Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Sort of Fish Story

Fall is definitely here, though you can't prove it by the temperatures. While it is a nice crisply cool 59 degrees in the wee hours of the morning, it really isn't long before the eighty degree temps have risen again. So this morning as we are enjoying our coffee on the front porch and watching the kittens chase each other up the trees, we are thoroughly enjoying the cool of the morning. We know it won't last long. We have been discussing putting up a two bar fence from the front of the property around to the far side. This is something I believe we can do without causing serious injury to the land or each other. I figure Mac can drill the post holes with the auger while I stand back and direct. I am so good at directing. As you all know by now, I am taking a rather strong medication once a week (on Friday nights) and Mac (WTHF) has set forth this new routine to take my mind off how absolutely miserable I feel . On Saturday mornings we walk down to the garden to check out the growth of the collards and see if the sweet peas have grabbed the wire. We of course have to check WTHF's new variety of seasoning peppers (what are we seasoning, hell? These are some hot peppers). We ohh and ahh over the turnips and wonder whether I should have raked them out some. We go down to the woods and see if the deer corn that WTHF (Wallace to his family) has shelled out for the birds (and we throw a few ears out for the deer, as well) has been eaten and needing replenishing. Then we walk back around to the front of the house and around to the willow tree and beyond. So this morning, as we round the corner and walk past the porch, WTHF looks at the Willow tree and then at something lying on the ground. It appears to be about thumb thick and 18 inches long. "What is that?" he asks in a whisper. "What, that? I think it may be a snake," I reply to his query. We continue to look at it and he says, "yeah, I think it's a snake, too" He reaches down and picks up a small limb from the oak tree and throws it in the general direction of the "snake". The "snake" turns his nose up at the little twig that has bounced into his line of vision as if to say, "is that all you've got?" So, WTHF picks up yet another stick and throws it. "OH COME ON, you need a rock or something to make it move on away..." I'm saying, all the time walking closer to where it lay there. "It must be sunning itself," say I and "he needs to go sun himself somewhere else," says he. As I get within a few feet of it, it now makes itself known. It is not a snake. It is not even a worm. It is simply a small willow branch that sunlight and shadows have made to appear much bigger than it actually is. It may be 1/8 an inch in diameter and 6 or 7 inches long. I started laughing at the little willow branch that we had been throwing oak branches at. "Okay, " I told WTHF, "I know how fish tales get started now," "What?" asks he. "Well, you know, when describing the fish that got away, you should say 'it looked this big' when you hold your hands to show how long it was. After this, I might believe you ."

Friday, September 28, 2007

A New Tenor is in Town...prepare to be enthralled

My son was showing me how to put a utube post in because I just love this bit that my friend Jean Weston sent to me. I was watching this man and really didn't think much about it, was just waiting for Simon to blow him up, off or over...then he opened his mouth and started to sing and children, I burst into tears. If you want to see what I am talking about, go to for the thrill of your life. Paul Potts is not what he seems, darlings...I promise.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

There is no Piggly Wiggly in Beaconsfield

We were moving in. The day had finally arrived and I was breathless with excitement. The moving in you have to understand, was much faster than the settling in. It only took a day for them to unload the moving van, but it took me weeks to unpack the boxes and find a place for everything. Also, I found that in this wonderful house we had stumbled across, there was an actual box room. It was more like a huge walk in closet constructed for storage and it was a wonderful thing. It was paneled in cedar, so all the woolens and blankets would be stored in here and be safe from the dreaded moth, something I found was feared here as well as at home. Well, in the States, as this was home for now. I had walked into the small shopping area outside our village to pick up a few things. I found the Wavy Mart, a sort of grocery store where you could find nearly everything. There was Green Grocer next door where you purchased, well, green groceries and fruits. It was here that I found out the common turnip that I wished to purchase was called a Swede . A swede? And my wonderful purple eggplant was an aubergine. The butcher shop was like stepping back into time. (I was used to the large grocery stores with quaint names like "The Piggly Wiggly" and "Bi-Lo" and "Food Lion". You went into one of these mega shops and bought your groceries. Everything. Milk, bread, eggs, meat rice, potatoes...just everything.) Here, there were specialty shops. Now I already knew from my reading of English writers that the German Shepherd was actually called an Alsatian since the Great War. I really didn't understand that, although I did understand why the Royal Family finally picked themselves a British name. Oh, I love the Royal Family, I loved The Queen and the Queen Mum and often stood at the road waiting for the Royal Convoy to come through on the way to or from Windsor. But , in the shops I was learning that while we speak the same language, we don't actually speak the same language. I went into the Tobacco shop to arrange for the delivery of the Daily Mail (I loved that newspaper, mainly because no naked women graced its pages to undermine my authority with my two sons). I called the Dairy to arrange for the Milkman to DELIVER MILK TO THE HOUSE! My God, I had arrived in civilization and I was just discovering the depth of it. Milk delivery. A Milkman. Mr. Gwaltney was his name and he was quite nice. I didn't tell him that his family on the other side of the pond were wealthy meat packers...Gwaltney's Bologna, Hams and Bacon...I was afraid that he would up and leave willy nilly for the states and then who would bring my milk and EGGS, my Lord, did I tell you I had stumbled into civilization? Milk and eggs, delivered to my front door, with a up early to get the milk in because the cream rises to the top and the birds peck through the foil lid to lap the cream. My God I had landed in fairy land. The milk is not Homogenized into a tasteless stream of what otherwise would be white water. I could pour a bit of cream into my morning coffee (alright, I love the Country, I admit it, but give up my morning coffee for tea? Let's get real here. I didn't give up coffee for pregnancy.) And then he closed the deal with informing me he would also deliver Mother's Pride Bread! If not for the fact that we are meat eaters, I would almost never have to leave the house to shop for groceries. I'm telling you, we are the deprived ones here. Why were we so anxious to cut the ties with the Motherland? Were we out of our tiny minds? Please excuse the excitement here, but I think I may be planning a move. My eye is twitching and my heart is pounding. The only think keeping me in my seat is this. Unfortunately I never had a decent cup of coffee outside my own house the entire time we were there. I am afraid there lies a deal breaker. Well, it was a wonderful thought while it lasted. I am quite sure that WTHF is going to be pleased not to be moving again.

