Friday, 31 December 2010

Trapped in Paradise

As always December’s memories are very much retrospective – this writing day being the third of January.  It does mean that any recall is tainted with the mood of the recording day.  Right now I am in one of my dark places and am feeling really low so I apologise in advance to any readers who may have shared my December with me if the happenings seem less happy than they actually were.

Anyone who doesn’t get patches of depression is not only exceedingly lucky but is, I suspect, unable to understand how it feels.  Articulating it is very difficult – probably because it has been talked and written about so much that it has become riddled with essential truths which now just sound like clichés.  Sally sent me the piece by Daphne Merkin which I’ve posted alongside this (under December's offerings) which is one of the best essays I've read on how it feels.

I suspect my particular monster strikes when I am tired or run-down physically or stressed in some way. Although even this is a thread which is hard to disentangle – a bit chicken and egg really – am I more vulnerable to depression for all the reasons I’ve just mentioned or are they signals in themselves that it is coming?  I don’t know.  So...  right now I am just blue rather than black and am keeping my head above water by making myself do stuff so that I do at least keep going forward, even if it is reluctantly.  Hence – must write up December for my blog!


Firstly, and while I remember - thank you to all the people who sent our Christmas cards here.  We know we have more waiting for us in the UK but our close friends and family came up trumps and mailed them to the US of A.  In fact we got one this morning post-marked 10th December so we are still getting them.  We had another card a couple of days ago, post-marked 15th December.  I am crossing all my fingers and toes that this means Sally's parcel to us might turn up.  I was sad it had got lost as much for her as for us.  How rotten, going to all the trouble to shop and pack and post and then nothing!  We don't even know whether to put a hex on the US postal system or the UK one.  Right now I am just using angel dust on both in hopes.

The weigh in at the beginning of the month was a bit of a boost as Ken's and my careful eating regime had paid off in that I’d lost a stone in two months. Needless to say that has now ground to a halt and is trickling away with a paltry 2 lbs lost in December.  I do feel better for it though – morally, if not physically.  We are not dieting per se just trying to correct what we do wrong – large portions, grazing between meals and excessive ‘treats’.
The key to success is not buying the stuff to start with.  If it isn’t in the cupboard we can’t eat it seems a bit obvious but harder to do than you would imagine.

On the second was one of our regular free offerings at the library: this was a talk on Deaconess Harriet Bedell.  Someone I (and suspect most people) had never heard of but a remarkable woman.  As you’ll see I’ve attached a link to her name as you might be curious. 

Another surprising lady turned out to be Clarissa Dickson Wright.  Denise gave me her autobiography for my birthday (November).  Reading it became a salutary reminder of how we see such a limited view of other human beings.  I enjoyed Two Fat Ladies and thought of her warmly as one of England’s dying breed of Upper Class eccentrics and, therefore, an amusing character.  Believe me there’s a whole lot more to her than that.  Her book is called Spilling the Beans and well worth the visit.

We actually managed to get tickets for the Living Christmas Tree spectacular/musical/play/?? This, for the past three years, has always been sold out when we applied for tickets.  It was certainly worth a visit.  I thought it a shame that they didn’t give the Christmas Trees more to do other than supporting the rest of the cast.  It was truly impressive; not only the show itself and its professionalism but, as usual in Naples, we were utterly astounded by a full sized professional stage supported by two large screens in a vast auditorium which, in this case, belonged to a church.  The amount of money in Naples which underpins (some) schools and churches is unimaginable.

We continued to do the usual bunch of meals out and free library stuff.  Two of these were on consecutive days.  Our first treat was a blue grass band that was supposed to give us an hour and gave us two.  Being a miserable devil I think the hour would have been enough for me.  Like Irish Folk Music, Country and Western and so on they are such particular ‘sounds’ that you have to be a real fan to get past the stage where it all begins to sound the same.  Terrifically clever playing though and initially foot-tapping and amusing but without my gram ma's comfy rocker and baccy and faithful hound and my banjo to play I felt it lacked something.

The next evening we went to see a female Barber Shop Quartet called ‘Bling’ – they were truly terrific and did a very Christmassy set with some joining in so it was much more to my taste.  Apparently they had won just about everything State and nationwide last year so came credentialed up to their eyeballs.  How we love our freebies.

We squeezed on our usual Christmas performance from Naples Orchestra and Chorus at Golden Gate School – again free (pass the hat function) and they are truly great.  Having heard the Phil itself last month the NOC is far from shabby and free beats a $100 ticket by a mile!

A couple of days later on the 13th Denise and Rob arrived for Christmas.  Sadly when they visited last year we had struck an extended cold spell – unheard of for Naples and, guess what, they arrived to the same again.  November had gone out on a freaky high of 86F – having been too hot since we arrived at the beginning of October. However, December managed to break a record as not having achieved a single day at or above the seasonal average.  The day after they left we returned to the mid-seventies.  The current prediction being for 75 – 80F for the foreseeable future.   We suspect the albatross necklace Denise wears is having something to do with it.

