Search This Blog

Sunday, February 18, 2018

WINTER OLYMPICS - AUSTIN STYLE!

I have not watched any of the winter Olympics.  In fact I think the last time I watched the winter Olympics was when Torvill and Dean took the gold medals, back in the early eighties.  However, on Monday morning, I decided to hold my own Olympic challenge.  After setting up my new piece of furniture under the stairs, I had put all the items that had been removed, back again, and somehow, dislodged the top of a bottle of car upholstery cleaner.  At I picked it up by the pump handle, the bottle fell, and the oily liquid poured out on to the carpet.  I picked up the bottle, which promptly slid from my hand, and more of the oily mixture puddled on to my tiled floor.  I cleaned it up, as best I could, but it was a little slippery, and I spent a good deal of time attempting to make the gloss into a matt finish.   The new event comprised slalom, gymnastics, high-jump and ice skating.  I slid down on the ice, did an upside down star jump, whilst flying through the air, at the same time managing  to put my foot out to stop the lamp from hitting the wall, recovered with a half triple twist, and my head broke my fall, as it hit the table, saving my right hip from taking the brunt as it hit the tiled floor.  There was no applause, despite the new choreographed move.  I am not sure whether I passed out, but I do remember a brief period of darkness! This was not in my plans for Monday morning, when I had to get myself to the office, and be three people instead of the usual one and three quarters!  

Thankfully, I did not appear to have sustained injury, and when I decided to walk at lunchtime, there was only a modicum of pain in my right side.  

I spent Tuesday morning in the kitchen.  Despite washing the floor again, it was still very slippery around the 'under the stairs' area, and I realised that although I had moped up the mess from the carpet, each time I stepped inside the cupboard, I was bringing out gloop on my feet, or slippers, and transferring it back to the tiles.  I became very aware of my own mortality, and tiptoed around the area, with caution, adding curling to my repertoire, sliding along on my knees, as I brushed the baking pans along the floor, having let them go to prevent another triple axle turn, and inevitable loss of points should I fall in an ungainly fashion!  

I was slightly anxious, although unnecessarily so, as Richard and Steph were moving into their new house today, and I was waiting to hear that they had 'completed' and had been given the keys.  The 'ping' came around seven o'clock, my time, and I found that I was rather uncontrollably emotional.  Being extremely proud of them was one reason for my outburst, but the other was that I was unable to be there to help.  However, always practical, something which has not differed on either side of the Atlantic, I decided against the traditional sending of flowers, and arranged for some 'ready meals' to be delivered, in the hope it would ease the burden on Steph, so that cooking would be one less thing that she would have to deal with!

Shrove Tuesday on this side of the pond is Fat Tuesday, and in honour of Mardi Gras, I was definitely using a lot of 'fat'.  Having made my choux buns, toffee cream and three lots of salted caramel sauce, (each one with a different twist) I put 'fat' on my shopping list, using the word, 'butter'.  I headed out to the office, and was once again very late.  Work was relentless, and the phone did not stop ringing.  At lunchtime, I took the dog for a walk, and wondered why!  I recalled the words I used when trying to convince Dana that it was a good idea to have a canine in the house.  "New life, new ideals".  I was never an animal lover, per se.  I certainly did not object to pets, as long as they were in someone else's house!  A goldfish was about my limit, preferring a pet rock over the water creature, as it required less attention!  However, when Samantha had said she wanted a dog, all those years ago, I amazed myself by suggesting this might be a good thing!  I was starting anew in a new country, and new things should be embraced.  Little did I know that I would become the 'go to' person when the animal felt abandoned!  For a walk we did go, and there was not a tree, fire hydrant, nor obelisk, which did not require a modicum of eau de Frank!  If there was an Olympic challenge for dogs, on the number of pillars on which to mark territory, Frank would definitely be in the running for a gold! 

Image may contain: one or more people, drink and indoorDinner was leftover Shepherd's Pie, and the evening, or what was left of it by the time we arrived home, was spent watching television.  Dana had developed an attack of the sniffles, and had promptly fallen asleep very early, leaving me to take the dog out for his final night time walk.  It was not a very pleasant evening, as drizzle trickled down from the cloudy sky, and we walked around aimlessly for a few minutes before the dog decided he had had enough!  

Waking up at two in the morning is not an uncommon event for me, but waking up to a whining dog is something to which I am, thankfully, unaccustomed. The word 'final' as in 'final nightime walk' had obviously not filtered through to the dog, as he failed to be comforted. "You should  have told him  to stop" was advice given a little too late, when I told Samantha I had to walk him at three in the morning, so that he did not wake the neighbourhood.  This was not on my 'Decathlon' list of events, and when I arose early on Wednesday, it was somewhat unhappily!

I had a busy day Wednesday.  A day that has become normal in my new normal life.  I know I am constantly referring to my 'new' life, albeit fourteen (nearly) years in, but I am still amazed at where I am now, considering my vehement opposition to any mention of living anywhere but England in my younger years.  I left for Joe's around seven, and took with me an array of goodies.  Gingerbread, peanut butter biscuits (cookies) and banoffee filled choux buns.  From Joe's I went to get my nails painted.  The fog had delayed Michelle and as I waited, I called my mother, who had received a call from the supermarket to say that the delivery may be a little late.  I had not realised that her number was in 'my account', but remembered afterward that I had been required to add one, and as it did not recognise my foreign cell phone, it had seemed the obvious choice.  I promised her I would remove it when I got back to the office, but my surprise delivery was no longer a surprise, as she had called Richard to ask why he had given her number!  

From Michelle, with newly, elaborately, painted nails, I went for the third week running to the radio station.  Today was a performance of  'School of Rock'.  None of the usual faces were at the studio.  Being 'Billy no-mates' was also not confined to me, as many people were on their own.  "Help yourself to sandwiches and candy", said the young guy whom I had asked the previous week, "What's on next week?"  We did!  It was a delicious lunch, and decorating the tables were cards and packages, filled with sweets and other 'fun' stuff, such as little notebooks, ice-cream shaped lip gloss, heart ink stamps, and other 'kids' stuff, which had been left over from a Valentines event that had taken place.  Apparently, unable to give 'candy' to children, they had decided to give it to the adults in attendance, and we all took full advantage!  With my bag filled (although not quite as full as some others) I went into the lounge and took a front seat for the performance.  

"See you next week", I said to the young man, who laughed, somewhat anxiously, as I left office bound.  The supermarket delivery had found its way to my son and daughter-in-law, and they were very grateful for the gesture.  

My Olympic event today was to complete my work and get home to clear up my kitchen, which I had left, as is the norm on Wednesday, in a complete mess!  Our Wednesday night visitors had cried off for the evening, as one had a prior engagement, and the other was taking his wife out to dinner for Valentine's Day.  I was rather pleased that I did not have to leave work early to finish off preparing dinner, as I was lagging behind in the event of 'work'.  Dinner was in the crock pot, and ready when we eventually arrived home, and the rice cooker cooked the rice, as I cleared away all the excess mess.

I became slightly overwhelmed on Thursday, as thunderstorms threatened, and my workload became the size of Mount Olympus, and I felt buried in the avalanche that seemed to be preventing me from being able to ski to safety.  Having been up, again, at four o'clock, for another post midnight stroll, I did take the dog for yet another walk, but the impending tempest caused him to pull me back, and we only made it to the crossroads, before he stopped and would not move.  Not in a very long time has the puppy stood stuckfast to the ground and refused to go any further.  The clouds were looking rather angrily down on us, and I thought perhaps he had a point.  We did not want to be caught in a torrential downpour, which would prove to be every bit as scary as the deluge that awaited me back at the office.  I gave in and let him pull me back to our building, which he did hastily!  On the eve of the 'year of the dog', I felt it was appropriate to give in to the hound, again!

