Letters from America – Houston – January 1986 – Birthdays and Plans by Sally Cronin


It is now 11th of January 1986.. and David’s birthday and the day before my father’s in England.

Dearest M & D,

I cannot believe that we have been here a year as so much has happened and it has flown by. I am sorry that we missed New Year with the family, but it sounds like you had a good time.

The weather has turned very cold with sleet threatened… not something I expected as when we arrived here around the same time last year it was very balmy. And it did not get chilly until later in February so hopefully getting it over with now.

David says thank you for the card that arrived earlier in the week. We are going out to Pappasitos with the gang this evening to celebrate so possibly sore heads tomorrow. He doesn’t normally ‘do’ birthdays but the guys are not letting him get away with it!

We are having a small dinner party on Saturday for him and I may have to break into my New Year detox to have a glass or two… well perhaps three of bubbly!

Sunday, weather permitting, some of us are planning a day in Austin to stretch our legs, how early depends on when we get to bed on Saturday! It is 165 miles from this side of Houston so we want to get on the road early to get there by midday. Austin is the capital of Texas and apart from all the historical sites is on the Colorado River and there are some great trails and hikes. If the weather is as cold as it is today it may well be the movies instead!

I am glad that the cheque arrived safely to buy the champagne for your birthday Daddy, not sure that it will buy enough for the 28 you are expecting but hopefully you will keep a bottle just for yourselves. 70 is a milestone birthday and I hope you have an amazing day. I have posted a separate package of photographs from your trip to us in November which I was hoping would arrive for the day.

I spent the quieter time since Christmas putting all the photographs we have taken here in Houston and on our travels into an album, plus a separate one with over 250 postcards we have collected. I plan to write about our time here one day and it will provide a useful reference. I have put our copies from your visit into a separate album as that is very special.

You will be amused to know that your letters are shared with everyone as they are still talking about your trip. Walter, Monty and others have to be kept informed… so I think you were well and truly adopted. Sutherland Walter’s cat is back at the vet and is on anti-biotics for another kidney infection. If his stomach problems do not clear up within a week it looks like he is going to have to endure an operation. $150 already spent and with money tight I know Walter is worried about the cost. We have come to love having Sutherland over several times a week and he has made himself at home.. we will help where we can.

 

There will be a gap now for a week as we are heading out on our road trip with Walter to New Mexico to the Carlsbad Caverns and importantly we are hoping that the elevation above the caverns, and the lack of light pollution will allow us to see Halley’s Comet which is only visible every 76 years. It is 700 miles and we will share the driving, sleeping when we can. Really looking forward to it.

Happy birthday again Daddy.. look forward to hearing about the party.

love from us both.. S&D.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this letter, next week part one of our trip to Carlsbad Caverns and I hope you will join me again.. thanks Sally.

Letters from America – 1985- 1987 – Getting ready for Christmas 1985 – Houston, Texas – Sally Cronin


Time to get back to the Letters from America series after my parent’s visit

In the last three posts I shared my parents visit to us. That took us in chronological terms to the end of November. I now pick the story up again in mid-December and my first letter home after their trip.

16th December 1985

Dear M & D.

I hope that your photos arrive safely and that this gets to you before Christmas. We will be thinking of you, especially at all the parties that are looming up on the horizon. Every time we see one of the gang, they all ask after you and are missing you. See what an impression you have made.

We have been very busy since you left, Sutherland has been over most days as Walter is working more shifts in the run up to Christmas. He sleeps a great deal and feels right at home. I do find him in some odd positions at times, but when awake he is great company. (Sutherland not Walter!)

We have also been entertaining some of David’s work colleagues over from England who were staying in a hotel for the last two weeks and were looking forward to some home cooking.

I have been to see Gone With the Wind at a classic cinema with some of the guys and really enjoyed. I know I have watched before many years ago but it was amazing to see again on the big screen.

This was followed up this Saturday by a trip downtown with Walter to a Mexican Bar and Grill where we drank flaming Mexican flags ( I am sure that Mexicans who live here must think that pretty insulting), which you are meant to down in one, after blowing the flames out! Oops.. Hot Lips!

