Letters from America – 1985- 1987 – My Parent’s visit – Part Four Sam Houston Museum and #Galveston 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 we visited San Antonio and my father fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit The Alamo Museum.. and we also introduced them to Mariachi music..

My Parent’s visit – Part Four Sam Houston Museum and Galveston

My parents spent over three weeks with us in November 1985, and having visited San Antonio and The Alamo museum, I took them up to Huntsville to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum during the following week, whilst David was at work.

Huntsville was about an hour way north on I-45 which was only a block away from our complex. My father in particular was very interested in finding out more about Sam Houston and my mother was looking forward to seeing the mock up of the house, furnishings etc in the various buildings at the museum. I didn’t take any photos whilst we were there but did buy some postcards to send home to the family and to keep as a memento of the day.

The museum today, judging by the website Sam Houston has not changed much and there is certainly plenty to see and enjoy.

Gough Photo services

Gough Photo Services

Gough Photo services

Gough photo services

The following weekend as a last night away we took my parents to Galveston since so far we had not shown them the coast. Although they had enjoyed some seafood locally in Houston we wanted to introduce them to shrimp at a restaurant recommended to us by our friends. Gaidos Seafood had been serving customers since 1911 and we certainly had an amazing meal. Here is a current day sharing platter… and if I could teleport I would be there frequently. Of you are lucky enough to live close by.. here is the website: Gaidos Seafood

Following that blow out dinner, we took a stroll along the sea walk……the end of a lovely day with more to follow…

Having spent 37 years in the Royal Navy, we thought my father would appreciate a visit to the Tall Ship Elissa moored in Galveston. He obviously had not been a sailor in the same era of the Elissa but he certainly appreciated the wonderful design and the way the ship had been immaculately preserved.

Here is a description of the ship and well worth visiting the Maritime Heritage Galveston

My parents being piped aboard…well we whistled anyway!

Elissa is a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland by Alexander Hall & Company. She carries nineteen sails covering over one-quarter of an acre in surface area. Tall ships are classified by the configuration of their sailing rig. In Elissa’s case, she is a ‘barque’ because she carries square and fore-and-aft sails on her fore and mainmasts, but only fore-and-aft sails on her mizzenmast. From her stern to the tip of her jibboom she measures 205 feet. Her height is 99 feet, 9 inches at the main mast and she displaces about 620 tons at her current ballast. But, she is much more than iron, wood and canvas…

WHO IS ELISSA?

According to the Marjorie Lyle, granddaughter of Elissa’s builder, Henry Fowler Watt, the name was taken from the epic Roman poem The Aeneid, in which the tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage, is the unifying theme of the first four books of that tale. Dido was originally a Phoenician princess named Elissa, who fled from Tyre to Africa and founded Carthage.

Unlike some tall ships of today Elissa is not a replica, but a survivor. She was built during the decline of the “Age of Sail” to fill a niche in maritime commerce. Over her 90-year commercial history she carried a variety of cargos to ports around the world, for a succession of owners. Her working life as a freighter came to an end in Piraeus Harbor, Greece, where she was rescued from the scrap yard by a variety of ship preservationists who refused to let her die. The story of Elissa’s discovery and restoration is nothing short of miraculous, and is beautifully retold in photographs and a video presentation at the Texas Seaport Museum.

Today Elissa is much more than an artifact from a bygone era. She is a fully-functional vessel that continues to sail annually during sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to Galveston Historical Foundation and its commitment to bring history to life, combined with the dedication of hundreds of volunteers who keep her seaworthy and train each year to sail her, Elissa and the art of 19th Century square-rigged sailing are alive and well.

Elissa’s wake is over 135 years and counting… Come experience her magic at Texas Seaport Museum, Pier 21, Galveston, Texas. Courtesy of the Galveston Attractions Maritime Heritage Website

Like me, my father was a food magnet and he could sniff out good coffee wherever we might find ourselves.

The following Wednesday my parents flew back to England and it would be March 1987 before we would see them again. In the meantime I kept up my weekly letters until August of the following year when I returned for a week’s visit to the UK and we then began to call every Sunday and talk in person.

Next week, back to my letters home and more of our travels around America.

Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985-1987 -My parents arrive – Part One – Stetsons, Yellow Roses, Pappasito’s and Chi Chis 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.

My parents arrive – Part One – Stetsons, Yellow Roses, Pappasito’s and Chi Chis

It is now early November 1985 and we had not seen my parents since Christmas when they stayed with us in our home in Tring, Hertfordshire. Those of you who have been following my weekly letters home to them, will know that we had been planning for their trip for months, and on Thursday 7th November they landed in Houston.

