Strange Times


How strange these current moments are in time as we collectively struggle with the Coronavirus. It’s almost like something out of a science fiction movie and the only thing lacking is for the dead to turn into zombies. Maybe that is still to come. Who knows.

Something to brighten our day.

In Austin, Texas, my home town, even though the virus has not really infected too many people yet, there is a surreal atmosphere about the place as though we are on hold waiting for something to happen. There is hardly any traffic on the road, which by itself is not such a bad thing. Rush hour traffic is temporarily a thing of the past, at least until this is all over. I spend a lot of time at home anyway so this staying in place is not a chore for me. If I choose to go out from my self imposed lock down, it is usually every afternoon for a Latte at Starbucks drive through and I no longer have to wait for a break in traffic in order to turn onto the main highway from my house. That is how slow the traffic is in these troubled times. I have even resorted to using the Starbucks App on my phone as opposed to using my Starbucks card so as to alleviate physical contact.

My local grocery store, known as HEB, has instituted a new procedure as you can no longer just walk into the store. Now, you have to grab a cart and wait in line 6 feet from the person in front of you as the store personnel allow people in 10 at a time. They give you a wipe for the cart as you enter the door which is a little late as you have probably been holding the cart while you are waiting which could be anything up to 20 minutes. I was going to stop in for a couple of things but when I saw the wait, I parked my cart and went home knowing that I can do without whatever I thought was important at the time.

Just for the heck of it, I drove to Dripping Springs to the HEB there and they had exactly the same thing going on. Needless to say, I just stopped at the Starbucks drive through and ordered my Latte to drink on the way back home. I know that sooner rather than later, I am going to have to bite the bullet and join that darn line. Maybe I can just use up all of the cans in the cupboard and frozen goods in my refrigerator until the milk runs out for my morning lattes. Then it will be an absolute necessity that I go shopping or learn to drink my coffee black. If the coffee beans or the dog food run out, then I really am in trouble.

I had to stop at the Home Depot as I needed to return a package that came via FedEx in a totally smashed up parcel with special order light bulbs inside which, needless to say, were also broken. Home Depot is also incorporating a line by numbers entrance to the store but I was lucky and walked right in. Once in the store, there was tape on the ground mandating where each person had to stand while waiting to be served and the only time you got closer was to sign the register. You have to admire the personnel that are working in the store albeit because they need to in order to survive. These are trying times for any that work in the retail industry as they have to come face to face with those they are trying to help.

In the same Shopping Center where Home Depot is located are several other large retailers all of whom have closed their doors. It is the first time ever that I have seen the particular parking lot completely empty. I wonder if these employees are getting paid or are on their own.

I was talking to my neighbor on this subject as we stood in her yard the mandatory 6 feet away from each other and the conversation turned to the other scares that we have had in the past few years and she mentioned that never before has there been a virus that has caused so much panic and so great a reaction around the world. I did some research and found the following online.

  1. It has a long incubation period, up to 14 days. Why does that matter? Well, take the flu, for instance. If you become infected with the flu virus you will begin to have symptoms within 4–24 hours. Therefore, there is a smaller window of time that you have the virus and do not know it or have symptoms. With the Coronavirus having an incubation period of 14 days, one person can literally spread the virus to thousands of people without even knowing they themselves have it!
  2. It can live on hard surfaces longer. While the flu virus has a very short life span outside the body, the CoVid19 has can live up to 9 days on a hard surface. That means that someone who has the virus can, let’s say for example, rent a car and drive it around town for an hour or a half hour and return it. The car can then sit there on the rental lot for a week or longer, and then someone else can rent that car and contract the virus! But, they may not show signs of having the virus for two weeks, and they too then may spread it to another thousand or more people.
  3. It causes pneumonia and respiratory failure, which is more difficult for people who already have medical conditions that may weaken their respiratory systems: bronchitis, asthma, COPD, overweight, smokers, vapors, etc. People who are already confined to bed, or who spend a lot of time in bed. People already prone to pneumonia.
  4. It stays airborne longer. Someone can sneeze in the grocery store, then minutes later, you might walk through and contract the virus.
  5. It has been found in human feces (poop). It has been theorized that it can live in the sewage systems and travel into your home through your public septic system.

