Monday, 28 September 2015

Stuff and sentiment

As Clavering (now) purports to be an occasional diary piece rather than a monthly blog I suppose I should start to record our leaving of the colonies. 

We are about three weeks (plus) into our seven week (plus) stay here and we are well into the throes of making all the arrangements we need to leave.

So far we have seen two realtors and we signed with one at the weekend.  Two days before they came we spotted a leak in our lanai ceiling, suggesting a leak in the roof!!  We have also seen a roofer who says he will submit his quote to our Master Association (so no cost to us as the insurance for buildings is in our fees) and, once approved, he will get to the job as soon as he can.  This may well be after we depart!

quite a bit of water damage around it covering a good part of the ceiling

At that point we decided we had no choice but to change our flights home (at huge cost and to what date?) so we could follow through the roofer's work and then the subsequent repair and repaint of the ceiling (also huge cost to us).  Oh happy day!

As it turned out the realtor will oversee it all at no extra charge.  We still have to pay the 'decorator' part of course.  Try that in the UK.  So our leaving date remains at 25th October.

Ray the Mover came this morning and suggested we use a 'pack and ship' company instead as that would be cheaper.  that was a kind thing to do after spending time here working up a quote.  He said he was a 'Rotarian' and that was their mantra.  

Ken rang  two pack-and-ships and both arranged to come out and quote today (!).  Boy, will I miss the service over here.  One packer has been and is talking about $1,000 (probably more as it goes by weight) for about 400 cubic feet of 'stuff'.  We are selling turnkey so all we are thinking of taking it is the cherry pickings of the contents of cupboards and drawers.

This is where sentiment v. hard cash comes in.  Absolutely nothing we are shipping is of any value and I doubt very much that their total value is anything like $1,000.  Right now I think the more sensible option is to pack four cases with as much as we can and abandon the rest.  Indeed if we bought two more cases ($100) and paid for those on the flight ($100) plus cab home ($100) for us and six large cases we are still quids in!

chair from mom,mom's plate, card from family, bottle opener from France, flowers from my son

To do this means leaving things like a tea set that I will probably never use but love, gifts from various people over the years including a miniature chair from my mom - all of which have no display area in the UK.  I also have endless 'favourite' pots, dishes, gadgets.  I have a ton of bedlinen and towels that I am 'attached' to but don't need and don't really have storage space for in the UK and, again, I could buy something very like if I wanted to for less than shipping them home.

Another argument from me is that we have lived half our lives without them for ten years so they can hardly be vital to our existence. They are a bit like stuff you keep in the loft and never use but it is comforting to know its there.  No I don't do that - hard-hearted Hannah!

A huge part of my soul is so against 'stuff' so I can genuinely walk away from most of it, but I can't quite squish that little sentimental me who finds excuses to keep this and that.

One way or another, ship or take, it is all systems go.  The realtors will be showing the place after we leave so we don't have the inconvenience of clearing off when they bring people round.  We don't have to come back for the closing as all that can all be done from the UK by email.

As yet it is still hard to believe that the 25th October will be the last time we are in 257 Robin Hood Circle.  Ten years is a very long time to be in one place for me!  We got this apartment and our current UK house around the same time, so will this mean a move at home too?

Meanwhile I am taking sentimental photos just in case we leave the stuff.: Leaving 257  ...  loads more to come

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Weekend in Atlanta

 We have just had a great couple of days in Atlanta (Georgia).  The Atlanta Miniature Society were holding their 36th Annual Show and Sale and I thought it might be different to see a 'club' show rather than the usual 'commercial' one.

Originally we decided to do a road trip there and back as we don't get to see anywhere much, other than Florida when we come here.  We did a lot of map studying and decided it was a pretty uninteresting journey; especially if we hared up the I-75 and it would take us two days with no real stops on the way.  Our next inspiration was flying.

With the benefit of Air Miles and $11.20 we could fly there easily from Fort Myers.  Indeed Fort Myers is the usual transit airport for us on our trips here.  We have flown Manchester/Atlanta/Fort Myers more times than I can count.  So off we toddled on Friday 18th for the 12.12pm flight; arriving an hour and a half later in Atlanta.

I spent many words recently bemoaning our Thompson flight here from the UK - let me say how vastly different our Delta experience was.  I had a middle seat in three as we booked just a couple of days before flying and the flight was full.  I asked if I could be changed to an aisle seat at check-in and luckily there was just one (now) remaining and for the princely sum of $15 I was switched.  This is the second time Delta in the States has done this for me without an ounce of fuss. Indeed in the UK, on more than one occasion, we have booked seats months ahead to get the ones we want and then found at check-in that we have been moved to allow a 'family group to sit together'.  Infuriating.

