Friday, February 25, 2011

Buttonwood Bay - Life After Discovery

I had to watch the shuttle launch on telle yesterday as the skies to the north east of us here in normally sunny Buttonwood Bay had clouded over at just the wrong time. Actually I watched it on a HD feed on my laptop as not only was the quality better, it was about 4 seconds ahead of tv coverage.

A few moments after Discovery cleared the tower, I went outside for a look but the cloud cover was still in place and so I came back in to watch the rest of the coverage online. After all, tv had returned full screen to Judge Judy by then anyway !

Priorities eh ?

Earlier yesterday Stanley Steemer came and cleaned our carpets and a jolly good job they made of it. We'd piled all the relevant furniture into other rooms and for the rest of the day, we 'lived' in the lanai......our sunny Florida room.

And we're still in it ! Despite being told we could walk on the carpets as soon as the cleaning had finished, we don't want to risk damaging the wooden based items by moving them back into place until everywhere is bone dry. That might be much later tonight or tomorrow morning but with it being another mid 80's day here, I'm thinking....tonight.

Right now Dennis is watering the new concrete patio which has to be done a few times a day in the first week. I think he's trying to grow an airstrip !

All these things are new to me as I've never experienced a professional carpet cleaning service or seen concrete watering before. These sorts of things just seem to be done so much easier (and faster) here as I'm sure if I wanted a new patio to be laid back in Leeds, I'd have to wait several weeks and then have some pessimistic contractor suggesting that adding a patio onto a 16th floor apartment might challenge his abilities a bit !

No seriously, my house IS a house and when I left it, it was firmly on the ground.

Elsewhere the pace is unrelenting in sunny BB and apart from personal things going on in and around the house, the park and its residents are gearing up for the annual week long Springfest events which, this year, has been given the not totally unexpected title of ..... Springfest 2011. The logo bearing t-shirts, baseball caps and mugs have been printed (I think a Springfest 2011 pool towel would be a neat and practical addition to the range) and ticket sales for the various events are selling like hot cakes....or Key Lime pies to use the local vernacular.

As the week progresses, we'll be having a performance by the Golden Chords (in a retirement community park that should be an easy one to understand), a strawberry social, a home and hobby expo, bingo, card game lessons, car and golf cart show, a 'fat Tuesday' (Pancake Tuesday to Brits and maybe others) parade and picnic, a talent show, karaoke, archery demo (I'm staying well inside for THAT one !), ladies fashion show (seems a tad sexist), casino night, a computer 101 session (power it up....ok you're on your own now.....), the Grand Ol' Buttonwood Opry Show, a fishing tournament, craft and bake sale, boat show, a Saturday night dance and finally, a chili cook-off closely followed by a chili fest where it all gets eaten.

There will be spot prizes, door prizes, raffle prizes and basically lots of opportunities to win something or other. Even people who have never won anything in their (long) lives would be very unlucky not to win something during Springfest week. Hell even I won something last year......a round of golf at a local course...with cart. The ticket expires today and it's still in my bedroom ! Oops.

This year I've splurged $3 for 3 chances to win 5 golf lessons or a foursome at my favourite course, Panther. I donno how much 5 lessons would normally be but I know a foursome costs $100 which is a LOT cheaper than a threesome I once had in 1975 but that's a story for another time and anyway, I'm still not allowed to return to Thailand. What IS a toyboy anyway ?

So golf lessons would be a prize worth winning and for me, the best of the 6 on offer. I don't need another GPS, digital camera or cd player and I definitely don't need a pet gator with or without its leash. I can't remember the 6th prize. Maybe a week on a desert island with the Golden Chords !

So think positive thoughts for me as I really REALLY could do with those 5 golf lessons. Yes, yes I know, more like 25 golf lessons but I'll take what I can get. I do need to know the best way to swing my racket and I think my ball toss up is all wrong too.

Right I've rambled enough and it's also lunch time. Caddyshack leftovers are a-callin' me and who am I to argue when that means St. Louis ribs and a baked potato.

Gopher was off.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sweeping Discovery Under The Carpet.

It's upheaval time chez nous as anytime now, Stanley Steemer should be coming to clean our carpets.

Despite the name, this isn't an old British music hall comedian but a nationwide US company and although I've seen their vans outside many houses in the park over the years, this will be my first 'up close' experience of them and their work.

Anyway their scheduled arrival this afternoon meant we had to clear as much furniture as possible out of the living room, dining room and hallway this morning and I'm happy to report that this has been achieved. Both bedrooms and kitchen now resemble furniture stockrooms and we have retired (again.....hehe) to live in the lanai until said carpets have dried off. Tomorrow morning most likely.

