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Sunday, October 15, 2017

THE FACT OF THE MATTER!

I started to read a 'new' book last Sunday.  As we are reaching the end of the 'swimming season', I was conscious that I may not finish it until next year.  Having started one the previous Saturday, I thought I had timed my summertime leisure activity rather well.  With maybe a couple of weeks left to take advantage of the pool and a modest time of relaxation, before the days when I force myself to swim as the temperature dips, but have to race back to get dressed, as it is too cold to 'sit', I calculated the amount of pages, divided them by my usual speed, and came up with the total of three weeks.  I failed to take into consideration the author, and how addictive his books can be.  Instead of the six days I had allotted, I finished in less than three.

Last Sunday, the water was most inviting, and after my 'prescribed' amount of laps, I sat myself on the chair, having saturated myself in bug spray, and started to read.  The new book was also rather intriguing and whilst I am not as familiar with the author, I found I could not put it down.  Moving further and further along the edge of the pool, from chair to chair, I read and I read.  Fiction it was, but as always, in most 'thrillers', there was an air of possibility, with an edge of probability, and perhaps even a 'truth' weaved into the storyline.  The characters names are always announced as 'imaginary', but I often wonder, (having written a thing or two myself, in the fable area,) whether they are based upon anyone, even loosely!

Fiction was on the menu for the week.  We have been receiving calls claiming to be from a social media site.  The first caller asked if they could have our 'opening' times.  Without giving the question much thought, as it was a generic question, I gave an answer.  The next question was asking about operating procedures and staff.  It was then that I asked 'Who is calling'.  I told the caller that I was not interested in updating information on a site where my details are not listed!  I waited not for the reply!  The phone hardly had a chance to disconnect before it rang again with the same display.  "Hey, can you tell me your opening hours?" came the cheery voice. I asked who was calling.  "Heather", came the reply.  "And where are you calling from, Heather?" I asked, attempting to confirm that she was from the same entity.  "From my desk, um in my office", came the reply.  Confirmation!  "And where is your office, Heather?" I asked, wondering what the next answer would be, "In California", she announced.  Once she finally told me her reason for calling, I repeated that I was not interested in updating my information on a site where we were not listed.  

The temperature on Monday was rather pleasant, and I came home at lunchtime to swim, although reading was not on the agenda.  We were very busy at work, and I stuck to the regimen of pure exercise and return!  

Considering Monday was a national holiday, and the postman had the day off, it was extremely busy.  Columbus Day, or Indigenous People Day, (dependent on where you live dictates the name - I live in Austin, and the city council voted last week that it should be the latter, whereas my daughter lives in the next county over, so her postman receive a day off for the former,) does not cause the closure of the courthouse in our county!  Therefore, no matter the name of the day, we are open for business!  Our hours are the same as always, should anyone wish to update a listing that does not exist!

It was too cold to swim on Tuesday.  The temperature dropped considerably, and I took a short walk around lunch time, just for a change of scenery.  The phones were surprisingly quiet during the morning, but the afternoon saw a flurry that would have turned a few snowflakes into a blizzard!  Once home, I set about making dinner.  Instead of taking a few minutes between flipping the meat on the grill, to catch up with a bit of fiction, I spent the time sorting through paperwork that I had brought home from the office.  Mashing potatoes and reading used to be an oft enjoyed pastime, but times have changed, and the past is in the past!  I had hoped that a few fictitious characters would have appeared during the day, and cleaned my kitchen, as I had made some pastry in the morning. Despite wondering, as a small child, a to the validity of 'The Borrowers', and the 'Brownies', I now know that they are no more than someone's imagination, and wonder why, as parents, we set our children up with such notions!  (I jest of course!)  

Respite was enjoyed on Wednesday, as I took myself to Joe, and enjoyed a cup of coffee with him and Gail, before heading across town to get my nails painted.  It was as if I had never deviated from my routine!  I sat as I watched Michele, my genius nail technician, transform the ends of my fingers from mere skin covering to brightly coloured works of art.  I could have become a fictitious character, right there and then, known for my disguise as 'Elaborate Nail Lady'.  (Woman is so 80's!)   Instead, I drove back to work, with a detour to the supermarket to retrieve some bagels and croissants, not wittingly attempting to exploit my new pseudonym, but managing to get a few, "Wow, your nails are amazing!"  Just call me En-el!  I doubt the name will catch on!  

I had prepared dinner before leaving the house in the morning, and as I arrived late, I did not go for a walk, and a swim would have been out of the question!  The phone rang during the afternoon, and the display showed the name of the well known social media site, being used as a front for a fictitious entity.  This time, the creators of fantasy had developed a new approach.  "Hello, I need to come and see you, so can you tell me your opening hours?" said the voice that emitted through the speaker.  "Normal working hours", I said, in my kindest, sweetest voice.  "But I have a restaurant and I want to know if I can have some papers served, and I want to come and see you".  This was rather an elaborate ruse, but I was willing to play along.  "Where is your restaurant?", wondering if they even knew my location.  "I can tell you when I come to see you if you let me know your opening hours".  I repeated that they were normal office hours.  Obviously, there is a reason why I need to verbalise the exact time we officially open and close our doors, as this appeared to be of no use to the caller.  When I was informed that their restaurant was in fact 'downtown', and when asked, 'where', there was a pause before they answered, 'Austin'.  I repeated that we are officially open during normal office hours.  "What is the name of your restaurant?", I asked, but I was informed that all could be discussed face to face, if only I would furnish them with the details they required.  I told them that I was not willing to do so, and suggested they find someone who would!  No sooner had I clicked the off button did the phone ring again and the display showed the same name.  "Hey, I need to know your office hours".  My response was, "Why?" and the caller became speechless.  Once he regained his composure, he reluctantly told me that he was from a particular social media site, wishing to update my profile.  "But we don't have a listing on your site", I said, honestly.  "Oh, okay!" he said, and we hung up, presumably at the same time!

I did not have any time to read on Thursday, nor Friday.  The work of fiction that I am enjoying was looking more and more likely to enter hibernation before completion.  My pseudonym did not get a chance to appear, nor did any of the characters that are supposed to come and tidy my house, but I did get one more phone call.  "Can I have your opening hours?" was responded to with, "No!" and a replaced receiver.  This appeared to be the only answer needed, as more than twenty four hours went by and another call was not received.  I would imagine that my number has been placed in the 'hold' category, and may meet up with my book in some fictitious non-space!

Saturday was a beautiful day.  The sun shone, the temperature rose, and I went to the shops in a summer garb!  Elaborate Nail Lady whisked around the supermarket, with elegance and speed.  My new disguise must have worked, as I was recognised by no one!  I came home and got ready to spend an afternoon with my book, in an effort to delay the inevitable hibernation!  It appeared that the dog, who was in Dana's charge during the morning, had walked in some newly laid tar which had been spread on the car park at the office. His feet had been washed thoroughly, but not before he had managed to 'spread the joy' on my bathroom mat.  Even En-el could not remove the tell-tale signs, and summoning The Borrowers or the Brownies would not have made a difference!  Harsh chemicals would have to be my solution, and I cannot think of a fictitious way of making that sound any better!  

I did manage to put a good dent into the amount of pages remaining to read, and there is a remote possibility that the book will be retired before it has to go into 'winter mode'.  I moved along from chair to chair, and finally gave up moving, when a dark cloud prevented the sun from emitting as much heat as was necessary to keep me comfortable.  Sitting in a wet costume, (swimming, rather than pseudonym,) can become rather uncomfortable if the temperature is not just right!  