It's a Robot World

I saw the neatest thing on Good Morning America, this morning. It seems we are about to become a Robot nation, and I think I could deal with some of it. There was this one robot who had big puppy eyes that really looked sorrowful. He was pleading with those baby blues (yeah, really, blue eyes) to put him to work. He had long arms which could be used to get things off a high shelf, or bend over to put things on a low shelf. I'm not sure if he could run the vacuum cleaner, but I'm thinking if you hitched him up to a wagon, there would be some powerful vacuuming going on. He could hold a dust cloth (or dust rag in our southern vernacular, dust rag, wash rag, drying rag...they were all rags because our people refuse to throw anything away. We were recycling long before recycling became fashionable). I'm not sure if he could dust the finer porcelain items on my whatnot shelves, I might have to do that myself, but he could certainly dust the coffee tables, the TV screen, and other flat surfaces that are no, decorated with all my lovely things. Hmm, now he is rolling those baby blues, do I really want one more thing in here that rolls it's eyes? You know, not only my children are prone to eye rolling, the man of the house and couple of the cats are eye rollers, too. My favorite Bill Cosby line was always, "don't you roll those eyes at me (muttering beneath breath, I'll roll that little head). No, no eye rollers wanted here. And I have a sneaking suspicion it may be a whiner, too. Can't bear whining, or something else I have to pick up after. So, the other robot is for people who are interested in their health. I'm interested in my health, else why do I take that suitcase load of medicine everyday? This robot takes the information you feed into its' memory, like what you had for breakfast , then it breaks it down into caloric value, fat value and cholesterol value. To start out, you put what you had for breakfast into it. Okay, here goes, 1 slice whole wheat toast 1/2 teaspoon butter, 1 teaspoon sugarfree jelly, 1 cup coffee, 2 teaspoons skim milk, 1 boiled egg. Uh huh. Then the amount of exercise you have done for that morning. It breaks that down into how many calories burned and how much weight loss you can expect after four weeks. So, here goes. Ran 2 miles, 1 mile up road, 1 mile back. Worked out on exercise machine for 20 minutes. Vacuumed living room because lazy robot claims he doesn't have any legs to work machine. (I told you, it's a whiner. I hate whiners. Okay, sure, I ate nothing, and worked like a fiend and it's not even 9 am? So what if , just what if, now, I put the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in the health robot...ok, plate of grits, with butter, 3 strips bacon, 1 fried egg, 1 biscuit with tablespoon of honey. Grab another biscuit, that one was so good with honey, lets try the new pear jam that Joanne made. Oh yeah, baby, now that is good. Okay, so now to enter the exercise I got since getting out of bed this out of bed. Turned on tv. Turned on coffee pot. Wandered around kitchen looking for new bag of cat food so I can feed them and shut them up. Sat on edge of couch, yawning and attempting to keep eyes open while coffee maker drips at least one cup of coffee into the pot, steal first cup of coffee (man that's strong) from pot, lean against wall and wonder why I'm up at 6 a.m. So what have I accomplished since getting up? I've contemplated putting in my home one more thing to take care of (I can just see that robot helper now with bursitis and a headache) and something else to lie to about my healthy life style. Why import a robot to lie to when I lie to myself so well?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Moving Day

The day finally came that our house was vacant, not one piece of furniture was left in. We held the key and now only waited for the furniture shipment to arrive. Before it left Norfolk, Virginia I had carefully gone over each and every box that was packed and with a permanent marker identified each box and what room it was packed in. That insured me against finding kitchen boxes in the bedroom and bathroom boxes in the kitchen. I had learned this the hard way on a previous transfer. When I was complaining to my mother about having to move boxes from one room to another, she gave me that handy little tip and it served me well. We had gone into the now empty house and looked around. The sweetest note from the former tenants enjoined us to have a good time and not let the days slip away without exploring our surroundings. It was getting closer to Christmas and I was anxious to get a tree and start decorating, but we still had about a week before we could do that. We had the power to the house put in our name, opened a bank account at Lloyd's Bank, made arrangements to have the phone turned on...there was so much to do before the arrival of the furniture, that I knew in no time at all the days would go by and we'd be settled in. We priced the live trees in the village, picked up a few things for the house and then returned to the Lodge. I was getting so excited about the prospect of moving into the house within the week, that I found myself getting very little sleep. My mind was busy doing what my grandmother called "wind work". I had unpacked and placed every piece of furniture where I wanted it, but only in my mind! Mac (WTHF) kept asking me if I was alright, that I looked tired. Well, I guess I was tired, what with all the work I was putting in and accomplishing nothing! The day finally arrived for the furniture to be delivered and I was so happy. We had arranged for the boys to take their new bus route that afternoon. I was still trying to get use to the sun being down by about 4 pm (or earlier). You know after a few weeks of nothing but a bedroom with TV to live in, the very thought of an entire house to explore was making me giddy. The day was here and the truck pulled up and you would have thought it was Christmas already. I poured over the boxes being brought in as though I had never seen their contents before in my life. Box after box was brought in, then the furniture began to come off the truck. My own bed. My own pillows. Now, anyone can tell you that vacations are great, but getting home and into your own bed lets you know you are home. I saw my bed being taken up the stairs and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was home. For at the very least, three years, this was going to be home and I knew in my heart that I was going to love it! You know, my son has all our pictures and he is putting them on cd's for us. As soon as I can, I will post pictures of the house and the village. Some of you have asked if we enjoyed our time there and if I'd do it again. The answer is yes and in a skinny minute. My dream is to return one day, dragging a certain Kari with me...oh, she would be so at home, there.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The magic Roundabout

