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Sunday, April 15, 2018

DEPUTY DAWG!

My laughter was heard throughout the building, as I relayed the story of my telephone calls to all and sundry.  The pigtails and stetson, often causes those who do not know me to surmise I am from around these parts.  

Shoes and high heeled boots have given way to cowboy, with 'low to no' heel, boots at the weekend, and 'nice' trousers finally reached their 'sell by date' and gave way to jeans.  It took a long time, but it was bound to happen.  I do not shop dressed in my best anymore, although when I go to work, I do attire myself as if I am still in the seventies, going to my office job in London.  I do not ever see myself not wearing 'business clothes' (as they are referred to by my husband) when I am going 'to business'.  

After a very pleasant evening spent with Joe, at Abuello's restaurant on Sunday, Dana and I came home and had a cup of tea.  It was a traditionally English past time. (Albeit, I do not, and never have put milk in my tea, merely due to the fact I do not like the taste, and Dana does not, merely because he is not English!)  The expression, "Cup of tea?" although said in a questionable manner, is rhetorical, as I do not refuse.  I have tried to educate my husband in the finer pronunciation, to wit, "Cuppa.  It's a 'Cuppa'", but this is going to take longer than the time it took to change my option for weekend attire!  "Would you like a Cuppa of tea?" is as close as we get with some encouragement!  However, it is progress, nonetheless, from a man who was convinced that he would have me talking 'Mericun', within a very short period of time.

Image may contain: shoes and bootsI had two rather urgent matters to clear on Monday morning, both involving Sheriff's offices.  I called the first one, and left a message.  The second one called me.  "Yes ma'am.  This was served at 15:50, ....p.m."  I am always amused, especially from a place that is (mostly) proud of it's military, that the 'twenty four hour' clock is so widely misunderstood.  "Thank you", I replied, with a smile upon my face, which obviously she could not see.  "That would be....", she continued, "um...that would be...", and I could almost hear her working out something on her fingers.  "Three fifty?" I responded, "in the afternoon?", making it sound like a question, so as not to sound judgmental.  "Yeah, that sounds about right", was the reply.  About right?  It was exactly right, but again, I am not a native and do not presume (surprising as it may sound to those reading) to correct everyone.  We were, apparently, trying to serve someone with the surname prefix, "Will".  I thanked her for her update, and went to look for Mr. "Will...." in the system.  He did not exist.  I thought for a moment, and repeated the name, as the lady had said it, and took off the  slight slant on the accent.  I think it was the actor Michael Caine who said that the way to speak with a Texan accent, is to speak with an English accent and let it slant to the left.  "Well...It is Well....", and it was!  I felt quite pleased with myself!

After a while, I received a call from the original office to whom I had made a call.  "Who are we trying to serve, ma'am".  I responded.  "Bell", and gave the forename.  "Bayal, or Bayals".  This was going to more difficult than I thought.  I repeated the name again, and this time spelled it out.  "Bayal or Bayals", came the response again.  I became a little emphatic.  "No!  Bell.  B.E.L.L., as in 'Ding Dong'. The penny dropped, so to speak.  "Oh, Bayal....as in Daing Doyng", was followed by a chuckle.  "We got there", he said, although I was not so sure!

It was time for coffee, and I returned to my desk, elixir in hand and checked my emails.  It appeared that I had won a CD signed, personally, by the singer Pat Green, who is quite renowned in the Country Music scene.  Although I do enjoy the gentleman's music, I am not as big a fan as Jerry, our faithful process server, to whom I have given many a ticket for many a show.  I thought about how much joy I would get from keeping the prize, and then how much added joy Jerry would get.  I simply asked, "Pat Green's new CD, signed by him?"  Jerry knew that it was a question of 'should I enter the contest', and replied with an emphatic "Heck yeah!" He almost jumped with joy when I told him that he could go and collect it, as the deed was already done!  I felt quite elated at making someone else's day!

After the 'fun and games' of Monday morning's telephone calls, my week became less and less eventful.  The weather was erratic, but it was not cold.

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Our walk on Monday was very pleasant.  Since his operation, and spectacular recovery, the dog has decided that our daily constitutionals should involve him, and at about 11:30 am, (that is 11:30 in morning, per the 24 hour clock ,) he has sits by the door, waiting for his lead to be attached!  At around 1pm, (1300 hours, for the benefit of the lady from East Texas,) we set out on a trek to the post box, which is located by the supermarket.  Our 'extra' post box has been removed.  It appeared that I was probably the only person who used it, and the level of mail collected every day did not warrant a collection, so unless I can get all my post ready before the arrival of our daily delivery, I have an extra task on my hands!  

"Where are you from", was a question asked, again, a fair amount of times this week.  The look of 'Wow, that does not match", when the pigtailed, stetson'd figure approached, and the English accent emitted.  

Joe was in the shop on Wednesday, which was a blessing, as our coffee levels had dwindled to virtually nothing, and were in desperate need of replenishing!  Three weeks had seemed like a lifetime, and although I am sure he would have gladly brought a couple of pounds with him on Sunday, we did not ask.  I took with me some almond danish pastries which appeared to please everyone.  

Friday finally arrived, bringing clouds and thunder.  I sat at my desk, after having made coffee and checked my emails.  The notice of a second prize for the week appeared in my inbox.  It was somewhat of a surprise.  About three years ago, I had discovered a new local radio station, which popped up when I was querying another.  The New Mix, it was called.  I thought it was a sister station to one of my 'regulars'.  The contests it held were monthly, so each month I would complete the form that required my name and email address.  I had almost given up on winning!  As it was looking rather gloomy, and somewhat tempestuous, outside, Samantha suggested we go and collect the 'voucher' for the pizza.  The prize I had been trying to win for three years was a pizza!  I looked up the restaurant from where I was to redeem the prize.  I could not find it.  I checked the address of the radio station.  It was on North 4th Street.  Downtown.  Austin does not have a North 4th Street.  Fourth Street runs from east to west.  (Geographically challenged as I am, I have had to learn the compass points since living here, as everyone talks about going in a specific direction.) Before calling (and I think the telephone number, probably, would have been a major clue) I looked up the address of the said station, and found out that it would probably take more than a lunch hour to collect the prize.  On a Sunday, with little traffic, it would take nearly 18 hours to drive, one way, to Burlington, Iowa.  Flying may take less time, but as there are no direct flights from my home city, with the flight connections, and driving times, the journey would still be rather laborious.  All for a pizza.  However, The Drake does look like a rather splendid place to eat!  I decided that, this time, I would have to relinquish my right to my winnings!

The laughter echoed through the office, as each one of my colleagues found this to be particularly amusing.  No one knew anyone who lived in the area, nor anyone relatively near.  The obvious question was, "Why did you enter the contest?"  Trying to explain that I had inadvertently typed KGRS instead of KGSR (using my logic, that RS was for Radio Station, and assuming without confirming) I had come across two options, both of which (again assuming without confirming) I thought were local. It made for a fun morning, despite me being the butt of the joke!

Saturday morning did not depart from the norm, per se.  I had to make a trip to the bank, as I had failed to do so during the week, and that put us in the vicinity of a Dollar Tree, which was on our list of stops.  Having shopped at the discount shop, we continued with our usual routine.  Costco, Sam's and Walmart.  I had several comments regarding my 'nice hat', and some regarding my 'cute pigtails' and a few regarding my 'awesome accent'.  We also had a facetime visit from Oliver!  

Samantha and Edward joined us for dinner at the Golden Corral buffet in the evening, after Dana and I had gone 'car shopping' again, and managed to make our short list even shorter, during a visit to a small but very impressive privately owned dealership.  Not one for advertising, I would recommend Austin eAutos for their sheer professionalism!  As we drove up, the place looked closed.  "But all dealerships open till 8", came Dana's response to my unasked question, "Did you check their opening hours?"  I responded, "Well not this one!"  He quipped, "But it's a Saturday.  Probably their busiest day".  I was not to be beaten.  "But it's a Saturday, and people come during the day!"  As we 'back and forthed', we noticed a car driving towards us.  "Can I help you?" asked the nice young man.  After explaining that we had come to see a specific car on their website, the aforementioned nice young man reopened his doors, and showed us around.  Of course, business is business, but he was most obliging and after test driving three cars, and sitting in a variety of other's our 'food for thought' became a 'specific course'.  

