Smorgasbord Letters from America – Barbados and the last letter home 1986. Sally Cronin


When I was given the folder of my handwritten letters to my parents when my father died in 1996, I was amazed that he had kept them for ten years. But so pleased that he did. We tend to remember the major events, and we had plenty of amazing experiences in those two years of living in the United States, but it is easy to forget the everyday…

This letter at the end of August was to be my last letter home from America in 1986. Two weeks later I went home for two weeks and when we returned from the UK we knew that we would be returning there on January 1st 1987. We also got into the habit of ringing my parents every week until we left.

In the meantime we fitted in a trip to Barbados using up some of the air miles and Marriott Hotel points we had accumulated. All we had to do was pay for our car hire (mini-moke) and food and drink.

August 24th 1986.

Dear M & D.

So excited to see you in three weeks and cannot believe it is a year since your visit to us. After my week with you in Portsmouth, I am catching a train up to Manchester to join David at his conference and to discover our fate. They have offered him the job of Chief Engineer back in Liverpool, and it is obviously something that he has worked for over the last five years with the company.

Anyway in the meantime I thought you might like to hear about our Barbados adventure.

The flight time is not too bad just under six hours, and we arrived mid-afternoon to find a humid day but bright sunshine. We took a taxi to our Marriott hotel which was on the windy side of the Island…which meant the sea was not as calm as we expected but more about swimming later.

The resort was set in some lovely grounds and there was everything you could possibly need in the main building.

Our room was on the ground floor of an annex with a small patio with two recliners and a view of the grounds and sea in the distance, which was perfect for sipping a rum cocktail before dinner (duty free). Wonderful seafood and great service and after our early start we were in bed by 10pm and ready to start the adventure the next day.

We were on the patio enjoying our first cup of coffee of the day, when we got the fright of our lives as a furry creature ambled passed us, stopping to give us a look as to say, ‘not another tourist’ and then headed off about is business. We checked with the front desk later to discover it was a mongoose. Apparently it was brought in from India in the late 1800s to take care of the rats in the sugar cane. Only they had not done their homework, as rats are nocturnal and the mongoose is a day time predator. However, they decimated the snake population instead, much to my relief as you know how much I dislike snakes. Still it was an interesting snippet to find out.

Before we hit the beach we had to get dressed for our interview with the local police. No, I had not got into trouble… but to drive a rental vehicle, you need a temporary Barbadian driving licence. We decided I would be driving, so was the one to go through the formalities and had to show my licence and passport before being issued with a two week permit. We had arranged to have our vehicle delivered by the hire people and as is customary on the island, it was a mini-moke.

I don’t have a picture of our actual mini-moke but here is an image from Wikipedia.

The formalities out of the way, we changed into our swimmers and headed off to the beach.

We had  bought a belly board from from the hotel shop very cheaply, which if you remember I was quite proficient at when we lived in South Africa. I headed into the surf and emerged an hour later having recovered my expertise.. Only to find David in hysterics. I had been wiped out a couple of times and been thrown around in the surf quite a bit. Turns out I had acquired rather a lot of sand in the crotch of my swimsuit that was very noticeable when I walked out of the water. We had gathered a small crowd of young locals who were clearly envious of my boarding skills but were equally hysterical by the sight before them. More about our new friends later.

After getting changed, and removing a pound of sand…we thought we would try out our mini-moke and we headed off to Bridgetown in search of lunch.

A historic town and very busy, packed with tourists and there was a cruise ship in port which added to the crowds. We had some delicious seafood and checked out some of the guided tours, but decided in the end to follow our noses and get some ideas from the leaflets at the hotel. Our intention was to relax after a very busy summer and David wanted to do some snorkeling.. We did a little bit of souvenir shopping then as we did not have any intention of returning to the town again. Far too busy and we wanted something more relaxing.

We pottered around the hotel and its beach for a couple of days and then headed across to the other side of the island for the day, which is the wind free side and of course the water is calm and placid. There were all sorts of activities for tourists, including a pirate ship that you could spend the day on, but David was intent on teaching me to snorkel. So looking incredibly elegant in flippers, mask and snorkel, I followed him into the water, much to the amusement of the local fishermen casting their lines into the lagoon. Being wary of what is under the water after my escapades with jelly fish, I was a mite terrified.

However, I soon got the hang of it and we headed out to the reef area, and I must say it was amazingly clear water with wonderfully coloured fish and coral. We spent about half an hour and then David dived down towards the sand and gestured for me to come down for a closer look. He was clearly excited by his find, and imagining hidden pirate treasure I headed down to discover more. It was a very long, wriggling creature that looked like a snake to me…and I was not hanging around to find out more. I propelled myself upwards to the surface and headed for shore and shot out of the water between two startled fishermen. David said when he surfaced, the furrow I had created in the water looked like a torpedo had been fired, and that he had never seen me swim so fast. It did turn out to be an eel but I wasn’t taking any chances.

