Sunday, May 29, 2011

Garden Pleasures

My mother has lived here in the Geer Village since 2004 -- just a year after it first opened. One of the many things I like about this place is the center courtyard. Over the years I have especially enjoyed seeing how the garden in the center has evolved. However, this is the first time I have been here in a season warm enough to see it in bloom.  When I arrived here in late March this was the site that greeted me the following morning:

Not particularly inviting! What a difference a Spring makes ... A few days ago I took a picture from the Art room down the hall to get an overall view of the feature garden:

Since this picture was taken we have had several warm sunny days and things are 'bustin out all over'! I went down there a few hours ago with my camera and my first real exploration of the garden.

On the left is a lacy hydrangea tree! It should bloom all summer. I have one in England that is growing up one of the walls -- but I like this idea of a tree. Maybe I'll take a shoot from the wall and try to grow one! Does anyone  know the magenta colored flower next to the Iris in the photo below?

I have always wanted to have a water feature and I love this one -- it was tempting to make a little film so you could hear the water trickling down the rocky steps. And I just love this little frog: The little bear is kinda cute too, but he's just not letting it all hang out like little 'froggie'.

Years ago I spent many hours in the garden. One of the down sides to having a summer home in France is that we don't do much more than pots and hanging baskets. I tried my hand at having a water feature but it wasn't really a success. Thank goodness for geraniums, impatiens and petunias!

Lovely day and a fun exploration. And from what I see, lots to come throughout the summer and fall.

Addendum: That red plant is a clematis! I'm not sure which one, but Red Pearl or Red Clematis are strong possibilities! I still have not found that Iris ...

One Step at a Time/Willpower and Encouragement

Summer weather has finally deigned us with its presence. Mom is making steady progress and we've been out and about in the car.

For her first outing we drove north to Massachusetts -- the plan was to drive to Great Barrington and on the way it occured to me that we might make a little side trip to Tanglewood. For many many years my parents spent every Saturday attending the morning rehearsal. Mom would pack breakfast and lunch and off they would set -- often with friends at about 6.00 am! You have to get there early to get the good seats in the 'Shed'. Dad would rush ahead with sweaters and jackets to 'reserve' their seats and then everyone would head off to a screened in area for breakfast. The last time I went with them John Williams was there to conduct a compilation of all his famous movie themes -- from Jaws to Indiana Jones. It was great fun because a movie screen had been set up showing scenes from the movies as the orchestra played the famous music. My son, Andrew, was there too and had a great time. So we took this drive down memory lane and it was lovely to see again. Mom was not maudlin at all -- just happy to remember and be there.

Yesterday we made it to the Kent Pizza Garden for some of the best pizza anywhere. When things go wrong in our lives it is amazing how often it is the simplest of pleasures that we relish the most: our homes, our lazy afternoons, the walk from a car to a restaurant table ... It astonishes me how much can be accomplished with will power and encouragement and how dependent those two virtues are on each other.

The ride from Kent, Connecticut to Canaan, Connecticut is one of the prettiest in this part of New England. Kent is situated on the beautiful Housatonic River and it is easy to imagine the time long ago when Native Americans would have fished and canoed in peace along the rapids winding through the forest. So it was a special treat to drive along this beautiful river on  Route 7 for several miles between West Cornwall and Cornwall Bridge with my mother knowing that not so long ago she had thought she would never be able to ride again in a car.

On the way home we stopped for a few minutes at Kent Falls State Park. This is a great place to witness the changing seasons. In winter the falls are often a frozen wonder and the barren trees allow you to view the rock formations hidden in summer. In the fall the colors are breathtaking and dramatic. There are picnic tables and an easy walk through a covered bridge to the green and lush grass.

Kent Falls tumbling toward the beautiful Housatonic River just across the Road.

I love the Housatonic River. On the way home I drove into the Housatonic River State Park for some pictures. When I was a teenager, my father had a summer job working for the State Park and Forest Commision and this was one of the parks he managed. Later both my brother and my eldest son had jobs mowing the grass here! What is amazing is that it still looks  pretty much the same!

Friday breakfast at the Geer Village is Pancake Day. For several years now my mother has met with friends and daughters of friends for a weekly treat. It was fantastic to have her at another pancake breakfast. Daughters are on the left and Mamas are on the right! (I opt for poached eggs -- my favorite!) It's such a simple pleasure, you know -- but ever so special when shared with dear friends.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

And When I Am Bad I Am Horrid!