I must say it's no hardship to be spending time in the lanai as it IS a sun room after all and we have plenty of that. With all its windows open and the ceiling fan spinning faster than a ConDem spokesman (ohhhh get me !), it's very pleasant indeed out here.

Pixie, our long haired dachshund, is not so keen on change, and cannot understand the word, temporary. Actually her vocabulary is quite limited and she really only responds to 'byebyes,' 'out' and 'bed' and even then, only when she is in the mood. One of her daily pleasures is to lie in the sunbeams which flood the living room during the morning and so she was not well pleased with all the upheaval that went on today. She went around sniffing at the newly exposed carpet areas but couldn't settle until we had finally cleared the room.

Sadly for her, by then the mid-morning angle of the sun meant there wasn't much sunlight coming through the windows and only a small triangle of light was left next the front door. Not one to miss out on her daily routine, she waddled moodily (it's a technique she picked up from a PBS documentary on British Royalty and she uses it to let us know she is not amused) over towards the door and plunked herself down on the carpet despite only half her body covering the small, and rapidly diminishing, area of light.

It was hilarious and cute. I went to the far side of the living room to better show her 'isolation' and the spot of light had almost gone even in that short time.

Seconds after this photo was taken, both the light and Pixie had left the room. Not the building.....just the room. As I type this, she is in her lanai bed (Pampered ? Not a bit of it) as out here she'll get a bit of afternoon sunshine while watching Oprah.

Speaking of tv, in just over 3 hrs time, at 4:50pm EST, space shuttle Discovery will lift-off on its final mission to the ISS. I'll be making the short walk to the park entrance to see her rise spectacularly into the clear blue Florida sky (which right now is a bit cloudy so I may not see anything at all !) but as if to reflect the worldwide apathy about such events, the local FOX tv station last night announced it would be covering the launch.......via a split screen with the Judge Judy Show !! I think I'd prefer it if they just didn't bother at all. Sometimes apathy is better than insulting.

I know there are important events going on elsewhere right now, from natural disasters to even more natural revolutions but as they're never covered at 4:50pm on tv here anyway, why not give full screen coverage to this launch ? I'm sure if she was asked, Judge Judy wouldn't mind.

Maybe there will be a bit more interest when the last ever shuttle launch takes place in late June.

It's due to be at 3:48pm EST and Judge Judy isn't on.

But Judge Joe Brown is.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Just A (HD) Walk In The Park

I started blogging almost 5 years ago and today I'm going to send you to sleep by attaching my most boring video ever to this, my 690th post.

I know, I've posted some pretty dull ones before but seriously, this one is Dullsville with a capital D.

So why post it ? Well it's all I've got right now and I need some test footage !

When packing for this trip early last November, weight was as big an issue as contents because Virgin Atlantic had gone the way of most airlines by only allowing me one free case as checked luggage. YOU try getting 6 months of 'stuff' into one 50lb case !

So a few standard items had to be left out and my video camera and all its accessories (power pack, cables, tripod etc) became a casualty. I decided that I take very little video these days and both my little compact still camera and my smartphone take decent enough video for most occasions.

But I forgot about the annual Buttonwood Bay plays and how I video the ones my friends are in and provide dvd copies for those who want them.

Play week is almost here and again I was asked if I would 'do my thing' so what could I do ? The smartphone has no tripod fitting so although it records in both widescreen and HD, I'd have to stand for 20 minutes trying to hold it steady. My compact still camera records video in low definition and not in widescreen and so watching the copied footage on tv would be a huge disappointment.

Then I remembered that Debby had won a Kodak Zi6 at last year's Chilli Fest in the park and despite its audio limitations, I want to use it to record the play on Sunday evening.

So yesterday I went out and about 'playing' with the camera so I'd be familiar with its controls come the big day.

On/off switch. Yep.
Record button. Yep.
Stop button. Yep.

And that was me pretty much familiarised with its controls ! It really is just a point and shoot camera but therein lies its main strength. If someone falls out of a nearby tree, I'll get it. If a gator grabs a passing resident, I'll get it too. No fiddling with knobs and levers and lens caps......I'll be the Spielberg of the point and shoot generation.

My friends here, Clair & MK, had given me a tripod as a pressie when I arrived last year and so with the Zi6 attached, I went out filming. And here is my first attempt. You have been warned !