We spent several days exploring the island and popping into some of the other resorts for meals and usually ended up back at our own beach for an hour of surfing. The young lads would congregate after school, and from time to time, after wrecking myself in the surf, I would let them use my board. On our last afternoon we took down a bunch of cold cokes and said our farewells, and I donated my board to the boys who were thrilled. No point in taking it back to Houston and the swimming pool.

We flew home feeling rested, and after all my surfing, and despite eating very well for two weeks, I was 7lbs lighter.. perfect end to a holiday.

Anyway look forward to seeing you very soon and will bring the photographs with me.

love from us both S&D.

Sally Cronin 2019.

 

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed our two years in Houston and our travels as much as we did. It has brought back many of the memories that had been filed away over the last 35 years.

Smorgasbord Letters from America – Houston – June 1986 – June 1986 – Kittens, sit ups and water volley ball!


When I was given the folder of my handwritten letters to my parents when my father died in 1996, I was amazed that he had kept them for ten years. But so pleased that he did. We tend to remember the major events, and we had plenty of amazing experiences in those two years of living in the United States, but it is easy to forget the everyday…

By this time in our time in America, I was speaking to my parents much more frequently by telephone each week, but I was still writing two or three letters a month.

19th June 1986.

Hi M & D,

Thank you for your letter which arrived this morning and so pleased you are happy with the new arrangement to the flat.. it sounds great and looking forward to seeing them on my trip home in September.

This has been a busy week with one thing and another including an upping of my training. If I am going to keep up with a 15 year old for three weeks next month, I need to get in shape. I mentioned that I would like a six pack to my trainer at the gym and she promptly had me on the floor doing 300 half sit ups.. I actually meant a pack of beer!  I also make the mistake of saying I would love a 36 – 26 – 37 figure but I reckon I will have to steal one.. In any case I have hit my latest target and here I am with a little way to go yet.

Earlier in the week David had some business visitors and we took them to Pappasitos of course, and they were intrigued when the guitarist came over and asked after Mollie! You made a lasting impression there.

As you know Sutherland went missing several weeks ago and despite some sightings he has not returned. Walter was obviously devastated but he has gone out and got a kitten. Very sweet and its name is Farley, after the author Farley Mowat. He is coming over to us regularly when Walt is on a long shift and we have been training him to a cat carrier so that we can take him back and forth safely.. He loves it but I am missing one table mat and two clothes hangers.

David seems to be coping with his cat allergy which is just as well as Farley follows him everywhere and is on his lap at the first chance. When David is at work, I find myself fighting for the pen when writing, and oops here it goes again. Farley will not be able to roam as Sutherland did, as we don’t want to lose another.

Sonia and I have been in touch with instructions for Emma on arrival at Houston, but she will also have an escort from the plane through customs and immigration. I am sure that Emma is more than capable to handling it herself but want to make it as stress free as possible. I have booked the beach house in South Padre for four days and Debbie and I will enjoy the break too. We get back the day before she travels home so she should be lovely and tanned.

We also have tickets for a James Taylor concert

Last Sunday there was a match with another apartment complex water volley ball team and I was playing for the boys.. this week at least the injuries were fairly minor, one bloody nose, 1 mild concussion, and one black eye (mine). One of the members of the opposing team spiked the ball across the net onto my face, it bounced off and one of my teammates hit it back and we won the point. Some justice after all. We played for four hours and I was wiped out but I do enjoy and it is great exercise. A little make-up around the eye should conceal the bruise. David was not impressed and suggested I might play for the girls team instead… I pointed out that they can be even more vicious!

Tomorrow Debbie is intelligence testing me at Sam Houston University in front of her professor. She is taking a summer class towards her private counselling licence, and it should be enlightening. I am not sure that I want her to tell  me the results. She is a great friend and I shall miss her very much if we have to leave here next January.

A week on Saturday we are going to New Braunfels near San Antonio and are renting rafts to float down the Guadalupe River (including the rapids). We have two condos with eight in each and as David is in Austin until Friday, he will drive to meet us. Apparently it is another of those experiences we need to get in before we leave Texas. I am sure that they make half of this up just to see us (me) petrified.

I will give you a full report if I survive…

I hope this has been more legible than usual, having been typed on the word processor on David’s new computer. Much as I have loved being here in Texas and taking full advantage of the freedom to travel around America and enjoy days in the sun, I am ready to go back to work. I have not been out of work since I began that part time job at weekends and holidays when I was 14. I intend to get as familiar as possible with David’s machine so that I can be up to date with new technology if we come home next year. If we do stay it will be on a different basis and I will have a visa that enables me to work, and being able to understand computers will be great.

