going on and off at pre-determined intervals. As a result when one adjusts the temperature upward on Yom Tov they may be initiating the flow of electricity at a time that it was otherwise not flowing. As mentioned earlier, this would be prohibited because of molid.

Catholics everywhere, rejoice. You are not alone !

I really wasn't aware that many centuries before Ben Franklin went kite flying, ye olden Jews were cooking delicious hot meals on their electrically powered stoves. Who'd have thunk it.

Anyway, to get around this perplexing problem, modern day chosen ones (as opposed to the Chosen One who is now managing in Spain) have put their little skull caps together and come up with the solution.....the certified Sabbath mode for stoves. These stove ovens are designed to bypass many of the practical and halachic problems posed by the modern oven by using a random delay.

This feature allows one to raise the temperature on Yom Tov at any time, regardless of when power is flowing to the oven. This is because when one adjusts the dial or keypad, it is not directly causing the temperature to change. These "instructions" are being left for the computer to read at random intervals. The computer will then follow the "instruction" to raise the temperature. Therefore, this action is only causing a grama, an indirect action, which in turn will cause the temperature to be raised.

Sabbath mode ovens are designed to bypass many of the practical and halachic problems posed by the modern oven…. Some Sabbath Mode ovens are designed to work with a random delay. This feature allows one to raise the temperature on Yom Tov at any time, regardless of when power is flowing to the oven. This is because when one adjusts the dial or keypad, it is not directly causing the temperature to change. These "instructions" are being left for the computer to read at random intervals. The computer will then follow the "instruction" to raise the temperature. Therefore, this action is only causing a grama, an indirect action, which in turn will cause the temperature to be raised.

I can't say I fully understand this bypass as I was off school on the day advanced oven techniques were being explained. Despite this, I just find it hilarious.

I find it hilarious when religions get their followers to worry about the most trivial things. And where does it end ? Can they turn on the kitchen light to see how the certified Sabbath mode is working on the stove ? Probably not. It's that damn electricity again.

So there you have it. Not really a rant but a post with a tinge of sadness (nay, disbelief) at the lengths people go to when modern interpretations are made about religious laws that were drawn up centuries ago before the invention or development of the very devices now needing to be circumvented.

I think the title of my previous post could've been used again for this one !!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

The statement "I'm spending the winter in Florida" should not mean that I have to wrap up in thermals and get up to a dawn chorus of semi frozen anhingas ! It's supposed to mean I've swapped a cold winter for a warm winter. I'm sure this is somewhere in the small print and I'll be looking closely at this after the following ranting post.

Ok moving swiftly on...........

While on this side of the pond, I still like to keep in touch with news from my homeland, the Kingdom of Yorkshire to be precise. To this end, I get a daily headline email sent to my inbox so that I can catch up on events in "God's Own County" with my morning Dunkin Donuts coffee (a free 3lb bag would be much appreciated for this unabashed plug).

This morning's email had a few headlines which caught my eye and raised my hackles, which is quite an achievement at 8am I can tell you.

First up : Parents free to snap children in nativity plays.

Good start eh ? The fact that this headline had to be written at all is my gripe and the article only poured fuel on the flames of my anger and amazement.

"Parents should be free to photograph their children in nativity plays and challenge schools or councils that try to stop them under data protection laws, the Information Commissioner has said."

Now I'm not a parent but if I was, and my kid or kids were in a school event of ANY kind, I'd expect to be able to snap a photo or two of them as has been the norm since Perez Photograph developed the camera lens in 1897. Even as a friend of the family, I'd expect to do the same but once again, in this day and age of lost innocence, anyone with a camera around kids has first to prove they're not paedophiles or child stalkers and even then are often told they're not allowed to take potential family treasures due to some ridiculous rule.

It won't be long before any parent found to have photos of their children messing about in the bath tub will be added to a sex offenders list and shunned by their friends and neighbours.

"But they looked so cute splashing around and playing with their rubber ducks, officer !!"

"Maybe so, sir, but your girls are 17 now and deserve a bit of privacy."

Next up : Health and safety has gone crackers.

In the UK, and maybe in a few other countries around the globe, we have a tradition of 'pulling crackers' at Christmas. This doesn't mean it's ok for Uncle Albert to bring home a couple of strippers on Christmas Eve although more power to him if he does !