I know. It looks like a dull advert for a Retirement Community ! Well think of it more as a dull advert for Centre Parcs then. No help ? Well it WAS just a test and the quality seems pretty decent.

Walking around with the lightweight camera on the end of the tripod, I had a sudden moment of inspiration and one I could've made use of many times during my solo travelling days when I would've loved to have got myself in my home movies but it wasn't always possible.

With a slight tilt of the Zi6 on the fully extended tripod, I was able to walk along and film myself as though I had a cameraman in front of me ! Oddly enough the camera doesn't have a particularly wide field of view so this 'trick' is a bit hit and miss and the footage doesn't always reflect the view I thought I was getting ! More experimentation is needed I think and despite looking like an idiot (I'm sure I'll be known around the park as the guy who goes around talking to a walking stick), I'm up for the job.

So there it 690th blog post containing one very dull video and one very disturbing video.

In case you believe things can only get better, remember I am now armed with a lightweight HD camcorder and I know how to use it !

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Bird On The Roof Is Worth....No Lie In !!

I've been accused of bare faced cheek for that last blog post (thank you Daphne....very droll) and I hold my hands up. I should now have 24 hrs of stubble to show the world but like I said, I'm a bit slow in the hair growing stakes and as a result, my cheeks are still pretty much baby butt-like.

A very strange baby but nonetheless..........

Late last evening I decided to take a phone photo and it was only when I looked at the first result that I noticed a fair amount of blood on my polo shirt collar. When I'd jokingly mentioned on yesterday's blog that I'd cut myself a few times, I really thought I HAD been joking. I mean I'd had a shower afterwards and dried myself off with a white towel and there was, and still is, no blood on it. So just where this blood came from is a bit of a mystery. Maybe I have a self sealing carotid artery !

Ok so I know WHO it came from of course as I'm not in the habit of loaning my polo shirts out to passing haemophiliacs. I also know WHERE it came from as my polo shirt collars tend to exist close to my neck when being worn. What I'm not sure about is HOW it got there. There are no 'nicks' on my neck and all my little growths are still there.

And what's that all about anyway ? As I get older, I get more and more little skin bits trying to escape from my body. I need all my skin so I don't appreciate these deserting bits. Maybe I chopped one of them off yesterday, I bled, the shower washed it all away and voila, no evidence.

No that won't work. The polo shirt went on after the shower. Still a mystery.

Speaking of mysteries, one WAS solved yesterday. On the rare occasions when I've been awake around 7:30am, I've heard a woodpecker doing his thing nearby. As the extent of my woodpecker knowledge is based on Woody, the cartoon character, I wasn't entirely sure what one sounded like when it was head banging in real life but I was pretty sure it didn't sound like what I was hearing.

Being up and about at 7:30am yesterday for a UK footy match, I suddenly heard the woodpecker and slowly opened the front door. He wasn't hard to spot as the noise was quite loud and was coming from the roof of the house next door.

Yes the roof !

Woody was hammering away like a demented Black Sabbath fan on the metal roof and with his wings providing balance, was giving it plenty. After a few minutes of this (and this WAS the noise I'd been hearing when in bed), he flew a few feet to a nearby palm tree trunk and finding the right spot, began hammering again with his little red mohican a blur of motion.

Wanting to know why a woodpecker would peck on metal, I went to the source of all knowledge. The internet !

It seems that woodpeckers mate in early spring and so my pecker (behave !!) has been simply trying to attract a female. Given the noise he was creating in the still morning air, it was a very effective mating policy and much better than a singles night. This was more like speed dating ! Standing outside, I even heard a similar noise coming from a distant part of the park. Result ?

Selfishly I hope he finds a mate soon as I'm not keen on being woken at 7:30am but at least that mystery was solved.

Now back to the other one.........

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The (New) Man In The Mirror.

It's been another historic day here in sunny Buttonwood Bay as after several decades of being a beardy, I am now a smooth criminal.....opps I mean a smooth faced daily shaver again.

Yes gentle readers, the beard and 'tache have GONE !

I can't remember when I first had a 'full set' but I'm sure it was not long after I was physically able to do so. That would mean when I was in my late 30's !!

Slow developer, me.

I can remember lads at boarding school growing some sort of facial hair long before I was even growing it in other places. By the time we all left school at 18, they had full Brian Blesseds and I had just played Yum-Yum again in our Christmas rendition of The Mikado ! Nuff said.

Last weekend I put on a bet with myself that if The Packers lost the Superb Owl, I would shave off my beard. I wasn't fully committed to either result and so I told no one about my bet. I think that's called a safe bet in gambling circles although maybe it's just in coward circles. Whatever.