No automatic alt text available.Friday saw no let up to the workload, despite heading into a long weekend.  I arrived at the office early, and when Dana announced that he had left his phone at home, I said I would man the fort while he went to get it.  However, apparently, it was considered to be a silly suggestion, as he felt it better he maintain his position in the 'judging' chair, and I go an perform the task!  I could not go home, get his phone, come back, and then take a walk, as time was at a premium.  I made a plan.  Driving home, I suddenly realised that I should have changed into my 'walking' gear before leaving the office.  Once home, I changed, and packed up my 'work clothes' in my back pack an headed out.  I walked to the top of our complex and then hiked through the woods to the adjoining neighbourhood.  I had forgotten the hills.  Our adjoining neighbourhood roads all have the suffix, 'Hills', and for good reason.  From my entry point, all the hills went up, before they went down, and my task was to find the least mountainous!  Olympus one, two or three?  I chose three, as the incline was slightly less than a ninety degree angle, where as the other two appeared to be one of a perfect right angle and the other an obtuse angle, where I would have found it easy to repeat my Monday morning performance of a double back flip with a triple axle!  Hiking had not been in the plan, but hike I did!  Up and up the hill I strode, and then just as I thought I would need oxygen,  I reached the peak, and without the use of skis slalomed down to the main road.

I arrived back at the office, changed into my work clothes, and continued to wade through the mire until seven o'clock, when the checkered flag was waved, and I knew I would only have time for one more lap before having to pack up!  

Enjoying my Saturday morning, I headed out to take part in the marathon event of shopping and completed it in record time.  I did deviate slightly, but not enough to take me completely off course.  

Heading out for the airport at 10:20 on Saturday night was not as bad as I thought it would be.  The kids landed early, and we took them home, and deposited them at their front door, with their dog, and got home before midnight!  I fell into bed and slept sideways, without being herded into a square foot, by our canine grandpup!

So, once again, it is Sunday, and my plans are the same as always.  "What are you doing today?" comes the question.  "Blog", is always the constant, and depending on the time of the year, the next answer differs.  Lemon poppy seed muffins are on the agenda today, for reasons that elude me, but the gauntlet has been laid down, and the challenge accepted.  My Olympic events this week have been somewhat unconventional, but no less deserving, in my opinion, of a medal, than any other competitor!  At least my co-worker will be back in the office on Tuesday to help with the vast amount of paperwork that I piled up on her desk, and we are looking at the possibility of adding a staff member, which will hopefully give us all a little help!  In the meantime, we have a holiday on Monday, which should give me time to recuperate from mental, physical and emotional events that have been added to the great mount which loaned its name to the four yearly event.  Hopefully, next weekend I will be brimming with a renewed sense of eagerness, and have some very exciting events to report in ..... another story!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

PANIC OVER!

I was not looking forward to the week, as I knew it was going to be disruptive.  Samantha and Edward were planning a trip at the end of the week, and not only was I going to have to look after the dog, but I had, apparently, offered to take them to the airport late Friday afternoon.  Not only did I have to leave work early on Friday, but I was going to have to contend with the 'check in' on Thursday, as they were going to the cinema.  My routine was being 'messed with', and for some reason, it was causing me to panic.  


Monday was a very busy day, and my adjustment to routine had already started to show signs of deterioration as I had failed to extract anything from my freezer for dinner.  My mind was already racing towards what I was not going to be able to accomplish, rather than to embrace the laid back attitude of those around me.  As the clock spun round to past seven, we finally 'closed up shop'.
After having an argument with myself, as to whether or not to go home and defrost something, which would mean eating very late, or just letting Dana take me out for dinner, I both won and lost the argument, with the sensible me making the decision.  We headed to the diner, where I was once again plunged into panic!  Panic, (and I know this sounds completely irrational,) was because I was already counting down the hours to 'check in' on Thursday!  The decision to go to the particular eatery was based on time and we should be 'in and out', and home, reasonable quickly.  We were ushered to a seat and waited.  We waited, and waited.  Finally, the waitress walked over to our table.  "Did I already take your order?", she asked.  "You took mine, thirty minutes ago", said the man sitting behind me.  "I did?  Okay, but I didn't take y'alls?"  There seemed to be no correlation  between the fact that the order had been taken, and thirty minutes later, there was no food.  After taking our order, she went to put it into the automated menu option machine, and then returned.  "You get a side with that, sir", she said to Dana, who had given an order, including a side.  "Do I get my order?" said the man behind, who was starting to lose his patience.  After thirty minutes, I was surprised he had any left to lose, but he so sat.  Another couple, in their twilight years, meandered to the front of the restaurant.  The woman went to the cash desk to pay, and the man stopped at our table.  "She is the worst waitress in here", he said, in what considered to be a jovial manner.  We smiled.  "No, really, she is", he said again.  The waitress threw her head back, and laughed.  "We have a lot of patience", said Dana, in an effort reduce tension.  As quick as a flash, the man retorted, "Are you doctors?"  We laughed, as the man behind announced that his patience had expired, and he went in search of the manager.  Our dinner arrived while the gentleman previously sitting behind us was at the counter, explaining that he had come in for a 'quick bite' as he was in a hurry!  "I got your dinner here", said the waitress, as if it had only taken seconds to arrive.  However, half of it was on our table, as she had given us his 'sides'.  After being told that the management would 'comp' the meal, the man was presented with the 'check'.  He went to see the manager again.  I sat watching the clock.

Although I did not have a nail appointment on Wednesday, my arrival at the office was later than usual.  I did not put off my trip to Joe, despite having left a lot of work 'undone' on Tuesday night.  One reason was that I needed to replenish our coffee supplies, Reason two was that I had a DVD to collect from the radio station along from the roastery.  My third, and probably the most compelling, was that I enjoy going to Joe on a Wednesday morning!  It has taken me a long time time to convince myself that it is not a problem to have a couple of hours off work on a Wednesday morning!  Our business, despite my self-proclaimed notion that I am indispensable, survived long before I arrived on the scene, and would survive if I no longer worked there!  However, before leaving the house, just to put a little added pressure on the already highly pressurized persona, I made some cinnamon pastry, red pepper, pimento and sweet chili-pepper quiches and some individual hazelnut meringue baskets, filled with hazelnut and coffee cream.  I am nothing if not my own worst enemy!

The treats were accepted, and munched most gratefully, at Joe's, and after picking up my prize pack, I headed back north to the office, where, surprise, surprise, everything was running according to plan!

Although things were rather hectic on Thursday, we finished at a reasonable time.  Dana offered to take me out for dinner, and he was most surprised, not only when I accepted, but when I told him where I wanted to go.  I had a hankering for fish tacos, and despite all my favourite places for partaking of said dish, appear to be closing down, there is one place left!  However, I warned him, I had to be home before eight in order to check Samantha and Edward in for their flight.  We had plenty of time.  We had plenty of time until the till decided to go 'off line'.  There was a second till, but this was being used by someone else, for something else, which seemed to be 'not a problem' to anyone. The person on the 'off-line' till appeared not to be able to decipher the signs that were in front of him once the till came back to life.  The lady in front of us was not in a hurry.  The lady to the left of us, who decided she was next in line, was also not in a hurry.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, went the clock!  Eventually, our order was taken, and we sat waiting for the red lights on the black box we were given, started to flash.  

Making it home with ten minutes to spare, I ran upstairs, opened my laptop, waited while it decided to show me an array of beautiful scenic pictures, and finally spun into action.  I put in the information I needed, performed a 'practice run', to make sure it was working, and was told I was 'too early'.  I sat for the next sixty seconds, with my finger on the buzzer, waiting to click. The airline with which they were travelling has a number system, where you queue up dependent upon what number you are given when you check in.  There are no assigned seats, so the quicker you get on the plane, the better the seat, and the quicker you 'check in', the quicker you get on the plane!  I sent Samantha a message with the letter and number I managed to get.  I thought it was rather good.  She responded with, "I missed the end of the film as I had to go .....".  I was expecting, "Thank you!"

