Random Zapping

My husband and I started our holiday yesterday for our 30th wedding anniversary.  We wanted to do something big so we’re traveling to South America to visit three countries where we haven’t been before.   Was an odd start because we left our daughter at home.  I say odd because usually she is the one traveling back and forth to her job in Africa so it was odd to say goodbye to her and walk out the door.   No problems getting to the airport early on a Friday morning in spite of having to travel the M25 “Parking lot”.  No problems checking in and dropping off our bags.  Didn’t even have a problem using the “fast track” lane where it scans your bar code and then opens the gate for you to walk into security.  It actually worked for us yesterday and half the time it doesn’t.

Get to the security line and I am removing all jewelry, my shoes (because I they have a kid light on them which is metal), my belt, my watch, my fitbit, etc.  My shoes and belt and purse go in a tray.  My computer  and my little bag of liquids and gels go in a tray and my carry on goes in a tray..  I walk through the scanner, fairly confident that I will pass without the miserable beep since I have NO METAL on me at all.  NOPE.  That’s what I get for thinking the machines are actually and truly functional.  I get beeped.  There is nothing metal on my body at all.  oh wait, my bra strap has two metal hook and eye clasps on it.  Not even an underwire!  No metal parts inside me either and yet I am zapped.  So it has got to be random!  Of course I now get a thorough pat down and that’s never enjoyable to have some unknown female run her hands all over your body.  And of course she didn’t find a single thing.  And of course you can’t even make a snarky remark or a joke or anything because you don’t know what kind of mood these officers might be in and they could keep you off your flight.

That done, I go to pick up my bags and notice that they have not come through the scanner even though it takes awhile to get the pat down.  Nope, opps, there they are but except for my computer and my little bag of gels and liquids, they have all blissfully been routed to the other side of the belt which means they will be further checked for explosives or drugs or whatever it is they get checked.   So I’m holding my pants up because my belt is in the other side.  I have no shoes on my feet and I’m holding my computer and little bag in in my hands.  Luckily we are not in a rush to make a plane.

Finally an officer gets to my two trays and just pulls out my carry on bag and hands it to me.  What the heck???  Why did it go to the “to be checked” side if they weren’t even going to look inside it.  But that’s fine.  They are always great about taking everything out and they you have to stand there and get everything back inside while people are bumping you and trying to get to their stuff.  So I take it happily and wait for my next tray to be checked.  He brings me my shoes, without checking them.  great.  more randomness that apparently was so unnecessary that even the officer working the security desk didn’t feel like he needed to check anything.

That leaves my coat and purse and belt and watch and fitbit.  He runs the little explosives checking pad over the outside of everything in the tray, sticks it in the machine, and it squawks negative and he brings me my tray.  15 minutes or random zapping of me and my stuff.  Heavy sigh.  Airports are SOOOOO much fun these days.

No further problems really, other than our airplane had one bathroom out-of-order, until we get to Miami.  We do the POWER WALK MILE that is so typical of airports these days or at least for us.  I think I have only had an airplane park close to the immigration desks maybe 3 times in my life.  Otherwise, seems like I am always walking from one far end of the airport to get into the country and out to get my luggage.

Miami has the passport machines.  We have not run across these before.  If you are a citizen or have certain other visas or reasons to be here, you go to one of the machines lines up on the wall, answer questions, slide in your passport to be scanned, it takes your photo, and then gives you a receipt.  My husband and I are standing side by side using two machines not realizing that if we are traveling together, they really only want us to use one machine and put both passports in as family members.  So we screwed up the first pass through and had to do it again.  When our receipts came out, there is the passport information on it, a horrid photo, and a big X across both of our passports.  X’s are NOT good.

You then take your little receipt and walk out pass an officer who sees the big X across your receipt and sends you into the line where you have to go past the immigration officers.  Crap.  more random zapping!  AND because just about everyone can use these machines (Brits with ESTA’s, etc) it means that there are a lot of people with x’s across their receipts and so the lines are much longer than if you had just gotten into a line without the blinking machine.  And true to most airports, there were two immigration officers sitting in the line of 30 or more desks.   I really try hard not to complain but yesterday I was tired and hot (being in Miami) and sweaty and so was really muttering under my breath about the whole thing.  I never, ever complain to the immigration people though as they can really be mean and keep you out.