We got pre-check boarding cards which fast tracked us through security and gave us a green card allowing us to keep our shoes on (!).  We were only needed at the gate half an hour before the flight, indeed fifteen minutes will do.  Polite queues making for easy  boarding, a reasonable plane with free wi-fi.  the trip itself is like a bus ride with drinks - off the plane and into an airport we already like.

Atlanta is a very well arranged airport, easy to negotiate.  It is generally busy as it is a main hub but it is doable and there is an every-three-minute shuttle between concourses.  This time we were actually leaving the airport rather than being in transit.  That seemed very strange.  We caught a different kind of shuttle.

To pick up the rental car you get the Sky Train.  It is almost literally that, being elevated, it strides its way across road after road and building and trees.  It is really impressive and in five minutes you are at the rental car centre.  Here, because Ken had booked on line,  we just walked through and picked up a car - no check-in, no queues, nothing.

From there to a lovely hotel - Wyndham Galleria - and in plenty of time for the Preview at 6.15pm - with desserts!

The show itself was a delight starting with a huge room filled with people's work, presumably from the club itself.   I toured that and was able to get in the rooms when the show was being set up, so I managed to take a lot of photos before the opening.  This meant I could have a very 'deep south' dinner with Ken in the hotel before going off to do more schmoozing and photographing and a little purchasing.

Ken's slow-cooked beef ribs, southern mac and cheese and collard greens

My creole shrimp with bacon (!) over cheddar grits - not a veg in sight

Saturday began with breakfast in the hotel following which I went off to do a quick flit round the show.  The quick flit lasted about two hours.

We decided our tourist trip in Atlanta would be the Botanical Gardens.  this took us through a small section of what looks like a very nice city.

small part of the Atlanta skyline

It was an absolutely glorious visit,  beginning with a delicious meal in the 'Cafe at Lintons' - not a cafe as we would know it Jim.  It was very chic and the food and staff matched it perfectly but the prices were just fine.

Gorgeous plate of smoked trout on a cornmeal blini with horseradish etc

My smoked trout was just beautiful and from the starter section of the menu.  I added in a side of fruit which was described as Fuji apple with muscadine and scuppernong.  You know me - if there is a creature I have never heard of on offer I have to eat it.  Turns out that muscadine  is a black grape (already guessed) and a scuppernong is its almost bronze sister.  They are both indigenous Southern grapes and can withstand high temperatures.

They were decidedly different in texture and in taste.  Not unpleasant but (I thought) not entirely grape-like.

Scuppernongs and all under our belts and we were off to tackle the botanical gardens.

It is just the most magical place.  Beautiful landscaping and wonderful and fascinating plants.  When do we see Okra and Millet in our veggie gardens?

Right now there is a 'Light in the Garden' show and I so wish we had the energy to have gone back for that in the evening: it must be overwhelmingly beautiful.

A British artist called Bruce Munro has set up all kinds of fibre optic pieces but I think his simplest is maybe his best..... his Forest of Light.  He has dotted lights through acres of woodland which apparently are all different colours of light.

We saw this and other things from a forty-feet high walkway in the trees

Having said that was good - how about twenty (!) luminous water towers and then this little gem.

a different coloured light in every bottle!

This is made up of empty plastic soda (pop) bottles.

There are masses of seats in every nook and cranny and each one more interesting than the next.  How wonderful to be able to rest and enjoy the surroundings every few yards.

There is a Chihuly glass piece in the entrance hall and a spectacular fountain (see my album) using one of his pieces.

As if all this wasn't enough we then visited the just spectacular orchid house.  Please look at my album - the flowers were glorious but the photos can't capture the experience.  Simply magical.

Saving the best 'til last..........if you ever change planes in Atlanta and have hours to kill - escape the airport and go and see this if you see nothing else.

she is just astonishing, completely covered in plants, even her skin

The serenity by that pool it is palpable.


The link for the photo album for the trip:  Atlanta, 18-20 Sep 2015

If you want to read about the miniature show: Dollshouse Trips and Shows

If you want to see what I bought:  Dalton House

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Sharing a couple of photos

I recently compiled a list of favourite things amongst which was geckos.......

This little chap sat outside on the window sill of Cracker Barrel on Sunday and watched me eat my Homestyle chicken.

sunday lunch!

I also mentioned rain that everyone said thank you for rather than complained about.  they need a ton of it in the summer to get them through the long dry winter.  It also prevents fire.  Pine trees (very combustible) are indigenous to this area and drop a ton of needles making a wonderful vehicle for fires when it is dry.  At this time of year you can almost set your watch by the rain.  Around three to four pretty much every afternoon this moves in:

yesterday at Publix grocery store

We keep forgetting this and keep going out in the afternoon - yup, got caught twice so far and tropical rain is something to behold.  I love it; we often get the full works of thunder and lightening and biblical downpours - so dramatic to watch and to feel.