I was waiting for them as planned as they came out of immigration and customs, and there was quite a bit of kissing and hugging before I gave them their welcoming gifts. For my mother a bunch of yellow roses, which whilst not the state flower of Texas (The Bluebonnet) have historical significance in this part of the world. The real story behind the song The Yellow Rose of Texas is a fascinating tale of subterfuge and the exploitation of a powerful man’s weaknesses. There have been many efforts to debunk the story that circulated about the part a certain Miss West played in the defeat of Santa Ana. However, I prefer the romantic and daring version to the ‘historical’ account. The first words out of my mother’s mouth when receiving the bouquet, was to announce that she was now officially a Yellow Rose of Texas. This resulted in a little history lesson in the car back to our apartment, about the inadvisability of announcing that to any Texans that she might meet.

To my father, who had been bald as long as I could remember, I presented a straw stetson to protect his pate from the still hot Texan sunshine and he wore it everywhere. It returned to the UK at the end of his holiday and over the years, at any sign of sunshine he would wear his stetson. He was a life-long Western film lover and was one of the reasons I bought that style of hat instead of a baseball cap. Just one of the cowboy themed surprises for their visit.

Here is a picture of them both by the swimming pool, and if you look at my mother, you will see that she had liberated by own red straw stetson that I am wearing in the header photo.. Somehow I managed to hang on to that when she returned home.

I was well aware of how tiring that transatlantic flight could be, combined with the usual stress of travel. However, both my parents were used to long haul flights and sea journeys, as we had lived abroad all through my childhood in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) Malta and South Africa.  I also knew that both of them enjoyed a party, and after a day to recover, on the Friday night we invited some of our friends over to meet them.

Over the next couple of days we stayed close to home with with lunches out, including to our favourite Mexican Cantina; Pappasito’s on I-45 about ten minutes from the house. We were regulars there by this time and were able to point my parents in the direction of the tastiest dishes on the menu.

Whilst we certainly enjoyed indulging in shared appetizers when we visited the cantina with our friends, we were not sure how my parents would find their first experience of Mexican cuisine. We need not have worried as both tucked in and declared the Quesadillas and the Fajitas to be fabulous. In fact my father took home a cookery book with him so that he could recreate the dishes for friends.

The Margaritas were not so popular, but my father who was not much of a drinker, discovered the joys of American beer whilst my mother settled for some white wine. We experimented with cocktails for them both over the next week or so, discovering my father’s achilles heel…Chi Chis…made with vodka, coconut cream and pineapple juice, which played straight to his sweet tooth. After David had mixed a batch and given my father a glass, he emptied quite quickly and eagerly accepted a second. David told him that it had vodka in it, but my father shrugged that off and consumed enthusiastically. It was the first time I can remember my father being slightly tiddly, and for the rest of his visit he would enjoy at least one chi chi before dinner or ordered when we were out. It was lovely to see his face as he took that first sip through the straw as the sweetness hit his taste buds, and it is one of those memories you cherish.

I inherited the shopping gene from my mother, and whilst my father relaxed with a book and David was at work, I would pop out for a couple of hours with her to one of the big malls. Thankfully my father had the good sense to leave some luggage space for the expected purchases, and my mother went home with a several skirts, tops and dresses and pairs of shoes, none of which she really needed!. To be fair they came from the discount mall where you could buy top of the range fashion at a fraction of the price.

Our friends were very kind and invited us out to lunch that first week, or over for drinks in the evening. By the end of the first week my mother and father felt quite at home and ready for more ambitious adventures.

David was going to take the second week of their visit off from work so that we could go further afield. We also planned to have everyone over for our wedding anniversary party on the Friday night 15th November, before heading out to San Antonio for a two day visit on the Sunday. Apart from wanting to show my parents this lovely city, it was an opportunity to give my father a chance to fulfill one of his boyhood dreams, to visit The Alamo.

Little did we know that events on the night of the party would nearly scupper that plan!

©Sally Cronin

I hope you have enjoyed this first part of Mollie and Eric in Houston… and will tune in again next week. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – July 1985 – Hanna Barbara Land, BBQ and Lilo races 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.

July 1985 – Hanna Barbara Land, BBQ and Lilo races

It is now July 1985, and the weather in Houston is very hot and muggy. The pool became the centre of entertainment in the evenings and the weekends as everyone stripped off and cooled down.

July 16th 1985.

Dear M & D,

Just back from the airport, David is off to Dallas and then Kansas, putting together another order, and won’t be back until Thursday.

