Smorgasbord Letters from America – A nieces visit, Astroworld, rafting, South Padre and a Royal Wedding.


It is August 1986 to almost 33 years to the week. My niece Emma aged 15, has been with us for three weeks, and I am writing to my parents with all the things we got up to.. well almost all of them.. I would send the photos on to them at a later date, but will share them in the post.

Dear M & D..

Thankfully all went according to plan and I met Emma along with her escort from the place at the airport and whisked her off to Parramatta Lane. Since you know the layout of the apartment you will recognise this favourite photograph spot for newcomers! Of course being fifteen, Emma was raring to go despite jet lag and the last three weeks have not stopped since.

We of course have introduced her to Walter… and David took this photo a couple of days after she arrived. We had lots of invitations to meals at people’s houses but we spent a couple of days by the pool to get used to the heat and we also of course had to go shopping for more clothes for all the social engagements!

Then Anna took Emma and I to Pappasitos for dinner, and our friendly guitarist who you will remember well Mollie for serenading you, found out Emma was your granddaughter and invited her stand up in front of the whole restaurant to sing to her. Two songs later we managed to drag her back to the table to eat her fajitas!

On the next Monday, Debbie, Walter, Emma and I set off at the crack of dawn and went rafting on the Guadaloupe again. We had a hilarious day and as the water level was down, were out there for six hours. We stayed in a motel in New Braunfels, Debbie had a bed to herself, Emma and I shared and Walter slept in a sleeping bag. Emma and I got up early and went to Mcdonalds and brought back breakfast. After much needed energy boost we went to a park nearby where they have a great water chute. We spent two hours going down it in inner tubes before driving the 200 miles home. We were all exhausted and Emma and I had fajitas and a movie before an early night.

It was needed as we had to be up early at 4.30 to catch the royal wedding… we watched the whole thing armed with supplies including some orange juice and champagne to toast the bride and groom. (Emma’s was 95% orange juice I promise). I have told her that now Prince Andrew is taken, she will have to make do with Prince Edward! We loved all the pageantry and certainly a fairy tale dress.

David was in Kansas all week but arrived back on Friday night ready to take us out over the weekend. We went to the movies on Saturday night and a Chinese at our favourite restaurant. He left again Monday morning and on Tuesday the gang got together and we headed to Astroworld which is a themed amusement park and had a great day on rides and having photographs taken ….including gate crashing the photo with Bugs Bunny and two small strangers.

We went to a concert at the park in the evening and headed home very tired but happy.

We had the weekend with David and then Debbie, Emma and I headed down to South Padre for four days to a rented house on the beach. We had a great girls only visit, with plenty of sun, swimming and lobster dinners, which got very messy. Some of the best seafood ever. Emma still looks skinny whilst Debbie and I put in at least 5lbs.

To finish off her holiday everyone piled into Pappasitos, having started at our apartment and the restaurant cordoned off the back of the room to keep us from disturbing the other customers!

I think Emma’s face says it all…..

And then it was time to say goodbye. I have to say it was a wonderful time and we cannot believe how fast it has gone. Everyone fell in love with her and we certainly enjoyed having her with us. Sending her home very tanned and hopefully with some great memories.

Then to fill the suddenly empty week I went out to Debbie’s parents ranch about 50 miles north of here. They have a man made lake on the property and they have stocked it with Bass. We spent some time on a wind surfer without any wind, and did some fishing. I also got in touch with my inner cowgirl and have proof of both my fishing and my trick riding abilities!!

As you know I have a pathological phobia about snakes (it must have been my early training around cobras in Ceylon)… and Debbie neglected to tell me until after swimming and larking about in the water, that there were also a fair few water moccasins in the lake too. Thankfully it was also after I had dismounted otherwise it might have been less than graceful.

David and I are off on 21st for a week to Barbados. We are pretty certain we will be leaving here in January and we have so many air and hotel miles to use up, it will be virtually free. I will call you next week on Sunday before we go and tell you all about it in a letter when we get back.

Then it will only be six weeks until we are home for David’s conference and my stay with you at home for a week.  Really looking forward to seeing everyone and cannot believe it is nearly a year since you were with us.

Love from us both Sally and David..XX

©Sally Cronin

If you would like to read any of the other letters from the two years we lived in Texas and our travels you can find them in this folder: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

Thanks for dropping in and your feedback is always welcome.. Sally.

