Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bye, bye November...

For anyone still keeping up with my increasingly boring life I thought I'd tidy up and finish off November. I want to make a real effort to be more organised and write one month at a time in some regular sort of way. I know I must have said this a few times before and not managed it but let's make this my old year's resolution and see if I can do it - starting at the end of December! I can see the excuses creeping in already - I'll be so busy in the UK with visitors that I'll never get a chance on the 30th!

But for now ... to the last week of last month!

I left you on the 22nd up to my gunnels in painters. On the 23rd - the third and the promised last day - five painters were thrown at the job. Those of you who know the apartment will realise that five people living in it is 'full'; five people decorating in it, is overflowing. As always we escaped.

A quick flit round the shops and a great lunch in a, new to us, Greek restaurant (Pelagos). It had been commended to (us) the audience by the conductor at the Phil when talking to his guest pianist. They were both perfectly right - terrific food, good price, nice people. It has been added to our regular eatery hit list. 

We were asked to be back by 3 pm when they expected to be finished and to bring the balance of the money in cash (!) We were given some spiel about paying the lads for Thanksgiving (the next day) and the banks being closed on Thanksgiving.  No, it didn't make sense to us either, we just assumed it was a cash in hand tax fiddle for everyone concerned. We duly reappeared on time and hid out at the pool with a book for another hour as they clearly weren't any where near finished at three. At four we returned to 202 to stand around in the smell and dementia for a while. I finally gave up and rang my sweet neighbour in Georgia to ask if I could sit in her apartment (next door), which I did. It was very odd sitting in someone else's home. I told her I felt like Goldilocks and ended up sitting in three different places before leaving. Four-thirty and some more rolled round and the guys eventually left clutching the wad of money. It seemed neither the owner nor his two sons deemed it necessary to turn up and check the job or even pick up the cash. Mmm!

As for the decorating....   The job itself was utterly shambolic to say the least but they did do it in three days as promised and the end result was acceptable. Nothing like the quality which was promised in the sales pitch. It has been just a quick clean up right through. It does feel good though to take ownership of the place at last. I always feel a home feels more like yours when its been painted right through. It looks like a a giant sugared almond but its what I like. Ken just sighed and said, "Colour? what colour? looks white to me....''

As with everything else in this foreign land even painting and paints are different to back home. The trouble I had trying to determine what was meant by a flat enamel ('flat' being our matte) as opposed to just a flat paint was a pain. No-one even understood the question - basically all I wanted to know was, would it shine? That being precisely what I didn't want... reply ... no it just has a slight sheen (!) does that mean slightly shiny?... no, its flat with a slight sheen! Trims and interior woodwork here are usually painted in the same (latex!) paint as the walls - so every colour and degree of shininess under the sun can be chosen and mixed for you.  I preferred an oil-based wood paint.  We were told that white oil-based paint for the trims and doors only came in one white and in semi-gloss. (I confess to not having checked this out as I trusted the painter not to be telling porky pies!) Similarly ceiling paint in white is just that - no fiddling around with shades of white or finishes. The gloss turned out to be just like our white gloss of years ago and stinks just as badly. I had forgotten just how evil the paint of my childhood was. We lived with the doors and windows open for days and were still afflicted with stinging eyes, vaguely sore throat and chest (even Ken!) and in my case a permanent headache, which I still seem to be suffering from a little. Neither of us can smell the paint any more, but than could just be a case of getting used to it.

The 24th was Thanksgiving Day. As in previous years we retreated to Cracker Barrel for our holiday dinner like the saddos we are. This year it proved very useful as we both looked dire in terms of clothes and bodies because we were in the throes of putting the place back together again following the painting spree. Ken actually likes his Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving Dinner. American food is decidedly man food!

The ongoing smell never managed to ruin my appetite, of course, but it did prevent us from eating at home (!!!) so day five arrived and I had to eat crabs legs again! This translated into a huge plate of crab legs (a dozen maybe?), nine generous sized sushi, a plate of ''what does that taste like?'' samples from the other 200 plus buffet dishes, followed by another plate of crabs legs for pudding!! oooh I almost forgot the three Chinese pastry/cake things for pudding number two. I have such self control!

I've struggled to keep to my weight this month with too many meals out. I know the food police won't get you if you don't clear your plate but I am one of those people who keep going and going even past the wanting it stage. If there is food in front of me I'll eat it. As I said to a friend I still have the bulging bits all over but they just don't weigh as much.

