Kerry Miranda

Can you believe this guy is a professional photographer?  WTH – I have a plant growing out of my head.  It is hard to imagine but there was a life before the Pandemic hit.  Every year Houston hosts the largest Rodeo in the world, natch.  As much as I would love to visit, there are just too many people in one place.  This year we decided to go to our nearest town, Tomball, where the Sam Houston Trail Riders arrive by horses and wagons from Plantersville for a reception/meal/bunk.  It was cold but gloriously bright (which is maybe why Teddy couldn’t see the plant), so we arrived early in great anticipation.  The location was around the old railway station so we had a look inside, for the first time in 16 years.  Why do we always ignore the history right beside us?

Which one is real?

My husband looks like a real cowboy – until he opens his mouth…  It has been a long time since there was a working station office at Teague or Tomball but there is still a working commercial railroad.  I was 20 minutes late for a dental appointment when I had to wait patiently on the other side of the line.  We met a charming docent who told us all about the train museum.  He was fascinated by our Scottish accents and had another regular Scottish visitor who comes to the museum when he sees family in Texas.  The world is full of train geeks.

Kerry got friendly with the station master…

Halfway through the rodeo, we got news that the Pandemic had reached us and for the first time in the Houston Rodeo’s history it was cancelled.  One of the first patients in our county had visited the Rodeo but had not traveled anywhere else.  After a month in our local hospital, he finally recovered and got to go home.  It was touch and go but he was one of the lucky ones.  More posts about the trail ride to come.

 

Heaven und Hell

This is St, Mary’s old church, or die alt Kirchee in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Below is a closeup of the marker.  We still use the work Kirk in Scotland to refer to Protestant churches, usually Church of Scotland.  I knew a Scottish lady here in Texas who hunted fruitlessly for a church that resembled anything like churches in Scotland.  Everything was either too Mega, think Joel Olsteen, or Happy Clappy as we refer to evangelists in Scotland.  I suggested she try the Catholic Church as they are pretty similar all over the world.  Her look of dismay could have turned me to stone…😈

Just across the road from these lovely churches is a dark, imposing building…

Doesn’t that look scary???  It is right across from both the courts and Catholic Cathedral just to enhance what poor life choices you made, back in the day.  They don’t play around with Crime and Punishment in Texas.

I try to be a good citizen and I lit a candle in the church for my recently departed uncle.  Then Teddy and I raised a glass of wine for him and he would have thoroughly approved.  To add more brownie points for my ‘trying to get to Heaven’ profile, I intervened with a tourist situation in the fudge store.  I saw a family of white Latin Americans, maybe Argentinean, speaking softly, in Spanish, while looking at the wonderful, delicioso fudge.  The girl behind the counter couldn’t hear that they were speaking another language and she said, rather loudly, “Do y’alls want chocolate coated fudge?”  They looked at her, perplexed, and I asked if I could help them. “Mi espanol es malo, voy a tratar!”  They smiled and said they were just looking.  I passed on the translation to the girl behind the counter who looked with astonishment at the German looking lady (me) who spoke Spanish.  It is a small, strange world.

BTW, according to family records my Dellinger relative came to North Carolina from Oberacker in Bavaria.  No wonder I like living in a forest…🌲🌲🌲

Fredericksburg ist Wunderbar!


It took us many hours to drive to Fredericksburg, mostly because it is 235 miles from our home but also it was Christmas time and we had to pass south of Austin. Austin has the unfortunate title of most congested city in Texas (and you thought Houston traffic was bad…) Would y’alls please stop moving to Texas??? We tried to stop in Bastrop but they were queuing out the door for the only open restaurant downtown on Sunday and it was bloody freezing. There is a distinct difference in weather between our house in the swampy south and the drier climate of the middle of Texas in hill country. We ended up at a Dunkin Donuts but it was fine.


When we finally reached Fredericksburg, we quickly unpacked and left our hotel which was disappointing. Ah well, the weather was beautiful – vividly blue skies with cool, clear weather and sunshine. It seemed that most of Austin and San Antonio was visiting Fredericksburg but there was a fun atmosphere. There seemed to be more wineries since we last visited and now you can drink wine in a disposable cup along the main street, meandering between wineries, on a SUNDAY! I bet some of the original inhabitants were turning in their graves… When we moved to Texas, almost 16 years, I was delighted and fascinated that many counties were still dry (no alcohol). Modern life has reached us but you still can’t buy hard liquor on a Sunday.