Okay everyone, where was I? Oh yes, we had found a house (but weeks before we can move in, availability and furniture arrival prohibits immediate occupancy) bought a car and enrolled the kids in school. Looking back, it seems we did all that in record time. Did I have a minute to catch my breath and take a look around? Well, yes of course, but time seemed to pass by so quickly and I couldn't take in enough. This was after all the country I had been reading about all my life. Charles Dickens London, that was what I wanted to see, I wanted to see Big Ben and the Tower of London, where the Little Princes reportedly died a horrible death at the hands of their power hungry Uncle Richard. I wanted to see the moors and Yorkshire. I wanted to see it all, and luckily I had time to do that. I wanted to drive on the M-40 and the M-4. I wanted to drive fast and do it legally. We had now been in country for several weeks, our Thanksgiving was coming up (last Thursday in November) and we were not going to be in our house for that, we would be eating in a restaurant, again. I never thought I would get sick of eating out, but I found that we all wanted a home cooked meal of something that tasted like home. I had a five pound bag of grits in my furniture shipment and was thinking how great the wonderful British bacon would taste with a side order of grits and butter. The people living in our house were due to vacate the second week in December, and till then I filled my time with sightseeing close by. We drove out into the countryside every weekend. We always took a different direction and then finally one weekend we drove into Beaconsfield to get to know our village. What a beautiful quaint little village it was. It reminded me so much of Canada, in that it was so clean. No litter on the ground, the yards (or gardens as they were called) cleanly kept, no leaves littering the pristine green grass. The windows on the houses sparkled as though they had just been washed. In many cases, this was it exactly, as I would find out later. We had discovered the round-abouts, which I guess you could call a traffic circle. There were so few traffic lights that I can't remember seeing any, actually. I'm sure there were, I just don't remember them. The great thing about the round-abouts is if you miss your turn, you just go around till you come back to it. Of course sometimes I got stuck on the round about for about five minutes because it seemed impossible to get over in the right lane in time. (This was before cell phones where you could call home and say, "don't wait dinner, I'm still stuck in the round about, be there when I get I there") One day we decided to take a drive to Covington and came across this round about that was designed in hell. It took all my navigating skills to get us through it and I almost lost my religion several times (this is swearing til the air is blue) . I became quite adept at yelling "NOW". You see, this round about had three adjacent round abouts and they were all hooked up in the middle so that you got off one, onto another then off that one and into yet another round about. Hence the term Magic Roundabout. It's magic if you can ever get out of it and onto the main road again. I'm not sure, but I think the Romans may have engineered this particular traffic appendage as a means of torture for the natives. Sort of an "in your face" take that for all the trouble they were given. I figure they must have been given all grades of trouble, for the Romans went home and left the Britons to their own devices, did they not? And while the round abouts are a little difficult to get used to, it makes so much sense. No traffic lights to eat up power. No long waits at lights wasting gas (petrol) and clogging the atmosphere with fumes. Less time on the road since you are not sitting waiting at a traffic light. With all this talk of high gas prices, (and really, we Americans don't know what high gas prices are! We paid 6 dollars a gallon while we lived over there when we bought it on the economy, and that was 1979-1983...)I think we should re -engineer all our roads over here to include round abouts. Look at all we would save. Look at all the earth would save. Guess it just goes to show, Mother really does know best.

It's Not Just for Children Anymore

I've been talking about blogging ever since...well, ever since my son explained to me what it was, how it was done, and showed me how to work up my own blogspot. I'm no computer whiz by any stretch of the imagination. But, like a car, I know how to steer and where the gas and brake pedals are. Once you get those basic properties under your belt, you're sitting on go. You don't have to know how to take a computer apart, put it back together (with no pieces left over) or build one from scratch. That's what I have WTHF for. He can do all that. All I need to know how to do is follow instructions. That's pie simple. I can do that. I have designed my own blog site with just one simple, and boom! I'm on my way. What do you do on a blog spot you ask? Well, it's like having a pen pal, only better. Do you have a digital camera? Take pictures of what is nearest and dearest to your heart, post it in your blog, talk about it, encourage others to comment on your thoughts or dreams. You make friends, like when you were in school and had pen pals from all over the world. Only, you don't have to compute the proper postage, put it in the mailbox and then wait for weeks for a reply to your letter. It could take so long sometimes that by the time your letter about what you did on Christmas vacation was answered, Easter break was over. No, this is almost instantaneous. You check out other blogs, getting the sites from friends or the newspaper blogsite( , and just go for it. Your new bloggie buddies will be from all over the world. You get an insight into what other people are thinking and feeling on the topics of the day, see what they are doing to make their lives busy and meaningful, share with others about your life and what makes you tick. The amazing thing is what you learn. You learn that people are the same all over. They want the same things, strive for the same things, long for the same things. So I know an awful lot of you have computers, most of you are on the internet, maybe you have a bit of time to fill and thoughts to share. Alright then, lets get this show on the road...lets go blogging!

Friday, September 21, 2007


There is something so peaceful about the image of a two lane dirt road, a scattering of pine trees out in the middle of a grass choked field, an old wood frame house, porch sagging with the weight of years. You can imagine a sweet faced collie lying by the steps listening for his master to come out the front door. You hear the squeaking hinges as the screen door is pushed open, an old man with worn but clean overalls comes out, lights his pipe, admiring the day as the screen slams shut behind him. The smell of biscuits baking in the oven of an old iron stove waft out like a beckoning finger through the open window , the grits bubbling on the hottop surface , some sidemeat frying in the pan. The old woman watches her old man through the window, admiring him as he admires the day. She plans in her mind what they will talk about as they sit at their little table and eat the most glorious meal of the day. She smiles as he turns to look in at her, his eyes still twinkling after all these years. He calls her honey because there is nothing sweeter in the world and (she) is the best medicine for what ails him. She calls him Darling because that is the secret name she has called him in her heart since the first day they met. Yet neither of them have spoken a word. They have been so long together that they finish each others sentences. They have been so long together that they don't have to speak at all. She knows that after he finishes his breakfast he will clear the plates from the table and take any scraps (which she insures there are) out to his old dog who he loves almost as much as he loves her. And she isn't jealous of that love because a man who can love his dog is a good man. If he loves his dog, he'll love his family. Or at least that is what she thinks. She is sometimes wrong, but she doesn't feel she is wrong on this one. After he has eaten the ambrosia she has prepared for him,he'll pick up his old cane pole and call to the dog and they'll be off to the creek for a bit of morning fishing. The bees buzz lazily at the flowers on the lantana which blooms by the porch. Soon they will move on to taste the nectar of the roses and then sip at the tomato vines. There is something peaceful about an old two lane dirt road in the heat of a South Carolina day. War is far away, and while thoughts may turn to it, for this morning at least, it won't interfere.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Ghost Story