Dana and I went out for dinner, and then on to Samantha and Edward's house, as my daughter was hosting her own birthday party!  It was not, thankfully, a costume party, as it was last year, but I was in character, as always!  We stayed for a couple of hours and then left the younger generation to their own devices!  

Once again, the weather has dictated that an afternoon by the pool is out of the question, and the turned down page of my book will stay in place for the foreseeable future.  This proved to be slightly advantageous as I have to prepare a cake for the belated birthday celebrations at the office tomorrow.  Although I like to think of it as more of a work of art, than fiction, I have to be less than factual when my daughter asks, "Did you make anything for Monday?"  Fact or fiction, I shall continue onward in ............. another story!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

ALL YOU CAN EAT!

As the summer starts to leave, and the days start to become slightly shorter, my nemesis (or should I say, nemeses, although apparently there is no plural,) has started to attack with a vengeance.  

Despite the temperature dropping, albeit only slightly, sitting in the shade after a swim has become an invalid option, and I found myself, last weekend, moving at intervals, to the next chair, to stay in the warm.  However, by the time I get to the last chair in the row, a variety of things start to hover around and all blemishes on my skin appear to make up the word, in insect and arachnid, 'Buffet!', and in smaller freckles, 'All you can eat!'  

Insect bites are not 'indigenous' to the land that has adopted me, but they are different.  After spending a night with ice packs strapped to both arms, as other methods of relief proved to be totally futile,  (anti-itch cream, cortisone, baking soda, etc.,)  I inspected the areas that appeared to be raised, and whilst there was only one puncture mark on my right arm, there was the tell-tale sign of 'fangs' on the other.  I am quite certain that this was not caused by a 'vertebrate', as no matter how small, they are rather easy to spot!  
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The ant that fell from the tree the previous week did not survive the journey as far as my arms, but was stopped around the shoulder area.  This was after he had received his 'money's worth', chomping on my cheek and neck.  With the lack of sleep, and slight delirium that had attempted to engulf me, I resembled a creature from Bram Stoker's novel, with large red marks which looked like they had been caused by fangs of something not human!  

"Did you suffer when you lived in England?" someone asked.  The urge to answer with a sarcastic remark was incredibly strong, as the ripple of poison surged along my arm, causing me to wince, and then scratch furiously.  I wanted to say that 'suffering was a way of life', but decided that this would not be understood.  Instead, I responded that I was, indeed, considered to have 'sweet blood', in my native land, and had been the victim of many a small 'gnat'.  However, I did not think there was ever a time when I was attacked by an ant that was nearly half an inch long, nor did I receive the venom of a troupe of eight legged creatures, who decided that I should be made the example of what happens to anyone who murders other members of their kind!
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For most of the week, I went to bed with an 'ice pop', (a different flavour each night,) wrapped in a thin piece of materials, held in place with a hair tie, strapped to each arm.  Acting like splints for the first half an hour, they finally gave way and allowed my limb to bend, before they melted and were discarded around the fourth hour past midnight!

When I am tired, or somewhat 'out of sorts', tolerance is not the first virtue out of the gate, and the sarcastic gene rears its head, and heaps scorn upon unsuspecting victims.  The slightest misunderstanding becomes a giant dispute, and the language barrier becomes wider.  

Whilst I am not one to use profanity as a rule, I have become aware of certain words that are not used here, and have no 'translation'.  Unfortunately, my husband has been apprised of these, and when I say them, he accuses me of having a 'potty mouth'.  This phrase in itself is normally enough to bring forth another 'unknown' term of abuse, and the cycle continues until I find one that has not been uttered before in his presence.  I have had reason, this week, to scrape the bottom of the barrel and have been most prolific in all sorts of slang.  As the itching continued to manifest, patience subsided and a whole extension of unknown expletives followed. 

The week was very busy, work wise, with Samantha and I still 'covering' three jobs.  I received a call from one courthouse earlier on in the week, to say that they had some papers for us to collect. One of the clerks at this particular courthouse, very kindly, set up a 'box' for us, so that our representative in that area could separate our papers from his own.  I asked if the papers could be put in our box.  "You what now?"  This is a very odd phrase, and one to which, although I am accustomed, caused a temporary surge of irritant.  "I what when?", I answered, knowing that this was probably not a good idea.  However, surprisingly, it was enough to make the person on the other end of the phone more eloquent.  "You want it put where?"  Mistake number two, but I did not succumb to vulgarity, despite the lack of integrity I was displaying due to the pulsating bumps along my arms.  I had been experiencing strange elevated trails along one arm, from the puncture wound downward. I blamed this for my immodesty!  We finally understood each other and he asked my name.  I gave him my first name.  "What is the first letter of your second name, ma'am?"  I wondered if he had perhaps received a bite to the ear, when he replied "B", after I clearly (or at least I assumed it was clear) stated, "M".  There were several letters that could have been mistaken for the letter "B", but only really one that would have the same sort of sound as "M".  I decided that "B" was near enough!

As the irritation subsided towards the end of the week, and I decided that sleeves would be a better deterrent than any spray sold in the supermarkets, my mood started to improve.  I felt that, perhaps, a truce had been called between me and the arachnid world, and that the ants had found a new focus.  At least for the moment, the 'buffet' was closed.  However, I must have done something to restart the war by Friday!

"Can you have them call the guy?" was a request from one client, on Friday, as they were desperate to have their 'star' witness served with papers. "He is willing to accept the subpoena, and we need you to love on him".  The term 'love on', does not really translate.  It does, in my Englishwoman's mind', produce a more lurid vision than it obviously means over here!  I sent my server an email.  "I hesitate to say this, but they really want you to 'love on him', as he is their star witness.  In my English mind, this sounds pretty disgusting, but I suppose to you, it is okay".  She did not understand my objection to the term, although Dana laughed heartily when I told him what I had written.  My server send me an email about half an hour later to say that she had, indeed, 'loved on him' and served the paper.  My mind shut down for fear of explosion!

I did not heed my own advice on Saturday morning, and went sleeveless to South Austin.  Samantha had read about an event that was taking place, at the a well known deli.  In honour of their birthday, they were trying to gain entry into the Guinness Book of Records, for something or other, and she had signed us up!  The temperature was not excessively hot, but my arms burned from all the scratching they had received.  The event, due to start at 10, was a bit of a non-event at that time of day, and despite the publicity, no one had thought to share with the participants that no one was going to arrive until 11.  We left.  However, it appeared that the 'buffet' sign had reappeared, and before we had finished our shopping, I found myself scratching my shoulders.  

I swam for a while and then sat in a chair.  Retrieving my can of repellent from my bag, I sprayed, and sprayed.  So much so, each time I took a drink from my water bottle, I could taste the rather putrid liquid that had been expelled from the nozzle.  The only thing that the spray appeared to do was highlight the 'remodeled and refurbished' sign that new blemishes had spelt.  Clouds had covered the sky, and whilst there was no sign of rain, the false appearance of sunset had given encouragement to a whole new range of those wishing to feast!  
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Dana and I went out for dinner, and without thinking, I asked if there was seating on the terrace.  There was!  I kept my hat on and huddled under a shawl, despite it being so mild.  We returned home to watch the University of Texas football team, win in 'second overtime' against one of their nemesis.  I cheered, in between scratching furiously at my shoulders.

