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Monday, 22 July 2019

Getting settled

We were devastated at the time, but in retrospect when our landlady phoned us on that Sunday afternoon in late March and gave us 60 days to vacate our apartment, it was the best thing that could have happened to us. It is now late July and we have just celebrated Independence Day. The house is starting to look very lived in, although we are still unpacking boxes, some of which have been sitting unpacked for more than two years. I can say with absolute certainty that we are both extremely happy in this house, and even happier that all of the paperwork is now over and we have the Deeds in our possession.

The country is warming up for the 2020 election, and more than 20 Democratic hopefuls are campaigning hard, with the first of the debates now behind us. It is no secret that I cannot stand that idiot Trump. More than 10,000 lies have been recorded since he took office. In fact, he lies so often that it has become patently obvious by his lead in when a lie is about to be told. I didn't really understand the political system in America before I arrived here five years ago. But having now witnessed it first hand, I do understand it. I know that nothing will ever persuade me to vote for any Republican candidate. At the same time, I will stick by the Royal Navy ruling for mess dinners - no discussions of a political or religious nature in our house.

The road our house is on is named Sunset Drive, and the above picture, taken a couple of weeks ago, is a good example of why. For a change, this year, we are going to be able to host the Thanksgiving Dinner in late November. One of our rooms is easily big enough to seat more than a dozen people - and our stove is massive. Yesterday we picked up a garden table with 6 chairs and a couple of matching loungers for a very reasonable price, and we have a dining room table and six chairs as well as some other furniture on hold for us.

The yard is starting to look good too. We have removed a rather ugly fence, originally erected to keep in small children when the previous owners were running a day-care center here. We have put out bird feeders and so far have seen a pair of red cardinals and of blue jays and a  nesting robin as well as a number of species that I do not know. One songbird wakes me every morning at about 0430 with the most beautiful singing I have ever heard. Other wildlife includes a grey squirrel and, next door, a groundhog or woodchuck. No chipmunks, skunks, bears or deer as yet though!

Friday, 21 June 2019

Six months

It has been six months since I wrote my previous post - six months too long. The last time that I wrote I had just become a United States citizen. This time Liz and I are celebrating closure on a property in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont. We took closure on June 3rd and moved into our new property on the following Saturday.  At the end of March, I had received d a telephone call from our landlord giving us sixty days to vacate the apartment. Not that we had done anything wrong. No! The landlord and his wife have gotten divorced and he required our apartment, it is the largest in the complex, for himself, his mother and granddaughter...

It has always been my belief that things happen for a reason, and so it was in this case. We searched the region for a suitable apartment to rent, but they were each either too small, too expensive or in an area of town inhabited by a lower class of people or drug addicts. So I suggested that we look at houses that were available for purchase, which we did. At the same time, we investigated the possibility of obtaining a mortgage. and were quite surprised when we became pre-approved.

So here we are on our 10th day. We have a garage full of boxes from the apartment and are slowly working our way through unpacking them, and a basement that still has a bunch of unpacked boxes left over from two years ago when we vacated 200 Sampson. When we viewed this house there was over a foot of snow on the ground, and so our offer was based only on what we were able to see.

The closure was not by any means cheap, and boy was the lead-up complicated and full of red tape. The purchase of our farm in the Eastern Cape was chicken feed by comparison. I just started counting the emails that I had received regarding the purchase and stopped counting when I got up to 110. Because of a couple of spine operations that I had more than 25 years ago, I am unable to lift anything weighing more than a few pounds, so Liz has been doing all of the heavy liftings. I do what I can with a trolly while she is at work.

Today was a first for me with our ride on lawnmower, which we picked up second-hand after closing. I had never driven a ride-on before so it was all new to me, but I did manage to cut a patch of  2,000 square feet in our back yard this afternoon before the first rain shower. I still need a lot of practice though. I turned 79 last month so I have every reason to be proud of myself. Fortunately, we have a very friendly neighbor who mows our front yard whenever he does his own. 

I took my Jeep Liberty in for a service eleven days ago and still have to get it back - there was a problem with the gear selector that I told them about, and as a result, it needs a new valve cover fitted at a cost of a little under $2,000 - it never rains but it pours.. 

It is a couple of days now since I started this post. I have been busy moving and emptying boxes. Yesterday I got our hifi (if you can call it that) and treated myself to opera highlights for much of the day. Today has been a lazy day. My back has been playing up so I have been taking it easy for a change, Liz has the morning off tomorrow (Saturday) so I'm looking forward to passing the whole weekend with her for a change. 

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Taking the Oath

On the evening of 28th November, after Liz got home from work, we set off in the Volvo for Rutland to spend the night at the Comfort Inn before I took the Oath of Allegiance to become a Citizen of the United States. The drive was a little uncomfortable - I have developed a dislike of driving after dark falls, and especially when it is trying very hard to snow. Fortunately with the exception of a couple of places down by Hanover, both the I-91 and Route 4 were clear of snow, and we arrived in one piece at about 9.30 p.m.

Thursday 29th November was the big day - the ceremony was to take place at the Paramount Theater in Rutland at 1.00 p.m., so we had plenty of time to get dressed for the event the next morning. For breakfast, Liz had a freshly made waffle with Maple syrup (this is Vermont!) and I had an unappetizing slice of French toast and a fried egg (both were on the cold side) but I think I was too excited, certainly not nervous, to eat. So I settled for coffee. At the appropriate time, we set out for the theater where I completed documentation before getting seated on stage - the first time I had 'walked the boards" other than a couple of school productions since Salisbury Repertory Theater way back in 1980. The Paramount Theater, which originally opened in 1913, had recently been restored and was very impressive.