The first storm we ever experienced we watched neck high in an outdoor pool beside the sea!  Wonderful watching multiple lightening strikes dance across the waves.  How we survived that one I have no idea but it does explain why we were the only people in the pool.  They joy of being English - phlegmatic (aka stupid?).

 Daily summertime showers are a fact of life in Florida but should not be taken for granted.  Florida ranks number one in the number of deaths due to lightning, 94% of which occur between late May and end of September.  An average of 100 people are killed in the U.S. each year (10-13 in Florida) and almost 600 injured (30 in Florida).  Lightning kills more people in the U.S. than hurricanes and tornados combined.

It seems most deaths occur in the home and most of those are people on the phone:  "Hi, It's me, we have a huge thunderstooooorr....."

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Bored already

Hi, this is bored-person blogging as it is half past two and my chores are done for the day and I don't go to bed for a while!

Here's what we had for lunch today - I think it is a jolly good idea and we are having a different one each week to try six of the twenty on offer.

Publix is our Tescos - if you see what I mean - and they are offering a fish in a bag service.  Choose the fish you want and one of four sauces.  Go and shop for a while and come back and pick it up.  Indeed, yesterday a nice Publix lady found me while I was shopping and gave it to me!

They haven't really got the hang of it yet so the pricing system is a bit potty.  The poor fishmonger has a list of 20 selections with prices which, by our reckoning, means only five fish times four sauces.  You can, in fact, choose any of their fresh fish/shellfish so the mixes are many more than that.  This meant that me, being me, managed to go off piste both times so, last week, we had two large wild Atlantic salmon fillets and 'sauce' for $11.99 for both (works out at £3.89each!).  The fish costs way more than that.  Yesterday Ken had Tilapia and sweet chilli with rice (above) in one bag and I had 15 large fresh prawns with the same sauce and rice in another.  They didn't have a price for my prawns so I got it at the Tilapia price of $8.99 which was another bargain.

It is a complete meal with no prep or clearing up of any sort.  Cut the bottom of the bag open and slide onto the plate.  Eat!

badly served up by me

Thursday, 10 September 2015

List of things I will miss in (out of season) Naples

Even I get sick of hearing myself moaning about this and that when I have such a wonderful life.  Why do some of us live in glass half-full land instead of the overflowing pint we really have?  So, besides a recorded thank you for my relative good health at nearly seventy, two kids that turned out just fine, two grandchildren that are an ongoing amusement, husband that puts up with me, a best friend who is like a sister to me.... not to mention a sister, and, and, and.... here's a simple record of the things I will miss when we leave 'paradise'.

  • twenty-seven miles of pristine near empty beaches
  • back to back sunshine
  • Mels Diner's ribs
  • the all round 'customer is king' attitude
  • shopping bargains galore
  • polite drivers
  • US eBay for miniatures
  • the notion of being neighbourly (difficult fit for an English person but a good thing)
  • Bone Fish Grill's Bang Bang shrimp
  • good manners from strangers - saying good morning, calling you ma'am or sir
  • views from our windows
  • pedestrians having right of way at all times in car parks (and elsewhere to some extent)
  • huge washing machine and dryer
  • quiet
  • long straight wide traffic-free roads
  • lights not roundabouts
  • Cracker Barrel's Homestyle Sunday Chicken
  • our lovely Lincoln car
  • a postal system that keeps a parcel for you from June and delivers it on day one of your return in September
  • free mail (letters) forwarding to the UK
  • free movies and lectures and performances at the most beautiful library I have ever used
  • Publix fish in a bag
  • limitless number of books
  • self checkout at the library
  • 24 hours automated postal service for outgoing mail
  • the Apple store
  • gorgeous Silverspot cinema (with restaurant)
  • free concerts in the park
  • celebrating rain instead of hating it
  • heated outdoor pool (even if I can't be bothered to use it!)
  • geckos skittering across your path at all times
  • the sound of tree frogs at night
  • huge washing machine and dryer

the car at the beach

a Sunday concert

post anything any time

part of our lovely library

check out your own books

view from our lanai in the rain

south of the pier


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Letter from America 3. - 'Home' and good neighbours

Saturday 5th and we checked out a day early from the resort and drove our usual cross-country route to Naples.  Ken actually declined a stop at Smokey Joe's for ice cream (unheard of).  We had a late lunch at a Cracker Barrel about half an hour from home, did some grocery shopping and got into the condo by late afternoon. After a flurry of unpacking a ton of cases we were ready to fall down in a heap and decided to tackle the rest the following day.

Our lovely neighbour G brought us freshly made-from-scratch corn muffins around 8.30 pm to welcome us home.  How kind is that.  Plus they were just perfection.