The winds continued to howl through Saturday night, but dropped dramatically on Sunday morning.  The tempest that had brought Samantha's back fence down, and turned a table upside down seemed to have gone to pastures new.  

It was quite nice to have an uneventful week, especially after the previous weeks being quite fraught for one reason or another.  Unfortunately, the weekend has come and gone, as usual, far too quickly, and tomorrow is another work day. It is still too cold to swim, and a little too breezy to sit in the sun. However, I have taken on the task of 'Third Thursday' this month, and although we no longer have a gathering every month, it seemed that with winter out of the way, (we think,) it would be nice to have a neighbourly gathering.  I believe I have around fifteen guests so far!  I shall be in my element, I am sure, hosting what will be far from a traditional English Dinner Party.  However, Shepherd's pie, and sausage rolls will be on the menu, so at least the food will stick with tradition!  I shall try not to be too boring when reporting on the reviews in ........ another story!


Sunday, April 8, 2018

WHEN IN ROME.............!

At the risk of a 'variation on a theme' or even 'Deja vu', I am probably going to repeat myself in this post, but 'It is what it is', and what 'it is' is Texas!  "How d'y'all like living in Austin, ma'am?", asked the car salesman, as he took us for a test run.  Although he was only talking to me, he used the colloquial 'y'all' as most do.  'Y'all' is like the word 'sheep'.  It can be for one, or for many!  So how do 'I'all' like living in Austin.  "I love it, y'all!" 

Yes, I live in Austin and the highlights by far outweigh the low-lights, and the good times by far outweigh the bad.  

Admittedly, last weekend, I would have preferred to have been working, if not living, in England, as the extra long weekend, and two four day weeks, were very appealing.  I had to work on Good Friday, and also on the Monday that is known at home as 'Easter Monday'.  Here, in Austin, it is just a Monday.  It was, however, rather quiet.  As mentioned, after the 'policing' of the car park last week, I had felt prompted to go and make peace with the people in the next building.  It did not mean that I was going to give them permission (like I had the right to give 'them'all' a pass) to park in our lot, but I felt it did not warrant the possibly belligerent attitude
(slightly belligerent, in my opinion, not necessarily y'alls) that I had displayed.  The attitude was surmised as being belligerent, moreso because of the accent.  It melts, or it freezes.  It is like 'Marmite', you either love it or you hate it!  "Marmite?" y'all may well ask.  It is a spread, made from yeast extract, which I have probably mentioned on more than one occasion, which is (in my opinion) one of the most versatile food products on the market.  It can be used for all manner of 'fixins'.  (Another word that is used abundantly!)  However, I digress.  The accent has power!  However, I digress for a second time.  I felt prompted to go and make peace!  

Monday was quiet.  As this year took its first steps into April, things start to wind down towards summer.  Schools are open, but the seniors in college are on a slow path to graduation, and the traffic seems to get lighter.  The lights in the lower level of the building next door did not illuminate, and I watched, waiting to put the finishing touches on my 'peace offerings'.  Their car park remained empty, and ours was not anywhere near full.  

"Can y'all help me?" asked my office neighbour.  A new occupant had moved into a room on the opposite side of the hall.  I am not too sure  what'all a 'sports' therapist does, but they occupy the space that was evacuated by a chiropractor.  I had given my usual, "Anything you need, or are unsure about, don't hesitate to ask" speech, and the receptionist (and I am ashamed to say, I cannot remember her name, and have been too proud to ask again) has taken me up on my offer.  "How d'y'all open the trash?"  I was tempted to say, in my usual sarcastic nature, "We don't open trash!  We throw it away", but oddly, I knew what she meant. I offered to walk with her, across the car park, to the communal dumpster, and show her how to unlock the padlock.  It is not hard, and the code is simple, but it has been set upside down!  She was very grateful, and apologised for bothering me, and for constantly coming across to ask questions.  I told her that I enjoyed having visitors, and that it was no problem.  I would imagine that it is because of our constant presence, that we'all are the 'go to people' in the building, but I find it interesting that the foreigner is the one to whom everyone 'goes' to accomplish the fixins!  

I waited for a respectable amount of time before taking across the goodies which I had created on Tuesday.  Walking through our parking lot to the adjacent building, I was given a sneer by those going into the upper floor of the building.   Admittedly, I had stood at the base of the slope leading from our front door, and watched as two cars came up the driveway by the side of our building, drove slowly through our lot, and hesitated.  Turning the wheel slightly as if to go into one of our spaces, they saw me standing, and presumably thought better of it.  I walked down the stairs and into the rather lavish open-plan office.  I was greeted by my very first victim.  After explaining that I would rather not have animosity between us, but a friendly co-existence, she accepted my gift graciously, as did her colleague.  We exchanged a few brief sentences expressing frustration at the parking situation, before she peeked under the silver foil wrapping.  "Wow, they are so priddy", came the explanation.  They were, indeed, rather 'priddy', even if I do say so myself and I was rather sorry that I did not take a picture.  I had swirled some lemon cream on to the cake and finished them off with blueberry 'fixins'.  I was satisfied that a truce had been made and although I have no plans to invite them to my next soiree, a reasonably friendly relationship has been established!

Joe was having a problem with his roaster on Wednesday morning.  I told this to Dana, who was concerned for his friend, and the business he may lose.  I told this to Samantha who immediately laughed, as he had chosen to take the sentence as an innuendo.  Of course, she knew it was not, but our humour still differs from those around us.  "What's funny?" asked Dana.  We did not explain!  

"North West of London", was the reply to the oft asked question. "I thought so.  There or Australia", came the response.  The person on the other end of the phone could obviously not see my expression.  "Any particular part", I wanted to ask, referring to Australia, but I did not. "Y'all talk so priddy." Me or the Australian?  

As hot as it was on Friday, so it was cold on Saturday.   The temperatures dropped to just above freezing, and the thought of wearing shorts and flip flops were as far from my mind as was Australia!  Jeans, boots, and a jacket!  The hat is a constant!  The wintry showers persisted, and I am sure I felt a snow flake on my nose.  The regular Saturday routine was accomplished, albeit backwards. We started at Walmart, in the hope that we could 'snap up' another couple of dressing up 'animal heads' for the boys!  We did find another shark head, so that there would not be any room for fighting over the one we bought for Ollie last year. The Easter 'left overs' were being cleared for the 'Mother's Day' items, and all the 'Fourth of July' banners and regalia were adorning the shelves.  By the time we made our way back to Costco, the temperature had dropped again.  One brave warrior had on shorts and flip flops, and some did not wear jackets.  The best 'tamales' were featured on one stand, with 'grilled cheese and cinnamon budder'.  "Cinnamon budder?", I asked Samantha, refusing a sample of the presumably new found delicacy.  "I don't make the rules!" she said, "I would rather have Marmite on my toast", I responded.  "But you like Marmite", came the next sentence.  "You don't like Marmite.  You love it....or hate it!" I continued.  We found that someone was starring. We often find people starring!  We are not sure as to whether they are bemused by the conversation, or are just trying to decipher the dialect!

"Where y'all from?" was the question.  "All of me is from North West London!" I responded, perhaps a little too sarcastically.  "Thought so.  There or....".  "Australia" we said in unison.  "You goddit" came the reply.  

