Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Today, as I start to write this, has been spent in watching the inauguration of the new President. I have to say that I was most impressed with the day’s programme together with the organization behind it. Despite a windchill of 15F there were about 1.75 million people in Washington for the occasion. What struck me most was the lack of acrimony between Bush and Obama, there have been numerous reports about the cooperation over the transition of power and when Ex-president Bush boarded the helicopter after the swearing in, here were hugs between both families. I feel that the Founding Fathers would be proud to see how their original idea has survived so well. Now all we can do is wait and see if the new way comes to fruition or not. I must admit to having changed my ideas about America, I had always believed that it was all a thin veneer of glitz and glamour with nothing underneath. But now I can realise the depth of emotion and feeling just below the surface. Despite missing home, I am glad to be here.

In his letter I would like to say a little about the differences between living here and in England.

The other Sunday morning there was the sound of several two stroke petrol engines all phutting merrily away, it was not lawn mowers but snow blowers. We had about five or six inches of the stuff. Here the pavement (sidewalk) belongs to the property owner who is responsible for it’s upkeep including the clearance of any accumulated snow. You can get fined for non compliance! We are perhaps fortunate in this regard as our property is a three storied town house with only a twenty five foot frontage so there is not a great deal of shovelling required. But we have good neighbours who very often will have done it for us before we get out ourselves.

I expect everyone is aware that American houses have mailboxes at the end of the drive. This can be a nuisance if, like at Linda’s, your drive is on a steep slope and about fifty feet from the house. Again we are lucky as we have no front garden or drive so the mailbox is on the wall of the porch right next to the front door. In case you were wondering what the red flag on a mailbox is for, over here the mailman collects your outgoing mail and the flag when raised will tell him that there is mail for him to collect. With our box being where it is and of a different design, we simply tuck our letters under the flap to await collection.

We have a regular newspaper delivery, the delivery boy simply throws it onto the porch from the pavement, I have to say his aim is very good as every morning it is lying close to the door, it comes tightly rolled up with an elastic band. For those with mailboxes like Linda’s, there is a special compartment for newspapers built in. Even so, it isn’t much fun on a freezing morning having to put on a coat and collect the paper before breakfast.

Apart from driving on the right, America has some rules completely different from the UK. At a red light you can turn right unless prohibited by a warning sign, of course traffic on the green has priority. In the towns there are what is called four (or three) way junctions where priority is allocated to whoever arrives at the line first, in the event of simultaneous arrival, the vehicle on the right has priority. This has the effect of reducing lines at junctions quite considerably. When I first drove here, my main problem was in almost missing traffic lights which are mostly suspended over the centre of the junction and not on the side of the road. The validity of my UK driving licence will be up in March, and I shall have to take a test so as to obtain a Pennsylvania licence, I do hope I pass this ok as it is directed mainly at sixteen year olds (that is the minimum age here!). I have got the medical certificate filled by our doctor (everyone has to do this regardless of age) and will fix my written test soon.

I haven’t got my Green Card yet, so I can’t leave the country - that is to say I could but couldn’t get back in. The green card alters my status of Immigrant to LPR (Lawful Permanent Resident), but they are evidently running some six months behind schedule so I don’t expect it until the summer sometime.

Until next time,



Friday, January 2, 2009


Well Christmas has gone and so has the snow, at least for the time being. We didn’t have a white Christmas, sort of an off-white I suppose only insofar as it didn’t actually snow over the holiday but there was plenty left over from earlier in the week. All the Family came over on Christmas Eve for the exchanging of presents and we were at Jimmy’s for dinner the following day.

As is common with the media worldwide, all the news has been bad (don’t they just love reporting bad news!) despite some stores opening at 4am with amazing “door buster” offers earlier in December, sales are reported down 5% compared to last year. My main problem is the weakness of the Pound against the Dollar - since September this is costing me $250 a month! Could somebody please ask that nice Mr. Brown to do something about it!

Christmas in America is very like in the UK except there is no Boxing Day, but as Christmas day was on a Thursday, most people didn’t bother going in on Friday.

Yesterday was a real treat for me, Linda’s Hubby, George, is from England and we stayed the weekend with them. George (who is a trained chef) cooked a traditional English roast beef dinner with roast potatoes followed by Christmas pudding. You may have guessed that roast potatoes and Christmas pudding are unknown around here!

Going back to the election, I don’t think I told you that one of our best respected Senators (yes there are really some who are in this category!) was killed about a fortnight before polling day in a road accident. So what happened? Was this part of the election postponed? Nope, the good citizens of Schuylkill County elect a dead man to the State Senate!! Well I suppose perhaps nobody would have noticed anyway! The re-election is scheduled for March.

It is January 2nd as I write this part, New Year’s Eve was extremely cold, windchill made it feel like zero Fahrenheit so we weren’t out on the porch for very long. Just long enough for a quick blast on my hunting horn and back into the warm. There was nobody about to hear me anyway!

I learned an interesting piece of trivia, the County Name - Schuylkill - is Dutch not Native American as I first thought. It mans “hidden river” as it is evidently difficult to find where it flows into the Delaware. I am reading about the history of this area, the Dutch were the first Europeans to arrive, there were no Native Americans living here - it was just a hunting area.

The New Year started with a bit of excitement. An apartment block over the back caught fire and was completely gutted. All the occupants got out safely before the fire took hold thank goodness. It was a change to see our firefighters putting out a blaze just for once, they were superb - heroes all.

So that’s it for another year, I wish all my readers all the very best for 2009, in many ways it couldn’t possibly any worse than 2008 - or could it??

Until next time