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Smorgasbord Letters from America 1985-1987 – Road Trip Atlanta-Houston and BBQ Cookout 1986


When I was given the folder of my 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…..

You can catch up with the other letters from America: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – Good intentions by Grandmas, Bird Watching and Halley’s Comet


Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun. Well I am anyway and I hope you are too… It has been a busy week offline with various projects and also taking advantage of the cold but sunny weather. It is hard to believe that it is January 20th already but it is great that the evenings are growing lighter by a few minutes each day.

My thanks as always to you for dropping in so often and keeping me motivated and here are some of the posts you might have missed..

This week Linda shares the delightful!! coat that her Grandmother managed to find at the charity shop for her..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-guest-writer-linda-bethea-grandma-and-the-coat-from-hell/

Getting to know you – Sunday Interview with author Denzil Walton.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-sunday-interview-getting-to-know-you-with-childrens-wildlife-author-denzil-walton/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-music-column-belgium-ireland-1997-and-barbra-streisand-and-celine-dion/

The first part of our trip from Houston to Carlsbad Caverns and to see Halley’s Comet on its once in a lifetime visit.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/18/smorgasbord-letters-from-america-1986-new-mexico-carlsbad-caverns-and-halleys-comet/

The title of this series came about as I dipped into a Thesaurus to find some words for a poem I was writing. I noticed that a great many words that reflected (see what I mean) key elements in our lives began with the letter ‘R’. In this first post quite a bit about what I think about RESPECT

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/something-to-think-about-the-rs-of-life-respect-in-our-modern-world-by-sally-cronin/

Chapter one of the sequel to my first book written 20 years ago which followed my 18 month challenge to lose 150lbs. I am told at 42 that I am unlikely to make 45!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/19/smorgasbord-health-size-matters-the-sequel-chapter-one-life-or-death-by-sally-cronin/

This week I look at the nutritional elements of Asparagus and Carol Taylor turns this very healthy vegetable into some delicious meals.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/smorgasbord-health-cook-from-scratch-with-sally-cronin-and-carol-taylor-asparagus-nutrient-packed-and-delicious-recipes/

Colleen Chesebro’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge.

I have chosen ‘Secret and Draw’ for my key words this week and I am also trying my hand at a Haibun… here is the link  where you will find a description of this form which is a combination of prose and poetry.

Rejuvenation

I have discovered the secret to eternal youth. I stand before the mirror. With eyes almost closed the image blurs. Wrinkles disappear. Hair regains its colour. The extra pounds fall away. I am tall and strong. A reflection of how I used to be. I draw the image towards me absorbing its essence.

Do not be deceived
Challenge the silver backed mirror
Remain young at heart.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/smorgasbord-poetry-colleen-chesebros-tuesday-poetry-challenge-haibun-rejuvenation/

New book on the shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/14/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-how-to-craft-a-kickass-protagonist-10-steps-to-hero-by-sacha-black/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-fancy-meeting-you-here-by-jim-webster/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-non-fiction-the-universal-mind-by-peter-weisz-dip-psych-hnd-bacp/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/19/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-paranormal-end-of-day-a-hodes-hill-novel-book-2-by-mae-clair/

Author Update -Reviews

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/14/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-judith-barrow-jacquie-biggar-and-daniel-kemp/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/18/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-tony-riches-iain-kelly-and-lizzie-chantree/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-guest-comedian-d-g-kaye-and-another-a-joke-from-my-archives/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-guest-comedian-d-g-kaye-and-jokes-from-the-archives-2/

Thanks for dropping by and hope to see you again next week… Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Linda Bethea – The Pink Cupcake, the Hussy and the Promise


The Pink Cupcake, the Hussy and the Promise

The Houston sun baked the wide sidewalk before me as I sat spread-eagled in the shade of second floor balcony. I’d yet to recover from the injustice of being denied access to that wonderland where the gentian-haired old lady and her purple poodle lived in the apartment above Grandma. I liked the lady’s purple hair and poodle and practically salivated over the pink cupcake she offered from her bottom step. Grandma refused it on my behalf, declaring, “She don’t need to ruin her dinner.”

