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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Mother Nature's April Fool's Joke

I mean, we all thought we had seen the last of last winter's snow The last remnants were almost gone, and Spring officially started a week or two back - then out of the blue came this winter storm on the last night of March and April 1st.

Of course this just happened to be the morning that Liz and I had planned to drive the 60-odd miles from St Johnsbury in Vermont to Berlin in New Hampshire.

National Route 2 runs East - West across the northern edge of Mount Washington, which is the tallest mountain in the eastern United States, at 6,289 feet. For my readers who are not aware of it, the second highest wind speed ever recorded on the Earth's surface was 231 mph (372 km/h) at the observatory on the peak of the mountain in April 1934.

Fortunately our sprightly Volvo C30 has studded winter tires and, with me driving (Liz gets quite nervous in those conditions), the weather presented no problems, although the road was quite treacherous at times. I was reminded of a winter weekend way back in the '60s when, while stationed at RNAS Lossiemouth, the squadron aircrew drove across northern Scotland to the Altnacealgath Hotel in Ledmore, and had to dig our vehicles out of snow drifts. That was one of the last times I was to see snow for 42 years! 

I am writing this on Tuesday, April 4th. We did have more snow forecast for today but the temperature is up to 40˚ (4˚C) with rain and a week from today is forecast to be 71˚F (21˚C). 

To completely change the subject, I wrote a while back about nepotism, in particular when related to Jacob Zuma. I never imagined at that time (four years ago) that a president of the United States would be openly practicing nepotism, but that appears to be more and more so. The gaudy materialistic person now in charge of this country seems to be going the same way as Jacob Zuma. Like Zuma he seems incapable of running the country, knowing nothing about politics or the way Washington works. In short, he is out of his depth, and covers every setback by tweeting that it is all the lying press and false news. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Winter Storm Warning

Yesterday we received a Winter Storm Warning on our mobile phones - starting midday Sunday and continuing for 31 hours we were to expect between 8" and 18" of snow, with winds gusting up to 40 mph.So bad was the warning that Vermont's governor advised all residents to stay off of the roads unless it was for an emergency.

I took this first picture just before dusk on Sunday night, and the one below a little after 10 am this morning. It is now a little after midday and still snowing. At least it is not as cold as it was - up to 22˚F (-6˚C) today as opposed to -2˚F (-19˚C) just a couple of days ago. When I was living in southern Africa and checking the weather conditions where my daughter lived I could not believe that it could go for weeks and even months with the temperature remaining below freezing. Now I know differently.

I have to give the New England meteorological community their due - weather forecasts in this part of the World are for the most part extremely accurate. Unlike what I have been used to in warmer climes. It does also help to be able to open up the Microsoft weather app on my laptop and actually watch the weather radar on time lapse. I have to admit though that I do miss the tropical heat of southern Africa, and although I have no desire to return there, I do have a sort of yearning to visit such relatively close places as Saint-Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Martinique and Guadaloupe (that's the Francophile in me coming out). 

Alors! Je n'ai pas eu beaucoup d'occasion de pratiquer mon français au cours des dernières années - en fait la dernière fois que j'ai été en mesure de passer un certain temps à parler ma langue seconde a été lors d'un couple de vacances à Ile Maurice chemin de retour dans la fin des années 70. Cela a peut-être changé récemment, car quand shopping pendant les mois d'été dans un supermarché local, j'ai entendu un couple parler français, donc a commencé une conversation avec eux. Ils ont été réellement surpris d'avoir quelqu'un qui pourrait les comprendre. Je dois expliquer que nous sommes à seulement 85 kilometres de la province du Québec au Canada et que nous recevons un grand nombre de visiteurs québécois durant les mois d'été et d'automne.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Trump Debacle

So Trump won the United States presidential election - supposedly! Clinton won the popular vote, and by more than 2½ million votes, but because of the strange and antiquated "system"in this country the president is not elected by popular vote, but by an Electoral College. They voted for the arrogant Mr Trump, who has been called a pathological and self-possessed liar, misogynist, racist, bigot, xenophobe, a gaudy materialist, a megalomaniac and a number of other not-so-popular words. His frequent remarks on Twitter have shown just how ignorant precedent (sic) elect Trump is - for example in setting presidents (sic).

Liz and I have moved across the state border and are now temporarily living in Vermont. Thee house we had been renting for the last 24 months was eventually sold, and we had to move out in December. So, a frantic month packing a large house into boxes, a rented U-haul truck, and here we are in the beautiful Vermont countryside, surrounded by now-bare maples and white birch with the occasional fir tree, all set off by a white blanket of snow. We are now "house hunting" and hoping to find something akin to what we have been used to over the last couple of years. Everything is soooo expensive up here in the North Country though.

I was hit quite badly by the brexit vote. Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of being a British expat is that we don't get to vote. In my opinion that is a big fault in the UK system. So how was I hit badly. I get a relatively small pension that is paid into my UK bank account, so it is in pounds. The day after the result of the brexit vote was known the pound dollar exchange rate plunged from $1.66 down to $1.22. That meant that after converting to dollars my monthly income fell by roughly 25% ! Maybe with a bit of lick, when Trump is inaugurated the dollar will fall against the pound making me better off.

Enough self-pity! It's close to noon, and the temperature outside is just 2˚F (that's -17˚C) and has been below freezing for several days now. It is supposed to warm up a little overnight and even be up in the 40's over the next few days. Going to snow tonight, turning to rain by the early morning. Yeough! Ah the beauty of living New England.

Friday, 25 November 2016


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.