Anyway.. before that more fun to come and I intend to take full advantage of the opportunity….take care and love from us both.

S & D.

 

I hope you have enjoyed the latest news from Houston (1986) and will join me again next week for an update… thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Letters from America – Houston – June 1986 – South Padre Island and Getting Fit.. Sally Cronin


When I was given the folder of my handwritten letters to my parents when my father died in 1996, I was amazed that he had kept them for ten years. But so pleased that he did. We tend to remember the major events, and we had plenty of amazing experiences in those two years of living in the United States, but it is easy to forget the everyday…

It is now June 1986 and the summer was hot… we decide to go down to South Padre on the gulf coast for a weekend and to test it out ahead of my 15 year old nieces trip later in the summer.. As usual I kept my parents up to date with my weekly letter home. I do have some photos of that trip somewhere but with 12 moves since then.. don’t ask me which box they are in!!  Here is a modern day one from Pixabay.com…

Dear M & D..

We got home from South Padre…to find a letter from you and from Diana… thank you for catching up with all your news.

We had a wonderful weekend and were very pleasantly surprised by our beach house. I must admit I was expecting a shack on the beach but in fact it was a two storey, double garage, two bed and bath private house. The living room was as big as our appartment, and a balcony with a great view of the sea. We had sunshine the whole time and we spent most of in on the beach and in the water, surfing on rafts…

The seafood was amazing in the two restaurants that we ate in and the prawns (shrimp here as you know) were as big as lobsters.. The only draw back was the 7 hour drive there and back, but I took along our trivia pursuit box of questions and we swapped driving every couple of hours and became quiz master.. David won of course.. I never was much good at science but entertainment is usually mine!  We love living in the complex but we did notice the difference being in a detached house 50 yards from the nearest neighbour… very quiet….

The weather was very hot up to the last week or so but we are getting into hurricane season in the next few weeks and there has been a some very heavy rain and flooding already. None have touched down in Houston for the last couple of years but there are warnings out at the moment. There are lines at the supermarket for the basics although I tend to keep a stock in the larder just in case with bottled water etc.  I would be quite happy not to experience one and hopefully we will get away with it again this year.

I am back down to a size sixteen again which is pleasing.. it takes effort… and have upped my aerobics to two classes a week and I can usually make it through the hour without keeling over. I am also playing water volley ball twice a week and tennis at least once with Debby. Swimming an hour a day is a good way to ease the muscles and I love having the pool to myself most of the afternoon as everyone is usually at work.. Except for my flight attendant friends who regale me with tales of life in the sky… they don’t get paid enough.

The latest group activity is line dancing and we have found a great country and western dance bar where we have been a couple of times.. David is not keen but I go with the gang when he is away. I am not allowed to dance with strangers.. and if a cowboy should approach me and ask me, two or three of my guardians step forward and tell them ‘She’s married’..I will never get the Texas two step mastered at this rate!

We are moving ahead with plans for Emma’s visit. Debby’s students are around the same age so she is organising some of them to accompany us on days out. They are all looking forward to meeting her and have been restrained from coming to the airport with us to meet her. Our friends here in the apartments have also started issuing invitations and about 20 of us will be going to Pappasitos to introduce her to fajitas…I promise to take lots of photographs to send to you.

We have so many air miles racked up that we need to spend before we come back to the UK, so I am going to come home in October if that is okay with you for a week to see everyone, just in case our contract is extended into the middle of next year.. We are also going to us them up in conjunction with loyalty points we have with Marriott and having never been to Barbados that is our next port of call in September.

It is time for the fortnightly phone call this Sunday so will catch you up on everything else then.

love from us both.

S & D.

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the latest adventure. I am so glad we made the most of our two years in America. We met some amazing people and 35 years later we are still in touch.

 

Smorgasbord Letters from America – Houston – April 1986 – Lost Cats and Tomatoes by Sally Cronin


When I was given the folder of my handwritten letters to my parents when my father died in 1996, I was amazed that he had kept them for ten years. But so pleased that he did. We tend to remember the major events, and we had plenty of amazing experiences in those two years of living in the United States, but it is easy to forget the everyday…

April 1986

Dear M & D,

Another letter from the far flung corners of the globe and unusually for me I am full of cold… must have been drinking out of damp glasses again!

