Tuesday, 19 May 2015

April 2015 - still smiling

I just reread the March Clavering to see where I left you and came away with the distinct feeling that it rightly felt depressed with a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel which is precisely what it was.  I was so miserable and couldn't wait to be home.

Way past the end of April and I am still smiling.  I just love being back.  For all its crumby, unpredictable, mixed weather and a world full of small spaces - tiny, bendy streets, too many people, small houses and its wretched customer service it is wonderful to be home.  It is decidedly where my heart is.

So, to April.....  The very first day of the month we were out sorting out new specs for each of us and decided to just stop by one of my favourite local eateries - Stones - for anyone in this area.  English food at last - joy.

Easter arrived on the 4th along with my daughter and her husband, what a lovely combination the only chocolate holiday of the year and my lovely girl.  We had a great four days together and I loved being able to cook an Easter lunch for us all on the Sunday.  The weather was kind(ish) and we managed a bit of a walk to the Burrs country park (just down the road from us).  It was my daughter's 'playground' in her youth and brought back memories for her (and me).  It is a place we don't use enough.  That said she and I were bemoaning how it had all been 'civilised' and turned into a proper country park whereas in 'our day' it was just the remnants of an old mill and stream - truly I do think that was nicer in all kinds of ways; this includes the fact that it would not have had a ton of people there as it did on Bank Holiday Monday, all using up 'our place'.

one of the sensory boxes and mowed grass

On the 9th Ken and I took off for the Lowry theatre to see Rebecca.  This was a book I first read when I was probably about twelve - I tended to read my six-year-older sister's and mother's books from my very early days.  Possibly because of that early introduction this is a book which has stayed with me in a way most books haven't.  The impact of that reading was also overlayed with a wonderful 1940 movie that was impeccably cast -

Laurence Olivier...
Joan Fontaine...
George Sanders...
Judith Anderson...

Heaven knows when I saw that for the first time, I commend it to you even now.

I did wonder with all that under my belt how they would ever be able to convey a story that constantly switched between house and beach on the stage.  I really needed to wonder about whether there would be songs in it and boards announcing 'six weeks later' and a comedy duo of butler and boy servant (who was actually a girl!)

This was a Kneehigh production and sadly I didn't know what that meant.  

Kneehigh are a UK based theatre company with a local, national and international profile. For over 30 years we have created vigorous, popular and challenging theatre and perform with the joyful anarchy that audiences have come to expect from this ground-breaking company.

Clearly I am now out of the theatre-going loop.  The reviews are generally outstanding so I am marching to a different drum.  We left at the interval.

Pre-show lunch was very good.

Did you spot we now 'do' matinees like true old folk.

The first couple of weeks of April I was frenetically busy selling off all my 1/48th purchases for half price - I daren't tell you the money I had already spent on them.  

Within a space of a year, I had sold off everything to do with 1/12ths even down to tools!  I kissed goodbye to a small fortune and a lot of treasured items.  Blithely I shopped and shopped for quarter scale while I had the chance at the various American shows and again spent another bomb.  I arrived back in the UK all ready to crack on with the new hobby and ......  eventually, I  had to give in and admit it just wasn't for me and I craved 1/12ths.  So there I was again selling off this lot and having to re-buy stuff I had previously let go of.

I wish I could say it was a lesson learned but I suspect in my case it probably isn't.

Dalton House
This is the new project (Dalton House)

On the 18th we tootled off to Leeds to one of my favourite dolls house shows - Pudsey, so another good day for me.

On an entirely other note I also managed to find a gardener this month who seems to be the ticket.  The previous two were not.  Number one didn't know a weed from a plant and progressively almost emptied the garden of not only plants but half the soil.  Number two got 'bored' with weeding and so lobbed my two-foot box hedge with gi-enormous electric hedging shears which chewed it up beautifully (looks to be recovering) and 'hard-pruned' my climbing roses in mid-August (don't look to be recovering) and more heartbreakingly and I mean that literally she 'pruned' my young Amalanchier (June Berry) tree which was just beginning to find its feet at about twelve feet high.  I now have a lollipop on a stick instead of a tree.

the shrunken tree

23rd and I was off to the only Langworthian reunion I manage out of the three held each year.  A bunch of retired teachers from Langworthy Road meet up for a meal and a natter.  As my best friend is one of them and chooses the location it is always a nice meal and a good natter.

