The Scream

Mama – I need lunch !!!

This delightful young red-tailed hawk has been waking me up every morning, YELLING for breakfast.  It was such a lovely day seeing the baby close up – they have a huge nest in a pine tree behind our neighbor’s house.

Later that day, we set the night camera out and some squirrels came up to us looking for peanuts which we readily provided.  We looked out at them snacking on their peanuts on the top of the fence.  I turned away and Teddy, gasped “Oh no!”.  The enormous (4 foot wing span) Red Tailed Hawk mother snatched one of the wee squirrels off the fence.  I was distraught and convinced it was my fault although objectively I know it is just the circle of life.

We lived on a farm many years ago and woke up to dead sheep or cattle when they had died in the night.  The farmer would drag the carcass onto the drive next to our house so that the knacker man could pick it up.  It couldn’t go for human consumption.  I adapted to farm life but still grieved each loss as I knew them all personally and had named them (Pal, Ilford, Ermentrude, Toffee, Fudge and Moo were my favorites).  Eventually they all went to market anyway.

I struggled to sleep after the squirrel kill but laughingly realized that we have been running a small farm in our backyard.  The stock is fat and healthy – excellent food for a beautiful hawk.  I won’t put any more peanuts out until winter as they have plenty of food.  Someone else is eating every bud off my hibiscus plant…

Teddy took these fabulous shots of the juvenile, about 60 foot up, with his Canon camera that cost more than me – no dowry from a council house! He was offered many camels for me in Egypt, however, and very kindly turned them down.

Cancel Culture or Consequences

I have a secret to share.  For decades I had an overwhelming crush on Kevin Spacey.  I loved all his films; ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ was my favorite and I even went on a pilgrimage to Savannah to see where it was filmed.  In my fantasies, we were going to meet on one of my transatlantic flights and fall madly in love with each other, even though I suspected he was gay.  Then Spacey was charged with a felony charge of an indecency assault and battery against an 18-year-old man.  The prosecutors dropped the charges after the alleged victim stopped testifying.  Our legal system has found Spacey innocent but  subsequently other young men spoke out about his alleged predatorial behavior.  I felt nauseated especially since the storyline in ‘Midnight in the Garden’ was about an older man with a younger vulnerable male.  The consequence of this is that my head and heart have cancelled him.  I will not watch any film with him in it – our ‘affair’ is over.

Growing up in Europe, I have a laissez faire attitude to extramarital sex, polygamous unions, homosexuality and anything else that is part of our human nature to explore.  I don’t care if the Prime Minister of England, for example, has sex with a consenting adult – I would rather have it as common knowledge than a blackmailable secret.  It is the more egregious acts that concern me, such as Bill Cosby’s many offences against women.  In that case, the law prevailed and he is in jail as he should be.  He seemed like a genial actor playing a loveable role; so many of us were fooled.

Paradoxically, when Ellen Degeneres came out as a gay woman, all those years ago, I thought she was treated appallingly.  She was a funny actress/comedienne and didn’t deserve to have her show cancelled because of her personal life.  More recently, however, there were allegations about a toxic environment in her workplace and now she is leaving her long running talk show, although it was not cancelled.  Not being a fan of talk shows, I rarely saw it but on one memorable occasion I watched her interrogate a young famous guest about their love life in a most unpleasant way.  After I saw her do that again, I stopped watching.  It seemed as though she was hiding an unlikeable trait behind the ‘Be Kind’ message.  Maybe she has a giant chip on her shoulder about her previous experience?

In every day life, there aren’t enough consequences for bad behavior.  If a contractor messes up, I won’t give a bad review online but I won’t use them again.  Far too often, creepy workmen have behaved inappropriately to me and my friends, when we have been home alone with them.  When I last had a carpet cleaning crew in my house, on of the technicians sat on MY BED WITH ME where I was sitting to get out their way.  I now have  my own carpet cleaning machine.  On a hilarious but very frightening occasion another acquaintance called the police when the window cleaner stripped naked in her house – he was deported back to Europe.  He thought his saggy dad-bod would entice her to have sex with him…

I also believe that it is unfair that someone is painted black when they may be innocent.  Surely most of us have the common sense to work out which ones have far too much smoke, along with the fire?  If I feel that there is a genuine apology about an action that was unpalatable, I can accept that.  People who are in the public eye, whatever their role, must know that there is an expectation for them to behave within the confines of social norms.  In Egypt belly dancers get arrested if they are too provocative – just as well they don’t have Hooters there.  Programs get cancelled for the weakest of reasons so it should come as no surprise when an offensive action is the reason for a cancellation.  My final cancellation is Woody Allen.  Everyone has their own reason for liking him or not.  His work does not appeal to me although he has employed some excellent actors.  I don’t know if the sexual allegations from his children or child are true but I can’t tolerate someone marrying their step-daughter even if it was technically legal.