As I sit and wonder whether I should actually risk going for a swim today, I am wondering if the message written in bites actually reads, "Welcome to Texas, y'all", as I do not think I have ever been the victim of so many different species.  (The different sizes and appearance of puncture wounds would indicate that there is a variety.)  I can only hope that none of them are 'endangered', as no matter the meaning, the only 'loving on them' I shall be doing will be with a sharp, fatal slap!  

No doubt, this physical irritant will be short lived, and a new eatery will be sought once they get bored.  "Eat onions, or jalapenos", came advice from someone.  "The smell from your pores may be a natural repellent".  Perhaps in Alaska, but these are Texan!  It would be like offering them nectar!  
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With Halloween costumes on sale throughout the shops, I am now wondering if my only way forward is a disguise!  I am very much hoping that my arms will not be restricted by ice splints by the time I come to write ............ another story!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

GIVE ME JUST A LITTLE MORE TIME!



After another fun filled weekend, I was not ready to go back to work on Monday. However, needs must, and I went in around six thirty in the morning so that I could leave a little earlier in the afternoon.  Samantha had promised to take Richard and Steph to the range, as Monday is 'ladies day'.

I did manage to come home for half an hour at lunchtime, and watched as my elder grandson finally swam unaided, and a reasonable length.  He was rather pleased with himself, and we all applauded with enthusiasm.  
Bringing work home with me would have been a good idea, if both boys were asleep, and if I had managed to work out how to use the programme that I have on my computer to generate paperwork!  As I found the 'allow to edit' button, which I pressed, and found I was now able to work at the speed I am used to when creating a document, Jamie started to whimper, and Ollie asked, "Where's my mummy?"  At least I would be able to take advantage of this at another time!  With a folder full of work, still undone, I had other priorities.  "Perhaps we should go for a walk", was a suggestion that was approved by my elder grandson.  
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Walking up the hill in our complex, on a Sunday morning, is reasonably tough.  However, walking up the hill, pushing a 'stroller' containing two small humans, is slightly more burdensome.  One of my neighbour's spotted me, and shouted words of encouragement. "Push, push", he said, as he jogged across the road in front of me.  I could not answer as I was putting all my energy into doing just that!  Once at the top, I managed to catch my breath, and then realised I was going to have to come down the steep hill, keeping hold of the 'stroller', and keeping my balance.  I was not sure which was more difficult; going up, or coming down!

A phone call from my daughter, letting me know that they intended to go to the mall, from the range, was not unexpected.  Yes, I was managing quite well on my own, thank you, and no, I was not panicking, as there was nothing to panic about.  We were just about to have a bath, and then some dinner.  I was sure that by the time they arrived home, everything that needed to be accomplished would have been accomplished.

Bath time was indeed accomplished.  My bathroom did resemble the changing room at a public swimming pool, after a whole school had used it when competing in a gala, and forgotten to take their wet belongings with them, but the task of bathing was done!  

Dinner was the easy part.  I had the pasta already prepared, and I just needed to heat it up.  Keeping two small individuals occupied whilst trying to get it ready was a slight challenge, as watching one attempting to crawl  into the bookcase was easier than keeping an eye on the other, who seemed to be able to 'transport' himself from one end of the room to the other without taking a step!  "What does this do?", was responded to with the now familiar words of, "Don't touch!"  With both boys sitting on my kitchen chairs, one in a high chair attached, I took up my position on the 'ice chest', and fed the little one as the bigger one fed himself.  "Can I have some of Jamie's?" was a question I had not heard before.  Usually Jamie is happy to finish what Ollie doesn't eat, but it appeared that my macaroni cheese had won first prize once again!  

A phone call from my daughter to say they were leaving the mall and on their way to pick up Edward, was not unexpected.  They would be a little longer than anticipated, but they were finally on their way.  Yes, I was managing quite well on my own, thank you, and no, I was not panicking, as there was nothing to panic about. We had had our bath, and were just finishing dinner!

By the time the entourage reached home, Jamie was asleep in his chair, and Ollie was playing in his cardboard castle.  The house looked as if it had been ransacked, but happy faces indicated all was well.  The shopping trip had been successful, and everyone was hungry.  

I suggested we go to Jim's as it was easy to get to, there would not be a queue, and it was getting late.  Although Samantha and Edward are not partial to the diner, Richard and Steph were not averse, and Dana was in agreement.  We took two cars, and got there quite quickly.  Beckoned to a large booth in the back, we all walked down through the restaurant and took our places.  The waiter was new.  Very new.  In fact, I am not sure whether he had actually taken anyone's order before us, and I was not sure as to his writing skills.  He was certainly not familiar with the menu, and was finding it hard to keep up with the pace!  All orders were given, and someone asked if we could have an order of mozzarella sticks to begin with, as well as an ice-cream for Ollie.  Our waiter nodded, and then went to place the order.

"What sides do you want with yours?", he asked Edward, after Edward had given his order, with usual Edward precision.  He repeated his request, and the waiter nodded and returned to the counter.  "What sides did you want?", he asked Steph as he reappeared at the table, without us noticing.  She repeated her request, and once again, he returned to the counter.  He returned four more times to ask the rest of us individual questions.  I started to giggle.  
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After an inordinate amount of time, and lack of refills for our drinks, Dana caught our waiter's attention, and asked if our meals were coming any time soon.  Without hesitation, he answered, "No", and went to walk away.  Steph and I started to giggle.  He turned, and came back to the table.  "I just asked the chefs, and they said no", he said, as if this was perfectly acceptable.  Fortunately, he saw fit to go and report our unruly behaviour to the manager. Danny is a great manager, and has often come to sit with us, whilst we are having dinner.  Although I am not accustomed to this in most places, it is 'what he does', and it is accepted by all.  Danny's response was to firstly go into the kitchen and 'chivvy up' the chef. He then came to our table, made sure our drinks were refreshed, and double check on what we ordered.  The meal came out very quickly afterwards, minus the mozzarella sticks. They were nowhere to be seen, and by that time, it did not matter. Dinner was delicious, despite being rather long in arriving.  

Although work was busier than usual on Tuesday, I took a lot of time off to spend with the kids.  We met them at Chick-Fil-A for lunch, as raindrops started to fall.  We watched as Ollie spent most of the time with other kids in the play area, and Steph questioned the airline about her seats for the return flight, which had been selected by the airline without the thought of her travelling with an infant.  After nearly an hour of asking why she was not able to secure the relevant seat needed to house the bassinet she finally gave up.  The rain started to pound the pavement, and we headed out for a final trip to Walmart.  

Samantha and I returned to work in the afternoon, and I did as much as I could in the short period of time left.  We returned home, and the rain was still pouring.  "Can we go swimming?" asked Steph.  "Don't see why not", I responded.  We walked down to the pool, in the pouring rain, and jumped in without a second thought. "Will your neighbours think you are mad?" asked Steph.  "They already do", I responded.  I told her that if they saw someone in the pool, they may wonder a little, but as soon as they saw the white cap, they would say, "Oh it's only the Englishwoman"!  We swam for about fifteen minutes, and then heard a slight thunder rumble, which started to become more frequent.  Electricity is not our friend when in the water, so we quit.  It had been a good experience.

Dinner was at the Iron Cactus, and Ollie asked if I could go into the kitchen and show them how to make 'cheesy pasta'.  I took that as a great compliment!  We all enjoyed our meal, and it was ordered, served and eaten far quicker than the previous evening.

