Sunday, October 12, 2008


This was a day trip yesterday, October 11th. We are having rather a nice Indian summer with temperatures in the upper seventies, so we picked a good day for the visit. The journey time from here is three hours, the coach was very similar to an English one except that the air conditioning worked!! We had one stop on the way down, just over the state line at the Maryland welcome centre.

Washington DC is a beautiful city and in some way reminded me of Paris with it’s extensive views of the major buildings, the White House, the Capitol, the memorials to Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson all being visible from considerable distances. One thing has puzzled me though, the Washington Monument, which is a tall obelisk is not directly in front of the White House which is to the north of the City but directly in line with the Capitol which is to the east. This is so unlike Paris where L’Arc de Triomphe, Concorde and Republique are all in one straight line, still it all adds to the difference. I would have expected it to be in line with the White House thus making a perfect right angled triangle.

Anyway, back to the main plot! Our first visit was to the Smithsonian Aerospace museum; They have a magnificent collection from the Wright Brothers up to the International Space Station including WWII V1 and V2’s which I spent avoiding during a large part of my formative years!

Following the museum, we were taken to Washington Union Railway Station in order to have a meal. The station is a magnificent building with an high vaulted ceiling and the food court is on the lower floor which I think was the original train boarding area. Anyway, as you may recollect, I bemoan the absence of Indian Restaurants over hear. Well, much to my delight on the food list we were given was such an establishment. Naturally I was in there like a shot!! All they had that I recognized was chicken tikka marsala which, quite honestly, looked absolutely disgusting but I decided to give it a try together with boiled rice and naan bread. Sadly I was right, it was disgusting!

After the station we were put on one of the city tour buses for an evening it to various war memorials and other attractions. The war memorials were those for WWII, Korea and Vietnam and the memorials were to Jefferson. Lincoln and Rooseveldt. It was a long evening, but the weather was so unlike October that it made being outdoors at 10 pm very pleasant.

I have to say that the Korean memorial was the most moving and inspiring thing which I have ever seen. It comprises a group of nineteen soldiers in the battledress of 1950 as if out on patrol; to one side is a polished granite wall with the images of some 24,000 veterans sand blasted onto the shiny service, the thing about is that it is only at night can you see these images, during the day only the reflections of the nineteen soldiers are visible. Another wall bears the inscription “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE”.


The tour finished back at Union Station around 10.50pm, we boarded our coach and arrived back just before 2am. A long day indeed, but very interesting. I want to go back, but under our own steam, maybe we shall do that soon.

Friday, October 3, 2008


This is the first of a series of essays on life in Pennsylvania which I hope you will find amusing and interesting. I live in a Class III City called Pottsville with my Wife, Joanie, who I married early last June. Class III is the smallest conurbation which may be called a city, I guess it is about the size of Battle; it has it’s own police force and is the administrative capital of Schuykill (pronounced skookle) County. Schuykill County also has it’s own police force and then there is the State Police making the whole system very like that which is found in Continental Europe. But surprisingly enough a highway patrol is seldom seen when out driving, not a bit like the old TV series. I think I have only seen about a dozen stops by the patrol over the past two years. In fact it is fair to say that everyone (especially truck drivers) seem to treat speed limits as a joke. I make a point of keeping within the limit, as an immigrant awaiting permanent residential status, I have no desire to fall foul of the law, nevertheless it is most disconcerting, after having set the cruise control to the limit, to be overtaken by an endless number of eighteen wheelers all of which are exceeding the limit by at least twenty miles per hour!

The main gripe at the moment is the price of gas (petrol). I just cannot get into this, the cost now is $3.56 a gallon, or in other words about two pounds! (I don’t have a pound sign on this keyboard by the way). They find it hard to believe when I say it is around $8 in Britain even if the US gallon is less than the Imperial (3.8 litres/4.4 litres) We have a 3.4 litre V6 Chevrolet Impala, automatic of course, not the best thing with high gas prices, but there is no point in part exchanging it for a smaller car as nobody wants these big engined things and any gas saving would take years to recover the sale losses. Anyway, it is a beautiful car to drive and we admit we would really miss it if we changed!

But enough about cars and gas prices. As you are probably well aware, this is election year, polling day is early November and I still find it difficult to differentiate between the two contenders policy wise. All they seem to be doing is slagging each other off, nobody has actually said what they propose to do if elected. It looks like the winner will be Obama (Democrat), Pennsylvania is one of the key states which the winner must win (don’t ask me why) and already Obama is seven points ahead of McCain. We were at a fair last week, Joanie picked up a McCain banner which I finished up carrying up for her. When people tried to start a discussion/debate with me (as Americans are prone to!) it gave me great pleasure to be able to reply that I was an immigrant who can’t vote and wasn’t bothered anyway!!

Well guess that’s enough for one session, I hope I haven’t been too boring and would welcome any feedback before I get round to writing Letter #2