Thursday, December 07, 2006

From Blur to Brrr...

It's been a little cooler of late with night-time temperatures down in the low 'teens Fahrenheit (-10 or so Centigrade). This morning, regular as clockwork, the roofers appeared as it was starting to snow. For about an hour we had a whiteout with gusty winds and 14 F temperature. Astonishingly, throughout natures little tirade, we continued to hear scraping, banging, hammering and the other downtown Beirut noises that have become so much a part of our lives recently. We put it down shell-shock and went about our business.
After the storm passed by all was revealed. So enthusiastic are the roofers about their rooftop wrangling, they had erected a tarpaulin tent over the gazebo and all five of them worked under this temporary shelter to continue with the renovation. One nineteen year old unisex laborer, face bejeweled with piercings and baubles, remarked "I've been doing this for four years and I don't like it." An intelligent response to such a profound statement did not come readily to mind.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Just trying to keep a roof over our heads...

Reminiscent of our early years during WWII London, the roofers have been here for a week now and are making considerable progress. What with shovels and forks removing the old roof, packs of shingles being dropped at various points, pneumatic staplers and nail guns, massive hammering and periodic cascades of old roof falling past the windows, the entire process is quite stressful. Apparently, the tear-off of the old roof is particularly strenuous due to the cedar shake style originally installed. In the first picture, the mound of scrap from the left-hand section of the roof, can be seen piled up against the side of the house. So far the crew has filled two 24 foot skips and will shortly start on the third which is being delivered as this is written. The original cedar roof is being replaced with composite shingles - by far the most common choice throughout the mid-west - all 18,900 lbs of them. These are delivered in 75 lb bundles, 36 bundles to a pallet. The pallets, by the way, are lifted onto the roof by a crane on the delivery truck - much better than trying to lug them up a ladder! Meantime, a veritable army of workers keep busy with the numerous processes involved in what I erstwhile believed to be a straightforward task.
The accompanying pictures were taken yesterday, November 28th, which was another gorgeous "bonus" day at near 70 degrees on a day when the average high is around 43. Today is in the sixties again but, watch out, Mother Nature is about to get back on track, reducing daytime highs to the low thirties and overnight lows to the low twenties with a few inches of sleet or snow tomorrow night for good measure. Nothing like this kind of forecast to motivate roofers, it seems

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Santas Revenge

Having pretty much avoided Christmas and all that goes with it for most of the last 50 years (too busy, got stuff to do and various other vague evasions) we have finally run out of excuses and, short of an early death, Santa is really getting his own back this year. By the magic of low air fares, we get to spend Christmas with the Children of the Sixties, pictured here as Loves Young Dream. Presumably this was snapped before the Wily Watson had the Handsome Harvey finally and fully snared since Foolish Fred apparently, still thought he had something to laugh about.

As though this was not retro enough, we will also be spending time with those suave sophisticates, the Android Sisters, regal beauties whose elegance and sense of style are the stuff of legends. These rare and candid snaps of the Harvey Girls provide just a glimpse of their stunning wardrobe and youthful energy and could well be part of the reason why not too many people remember the nineties.

Clearly, Christmas in the Old Country promises to be loads of fun and I can't help hoping that Santa has a little Pork Pie in mind for me or maybe just some plain old Fish and Chips! For our part, we will be thrilled to catch up on all of the news and get acquainted with the new generation.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

If at first...

My brother in England, Ken, lives on a small lane in a tiny village in the wilds of a region known as Northants. He moved there about five years ago, as much as anything because it was nice and quiet. Well, recently, things have not been so quiet. About six months ago, late one Saturday evening, there was a brief commotion as a pricey Porsche substituted itself for part of the garden wall. As luck would have it, the driver, a local resident, walked away unharmed and the Porsch was removed a day or so later. Insurance claims were duly filed and the long process of getting the repair process underway was set in motion.
Good News! A week or two ago, the repair crew showed up and began the refurbishment of the wall. After two days of leisurely labor the new wall began to take shape and all seemed to be set for a quick resolution.
But wait, Bad News! Late on Saturday evening an Audi TT, traveling close to the speed of light, demolished the remainder of the original wall, most of the newly built portion, shredded the five bar gate and bent the builders skip. Again, the driver was well enough to flee the scene and promptly went into hiding for 24 hours while his blood alcohol level fell to legal limits before reporting the incident.
Finally, Good News. The reticent insurance company, possibly thrilled at the prospect of settling two claims for the price of one, authorized the second rebuild almost immediately and, as of today, the new wall and gate are resplendently guarding the homestead once more. For a bonus, I now understand the purpose of garden walls.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jimmy John's Coming Soon!

