. . . . not only go out in the midday sun but also the pouring rain so they can go out in the midday sun!
Iffy weather forecast? No problem! Erect a marquee. In the rain. Oh. Problem. Hmmmm. Scratch head. What do we do next?
Aha! Put the canvas on the roof! Nice knees, Baz.
There was a lengthy time lapse and a lot of rain between taking the above photo and the one below. As part of the six-person erection crew to lift the half tonne structure into place there was little opportunity to take photos.
Once the heavy and slightly terrifying job of lifting the roof and inserting the supports on a windy evening was complete, photo opportunities presented themselves.
Is that a light on in the kitchen? Is dinner ready? Oh, please! Let me go in now!
After a week of foul weather, the garden party day was a perfect English summer’s day . . .
. . . . in a beautiful English garden, with five-star accommodation laid on . . .
. . . ample space for parking . . .
. . . . food, drink and entertainment . . . .
. . . . . and games for all to spectate or take part.
This particular game is rounders, a bat and ball game similar to baseball but played in England since Tudor times. That would be something like 1500 to those of you who think America invented baseball. The game played on this day had a very relaxed set of rules depending on the age and ability of the player. There were no tears. Not even from the adults.
In 1859 the Pony Express linked the east coast of the United to the West, a 1900 mile run from St. Joseph Missouri – the end of the telegraph line – to Sacramento California. The riders were often lightweight teenage boys, most notably Buffalo Bill.
When they cantered up The Avenue of the Fountains an unexpected lump came up in my throat. Although growing up on the east coast, many iconic images of the west are woven into the fabric of my childhood: the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Yosemite, Yellowstone, saguaro cactuses, California redwoods, giant sequoias, pioneers, wagon trains, cowboys. And the Pony Express.
America and Americans suffer a poor image abroad thanks to moronic celebrities, stupid movies, unfunny sitcoms, intrusive media, grasping politicians and greedy corporations but there are many more reasons to be proud of my country and my fellow Americans and The Hashknife Pony Express exemplifies this.
They epitomize the grit and determination of our forebears. Much of the landscape of the West is unforgiving – expansive deserts, dense forests, vast mountain ranges and worse places, like Death Valley where the temperature once reached 134º F and badlands, rocky terrains remarkable to see but treacherous to navigate. I have admired the beauty of these places from the comfort of a climate controlled vehicle and am constantly astounded at the resolve of my countrymen who came west – on foot, in wagons and on horseback.
The Hashknife Pony Express finishes their 200 mile mail run today in Scottsdale AZ.
Or maybe you will. I’d never befriended a cockatoo before.
On a slight departure from “adventures in a box on wheels in America,” we flew to Australia to visit family. I never imagined an apartment balcony in the suburbs would provide wildlife encounters. The cockatoos were initially cocktail time visitors, smelling the snacks and gate crashing our party, until one of them spotted me for the sucker I am and came to visit for morning coffee as well. He didn’t care for the previously offered corn chips but took one from my hand, laid it at his feet, backed away from it and looked at me as though I’d given him a piece of cardboard. I found a vege chip for him. He took it politely, put it down, backed away again and looked at me plaintively. I had just insulted him.
Running out of options and not wishing to completely empty our hosts store cupboard, I chanced a few extravagantly priced walnuts. They hit the spot with this now picky bird. One at a time, he took them from my fingers, ate each one delicately as though savoring a truffle. Each walnut was prized and eaten thoughtfully, an exercise in mindful eating, something I’ve never been able to master.
At the Sydney Royal Botanic Garden the ibis practiced gang techniques and pressured tourists into paying protection tidbits. They would circle tables at the cafe and stare, getting closer and closer. Quite large birds, eyeballs nearly at table height, they intimidated a group of English people into sharing their tea cakes. When the group left the table the ibis swooped, whisking crockery aside to look for crumbs while smashing plates on the patio slabs. Those of us with stronger wills against rogue birds were greatly entertained as we finished every last morsel of our own food.
Gimme cake or else!
Hmmm. Let’s see what we have here.
What’s this? Shake, shake, shake. Oops! Did I knock a plate off the table?
The second sitting at the tea table didn’t last long as the long-suffering waitress shooed off the ibis with her dustpan and brush.
Back at the balcony Coop the cockatoo showed up twice a day until the nuts ran out.
Cockatoo or cockatiel? Do you know the difference? I believe Coop was a cockatoo with a beak strong enough to smash Brazil nuts. He gently nipped my index finger to show displeasure with my offering of inferior hors d’oeuvres but I could have lost a finger. Or several!
Yoohoo! It’s me!
Knock. Knock. I know you’re in there. C’mon. Let me in!
Oh how I wish I had taken my camera because mere words cannot possibly do this justice: A parade of government employees dressed as fruit and vegetables danced from the library to the market place to celebrate the grand opening of the farmer’s market in the local town shortly after we’d moved to America. These normally drab civil servants appeared as human sized Chiquita bananas, pineapples, ears of corn, pea pods, carrots, strawberries, slices of melon, a bunch of grapes (which made me feel faintly queasy – large purple orbs dangling off a pretty girl), tomatoes and a roundish, faded, three-foot in diameter green orb which could have been any number of foods.
Carmen Miranda was there with a banana impaled on her forehead and grapes rolling down the back of her head. She had aged since I saw her last and looked a little scrawny.
The procession was led by seven big green elves (who appeared to have had a skirmish over their costumes in the dressing room with all of them coming off rather badly) playing jungle rhythms on drums. A group of multi-sized ladies, with uninhibited senses of dress, performed to the drum beat but their swaying arms and legs showed little in the way of a gift for dance. Those who didn’t happen to have a piece of fruit apparel in their wardrobe simply wore anything outlandish or bright – shiny green St. Patrick’s Day hats, hula skirts, clown feet, last year’s Halloween mask, last year’s Mardi Gras beads.
We were invited to take part, but declined, preferring to scurry along beside the parade, pretending not to be associated with these deranged people. As we watched with morbid fascination, not quite believing that grown-ups could look and behave like that, we trampled the town hall gardens that lined the street, finishing up at the market.
The fruit and veg items on sale didn’t tempt us that day. Costumes are fun but fruit people are frightening. What would possess someone to want to do something like that? Google vegetable costumes. Go on. What do you think?