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standingFriday was not going to be a good day.  I had decided that before the week had begun.  However, to add insult to injury, (not meaning to sound ungrateful!) I received a call to say I had been picked, again, to come to the radio station for another 'meet and greet'.  Instead of being delighted, I was overwhelmed, and not in a good way!  In fact, I was not the only winner of this prestigious award.  Entering Samantha for the contest as well, I had put the office phone number, and on receiving a call for my daughter, I had dutifully pretended to be her when accepting the invitation, when they called.  Immediately after putting down the phone, I realised that I may also be a 'winner', and was not going to be both 'her' and 'me' again, this week.  As I walked back to her office, with my phone in my hand, it rang.  "Be me!", I told her as she recoiled and promptly refused.  I swiped the arrow on the screen and the phone connected.  I put the phone to her ear, and she had no choice but to say, "Hello".  She reluctantly pretended to be me when accepting the invitation.  

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting and people standingThe performance on Friday, by Anderson East, whom we had 'met and greeted' a couple of months earlier, was very good.  I did not have a 'question' ready to ask, as I was not in the right frame of mind, but the fact that I was out of the office, and at the venue, caused me to take stock of the situation, and enjoy the show!  There was an amusing interlude, as we noticed the absent of the 'constant' who failed to show last week, when someone else looked around and said, "She's not here!"  We realised we were not the only one who waits for her to arrive.  I then wondered if the other people say that about us!  

After photos and a brief 'chat', we left the studio, and I thanked the guy who had shown us through earlier, and welcomed us back!  I asked, "Who are we going to see next week".  It was a joke, but totally lost on the poor employee, who stumbled over his words trying to remember who was going to be at the station the following week.  

Both Dana and Samantha were heard (by me) discussing my concern about using the toll road to get from the airport back to her house.  The plan (not set by me) was to drive from the office to my daughter's home, take her car to the airport, (as she has a toll-road tag, and it would be quicker to use the toll,) and for me to drive back to her house, via the toll, and then drive back to the office.  The reason I had offered to take them to the airport, apparently, was so that I could take my case, which had been damaged on return from England, to the airline office, within the airport, so that they could send it away for repair.  My sixty days in which to return the case, empty, to their office, was running out, and this would be (apparently) an ideal opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.  I recall mentioning that this may be an opportunity to take care of the matter, but do not recall setting it in stone; the stone, no doubt that was to kill the two birds!  I had printed out a map to show me the route from the airport back to her house, and was ready to head into the unknown.  However, because I had mentioned that I was not au fait with the toll-roads, they assumed I was setting myself up for failure, and concerning myself about the trip.   I knew I could not get lost on the toll, as there is no deviation, and even if I took it all the way to Waco, I would be on the Interstate back into Austin in no time.  I might not arrive back until the early hours of the morning, but I would  be in familiar territory.  They mistook this sarcasm as an assumption that I was setting myself up for failure, and concerning myself about the trip. 

I left the office at four fifteen, in order to be at Samantha's house by five.  I arrived early.  They were not ready to leave.  I started to panic.  Dana was quite caught up with his work, which was an unusual scenario, and could have left at five, but I had his car!  At twenty minutes past the hour they had designated as 'zero', we left, with Samantha driving.  I was studying the map.  "Let me put the directions in your phone", said Edward, "And it can tell you which way to go".  Oh ye of little faith!  I thanked my son in law for his suggestion, and offer, but declined, emphatically.  I would be fine!

We parked the car, and I went and deposited my bag with the airline official.  I got back to the car, and followed my written instructions, finding it amusing that I was actually entering the toll-road, on purpose!  Dana has managed to drive on to the road a few times by accident, as the signs are rather misleading.  The toll-roads are always to the right, but the signs letting you know that you are about to enter are always on the left, with the signs letting you know that it is the last 'free' exit, directly above the entrance.  I wonder if there is a reason for this!  Cynical is the word that comes to mind!

I drove at high speed, as the limit is 80mph, and remembered that I was meant to 'swap' toll-roads along the way, but did not remember at which junction.  I called Samantha, who was not sure, and she passed me to Edward, who said that I just 'kept left'.  The signs were rather clear, and despite the difference in opinion as to where to exit, I chose the one with which I was familiar and headed back to Samantha's house, where I deposited her car, and then drove Dana's back to the office, where I picked up both him and Frank.  

We arrived home around seven thirty, and I realised that the week had come to an end, and all was well!

Saturday morning was going to be fun!  I was going shopping!  I dressed accordingly, as the weather forecasters had said it would be a lovely, mild, sunny day, and just for precaution, wore a jacket.  I went to the DIY shop, as I was in search of a shelving unit, but left empty handed.  I went to the Container Store, but again, nothing suited.  I headed for Costco, where I was complimented on my attire, and wandered around without a care in the world.  It was Saturday, and freedom from my own 'mind incarceration' had been obtained!  From the warehouse, I went north, to the Dollar Tree, where the queues were long, and my the length of my patience, longer.  I offered my space in the queue to someone who appeared to be in a hurry, and he thanked me profusely.  I listened as the two ladies operating the cash register, speaking in 'southern' accents and diction, not feeling the need to correct grammar or pronunciation! I felt tremendously light.  

The temperature had dropped dramatically, when I left the store and I was thankful for my jacket!

Walmart was busy, but I sailed through like a yacht at a regatta, and headed back towards home, without having purchased my shelving unit, and resigning myself to the fact I would no doubt have to make a trip to the 'Swedish' store at some point.  However, I pulled off into the strip mall, that housed the Big Lots store and decided to take a look.  An older lady was standing in the middle of the store, debating with a salesman over a piece of furniture.  I looked at the unit and it was exactly what I was looking for.  "But if I put it like this, my TV will be too high!", she said, as if he was responsible.  Very politely, he suggested that she put the unit on its side.  "But then it will be too long!, she said, as if chastising!  He looked around and suggested she take a look at a different unit.  That was not going to work because of the price.  I was curious.  The smaller units were much cheaper than the larger one, but she seemed not to notice.  However, once deciding, finally, that this was not going to work for her, she turned to me and said, "He was gonna let this go for half price!"  I did not miss the opportunity!  "How, much for the unit", I said to the salesman, who watched with what seemed to be a look of relief, at the departure of the first woman, but who then looked as if he was going to have to go into battle again.  He was polite, but I detected a wariness within him.  He told me the price, which he said would be final, and make the item non-returnable, and then went to walk away.  "I'll take it!" I said, quickly, as if there was a queue and I was about to lose a prize!  It was a 'flat pack' item that had been put together for the 'floor', and was at such a good price.  It measured up to my measurements!  I paid for it, and then he suggested I drive my car around to the front of the store.  My car!  The mini!  Oh dear.  This could be a problem!  I had forgotten that I was not with Samantha, in her larger vehicle, nor with Dana, who could probably fit the unit in the back seat.  

It is amazing how much space there is in a mini!  Albeit the seats were as far forward as they could go, and my seat in particular had the back so far forward that it would not 'click' into place.  I drove home jerking forward, each time my foot hit the brake, or accelerator, as the chair back was loose!  I managed to get home, and unloaded the car.  It had been a successful trip.  

With the week over, but a new one headed my way with a few more unusual adjustments ahead, I think I managed to conquer all the levels of my own 'extreme' week.  We have snow again today, which is another 'not-normal'.  However, many unexpected things come together, hopefully, to make............. another story!




Sunday, February 4, 2018

ROUND THE CLOCK!

Darts is not a game with which my 'fellow Americans' are particularly au fait!  Originating, according to all research, in very early England, it has been considered a 'pub' game, rather than a 'bar' game, and therefore, rather less sophisticated than golf, or tennis, or even snooker!  However, I love a good game of darts, be it a participant or an onlooker.  Dana is now very familiar with the game, and sees the players as being mathematical genii.  

Although the world championship game was played at the beginning of the year, we have only just got around to watching.  With thousands of channels, and nothing to watch, we resorted to the the 'list' of things recorded for a rainy day!  

'Home' had come into my room, through the television, with a vengeance, and I found myself using expressions, phrases, and odd adages which I have not uttered for a long time.  We watched the first hour of the programme, which was mostly pre-match commentary, and then saved the rest for another time.  It was enough to remind me of another aspect of home that I missed.  Names, as well as places mentioned, stirred up memories. The enthusiasm of the players, each time they scored '180', was coupled with my shouting at the top of my voice, "Wuu-nnn 'undred a-nnnn ayyyyteeee!"  Despite my mother being thoroughly aghast at my very interest, let alone participation, due to its 'unsavory' (in her opinion) air, I am pretty good (or was) at throwing an arrow or two!