If you are wondering about my hypocrisy – ‘unwanted people moving to Texas” – of course I have German ancestors in the Heinz 57 variety of my DNA! My great grandparents were Dellingers who settled in North Texas in the 1880s. The original Dellinger was from Baden in Germany. I think that gives me a legitimate claim to thoroughly enjoy all aspects of German Texas… 😊 Just recently an Irish cousin discovered that our Leonard ancestors in Ireland were originally Leinnarts from Germany – that was a real surprise. It shouldn’t have though been because several people spoke to me in German on both visits to Fredericksburg. I just pretend that I am REALLY German because it makes visitors happy. When I was 7, I went on a trip to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I was wearing a kilt and Aran sweater with long dark ringlets. A group of American tourists wanted to take photographs of the cute little Irish colleen and my mum whispered, “Don’t tell them you are American.”

By the time Teddy and I reached the end of the Main Street we were desperate for a drink and enjoyed a gorgeous local rose wine from a winery which quenched our thirst. We started talking to another couple, about our age, with that excitement you get when meeting another couple on vacation. They were just visiting for the day but we enjoyed chatting together, losing our inhibitions. On our solo return we realized that our tummies were empty. I could smell an amazing smell right behind this winery – Fischer and Weiser. They were only serving snacks when we went in but told us that the smell emanated from a tiny shack behind the street. I would have missed it, if the staff hadn’t pointed it out.

I haven’t eaten a burger since the ‘80s but this was the best that I have ever had! The delightful owner, Jennie, makes the burgers from smoked brisket and they were soooo good. When she told me she was from Peru then it all made sense – Peru is the gastronomic capital of Latin America. Everything tastes amazing, even the bread. So we go all the way to Fredericksburg and eat a burger made by a lovely Peruvian lady – but I bet it was local beef! It was the Sunday before Christmas but warm enough to eat outside in twilight. Welcome to Texas.

Fredericksburg Fox Squirrel

As we meandered along the beautiful High Street, we noticed that the visitors had changed. At one time it was mostly white local visitors but now the Far East and Latin America were represented. Many of them seemed like family groups – I guess this might be one of the destinations for visitors arriving at Houston. So many hundreds of thousands of snowbirds fly in during the winter holidays. On that note, I read a hilarious piece in my news feed about flocks of Grackles terrifying the North! They are migratory sub tropical birds that settle in vast roosts – so successful in the Houston area that they are spreading North.

Grackle, courtesy of Pixabay

There was too much sunshine to make this a good shot but I just love Teddy surrounded by giant Cacti!

Medina, Texas

On our little trip to Fredericksburg, in the Texas Hill Country, we took a road trip to Bandera which is the Cowboy Capital of Texas.  Teddy had been longing to buy some arrowheads that he had spotted at the huge Antique mart a few years back.  It’s possible that they were the same ones but arrowheads are plentiful in this part of Texas.  As we were browsing, I spotted the mart cat and just had to pick him up for a close cuddle.  He was a snuggly, if heavy, brown tabby cat who purred even when I handed him to Teddy.  His cuddles lightened our hearts somewhat. The staff told me they would sell him for $99.99…  I might have bought him if they weren’t joking about their much loved mouser.

We had lunch at the down home restaurant, filled with locals before we took the back road to Medina, on our return to Fredericksburg.  We spotted this old girl on our way back to the car – I want one just like that…

Medina is a small village, famous for apple orchards.  I was desperate for a good coffee and to my astonishment, I found the best latte west of Austin.  Core Coffee shop was so unique.  It was run as part of an evangelical mission and the coffee was from Honduras.  Every single item in the restaurant had a religious theme – from the crosses on the wall and mugs to the bible on the coffee table.  There were even scriptures in the immaculately clean ladies bathroom.


It was a huge improvement on the generic Starbucks and the staff were charming and friendly.  It was not a rich community but it looked like a lovely place to live.  The light was so bright that I struggled to get a decent shot of the main street so I sepia-ed the second shot.  It could be from the 1950’s.

Texas Landman business in Medina. The building is made of local limestone.

Medina Main Street

Always save the tree!