And so we go back to the beginning.  I was one told, grammatically speaking, that although a sentence should never be started with an 'And' or 'But', there are exceptions to the rule.  If my mother had moved here with me, she would probably have had everyone speaking the Queen's English, and in a way that is grammatically consistent.  "There is no such thing as 'bad grammar'.  It is 'grammar' or it is not!"  I still hear that sentence each time I tell Dana, his grammar 'aint no grammar'.  However, I digress.  And so we go back to the beginning.  "How d'y'all like living in Austin, ma'am?", asked the car salesman.  We were on a test drive, and he was making small talk.  When he asked if we were originally both from the Austin area, Dana told him that he has been here for many years, but I certainly was not.  "Y'all haven't heard her talk", he said.  I failed to respond.  "She", (and I would add that here referring to someone as 'she' does not constitute the response, "Who is she, the cat's mother", although it would be "Who is she, y'all,,,) and he took a breath, wondering if I was going to interject, as is my usual practice.  "She is from London".  The salesman was  somewhat surprised.  "Really.  So what brought y'all to Texas, ma'am?"  Oh how I wanted to respond with a variety of sarcastic comments, starting, ending and 'middling' with 'y'all did', but simply said, "He did.  Fourteen years ago".  "I love it", I responded to the original question.  The silent 'y'all' was held back with extreme resistance.  


As we were on the 'south side', we had decided to go for dinner at the Cracker Barrel restaurant.  If there was a vote to adopt a 'capital' of the land 'Y'all', this would be a contender.  Not a barbecue restaurant, but a 'Home style, home fixin', restaurant.  Good ol' southern cooking!  Home style biscuits (sort of scones).  Home style 'sawmill' (white) gravy.  And (using the exception to the rule) probably my favourite, 'Chicken fried steak, with all the fixins'! (The word 'fixin' would have to be in the Constitution of the land 'Y'all'.)  "Howdy, what can I get y'all to drink".  Once we had a chance to peruse the menu, it was then asked, "What can I get y'all......Biscuits and Gravy with that y'all.....grits and hash brown casserole y'all?"  It was "Yes" to 'y'all'.  I wanted cornbread.  I don't do biscuits!  Just like cinnamon budder on grilled cheese sandwiches, the rules are not mine, but I can break them.  "Maple syrup in yer them there grits, ma'am?"  Heck yeah, y'all!  Dinner was a bit of a disaster.  The young lad whom served us was not having a good day.  We'all were most patient.  The manager was doing her 'rounds' and noticed that we were pondering.  "Everything good here, y'all"  No-all!  But (using the exception to the rule) it could be fixed, if we had all the fixins!  

We left the restaurant satisfied.  They finally got the order correct, and it was not a 'big deal'.  The food was good, and the company was wonderful!   We'all (two of us) laughed our way through.  

How d'y'all like living in Austin, ma'am?  If it is this 'ma'am' to whom y'all are talking. I love it!  Of course, if all my family were here, and Marmite was readily available, it would be perfect, but I know there is an exception to every rule!  

We are still looking around for another car.  No doubt our short list will get shorter and I have a feeling we will stick with the same make and model that we already have, but we will try not to let the tedium get us'all down.  Instead, I shall embrace another Sunday in Austin, and bid y'all a good week, which I hope we are fixin to have, and I shall keep all stored in the container which will be ....... another story! 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

EASTER PARADE!

With the Easter weekend fast approaching, I thought we may experience a slight slow down in work.  The traditional patterns have become recognisable, and that is why it has become easier for Samantha and I to take off for the weekend at this time.  However, as I think I mentioned, this was not going to be the case, this year, as we are (hopefully not for too much longer) a 'man down'.  In the grand scheme of things, the postponement of the 'mother-daughter' weekend, (and I stress the word 'postponement',) was for the best!

Although I had completely cleared both my desk and email 'in-box' on Friday, I came into work with both being full.  I was nothing, if not focused, and worked tirelessly throughout the day.  The car park situation was worsening, as it appeared I was being 'taunted' by the staff in the adjacent building, as they would pull into our spaces, and waited for a while, before leaving their vehicle, then sprinted across to their office.  I wondered if I was getting slightly paranoid, but when you call to someone and they stop, put their head back, and turn around to retrace their steps, before you have said a word, you realise paranoia has not set in!  

Image may contain: dogI was pleasantly surprised on Tuesday, when I received a text.  "Hi, it's Jamie."  Apparently, she and her family were going to be in Marble Falls over the weekend, and she knew it was not too far from Austin.  Would we like to meet?  "Who is Jamie?" asked my husband, whose memory sifts through items quicker than water through a colander. I explained that her husband, and Steph's father, were very close friends, and that I had joined them all for dinner last summer.  "If you want to, sure, we can meet them".  I wasn't surprised that he agreed, per se, and waited for the follow up questions, but none were asked.  I replied to Jamie that we would like to meet up, and perhaps she could suggest somewhere, as I was not au fait with the neighborhood, and despite it being Dana's stomping grounds some thirty five years ago, he too did not really know the area particularly well anymore.

The clouds rolled in on Tuesday afternoon, and sometime after midnight the storm started, with my bedroom lighting up as if a spotlight had been faced towards it, followed by resounding claps of thunder.  Eventually the flashing lights and crashing noises became part of the night, and I fell back to sleep.  I awoke to the sound of battering rain on the windows.  

Joe did not answer my text message, so I assumed he was still in New England, or was not going into work early.  I had made some French macarons, almond danish pastries and some almond shortbread and had planned to take a selection to the shop. I had  nail appointment at nine, and as Joe had not responded, was going to go into work before departing south, but this too did not happen.  Instead, I prepared dinner for the evening, and headed towards Michelle!  Gail, Joe's lady friend, text'd me shortly before I left the house to say that Joe had left his phone in Vermont, and thought I might be trying to contact him. He was at the shop!  Alas it was too late for me to make the journey.  

I got to Michelle quite quickly, considering the rain and the amount of traffic accidents, and traffic light failures.  The typical 'Austin in the rain' effect was in force, and over-cautiousness was the order of the day.  It was as if everyone was taking a driving lesson, having never sat in the drivers seat before.  I found it quite easy to weave in and out of lanes, as everyone appeared too afraid to go more than ten miles an hour.  The roads were slippery, but over-cautiousness can be just as dangerous as taking no caution at all!  I was not reckless, just careful.  Michelle had several cancellations as the rain was too much to bear for some of her clients.  I was rather surprised. I could understand if it was icy, or even snowing but I have found that Austinites, despite the abundant variety of 'wellington' boots and patriotic and 'keep Austin weird' designer umbrellas available, do not like to go out in the rain.  Boots are worn when it has been raining, and umbrellas are carried in case the sun becomes too hot!  The typical feminine parasol is not carried by the 'Westerner'.  Michelle was also a little perplexed as her phone continued to buzz with people not wanting to venture out in the rain.
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My 'Union Jack' umbrella has seen better days, but instead of opting to go down the line to the 'drive thru', I told Samantha to order her Starbucks, on her phone 'app', and I would go into the shop to collect it. I thought the queue for the window may be a little too long.  It was long, but there were also no parking spaces near the door!  Out came my old faithfully 'brolly', and it opened with little resistance.  It did not form a perfect coned circle,  but was more of a mixture of curves and straight angles.  I do have a new one, somewhere, but this is my emergency handbag weapon against pelting precipitation.  I managed to get into the shop without getting too wet, but had to ask which beverage was hers, as there were several cups on the counter, and none appeared to have names.  "We do our best!" said the member of staff whom I asked, and who removed the cardboard sleeve from each cup to reveal the name.  Last time they had written it upon the sleeve, so I was looking there.  I thanked her for her time, and went back to the car.  Trying to get into the car, with a small space between my vehicle and the one that had pulled in next to me, leaving a slither between, gave me next to no room to open my door.  My 'old lady' has become rather security conscious.  I can 'plip' the car to lock it, but the 'plip' does not actually release the lock, so I have to do it manually with the key.  The passenger side does not have a key opening.  I have to get in from the drivers side.  I tried to slide between my car and the one next to me, brushing my clothes along the side of both.  I had not worn a coat as I had an umbrella and was not going far!  I opened the door, let the umbrella rest upon the roof of my car, and put the cup in the holder.  I then had to close the umbrella before getting into the car, rather than being able to sit in the car and then close it.  By the time I was in my seat, I looked like I had been for a swim, fully clothed.  Now it was time to go to the office.