I wanted nothing more than to follow her up stairs and devote the rest of the day to ruining my dinner and breakfast the next morning, if possible, but no. Grandma busted that up, dragging me by the hand into her back door. “That hussy needs to tend to her own rat-killing,” Grandma told Mother. “I don’t like the looks of her company. No telling what you catch from her.”

“But I’m hungry!” I wailed. “I want a cupcake.”

“Here, eat this bacon-biscuit left from breakfast.” Grandma snapped. “Supper’s in ‘bout an hour. Go back and play on the steps.”

Grudgingly, I took my lousy biscuit and returned to my toys on the front walk. I quickly tired of them and left to wander a bit. I figured I had a minute before Grandma missed me. Out of the blue, I was soaked with water from above just as Grandma rounded the corner. I rather enjoyed the refreshing bath, but Grandma, who’d taken it all in , was infuriated. Apparently, Miss Purple Hair, the upstairs tenant had chosen just that moment to dash her mop water off the balcony as I strolled below. I was delighted at the cool surprise. Miss Purple hair was horrifically embarrassed, and Grandma was enraged!

“You heifer! You threw that on her on purpose! That nasty mop water’s got Clorox in it! You might’ve blinded her!” Grandma was hot! Fortunately for the hussy, Grandma’s concern outweighed her need for vengeance, and she rushed me in for a bath. The hussy soon came down to apologize. Mother beat Grandma to the door, so the whole thing blew over,. I never did get my pink cupcake.

I wasn’t surprised at all when the murder Grandma had been promising finally materialized.

My only experience of death, up to that point, was of people being shot on television. It happened regularly on “Gunsmoke.” No big deal. The next day, a huge crowd gathered at a stately building directly across the street. Despite Mother’s best efforts to prevent it, I was able to eavesdrop and overhear the gory details of a suicide murder in the neighborhood.

Mother was devastated and feared I’d be too upset to ever sleep again. She could have saved her worry. Of course there was a murder! It held no more interest for me than a television drama and was exactly what Grandma had been promising ever since we got to Houston.

©Linda Bethea 2019

win_20160620_13_24_45_proHere is Linda with a little bit about herself.

Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

51qb8fm4dql-_uy250_About Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.

She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.

Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

Entertaining  on November 5, 2018

Linda Bethea is a truly gifted story teller! I genuinely enjoyed reading the stories of her mother, Kathleen, growing up. My grandparents never told me stories of the Great Depression, so these stories provided me with much needed insight. The stories are told in a colorful, humorous tone that was a joy to read.

Read the reviews and BUY the book: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ/

Also by Linda Bethea

About the book

WOMEN OF STRENGTH, FORTITUDE, AND BRAVERY

In this collection of six serials, Linda Swain Bethea weaves narratives of women through several centuries. The stories span from 1643 to 1957. Beginning in England in 1643, a young couple travels to Jamestown, Virginia, to begin a new life in the American frontier. The rest of the stories travel from West Texas to North Louisiana to the Texas Panhandle to East Texas.

Disease, death, starvation, and prison are faced with stoicism and common sense, and always, with a sense of humor.

The women in each tale stand tall and possess the wisdom and tenacity to hold families together under the worst conditions. Through it all, they persevere, and Linda Swain Bethea’s storytelling is a testament to the legacy they left.

Conversational and homey, you’ll fall in love with the women of Just Women Getting By – Leaving a Legacy of Strength, which celebrates the courage of those women who had no choice but to survive.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP

Connect to Linda

Blog: https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nutsrok1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.bethea.50

My thanks to Linda for another wonderful story of family life and as always we appreciate your feedback.

You can catch up with all of Linda’s guests posts in her Directory

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer #Family – #Houston Fire Ants and Murderers by Linda Bethea


Time to catch up with Linda’s family adventures… and having arrived safely in Houston on the back of a flat bed truck… time to get settled in. Also an opportunity to meet the neighbours… not all as welcoming as would be hoped.

Houston Fire Ants and Murderers by Linda Bethea

Grandma slipped out the back door with a laundry basket as I awoke. Naturally, I followed. Though I was only five, I already knew she was short It took her several tries to heave yesterday’s dusty quilts over the clothesline.

She sputtered with frustration as she whacked them with a broom. Red dust flew “I didn’t put all this work in my quilts just to have ‘em pitched up on the back of that beat up old truck!”