We finally get up to a trainee who has an officer behind her guiding her moves and it takes her less than 3 minutes  check us into the country.  She even said, don’t know why you got an X.  Random zapping in all phases of airport travel it seems.  And it seems yesterday was my day to get zapped in all phases of it as well.

h well, we are here, we are on holiday.  We are going to have a wonderful time.  We do have about 7 more flights to get through.  I hope that this will be all the random zapping we get but probably not!

Missing Spring

This could be taken two ways:  I miss Spring, the season, in that it really isn’t here yet, or, I probably won’t be around my home this year when Spring comes and thus will miss the start of the season.  I am meaning the second part here.  In the three plus years we have lived in this house, I have been diligently planting spring flowers.  The first year, in my misunderstanding of the British countryside and wildlife, I planted around 100 tulips, all of which made the local deer quite happy and me quite miserable because I ended up with 3 stalks and 2 tulip flowers at the end of it all.  While I was exclaiming proudly to my new neighbor, who had great experience in this matter, she informed me that the tulips would not see the light of day as the deer would eat them all.  Yep.  At least I had also planted daffodils and some lilies and those all grew and were lovely.

So each year, I planted more and more daffodils and added crocus, more lilies, and anything else that looked like it might be unappetizing to deer (getting the lowdown from my neighbor).  I say, “I planted” as if I did the actual work but the house came with a gardener and I would get the bulbs and he would plant them where i said, “they would look good there, don’t you think?”.  Of course, he always agreed with me.  And more and more bulbs went into the ground.

As the house garden came already planted with some lovely rhododendrons, various grasses, some of which flower, some camellias, some fuchsia, some azaleas and a couple of lone rose bushes, my garden was looking more and more lovely each spring.  Plus there are plenty of different varieties of green bushes around and some red bushes, black bushes and other stuff that my gardener knows but I still have no clue.   Now I have to ask my gardener “Is there room” and I have not purchased any new bulbs for this year other than some tulips (yes 20 tulips – all in netted pots so no deer can eat them).

So Spring comes, starts early, green shoots start coming through the ground, all over the garden, sometimes a bit early and then get covered with snow again, but they keep coming.  As we walked around the garden this weekend, I realized that almost all my daffodils have pushed through the ground.  The crocus are about to burst into bloom.  The rhododendrons  and camillas  and several other bushes have plenty of buds, and the roses are retaliating as well.   My garden is so dang beautiful when all these flowers bloom.

And then it hit me.  We are going on holiday soon – a slightly longer than usual holiday – actually leaving my daughter at home for once, instead of the other way around when she jaunts off to work in Africa and leaves us behind.  AND there is a very good chance that I will miss the blooming of the garden in a big way!   I am sure that everything will not bloom and die during the time we are gone but I am also fairly sure that most of the daffodils and crocuses will be up and well on their way to being gone by the time we return.   How sad for me!!!

Spring is such a joyous time here because it comes after such nasty winters, whether there was a lot of snow and rain or just cold weather.  Everyone here loves Spring.  You can hardly get into one of the local DYI stores or gardening stores because everyone is there getting ready for Spring.  When we lived in Houston, wasn’t such a big deal.  There were flowers blooming all year-long so nobody was overly excited for Spring.  But HERE, it’s a lovely occasion to celebrate the season, watch the glorious colors and plants come to life in your garden, shake off the winter doldrums, and start being outside a lot more.   I have fallen into this category of being delighted when spring arrives but this year I will be in the tropics, in a rainforest, and not staring at my garden, just delirious with joy at all my daffodils and crocuses and tulips and rhododendruns and such.  Not the best of planning on my part.   Well, luckily, we will probably be here for next year’s spring as well.  I think I’d better go get some more bulbs.