As can be seen, everyone is hard at work putting the finishing touches on Fort Wayne's first Jimmy-John's sandwich shop. Due to open on October 17th, this has been a classical case of bureaucratic incoherence and witless officialdom clogging the path of progress. Lots of Jobsworths as they are known in the UK. Anyway, everything is about on schedule for my first FREE sandwich (and probably my last, knowing Eric) at the Friends and Family pre-opening on the 16th. Yes, I have my doggie-bag ready!
Following all the frantic activity, the younger generation were so exhausted they had to be carted off by the Wrinklies, fed and tucked up in bed. Still in a weakened condition the following morning, they were further rescusitated by a hearty breakfast-in-bed comprising syrup soaked pancakes and day old Jimmy Johns bread. Suitably re-energized, they have now taken Grandma to the Mall.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Another Indiana attraction...

Arizona has the Grand Canyon, Colorado the Rockies, California boasts the Golden Gate Bridge but, Indiana has Greensburg?!? "What's at Greensburg?" I hear you ask excitedly. Nothing less than the 11 million, one hundred and thirty-ninth Wonder of the World.
This bizarre and surreal phenomenon actually made "Ripley's Believe it or not" at one point. Anyway, the handsome tree to the right is a fifteen foot, 5 inch diameter, large toothed Aspen coexisting with a variety of other foliage and assorted weeds, all rooted in this tired looking monument. The monument itself was built in 1874 and that, you might think, is that.

But wait, there's more - an entire 110 feet more in fact. The monument is atop the Decatur County Court House and, at various times, an entire grove of as many as five aerial trees have graced the building since the first one was spied in the late 1870's.
Famed, locally at least, as Tree City or Tree County, many local businesses include references to this grotesque outgrowth in their business names so, presumably, weeding the Court House roof could dash the hopes of these enterprises and possibly set off a countywide recession. The city fathers now wisely spend taxpayer money maintaining this lopsided monstrosity in their quest to keep the wheels of commerce turning. My advice? Stay clear of the Court house on windy days! (Click on picture to enlarge.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

More Court Houses...

Took a little trip in Black Bess to identify what had failed since the last trip. Just couldn't keep away from those Court Houses though, ugly or elegant.
This neo-classical mausoleum at Huntington, IN, built about 100 years ago, seems to have little to commend it. Sitting almost on the railroad in a non-descript part of town it doesn't even bear the name of the County it represents. Probably appropriate.

Much more pleasing is the Whitley County Court House in Columbia City, IN. On a nice square in the middle of town, it anchors the major municipal and commercial features of the city in a graceful and comfortable manner.
By the by, Black Bess only turned up with three gnarly issues - about par for the course.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Secret rendezvous in Delphi, IN

Marika is away from home for three weeks of grueling training related to her restaurant. To give Eric a break and the kids a diversion, we took the girls on a White Rabbit excursion for the Labor Day weekend. Little did they know that this was a cover for a surprise meeting with Marika on Sunday.
Saturday included a miniature train trip, a ride on a restored, 120 year old Carousel and was capped off with a night at another exotic Wal-Mart, this time in Monticello, IN.
Having learned from our first uncomfortable night in the little RV that could, we had done some reorganization and were pleasantly surprised at how well we slept, even with two youngsters on board. The Navion performed exactly as advertised which we were also happy about. We all dined lavishly on chips, dip, Cocoa Pops, ice cream and assorted candy - a little like a health farm but much more relaxed.
On Sunday we set course for Delphi, another Indiana town left behind in the canal era, and arrived at the secret rendezvous at high noon. There, by the magic of cell phones and GPS was the female parental unit and much joy was shared by all. Following a nutritious lunch of pizza and ice cream, we all went for a pleasant stroll along the Wabash river. Three thirty, and it was time for farewells all over again. Marika headed west, back to Illinois, and we went east to Fort Wayne and home.
A nice day was had by all.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

