Wednesday, 31 December 2014

iPad in the morning.

It's the last day of the year.  

Whatever happened to my resolve twelve months ago to take a photograph a day, wherever I happened to be?  Well, better late than never, I have got my foot in the door just before it's locked forever.

This was the view from my bedroom window when I got up this morning, 31st December 2014.  It was too beautiful to miss.  All I had was my iPad.  This is the result.  Thus was born an idea that I might, just might, carry through.  Take one photograph, just one, with my iPad, every day, wherever I happen to be.  

I wonder how long I'll last with my Old Year's Resolution?  

Monday, 29 December 2014


One of my Christmas presents as a fridge magnet.  I love it - mainly because it was one of my gifts from my younger son, but also because it says "I am a book hoarder", with 'hoarder' crossed out and 'collector' scribbled underneath.  I suppose 'collector' is more polite and acceptable than 'hoarder'. But of course the truth of the matter is, I do hoard books.  I think it may be a certifiable disease.

If I'm feeling down, a visit to the bookstore usually cheers me up.  But not my husband - when I come home laden with new books, all he feels is burdened with the knowledge that he's going to have to build another bookcase.  

My grandfather was responsible for my love of books and reading. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at their dining table, 'reading' a large Andy Pandy picture book, the kind with a big picture and a few small sentences on each page.  I knew it off by heart so it wasn't really reading.  And I was VERY young. But one day there was a visitor. And my grandfather wanted to show off my supposed skill.  Out came the book. A table was pulled up to the sofa. I remember kneeling on the sofa and starting to 'read'. The visitor, clearly a man not to be trifled with ( remember I was way too young to be able to read), stopped me and took the book away.  He put it back in front of me, with a paper covering the picture, and said, "Now read it."  I remember ( it makes me feel excited even now) looking at the words and realising that I could indeed READ them. I didn't need pictures. I didnt need memory. I could read. Anything. 

Then I understood why my grandparents' bedroom walls were made of books. There was magic. Everywhere!  And that excitement has never gone away.

"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for oneself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life."  Somerset Maugham.  That was printed on an old broken bookmark in the only book I managed to salvage from my grandfather's vast collection after his death. 

I collect bookmarks too. 
Thanks Grampa. 

Monday, 22 December 2014


My brother and my husband are, it must be said, the most heterosexual men I have ever met. However, they do have a very special, close, (some would say too close) relationship. 

I won't spare you the details. It involves sheep, a river, a tripod and many cameras.  Oh, and wet trousers. 

It was a wonderful day. Sunshine, the Welsh mountains, our cameras, a hill walk along a river, waterfalls. 

Perhaps I should explain. One of my favourite activities is, with my brother, climbing up or down to very secluded waterfalls, along sometimes death-defying rocky precipitous 'paths', across rivers, through satisfyingly gloopy mud.  In the Welsh mountains.  With heavy bags of cameras on our backs. Preferably very (very) early in the morning.  It's great fun and we laugh a lot. 

On this particular day, husband John decided to accompany us, and we promised that the day would not be too boring for him. And it wasn't. Cross a river. Bit of a climb. Beautiful little waterfall. Another climb ("that looks interesting up there - there, look, just through that cloud cover..."). We got some lovely photographs. 

Then we climbed down. All well. Until we got back to the river. There was some discussion about the best way to cross. My suggestion was dismissed. They knew best. Nick set off into the water, balancing on the stones. D'you know how slippery ancient (literally - these mountains are millions of years old) ancient algae-covered stones are?  And the water was running very fast of course. 

You know when you see something happen and it looks like it's in slow motion?  Well .. that. Nick slipped (rather gracefully I thought) and fell face down in the water (this was important - on his back he had a bag full of thousands of pounds-worth of camera equipment!). He was clinging on valiantly to whatever he could find, to keep those cameras dry, but he was losing the battle. 

"Save him," I shrieked. "The cameras!" I shrieked. 