Helicopters Buzzing the House

Our lovely English house has been a wonderful place for us.  We have tons of wildlife around although the bigger birds have slowly chased away some of the smaller songbirds.  We have foxes and badgers, deer and feral cats.  No dogs about and no hedgehogs – to my sorrow.  We have a wonderful view out the back garden of the first hole of a golf course with rolling hills and majestic trees.  But we also live fairly close to a whole plethora of different military ranges, grenade ranges, Sandhurst Military College, gunnery ranges and so forth.  So some days there is the distant rumble of artillery shells or gunfire.  Took a bit of getting used to at first and every time someone opened up on their course, we’d all come up in our seats – alert – to identify the sounds and how far away.  This is not because we’ve ever lived in an area where we were in danger from any such thing but just more of a really unusual experience for us and it took a bit of adjustment.

Part of the normal scenario of being close to military areas are also some helicopters that fly fairly regularly over the golf course and our small bit of woods and the neighbourhood houses.  When I’m outside, I always stop to watch them pass.  They are huge ‘copters, usually with front and rear rotors.  They look like workhorses of the military and while I have no clue on what they are doing, where they came from or where they are going, I do like to watch them because they are so impressive.  And you can hear them coming a from a good distance which gives me time to finish my chore and look up to watch them pass.

Lately, they have been passing by more often and seems like the helicopters have either gotten much bigger or they are flying a lot closer to the tree tops.  The other day, I was inside when I heard one coming and really had to go outside to see if it was landing – it was so loud!  Then last night, after we had gone to bed, we heard one coming.  Didn’t feel like jumping up to run outside and see if we could spot it in the dark but as we were sitting there, reading in bed, the helicopter flew overhead and vibrated the entire bed!  That seems like it’s flying awfully close to vibrate you and shake you.  Next time one comes by at night, I’m going to have to go outside and see if it is flying with lots of lights or if indeed, it is just buzzing by the house in the dark.  Rather exciting – sort of, maybe, well, hmm, not sure!

Facebook quizes

We probably all do them, the Facebook quizzes that pop up in your timeline when a friend shares it.   Looks like fun to see “what city you should live in”, “guess your age”, “which Star Trek character are you”, “Which Star Wars character are you”, “What kind of dog would you be”, “Which Disney princess are you”, “Do You Know Your British Slang”, “Are you a Redneck”and on and on and on – quizzes only limited by someone’s imagination and the time it takes to put it together.  People take them and then share their answers, OR like me, they just take them for the heck of it, mild curiosity to raging “gotta know!” curiosity, and then never share.  There are some that drive me crazy in that they have gross misspellings or incorrect grammar usage.  OH wait!  There was a grammar quiz just today and it was correct in its grammar.  That was kind of nice.  Some others are so bad that I just leave them mid-quiz.  Come on, quiz-makers, police your work and at least make it correct grammatically and with your facts!

When you think about it, it’s ludicrous that you could answer 10 or 15 totally meaningless and random seeming questions and come up with an iron clad opinion on where you should live or what 60’s screen siren you most closely resemble.  Plus, if you’re like me, you take some quizzes multiple times.  The same ones pop up as other friends “share” them so it gives you the opportunity to take them multiple times.  Usually my answers are different each time too.  A different time of day, a different day, different state of mind, different physical feelings, etc., make different answers and hence different answers.  Countries I should live in range from: New Zealand, England, France, USA, Spain, and China.  wow, how did China get in there?  Must have really been feeling a bit odd when I answered it that day, although I wouldn’t mind living in China for a period of time.  When I have taken a quiz multiple times, I have never, ever gotten the same answer twice.

Let us Guess Your Age made me realize that everything is connected because no matter how I answered those questions, they always got my age correct – Oh hey, my age is listed in my profile!  What a surprise – NOT.     It often says you can “make your own quiz”.  I haven’t tried this because haven’t been interested enough.  Some of the quizzes must really do some extensive research though as in finding the most popular dogs so that everyone always gets a popular breed as the “dog you would be”.  Same with the Disney Princesses.  I must have missed seeing the “What Disney Villain do you most resemble” quiz.