This is Merriam-Webster’s Definition of cancel culture

the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling (see CANCEL entry 1 sense 1e) as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure

Before we had social media we still had cancel culture – we sent people to Coventry in the UK. Wikipedia states ‘To send someone to Coventry is an English idiom meaning to deliberately ostracize someone. Typically, this is done by not talking to them, avoiding their company, and acting as if they no longer exist.’

“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.”
― Robert G. Ingersoll

Dungarees or Overalls?

My Texan friends always look perplexed when I refer to the outfit above as dungarees, “Oh you mean overalls”.  I checked the web and technically both are right but here, in Texas, my apparel is a ‘bib overall’.  Whatever you want to call them, I had a penchant for a pair two years ago.  On a trip to Scotland in 2019, I found a perfect pair of bib overalls and matching blouse in H & M (in the clearance rack, naturally).  I wondered if I was too old to wear them at age 60 but I think I rock them!

Close up of bib overalls

I still refer to H & M as Hennes from their original name Hennes and Mauritz.  It is a Swedish based company and on one particularly awful trip to Stockholm, the airline lost all our clothes and MY WHEELCHAIR!  There was no offer to lend me one, or connect me to their Red Cross.  They couldn’t give a skit, as they say in Sweden and got the sharp end of my tongue, to no avail.  We needed to get some clothes and headed to Hennes.  I could walk a few yards and perhaps had a stick?  Nothing fitted me but Teddy got the best clothes he has ever worn.  They were finished properly with excellent material and lasted for years.  My new outfit from 2019 was well made too but not quite the same quality. 

As I Googled for H & M, I noticed a variety of forums that suggested that because H & M promoted fashionable clothes it wasn’t an eco-friendly store.  Well, I will still be wearing mine for a decade, as Teddy did his, but I really prefer thrift stores.  I noticed that we have a new baby critter in the garden – a blue tailed Skink.  As you can see, he is the same size as a peanut shell but he will grow to about a foot including his tail.  He is very welcome because he loves tree roaches and cicadas – eat away little skink!

It’s a little fuzzy because it was taken through the window but his dungarees are even cuter than mine!

Voiceovers are not my forte…

…as you can hear below. This is my homage to Janey Godley who has kept me sane during the pandemic with her hilarious voiceover videos. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. What is it about our own voices that cause us to cringe? This is a real video from our garden with two squirrels on our outside cat house, Lesley is on the roof and Danielle is down below. I placed blackberries up the stairs to get a fun video.

Perhaps a wee bit of helium would have helped? In my head I believe my funny voices and penguin walks are hilarious but you can see why Teddy is ready to go back to work! This is how it should be done – there is a couple of wee sweary words but it made me laugh out loud. Happy Memorial Weekend!

Spring Growth

Japanese Yew Buds

It has been a hard year for our poor, wee garden but to be honest I think the big Texas Freeze has given most of the original plants a boost. There is bright green growth everywhere and some delightful buds. This white buds on the Yew have just a tinge of blue in them.

I have no idea what this bush is – can anyone help? This is the first time I have seen blossoms in such abundance.

Even my tropical Ti plants have started new growth – they are for zone 10-12 and we are 9. They were both about 5′ tall before the freeze and don’t usually die back in a typical winter season.

You can always depend on old faithful Lantana to bounce back. This eventually turns into a mixed orange and pink blossom – each one has a slightly different variation of colors. Below is the yellow version.

This is one of three brand new Coleus plants. I love the lime and burgundy version. Our garden centers are now like supermarkets were at the start of the Pandemic/Toilet Tissue crisis. There is little stock and it all costs twice as much. I just buy the inexpensive plants at our local grocery store and they look great. Sometimes I see the nursery man deliver them and he suggests the best ones.

I have a soft spot for this Texas Mountain Laurel – it is indigenous and my neighbor gave me it because it didn’t like her garden. She has thrived in ours and is covered with spikes which should turn purple with the most beautiful grape scent. It is also known as Mescal Bean. The red seeds are highly poisonous and contain a narcotic/hallucinogen compound. I see a “Breaking Bad” retirement in our future…☣️

Ne’er cast a cloot ’til May is oot

The title is the Scottish version of an English phrase “Ne’re cast a clout till May is out” or in plain English – “Never take off a layer of clothing until the end of May”.  It is an archaic phrase, probably from medieval times, and there are similar phrases in France and Spain.  I was tickled by the Spanish phrase “Hasta el cuarenta de Mayo no te quites el sayo!” “Until the 40th of May, do not take off your coat”.  Every May, even here in the sub tropics in south east Texas, we always get a wee cold snap.  In April our temperatures were heading up to the high 80s and I started thinking of getting the summer clothes out.  On May 4th (Star Wars Day) the high in Houston was 90F/32C and on May 5th it was down to 63F/17C – no wonder I had to wear my favorite fleecy cat socks.  If you live in Canada or Scotland, you might be cursing me, “63 degrees sounds like summer to me…”