I just wrote a ridiculous post and deleted it. It was all about my outrageous behaviour a few days ago and making excuses for it. When I read it over I became so bored by it all that I decided it was not worth inflicting the Internet with the sorry tale. What I had really wanted to write about was that I'd had a childish old-fashioned 'hissy fit'. At least I didn't stamp my feet -- exactly -- oh, maybe I did, come to think about it -- as I strode across the room with a huff and a puff to get my coat and storm off. I really was dreadful and even though I have apologised unreservedly to those who witnessed my terribleness -- still and all it does make me wonder if I ever ever will be a grown-up.

And now I am back in Connecticut for a few weeks -- trying to help out Mom as she works her way back to Independent Living. She will have to go through a period of Assisted Living as she works with others to regain strength and confidence and she too has moments of child-like anxiety. But she never ever has a 'hissy-fit'!

I am tired now. Have not had a proper night's sleep since I got here 4 days ago. The day after I arrived Mom was discharged and is now back in her apartment! Every day sees improvement in confidence and physically. It is a lesson in how resiliant the human spirit and body can be and is. It is also a lesson in how important the love and support of friends and family can be in that process and that we really are creatures that need each other.

I'm falling asleep over the computer. It's time to go to bed. And it's already tomorrow and another day!

And I'm so glad Suldog's come back to us ...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One thing and Another

Don't know what is the matter with me, but I've been feeling jittery and impatient the last few days. Usually I don't have any trouble concentrating, usually I am quite calm -- but at the moment that is out the window! One thing I am desperate for is warmer weather -- in fact that has been my biggest problem living in England, especially in the North of England. The sun is shining at the moment and the sky is blue, but it's only 14 Centigrade (about 60F) and the wind is constant -- and has been for well over a week. And rain is predicted yet again during the day.

One great thing -- today my summer reading books so far ordered should be delivered! In This House of Brede is going with me on the plane Tuesday -- so I must not be tempted to open it until then. Another book, In Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land and It's Regions by David Gilmour got fantastic reviews in the "Times" should be fun, interesting and informative.

Finally, I have been enthralled for the past few years by Henning Makell's Inspecter Wallander and more recently by Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole (my all time favorite name for a detective). It amazes me that I should be, for the most part a pacifist, but I adore murder most foul -- as long as it's fiction! Since I need to find a new detective series I've opted for two more Scandinavians: Karen Fossum's, Don't Look Back and Hakan Nesser's, Borkmann's Point. Is it odd that I should look forward to a 'relaxing' summer in the warmth reading about violent crime? Last year I read Alistair Campbell's first volume of Diaries -- that was an profoundly enjoyable summertime read and I'm going to be ordering the second volume as soon as it comes out in paperback in July! It's the best political commentary I've ever read!

As usual, the Man's plan to leave for France in early May has been scuppered! Gives me more time to order more books and less time to read them! Now we are not leaving until mid-July -- tenants are leaving yet again at the end of June. He turns 70 in early October and I'm having a devil of a time figuring out what to do with him! And will we still be in France? I know where I would like to take him, but found out yesterday that the Midland Hotel in Morcambe is fully booked for the entire week! Quel dommage and back to the drawing board...

Lunchtime! And in a short time we will be going to see the start of the musical tour of the "Balloon Project" in Liverpool, which was developed to a young man I've known since he was a babe, Ben Brown. We are going with his very proud father and very proud aunt. The Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA) is a greatly sought after place and we are all so proud of Ben, not only for his talent, but for the lovely young man that he is.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Home Again, Home Again -- Jiggity, Jig!

This post in in answer to a question posed by Rosaria as to where I called 'home'. Without a doubt I think of home as being the UK -- that is when I'm thinking about a building and a kitchen and a place to get the best rest for my head -- both mentally and physically. After more than thirty years in the land of Henry Higgins,  "I've become accustomed to her ways"! It didn't happen overnight, I can tell you ... but now that I speak fluent English, as well as American one hurdle to integration has been made. I learned a lot about people from the way they responded to my 'different' way of speaking. It is interesting and sometimes painful to find yourself the victim of derision because some word means something different than what you expect to mean. Corn, chips, pants, pocketbook, stuffed come to mind -- there are many others. You don't go to the hospital, you go to 'hospital'. When you go to see the doctor you go to his 'surgery' not his 'office'. And many times I still have to repeat myself, because people are so busy trying to figure out my accent, they fail to listen to what I am saying!

Occasionally, I have encountered some prejudice towards my being American. Once at a dinner, a Royal Air Force function -- so it was a little bit posh -- a hoity-toity British woman claimed amazement when I told her my father was an English teacher. She actually said she was 'amazed' that there were English teachers in America!! (No, she was not joking!!) For the most part, however, the British are very warm and hospitable -- especially in the Northwest of England. In fact, the whole of the North of England is 'the best' as far as I'm concerned. (Aha! Another idea for a post!)