The 26th brought our annual (my birthday) outing to The Nutcracker. So nice once in a while to be a 'growed-up' and dress up and go out after dark especially to somewhere like the Phil. I wish everyone else felt the same. Most of the audience are a delight in both clothes and manners but there is a small group who haven't a clue about theatre etiquette or who deliberately flout it, which is worse in my book. Someone actually brought a baby to the ballet. Maybe to a matinee performance, especially The Nutcracker, which you expect to be filled with children, but to an evening performance?  I think not. Luckily it was only a slightly grizzly baby! We also fell foul of a couple immediately in front of us who really needed a hotel room. I think whispering, giggling and eating each other's faces is a tad inappropriate for any theatre venue? To some extent I love the performance enough to get lost in it but was I brought curtly back to earth now and then by their almost non-stop antics. Being British and, in truth, not wanting to seem to be an old kermudgin I was useless at actually resorting to 'ticking them off'. These weren't idiot teenagers but a couple in their high thirties (at least). Even in my five quid dress (but nice shoes!) I felt vastly superior!

The following day (Sunday) I had somehow got roped in to help out at The Naples Concert Band concert which Ken 'works' for. It was fine. I discovered I don't actually mind shaking a red bucket at complete strangers and demanding money. It is odd the sort of talents you don't suspect in yourself... this is one I should have tried sooner and I could have been rich. Though Ken tells me you can only do it at a concert otherwise it is called demanding money with menaces.

Our month ended on the 30th with a minor blow. Someone, or rather several someones, have decided in their wisdom to erect a shiny Alcatraz black chain link fence along the line of the woods opposite our condo.

(The photo actually isn't our lake, but looks the same. This fence borders two sides of Sherwood 1 and must have cost an arm and a leg!)

Probably bits of my email to R says all I want to say on the subject:

I've calmed down a bit now but I am still saddened by it. Ken thought that a fence along the border of Sherwood meant just that ... In the woods along our border line. We both appreciate that it probably would have cost more to put there as it would have been more difficult to erect but to have spoiled our view in this way is pretty poor. You know I would always choose barrier planting to block access.. Nicer to look at, cheaper to install and virtually maintenance free especially in a wild wood!! There seems to be a resistance to it over here for some reason. Using a fence instead seems to lose on every point: it will need maintaining to some extent and if someone is determined to trespass it will need fixing every five minutes ... It is pretty easy to wreck.

Why shiny black? Dark green to help it blend and a matt finish would have been much better.  This one glows delightfully (!) in the setting sun... certainly ruins my favourite moments on the lanai!!!!! Aaaaaarrrgghhh!

The only option we have left is to plant in front of it and anything we do plant will look like some sort of hedge as it will probably be a single specimen... Fig? Bougainvillea? Etc and will need maintaining regularly... More expense! And still it won't be the original more  attractive wild aspect we once had. The best form of planting would be a layer of what is on the other side.. In other words put a strip of wood on this side of the fence therefore making the monstrosity ACTUALLY be in the wood as it should have been in the first place. Can you imagine the cost along the length of that stretch?.... That's not going to happen!

Another issue this raises is our own access to the woods... Dog walkers, the man who meditates there, nosey bobs like Ken and I and the fire and other emergency services though they will just hack through it I guess. Anyone who wants to live in there now can do so in comfort as no-one from this side will be checking on them. Fencing our BORDER might have been a good idea but chopping off part of our property just seems plain daft to me.

I suspect my problem here is that I am awful at living in a communal way. I pride myself on being excellent at tolerance and compromise but in truth that is probably only on the things I don't feel all that strongly about, when it comes to things that matter to me I want them done my way!  So, a board-run apartment is a bad fit for me.

I mentioned about being very homesick last winter and that I hoped I wouldn't feel like it this year but alas I do. I kept pushing it away and refusing to indulge myself in it to such an extent that eventually I ended up blubbing like a baby one of the days to go home. Poor Ken is bewildered by it all. It isn't that this place isn't wonderful - it is. This is something which has no basis in sense or reason. I just want to go home! The only defence I have is that many people who emigrate to a much better life reach a point where they realise they don't want to be a 'foreigner' in a 'strange' land and they desperately want to go home where everything, even the bad things, chime harmoniously with their soul.  Almost everything here now seems to jar.  In effect Ken and I have lived in America for five years, even though that is composed of ten half years. In a way that seems like us having been here more time, not less. When I get here now I just feel like an émigrée who needs to go home. I am weary with trying to rationalise it and to convince others that it makes some sort of sense, especially when I know it doesn't.  All I know is that I am left with the insoluble conflict of not wanting to live here any more and that I will miss it dreadfully when I don't!