No, in this case a cracker is basically an empty toilet roll tube filled with a paper hat, a small and typically useless novelty toy and a terrible joke on a piece of paper. The roll is then covered in a tissue type paper and two strips of thin cardboard joined in the middle by a small amount of 'explosive' material so that when two people grab either end and pull, there is a minor bang (or a pathetic plop if you've scrimped on quality), the paper falls apart and the goodies within the roll all tumble out onto the dining table to much laughter and merriment.

The toy then rolls under the table never to be seen again till mid January, the paper hat is put onto a head much too large for it and the joke is read out to loud groans and promises to buy better crackers next year.

So why the headline ? Well it seems that 'the powers that be' have classed crackers as low grade fireworks and as such, cannot be bought by anyone under 16. As most businesses operate a polity where they ask for ID from anyone buying age related items who looks under 25, we have a situation where someone in their mid 20's could be stopped from buying a box of Christmas crackers if they have no proof of age !

I'm sure this policy was set up to deter youthful looking Al Qaeda members from going to ASDA and stockpiling explosives but it still seems absurd to me.

(Damn, now I'll be on a watch list for mentioning they who must not be mentioned).

Finally this morning, and remember these are just from this morning's headlines, I'll skip the one about the FBI telling its agents to be on the look out for Barbi dolls fitted with video cameras as they could be used for child pornography purposes ! Although bizarre, that's a serious issue and anyway, it's US news. I can just imagine suited men in dark sunglasses examining Barbi Dolls in Walmart. Now if I tried to do it..........!!!

So the last headline : 'Chippendale' commode fetches record £3.7m.

OK this really takes the p***. I rarely understand the art world and whoever bought that Jackson Pollock painting (No.5,1948) for over $140m a few years ago needs therapy and obviously not of the retail kind.

At least the Pollock can be hung in a living room and 'admired.' I'd still rather admire the stack of banknotes that bought it but then I'm no art lover.

But a commode ??!! Where do you display a commode ? A £3.7m commode !

It's all been too much for me this morning. Getting Yorkshire Post emails is seriously damaging my health and I may have to unsubscribe.

I'm off to the privacy of my own commode to pull my cracker and as far as I know, there is no law against that !

Smutty lot !!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Oh The Weather Outside Is...Nominal !

I'm very confused.

And this time it's not down to having a senior moment.

Right now I'm in my recliner looking at our Christmas tree, quietly tinselling away in the corner, and next to it is a 4ft Santa who is dressed as a Santa should clobber with black accessories. Well it IS the Christmas period after all so fair enough, that's what I should be looking at.

Outside it's Florida. Land of year round sunshine and warmth - except that the warmth has temporarily left us and has been replaced with almost UK like temperatures.

I say almost as of course I realise that our current cold snap would be regarded as an Indian Summer in the UK right now but it's all relative. My mind (and body) expect warmth here. That's the nature of things and I get very confused when the nature of things gets all messed up.
Over the years I've become accustomed to spending the festive season in t-shirt and shorts and so having to wear a fleece and jeans is just not on.

Seems to me that ever since 'global warming' was threatened, we've had nothing but 'global not very warm at all really'. I suspect that the writers of those reports had been sitting poolside on some Caribbean island, knocking back the expense account pina coladas and having a right old laugh.

In any case it's cold here. Sub zero overnight cold in fact. Oranges have been falling like cannon balls and speaking of balls, mine were last seen on Friday afternoon. It's cold, I tells ya.

Mind you, yesterday I had a brief spell of warmth when 'researching' my Pisa post as I was looking at photos of our time there when it was hot and sunny. So that's what I mean by being confused.

I see images (photos) of warm times. I see images (Christmas tree and Santa) of cold times. I 'see' memories (palm trees and sunshine) of a normally warm Florida out the window but overall, I feel cold. My world has gone a bit mad on me.

1) Warm memories....

2) Cold images.......

3) Cold now but normally warm...........

Does not compute.....does not compute. Danger Will Robinson........

I've just watched the launch of a commercial rocket (Falcon 9....sounds like a Shadows record) from nearby Cape Canaveral and the most used word from mission control as it climbed to orbit was.....nominal. Everything it seems was.....nominal. Nominal is good. Nominal is normal.