The Tudor Lodge is a lovely old hotel that started life as a manor house, then a hotel, became a Hospital during several wars, including WWI, then back to a hotel again. We knew we were not going to be put up in a 4 star hotel, but I've read some of the recent reviews of the Tudor Lodge and I hardly think it deserves some of the awful comments that were made about it. The staff when we were there were always helpful and eager to tell us about the history of the place. That is what I found to be the most enjoyable, the history of the Tudor Lodge. We had a wing of the hotel to ourselves, with two rooms and a set of stairs leading down to the dining room. They only served breakfast, but what a plus that was for a young family getting kids off to school. They offered several selections of cereals, including Wetabix, which our older son, Wallace, really liked. They had Marmite, a bread spread that apparently is an acquired taste (which we never, any of us, acquired) and the best bacon in the world. The first time I asked for bacon and eggs and they brought out these lovely scrambled eggs and two slices of what looked like wide thin strips of ham, I wasn't sure they had understood my order. I was assured by the young lady who delivered the plates to the table that this was, indeed, bacon. The toast, made from Mother's Pride Bread, I believe, was also bigger than the slices of bread we're used to at home. So, the boys had a good breakfast before leaving for school every morning and we were quite happy with the hotel accommodations. Every night, we would watch the news (hoping for good news on the hostage situation) then we'd watch the BBC. One of the first shows I found I enjoyed was Dad's Army. But WTHF kept saying, "what did he say?" and I had to translate. I work with accents very well, I grew up with Ricky and Lucy on TV and at dad is from Ecuador and so his attempts at English pronunciation rivaled those of Ricky Ricardo's, and my mother was every bit as zany as Lucille Ball. So, I would translate and WTHF finding the line funny would laugh. The boys didn't have to hard a time picking up on the language, it was after all, basically the same as the language they already spoke. But more on that later. One morning after getting the boys up for school, Michael was telling me that I didn't have to check in on them in the middle of the night. I told him that I hadn't been and immediately came the description of the lady in the long white dress whose hair was put up funny (being no hair dresser, my hair was often "put up funny"). So, I told them maybe it was someone with the hotel. I was sitting in the dining room enjoying my coffee and the Daily Mail after getting the boys on the bus. One of the Hotel managers came over and asked how everything was going, if we were enjoying our stay and what had I planned for the day. I was gracious in my compliments because frankly, they were gracious hosts and I was enjoying my stay quite a lot. I happened to mention that Michael had seen some lady checking in on him and the lady's face went absolutely white. She told me that there were stories about a Nurse who haunted that wing of the hotel (remember, the hotel had been a hospital in several wars) but she had never actually seen her, just heard the stories. I wondered if she was concerned that we might think someone was sneaking in the room at night for some nefarious reason, but that really wasn't the case at all. I knew that everyone who worked in the hotel knew that we would be there for several weeks and really did think it was just an employee checking on the children. This was, of course, before the disappearance of children became an everyday event to scare every parent world wide. But later on, I found that the other employees were eager to talk of the "Lady in White" with someone who didn't appear to think it was a laughing matter. A couple of the ladies had actually seen her in the room the boys slept in and were never frightened by her. She always seemed to be bending over as though adjusting blankets, according to them. So I decided I was right all along, someone was checking on the children, making sure they were alright. I can remember standing in the middle of the room and looking around, hoping I would see her. I told her thank you, can never have too many eyes checking on the welfare of your children.

All I want for Christmas is a Mercedes Benz

You know, I really don't like bumming rides with people. If they are not traveling my way, I don't want them to have to go out of their way, is what it is. I guess it's a holdover from childhood. So, here we are in this beautiful country of England. It is so green, I am told. I wouldn't know, I have only seen it from the train. I love the train. But it is hard to find a place to live just traveling by train. I know, I know, you guys have been doing it for years, but you don't understand. We are born with steering wheels in our hands and I felt as though mine had must been surgically detached. I felt deprived. So, I announced to Mac (Wallace to his family, WTHF) that we should check out the want ads for a car. Surprisingly, he agreed. We had been in the country for over a week now and one of the men WTHF worked with was taking us to see a couple of houses that had become available for rent. He kept asking us, you're sure you don't want to live in base housing? I was standing behind him shaking my head so hard I think I dislocated a disc. WTHF got the point. "No, no...she's determined to live on the Economy, so lets go see a couple of these houses. Two were in High Wycombe and one in Beaconsfield. We went to see the houses in High Wycombe and they were fine, really. But then I saw the house in Beaconsfield and fell in love. It was a two story brick with a detached garage, laundry room on back of the garage...but I could deal with that. It had large leaded glass windows, a lovely little front porch with night blooming Jasmine growing up the pointed brick. The foyer led to the living room and dining rooms on the right, the kitchen straight ahead and the stairs led up to three bedrooms and a lovely bathroom. Under the stairs was the powder room, I had never had a powder room before, and I tell you this, if I could transport that house by thought right now, I'd been living in it still. Brenda and Mark were living in it at the time, and the house wouldn't be available to move into until December 15th. Just when I had convinced myself that we'd not have a tree or decorations that year, the possibilities were endless. Our new address would hopefully be Orchard Cottage on Cherry Tree Lane, and it was aptly named. The curve of the lane was lined with cherry trees, although not in bloom at the time, in fact, not even in leaf...We had to drive to the Lake District to meet the owner and sign a lease. She was an American who had married a European and now a widow, had settled in Beaconsfield for a time. She worked for the RAF and had to move when she received a promotion, so was at this time renting the house till she could retire. Lucky us. The back garden was rather large, and had a "wendy house" which Brenda and Mark were using as a shed. A Wendy House is a play house for children, named for Peter Pan's Wendy. It had a green house, and I tell you I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The rent wasn't outrageous, in fact less than the two we had looked at in High Wycombe. We found that the children, who were settled in school at West Ruislip, would still be attending the same school, so all was well. We had a house. Now all we needed was a car. The second weekend we took the train into London and just walked about looking at the shops and getting a feel for the city. We stopped in at a pub and got a light lunch, I had a glass of sherry with mine, WTHF had a Guinness, the boys a shandy. You know I think we had lived there two years before I realized that shandy's were lemonade and ale. We picked up a paper and read the want ads, looking for a car. The first thing we found out about the papers in England was a few of them had what was termed a "page 3". On page 3 was a barely clothed young lady, always a different one. Michael, our youngest, was the one who announced at breakfast in the hotel the first morning, "hey Mom, there's a naked lady in my newspaper." To say I was shocked is to understate the situation, to say the least. But anyway, we found an ad for a Mercedes Benz, 10 years old, only driven on Sunday's by a little old lady from Pasadena. Well, not really, but that is what the ad indicated. Gently used. The car was lovely, the price was right and we purchased it and a map. After all, we now had to find our way back to Eastcote and our hotel. Good thing I was a navigator in a past life, or we'd still be trying to find that darned hotel! More adventures will be forthcoming. I promise.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sandi Takes Eastcote

