Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another Busy Weekend in Gordonsville, Saturday

On Saturday morning I slept in a little after Rob had left for work but I didn't stay in bed too long as the boom was calling from outside the bedroom window, "I need some more paint!"
I threw some clothes on and went to find the paint pot, pleased that there was no sun at the front of the cottage. I'd had a little scare a few days earlier and needed some pre cancerous cells burnt from my cheek with liquid nitrogen, a horrible experience, and not one I want to repeat, so I'd been shielding my face from the sun as much as possible. Unfortunately this also meant, no sunbathing, kayaking or cycling for a few days until it healed.
 I stirred the paint and started slapping it onto the boom already feeling the hot humidity in the air. I noticed that Rob had left a few bits and pieces on the trailer which looked like they needed another coat of paint so I did those too. I'm pretty sure now that he's got some deal with the surrounding neighbors where he collects stuff from them during the week, and then I have to paint it at the weekends. I might have to start hiding the brushes!
 Kota had been keeping a constant wailing going on whilst I was outside and since he was seriously doing my head in, I thought it was time for him to see the great outdoors on the other side of Rob's front door. He's used to the house now so he'd have his bearings but I followed him just the same. He ventured forth and after sniffing the air, proceeded to walk around the perimeter of the house twice checking every piece of wood and brick. Then he checked out the garage, rested for a bit and decided to take a hike through the fence into the woods. I decided he couldn't and that he'd had enough for his first session and took him back indoors.
I saw a couple of these nasty bugs on the wood of the house so if anyone can identify them, I'd be pleased to know what they are.
Rob came home from work and we then went to his son's house where he would help Lance bring back some furniture from Charlottesville, and I would stay behind with Rob's daughter Katie who was looking after Deckland and Ripley, Lance's children. Ripley is named after the movie Aliens. How cool is that?
Deckland was a bit shy towards me but Ripley was very friendly, especially once she noticed my nails and even tried to bite them off. She's teething...Me, Katie and her friend Deta sat and watched TV and chatted but after 4pm, we were anxious for the guys to return as we were all starving. Texts to them went unanswered and our tummies grumbled. Just as we were lapsing into comas, they turned up, Hoo Rah! Furniture was unloaded and goodbyes flew back and forth and soon Rob and I were headed back to the cottage.
 We had to stop at the railroad crossing as a train was coming so I hopped out of the car and crouched down by the track to get a good shot when it passed. I got a good shot OK but also a shock when I moved the camera from my face and saw how close I was to the train as it sped past. 
We drove back hardly passing any other traffic and Rob fired up the BBQ as soon as we arrived. We had delicious chicken with jacket potatoes and finally I relaxed with a full tummy. Bliss!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Father's Day in DC

On Father's Day, Rob and I went down to DC. He had come up to my neck of the woods for a change even though he's not keen on city life, but despite me preferring it down his way, it was nice to stay put for once. We headed into the downtown area so he could see the main attractions and it felt really weird to be an Englishwoman showing an American around his national capital and pointing out the sights. Rob took the photo above on his cell phone of an ethereal Monument reaching for the sky.
After cruising around and a promise to return at a later date, we drove to Arlington Cemetery, a place Rob had always wanted to see, especially to see the Kennedy graves.
The heat was searing yet despite this, the place was full of visitors.
 The Kennedy grave site and the final resting place of America's 35th president. His gravestone is Cape Cod granite and the flame burns continuously. The grave immediately above is Robert Kennedy.
 Rob at the Kennedy graves...
...and walking up the hill towards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The amphitheater where performances are held and the site of many moving speeches.
We timed it perfectly to arrive at the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Sitting down on a step, we silently watched the impeccably timed routine. This is the 3rd time I've been honored to watch this and it never fails to give me goosebumps and make me feel truly humble as I watch these amazing men carry out the procedure with utmost respect and without a fault.These men give up so much to honor their duty that it is impossible to not feel proud of them, read these facts.
We then walked down to the recent graves of soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It really hammers it home that we are in a war when you see these fresh graves side by side in long white lines. Family members held silent vigil by white gravestones or wooden markers on this day that should have been filled with happy memories. Father's Day cards were propped next to flowers and homemade tokens of love. It became a little too much for me and I walked off by myself for a while to reflect and quietly thank those that had given their lives for my peaceful existence. I couldn't bring myself to take many photos finding it somehow too 'touristy' and disrespectful.
Rob and I slowly made our way back to the car finding that many of the visitors had departed. We headed back to Centreville avoiding Rte 66 so we could scour the sides of the road for an ice cream parlor, eventually finding a Dairy Queen to cool off in and enjoy a Blizzard, but even though we were back in our world once again, the Cemetery still called to me. I think everyone owes a visit to these fallen heroes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Leisurely Weekend, Sunday

