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

Friday, 31 October 2014

October - the winter begins

The winter begins  .... well, technically it is still autumn, but having our life split in two we seem to the miss the mid-seasons and go from Summer to Winter overnight - Summer in Bury, UK, Winter in Naples, Florida.  To confuse us even more, our Summer is cooler than our winter!!  You think you are muddled - try living it.  Yes, I know, almost without exception, you would sell your soul to trade places. Beware what you wish for.

Indeed the Florida tropical summer is staying late this year so we had a very wet journey down from Orlando and arrived in Naples in dark in torrential rain - this photo is taken as we arrived in Naples at lunch time.  It was gloomy and very, very wet.  Over here it is very wet in Summer and very dry in winter - see what I mean about confusing to the body and the brain - nothing is 'normal' for an English psyche.

Florida rain knocks ours into a cocked hat

Start as you mean to go on - our first morning in Naples and the two cleaners arrived.  They go through the place like a dose of salts and in one hour you are scrubbed to perfection.  Deep joy not having to clean all that tile, especially the lanai, not to mention wiping down all the kitchen cupboard doors.  I LOVE cleaners. Seriously, I would economise on food or whatever it took to get cleaned now and then.  It is easy for the two of us just to keep tidy and keep bits and bobs clean as we go along but that huge 'bottoming' as they call it up North is just a miserable flog and neither of us want to do it.

We do have to clean down outside and one thing which always needs sorting is all the poop left behind, on and around our outside light, by our resident frog.

I googled them as I thought it odd that we always seem to have a frog every year that looks just like the one we had last year.  Guess what, frogs can live about 15 years!!  He/she is truly our resident frog.  As you can see - totally unabashed by being unscrewed and cleaned up.  Love the little sucker toes for climbing trees (and walls!).

our resident frog

This is a picture of our commonest bird.   There is also a very teeny tiny one about the size of our wren and just as fast and elusive and, of course, our annual woodpecker family.  I think this (blue) bird is very pretty but it is probably their equivalent of our magpie or pigeon and is to be disparaged.  It does have a very unattractive call - more a screech.  I think it is a Blue Jay.

sorry for the not great picture, they refuse to pose

On day two we have to do the BIG grocery trawl.  We quite literally don't have a crumb in the house.  Talk about Mother Hubbard.  A half and half life means EVERYTHING gets dumped and you start again.  It isn't as easy as it sounds and we always spend the first week or two on each side of the transition saying stuff like - ''I thought we had some horseradish!' along with the other three hundred things we 'thought we had'.

The other thing which accompanies the first shop on this side of the water is me 'having a grocery shopping glum'.  This time, one item on my extensive it's-not-like-Tesco's  moan list was  ...... I had stuff for a Cherry Bakewell pudding: this came about because last time I was here I got wound up about not being able to get ground almonds (I know, get a life!) so I had flown here, accompanied by Ken and a packet of ground almonds, hence my having put the rest of the ingredients for the pudding on my shopping list.

Publix do not sell tinned cherries or cherry jam - neither creature exists here - already a bit peeved I mentally switched to - hey ho it will have to be a cherry cake before remembering they have not even heard of glace cherries.   Now before you read this as a chauvinistic tirade against 'foreigners who have no idea of what proper food is' - it isn't - it is actually the opposite - it is the realisation of how foreign I am.  I am in another culture and I don't fit.  Who but me could turn a shopping trip into a philosophical debate about differing cultures evolving from the same roots and language. 

I then went to pick up some Dijon mustard and discovered they have thirty (yes, thirty!) different brands of Dijon mustard - mostly, of course in giant squeezy bottles and very few relating to actual Dijon.

To cheer myself up (already) I hunted through the ethnic section where the British foods are stored (rightly so) primarily for pickled cabbage - no joy.  Sadly, this section does represent pretty much the worst of UK eating - Bisto, stuffing and cheap curry sauce so there isn't much for me here either.