I couldn't wait to get to London and take some walking tours (and ride a double decker bus and oh oh, a London Taxi). I was pretty adventurous, but couldn't take the chance of not being at the hotel when the boys school bus (I still can't get the image of that very comfy red and silver school bus out of my head) discharged their young passengers. So, map in hand I spent the first few days walking about Eastcote and talking to the villagers. Everyone I spoke to had relatives in the US and as I was told exactly what city in what state on what highway, I nodded as though I knew exactly where that was, as these wonderful people expected I should. I always ended up at Bernie's Inn drinking that delightful glass of coffee and chatting with the waitresses. (Yes, glass of coffee...a tall fluted glass of coffee topped with double cream...oh the thrill of it.) The one problem my mother always complained about with me was that I never met a stranger. Now a days that could be very dangerous, and maybe even as I grew up, but I was lucky for the most part. After exploring the town one day I came across an Italian restaurant called Antonio's and determined that we would try it out that night. While Bernies was fantastic, you can only eat steak so many times a week and my kids didn't even like steak. One of the waitresses became so concerned about Wallace's (Jr) apparent revulsion of meat that she made him a dish of Mac and cheese and brought it to work with her one night. Her name was Doris and the look on my son's face was a marvel to behold. Here was Mac and Cheese and I think it was the first time he had been full since we arrived. That weekend we found the Wimpy's and I ate the worst hamburger I had ever eaten. There was an unavoidable taste and odor of fish about the meat that I just couldn't get over. The boys thought it was fantastic, though. The next time we went in I ordered fried chicken strips and they ordered, of course, hamburgers and fries ("I'll gladly pay you Wednesday if you'll buy me a hamburger today " was Wimpy's anthem). Anyway, so I order the chicken strips and cutting into the first piece, find it is quite simply black on the inside. I raised shocked eyes to Mac (WTHF) and said "what kind of chicken is this?" He looked at my plate and said (the brute was laughing at my discomfort) "why, I believe that's yard bird and they left the yard in". Well, I ate my salad and pushed the chicken around the plate and the waiter came over to check on our progress. He saw that I had not eaten a morsel of chicken and very concerned began to cluck over me and remove the plate and bring me yet another portion of the same chicken. When I cut into it, of course it too was black in the center. Now, he was bound and determined that I was going to enjoy my meal so he whips THAT plate off the table and returns with ANOTHER PLATE OF CHICKEN STRIPS. Okay, I have it figured now, so I take a napkin and wrap the chicken within it and taking another napkin dab lightly at my lips. "Ah, Madam finds this to be to her liking?" he asks. Pretending to swallow, I say, "yes, that really was quite unusual." We left the restaurant and WTHF was bent double with laughter. "Where would Madam care to partake of lunch, now?" he asked, still laughing. "Just take me to Bernies, " I demanded, "I need a glass of coffee."

The Late Great Edith Douglas

When I was about fourteen we lived across the highway from my Great Uncle Gary and his wife, my Great Aunt Edith. Aunt Edith was what people in those days would call a fragile beauty. She was very much into her Church duties, loved gardening (flowers) and was the first woman I ever remember seeing wear gloves in her flower gardens. My mother had gloves, she just didn't wear them. She couldn't, she would say, feel the root of the weed she was pulling with gloves on. Aunt Edith had small perfect little hands with oval nails that were always clean, her cuticles were never broken, that I remember. She was very fond of Gladiolas, and had several beds of them. She would prepare a bouquet of flowers to sit on the table in front of the Minister's dais so that he would appear to be framed by pink and orange glads as he gave his sermon. (It's funny how I can remember her flowers more than I can remember what the minister preached about.) I don't think I ever remember anything in spring and summer but Glads, and Christmas was decorated with the tree and wreathes. But the gladiolas linger in my minds eye like a bridal veil... a shimmering mist just out of reach. Uncle Gary was a business man, he had a seed company. Douglas Seed Company, it was called. He would have to go out of town on business trips and Aunt Edith, not liking to be alone, would ask my mother if I could stay the night with her. She had a beautiful home, a split level house and a grand piano on a level all its on. Her son, Gary (Jr) could play so beautifully and she was so proud of him. The first time I stayed set the pattern. I would go over to her house when I had finished my homework, around four pm. I would knock on her kitchen door at the carport and she would have a tea party all set up. She showed me the proper way a young lady should hold a tea cup and we had ladies fingers and Earl Grey. Lemon, no sugar. Her voice was soft and sweet and I always felt she didn't feel quite a part of the family for some reason. There was, I don't mean aloofness, but an apartness from the rest of the family (my grandparents and her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law) that I felt, rather then knew with a certain knowledge. It wasn't a rudeness. It was a shyness. We reached out to each other and I grew to love her so very much. Her health was poor for as long as I can remember. But I can still see her arriving at Church with her flower arrangement in hand, a pretty little hat on her soft grey curls, cheeks pink her tinkling laugh and her mink scarves decorating her suit jacket, tiny little feet encased in soft leather pumps. Sometimes Missy, her cocker spaniel would be with her, if the morning was cool. I used to think that she loved that dog as much as any human. Maybe more than some. All I know is that I can never see Gladiolas and not think of her. She lives in my heart as surely as she walked the earth. I never heard her raise her voice, or saw her raise her hand to any living creature. She was just who she was, the ideal of a young girl.