I wish our weather was.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pisa Revisited ?

Many blog posts ago, when I was remembering our wonderful Italian holiday, I wrote about our visit to Pisa with its hard to find parking places, narrow picturesque streets and, of course, its well dodgy tower.

Well it seems that the tower wasn't the only thing dodgy about Pisa !

A few days ago, Stephen, who had hired the rental car and was thus the named driver, got a registered letter from the authorities to say 'we' owed them 119 Euros for a traffic offence committed in that city. Seeing as we'd accidentally gone down a one way street the wrong way in our efforts to find a parking place, I assumed that was the offence. It wasn't.

Then I remembered the 'colourful' people who had been hanging around the little piazza where we, and dozens of other tourists, had parked. These guys, with no request from us, had tried to find us empty parking bays but we just ignored them and found one ourselves, paid at a nearby ticket machine and went off tower hunting. I wondered if this had anything to do with the offence. It hadn't.

So what was it all about ? Well it seems that like a few other Italian towns and cities, Pisa has a ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato - you can't make this stuff up !) which hardly needs much translation. Despite all my research before we left, I knew nothing about these zones in any Italian city and, if asked, would only have thought Rome would have one, being the capital an' all. As we weren't driving in Rome, it never came up.

So back to Pisa. We saw no ZTL signs and probably wouldn't have understood one if we HAD seen one as they are in Italian only.

Seeing such a sign with something like 7:30-19:30 on it would've led me to think it was simply a "no parking zone" with fixed times. Knowing better now, we understand we entered the zone several streets before we eventually parked up and in fact, were very fortunate not to have incurred multiple fines when driving around trying to park. If we'd accidentally exited and entered the zone multiple times, we'd have received multiple fines !

What to do now ? Well as usual we've surfed t'interclacker and if you put in any combination of Pisa, traffic zone and even scam, you'll get a plethera of blogs, forums and other irate rants about it all. Where were these sites when I was researching Italy ??!! Thanks a bunch Frommers, Rough Guide et al.

Ok so if anyone is planning a driving trip around Italy, visiting cities like Rome, Florence and/or Pisa, be aware they have ZTLs and raise many millions of euros by tracking down offenders and sending out fines, usually many months later, and therein lies the "get out of jail" card.

After reading many, MANY, rants about this business and listening to the sage advice of bar room lawyers, who to be fair do acknowledge their lack of lawyery credentials, the following seems to apply........

........the authorities have 360 days from the date of the offence to issue you with the fine, otherwise you can appeal and, using section 201.1 of the Italian Highway Code (now there is an oxymoron if ever there was one !) have the fee dismissed.

I finally found an excellent, if wordy, blog which explains it all. Sadly it's been updated over the years without the old info being deleted so it's a bit of a plough through but well worth it. As I've no idea when any passing visitor will read this post of mine, can I direct them to the comment section of the highlighed blog and to the one dated 4th Dec 2010 from James. His question plus the followup answer from Al seems to encapsulate all the previous data and will save some time.
Basically if your fine letter came more than 360 days after the offence, use the appeal letter template elsewhere in that blog post to send off to the authorities to have the charge/penalty quashed.

I realise that, as usual, ignorance of the law is no excuse but when you add up the lack of signs, the fact that they are in Italian only (I know, I know, learn the language !) and that a small town like Pisa "raises" about 25m euros from these fines, then you have to wonder about Boss Hog tactics when it comes to local government funding.

More research has now shown me that we visited several other towns that, unknown to us, had ZTLs. Towns like San Gimignano and our very favourite, Siena. Thankfully we parked outside those towns simply because we came upon favourable parking areas or else we may have had, and still could have of course, fines from them as well. Time will tell.

Oh and one last point. The Italian authorities, when tracking down non Italian residents for these fines, use outside agencies for the purpose. In the UK, our DVLA is not allowed to give out driver details to foreign agencies but the simple way around this is to get a UK agency to make the requests ! And don't think you'll get away with a fine if you rented a car. Licence plates are photographed and the car rental companies have to supply the driver information. The big rental companies charge for this 'service' so you may well get yet another charge on your credit card from them......and some people think THIS is the traffic penalty but sadly, that's still to come in the post. It's all adding up, isn't it ??