I wanted to record this day because I need to make sure I get in all the positives among the moaning.  We have the nicest of neighbours in this building.  G and his wife had already done me a huge favour by taking in a stack of parcels for me in our absence.

seven boxes - a bit of a huge favour
These were delivered early on Sunday by J so I could have fun unwrapping them.  

We had taken them some 'tablet' from Aberfeldy as a token thank you.  This commodity took a little explanation but was extra appreciated as J's ancestors hailed from Edinburgh.

OK, now I am about to list the niggles because I want to record how I have this cumulative effect of tiny things which make me not want to do this any more.

Sunday lunch of roast chicken - bought everything except the cornflour - Ken out to Publix for that.  Didn't take stock cubes from home - never have found any I like here so we spent six bucks on something organic that sounded good - it seemed to consist of onions and huge amount of salt..... weird chicken gravy.  

Also I spend days wondering where this or that is - not only because kitchens can't be the same, of course, but also I can't always remember what I own on one side of the pond or the other.  Spent ages today looking for a small enamel casserole only to finally remember I don't have one here.

The oddest thing was I drove myself potty because we don't seem to have a trivet for hot dishes to go on when they come out of the oven!!!!  How have I lived ten years here without?  Total mystery.  

Every time we return to each place (especially this one) there are things which don't work, aren't reconnected, need fixing.  So far Ken has bought and replaced a toilet valve flap.  He is currently out sorting out sim cards so we have phones we can use here. I can't use the washing machine as the cold water valve is leaking.

Also each time we arrive we have to clean the whole of the outside area.  This means sweeping thoroughly and then washing every inch.  Unlike the UK, during the warm, humid and stormy summer here the place is hanging in webs and bugs and most of all various bugs poo!!  Not to mention the resident frog who makes a real mess. Over and under all that is just plain dirt being blown in with the rain and winds of the storms, plus plant debris.

we have to start at the ceiling and 

work our way down

To be really honest it just gets harder as we get older.  I was so happy this might be our last time doing it.

So, all in all, settling in runs over a few days before we have it cracked.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Letter from America 2. - One long eat

First thing, first morning in Orlando we went to iHop for breakfast.  We didn't want to attack the resort's 'food court' restaurant again - it was heaving. Ken is something of a pancake fan and if international House of pancakes serves me bacon I am good with that.  I do love that it is generally easier over here to get precisely what you want by ordering 'sides' rather than one of their meals.  Having ordered four rashers of bacon...they are small strips honestly...scrambled egg and some toast, my three little plates duly arrived.  I forgot to order a plate.  It is fine I am happy to eat off three plates as long as I get just what a want.   It's a deal.  Ken's pancake stack of raspberries and cream cheese looked lovely.  Two happy bunnies went on to get their hair done!

I had Sweeny Todd do mine.  She was positively viscous.  I had my head and face clawed during that lovely relaxing shampoo time.  She then burned my scalp several times with the hairdryer but she did a great job.  So, being a very grateful woman to have escaped alive and with good looking hair, I gave her a huge tip.  What I hadn't factored in was Florida's late summer climate.  It may well have been 91 but the humidity was intense and the hair do disappeared inch by inch with every step.  Clinging on to its remnants we went out to a late lunch and managed to get caught in the traditional fifteen minute thunderstorm in the afternoon which the summer brings.  Hey ho I looked human for a small while.   I want my tip back!

we got wet!

Six o'clock came round and I was off to the show.  The convention centre is vast so I wasn't even sure if I could find my way there.  Did OK but confess to getting lost going 'home' later.

might give you an idea of one of the three corridors I had to negotiate.

Food again.

part of one of the four tables set up

There was a lovely selection of hors d'oeuvres.  Indeed there were several choices to constitute a three-course meal.  I hear you saying you didn't have to eat it... but.... shrimp and grit cakes and the most delicious crab cakes all crying 'eat me'.  There were a zillion lovely looking things in the entrees plus a delicious selection of cheeses and deserts.  I confess I completely missed the desserts as I was diving into the minis as soon as I decently could.

This was a brand new show by a lady who's Philly show I had been to so I expected similar.  It seems new babies in this arena need time to grow.  There were just 33 vendors so it was possibly the smallest show I had been to and therefore quickly done.  I only bought two items and left an hour before it closed.  Unheard of.

The show is of course much more than just the vendors.  There is a week of classes and all sorts of functions.  If you have the slightest interest you'll need to trail over to my Show Blog.

Weary, food stuffed and happy, so endeth Friday.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Letter from America 1. Eat your heart out Alistair Cooke

I wrote this for lack of anything better to do in the early hours of my first morning across the pond.  It details an average long haul flight but it does show why four long hauls a year forms one of the nails in our split-life coffin as far as I am concerned.

Some of you will pretty much have seen the untidy version of this, so you may be excused.