White Rabbit's first sleepover

Earlier this week we took the White Rabbit (see "The Navioneers" entry) for its first shakedown and spent a noisy and very rainy night in Napoleon Ohio. Ended up with a sizeable list of missed and forgotten "essentials" (one being a comfortable bed :o( ) which we will remedy before taking off with Carly and Caitie this coming weekend.
Napoleon is on the Maumee river that flows through Fort Wayne and wends its way north into Lake Erie. The Toledo-Cincinnati canal followed the river at this point and Independence Dam was the site of Lock No. 13. The lock gates are long since gone but the lock masonry is well preserved. Highway 224 follows the river for 20 miles or so at this point and is rated as one of the best touring highways in the US and, better yet, it is practically deserted! Click on the picture for more detail - there is some interesting (nerdy) information in the white panel at the top.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Celebration conflagration

Here is a demonstration of why one needs to be extremely careful about earning Marian's wrath. Martine, Ben and Emily stopped by yesterday to leave a cake for Marian's birthday. Emily, foolish child, let it slip that there was a candle on the cake for each year and promptly set about counting them.
Big mistake. Marian quickly gave the cake "one of her looks", the kind she often throws my way, and, Lo, the entire affair burst into flames, apparently much to her delight!
Don't say you haven't been warned.


Sadly, our dependable companion for the last 12 years moved on to greater things last week. Toby, who was rescued from a dog pound in California back in the nineties, generally had it made in the shade. He went to work every day, attended all important meetings, worked diligently as foodtaster for every employee and was always at the head of the donut line on Fridays. Certainly he will remain part of the Britannia folk lore for years to come.
We miss you buddy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Naked blonde caught on camera

A recent visit to the County Fair was helped along by this little beauty. Probably a good thing that she appears to be having a bad hair day or I might have been really smitten. I was also quite taken by a good looking lamb - let's see, 350F and 25 minutes to the pound...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


The Gump Dump

Well, wouldn't you know it - like most things in our lives we got it backwards again, gnizisnwod when it should be downsizing.
The Gump Dump, above, which has served us heroically since 1999 is pretty much "used-up". Accordingly, it is being discarded in favor of Camp Manitou, below, and now we need GPS just to find the bathroom!
Camp Manitou

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Stick house stuff...

Today was one of those hurry up and forget days - stick house maintenance. We've been in our present place, Pete's Pad, for seven years and have steadfastly ignored events such as yard maintenance guys occasionally mowing driveway lights or Marian accidentally building bonfires on top of ornamental lighting fixtures - until today! Just like that, it became a she-who-must-be-obeyed imperative that everything is fixed. Now!

So, a few hours of grubbing around with ants, mosquitoes and other lowly critters like myself, and seven years of sins have been vanquished - imagine the brownie points I should have earned for that! However, my glory didn't last for long. Guess she figured "If he can do that in a day, I need to find him something more challenging..." Seems like I'm now scheduled to power wash the sidewalks or something similarly heathen. Probably time to break something and get reclassified as worthless again.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Navioneers!

A couple of weeks ago we picked up our soon-to-be European RV - an Itasca Navion. We had fun stocking it with cutlery, crockery, linens and other everyday necessities and will shortly do a couple of overnight stays to see what we missed.
Overall, this seems to be a fun vehicle and fairly self-sufficient. It is built on the Dodge Sprinter chassis which is based on a Mercedes diesel engine with a five speed automatic gearbox. Drives pretty much like a car.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

New beginning...

Greetings. Well, we finally pulled the trigger and sold our business. Now, with work and related duties receding in the rearview mirror, we are eager to get on with our new lives. Given that we have time, we will add occasional updates to this blog to chart any progress we might make. So, watch this space if you're really, really bored!