Sunday, 13th November, 2022
Very humid this morning. Went to bed late because we have a visitor staying. We ate late, stayed up talking. The visitor is the Head of a company which advises other tech-y companies how to solve development problems almost before they know they have them. He is only in his early 40s which is annoying but he is interesting to talk to. We ate outside in the Sanders Kitchen.
It is only ‘outside’ in the sense that the side walls are just mesh screens to allow the weather in and keep the creepy crawlies out.
It has all the mod cons that any kitchen has – sink, dishwasher, gas hob and barbecue, fridge, wine fridge, etc. It is a lovely place to sit and eat. There is a much bigger, indoor kitchen next door.
The morning walk takes us along woodland roads and the animals and birds just going about their daily lives are wonderful. Saw a Florida Woodpecker yesterday hammering hell out of a tree trunk and beautiful, little finches with red breasts and black & yellow striped coats. This afternoon, I was taken by this bush which is abundant here. With its pink/purple berries, it looks quite striking. There’s something pure, simple, sweet and non-malicious about Nature which is to be admired. It has no designs on those observing it. It just is.
Monday, 14th November, 2022
Last night we were taken out to Dinner by the businessman, David, who is staying with us. We went to a local Italian Trattoria. It wasn’t brilliant as a restaurant but we were out with friends and business was paying. No complaints here. We ate seafood, badly cooked and poorly presented but no problem.
After Dinner, the girls went up to the Cinema Room to watch Strictly Come Dancing. I am not a fan of the programme but I will use it to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime.
A warmish day – 27C/81F – which was lovely to walk in. This is redneck, Republican territory for people who have money and don’t want to share it. Properties are huge and defended vigorously.
This ranch-style property on our walk is typical rather than unusual for the area. Huge tracts of land with huge drives leading up to huge properties where they park huge vehicles. The sign on the gate says, We don’t call 911 (Emergency/Police). We use weapons/hand guns. ‘Welcome‘! We don’t welcome the dreadlocked. Lovely people.
It is Daniel’s 19th birthday this week. He is in need of nothing so I thought we would buy him something stupid. I thought I might get him a mad, baseball cap in Wallmart. Pauline was forced to model it for me. They made her look too erotic so I decided it wasn’t right and we chose something much more bonkers. He’ll love them because he is equally daft.
It is lovely to have our own car and chose when we go where and when rather than be beholden to others. Today we nipped to Walmart for some things and on to Publix for the rest. Back ‘home’, Pauline completed the production of a huge Lasagne for this evening when the workers get back from Tampa. It will be one of the best meals they’ll ever eat and it will be ‘free’.
Tuesday, 15th November, 2022
Hot and humid start to the day although we are constantly surprised because the house is permanently air conditioned throughout night and day. As soon as we step outside, the heat and humidity hit us. This morning, my valet has to do the washing.
I get through at least two pairs of shorts and tee shirts every day. It’s also sheets washing today. Do you change your bedding at least once a week? Pauline was talking to a couple of our friends recently who were absolutely shocked we did that. You hear all the big news in this Blog!
Some of my friends are in regular contact through Whatsapp as we share the experiences of our lives. Kevin is in Benidorm again but he hasn’t picked a good week. He’s already sent me two videos this week of torrential rain and rivers in the street. He’s also sent me an extended clip of his karaoke performance. I must admit, it wouldn’t be for me at all. In fact, I would absolutely hate it. Having a friend who is so far removed from my world is quite good fun. I think he would feel the same about me.
David, the businessman who is staying with us, runs Clarify. He is a really personable and intelligent individual. Tonight is his last night here before he flies back to UK not far from where we live in the South. M&K were going to take him out to Dinner but he has requested Pauline’s cooking instead. Very wise man. She is producing tarragon & garlic, flame griddled chicken breasts with sautéed wild mushrooms, dauphinoise potatoes, asparagus and broccoli. I’m quite looking forward to it myself.
We went out to Publix (Sainsburys) for the ingredients. American supermarkets put ours to shame. They have everything in multiple choices and huge proportion. Living with a chef, I am used to hunting for specific types of potato, exactly the right fresh herb and the most unusual types of mushrooms, etc.. It is not cheap. This pack of washing pods does 61 washes but costs $42.00/£35.50. We have been here for just 8 days and our supermarket shopping is already £350.00. Good fun though!