This whole thing is totally depressing and if I was a drinking man, a good excuse to get drunk. As I am not, I will have to make do with the Latte’s at least until the milk runs out.

Written 3/23/2020.

Missing a Mountain Range in Texas.


What Texas is lacking on its Northern Borders, mountains.

Like I said in a previous blog, all you have to do here in Texas is wait for a bit and the weather will change. Yesterday’s high was a nice balmy 70 degrees and I worked out in the yard moving the brush from the bottom of the garden that was the subject of a previous blog. Today, the high was 40 degrees with the forecast to get down to freezing overnight. Realizing this, I went outside and covered all of the outdoor faucets of which there are four dotted around the different ponds. Incidentally, my neighbor across the street is away for this week and I am feeding their kitty so on my trip over to do that, I took the time to cover their outside faucets as well. Hate for them to come home to either a flood or a large water bill or both if their pipes were to freeze.

The problem that geographically Texas has is that there is not a mountain range or even any high ground in its Northern borders with Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas and any bad weather that central USA gets invariably blows south and into Texas. Usually, if we are very lucky, the bad weather fizzles out before it reaches my part of the state which is central Texas and only 223 miles from the Mexican border. Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to get back up to 53 degrees and by Friday, back to 72 and either hiking or finish clearing the brush weather .

Our summers are very hot, winters, not so much.

Written 02/05/2020

Buddy


Buddy just living out his life

One of my little dogs, Buddy, short for Buddy Holly, who was almost blind, deaf as a post, no sense of smell, very senile and almost 14 years old, took a turn for the worse. I had taken him to the vets a week before as he was not eating and they ran a whole bunch of tests, kept him for a week and then sent him home with a stack of pills that I had to administer on a daily basis. The little bugger fought me all the way as I literally forced the bloody things down his throat. He seemed to be doing much better until Thursday when he was more confused than ever and would walk his way into a corner or up against furniture and would just stand there for 10 minutes or so before moving again. He could still figure out the doggy door and when he did go outside on a walkabout, I had to go with him to be sure he didn’t fall into any of the ponds as he would get very confused and rush around from place to place unable to figure things out. On Friday, I had to go to pick up my truck that just had the on board computer replaced and when I came home, Buddy was in a terrible muddle. He had walked under a chair and could not figure how to get out. He had peed everywhere and could not stand on all 4 legs and no matter how hard he tried, he could not do it. So, with a very heavy heart, I took him to the Vets for one last trip and they put him to sleep. I brought him home and buried him alongside of all of the other dogs where he will rest forevermore. So now, our little pack is down to 2 dogs, Mikey and Sandy.

I am not sure if I will find another dog to fill the void left by Buddy but maybe if the right one comes along and gives me that special look, we will bring another one or two, home. Both Mikey and Sandy are acting really quiet as if they know that Buddy has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. My Sister passed on the same day and I will miss them both. Maybe it is because I have a guilty conscience for having to put Buddy to sleep something that I hated to do especially with the memory of Ginnie still very fresh in my mind.

I have lost six dogs, Pete, Richie, BB, Gizmo, Ginnie and now Buddy these past couple of years albeit that most of them were growing old but it is still hard to handle and I miss them all.

Written 3/9/2020

My Final Words to my Sister


My Sister Peggy

I previously blogged about my Sister who was almost 10 years older than me. You can read those blogs here and here.

There were four of us in the family, my two brothers Norman, the oldest and Peter and then my Sister Peggy as she was known. (Her real name was Barbara Eileen and I have no idea where Peggy came from).They were all grouped closely together and then there was me, who arrived 10 years after them. Later on in life, I learned there was a lot of chatter about my Mum having an affair with a guy named Basil from Punnetts Town and the gossip goes that he was my real Father.

Anyway, the point is that I really didn’t know any of them very well until much later in life when we were all adults (sort of adult in my case). Back then, there was a war going on and all three of them enlisted. When they returned, they were all grown up and I was still just a kid and I never got to know them at all. Peter died of the after effects of rheumatic fever that he had contracted during his time in service and which left him with a very weak heart. That left Norman and Peggy who were busy getting on with their own lives. My Mother had met a GI and left us to come to the USA and my Father remarried which was followed by my stint at living with my Step Mother, whom I disliked intensely. I moved again to live first with my Aunt Elsie in Sandy Cross until she became too sick and then moved in with Peggy and Ron and her family in Hailsham for a couple of years as I moved around in my earlier troubled life. I remember that I was often called upon to be the babysitter for their two kids Jim and Sheila, a job that I thought of as unfair to keep me from being with my friends and kicking a football (soccer) ball around.

