Thursday, August 28, 2014


This week has been full of memories.
This picture actually relates to two that happened this week and one that happened more than 18 years ago.
This week whilst waiting at the bus stop to go to the mall, a young man asked me if I knew if the bus stopped at Grange (a street).
I got my schedule out and we both looked at the map on the back.  Yes it did.
He then asked me where I was from and how I like it here.
He had an accent too so I asked where he was from.  He was from Ghana and had only been here 4 weeks.
"Oh dear," said I looking slightly aghast, "You haven't experienced a Wisconsin winter then."
"No", he replied, "I have never even seen snow."
Oh deary, deary me.
I explained that it wasn't so much the snow that is the worst of our winters, it is the fierce cold.
He said.........oh dear..........he said, "But I am already cold now!!!"
The temperature this day was around 85F....or 30C in old money.
I pointed out that he needed to get some warm clothes, long underwear etc and that our winter temperatures are often minus 20C (it seems that Ghana uses celsius).
"Oh", he replied with a puzzled frown, "That is lower than freezing."
Bloody Nora is this boy going to be in for a shock.  Repressing a smile I explained that 'freezing point' during our winters is a very warm (and infrequent) visitor.
Having tortured this poor lad enough, we talked about how difficult it is to uproot and start from scratch in another country.  Particularly here, to be honest.
We got no help at all.  It was sink or swim from the start and I remember after about 6 months we were ready to pack up and leave.
He is having the same problems we had.  It is hard to get a bank account, rent an apartment, buy a car etc, when you have no credit history.
It brought it all back to me and when I think of some of the awful times we went through, when "everything in our favour was against us", it seems even more amazing that we are still together.
We had no one here to fall back on, no friends and no family.  It was sheer madness and I don't know what we were thinking.
But, it did eventually smooth itself out, thank goodness.
I hope this youngster, Stan, makes a go of it.  I think he might have to move somewhere warmer though as I think his first winter here will be a great shock to him.  We thought our first winter was terrible but we hadn't just flown in from Ghana.  We were from England, where it can be cold at times.   Poor Stan is cold when it is 85F..........oh dear.

The other memory this picture brought back was many years ago when I used to make members of a group I was involved with, into various aliens to attend SciFi functions.
We had taken the train to London to a convention.  I think I had made a Cardassian, a couple of Bajorans, Klingons, Vulcans etc.
We had a fab day and had lots of fun but there were quite a lot of us.  As I remember we split into groups to go to the station to catch the last train back to Ashford.
The first two groups made it with time to spare.  Sadly, (hilariously) the last group did not.
They were stuck in London dressed as a Klingon, a Vulcan and a star fleet officer.
I remember the journey home where I wavered from being totally worried to being absolutely creased up with laughter.
They eventually had to find a taxi willing to take such a bunch of weirdos in order to get home.
It still makes me giggle to think about it - and I still feel guilty for giggling afterwards.

Monday, August 25, 2014


It was our anniversary on Friday.
16 years.
Where did the time go?

We went out for a posh meal on Saturday.  It was to a restaurant we hadn't tried before.
This is always a bit of a worry but fortunately, it was all lovely.
I ate quite well really.  I was a bit concerned because my stomach still hasn't settled down from the recent 'unpleasantness'.
I am hoping it will over the next couple of weeks as she has gone on holiday today so it is unlikely that she would phone me.
Oh...I do get in such a state.

Anyway, I am a bit chuffed because I was invited to an event that is being put on by the library.
It is all to do with animals and they said if they put out a table etc for me, would I consider going along, setting out some of my art and explaining to people (kids mostly I think) what it is I do.
Of course I would have loved to do it.  
But, to quote Blackadder,  "The devil farts in my face once more."
The date that this shindig is taking place is in October, when I am in England.
I explained why I couldn't do it and they assured me they would ask me again if they do a similar event.
I still feel quite honoured to have been asked so all is not lost.

This week the weather is weird.
It is very, very hot and we have thunderstorms predicted for every day until next weekend.
90 degrees today and not comfortable.......yuk.
River Rhythms looks unlikely this week.