I left her to her business to investigate a large conical mound just outside the back door. It looked so appealing, I couldn’t resist kicking it. As I stood in the ruins admiring my work, I was introduced to the world of fire ants.

My blood-curling screams interrupted Grandma’s quilt-beating. She whirled to find the evil beasts pinched on to my legs. As she tried vainly to brush them off, Mother rushed out to see who was being murdered. They rushed me in to the sink to wash them off, they both got numerous fiery bites, reinforcing Grandma’s prediction that Houston was a bad move. I did learn a valuable lesson about kicking anthills, though.

Once the fire in my legs cooled down, I investigated the house. They’d rented the first floor of a huge, old home. Its high ceilings and tall windows cooled the room. Its polished hardwood floors gleamed. Best of all, it boasted two stairways to nowhere. The first descended straight into the plaster of the ceiling that blocked it off.

I only got to slide down the bannister once before Grandma put a stop to my fun. She must have thought there was a murderer at the bottom. It was a couple of hours later before we discovered the second enclosed in a closet. Having no bannisters, Grandma didn’t offer objections. It was great fun to play on those steps in the dark closet.

The house had once been part of a gracious neighborhood, though now Houston streets had
gobbled its yard, leaving it just feet from busy streets in the front and on the left side. A large
lawn stretched between it and the house to its right. A deep porch wrapped the house on
three sides. Before Mother even had a chance to broach the subject, Grandma kicked in.

“Do not step off this porch! Houston is full of murderers who will snatch you right out of the yard. Don’t talk to anybody! See how close that street is! A drunk driver could run right up on the sidewalk and kill you! Even the ants here are crazy! Maybe you’d just better come back in the house.”

She must have been serious if she was ready to be shut in with an eight, five, and a couple of toddlers as she unpacked and settled in. I had to agree with her about the ants, though!

The kids got busy investigating the house as the men set up beds and Grandma and Mother
cooked breakfast and sorted out the kitchen. Cookie’s nerves were shot after her terrifying drive so we had to play quietly while she slept off a headache. Back to breakfast. One thing I always admired about Grandma. She had a proper appreciation for bacon. She didn’t cook one or two measly pieces apiece like Mother did. She cooked a platter full. There was always bacon left after breakfast. Now, that’s a fine cook!

After breakfast, Phyllis and I ran wild on the front porch, banging into the rails at the end of each lap. We were desperate to get further out. Double width sidewalks stretched temptingly to the busy street.

Country kids admire sidewalks, accustomed to bumpy grass and dirt surfaces. I was sure that those grass-covered yards were all that stood between me and speed-skating or smooth bicycling. Never-mind that I’d never owned a bike or skates. Even though Barbie was only two, she had a fine tricycle and skates. Like I said, she had it made.

©Linda Bethea 2018

Thank you Linda for entertaining us again…I got fire anted when I was an adult and it was nearly the end of me… so I do sympathise… good thing Grandma was around.

win_20160620_13_24_45_proHere is Linda with a little bit about herself.

Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

Linda has captured the essence of her family history in her book Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad

51qb8fm4dql-_uy250_About Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.

She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.

Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

Entertaining  on November 5, 2018

Linda Bethea is a truly gifted story teller! I genuinely enjoyed reading the stories of her mother, Kathleen, growing up. My grandparents never told me stories of the Great Depression, so these stories provided me with much needed insight. The stories are told in a colorful, humorous tone that was a joy to read.

Read the reviews and BUY the book: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ/

Also by Linda Bethea

About the book

WOMEN OF STRENGTH, FORTITUDE, AND BRAVERY

In this collection of six serials, Linda Swain Bethea weaves narratives of women through several centuries. The stories span from 1643 to 1957. Beginning in England in 1643, a young couple travels to Jamestown, Virginia, to begin a new life in the American frontier. The rest of the stories travel from West Texas to North Louisiana to the Texas Panhandle to East Texas.

Disease, death, starvation, and prison are faced with stoicism and common sense, and always, with a sense of humor.

The women in each tale stand tall and possess the wisdom and tenacity to hold families together under the worst conditions. Through it all, they persevere, and Linda Swain Bethea’s storytelling is a testament to the legacy they left.