It has been an unsettled week. As you know we look after Walter’s cat Sutherland when he is on a long shift or away and we are very attached to him. He is sometimes allowed out in the exercise yard and always comes home, but he went missing a few nights ago and we have been out searching for him several times a day. He was spotted in the company of another cat yesterday and he may be co-habiting somewhere with a lady friend. I hope he is okay we miss him.. he is such a character.

David did very well in his race on the Saturday before he left for the UK.. he came 363rd out of 2000 runners so is very pleased. He will carry on with his training and I expect he will be in a full marathon one day soon.

He is currently luxuriating in his tiny hotel room in Manchester and he should have phoned you by now. He has been very busy with meetings and having discussions with his boss on the subject of his return to the UK or an extended stay here. Once he gets back we will have a definite answer and we can make our plans. I think it is likely that they will offer him a position back in Prescott, and we will have to discuss whether we want to return to that part of the UK. We know it well and we do enjoy having access to the Welsh mountains and coast for the weekends. It will be tough adjusting back to the weather though, I have got very used to being in the sun and swimming 8 months of the year.

My friends here have rallied around whilst David is away with Walter and Anna for supper on Monday, Debbie came over last night to watch a movie and tonight Pamela and I are off to the cinema.

I am also thrilled to say that the first tomatoes have emerged on the four plants on the balcony.. I now have five that are beginning to ripen and David will enjoy those in his sandwiches he has every day at work.

He has some leave due and we thought we might take a few days break. A road trip as he has had enough flying for a while. We might go down to Florida for a bit of Miami Vice!! We have passed through the north of the State but never explored fully.. Having watched some of the nature programs on the television I am not too sure about the everglades… snakes, alligators and such!  You know me and snakes.

Once David returns and we have firm news I can let Sonia know and she can book Emma’s ticket. I have lots of ideas for the three weeks that she is here and everyone is very excited to meet her. She won’t have time to draw breath and hopefully we can keep a 15 year old entertained as there are no other teenagers of her age here in the complex. Our friends who have lived here all their lives have come up with a list of ‘top attractions’ and we will take their guidance very happily.

I am off now to sit in the sun and watch my tomatoes grow.. hopefully my cold will have run its course by tomorrow and I can go back to my daily swim. At least my tan makes me look healthy…….

love and hugs as always… S & D.

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the latest adventure. I am so glad we made the most of our two years in America..most of the partying stopped on our return to the UK and I was back to work full-time.

Smorgasbord Letters from America – April 1986 – San Diego – Trash Can Punch and Sea World by Sally Cronin


When I was given the folder of my handwritten letters to my parents when my father died in 1996, I was amazed that he had kept them for ten years. But so pleased that he did. We tend to remember the major events, and we had plenty of amazing experiences in those two years of living in the United States, but it is easy to forget the everyday…

April 10th 1986

Dear M & D.

I hope you had a pleasant Easter and great to talk to you on the phone. Sorry it was so damp. I am not sure that I am looking forward to returning to wet winters and lukewarm summers. I do love the sunshine here.

The pool party was a huge success and there was an introduction to Trash Can Punch. A couple of us chopped up pounds of oranges, apples and pineapple and it was emptied into a black trash can (well scrubbed) and then half filled with fruit juice and ice. Then as people arrived at the pool they were invited to add a bottle of spirits or wine. As you can imagine this became very potent quickly in the heat, and it did not take long for the party to really kick off. People also bought food and a BBQ was on the go in the recreation area and just as well. I stuck to water after the first large cup full, but made the mistake of sucking a couple of pieces of orange when we got to the end of the mix at the end of the afternoon. They were well soused in booze! We all had a great time but Sunday was suspiciously quiet by the pool!

David left for Las Vegas on the Monday and then went on to San Francisco, getting to San Diego on Thursday. I flew out on Saturday morning very early arriving mid-morning and I must say I fell in love with the City right away. Sunshine of course, but also palm trees and it reminded me of Hawaii, but without the long flight.

I think San Diego makes a wonderful holiday destination as there was certainly plenty to see and do. The beaches are great for swimming and the scenery is breathtaking with rolling hills and lush plant life. As we were only there for three days we were selective about our sight-seeing and a complete day was needed for Sea World and San Diego Zoo, both of which were impressive, despite my dislike of seeing animals in cages.

I petted and fed a dolphin with some fish, and got really close to a killer whale and we watched one of the shows where the trainers were in the pool with them. A lot of water was splashed over the audience sat in the front rows, so quite pleased to be a lot further back. I would rather the dolphins and the other sea mammals were in the ocean but many of them were rescued or raised in captivity and would not survive in wild. But I have to say that from an educational perspective it was fascinating to be so close to these incredible animals.