An old friend of mine from England and his wife have been in New York this past weekend.  I think they return home today, Monday.
I have been thinking about them a lot.  I do hope they have had a fabulous time.  I am looking forward to seeing the photos.  We have never been to New York but it is somewhere we have often talked about visiting.
Maybe when we have got the roof fixed, the furnace fixed and the leaking upstairs shower fixed too - then we will be able to do it........sigh.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Well, I was quite correct.
This week has been pants.
Monday's debacle at the pool has made feel quite ill ever since.
I really don't handle this sort of thing very well, so it has affected me.  I can't stop thinking about it, going over what was said and how bloody awful it was.
She did ring me Tuesday morning but I didn't answer the phone.  Thank goodness for caller i.d.
I can't speak to her yet - if ever really.
I don't know if she is ringing to apologize or if she will just start it all up again by trying to justify her views.
I can't risk it.  I am not putting myself in line for another tirade.
I can't help thinking (as she is a fervent Catholic - she goes to church at least twice a week, goes to bible study classes and attends worship for every event on the Catholic calendar), that if God was listening on Monday ( and she tells me he hears everything ) he will not be at all impressed with her at the moment.
I still think, even though I don't know much, that Jesus would be happy to help the poor and feed the children.
I shall continue on my path of my own beliefs, which I see no need to force on to anyone else, and just do the best I can, when I can for others.
If everyone could do this then maybe we wouldn't have people being beheaded to try to show us all how wonderful a religion is.
I don't know of any god that promotes killing people.  The little I do know about various gods is the shared belief that people should help each other.
I must have got it mixed up with something else I suppose.

But, I did look forward to going to River Rhythms last night.
Gary is back from his trip.  We didn't go last week as Gary was away and it isn't a lot of fun for me sitting their while Philip either reads his kindle or falls asleep. Philip only goes to River Rhythms to keep me happy really - bless him.
The band was crap......oh well.......maybe it wasn't really.  There were a dozen of them on stage.   They all played their instruments well and the singers sang well, but, they were a Puerto Rican salsa band.  Of course they sang completely in Spanish, which was fine but meant we ignorant buggers understood not one word. The other problem was that every song went on monotonously for ever and then when they started another one - it sounded exactly the same.
They had a following which seemed mainly made up of family, and when there are a dozen band members that constitutes quite a goodly number of people.
They spoke in Spanish, which was great for the Spanish speakers in the crowd, who would all laugh or yell back, but it went over our lingually challenged heads.
It was dreadfully boring....well not for those who liked to do a bit of salsa ing but we are not well known for our salsa talents.
But, I had Gary.
I need Gary to spot pseudo-celebs with me and to have a good gossip.
I was not disappointed.
Mr Bean was there last night.   I haven't seen him there before.

He appeared to enjoy the salsa band as much as we did (oh they also did some merengue too which sounds awfully similar to salsa to the uneducated).
River Rhythms has not been on top form this year.
They had a bit of bad luck to start with.  They foolishly chose to have their two most popular bands in the first two weeks.  These first couple of weeks are always a bit dicey as the weather at the beginning of summer is unpredictable.
This year we had really bad storms both weeks and they had to cancel.
So, they lost their big crowd pullers who they usually have towards the end of the season and it hasn't really picked up since.
The quality of the bands has been a bit iffy and we have noticed that the crowds have been much smaller.
I do hope it picks up as it is still a free night out and I like it even if it is just having something to moan about.
Anyway, where else could I see celebs every week.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Well what a crap start to the week.
My old mate came to pick me up to go swimming......all good so far......but remember she is the one who brings up politics.
I thought she had got the message that it really isn't a good idea.  I don't agree with her on anything, but I avoid saying anything as there is no point really.  She is very right wing and loves to launch into a tirade about about good for nothing lay a bouts taking all the tax money in welfare.
This country is very far from being a welfare state.
It is no place to be poor.
She doesn't even pay taxes as she is a pensioner, so I do find it hard to understand.
She has no idea about the rest of the world and will not even try to understand universal healthcare.
She is also a very staunch Christian.
Like so many others, there is this sort of "there all out to get us" attitude.
For these reasons (and as she has become quite heated in the past) I always try to avoid any conversation that could lead to anything political or religious.
I truly wish she would too.