Conversational and homey, you’ll fall in love with the women of Just Women Getting By – Leaving a Legacy of Strength, which celebrates the courage of those women who had no choice but to survive.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP

Connect to Linda

Blog: https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nutsrok1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.bethea.50

My thanks to Linda for sharing her story and she would love your feedback. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Letters from America 1985- 1987 – My Parent’s visit – Rennaisance Festival, Anniversary Party and nearly lights out!


Last week I shared the arrival and welcome party for my parents when they visited in the November of 1986…Yellow Roses and Stetsons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for visiting today and as always I look forward to your feedback.. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 – 1987 – Photos from Disney Adventure, Alone in America, New Arrival by Sally Cronin


We were now into June of 1985 and getting the hang of things. We had met more people in the apartments and were planning our next trip later in the summer.

23rd June 1985

Dear M & D,

Thank you for your letter, and by the time you get this you will probably have spoken to David. He left yesterday for a very hectic nine days to try and get things tied up over there. It feels a little stranger than normal. Although I am used to him being gone at least a couple of days a week for work, he was at least still in the US and could be home in a few hours if needed. I almost don’t want to go out in the car in case something happens which is silly, but Vicki, who is nearly due, has said she will come out with me to the shop as she would like the company too in case she goes into labour!

She and her mother are coming here for fajitas tomorrow night and a movie. She is trying to stay occupied as she is of course very nervous. Her mother is great and she is minding us both. I had better not make them too spicy otherwise there might be a quick dash to the hospital at midnight!

No doubt you will have noticed the envelope was a little thicker than usual and discovered the photographs of our Disney adventure when we were in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. They don’t capture the atmosphere but gives you an idea of how vast it is.  I took one of an Indian chief for you Daddy.. but could not find any cowboys.. sorry.

The last two days we have had thunder and torrential rain and there have been flash flood warnings. Another reason not to venture out. I am missing my daily swim and have been doing a daily workout to a television fitness instructor who is crackers. She must have rubber legs because there is no way I can get myself in to most of the positions that she does. I was chatting to the apartment complex manager who is about my age, and she has suggested that I go to aerobics with her at the local gym three times a week. That would suit me as I want to shift another 30lbs in the next few months. I am starting next week and looking forward to it.. I think!  If the mad woman on the television is anything to go by it is not for the fainthearted.

Anyway, I am sure the sun will be out tomorrow and back to swimming in the meantime.

Once David gets back we should have a better idea of whether we will be moving from here or not. The advantage of Houston is that it is a huge hub for internal airlines, and we usually fly Continental. It is easier to get to other parts of the country, and since David can visit several states in a month, we do need to be close to a major airport as we are here.

And apart from the occasional thunderstorm.. well at this time of year frequent ones, I like it here and we are beginning to meet more really interesting people.  I will be sorry when Vicki leaves in a month or so when the baby is born but she is so excited to be able to join Kelly and their new apartment.

Another thing that I miss is M&S and David has promised to go and pick up one or two things for me. Not sure what the customs are going to say this end when David arrives back with several pairs of knickers and bras!

You mentioned that you have started to make plans for your trip and once David gets back we will have a firm decision of when or where we are going to move to. Once we have that we can finalise your travel arrangements. They might even send us back to the UK in the New Year so it is great that you are thinking of coming over in October.. November time frame.We would like to stay another year if we can and the work supports that. There is so much of America we have not seen yet and being such a vast country we need as long as possible.

Anyway, off to write to David’s parents and keep them up to date. Love to you both and will call you next week once David arrives back with the plan for the rest of our stay.

Sally and David.

©Sally Cronin 2018

Thanks very much for popping in today and you can find the previous letters in the directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

Happy 4th of July Part One – 1985 – Renaissance Fair, Fire Ants and The Alamo


In celebration of July 4th and the wonderful friends we made in the two years that we lived in Houston, I am repeating my memories of some of our adventures. We look on that time with great happiness and are still in touch with our friends from 30 years ago today. This picture is some of the gang with David at the end of the table on the left. Every weekend was an excuse for a party…..