Wednesday was a sad day.  After breakfast, we returned home, and Samantha and I occupied the boys while Steph and Richard packed away their belongings.  We all drove to the airport, and the nice lady at the check-in desk made sure Steph had an adequate seat, and blocked off the third seat in a separate row so that Richard and Ollie could have a little more space.  We walked them to the security area, and watched them go through, waving continually. One of the guards started to wave back.   We smiled through tears, and responded to his gesture.  When they finally were out of sight, Samantha and I walked back to the car, eyes blurred, and noses sniffling.  It had been a wonderful two weeks, but all good things have to come to an end.  I returned to work, and put in a couple of hours before heading home.

With Ollie telling everyone 'howdy y'all', and asking for 'wadder', together with Steph and Richard thanking us with a 'Ma'am' and 'Sir' at the end of the sentence, I felt that they had mastered the necessity for changing language very quickly, something that I have resisted, unless absolutely necessary.  They both agreed that the break was, indeed, a vacation, and the weather had been perfect for almost all of the trip, allowing them to take advantage of the pool, and surrounding parks.  They had visited so many places I knew not existed!

Thursday was a little strange.  I packed away the cardboard castle, deflated inflatables that we had taken to the pool, washed a mountain of bedclothes and towels, and vacuumed, dusted and cleaned before going to work.  I left around 10am, had my nails painted, and then returned and worked until 7:30pm.  My kitchen still needed some attention, but I was not going to rid my house of all memories on the first day, and went to bed thoroughly exhausted, with a repeat performance to take place, minus the nails, and including a lunchtime walk to the shops, on Friday.  

Saturday morning I felt a little lost.  Samantha said she would not be arriving early, and I wandered around wondering what to do next, as if I had not had a routine for years.  However, after a while I managed to pull myself together, and 'upstairs' returned to pre-visit times, with everything back to 'standard operating procedure'. A trip to Costco, Dollar Tree and Walmart brought me back to reality with a big bump.  I swam, and read for a bit, in the afternoon, although my concentration was not at full capacity.  

Fall has stormed in with a vengeance, and the temperature has dropped quite dramatically.  The need for cardigans and jackets has become apparent, and the leaves are starting to turn colour, before dropping in scores from the trees.  The sky, although a beautiful blue, has taken on that 'end of year' watery appearance, and the mornings are reluctant to ease in before seven thirty.  It is as if the weather knew my family was going home, and is commiserating.  

Next week is going to be busy.  No visitors, no unusual activity expected, just work.  Without the extra 'man' to fill the desk that was vacated a month ago, I am having to 'fill the gap'.  There will be no doubt a few minutes here, or there, to breathe, and I shall take full advantage.  As normal service is resumed, I shall be back here, same time, same place, for ..... another story!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

COOKIE MONSTERS!

I was not ready for work on Monday morning.  Samantha had gone in early, but I had made up my mind to spend the 'wake up' time with the boys.  As there is a giant ocean between us, the opportunity to say 'good morning' to my two grandsons was not going to be missed.

Once in the office, I realised that the phrase 'can't have your cake and eat it too', has never been more apt.  With so much work piling up, I knew that I would have to divide my time in a way I would have preferred not to!  I wanted to go home and play.  However, Ollie had a horse riding lesson planned!  With one man down at the office, Samantha and I were going to take it in turns to help 'cover'.

Having a freezer full of food, I decided to make dinner on Monday night.  We are in Texas.  We eat beef!  I was going to do the traditional thing and grill some steaks.  

Considering we officially entered the beginning of fall, the temperature was hot, and the pool was delightful.  I arrived home a little after four, and met my family down by the water.  Laps are not really a possibility when a three year old is determined to learn to swim.  However, exercise is exercise, and making my way around the pool edge, hands on the sides, and feet parallel with my shoulders, is enough to build muscles somewhere!  I have never had much use for the 'survival' option, but this, apparently, is a crucial aspect of how toddlers are taught to keep their heads above water, literally!

The steaks were cooked, apparently, to perfection, and I was rather pleased with myself.  I had mashed some potatoes, made some macaroni cheese, rice and corn salad and a green salad, just for good measure.  My husband, who is my biggest fan, told me that he could not have had better in any restaurant, whilst my son-in-law, ever my biggest critic, told my husband (in humour, of course...I hope) that he had obviously not been to many good steak restaurants!  A good time was had by all, and whilst the kids had planned to go out for the evening, by the time we finished dinner, they were all a little too tired.

My routines went out of the window, and this did little to improve my organisation.  It did bring me to the conclusion that in order to know what day it is, I have to stick to my roster!  

Days rolled into days, and although I can remember the details, I cannot place them in order!  Ollie 'made' cookies for poppa Dana, and was really rather good at following instructions.  He carefully poured the ingredients into the bowl, a little at a time, despite his propensity to pour everything in at once, under the assumption that it would make the biscuits quicker, including the cooking!  We slopped the blobs onto the prepared trays, and I put them into the oven, turning on the internal light, so that he could watch them rise, which he did. Leaving his watching spot for only seconds at a time, to check on something 'very important', he returned and gave me a full report! Poppa Dana thought they were the best cookies he had ever tasted, which was all the three year old English boy wished to hear!

I did not join them for the visit to the zoo, although I would have dearly loved to do so.  It was, I believe, a very good visit, however, as Ollie got to feed Alan the Giraffe, and a goat, whose name was not remembered.  

One cannot come to Texas and not have fajitas!  The trip to the store was very interesting.  I simply went for some meat (as I realised my purchase over the weekend would not feed six of us. Being programmed for feeding two, I did not think coherently!) and some soured cream.  "Can you get....while you are there...would you mind....", were but a few messages I received.  I did not answer my daughter's text quick enough, and received a call to reiterate her request.  "What do you want now!" I said, rather too loudly, as the check out girl was passing my wares across the conveyor belt.  She looked at me with large eyes, and a big smile.  The aggression and impatience had completely passed her by, and despite my fear that she thought I was being rude to her, she simply said, "Wow, I love your accent.  Where are you from?"  What a blessing!  

The trip to the Olive Garden restaurant was definitely a 'trip'.  The waitress was adorable, and very sensibly, they put us in our own little section, which was like a small bedroom.  Amazingly enough, (although, I am sure this is not new, but there is no need to be too specific,) the children's menu is an 'Ollie' menu.  Obviously, this has no connection to the name of the restaurant!  The fact that their ravioli on the kids menu, is called 'Ricky', was even more of a treat for the little lad!  

Image may contain: tree and outdoorLate night shopping was on the agenda for Thursday evening, and Grandma was on duty again.  Feeding and bathing two children was exhausting, but reminiscent of a bygone age, when I did the same deed every day. However, like 'riding a bicycle', it is something you never forget how to do, and the operation became swift.  Chicken nuggets and fish sticks are two inventions that should have been given an award!  Completely uninterested in their nutritional quality, I fed them to the boys, with my own 'cheesy pasta' for good measure.  

It is interesting, too, how as a mother, I was concerned about the amount, and content, of films and television programmes my children absorbed.  As a grandma, I think that you can't watch too much!  Once again, we watched Moana another dozen times!

The biggest challenge of the week was when Richard took Steph out for their anniversary.  "Do you mind if we stay out for the night?" he asked, before they arrived.  As a married man of 32, I said I did not have a problem with him not coming home.  "Will you be alright with the kids, overnight", was responded with "I have done it before, you know", without thinking.  As the day approached, I wondered if I was really up for the task.  Why I was so worried was beyond me.  