Despite the fact that lovely Vicki has now left, I am still very busy, playing tennis, swimming and aerobics. The little girl that I have been looking after will be over later this morning and we are reading Black Beauty at the moment. I am enjoying sharing the story as it is a lot of years since I have last enjoyed.  It has been fun looking after her and tomorrow I am taking her and two others to Hanna Barbara Land, which is like a mini Disneyland. Three toddlers… will I survive?

I got your last letter yesterday and was pleased to hear that the flower festival went well. You will need a rest when you to visit Mollie. I have checked on the weather for November and it is a bit mixed. Temperatures around 70 mostly with some cooler rainy days, but people say it is usually lovely. You will be pleased to miss the 95 degrees and the 95% humidity would be unbearable without air conditioning. I am learning to live with it, but when you walk outside the apartment or out of a shopping mall, you are soaking in sweat by the time you reach your car. Not a good look…..

Just to let you know in advance that when you fly over you will need to fill out an immigration form before you land with passport details and home address etc. You will also have to put us down as being financially responsible for you during your visit (you have waited a lifetime for me to say that haven’t you!). I am enclosing David’s business card so you can use those details and also a dollar bill in case I forget. You will need that for the luggage cart to take you through to customs where they take your luggage off you, and send it down to baggage reclaim for you to collect.

I am enclosing a lock of hair to show you the effect of sun and chlorine. It gets blonder by the day and is now quite long again, by the time you get here it will be the same length as when we got married.. If I have not had it all chopped off because of the heat and swimming every day!. The weight continues to come off although I have a medical condition called ‘lack of self will’ specifically when it comes to chocolate milkshakes with lashings of vanilla ice-cream. I am working on it.

As I have not much to report, I will finish this letter after the weekend.

July 20th….

We went off to Hanna Barbara Land as planned and there were thousands of screaming children and stressed looking mothers. Every one was hyped up on sugar and my three charges dived straight into the mayhem and had a great day. When Hailey’s father arrived to pick her up I was ready for a gin and tonic or two! I don’t get paid as I am not allowed to work here but it helps keep me occupied. But her father kindly brings us a bottle of spirits or wine from time to time…

Tennis is great fun and I am getting my form back. Debby still beats me but I am working on it. We play at 8am. before the heat builds up and the storm clouds gather in the afternoon. Then back to the complex and an hour’s swimming to set me up for the day. David has bought a racket too and we are going to play when he is here. He is either in the office or on a plane, and apart from a daily swim he feels he needs more exercise.

One of the weekend activities is lilo racing in the pool.. sometimes as a solo, or if you are really good friends as a double act. Debby and I are really quite good at it. It gets a little rowdy and people do not play by the rules so getting to the end of the pool is quite an achievement especially if the lilo sinks due to the number of boarders. You can end up with more than when you started.

Vicki and Kelly kindly left us their Barbecue kit, and David has been practicing on our friends. It is a little smokey but does the job and it reminds me of the days when we would go up to Ceres and have a braai with those delicious boerewors sausages. Happy memories. We keep on our balcony but it is light enough to carry downstairs into the central area where we can sit around the tables with friends and enjoy the food and company. Everyone brings something, a salad, wine, beer or dessert so nobody has to bear the cost of everything.

We decided that as we are going to be here for at least another six months, that rather than spend 100 dollars a month renting that we would buy our own furniture from a second hand store. We are pretty sure that we will be here until the end of 1986 at least and we could save 1000 dollars.  I went over yesterday and bought two matching settees, a six seater dining room set, a king-sized bed, two singles and a computer table for David to put in the spare bedroom rather than the dining room table. We have to move the machine every time we have someone over for supper so it makes sense.

Anyway, this should keep you busy until the next letter when I will be reporting on the Hawaiian Lua this weekend..

love from us both  Sally and David.

©Sally Cronin 2020

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 – July 1985 – A new baby arrives and I meet Debbie around the pool 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.

This week a new baby arrives and I meet Debbie who was to become a wonderful friend around the pool.

2nd July 1985

Dear M & D,

That was the week that was! Early Sunday morning, I got the long awaited call and it was off to the hospital with Vicki and Kelly. Thankfully he was home for the weekend, and it was really lovely of them to think to include me in my role as assistant coach. It was a very long day, particularly obviously for Vicki! Her mum has been here for the last couple of weeks, and we would take turns being with Vicki all through the day in the labour room and finally at 7pm she went into the final stages. At 7.34pm. Megan Elizabeth was born and was a whopping 8lb 10oz… considering that Vicki is only 5ft 2inches, that was some achievement.

It was certainly an experience at the hospital. Here the whole family comes along and sit in the waiting room, it was absolute mayhem but great fun. There were five deliveries before Megan was born, so there were about 20 people in various stages of nail-biting, chain smoking, hand-wringing and jubilation. Having been and out to the labour suite every couple of hours or so to spell Kelly and Vicki’s mum, I was a nervous wreck!