The car park was full.  This was not my morning!  I recognised a couple of 're-offenders', but did not want to make a scene by going over to their building and demand they move.  Looking like a drowned rat, they probably would have charged me for water damage on their carpet!  Samantha appeared, umbrella in hand, and stood in a space which had just been vacated.  I thought she was helping me, but she wanted to make sure her coffee arrived in her hands, hot!  

Texts from Jamie suggested various places we could meet.  They were going to go hiking.  Would we be interested in joining them?  Dana hiking?  I politely declined.  They thought about grabbing dinner on Friday night and going to a live concert.  Would we be interested in joining them?  Dana at a concert?  I politely declined.  There was a fabulous winery, where they had an opportunity to sample various varieties of wine.  Would we............ Dana is teetotal.....I politely declined.  I wondered if I would hear from them again, as I had made an excuse for all the options.  However, I was being a little over-cautious (which just goes to show, it happens to us all) and we decided to meet for dinner on Saturday night.

The rain stopped shortly before lunchtime, and Samantha and I walked to Randalls, where we picked up some items and returned to the office.  My jacket was still soaking wet, and although the rain had stopped, I was getting wetter.  The water bottle in my back pack had not been sealed properly, and was leaking.  The tops of my trousers were soaking, which was interesting as it was the only place that had been fully protected from the rain!

By Thursday I had given up policing the car park.  We had received a note from our management agency, regarding the issue, and recommending that no one from our building park in either of the three adjacent parking lots.  It appeared there had been some violators.  The afternoon was quiet and most people appeared to be leaving early for the holiday, one of which we were not going to be taking advantage.  

Samantha, who had been suffering from a sore throat for most of the week, sent me a message on Friday morning.  The small white spot on her tonsils had grown, and she was not feeling well.  She had shivers, and her head was pounding.  She said she would try to get into work later but I did not hold out much hope.  After all, Friday is her 'early leaving' day.  

Image may contain: foodI drove myself to the empty parking lot, and entered the office early.  I cleared away all my 'swag' from this year, and last, and managed to tidy up and throw away a lot of 'trash', which had accumulated over the past few months.  Being a 'man down' had meant that this job had taken a back seat and I was glad to be able to find homes for my many pieces of memorabilia and 'knick-knacks'.  I had also decided to take a new approach on Monday, and take a peace offering to our neighbouring building, perhaps some macarons or meringues, to try and decrease the tension.  I would maintain my British 'stiff upper lip' and take the proverbial bull by the horns.  My 'European' style desserts have been a big hit with the locals so far.  I was hoping they would could be seen as a piece de resistance.  I had made some quiches for the office, and received the utmost accolade from my husband, when he told me that my salsa was better than one of the famous brands that is a 'staple' here!  Oh the joy!  Of course (as my daughter was so quick to point out) this was only 'his opinion'!  However, I would see if the desserts had the desired effect!

I sent Jamie a text to see if we were 'still on' for Saturday and she said she would send me a message later in the day.  

We left the office on Friday evening, a little before 5:30.  It had been so quiet up until midday, when I had decided to drive my car home and walk back to the office.  Several papers were sent to us during the time I was out, and I set to processing them upon my return.  Between my return and 3pm, work poured in, and then all went quiet until 4:45pm, when round two began. Fortunately, the bell rang, and we were able to leave.  Dana drove us to the mall, and we ate at Abuellos.  Their salsa is good!

Samantha was feeling better on Saturday, and we chose to stick to our routine.  Sam's and Costco were busy.  We ventured from there to Sears, along the Interstate frontage road, which was having a closing down sale.  There were a lot of items on sale, together with fixtures and fittings, but we found little to buy.  Then we got to the shoe department.  Although I had promised myself 'no more', I found a pair of gaudy crushed velvet, winey purpley coloured shoes, that were so garish, I could not pass them up.  At under $10 it would have been a crime to leave them on the stands.  Admittedly, they were not as 'bright' or 'loud' as some pairs that I own, but they were brash.  We went from there to Walmart and back home.  We agreed that with her being ill, and the dog (although fully recovered) only being out of surgery for two weeks, it was a good thing that we had not gone away.

Jamie had found a restaurant overlooking the bay, and had booked a table.  I was delighted.  

The drive to Marble Falls took a little over an hour, but it was pleasant.  The restaurant was small but had a large patio area, and there was plenty of seating outside.  We arrived first.  Enjoying the view, we waited for our dinner partners, and drunk in the surroundings.  They arrived shortly afterwards.  

Without a lull in the conversation, the evening was great fun.  With Jamie being the 'American', she and Dana discussed the way they had both come to speak 'English-English' rather than us 'English' being drawn to their language.  We chatted about all the differences in cultures and the food!  Dana told his story of how he never knew that he did not eat 'proper' food, until we told him.  We ate 'proper' sausages, and 'proper' chocolate.  Saul agreed that 'proper' sausages was probably the longest thing to 'get over'.  There was a lot of laughter.  Their son, Remy, attends college in a small town in Alabama.  Dana had a friend who graduated from there!  Remy knew the area from where Dana graduated.  We discussed the Hurriane Harvey and how the people of the area had come together in a disaster.  There were almost tears.  Dana asked Remy if there was one thing about him, that defined him, that people should know.  He said being the son of an Englishman and an American woman was probably the most defining attribute.  A very good, and telling answer.  We declined the invitation to go back to their 'lodgings', as we had an hours drive, but promised that we would meet again.  

As we drove back to Austin, Dana asked the question that I had been expected at the beginning of the week.  "So which one was your friend?"  I told him, "neither".  I then told him the story again.  Saul and Steph's dad had been friends.  We met for dinner in the summer.  Jamie and I had chatted all night as we both lived in Texas and had enjoyed each other's company, and swapped phone numbers.  "Oh" was the answer.  "Perhaps they could be our friends now", I said, in adolescent jest!  

The likelihood of the mother-daughter extravaganza has become more favourable, as we may have our 'third' man for the office lined up.  I am quite confident that we shall be successful in our placement.  As a born and bred Texan, he shall have to endure not only learning the dynamics of the job, but a whole new angle on the English language. (Perhaps we should introduce him to Remy!) This may be more of a challenge than he expects!  However, I am nothing if not patient!  

With everyone in England (with whom I have contact) telling me that there is a holiday tomorrow, I am finding it hard to concentrate on going back to work.  However, I have a mission to accomplish and I am now heading to the kitchen!  Will they accept my peace offering?  That I know not, but I shall no doubt let you know in ...... another story!



Sunday, March 25, 2018

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE!


Going back to work on Monday was quite the relief.  The events of the previous week lingered, and I knew that there would always be a new 'association' with the music festival.  However, the festival was now in the past, and Frank, the super dog, was starting to show signs of old.  It was time for me to 'move on'.