I could have thrown 'an arrow or two' at a few people on Monday.  The majority of phone calls were pre-recorded solicitations.  Erica, Heather and Steve tried to sell me a variety of products, all 'clicking' into action, after a brief period of silence, and trying their hardest not to sound like a recording.  However, talking over them restarts the programme and before the 'goodbye', they become like a scratched record, jumping back to the beginning.  Of course, most of those making the recording would not understand the concept of a 'broken' record!

Enthusiasm was not quelled despite the modicum of frustration, but the English accent reigned supreme.  Samantha attempted to dampen my fervent ardor, but to no avail!  "Don't be so over enthusiastic", she said, as we approached the check out of the HEB supermarket.  An Englishman was on the other side of the counter, and although we have chatted before, we had not seen him for sometime.  Rather than embrace our nationality, we all seemed to go into old-fashioned Brit mode.  (I say old fashioned, because check-out personnel in my local supermarkets, at home, have questioned the nature of my well-being in recent years, and asked, "How are you?" rather than just grunt.)  "Alright", he said, and I replied with equal ambiguity, "Yes, ta", and did not enquire as to his own health.  Once outside, I asked my daughter what she meant by 'over enthusiastic'.  She gave a demonstration.  In her mind, I approach someone, get nose-to-nose, and then give a little jump, before shouting, "Hey, how are you?"  Quite emphatically, I denied that my feet ever left the ground, and maintained that it would be an impossibility, given my vertically challenged stature, to actually get within a yard of their face, let alone an inch, when a two foot counter separated us.  She disagreed!

We did not watch the remainder of the darts match on Monday, nor Tuesday, but the curiosity was definitely getting the better of me.  We had watched a 'newcomer' surge ahead to reach the finals, against someone who had been titled the 'world's greatest ever'.  The 'world's greatest ever' had been mentored by the Crafty Cockney, a nickname given to Eric Bristow, who was, my first 'world's greatest ever'.  Before Eric and his cohorts, the game was televised and received a good deal of interest, but it was the players of Eric's era that became household names.  Interestingly enough, the nick-name, the Crafty Cockney, came from a pub in Santa Monica, California, so I felt a liaison between my two homes!  


Cockney, however, was not my accent of choice on Wednesday.  Rhyming slang had been considered a helpful code when Samantha and I arrived Stateside, fourteen years ago, but we then realised that there was no need to speak in cypher, as our accent was cryptic enough!  I espied a new neighbor in Randalls, our local local supermarket.  Without my feet leaving the ground, I approached him to say "Hi".  He looked at me curiously, and then said, "Oh the English woman, who spends the summer by the pool, with the hat".  I was surprised he remembered.  At our annual homeowners meeting, I had introduced myself (not that I needed an introduction, per se) as someone who 'lives at the pool in the summer', continuing with, 'if you see someone down by the pool, wearing a white cap, looking like she hasn't moved in a week, that's me!'  He said that it had reminded him of the phrase, 'Mad dogs and Englishmen'.  Before he could continue, I interjected that I was the 'mad dog', but he suggested a new phrase, 'mad cats and Englishwomen'.  I smiled, wryly, almost ready to do a Wuu-nnn 'undred a-nnnn ayyyyteeee, degree turn, as I did not see the connection!  However, always polite, I continued with the conversation. He said he had just seen another neighbour in the store, and told him that our community was rather small, and the likelihood of bumping into someone, not literally of course, (I felt my heels almost leave the ground at this point,) was quite probable! At the cash desk, I spotted the neighbour of whom he was probably talking, and waved to her, at the same time emitting a reasonably enthusiastic, "Hi",  Samantha looked at me with contempt.  "My feet did not leave the ground!", I insisted.  

I kept up the insistence that I was rather refined, and attempted to display an eloquent diction when speaking to acquaintances.  I do find myself speaking more as my mother would have wished, rather than in the 'Norf Lundon' accent that my father had perhaps bestowed upon me.  We entered the car park that surrounds our office, and saw someone 'dumping' rubbish in our trash receptacle. "I do hope you are a fellow occupant!" I said reasonably loudly, but at a distance from where he probably would not have heard.  I noticed that he had come from the 'ground' floor of our building, and gave him the benefit of the doubt.  However, as we got nearer to him, he projected a portion of unwanted serum from his mouth, in a most ungentlemanly like fashion.  Dressed in scrubs, I perceived that someone in his line of business should be more 'aware' of this kind of behaviour, especially as the news is filled with stories of 'flu season' and the large numbers of fatalities this has caused. "Was that wise?" I questioned, speaking more like the Queen than the Crafty Cockney.  "Jimmy germs spread from actions such as those", said I quite emphatically.  With my feet firmly on the floor, and with no intention of 'doing a Wuu-nnn 'undred a-nnnn ayyyyteeee , I continued.  "Quite unbecoming as well as being rather irresponsible, don't you think?"  I was quite close to the truck at the time, and must admit that my enthusiasm surprised even me, but I was in full swing!  Had the man understood a word I said, I could have won with a 'nine-dart finish', but it appeared my message was said in a language he could not decipher.  The look on his face was one of 'foreigner' rather than contempt!  However, my daughter found this not to be embarrassing, but hysterical, and could not catch her breath for laughter!

The afternoon saw the accent take on different tones.  My mobile phone rang, and I found out that I was the recipient of a prize.  A meet and greet at the local radio station.  Enthusiasm reigned again, as I gushed with delight and appreciation.  At the same time as I said my emphatic farewell, Samantha handed me her phone.  "You speak", she said, as she swiped the arrow to the right for the call to connect.  Her unwillingness to talk to people on the phone is a little concerning, but not altogether surprising, as we do have to repeat ourselves several times on occasions.  "Hello", I said, in a very high pitched voice, so a not to sound the same.  "Hey, Samantha.  You have won.....".  We had both 'text'd' to enter to contest.  I tried not to sound quite as enthusiastic, or use the same adjectives.  In fact, I sounded somewhat squeakily underwhelmed.  "Why did you talk like that?", she asked, laughing again.  "I didn't want to add enthusiasm that doesn't exist!" was the retort!

Not many people were at the radio station on Friday, and the absence of one such person, whom we see at every event, made us wonder as to her health.  One of the 'hosts' suggested we all think about a question to ask, as there would be an opportunity to 'chat' after the show. This was going 'live' on Face Book!  You know you have arrived when you go 'live' on Face Book!  We enjoyed lunch before the performance, and then sat directly in front of the artist as she performed four songs.  Rozzi Crane will be a big star!  I am not an expert in the world of 'pop' but I was among those who are, and they were all quite confident that she will go far!  Of course, I asked a question, when prompted.  After all, we were 'live' on Face Book.  I asked if her she had her parents' encouragement in her quest to become a singer, and asked very clearly, very precisely, and very (in my opinion) eloquently.  The 'DJ' repeated the question, and put on (in his opinion) an English accent.  "You want to imitate me?  Try this one for size....Wuu-nnn 'undred a-nnnn ayyyyteeee!  No, thought not!"  Of course I did not actually say this, as it would have been rather rude, considering we were in his home, and on his turf, so to speak!  However, the question was answered, in the local accent!
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

On our way home, Samantha played the 'live' recording on her phone.  Under the video was a comment from the 'missing person'.  "I didn't know that was today", was the rather mournful remark! "Oh good", said Samantha, in her best English.  "She is alive and well!" 