I am a map reader and find it impossible to follow a GPS instruction so I noted that the road from Bandera to Medina, then Kerrville, looked remote and interesting.  As we were driving away from Medina, I spotted what looked like a deer fence around a ranch.  Then I saw a striped animal – it  was a Zebra in the middle of Texas!  Then I realized it was an exotic animal fence but why just one Zebra?  He looked so lonely – maybe there were other friends beyond my view.  Then we started to climb dramatically.  There were switchbacks and very steep gradients with road strips that warned me I was going too fast at 30 mph – that ain’t happened before!  It was too dangerous to really look at the view or stop for many miles.

Finally, I found somewhere to stop and take in the view.  No tourists – just trees and hills.  A little piece of heaven.  Well it might have been Heaven if my passenger had stopped cringing every time I turned a precarious corner – “Watch the edge!” is still ringing in my ears. 😀

 

The Grinch won’t leave!

What is it about the holidays?  My mental health is better than it has been in months but still the festive season pushes all my buttons.  I think I used to enjoy Christmas but at some point it just became stressful.  It was better when there was very little money in our lives.  Presents were much needed and usually a delight – despite a white and brown polyester dressing gown that I had to wear for years…  In later years my late crazy mother got her knickers in a twist about the varieties of Christmas puddings and drove her daughter nuts trying to find the PERFECT one.  Remember when there was only one or you made your own?

As my mental health was improving during fall, I got very busy creating postcards from Teddy’s beautiful images.  Then I started on my handmade soaps and enjoyed the process.  I wrapped them prettily and gifted them to everyone.  It backfired somewhat as I made some friends feel that they had to reciprocate.  The true joy is in giving with no expectations.

Then Teddy got some unanticipated leave from his new job and we went to Fredericksburg for Christmas, possibly the most famous German town in central Texas Hill Country.  It was really beautifully decorated and the weather was fantastic – photos to follow.  Despite enjoying my environment, historic buildings and endless wineries, I couldn’t stop being irritated.

  • There were too many tourists yet we were two of them…
  • The other cars were driving like crazy Grinches – especially through Austin, the most traffic-congested city in Texas.
  • Our luxurious room wasn’t quite clean enough (it really wasn’t).
  • I was bored and tired.
  • The road from Medina to Kerrville was ridiculous – hairpin bends and really steep gradients. I guess I missed the point about visiting the hill country.
  • Teddy sleeps like an owl and I am like a bear. Maybe I should hibernate through winter??
  • Other guests. That’s a standalone but they were talking outside in broad daylight, beeping their cars locked and worse still, talking in their room at 7 pm.  They ate all the breakfast.

I know what you are thinking – poor Teddy.  It’s true that he put up with a Grinch wife but we still had wonderful meals and laughed all the time.  I am hoping that made up for the time, after driving for hours in silence, I turned on the CD to keep myself focused AND THEN he started talking.  I told him to Shut the F*** Up and gave him the finger.  Thirty seven years and counting – I love you Teddy!!!!

 

Cute Closeups

Miss Franklin, Texas 2019

What a beauty this little girl is – those brown eyes and eyelashes!

Burro Whiskers!

PLEASE give me a snack, Teddy???

Ilford – only the oldies will get that moniker.  I will give you a clue – what color is she??

This is my best side…

I only have one curly horn but still I am handsome…

A glorious little redhead – Cersei, perhaps?

Weird Wednesday

Yeah, it’s perfectly normal to see a tame black vulture on a beat up truck in backwoods Texas…

Teddy is really blowing kisses at a camel – we miss them so much!  It’s also hump day.  Happy Wednesday!

This lovely Ankole-Watusi who has the largest horns in the bovine world made me cry with laughter.  Teddy has normal OCD and his crazy fear is sticky hands/stuff.  This glorious critter was so excited to see his first guests at Franklin Safari park that as soon as I took the photo, he leaned in and DROOLED!  It was filling up the side pocket of the car…and Teddy was beginning to panic.  Once I stopped laughing we gently rolled the window up and I passed over the disinfectant wipes that I have to carry for Teddy.  He was torn between his delight at being so close and his horror at the drool.

Only one of us could ever live at a farm…

Courtship

These are African grey crowned cranes – although it was silent I imagined I could hear tribal drums.

So many of us start a courtship with a dance.  I met Teddy at my friend’s raucous 21st birthday party and one dance was all it took.  Skip to 38 years later and we just spent a fabulous weekend visiting Franklin Safari Park, just north of College Station.  We rarely took vacations together lately because of our sick elderly cat.  I was desperate to see and touch animals because the house is so quiet and this was just perfect.  Many more amazing photographs to come.