29th and we were off to the Lowry again (with trepidation) to see Woman in Black - please God don't let someone turn this into a musical and comedy act.  They didn't.  It was an excellent production (slow start) and decidedly scary.  Well worth the trip.  Even better it was free courtesy of my little friend who volunteers at the theatre.  Such joy all round.  Huge thanks D.

The next day (30th) and out to lunch with The Seven (only we were six - one was poorly).  This is a core group of Ken's diving/skiing chums who have now become my friends too and it is always nice to get back together and reminisce.

So, we finished the month as I pretty much intend to go on with the rest of my life - eating and nattering to friends.....

Thursday, 30 April 2015

March 2015 - blink and its gone

Well, guess what, I am writing this on 30th April!  I realised April was ending and thought I would write up some notes ready for tomorrow or the next day.  I arrived in Clavering and discovered I hadn't written March.

I have no idea how two months can flit by so quickly.  It's not like I am doing screeds of exciting things but as soon as we get home my days are happily filled and I simply don't notice them go by.  A day lasts about four hours over here and about four days in Naples.  Time is relative?????

So here I go trying to remember March.

With a leave date of 21 March ahead of us we seemed to spend all our time working towards that.  Ridiculous really when we would have sold our souls for a three week break in the sun when we were working and it would have seemed to last for ages.  Actually living, not holidaying, in Naples three weeks is just a count down to leaving.  We have to remember to do this or that before we go and need to continually work out what meals to have to allow us to eat up the food we have in the cupboards and freezer. We consider every little purchase, not just food items,  to decide whether it can wait until we get back.   Leaving anything over the summer months it has the potential to have dessicated by the time we return..

The first thing I do when I sit down to write this journal is have a look at what photos I took that month.  They help to remind me of stuff and give me something visual to share - there is nothing for March 2015!  That must be a first.

No wonder the month came and went in oblivion - even my diary yields nothing.  I can, however, remember just how miserable and bombed out I was that month and how much I wanted to be home.

I did make a huge effort to go out on our (19th) wedding anniversary but only to the movies and dinner.  We have a very nice movie theatre that does a deal on dinner (yes the restaurant is part of the cinema) and a movie which I think is a great idea.  Dinner was OK and the movie did what it said on the tin - The Second best Marigold Hotel.  I am sure the writers appreciated the irony of the title within the story but I wonder if they really grasped the full potential of 'second best' in terms of the movie.  I watched it in a subverted way of admiring 'aged' talent acting their socks off and having a 'jolly good time' whilst filling their pension pots.  In that vein it was an interesting couple of hours.

We did quite a bit of last minute shopping as our regular haunt kept thrusting various vouchers at us.  On one occasion we went armed with two $20 coupons and two $5 Bealls' Bucks (works like money) which netted me a pair of shoes for pennies and Ken decent sunglasses for $1.70.  Also, incidentally, in Naples you can take back stuff you bought at full price a couple of weeks before the 'offers' and buy them them again with discount - try that in the UK.

Joyfully the 21st arrived and we were on our way home.  It didn't begin well as I managed to get in the car with a giant ant, so the first couple of miles were fraught.  Not as much fun as it sounds.

We did the duelling banjos route to Orlando complete with a Smokey Joes stop-off for Ken's ice cream.  Seriously scary now I have lived there a while; I have finally grasped Americans are not just English people with a different accent.  When you pass a shop with a hoarding that reads:

We buy guns and do computer repairs

....  you know you are not in Bury any more, Dorothy.

So at the crack of sparrows on the 22nd we arrived home in Manchester and my heart sang.

Here is an example of why I don't want to live in two homes ....

After being home a couple of days I set off to make a roast beef and Yorkshire pud dinner.  This is something I could do with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back.

It began with ....... Yorkshire pudding would not be possible, because we didn't have eggs - when do you not have eggs?  Answer: when you have just got home and forgot to order them.

OK - next - pretty close to leaving last year we had a new kitchen installed with all new appliances.  My oven needs a degree in space technology but I have mastered the basic turn it on to fan oven and set the temperature.  Downside - almost all new ovens comes with one (!!!) rack and it turned out mine was so specialised I couldn't get a second one not even from the manufacturer?????  So, for now, if the oven has to take meat and spuds and a mythical Yorkshire pudding I will need to use the all-singing all-dancing combined microwave and convection oven as well as the main oven.  I should have known when I succeeded in turning that on I must have got it wrong.  On it went to the required temperature and small joint placed lovingly inside.  Eventually the roast 'taters and parsnips went in t'oven - jobs a good 'un.  Retreat to office while it cooks.