I am so upset.
This morning she picked me up and while we were driving along chatting about this and that she told me she had heard something on the radio that would cause loads of trouble.
My heart sank.   I hate it when she hears things on the radio. Mostly they are just stirring up panic.
She was all bent out of shape because there were plans to give all Milwaukee school children who attend regular schools (not private ones) free school lunches.
All I said was, "I really don't mind children getting a free lunch".

That was it off she went,  "Oh I guessed you would say that.  You are so far out there - left wing!!!"
I didn't say much after that and hoped it would drop.
It did until we got in the pool and she started again.   She gets really quite nasty, which is rather surprising as she can be such a sweet person.
It was almost as if she was out of control.
I kept very calm and very softly spoken and just couldn't agree with her when she said even the poorest children shouldn't get a school lunch as that doesn't encourage the parents to get a job.
I did say I didn't think it was right to punish children for their parents actions.  Making children go hungry hardly seems like a fair solution.

Eventually I couldn't handle it and told her I could not go on in this fashion.  I was getting too upset.  I told her it would take me days to get over it (and it will).  She just told me I wasn't the only sensitive person and kept right on.
She really did seem unable to control herself.  At one time I told her to please stop being so horrible.
I gave up and told her I was going home.  I would walk.  I know the bus stops and I had worked out my route.  I was a bit ticked off because I had chosen to wear flip flops and that might be a problem.
She managed to get out of the pool before me and was waiting in the car.  I waved and continued on my way but she followed me and insisted I got in the car.  I actually didn't want to but I could see she would be upset if I walked home.
She kept trying to talk to me on the way home.   She asked me if this was the end of our friendship, to which I replied that I really didn't know.
I was too choked to talk anyway.  I did tell her (and she already knew) that I hate conflict and have always tried to avoid arguments at all costs.
She really didn't seem to understand that none of it should have happened and that I had done my very best to stop it.
We got home, I said "Thank you anyway." and wished her a safe and happy trip.  She and her husband are going on vacation next week.
I really don't know what will happen now.
It took me at least an hour to stop shaking.  I really don't need this sort of stress so maybe it will be better if it ends now.
I have never had a friendship end like this. I still don't understand it.  She gave me all that grief because I said I haven't got a problem with children having a free lunch.
What was that about?    It makes me think there must have been something else that had got her all fired up.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Toast Racks, Thistles and Squirrels

I asked Donna to bring me a toast rack when she came over.
She did.
Do you know you can't buy the things here?
I have been wanting one as I like my toast cool and crisp.  This is quite difficult to achieve without a toast rack and, until I tried to buy one, I hadn't realized they are a very British thing.  I am now very posh and eating my toast and marmite (also brought over) whilst sitting at the window watching the squirrels chase the chipmunks.
My toast now stays crisp.
I know some may like their toast warm and soggy with butter, but not me.
Apparently, since the popularity of Downtown Abbey (over here), more and more Americans are trying to find toast racks.
I may buy one when I am in England, to give to my friend for Christmas.

Meanwhile, Eric the Squirrel, manages quite well without a toast rack.
I love the way he is sitting there with his foot up.  
This contraption is getting old and really we need a replacement.  I have seen ones online that are made like little deckchairs or picnic benches.
I might have to get one of those.   I am easily amused.

I found a Scottish thistle growing in our Milwaukee garden.
Isn't it magnificent.
I have no idea where it came from but I am now taking care of it and watering it.
Anything that grows in Scotland obviously needs a lot of water.