Credit card statements are being checked as I type this but we think our car rental company haven't applied a charge. Fingers crossed as we'd never get that fee quashed as whether the subsequent ZTL fine gets cancelled or not, the rental company still had to perform the admin service of giving out our details.

We all liked Pisa and it's one of those places that if you are nearby, you just have to visit.

But even without its ZTL, it's not a place I'd ever want to revisit.

The Leaning Tower ? Been there, seen it, held it up !

The ZTL fine ? Been there, had it, ain't paying up !

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Approaching My 60's, I Remember the 60's.

As it's a bit nippy today (no sympathy please), I'm staying indoors and taking the opportunity to do some long overdue music and video editing on the lappy.

I'm currently listening to an excellent musical compilation by those nice people at Time Life called Flower Power and before you think it's the greatest hits of Alan Titchmarsh, lemme tell you it's 175 groovy songs from the era of peace, love and hey man, where the hell am I ?

I was a teen in the hippy, dippy 60's but as I was Catholic, in Northern Ireland and at an all boys boarding school, all that free love, long hair and smoking pot went on in a different universe.

Sometimes in the priest's house but mostly in a different universe !

But while most aspects of the swinging 60's in the rest of the UK and the flower power years in the US passed me by, the same couldn't be said for the music of the times. I embraced it then and still embrace it now. I remember the groups, the songs and yes, even the weird and often bizarre lyrics that came more from a drug induced haze than the alert minds of deep thinkers and poets.

And this Time Life compilation brings it all back to me. There are well known UK names like The Kinks, The Hollies, The Troggs, Manfred Mann, Procol Harum, Donovan, The Animals, Cat Stevens and The Moody Blues....many still playing the oldies circuits today despite only having one or even less of the original group members ! I've never quite understood how a group can not have a single original member and still call themselves by that group name ? Aren't they then a tribute group and be billed as such ?

The vast majority of the groups on this compilation are American but that doesn't make them less well known to us Brits. The Monkees, The Mamas & The Papas, Chicago, The Beach Boys, Peter, Paul & Mary...... hey they were a group. There were 3 of them. Come on people, the clue is in the name !

But a whole lot of the names sum up the age from whence they came and a few put stress on even my synaptic pathways to conjure up the most fleeting of memories.

Take for instance.....The Electric Prunes, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Jonathan Edwards (who later became British and his career went on in leaps and bounds), Five Man Electrical Band, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Guess Who, Blue Magoos, Iron Butterfly, Bubble Puppy, Quicksilver Messenger Service and probably best of all, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.

Only the 60's could produce group names like those and that's before we look at the song titles that made them famous. I'll spare you those.

So Carnaby Street was in full retail swing and everyone was going to San Francisco with flowers in their hair; the air was thick with pot at Woodstock and people in the UK were painting their living rooms a whiter shade of pale. Yes it was all going on, except in my part of the world where things remained the same as they had been for the previous 100 years. The clergy were in control, we all spoke in Latin and some of us brave souls listened to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes.

As I've posted about before, the very first single I ever bought was Mirror, Mirror by a group who should've made it into the Time Life collection by name alone......Pinkerton's Assorted Colours. Ahhh happy memories. In a moment of extreme spookiness, a week or so ago I met up on Facebook with the "dayboy" who bought me that record all those years ago. I'd not spoken with him since I left school in 1970.

That sounded a bit like "This Is Your Life." I hope he's not going to walk through the door !

"Yes you've not seen him for 40 years and you still owe him 2/6d for that bloody he is.........."

Obviously I have to end with a pick from this compilation and I think the one song that has always summed up that era for me is Scott MacKenzie's "San Francisco." It was so different, so far removed from my life then and so "damn I wish I was there" that it's been one of my all time favourites since its release. I finally made it to SF in the early 90's and despite the flower power, hippy dippy generation being middle aged suits, I still felt that the air of freedom was almost tangible. As I hoped I would, I loved the place and have done so on every subsequent visit. Isn't it great when a youthful dream gets realised and it's even better than you could have ever imagined ?

So toss off your shoes, let down your hair and let it all hang out. Groovy, baby.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Aussie Rules

We went to The Outback last night.