Down to serve lunch at 1 pm to discover a rather nasty smelling warm joint in the convection oven and only the traces of some residual heat in there.  No, I can't tell you why.

OK toss very small warmed through beef into main oven on 200 degrees and give it half an hour - meanwhile the now ready to eat roast spuds, parsnips and steamed sprouts would have to sit there sadly awaiting the beef's arrival.  We are now 'looking forward to' an average pub Sunday lunch - hey ho - could have gone out for this.

Thirty minutes later return to the scene of the crime to discover I had managed to set the oven temperature but didn't turn on the oven - we now have a slightly warmer uncooked piece of beef with even more strange aroma.

End result - beef in bin and a plate full of sad vegetables and oxo 'gravy'.

You may say all this is more to do with being stupid rather than swapping residences but it is the tip of the iceberg of the endless litany of where is this, where's that, how does this work, where do we keep these, do we have a a particular something or other.......  peripatetic you can keep.

The last week of the month was a flurry of sorting out 'ayjed' aunt, cleaner, and a couple of nice meals out and in catching up with best chums.  The last day of the month I had my hair permed and became 'curly Sue'.

... am so happy to be home.

Friday, 6 March 2015

An aside....


Something which was sent to me today and describes to the letter what I perpetually suffer from.  I so wish I didn't.  A more precise version of 'count your blessings' and other homilies.  Trouble with me is I know how lucky I am and can easily begin the long list of good stuff in my life, BUT it will always be rapidly squished by the word 'but'..........

I reckon people are born with their happiness quotient built in and whatever happens to them in life doesn't change it.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

February 2015 - next visitors

OK, you have had a bit of a breather - here comes February...

Having arrived on the last day of January, nice and tidily for February, our friends P and S started as they meant to go on with a trip to Bonefish for lunch following the usual Sunday concert in the park.

They have been here enough years now to just live here like we do.  They are waaay past the tourist/holidaymaker stage so we don't actively search out anything thrilling to do or places to go.  We just puddle along day on day.

We were speedily into the regular visits to shops and restaurants having covered Bealls on day two and Miromar Outlets on day three.  Miromar worked for me as I found comfortable shoes - yes, that is a thing worth noting - emphasis on comfortable.  Also, not being a shopper I came across our two other halves having a sit down and coffee outside Le Macaron - what could be better - chairs, sunshine and a couple of macarons.....nom, nom, nom.

Image result for le macaron miromar outlets images

We tickety-pooed along in this way until the 15th when we left on a trip to Bimini.

This was a bit of an odd experience for me.  On the one hand it was upsetting to see what a 750 acre resort can do to an idyllic Bahamian island but this was utterly hypocritical because if that hadn't been happening I would never have seen it.  On balance I am really glad we went and I managed to get the lingering flavour of what must have been a lovely island.

We crossed from Miami in 'the fastest ferry' in America.  It did take three hours to do a two hour crossing as it was totally centered around the on-board Casino - more time at sea - more money spent.
Our ferry

You could opt to stay aboard for the three nights or pay extra and stay in the resort.  We chose to stay in the resort.  To some extent it is still under construction with the Hilton hotel being built, but there was enough there to get the 'flavour' of it.  I am sure it will be very popular with zillions of people  (each to their own) but for me it smacked of a potential Club 18-30/Casino resort and I can't imagine how hugely crowded the pool areas and lovely little beaches will be when it is in full swing.

We were so lucky to have the beach entirely to ourselves for the first couple of hours in the morning. Sheer bliss.  The whole water line was demarcated with washed up conch shells and the sea truly turquoise and crystal clear.

Cliche but lovely

Hiring a golf buggy rather than a car as a mode of transport was certainly different.  We managed to cover the North island from top to tail.....

That's me in 414
stopped by the famous Big Game club for a drink and watched some bull sharks swim by...

lovely colours - Big Game Club

followed by a trip round the museum....  now that was quirky to say the least.

The museum

On the 18th we were back to reality in Naples but not before a mini drama at sea. We spent an extra two hours on board while our captain had four goes at berthing the ship in Miami.  Eventually, on attempt five, we were pushed in by tug.  So much for high speed.