Leaving work at three was probably the biggest challenge, but I managed to get my desk reasonably clear.  Driving downtown was not particularly busy, but the return journey would be quite a different story.  I was very diligent, and decided to attempt the 'back way', which proved to be a much better route, and surprisingly enough I did not get lost!  Keeping parallel to the main highway, I sped along and finally reached home in record time!

Samantha had volunteered to help, as she does not see her nephews very often, and this was a big treat.  We took them to the pool, and swam until thunder stopped play.  Although there was no rain, and the rumbles paled into insignificance, it was probably time to head upstairs.  After bath and supper, and a bedtime story, it was time for me to sit down and have some dinner.  Dana had gone to my favourite fast food Mexican cafe, but it had closed its doors forever. I was rather sad.  Instead, he went to a less preferred one much nearer home, but it was welcomed.

Saturday morning started with the predicted, "Where's my mummy and my daddy".  Bribery is a grand parent's prerogative, and the promise of a cookie was enough to get Ollie to come downstairs to have some breakfast.  "Don't want breakfast", came the next comment, which I had also predicted.  After the 'terrible twos', come the 'negative threes', where everything that is asked is responded to with a very definite, "No!"  However, it can also be said that my grandson now thinks his name is 'don't touch'!  Not particularly bothered by the fact that things might get broken, I am more concerned about the harm he will inflict upon himself.  As I told one of my daughter's friends, as a grandparent, I am a lot more anxious about the children's safety, but will feed them anything!  
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Jamie was fed his porridge and Ollie was frowning.  I made some French toast.  "Don't want French toast", was followed by, "Did you just put that in egg", and then "Did you just flip that over", and then, "Can I have some".  Two slices later, he decided he rather liked French toast, and asked if he could have some more.  'Auntie Matnee' arrived shortly after breakfast, and dressed the little boys while I got ready myself.  In Texas Longhorn regalia, they certainly looked the part!

A trip to Costco was followed by lunch at Chic-Fil-A, and then a 'run around' in the restaurants kids' area.  Climbing up steep steps, and sliding down tubes was enough to run out some energy!  "Don't do that!" said another mother to her child.  When she asked if her son could hear her, and asked if she could have a "Yes ma'am", Ollie looked rather confused.  I did not try to explain to a three year old the difference in language!

The pool was once again the saviour of our day on Saturday, when Samantha and Steph went to get their nails manicured.  Samantha had collected her brother and sister-in-law from downtown, and had taken Ollie with her.  Dana came down to 'help' with the boys!  

Image may contain: 2 people, swimming and outdoorThe birthday party on Sunday was very successful.  It as rather disappointing that more children could not attend, but those that did had a great time.  Samantha had invited a few of her friends who had kids, to celebrate, albeit a month late, Ollie's third!  The pool was completely vacant, and the kids, and parents, enjoyed splashing around for a couple of hours.  I had taken my 'prize' grill down, and Edward was in charge of cooking burgers and hot dogs.  We also had cake!  By the time everyone had left, we were almost ready to leave, but two of my neighbours came down to complete a work project that one of them had to complete, which comprised of a photo shoot of people enjoying themselves in a summer setting.  We obliged, and were rewarded with the main content of the promotion, which was champagne. It was a shame that the guest of honour was not old enough to enjoy!

We finished off the evening, Texas style, with a 'take out' from Rudy's Bar-b-q, and ice cream!  

With only a few days left of their holiday, I am feeling quite emotional at having to see them leave.  However, it has been an experience for Dana, and he finally got to meet my grandsons, and become a grandfather.  He has done very well!  Watching Ollie imitate his 'poppa', has been quite the treat.  If Dana lays down to play with the dog, Ollie copies his pose.  If Dana calls the dog, his 'Buddy', so does Ollie.  

I will have a lot of reorganising to do when they leave, but I think I will be rather reluctant to put the house back to normal!  It has been so much fun.  However, all good things come to an end, and I am grateful for the time we have had.  With lots of photos to remind me of fun times, and memories, I shall have trouble keeping dry eyes to write ............. another story!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

ICE CREAM AND BOURBON!

Preparing the house for a family of four was the first task this week. Did I prepare for an English family abroad, or make it like an old fashioned English hotel, with cereals, bread for toast, and lots of eggs.  It was not really a dilemma and by the time I had finished cleaning, and clearing away things that would prevent me from being nick named 'Grandma don't touch', I decided to go all American!  

I made banana bread on Tuesday morning, put all the toys in the newly created 'toy box', laid a couple of books and cuddlies strategically on the bed, which was made up for a three year old, and finally headed into work.  

Prolific as work had been, so it stayed!  I did not slow down until I was forced to do so by my daughter, who wanted to get on the road before quitting time traffic made it difficult to get to the airport in time.  

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting and hatObviously, I was dressed for work, but chose shoes with wedges to make it easier to walk.  Into the main terminal we walked, holding the banner sporting cartoon characters, and balloons attached. Samantha had created the 'welcome' sign, so it was, of course, very bright and artistic.  Standing next to us, by the 'International Arrivals' gate, was a family of four.  They, too, had a banner, although it was not as bright and did not have balloons.  The writing was obviously done by the children, (which would no doubt have been adored by those they were meeting,) and was rather light in comparison to our very heavily coloured penned words.  As we unfolded our banner, the father of the family instructed his children to do the same.  Pointing to the balloons, the father seemed to be somewhat intimidated by our presence, and whispered to the children before disappearing.  We stood and watched the doors open, and attempted to peer inside the large hall behind the automatic shutters.  "I think I saw them" said Samantha, with excitement.  The father of the children with the insipid banner returned, with a vase of flowers.  "Come on", I said, jokingly, "Let's go and find an enormous plant.  Game on!"  We did not, but the father looked rather smug with his purchase, and we let him have his 'fifteen minutes'.

It was quite remarkable how well behaved the crowd seemed. There was no need for barriers, as everyone stood well away from the exit, and no one had to be told to 'stand back' even once.  There was a line of different colour tiles, which denoted no more than a pattern that was throughout the floor, and no one went over.  I could not imagine the same at Heathrow!

After what seemed an eternity, out of the door came Richard, Steph, and a buggy containing two little boys.  We stood with the banner on the floor so that Oliver could see the balloons, and then came the words that melted my heart.  "I want to go in your car, Grandma!"

The walk to the car hire facility was not long, but it was outside and it was hot.  The boys were stripped of their sweatshirts and their red faces finally paled down.  After refusing to pay for an upgrade, and saying no to an insurance package that would have covered anything from a meteor to a whole planet descending on the vehicle, we made our way to the cars.  One look at four adults, two children, a variety of bags, car seats and a buggy, the lady who was assigning the motors looked at the 'booked' car, and shook her head. Around the corner came a seven seater, which could have carried an under five's football team!  

As the elder of my two grandsons had insisted on coming with me, we put his car seat on the trolley that had been used to take the luggage from the customs hall, and in he got.  The authorities would have probably pulled me in for questioning, and asked for my credentials, as my excuse of, "I did this thirty years ago, so I know what I am doing", would not have sufficed.  Along I rolled the trolley, car seat atop, child atop that, and into the first lift we went.  Out we stepped, and into the second lift we went.  Over the cobbled stones, into the car park, down the ramp, and into the next level we went.  Eventually we reached 'Auntie Matnee's' car, and attempted to put the seat into the car.  The instructions were not particularly clear, and were on the underside of the seat.  Therefore, should we wish to re-read step two, when step one was complete, we would have to start again!  It must have been like watching an old 'Laurel and Hardy' movie.  The mechanism to keep the toddler in place may well be 'child proof', but the fitting of the contraption was 'adult proof'!