Now for those of you who take that to mean I've somehow jetted off to Australia since yesterday's post, let me enlighten you. The Outback is an Australian themed chain restaurant where the decor and the menu choices make use of just about every possible antipodean stereotype from a drink called a Wallaby Darned (excellent by the way) to Aussie fries (not so excellent).

You can try the Alice Springs Chicken Quesadilla, a portion of Kookaburra Wings or take a chance on the Walkabout Soup Of The Day. If you want to be around to bounce some grandchildren on your knee, stay away from the Bloomin' Onion. It'll kill ya faster than you can say 'bypass surgery.' A box of deep fried Mars bars would be a healthy option by comparison.

As for the desserts, no one with a lisp should attempt Sydney's Sinful Sundae and no one from Weight Watchers should even look at a photo of the Chocolate Thunder From Down Under or else that's exactly where they'll end up.

Once inside the restaurant, you notice they use the same light bulb supplier as Motel 6. Thank God my phone comes with a torch app as otherwise I'd not have been able to order anything. I'm all for a cozy, intimate atmosphere when I eat out but I'd also like to make it to my booth without skittling a bunch of seniors standing in line for the rest rooms. Having said that, once your eyes become accustomed to the 'subdued' lighting, you can find your cutlery and napkin with only a few minutes of groping around the table top.

We were eating at Sebringtime which means having our evening meal just after 5pm. Having visited Spain and Italy where often the restaurants didn't even open till 8pm, I have to think a Mediterranean visitor would be a bit bemused by this early supper time. As a reward, we were able to peruse the 'early bird' menu where the prices and portions were cut down versions from the main menu....which was also available.

I ordered the 6oz sirloin steak with a baked potato. In fact as the steak came with 2 sides, I ordered TWO baked to take home. I'd made up my mind not to take a photo of the plate when it came as I always seem to be posting food photos to Facebook and Twitter and I'd hate to give the impression I'm a lardy ass. Which I am. It's not an impression.

When my meal did arrive, I realised I couldn't have taken a photo anyway as my phone camera doesn't have a macro setting. The steak MAY have been 6ozs before it was cooked, but the little brown wedge of meat on my plate had obviously disliked being grilled so much that it had shrivelled into a nubbin. If I'd had a surgeon's scalpel, I could maybe have cut off such skin thin slices as to make the meal last longer than it actually did.

But with my standard Outback hacking knife, I sliced off one bite sized chunk of meat, wrapped it in some fluffy potato and as I put this combo to my mouth, I glanced back at the steak on my plate and it was half gone already ! This would be the quickest meal I'd ever ate since my boarding school days when food never stayed around long enough to even GET to a plate.

I made thinner slices and used more potato after that and managed to make the meal last just long enough for our server to come and say.......

"And how is...oh.....was......everything with your meal ?"

But really it was fine. For health reasons alone, I don't need to eat as much as I have been known to eat in the past and it was good to leave the table still slightly hungry.

Mind you, I'd eaten my take home potato before we reached the truck !

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

......And Thereby Hangs A Tail

A few minutes ago, when the temp passed 85F in here, I decided it was time to swim to the lanai along my own river of sweat to cool off a bit.

Yes that's a lovely image, isn't it ! Sorry.

As I approached the 2 seater, I spotted a couple of little friends part way up one of the windows, using their suckered feet/paws to adhere to the glass.

Well I say friends but being British the geckos are really just recent acquaintances as we've not been formally introduced. I first spotted them a couple of days ago and although I can't be 100% sure they are the same ones, that's not important right now (a nod to the late Leslie Nielsen there).

On a nearby table was my little Nikon point-and-shoot camera so setting it to macro and ignoring the risk to life and limb, I approached one of the critters like a proper wildlife cameraman. I even used my best Attenborough voice-over to calm him/her down and it did seem to work, as he/she simply gave me a fixed stare and allowed me to get up close and personal.

Sadly for the both of us, the camera kept trying to focus on the largest area it saw which in this case, was the yard next door. Try as I might, I couldn't get it to focus on George (I like to name my creature subjects as it gives the memory a more personal touch) who was being really very patient indeed and only moved his/her head a little and seemed happy to remain in situ.

Actually as I've named him/her George, I'm going with 'him' from now on.

My patience ran out before his and I just took the photo.