On Sunday, nursing slightly sore heads, we took a trip to San Jacinto to the battleground where General Houston defeated Santa Anna’s Mexican army. And then onto the  USS Texas, a 1914 battleship which is open to the public. We toured the ship from top to bottom and I don’t think I would have wanted to be at sea in her, particularly in rough weather.

We have put the Christmas tree up and presents have started to appear under it.  I also managed to buy some bunches of mistletoe by the roadside to complement the rest of the decorations and it is beginning to feel like Christmas.

It looks like we will be one of the few couples left in the complex until New Year’s Eve as most of our friends have homes out of state and will be heading off on the 22nd onwards. They don’t celebrate Boxing Day here, but most of them are taking holiday to extend their trips. Especially those heading for the northern states where snow has been falling for some weeks and travel is unpredictable. We have had our last Christmas party as a group and went off to our usual haunt of Pappasito’s. We are such a large group now that they corral us at the back of the restaurant now, no doubt to keep the noise down for the rest of the diners. We do have such fun though and as always the meal was amazing.

Sutherland will be spending time with us over Christmas which is nice as I do like having a pet around the place, even if it is only temporary. Wishing you and Diana, Robert, Sonia, David, Emma and Jeremy a very Happy Christmas and sending lots of love. We shall miss not being with you all but will call you on the day at 12 noon when everyone has arrived for lunch.

Sally and David.XXX

 

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you are enjoying our adventures in America 1985-1987… and will join me again next week.. thanks Sally.

Letters from America 1985-1987 -My parent’s visit – Part Two – Rennaisance Festival, Anniversary Party and nearly lights out! by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder and on his death they came back to me with a note to publish them.

Last time my parents arrive and are given a warm welcome by friends as we introduce them to cocktails and Mexican food.

My parent’s visit – Part Two – Rennaisance Festival, Anniversary Party and nearly lights out!

After the welcome party we had a day of relaxing before taking my parents to one of the spectacular events held every year in Texas. The Rennaisance Festival was started in the mid 1970s, on an abandoned strip mining site at Todd Mission about 50 miles Northwest of Houston. By the time we visited in 1985 with my parents, the festival had grown considerably, and was packed with great stalls selling crafts and food, as well as parades of street performers dressed in medieval costumes. Thankfully not an overly hot day and we did take plenty of opportunities to sample iced tea and delicious BBQ.

My father loved his food, and he made a beeline for the turkey drumsticks on one of the stalls, and despite evidence to the contrary… he is not being greedy, just holding David’s drumstick so he could take this candid shot. He does however look like the cat who got the cream, whilst my mother was trying to retain her ladylike demeanour whilst chomping down on this outsize snack!

It was quite a long day, and as I look at this photo, I realise that my parents at the time were only a year and two years older than I am today! We enjoyed our time there, but unfortunately the rest of the photographs from the day, including the parade are somewhere safely packed away in the attic.

The rest of the week saw us pottering locally as David was away, but it gave Mollie and Eric a chance to relax, enjoy the pool and for my father to experiment with making his own Chi Chis…

We also were invited out to dinner at our friends Bill and Sylvia and my father definitely approved of Sylvia’s cooking.

It also gave me time to prepare for our 5th anniversary party on the Friday night. Most of our friends were coming with assorted courses organised between them. We had got into the habit of sharing the menu between us so that no one person was landed with either the cost or the labour, and it worked really well. It also offered us the opportunity to sample different dishes we might not cook ourselves. David arrived back on the Thursday and after a last shop for the starters we were providing, beer and wine we were ready to go.

I managed to get a quick shot of David and my parents before the guests arrived.

Because of the number of guests we had a menu that either involved a fork or a spoon and as you can see the place was packed with seats at a premium.

The complex was keen that people were not disturbed after 11pm, but after most of the guests had left and my parents had gone to bed, David and one of our friends decided to go for a run to clear their heads, whilst three of us opted to sweat it out in the hot tub in the recreation area just outside our block. Although November was a little nippy at night, it was pleasant enough sitting chatting on the side of the hot tub with our legs dangling in the water, whilst we waited for the others to return from their run.