Bubba has been something of a worry this week.
He hasn't been very well and we are preparing for the worst.  Actually, we are not.  We are trying to prepare.
Bubba still holds conversations with me in his little chirruping voice - anyone who has had a Maine Coon cat will probably understand how they make these wonderful little noises.
He is just old and failing.  Looby Loo seems to have picked up that he isn't doing brilliantly and, as you can see here, is comforting him.
She has been doing this all week.
Today he has been a bit brighter.  He isn't in any pain and is eating.
So, we will watch him until it seems he isn't enjoying life and then make that awful decision.
This will be a tough one.   He is 17 years old and I love him dearly.

Monday, August 11, 2014


I am trawling through my phone for photos Donna took as my dear husband, bless him, has mistakenly deleted all the photos I had uploaded from my camera.
He is trying to retrieve them but the prospects of success are not great.

This is our little punk rocker at River Rhythms.
The band was an Irish wannabe celtic rock type band, who started weakly but improved as the night went on.
I love the jeans Lauren is wearing.  One leg tartan and the other black.  Sad that I will never wear such stuff again.....sigh.
We also went to the zoo ( photos - gone!) where we had another lovely day.  I am a bit fussy about zoos and don't always like them too much but Milwaukee zoo is above average in my opinion.
Thursday we went to State Fair.
I put one photo of some of the delicacies to be had on facebook before the photo ninja destroyed them all.  I will have a go of getting that one.
Just a mo.....................
Ok .....I am back......let me see.

Here is the sole survivor.
The others were merely photos of us all at the fair having a fab day.......but oh well.
I am sure you are all envious of our opportunity to purchase this delight.
We decided not to, for some reason.
Maybe a cheeseburger with chocolate covered bacon inside a Krispy Kreme donut is not the healthiest of meals but others seemed to like them.

Thursday night Lauren was off to see the band lay down some tracks on their new album.
She came back totally buzzed.
They have been so good to her.  They may play Summerfest next year and have said if she is over here they will give her a back stage pass.
She is well up for that.
Next year is her final year at high school and she takes her exams in the Spring.
This means she will finish school in June.
Summerfest is on for two weeks starting at the end of June and is a huge music festival right on the lakefront. It absolutely dwarf's Warped Tour ( remember that?  Shudder).
So, she tells me she will probably be staying with us for at least 2 months next year.


They sadly flew back on Sunday and I have spoken to Donna.  They had a pleasant trip apart from the drive home from Heathrow to Ashford.
A jacknifed lorry on the M25 meant the one and a half hour journey took 4 hours.
I have been feeling miserable but I shall be going to visit them in 6 weeks time so that will stop me from being too sad.
Also, Lauren is coming to us for Christmas again this year.  Donna is unable to as she can't get the time off work.
So.........I shall be determined to be happy, no negativity allowed in this house.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Harley Wave

Sunday - a day to recover from Saturday.

One of Donna's friends turned up with his Harley Davidson motorbike.
As much as I am not a fan of motor bikes, I have to admit it was a beautiful machine.
All the red bits light up.  It is very cool.

Lauren was the first one to venture out on it.
I was worried to death.
He provided her with a helmet, although there is no law here that says you should wear one, but they don't tend to wear the protective clothing.
There she was wearing shorts and t.shirt, going out on a bloody Harley.
The back seat is just like a little arm chair so I was pretty sure she wouldn't fall out but I wasn't really happy until she came back.
He only took her for a little run.

I was offered the chance but graciously declined.  The last time I went on a motorbike was with my brother when I was about 14 - almost 20 years ago (lol).

So, then it was Donna's go.
The hardest part seemed to be getting the helmet on.

Off they zoomed - with me still having kittens about the lack of protective, leather clothing.
I suppose having been brought up with all the safety precautions required for motor bike riding, it is just too unsettling for me to see anyone riding one like this.

She was gone for a long time and just as I was beginning to get worried they returned.....phew!!!
Donna was so chuffed because she got a 'Harley Wave'.
Apparently,  Harley Davidson riders wave to each other when they are out.
Her very first 'Harley Wave'.......whatever next.

Oh...and the band that Lauren visited in their studio the week before last have invited her back to see a recording session. They are laying down some tracks for their next album.  So, she will be there on Thursday evening.