Everyone is perfectly correct in that I would hate the winters back home and that I would miss Naples, so I stick with the plan. The last time we sold up in Naples and bought the house in France I was the one who knocked that on the head a year later because I wanted to be back here!   Also Ken loves it here more than our life in the UK. There really isn't a solution. Coming here will have a natural end at some point simply by our advancing old age and the cost and the practical difficulties encountered doing it. I am just marking time and hoping that the end is sooner rather than later (though I suspect it won't be). Meanwhile like a prisoner under house arrest in a palace I tick off the days to December 20th and then to March 29th.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Autumn has finally arrived in the trees outside the apartment. The pine needles on the larches have turned into rust and started to  drop.  Another seasonal signal here is the mess the live oaks make with their indestructible leather leaves and tiny acorns which get crushed underfoot all over our paths.  My mother would have a field day with her broom.  This was a lady who swept cherry blossom off the lawn. That said, it seems that everything else still flourishes and continues to grow at a galloping rate. Even the said trees only manage to just thin themselves out ready for the Florida winter: if you weren't scrutinising them you'd never notice. We don't do 'season's of mists and mellow fruitfulness' over here but, then again, neither do we do frost and ice and snow and and you can keep that.

As always I can't believe the best part of a month has gone by since I was last doing this and I'm beginning to wonder if Ken isn't drugging my tea and I'm losing whole days.  This would also explain why I never know what day of the week it is.

Looking back through my diary this should be the shortest piece ever as I can't find anything vaguely interesting to relate but when did that ever stop me?

I left you on the day our air con unit and water heater were replaced.  It was a great piece of work - two men and bing, bang, bosh indoors and out and it was all done.  In and out like a fiddlers elbow. The same certainly can't be said for the chaos I am sitting in today typing this. We have the decorators in.  They are doing the whole place.  Handy tip, have one room at a time done!

We got three quotes which all came in within $50 of each other.  This made it really hard to decide on who to hire. I fancied ol' blue eyes simply because I fancied ol' blue eyes but we went with the first guy - Sam.  He had spent the most time doing the quote so he seemed to listen properly and appeared to be the keenest.  He was also the one who followed up a couple of times during the next week while we were waiting for other people to quote. As usual with these things by day one we had realised it was just a good sales pitch. In the interim days we had coughed up $900 for materials which was instantly cashed and when I tried to get a couple of queries answered it was like writing osame-fuda paper prayers. On day one (yesterday) the promised 'three men for three days' became one man for Monday - garrulous Gary - who is a one man moaning band.

Without a backward glance we had enough sense to abandon him and flee to our lunch and the shops. Same plan quickly formed up for today. Gary arrived at 8 am, which meant us getting up at 7 am, (for us this is the crack of dawn!).  He then proceeded to natter to Ken for 35 minutes before lifting a brush. We fled again to a long lunch and a trawl round consignment shops. Right now it is four o'clock and my weary bones are settled into my chair in the only room pretty much untouched by the wrath of vinyl warriors. There was better news today though, as I've already said Gary arrived at 8 am and then shortly after that son of Sam popped in and another painter joined them and  son of Sam left!  While we were out hiding from them another guy arrived so when we got back there was Gary plus two (!) wielding the brushes. Hey presto, finally, three men.  Even with the ad hoc additional 'staff' I don't have a hope in hell of seeing the back of them tomorrow and as the next day is Thanksgiving... ???? As I said to a friend in an email today -good job we don't have our usual sixty guests for a sit-down full-on Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday; or do Ken and I usually just go to Cracker Barrel? I can't remember.

The Saga of Gary and his Jolly Rollers is be continued.... 

As I said at the beginning I have nothing thrilling to report. My diary is just full of all the usual stuff and nothing in particular stands out other than November is my birthday month. My birthday is actually a birthweek. In my family the cards stay up for a week to allow any tardy card or gift givers time to catch up (!) This means additional birthday treats are also allowed during that time. Seems eminently sensible to me. My 66th segued into about ten days this time. Everyone came up trumps with gifts and cards in good time. Even my chap was able to present me with red roses at breakfast as he'd sneaked out the previous evening on the pretext of a bike ride to buy them and hide them overnight.

The extended extension (!) began with one of my many gifts from Ken arriving the following day. I had mentioned that I fancied some little Reutter dishes (1/12th) on sale on E-Bay but I was too cheap to pay the price asked so he bought them for me and, even though they didn't manage to arrive in time, I was thrilled to bits. He is a little gem.