Holy Rosary Church, Rosenberg, TX

At first glance this Roman Catholic church in Rosenberg, Texas, seemed a little plain but the stained glass was spectacular.

The names, on the historical sign, give you a little insight into the original settlers in this little town.  From the memorials, it seemed as though there was an equal mix of Czech, German, Irish and latterly Hispanic.  I was touched by the little rose garden planted for loved ones who had passed on.  Every Catholic Church I have visited in Texas has been open to any visitors and that fills me with hope for a trusting, accepting future.

My love of languages


Recently one of my posts was liked by a blogger called “Operation X”. My interest was piqued; a 007 fan or something more sinister? Did you know that the word sinister is derived from the Latin word for left? To my surprise and delight, Ken Ho’s blog focuses on minority languages. One particular post on Frisian languages caught my eye and it turns out my husband knows a Frisian speaker. After commenting on his post, Ken asked me if I would collaborate on the subject.

Y’all (Southern USA dialect) know my moniker ‘Chatty Kerry’ and I really do chatter in a variety of languages but only proficiently in English. I was born in San Francisco to an Irish mother and Mexican American father. My grandmother Juanita Ortega spoke Spanish although her family had been in California for generations.

As a child we moved from the USA to Formentera, part of the Balearic Islands east of the Spanish mainland. I have no memory of this experience but my mum later taught me some basic Spanish words. Then we moved to Scotland where I lived with my Nana, Mum and extended family. Although Nana had been brought up in Liverpool, England, with a rather plummy accent, she had married my grandfather Daniel McHugh who had a farm in County Sligo, Ireland. My aunt told me that they learned Irish Gaelic at school but after the death of my grandfather they moved to Scotland to learn yet another form of English. As a child, my Nana taught me my numbers in Irish Gaelic.

We lived on a public housing estate that was full of first generation Irish immigrants many of whom were from County Donegal. Gaelic was still spoken as a first language there and immigrants brought it with them to Glasgow. I watched housewives with headscarves and pinafores chat in Irish Gaelic on street corners. My Nana told me that they talked in Gaelic so they could gossip privately but I think that it was just a comfort to speak in the language of your country. All their children spoke English as a first language and few of them retained any Irish Gaelic. When I was 12 I went to a huge Roman Catholic High School with so many languages spoken at home. This was in the early 70’s so Glasgow had an influx of immigrants after WWII. The Catholics came from Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Italy. For the most part their parents still spoke the language of their birth country but all the children quickly segued into English like most second generation immigrants.

One of my childhood friends spoke some Scots Gaelic and I was fascinated! Scots and Irish Gaelic are similar in origin but they sound very different. Scots Gaelic was mostly spoken as a first language in the Western Islands. In an odd twist of fate after the Protestant reformation, each of the islands became predominately Protestant or Catholic. My friend’s family comes from South Uist which was Catholic, yet North Uist is Protestant. Her family members still speak Scots Gaelic fluently. Then I met my husband whose family were Protestant and from the North East of Scotland.

Shortly after I married, I met most of his family from Peterhead, the biggest fishing port in Europe. The dialect is so strong in that area that I barely understood what his uncle was saying. The language is interspersed with Scandinavian, Dutch and old Pictish words. Many of the local towns start with PIT, such as Pitmedden, which indicates it was a Pictish nameplace. We lived in two villages in the 80s and 90s. One was Auchnagatt, a derivation of an old Gaelic word Achadh nan Cat that translates to field of the cats. The other was Maud which derives from Allt Madadh translated as stream of the dog/wolf. It very often rained cats and dogs in both villages… Scots Gaelic was spoken in the area generations before but the language had evolved in a complex dialect of English. Each fishing or farming community had distinct differences in language.

Immediately after we married we moved to North Wales were locals still actively speak Welsh, another Celtic language. There was some enmity between English incomers and the local population but they accepted us because we had Scottish accents. I regularly mediated in arguments between the opposing factions. Wales has made a huge effort to increase the language usage. All public documents have to be printed in Welsh and English. Children learn both languages at school. It is astonishing that they put such effort into a language spoken by so few people but admirable. It became obvious that you couldn’t really work for the local government without having a working knowledge of Welsh.