On Sunday we slept in again and commented on how we could hear the cows mooing loudly behind the house. Almost immediately, we heard and saw a glimpse of Jim the neighbor driving past the window on his tractor. We laughed as this could only mean one thing, the cows were out again, and Jim was herding them back into his field. Later we had our now routine Sunday breakfast, this time a packet of sausages and eggs with toast. Yum! Rob had to help his son move an old car with his trailer so once he had left I caught up on chores then left the house to do some exploring.
 We have a mocking bird nest by the house and I had thought there were 2 babies. It wasn't until I studied the photo that I realized there were actually 4. There are also 2 more nests under the eaves so there's going to be a lot of flying lessons and crash landings occurring in the next few weeks. I hope they all survive.
I had noticed on the map that there is a Lake Gordonsville very close by but had not found the entrance so this was my challenge for the day. I looked on the GPS and found a road that almost led to it, so decided to investigate. I found the road OK but there were no signs indicating a lake was nearby so I drove down for a mile or so then hit a gravel track.
 This ended at a ramp leading into the lake and I saw a lady putting her kayak into the water. We started chatting and before long had exchanged names and info and I had myself a kayaking buddy. I wistfully watched her disappear into the distance and dipping my toes into the warm water, fervently wished I had my boat with me. But my spirits lifted when on the way out I noticed a gazillion blackberry bushes. In a few weeks, I'll have to come back with containers as the harvest here is going to be huge.
I decided to drive down some narrow roads looking for possible cycling routes and saw these plants shining against their dark background. I drove for miles seeing squirrels and deer and many farmers out on tractors baling hay. I ended up having no idea where I was and had to backtrack when after about 2 miles my road ended at a farm.
I stopped again when I noticed bright orange flowers by the verge which were attracting Great Spangled Frittilary butterflies. They showed no concern about me getting close and I even managed to get a wasp in the photo.
 I saw this awesome abandoned house on the side of the road but was too hot and bothered to leave the air conditioned car again and look around. Maybe later in cooler weather...
Rob called to say he was returning home so even though I had no idea where I was I turned around and tried to retrace my route, successfully, thank goodness. Back at the cottage we met Jim and Jessie who laughed as they told us the cows we'd heard earlier weren't theirs but were someone else's bullocks that had strayed onto Jim's land. He'd rounded them up and put them in with his cows. They're very friendly animals but nobody has reported them missing yet so Jim and Jessie may have some additions to their herd.
Later we drove to the only local pizza restaurant which was awesome, stuffed ourselves and then went back to the cottage to sit on the sofa and then stuff ourselves again later with milk and cookies. I'm seriously going to need to start doing more chores and less sitting around if I have to consume all this fodder. But I think for now, I'll bask in Rob's guilt for having worked me too hard last weekend, his words not mine. I like being a girl...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Leisurely Weekend, Saturday

On Saturday morning we got up late once again and then headed to the local diner for breakfast. After filling our tummies, it was time to head to the Tractor Supplies Store for some black paint. 
It was basically a boy's version of Target, so any tomboys like me would also love it. We strolled around all the aisles and I saw these sheets of metal which I thought would make a marvelous art project, but I don't have any ideas yet.
Back at the cottage, it was back to work for the only project this weekend. Rob had to finish painting the bush hog and I had to put a second coat on the boom. Rob's been feeling a little guilty after reading my blogs, thinking that he's been overworking me. Damn, I could play that one up if I really wanted to, but he doesn't know me well enough yet to know that I actually like getting grubby and playing around with tools and engines and lube and oil and stuff, despite having girlie nails and bling on my car.
Then it was time to watch the England v USA football match. It started off well with us scoring in the first 4 minutes but then our goalie let the bloody ball in the net so the US equalized with no effort. We had a storm while the game was on and temporarily lost power but it came back on OK in time for us to watch the last few minutes and see the match end in a draw. Since Rob and I had a dinner bet on the game, we agreed to instead settle for an ice cream at Kohrs. 
Back at the cottage, we pottered down to the neighbor's, Jim and Jessie's field where Jim has expanded the creek into a pond. It's an ongoing project but it's really pretty and peaceful, with large fish and frogs in residence.
We then strolled back to Rob's where some relaxation was in order so grabbing beers, we headed out to the hammock to watch the stars appear.
Gently swinging from side to side we chatted and scoured the sky for stars.Before long, the sky darkened and after wishing on a couple of shooting stars, pinpricks started blinking over our heads and gradually a net of glittering stars was cast across the indigo sky above us. We rocked and stared until the night dew started damping us and then sleepily headed for our dry warm bed.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back to the Countryside

It was great to leave the bustle of Northern Virginia behind me and join Rob again at his cottage. The view above is from his place and I sat on the fence just sniffing the breeze and looking. Those woods made me remember a favorite book of mine when I was younger called The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, in which Maria leaves Merryweather Manor and meets the Men of the Black Wood, a dark world set in a vast forest of pine trees. I've read it three times and now think a fourth reading is due.
 This was to be a working Sunday for me, and after we'd scoffed a whole packet of bacon and some eggs, Rob and I went to open the barn doors disturbing a frog and a black snake. We got the frog out but couldn't find the snake, he moved so fast. Shame, I would've liked to hold him. Rob started burning some bushes he'd uprooted and then we painted the poles for the hammock in green. Waiting for those  to dry, it was then time for my first session on the mower.