Suddenly I felt movement over my thighs and up my back. I immediately reacted by jumping into the middle of the very hot water up to my waist which resulted in the most agonising stinging across my upper body. The reason for my panic was a severe allergic reaction to wasp and bees stings as a result of a childhood encounter with jellyfish.

When I was seven, and living in Malta, we kids used to swim at the naval station lido, jumping and diving off a wooden raft, attached to four oil drums for buoyancy. We could also dive under the raft and come up under the decking into an air gap between the drums.

Great fun until a swarm of jellyfish had the same idea. I got very badly stung and diving back and out into the clear water, I started swimming to shore screaming my head off. There was a hessian covered plank that was used to haul yourself out of the water and onto the rocky shoreline. Unfortunately, as I swung under the plank before hauling myself out, I met up with the rest of the jelly fish who were clinging underneath. My screams had alerted one of the naval fitness instructors who doubled as lido attendants. He came running with a first aid kit luckily, along with my mother, wondering what mischief I had got myself into this time.

This was long before the epi-pen(epinephrine) but I seem to remember being given an injection of adrenaline fairly quickly, which my mother told me saved my life.

Back to 1985, and within a few minutes, it was clear that I was going into anaphylactic shock and my friends with me recognised my attackers as fire ants and got me out of the tub and onto the path. My husband and other friend arrived back thankfully at that point. Nobody had mobile phones in those days and a rush up to an apartment to call an ambulance would take too long. We had also all been drinking, were dressed in either bathing costumes or running gear. Except for our friend Monty, who could not drink and despite being in his bathing costume, had his house and car keys on the side of the hot tub. His car was parked close by next to our block, and with David and the others holding me up, we piled into the car and we raced out of the complex onto the main road. Monty knew that there was an emergency centre about a mile away in one of the strip malls that was open 24 hours, but by the time we got there two minutes later, I was in a critical condition.

David tells me that one of our friends dashed in and returned with a gurney and doctors who raced me into resuscitation. This is where it gets a little weird, because I do clearly remember watching the activity from above, as they pumped me full of epinephrine and tried to keep me breathing.

Once I was in the clear, they wanted to keep me for a few hours to make sure that I would not have more problems. Our friends went home, and David stayed with me until I was discharged about 7.00 in the morning. Although not having any means of identification or credit cards they had treated me anyway, which I am eternally grateful for, and David returned later that day with details of our company health insurance.

My lower legs and back were not a pretty sight as the bites developed, and I felt incredibly sore and tired. We went home, and I went to bed and left David to explain to my parents what had happened,downplaying the details.

I had anti-histamines to take for a period of time, and it was recommended that I rest for several days. However, we were booked into the Marriott in San Antonio from Sunday to the Tuesday on a very special surprise for my father, which was to visit The Alamo. My parents knew that we had planned time away, but not where, and were all for cancelling the trip, but I was determined that a few fire ants were not going to ruin things. By Sunday morning I was still groggy, but I covered myself in calamine lotion, and took some pain killers and we headed off. I slept the entire 200 miles, except when we made a short stop for coffee, and then went straight to bed on arrival at the hotel. Thankfully by the next morning I was much improved, and eager to take my father on his adventure.

P.S. The exterminators were called in to deal with the large fire ant nest that they found under the decking of the hot tub on the Sunday morning, and there was an upside to my attack that night. That day, a children’s party was going to be held in the recreational area, and the kids would have been in and out of the tub for several hours and things could have got very much worse.

Next week – San Antonio, the Alamo and the Natural Bridge Caverns.

 

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed… see you next time ..thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – August 1985 – Hawaiian Luau and Trash Can Punch by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder and on his death they came back to me with a note to publish them.

It is now the first week in August 1985 and we now had gathered a group of like-minded friends (tequila and shrimp) around us. The long awaited Hawaiian Luau arrived.

Dear M & D.

Just recovering from our Hawaiian Luau on Saturday. We spent last week making garlands and decorations, and after a dreadful thunderstorm on Friday night, Saturday dawned hot and clear. We started putting up the decorations at 10 am. and it looked fantastic. The party started at 3pm and we had all sorts of silly games. (I was in charge!)