We're Not in Kansas anymore...

It was November the fourth (1979) and we had arrived at our new Duty Station in London, England. It hadn't taken us long to get through Customs and into the main area of Heathrow Airport. I had read about Heathrow for years, in fact I had read some of the main authors from this country for as long as I can remember. I had started with Kipling and Dickens as a child, moved on to Agatha Christie and the Bronte sisters. I wrote my term paper on Chaucer and the first poem I had committed to memory was Elegy Written in A Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray. I felt overwhelmed with emotions, it was so like coming home that I could feel my soul rejoicing. We walked over to a line of people holding up placards with names on them and saw one with Mac's name on it (CPO W. McBride and family). The Command had sent someone to pick us up and deliver us to our hotel and give us some background on how we would settle in. Our hotel was The Tudor Lodge in a town called East cote, in South Bucks. It was a mere train ride away from the offices where Mac would be working in London proper. We were given a folder with all the details that would make our life easier, train schedules, station locations and then the awful news that during our flight, the American Embassy in Iran had been overrun by terrorists and our Diplomats taken hostage. No Uniforms were to be worn outside the actual workplace, only civilian clothes were to be worn to and from work. It was a lot to take in, but our shock contained, we managed to keep the worst of it away from the boys. We settled in our hotel for what turned out to be nearly six weeks. Young Wallace had to be taken to the US Embassy to seek medical care for an ear infection the first full day there. It took us about three days to get used to the time change, but once that was over, everything else went well. We located the school the boys would be attending and got them registered. We found that the school bus (it looked more like a luxury coach, and it certainly wasn't yellow) stopped just outside the hotel to pick them up. I spent my first day alone, what with kids in school and WTHF at work, exploring the hotel, (which had been turned into a hospital during 3 or four wars) and the town of Eastcote. We had had supper the first night at a restaurant called Bernies Inn...they had the most wonderful coffee with double cream...I made my way there to have coffee and toast. I found Boots Chemists and WH Smith's right off the bat. Funny how that works, give me a drug store and book store and I am perfectly content! I bought a newspaper and began looking for a place for us to live. We had a tentative furniture delivery date of December 19th, so we did indeed have time to look and didn't have to take the first place we saw. We didn't want to live in housing, we wanted to live in the Economy (with English people, not in an American complex) so I concentrated my efforts in places near to London, and where the boys would continue school where they had started. Other than the horrific news of what was happening in Iran, the move was going well. The people were so warm and welcoming that it made our stay that much more pleasant. There was very little cultural difference, after all, we were now in the Motherland...what could be different? More than we had anticipated, it turns out...but nothing insurmountable, to be sure. Although I wondered if we would ever master the intricacies of the roundabouts, I was more concerned about learning to drive on the wrong (well, wrong to us) side of the road. Traffic didn't seem to be too much of a concern. But I had yet to see London.
You Lift Me Up Award The "You Lift Me Up" award is going to be my creation, with the Moonflower on my porch as the inspiration. I got up and went to my blogging friends and saw what you had wrought. Kari at Just Living Large as usual had me holding my sides laughing at her manic coverage of the symptoms of Menopause. Where was she when I was deep in anxiety, night sweats and depression? Too young to notice...but now she is opening the eyes of everyone around her...I think they are happy...Sophie at Sophie Honeysuckle and Jayne at Country Cottage Chic always seem to know just what to say...Sandy at Dream Create and Inspire has the lovely paintings up to show the world and Sandy at the Whistlestop is always cooking up comfort food. Mary, at Mary Mary Fairly Contrary proves that you can rise above your heartbreak...It was such a hard choice that I finally said, dang it, they all lifted me ladies, drum roll here...On this the 18th of September, 2007 the You Lift Me Up award goes to the following: Kari, Jayne, Sophie, Sandy, Mary and Sandi...thank you, my friends.
And here is a breakdown of their websites so you can see what I'm talking about!
and last but not least