Saturday was spent shopping, as usual.  I am not quite sure what they put in the 'superbowl special' samples at Costco, but both Samantha and I came out of the warehouse in fine form!  We were both speaking as if we had a plumb in our mouth, and were rather vocal in the next few stores.  A group of men (who were not acting age appropriately - in my opinion) were using language that was not fit for a lady's ears.  I was, for today, at least for that moment, a lady, and let out a gasp, followed by a most emphatic, clear, Queen's accented English, "I beg your pardon!"  There are very few things in my current locality that stop people in their tracks more than an English accent with attitude!  Wuu-nnn 'undred a-nnnn ayyyyteeee.  The silence was deafening!  Good job done!  Nine-dart finish!  I would have given someone a 'high five', but that would not have defeated the object!  

We continued to watch the World Darts Championship on Saturday night, and my enthusiasm continued to grow.  I was quite torn between wanting the 'world's greatest ever' to go out on a high, and win his final competitive game, or to support the underdog, a man who would probably vie for the title, 'world's greatest ever' in the future.  It became obvious, after a while, that even throwing arrows can be exhausting, and time and tide waits for no man.  It was time to hand over the reign to a new champion, and one well deserving of the title.  I found my arithmetic gene was working overtime, as I calculated what 'numbers' were needed to complete the leg, and announced what I would have done, had it been me!  

It has been a long time since I played a game of darts, and I am not sure that I would even be able to hit the board without a few practice runs.  However, the sport continues to fascinate me, and the skill that is shown through the slow motion replays is quite phenomenal.  The Superbowl is going to be quite the anticlimax as far as I am concerned, although I do have a 'favourite', albeit that the two teams appear to be on equal footing!

Another full week looms ahead of me, and life continues to march on.  I am not sure whether I shall be a vocal, or merely a wallflower in the coming seven days, but I shall not be quiet for long, should the latter prevail.  My nature does not permit this!  No doubt, the Englishwoman abroad will find something that either doesn't suit her, or someone whom the Englishwoman abroad doesn't suit.  Either way, it will become ........... another story!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN

The words to the celebrated song of the title of my post, have shaped my week with, perhaps, a degree of literary licence.  

There were several competitions on the website.  Yes, I would like to see Bon Jovi, but it would mean travelling to San Antonio.  However, a once in a lifetime experience could be allowed to afford a little disruption.  Kool and the Gang would also be a good option, and they were playing in Austin.  The third, and perhaps most preferred contest, was for tickets to see the Moody Blues.  Of course, I entered all three!

"What have you won?" was the question when I made a 'whoop' and 'holler' sound and raised my arms in an air of jubilant success.  "Yes, yes, yes!!!" came the answer, and I skipped into the corridor and stood in the doorway of my husband's office, jumping on the spot.  His first reaction to the news was "Perhaps the girl would want to go with you", referring to my daughter, who was sitting in the other room.  She did not.  Surprisingly enough, she had not heard of the group.  Neither had my son, although both were familiar with what is, perhaps, their most famous song.

Last Sunday evening, we travelled to Cedar Park, and for the first fifteen minutes encountered very little traffic and no hold-ups, but  as we hit the crossroads at which we were to turn, we watched the traffic lights change almost a dozen times before we could enter onto the road that housed the stadium.  Another fifteen minutes, stretching possibly a hundred yards, and we were in a parking spot.  "Should have gotten here early, like you were told to", said a parking attendant, who obviously was not a resident of the area, due to her impatient tone!  The tickets had read 7:30bpm, and unlike most, did not give a 'doors open; time.  

Our seats were very near to the stage, but they were rather depth-challenged and whilst I was very comfortable, Dana's knees were forced up against the seat in front.  However, he said he was comfortable enough, and we waited for the band to emerge.  

There is something rather different about going to a concert when you pass your half century.  As a child, and teenager, concerts were either cost prohibitive, or in places that were considered unsavory, and although a few of my friends went to see 'The Osmonds', and other bands, I did not venture out to see any.  However, with age comes the loss of inhibitions, financial ability (unless you are given the tickets, gratis,) and more of a focus on what you really like, rather than what is in vogue!  (Although, not for one minute would I suggest my friends did not absolutely, totally and emphatically love 'The Osmonds!)  The crowd's average age was around sixty and they danced (where possible) and sang.  I was not familiar with all the songs, but sang along to 'Tuesday morning', and as the first half came to a close, I was quite animated.

"How many English people are there?" asked Samantha, as I sent messages of jubilation.  "Four", I announced.  "The three lads on the stage, and me!"  Lads, they were not, but at 72 years plus, I hope I have that energy!

I chose not to correct the lady who sat in front of me, after we sang in unison to Herman's Hermits rendition of "Something good".  She was rather excited as she announced to her partner, "I have seen them in concert too".  He looked at her with a questioning look.  "The Monkeys", she squealed.  "Must have been a long time ago, and she doesn't remember it that well", I whispered to my husband. Dana reminded me that I was not at that particularly concert, and could not, with complete confidence, announce that she was wrong, but I was adamant!  

The second half was a mixture of classical music, Jeremy Irons reciting poetry and a few songs.  After about half an hour, the familiar chords were heard, and Justin Haywood sang those immortal words, "Nights in White Satin".  Had I not been holding both my phone, which was set to record, and my camera, as I did not want to miss the moment, I would have gone wild!  Half a century after it first hit the 'hit parade', it sounded as good as it always has. The exuberance did get the better of me, and I managed to somehow press the 'stop' button on the camera, although the phone continued to record.  I clapped, and clapped, and clapped, and 'whooped' a few times, uncontrollably, as the band took a bow.  


We left as the boys came back on stage for the first encore.  Much as I really enjoyed the concert, I had heard what I came to hear, and with age, also comes the ability to weigh up the important matters, to wit, "It will take forever to get out of this place if we wait until the end".  Dana was in agreement, and as I serenaded him, with the band as my 'back up singers', he drove me home.  The journey took less time than our wait at the traffic lights, and drive to our arena parking spot! 

It was nearly eleven by the time we arrived home Sunday night, and I was not at all tired.  However, I was aware that it was a 'school night', and tried to quell my emotions and excitement in order to get a modicum of sleep.  

Although my sheets are not made of white satin, the night was never reaching the end.  The sheets that were on the bed became a tangled mess that contorted into a snare, which caused my few ounces of sleep to be filled with dreams of entrapment, and I was relieved when my alarm finally sounded.  

Monday was the start of the second full week of the year.  There was a sense of amusement as all those to whom I spoke, in the local vicinity, were feeling as if they were starting to run a marathon!  The 'cheery dispositions' were back in town as the coats were swapped for jackets, and boots for flip-flops!

Our working day was rather long.  Dinner was a surprise.  Since my purchase of the freezer, left overs have been given a longer lease of life.  However, the lack of labels to stick on the bags, has meant that I have not been entirely sure of the contents.  "What are we having tonight?" asked Dana, as I insisted on going home as I had taken out some dinner.  I answered by serenading, "Just what the truth is, I can't say anymore....cause I love you.....!"  The 'truth' turned out to be Spanish meatballs, which he enjoyed very much!

Again, my night was not spent in white satin, but was never reaching an end.  Insomnia dominated the dark hours, and when I rose on Tuesday morning, I was rather blue and moody.  Dana had gone into work slightly earlier than usual, which had given me an extra half an hour to complete anything I wanted to, on what has become my 'spare' morning. Tuesday's have no specific agenda, but I flitted and floated, I fleety fleed, but I did not fly.  I was in the wrong musical!  Even Maria Von Trapp could not have dragged me into conformity!  I was happy to say 'so long, farewell' to Tuesday morning, although normally, unlike the lyrics to the song, I find there to be too few!

As I had not labelled my 'left overs', the assumption that the meatballs were in fact a pasta dish, had caused me to take out two bags, and Tuesday evening, I sang to Dana as he asked me if I had taken anything 'out' for dinner.  "I know what the truth is, I can say for sure....cause I love you....!"  He found this to be rather amusing, and as he thoroughly enjoyed the same as the previous evening's repast, was far from blue and moody!

I drove to Joe's place on Wednesday.  An old friend of his was visiting, and although I have met Jay on many occasions, at Joe's, I was quite surprised at the overwhelming greeting I received.  We chatted like we were long lost friends, and I felt the same  appreciation of being in the second part of my century, and just enjoying like minded company!