I had hard-boiled 30 eggs, and marked one with a red spot before throwing them all in the pool. It was called pearl diving! The person who found the egg with the red spot won a prize. We also had a raft race with three to a lilo. As I mentioned last week we have been practicing for weeks and it was clearly a waste of time! However, that was hilarious and got us into the party spirit.

Talking of spirits, David and I were introduced to Trash Can Punch which certainly helped the party get started. We all had cold beers and soft drinks, but a large black plastic waste bin was bought (and scrubbed, thankfully not used for waste before) and filled with ice and chopped fruit. We were all invited to bring our favourite spirit and empty the bottle into the can.

As you can imagine, this meant that there was at least 20 bottles of neat vodka (clearly popular) Tequila, Whisky and a couple of unmarked bottles that we think were moonshine! It was then topped up with fresh fruit juice and some water (not much). We then helped ourselves throughout the day.

It is a surprise we all survived. I stopped after a couple as did David and moved onto Coors Light beer since we definitely did not have the head or stomach for it. I did however make a tactical error when I helped myself to a couple of pieces of orange from the fruit that was left at the end of the afternoon. After a few hours soaking in all that booze, in the hot sun, it was very intoxicating indeed.

We did keep active and by 6pm the water volley ball net was up and we played for the next four hours straight.. I am called ‘Sledgehammer’ as I play at the net and being tall can thump the ball over. All that netball paying off. At 10pm we retired to our place and ended up playing poker until 2am. Don’t worry we will dial things back a bit when you come to see us and be in bed by midnight!

Last night our friends from Argentina, Bill and Silvia came over for supper, lovely couple and you will enjoy meeting them.

Our trip to Hawaii has been confirmed for September 3rd so I am aiming to lose a few pounds to that I can put it all back again! By the time we get back it will only be about 6 weeks to your visit.

David is off to Kansas tomorrow until Thursday morning. It is almost his second home and I think our holiday will do him good as he will be in one place for 14 days.

The apartment owners are building security gates and a fence around the property. I hope it won’t be too like Colditz. Also they are building a hot tub in front of our apartment. They seat about four people and I have heard quite a few tales about the goings on to be expected. I shall be able to sell tickets to people who want to use my balcony for front row seats!

Looking forward to seeing you soon.. all our love Sally and David X

©Sally Cronin 2020

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you enjoyed our latest escapade. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – June 1985 – Thunderstorms Texas style, Pool Antics and Birth Coach on Standby by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder and on his death they came back to me with a note to publish them.

We are now in to our first June and really hot weather in Texas. The swimming pool was the focus of the complex and we would meet a lot of wonderful people down there over the next two years. Many of the residents worked so it would be early evening or the weekends when we would gather and plastic cups of beer or wine were in plentiful supply.

I was feeling a little homesick and also trying to find new things to learn to occupy my mind. I had worked for a living since 14 so almost 20 years, at first after school and weekends and then full time after college from 17.. I was not used to being idle.

June 12th 1985

Dear M & D,

Thank you for the letter and photographs, Emma is looking very grown up and so like Sonia. I was delighted to see the physical evidence of your first caravan weekend. Are they going to put up a plaque above the door saying “Mollie Coleman Slept Here!”. You certainly have been having a busy time of it and I hope the book exhibition was a success.

David is away this week, Kansas, Washington and Minneapolis. He is in Washington trying to get official government approval for his cable spec. Once obtained it will make it a lot easier to get potential customers interested. He has just bought a computer for business use, which will make his work easier. He have been involved in these machines since the mid 1970s and it is amazing the difference in size from those he used to work with. He spent the weekend uploading programmes to it and then put a wrong piece of data in that wiped the lot and he had to start all over again! There was quite a lot of profanity issuing from the spare bedroom, so I took myself off to the pool!  Luckily these days they are more portable so he has now taken to the office and will no doubt be the envy of his less technically minded colleagues who still use paper the whole time.