Once I stopped being suspicious of cultural differences and became interested instead, I began to realize that a different approach to how we govern, or speak, or worship or eat or drink do not have to be judged -- cultural differences do not have to be worse or better just because they are different.

So, for better or worse, home for me is the UK. Funny though ... I still say, "I've got to fly 'home' for a few weeks to look after my Mom when she gets out of rehab", for example! You can take aBroad out of America, but you can't take America out of aBroad ...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Off Again, Off Again, Jiggity-Jig!

It's happy news and at the same time proves there is no rest for the wicked -- namely me! The good news being that my mother has made sufficient progress with her rehabitation that she could be back in apartment as soon as next week, but more likely the week after. When I left to come back to the UK I thought it would be late June or early July. I will know more Friday when there is a meeting of the parties involved as to the likely course of action. I have promised my mother that I will be there for when she gets back and plan to stay for about three weeks.

Two days ago I was trolling the Internet looking for cheap flights at the end of June and early July -- and of course with the school holidays in the States costs of almost doubled. So financially at least it is much better for us to have me travelling in the 'off season'. But oh the thought of getting on one of those tight-fitting planes so soon doesn't thrill me. I got back here on the 22nd of April, and am only now feeling 'back to normal' again.

Last night I looked again at flights and found a really  good deal that I hope to be able to take advantage of when I know more details. So what was a worry about finances one day, becomes a problem probably solved the next -- and I'm complaining about a bit of leg room... the angels must be fed up trying to please me!

All this upheaval goes to show how set in our ways the Man and I think we have become. We've been able to make our plans and follow through with little interference. We go to France in the Summer and come back to the UK for the winter and in the Spring or Fall would pay a visit Stateside. This has been our program for 12 years or so -- except! Except! Except! For two years we were living with my parents in order to help them make the decision to sell their house and find a better solution to their living needs. And then a few years later we were off to Olympia, Washington for a year to be near my son's family while he was away studying. Both experiences were upheavals, often difficult but more often rewarding.

And really, another three weeks is a minor upheaval due to the wonderful fact that my dear sweet mother is able to go back to live in the place she loves so much. My sister who was with her when she received this news described her as being 'all smiles' and that makes me smile, too.

Now, if I could just get a bit more leg room all would be well!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

From one Extreme to Another

Well, that was some kind of holiday weekend for the UK. Friday was a romantic triumph with lots of pomp and ceremony that the British do better than anybody else. Even the weather gave in to the celebrations and the rain stayed away. We shed a tear or two for the happy happy couple and had a good laugh at a certain princess who wore antlers on her head. All in all the wedding of the year/decade/probably not century was a glorious wonder. And wasn't it a giggle to think of all the papparazzi and journalists staking out the airports for a glimpse of the newlyweds setting off on their honeymoon only to discover that alack and alas they wouldn't be going just yet -- they were saving it for a later date? Well done to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  So is Prince William now married to a princess as well as a duchess? And if she is a princess is she lumbered with the soubriquette Princess William?

About the dress -- this is the most honest truth, too. The night before as I was trying to sleep thoughts crept through my hazy mind as to what sort of dress I would pick out for the bride-to-be. Believe it or not I thought of Princess Grace of Monaco -- really, really, really! And I even chose a bouquet of lily-of-the valley -- I did so, I did so, cross my heart!!! Yes, yes, yessss, I am so so smart ...

Then we come to Monday morning 5.00am and I'm up for tea and breakfast. Just in time to get the very tail end of President Obama's announcement that Osama Bin Laden was dead. And there were all these crowds outside the White House and people cheering and chanting U S A; U S A; U S A -- over and over again. Initially, I was confused and shocked -- how could there be so many people when it had just been announced -- until I learned a few hours later that in fact news had leaked out earlier via Twitter and other networking sights.

As I watched I felt a lot of discomfort. I do not feel celebratory and I feel uncomfortable with the word 'justice'. What I feel is 'satisfied'. I am satisfied with the fact that he is dead and that his body was disposed of at sea. A few minutes ago I was shocked to see pictures on the Internet of the President and Secretary of State grimly watching events as they took place. I believe that it was appropriate for them to do so and from their expressions it was not something they enjoyed watching at all. The celebratory tone of the crowds of people that gathered was understandable, but at the same time reminded me of the Wizard of Oz and munchkins singing ''Ding Dong the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead" and that did not seem appropriate in this dangerous and troublesome world we now live in.

The events of the weekend underline the truth of our lives -- there is the very best and the very worst always with us and how we are able to adjust to the harshness and the beauty is the struggle of humanity.