This is certainly a holiday they won't forget in a hurry.


Saturday - off to the Renaissance Faire.
This is always a fun day out.  It is another tiring one, particularly as is it always so hot, but lots of fun none the less.

This was our knight.   Usually we choose the baddie but this time we got a comical one so that worked too.

We saw Queen Elizabeth I  and her entourage.  She was looking quite well considering.
As usual their accents were very good, mostly.   We still can't quite figure out why they keep shouting "Huzzah", every five minutes.
We had never heard this before we came here.  Surely it should be "Hoorah".

There were various buckles getting swashed around the grounds.
I am also assured that there were way too many 'nobby men' for a girl to cope with.
This was demonstrated by Donna walking into things while her eyes were distracted by said 'nobby men'.
I wouldn't know of such things.

This particular 'nobby man' had many a fair maid swooning with an attack of the 'vapours'......not me, of course, I am immune to the likes of him waving his sword about willy-nilly.
Oh....."NURSE........THE SCREENS !!!"

Friday, August 1, 2014

Shell Shocked

Wednesday - Warped Tour day.

Punk, heavy metal, gothic - you name it, it showed up.
The day started appropriately.  We were on our way downtown to the festival grounds when a police car blocked the road ahead.
While we were contemplating what to do, we could see just in front another couple of police cars and, what appeared to be, an armoured car.
Then, "BOOM!"
A gunshot.
Oh poop this wasn't funny.  Philip managed to turn the car around and, mildly shaken, we continued to the festival grounds.
Oh my .......this was 11am and the crowds converging on the entrance beggared belief.
Once inside the noise (music?) was already deafening.
Having meandered for a bit we sent Donna and her mate off to find their favourites.  There were many stages with many bands all playing at the same time.
There was nowhere in this huge area where you could escape the noise and actually speak to each other.
Or was there???

We found the "Parents Day Care Tent".
Inside they gave us free water, had a tv showing movies and there were no youngsters allowed.
Donna, Gary and I were a bit miffed when a man had asked us previously if we knew where this tent was. did he know we were parents?   Why didn't he think we were just part of the crowd?

There were many weird and wonderful people enjoying this festival.   We enjoyed some of the music.  Lauren absolutely had a blast.  She saw many of the bands she loves.  She is so into music & bands it amazes me.
There were a few odd aromas coming from some of the cigarettes being smoked but as you have to be 21 over here to drink alcohol (and have i.d. to prove it) there were few people drinking and no drunkeness.  They might have all looked pretty fearsome but, in all honesty, they were a lovely bunch of kids.

For the first time, ever, I saw live crowd surfing.
Oh it did look like fun.   They would get thrown onto the top of the crowd at the back of the mosh pit and then get shunted along over everyone's heads to the front, by the stage, where the security staff gently lifted them down and sent them on their way.
They then made their way back and did it all again.   The security staff were brilliant, very calm and considerate.  I did enjoy watching this.
They did something that Lauren tells me is a 'circle pit' which seemed to consist of a lot of running around.  I don't know either but they seemed like they were having fun.
Not once did I see or hear any unpleasantness.  I could not get over how lovely they all were.
There was a lot of colourful language but that was mostly from the bands.
One band, Atilla, seemed to have a limited, if loud, vocabulary.

 One was tempted to quote "Language Timothy" but I doubt if I would have been heard, let alone understood.
There was no escaping the noise and it did get tiring trying to talk.  Lauren was in the big Marcus Ampitheatre watching the bigger bands whilst we again sought refuge in the 'day care tent'.

Even here it was impossible to hold a conversation and sadly although the festival was going on until 9pm, the day care closed at 6pm.
That last three hours was a killer.
Donna and I survived, just, and Philip picked us up outside.  For all their scary appearances, there was not a hint of trouble anywhere.
I was totally wiped out by then.   When we got home I had a large brandy and listened to Lauren, who was absolutely buzzing, chatter on about who she saw, what she heard and what she bought.
I am told this Warped Tour mallarky happens every year.
Oh joy.........