Monday, 30 April 2012

I'm moving in the rain .... what a glorious feeling .... I'm haaaaappy again. NOT

There's been no mistake that I'm back in England after my jaunt in the U.S. Mainly because it has been solidly pissing it down with rain since I set foot on UK soil.

Not just the odd shower, but an unrelenting barrage of water flooding the roads and footpaths, and testing even the sturdiest of footwear. I have had to endure leaky shoes, leaky boots, a sodden coat, an umbrella destroyed by gales, aqua-planing, and the ball-ache of having to drive at 1mph because of surface water.

The postman knocked on the door this morning to deliver a parcel. I opened it, only to be greeted with howling winds and driving rain.

"This country is shit," stated Mr Postie, proffering my parcel just as a droplet gathered on the end of his nose. I like my postman, I do - he never leaves me wondering.

But what really bugs me, is that despite the fact that the news has confirmed that this April has been the wettest since records began (100 years ago), the government are still implementing drought measures (like the hosepipe ban). What the blazes is going on there then? I have never been to a country where it rains more (except for Ireland and Wales), so what on earth is the government doing with all the bloody water? As always, ineptitude reigns supreme.

Anyway enough of that milarky. Once I get started, I won't stop.

Last weekend was a bit of a busy one. I had spoken to my cousin Jane during the week, and she had told me that she and her bloke (Martin) were moving house (again).

"You daft bat," I exclaimed, "that's the fourth time in three years."

"I know, I know. But I need a bigger kitchen," she said, before adding, "and I really don't know how we are going to move everything with just the two of us. Especially with my bad back, arthritis, wheat allergy, paper-cut, and cesarean section."

I started to suspect that she wanted me to volunteer some help.

And yep, because she is family, I found myself heading up to Loughborough last Saturday to help her and Martin move house.

I also took a few photographs, but not many because there was so much mayhem that I could never find my camera, but enough to give you an idea ........... here goes dahlink.

Pic.No.1 Ooh look! My bling machine parked outside of the house that Jane was moving OUT of. It was a three-storey townhouse in Darwin Crescent, Loughborough (look how grey and miserable the weather is)

Pic.No.2 Jane borrowed this van from her employers in order to facilitate the move. It had the fiddliest back door handles ever, and you had to knock it into first gear using a mallet

Pic.No.3 The old kitchen took ages to clear .... but we were nearly there in this photo (believe it or not!)

Pic.No.4 This was the living room half way through moving (we had just had a coffee-break. See those three red mugs?). I had to take Naughty George with me on the house move because there was no one to look after him in Oxford

But the whole dog / house-move thing didn't mix. Every time the front door opened, Naughty George made a dash for freedom. Which happened a lot considering we were continuously loading vans. The bloody git. 

By the end of the day I wanted to nail him onto a doggy crucifix (but I didn't, obviously ...... because I didn't have nails small enough).

Pic.No.5 This was the new house in Anstey, shown with the van parked in the drive. Despite the rain, the house was really bright and airy inside. But because it was built in the 1970's, it only had one plug in each room. That's because in the olden days they only needed to plug in a wireless

I was a bit annoyed with myself actually; because they had done some lovely renovations, but I forgot to photograph them. What a joey. I promise I will get some pictures next time.

Suffice to say, that after all that effort, I finally made it back to civilisation (Oxford) following an 80 minute drive. And once back home, there were two things of note: (1) my back was aching like buggery after all that lifting; and (2) following all the rain and grey 'ooop north', I couldn't help but notice that the sun was shining in Oxford. Huzzar!

Marvellous, the hard work was over and ....... I had the evening to myself to chill out and recover ...... NOT.

The exact minute I laid on my sofa (in rural Oxfordshire, it is tradition that you can just walk into other people's houses without knocking), I heard the catch on the back door open, and in bowled Steve and Izzy.

"You lazy git," Steve shouted at me as he came into the house.

"Look Dad, Mama is lying on the sofa, doing nothing," Izzy added, pointing an inch away from my forehead, but looking at Steve.

I groaned and dragged myself up again ..... "have you guys eaten?" I asked wearily.

"Nope," chimed Izzy and Steve simultaneously. 

"I'm not cooking, so we'll have to order a take-away," I said, trying to look weaker and tireder than I was (to get extra sympathy).