Day two and I am already sliding into my ''I want to go home'' frame of mind.  On this day my (poor Ken!) husband had to listen to one of my usual rants about how I can't cook the simplest thing like a roast dinner because the oven is in effect an open fire in a box and I can't get basics like ........... (long list follows).  Being the sweetie he is, he then (unknown to me) tried to find several of the items I was already missing and he ended up ordering a jar of goose fat online - at $39 it will be my first and last.  For those who don't know, this is the only stuff to roast potatoes in!!!!!  Not that I am a foodie nit-picker or anything.

All that rant is just the tip of the ice-berg when you are a foreigner and not prepared to go native - I would have made a great colonial! Victorian corset, petticoat and bloomers in India.

That said - such a joy to shop here - if food shopping can ever be that.  Where in the UK would you find a virtually empty supermarket and car park and virtually empty roads.  Admittedly this place triples its population in season.  This did lead to a conversation that's worth remembering; we decided that when we give up on this place we will only come back to Naples out of season.  We had thought we might do six weeks here over the February part of our winter.  That is such a lovely idea weather-wise but it is sooooo much nicer to be here without the crowds.

Every year, when we get back - and I mean every year (all 15 of them) - our TV and wi-fi don't work.  It always takes a phone call and, often, a visit from a techie to sort it.  A phone call sorted the wi-fi but we had to wait on a techie for the TV.  Not a problem as thanks to my iPad and airplay TV we had a lovely couple of days immersed in good TV from the UK.

Just did a read through and realised, so far, you are ploughing through grump after grump - so I might as well get them all over in one go.

I have been selling all my 1/12ths in the UK and a lady wanted a lot but was concerned about postage from UK to USA so I said I would bring it with me and mail from here.  What a total nightmare.

Took the stuff up to the Post Office and discovered the Priority box might be a bit skimpy and would cost $17.90.

Off to UPS who agreed it was a good idea to pack my box within a larger box surrounded by peanuts (packing noodles to us) and this would cost $20.83.  Told my lady who sensibly opted for the UPS delivery.

Back to UPS who then tells me the packing costs $15 on top of the $20.83 but he would do it for $10.  So I am now ten bucks out of pocket.  He then looked at the address which was a PO Box address and tells us UPS don't deliver to PO boxes and if he put it through the mail it would cost more than the post office charge so it would best take it to them, assuring me it would be around the original $20 something dollars he'd first quoted me.

Off to the Post Office.  They say all that was rubbish UPS do deliver to PO boxes and the parcel is oversized and will cost $38.21.   I am now $27.38 out of pocket!!! not to mention packing and carrying a large box across the Atlantic.  Indeed one of our very large suitcases just came with the bear (remember him?) a pillow and this box.   

Note:  never, never complain about UK postage again.

We seemed to be trying to tick all the back in Naples boxes in week one and so we actually managed to get to the beach on Saturday.  Again, it was delightfully empty - for those of you who have been here let me just say we drove to Lowdermilk and just picked a parking place right at the front.  The sea is still 84 degrees at this time of the year, so Ken really enjoyed his swim - another reason to come here out of season.

Obviously we had to swing by Reginas (ice cream!) on Fifth (parked right outside!!!) but were too early - they don't open until 11.30 am.  Poor Ken.

I was luckier with my crab legs check-in at Grand Buffet on Sunday but I confess they were disappointingly pretty tasteless so I may try to resist that particular eatery during our stay.  All-you-can-eat shrimp at Red Lobster is calling me though.  Whilst on fishiness - during our grocery trip I bought a new to me fish called Swai - you know me try anything once. I bread-crumbed and Parmesan cheesed it and drizzled a little melted butter over it, popped in the oven and it was delicious.

The reason to relate all this was that it only cost $3.99 a pound.  Incredible.  Our North Atlantic fish and their own tuna and swordfish can come in at $20 a pound - breathtaking. 

Me, being me, will spend an arm and a leg on things that Ken likes but will scrimp when it comes to things I enjoy - why is that?  Love being a martyr?  No,  just left over pecuniary habits habits of a lifetime - 'dad always gets the biggest and best chop'

So, week two and we decided we needed to work on getting rid of all our leftover restaurant Groupons, coupons, gift cards etc from last year and we, being us, assiduously planned how and when.