Friday 4th September

It is now  silly early on our first morning across the pond.  I woke at around four o’clock having had eight hours (very broken) sleep.  By eight last night (1 am body clock time) I surrendered and and crept into bed.  Our travel day is a long one, starting before 6 am and made more tiring as it is filled with the boredom and frustrations of long-haul travel.  The flight is a physically wearing nine hours trapped in a plane following a stop-start motorway journey to the airport and rounded off nicely with the joys of picking up a hire car at this end and finding the resort.

We had the unusual experience of flying transatlantic with Thomas Cook.  We think we may have done this once before(?).  In comparison to Delta and Virgin it runs a distinct third.

Firstly, it goes out of Terminal 1 in Manchester. That, in itself, is not great news but it’ll ‘do’.

Security check was a whole other ball game. 

We fly often enough not to ever carry anything which could hold us up and, unlike almost everyone else in the queue, don’t need to spend half an hour in front of a tray sorting ourselves out.  I even pretty much travel in the same clothes/shoes so I don’t get sartorially challenged.

So saying, I was then buzzed and my hands and shoes swabbed.  OK, this is clearly one of the random stops, no big deal,  just mildly aggravating when you have done everything to avoid this.  Much worse than my tiny annoyance was what was happening next to me.  An frail-looking elderly lady in the next lane was undergoing the same process.  She was clearly distressed and it was obvious to anyone who was not totally cretinous that she had some cognitive problems (dementia?).  Clearly a requirement for a security job is an A-level  in cretin.  Her (I presume) husband was trying to calm her and explain to her what was needed from the sidelines…. Not allowed into the area. 

I arrived at the end of the area to pick up my scattered belongings only to find Ken having two bags of his diverted and meticulously searched.  As I said we are pernickety about not carrying anything that can need this.  After an unusually lengthy process an eyeglass repair kit was confiscated because ‘no tools are allowed on board in case you tinker with the aircraft’.  Have you seen the jewellers’  screwdriver in these kits?  You would have more joy disassembling a plane with a hair grip. 

Finally they were put back through the screening  machines and we were instructed to go round the corner to collect them…. only to discover one had been rejected again and was about to be searched for the second time.  I was insistent  it had just been done, to be shrugged off with well it has come down for inspection, ya, ya, ya….  Mrs Jobs-worthy then clacks her screen and mumbles something like they could only see half the box???  Doesn’t search it but sends it back through screening again. World gone mad.

We headed to the gate pretty much as soon as the Gate number was announced… A good 45 minutes from departure time so I have no idea how we missed the Premium early boarding but we did and arrived in time to see and join the massive queue feeding on to the aircraft.  Luckily we did have a front door access so avoided the crush onboard.

The seats in Premium Economy (no first class) on TC are rock hard but there is good seat room.  Loved the adjustable head rest … it can be raised (but not curved)… has a starting height for someone around 5’ 9” tall.  Adjustable means it can be  raised not lowered so my head spent its time on the bottom rolled edge??  I am am five-six, not exactly a squirt.  Poor small people in average world must struggle all the time.  Ken also had something ‘sharp’ in his seat.  This was enough for him to try baffling it with a rug.  For Ken to notice some discomfort borders on a miracle.  Good job the princess and the pea story was written otherwise we’d have to write the IT person and the mountain instead.

Back seat entertainment in Premium still only gives you a handful of movies not the huge range on offer on Delta or Virgin.  Virgin entertainment is probably the biggest choice.  There was not a single watchable one for me other than Still Alice but as we are already booked into the Naples library for that, it wasn’t a goer.  This was going to be an even longer trip than usual.

It seems to me that over the fifteen years we have been doing this,  Premium is now the economy and economy has slid way back to endurance class.  I took a trip through the main cabin.  It was full to the gunnels, narrow aisles packed with small children and rubbish.  No idea how the crew don’t kill someone on every trip.  Patience of Jobe.

There is no choice if we want to keep the cost of flights down to the minimum.  I was listening to someone on Radio Four who said the cost of the  example Berlin flight was the same three hundred pounds as it was thirty years ago.  We get what we pay for.  Equally obviously we are lucky to be able to afford to do this sort of flight pretty much as often as we like because the cost is actually so low compared to income these days.

As for culpable homicide, my companion across the aisle came close to being my victim many times.  He was an extended belt passenger who did nine hours flying which was completely comprised of (smelly) eating, drinking and snoring.  I seriously claim he was only conscious long enough to ingest something then slept and made every sound under the sun.  I was hugely thankful for the wider aisle during his sojourns to the bathroom.

OK, at last, here comes a plus.  Bet you thought there never would be one and for it to be in the food category makes the whole of this diatribe worth writing.

We had a very good in-flight meal.