So with The Packers winning, my beard was saved from destruction but already a seed had been sown. A clean faced Silverback ? Would the world be ready for such a sight ? Hell, would I be ready for such a sight ?

I thought it over during the week and with the beard. I mean if I scare young children and animals (more than usual), I can always grow it back in about 5 months !

And so today was THE day. I lined up the unfamiliar items next to the wash basin; shaving foam, razor, lots of tissues, bandages, hot towels, smelling salts, medical insurance policy. First up though, I trimmed my hair, what there was to trim. I used a No.2 guide which to the uninitiated, meant I ended up more Bruce Willis than Fabio. Sorted.

Then with razor in shaking hand, I looked at my bearded face in the mirror for the last time and started shaving.....

Now one of the reasons for me growing a beard in the first place was that I had always been a pimply yute and shaving usually left me looking like a Freddie Krueger body double. So, as I started revealing the skin beneath the beard, I wasn't really sure what I, and the razor blade, would find.

I was more than pleasantly surprised to find.....clear skin. Soft clear pimple free skin. Skin like the butt cheeks of a baby with such very smooth butt cheeks that it just came first in a world's smoothest butt cheeks competition. Hurrah !!

Mind you, I still managed to nick myself once......or twice.....ok a few times but not many. It's not easy this shaving lark. I'm not sure I fancy bothering with it on a daily basis but we'll see. Maybe I'll cultivate a Nick Tilsley stubble look (sorry non Corrie watchers but did you like the nick/Nick link there ?) which in my case, would mean only having to shave once a month !

With hair trimmed and beard gone, the sink looked like Bigfoot had just been given a wax job. It was time for a shower and what a strange experience THAT was. As I soaped my head and face, it felt like I was cleaning a bowling bowl. Yes, yes so I have very flared nostrils.....leave me alone.

After drying off, I was finally able to use my after shave for something other than just making my body smell half decent. But as Macaulay Culkin could've told me, this was a big mistake as my newly exposed skin was as sensitive as that of a 10 yr old - although I've never been too sure why he screamed like a little girl when all he'd done was have a shower !

I mean I'd shaved and everything and I only screamed a little bit. He was a wimp !

Speaking of mistakes, I'm still not sure if I've made a dreadful one by shaving and no, there will be ZERO photographic evidence of this until I have come to terms with my new look myself. There may be some PTSD (Post Traumatic Shaving Disorder) to deal with and I may need the support of friends and even a bit of therapy.

Right now I can't stop rubbing my chin like some thoughtful politician who has been asked to explain broken manifesto promises. I have no beard to twiddle with. No moustache to curl at the edges. If I start to get teenage acne again, I'm defenceless.

I'M NAKED. Well facially anyway.

I'll let you know if it lasts.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Gimme A Break !

Well that's it....another Superbowl or Super Bowl or even Superb Owl is over and what fun I had watching it last evening.

Yes there were downsides; Christina Aguilera for one and the Black Eyed Peas for another four.

Question : why can't the National Anthem singers be TOLD to sing it 'properly' and not treat the occasion as a Pop Idol audition and end up singing it like a BoyzIIMen/Mariah Carey mix ? Apart from anything else, singing it like she did yesterday drags the anthem out so that it rivals the Greek anthem...and it has 158 verses !

I hope there is no truth in the rumour that Eminem will be rapping a version of the anthem in 2012 !

I also hope CA didn't think the huge cheer in the middle was for her ! That was when the live tv footage switched to some troops watching in Afghanistan or somewhere and the stadium crowd saw them on the jumbotron screens. Sorry to burst your bubble, Christina.

I'm also not a BEP's fan but then the half time show is almost more of a visual spectacle than a musical event and without Janet agreeing to flash her bit again (well it rhymes), I found the one female BEP singer easy on the eye at least. Still, I did appreciate the time and effort that went into their set and leave it at that.

Oh yes, the game. Well I'd been invited round to watch it at the home of 2 lifelong Packers fans and so I had a wonderful time. Not quite as loud and boisterous as if I'd been watching Leeds United winning the FA Cup but then soccer is a much different game and its fans are a very different breed ! Nuff said.

I do like NFL games and know most of the rules but as with explaining cricket fielding positions to an American, I struggle to understand a few NFL ones. I'm sorry, but when a load of hefty men basically bend over and face each other from inches apart and the commentator mentions "tight ends", then I'm not sure if the channel was somehow switched while I was off getting more tasty snacks !