But, dear reader, this story does not have an entirely happy ending. Startled by the flash, which I forgot to turn off, George scuttled off and without thinking, I grabbed his tail.

I suspect most of you are ahead of me now......

Yes George continued scuttling and I was left holding his tail !!

Before you reach for the smelling salts and report me to PETA, geckos have evolved a defence mechanism called autotomy, where they can 'drop' their tail in moments of stress or to simply get away from a predator. There is special connective tissue in the tail that creates a weak spot and so when the gecko is under threat/stress, the blood vessels to the tail will constrict, the weak spot breaks and the tail drops off - or in this case, remains wrigging between my fingers. A very odd experience I have to say.

I left the tail on the window ledge just in case George comes back for it (stop laughing at the back) but fear not, gentle gecko lovers everywhere, he WILL grow a new one.

I'll be keeping a look out for Stumpy, the gecko formally known as George, and will let you know if he appears again.

I not sure if they can drop the regrown tail so somehow I think that if he sees me before I see him, he'll be off before you can say.....'macro.'

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Green Green Grass Of....Buttonwood Bay

Despite last Friday, Black Friday, not being a holiday, it still seems like we've just had a 4 day weekend.

This is Cyber Monday, another day invented by the retail industry here to prise open our wallets, flex our credit cards and generally part with our cash. As if it wasn't enough to get us standing in line at 4am on Black Friday, they have embraced the internet and today are tempting us with juicy online only offers. If you haven't got t'internet access.......tough. You'll have to go to a library to buy your 55" LCD 3D ready Whopper HDTV with 4 HDMI ports, 2 USB ports, built in wi-fi, blu-ray player and toaster oven.

It may not, however, come with a power cord. Many electrical items here, from printers to kitchen ovens, don't. I think the US needs a few of our consumer acts as I'd have to think that in the UK, an electric oven with no power cord would breech some part of the sale of goods act ! The "fit for use" part comes to mind.

Speaking of tvs, I just might buy my Whopper this evening as the sale ends today and the pressure is getting to me. Damn their alluring deals !

Anyway I've digressed a tad as this post was just supposed to be a quickie about lawn cutting.

Ok so I digressed A LOT but blame the heat for muddling my literary brain cells. I mean, I can barely see the keyboard for dripping sweat.

I can feel the waves of sympathy from across the (frozen) pond so will move swiftly along.........

This morning we had our grass cut. We'd hired a new team and when the first guy arrived on his bright yellow Walker mower (who says Americans don't get irony), the cutting began. He gracefully weaved his machine around the lawn obstacles like a ballet dancer on steroids :-

We'd left out a Christmas wreath for anyone to take for free and he put it on the little collection part at the back of his mower as you can see in this photo.

Thinking the fun was over, I went back into the house to continue my breakfast. Some minutes later I spotted him wrapping the cord and light string around the wreath and then placing it over his head so it was on his neck/shoulders. He then walked off to where his gang had parked their truck and he just reminded me of Sterling Moss on the podium after an F1 race from bygone times.

Never one to miss a photo op, I grabbed the phone again and went back out to ask him for a pose. By now he was standing by the truck having a ciggie break but was only too happy to help.

By the time I got back, the next guy was busily 'whipping' the lawn edges and around immovable objects and when he'd finished, the last guy took over with his blower and with this simple process, tidied up the whole place. It was all over in no time and with the long side areas and round the back to deal with, it sure was good to have this team do the hard work.

After all that, I was about ready for a mid morning nap.

I mean you really have to pace yourself here !!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Golf Cart Ride

An hour ago, when it hit 83F (28c), Deb and I went out for a golf cart ride around the park.

As well as 'driving' along the many internal streets, we went onto both 'cart paths' which can yield many photographic subjects, human, animal and indeterminate !

First up we came upon some sort of crane (I'm no Attenborough for sure !) that was fishing on the shallow shores of the lake. It would use its wings to stir up the still waters and even the lake bed below to bring food to the surface and then tuck in.

You can almost spot the look of concentration on it face.

Then it on to the canal path which is usually a great location for wildlife. There was a new anhinga in town and he was not pleased by my approach. He'd stretch out his snakelike neck and make as much noise as he could to scare me off.

It didn't work !