Although I would not always describe my past as 'Beauty I've always missed', there are some things of a kind of beauty that I crave.  Food is rather high on that list, and a particular favourite of mine, when living in England, was the traditional Chinese dish of Peking Duck!  Be it shredded with pancakes, or just on its own, I have not had the 'real deal' since I emigrated.  I have suffered the supermarket's 'ready meal' version, but it does not compare with the auromatic dish, the recipe for which I had, but lost many years ago.  The local restaurant in Austin offers the specialty, but a twenty four hour notice is needed.  Dana called on Thursday evening, and reserved the canard!

Friday was the busiest day of the week, and we struggled to complete all tasks before heading out to see "Just what the truth is", and decide if this would be an equivalent to what my memory had stored.  Dana had googled 'Peking Duck', and was none the wiser.  He explained the images that he had seen, and I just smiled.  As we entered the restaurant, my husband announced, "We have a 7:30 reservation for a Peking Duck".  The girl behind the desk looked at me as my eyes said, "Just what I'm going through, you can't understand".  Reservation for a Peking Duck?  "Oh, a reservation for two.  You ordered the duck?" she said, in order to clarify.  I realised that to my husband, this was an event.

The waitress came over, and asked how we would like the dish prepared.  "We can bring it all out with the crepes and sauce, or do half, and the other half with mixed vegetables."  I looked at Dana, and he looked at me.  "Half and half?" I suggested, as I was not sure he would enjoy the delicacy as much as me, but knew he would savour the more traditional platter.  "Sure", said Dana, with his "Just what the truth is, I can't say anymore" look.  As the waitress walked away, he admitted, "I have no idea what she said!" I explained as best I could.

We waited and waited, and waited.  Considering they needed twenty four hours to prepare the duck, (having prepared and cooked it, I understand this,) it appeared that they needed another twenty four to cut it up and bring it to the table!  However, it finally arrived, and Dana's face was a picture.  He followed my lead, with caution.  "Beauty I'd (always) missed.  Oh how I love you.  Yes, I love you, mmm, mmm, mmm".  The sensation hit my taste buds like ambrosia.  I had not realised quite how much I had enjoyed and subsequently missed not being able to order this so readily. Dana not so.  "Don't care for the sauce", he said, as I continued to croon, "Oh how I love you.....".  He did enjoy the preparation with the veggies, and found that without the sauce, (which I think enhances,) the pancakes were rather good.  We could not finish the entire meal, being that it was a whole duck, with sides so asked for a box for the remainder.  "How was it?" asked the girl at the desk, as we headed for the door.  I did not burst into song, but did give her more details than she was expecting, explaining how I used to enjoy it in England, etc., etc.  She seemed to appreciate the feedback, but then she had also smiled at my husband when he announced he had a reservation with a duck!

Samantha had a bridal shower on Saturday between one and three, so our shopping trip started early, and ended early.  I spent Saturday afternoon with my Instant pot.  Having bought the appliance some eighteen months ago, I had yet to use it.  After the better part of an hour, I had to relent and read the instructions, something that I am not partial to!  I followed what I thought was the letter to the 'T', and put the machine on for ten minutes.  After three minutes I realised that I had set the timer for ten hours!  Attempting to turn the machine off was harder than I expected, and I had to go back to the instructions.  "Just what the truth is, I can't say anymore".  A night in white satin, never reaching the end, would have been preferable to the hour I had spent trying to get the 'instant' wonder pot to work!  Finally, I found the way to set the timer, and sat for ten minutes.  When the timer went off, I found I had merely set the timer!  At last, I got it to work.  I am now proficient in Instant pot in Chinese, Spanish, French and of course, English.  Duck, meatballs and anything from France should now be easy to cook!  With my Butternut squash soup made, albeit taking longer than if I would have put it in a saucepan, I felt less of a sense of achievement than I had hoped!


"Let's do something different, tonight", said Dana, when asking where I wanted to go for dinner.  "Where did you have in mind?" I asked, wondering if he would answer, "The kitchen", which is my joke of the decade!  We pondered a few options, and finally decided we would break all our rules and head 'Downtown'.  The Russian House restaurant has always been a mystery to me.  I have passed by on several occasions, but Dana had found it on line a couple of months ago, and also expressed an interest.  The only downside was it's location.  He called and reserved a table.  I was sure he would not make a statement when we arrived.  Asking what the general attire was, he was told, "one degree under formal".  We dressed accordingly, and drove to our usual 'no go' area.  Parking was rather a performance.  There was a large lot almost opposite the restaurant but we had to negotiate with the ticket machine before we were able to leave the area.  A long queue formed behind my husband, as he argued with the box.  The instructions were clear. I spoke to him as a parent to a child, mainly because he would not listen, and although regretted doing so, he did not seem to take offence.  "It is asking for the complete registration number", he repeated, several times.  "Read the instructions. Last three characters", I repeated, several times.  Finally, he got it, and we walked to the restaurant.  One degree under formal, was Austin's equivalent, with formal being a pair of jeans and t-shirt!  Overdressed, but not out of place, we entered the old building, and were led to a back room, which housed tables, upon which sat familiar crockery!  "Do you think they went to the Dollar Tree to buy their plates?", I asked Dana, as I noticed with glee that they had the same plates as me!  The waiter came over and asked a question, which neither of us understood.  After repeating it, I caught the words, 'complimentary', 'shot' and 'wodka'.   Dana declined; I accepted.  

The meal was very different, but rather tasty.  In retrospect, we ordered the wrong items, but that was personal taste, and not because they were bad.  We enjoyed a shared dessert too, which was most unusual, and the bill was not as high as I had expected for a downtown restaurant.  However, the wodka shot was more than a 'thimble full', and a little too much for a 'lightweight' such as myself, and although not quite to 'tequila effect', I was feeling a little high.  I felt a song coming on, and my mouth lost touch with my brain.  Swaying in my seat, I was humming the tune.  "Cause I love you, oh how I love you, ah, ah, ah", I finally sang, whilst eating my dessert.  All I could think was, thank goodness this was not tequila, or I would be performing karaoke without a machine, or mike!  


"Let's walk down Sixth Street", I announced just as we were finishing.  "Why", asked Dana.  "Because I want to tell everyone that we went down Sixth Street on Saturday night, of course!"  I had sent a picture of the plates, and wodka shot to Samantha, and was now letting her know our plans, for no other reason than that I was 'three sheets to the wind'.  She send precautionary replies, suggesting I do not do anything silly, that I do not get arrested, and that I hold Dana's hand, not, "Cause I love you. Oh how I love you", but because I could not be trusted on my own!  However, I did feel the urge to sing, because despite enjoying the proximity to home of our new office, and the ease of going too and from work, I miss Sixth Street, and the diversity of downtown.  Like the taste of Peking Duck, I had not realised quite how much!  "Cause I love you. Oh how I love you", was not quite what Dana felt, and despite offering to walk another block, he was delighted when I said, "Nope, enough is as good as a feast", never mind the fact that he could not see my reasoning!

We arrived home at eight thirty, and I let my daughter know.  She called.  "What are you doing", she asked, as she heard the piano playing in the background.  "I am dancing around the kitchen, to Dana's music", I said, quite uninhibited!  Although the 'twist' has probably not often been the dance of choice to go with Southern gospel music, I found it was ideal.  I wondered if Dana felt the need to play to bring him back to a 'safer' place!  Sixth Street, although not dangerous, is diverse, and as the night goes on, the diversity increases.  I always maintain that I was born too late, and would have enjoyed aspects of the 'flower power' movement.  Although I am sure I would not have partaken in the illicit drugs and other attributes, I loved the music and freestyle of fashion, etc., and to an extent, the release of inhibitions.  I am the same with downtown Austin.  I love the diversity during the day, and perhaps in the earlier part of the evening, but would like to be away before the 'heavy' arrives.

No white satin for me on Saturday night, but another night never reaching the end.  My throat felt as if it were a desert, and my head was slightly throbbing when I awoke.  I was desperately thirsty, and craved fried food.  All that from one single wodka shot!  Breakfast was good.  I enjoyed a white egg omelet with brie and mushrooms, a croissant, part of Dana's chicken and waffles, and a bowl of fruit.  I did not prepare it myself, but "Oh how I love you", was definitely in my mind!