It was amazing how quickly we settled in to life in America. We were determined to make the most of our time there and whenever feasible I would join David for a long weekend in one of his various ports of call. He was on the road most weeks and on the Friday afternoon I would drive to the airport and get a flight to Los Angeles, Washington, Seattle or Boston and we would then spend two days exploring the area and sampling local delicacies. We went to Disney World and on a paddle steamer in New Orleans and sampled the music and the gumbo in small hole in the wall cafes.

My parents, both just into their 70s, wanted to come and see us from the UK. Once we were past the worst of the heat and the hurricane season, they arrived for three weeks a few days before our 5th wedding anniversary. Despite the long flight they were ready and raring to go the next morning and during the week I would drive to various tourist attractions within 100 miles or so in my new car; a metallic pewter Ford Topaz with air conditioning and all mod cons.

At the weekends David would join us and we were lucky enough to have one of the Texas Renaissance Fairs on within driving distance and here is a picture with the three of us tucking into Turkey drumsticks… My father has his hands full as David was taking the photo.

sally wedding day 1980Our fifth anniversary was celebrated in usual Chancellor Apartments style with a party at our place. We asked the neighbours above, below and on each side so that noise would not be an issue and my parents, who had really got into the swing of things, were treated like royalty by our friends. My father who did not normally drink very much was much taken with a new rum drink we had introduced him to… I had never seen him even the slightest bit tipsy in my entire life until that visit!

sally wedding day 1980As the party wound down, David and two other mad friends decided to go for a run to burn off the alcohol whilst some of us retired to the hot tub directly in front of our apartment block. It was quite cool at nights in November and we enjoyed the soak and chat for about five minutes as we sat on the wooden slats surrounding the tub. That is until I felt excruciating bites on my legs. I stood up and went into the hot water to brush off whatever was biting me but it only drove the insects further up my body stinging as they went.

I have always reacted badly to wasp and bee stings but could usually cope with one or two. But this was multiple bites and I started to go into anaphylactic shock. Luckily David and our other friends had just arrived back from their run and headed our way to get into the hot tub. By this time I was finding it hard to breathe. One of our neighbours who was in the crowd, lived on the ground floor; without time to call an ambulance, he dashed inside grabbed his keys and they bundled me in a towel into the back seat.

There was an emergency room about three minutes away and on arrival one of the lads dashed inside and grabbed assistance. I don’t remember much of what took place in the next couple of hours but I do recall feeling as though I was looking down on my body; watching as they pumped me full of epinephrine and kept me breathing. Some say it was a near death experience but it might have just been that my mind was overloaded with venom, tequila and adrenaline!!  Fire ants and tequila is not a recommended combination even on your 5th Wedding Anniversay.

Thankfully the treatment took effect and they eventually allowed me home the next morning. We walked in the front door to find my parents enjoying breakfast thinking we were having a lie in!

My father was a John Wayne and Western film fan and we had promised to take them to San Antonio on that same day to stay in the Marriott Hotel combined with a visit to the Alamo. We couldn’t disappoint him, and despite their insistence on cancelling the trip, we headed off with David driving and me sleeping solidly for the entire journey. I went to bed early and the next morning, still a little shaky, we headed off to relive one of the most historical moments in Texan history. My father was like a small boy in a sweet shop and was simply in his element. Such a pleasure to see his face light up. Here are my parents resting for five minutes before returning to the hotel for more rum cocktails and fajitas.

sally wedding day 1980Here is the music and the films of 1985 again and this week I have chosen two different tracks to share.

Wham and George Michael – Careless Whisper, Madonna – Like a Virgin, Foreigner – I Want To Know What Love Is, Paul Young – Everytime You Go Away, Huey Lewis and the News – The Power of Love, Whitney Houston- Saving All My Love For You, USA for Africa – We Are The World, Phil Collins – One More Night, The Pointer Sisters – Neutron Dance, Billy Ocean – Suddenly, Tina Turner – Better Be Good To Me and the one that I featured last week, Katrina and the Waves – Walking on Sunshine. This week a track that I still play a great deal.. Starship – We Built This City.

And the films.

Top at the Box Office were Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Witness, The Color Purple, Rambo -First Blood Part Two and Rocky IV. Cocoon , Commando, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Mask and an all-time favourite of mine and tissue manufacturers; Out of Africa.

Here is Tina Turner with the hit We Don’t Need Another Hero from Mad Max Thunderdome

More of our American memories tomorrow… I hope you will drop in.. thanks Sally