My friend Vicki is almost due and her mother arrived yesterday and her husband has taken time off work. My job as assistant coach looks redundant at the moment but I am on hand if needed! The baby would certainly be arriving to unpredictable weather. We had a three hour thunderstorm last night and it was in true Texas style. Nothing like our hour of rumbling in the skies with the odd flash of lightening. This was crashing, boulder rolling and forked lightening for the entire time. I have never seen lightening like it and watched from our balcony as it hit between the trees in our central garden area with an almighty crack.

The rain is torrential and having been caught out in one last week it is very frightening. The windshield wipers could not keep up with the amount of water even on the fast speed and in the end, like everyone else I had to pull over and wait for it to subside. The roads were also dangerous to drive on as it was easy to water plane across into oncoming traffic.

I had hoped that it might have cleared the air which has become very humid and suffocating. But no such luck.

I do still feel a little homesick but we are getting used to doing things in a slightly different way. I do miss not being able to walk out the gate and find pavements that I can walk around the block on or to the shops. You have to drive about a mile up the road to a row of shopping malls and restaurants to find a footpath and I think if we decide to move again later this year, we will bear that in mind.

We do love the pool because most of the time we have it to ourselves. Especially early in the morning. We both enjoy doing laps and that is not always easy in the late afternoons and early evenings as most people bring down their airbeds and have a quick dip then hop on and float around for an hour.  Still we have the best of both worlds and I am afraid that I too have succumbed by buying myself a rather substantial lilo… with a sit up bit at the end and cup holders… I must say it is rather relaxing when everyone is at work to float around with a cold drink, reading a good book and popping in to cool off from time to time.

I am looking forward to seeing you trying to get on and off gracefully when you are over later in the year… I will be taking pictures!

Love to you both Sally and David.

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will join me next week for another of our American adventures.  Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – #Texas weather, Suntans and Trivia Pursuit by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder and on his death they came back to me with a note to publish them.

We had returned from our trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles and were taking things easier in June…

My parents were also doing some gadding about whilst we were in the States.. including a trip to Paris with my sister and her husband. Here they are at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

4th June 1985

Dearest M &D,

Lovely talking to your on Sunday, glad all is well and that your trip was so much fun Mollie. We spent a quiet weekend after our adventures away and we had a few friends over on Sunday night for supper and to play Trivia Pursuit.  It is not a game that was available in the UK but it is great fun to play, if a little competitive. We bought it a couple of weeks ago after we played it at a friend’s apartment and we will you to it when you come over.

As you both enjoy crosswords it should be right up your alley. It has big board divided into 6 segments so looks like a giant pie. Each segment has a pie shape of a different colour representing one of the categories. Science and Nature, Geography, History, Entertainment, Art and Literature and Sports and Leisure. You then throw the dice and move around and over the board depending on how many you throw. If you land on a piece of pie you have to answer a question related to that category.. If you answer correctly you get a small piece of plastic pie of the corresponding colour. If you land on a square on your way to that main segment you have to answer a question identified by the colour of the square to continue.

When you have filled your pie with all the six different pieces you win!  There are a few other wrinkles but the real problem is the categories, as they are nearly all North American in context. Not so bad for Geography, Science and Nature and Art and Literature, but for us Brits the real problems lie in the Sports and Leisure, History and Entertainment. Fine if it is a film question but it is usually about television shows and their stars. We have a basic knowledge of American History, but not the nitty gritty, and don’t get me started on Sports and Leisure as I know diddly squat about baseball, basketball, American football and bowling!

Thankfully there are sufficient British related questions to help us get to the winning post, but unfortunately quite a bit behind our friends, who wait patiently whilst we circle the board a few times trying to get that elusive last piece of pie. I do find that margaritas… (with tequila) do help the mind delve deep into the recesses to unearth long forgotten bits of trivia or come up with inspired guesses. Just something for you to look forward to when you come out later this year.. the Trivia Pursuit.. not the tequila.. unless you would like to try!

David is home this week but away from Monday next week. He is dashing through three states for business meetings and by the time he is finished he will have visited most of the country.