Driving back to the house was not as easy as driving to the airport, as the traffic had mounted to a crescendo and was not moving.  It took a long time to get home.  When we arrived at the house, I took Ollie to his room, and realised that the toy box was probably not a good move for a three year old.  Each and every box was opened, and three words were repeated over and over.  "Daddy, make this", he said as he pulled out the larger boxes, followed by the smaller, and finally all the jigsaws.  The roller-coaster that I had purchased the day before my birthday, was dragged downstairs, in pieces, and had to be put together 'now'!  Eventually, the day took its toll on the little man, and he finally fell asleep in his 'special' bed, after he had been read a story from one of the books that had once been in his daddy's bedroom in England.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, close-upDana did not arrive home until both boys were in bed, and we had settled down to have some dinner.  Richard and I went to the local store to get some food, and 'America' took over.  "I don't want to go too mad on sweet stuff", said my son, as I asked if he wanted dessert.  "But, I must have these. Oh and these. Oh and these", he continued, as he picked up every variety of chocolate covered pretzel that was on the shelf.  "Oh and I had forgotten about these. Oh and these. Oh and these", was all I could hear as we turned into a new aisle.  We drove home with two chickens, a couple of containers of salad, and enough sweets to cover the 31st October callers, for ten years!

I went into work late on Wednesday morning, after taking everyone to IHop for breakfast.  The smiley faces on the pancakes were nothing compared to those on the face of my son, and grandson.  A whole new world opened up, and food became a new novelty.  I had to return to work, and waded through the mountain that I had left on Tuesday.  However, I was very focused and managed to leave around three, for a couple of hours at the pool, before returning to turn the mountain into a smaller hill!

Ollie finally met his 'Poppa Dana', and was quite enamoured.  My husband has the ability to imitate Donald Duck, and this is quite the favourite with the little man.  He sat on Dana's lap, quite willingly, and picture opportunities were rife!  It was a wonderful sight.

The office was an 'in and out' place on Thursday, with Samantha going in early to do some filing, and me spending less time there than with the kids. We set off to Round Rock Donuts, where everyone sampled the wares, and the giant donut for which they were famous was shared.  We then went to 'Catchair', which is a soft play children's paradise.  I ran in and found the big slide, which I slid down to the delight of my grandson.  I am not sure if the kids or the adults enjoyed it more.  As children of school age were in the classrooms, the place was quite empty, which allowed me to bounce, slide and play without tripping over too many small people!  We came home after a couple of hours, and I returned to work for a while.  I had introduced the family to the office neighbours and came home to find them chatting with my home neighbour, Jen. Oliver had told her his life story, such as it was, and introduced me with a full history!  

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, screen, office and indoorI had made cookies on Friday morning, as it was one of our server's birthdays, and it did not seem fair to buy a cake to present, when everyone else receives special home made treats.  After all, we are in America, and anyone can buy cookies!  Made to a Martha Stewart recipe, I felt that I had met the standard!  Ollie and Richard had sampled the two that did not make it into the box and gave me the 'thumbs up'!  We went into the office to take in the treats, and the boys came too!  

Dinosaurs are not really my thing, but they were on every bend of the park which we visited on Friday morning.  Grandma was on duty, and had to climb and bend and scoot across most of the uneven terrain, in order to see everything that needed to be seen.  It was very hot, and whilst I have acclimatized, I am still not used to spending hours outside not by a pool! I was an explorer, a pirate, a pilot and much more as I climbed up and down climbing frames and rides.

Dana and I had our first experience, together, baby sitting on Friday, as the older kids went out for dinner and some fun.  Ollie sat and watched a film and a third with Dana, before reluctantly being walked back to his room, where I read him a story, and watched as he fought tired eyes.  Although he was awake for the whole tale and insisted he was not tired, he was asleep before I left the room.  

Saturday was fun!  After demolishing the rest of the banana bread, Ollie was ready for a day out with Grandma, Auntie Matnee and Jamie!  Mummy and daddy were going shopping and thought it might be easier without the boys.  Getting his car seat into the car was not so hard.  The baby seat was not so easy.  The seat belt has to strap behind, and under, and over and under, several different hooks.  If you let go of the seat belt, the inertia takes charge, and it whips back into the seat.  Up and down the baby went, as if he was in a roller coaster.  To the left, to the right, it was like he was in a 1980's line dance song!  Across, upside down, flip, and back, went the seat, with baby laughing as he was hurled around in his safety contraption.  The authorities were not around again, thankfully, as we eventually, after nearly 30 minutes of 'starting again', got the seat in place.  "How do you....?"  Getting the buggy to fold was not easy.  We pushed every button, clicked every clicker, folded every fold, and finally gave up.  This outing was very soon not to be!  A phone call to the experts did not work, as they were out of range, so my daughter did the next best thing.  You-tube is really very helpful!  "Just take the straps and pull".  The only thing we did not try, was to take the straps, which are clearly marked, "Pull up", and pull!  It worked like a charm!

Taking the baby out of the seat was easy. Keeping the straps in place was not, and the seat belt whipped back into its cavity, so that we knew we would have to start again.  "Let's feed the ducks", sounded like a good idea, but once said, it could not be taken back. To get to the ducks meant a walk down five turns of very steep, rocky terrain.  Mummy joggers can do it easily, with one hand on the push-chair, and one holding the dog, with a toddler in tow!  I slipped down like I was on ice, and wondered how I was going to get back up the sharp incline, in my flip flops.  Water, was all that was on offer when I reached the top, although an oxygen mask would have been greatly appreciated.  A quarter of a mile is not that far to walk, on the flat, but with a forty five degree angle, of uneven paving, pushing a buggy, it took me a long time!

"Don't....".  Too late was the call.  I am out of practice, as my last baby was born nearly thirty one years ago.  The pouch containing the pureed vegetables was on the table, without a lid, and the baby was practicing his 'high five' flat hand!  The people on the next table ducked in time, but I was not so quick.  It is amazing how much one tube holds!  

An ice cream later, we were back in the car, and on the way to Walmart!  Perhaps both boys could fall asleep in the buggy. Or perhaps not!  Jamie started to cry.  I am loathed to admit what I did next, but it is over now, and everyone I have told has laughed! "Perhaps he needs changing", came the helpful advise. In the cereal aisle, I checked his nappy, and sure enough, there was reason to change.  He was so comfortable in the buggy, I did not want to move him.  Modern day pushchairs are like self contained apartment units, and it was so easy to cordon him off and get him changed.  Nothing left the area, and the old diaper was swiftly placed in the plastic bag, and then into the special pouch of the travel bag, so that it could be disposed of later. In the bag were lots of wet wipes, which were used for hands as well as other delicate places!  A swift operation it was!

We finally arrived home, and after depositing the goods in their respective places, we got ready to go to the pool.  I was allowed to swim my laps, before playing some wildly imaginative game which had been invented within seconds of my arriving at the other side of the pool.  Two hours seemed to fly by, and it was only when his mum face timed him did Ollie realise she was not there!  

Image may contain: 2 people, close-upPoppa Dana was on call Saturday night, as he had been since Wednesday, when Ollie had decided he was 'flavour of the day!'  It was a new experience for my husband and he seems to have fallen into the roll rather well.  He knows most of the words to all of the cartoon shows which have been screening through our television, and can sing, with precision, each chorus of "You're welcome", from Muana!  He is the one who has to put his grandson into the car, and take him out.  It is a delight to see.  