I let that sentence stand alone for its sheer remarkableness.  No idea what was served in the main cabin but ours was a James Martin concoction and he is to be commended.  We had:

A selection of nice bread rolls.  From the choice of two meals (admittedly that's hardly a huge choice) we opted for the Thai curry, coconut rice, spinach??  There was no salad starter as with the two other airlines but, in my case, that's not something to be missed.  The dessert was a high quality  dark chocolate mousse with a bitter cherry compote underneath.  Two pieces of very good cheese, Cheddar and Wensleydale, with  biscuits. All of which was lovely.  It could only be improved by not having to eat it out of boxes with plastic implements and the challenge of doing it in a twelve by six inch area.  My aisle companion had all this sorted as it was eaten from the top of his stomach which was more than the statutory twelve by six; clever man

There seemed to be the offer of any drink under the sun at any time if you knew what to ask for and if the staff member remembered to bring it.  Tomato juice is usually a basic on the trolley, not on TC and it took two goes and a reminder to get one.  Ken got a J2O by going to the galley.  Some people have smarts.  Oddly there was no offer of water at any time during the flight.  Our usual flights have one bottle in the seat-back pocket and the crew offer beakers of water during the flight and always a place to get your own.

We also had ice cream and later a teatime service consisting of cheese and something tomato-ish on a roll and an  egg and cress roll along with a scone, cream and jam.  The scone was very good.  Oddly, in addition to that neatly packaged deal we were offered a tiny Victoria Sponge which was inedible as it tasted entirely (unsurprisingly) like its cardboard packaging. Why would someone in their right mind think it is OK to combine (very absorbent) spongecake and cardboard?

Ultimately we landed in Orlando.  The other things TC don't give you with Premium is Priority deplaning or our luggage delivered first.

The following sentence needs to be in flashing lights and an absolute first:  Immigration was great we got ‘picked’ to use the machines … Yeah! super fast and we were almost on our way.

We collected our luggage and visited the food police where we declared we had no mad cow or bananas, or indeed any other food, with us in our luggage and we were released into outdoors Orlando and off for the hire car.

My pedant husband is given a single instruction, “Take any car”. He searches for a car section labelled Standard Cars as that is what he ordered.  Bear in mind he ordered in English we are now working In American/Mex/Tex where we have areas labelled Full Size, Mid size and a zillion different grades of SUV’s….  As we had four large cases, two on-boards and two handbags to lug about in a very large car park, my two suggestions were:  ask someone and, when that didn't work,  ….."take any car as instructed"….. Ken…..finally to find assistance.  Bit of a language problem between him and said assistant  Eh by gum v. Cuba…. Cuba wins and we take any car.  It is a very nice one; the technical specs follow:  lovely colour blue.

I am not asking Ken, ‘cos he will tell me.

We are staying at a huge resort in Disney as it is where the Dolls house Miniatures show is being held.  It is spelled as Miniaturia… Methinks too many ia’s in there somewhere. The resort is classic Orlando size… HUGE and has all the usual stuff, multiple pools, 230 foot slide, movies poolside at night etc etc etc.  Several eateries.

We are wearing Disney wrist bands that open gates and doors and allows you to pay for everything automatically.  Their marketing cannot be flawed.  They remove your money so gently it is hardly noticeable.  The upside is that if dementia strikes without warning I can be returned to my keeper easily.

in case I forget my name, my location is electronically tagged

touch Mickey to Mickey and buy the world

Oddly our only meal experience so far suffered from poor service.  This is very unusual, but then we forget we are always using a Naples baseline not an American one.  We always fall foul of this mode of thinking and say America does this or that when really we mean our experience mostly comes from one tiny spot in a vast, vast continent.

The Fawlty Towers part of the experience was Ken going to get a glass of wine at a dedicated wine area in a sort of food court type arrangement.  Merlot took some explaining, followed by it needing opening and the wine section did not have a corkscrew?...mmm… The server is duly instructed to go to the kitchen and they would do it….girl disappears….food congealing….. I insist Ken quits.  To be fair she did appear a good deal later with said glass of wine and sought us out….  The way it generally works here…woops …… in our experience here in Naples…. Is that waiters' errors are paid for by the waiters, so it always makes it worth the effort to deliver the wine and get things right.  Not a great arrangement for people on minimum wage - or working for tips!  Excellent for the customer.

So here I am at the crack of sparrows trying to convince my body it has been time-shifted.  Watch this space.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

August 2015 - another blog for the bin?

Clavering is an odd creation and has been stopped and started more times than I care to consider.  Originally begun in 1999, when we bought a home in Naples, to keep people posted as to where we were and what we doing it has gone on doing that  (ad nauseum) every since.  With the possibility of selling our Naples home in sight this may be its death throws. Whether Clavering bites the dust or transforms into something else time will tell.


