Independence Day 2018…


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Today is July 4th, Independence Day here in America with visions of parades and barbecues and people getting together with friends and neighbors up and down the entire country. I remember my first July 4th barbecue way back in 1967. We had only been in the country for four months and so many of the American traditions and celebrated holidays were still new to us with the Independence Day celebration no exception. Actually, it was the first of the American Holidays that we celebrated.

My Mother, and her American Husband, Hermie who had sponsored us over, decided that they were going to put on an American July 4th picnic for the family with a few of the Neighbors thrown into the mix. We all drove to one of the local lakes and staked ourselves a spot that came complete with a barbecue pit and a couple of picnic tables. We were surrounded by other groups all duty bound to celebrate July 4th in the Good Old American Traditional way of the Barbecue. We were no different and although all this merrymaking was a bit strange to us stalwart British types, we vowed to join in and enjoy ourselves. As much as I can recall from an event that happened more than fifty one years ago, we had a good time and quickly learned the ropes of how to consume barbecued hot dogs covered in mustard and relish and in my case, drinking lots of beer. We even learned the good old standbye game of volleyball and the rudimentals of baseball as people from all different groups mixed together for the occasion and played pick up games for which we joined in with much enthusiasm and very little skill or knowledge of what we were doing.

Since that first July 4th celebration, many Independence Days have come and gone. Some have been celebrated with a different cast of players much as in the same way as the first one. My Mother and Stepfather are both gone and the children all grown with families of their own and far flung in this country. My wife at the time, you may well ask, a different story. Many Independence Days have been ignored either because there was nothing to celebrate at that particular time of my life or other circumstances that age by itself produces. I no longer eat hot dogs in any form or variety  having decided that they are not the healthiest of food and due to an unfortunate run in with a local judge several years ago, no longer drink beer or any form of alcoholic beverage. To me, July 4th, Independence Day to this Great Nation, is just another day on the Calendar as are so many days as I age. Now, every day is something to celebrate.

Looking back to that very first celebration all of those years ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm shown by the many revellers at the picnic site we were at. We too were young then comparatively speaking with a whole new life ahead of us and it seemed very apt to be celebrating it the way we did on July 4th. Now, I am more than a little sad thinking of those events that happened half a century ago. Too bad that things didn’t work out as planned but that is a different story.

Written July 4, 2018

 

Dripping Springs Farmers Market 5-2-18


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It was a Wednesday and I happened to find myself back in the Dripping Springs area primarily to visit the Tractor Supply Company where I purchase my fish food. I only ever buy one 28 lb bag at a time which lasts me a little less than two weeks and even though it would make sense to buy at least two bags, I really like the drive and the visit to this picturesque old town located at the foot of the Texas Hill Country. It helps even more now that the town has gone all modern on me with the addition of a Starbucks which I find a reason to visit. One of my most favorite things is to drive out in the countryside in my new Ford F-150, listening to an Audiobook and with a Starbucks Latte within arms reach.

I had not chosen the day, Wednesday, on purpose and it was really by chance that it happened to be the day of the Farmers Market. I don’t usually stop in to visit but on this day, I decided that I could really use one of the pastries that one of the vendors sells. So, I dragged out my camera and took a few shots of the vendors and the musician who was entertaining a small child and his Mother before stopping to purchase an Empanada. There was a long list to choose from and I eventually settled on a Mole Beef. I willingly paid the vendor his $5:00 and took my morsel of goodness back to my truck and sat for a while as I improved on my Audiobook and Starbucks Latte with the addition of the Empanada which, by the way, was absolutely delicious. I almost went back for another and then common sense stepped in and told me that spending $5:00 on one pie was OK but to spend $10:00 on two, as good as they were, would be more than a little extravagant and would spoil the moment.

I left the Market and headed home more than a little content. Funny how the small things in life really begin to mean something as we grow older and how much easier we are to be satisfied with tiny moments of pleasure.

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I wrote about this market a little over a year ago and the need for an Empanada was the reason for this repeat.

