Great American Institutions

The tower of Big Ben, London.What constitutes a “great institution?” I guess the best definition of a great institution is something that is a “characteristic and persistent feature in social or national life or habits.” Back home I’d think the pub could be considered a great British institution, steak and kidney pudding, fish and chips, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Marks and Spencer, etc, etc …

Part of the joy of coming to live in a different country is discovering those things that represent the character, social history and traditional habits of a place. Something, that when you see it or hear of it you instantly recognise it, understand its significance and its place in the foundation of the culture in which it exists. If I said Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace … these are all icons of national identity and as such you’d immediately have a sense of the history and social significance that each of these hold in the national identity of each country. They feature large in the collective consciousness. But there are other things, smaller things but no less significant or prominent in the collective consciousness and therefore worthy of inclusion in the category of ‘national institution’. Continue reading

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One Man Went To Mow

Mowing the lawn

Since having had the garden landscaped in order to both take care of the water issues and to give the garden a facelift, we now have quite a lot of grass that needs mowing. It grows so fast that I have to mow at least once a week. Good exercise though and I like to practice my stripes.

There’s been a change of colour in the garden – blue blossoms are now appearing. Continue reading

Why Did The Snake Cross The Road?

Rat Snake

Rat Snake

I don’t know the answer to that question and I really wish that it hadn’t. This poor creature appears to have been side-swiped by a passing car as it tried to cross the road, managed to slither to the verge and then died. It’s a great pity because these snakes are handy to have around. It’s a rat snake, which is a fairly common variety around North Carolina, and is a constrictor. It mainly hunts and feeds on rodents, small birds and birds eggs and, from what I’ve been told, it also keeps the poisonous snake population down as well. We found this one the morning after a heavy rain storm so I can only assume it was out foraging and fell foul of traffic as it attempted to cross the road in the dark of the night. Here’s a picture of a healthy, live one.

A B\black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)...

A B\black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta). The keeled scales, white chin and lighter ventral scales are keys to identifying it. Notice the opaque (blue) eyes which mean the snake is in “molt” and will shed its skin in a week or so. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Life Jim, But Not As We Knew It.

The Stately Pile

Our Stately Pile

I can hardly believe that it’s been a year since I left the chilly shores of Dear Old Blighty behind me for the sunnier climes of the Southern United States. For the first time in a very long time I experienced a winter without any snow! I can’t tell you how good that feels; no scraping ice off the windscreen, no shovelling snow, no slipping and sliding on glassy pavements, no woolly gloves and scarves, no thermal hats or linings to ones shoes, no heavy moleskin trousers or innumerable layers of clothing, no cars being snowed in or stuck because the roads are covered in ice, no weeks and weeks of slush everywhere and salt on ones shoes, no heavy overcast skies for day after day, no biting cold wind whistling round your trossocks, Continue reading

Botanical Impressions

One thing I miss about living in the UK compared to living here in the USA are the national organisations dedicated to the preservation of historically significant sites, buildings and countryside such as the National Trust and English Heritage. America is a comparatively young nation and as such the care and preservation of its historical structures and artifacts is mostly left up to individual societies, or indeed, individual people. There is, in fact, a “National Register of Historic Places” and individual States and Counties have their own historic districts – we actually live in one such area, the “York Chester National Historic District,” and the houses within its borders are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The parent body for the National Register is the National Park Service which is dedicated to safeguarding America’s nearly 400 national parks. Continue reading

Pepper Steak Recipe

Slow_Cooker_Pepper_SteakIt’s been a while since I last ventured to publish a recipe. Has it been quiet on the slow cooker front? Not at all but most of what I’ve been cooking have been repeat performances. Back by popular demand and, sometimes, through simple expediency because I happened to have the ingredients to hand. Today, however, I thought I’d try something new/different. As always it’s easy to prepare. Continue reading