The weather has been hot (95-98 degrees) for the past few days with no sign of rain. There have been some terrible tornadoes in the north, but we have been very lucky here. There has been the occasional hurricane warning with storm systems sweeping up the gulf, but nothing so far. Now we are into June there is a lot more activity by the pool and we are meeting more people. I am still about the only one out there during the day, and although I wear quite a bit of sun cream and a hat, I still get people shouting from the balconies ‘Mad dogs and English Women, go out in the mid-day sun’.  However, I do enjoy my healthy tan again since it is nearly 25 years since we enjoyed so much sunshine in Cape Town. You will notice that I have grown my hair longer… and it is getting gingerised by the Texas sun….

I am glad that you have your visas and anytime between September to end of November and February to May are good months for weather, avoiding the high temperatures and heat or the sharp cold spells. I am starting a scrapbook of all our postcards and photos taken since we arrived, which should keep me out of mischief and provide you with a pictorial guide to our stay. I hope you will hang on to these letters too just in case I forget anything.

We are not planning another trip until July and we are thinking of either going to the Caribbean or Hawaii (exotic ain’t we). We will never be close enough to either destination in the future to visit, and you can get some very good deals, especially using David’s air miles that he has accumulated with all his flights. You can put them towards flights and also certain hotel chains such as Marriott. I am angling for Hawaii as I would love to bump into Magnum P.I. but don’t tell David!

Our love to everyone and swat up on baseball, basketball and American football in the next few months so you can impress our friends at Trivia Pursuit.

love Sally and David.

©Sally Cronin Images 2018

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will join me next week for another of our American adventures.  Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Adventures in the USA – The Driving Test Texas Style by Sally Cronin


Somebody recently asked if I was going to repeat the series of Letters from America as they had missed many of the earlier ones. I then realised that it was two years since the first post went out and there are some newer readers to the blog who might be interested in reading.

At the same time as I was writing my weekly letters home to my parents, I was also writing articles on various events that took place or about places we visited. I wrote this piece about the dreaded driving test that we had to take to enable us to buy a car and get insured. We both had full licences from the UK but had to give this up and obtain a Texas licence… This was 35 years ago so both the test and some of the then rules of the road are likely to have been changed. One of these was a written test which was not introduced into the UK until some years later.

The Driving Test Texas Style by Sally Cronin

From the date of arrival you have 30 days to apply for and take a Texas driving test. Within a week we had obtained a copy of the Texas Driver’s Handbook from the Department of Public Safety. Very similar to our own Highway code, but differing in several important areas such as in road signage and right of way when driving. Several pages are devoted to the various responsibilities, and penalties for failure to comply, and at first glance they were intimidating. We needed to be totally sure of all the different elements as we would be completing a written test which we had to pass before undergoing a practical examination.

Signs and signals are basically the same as in the UK, but one thing to watch very carefully , is that it is legal in Texas, and most other states, to pass on the inside, and to even turn right at a red traffic light if your road is clear. In the UK it was illegal to undertake, and whilst you still would check before moving into an inside lane, in the US you needed to be almost paranoid in attention to your rear and side mirrors.

At least we had enjoyed three weeks of driving practice in David’s temporary company car before the test, and we spent considerable time doing our homework. Both of us had driven for several years and were only too aware of our bad habits!.

The morning of our test we drove to the Department of Public Safety with some trepidation, unsure of what to expect. We had already filled in our application forms and stood in a long line waiting to be seen. An eye test is conducted at the counter and both thumb prints taken. You are then given two sheets of questions and told to sit in the examination area. Thank goodness we had done our homework, although the questions all had multi-choice answers, which meant you had one in four chances of getting it right, there was no room for guesswork. After completing the questions it was back in line and the papers were marked.

Thankfully we both passed having asked more than 14 questions correctly, but were told that they were booked up for the day on the practical tests and we needed to come back in the morning for ours.

Having had another nervous night’s sleep, we presented ourselves at the DPS as soon as they opened at 7.30 a.m, to ensure being first in line. Our tests were booked one after the other from 8.00 am. although it was 8.30am. before David was called over by a police officer.