Saturday night was rather civilised, with Jamie sleeping in the buggy, and Ollie hibernating next to him, as we ate dinner at Macaroni Grill.  Richard was child no. 3, as he took advantage of the ability to draw on the table cloth with a crayon, and drew pictures, and wrote slogans, to his heart's delight!

Sunday morning, I woke exhausted.  I had forgotten how there is no stopping with three year old boys, and the constant 'up and down' takes its toll, especially when not used to it.  However, I would not change it for anything!

With another week of fun and frolicking to be had, I am going to make this an American Adventure to be remembered by all, (although Jamie will have to live vicariously through pictures,) and shall fall in whenever required for next week's projects, in between work.  I shall be an expert by the time it is all over, and shall be much fitter for the experience.  After an afternoon at the pool, and another night of baby sitting, I shall have to go into work at least for a while, tomorrow, and hope that I can have some time off to make some more precious memories, and find some new adventures to report in ............ another story!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

WE'RE ON THE ROAD TO NOWHERE!

I was not satisfied with the website showing me that my flight would be on time, on Friday evening, and called the airline to make sure.  "You will get an email.  Houston airport is opening later today, and internal flights are pretty much back on track".  We were going to Colorado, and had managed to get a flight out of Austin on Friday, after close of business!  I was rather excited, as it would have meant two full days of vacation; quality time for my husband and me, after my having been away for two weeks.

Still not quite satisfied that all was going to plan, I decided to double check.  The opening of the airport had been delayed for a day, and my internal sonar was working overtime.  Checking the website for the airport, I saw that it was, indeed, opening, and hoping to have all internal flights up and running by Thursday evening, definitely by Friday morning, and all looked well. However, (and I am prone to say it was divine intervention,) I felt prompted to click on the link that took me to the Facebook page of said International Airport, something I do not normally do, as it is normally followed by a myriad of comments.  The second 'comment' down was the key to all I had feared.  "Yes...but...United have cancelled my Friday evening flight".  Into the airline web page I went, and on to the call center I got!  

Surprisingly enough, I reached the same person to whom I had been speaking earlier.  "No, everything....um...oh yes....hmmm", was not particularly reassuring, but she continued.  "I can get you...um no.  Well, you can go through....um no.  Okay, Newark, but....no way back.  Washington, oh yes....um no".  The conversation was one sided, and her rhetorical questions were listened to without much confidence that a solution would be forthcoming.  "Saturday morning, through San Francisco.  Yes or no?"  This was not rhetorical and needed an immediate answer.  I ran into the next office, and shouted to Dana, who was oblivious of the problem, as he did not realise it was this weekend that we were taking off!  He concurred that this would suffice, and we were booked on the first available flight out of Austin, to connect us to a flight going to Denver.  "What would have happened if I had not seen the comment, as I didn't get an email?" I asked, purely to satisfy my own curiosity.  "We would have put you on the next available flight, or connection.  Probably Monday morning".  Upset as I was that we were losing a day of our much looked forward to break, I pondered on the fact that thousands had lost more than a few hours 'quality time' with their loved ones.  We could make up the time at a later date.  Many others in the Houston area would never get than opportunity.  

Friday morning came with a nice surprise.  Our flight on Saturday was fully booked, and therefore we had been upgraded to first class, which included breakfast.  A silver lining!  We set off to the airport a little after six Saturday morning, and were on the plane and ready for take off, just before seven. Breakfast was rather delicious, and consisted of a spinach quiche, (which was more like a broccoli vol-au-vent, but no one was quite sure as to what the 'green stuff' actually was,) fruit, yoghurt, and a biscuit.  Coffee and pastries followed.  We watched a film on my phone, and landed in San Francisco a little early.  I went in search of a cap for Samantha as she had mislaid the one I bought her last time. With her initials now being SF, I managed to get one in a burnt orange colour, which was quite apt, as the college football season was about to start, and the University of Texas has a new coach, hopefully breathing life into a rather defunct team. Our flight to Colorado was on time.

Exiting Denver airport is always a challenge.  We had to get to the car hire facility, and I waited for Dana to tell me with whom we were booked, so that we could find the correct 'meeting point'.  I asked the man at the 'information desk' on the best way to leave the building, and he told me to 'get the train'.  Our mistake last time had been to get off at the wrong stop, but this time we had our instructions and did not deviate.  The car was booked through a third party, and the page that my very articulate and practical husband had printed, did not show the firm from whom we were to collect! My look of despair was not unnoticed by the man to whom we asked for help.  The helpful chap at the Avis desk looked up our name and eliminated his company, and another.  "Where's the next page?" he asked, as Dana handed him the part of the reservation details he had.  The look of "Can you believe it", formed across my face, and I did not have to say anything.  I was not very successful at trying not to intimate that my husband was incapable, but the chap at the desk gave me a knowing glance.  Dana is normally the epitome of organisation.  I then broke all my own rules, and looked up the name of the 'third-party', on the Internet on my phone.  Dana had his laptop out and was trying to connect, when I gave him the number to call.  "Thrifty", was the reply, as to which car hire company we were to collect the vehicle.  "Yes, you are!" came my response!  

The car hire facility was manned with machines.  A television screen showing the representative, was what we had to use. The girl on the screen appeared to be completely bored with all and sundry, and twiddled with her hair, as she found our booking, and asked a series of questions, that appeared to be redundant.  Finally, the machine spewed out seven pieces of paper, and Dana had to scan his credit card, and virtually tick a lot of boxes.  The girl on the screen appeared to have fallen asleep by the time he had finished, and sat up abruptly when Dana said, "What next?"  

The car was not the one we booked, and I was ready to go back inside and insist on a complimentary upgrade, as the downgrade was not what we ordered, and if they did not have another car, in our range, then they needed to make things right. My husband did not want to waste the time.  

Having been to the Woolly Hotel, we knew what to expect and were not disappointed.  It was as welcoming as the first time we were there, and the room was beautiful.  We booked a table at Teds, unpacked, and changed for dinner.  


Happy hour was an hour and a half, and my complimentary beverage, for Saturday, was a gin and tonic.  "Lots of tonic", I said as the waitress took my order.  It was still not enough, as after four or five sips, I felt the giggles coming on!  Of course, I blamed it on the altitude, and not having eaten much, but the shaking head of my husband, and the comments, by text, from my daughter, (whom he felt fit to inform,) did not concur!

Dinner was delicious.  Bison was on the menu and I was ready to eat!  I had the prime rib, and Dana had the pot-roast.  Full to the brim, we returned to the hotel, and after a cup of tea, I fell into a deep sleep.  I had not really considered the fact that not only was I jet-lagged, having arrived back only three days previously, but we had also gone through another two time changes.  Denver was an hour earlier than Austin; California, two!  Although we were only in San Francisco for a couple of hours, my internal body clock was going haywire!  

We breakfasted early on Sunday morning. There were a few people in the restaurant, but the crowds had yet to gather.  I put together a small 'care package', consisting of various pieces of fruit, for our journey, and we headed back to the room to 'drop off and pick up'.  