And what is it with all those people at pitch side ? There would be enough with all the players and coaching staff and officials but do they need to have so many media people, injured team members, friends of friends of injured team members, kids holding water bottles and oxygen masks for players coming off after 5 seconds of action and so on ? Yet again a cameraman was sent flying by a ball carrying player who was pushed off the pitch by an opposition player. Everyone concentrated on the condition of the player who, with his personal armour and crash helmet was perfectly ok. We never found out what happened to the t-shirt and shorts wearing cameraman who is presumably waking up in a Dallas hospital today wondering what the hell hit him.

I, and a few million others, can tell you buddy. It was a huge tight end ! And try explaining that to your friends at the bar !

The game itself was great, as was the result. To save our nerves, it didn't quite come down to the wire as we knew the result with a full 47 seconds or so to go. That's always a good feeling and so the celebrations began before the game clock hit zero. Lots of cheering, some smooching and a bit of hugging. Often all at the same time !

But the reason for this post and the reason behind the title are the famous Superbowl commercials. A couple of years ago when the US motor industry was on its knees, there were few tv adverts for trucks and cars. Now that the companies are overflowing with tax payers money and their own staggering profits, they were back in force with commercials during the game. Given the cost of almost $3m for a 30 second slot, a lot of companies still stayed away. With many more avenues available now for getting their products 'out there', they saw little potential return on such a financial outlay.

So we were left with a few heavyweights like Coca Cola, Bridgestone, Budweiser.....and Doritos ? There were also a LOT of commercials for upcoming blockbuster movies.

Oh and lots of car commercials. It may be another sign of the times but I saw no ads for trucks - no dramatic deep manly talk over voices telling us about the torque and pulling capacity of Ford or Chevy or GMC trucks. No, instead we got ads about cars, European type ads about cars. Clever, seductive, sometimes amusing with few facts about them. Just letting the images sink in with us.

My favourite ? Well few stood out for me really. I liked the one with the Darth Vader kid but lasting a full minute, it went on a bit too long for me and at $100,000 a SECOND, a fortune could've been saved with tighter editing. I find it kinda ironic that the kid in the costume has admitted he's never seen a Star Wars movie ! Well at 6 yrs old, why would he ?

Then there was the one with Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne and that was memorable for getting Ozzy to turn up and remember his lines for a start. It was decent.

I hated every Etrade baby commercial as they're flogging a dead horse with the idea now. Hmmmm actually flogging a dead horse might be a better idea. Nooooo. Anyway, if anything, the special effects are getting worse and the baby's eyes were as fixed and dilated as mine were watching him. Very poor.

I liked the Bridgestone Beaver although again, enough already with humanising animals.

But I guess if pushed, I'd have to say that the advert that has stayed with me the most since I saw it (and isn't that the purpose of an advert after all) featured.....wait for it and I can't believe I'm typing this......Eminem. And for a change, I can even remember the product.

It was Detroit. Come visit Detroit. Leave your gun at home and visit Detroit. It's dirty and grimy and industrialised and dangerous but, it's Detroit. Come visit and stay awhile.

And during your visit, buy a Chrysler. Cause it's made in Detroit. And Detroit is in America.

Yes and before you tell me I missed the point, I know it WAS an ad for Chrysler !!

What got me hooked on the advert wasn't seeing Eminem driving a Chrysler through the streets of Detroit. It was the music. Donno if he had anything to do with the music but it was great. I loved it. Slow building. Dramatic. But not in a Christine Aguilera National Anthem way.

It was.....good.

In case you didn't see any or all of the adverts, here is a good place to look at them. There are many there that weren't shown in 'my' tv region so I've not seen those yet.

UPDATE : Initially I put numbers here for the ads I've mentioned in this blog but every time I return to that YouTube link, they have moved the order. Maybe it reflects their popularity but sorry, this means you'll have to find them yourselves !!


UPDATE 2 : That link might only work within the US which is very unusual for YouTube. Leave a comment if it doesn't work in your country please. (Not that I'll do anything about it, you understand. I'd just like to know !)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Phone Test

This will be the shortest post on record from me as I'm just testing blogger as a phone app. Might as well take and upload a photo while I'm testing as that is how I'd expect to use the app when ' on the road '

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Half A Trip, Half A Trip, Half A Trip Onward.........

Today is 3rd February. A date of minor importance to me as it marks the half way point in my time here this 'season' in sunny Buttonwood Bay.