When David returned 20 minutes, later I was waiting by the kerb for my turn, and as he got out of the car he shook his head at me. He had failed, but he didn’t have time to say anything, as the trooper indicated for me to take the driving seat. I was already nervous, not knowing quite what to expect and quite frankly, slightly intimidated by an armed policeman sitting in the passenger seat. He introduced himself as Officer Rodriquez and told me to drive to the rear of the building, where I was told to reverse into a coned off parking space and parallel park. This was almost a disaster as I was so nervous; you could have got a taxi to the kerb.

I was then directed to leave the car park and proceed onto the main road. As in England, signals and checking mirrors are of vital importance, and I made sure to look as if I was aware of both.The rest of the test was conducted around a nearby housing estate where the speed limit was 20 miles per hour. Several right and left turns were involved and the officer told me to “Stop”…..which I did immediately having checked my rear view mirror and slamming the breaks on. Officer Rodriquez peeled himself off the dashboard and turned to glare at me…. “As smoothly as possible”  Clearly not the Emergency Stop that I had expected as part of the test then!

He then made me reverse up the road for 50 feet and around a corner until told to stop. I had convinced myself that I had now failed after nearly sending him through the windshield; the rest of the test passed in a blur. We finally arrived back at the test centre and parked at the back of the building. Officer Rodriquez was rapidly writing on a pad which he then handed across the seats for me to sign. Then amazingly told me to go and pick up my temporary licence. He got out and left me holding the portion of the test and shaking from head to toe. The maximum points that can be deducted before failing the test was 30 and I had 26.

After locking up the car I went into join David in the centre where he had booked a retest for the next day. Apparently he had failed by going 22 miles per hour in the 20 mile zone.  I took my test results to the counter and had my photograph taken which was horrendous as you can imagine; I have to live with that for the next two years on my licence as a reminder of the day. Not so bad when you only have to show occasionally, but it is now my official form of identification and I have to show every time I write a cheque in every store I shop in.

David returned the next morning and passed his test thankfully, but the amusing thing was that it turned out I was one of a very few that had passed the day before; most in line commented that they hoped they did not have Officer Rodriquez again!

©Sally Cronin 1985

I have to say that my terror of driving passed, but my fear of bumping into Officer Rodriquez when out in the car, meant that I was a law abiding citizen throughout the next two years. I eventually clocked up over 50,000 miles as we explored both coasts and across central America on our adventures.

I hope you have enjoyed this adventure and look forward to your feedback. More next Tuesday.

 

Smorgasbord Letters from America – Texas 1985-1987 – 100 degrees, Key Lime Pie and Adverts


We are now in mid-July 1985.. the weather is hotting up and we are getting excited about our trip in September to Hawaii..

12th July 1985

Dear M & D,

Thanks for your latest newsy letter, sounds like you have been pretty busy between debating societies, trips and visitor. I am sorry that Ethel has not been well and I am sure that the wet weather you have been having has not helped. There are times when I wish we were closer to be any help when things are not going well. It is tough being thousands of miles away and feeling helpless.

We had a quiet weekend, playing tennis and relaxing. Last night was the first meeting of the new residents’ social committee and we have got some plans together for the next few months. Seems that I will have a few duties to perform, especially when it comes to shopping for events, as I am one of the few people not working.  That’s fine and very happy to do it as the parties bring the whole community together, and we have a lot of fun. I have extra time on my hands now that the little girl I was looking after is in kindergarten. The main parties take place once a month and there is one scheduled for during your visit. I am sure it will be something to write home about to the grandchildren!

On the home front we have bought a VCR, as we both find the long advert breaks annoying. It seems like every ten minutes for ten minutes. It is so irritating when watching a movie. And often you are in the middle of eating your dinner, when you are confronted with recommendations for Preparation H for haemorrhoids or graphic images of acid reflux. Now we record programmes that we want to watch, then play them back, fast forwarding through the ads.

I have had some photos developed and including one of me and my friend Debby who I play tennis with. She is great company, and with David away such a lot it is very comforting to have her and the others here who have taken me under their wings.

Everyone is excited to meet you. I do have the habit of referring to you Mollie as the Duchess, and for some reason our friends are under the impression that you are a Duchess.. so don’t let me down. However, the tiara is probably best left at home as they are a little more casual here!