So my gallant husband waded in, on the same stones ..... with the same result. Not so gracefully this time, but he did land in exactly the same place, so right on top of my brother. Etched on my memory forever (if I get Alzheimer's I really think this is the one memory I will keep) is the sight of my husband looking extremely intimately connected to my brother. 

I think it was the flailing arms and legs and the grunting that did it. I confess that even before I knew they were safe the giggle started in the pit of my stomach. I think even the sheep were laughing. They certainly stopped eating to watch. 

When I at last stopped crying with laughter (it was like watching two Charlie Chaplins without the stick - but there was the tripod) and knew they were okay, I walked a little further down the riverbank (to the place I had suggested and they had dismissed as a crossing point) and crossed safely to the other side, dry. Except for the tears flooding down my face. 

John and Nick didn't talk to each other for the rest of the day. There was no need. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A break on the Gulf of Mexico. 
We arrived at sunset.  But we were so excited to see our friends we forgot about the sky outside. Then suddenly someone realised what we were missing. 
Isn't nature truly amazing? 
I must never forget to look up.


Revamp. Revitalise. Prettify. Now that sounds like a good idea for my life as well as for the blog :-). Especially the prettify bit.
Watch this space. 

Monday, 8 December 2014


My favourite 'pastime' (shouldn't that really be passtime if it's to mean 'the way I pass my time') is reading. So I think that this blog should also include books. 

For some years I thought about writing a blog dedicated entirely to books and reading. But I never got around to it ... I was too busy reading. Or maybe I just never had enough to say. Or maybe (!) I was just too lazy. 

I regret that I didn't ever record the books I've read (imagine how many pencils I'd have got through!). I think it would be interesting to know what I'd thought on first reading certain books. And what I've actually read. Yes I have thousands of books on my shelves, most of them already read, but there are also many many books I've read that I've either never owned or I've given away. 

So an occasional book blog will now happen. As a start .... I'm going back to Barnes and Noble today. Officially to look for certain films my son Sam would like for Christmas ...  

I have my discount card :-)

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Space: the Final Frontier

Apparently it will take thirty years for anyone to reach Mars from the earth.  I've always been fascinated by space and the Space Program, and I thought that going to investigate distant planets would be the perfect job for me.  

I have changed my mind.

Today we got up at 4.30am to drive to Cape Canaveral.  The chance to see the launch of the Orion, the beginnings of the long program to get people onto Mars, was too good an opportunity to miss.  The launch 'window' was between 7.05 and 9.45am.  At 6am we arrived at a perfect viewing spot.  We chatted with people from all over the world, even a couple from the next town to us in the UK!  Excitement filled the air.  One person was in text contact with one of the space engineers at the launch pad (friends in high places, indeed) and another with an engineer in Houston.  So we were well informed.  I was so excited I felt sick!

Tripod.  Camera.  Correct lens.  John had a camera too.  I had my iPad ready to video the whole thing.  (You can see where this is heading, I'm sure.)  I had my binoculars, and I could clearly see the launch pad and the rusty rockets that would push Orion into space.  I was there.

I remember watching on television with my dad the first moon landing in 1969.  He was even more excited than I was.  If he had been with me today, I think he would have been in danger of having what my brother delicately calls 'a trouser incident'!

It was all set to go on time.  The fog had cleared.  There was no wind.  Everything was perfect.  The countdown was set to start. Suddenly a helicopter swooped down towards the water.  Suddenly everything stopped.  There was a boat in the 'zone'.  The launch had to be delayed.  The countdown would start again in 25 minutes.  

In all there were three starts and stops.  The boat.  Some valves. Then the 'window' closed.  It was all over, but nothing had actually happened.  Come back tomorrow.

Deflated but determined to get something out of the day, we decided to go home the long way, and take some time to walk along the Atlantic coast.  We eventually got home nine and a half hours after we had left.  That's the length of a flight from the UK.  As I heard myself moaning about the journey, the smallness of the car (it isn't), why hadn't we brought more water with us, moan moan moan, I realised that I was never cut out to be an astronaut, shooting off to Mars in a capsule the size of my kitchen.