Monday, September 17, 2007

Career Choices and how we landed in England

While I was lying down today I started thinking about all the things we did when we were first married, all the traveling and moving and how much fun it was. How scary it was. How thrilling it was. I'm not sure it was quite so much fun for the kids, what with all the school changes they had to go through, but as I had lots of that as a kid, too, at least I could commiserate with them. I think the most thrilling move of all was the transfer to England. We had a choice, you see. We could transfer to Naples (Italy) or London (England) and WTHF theory was if we moved to England, at least we would be where we speak the same language. Uh huh. At the time we had a white German Shepard (Alsatian in UK English) named Lady and a Siamese cat name Pyewackit (III). Lady went to be trained as a drug sniffing dog (this law enforcement thing, it's even in the pet's blood, you see). My friend Allison down the street from us in Norfolk (Virginia, not England) had begged to take Pye and know I cried over them like I was abandoning my children. But with the quarantine laws, there wasn't much else I could do. The packing up was easy, I just packed suitcases with the proper attire and put those in a closet. The packers came and packed everything else. As I found out when the furniture arrived at the house in Beaconsfield (Bucks), that included the trash that was in the trash can. Thank heavens I have sense enough not to put perishables in the trash, or a match might have to have been lit. We left for the new tour (in case you've forgotten, WTHF was in the Navy, not a rock band) from Montgomery, Alabama Airport, flew to Atlanta and got out in New York at Kennedy. Keep in mind that my husband did not join the Air Force for a very simple reason. He hates to fly. I found out later that he was working very hard behind the scenes to see if he could catch a ship headed that way, leaving the kids and me to the mercies of Delta Airlines. Luckily for him, that strategy fell through. I would have hated to be in his shoes if he had succeeded. So we arrive in New York and the airport that you always see in films is not the busy place you would imagine. At least, not at 2 in the morning. The only person we saw was some guy in a rain coat selling post cards. Not very nice post cards, either. Our plane didn't leave New York until about 9 that morning, and we did what we could to kill time, napped, read, looked around for some place to grab a bite to eat. Avoided the strange little man in the raincoat. Wallace, our older son, was 8 years old and Michael was 7. They were very well behaved little boys and gave me no trouble. I find that most military kids are that way. They were excited about the move, but a little afraid, too, I think. I'm afraid that I was so wrapped up in getting everything done, what with the packing up of household and all, that I didn't ask them about how they felt. I should have. Their input was important and while their concerns couldn't have much input into where Mac's career lead him, it was important that we listen. I like to think that we did. We didn't want them to worry, so we always put a good face on everything, no matter what it was. When we finally boarded the plane that would take us to Heathrow, we were all so excited. How odd it was to step off that plane in a totally different country and yet still feel so much at home. More on England tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

How to Cheer up when you feel like hell

Okay, it was a rough night. I didn't sleep much, but have become accustomed to that, so it's really no big deal. I'll get a great nap on the couch watching the chronic news channel (CNN) about three pm. I'll sleep for half and hour and then feel refreshed and maybe watch a movie. So Mac (WTHF) assisted me from a prone position to one on my feet and insisted that I would feel better if we went to the flea market before church. In between my moaning and groaning, I agreed on one condition...if it's all new crap and I don't feel good we just go home period. Flat Out. He promised. Besides which, I have my own set of keys, it's my truck and if I get ready to ride, he best climb on board, cause the engine is leaving the station. We got to Mount Croghan, where the flea market has been for at least several decades (well, at least 2 that I know of). I had put on my good walking shoes and grabbed my cane and off we went. Feeling hopeful, I took two bags that my buddy Joanne had given me (she gave me a huge sackful of these great bags with handles, you know the kind you pay good money for in department stores?). We hit the first vendor and I hit paydirt. I promise you, we had to turn around and go back to the truck to unload my bags before we could finish going through everything. We spent an hour walking and looking and shopping and then I gave out. I still had 2 dollars clutched in my hot little hand, but was too wiped out to spend it. I considered just throwing it at someone, but resisted that urge. I found teapots and pictures and just wonderful items, which you shall soon see, I'm providing photo's of all...or most anyway...I love the teapot/cup combo...I can fix myself a cup of tea just about any time. Anyway, I'm glad WTHF made me go, it really did do me good. I am very hopeful that tomorrow won't be the living hell that most Monday's are. Maybe WTHF needs to take me shopping? These pictures don't want to go where I want them to, so dog gone it, I'll just leave them where they are...that kitty is Peanut...we call him the Crazy Concorde Cat...our friend Craig surprised us with him a year ago...he hasn't gotten much bigger, since...he like the computer.
The next picture is of a cheese pot, a teapot and a handpainted vase made in Italy...I paid a grand total of $3.00 a buck each...
Well, the rest is sort of self explanatory, suffice it to say I went there with 30 dollars, came home with 2 and these are pictures of only about half what I found. I'll do the rest later. Good grief I'm tired. See you tomorrow....thanks for all the kind thoughts and well wishes...

Friday, September 14, 2007


This is that special red letter day I call OMGIF...tonight is the night I get to take those five little pills that are meant to stop my Rheumatoid Arthritis in its tracks. I've been taking it for six weeks now, and I think maybe I'm seeing some improvement. The stiffness upon arising in the morning doesn't hang around the usual hour, I can now make a fist and release it (and anyone with arthritis knows exactly what I mean) in about 10 minutes, now. I remember the first time I bent a finger then had to use the other hand to lift the finger back to the straight ahead position, how funny it was. I was in my early forties then and it didn't happen often. It seemed to me to be just a quirky little thing my finger had decided to do every blue moon. It was about that same time that I noticed a distinct soreness in my left shoulder. Didn't last long, I simply did some little exercises to unfreeze it and Bob's your uncle, it was all cleared up. When I turned fifty I was still able to jump out of bed with a bound. Now just a couple years later and I feel like I have been bound when trying to roll out of bed. There is much grumbling going on because this hasn't gotten any easier. So, those 5 little pills. I will stand and look at them lying so harmlessly in my hand while Mac draws me a glass of water. Tomorrow won't be so bad, but Sunday's are rough. Monday's I go from the bed to the couch and that's my day. I may struggle in to read some of my favorite bloggers, because I need to laugh. All of you guys have your own style of comedy and so I have decided that Monday, while I am lying like a zombie on the couch, I am going go make myself get up to participate in the weekly Just Living Large Menopause Marathon. I refuse to let 5 little pills beat me down. I am woman, hear me roar...well, maybe not roar, a good strong meow may have to do. This is a form of Chemo Therapy and so I go to Society Hill every two weeks to get blood work done. (Don't you just love that name? It was supposed to be the capitol of South Carolina before Columbia took that distinction.) So when I go in this morning I see it is Attila the Hun who is in the lab. She scares me. She always asks what I need blood work done for. This is my fourth trip and she has been the one doing the job 3 times out of four now. I prepare myself for blood work. I don't look at the person doing the procedure at all. I turn my head and look at the wall and talk to the phlebotomist in joking terms like "so how's Dracula and all the little vampires this morning?" and carry on small talk. Then she announces "little prick here" and I always wonder if it's a comment on her personality or the actual pain she is about to inflict. I have to say in her defense she always gets that darned vein in one stab. Stab is the operative word here. When I leave I am careful to let my arm remain straight (bending the elbow in a tight position causes bruising)when I am leaving the clinic. The little gauze pad she has plastered over the hole she made is deep red with blood before I can get to the truck. Coward that I am the last time I had blood work done 2 weeks ago, there were two of them in the lab and I actually begged the other one "don't let her be the one to jab me". Bless her, she protected me and there was no excessive bleeding. I told Mac this morning, "you know, I think she may be using a ball point pen," as I uncovered the wound in my arm. I would watch her carefully to see what it is she does, but I don't like the sight of my own blood. It makes me queasy. So, until then, I look forward to reading your blogs and seeing who's the craziest one out there and prepare an award of my own design. It'll probably have something to do with a cat, don't you think? So be funny. And spelling counts.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Visions of Cedar Trees dance in my head