In 2002 we moved to Egypt and I had to learn some Egyptian Arabic, distinctly different from Gulf Arabic, for example. Their second language was English or French both of whom colonized Egypt at some point in the past. I took Arabic classes but I honed my skills by talking to shop-keepers and taxi driver who delighted in correcting my accent. It was then that I realized that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. My Arabic was good enough to argue at the souk or get the correct groceries but it would have taken many more years to learn it fluently. It was fun learning a new language with a good friend from Ukraine. She also learned English from me and her new husband from New Zealand – how strange her accent was.

In 2004 we unexpectedly moved to Houston, Texas, USA – which is officially the most ethnically diverse city in the USA with the most languages spoken. We brought three Egyptian street cats who understood commands in both English and Arabic. When they were naughty, I would say, No! If that didn’t work I had to revert to Arabic, Laa! That always worked and until they died they understood Arabic commands. To my surprise, I found that I had deep roots in Texas from my paternal grandfather’s family. Not only had my great-grandparents been married just north of Dallas but my grandfather was an Oiler in the 20’s and 30’s.

It would be a mistake to think that Texans speak the same form of English that we did in Scotland. Not only is the dialect and phraseology unique but there are nuances lost on a European. Rarely do southern women use curse words but it is increasingly common to F bomb in the UK. The sweetest of Texan phrases, “Why bless your heart!” has a sting in the tail. In Texas it really means you are stupid or ignorant. Since moving here, I have had worked for the airport system, with clients and passengers. I started working there because I still had some rudimentary Arabic but now I speak ‘Aeroporto Espanol’. Houston is a hub for Latin America and who knew so many variations of Spanish existed? Only the Peruvians speak Castilian Spanish which is similar to modern European Spanish. In Lima, I was able to argue effectively for a decent taxi fare to the annoyance of the machismo taxi driver. I can now identify different types of Latin Spanish but Uruguay defeats me. They speak the strangest mix of Spanish and Italian evolving from the early settlers.

One of our first travel trips from Houston was to Louisiana, specifically to Cajun country, where they speak an archaic blend of French and local patois. Don’t ever tell a French Canadian from Quebec that it is an archaic form of French…apparently it is one of the most quickly evolving languages! In the late 1700’s settlers came from France to Quebec in Canada and Louisiana in the USA. They remained isolated partly because of the extreme conditions of both places. Cajuns live in a Waterworld of swamps and bayous. Their ancestors survived on hunting – everything! Heron was one of the favorite dishes (gah!) but raccoon and opossums also make their way into pies. Houston has been badly affected by many recent floods and we are so grateful to volunteers named ‘The Cajun Navy’. At the height of the devastation by Hurricane Harvey, the Cajun Navy came from East Texas and Louisiana in their big trucks with boats attached. They rescued so many people from flooded homes and areas. Their skills with living in a harsh environment have made them naturally skilled in water evacuations. I watched a TV interview with a Cajun hero during the Hurricane and I still don’t know what he said!

Much more recently I discovered from a DNA test that some of my ancestors were Native Mexican – I could not have been more excited or surprised. This started a series of trips into Mexico from Baja to the Yucatan. On a trip to Merida in the Yucatan, I was staying at a boutique hotel. The owners were French but the chef was native Mexican. The menu was in French and the local language, Yucatec Maya. It may as well have been Klingon… I studied French at school for many years so I can read a menu but some words could not be translated, in particular local vegetables. The consonant X was used frequently and soft intonations. My driver kept correcting my pronunciation of Spanish despite my laughing protest that I had to speak regular Mexican Spanish at work. The word, “Yo” meaning I, is spoken as it sounds in most of Mexico but in the Yucatan they say “Cho” or “Sho”. I noticed that some of my colleagues in Houston are shy to use their limited Spanish but that is the only way to learn it properly even if it causes someone to laugh. My bad Spanish has allowed me to trek safely around Latin America. Most countries appreciate you trying to speak their language no matter how bad it is. Usually I start a sentence with an apology, “Mi Espanol es malo…” and the response is almost always, “Mi ingles es malo tambien!” (My English is bad too).

We hope to retire in Texas, our feet firmly planted in the soil, and I look forward to many new languages crossing my path. It is pretty easy in Houston – everyone is from somewhere else. My hairdresser is Thai, our handyman is from Chile, the gardener is from Mexico and our street is like a small UN base. We have neighbors from Ukraine, Argentina, Japan, India, France and even some Yankees. Well, nowhere is perfect!