Before he flew off, I did manage to get fairly close and you can almost 'see' him giving me a look that clearly more step and I'm off.

I stepped....and he off'd.

Finally just before we got home, I took a photo of one of the many inflatable characters which 'pop up' around the park around at this time every year. Considering I'm reading reports from back home in England about record November lows and heavy snow falling in most places, I think this inflatable is very appropriate.

You certainly see all sorts in this park.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Musings.

Yes it's Thanksgiving Eve here in the US of A and all around the country, turkeys are eyeing sharp cutlery with some suspicion and a lot of nervousness.

Actually any live turkeys are probably pretty safe today as we live in an age when kids think turkeys, like their smaller (and tastier) cousins, are born frozen and, by design, have their internal organs neatly packaged in tiny plastic bags. Just how they managed to get stuffed up their asses is another matter and little Johnny or Hank don't need to be told about that.

Have you ever seen a wild turkey running around au naturelle with a little black hat on its head ? Probably not. Not even in Walmart where you see just about everything !

Being British, I'm not going to presume I know what Americans have to be thankful for - well apart from us Brits saving them in WWII but don't get me started on THAT. No, this is a VERY unique (oh how I used to hate reading that expression) holiday and, considering our history, I have to say I think we should hijack the bandwagon and have a British version.

I mean, come on. If 'they' can be thankful with only about 300 years of history, think what we could dredge up to be thankful for with 2,000 + years of history. Actually I'm not sure when man (or woman........ha !) first set foot on British soil but I'm sure it was before Coronation Street started and even before Cliff Richard had his first No.1 so it had to be a long time ago.

Despite evidence of Homo Erectus still being a bit sketchy even now in parts of the Scottish Highlands and most of central Glasgow, I'm pretty sure we had inhabitants 750,000 years ago when Britain didn't even exist as a nation and the actual landmass was still joined to continental Europe. Oh yes, we were much more a part of Europe back then and anyone with a wheel and a desire to travel could've made it from one side to the other in a couple of years ! Well unless they were starting from North Wales and then they'd have had to go at 20mph.

Little 'in' joke there.

So with our history going back countless centuries and with a clean slate to start with, think of the national fun we could have deciding what OUR Thanksgiving Day could celebrate ! I think I should email the editors of such agust UK newspapers as The Sun and The Star and suggest they poll their readership for suggestions.

Sadly I'm sure the appearance of the first Page 3 girl (Stephanie Rahn, 17th Nov 1970) or England winning the World Cup (30th July 1966) would rate highly on the thanksgiving scale and important as those events may be, they don't really compare with a bunch of pilgrims surviving their first brutal winter in New England.

Here's a thought : if they'd landed in South East Florida, anywhere near Miami Beach, there would BE no Thanksgiving Day. I mean with hardly a first brutal winter to survive, they'd have gone down in history as a very fortunate bunch of religious exiles indeed. Jammy bastards in fact. Old Abe would've no doubt found some other event to remember on the 4th Thursday in November but it certainly wouldn't have been for a load of pilgrims slapping on the factor 30 and sunbathing on a Florida beach all winter.

And I don't care how tasty they might be, I'd not appreciate finding a hunk of cooked pelican or a gator tail on my dinner plate tomorrow. Oh hell no.

So there you have take on Thanksgiving Day. If Wikipedia is to be believed, a day for giving thanks, spending time with family, feasting, football games and parades. We Brits can do all those things so just for once, we should follow in the footsteps of our friends across the pond (no, not the French...the OTHER pond) and create our own Thanksgiving Day. I may fall slightly short of the readership of The Sun or The Star, but please feel free to add your suggestions as to what we should be thankful for........and modesty dictates you leave this blog off the list !

Happy Thanksgiving to all my US friends.....especially those cooking my meal tomorrow !

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's All A Question Of Timelines

Anyone who uses Facebook and/or Twitter will know about timelines and how messages and comments appear in a timely fashion so that you can go to where you left off the night/day/week/month before, or just jump in at the top and say 'sod it' to all the vital social messages sent to you by people you have never met before and you'd run a mile from if you were ever asked to meet.

But life, even here in sunny Buttonwood Bay, has timelines too and although I pretty much ignore most of them, being that I'm retired an' all, some events just can't be ignored. In no particular order the ones still outstanding this year are, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the park's Golf Cart Parade.