Kelly stayed to cut the chord and Vicki’s mum and I left them together, waiting in nursery admissions until Megan was brought through 15 minutes later. She is beautiful and it was a real privilege to be invited to be there at her birth. Vicki is obviously sore and tired but we shall be bringing them home tomorrow.

They are going to leave for Shreveport later in the month now that the baby is here and I shall miss Vicki very much. She was my first friend in America and I hope that we don’t lose touch. She has been so kind and when David has been away, she and Kelly have always made sure I was okay and invited me out with them to dinner or the movies. Two lovely people.

Vicki and Megan Elizabeth back home.

David was busily putting together quotes on Sunday and was probably happy for the peace and quiet!  He went to Kansas yesterday morning and back that evening. Thankfully he can catch up on his sleep as he is off on Thursday which is our first July 4th celebrations. I will tell you all about them when I write next time.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have met some other girls at the complex. Susan who is German and whose husband has a similar job to David and travels most weeks, and Debbie, who is a high school teacher. She used to be a tennis coach, so we are going to start playing soon which is great. I think we will get on very well. She has the same sense of humour and enjoys wine too!

Debbie and I who would become best friends over the next 18 months.

The goings on in the apartments have got very steamy, and poolside gossip is rife! If only the victims of our discussions knew that every move was being noted they would be scared to death, especially the married ones! David calls us the ‘coven’, but it makes life a lot more interesting than some of the soaps that they have on television. I tend to listen more than contribute, as I am behind in the scandal.. but that really does not excuse me does it!

By now you will have received my letter telling you that there is a possibility that we might come home in January. We won’t know until September but we do hope to be here at least another year. There is so much to see and we might not come back again. What we have seen is amazing. Geographically it is very diverse with deserts and mountains to lush forests and plains. The cities are pretty astounding too, with skyscrapers that take your breath away. We might have buildings that are several hundred years old in England, but architecturally, these buildings reach up to the sky in glass and steel.

Texas is very flat around the Houston area but this is a huge state,  we have done some exploring ahead of your visit and we are going to take you to San Antonio which has a river and is much greener. Also it is a must visit for you Eric… we are going to take you to the Alamo…. I hope that will be a highlight for you.

Anyway… nearer the time we will let you have an agenda of things we have planned. Bring your appetites, portions are very generous here.

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 -May 1985 – Lamaze classes, Pink Cadillacs and Funeral Plots


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987. This week some of the people I met by the pool which led me to become an assistant coach for a very important event.. and some interesting auction items for Mother’s Day.

May 16th 1985

Dear M & D,

The deal that David was working on has gone through and it looks like news of it will be on the TV and in the press in the UK. He is obviously delighted and it marks the end of a very busy four months travelling and negotiating. He is now setting up new deals and headed off last Thursday on one of his lightening tours to Cincinnati, Washington and Charlotte.

In his absence, Vicki, who I have mentioned before keeps me company, as her husband is away Monday to Friday working on an oil rig in Louisiana. She is now eight months pregnant, and with her husband away I have been elected assistant coach for her Lamaze classes. If her husband cannot get back in time for the birth, l have promised to go into the delivery with her. This week we got into episiotomies, epidurals and caesareans. I am not entirely sure about the classes… the breathing exercises are good but Vicki came home absolutely petrified.. Some of the husbands were looking positively queasy and perhaps they should dole out a tequila shot for them before they start. I think attending these classes would be an effective deterrent to teenagers becoming pregnant… to be honest it would make me think twice!

Lying around the pool as I do, has provided me with some interesting characters for future stories. Everyone is very friendly and relaxed and will pop over and pull up a sun lounger. I do get interrogated about everything from my accent, to what we eat and watch on television. I don’t mind at all as I get to be nosy back! I also get to find out the best places to eat, shop, get your hair done and something called a mani pedi… I was a little wary about what that might entail and was relieved to find out it was a nail salon!

Occasionally the complex management will host a pool party and there is a Hawaiian themed one coming up in a couple of weeks time. Must find David an appropriately colourful shirt for the occasion and a great excuse for a new swimsuit. Time to hit the discount mall.

Thank you for the pictures you took on your trip to Windsor. I did feel a bit homesick seeing all the greenery but then remembered it came courtesy of a lot of rain. It is a pity that when you come in November that we won’t have time to take you to the West Coast and the vineyards further in as it is much wetter over there and consequently more colourful.