Clearly we hadn't had enough of boats as a week later and we were on another one.  We hired a boat for half a day to go out to lunch.  You always feel like the real thing when you dock and ask someone leaving the restaurant the name of the place and she says she has no idea.  It turned out to be Pelican Bend at the Isles of Capri.  Ten Thousand Islands lives up to its name when you are on the water.

our boat front left and our eatery under the chickee

A couple of days later and it was the end of the month and time for our friends to leave for their last few days R&R in Orlando before flying home.

I thought I might leave you with a couple of images captured by Ken this month just to prove it's not all heaven out here.

Incy Wincy 
This little lime green gem travelled around with us on the boot of the car for a couple of days.  I am just praying it didn't get inside.

the hungry caterpillar

It does look like our huge hawk-moth that we have in our front garden in the UK but I admit this is a bit bigger.... presumably eats whole trees rather than leaves.

Hey ho, that's February done and dusted.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

January 2015 - say hello to a very new Year

Well flip me... when I came to write up February's doings I discovered that January hadn't happened.  This is a testament to two very busy/distracted months. So - here I am on March 1st patching together January's memories.

New Year's Day and we were off on our regular jaunt for part deux of our winter stay in Naples.

We have taken to flying to Orlando for the last couple of years as it is a direct flight - cutting out the boring flight change en route to Fort Myers and also eliminating the risk of getting stuck somewhere in the Northern USA due to bad weather.  Mind you this can be interesting as we have overnighted in 'hubs' such as Chicago and thereby discovered places we'd like to see.  The downside is that generally you are only equipped to travel from a relatively moderate English  winter to a hot destination so are not kitted out for having your head blown off at sub-zero temperatures in Philly or Chicago etc.  The alternative of flying via Atlanta avoids this but limits choice of cost/airline/dates etc.

So, yet again, we were flying Premium economy back to Orlando and overnighting there.  This time, it turned out to be in a not-great motel.  To add insult to injury or, in this case, injury to insult our room was opposite the lift and next to the laundry!  You can imagine how much sleep I got and how sweet my temperament was for the four hour drive back to my gilded cage the next day.  Nothing like starting off as you mean to go on.

We had a few days to ourselves to do movies (The Imitation Game - good one) and shops and restaurants and get ready for the arrival of my son and his family.  My grand-daughters are four and a year old so it was a challenge to accommodate them all but it worked out OK.  

They were taking a fifteen day vacation but spent the first couple of days in Orlando to go to Disney. 

 By the time they got to us they were ready for some feet up time.  Over the next twelve days Ken and I got to see a whole different aspect of Naples from the now familiar play areas in Cambier Park to a terrific Children's museum. 

Because they had been a couple of times before it was easy for them to get around in their own car so we did some things with them but not everything.  It also gave them a chance to spend some time with one child at a time and a couple of times we had both of the girls so they could get some time on their own.

Golisano Children's Museum was decidedly the best I have ever been in but as it has been a while since I did the one in Halifax there may well be great ones everywhere.  We need to borrow a child so we have an excuse to go back as there was a ton of stuff I want to spend time with.

 We did all the expected stuff like shops and beaches.

We had bought L a bike so she got to ride that around the community and she played tennis with Pop.  She turned out to be a star player hitting four out of five with a full size racquet.  Lots more park and pool and Ken and I took L to see 'Paddington'.  Now that was an odd film - not sure who it was pitched at.

Needless to say, being us, much of our time was spent eating and we finished our break together at what as become the traditional last restaurant before they leave - Buca di Beppo...

Well, that would have been the last photo in this post except we had to take them to Regina's for a final ice cream.  M had no trouble tackling her first one!

We had breakfast with them the next day in Cracker Barrel and they left us for their overnighter in Orlando and trip home.

The day they left our next guests arrived in Orlando.  We had a week to do a Widow Twanky's worth of laundry and restructure the guest room for two adults who arrived on the 31st...... and so January had disappeared.

Monday, 12 January 2015

December - heck of a month

What a whirlwind of a month December was:  two long-haul flights, change of time zones, change of climate, trip to Scotland, a hotel stay, a stay with family, my daughter's wedding and Christmas.  Not too shabby for twenty-eight days and this doesn't include a trip on a barge, several meals out and time spent with friends.

To begin at the very beginning ....