Both Norman and his second family, having divorced his Egyptian wife that he met during the war, and my Sister and her family followed me over here to America and we all settled in at Fort Plain, New York where our Mother lived with her husband Hermie. That was the closest that we had ever been as a collective family and it only lasted a few years as I moved out to Texas following my marital break up. I barely saw them much after that and then only on the very few trips that I made back to Fort Plain. I came back for Normans funeral when he died of Alzheimer’s and for my one last visit to my Step Father, Hermie prior to his death of lung cancer. Then our Mother died at the ripe old age of 94 and after that, I didn’t see Peggy again. She was the only one of the original family left. She lost her husband Ron and then moved to Florida to live with her Daughter and their family. I kept saying I would go visit but much to my regret, I never made that trip. That was all probably 15-20 years ago and although we stayed in touch we never physically made any more contact. We kept in touch either by letter or by the occasional phone call. One day, a couple of years ago, when I called to speak with her, Gary, Sheila’s husband and with whom Peggy was living, told me to say that she wasn’t mentally doing well and was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s and was very confused. This got progressively worse and when I called a couple of times after that and I tried to talk to her she just ranted on about where she used to live in Hailsham and had no clue to whom she was speaking. That was my last verbal contact with her. A couple of months ago, Gary and Sheila moved her into a special old folks home where she was living out her life and seemingly doing very well. On Friday last, I got a call from Gary telling me that my Sister was gone. She had died in her sleep at the age of 93.

All in all not a very good day all around. The truth is that we never grew up together and I was just a teenager when I lived with them and not really knowing which end was up. Now, as an old man I lack the compassion to feel much of a loss as time and lack of contact has eroded much of the sisterly or brotherly feelings between us. All I can say is that she was my Sister and in my own distant way, I loved her. Because of the Alzheimer’s we had stopped communicating a long time ago. Such a shame but that is the way of the world.

Now, I am the only original member left of this family…

Written 3/9/2020

Musings about life


The Beauty of Life

What is life you might well ask
as it assumes it’s normal task
of keeping each one of us alive
although we know not the reason why
what is that spark that makes us live
and just as quickly can see us die
with a body adapted well as we grow
and returns to the earth when our last breath shows

What is it that the Maker creates
that spark of life to set us free
with only a few short years to our name
instead of living for eternity
and while alive we are at risk
of anyone of a number of things
sickness being the most common of all
many of the sort that our lives will fall.

We each have a limited amount of time
as the body grows old and gives up that spark
hoping to die a natural death
right up to our final breath
while we are alive and in our prime
there is an awful lot of living to do
as we progress our lives through the years
with laughter and happiness sorrow and tears.

Most of us as we go through life
are only concerned to lessen the strife
that impacts our lives and the ones that are dear
not giving a thought to those others out there
who each have their lives doing exactly the same
trying to live to the best of the game
and keep their families safe and sound
as time marches on and consequences abound.

In the end we will all die
no matter how hard we try
keeping fit and eating the right things
not taking risks as if we had wings
keeping our feet firmly on the ground
facing life whose troubles abound
and finally coming to the end
to return to the earth which is now our friend.

I am not afraid to die
yet I want to know the reason why
I did not last a few more years
going through life which I hold dear
leaving friends and pets behind
saying goodbye for that one last time
to return to the earth from where life began
gone forever from this land.

Written 2/12/2020



Another One of Those Gloomy Days


A gloomy and rainy day in Texas

Sitting around at my desk
and staring out of the window
looking at a dark and very grey day
with rain making things look abysmal

Everything is wet and the creeks do flow
and the temperatures is in the low forties
reminding me of England where I was born
the country I left leaving me forlorn.

The difference is that over there
this rainy weather is the norm
I left it to move to a drier state
with the heat of the sun and the rain to abate.

