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



APS February Meeting – 2020


A pano view of some of the Members.

The Austin Pond Society held their Monthly Meeting this past Monday, February 17th at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin where most of their meetings are held. The only exceptions is when they go on location to other sites such as Mayfield Park or Austin Aqua-Dome and such.

This meeting was attended by around 35 people, some of whom were there on an exploratory basis to see if they wanted to become members which of course we always encourage visitors to do. All were invited to share in the fabulous pizzas along with salads and deserts brought in by the Members.

Bill Biggadike, Kim Reynolds. Steve Garza

At 7:00 pm, Barb, our President, introduced the Speaker for the evening, Bill Biggadike of Bill Biggadike and Associates whose topic for the evening was going to be on Pond and Garden Lighting. Several of the members had expressed an interest in this topic. After a short video, Bill opened up the floor for questions of which there were many and he and his two associates, Kim Reynolds and Steve Garza spent the next hour answering them. Bill apologised for the quality of the video which presented the age old problem of taking pictures at night in the dark and not being able to use artificial light.

Pond and Garden Lighting

Following the presentation, Barb took over and conducted the small bit of business that she had. Julie, as the AAGC Representative was the first person up and gave a brief outline of the meeting that she had attended. Some time was spent in discussing the upcoming Pond Tour to be held on June 6-7. BJ talked about the number of ponds that she currently has on her list and the need for at least a half dozen more. There was also some discussion on the vacancy for a Pond Tour Chairman, a position which is so important and has yet to be filled. We really need someone to pull the Pond Tour all together combining the work by the various individual members and committees that each have separate rolls in getting this great event ready for the Public.

Business Section of the meeting.

The meeting closed with the raffle drawing and the members drifted away after a rapid clean up of the room. The next meeting is scheduled for March 16 and the speaker will be Adam Coffin from The Great Outdoors. His topic will be “Insects and diseases that are new or lesser known” and should be interesting to learn about the creepy crawlies that inhabit our yards and gardens. Hope to see you there.

Written 02/19/2020

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

Reimers Ranch 01-24-2019


A panoramic view showing the winter brown foliage.

The weather was so nice that I just had to get out and take a walk. I settled on Reimers Ranch as it is not too far from my house and around a thirty minute drive. As the Bluetooth unit in the truck had just quit (see my previous blog) I had to rig up a different system which I did by using my portable Bluetooth speaker so that I could listen to Audiobooks as I drive.

I parked in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot and after donning all of my gear, set out across the trail that divides the main Multi Use Trail that encircles the park. This trail comes out at a place known as Johny’s Homestead where a cabin used to stand. This burnt down several years ago and all that remains is the stone chimney. It probably has a history and a story or two if there was any way of finding them.

I struck out on the Multi Use Trail heading in a Northerly direction. The Multi Use Trail is very wide, enough for the Park’s vehicles as they cover the property and very easy walking. The sun was shining very brightly and it was hard to realize that it was a winter’s day. My part of Texas in the middle of the State does not really get a winter in terms of really bad weather. Just the occasional freeze and uncomfortable drops in temperatures although it was a balmy seventy degrees as I walked enough to work up a sweat. I arrived at a spot where the main trail split, one way was a short cut that, if followed cut off a mile or so of the big loop. I chose to take the other trail which is a continuance of the main trail but is known as the Turkey Loop. It swings around for a mile and then rejoins the main trail by the last parking area. I have yet to see any turkeys but I did come across a whole bunch of their footprints so they do exist. The area had some rain and the ground was moist in places enough that the wildlife had left an assortment of tracks. I am so noisy as I walk due to using two walking poles that I am very lucky if I see anything live other than humans or horses.

Cardinal

I did manage to get a picture of a Cardinal sitting in the tree but was very frustrated by my inability to capture any of the other birds that tormented me by flying ahead and when they settled, it was always within a bush or tree and under cover.

Beautiful dogs

I met a young lady who had a couple of very large chocolate labs with her and we stopped and chatted for a bit and she allowed me to take their pictures.

I followed the main trail until I came to the signpost marking the second to last parking area known as River View Parking No 1 where I crossed the paved road so that I could walk the gravel path that overlooks the river. This pathway has been undergoing some extensive repairs and now in many places, it is a concrete path as well as the original gravel. The old pathway was subject to washing out if we ever had any heavy rains. This pathway runs the full extent of the Park from the first parking lot to the last and makes for a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

In several places, the trail overlooks the river but in many others, trees and vegetation block the view. The scenery was a typical winter brown and that was pretty much true throughout the park.

When I arrived at the first parking lot, I ran back into the lady with the dogs and we chatted some more before going our separate ways. Mine was to cross the street and climb the hill to where my truck was parked in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot. I was still the only vehicle parked there but it was a Friday after all. As per my usual custom on any walk, I had sweat enough to warrant a change of clothes for the drive home. Unlike hiking at McKinney Roughs, there was no main office selling ice cream so I had to settle for driving home via Dripping Springs just so that I could grab a latte.

Altogether, I hiked 5.5 miles and enjoyed it immensely. It felt good to get back out on the trails again.

Written 01/25/2020.

My Ford Truck


Once again I find myself back at Covert Ford getting my truck serviced. This time for the 36000 mile service which is of course a big landmark in the lifetime of a Ford vehicle as this signifies the end of the factory warranty. So, unless the owner has purchased additional insurance that covers major repairs, then all repair costs become “out of pocket” to the owner.

Beautiful to look at…

It is hard to believe that I have put that many miles on the truck already. The truck is a 2017 model which I bought in 2018 brand new. Many of those miles are through just driving around listening to Audiobooks which is one of the things that I like to do. The truck is a very nice vehicle and really great to drive and very comfortable. The original intent way back then, was to buy a travel trailer and go camping but with four large Koi ponds that require almost daily supervision, it turned out to not be a very feasible idea. I could trade it in, I suppose, but have no idea what I would buy in its place as I like having the additional safety and protection of the larger vehicle especially with all of the idiot drivers who have very little concern for others on the road. I live in Austin in the great State of Texas and I swear there are some of the worst drivers in the world that live and drive here.

It is always an event to come here to Covert Ford. Firstly, it requires that I get up at some unearthly hour that I haven’t known existed since I retired. Then it takes a thirty to forty five minute drive, depending on the traffic, to get here as it is located way up North from my house. Of course, at that early hour, everyone else is driving like a madman or madwoman to get to their place of employment usually making for a very hazardous trip. The Service Center is always busy and by the time I get here around 7:00 o’clock, there is a long line of vehicles in front of me. Handing over my keys I then go to the very nice waiting room that Covert has provided and take the opportunity to grab a cup of free coffee and sit down with my computer and write a piece generally about this place when I am here.

The guy that checked me in told me it would be between three to four hours as there were a lot of people in front of me. I thought I was early at 7:00 am but apparently not early enough to beat the rush. I prepared myself for a long wait but in fact, they completed the work quicker than expected and I drove out of there at 10:00 am.

As a footnote, the fancy computer that regulates just about everything like Maps, Music and in my case Audiobooks is on the fritz, again. This is the second time this has happened and the only fix is to replace the unit in its entirety. They have to send away for the part so I set up an arrangement that when the part comes in, I will go back and do this all over again. Gotta get it fixed as I can’t listen to Audiobooks without rigging up a bluetooth speaker that I have as a temporary measure.

Here’s to the next trip…

Written 1/24/2020