It's very disappointing.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Armed with three cameras, assorted lenses and filters, FaceTime instructions from my teacher (my brother), and a photographer's assistant (my husband), I set off, intrepid explorer that I am, to explore the deserted interior of central Florida.

We drove on straight roads (it's as if the Romans had been here) and tracks, into the sort of areas you see in films - depicting strange families, inbred for generations, staring menacingly, undoubtedly armed to the teeth with the latest weaponry available to them.  The kind of people you don't want to stare at, or even look at actually in case you catch their eye ... much less stop the car, get out the camera bags, the tripod, etc etc to take photos of their houses!

So the cameras stayed in the boot.  I didn't get any decent photos of their houses - you know, those shacks with a porch and granny snoozing in the rocking chair.  We saw them. Briefly as we sped past.

My brother thinks I am a coward.  In this case, he is right.

Monday, 1 December 2014

At home?

Last week I found a local quilt store.  This is like finding a rival to Barnes and Noble; just as relaxing, and just as dangerous to the pocket.  The main difference is that all is silent and solitary at B&N, and all is raucous laughter and sharing at the quilt store.

As in the UK, quilters are the friendliest people, sharing skills, stories and snacks.  Today, at the morning 'sit and sew' I have been shown how to use a long-arm quilter, been given some help with machine embroidery, and sampled some Cuban food.  Once again I have been made to feel very much at home.  And that's exactly what I wished for.

I even had a long conversation, in German, with a lovely German couple there, thus proving that, even though I forget where I've put something or what someone is called, the German part of my brain has fully functioning cells, still fired up with the language.  This is very reassuring (but maybe means we should have moved to Germany for our dotage!)

However (and there had to be a 'but'), in the two hours I was there, John made a trip to Home Depot (UK readers, think your biggest B&Q x10) and then to a car showroom!  Fortunately all he bought was a 'damaged screw extractor'.

Please note I didn't buy anything.

Saturday, 29 November 2014


I do not have fat fingers.  In fact they are very thin, and tapered perfectly for pointing and for tapping the letters on my iPhone.  I can also spell.  I'm not boasting; it's just a fact.  But already in these first four sentences I had to go back and interpret what Apple had decided I meant to say.  If that happens every time I tap the screen, I am wasting an awful lot of time and possibly wearing away my fingertip (oh my goodness, could the skin somehow wear away so that I would have no identification print to get into Disney and Universal?  Aaagh!)  I have also discovered that the iPhone doesn't recognise 'morphine' (morphing) or 'urine' (ursine/urchin).  Yes, these words (and other related ones that I don't want to write just in case I upset the stomachs of those of you with delicate constitutions) are part of everyday conversation with my still hospitalised brother.  

Anyway ....

So I thought it would be a good idea to NOT go back and change anything that Apple wanted me to write; and then see how it looked at the end.

Wouldn't you know it?  I composed and tapped what I fully expected would be a rather entertaining piece of gibberish.  Not a bit of it.  There was not one single mistake.  Not one.  So by assuming I would get it wrong, I didn't.  

Maybe this could work for my cooking.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Two places at once

I confess that when we bought this house, I hadn't fully considered that living in two countries so far apart would cause such diverse emotions, sometimes at the same time.

Setting up a new home has been exciting.  Still is.  But it also makes me miss the comforts (and space) of our UK home - my books and my cabin especially.  So while I wallow in the newness, neatness, and novelty of this house, at the same time I miss being able to reach out to a particular book or a new sewing/painting/media project.