To conclude, this is not a letter I am never meaning to send, as it is my weekly post!  I do feel that as I get older, "Just what I want to be, I will be in the end!"  Blue and Moody be it not!  I have no specific plans for next week, apart from to eat less, and definitely steer clear from any offers of shots.  Taking all that into account, I will try to entertain, nonetheless, in .......... another story!

  

Sunday, January 21, 2018

NOUGHT TO SIXTY!

A diverse week was probably just what everyone needed, after
being back at work for a couple of weeks, after the yuletide festivities.  The holiday on Monday was perhaps not earned, but definitely looked forward to.  Samantha and I had decided to take a 'personal' day, and go to the outlet mall.  All recent trips have been to shop for others, and we have foregone any personal shopping.  Despite the necessity being debated, and the 'cons' generally outweighing the 'pros', we decided to go.

Before crossing under the interstate to get to the vast shopping centre, we decided to go 'awol'.  There was a 'western store' promoting an array of boots and other items that we thought might be interesting, so we took the unprecedented detour and pulled up in front of the large warehouse.  "Love the hat.  Is it a gambler?", said a member of staff, who had been wandering around offering help.  I thanked him and confirmed that it was indeed.  "Oh, you are English.  From the land of the Queen mother!", he said with a grin on his face, and walked away.  The urge to stay silent was not as strong as the one to correct the unsuspected uneducated stranger, and I called after him, "She died a few years ago".  Back into the area arrived the salesperson.  "So who is in charge?", he asked, a little confused.  "Who is the woman who is there now?"  The lesson ensued.  By the time we had finished, he could have sat an exam for citizenship of the United Kingdom, and perhaps give a seminar on the history of my royal family!  I felt as if my job was done, and we continued to browse.  

Samantha found a pair of boots, to which she was quite partial.  We asked for the price, and she decided to 'think about it'.  Lucchese boots, as I am very well aware, are not cheap, but they last a lifetime, and the pair that I won seven years ago, and which have been worn regularly, have only just required re heeling.  We left the building and headed out across the road to the mall.

Image may contain: 4 people, drink, coffee cup, outdoor, close-up and indoorGiving ourselves a time limit, we parked the car and walked around the first part of the complex.  Walking from one end to the other and back again, we covered close to a mile.  Although we entered several shops, we left all empty handed.  Getting back to the car, we decided to drive across to the other side, as there would be spaces, and it would be easier to exit when the time came.  After walking another mile, the only purchase we made was in Starbucks.  She had made the purchase via her telephone app, and as we walked into the coffee shop, two  lone cups were sitting on a tray to the far left of the cash desk.  The line of people waiting to be served watched, as we walked in and took the cups.  "Shall we take these?", said my daughter, with a mischievous grin on her face.  "I guess so.  Saves us queuing", replied her mother, from whom she gets the 'naughty' gene.  We exited amid stares, but no one said a word!

Returning to the western store, Samantha tried on the boots again, and decided they were worth a purchase. However, on coming to the cash desk, the price was more, quite a lot more, than previously quoted.  I told the cashier that we had been told another price, and her response caused the second lesson of the day.  I was rather peeved.  Perhaps I should not have pointed my finger, but it was a natural instinct.  "Please", I started, feeling the word gave a little bit of grace, but continued, "do not say you do not think so".  I continued with my rant, by telling her that just because a member of her staff told me something with which she disagreed, did not give her the right to call me a liar.  It was bad public relations. Accusing me of an untruth was probably not her intention, but it was her instinctive response, when I suggested the price was different.  She turned rather a deep colour of purple, and giggled but stopped abruptly, and I was rather concerned that she was going to burst into tears.  "Who told you that? asked the manager, and I tried to describe the chap to whom I had given a history lesson.  It was agreed, after confirmation from another salesperson that it was the price given, that the boots should be given at the price previously agreed.  The cashier vaguely apologised and took our money, and I felt no need to reiterate the pitfalls of her mistake!  After all, this is Texas; land of the 'laid back'.

We left the area, and returned to Austin, with the one purchase, and agreed that it was worth the trip, despite our lack of packages.

Image may contain: drinkDana and I went out for dinner, to the place where we had breakfasted the morning before.  The temperature, despite being rather mild during the day, started to drop, and we were aware that a big freeze was expected, with the possibility of snow.  As we watched the television on Monday evening, we saw the warnings cross the screen.  Schools were going be closed.  By ten o'clock, we saw that government offices were going to be closed, and the message function on my phone was 'pinging' with a vengeance.  Samantha was reporting that all courthouses, including the main County court, were going to be closed.  As Dana always determines our office holidays by whether the courthouse is open or closed, it looked like we were going to have another holiday!  After the decision had been made by my husband, as he did not think we would be able to drive on the slippery surfaces, I suggested we could walk to the office.  "In below freezing temperatures?" he asked.  I gave him a new title.  "You are such a southern boy!" I stated!

By midnight the wind was howling.  At around two thirty in the morning, we were woken by the trash collectors, who had presumably decided to get the job done before the temperatures dropped.  

There was no snow at the hours expected but as I went downstairs to make some coffee just before dawn, I decided to check how icy conditions actually were, and tried to open my front door.  It took all my strength to get the wooden block to budge.  Stuck fast, and iced into place, it was not going to be easy to accomplish my task!  When I finally dislodged enough of the stick, the cold air rushed in and almost took my breath away.  My porch area was frozen, and slippery.  This was most unusual.

Temperatures in England were 'double digits' higher than in Austin. I called my mother and told her that we were having another day off.  She did not seem particularly impressed with the severity until the answer to her question, "Did Dana go into work", was answered with a negative, and her response was, "Oh, so it is very bad then".

Snow, hail, sleet coupled with the strong wind, gave us the excuse to stay indoors.  I spent most of the morning in the kitchen, devising new recipes from old, and making a variety of desserts for our neighbour's 'get together' on Thursday, and a few extra bits 'just because'.  

Dana did manage to venture out in the afternoon, but did not stay at the office for too long.  I prepared dinner and we watched and waited for the prognosis as to whether we would be in the office the following day.
Image may contain: textMinus ten was not expected, but happened.  I got ready to leave the house on Wednesday morning, and drove to Joe.  The traffic was very light, and the ice was still stuck to the roads, despite the gritters having been out in force.  It took me less time to get from Joe's to my manicurist, Michele, than it usually does during the school holidays.  It was eerily quiet.  Although I have been guilty of using the sentence, when it snows in England, "everything comes to a standstill", it really does not!  However, many things were circulating around social media claiming, "Texas is closed!"  Opening slowly on Wednesday, the lighter traffic was rather refreshing.  

Not planned, Samantha and I took a walk to the supermarket at lunchtime.  Bundled up in hats, coats and gloves, we braved the cold and headed out.  On our way back we heard some sirens, and two fire engines sped past us.  The occupants of the bank situated along the road from where we work, were exiting the building. Two more engines came from the other direction, and two more were heading off the highway to the building.  "It is nothing more than nosiness", I said to a small crowd who were standing, stamping their feet, to dispel the cold, "but what is going on".  It appeared that there was a smell of smoke and the alarm had been set off.  "Probably someone having a puff on their e-cigarette", said Samantha.  

It took a tub and a half of salt to disperse the ice that were still on my steps on Wednesday evening, when I went to check the post. 

Slightly warmer, Thursday morning started early.  Our walk at lunchtime revealed the truth about the e-cigarette myth.  The bank was closed due to 'fire damage', and the notice gave instructions for customers to go to another location.  

Our neighbours' 'get together' was most enjoyable, and the extra time at home on Tuesday was appreciated!  

By Friday, coats were discarded, and the rain was not freezing.  We had come through the worst and were heading towards spring.  It seemed amusing that a few cold days could cause so much disruption.  