It occurred to me that I have very few summer clothes despite where I live.  In Scotland I had a tiny box of summer vacation clothes that lasted for 20 years.  Everything else was clothes that could be layered along with a few polar jackets/sweaters.  Our neighboring village had snow one June – WTH?  It was a cold snap and we lived on a high plateau with nothing between us and the Arctic.  At least our clothes dried quickly – sometimes hard frozen.  My body temperature runs cool like a really good car – the temperature in the house is 76 degrees and I am wearing a light sweater but my feet are cold.

I love warmth but not really strong sunlight.  Living in a forest helps because in tree shade the temperature can drop by 20 degrees.  We have a pair of beautiful water oaks who live in the reserve but their canopy covers our deck giving us delicious shade.  I thank them by spraying them up and down with the garden hose.  I swear that the Live Oak in the front trembles with pleasure when I hose her down on a hot day.  Teddy and I enjoy sitting in our rockers under the Water Oaks although I am always afraid of a Cicada falling on my head.  Their song is wonderful but they give me the jitters.  So, so glad that we don’t live in any of the States who are about to greet Brood X 2021.  For non-Americans, there is a type of Cicada that emerges every 17 years in Ohio and neighboring states.  If you don’t like Cicadas it is like Hitchcock’s famous horror movie The Birds.  In the next few days 1.5 million per acre will be emerging – that is BILLIONS of them. Apparently they taste like shrimp when cooked – I will never know…

Graph courtesy of USDA Forest Service and VOX

Postscript

The Brood X has been delayed a few days by this cold snap making the anticipation even greater.

Back to my roots

New hair, Topshop Dress, Ralph Lauren Denim jacket

As a treat to myself, I went to a salon to have my hair dyed. I read all the reviews, chose Aveda color and booked the appointment. I mentioned that my hair was very difficult to color but she said she ‘loved a challenge’… When I was in the chair, I asked what shade # she was using and she assured me it was an 8 Ash – which is medium to dark blonde.

She went off to start someone else’s hair and I thought “my hair is going dark” – sometimes the porous gray soaks up all the color. I could have interrupted her but I thought I would just go with the flow – part of my new evolution (kinder, patient). When it was washed out, I could see the perplexity in her face. She asked me what I thought of it. “It’s darker than I imagined but I quite like it”. She offered to dye it lighter but I said no with a genuine smile on my face.

When I got home, I went into the shower and washed it with dish wash liquid, twice, to no avail. Finally, I decided I really liked it but I will probably try to do it myself the next time.

This is my newly retired husband and I, enjoying a meal out for the first time in a year? Teddy had been planning a staggered retirement for a few years – he may work part-time or contract but is having a much deserved break for a couple of months. We are treading warily around each other and I am trying out the new sweeter Kerry. Somedays it works!

PS I am in soft focus in the shot above but it isn’t a Kardashian Kaper – just a crappy old cell phone.

PPS In the first photo it looks like my right foot is on the wrong way (like an adjustable Barbie doll) – that is the leg/foot I had surgery on and it is wonky (clinical term).

Infinity Pool

This might look like a Pyrex dish to you but for our garden fur/feather babies, it’s an infinity pool. They even have a wee towel on the diving rock….

This is my man at work – he is Scottish so that’s why his feet have a blue hue. The original ceramic pool/watering hole froze over during our big freeze and cracked apart.

Katniss’ old house was falling apart, mostly because the squirrels ate the underside of the roof. Que? Teddy suggested that it might have been stuck together with animal glue. Gah! With his retirement imminent, he has decided to take on handyman tasks. His perfect roof repair is below. I did the exterior decoration and very bravely took out all the leaves inside the house. It was a perfect space for a snake to hibernate…

Everything about life is perception. This gave us so much pleasure and made us laugh. We put out the camera trap to see who uses the AirB&B. Isn’t this Eastern Gray Squirrel cute, concentrating on her delicious blackberry while the young ‘uns were scampering around?

I make handmade soaps…

I bet you thought my hobby would be way more exciting – Hot Air Ballooning or writing smutty novels under a pseudonym (that’s for the future 💋). Ever since Lush was launched in the UK, decades ago, I have been in love with the idea of making soaps. When we moved to the USA, there were amazing shops like Hobby Lobby where I could indulge my passion.