We decided to work our way up the value scale and so began with a ten dollar Domino's coupon.  This gets a mention because - talk about cute - we ordered it on line and when Ken set off to pick it up I followed the cartoon of Pete the Pizza Man making our order - real time - I knew the second Ken had it in his mitts.  I have no idea why this amused me but marketing people know how to push your button.  Must check if Domino's at home has it.  Mind you we don't eat take-out pizza at home.

..... and that's pretty much it for week one: as far as week two goes - I was felled with a seven day 'headache'.  No kidding, three of the days I was pretty much useless.  I can only think it was because I had a week of steroids in the weeks before I left the UK and stopped them progressively the first week here???  I don't really have a better theory than that but I live in hope it was a one off.  My last day of, "OK I am probably better now", Ken came down with a stinky cold!!  Those of you who don't know Ken won't appreciate the significance - he NEVER but NEVER gets ill and the nearest he has ever been are the two or three colds he's had during our 20 years together and generally, even then,  I have to tell him he is ill because he hasn't noticed!  This time he took to flopping about in and on a bed for a couple of days.  Even more astonishingly not eating and .... wait for it ...... even refused pudding!!  I was getting seriously worried.

So, between us, we pretty much lost weeks two and three of October.

At the end of the poorly-bad stint, to celebrate wellness, avoid cooking and use another deal we opted for lunch at Carrabas for their special three course $12 deal.  Arrived at 1 pm to be told the offer only kicks in after 3pm.  Ate there any way and picked up a $50 tab.  Typical of the companies over here by the time we got home there was an email asking Ken to rate the meal. Ken commented (nicely not moaning) about their online advert not saying anything about their offer applying only after 3 pm.  Within half an hour after that he gets a phone message from the manager of the restaurant asking him to ring.  Half an hour later, an email arrives from her expressing her apologies, saying she will 'escalate it up to the powers that be' and giving him a free starter or dessert next time he is in there.  All this is not that unusual for customer service over here, though we remain impressed every time.  The clincher to this is, the next day, their email 'flyer' has 'after 3pm' added to it!!  We have a lot to learn in the UK about the customer being the reason for your business even existing.

Next food and customer service example comes from Ken's regular ice creamery.  He was on duty as a bucketeer for an orchestra at the park (free concerts in the sunshine on Sundays) and was passed by the lady who has the ice cream truck which Regina's sets up in the park that day.  She not only remembers him but remembers what he orders and that he has to go to the shop to get it (limited flavours on the truck) so she tells him she will bring his order back for him and it will be on the truck when he wants it.

When this began you must have thought it was to be one long moan about how dreadful it is for me being locked up in permanent sunshine in a beautiful coastal location for the winter but like most of life it is a two-sided coin and there will be much to miss about this place when we don't do it any more.

What could be nicer than riding your bike (for Ken) trike (for me) (yes a trike is not a jokey item over here) in the eighties sunshine with a slight breeze on empty flat roads at the end of October.....  oooh, I almost forgot.... then there is the Cracker Barrel Sunday fried chicken and 360's best lobster ravioli I have ever eaten and .......!

Lobster ravioli

Sorry about the dreadful photo but it is all I have except for my memories of the thinnest al dente pasta I have ever eaten, packed full of lumps of lobster meat - slight lemony, buttery creamy sauce to moisten it but not change the flavour - so delicate, so delicious and with Groupon (!) so cheap.  Glorious.  Do I love food or what?

The place also has a clever way of selling their wine - every bottle is at cost price plus their name 360. ($3.60)  

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


This is our last month here before we decamp to sunnier climes so it just gets filled with various kinds of farewells.

Visits and lunches with friends all back up at the end of the month so we see them as close as we can to leaving.  Among all this we try to get 'stuff' sorted so we aren't leaving problems behind.  That, of course, never works.  

This time we left in the middle of trying to arrange for someone to take my aunt out once a week from her care home (been here in Naples a week so far and heard nothing!).  This is fraught enough back in the UK but trying to contact all the various agencies from the States isn't to be contemplated.