Written
5/4/2018

When I was a kid…


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I got to thinking about the difference in the generations between mine as a kid and the modern day kids. I tried to put myself in their shoes but found it impossible to wrap my mind around the huge differences between us.

When I was a kid, admittedly time and circumstances were different as it was wartime for some of my youth, but even so, everything was at a much slower pace. I lived on a road that was named Huggletts Lane and although the name conjures up thoughts of a dirt road leading to nowhere, in fact it was a tarmacked (blacktopped) road but still leading to nowhere. The road did eventually turn into a dirt road and then into a footpath leading to the next community a couple of miles down the road which is how it was with many of the small villages that dotted the countryside.

There were several kids on my street all about the same age and we spent most of our free time roaming the woods and fields and playing outdoors communing with Nature although we didn’t think of it like that. To us, the great outdoors was our playground and all that we learnt and shared was a normal part of growing up as a kid back in the 1940’s. The fact that there was a war going on and that we occasionally had to take cover from an enemy aircraft as it flew over in the early part of the war was a part of life as we knew it. We were right on the enemy flight path as they flew towards their targets and then back home.

Life was not normal because of the war but it was to us. Things like food rationing and dogfights and flying bombs that we called Doodlebugs and masses of troops of all Nationalities, tanks and armored vehicles and jeeps by the hundred tore up and down the roads and country lanes and signs of war were everywhere. We accepted this as normal because we were kids growing up in troubled times.

The closest school to us was three miles away and we generally walked as a group every day picking up others kids along the way. We were of all ages as our school ages started at five or thereabouts and went on through fifteen which was the normal graduating age at that time. We were split up into different age classes but all housed under one roof in several different classrooms. There were no organized sports other than the playground where we made our own entertainment. Coming home was a bit different as we tended to split into individual groups and we all had different agendas. Because of our closeness as kids generally speaking, things like Mumps, Measles, Chicken Pox and what are considered normal childhood diseases, tended to affect all of us one after the other. If one caught it, we all caught it. We had a Country Nurse that rode a bike from house to house checking up on the sick kids  and we would write notes to each other that she would gladly take and deliver for us. Doctors, in real emergencies made house calls and were glad to spend time with the patients and most babies were born at home with a Doctor and Midwife in attendance.  I remember that I had to have my tonsils removed which required spending a week in hospital in Uckfield. Any surgery  was treated as a big deal back then and was a risky business.

Home life was also much different. Families tended to do things together such as always eating together, taking long walks and listening to the radio. Food was pretty plain and simple and as we all had large gardens that required the entire family to help with the garden chores like weeding and planting or gathering the vegetables for the evening meal. The women and girls in the family helped with the cooking and cleaning and the boys fed and cleaned out any animals and chickens that every house had and also did the heavy garden work like digging and planting. Sometimes, on really special occasions like Christmas, we would kill one of the chickens as a special treat. Very rarely did we get to eat Turkey and never at my house. My only taste of turkey was at one of my wealthier friends house where I had been invited over for Christmas Dinner.

The radio played a big part of our lives as this was how we got most of our news about the war. Then there were radio programs like Happydrome and The Archers and all kinds of mysteries and thrillers that entertained the entire family in the evenings. We sat and listened to it just like people do today watching their TV sets as the radio actors with their magical voices kept us entertained. We had a phonograph to play 75 rpm records of which we had a small collection.

We never had a phone, ever. The nearest public phone was a couple of miles away and most people either were afraid or did not know how to use one. My Dad went everywhere on his bike and as we grew older, we also had bikes and that became our new form of entertainment as bikes opened up new horizons. We could now get to places that were not available before such as the local Market on Wednesdays or the Movie House in Heathfield about 7 miles away or even to one of the local football (soccer) games to watch the hometown team.

As kids, we learned to entertain ourselves without getting into trouble except maybe for stealing apples from Mr Jones Orchard or getting chased by a very upset horse for us getting into his field and stuff like that. We learned to entertain ourselves making the most of what was available to us mostly from our immediate surroundings. Nature played a huge part in our lives and we are all the better for what we learned.