"HUZZAR," shouted Steve and Izzy, not noticing anything else at all.

Pic.No.6 And so I ordered the MOTHER of all pizza feasts ...... bring it on! (that is Steve on the left and Izzy on the right)

My whole kitchen table was filled with pizza-related products. It was sex in a cardboard box.

Anyway, enough of that ....... onto other business .......... I shall be attending the 'Cornbury Festival' this year - can you make it? Please let me know if you can, and we can meet up for a Bolly? MWAHH!

I shall also be attending the 'Charlbury Riverside Festival ....... Let's party ;-)

So dahlink ..... what have you been up to this weekend, you minx?! x

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Let's do a quick Photo-Tour of Florida. Huzzar!

This is my last American post - at least until the next time I break free from Blighty, and turn right to head over the Atlantic ocean, that is.

Today, I thought I would try and dispel some of the misconceptions about Florida. I don't know about elsewhere in the world, but if you say the word 'Florida' to people in the UK, it generally conjures up certain images: a retinue of tattooed (including the kids) and sun burnt Britons, Disney theme parks and fast food.

In fact, if you are British and want to be construed as "cultured", then you have to be seen frowning upon fun stuff, like theme parks, and embracing weird stuff like modern art galleries and playing 'soggy biscuit'. And you have to wear a cardigan and lesbian shoes, and use the words 'superlative' and 'transcendent' a lot to demonstrate your extensive vocabulary. 

It all boils down to the conception that the proles thrive on physical pleasure, whilst the upper echelons favour more cerebral activities.

That's why you have never seen the Queen water-skiing.

And it's also why the common people do nothing but have sex, smoke, buy 52" plasma TVs, and visit theme parks. Allegedly.

Pic.No.1 Modern art bollocks. "Tarquin darling. That would look magnificent in the Orangerie!"

Florida does indeed have a lot of theme parks, but the ones I have visited so far (most of them) have been bally good fun .......... despite the fact that they are congested with obese people on mobility scooters (sometimes I think that calories in the US are like cows in India - sacred, and they are desperately trying not to burn off any of the suckers .......).

Anyway, I digress (that's my new hobby that is). Irrespective of whether you are a pikey or posh, there is another side to Florida, away from all the Disney tat. Which is the point of this post.

If you look at Florida on a map, two things are instantly apparent. Firstly, it is the penis of America. And secondly, it is very close to the Caribbean. Which means that it is sub-tropical in north Florida, and fully tropical in the south. Which means an abundance of sunshine, flora and fauna. And on top of that, the whole state is peppered with gorgeous deep blue lakes ...... making it a seriously pretty place to visit (I should be on commission from the Florida tourism board).

In fact I would go so far as to say, that Florida is the Zoolander of American states.

Pic.No.2 Florida is also the penis of America

So, because I found myself with a mish-mash of pictures from my last trip abroad, I thought I would show you some of the sights away from the touristy theme parks. Jeez, I am that kind, I should have been a peace envoy or something. I would lurvvvve to be called something like Banky Moon. Rhymes with 'loon'.

Pic.No.1 This is my bedroom in America (at Clare's house)

Pic.No.2 The view of the lake from my bedroom window. Shame you can't see the lake. But see them flip-flops? ('thongs' if you are foreign). They are designer flip-flops and cost a bloody fortune (£25). I was robbed

Pic.No.3 It's me in hot-tub with a lead pipe and Professor Plum. That's why Florida is fab - you can have a hot-tub in your garden, and the weather is warm enough for you to use it all year round. Hot tub-tastic!

Pic.No.4 And the only thing that people drink in Florida are cocktails. Saves on washing up coffee cups. Very smart

Pic.No.5 I love food, and America does it with aplomb. This is a picture of our salads from Crispers - one of the restaurants that we ate at

Pic.No.6 This is Clare's new motor ...... berlingggggg!

Pic.No.7 A big chicken with long legs - Florida is a haven for wildlife

Pic.No.8 A view out over one of the lakes ....... and there are thousands of them

Pic.No.9 See those pier-type things? They are for launching boats. But the water level has dropped so low, that they are just sheds on stilts at the moment

Pic.No.10 The lakes even have their own 'beaches'. With sand and everything. And that is before you even start to look at the real beaches - Florida has a huge coastline-to-land ratio

Pic.No.11 Palm trees and lakes ..... you can't get more 'Floridian' than this picture

Pic.No.12 Glass of chilled white by the pool dahlink?