We flew out to Manchester December 3rd arriving in the early hours of the 4th.  My husband's concept of the flight is that it takes about nine hours - mine is that it takes about two whole days!  You may begin to detect the glass half full and the glass half empty division between us.  Actually  even that isn't accurate - Ken is no Pollyanna - he just accepts whatever is chucked at him without comment.  He blithely ignores the fact that we leave our Naples home in the morning (3 December) hang around an airport for hours, sit on a plane overnight, arrive (4 December) hang around an airport for hours, get home and go straight to bed for a couple of hours as I haven't slept a wink and am about to fall over.  Get up around lunchtime in time for grocery delivery, then spend the rest of the day unpacking two 50 lb suitcases full of 'stuff' (plus carry-ons etc) and 'settling' back in.  So, as far as I am concerned, I might leave one home on the 3rd but I am not back in the other home until (following a partial overnight sleep recovery) the 5th.

Frost and fog - I'm home!!!  Lovely!

My 'bestest' friend bobbed round to see me on the fifth which was great doing our usual catch-up.  For (sort of) old people we always seem to have a surprising lot of life to catch up on.

Friends visiting the next day and the next - so lovely!  Like buses - none for two months (trapped in Naples) then they all come at once!!  Add to this great English lunches out what more could you want.

During these first few days we were still doing bits of last minute Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, card writing and posting, sending out minis I had promised folk, catching up with doctor's appointments, cleaners, hairdressers, aged aunt....  busy, busy, busy.... and nice to be so.  Forgot to mention my last minute mother-of-the-bride outfit shopping.  I was astonished not to have found anything in Naples: although there is a cultural gap here too.  Weddings in the States tend to be very dressed up affairs - evening dress by our standards - often full length.  Clearly that wasn't what I was looking for.  Even short dressy dresses were too dressy - think party - and then it seems to switch to business mode.  I was looking for an outfit that didn't look as though I was at an IBM business lunch but, equally. not looking as if I was off to a party.  Good old traditional Jacques Vert came to the rescue.  Dress and jacket in  - so not me in colour (violet for the theme) and fussiness (lace sleeves) and will never be worn again but (I hope) appropriate to the occasion).  It is currently residing in a consignment shop in Naples with me hoping to recoup some of the cost.

On the 18th the Secret Seven met for their occasional lunch together.  It is not easy to get a date that all seven can do, so it is really nice when we can manage it.  Last time we had five booked for an archery lesson followed by lunch which, after several attempts, was finally aborted due to dreadful weather each time.  This time I booked us for a canal cruise with lunch included.  Even allowing for my natural paranoia I am beginning to think the gods are against me.  This time, following heavy rain, we couldn't do the proposed route which was through Pamona lock (twice!) and the Quays; so we ended up trailing forlornly past Manchester football ground and Kelloggs - not quite as imagined.  I don't suppose it ever matters as we eat and have a laugh which is the point of the meeting.

Emmeline did us proud.

Another couple of nice meals out elsewhere with chums and by the 22nd we were off up to Edinburgh and North Berwick.  Unfortunately there had been a fatal crash on the motorway and that delayed us by two and a half hours (we did three miles in that time).  There was much grumping from us that it seemed ridiculous - the crash was at 6 am, we got there around 1 pm and one junction of the motorway was still closed, causing this backlog.  Unheard of in Naples.  I know, I know, it is easier for them .....more room.

So, we arrived too late to help my daughter move stuff to the hotel which was our original plan.  I was sooooo happy we were going up a day before the wedding - had this been their wedding day we would literally have missed it!!!  Lesson learned and duly noted.

We therefore skipped Edinburgh and went straight to The Marine in North Berwick.  What a super hotel - Great choice S & S - we fully intend to go back there in the Summer and maybe do next Christmas there?  Nice building/accommodation, the best staff (no exceptions) I have ever encountered.

There was a bit of toing and froing for S and S, but Ken and I settled in for a lovely dinner, drinks in the bar and saying hello to husband one and his lady and spending time with my daughter's lifelong friend who I have known since she was three.  Perfect evening.

23rd and the BIG day.

Sally and I started the day with having our hair done in her lovely suite of rooms.  When your day begins like this you might think it can't get better, but it certainly did.  The wedding was beautiful.  Even the registrar was outstanding.  After the ceremony she gave them a copy of the service in a scroll tied up with a rose and red ribbon - what a lovely touch.