Compared to today, our lives back then were dull and uninteresting. Not to us of course as it was our life and the only one we knew.  We never had TV to entertain us and we had to use our own imagination and brains to keep us busy.  Cell phones had not yet been invented and we were no worse off because of it. Hardly anybody owned a car as we all relied on public transport, bikes or shank’s pony otherwise known as walking, to get us anywhere. Food was plain and simple and some of it pretty heavy stuff like Roast Beef with vegetables and Yorkshire pudding on Sundays, Liver and Onions through the week and Fish and Chips on Fridays. There was always Mashed Potatoes and lots of vegetables from the garden. For deserts, there was Rice Puddings, Treacle Pudding and Apple Pies. A lot of it was homegrown and there was no such thing as fast food. Milk was delivered every day in one pint bottles with a thick layer of cream on the top and the Baker made deliveries once a week.

Bath night was always a very interesting time in most houses. We didn’t have a bathroom and we made do with the kitchen. Yes we did take baths but it was not as simple as turning on a tap (faucet) and hot water came out.  We didn’t even have hot water to our sink and all hot water had to be boiled in a kettle. although we were modern enough to have an electric kettle to do this. In the corner of our kitchen was what was called, a “Copper” that was comprised of a very large copper tub with a wooden lid built in to the wall with a fireplace underneath that probably held thirty to forty gallons of water. This normally was used to boil the clothes on wash day before hanging them on the line to dry but on bath nights, was used to heat the water.

The bath was a galvanized steel tub about five feet long which was dragged in from where it was hanging, once a week so that everyone could have a bath. The hot water from the “Copper” was dipped out and poured into the bath and suitable cold water added to bring it to a bearable temperature. The men were all ordered out of the kitchen and banished to the furthermost parts of the house while the ladies, starting with the Mom and then followed by any girls in the family, would take their baths one after the other all using the same water which was kept at a suitable temperature with the addition of hot water from the “Copper”.

Then, when the ladies were through and decent, the Father and the boys would take their turn  adding more hot water as required until finally, all were sufficiently clean to last another week. The Bath was then dragged to the door and unceremoniously upended and the restored to its normal hanging place on the wall. You can imagine that the lowest boy on the totem pole by age (me) may have had misgivings about this particular ritual especially if there was a large family. Invariably, the boys would be reminded to “wash behind their ears” as though this was also apart of the bathing ritual. Not sure why so much emphasis was placed on this particular action but it always came up. Of course, we always answered in the affirmative whether we had or not. Even our toilet, which adjoined the kitchen, was reached by going outdoors although it did have a chain pull to flush it.

These are some of the things I remember as I was growing up, so different from modern day America and although I have never been back, probably modern day England. Was I better or worse off for my younger life as compared to the kids of today? I can’t really answer that as all I know of a modern day family is what I read and surmise. I am concerned that most modern day kids do not spend time outdoors. I am not sure if they even know how to entertain themselves without getting into trouble or without TV, Xbox and their phones or having organized entertainment. There is no doubt in my mind that modern day kids are probably much smarter and in some ways, much further ahead in their academic work than we ever were but they are missing out on the basics of life.

If I had to make a choice and had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would have to say that I would choose my life back then as opposed to being a kid in this modern world.  I was very happy even in the difficult times and because I didn’t know any better was content with my lot. I do not like what we have become, our reliance on gadgets or the need to be entertained and although I use some of the technology, I do not like what the end result is in the younger generation or come to that, their parents.

I can’t change any of it and will live out the rest of my days living in the past with my many memories as I transcribe them to my modern computer hoping against hope that this modern day world in which we live does not not implode with the Global Warming that all of this modern day technology has caused…

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Written 4/13/2018

 

Audiobooks and writing.


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For those of you that follow my blogs, you know that I am a big fan of Audiobooks reserved strictly for listening whilst out driving in the car. I do not listen at home with the single exception of when I am in the hot tub relaxing after a long hike and then sometimes, I will bring out the portable speaker as I soak and unwind.