I have been asked to sponsor a Mary Kay cosmetic party by their rep in the complex. They are the company that give pink Cadillacs to their successful agents. I saw one at the airport when I dropped David off at the airport and to be honest… I would never look a gift horse in the mouth.. but it is a very bright pink and not sure David would want to be seen being driven around in one.  However, I do like their products and as hostess I get a gift box which is great. It looks like there will be 12 attending including Vicki and with plenty of wine and food I am sure we will have a great time.

I am so pleased to be back down to a size 16, especially as here that is a size 14. That is another good reason to live here. David has promised me $5 a pound lost and I have decided to cash in next week when we are going to Las Vegas for a three day exhibition. We are staying at The Hilton and have an extra day so we can go out to the Hoover Dam. Whilst David is at the exhibition I will do my best to win our fortune… but I am not holding my breath as I have been told the House never loses.

Happy Mother’s Day next week and I hope my card arrives in time. It is tomorrow here, and the television has been airing adverts all week for cards and gifts. On the subject of gifts, the public broadcasting channel has an annual auction and companies, hotels, etc, donate products and holidays etc and bids are invited over seven days. One of the items donated was described as an ideal gift for aging parents or Mother’s Day. It was a double plot at the Forest Lawn’s Cemetary (or Garden of Rest over here). Apparently wonderful views, quiet secluded spot and a snip at $1200.

On that cheerful note adios until next week..

love from us both Sally and David.

©sallycronin

Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope you continue to enjoy our adventure in Texas and trips we made around America during our time there.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Adventures in the USA – April 1985 – Brazos Bend State Park, Anaconda’s and Doggy Bags. Sally Cronin


Last week I shared the letter I sent to my parents about are first visit to New Orleans and our adventures.. bring on the cocktails...1985 – Easter in New Orleans.

This week I get up a little too close and personal with creatures who terrify me in Brazos Bend State Park, Anaconda’s and Doggy Bags.

17th April 1985

Dearest M & D.

I hate to say this after your lousy Easter weather, but it has been 80 -90 degrees this week! We have been down to the pool most evenings for a last swim of the day and taken plastic glasses of wine with ice!  Lovely way to spend an hour or so until the mozzies arrive.. as they say, everything in Texas is bigger and better….and the mosquitos here are no exception, big as bats!

At least you sound as if you had an enjoyable time with most of the family there, who I trust are all well. You sound very busy Mollie and no doubt the conservatives will now be celebrating their success. Just let me know when you change your address to Downing Street.

I have heard very good reports about 42nd Street the musical. Penny’s mother-in-law went to see it as her god-daughter is in the chorus. She said it was excellent. The live entertainment here is mainly restricted to the bars, however you only have to drive on the freeway to be entertained by cowboys and bikers.. all for the price of a new rear bumper.

We had quite a lively weekend. On Saturday we went to the Brazos Bend State Park about 90 minutes from the apartment, fully intending to go for a healthy walk. The first stumbling block for me was the numerous snake and alligator warning signs. ‘Do not feed or approach alligators’ As if I would! Halfway into the park we had to avoid a wriggling monstrosity in the middle of the road (thankfully we were still in the car). David said is was only an itty bitty frightened baby snake (he is the master of the understatement). I sat rigidly as he drove around excitedly pointing out all the lovely long paths leading into the forest!

He suddenly realised that I was in a comatose state and drove me away again nearly running over a black anaconda making its way across the road. (Slight exaggeration) but it was leaving the park and so was I. Luckily David is very understanding – snakes scare me rigid. Probably all the times I was screamed at by my nanny in Ceylon as a toddler whenever I explored anything that crawled or slid in my vicinity.

On Sunday we relaxed by the pool and then went out to the Mexican restaurant we enjoy, Pappasito’s Cantina with some of our neighbours. When you come to see us in October we will introduce you to quesadillas and fajitas. Bring large appetites as you will need them. Over here if you cannot finish your dinner (most times as the portions are so generous) you can ask for a doggy bag ( I do feel bad about lying that we have a dog at home!). The server will wrap up the rest of your dinner in cartons and put in a carrier bag and off you go. It beats eating cereal for breakfast the next morning as long as you don’t mind a bit of chilli!

David flew to Washington on Monday until and I am picking him up at 9.30 this evening. He is then home until next Wednesday which is great. My ankle is much better and swimming every day has certainly helped… but not sufficiently to permit to take a hike in the Bravas River park anytime soon!

Love to you both and I will write again soon.

Sally and David

©sallycronin

Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope you continue to enjoy our adventure in Texas and trips we made around America during our time there.