Travelling along the highway to Colorado Springs allowed us to see Pikes Peak, the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rockies in North America!  We stopped and asked for some 'viewing options' at the 'information' kiosk, and were directed to the Garden of the Gods.  The rock formation was quite amazing.  We parked, and climbed, took photos and were wowed by the views.  It was spectacular.  The reason we had chosen to return to Denver was to have a relaxing weekend, with some sightseeing and this was perfect.  It is the very kind of scenery that divides the old me from the Englishwoman abroad!  I know the 'western' movies were not all filmed in this country, but from those I have seen, the topography is depicted very well.  Imagining the battles of the 'wild west' being fought, is quite easy when in the surrounds such as we were.  One of my first thoughts was the difference of opinion the different people would have had.  I could imagine the nineteenth century town dweller marveling at the roads.  The efficiency would have made their lives so much easier, and the invention of the motor vehicle would have enhanced it so much more.  Then I thought of the indigenous race whom had roamed the land for years before the new residents arrived. They probably would not have been so much in awe of the progress, and despaired at the carbuncles that changed the landscape.  Perhaps I am wrong. However, the places I am now visiting, in my adoptive land, bring to life the history in places I never dreamt of seeing first hand.  I had come full circle from one of my first posts, (if not the first,) about my trip to see Mount Rushmore, and how I was encouraged to write a 'diary on line' of the different route my life had taken.  I felt quite emotional.  With all the places in the world I would like to see, which I believe I may never see, (although, never say never,) I am satisfied with having the whole of this continent to explore! However I digress! We planned to be back shortly after noon, and write our blogs, before perhaps having a swim and enjoying 'happy hour', before going to dinner.

Scuppered plans seemed to be the norm for the weekend!  After our delayed start, I should have guessed that not all would have been plain sailing.  We detoured slightly before going back, to get to Woodland Park, which was on the other side of the mountains, and then headed back.  

The road we took back was different to the one we had taken to. Dana decided that the scenic route might be worthwhile.  After thirty minutes on the road, we noticed that we were still on the same road.  "We should have hit the highway by now", said my husband, who was adamant that the map was wrong.  I was shown that we had not taken a wrong turn, on a chart that was as clear as mud!  

"Is it Twin Peaks where you can't leave town?", asked Dana, trying to sound jovial.  I was aware of what he was talking about but was unsure as to whether it was the right show.  Mild panic set in as I spotted what appeared to look like the same cadre of motor cyclists coming towards us, and the same looking hut on the side of the road.  Pulling myself together, as I tried to convince myself that I am not prone to believing science fiction, especially when it is depicted on a television series, I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. Three cups of coffee and a couple of tall glasses of juice were not sitting well!  "Did you see that horse lying down?" asked Dana, as he looked at the map again.  "Doesn't that indicate he is dead?" I asked, not knowing much about horses, but remembering this bit of trivia.  "Hmm, think so", said Dana, sounding very much like a character from one of those said sci-fi mysteries.  "You would think someone would notice", said I, hoping to get a different reaction. "Hmm, think so", came the robotic reply.  The road, which had been two colours, green on our side, gray on the other, had turned to all gray, and back to dual hues again.  Panic attempted to overwhelm me again!  The topography started to look scarily familiar.  What appeared to be the same group of motor cyclists rounded the corner. We drove, and drove.  The road changed back to one colour, and back to two, again.  Each time we turned on a hairpin bend, the mountains ahead had the same peaks.   I shuffled in my seat.  We had been driving for over an hour, with the speed signs on the road going from 35 to 25 and back again, at eerily equal intervals.  We finally came to an oasis.  There was a cafe.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and then plummeted back into the abyss, as we drove past, without a 'by your leave', and saw the same view as we turned the corner.  "Why didn't we stop?" I asked.  "Didn't know you wanted to", came the reply.  

Eventually, after about ninety minutes, we saw a sign to the highway.  Not wanting to have my hopes dashed, I waited with baited breath until we came to some traffic lights, and actually saw said highway to the left.  "Eureka!" I shouted, finally feeling that we had escaped some terrible day terror!  We headed towards Denver.  "39 miles" read the sign.  We were only about sixty miles away in the first place, and we had been driving for an hour and a half!  The view suddenly started to look different.  It had been beautiful on our expedition, but I had lost interest after a while!  We saw the tall buildings of the 'mile high' city, and headed home!

Dana showed me where the 'map' had gone wrong when we were back in our room.  The road had veered to the right.  We had stayed on the straight line.  There could not have possibly been a sign we missed!  It was definitely an error with the map, or the city council, or the road signers, or anyone else that could be responsible for us not taking a wrong turn.  The fact of the matter was that we had gone 'straight ahead', and traveled so far out of our way that we had actually left the outskirts of the faulty map, and re-emerged on the page somewhere far up and over!  We decided that this small hiccup could be remedied only one way.  Ice-Cream!  As we had missed lunch, and the 'care package' had been devoured along the way, before dinner, we would have dessert!  The Stone-Cold Creamery was in town, and we drove out to get some comfort food!

Behind the counter was a 'newby'.  He was trying his best, but someone should have pointed out that the traditional offer of, "Would you like to try", should never been spoken to those under the age of consent!  Two young girls, of approximately seven, with a lady whom we supposed to be their grandmother, came in after us. Dana (who assures me did not make the second mistake of the day) said that it was okay to serve them before us, and the helpful assistant asked the fateful question.  "That one.  Oh and that one.  Oh and that one".  Thankfully, there were only about twenty to choose from, and forty spoonfuls later, they made a choice.  This gave us time to choose, change our mind, go for another trip around Colorado Springs (sarcasm noted) and back again, before we were asked, "What can I get you?"

Happy hour was more happy than the previous day.  I asked for a rum and cranberry, but forgot to mention, "top up on the cranberry".  It was very strong!  "How is the dog?", I asked my daughter when she called to tell me something that had happened, so significant I remember not.  "I miss him!", I said.  "Edward", called Samantha.  "My mother is drunk.  She said she misses the dog!"  The same message was sent to Dana!

Dinner was, again, delicious.  I chose the Kansas Strip, another cut of bison, and together with fries and a salad, I could not have asked for a better dinner!  We took the car to the petrol station, and then went back to watch college football!  

Monday morning had a fairly civilised start. We went to the restaurant for breakfast at six thirty, and were ready to leave the hotel an hour later.  With the car dropped off, and finding our way, (by signs, although Dana insisted I ask the guy at the information desk, just in case I misread them....yes, in case I misread them,) to the terminal, we were ready to board our flight.  It was most uneventful, and whilst we did not receive complimentary breakfast, we did enjoy pastries, by way of the 'care package', I had put together, in case the eggs, toast, bagels, waffles and fruit were not enough to keep us going until we arrived in Austin, shortly before one!

I spent a very pleasant afternoon by the pool, chatting to one of my neighbours, while Dana went to the office.  It rounded off the weekend perfectly.

The rest of the week went rather quickly, despite us being a man down.  Samantha and I managed to get things back to where they needed to be, and by Friday, our end of the business was in good shape.  I spoke to many people who had either been displaced, or knew of people who had been displaced in the Houston area, including a guy who lost a colleague during a rescue mission. When I asked, "How are you?", and he answered, "Trying to keep our head above water!", I knew it was not a metaphor!

I spent the week outside of working hours, and the weekend, preparing for my grandsons' visit.  Samantha's old bedroom is barely recognisable, as it is neat and tidy, and ready for a three year old to recreate the havoc that his auntie left behind!  Tuesday cannot come fast enough, and I am sure I will have plenty to say about how the boys did this, or the boys did that, or how did I ever keep up with one boy, let alone two, in ........... another story!