I have also left in the middle of the doctor trying to determine if I have Fibromyalgia or Polymyalgia rheumatica.  As I have been presenting with various problems for four years now(!!!) I don't feel there is a rush on this ...... but it doesn't help in terms of continuity to have the 'conversation' and tests separated with a five month gap.

All kinds of mini domestic issues get snagged by absence.  One example is that we are part of a group who are trying to get the Lotty up and running properly.  Quite literally while in transit from UK to Naples via Orlando Ken was trying help with a funding application.

None of this is to be interpreted as my complaining about my lot but I hope it helps you to understand why the peripatetic life we live drives me nuts.  That is complaining isn't it?

Back to September and the good stuff.

The second week of the month we were in Leswalt, near Stranraer, Scotland with my daughter and her partner.  This is on a peninsular I sort of didn't even know existed let alone turning out to be the most southerly point of Scotland and benefitting from the Gulf Stream.  All in all it was a very unexpected bit of Scotland full of exotic plants.  it is not straightforward to get to and certainly not an area you would be 'passing' en route to any where else.

We visited a lighthouse at the Mull of Galloway.......... well three made it to the top........ I wandered off to the shop and museum.

view from the top

As you can see we had some lovely weather - Scotland was very kind to us.

As fully-fledged intrepids we then went on to Logan Botanical Gardens - pretty well-known on the planet of gardeners.

very tropical for Scotland
I understand why gardens like these are lovely and unusual but they are not to my taste - I don't get on with 'tropicals' outside the Tropics.  I am a decided traditionalist when it comes to gardens.  I can appreciate them all but the only thing that sings to my soul is the soft fluffy English variety.

This was a very short break for S and S and they left us the next day and Ken and I went to Castle Kennedy - primarily for lunch!  That went well as this was the venue....

That said we had a good hike and it was all very pretty in a wild and woody way.


If you want to see more photos click here Galloway Gardens

I am flicking through my diary as I do when I write this and it is crammed with 'chores' of various sorts so clearly it was a busy month - just nothing worth sharing unless you want to hear about hair appointments and chasing up snagging et al.

Lunch and farewell with my best mate mid-month and then S & S returned to visit us and my daughter's lifetime friend.  It was a lovely visit and felt like they were just living round the corner with them bobbing in and out between doing other stuff.  I so wish that was true.  It is always hard to say goodbye, even it it is only for a couple of months.

Lucky us!  they left us with a giant bear to take to the States for my grand-daughter.  My daughter won it!

Here is Ted on his first leg of a several thousand mile journey from S in Scotland to L in Canada via Naples, (and Orlando) Florida.

We became the weird old couple with a bear in the car.  I won't share the photo of him in the suitcase on the 29th as he looks decidedly uncomfortable.

Here comes the 29th and we left for Orlando.

We had a Premium Economy Upgrade which really does make the journey so much better - the advantages being - better service, smaller section of the cabin, deplane first without the rugby scrum and - being really snotty - the Orlando flight gets more than its fair share of Children passengers but not so much in this section.  Not that I am anti-children per se but, having had a couple of VERY long journeys with a child behind driving me bonkers - think feet in back of seat for nine hours, they are best avoided.  So there we were smugly settled in our 'posh' seats and the barbie family arrive across the aisle - Barbie mom and two teenage Barbie's - though to be fair they had so much work they could have been thirty-five.  The one nearest me - just across the aisle had a nasal high pitched squeak which barely let up for the whole trip.

I have reached the inevitable conclusion that the next step for me is a cave somewhere with my own juniper bush.  I just basically hate the human race.  This was confirmed some days later when we were in a half empty Naples and I realised it was a lovely place to be.

As we were flying backwards in time we arrived in Orlando for an all-you-can-eat-until-you fall-over buffet for 'dinner' at 5.30pm (!) with a body clock ticking at 10.30 pm.  Such fun this travel lark!

The next day was the last of the month and we used it driving down to Naples.... we were there by lunchtime (Cracker Barrel) and by bedtime we were well and truly, unpacked, tidied up, basic shopped and sorted out ready to begin the winter.