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Adventures in the USA – 1985 – Poolside chats, Spaghetti Bolognese and Irish Jokes – by Sally Cronin


Last week I shared some of the experiences we were enjoying as we settled into our new life in Houston including Corpus Christi, Beach Encounters and English Accent

This week I get to meet some of the residents of our complex who are treated to a family secret recipe and David’s wealth of Irish Jokes…

Poolside chats, Spaghetti Bolognese and Irish Jokes

27th March 1985

Dear M & D

A cloudy day so an ideal time to get my letters written. It has been very hot this week and my tan is progressing very nicely. I spend quite a bit of time with my friend Vicki and here is a photo that David took at the pool a few weeks ago when her mother was over for a visit. I will send more now that we have found a place to have the films developed.

Sitting by the pool has also given me the opportunity to chat to some other girls who don’t work for one reason or another or are on shifts. We have a great time finding out about our respective countries. The one thing you will notice here is that there are very few films or television dramas about England. This is clearly why the general impression about England is about the Queen… London and the weather. Those I speak to think that England is in the grip of an ice-age with rain daily and I suppose that we English do tend to give that impression. The Brits here that I have met talk incessantly about the weather including the rain at home. So entirely our fault for creating that misconception. After all it only rains every other day!

I was slightly surprised, when one girl of about 17 that I met, asked me if we have universities in England. It just goes to show that what presence we do have in America is limited and not very impressive. Perhaps rock stars and others in the entertainment industry that are visible in the media here are only showing one side of our talents!

David has been to St. Louis this week and as he had a couple of hours to kill, he went up into the Gateway Arch which is a monument to all the settlers that headed west in search of a new life on the Oregon Trail. (Just think Daddy if they hadn’t done that you would not have all your favourite John Wayne movies). The arch is made of stainless steel and at its highest point is 630 feet and has a tram running inside. There are observation windows at the top which gave David a magnificent view right up the Mississippi river.

Unfortunately he had a long flight back with lots of delays, and I eventually picked him up at 10pm last night, three hours late.

I had a minor accident on Saturday. We had just come out of a bookshop, and clasping my purchases to my bosom, I made for the car. I was wearing an open pair of mules with a 1″ heel as I have not got around to buying any proper sandals yet. I am embarrassed to say that I fell off them, landing in a crumpled heap at David’s feet, in front of a very busy restaurant, with my skirt flying up over my head. Thank goodness I was wearing fancy underwear. They must have thought I was drunk and David sort of hauled me up and virtually carried me to the car and deposited me in the passenger seat. Turns out I have pulled a ligament and twisted my ankle.

This meant we had a static weekend but I am now able to walk short distances and I am thankful for this almost automated apartment… no standing around doing washing up etc. Luckily it is my left foot which means I can still drive and hobble around the supermarket.

As a result of the injury I have been watching more television and I mainly stay on the movie channels as there are no adverts. Most of the others interrupt the programme every 10 minutes. I watched the Oscar awards the other night and because it was prime time viewing they had long advert breaks every 6 or 7 minutes. It took three days to watch it!

David is going overnight to Dallas tomorrow. I am giving it a miss this time as we want to save for Easter weekend when he has four days off. We thought we would go to New Orleans which is only 400 miles away and we both want to experience the Jazz first hand. I am also going to join him in San Diego in April and perhaps a Florida trip. So important that we see as much as we can of this amazing country.

Before I forget… Daddie’s Spaghetti Bolognese is going down very well.. We have had a few neighbours over for dinner in the last few weeks, and I was asked which brand of sauce I bought.. They were very impressed when I told them that I made my own to a secret family recipe. As you know David has a massive library of Irish jokes which also go down very well. Bearing in mind the misconceptions about English weather I am making a determined effort never to mention it.. it is very hard!

And our permanent driving licenses have arrived.. hysterical. It is the size of a credit card with our photos and address on the front. They are an essential form of identification here and you cannot cash or sign a cheque for goods unless you have one. I mentioned at the time of the test that I was dreading what the photo looked like as I had been traumatised by Officer Rodriquez… I was justified as I look like an escaped lunatic. One consolation is that David’s is even worse and he had a great big black smudge across his face…

Anyway, will write again and tell you all about our New Orleans trip after Easter.

love from us both.. S &D XX

©sallycronin 2017

Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope you continue to enjoy our adventure in Texas and trips we made around America during our time there. Next week my article that I wrote about out trip to New Orleans.

 

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Adventures in the USA – Dallas, A Texas Menace and Realtors 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.

Last week I shared our experiences as we arrived in Houston in the first week of February and faced the challenges of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, extra large portions in restaurants and the search for a more permanent place to live.

This week a road trip, an interesting encounter with a Texas menace and our first experience of realtors.