We ate out at a couple of restaurants that were amazing including the Reuben E. Lee which is a replica paddle steamer which served seafood and steaks and then the Bali Hi which had wonderful Chinese food. Both restaurants are located on the islands in the bay with views of San Diego skyline and it made a fabulous backdrop to our meal.

One thing that is noticeable is the military and naval activity which is also reminiscent of Hawaii and we were given some pretty impressive aerial displays by naval jets on an exercise.

When I got back I took the next step in our plan to remain in the US after David’s contract is up in January, and opened a bank account of my own. The one drawback of being here is that you have to show your ID… which is my driving licence when you use cheques and the photo is appalling…. and I am stuck with it for another three years!

And a little bit of fun…I wrote a letter to the local paper as their movie critic had been very scathing about ‘Out of Africa’ and the fact that it had won so many Oscars. It is one of my favourite films so I gave him my opinion  and how disappointed I was in his review. I also mentioned that his photograph made him look very grumpy.. Lo and behold… they published the letter and his reply to it he agreed about the photo and they have changed it..

David is now in the final stages of training for his big race next Saturday and he has certainly worked very hard for it. I am sure he will do well. I am just off to play tennis with Debbie and with a run of good weather I should be able to get my hour swim each day for the next week.

Catch up with you on the phone over the weekend.

love from us both S & D…..

 

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the latest adventure. I am so glad we made the most of our two years in America..most of the partying stopped on our return to the UK and I was back to work full-time.

Smorgasbord Letters from America – March 1986 – Pool Parties, lost puppies, New Furniture by Sally Cronin


When I was given the folder of my handwritten letters to my parents when my father died in 1996, I was amazed that he had kept them for ten years. But so pleased that he did. We tend to remember the major events, and we had plenty of amazing experiences in those two years of living in the United States, but it is easy to forget the everyday…

March 18th 1986

Dear M & D.

Another St. Patrick’s Day over, we must have been the only two in Houston who didn’t attend the parade and celebrate it!  I hear they even turned the river flowing through San Antonio that we walked along with you last year, green. One of our friends who comes from New York said that around 40 million Americans have Irish ancestry…for a small country Ireland has managed to do what greater nations have failed to… infiltrate every continent. There were a contingent of Irish at the Alamo on both sides as there are some Mexican families with Irish surnames..

We are still looking at options should be stay here after David’s contract finishes in January 1987. The sticking point is still for me to get a visa because we would both have to work if we are to afford a house etc. David is still in talks with agencies and we have had an idea of what I might do…With my previous job with Savills in Norfolk, I am looking at what is needed to take the Real Estate exams here. Once we have an idea of which state we would like to live in, I will check that out. I would be interested to go through the course anyway to keep my brain active.

On the subject of houses, we have come up with a plan to save quite a bit of money. We currently pay rental for all the furniture in the apartment. We get a certain allowance from the company but that does not cover all the rental or the furniture. So I have been to a rental company that also sells used furniture to complexes who offer fully-furnished. We pay 200 dollars a month for the furniture and I have paid 500 dollars for everything needed to replace it. With 9 months left this means a saving of 1300 dollars that we can put towards our new home.. here or back in the UK. David’s company has confirmed that it will bring back all our belongings including my car and any furniture so either way we will get good use from it. We sold our house in Tring with a lot of the furniture included because we didn’t want to pay a lot of storage whilst we were away. So it will be useful. It is all high quality stuff and a fraction of the cost of buying brand new.

Sonia rang me so we could talk about Emma’s visit in the summer and we are looking at June for three weeks. We just need to confirm our whereabouts but she doesn’t have to book the flight until 21 days before. It will be lovely to see her and cannot believe she is now 15… Debby and I have some trips up our sleeves including a girl’s weekend to San Padre Island which is fabulous. We will rent a beach house for three days.

David has a lot of travel planned for the next three weeks with trips to Las Vegas and San Diego in the first week in April. I will send him off with ten dollars to put in the poker slot machines for me… but don’t expect to see any winnings back! And I will fly out to meet him in San Diego for the weekend as we have some air miles to redeem and I can get a bonus ticket for 50 dollars extra. I do love that west coast and we are looking forward to exploring the southern end of the highway.

Walter has a bunch of friends coming in next week for a few days and I am cleaning his carpet for him with a rented machine from the store. I don’t mind as he is very good about making sure we are okay. We are having two of his friends stay with us, there is a big party planned for their first night around the pool with a BBQ and water volleyball and another on the Sunday at his place. I don’t think there will be much time for sleep.

I am now playing water volley ball for the boys team… I am tall and having played netball am quite useful by the net. We sometimes play other apartment complex and I am not sure if I am the mascot or the ace up their sleeves…They call me Sledgehammer.. I have been called worse… There is a song of the same name which seems to get played a lot.