As usual the first half has flown by but as my 6 month slot creeps a bit later each year (as I have to be resident in the UK for longer than my time spent in the US to keep both immigration depts happy), it's quite nice to be in February with half the trip still to go.

Still, I may have to pull things back a bit and the only way to do that will be to book a slightly shorter trip next time or I'll end up still being in UK in December and that's wayyyyyyy too late for this snowbird.

Time to review. Well this has been my first experience in the new house here and if only the old one would sell, I'd be a much happier bunny. The 5th wheel and truck have both been sold and a less-than-week-old Chevy Equinox sits sparkling on the driveway. With gas being 30 cents a gallon cheaper than diesel, the fuel savings alone will be significant. Btw, although prices have rocketed here, gas is 50p a litre and to fill the Equinox will cost about £35 and in the UK, nearly £90 ! How I wish I had my little 50mpg Clio over here.

Weatherwise, the temperatures are moving inexorably from warm to hot and despite a few periods of below average temps in January, we've been much 'better' off than most of the rest of the US and, of course, the UK. Right now it's passed 70F here and the next warmest place in the US is Southern California where it's 50F. On a colour coded temperature map, Florida really does stick out like an inflamed appendix.

In the park the circle of life, and death, continues. A few posts ago I mentioned seeing an ambulance outside one of the houses and hoping that the gurney having its end in the upright position was a good sign. We went past it yesterday and there was a U-haul trailer outside which suggests the resident ain't coming back ! Houses get bought and sold almost daily in the park (just not ours !) and new old faces replace old old faces. Some residents move back up to their northern homes to be with family as their health deteriorates; some go into assisted living either in Florida or again, back up north; sadly some simply go up.

C'est la vie

Anyway it's midday on my mid day, if you follow, so time for a spot of lunch as all that looking back has given me an appetite.

Part II starts from here........

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Taking Things For Granted

While a lot of the US is under snow these days, my life here in sunny Sebring continues on its merry way and I need to constantly remind myself not to take it for granted.

Yesterday Clair, Jerry, Carl and myself went golfing on my very favourite local course, the Panther at the Spring Lake Golf Resort just a few miles east of here. It's a bit of a monster course but despite its length (which includes a par 6, 800yd 6th hole), it's not too difficult to get around as like with the rest of Florida, there are no hills. Barely an incline. Flat as a proverbial pancake in fact.

It certainly helped having a cart thrown in (a necessity and not a luxury) as speaking personally, my old bones much prefer being driven to my ball, especially when I've hit it just a wee bit offline !

In fact it was on one of those rare occasions when I was on foot that I came to realise that I was taking certain aspects of life here for granted. Clair had driven his ball to the edge of one of the many water hazards on the course and we both got off the cart and went scouting along the water's edge in case the ball was visible. With eyes fixed on the area only a few feet from where I was walking, I totally forgot one of the vital "rules" for golfers here in Florida - when close to water, always look far ahead for wildlife.

There was sudden movement on the ground about 15 feet from us as a 4ft gator who had been happily basking in the warm afternoon sunshine felt threatened by our presence and made a dramatic and very scary dash for the water. It was a bit of a shock to the system, my system that is, and as a result, we decided that Clair's ball could remain wherever it was and he'd drop another.

I lost a couple myself but that had nothing to do with golf !

The Panther course is beautiful. Wildlife abounds, mostly of the flying type thankfully, and while carting from one shot to another, it's great to be able to look at cranes feeding in the light rough, anhingas drying their wings by the water's edge and all sorts of birds soaring effortlessly above us on the thermals. You DO have to look out for snakes and gators though and the knowledge that they are more scared of you than you are of them is a fact I've never fully taken on board. Some of that could be due to living in Leeds where gators are not common and despite a bad experience with Irish hedge trimmers, snakes are pretty much only seen in zoos.

The weather reports coming out of England and even the rest of the US these last couple of months have also made me realise that I'm fortunate to be here in Florida and shouldn't take that for granted either. But when friends tell me I'm lucky, it gets to me a bit. My life here is a result of career and financial planning, some of which was admittedly fortunate but most was down to....well, planning. I've missed out on what a lot of people would say are vital ingredients for happy life (marriage, kids, close family ties etc) but as I've not had them, I can't really say if I've missed out.

Therefore what I need to remember, is not to take what I do have for granted. I'm not going to itemise them of course but the ability to spend winters here and be with good friends are certainly on the list.

Seems appropriate then that it took yesterday's basking gator to remind me about that. It stopped me in my tracks and made me think......

And that's gotta be worth a lost ball....or two !

Most Recent Awards

Most Recent Awards