Our snowy front garden and house that we left in Tring Hertfordshire in January 1985

Dear M & D.

Received your letter and the big packet yesterday thank you, and mail seems to be taking about ten days to come through which is pretty standard. In the apartment complex there are mail boxes and you collect your post from there. Makes sense other wise the mailman would be traipsing all over the place for hours delivering the post.

The weather here is quite warm considering it is only February, but at least it is not yet as humid as they promised for later in the year. Certainly a big difference from the snowy weather we left in Tring only two weeks ago.

We drove to Dallas yesterday which is why this is written on a Holiday Inn letterhead. We shared the driving and I must say the freeway system is pretty efficient. Of course the speed limit is only 55 mph, which is a bit slower than we are used to. However, most of the cars and pickup trucks seem to be doing between 60 and 65. Being a little bit wary of how the system works at the moment we are sticking firmly to the speed limit. I am very impressed with the hire car which is the first automatic that I have driven. It has a very neat feature which is called cruise control.

When you are on the freeway, which is straight and hundreds of miles long, you can set your speed, such as 55 and then press a button and it will automatically stay at that speed unless you touch the brake or accelerator. So you can take your feet of the pedals, and just steer. I don’t think it would be as useful in the UK, as the motorways are so busy you would be forever hitting the brakes. Anyway here it is fantastic.

We are staying north of Dallas so had to come through the city itself. It was dark and all the tower blocks were lit up which was an incredible sight. David was driving and I navigated and it was quite hairy as you are not allowed to go LESS than 45 mph and it was very busy. Cars came in from both sides and there doesn’t seem to be any rules about lanes, so they weave in and out including enormous trucks. It was like being on a fairground roller coaster. Added to the fact that it was dark and I was trying to read the map to find our exit and the hotel, we arrived stressed and in need of a drink.

David has a meeting this morning and then we hope to drive back to Houston in daylight around 3.00 this afternoon. At least I have seen the famous Dallas and although we have not got time this trip, next time we plan to visit Southfork.. I will say hello to J.R. Mollie for you!

Amazing last night to find our waitress was English and came from only 20 miles from Tring in St. Albans.. talk about a small world. She and her husband have been here two years and love it.

We have settled into our executive apartment but are planning to move out in the next month. It is very comfortable and the complex team are very helpful. However, I might have given them something to laugh about.

David was a way for the night last week and it was only our second night in the apartment. I got ready for bed and turned down the covers and just as I was about to climb in, I saw a movement on the beige carpet out of the corner of my eye. I leapt onto the bed and moved across to get a better look. It was the largest cockroach I have ever seen….and then I saw another even bigger… it was huge with great long antenna. There was no way I was spending the night in the bedroom with them and so shut the door and slept on the couch in the living room.

The next morning I popped into the office and mentioned that we seemed to have an infestation of these creatures and they laughed their heads off, especially when I said that I had seen two of them. They said that the whole complex was due to have exterminators in during the week and gave me three small cardboard boxes called Roach Motels. They told me to put a couple under the beds and one in the kitchen under the sink.

Apparently these things live in the walls everywhere and usually disappear when the lights go on. This is not a comforting thought and I am not sure that I will be sleeping well for some time.  I shall be checking out our permanent place a little more thoroughly and certainly checking to see how regularly they exterminate the apartments!

We spent last weekend looking at houses, we don’t want a garden particularly so going for what they call town homes. Although they only have two bedrooms they are ensuite with an extra half bathroom (shower and loo) downstairs for visitors. What is amazing is the kitchen and laundry equipment. Huge ovens and grills and laundromat size washing machines and tumble dryers. Puts my pressure washer and spindryer to shame. Everywhere is certainly very well equipped.

David is going to Kansas on Thursday and Friday so I am going house hunting on my own. The realtors are very good and pick you up, take you around the house and bring you back. You have to read between the lines as they enthuse about everything and it is very easy to get carried along with them. They have an entirely different attitude to business here, you can almost see the dollar signs, neon lit in their eyes when you mention it is a company let. However, I like them, they have an open curiosity which is refreshing. As soon as they hear your accent they are want to know all about England and London.

We are going to have to take a driving test in the next two weeks. Otherwise we cannot be insured on the new car that we have yet to buy. There is certainly a massive selection as there is in everything here in the US. I could certainly spend a fortune without any problem.

Will come back to you next week, after I have entered my 33rd year. Take care and all our love. David and Sally.

© sallycronin 2018

I hope you will drop in next week for the first of one of my articles that I wrote about special events.. the first is on the subject of our driving tests…….I would love your feedback as always. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Letters from America – Christmas 1985 – Houston, Texas – Sally Cronin


Time to get back to the Letters from America series.