I had spent a good deal of time in my kitchen on Sunday, and the results were dished up at lunchtime.  I had never heard of a 'navy bean' before I moved here, and the first time I came across 'navy bean soup', I expected to see a bluish tint, but they are very white. One of Dana's favourite soups is 'navy bean', and if it is on the menu in a restaurant, he will order, at least, a cup.  I decided to try my hand at making some.  When looking for recipes, I found the term (obvious really) came from the fact that the Navy has used this bean as a staple since the 1800's and it has nothing to do with the colour!  However, despite now knowing that there was not a hint of blue in the beans, I was faced with another dilemma.  What on earth was a 'ham hock'.  Apparently, in order to make the soup, I was required to find this item, cook it, and then discard it, as it was merely used for flavour.  How can you substitute if you do not know what you are substituting!  Not wishing to be beaten by a mere recipe, I used a modicum of 'word association', and put in to the concoction, a few strips of turkey bacon!  After all, it was probably the sodium that was needed, especially if the meat was to be discarded! The result?  Well my husband told me it was 'exquisite'.  Much as there was not an atom's worth of pig, nor a hue of azure, this soup was, apparently, the best!  Onwards and upwards with attempting to create the world's best tortilla soup!  Somehow, I think the opposition may be a little more prolific!  It seemed fitting, however, that as much as I wear in the said colour, 'Navy' should be a word that could be understood.
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Not so much 'Strawberry'!  As tough as the previous week had been, all appetites were restored, and all good things could be enjoyed, without wondering 'what if'.  Much as I may receive a bunch of 'boos' and 'hisses', I will admit that I did go through the McDonald's drive thru!  Yes, it is a drive 'thru', rather than a 'through', as it is written on the board.  Would I like to point out their mistake?  Of course, but when in Rome......  I know it has not stopped me before, but I had more pressing problems.  "....and a strawberry milkshake, please".  It was dubious whether I would receive the barbecue sauce with the nuggets, as I had to repeat myself a few times, but when retrieving my order, the item that should have been pink, was rather a muted brown.  Just like the 'navy' in the bean, this was not strawberry.  Samantha found it all very amusing, (until the sauce was noticed, and it was not barbecue,) and pointed out that I have to pronounce the 'berry' part of the word, and rather than use the colloquial 'bree', I should elongate the word.  I still could not fathom how they could have misheard this to be 'chocolate'.  

I was perfectly understood on Tuesday, when I sent an email to the company that 'manages' our office, and followed it up with a phone call.   To cut a very long, (and boring,) story short, we office in the middle of three buildings.  Each building has its own parking area, and each building has a different agency managing.  I have no objection to anyone parking in our spaces, if their area is full, despite the situation not being reciprocated.  However, our building now has full occupancy, and parking has become more limited. Those from the other building have been parking in our spaces, when there are many spaces available in theirs.  Not sure as to why, I have become the 'parking police'.  After sending several emails to our managing agent, and receiving a pleasant, 'we shall reach out to them' reply, they have continued to violate our space!  I called our agency on Tuesday, after sending pictures of the offending vehicles, (if vehicles can offend,) and of the voluminous space in the other car parks.  I was put on hold, and then told that my request was being dealt with, and I should see an improvement.  I apologised for my constant complaining, but my staff (I resisted using the word 'guys') could not find anywhere to park.  I was promised results.

The walk around to the supermarket was especially hard, but we knew not why, as the hills were no more steep than those downtown, and the distance was far shorter.  Even the weather had cooled somewhat.  "Would you like a bag?" I was asked, when I got to the cash desk.  "No, thank you", was my answer.  "Is that a 'yes' on the bag?"  I shook my head.  "No, thank you".  Perhaps visual rejection would work.  "So .... what's it to be?"  I realised that my politeness in using the manners to which I had become accustomed, were throwing a spanner in the works.  (Or should I say, wrench?)  It was the 'thank you' that was causing the issue.  "No!" was understood perfectly, and no offense taken for not adding the polite phrase.  We returned to the office without a grocery store bag!

No automatic alt text available."Can you tell me who you are?  My husband got a call from this number and asked me to call and find out who you are?"  The call  to my mobile was a little strange and the lady on the other end of the phone sounded unlike the usual solicitor that calls and asks for "Jose" and then, when told they have the wrong number, continue, "Well maybe you can help me!"  I explained that I had not made a call today and did not recall calling anyone, from my cell phone, whom I did not know, and had not made any accidental calls. (A statement that surprised me more than her!)  She continued, "Oh, well that's okay, he just asked me to call.  He is on the road, and he got a call, and he asked me to find out who he was.  He is in oil and is on the road a lot".  She was definitely a 'southerner', as she fell into the category of "Only in Texas can you have a full conversation with a wrong number!"  I let her know my city and state, and she continued.  "Well I am from Tennessee and he is from Kentucky, and we live in Georgia, and I told him that number was from Texas, but he asked me to call and so I did".  It was quite amusing.  Of course, I had to let her know that my husband's family was from Georgia, and Alabama.  After a few minutes, we bid each other farewell, with,  "Have a great rest of your day!"

At the end of the call, all eyes were upon me.  I had been on the phone for a while.  There were now 'whoops' and 'hollers', so I had obviously not won anything, but I was smiling and it was a call on my cell phone.  "And she understood what you said?" said Dana, when I relayed the contents of the conversation.  I told him that I had not said very much, as she had carried the conversation, but yes, the few words that I had contributed had been understood.  Could I finally be blending in?

The answer to the obvious rhetorical question above, was an emphatic "No!"  The day continued and the phone calls on the office phone, were coming in at an advanced speed.  Most were recordings, telling me that I had time to enrol for a healthcare programme, or that I was entitled to a 'medical device', that would save my life, and then there were those asking me what kind of home improvements I wanted, as I qualified or a gigantic home improvement loan.  Finally, there was a human voice on the other end.  "We have citations ready and were asked to call you!" said the sweet sounding voice, adding that she was from a distant courthouse, somewhere in Texas.  I responded with my usual questions.  Could I please have a case number.  "A what now?"  Okay, we were off.  I have developed an affection for the phrase, "A what now".  It is so, well, Texan!  A case number. "I am sorry, I do not understand".  A case number!  The number of the case?  "Oh!  Yeah...I am sorry, I didn't understand you".  The case number was given, and we continued.  I asked if it would be okay to send a stamped addressed envelope to collect the papers. "A what now?" was followed by a giggle.  I repeated my question.  "I am sorry, I don't understand.  Where are you from?"  The response was in the form of the usual blurb.  I was born in Central London, lived just outside London, and have lived here for fourteen years".  The giggling was profuse.  "I got London.  Did you say fourteen years?  And you haven't lost your accent?  I can't understand you but you can keep talking.  I love it!"  I told her that if she thought this was funny she should see what happens in restaurants!  I never get what I order.  She understood that and giggled even more. Eventually, we established that I could send an envelope and she would return the documents to me.  She hoped we would speak again!

"Straw-bay-ree", I repeated, only once, to the machine that took my order.  It understood.  A pink mixture filling a plastic cup was retrieved at the window.  Yes, that was all.  No, I did not say thank you, until after the transaction was well and truly completed!
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Wednesday was probably my most testing day. It was not only my language that was misunderstood, but that of the language being spoken to me.  I received a call from what sounded like a very distressed person.  I was not sure as to the language, but when the call finally ended, I checked the number from where it came, and it was a nursing home.  I called them.  Apparently, everything was fine, and no reports of distress had been received at the nursing station, so all was good. I was not fully convinced, but chose to take the word of the person to whom I spoke.  When I received the second call, I heard someone ask, "What are you doing?" and the call ended.  Upon the third one, I started to get suspicious.  I called back, whilst the party was still on the other line.  "No, nothing wrong here".  I explained that the person was still on the phone, and perhaps a nurse or member of staff could see who it was. "Oh it's okay.  All the patients have phones in their room.  It could be anyo one of them".  It was not okay.  This lady was calling me, regularly, and no one saw a problem.  "Why is it a problem.  All is okay here", did not sit well with me! I retrieved the call where the lady was still babbling. "Votre-nom", I said, thinking that perhaps French would work.  Obviously, it did not, but it was the first one that came to mind, as I knew the cockney, "What's yer 'andle", would never work.   "Cómo te llamas... umm ... nombre?"  This appeared to strike a chord and the rambling stopped for a second or two.  However, much as I could possibly make myself understood, I could not understand her.  My daughter, who had been intrigued by this sudden lack of English, appeared at my side.  "Look up, call a nurse to the phone", I demanded.  She did a she was told.  "Llame a una enfermera al telefono", I attempted.  Silence, then more mumbling.  "Por favor!"  Silence, then more mumbling.  Eventually she replaced the receiver, and made one more call.  I vowed to call the nursing home back, or at least find a managing agent!