We retired to the drawing room for fabulous canapes and champagne.  This was followed by a gorgeous lunch in a lovely room.  We had two really lovely rooms for the event - the Library and the Drawing Room so we could be as private as we wanted to be.  Both had log fires and were filled with fresh flowers as well as the wedding flowers.  Surrounded by a Christmas feel of log fires and a decorated tree it couldn't have been better.

The next day we left the newlyweds to have a relaxing day and Ken and I scuttled off to collect the Christmas order from Marks and Spencers followed by a mad rush to get some helium balloons for outside the house.  We had come equipped with a banner and flower petal confetti so were armed and ready for their return.  Our Christmas Eve Chinese take-away dinner was the perfect end to a couple of really lovely days.

Christmas Day had a lot to compete with to be able to stand-out but our hosts had bought out every grocery shop within a fifty mile radius and we had every wonderful thing you could possibly wish for along with gifts and good company and an opportunity to relax after the wedding.  Family, food, rubbish TV and gifts - could there be anything better.

We stayed through Boxing day too as this would be our one real day to kick back and not have to do anything we didn't want to do.  We did the obligatory walk on Blackford Hill, which was stunning, and back to a lovely buffet lunch. We seemed to eat non-stop from getting up to going to bed.  It was going to be hard getting back to normal life.
Misty, but some of the best views of Edinburgh

All good things must come to an end and the 27th saw us heading home.  Just a thirty minute delay this way, so not too bad.

Start as you mean to go on meant lunch out the next day at one of our favourite eateries (Stones) ... such nice people and for me that makes a difference.  Lunch this time was with Ken's two children who stopped by for a visit.

With friends the next day and, the following day, lunch with my bestest friend again to say cheerio and we were all ready to leave on the first of January.  

That, as they say, is another story......

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

November - on the road

It is odd how a week seems to take over the whole memory of one month but our trip to Philadelphia seems to be the only thing in my memory or diary for November other than my daughter announcing she would be getting married 23rd December!  Wow....  exciting stuff.

There was another, more minor, bit of excitement and a terrific bargain at the beginning of the month.  My iPad didn't seem to be lasting as long on its battery - not enough really to warrant getting rid of it but with the Air2 due out we had a look at what it would cost to swap it for the next generation iPad.  Ken's theory being, as mine was over three years old there would come a point it would die and maybe then I wouldn't be getting such good offers.  So trading mine in at Best Buy reaped me $150 then they were also giving a $50 gift card (if you bought an iPad) which could be used against the new iPad ..... I guess that's because Apple won't let stores discount their prices (?).  It seemed like a no brainer $200 off a new iPad.

So by the sixth, Ken, iPad Air2 and I were winging our way to Philadelphia for my birthday trip.

We arrived at our hotel (and the location of the show) a little after the four-day mini fest began.  Ice cream and fantastic toppings for Ken and minis for me - what a great way to start.

they know how to do toppings

I have written about the show in My Show blog and also a review for the magazine so you will forgive me if I don't do it again here.  I hear the sighs of relief from my not interested in minis friends and relatives.   

1:144 scale slide out interiors

On Friday we did drive into Philly for a look around and to see the Liberty Bell - nothing like being a tourist when you are one!  Most of our stay I was 'doing' minis and Ken found places to visit like a car museum that I wouldn't have been madly interested in, so we were both happy bunnies.

We intended to do more mooching on Sunday but being old tourists decided feet up and watching the Grand Prix on TV in a great hotel room sounded like a much better deal.

Monday and we were on the road.  Ken had planned a three day drive down to Richmond along the Jersey coast - and others!  Indeed we managed to go through five US states.  New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia.

Monday we headed to Cape May.  En route we did a bit of a detour to take a look at Atlantic City - yup, just like the movies.  A sort of chilly Las Vegas.  The best thing ever on the journey was a sign for a casino which read:

Man v. Chicken play tic-tac-toe against a live chicken.

I did fall in love with a wonderful building that at certain angles actually did disappear in the sky.

Cape May was one of the prettiest places we have visited in the States, small, relatively unspoiled, holiday town.  I thought we got to see it in its best frock as we were well out of the summer season and everywhere was uncrowded and normal.  I bet it is heaving in season as it is such a tiny place.  It is full of the most fabulous assortment of Victorian houses. In America, Victorian wealth and Gingerbread trimmings was a potent mix.  Best of all I got to see one of my favourite styles.  This is a house that was sold in its zillions all over the States - a Sears and Roebuck bungalow.  Yes, English readers, you could order a full house from the catalogue and it would be delivered to your plot and away you go with your hammer and nails.  Think Ikea had flat pack sorted? - they have nothing on early America.