Pic.No.13 Sunset behind Clare's house - they are normally spectacular but I totally failed to capture it in this photograph

Pic.No.14 Look it's me! Visiting St Petersburg in the Gulf of Mexico. I loved this city I did ........ totally tropical taste ...... and very cosmopolitan. Next stop ...... Miami (we'll do that in another trip)

Pic.No.15 More wildlife. Apparently these pigeony-type birds are called 'Turkey Buzzards'. All I know is that you only ever see them if there is roadkill nearby (see them munching on that squashed rabbit?). They are the bird equivalent to Rupert Murdoch

So dahlink, that is the end of today's tour of Florida. What the blazes have you been up to this week, and have you had the rain that the UK had been experiencing?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Trip To: Bok Tower Gardens. Huzzar!

Greetings! Although I am technically back in England, I still have American blog posts to write. That's because I didn't manage to finish them off whilst I was there .... mainly because I was preoccupied with stuffing cocktails and scoff down my neck.  

It is crap being back in the UK. From the moment I touched down at Gatwick Airport it was raining, and the situation hasn't changed much over the last week. So in a way it was rather cathartic to put together this post about a trip that Clare and I did whilst in America - it meant I got to see some sunshine again, albeit rather two dimensional sunshine.

Anyway, I digress. For out day out in America, we decided to visit 'Bok Tower Gardens'.

"What the blazes is Bok Tower Gardens?" I hear you cry.

Well, let me explain. In 1863 a bloke called Edward Bok (opens in new window) was born and when he was 6, his whole family moved to America.With him of course, otherwise that would be child cruelty.

Then, after growing up, Bok turned out to be a combination of a 'clever dick' and 'philanthropist'. As an Editor, his magazine 'The Ladies Home Journal' became the most influential publication in the US. As if that wasn't enough, he championed social causes, and strove for world peace (sounds like an applicant in 'Miss World' if you ask me, just needs to add that he loves children).

And the cherry on the cake was a place called 'Bok Tower Gardens'. Bok created the beautiful paradise gardens so that he could bequeath them to the people of America, as a thank you for the opportunities the country had given him (cue - chuck up).

I don't know about you, but if I had that much cash lying around, I would be buying myself a gin palace staffed by scantily clad men, not spunking it on a few bushes. 

Anyway, that's where Clare, Jody (Clare's bloke), and I went for the day - the magnificent Bok Tower Gardens. And because I am like Mother Theresa, except that I don't help as many small children, I have got some (a lot) of pictures for you. So many, it put me off writing the post for a while. I'm easily distracted in the face of largish tasks.

Map 1 The journey from Clermont to Bok Tower Gardens 

Pic.No.1 This is the entrance to Bok Tower Gardens. The place was awash with bingo warriors

Pic.No.2 A flower (sorry Masher, I know you don't like flowers)

Pic.No.3 But this was cool - a bee in a flower

Pic.No.4 A flower bed

Pic.No.5 That big green thing is me outside the entrance

Pic.No.6 The inner courtyard of the entrance building - tres Mediterranean dahlink

Pic.No.7 The inner courtyard had a fountain as well

Pic.No.8 And I found this really cool flower. The colours were better than a painting

Pic.No.9 Edward Bok liked to include weird specimens in his garden collections

Pic.No.10 This was a bowl of cacti with the inner courtyard behind

Pic.No.11 In the Visitor's Centre, there was a mock-up of Edward Bok's desk, with a quotation next to it saying: "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man." It was a bit profound for my liking. But I like the definition of 'institution' when used in relation to the word pub

Pic.No.12 This was a picture of Edward Bok's grandmother (nice ear-muffs Granny). She was the cheesy one of the family because she said to Edward, "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." It's because he listened to chuff like that, that he ended up with a nice back garden and not a private yacht

Pic.No.13 The centrepiece of the gardens was a bloody great carillon tower, and you could see a model of it in the Visitor's Centre, above. In case you were wondering what a carillon was, it's a bloody huge piano-like instrument, but unlike a piano, when you press the keys, the bells in the tower ring. If you ever wanted to pimp your piano, you would end up with a carillon

Pic.No.14 And finally we headed out from the Visitor's Centre into the gardens themselves. This was me. I was a human sundial and as you can see, it was 2 o'clock