My faith in managing agents was dwindling, when on Thursday morning, an offending vehicle pulled into its accustomed unauthorized parking space.  I decided to take matters into my own hands, and as the driver merrily strolled across our parking lot, to her building, I called after her.  At first, she appeared not to hear me, so I called again.  She turned.  "Excuse me, but you cannot leave your car here."  A young, attractive, fresh faced, girl with long blonde hair, looked at me with doe like eyes, and a confused (perhaps not honest) look upon her face.  "But my office is just there", she said, pointing to the next building, where there was just one other car in their lot.  I explained the rules.  "Oh, is that new.  I always park here"  I explained that I knew, but it was a violation, and no, it was not new.  The rather large signs, that are unmissable, both at the entrance, and which she could hardly fail to notice when walking back to her car (I did not point out the obvious) very clearly stated whom could park here.  "Huh?"  Oh no, what words did I use that were not understanding. Perhaps it was "cannot"!  She stood, with a look of "What do I do now?" upon her face, and I stood with a look of "Move it now", with a hint of "please" on mine! Guess who won?  A hubbub went around the office.  The 'mean' Englishwoman made her move!  I made two quick observations.  Either she had not been asked not to park in the space, in which case the building managers were not being honest, or she had and she was not being honest.  With such a look of innocence upon her face, how could I not believe her.  Easy!  I was once that young!

I was looking forward to my Saturday.  A regular Saturday sticking to a boring routine and enjoying every minute.  After my recent crash course in Spanish, I felt I could conquer the world.  We went to Sam's Club, and browsed.  At the meat counter, there was a woman having a conversation with the butcher.  He was quite emphatic.  "What are the saying?", asked Samantha, with a look of gleeful encouragement.  "Oh she is asking for some ham hock, and he is saying, 'We ain't got none.  Use turkey bacon'."  The conversation continued and the butcher became more emphatic.  "Oh, I can't repeat that...nor that!" I said to my giggling daughter.  We came to the check out.  "Do you want to upgrade your membership?" asked the woman behind the counter, to another woman who stood in front of me in the queue.  "No. She doesn't", I said looking back at my daughter, and rather quietly. "No, gracias", I said, after the sales person repeated the question in Spanish.  She then turned to the woman's daughter, asked if she spoke English, and then told her to explain, again, in Spanish, what she had just said in two languages.  "What part of 'no' did she not understand. The word was the same in both languages!  I should know.  I was now bilingual.  Tri-lingual if you count the French.  Multi lingual if cockney is added!  

Once in Costco, we roamed the aisles.  A young boy was whimpering and his father was quite unsympathetic.  "What are they saying?" asked my daughter with that gleeful look upon her face.  I told her that the young lad was concerned as to why the lady in Sam's did not want to upgrade her account, and the father was simply stating, "She don't want none".  It is amazing how a lack of grammar seeps through to all dialects!
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With a renewed sense of confidence, I joined my husband for dinner at the Brazilian restaurant.  Despite it not being a special occasion, they had a special offer.  We sat down, and when asked if there was anything extra I required, I asked for some horseradish sauce.  The first waiter called a second who called a third. Eventually a fourth, a young lady, came over and asked if she could help. "Horse relish?  No, we do not have horse!"  It would appear that someone did hear, and understand, as the sauce was brought to the table, which seemed to appease the young lady who had a look of horror on her face.  As I was sitting, I noticed a young girl at the salad bar.  Tall, willowy and young, presumably on a date, as there was a lack of rings adorning her fingers, (I know that does not mean a thing,) and wearing a somewhat short, and flimsy dress, with shoes that I found to be un-matching.  I did not care much for the whole outfit, but it was merely my opinion.  She probably did not care for mine. However, I must have glanced for a couple of moments too many, which no doubt constituted staring, and I received a look that was universal.  Language does not come into play when a woman looks at another.  "Yes, I am young, I still have it. (Whatever it is.)  I have it all ahead of me."  I smiled.  Raised my eyebrows with a, "Yes, you are, and oh boy are you in for a shock!  I had it and I have come through the other end! Eat your heart out!  (I apologise to any men who are not 'getting' this, but women will understand. -  It reminded me of the scene in the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes...", when Kathy Bates was beaten to  parking spot by two young girls, and they taunted her with their youth.  She then smashed their car, and taunted them with the fact that being mature meant insurance was less!)  The smugness left her face, and I knew that the language of 'woman' had been spoken on both sides, and understood.  Perhaps not word for word, but gist for gist!  I had been through this once this week!

The language barrier will always exist, and the division between the common languages is probably harder to overcome than different languages altogether, as if I can generally make myself understood to someone who does not speak a variation of English.  Despite the appearance of frustration, it rarely exists, as the misunderstanding works two ways.  I may follow up on the nursing home issue, just because it seemed a little uncaring, for what is after all known as the 'caring' profession.  I understand that they are very busy, but a mere, "We will look into it" would have been a better answer. However, as I said, I am not sure appeasement would have worked, considering that is all I got from our office building managers!

I am currently working in the language I understand.  My kitchen!  When all else fails, go to the kitchen and cook something!  No doubt, in time, I will have another 'go to' thing to do, but for now, pastries rule!  Next weekend is Easter weekend, but we do not have any extra time away from the office.  Samantha and I have had to postpone our mother-daughter trip, this year, due to our staffing problems, but I am sure we will find something to do, and rearrange at some point.  Obviously, any developments will be added to .......... another story!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

HAIR OF THE DOG!

The traumatic events of last weekend were not reflected in my post, albeit my mind was not on the subject, hence two critical errors, but suffice it to say, all's well that ends well. 

Friday, a week ago, Samantha took Frank to the vet.  He had not been 'himself', and was not moving freely, nor was he eating properly.  The doctor took an x-ray and the prognosis was not good. It was one of two things.  One was the removal of his spleen, but the other was fatal.  Obviously, she was devastated.  Not being a 'dog' person when I moved to the USA, I was surprised at my level of angst.  This puppy is part of my family.  Not only would I, too, be devastated at the loss, but I would also have to deal with my daughter's grief, which needs no explanation to all those mum's out there!  He was booked in for an operation on Tuesday!

Going out on Saturday and Sunday was to keep things running as normally as possible.  We could have sat at home, and waited for Tuesday to arrive, but we also wanted to be positive, and trust that the latter diagnosis was not going to be the outcome.  

When my alarm went off on Monday morning, I was wide awake.  Sleep had not wanted to make contact all night, and I rose, quite delighted that another night was now in the past.  Surprisingly enough, the dog had a renewed spurt of energy, and this both delighted, and concerned us.  Dana suggested that we go downtown, just to get out of the office, and to experience a change of scenery.  The positivity that was attempting to surge through all of us was becoming a little overbearing, and a little bit of respite would not go amiss.  Downtown I drove, and we parked outside the courthouse, which meant a good deal of walking.

I had received an invitation to a 'drop in', commencing at 2pm on the East side of the interstate.  Normally, we are treated to a sumptuous lunch, and much as my appetite was not particularly good, I thought it might be good to take advantage of the situation.  We walked the four blocks down and then six blocks up and finally found the venue.  "Hi, are you here for the drop in?" asked the lady behind a stand that had been somewhat crudely placed at the back of what looked like a storeroom.  "Yes.  Would you like to see my invite?"  I asked, as they are always requested.  "Oh no.  If you found us, you must have had an invite.  If you want to go into the other room, get a coffee or a drink, then come back and tell us about your 'drop-in' experiences.....".  That said it all.  Three people, other than a modicum of 'we really do not want to be here' hosts, were sitting at tables, working on laptops.  My 'drop in' experience was to be invited to a lunch every year, and how, or why, I received the original invite is still a mystery to me.  We wandered into the 'other' room, and made a quick exit.  No lunch today!

We made our way back across the Interstate, and over to the food truck area, where we sampled a lot of coffee.  Then we walked to the 'pop-up' coffee shop, that we had visited over the weekend.  