Facebook does not claim that these are scientific quizzes or absolute answers or even accurate depictions of your opinions and likes and dislikes.  They are fun to do though and so an excellent marketing tool for them.  And that’s what we must remember – they are fun and they are marketing so there’s the possibility that they can sell you something somewhere down the line.  My friends that take them and share and post are hopefully like me, doing it for fun.  Although I have seen a few posts where they are sooooo very, very happy that they are like a certain movie star or should live in a certain location that I am wondering if everyone realizes the silliness of the quizzes and the fickle nature of them.  Oh well, they can be enjoyable just to see what questions they will ask.  I will continue to take them as I am sure will most everyone else.  When they disappear from Facebook, I will know they have lost their popularity and their ability to give the marketing agents any useful information about us.

Fitbit Craze

Everyone these days seems to have a FitBit or a similar device to help them count their steps, count the number of stairs they climb, monitor their sleep, or whatever.  Fitbit seems to be leading the pack among the people who I know and I have one on my wrist most days as well.  My husband keeps his tracker on his wallet in his pocket.  Both seem to work fairly well on counting the steps but there are definitely some bugs in the counting.

I went to the wrist one after losing the clip-on type twice.  I prefer the clip-on because it counts stairs and the wrist one does not.  Also, should you forget to wear it on a day when you are particularly busy walking about places, you’re just out of luck.  You can add your steps for an additional workout but it won’t show up in the “comparison with friends” charts which is great fun to see what you are doing versus your friends with the same devices.  And I have yet to find a way to input stairs climbed without the clip-on Fitbit.

This past weekend, my husband and I were together 72 hours, walking the same places, stopping the same times, stopping in the same places, walking basically almost exactly the same and yet I had over 2000 additional steps over his recorded Fitbit.  Wow, I must have danced my way to the toilet the one time I went in a public place because it certainly wasn’t 1000 steps to walk through the door and into a stall and back out again!  amazing.  I have also discovered that some of my crafts tend to add additional steps.  When I am hammering some jewellery, each swing of the hammer gets me an additional step.  isn’t that amazing that I could go 10,000 steps in a day when I have only walked downstairs, around the house, and out to my workshop and back.  That one particularly irritates my hubby when I have so many more steps than he does in a week yet I haven’t gone anywhere.

I was less than impressed with the sleep function.  I had tried it on my previous Fitbit and it was rather ridiculous in its estimation of my sleep patterns.  On the nights when I slept only on my back because I had a cat on top of me, I got a full 7 hours of sleep without waking once.  Amazing since I got up to go to the bathroom twice and repositioned the cat about 4 times.  And on the nights when I didn’t have a cat on top of me and was able to turn over several times, I would “wake” about 76 times during the night.  So I am either totally rested or totally screwed.  I gave up on the sleep function.

So with everyone using their Fitbits to stay in shape, to make their goals, to track their sleep and to monitor their calories, I just have a OMG, do you really believe it is so accurate as to build your health and welfare and life around its software and counting?    I wear mine because it is just fun to see how far I’ve gone in a day.  It is not my physical fitness guru.  It’s just a tool to be used with common sense.  yep, common sense.

T-shirts and flip flops weather

All the Brits I know love to talk about the weather.  It is one of the main questions I get asked whenever I met a new person who is British or English, or Scottish, or Welsh, or whatever they are calling themselves this week.   Most of them think I will comment about how nasty it is or how cold and wet or something along those lines.  Truth be told – I love the British weather, possibly much more than they do!  So it is common for them to complain about the weather and grumble about it, grouse about it, swear at it, and leave it whenever possible.   I am happy to be in it where there are actual seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter.  And each season has its own charm and characteristics and accompanying weather.

 

A very common British past-time is to head to Spain or Italy or Greece during any break they have (from school or work) whenever the weather dips below 20C (around 70F – roughly).   A good status symbol is to show up at work during the winter with a tan!  Obviously it means you are rich and lucky enough to have gone somewhere warm enough to sit out in the sun for a few days.