This will not last for very long
as the weather changes quite frequently
and tomorrow the sun will be shining again
and we can resume our activities.

Written 2/11/2020



One of Those Days


Showing the area that has been cleared. Sandy is being nosy.

Have you ever had “one of those days” when you are full of good intentions but somehow, when it comes to the actual doing, it just doesn’t work our? I had one of those days yesterday as I went through a series of events of doing and then not doing and finally doing nothing at all.

Showing the brush at the bottom of the garden still waiting to be dragged up to the gate. This is Murmuring Creek which only murmurs when we get a gully washer.

It was a bright sunny day, just right to continue the brush clearing that I have been working on my property. I only have a half acre lot but over the course of the years have built four ponds two of which are 5000 gallons and 6000 gallons so are a pretty big size. The other two are 3500 and 2000 gallons. I also have two streams of different lengths to add to the water features. All of these ponds are interspersed with gravel pathways making it easy to walk around. Just right for Buddy, my fourteen year old male Dachshund who is not only old but has very poor eyesight, no sense of smell, deaf as a post and I swear is more than a little senile. He manages to find his way around the paths and occasionally wanders down to the bottom of the garden to the area of the Murmuring Creek which, by the way, only murmurs when we have a gully washer of rain. Most of the time, it is a grassy area where he proceeds to lose his bearings and madly rushes from one place to the next until he can get back on track.

Another view of the cleared area

Over the years, I have allowed the lower end of the yard to grow a little wild either by the sprouting tree saplings which are now eight to twelve feet tall and are interspersed with out of control Thyalis and Leadwort Plumbago making for one unholy tangled mess and completely cutting off the view of that end of the yard from the house. As I have already had one episode of Sandy digging her way out resulting in me replacing the electric fence all the way around, it also made sense to cut back all of the extra growth so that I could observe most of the bottom end from indoors. She may not attempt it again as she has already had a shock with the electric fence resulting in her running screaming back to the house so she knows what the wire can do. Incidentally, it is only a doggy shocker and although enough to give her a start, it is not going to really hurt her. Rather the shock than to be dead on the road outside of the fence.

Brush inside the gate waiting to be added to the pile outside

I have already cut down all of the overgrown brush and the tree saplings and cleared all of the Thyalis but the problem is cleaning up the mess. What I have to do is drag the cut material all the way to the double gates and then outside to the temporary brush pile which is already getting out of control and that is currently where I am stuck. Not physically but metaphorically stuck lacking the effort and the willpower to complete this task. It is not that the work is heavy duty but there is a certain amount of effort that goes into it. The hardest part is trying to work the material on top of the existing pile which is already pretty high so as not to take up all of the space at ground level.

A view from the outside gate

It all sounds simple enough and it is. What is not so simple is actually pushing myself to do the work. For several days, I have tried to work up enough enthusiasm to get out and get it done. After all, my part of the heavy work, cutting the material down with my chain saw, is already done but somehow, finding the willpower and energy to do that last little bit seems to elude me.

Yesterday, I battled with these thoughts and finally decided I would go for a hike instead. Much more interesting you would think but after I arrived at Reimers Ranch, it being the closest hike to my house, all I did was drive the roads in the park, sit for a while and meditate and then drive back home. Like they say, it’s all in the mind and mine is going through a lazy spell right now. It’s like going to the gym. The hardest part is actually getting there and walking through the door. The working out is the fun part but first you have to get past that mental blockage of making the effort.

The outside stack ready to be mulched, after I add the rest to it…

You might be wondering what I plan on doing with this large pile of brush which is currently blocking my driveway to the back gates. I have two choices. One is the Brush and Tree clearing company located right across the street from me with one of those big Wood Chippers that blow the material into the back of a covered truck to then be taken away to the composting place. The other is to call the Tree Trimming company that did work for me a couple of years ago and have them haul it off in their trailer. Either way, cost will be the deciding factor.

And then again, who knows when I will find the energy and push myself to complete my end of the task. I read somewhere that it is not that as the body grows older it lacks the strength but that the mind is controlling the situation and making the decisions to do it or not. Just like going to the gym…

Hopefully, by the time you read this it will be all cleaned up and I will have a tidy driveway again.

Written 2/3/2020