We nearly got a dog…..yesterday I found a small puppy wandering around Kroger’s car park and I saw it nearly go under the wheels of a truck. I managed to coax it towards me and picked her up and brought her home. I rang the SPCA but they couldn’t take her last night so we decided to keep her or at least find her a good home.  I took her for a walk around the outside of the apartment complex which has some grass, and as we passed the family section some children ran up and called her name. Seems like she had got out of the window left open for her in the truck when they were shopping at Kroger’s so it had a happy ending. But both of us were a bit disappointed.

Anyway.. time to head over and clean a carpet… and get the guest bedroom ready for the visitors. Write again next week..

love from us both S&D…

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the latest adventure. I am so glad we made the most of our two years in America..most of the partying stopped on our return to the UK and I was back to work full-time.

Smorgasbord Letters from America – March 1986 – Road Trip Atlanta-Houston and BBQ Cookout by Sally Cronin


When I was given the folder of my handwritten letters to my parents when my father died in 1996, I was amazed that he had kept them for ten years. But so pleased that he did. We tend to remember the major events, and we had plenty of amazing experiences in those two years of living in the United States, but it is easy to forget the everyday…

By the pool Monday 10th March 1986

Dear M & D

It is a cloudy day but 65 degrees so I decided to write you letter by the pool instead of in the apartment. Sorry to hear you have had the flu Mollie, and hope it is much better by the time you read this.

We set off from Atlanta at 11 a.m last Monday and were intending to stop at Pensacola in Florida that night and then again in Mississippi on Tuesday night. However, you know what it is like!!! We felt quite fresh, and decided to push on and stop when we got tired, and at 3.30a.m we arrived back in Houston! 780 miles which is not bad. We took it in turns driving, 2 hours on and 2 hours off and stopped each time for a break and either a coffee or something to eat and it worked well.

We have spent the rest of the week recovering and getting sorted after nearly ten days away, and thankfully David has not had to travel.

Thanks Pixabay.com

This weekend was spent at our first BBQ cookout. We went up to Debbie on Friday night to Conroe where 80 teams were competing with their sides of beef and secret recipes.The smell was amazing and all thoughts of being good flew out the window. Impossible to try everyone’s BBQ but we learnt from our friends that the pits with the longest queues where well known for the quality of their meat.. and some of those sauces were hot, hot….

We met some really great people including some real cowboys who were fascinated by our accents. Eventually I was forced to give a rendition of Molly Malone to the owners of one of the BBQ stands, although I think they lost a few people out of their queue!

Thanks Pixabay.com

That evening.. with very full stomachs, we sat around a campfire and drank wine, comparing notes and enjoying the music.. In good country style, guitars were dug out of the campers and there were some great musicians and we enjoyed a good singalong. I have discovered I like country music since we arrived here and hearing it in an authentic setting does make a difference.

Yesterday we went back at midday and sat in the sun, but it was very windy  with dust blowing around all the time and I spent most of the day sneezing. When we got back to Houston late afternoon, Debbie and I had our first tennis match of the season and I was in bed by 9.00pm. When she finishes work today we are off to play again… the exercise is working..

I am so happy with my new car, it is great and it is so good to be able to go out shopping during the day rather than wait for David to come home from work. I don’t want to leave it behind if we move back to the UK at the end of the year and we are looking into how I can import it.

Walter sends his love and he has done something very constructive. He has given up his weekends to work in the apartment office which means he lives rent free. We are delighted for him and he seems to be very settled with his latest girlfriend.

Hopefully in the next week or two we will hear from the attorney about changing my status so that I can work too. Although he is not hopeful.. Until David has a firm job offer they are unlikely to change by Visa, but always we know things will work out for the best.

Time to get back inside and prepare chilli for some of the guys who are coming over to catch up on our trip and the BBQ weekend.

Love from us both…. S & D

©Sally Cronin

The images are from Pixabay as mine are packed away in the attic…..

 

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the latest adventure. I am so glad we made the most of our two years in America..the partying stopped on our return to the UK and I was back to work full-time.

Smorgasbord Letters from America – February 1986 – Birthday party and new car by Sally Cronin


It is February 1986, we are not sure if we will return to the UK and David has been talking to recruiters. It will depend on the visa situation, especially for me as I would also like to go out to work and my dependent’s visa did not allow me to do that. As I transcribe the handwritten letters that I sent my parents during the two years we were in the USA, I am also sifting through the photographs we took at the time.

14th February 1986

Dear M & D, Happy Valentine’s Day and it is a really big thing over here. Don’t think you could get away with a card Eric… roses, dinner and the full works would be required. Not sure I can drink any more at the moment after two days of celebrating.