Being in a foreign land (yes, even though we supposedly speak the same language, it really is a foreign country) and meeting new people is exciting.  I've met some very interesting locals, renewed friendships made last year, met up again with friends who have become like family now, and yesterday friends flew down from Connecticut to see us.  And my very oldest friend lives ten doors away.  But I miss my family.  While I'm laughing, chatting, or scaring myself senseless on a roller coaster ride, at the same time I'm thinking about the children, and I'm worrying about my brother.  Thank goodness for the internet.  We can all keep in touch - my brother and I for hours at a time.

I love it here.  It's (usually) warm.  The people are kind.  Barnes and Noble isn't far away.  Disney is around the corner.  But, little brother, right now I should be there.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The weather

As I write, we are in the middle of a tornado warning.....
It is raining so hard that a frog is trying to get INTO the house to get away from the wet.

Who says only the British are obsessed with the weather?  On the television here we have a 'Weather Channel'.  There are regular weather updates,  And if, as now, there is a threat of some serious weather event (today a tornado) then the television sends out loud blasts of noise that scare the ...  There are instructions of what to do - the best place to hide here is the laundry-room, a wonderful place too, I have discovered, for someone who is terrified of overhead thunderstorms.

So right now the Sunshine State is not living up to its promise.  We have had all kinds of weather except snow.  Should I ask for my money back?  No.  I still love it.

On a different note, my brother and I spoke over Facetime today.  He in his hospital bed, spaced out on morphine to ease the pain in his back; I on my bed lying on a heatpad to ease the pain in my back.  I'm coming around to the idea that there is nothing actually wrong with my back at all, and that I am having sympathy pains for my brother.  If that is the case, this brotherly love thing is all very well but ....

Sunday, 23 November 2014

This house

Setting up a new (part-time) home here has been an interesting and exciting experience.  Kitting out an empty house was like having a Wendy-house to play with, but more expensive.  And I discovered that I really do have a tendency towards OCD and minimalism.  But we bought the house for other reasons:
- to escape the cold wet winters in the UK
- to be able to be a child whenever I want (Disney fireworks ... Universal Studios ...)
- to have a base from which to explore the southern states of the US - something I've always wanted to do
- to have adventures before I reach my dotage.

Let's start with the weather .....

Saturday, 22 November 2014

My brother

There's so much I could say about my brother (and I probably will).  Today I noticed on Twitter - yes, since I persuaded him to start writing a blog 
he's gone way over the top public - anywaaay, I saw that he'd written that this is the first Saturday he has spent in hospital since the day he was born.  And I remember it well.  I saw him when he was about two hours old, all screwed up and wrinkled, with a shock of black hair which defied the laws of gravity for some time.  I fell totally and irrevocably in love.  Forever.

Oh,  I resented him too.  I'd been an only child for fourteen years.  The centre of my little universe.  Suddenly I was cast aside, only really noticed when 'the baby' needed taking for a walk or, embarrassingly, to the clinic (embarrassing because everyone there thought he was mine).  He's been embarrassing me ever since.  And I him - isn't that what little brothers are for?

We talk (text actually) every day, sometimes (as now when I am 4500 miles away) for hours, me in an early morning, warm cosy haze in bed, far too early to get up, and he in his hospital bed, late morning, waiting for drugs or doctors or treatment, sometimes fearful, always always brave and smiling.  I am in the wrong place.  I want to be there at his bedside.  But maybe it's okay - when we are together we laugh.  Pretty much all the time.  So maybe we'd laugh out his cannulas.  Maybe it would hurt him.  So for now we must rely on texts and blogs.  

But I'll be there in a few weeks.  I can hardly wait.  Then they'll have to drag me away.

Barnes and Noble

I have a Barnes and Noble discount card.  This is because I was a teacher and I still belong to a teachers' union.  I think it may also be because the staff recognise a spender when they see one.  This card is a very dangerous piece of plastic in my wallet.  In this land of complicated shopping rituals, I am most excited about my B&N card.  
You go into your 'local' store (18 miles away), you find some books you like the look of,  you sit down and check them out, you buy quite a few (well, you have a discount card - it's like saving money, right?), you buy a hot chocolate or a cold orange juice, you make yourself comfortable in a huge armchair and read.  Hours can go by.  Then your friends turn up, laden with bags after trawling around the other shops.