I didn’t make the wine…it was a gift for Teddy

Teddy absolutely adores my soaps which are now made of high quality melt and pour soap with gorgeous scents. Some of my friends still enjoy getting the occasional one but even I got fed up with it. At the beginning, about 15 years ago, I was going to set up a business and sell at craft stores. There were a couple of orders for mini soaps for baby showers. After the whole house smelled of lilac for a themed shower, I realized I couldn’t stand it.

The little Lone Star soaps were created for expats who were leaving Texas. Aren’t they cute? Do you have any surprising hobbies?

Evolving

No filter, no makeup, just Kerry

Until I moved to the USA, I had no idea that some people did not believe in the concept of evolution.  Charles Darwin and some brave predecessors deciphered the basic tenets of evolution despite wide dissent.  His book ‘On the Origin of Species’ was a masterpiece although undoubtedly flawed.  As more fossils of every species are uncovered our knowledge changes and develops. The virus Covid-19 is a master of change, evolution and mutation.  The sadness of a pandemic is that we are all affected – two members of my family have died from Covid-19.  One was 22 years old.

With intolerable mass shootings in the States and rising violence throughout the world, one can see that the effects of the Pandemic ripple out.  A tsunami is barely noticeable at sea until it hits the shore with devastating results.  Not everything about ‘now’ is negative.  Most of us have stopped and smelled the flowers.  Our gardens or plant pots are better cared for than they ever were.  Our pets and garden animals are subject to our endless gazes or affection.

Quarantine started at a pivotal time in my life.  Last year I turned 60 years old; officially becoming a senior. My husband is retiring this month and our lives will turn a new corner.  I doubt I would have paid much attention to sexagenarian status without the Pandemic.  In my denial, there would have been endless fashion posts, new makeup and exciting hair colors.  Instead, we all slumped into loungewear and natural skin.  At first that felt great but now it is boring yet comfortable.

I have a mild form of body dysmorphia and rarely see the truth in the mirror.  Curiously, when I was obese, I thought I looked fine and now I always want to be slimmer/younger/prettier.  I am not alone, supermodel Pauline Porizkova recently stated that she was somewhere between Jennifer Lopez and Betty White; referencing the invisibility that older women feel.  What is wrong with ageing?  It should be something we aspire to but modern society is consumed by the idea of eternal youth.

It doesn’t help that this last year has made most of us look a little older; the stress shows in our furrowed brows.  A smile would change our visage but it is masked.  Now we look out for crinkling around the eyes to see that someone is smiling at us.  In this new thoughtful phase of my personal evolution, I am beginning to accept that I am an attractive older woman.  Young men won’t whistle anymore but I get appreciative glances from older men who also feel sad about ageing.  My mother was a beautiful woman who aged gracefully.  A neighbor once made the cruelest comment to me referencing my mother, “Isn’t it sad when beautiful women age?”

My personal evolution is deeper than that.  I mentioned in the previous post, Change is Inevitable, that I didn’t like what I saw behind my eyes.  If you asked a friend to describe me, the words kind and funny might be said.  During self reflection during sequestration the following words seemed more apt.  Impatient, testy, judgmental, insular, anti-social, fussy, undeviating and unkind.  Was I a good manager or am I inflexible?  Am I a good friend or wife?  Not always.  I could blame my mental illness for some negative elements of my personality but that is disingenuous.  In my life, I have met so many mentally ill people who were adorable, the opposite or somewhere betwixt.

Prior to the pandemic, I worked, volunteered and was social.  When we first moved overseas, I made a huge effort to be social and get involved with my community.  This continued with the move to Texas but it is not my natural self.  I struggle with small talk, coffee mornings or girl’s nights out.  WordPress has been a source of comfort for me to meet like-minded people.  Quarantine gave me the perfect excuse to retreat to my nest with my bonded mate and I know how lucky we are.  So, what is the outcome of this reflection?  I am going to try to be a better person to everyone I know.  My base personality will remain the same but I can be thoughtful, gentler, compassionate and sweeter.  My evolution has not finished and wouldn’t life be dull if it did?

This is a Pizzly Bear (courtesy of BBC)

Climate change is affecting all species, in particular the Polar Bear. As the world warms, Grizzly Bears are moving further north and interacting with Polar Bears. In a wonderful turn of events, they are interbreeding and their hybrid cubs are fertile. They are the same species but one is brown and the other white. All of homo sapiens were brown before the diaspora from Africa. Those who went furthest north developed fair skin, over generations, to allow their skin to access essential Vitamin D from the weaker sun’s rays. You could describe this as a mutation or evolution. I identify with the Pizzly Bear, we are both of mixed race, have wrinkles and we are BEAUTIFUL!