I did the shopping for my birthday party the night before and brought home Chinese Takeaway. ‘W’ and Sutherland came over to share it and we ended up drinking two bottles of Kroger Champagne, spending half an hour in the hot tub and then it was decided I should end the evening with a swim in the freezing pool. The temperature in the day is not too bad but it certainly drops at night.

We spent yesterday preparing the food and getting set up for the party, not sure how we managed to fit 20 people in the apartment, but everyone seemed to get a glass and a plate of cheese etc.I had to use plastic plates and cups for the wine but nobody seemed to mind, and it certainly saved on the clearing and washing up.

David bought me a beautiful guitar so that I can get back to writing my songs and we went out car hunting. So excited as I will finally get my own car. With the prospect of us staying it seems like a good idea, and if we don’t we will ship it home. We went to the Mercury garage and I fell in love with a dark grey Mercury Topaz, automatic and as a demo model for car shows it has very low mileage and is at a very good price. This will mean a big difference to me as I only get the use of David’s car when he is traveling.  I pick it up next week.

I got some lovely presents from our friends including a rubber tree plant (I keep singing Ole Blue Eyes song) an ivy plant for the patio and Bill and Silvia bought me a cowhide wallet. Before we all got too tipsy we headed off to Johnny B. Dalton’s for dancing. I have not yet mastered the Texas two-step but I love line-dancing, sorry we did not get to take you when you were here.

You were mentioned often at the party and everyone sends their love including Debbie, hoping that you might make it back again. I have spoken to Sonia and it looks like Emma will be coming out in the summer for three weeks and it will be fun to organise some trips whilst she is here. Hard to believe she is 15 years old. Debbie and I have put our heads together and thought we might take her down to South Padre for a girls long weekend, and some of the others have suggested a theme park too.

We are going on a road trip next week, it is business, so will be using David’s car not my new one sadly. We head out Friday and drive to Shreveport to see Vicki and Kelly and really looking forward to seeing how much the baby has grown. We are then heading to Atlanta where we will catch up with Vicki’s parents who we got along with so well when we arrived, and David has meetings on Monday and Tuesday. We will drive straight back on Wednesday. It is quite a round trip with about 250 miles to Shreveport and then 600 miles to Atlanta with the return trip of 800 miles to Houston.

We share the driving and the roads are so straight that you can put on cruise control at the maximum speed and it flies by. You couldn’t do that in the UK even on the motorways as they are always so congested.

I will write to you after our trip and I have sent Diana a birthday card, enjoy your lunch with her on the 18th and love to everyone.

S & D.

 

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you are enjoying our adventures in America.. Sally.

Smorgasbord Letters from America – February 1986 – Trip to Dallas, #Southfork Ranch and Tornedoes by Sally Cronin


Following our trip to New Mexico we began to take short trips so that we visited as many places on our list as possible. We knew that it was likely we would be leaving America at the end of the year. This week we visited the set of one of the most popular television series of the time. Dallas.

February 1986 – Trip to Dallas, #Southfork Ranch and Tornedoes

February 7th 1986.

Dear M & D,

Hope you are well… and as you can see from the letterhead which I pinched from the Marriott, we were in Dallas last week . David had a meeting so we thought we would combine with some adventures. The weather had been wet on the trip up but it dried out enough for us to go to Southfork of ‘JR Ewing Fame’ the next afternoon.

There is a long drive up to an impressive looking house and we went in for a tour. I think that they must film the interior shots, or some of them anyway in the studio as the actual rooms were a bit small by the time you get cast and crew in them.

The pool also didn’t seem to be as big as I expected in the scenes that they have with 20 or 30 people having a party around it. Still it was fascinating to be actually at the famous Southfork.

They did have a buffalo in one of the paddocks and they also offer something quite unique for visitors, and that is why this is a packet rather than an email letter. You are now the proud owners of “1 Square Inch” of Southfork ranch. Don’t ask me which square inch it is so don’t order an oil drill quite yet! It is all legal apparently and the ownership is registered with the Land Office…

We also did a little retail therapy and we are now the proud owners of our own movie player, rather than having to rent one when we hire a movie.  This means that I can go to Krogers and pick up a movie for $1.50 any time I like. Unfortunately the television which is also a rental has decided to die, so they are coming with a replacement this afternoon.

We also experienced a different side to the weather on Wednesday this week when several tornadoes whistled down route 1960, doing a lot of damage and our municipal airport Hooks was devastated with a huge amount of damage to buildings and aircraft and 5 miles from here two people were killed and there were about 75 injuries. It must have been terrifying and I felt so sorry for the people in the trailer parks in its path as they have very little protection and can be smashed within minutes. In stark contrast today is brilliant blue skies and warm and just goes to show how weather here can flip on a dime.