Even though I write a blog and to date have posted over 700 articles, I do not consider myself a writer in the strict sense of the word. No, I am a reporter that can write an interesting (I hope) narrative of something that has occurred that usually, I have been involved in. Whether it be a hike or an Austin Pond Society Meeting or a poem, they are all things that I have been a part of or lucky enough to witness. Sometimes, I will get on my high horse and start ranting about something that I find disturbing that is happening in the rest of the World outside of my little part of it. I like to think I have an interesting style, enough for my readers to enjoy but as we are all different, I can only hope.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog. I have tried several times to write a novel and in a couple of cases have even written over 500 or more pages on a story but have never been very happy with the end result and have never pursued it further. As I listen to a story on Audiobooks, a part of my mind is trying to figure out where the story is going and what might be the next step the hero or heroine will take. Sometimes, I get it right but most of the time, my mind is just not devious enough to figure things out. Some of the twists and turns I would never have expected and when they go in a particular direction, my mind is in awe of the writer’s ingenuity. I guess that is what makes some writers truly great and some stories super interesting when nothing is as it seems.

What will I write about when I can no longer hike and have given up my interest in ponds as a hobby? Does that mean that I will also give up writing (reporting) as I will no longer have these things to write (report) on or will my mind grow more devious as I age? I suppose that in all probability, my mind will also deteriorate as I get older along with all of the other physical aspects of living. Maybe I will lose the ability to put one word after another to make an interesting story. This will pretty much solve the dilemma of writing or reporting if I will not be able to do either. I can probably fall back to writing bad poetry as a few disjointed and mangled or missing words here and there will not be noticed.

Who knows what the future may hold. With limited time left on this earth all I can hope for that other than getting more and more forgetful, the rest of the brain still knows how to act and will continue to function until I no longer care. At that point, goodbye world.

AND I can listen to Audiobooks on my way out….

Written 9/28/2017

The Future-What does it Hold for the Human Race.


visiting-grandmaI wrote a piece a while ago about cell phones and the way people are now totally addicted to them and want to pursue this topic a bit further. Being older and having memories of life before cell phones, I feel that I am somewhat qualified to discuss this topic at least from a personal point of view.

My concerns are many in this particular area. For starters, this has the makings of a good novel and maybe even a series about how the World population was taken over by cell-phones and humans lost the ability to think for themselves or even communicate one on one without consulting their phone first. Conversations, even with the person right next to you were conducted through your phone not verbally as we would normally expect. People would receive calls from “Interested Parties” telling them what to wear, what to eat, what to do today after work, what groceries to buy and what shop to buy them at and on and on until in the end, humans lost the ability to think or reason without being told by their phones. In fact, they became brainwashed into being totally dependant on their phones for everything.

Does this sound familiar? Something from the world of George Orwell or H.G. Wells of years gone by. Take a look around you the next time you are in a crowd of people or a Supermarket. You can almost guarantee that any kids even the very youngest have their face glued to a phone or a tablet even as they are walking around with their parents as they circle the aisles. In many cases, the Parents are either also talking on the phone, checking for messages or even consulting their grocery list which is where, you got it, on their phone. I read somewhere that the art of penmanship is rapidly dying out as more and more people use either a phone or a computer to write with and many younger kids, have not mastered the basics of writing. Even in my day, penmanship quickly deteriorated when ball point pens were invented but at least virtually everyone could read and write. Now it is questionable in both cases. Personally, I prefer to use a computer to write with because at least, everyone can read the words which is not necessarily true of my handwriting which sometimes verges on the point of ineligible due to my hasty scribbling. I was watching an English Premier League football match the other day and saw several people in the crowds checking their phones so it is not just this country that has the problem.

Getting back to the point of the blog. I can only imagine what the home life of an average family is in this day and age. Personal conversations with friends take precedence over everything else which includes both verbal and texting. I wonder how many families have rules at home of how much and when their kids can use their phones? At the meal table? During family conversations? When the family is doing something together and on and on. I would imagine that the worst punishment that any kid can get is to have their cell phone taken away.