We didn’t let it stop us getting around though and doing the usual stuff including a couple of pool and beach days.  Rob had four goes at sampling flying as he is thinking of learning to fly for real, here or in the UK.

They probably had a fairly unusual Christmas Day in that they spent the morning at the pool and our postprandial Christmas walk-the-lunch-off-walk was done on a beach at sunset. 

Boxing Day doesn’t exist here so we were back to normal the next day and ate at one of our favourite nosheries – Bonefish.  I was relieved of the impossibility of doing my traditional Boxing Day buffet of leftover turkey and all sorts of goodies from M & S and Tesco Finest.  

I'd already had a slightly difficult time on the 25th trying to replicate my traditional Christmas lunch.  No goose fat or King Edwards for decent roasties, Christmas pudding, custard (Ken likes Birds not the real stuff plus Birds is easy for making the trifle), bread sauce (too idle to make it!), Serrano ham, selection of (M & S) cheeses, Christmas crackers, force-meat for stuffing, proper sprouts - all an anathema to the American soul.  Some of the items we'd imported and a couple D & R were instructed to bring with them. Bless them but it still seemed something of a series of compromises in my book; but it was marginally better than a Sunday Roast.  The other difficulty I've not mastered is that a 'proper' Christmas meal requires a couple of days cooking and prepping bits and bobs as well as the day itself.  This is fine if you have guests just for the meal itself but not so good if they are with you over the holiday period as you can't spend your days chained up in the kitchen ignoring them.


One of the highlights of their visit was a visit to Fort Myers Beach.  This was a first for everyone.  Ken and I have been to the city a few times but never the beach area. Certainly the area is a bit more lively than Naples beaches and the sand was the usual long stretches of powder but I think I have some peculiar affinity to Naples; however nice anywhere is I always think (honestly I do try not to say!) I prefer Naples.  That said it was a change of venue.  


While we were up that way we also squeezed in a visit to Manatee Park - a first for Rob and Denise so I hope they were suitably impressed by the sight of dozens of the otherwise always elusive manatees.  From a boat I've only ever managed to see 'where they were a second ago'.  These aren't captive.  In cooler weather they congregate at a Power Outlet where there is warm water.  Florida Power and Light (FPL) have moved on now but they keep the water warm there just for the manatee and it has become a small park and information centre.  You can check out a live web cam.  (That said I haven't seen one on it yet!)


We also hired a boat for a half day.  Luckily for us it was a slack day so they said we could have it for as long as we liked as long as we got back by 4 pm.  So we had about six hours of hire for the price of four.  We spent it pootling our way to Keewaydin Island where we decamped to eat our Subway (from a cool box) lunch.  We had intended to go on to Marco and set off but then decided we wouldn't be able to get to Marco and back in time so turned back for home.  We did manage to see a load of dolphin close up which was fun.


Rob hadn't been to the  Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Museum so that made for a cool-day outing and we duly walked the board-walk.  I was impressed by the change of artefacts here and there so it continues to offer something to people like us who go back occasionally.  Like most museums on a single subject it helps if you have knowledge or an interest in the subject, so the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki is not all that accessible to a English visitor.  I think maybe Rob might have been more impressed with our choice of evening 'snack' on the way home.  We went to Ci-Ci's where for around $5 you get all you can eat pizza, salad, soup, pasta and desserts - the apple crumbly thing on pizza being a big hit.

We saw them off at Fort Myers on the 29th and returned home to a message from Carole (next door) saying her sister had 2 (for us) or 4 (including guests) tickets for a production at the Phil that day or the next if we’d like them.  What a shame D and R just missed it.  I chose the next day as my plan for the remainder of the 29th was to do absolutely nothing...  well a bit of washing maybe.

30th and we were at the Phil again courtesy of Carole/Gail’s kindness to see ‘9 – 5, The Musical’, written by Dolly Parton.  I think some of the songs were probably very witty but the sound was far too loud making everything pretty inaudible.  It was such a shame because the company and the production itself were truly excellent.  It was still a good night out – always a treat to go to the Phil; as I’ve said before it isn’t something we can afford to do.  Tickets for this show were $89.

New Year’s Eve came and went as any other.  Being old codgers we decided to immerse ourselves in that role and we ignored it.  We went to bed in 2011 but then we often manage to go through midnight.

So another year begins...............


[a little footnote which has nothing to do with anything, but amused me...  apparently in Collier County (might be Florida wide?) you are required to pay $50 a month if you are on parole for your parole supervision - don't you just love it!]


yet another PS.. thought you might enjoy my Lucy picks/pics for December:





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