We have also been talking about our future this week, and it looks like that the company is happy for David to stay until the end of this year before he returns to Liverpool to a job there. The problem is we don’t know if we want to go back. We love the weather, lifestyle and the people here and one of the things David will explore now we have the extra twelve months is to look at getting a job here in America. I realise that this means being away from you all but I will try to come home at least once a year, including this summer. I know that you enjoyed your stay in November and we would also hope you would come out to see us on a regular basis.

Tonight we have dinner with Walter and his girlfriend and he is going to be trying out his new wok. Tomorrow we are entertaining a couple of David’s colleagues from England and Monday David flies to Chicago and then Washington. We are having my birthday party the day after on Valentines and have about 20 people coming which no doubt will result in shenanigans and a late night dip in the pool which is quite cold at the moment… still the tequila will help keep us warm.

Will write again after the party… love from us both S &D.

 

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoyed the trip to Southfork.. Sally

 

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 – 1986 – Trash Can Punch and Sea World April 1986


My letters home from Houston Texas to my parents in the UK began to be a little more sporadic now as we got into the habit of weekly phone calls home. In this letter I share the pool party and our introduction to trash can punch.. and our trip to San Diego.

April 10th 1986

Dear M & D.

I hope you had a pleasant Easter and great to talk to you on the phone. Sorry it was so damp. I am not sure that I am looking forward to returning to wet winters and lukewarm summers. I do love the sunshine here.

The pool party was a huge success and there was an introduction to Trash Can Punch. A couple of us chopped up pounds of oranges, apples and pineapple and it was emptied into a black trash can (well scrubbed) and then half filled with fruit juice and ice. Then as people arrived at the pool they were invited to add a bottle of spirits or wine. As you can imagine this became very potent quickly in the heat, and it did not take long for the party to really kick off. People also bought food and a BBQ was on the go in the recreation area and just as well. I stuck to water after the first large cup full, but made the mistake of sucking a couple of pieces of orange when we got to the end of the mix at the end of the afternoon. They were well soused in booze! We all had a great time but Sunday was suspiciously quiet by the pool!

David left for Las Vegas on the Monday and then went on to San Francisco, getting to San Diego on Thursday. I flew out on Saturday morning very early arriving mid-morning and I must say I fell in love with the City right away. Sunshine of course, but also palm trees and it reminded me of Hawaii, but without the long flight.

I think San Diego makes a wonderful holiday destination as there was certainly plenty to see and do. The beaches are great for swimming and the scenery is breathtaking with rolling hills and lush plant life. As we were only there for three days we were selective about our sight-seeing and a complete day was needed for Sea World and San Diego Zoo, both of which were impressive, despite my dislike of seeing animals in cages.

I petted and fed a dolphin with some fish, and got really close to a killer whale and we watched one of the shows where the trainers were in the pool with them. A lot of water was splashed over the audience sat in the front rows, so quite pleased to be a lot further back. I would rather the dolphins and the other sea mammals were in the ocean but many of them were rescued or raised in captivity and would not survive in wild. But I have to say that from an educational perspective it was fascinating to be so close to these incredible animals.

We ate out at a couple of restaurants that were amazing including the Reuben E. Lee which is a replica paddle steamer which served seafood and steaks and then the Bali Hi which had wonderful Chinese food. Both restaurants are located on the islands in the bay with views of San Diego skyline and it made a fabulous backdrop to our meal.

One thing that is noticeable is the military and naval activity which is also reminiscent of Hawaii and we were given some pretty impressive aerial displays by naval jets on an exercise.

When I got back I took the next step in our plan to remain in the US after David’s contract is up in January, and opened a bank account of my own. The one drawback of being here is that you have to show your ID… which is my driving licence when you use cheques and the photo is appalling…. and I am stuck with it for another three years!

And a little bit of fun…I wrote a letter to the local paper as their movie critic had been very scathing about ‘Out of Africa’ and the fact that it had won so many Oscars. It is one of my favourite films so I gave him my opinion  and how disappointed I was in his review. I also mentioned that his photograph made him look very grumpy.. Lo and behold… they published the letter and his reply to it he agreed about the photo and they have changed it..

David is now in the final stages of training for his big race next Saturday and he has certainly worked very hard for it. I am sure he will do well. I am just off to play tennis with Debbie and with a run of good weather I should be able to get my hour swim each day for the next week.

Catch up with you on the phone over the weekend.

love from us both S & D…..

Thanks for dropping in today and if you would like to read more of the letters from January 1985.. you will find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/