The last month before we go back to Naples is always a time of building a level of tension for me.  I have been wanting to leave Naples for three years (plus) and, at some level, actually 'dread' the 'going back'.

It is a really lovely place and all that glorious weather during our miserable winters makes this hard for others to accept.  I am not immune to its lure in that sense but I am bored with the fixed life that we have, being bound by owning two houses.  It is incredible really that I have done the same something for fifteen years!!  This is the longest pattern in the whole of my life.  (imagine)  I am now very bored on the other side of the pond and dreadfully homesick.

So, as I was saying, the approach of Naples hung over me for most of this month.

Happily August is also Ken's birthday month, so we arranged a week's break around his day and toddled off to Scotland on the 13th.  He originally wanted to do a week of solid driving up to John O'Groats staying in a different place each night but I persuaded him that this would be exhausting and not very productive in terms of getting to see anywhere.  He then moved on to maybe doing some sailing so we booked a wonderful place in Fearnan, overlooking Loch Tay.

He decided to do an overnight break on the way there in Helensburgh so we could visit The Hill House next day.  On our way to Helensburgh we stopped off at Pollock House. (I seem to be writing this backwards!)

Pollock House is very much one of the National Trust's corporate/wedding venues and it felt and looked exactly like that.  It is three miles outside Glasgow so is a good location for such things.  

We managed to arrive on the day that the electricity had been 'out' and therefore there was no cafe (our main reason for visiting!).  The house had only just opened and with a skeleton staff.  This isn't why we were underwhelmed.  It is the first NT property (I think) that has ever left me joining the debate about why do we want to preserve these houses en masse?  It was in no way unique or beautiful.  Maybe it earns them good money - I do hope so.

I edited out the vans and wedding marquee
On to Helesburgh and our hotel, The Rosslea Hotel.  

It was the usual quintessential Country House Hotel.  Three floors, but no lift.  To be fair our bags were brought up for us - that's not always on offer.  You can have sandwiches in your room twenty-four hours a day but not in the bar after 5.30pm.  You get my drift.  How easy it must have been to write Fawlty Towers.

To be fair it may have been the usual quirky service but it was very pleasant and the staff were excellent and location hard to better, overlooking the Firth of Clyde (Rhu).

The next day, and Ken's birthday, we began our day visiting the overwhelming Hill House.  I chose my adjective carefully.  As a bit of a Rennie and Margaret (MacDonald) Mackintosh fan for many years I was very familiar with images of Hill House.  I loved the designs and total originality of the work in the way that you like any piece of art which pleases you but to stand in those rooms and understand what it was like to have lived in them was a whole other experience.

The images I had seen were a sort of beautiful but sterile landscape of large overly-white spaces; the house, in a way, is nothing like them.  The rooms are human-sized and it feels very much a home - just a uniquely beautiful one.  

Mr and Mrs Blackie were hands-on in every inch of the designs and were as obsessed with detail and functionality as they were with RM's work and the house really was a creation of a lovely workable home for them.  You can feel it in every inch of the place.

Quite an odd approach to the house

The 'prettier' rear of the house

the bedroom is smaller and softer in reality

incredible table

This table is a perfect example of detail.  The small inlay in the centre changes its appearance through the day as the sun moves across the windows.  It looks like mirrors, or mother of pearl, or takes on colours or even looks like glass - just stunning and is one very tiny thing among many such beautiful objects.

the hall

Somehow the rooms don't lend themselves to photography.  The hall is just glorious and much more welcoming and warmer than this.  I get the feeling that all the photos show something sharp, angular and rather cold whereas the reality is much softer.  The warmth of the wood and beautiful fireplace and the way the light is used in every room is gorgeous.

Yes, I know I am raving but it is in hopes that if you have the tiniest interest in Mackintosh you will go and visit the house.  Not many things are a unique experience but this one is.

Onwards to our accommodation for the week - another beautiful place - Tarmachan, Fearnan, Loch Tay.  I commend this to you if you ever need a place around there.

bedrooms downstairs and 'living' areas upstairs to take advantage of the views

our view, our red car and Loch Tay

S & S joined us for a few days and helped us celebrate the old man's (!) birthday with a lovely meal at the Bridge of Lochay.  Ken had been very good and saved his cards and gifts and cake for after dinner back at the apartment.  A very low key 70th (that's us) but very nice.

The next day we were off to hire a boat.  After much searching around we kyboshed that idea, having seen what passed for luxury sailing - not what we imagined.  We did the next best thing and went to eat at The Smiddy in Killin followed by........

The Rannoch Highland Gathering in Welley Poley Park (could it sound any more Scottish).  Great fun.  We bought exciting things like socks and hats and tablet and watched others' exertions.

races round the field at the same time as caber tossing.