Tonight we have a birthday party for our German friends. There are eight of us with four nationalities which is interesting, and as everyone is bringing a dish with them, it should be a veritable feast. The weather has been very hot and muggy at 100 degrees, and thank goodness we have air conditioning, otherwise it would be unbearable. None of us really want to eat stodgy food at the moment so steak, salad, jacket potatoes, loaded (as they say over here) with sour cream, cheddar and bacon bits (I will be good tomorrow!). There will also be Key Lime Pie that you won’t find in the UK, but is light and delicious (well that is what I tell myself). One of the advantages of having people come to us is that the leftovers stay in our fridge!  Not for long…….

David is home this week but goes to Chicago on Sunday for six days. We have decided that I won’t go, as we are saving money for our holiday in three weeks. We are getting very excited as Hawaii has always been this exotic paradise that you feel you will only ever see on National Geographic or Magnum P.I ( you won’t have seen the series but you can watch when you are here).  It is still nearly 4000 miles from here, but because it is such a popular holiday destination there are plenty of flights available. We are flying to Los Angeles, staying overnight and then flying across the Pacific the next day.

Not a great deal of news this week but counting the days until you arrive.

love from us both Sally.

©sallycronin2018

Thanks for dropping by today and hope you have enjoyed the latest episode… Sally

 

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 – 1987 – Hawaiian Luau and Trash Can Punch


It is now the first week in August and we now had gathered a group of like-minded friends (tequila and shrimp) around us. The long awaited Hawaiian Luau arrived.

Dear M & D.

Just recovering from our Hawaiian Luau on Saturday. We spent last week making garlands and decorations, and after a dreadful thunderstorm on Friday night, Saturday dawned hot and clear. We started putting up the decorations at 10 am. and it looked fantastic. The party started at 3pm and we had all sorts of silly games. (I was in charge!)

I had hard-boiled 30 eggs, and marked one with a red spot before throwing them all in the pool. It was called pearl diving! The person who found the egg with the red spot won a prize. We also had a raft race with three to a lilo. As I mentioned last week we have been practicing for weeks and it was clearly a waste of time! However, that was hilarious and got us into the party spirit.

Talking of spirits, David and I were introduced to Trash Can Punch which certainly helped the party get started. We all had cold beers and soft drinks, but a large black plastic waste bin was bought (and scrubbed, thankfully not used for waste before) and filled with ice and chopped fruit. We were all invited to bring our favourite spirit and empty the bottle into the can.

As you can imagine, this meant that there was at least 20 bottles of neat vodka (clearly popular) Tequila, Whisky and a couple of unmarked bottles that we think were moonshine! It was then topped up with fresh fruit juice and some water (not much). We then helped ourselves throughout the day. It is a surprise we all survived. I stopped after a couple as did David and moved onto Coors Light beer since we definitely did not have the head or stomach for it. I did however make a tactical error when I helped myself to a couple of pieces of orange from the fruit that was left at the end of the afternoon. After a few hours soaking in all that booze, in the hot sun, it was very intoxicating indeed.

We did keep active and by 6pm the water volley ball net was up and we played for the next four hours straight.. I am called ‘Sledgehammer’ as I play at the net and being tall can thump the ball over. All that netball paying off. At 10pm we retired to our place and ended up playing poker until 2am. Don’t worry we will dial things back a bit when you come to see us and be in bed by midnight!

Last night our friends from Argentina, Bill and Silvia came over for supper, lovely couple and you will enjoy meeting them.

Our trip to Hawaii has been confirmed for September 3rd so I am aiming to lose a few pounds to that I can put it all back again! By the time we get back it will only be about 6 weeks to your visit.

David is off to Kansas tomorrow until Thursday morning. It is almost his second home and I think our holiday will do him good as he will be in one place for 14 days.

The apartment owners are building security gates and a fence around the property. I hope it won’t be too like Colditz. Also they are building a hot tub in front of our apartment. They seat about four people and I have heard quite a few tales about the goings on to be expected. I shall be able to sell tickets to people who want to use my balcony for front row seats!

Looking forward to seeing you soon.. all our love Sally and David X

©Sally Cronin 2018

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you enjoyed our latest escapade. Thanks Sally