On October the 15th this year, Mac (Wallace to his family) and I will celebrate the 39th year of our marriage vows. Yes, 39 years ago he swore love and fidelity to me and I to he. It is a first and only marriage for both of us. We've had our ups and downs like everyone else who participates in this game we call life in double harness. Sometimes he pulls a bit harder to take up my slack, sometimes I pull that much harder to make up for it. Marriage isn't so much fifty -fifty as it is give and take. I can hear some of the men out there making snide comments about "yeah, he gives, she takes" and if they aren't miserable yet, they soon will be. Give and take works for both of us. Sometimes I give and he takes sometimes he gives and I take. As my mother would have said, it all comes out in the wash. Marriage is hard work and there is no Chairman of the Board, and no one gets stock options. Ideally money is pooled and shared by the family, some gets put in savings, bills get paid and wants are fulfilled. Over the years I have found that in small matters and large, sometimes it's better to give in than to give up. What holds a marriage together? A large tube of super glue that I call a sense of humor. You know for the first year of our marriage I made it a point to be up, dressed and in full makeup before he got up to get ready to leave for work. I had a big breakfast cooked and on the table (even when all I wanted was a cup of coffee and piece of toast). Of course since he was in the Navy, he was generally at sea six months of every year, but still. I stood before that mirror and carefully applied the basic warpaint that kept the face he had fallen in love with, well, basically the same. I'm not sure when I noticed that he stopped shaving on days he wasn't on duty. It was about the time that I noticed, that I began to appear at breakfast with a clean scrubbed face, no powder, no mascara no lipstick no eyeliner. At first it was just once or twice a week and then after about three years I just knocked that silly mess off all together. Makeup was for special occasions. Dressing up meant fixing up . Now, when ever we went out, I took the time to do it up right and wait for that look of "all rightttt" that would greet my appearance. I am not really sure he ever new that I went to such lengths or trouble when we were first married. I'm not sure he much noticed, or for that matter, cared. What he does notice is when I start what he calls "the reconstruction period" . Uh huh, I love to rearrange things. I do it all the time. If the couch has been in one spot to long, over it goes on another wall. If the chairs haven't been moved at least twice a month, someone needs to check my pulse. I put the leaves in the dining room table, I take them out. Yesterday I decided that all the canned goods needed to be where the dishes were and the dishes where the canned goods were. When he saw what what I was doing, he started moaning. "I just figured out where everything was, and now you go and change it?" I just looked at him with what I am sure was a puzzled look. He has been married to me for almost 39 years, after all. It's who I am. If he wants to go fishing, I happily send him off to fish his little heart out and leave me to my "visioning." He worries when I stand in one spot, one hand on my forehead the other on my hip. He knows in his heart that I'm having a brain storm, or as I call it, a vision and it's going to mean work for him. I do this in the yard and in the house. Of course things in the yard are not as easy to move around as they are in the house, so I have to be pretty darned sure where I want things from the beginning. It usually requires his help, if not his approval. But, happily he's been pleased with most of the changes I have asked for and has learned to trust my taste. Lately I have been envisioning a long row of Eastern cedars at the property line. It would make for such a lovely cozy feel. Uh oh, I see WTHF giving me that worried look. I need to go reassure him that what I have planned won't send us to the poor house. Or take to long plant.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Chinaberry Trees

I've heard Mac (Wallace to his family) talk about his Grandfather's Chinaberry trees, or Umbrella trees to clarify it (apparently there are two types) forever. He talks about how the temperature beneath the Chinaberry seems to be a good fifteen degrees cooler , something you discover as soon as you walk beneath the shade. He remembers everyone sitting around under the trees talking...the old men, anyway, the boys were to full of fireflies to sit still and talk or stand still and listen to the tales being told beneath that old tree's branches. They were to busy being rambunctious and chasing each other through the yards and down the dirt roads and over the fields. They might stop and fling themselves down on the ground and hang on an old man's words long enough to cool down in the shade of that huge canopy, thereby getting part of a story, neither knowing nor caring that they would get the rest of the story in some history class down the road. Oh, the loss of hearing the whole story and hearing it first hand. History books never get it exactly right. What is history anyway, but his story? The old folks always had these metal chairs that rocked back and forth,(sometimes coming dangerously close to the ground when they rocked back in laughter at some banter from a friend) and the chairs had square holes punched in their backs for ventilation. Of course somewhere nearby was the matching glider that the Grandma's and Aunts occupied, beans being snapped and shelled, the sound like a small explosion as they hit the metal dishpan held in their laps. They would be in low conversation with each other, not wanting anyone to overhear them, especially the children. Grandma would cackle and the other younger ones would cluck their disapproval. The yards then were just outside rooms, no air conditioning was in these homes. The yard furniture was always green with white trim, it seems. He remembers the long summer days spent in the company of his cousins, some of whom were as close as brothers, the suppers that his Aunt Laverne fixed, the sheer weight of food making the table groan. Then later on just as it was getting dark the games being played by all the young ones, "Ain't no mad dogs out tonight" (Grandpa killed them all last night) seems to be a universal game of tag with a twist. I don't think we realize how tied to our Grandparents we are till we become grandparents ourselves. It's then that we remember the good times we had when we were under their care. We want our own grandchildren to have the same experiences we had. We want them to know that Grandpa killed all the mad dogs, there's nothing to fear, and all the joys of childhood lay beneath the Chinaberry tree.