He'd also booked dinner at one of the best restaurants on 5th Avenue (Verginas) but I cried off. For me it would have just been a trial. We went once years ago, probably another birthday; they were quiet snotty as we are obviously neither rich nor famous. I suspect if you are both you'll get the very best obsequious treatment.   In addition - here comes every woman's crie de coeur - I haven't anything to wear. In my case this is absolutely true. I am thirty plus pounds lighter and three sizes smaller than last year. Verginas is the sort of place which demands that elegant understated New England linenessity (just made that up so don't bother looking it up, you'll either know what I mean or... (Ken) not). I have one set of (bargain) dressy clothes for the Phil which is far too dressed up for Verginas. So the fretting about it 
all day and then the not brilliant evening wasn't the birthday I wanted. I persuaded him to cancel and, to his despair, I chose one of our regular eateries - Grand Buffet. This is a cheap all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet but it does have crab legs at the weekend. It was great.

In the already established Ormson we-know-how-to-do-a-birthday mode of taking my mother around Staples (stationery shop) on her 80th, we decided to include a trip to Home Depot for paint samples. I had a lovely day. I did no chores whatsoever, fed my face full to busting on crabs legs and played at rainbow painting the apartment. Sounds like a second childhood?

Five days later we went to the Phil for an excellent concert. 
 Mozart's beautiful Piano Concerto No. 18,  Rimsky-Korsakov's intoxicating Scheherazade, Berlioz's dramatic Overture to the opera Benvenuto Cellini. Three wonderful pieces. That in itself is a rare find. I usually suffer two boring or show-offy ones for one good one. We also always go to the pre-concert talk by the conductor, which is not only informative but always amusing.  Jorge Mester in particular has a dry and ready wit. He also takes a moment to talk to his guest performer. This time it was Soyeon Lee who also amused and elaborated on the music and her performance.  She had been asked by Mester to learn the piece for this concert as it wasn't in her repertoire.  She said it was one she hadn't even heard.  When asked by an audience member she also said that it takes about a week to 'learn the notes' and then it is a case of playing it whenever you can using the score (without benefit of orchestra) until it becomes a part of your body.  It might be worth noting she played without any music.  She is a delight to watch as well as to hear.  The resulting piece was truly beautiful. She didn't wear the famous dress (take a minute to look at this).

On November 9th the following happened:

Emergency Alert System Nationwide Test (EAS)

The first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will take place on November 9, 2011 at 2 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).

The purpose of the test is to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the system in alerting the public. This national-level EAS is a national public alert and warning system that enables the President of the United States to address the American public during extreme emergencies.

On November 9, Comcast customers and the public will hear a message indicating that "This is a test." The audio message will repeat “This is a test.” The video message scroll may not indicate “This is a test.” The video text is likely to inform viewers that authorities have issued an “Emergency Action Notification.”

Regular programming will resume once the EAS test concludes. The audio message will be the same for both radio and television. The test may look like regular, local EAS tests that most people are already familiar with, but there will be some differences in what viewers will see and hear.

As a disaster warning it was pretty much a disaster in itself.  Some stations didn't play it, others played it longer or shorter than they should.  Ken tells me that there is a Florida one done every month.  When I asked him why, in eleven years, I hadn't a clue that there was a pretend Florida tragedy each month he said - we don't watch TV in the daytime.  So - basically it is a great idea for promoting daytime TV or  radio.  The quiet people will just have to blow up or fry or whatever it is we are supposed to be avoiding if a tragedy occurs before 8 pm.  No, I don't have an idea for alerting quiet people other than very refined softly spoken gentlefolk dropping off a nicely printed deckle-edged card signed by the President.  Will I have to RSVP?

To finish I'll flit back to today.  I bought a very nice jacket from a consignment shop. I am turning into my mother.  I promise you it is a new one - honestly.  It is all very bright and very Floridy - not a bit like me.  This reminds me to tell you about my best bargains ever.... a couple of weeks ago we went to see if Bealls Outlets at Pine Ridge had gone as we had been told by two different sources that it had: any way it was still there, so we went In for a trawl.  I managed to get  Lucy a couple of cute things for pennies and, for me, I got  two tops and one pair of trousers. Here comes the bargain of bargains. The trousers were reduced to 50 cents......  there was 95% off the original discounted price and then after that I got the usual Monday's old person fifteen per cent off and then I  had a five dollar voucher for being a good customer.  There are days at Bealls they pay you to take stuff away.  

Even our avoid-the-painters lunches are bargains.  Yesterday we had lunch at First Watch and used my get a lunch free coupon.  Technically it was out of date but over here - no problem - that's fine.  Today we ate at Perkins with a 20% coupon.  Tomorrow we might use our Groupon coupon for 5th Avenue Deli which gets us $26 worth of lunch for $10.  This is proving to be a tough decision as we fancy trying a Greek restaurant on Davis.  We still have thirteen buy one get one free Subway coupons, and half a dozen discount coupons for Beef O'Brady's.  There's just not enough meals in the day to save money!

So on with the motley.  Talk to you again soon.