Pic.No.15 We went into a hide to view the wildlife in a nearby pond. A Ranger pointed out a squirrel to us, and I told her that in England, they are viewed as vermin and are killed

Pic.No.16 Now this was cool. A 1930s Mediterranean villa called 'Pinewood Estate' had been built in Bok Gardens. An industrialist called Austin Buck used to live there

Pic.No.17 Pinewood Estate was designed to nestle inconspicuously within the rich Florida vegetation

Pic.No.18 The main entrance to the Pinewood Estate. As you can see by the plaque, it was on the 'National Register of Historic Places'

Pic.No.19 A colourful fountain in the Pinewood Estate courtyard

Pic.No.20 Hark, who is that making the world a more beautiful place?

Pic.No.21 A Mediterranean tiled bench was a feature of the garden, and you can see the Pinewood Villa behind

Pic.No.22 Look at these crazy bat-shit flowers!

Pic.No.23 They had these funny shaped trees in Bok Tower Gardens

Pic.No.24 "Look at that bloke next to that pond," I shouted to Clare. "That's not a bloke, that's St Francis," she said. Either way, he was wearing a mental dress and had a bad hairdo

Pic.No.25 A notable feature of Bok Tower Gardens was that it was created atop Florida's highest Peak. This meant that there were fabulous vistas to peak at through the gaps in the trees

Pic.No.26 Lots of the trees had this weird grey shit hanging from them. Apparently it was moss, but it sure can look eery

Pic.No.27 As we climbed further up the hill, we encountered this fountain. I say fountain, but it didn't have any water in it, so it was more of a patio

Pic.No.28 And then we got our first glance of the centrepiece of the gardens - the Carillon Tower (also known as the singing tower)

Pic.No.29 We headed towards the tower, following the beautiful paths that wound their way through the gardens

Pic.No.30 Would you like extra cheese with that?

Pic.No.31 Then we emerged at the base of the tower. Look at that amazing Great Brass Door. And you can see a white square of flowers just under the door? That is where Edward Bok was planted

Pic.No.32 The tower was extensively detailed using a weird pink coloured stone

Pic.No.33 The gardens were filled with exotic flora and fauna

Pic.No.34 Architecturally, the tower was pretty amazing

Pic.No.35 It was covered in stunning carvings which were mainly at the top so you couldn't really see them. But we did hear the carillon being played at 3pm. It was like elaborate bell ringing

Pic.No.36 This was me being arty. It's the singing tower reflected in a pond. See what I did there? (touches side of nose in a knowing fashion)

Pic.No.37 These were the wrought iron gates leading to the entrance of the carillon tower. I included them to try and balance out all the flowery crap

Pic.No.38 We fed the Koi Carp in the pond at the base of the tower. Totally amazing - they were like goldfish that had eaten all the pies

Pic.No.39 This was my last picture of the tower. And that dahlink was Bok Tower Gardens. I am not much into tree-hugging and stuff, but I have to say that it was an inspirational and amazingly picturesque place to visit. So get yourself over to Lake Wales

Pic.No.40 Another cool thing about Bok Tower Gardens was that it's situated in the middle of the orange groves - rows and rows of trees heaving under the weight of their oranges, and you have to drive past them all. I was tempted to partake in a bit of 'scrumping' but was rather daunted by the scale of task, so I decided to give it a miss

As we started to headed home, I shouted to Clare and Jody, "all that towers and fishy stuff has made me hungry."

"You wanna try some authentic deep south cuisine?" Jody asked me. 

"Is it lardy with a lard dressing, and a lard side?" I asked him. 

"What does that mean?" Jody asked. 

"Is it healthy?" I replied. 

"Nope," he said. 

"Let's go!" I hollered, and before long we pulled into a carpark.

Pic.No.41 Let me introduce you to 'Freds Southern Kitchen' - purveyors of traditional Southern cuisine, just like granny used to make when she wasn't in her rocking chair on the porch

Pic.No.42 The food was bloody marvellous, if not the healthiest option in the world. There was a huge buffet with things like pulled pork, sourthern friend chicken, macaroni cheese, BBQ beans, corn bread .... and the list goes on and on

So dahlink, that was my day trip to Bok Tower Gardens. What on earth have you been up to this weekend and last week? Pray, give me an update.

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