I left off in October having shared my parents visit to us for three weeks. 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.

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

©sallycronin 2018

The other letters from America are in the directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

Thank you for dropping in and another letter in the New Year….Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 – 1987 – My parents arrive – Part One – Stetsons, Yellow Roses, Pappasito’s and Chi Chis


It is now early November 1985 and we had not seen my parents since Christmas when they stayed with us in our home in Tring, Hertfordshire. Those of you who have been following my weekly letters home to them, will know that we had been planning for their trip for months, and on Thursday 7th November they landed in Houston.

I was waiting for them as planned as they came out of immigration and customs, and there was quite a bit of kissing and hugging before I gave them their welcoming gifts. For my mother a bunch of yellow roses, which whilst not the state flower of Texas (The Bluebonnet) have historical significance in this part of the world. The real story behind the song The Yellow Rose of Texas is a fascinating tale of subterfuge and the exploitation of a powerful man’s weaknesses. There have been many efforts to debunk the story that circulated about the part a certain Miss West played in the defeat of Santa Ana. However, I prefer the romantic and daring version to the ‘historical’ account. The first words out of my mother’s mouth when receiving the bouquet, was to announce that she was now officially a Yellow Rose of Texas. This resulted in a little history lesson in the car back to our apartment, about the inadvisability of announcing that to any Texans that she might meet.

To my father, who had been bald as long as I could remember, I presented a straw stetson to protect his pate from the still hot Texan sunshine and he wore it everywhere. It returned to the UK at the end of his holiday and over the years, at any sign of sunshine he would wear his stetson. He was a life-long Western film lover and was one of the reasons I bought that style of hat instead of a baseball cap. Just one of the cowboy themed surprises for their visit.

Here is a picture of them both by the swimming pool, and if you look at my mother, you will see that she had liberated by own red straw stetson that I am wearing in the header photo.. Somehow I managed to hang on to that when she returned home.

I was well aware of how tiring that transatlantic flight could be, combined with the usual stress of travel. However, both my parents were used to long haul flights and sea journeys, as we had lived abroad all through my childhood in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) Malta and South Africa.  I also knew that both of them enjoyed a party, and after a day to recover, on the Friday night we invited some of our friends over to meet them.

Over the next couple of days we stayed close to home with with lunches out, including to our favourite Mexican Cantina; Pappasito’s on I-45 about ten minutes from the house. We were regulars there by this time and were able to point my parents in the direction of the tastiest dishes on the menu.

Whilst we certainly enjoyed indulging in shared appetizers when we visited the cantina with our friends, we were not sure how my parents would find their first experience of Mexican cuisine. We need not have worried as both tucked in and declared the Quesadillas and the Fajitas to be fabulous. In fact my father took home a cookery book with him so that he could recreate the dishes for friends.

The Margaritas were not so popular, but my father who was not much of a drinker, discovered the joys of American beer whilst my mother settled for some white wine. We experimented with cocktails for them both over the next week or so, discovering my father’s achilles heel…Chi Chis…made with vodka, coconut cream and pineapple juice, which played straight to his sweet tooth. After David had mixed a batch and given my father a glass, he emptied quite quickly and eagerly accepted a second. David told him that it had vodka in it, but my father shrugged that off and consumed enthusiastically. It was the first time I can remember my father being slightly tiddly, and for the rest of his visit he would enjoy at least one chi chi before dinner or ordered when we were out. It was lovely to see his face as he took that first sip through the straw as the sweetness hit his taste buds, and it is one of those memories you cherish.

I inherited the shopping gene from my mother, and whilst my father relaxed with a book and David was at work, I would pop out for a couple of hours with her to one of the big malls. Thankfully my father had the good sense to leave some luggage space for the expected purchases, and my mother went home with a several skirts, tops and dresses and pairs of shoes, none of which she really needed!. To be fair they came from the discount mall where you could buy top of the range fashion at a fraction of the price.

Our friends were very kind and invited us out to lunch that first week, or over for drinks in the evening. By the end of the first week my mother and father felt quite at home and ready for more ambitious adventures.

David was going to take the second week of their visit off from work so that we could go further afield. We also planned to have everyone over for our wedding anniversary party on the Friday night 15th November, before heading out to San Antonio for a two day visit on the Sunday. Apart from wanting to show my parents this lovely city, it was an opportunity to give my father a chance to fulfill one of his boyhood dreams, to visit The Alamo.

Little did we know that events on the night of the party would nearly scupper that plan!

I hope you have enjoyed this first part of Mollie and Eric in Houston… and will tune in again next week. Thanks Sally

You can find the other posts in this series here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/