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Friday, 25 November 2016

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, that all American holiday, is here once again. The turkey soaked in brine overnight and has been put into the oven. The menu is set. Today it will be roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash with cranberry sauce and gravy all followed by apple pie (a first for my daughter, who makes awesome cakes but has never baked a pie or made pastry before) and cream. It is snowing outside and the kids are just off to slide down the hill in the backyard.

Fall didn't seem to last long this year. The autumn's brilliant colors came and went in a jiffy, and the deciduous trees are now devoid of leaves and bearing a coating of snow. In fact it is snowing hard right now. Tomorrow is Black Friday - another American tradition where all the outlets and stores hold sales at ridiculously low prices.

Last weekend we moved out of the house we had been renting for 2 years and have moved in with Julie, my daughter. The last month or two had been quite stressful - we ended up with a 26-ft U-haul truck full to the brim. We would never have managed the move ourselves, and will forever be grateful to Jake and Julie, Jim and to Dena and Andrew who drove all the way from Massachusetts to assist.

Moonlight in Vermont has always been one of my favorite songs - I just asked my phone to play it and it came up with one of my preferred performers of it, Frank Sinatra. It is all the more suitable since we are now actually living in Vermont.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Sanders congratulates Clinton

I am writing this post as an unbiased observer with no voting rights, and for the benefit of my readers on the Eastern side of the Pond, who may not be familiar with the way American politics work. I have to say from the start that my eyes have been opened over the last twelve months or so.  I am not sure that I like all that I see and have seen, but then I have no say in the matter. If I have inadvertently made an error, I would encourage readers to leave a comment to advise me so.  Let me start by listing the main parties involved.

1. The Republicans - otherwise known as the GOP or Grand Old Party. They are conservatives and typically on the side of Big Business and Big Money. Most of their support seems to come from the South and the Mid-West and includes Southern Baptists and the NRA (National Rifle Association) that vehemently supports the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, which grants the right of gun ownership to individuals for purposes that include self-defense. It appears that most GOP members deny climate change and are very much pro-life in the abortion debate.

2. The Democrats - are well to the Left of the GOP and are liberals. They recognize climate change, support abortion rights, support equal pay for women who do the same job as men, want to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, are against racial and religious profiling, and wish to develop renewable energy.

3. The Libertarian Party - a small party that seems to be a combination of some of the beliefs of the two main parties.

The Presidential Election is held every 4 years and (unless a president is running for his or her second term) is preceded by the Primaries or State Conventions. These start off in New Hampshire in February of the year of the General Election and are themselves preceded by a vast amount of canvassing. Here in New Hampshire this went on for months, with Town Hall meetings, gatherings in private homes, dropping in to diners and whatever.

On Tuesday we saw the last of the primaries with the sole exception of DC, which comes up shortly. These Primaries determine how many delegates each candidate will have behind him or her at the two National Conventions, which are to be held in July. At the time of writing Trump is the presumptive GOP candidate (much to the dismay of many Republicans) and Hilary Clinton the presumptive Democratic candidate, although at this time her rival, Bernie Sanders, vows to fight on until the Convention in the hope that some of his ideas will be adopted by the Convention.

The US Senate has 100 seats a third of which are elected every 2 years. The House of Representatives has 435 seats, all of which are elected every 2 years. Every newly elected member of the House is expected and required to spend at least 30 hours every week in their respective party headquarters in Washington DC fund raising on the telephone, leaving little time for their legislative duties.

Trump, who pays his female staffers less than the male, has emerged as the probable GOP Presidential candidate, much to the chagrin of the GOP. The fact that he funded himself and got to where he is legally and fairly is not disputed - his plans and ideas are. He has alienated women with his misogynist remarks, Mexicans with his deportation plans and his proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border. He has proposed to ban all Muslims from entering the country, and lately criticizing the judge presiding over a major fraud case involving the Trump University. A number of leading Republicans have declared that they will not vote for Trump - I believe that some have even said that they would rather vote Democrat.


Sanders has shown a massive turnout by millennium voters. the new generation voting for the first or second time. He has radical ideas about curbing the power of the big banks, free education and others. Less than an hour ago he emerged from the White House and conceded victory to Hilary Clinton, at the same time vowed to work with her to create a platform to defeat Trump in the November election. 







Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Election Fever - and a Cook Out

I never really understood how the election system here in the USA worked. I mean I knew that there were primaries but until I actually saw them happening around me, I never really understood. I do now, and New Hampshire, where Liz and I live, has been one of the best places to witness them from. Traditionally NH is the first state to hold primaries, and we were inundated with months of town hall meetings, diner walk-ins and other types of electioneering leading up to the primaries. Although I didn't vote myself (it will be another 22 months before I am eligible to become a citizen) I did go down to witness the voting - back then there were 18 GOP candidates and just the 2 Democrats, both of whom are still in the race.

The only Republican remaining in the race today is the bombastic Trump, who has been called a misogynist, a xenophobe, narcissistic, arrogant, patronizing, a racist and many other justified descriptions. For a collection of the better ones visit this webpage. I cannot understand how anyone can be taken in by this self-opinionated individual. I sometimes feel quite glad that I don't have the vote just yet.