Flip-flops, t-shirts and shorts were seen on Saturday, and Texas was once again 'open'.  People were laughing about the 'snow' day, as if it was a 'blue moon'.  Being 'back in the 60's', referred to both temperature, and attitude.  Everything was 'cool, man', smiles were large, and attitudes were agreeable (not that they were disagreeable during the week, just confused).  

We had our 'annual meeting' of the homeowners association, and the mood was light.  I chatted to my English neighbour, who has now been living Stateside for 57 years, and still says things that causes her American husband to say, "What?"  

Our weekly shopping trip took place at a later time than usual, due to the meeting, and Costco was filled with people.  My daughter had not lost any of her sarcasm in the 'big freeze', and beat me to the punch on more than one occasion.  When offered a healthy snack, totally gluten free, she replied, "Sorry, but I can't function without a bit of gluten!"  

Nothing seemed to deter the locals on Sunday, as the rain poured, because it wasn't cold anymore.  Everyone was slightly, jokingly, apprehensive about having to work a full week, and wondering if we can somehow make the 'one full week, one half week' a precedent!  I am also thinking ahead.  In all the excitement, I think I forgot to mention that I won tickets to see the "Moody Blues"!  I am very much hoping that the concert will be worthy of ............. another story!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A WINTER'S TALE!

At the end of the summer, just as the cooler weather comes to town, you can hear, almost in unison, the comment, "Nice to have some cooler weather".  As winter sets in, and the turbulent meteorological conditions occur, you can hear, almost in unison,"Man, it's cold out there".  Then as the cold snap turns out to be longer than a couple of days, you can hear, almost in unison, "Okay, enough is enough.  Cool is okay for a couple of days, but it's time to start feeling warmer".  It has been cold.  In fact, it has been so cold that my husband has worn shoes for more than two days in a row!  The flip-flops have wondered if they have been retired!  

Of course, 'cold' here is usual bearable elsewhere, and for a girl who was brought up in a country that had four definite seasons, a couple of days of close to, or just below freezing does not a winter constitute!  However, the 'cold snap' has lingered, and the temperature has teetered around freezing most mornings, and whilst we have had a couple of days where it has gone above sixty, the majority have been in the forties, possibly fifties.  "Okay, enough is enough", is like a constant hum of an air conditioner, which has also considered its position to be compromised at this time!

I have coats.  I have boots, hats, scarves, gloves, and a variety of thick jumpers, and jackets.  I am prepared.  

The prolonged lack of warmth has caused an interesting phenomena.  It has finally given me the proof I need that 'hoarding' is a positive quality!  I resolved to have a good 'spring clean' before the spring actually arrived, and not purchase any more 'nick-naks' until I had disposed of others.  Not only has the cold snap given me a reason to delay the inevitable, it has given me an excuse to keep things that I would have, perhaps, forced myself to discard.  Often hearing the new proverb, "If you haven't used it in two years, you will likely not use it again, so you can throw it out", (or words to that effect,) I have now discounted it to be 'null and void'.  Coats and jackets that have not seen the light of day for several years, are now getting a new lease of life.  

Making additional purchases was not part of the plan.  However, the 'Nutcracker' that was on sale in the supermarket, looked so forlorn, and the prospect of spending another year in a dark store cupboard at the back of the shop, sparked a sense of compassion within me, and I had to rescue him from what would be a very sad end!  What if this was his second year!  Reduced to a very reasonable price, I purchased him and put him in 'charge' of my fireplace.  As everyone else appeared to be removing their seasonal decorations, I was giving them a new opportunity!   Standing a little under four feet tall, and guarding the hearth from possible foe, who might happen to fall down the chimney on any other night other than 24th December, it took my husband four days to notice him!  

My plan to 'declutter' had not only failed, but I was now in violation of my own rule!  

Tuesday appeared to be a little warmer, and the weather prognosticators were finally sounding excited.  "Temperatures hitting above freezing overnight for the first time this year", echoed throughout the city.  Austinites ran to their cellars and attics to retrieve the boxes marked "Emergency only" to replace their gloves and socks, with a sense of elation, only to have their dreams shattered when the wind started to howl around four o'clock!  The wind continued to howl, and the short lived 'euphoria' was hoping it would not be dragged into the 'two year' box!  

Cold, and windy, as it was on Wednesday morning, the sun came out and a new wave of enthusiasm rang through the city.  "At last!" came the cry from the crowds.  Calls from locals either began, or ended with "I am so ready for this warmer weather".  I wore a t-shirt at lunchtime, when I went for a walk, and it finally looked as if the big thaw was well and truly taking over.  However, I was still buying up Christmas gifts!  I spotted a rather interesting pack that I thought would suit my son-in-law.  A small mug, with a tiny hip flask attached, and a bottle of 'Amaretto flavoured' syrup.  Once again, this had been reduced to price that prohibited its staying on the shelf, and of it went, with me, to the counter.  The reduction did not appear, and I questioned the cashier, who noticed that the 'offer' expired the previous day.  She called her manager.  "Are you going to put it back into the store room?" I asked, without adding the additional thought of, "into the two year box?"  The manager looked at the item and expressed his desire to rid his store of the product, and overwrote the amount to the one on the ticket.  Christmas was over, and as the sun was shining and the temperature agreeable, there was no need to live in the past!

Cold returned on Thursday, and greetings were not heard.  The usual "hey, how are ya!" (a statement rather than a question in these parts) was not heard.  Instead, heads were down, and arms folded with hands under armpits, as if gloves had refused to make themselves available due to their being discarded rather hastily!  Eyes that were filled with uncertainty glared at me, and 'brrr' sounds emitted from lip that were blue with cold.  "Does no one own a coat?" I asked, somewhat naively, remembering my husband's comments when I unpacked my belongings some thirteen years ago, to wit, "You won't need those in a hurry!", when seeing my array of outwear!  
Image may contain: outdoor and nature
Samantha and I rode out the rest of the week, and on Saturday found the stores to be somewhat empty.  Although the sun was out, the temperature was down.  It was as if we were in an alternate universe.  Remembering the days in England, when the temperatures reached into the high nineties for a few days, even hitting the century, and the desperation for a breeze, or a reduction in heat, merely due to the unfamiliarity of the humidity and the intensity of extra warmth, we saw the same response but in reverse. The cold, for such an extended period, was alien to those who had not lived in different climes!  

Dana and I drove out into the country side in the afternoon, and whilst the views were spectacular, the ranches that we drove past looked somewhat desolate.  Field after field appeared to be producing nothing, and winter looked as if she would last forever. Although we were several miles south of Austin, the rural depths caused the temperature to dip, and after we left those we were visiting, I was sorry that I had exchanged my thick coat for a lighter jacket, before setting out shortly after one in the afternoon. By six o'clock, we were feeling frozen.  Mud banks that had been formed after the rain, on the dirt roads, had turned into hard blocks and caused the last part of our journey there, and the first of our return, to be quite roller coaster like!  The abundance of large trucks in the vicinity was obvious!  

Temperatures should rise tomorrow, for a while, but we are expecting snow on Tuesday!  I seem to be the only person 'having fun' with this extended 'freeze' as it has allowed me to get on my soap box and say, "I told you so", after years of wondering, "Will I need this again".  

Records, however, have not been broken, and temperatures will rise again.  Normality will resume.  It is a national holiday tomorrow, and I shall not be going into the office.  Instead, I hope to do something rather constructive, although I am not sure it will involve reducing my household clutter.  Samantha and I have planned a day out at the outlet mall.  Strange as it may seem, we have not had the opportunity to look for ourselves over the past several visits, and have decided to indulge.  I am not sure as to whether the usual sale of winter attire will be as prolific, due to the demand still being so strong, but time will tell!  We did manage to purchase all of this year's tree decorations for under a dollar at the weekend, but there is 'seasonal' and 'seasonal' and never the twain shall meet! (Whatever that means!)

I hope all Austinites manage to keep warm, and cheery at the same time.  The cheerfulness has not so much gone as hibernated, but I am sure the chatter and shrillness will return.  I would hate to have to find cause to say it has disappeared, because that would be a very sad subject for .......... another story!