 

I personally have a very small comfortable temperature range.  It is a joke in my family that I am most comfortable when the temperature is around 68F to 72F.  Anything different and I start complaining about being too hot or too cold.  The thermostat gets twisted around, clothes come on, clothes come off, blankets on or off the beds, whatever.  All this is probably going to cause problems when we retire to Florida!  But I have gotten much better at being out of doors in England in a much wider variety of temperatures.  As such, I can run around outside when the weather is in the teens (10-16C) with just a hoodie and stay fairly OK.  Any colder, and I am reaching for a good coat, good gloves and scarf or hat as well.

 

It is amazing that when I am bundled up, there are still many Brits who are so used to their cold winter weather that I am passing them on the street where they are wearing just their t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops!  I’ve seen so many Brits dressed in this standard “uniform” at 10C or even 5C.  I feel quite proud of myself that I have extended my range of comfortable temperatures but I don’t think I’ll ever get that comfortable.

 

Yesterday I went out with a friend and it was cold enough for it to snow on us briefly and for me to have a very warm coat and gloves.  She had on a sweater and that was it!  No fleece, no gloves, no coat, no hat.   We had to even stand outside for about 10 minutes and I didn’t see her shiver once!  When asked, she said she was used to it because they don’t have central heating in their house!  No heating!   OMG.  I definitely would have a hard time with that.  The few times our boiler has broken in the middle of cold weather, I’ve not been able to function without so many layers that I couldn’t function anyway because I couldn’t move!

 

So my husband and I now joke about whether the weather is T-shirt and flip flop weather or fleece weather or heavy coat weather.  In all instances – we’re talking winter weather!

 

 

Just Going Through The Motions

We feed everything that wanders through our yard/garden, practically.  Here in England, we have grey squirrels, foxes, badgers, jays, starlings, woodpeckers, magpies, crows, tits, wrens, robins, pigeons, and other small birds, and feral cats and neighborhood cats.  I don’t feed the deer but only because I have experience with them becoming a nightmare in the garden with little blessings of deer poop everywhere that never goes away or gets cleaned up.   Unfortunately, the larger birds have pretty much chased away the smaller birds but I have heard that there are fewer tits and robins and wrens around the last couple of years anyway.  I believe that is so because the first two years here, we had plenty of all kinds of sizes of birds.  Now we are low on all bird life!  And to my everlasting sorrow, no hedgehogs.

 

The cats that wander through have varied over the years.  At one time, we had as many as 6 coming and going during the day.  Now we are down to just two, one tabby and one long haired golden colored kitty.  The tabby will come up to be petted if I stand in one place long enough.  The golden cat is too skittish and never comes near me.

 

The squirrels are up and down the feeder and adjacent trees and around the yard all day long.  They race along the fence railing, jumping over the posts and fight each other for supremacy in the feeder.  When one of the cats comes into the yard, the squirrels scatter, run up into the trees and curse and curse and curse until the cat leaves.  I can always tell when a cat is in the garden because of the noise the squirrels make.

 

The golden cat has decided that a very good place to sit is almost directly under the feeder.  The squirrels have decided that if they want the peanuts, they are just going to have to race a bit faster to nab one and race away from the sitting cat.   For awhile, I don’t think the golden cat was feeling well because she (no idea if male or female but she looks too cute and sweet to be a male) would just sit and watch the squirrels and never budge.  Or was she just luring them in for later???

 

Standing in the house one day, squirrels in the feeder and on the railing and suddenly a streak of gold as the cat races from the side of the house and up the feeder pole to land on the railing herself and swipe a paw at a squirrel.  Wowzer.  She had never done that before.  Since that day, I have seen her several times make a run at the squirrels, never quite catching them but almost giving them a swipe.  She then settles into her spot and the squirrels come and go again to the feeder with her just watching them.

 

I think it’s all for show!  Nobody is hungry since there is food out for them to eat.  Today, the golden cat came running into the back garden and ran at a squirrel who jumped up to the railing and sat there scolding her.  Another squirrel was sitting on the ground just about 4′ away from her.  She turned around and saw it and made a half-hearted run at it and I swear she could have caught it before the squirrel decided to leave.  It’s almost as if they are playing tag!  Tag, you’re it now you run away because I really don’t want to have to go to the trouble of killing you and eating you. Yes, we are ancient enemies.  I am the hunter, you are the prey, but let’s just go through the motions and be done with it.