On Saturday the local Food Co-op was one of out ports of call - it was the 7th anniversary of their opening, so there were plenty of free samples being handed out. One of the free offerings was a caricature artist, who did the above drawing for us. Later that afternoon we drove over to Vermont to Jake and Julie's for a cook out. Fortunately we were blessed by having good weather with temperatures in the 70s (that's the low 20s ˚C). At the time of writing it has dropped to just a couple of degrees above freezing - that's NH for you.


It was a fun afternoon - two sets of grandparents and pork chops, hot dogs, hamburgers and all wound up with S'mores around the fire My many friends and relatives on the other side of the Pond will probably have no idea what S'mores are - I didn't, but you can see what they are on this Wikipedia page.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Beer - a Few Thoughts

I was weaned on beer.  From about my 10th birthday my parents were in the Hospitality industry, first when my dad was steward of the Stourbridge Institute and Social Club, and then running a 26 bedroom brewery owned hotel named the Bell Hotel (with 5 bars!). The Bell was tied to the Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery, whose Banks' Best Bitter was my beer of choice for a number of years when at home until I finally left the UK  for warmer climes in 1972. Not that that was the only beer I experienced. I was one of a crowd of young adults who spent a lot of time meeting in a number of different pubs - I recall the Crown at Iverley, the Navigation, The Plough at Claverley and the Unicorn in Wollaston village. Our favorite beverage when on pub crawls was either draft Bass or Worthington E.

After joining the Royal Navy in 1964 I was introduced to a wider variety of beers. My first encounter with beers during my naval career was at the Floaters (The Floating Bridge Inn) in Dartmouth while I was at Britannia Royal Naval College, though I can't recall the brand of beer that they served back then. After my introductory Officer's Course I moved to Malta for several months for the Naval Observer's Course, and it was here that I was introduced to Cisk lager. On the completion of that course I was posted to the Royal Naval Air Station at Lossiemouth in Morayshire, then home of the Buccaneer strike aircraft, and it was here that I tasted my first Scottish beers, Youngers and McEwans ales. Three tours on aircraft carriers to the Far East brought me into contact with Tiger (Singapore), Tusker (Mombasa, Kenya), Fosters (Perth & Sydney, Australia), San Miguel (Subic Bay, Philippines) and a cluster of others in Hong Kong, New Zealand and other ports of call.

My emigration from the UK to Rhodesia in 1972 and later to South Africa marked the start of a dearth of good beers. The sum total being Lion and Castle lagers in both countries and Zambezi in Rhodesia. There is little doubt in my mind that South African Breweries "powers that be" lack imagination, and there is certainly room for the development of craft beers, of which there are none at all in that country. This scarcity was to last until I relocated to the United States some 42 years later.

Some of the beers in my closet
Up here in New England there are, without any doubt, some of the best beers I have ever tasted, as well as scores that I have yet to sample. Craft beers are a big thing here, and there is a huge variety to choose from. The average price of a box of 12 beers in New Hampshire is around $12, which works out to 66p for a 355ml bottle, although a few weeks ago I found some at a local market selling at $5 for a case of 12. The most common and popular beers are around 5.5% to 6% alcohol by volume, although I have found one or two on the Internet  as high as 18%!

It has been interesting doing some of the research for this article. Only when I started researching the names of some of the foreign beers I had forgotten, did I discover that a number of countries are turning towards craft beers. Also some countries, such as Belgium, have beers that go back many hundreds of years. Australia surprised me with a huge number of craft beers. Much as I'd like to taste some of the older beers of Belgium and the many varieties of craft beer in Oz, I will have to be content with what is available locally - and there is plenty to choose from without having to resort to to such common brands as Budweiser or Millers.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Passage of Time

It's been a while since I last (metaphorically) put pen to paper - mea culpa! Time flies past so quickly these days. I have been busy putting together a new website for a veterinary clinic in the Northeast Kingdom (for those of you who are not familiar with where that is, it is in northern Vermont next to the border with Canada).

The passage of time is perceived differently by every individual. It has been theorized that the brain compares the passage of a fixed length of time with the total length of time it has experienced since birth. Thus an hour for a three year old is an eternity, whereas for an old-timer like me it passes in the mere blink of an eyelid. The older you get, the faster time appears to pass by.


I have been reading some interesting things about time of late. Mostly in the context of space-time and Quantum theory. Time, of course, is your most valuable asset - more valuable than money. No matter who you are, you should make the best possible use of the time that you have been given, for you never know when it is going to be taken away from you. You can never guarantee how much time you have remaining. Eventually each of us will run out of time - that's guaranteed. I recall vividly from many years ago the time when I was on a dummy strike mission in a navy jet when, during a dummy dive bombing attack, we were hit by a second aircraft. In this particular case both aircraft landed safely, but I worked out from the size and position of the dent on my aircraft and its speed at the time that I had come within one hundredth of a second of a very untimely death.

Of course suddenly having your time taken away from you can happen at any time and to anyone. It can happen crossing the road or in your sleep, in an earthquake or a thunderstorm, Only the very old, the very sick or those who have decided that they want no more time are aware of its impending demise. My message is - while you still have it, make the best of the time you have been given.