Yes you read that right......the golf cart parade.

Every year, a couple of weeks before Christmas, a lot of the residents here put time and effort into decorating their golf carts and then at 6pm on the day, drive around the park in convoy to the cheers and applause of the rest of us who stand out to watch this colourful and often very inventive spectacle. Admittedly things get thrown but those tend to be candies from the cart occupants to the open handed (and teeth missing) spectators along the route.

Some of those candies may have soft centres but their shells can crack a tooth at 20 paces even when thrown by an arthritic arm.

Now remember that almost every residence here, and that's about 960 units, has a golf cart to get their elderly occupants from place to place in this large park. But although the potential for a huge convoy is there, usually only about 20 or so take part.

And this event isn't confined to this park or this part of the world. Oh deary me no. Judging from the searches made on my blog at this time of year (as I've posted a few times about previous parades here), the residents of similar parks the length and breadth of this fine country are beavering away as we speak, creating their own mobile masterpieces and are seeking a little help from looking at my photos. I'm not sure how much they'll get as taking photos in the darkness of moving objects, albeit slow moving objects, is not my forte.

Anyway the 2010 Buttonwood Bay Decorated Golf Cart Christmas Parade (or BBDGCCP as I like to call it) will be upon us in a few weeks and no doubt another blog post will follow shortly thereafter. This momentous and not to be missed event takes place between the slightly lesser dates of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes I know there are other events but I don't have to be PC and mention blog, my rules.

So to get in the mood for all this AND as all the stores in the western world seem to have been displaying festive decorations for some time now, we felt the pressure to put up our Christmas tree a bit early this season. The rule has always been "not till Thankis Geeving be gone and Friday of the Black is hereth, shalt the tree of ornaments and other shiny dangly bittees be foisted upon the hoose dwellers.....forsooth."

Or some such words. I may have misquoted the rule. Verrily.

So this afternoon I did my bit and erected the tree which has been lying dormant for a few years as we never had room for it in our previous place here. Now that we have room aplenty (despite the imminent arrival of a 50" (make sure I got that right this time)) plasma telle), and corners to spare, the tree now stands tall and proud, dripping silently with little bits of tinsel from the last time it saw the light of day.

After Thanksgiving, Debby will throw herself into a favourite task by decorating the tree with sets of twinkling lights (twinkling via the power of electricity) and hanging up all the special ornaments collected and lovingly stored over the past decades. I know she'll be a happy bunny as decorating the 2ft tree that sat on top of the telle in our previous place was just not the same. One decent sized Piglet ornament and it was done !

So here, along with a virtual drum roll, is said tree and reet grand it looks too.


It'll look better when it's lit a Christmas tree !

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Veterans Day

Last Thursday was Veterans Day here in the US of A and with so many seniors in the park, it was a time for even more flag flying and thinking of those who have served and are serving their country.

Now before you tell me off for missing the apostrophe back there, it's not my fault. The US Government has declared that the attributive rather than the possessive case is the official spelling and who am I to argue.

Suitably impressed with my intimate knowledge of US government spelling directives and just before sunset, I set off walking to the pier by the lake as I love the light at that time of day. On my way, I passed a house that had its sprinkler going and I liked the view looking through the spray towards a distant house flying the Stars & Stripes.

It looked much better to my eyes than in this photo but you get the idea.

Then it was off to the pier and although I've taken many photos of it at sunset, I never tire of taking more and being in a reflective mood at the time, it seemed that its stark beauty at the edge of the tranquil waters was even more poignant that evening.

Some nearby palm tree fronds were catching the intense light from the setting sun and although not particularly photogenic by day, they had come alive with a vibrancy that belied their general purpose.

I then took this view over the lake with the sun nestling all too briefly on the horizon, just before it dipped down and was swallowed by the enveloping waters.

There was just time to go out along the pier and take this shot looking back at one of the swing benches and the couple who, sitting together beside the gently fluttering American flag, seemed to sum things up nicely.

The most famous work of the English poet, Laurence Binyon, is "For The Fallen" and I quote it here. It may have been written to remember the British who died in WW1 but its last and most quoted stanza is for all nations who remember their dead........

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

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