Where is this all leading to? How long before we become a Nation so reliant on our phones that we find it impossible to operate without them. I am lucky that being very old and those that are in my generation are in the same boat, that we do not have the same need for a cell phone other for maybe as a safety net in case something happens to us such as, “Help, I have fallen over and can’t get back up” or worse yet, “Help, I think I am having a heart attack”.

We are being controlled and manipulated by “Big Business” in a very subtle way as we are bombarded from all sides with truths, untruths, false advertising and claims to do this or buy that and every conceivable pressure that is possible. All because of our reliance on our phones.

How do I end this blog? I predict that things will only get worse and that this is exactly what the Powers That Be are very happy with especially the way things are falling out. Whether they actually foresaw this is anybody’s guess but I bet someone was smart enough to figure this out to be another way to control the masses. Did I mention that the only calls I answer is if I recognize the name. If not, they are not going to get to me like they are to the rest of you guys…
Switch off the phone and see what the rest of the world looks like.

Written 12//7/2017

Blank Screen and Blank Thoughts…


epl-table-2015-live-score-results-channel-today-game-epl-tableI turned on my computer and brought up my blog site with a fresh clean page all ready for me to peck away with many words of wisdom.
I stared and stared and nothing came to mind, just a blank screen looking back at me.
I thought of all of the subjects that I have written about in the past and that still didn’t help.
Maybe a poem, I thought but I could not think of what to rhyme about so I gave up on that idea.
I have spent this past week working on the Austin Pond Society web site. Now, it is finished and I can’t think of anything else to do to it for a while.
Night has fallen and it is dark outside so I can’t work on the ponds or go for a hike.
It would appear that my mind is a blank and needs firing up a little.
To hell with writing, I am going to watch the English Premier League and my favorite soccer teams…Manu

The Dark Tower by Stephen King


gunslingerI went for another drive today
I often do that to pass some time
as it was too darn hot to take a hike
too late in the day to walk outside
I had no particular place in mind
just to jump in the car and let it define
the route that we would follow today
as we passed the time along the way
with an audiobook telling the words
read by an actor trained in this verse.

Listening to a Stephen King tale
what better way my thoughts to prevail
as he winds his magic his story to tell
and I try to guess what’s coming next
and will the good guys come out on top
or is it in his dastardly plot
that evil wins this particular tale
and the hero falls as he did fail
to foresee what should have been plain to most
the good over evil is not always the case
especially when Stephen King is the host.

The Dark Tower is the name of the piece
and actually, there are seven books in all
as I am nearing the end of book six
which means one more book to fall
I have yet to hear how it will end
and as this is next to the final book
I can only hope that good comes out on top
and the Gunslinger will find out what
is at the end of his terrible quest
the one that had driven him all of his life
in such a way so full of strife.

I have a very bad feeling that
I am not going to like the story I hear
of the characters that I know so well
that Susannah and Eddie, Jake and Oy
and Roland too are all going to die
and they in turn will never see
the Dark Tower in all of its mystery
but the only way that I will know
is to listen and hear the way it will go
and yet a part of me is so sad
the ending that’s coming will be very bad.

My favorite character in these books
is not one of the human kind
the animal lover in me prevails
and I am really cheering for Oy
and hope that he will see the day
and will be there with the boy
as the Billy Bumbler who is Jake’s friend.

Of one thing I can be pretty sure
King entertains me in such a way
that I drive my car and put on the miles
just to hear the words he will play
as he strings them together his story to say
and I feel I am going through hell today
the same as all of his characters tell
as he spins the web of his stories so well
as with the Tower, I’m sure I will find
it’s not the ending that I had in mind.

I have read a lot of Stephen King’s work
and seen those that are turned into film
and marvel at the mind of the man
as he bends the words to suit his will
as the stories unfold yet another twist
where does he get such wonderful thoughts
scary and horror and good versus bad
how does he make his mind work this way
and just when I think what next he will say
he is off somewhere else and I’ve lost the day.

And just as the Gunslinger said,”We deal in bullets, we deal in lead”.