The bungalow

We had a glimpse at the winery and lighthouse but both were closed - I am decidedly odd as I actually quite like that.

Tuesday began with  an impressive ferry crossing from Cape May to Lewes.  One hour 40 minutes so it is  good stretch of water.  Happy it was a calm day.  Not sure how the cars don't get drenched in sea water when its rough.

just a net at the front???

Off the ferry and into a fish and chip shop - it was as real as you are going to get outside the UK itself.  There is much joy to be found in fish and chips when you are an exile.

Ironic name as it is a phrase a Brit (!) would never use

From Lewes we headed to Cape Charles - not such a pretty town but a nice drive along autumn tinted roads.  

Wednesday, my 69th birthday morning, I woke up in a motel in Cape Charles, Virginia.  I still occasionally realise just how astonishing things like that would have seemed if I could have told my younger self that's where I would be on that birthday.

I opened cards and gifts that, like me, had travelled from Bury to Naples, flying across the Atlantic and then gone on to fly to Philadelphia and motor on down to Cape Charles.  Nice to have friends and family with me even as tokens.

Our next crossing from Cape Charles was an even more interesting one.  We needed to get back onto the proper US mainland from all these bits hanging off it.  To do this at that point you use the Chesapeake bridge and tunnel.  As the name says it is a bridge that goes down into a tunnel to allow shipping to cross and then emerge back onto another lump of bridge and off you go.

From here we drove on down to Richmond arriving in just enough time to make my birthday even more 'bizarre'.  We visited Agecroft Hall.  Those of you local to me may be wondering if that is just a co-incidental name as we live about six miles from Agecroft.  In fact it is the very same place.  I have copied the briefest explanation of how it got from A to B.

Mr. Thomas C. Williams, Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, a wealthy entrepreneur, purchased Agecroft Hall upon the advice of this architect, Henry G. Morse. Mr. Williams, whose financial interests included tobacco, banking, and shipping, wished to build a true English manor house on his 23 acres overlooking the James River. Agecroft was dismantled, crated, transported across the ocean, and reconstructed in Richmond's Windsor Farms neighborhood. Windsor Farms was the fashionable new neighborhood being developed by Mr. Williams on the Williams' family farm site which had long been known as 'Windsor.'

The architect, Mr. Morse, was retained to oversee the reconstruction. The intention was not to replicate Agecroft as it had stood in Lancashire, but rather to create a functional and comfortable house reminiscent of its English predecessor. The original floor plan was abandoned and many 20th century conveniences were included. Reconstruction took two years and cost approximately $250,000, a considerable sum for that time. The project was completed during the spring of 1928.

Sadly, the following year Mr. Williams died. With great foresight and generosity, he stipulated in his will that upon his widow's death or relocation, Agecroft Hall would become a house museum. The core of the endowment for the museum came from the estates of Mr. Williams, his brother, A.D. Williams, and his sister, Sue Williams Massie. The museum is administered by the Agecroft Association, under the control of a Board of Trustees. The house and gardens opened to the public in 1969.

For English sensibilities it makes it a very odd place to visit. Agecroft, but not, Tudor but not and even the docent's slant on English history is, quite rightly, from an American perspective but jangles on the ear. An all round odd experience and even odder to leave the grounds and realise you are, in effect, in a very grand housing estate with neighbours either side and across the way.

back of the house in a lovely sunset

Thursday morning in Richmond and we had a little time to kill so, to round off my mini fest, we visited a dollhouse shop. Not for actual shopping but out of curiosity. They had a favourite of mine in the window a 1/24th Monticello - Jefferson's house.

1:24 Monticello doll house 

We had discovered a planetarium in our GPS that we thought we'd take a peek at and duly arrived at an impressive 1930's building which turned out to be a High School. It did indeed have a planatarium but not open to the public. How very odd.

I seem to have missed out the planetarium 

Off to our flight and back home to Naples.

The second half of the month was absorbed in the usual meals, shops, Ken at the Conservancy, me messing with minis and trying to be mother-of-the-bride from this side of the pond.

Three more sleeps and I will be really home....... in Bury.

Photos of the trip Philadelphia 6 -13 November 2014