"This is the best grass fed butter you can find", said the promoter, standing behind the bar, with a jug of coffee and a block of Kerrygold butter.  He started to explain about how fat was now good for me, and the properties of the butter.  I told him, quite politely, that I had been eating Kerrygold since before he was born, and in fact since before it was bad for you, which was before it was good for you again!  He smiled, but was not impressed.  I appeared to know more about the properties of the butter than he, and a little more about coffee "We like to keep local" may have worked on some, but when I pointed out that the coffee may have been roasted locally, it does not grow in Austin, and Kerrygold is, and always has been, made with milk from Irish cows.  Ireland is about as far away from Austin, as the place they probably sourced their beans, albeit in a different direction. I think my need to educate is to prove my intelligence, rather than denounce theirs!

By Monday night, a calmness had surrounded me, and I slept for the first time in days.  However, I awoke in a less than serene state, and went downstairs to my safe haven.  With half a dozen egg whites sitting in my fridge, I made a variety of meringues, and waited for Samantha to arrive.  She had left the puppy at the vet, and was told that she could call at midday.  We were both walking on egg shells, (no pun intended,) not wanting to even think the worst.  She refused to prepare herself as it was 'not going to happen', and I had to stop my mind from going to the 'what if' scenario.  Instead, she looked at my attempt at 'macrons' and quite emphatically stated that they 'were not'!  I had not followed the recipe correctly!  We left for the office, and worked through a very long morning.

Image may contain: dogAt midday, we all sat at our respective desks, waiting.  Dana watched from his office, Jerry sat refusing to move until she had made the call, and my ears were working overtime, straining to hear if she was talking.  "He is okay!" came the report at five past the hour.  It appeared that the large mass was actually a tumour on his kidneys, and that is why the vet thought it was the spleen.  It had encompassed the whole area.  In fact, when she went to collect him later, she was told that the offending growth was so big, the kidney had to be removed.  It was the size of a mango, which in a dog the size of a sausage, is enormous!  They were surprised he could stand, let along run and jump!  It appeared not to be malignant, as the function tests done before the operation, were all good, and Frank had woken up quickly and was doing extremely well.  

Dana suggested we stick to our plans, and as the dog could not be collected until after three, we headed, quite happily, downtown.  We did not dwell on what could have been, but a few tears of relief were shed.  

We parked the car on the opposite side of the courthouse, which meant we had another block to walk, but it was a pleasant day, and we were quite happy to have our time taken up.  Down and along, down and along we walked until we reached sixth street, There was a new venue opened, and we stood in the queue for what we thought was a simple registration, as we have done in previous years.  However, it appeared we had fallen short of expectations, and not sent an RSVP, so we were not on the list.  We asked if we could just walk around the area just to see what was happening, and were told that the RSVP was just for the concert, later that afternoon.  Although we had not pre-registered, as we had not followed explicit, new instructions this year, we were handed a phone charger, out of sympathy, and a card which we were told to have stamped at each stall, to receive a prize!  We collected fruit snacks, water bottles, and a black bag containing a t-shirt, instructions on how to tie-die with bleach, and a coupon for a bottle of Pine-sol and a bottle of bleach, (nothing if not diverse, this festival,) and then were able to go up some stairs to get a better view of the (yet to start) concert, than those whom had received wristbands!  After having collected all our 'stamps', we were rewarded with a Pandora 'pin'.  I found my voucher for the bleach and Pine-sol to be a little more of a 'prize'.

No automatic alt text available.We then weaved our way through the streets until we reached the food trucks.  Everything seemed to be a little busier and brighter than last year, when the festival seemed to be a bit bland.  Once inside the area, we noticed long queues.  It was a 'queso fest'.  There were about a dozen vendors, all giving away samples of their liquid cheese, and each sample differing from the previous one in a surprisingly unique way.  "Duck sausage and jalapeno", said the lady at one stand.  "And do you have a spoon", I asked, naively.  "No, you use the chips", she said, and handed me an enormous bag of tortilla corn chips.  Black and white queso was next, followed by spicy, spicier and spiciest.  "You are English?  Do you know what queso is, because I had an Irishman here a while ago, who had never heard of it".  (I bet he had heard of Kerrygold!)  I told the vendor, that after fourteen years here, I not only knew what it was, but understood it to be in its own food group!  I am still unsure as to how vegan queso is made, but I sampled it nonetheless.  With another bag of chips in my bag, I continued on.

After eating the equivalent of a whole jar of cheese, and purchasing a bowl of extremely delicious noodles, we headed back to the car.  Austin is renowned for its food trucks, and we rarely take advantage of their wares, as we are not downtown often enough, or at the right time.  

Samantha left the office shortly after we returned, and called when she had 'pup in hand'.  He had apparently been awake for hours and was eagerly waiting for her to collect him. The vet explained that, like humans, he could survive on one kidney, provided it worked properly, and there was no reason to suggest it would not.  The dog was very spritely.

I went to Joe on Wednesday, and then to have my nails painted.  By the time I got to the office, the dog had worn himself out with all the attention he had received, but managed to stand and wag his tail when I entered.  The weight loss was quite pronounced, but he appeared to be quite alert. 

Although I am a great chocoholic, it is not a good idea to eat only chocolate for lunch.  This was my downfall, as the cheese suppliers had given way to chocolatiers.  We were downtown again by one! I made my way through the samples and felt quite light headed by the time I had finished.  I know why, through all generations, it has been told, "Dessert after you finish dinner!"

Once again, we went to the Pandora 'tent' and walked around collecting 'stamps' for a 'pin'.  Once again, we received a black bag containing a t-shirt, instructions on how to tie-die with bleach, and a coupon for a bottle of Pine-sol and a bottle of bleach!  "Would you like a free pedicab ride?" we were asked.  "Why not?" we said, and rode along sixth street on a seat affixed to the back of a bicycle.  It would have been quicker to walk, but it was a new experience.  However, the experience became a little less comfortable, when our 'driver' was unable to go along the road, and had to take the back alleys!  I did not feel unsafe, but the smell was rather putrid, and I would have gladly disembarked at any time!  The smell, however, was nothing compared to that which was permeating the air on the other side of the buildings.  Again, I was reminded why the contraband substance is known as 'skunk'.  

We arrived back at the office with our bags, and went back to work!

The 'changeover' day is always a little quiet, and gives way to a new breed of creature strolling the aisles, so to speak.  Thursday was a lot busier, and a lot more abrupt!  Some music was streaming from the bars, coupled with a lot of shrieking and screaming!  The best parties were 'badge only', and the big names were hidden from the likes of us that do not purchase a ticket.  Apparently, though, there is an 'Austin pass' that allows us 'locals' to buy a tremendously cut price, all inclusive, pass to all events.  I shall have to investigate next year, although I doubt I would attend much!  Going downtown 'after hours' interferes with my usual humdrum evening schedule!

Over at the food truck stop, there was more chocolate, which we devoured, and then walked along Rainey Street, where we were invited into a couple of 'bars' to experience some music and 'fun'.  The music was a little less loud, and the artists a little less flamboyant!  We were plied with 'Twix' bars, and had some pictures taken for good measure.  Our stay was cut short by the time restraints on the parking ticket, although there are only so many Twix bars a bag can hold, and we walked back towards sixth street.

Once again, we went to the Pandora 'tent' and walked around collecting 'stamps' for a 'pin'.  Once again, we received a black bag containing a t-shirt, instructions on how to tie-die with bleach, and a coupon for a bottle of pine-sol and a bottle of bleach!  We had to go to the registration stand to get our final 'stamp'.  "Would you like to register?" asked the young lady behind the desk.  We sighed and repeated that we had not followed instrutions, and not RSVP'd and therefore could not get a wrist band.  "Oh no, that's okay, you can do that now".  Obviously, the third day was not fully booked, probably due to the 'new breed' that had arrived in town, those whom had music badges and did not need to attend a free party.  We were given a wristband, and another phone charger.  I was delighted.  Something else to add to my ever growing collection!  