Apparently I was being closely observed and it was noted that my speed increased along with my confidence. No surprise there then. We both whizzed around the yard but I have to admit I had the nicer patch to cut; Rob got the dusty gravelly areas by the truck and under the trees.
 Since the tractor was out, some photos had to be taken and Rob struck a pose with his baby. 
 Back to painting again and this time I had the boom to paint red while Rob took on the bush hog. It was bloody hot and we had to pause at one point as a quick rain shower passed over. We only got one coat on each piece of equipment as enamel paint takes forever to dry especially in humidity. I'll be finishing my piece this weekend; I wanted to complete it myself despite Rob offering to do it.
Still not finished! The mowers had to be washed before going back into the garage. I was well pleased when we were finally done and we could eat dinner, have a shower and plop onto the sofa.
 What a team! Still smiling to the end especially as this was a day with NO TICKS. Woo Hoo! Later that night we stepped outside in the dark and stood watching the stars. I will one day take a photo of the night sky here but tonight, I just wanted to drink in the beauty of the evening and gaze upwards. A just reward indeed for a fun day of work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Strolling a Suburb in Baltimore

On Saturday, Emily, Mukul and I drove to Baltimore to scout around. We stopped in the Hollins Market neighborhood when we saw this fruit and veg cart.
 The guys were very friendly and happy to pose for photos and we reciprocated by buying some fruit. They seemed to have their regulars as they stopped and knocked on peoples' doors. Once they'd moved on, we decided to keep walking around the area.
The neighborhood seemed initially imposing but we found that people were incredibly friendly and happy to have their photos taken, some even asking us to do so.
I wondered off around a corner and bumped into a local called Danny.
He was pretty well intoxicated but happy to chat, informing me that he'd been born and bred here and had seen the Beatles when he was 5 years old; their music was blasting out through the doorway.
 We had a discussion on religion and he pulled a prayer card from his wallet. I found the picture beautifully powerful and Danny carefully held it out while I snapped some photos.
 There were a few strange notices in windows or on walls. If anyone can tell me what the hell a King Syrup Sandwich is, I'd be interested, but I don't think I want to try one.
 I stopped to chat to a couple of guys who had lived in the same neighborhood for over 40 years and loved it. They pointed out this mural noting that the hands spelled the word LOVE. It was painted by Michael Owens using Sherwin Williams black paint. Images of its creation and the artist are here.
As we headed to the entrance of Hollins Market, we witnessed Danny on the other side of the street emerge from a liquor store and literally pour an eighth of bourbon down his throat.
 The consumption took no more than 15 seconds and I stood rooted watching in horrified awe. He picked up his boom box, and seeing us, strolled over to chat again, informing me of the birth dates of his children and the hospital he was born in. He then sauntered over to the market for lunch and I was compelled to follow.
The market, one long building running the length of the street, was built in 1838, and is the oldest existing public market building in the city of Baltimore. There was a large variety of meats, fish and vegetables as well as cooked food ready to go. Danny was down the bottom buying a hot dog and had a few more things to say before he departed for the last time, amazingly upright and relatively coherent. 
We strolled back to the car and then headed over to Greenmount Cemetery. 
 The chapel in the background was built in Gothic Revival style. Mukul and I wandered off but both of us had lost our creativity in taking photos. Poor Emily languished on a bench succumbing to the effects of her previous night's activities.
 Walking up to the mausoleum, we saw a work truck parked outside, but no one around. I tried the door and it opened, so we snuck inside. This is one of the finest mausoleums in Maryland and is of a Neoclassical and Art Deco design with granite columns, marble floors and bronze fittings.

I gasped when we saw these sacks and Mukul playing on my gullibility pretended to be shocked that bodies had been left lying on the floor. I had to prod them before I realized that they actually weren't cadavers but was too spooked to investigate their real contents.
Walking quietly, we investigated all three floors before leaving the dimly lit and silent building and closing the door behind us. Nearing the car, we met Emily hunched on her bench and decided to call it a day. After filling up with gas and dropping Emily and Mukul off at the car park, I turned Stuart around and we drove south to Rob's country retreat leaving the dust and decay of Baltimore behind.