Tossing the caber - we thought you had to toss a lump of pole as far as you could - actually you have to flip it and try to land it at 12 o'clock from yourself.  How they lift it is beyond me never mind toss it.  Look at the the 'hill' in the left of the photo - it will feature later.

non-stop highland dancing competitions, yes they are levitating

just about everything piped in and out of the field

the very top of the hill you saw earlier with a couple of people up there

The point of the hill pictures is that there was a hill race.  The top in the above photo is about one sixth of the total height and a fairly long way away from the field.  I have a good long focus on my camera.  The competitors were to run round the field (400 yards), through the village, up the very steep and rough hill and back.  The announcer said twenty minutes - we assumed we had misheard.  23 minutes 59 seconds later a fairly decrepit looking (not young) man ran through the finishing tape.  He was followed closely by another three runners - all of whom were a good way ahead of the rest of the pack.  Bravo to the others who kept going.  We were mightily impressed and munched our tablet in admiration.

Tablet, incidentally, is Scottish fudge.

Even Stuart born and bred east Lothian  said he'd never experienced so much Scottishness in one day.

Glad we never found a boat, this was warmer, drier and much more fun.

The following day it was time to find the obligatory ice cream farm for Ken and my daughter - both ice cream faces.  This was Stewart Tower in Stanley (Perth).  Ken is happy to put in the miles for the proper stuff.  Sitting outside sharing flavours in the sunshine watching the ducks and geese and goats on a farm seemed like a proper holiday!

On to Scone Palace.  Scone pronounced Scoon.  This is a building simply bursting with history of all sorts not least of which was it being the home of Dido Elizabeth Belle (book/film).  Seek out her real story it is an interesting one and helps to remind us that we have some very fixed ideas of about 'how things were back then' and we always need to take into account that not everyone fitted expected patterns of behavior or expectations.

not the real Stone of Scone but then it is believed the real one isn't the real one either!!

S & S left us the next morning and Ken and I drove up to Oban to revisit his old diving haunts of yesteryear.  It is always odd to think that our 'recent' memories are now sometimes thirty plus years old.

No cruise liners in Oban Bay in Ken's day.

We had a bit of a more relaxed day the following day with a trip out to visit Pitlochry and then feet up time.

Wednesday came with a fun trip to a Winery - Cairn O'Mohr Winery and Ciderhouse, East Inchmichael, Errol.  They make wine and cider from every fruit under the sun - well under Highland sun - not to mention oak leaves.  Very good it was too. 


We had one of the best eats of our trip there.  Always amazes me how you get these fantastic cooking couples in the back of beyond - almost un-lauded.  Probably like anyone with talent once they become 'known' it gets spoiled, so maybe not a bad thing some don't.  

huge stainless steel vats everywhere, taps not locked!

Our last day and we just trotted a couple of miles up the road to Bolfracks Garden.

Tranquil pool

This is a large private house and garden.  The garden is open it to all and sundry with a system of trust for paying for your entrance (in a box on the wall) and buying plants (a loose cash box on a table).
the original house (inside this frontage) is 18th century

a detail of the Wendy House

We were at the back end of the season really but the gardens were still lovely in that sad blousy way that August has.  They are certainly a challenge being North facing on a very, very, steep slope overlooking a valley.  The views are incredible, the variety of plants immense, and the gardening challenge - quite something.  A lovely peaceful place to visit, tucked away and not over run with visitors.

This was a very nice way to spend our last day in Loch Tay and we stopped off to say goodbye to the Loch from our private beach!

where did seventy years go?

Our trip home the next day, including a wretched traffic jam for Blackpool and environs and a meal break, took Ken just 5 hours 22 minutes.  Hope the 1200 miles we drove that week filled his lust for driving for a while. 

As we always seem to do we got to the last two weeks of our stay here in Bury with a ton of tasks to tidy up before decamping.  In the main these were boring things like the dentist and minor repairs to house things and the car windshield.  I like to do some 'auditing' of the garden and the dolls house hobby so I don't forget what's what when I get back.  By end of March it has all changed and I can't remember what's what.  

Among all this irritating trivia though we saw friends and ate out as we usually do for our farewell 'fests' and Ken had a great half day riding a Segway round Heaton park with some chums as a belated birthday gift.  They had all done it before in Naples so it was a bit of a contrast in all kinds of ways but they loved it.

My 'ayjed' aunt had her 83rd birthday so we made that out last visit to her before we left.  As she said she 'is blessed'.  There are people who remember her and send cards and gifts and she had us and two other people visit her.  We took gifts and a birthday cake for teatime and wished her well.  She is physically very well but 'confused'.  We are her legal deputies so do see her each week when we are here and have lots of stuff in place for when we are not.

Worse case scenario, if that is my destiny, it isn't too bad from where we are standing.

On that cheerful note I'll leave August and wander off absentmindedly into September.