Maybe I should make clear that I have thousands (thousands) of books.  But they are in the UK.  So I have been forced to start a new collection here in the US.  Oh the hardship.

New clothes versus new books.
No contests.

Monday, 17 November 2014


In a land where nothing is the price it says on the ticket, and where there are discount vouchers for pretty much everything (holidays, Tuesdays (or any other day of the week it seems), grandparents' day each week, they like your British accent (I got 10% off in a department store just for talking!), Veterans' Day, Black Friday - which incidentally now stretches out for the whole of Thanksgiving week; sometimes, by the time you've factored in all the discounts, an item that cost $60 originally will end up being $7) shopping is a complicated business.  Factor in the search from store to store to find the best deal, and it becomes an almost full-time occupation.  This is why I hate shopping and do so little of it.  I have a theory - while the Disney parks I am sure pump out Prozac from the drains, there's a certain enormous supermarket that does the opposite - it sucks the joy out of you, like JK Rowling's death eaters. 
However there is one shop where I could (and almost have done) spend all day .....

Sunday, 16 November 2014

4500 miles

4500 miles is a long way, but until now it seemed more of an inconvenience really.  Nine and a half hours in an aeroplane, hundreds of complete strangers, noisy, smelly, dry-aired and tedious.  Forgotten as soon as it's over.
But today, right now, after a simple text - "I'm going in" - 4500 miles is heart-wrenchingly too far.  My brother ( has been rushed into hospital,  I sit and wait here, while he lies and waits there.
The Florida sunshine can offer no comfort today.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Vive la Difference

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Yes, I hate shopping so much, I was traumatised enough to forget blogs, birthdays, food ....

But now, at last, I am back here again in the new house.  It is almost finished, and I love it.  Even my husband loves it.  I think IKEA loves it - most of the furniture is from there.  This was for three reasons - one, their furniture is relatively cheap; two, their furniture is of decent quality; three, said husband likes building IKEA furniture.  And even the leather sofas came in pieces!  Happy husband.  Of course, now that we definitely do not need any more furniture, he has to find something to do when we are not out and about.  Every door has been rehung; all taps have been checked and if necessary replaced; everything has been checked.

I say everything .... last night, after a wonderful day with friends, we came home tired and happy and planning an evening of quiet.  We'd been home not more than ten minutes when the smoke alarm in the sitting room started, well, shrieking is the only word for it, at ear-splitting volume.  Nothing was burning - I hadn't been cooking.  It was then that I realised that we have five smoke alarms around the house.  And ALL of them were shrieking.  John turned off their electrics (I don't understand that bit - something to do with boxes and switches and fuses) - the shrieking continued (I was expecting the police at the door at any second); John removed the batteries from four of the alarms (the fifth being unreachably high) - the shrieking got even louder.  The electrician came (at 9pm - would that happen in the UK?).  Apparently these alarms 'talk' to each other, and the one we couldn't reach had a flat battery, so the others were complaining.  How they had their 'conversation' without batteries or electricity remains a mystery.  In punishment for making so much noise, they have all been ripped out, and we await replacements.  We have no smoke alarms now, so I am not allowed to cook until they have been replaced - I could almost forgive them the noise :-)

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Let the adventure begin

At last I've walked through the door into 2756.  After a nine hour flight; after ten weeks of legal negotiations; after many a nerve-wracking 'to buy or not to buy' conversation with myself; I am here.  We are here (my husband hadn't even seen the house before).  WE ARE HERE.  
I've never set up a house completely from scratch before.  When you move into a new home, even your first one, you usually have some things that you've collected/ treasure/can't be bothered to get rid of because one day you might need them - you know the sort of thing.  Well, because this is in a new continent, we must start with an empty house.  This would be exciting, except that I hate shopping....