Wednesday, 16th November, 2022
Woke up to a message from Jay, my next-door neighbour, asking if we had watched the space rocket launch this morning. Mind you, it was sent at 7.00 am (UK) / 2.00 am (F). He said that the house is fine and particularly clean because it hasn’t stopped raining since we left and that he would take my car out for its first run at the weekend. Really reassuring to have him there. I’ve already checked the house on the cameras at 6.00 pm (UK) / 1.00 pm (F) and it is still raining and amazingly dark. We are just about to go out for a long walk in the sunshine.
My chef’s task tomorrow morning is to make a birthday cake for a youth who will be 19 years old. Can you imagine it? It will be a chocolate cake baked in the main, indoor kitchen.
We had to go shopping for the ingredients and Chef’s enjoyment is in selecting precisely the best items. It’s all incredibly expensive though. Here is the Sales Receipt. A simple chocolate cake will cost around £21.00! I can’t afford that! As we walked into the store, they were playing The First Cut is the Deepest – P.P. Arnold. How appropriate!
Thought you might like to see my favourite part of the house. I haven’t played the piano since the early 1970s. The Art Block at College. I recreated the piece I was working on all those years ago. It is distinctly introverted and sad. It predicted the future.
Thursday, 17th November, 2022
A cool start to what turned out to be a lovely, warm and sunny day. I watched the UK Budget speech before setting off for my walk alone. Pauline is making a chocolate birthday cake so I have left her in peace. We are going to Tampa this afternoon for a birthday meal and then we are all going to an Ice Hockey game because that was his choice.
I wrote yesterday about being contacted by my neighbour to reassure me about the house. Since then, two amazing coincidences of contact across time and space have occurred. I have written before about ‘adopting’ kids while we were teaching. Yesterday, a girl called Fiza contacted me with the most moving message. She was/is a very bright girl who should have gone to Oxbridge but was prevented from going to university at all because of her culture. She went early into an arranged marriage and had kids.
She still called me, Sir and said she was contacting me without her husband knowing because he wouldn’t approve. At the age of 41, she is finally doing a Counselling & Psychotherapy BSc at Manchester and she wanted us to know. She said I was the first person she thought of when she got the acceptance letter. She said, I honestly wish you were here so I could hug you. Just letting you know that even after all these years your support and love at that time still kept me going through so much.
I was just drying my eyes when I received another Direct Message from circa 1984. I didn’t do a lot of teaching of English or reading of Fiction but one book which went down well was an American one set in New York. I have spent my life quoting bits from Harriet the Spy to friends. Last night, a message came in from a girl called Lisa who must be nearly 50 now. I can barely remember her as a child but she obviously remembered me and the first thing she reminded me of was her enjoyment of Harriet the Spy which I read to her all those years ago. She was contacting me because she had just passed her GCSE English at Grade A and she thought I would be pleased. Even at her age, she is working at Oldham College now.
Friday, 18th November, 2022
Lovely day yesterday. When I got back from my walk, the postman had delivered us a Christmas present all the way from Marsden, West Yorkshire. It was sitting on the Kitchen worksurface.
It was from our friend, Margaret. There are some lovely, genuine people in the world along with the shallow ones. Margaret is beset with the problems of her elderly parents and her own grandchildren, but she has found the time to do that for us.
Around mid-afternoon, we drove the hour’s journey to the centre of Tampa. It is a beautiful, modern city next to the ocean.
We had booked a table for Dinner outside overlooking the Bay. It was lovely and the food was good. After Dinner, we walked to the Amalie Stadium to watch the ice hockey.
There is ice hockey and then there is the American take on it which is absolutely mad. Every couple of minutes, the game would have a time-out and the music would blare out over the system. Most committed fans – and lots of them looked like the woman in front of me – would be up and dancing, whooping, singing and watching the screen to see if they would be featured. If they were, they would go absolutely ‘ape’. This is definitely not the place for a shy and retiring Englishman like me. Even so, I quite enjoyed it.
Saturday, 19th November, 2022
Lovely hot and sunny walk this morning. Blue skies, strong, warm sunshine, the beautiful scent from the pine trees and the noise from marauding flocks of crows looking to harass the predatory Red Kites circling lazily above. If you weren’t here, you missed a treat.
Met this little chap scuttling relatively swiftly across the sandy woodland track. As soon as I went to photograph it, it stopped dead and shrank into its shell. I tapped the top of the shell and it stuck its head out and a gave a large hiss. I got my photo anyway.
These properties back in the woods feel very remote. For the past couple of weeks walking, we’ve been watching the development of this, new property. It is not lived in yet but we know the owner is called Julio because someone living on the same track thought I was him. Two weeks ago, there was no grass here at all. A company have been laying turf in hot sun for days on an area which must be at least two acres.