The ceremony started on time, and Liz captured all 32 minutes of it on her smartphone. You can see the video she took here

After the ceremony was over and photographs were taken with the judge, we decided to hit the road back to the Northeast Kingdom, a 2-hour drive. By this time I was getting hungry and told Liz I could have eaten a whole rack of lamb - but would settle for a diner. We passed through Killington, a well-known ski resort, but nothing was open. Then as we were driving through Bridgewater I noticed a diner to the left of the road. We doubled back and parked facing the diner - a notice said that they closed at 2 p.m. - just our luck as it was 2.30 p.m. already. Just as we were about to drive off we noticed someone waving for us to come in, which we did. The family-run business stayed open just for the two of us.

So how will becoming a citizen affect me? I have been a little wary of what I have put into writing in this blog in the past, but I am now protected by the First Amendment, so I can now put into writing what I feel about the lying misogynistic bufoon of a president without fear of retribution.   

So, for those that have not yet seen it on my Facebook, here is a little nursery rhyme that I made up especially for our president.

Humpty Drumphty sat on his wall.
In the midterm elections, he had a great fall. 
All of his senators, all of his men
Couldn't put Drumphty together again

Friday, 10 August 2018

Miss my Volvo

Liz and I run a Volvo C30 T5 R-design - out of all of the vehicles that I have owned in my long and fruitful life (and there have been many) this is undoubtedly the best. It is the most comfortable ride I have ever experienced, fast, the acceleration when she slips into turbo mode is nothing short of fantastic, reminding me of the days I spent going down the catapult on an aircraft carrier. Right now she is in the shop where they are trying to sort out a recurring airbag warning problem, and have given us a loan car until we get the Volvo back.

The loan car is a Dodge Avenger, and a couple of days ago I got to drive it for more than 200 miles - I had to take Liz to work in Littleton then drive to USCIS in St Albans near the Canadian border to have biometrics taken for my citizenship interview. I was at the wheel for about 2 hours each way along some of the finest scenery in this corner of the United States. But what a painful drive! after about 30 minutes of the drive in each direction the seat was so uncomfortable - the pressure on my Coccyx made me need to shift my butt while driving. I will be very happy when we get the Volvo back.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Northeast Kingdom

I live in the Northeast Kingdom - that will mean plenty to my local readers, but to those of you on the eastern side of the Pond, it will mean little. You probably will have never heard of it. Let me explain. The Northeast Kingdom is the name given to three counties, Caledonia, Orleans and Essex, in the far northeast of Vermont on the Canadian border. The name was first used in a 1949 speech given by the then U.S. senator and former Governor of Vermont, George D. Aiken. The Kingdom is bound in the east by the Connecticut River and the west by the Green Mountains. The main towns are St Johnsbury and Lyndonville in the southeast, Newport and Derby in the north, and in the southwest Danville and Hardwick. 

Known affectionately by locals as The Kingdom, the region lies outside the state's Green Mountain area, and is made up of a number of extinct volcanic islands that were compressed together by tectonic movement more than 400 million years ago. A sheet of ice over a mile thick covered the Kingdom several times during the Ice Age, which ended some 13,500 years ago. The retreating glaciers carved out the piles of granite, schist, slate and limestone to leave behind today's rock-scattered landscape. Some 80% of the Northeast Kingdom is covered by forest; a mixture of 60% northern hardwood (Sugar maple, Yellow birch, American beech and White ash), with spruce, hemlock and fir making up the rest. The brilliant colors of the leaves during Fall make this a popular tourist destination.

There is a relatively high moose population, along with white tailed deer, black bear, coyote, fox, bobcat, some Canadian lynx, and even some once locally-extinct marten. Smaller species include red and gray squirrel, and groundhog or woodchuck, muskrat, skunk, opossum, snowshoe hare, beaver, porcupine, raccoon and the small and adorable chipmunk. There have been reports in the past few years of the grey wolf being seen - this is certainly possible judging by the reports although experts say not probable.


The climate here is fairly predictable. Winter extends from November through to April, with the temperature often remaining below zero for weeks on end. The lowest temperature that I recorded last winter was -35˚ F (-37˚ C) - at the time colder than Alaska. .At the other extreme yesterday's high was +97˚ F (+36˚ F) after a full week of being in the 90s. There is plenty of snow in winter, with it often lying on the ground for months on end. A number of blizzards have produced more than 20 inches of snow overnight.

I have noticed that there is plenty of French influence in the region, which is not surprising as it borders French-speaking Quebec Province to the North. Many of the surnames in the region are quite obviously of French origin and in summertime and Fall you can see plenty of Quebec Province cars on the Kingdom roads and hear French being spoken by couples in the region's supermarkets.
I've been in the Great North Woods for four years now, the last year and a half up here in the Northeast Kingdom. I can understand why many of the older residents who can afford it migrate down to Florida with the onset of winter. I am too old to take up my once youthful passion of skiing - major spine surgery a couple of times has seen to that. So I will see out my days here with my beautiful wife and close to my daughter and three grandchildren, all of whom I love dearly. Were it not for them Liz and I would be living in the warmer climes of North Carolina. Next month Liz and I will drive down to Massachusetts for her birthday and to stay with her daughter and family.