The Pandora tent was closed on Friday, and became a car park again.  We parked a little less close than Thursday but closer than the beginning of the week, and wandered down to the Convention Center.  On our way, we spotted a venue that had, in previous years, not been open to non-badge holders.  "Come in, please", came the voice, with the emphasis on the 'please'.  We obliged.  The new flavours of Diet Coke were on offer.  Not being a fan, I did sample to appease the pleading voice.  "Samples?  Would you like some?"  Edward drinks the beverage like it is going out of fashion, so I was happy to take a couple of cans.  "What flavour?  One of each?  Two of each?"  Apparently, the large drum that contained an enormous amount of cans had to be emptied by the evening, when another couple were going to be arriving.  Laden down with a dozen cans, we continued on our way.  

Walking past the back of the convention center, we witnessed a young lady, who was a little eccentric.  She was shouting at passing motorists, and everyone seemed to be giving her a wide berth.  However, she walked up to the Sheriff's deputy, who was standing at the back entrance, and put out her hand to shake his.  He seemed a little confused, but obliged, kindly.  She said nothing and walked on.  He looked around at his colleagues, shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.  As I walked past, I put out my hand to shake his.  He looked a little shocked, and then I laughed and told him, 'only joking'.  Once he realised that this was not the norm, and I was merely following an act, he started to laugh, and laugh, and laugh.  I do not know whether I would have been as bold with a British Bobby!  

Chocolate was eaten, and then we were plied (the word being used in context) with yogurt's.  "Would you like a yogurt?  Take one of each.  Take two of each".  There is only so much a back pack can hold, but we did have our Pine-sol bags which we had brought for good measure.  "Have you tasted La Croix?" (Pronounced La Croicks.) "I love La Croix!" (Pronounced La Cwoa!) I replied.  "Have a can.  Have one of each flavour.  Have two of each", and a hat, and a badge, and, and, and....!  I started to feel like one of the contestants in 'World's Strongest Man", lugging a 'sixteen wheeler'!

The Twix bar had given way to M&M's but the queue was rather long, and the venue did not open until 2pm.  We were half an hour early, so walked along the road to see what else was on offer.  "Have some yogurt!  Here, take two!"  The Maltesers bar was also a lot of fun!  "Have some chocolates".  I answered with "Not chocolates, Maltesers", but the look of "huh" across the faces of those promoting made me realise that the advertising has changed, at least on this side of the pond!

Signs were all around the Convention Center as the Gaming part of the festival began.  "No weapons allowed.  Costumes are liable to a search".  Despite the recent law passed in Austin, those were not the weapons to which the organisers referred.  "Lasers and other space armory are not permitted".  I cannot imagine what Thor is without his hammer!  Just Th!

By the time I got back to the office, my shoulders felt like those of Atlas, as I did, indeed, feel as if I had the world upon them!  Dana required a couple of things put into the computer 'now', and I did not have time to change out of my t-shirt and walking trousers.  The perspiration had been rather prolific, and anyone who thinks that a lady (and I am a lady, despite thoughts to the contrary) merely 'glows', was not talking about a lady that had to haul two dozen cans of pop up several hills!  Maltesers may be the 'light' option, but a few dozen bags definitely weighs!

I was not in the right frame of mind to venture anywhere on Saturday.  I merely wanted to curl up and sleep!  However, I was told by my daughter to 'stop it', when I suggested I could drop her and Edward downtown, and collect them later.  We did get Dana to take us down to Sixth Street, and we headed down the very busy street.  It was St. Patrick's Day, and everyone was celebrating.  I am unsure as to how many actually knew the origins of St. Patrick's Day, or whom Patrick was!  However, his 'day' was being celebrated with a variety of green items, and lots of beer!  I relented, and wore green socks!  

"Come in, please", came the voice, with the emphasis on the 'please'.  We obliged.  We waked around, and Edward sampled the different flavours.  "What flavour?  One of each?  Two of each?"  This time there were more barrels, and more cokes!  "You were here yesterday, weren't you!" came the statement.  "Have some more.  Do you have another bag?"  I did!  Despite the back pack, Pine-sol bag and Samantha's two, I had another one tucked away! Laden down with over two dozen cans, we continued on our way.  

After eating some chocolate, sampling some 'vodka' jam and having the 'holes' that were in between the coke cans, filled with Maltesers, we continued on our way.  I was not 'allowed' into the M&M bar, as I had 'liquids'.  The man who had checked my ID was most upset and told his colleague, who promptly gave me three pairs of sun glasses!  Samantha and Edward emerged a short time afterwards, and Edward became 'bag sitter'.  "Did you see that.  She grabbed, like, a few bags", said one man sitting at a table.  Yes, I did.  The small bags were in tubs all around the venue, and we had been told, "please take them".  They would have all been discarded, and left to rot (as quickly as candy rots) and it would have been such a waste!  I knew several people who would be glad of a few bags of the new variety, and after all, they had said, 'please'.  

After deciding enough was enough, we walked back across the 'closed to vehicles' roads, and went to Stubbs.  Stubbs is a wonderful barbecue restaurant, that hosts a lot of bands.  I have only eaten there once, with my friends Judy and David, when they visited Austin a few years ago, but had vowed to go back.  The food was delicious.  We queued for the outdoor venue, and our bags were searched.  "I promise I will not open one can", I told the man at the entrance.  He said that, ordinarily, it would not be permitted, but he would make an exception.  It occurred to me later, although I am not sure it was the reason, that when I retrieved my ID, it was from a small wallet that has 'Austin Police Department' written across the front!  In we went.  I was handed a can of beer, and then treated to hot dogs with sundried tomato salsa, whilst listening to the 'Jaded Hearts Club Band', a Beatles tribute band, singing all the really old Beatles songs.  I felt as if I had arrived.  Not quite dinner and a show, but more like what I would have imagined Glastonbury to be like, in the 60's.  I would not have partaken of the 'skunk', but standing holding a beer and singing in the sunshine was such a great feeling!

After a while, and I will admit only drinking quarter of the can, we headed across the river.  Once again, I was not allowed in!  "Liquids, food, weapons".  I saw the writing on the wall.  "Everything but the weapons", I answered.  I didn't carry hammers, nor lazers, and could not find any space armory!  I sat, again, waiting for Samantha and Edward to return, and called Dana to ask him to pick us up at his earliest convenience!  

Unfortunately, Dana could not get to where he wanted to be, but parked in a little area behind the center where we had attended the Job Fair last week.  We got into the car, all tried to keep the dog calm, as he sat on Dana's lap, wanting to jump across the seats, but being restricted by a 'donut' collar, (the third collar trial this week) and slumped back in our seats.  

Over for another year, the fun and frolics were exhausting, and I wonder why I put myself through the routine each time.  It is because I enjoy every minute of it.  Every ache, every moan and every bit of 'swag' that I collect, goes into the memorabilia bank that is my Austin collection!  I live here, and I breathe the air (which at times is a little conspicuous) but mainly, this is home (despite it never being 'home') and life is certainly different!  However, when there is a repeat performance, next year, I would like it to be without the drama!  

Oh yes! The errors!  The group, whom we had hoped to see, (and I am sorry, but their name eludes me,) did not open for the Backstreet Boys, but were a group on a programme, which Nick Carter co-hosted about the making (and presumably creating) of boy bands.  The other error, and perhaps the one that I have received the most chiding about, is that Batman, and the Justice League are from DC comics, and not Marvel!  What was I thinking!  I am surprised I am allowed out in public!

I am not sure what I shall do with the rest of my day, as my head is still reeling from all the events of the past week.  My daughter has reported that the dog has his appetite back, and I had a lovely 'face time' experience with my son and my younger grandson, so my world is getting back to where it should be.  As long as I do not have to play the part of Atlas again, next week, all should be fine.  Although I hope for a slightly less hectic week ahead, I am sure thee will be something for ............ another story!