Back To The Chilly North

A couple of pelicans zoom by overhead:

Pelicans. Amelia Island, Florida. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Pelicans. Amelia Island, Florida. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I’ve never been great at moving wildlife photos. But that one didn’t come out too bad.

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Confessions Of A Morning Person

Often I’m writing as the sun rises. I may have Classic FM playing softly in the background; or I may have nothing going at all and just revel in the silence. Whatever underscores it, for me there’s a special quality to early mornings before much of the rest of my own time zone awakens.

Now and then I joke on my Twitter account as I get going, moaning about it being, say, 4:47 am and what a ridiculous hour it is. Yet I find pre-dawn is also when my mind is usually at its “busiest.” I’ve never been sure why that is. Perhaps it’s simply waking up thinking…. and off we go.

On holidays, I feel much the same – about the mornings anyway:

Sunrise yesterday over the Atlantic. Viewed from our Amelia Island holiday rental. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Sunrise yesterday over the Atlantic. Viewed from our Amelia Island holiday rental. [Photo by me, 2015.]

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India: Something Huge Will Be Missing If I Ever Get There

After our “road trip” odyssey, we’re settled in here for the week in Fernandina Beach. My Dad had been to Florida only once before, back in 1985, to settle my late grandmother’s estate (after she had died in Hudson, near Tampa). Now here for our holiday, he is thoroughly enjoying himself – which was our goal after he nearly died of heart failure back in August.

View down the beach on Amelia Island, yesterday morning, around 10 am. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View down the beach on Amelia Island, yesterday morning, around 10 am. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View out from Amelia Island, yesterday morning, about 10 am. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View out from Amelia Island, yesterday morning, about 10 am. [Photo by me, 2015.]
One of my now bigger regrets – one never to be remedied – is when our friend Kam (the London-born and raised daughter of Sikh immigrants to the U.K., and who died suddenly at age 45 in February 2014) remarked a year or so before her death that she had wanted to visit India with us.

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Off To Amelia

My Dad having now fully recovered from his heart failure back in August, and the implant surgery in December, we felt that after the tough, cold winter he and my Mum had spent in Pennsylvania, that they needed a holiday.

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Thoughts To Start This Week

You may have noticed the new template. I really like how “clean” this one is. It’s very easy to read, and the rotating banner photographs make for a nifty feature.

Just saw this myself the other day. Given recent events, that “France” has moved up to be my top tag is probably not a huge surprise:

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It’s been a tough couple of weeks. Let’s have a moment of photographic serenity:

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Anna Maria, Florida. [Photo by me, 2013.]
Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Anna Maria, Florida. [Photo by me, 2013.]
Hope you had a nice weekend. On Saturday evening, our overnight-visiting friends (on both arrival and departure, she hugged and kissed me on the cheeks; he shook my hand) were pitching plot ideas at me over gin and tonics. Alcohol seems to bring out the potential author in everyone. ;-)

That said, unrelatedly (or perhaps somewhat relatedly, given in “relaxing” with them maybe my mind “opened up” a bit), I had a “major idea” knock me over last night.

As I have the main plot for the third book already laid out, it’s a great addition. It was one of those light bulb going off over your head moments that includes chastising yourself: “Rob, why the heck didn’t you think of that before?” It led “naturally” – and that’s what I love: I hate when subplots seemed “forced” or “contrived” – to other, related, necessary new bits as well.

I tap, tap, tapped the gist of it down as quickly as I could. That’s how this “game” is played. You never know when it – whatever “it” is – might hit you.

Have a good Monday, wherever you are. :-)

Five Centuries In Eight Photographs

Yesterday, we visited the Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine. For centuries, the fort was central in the town’s existence. Although it has changed hands by treaty several times, no attacker has ever taken it in battle.

That in mind, here is a history of that fort, and St. Augustine…. as, uh, illustrated and outlined, in chronological order, by some photographs:

1. In 1513, Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon wanders through seeking the Fountain of Youth. He never finds it. [Photo by me, 2014]
1. In 1513, Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon wanders through seeking the Fountain of Youth. He never finds it. [Photo by me, 2014]
2. The site now marked by a cross, other Spaniards land in 1565. A first Mass is said. [Photo by me, 2014
2. The site now marked by a cross, other Spaniards land in 1565. A first Mass is said. [Photo by me, 2014.]
3. After several wooden forts fail to do the job they want, the Spaniards get serious and decide to build a masonry one. [Photo by me, 2014.]
3. After several wooden forts fail to do the job they want, the Spaniards get serious and decide to build a masonry one. [Photo by me, 2014.]
4. Front of the Castillo de San Marcos. [Photo by me, 2014.]
4. Front of the Castillo de San Marcos. [Photo by me, 2014.]
5. Imperial Spain's flag proudly flew over the town and fort for centuries. [Photo by me, 2014.]
5. Imperial Spain’s flag proudly flew over the fort. [Photo by me, 2014.]
6. Unfortunately, Spain's flag also looked too much like England's Cross of St. George from a distance. Which made fighting naval battles a bit confusing. So in the 18th century, the Spanish changed their flag. [Photo by me, 2014.]
6. Unfortunately, Spain’s flag looked too much like England’s Cross of St. George from a distance. Which made fighting naval battles difficult. So in the 18th century, the Spanish changed theirs. [Photo by me, 2014.]
7. Great Britain took over Florida in 1763. But they had to give it back to Spain in 1783. [Photo by me, 2014.]
7. Great Britain took over Florida in 1763. But they had to give it back to Spain in 1783. [Photo by me, 2014.]
8. Finally, the Americans.... [Photo by me, 2014.]
8. Finally, the Americans…. [Photo by me, 2014.]

A bit of a history lesson. In pictures. But don’t worry, there’s no quiz to follow. ;-)

St. Augustine, Florida

We’re making our way “back north.” We stopped in St. Augustine, Florida, en route. As we do when we travel, we went to church locally last night.

And this one was pretty impressive. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in North America:

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. [Photo by me, 2014.]
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. [Photo by me, 2014.]
The tower of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. [Photo by me, 2014.]
The tower of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Brief history of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Brief history of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Among The Best 25¢ I’ve Ever Spent

Got a bit of a surprise on Monday in Key West. It wasn’t, as you know, at Hemingway’s house. I mean down at the docks behind Conch Seafood:

Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]

As I tweeted the other day, a manatee appeared seconds after we had fed the fish, resulting in a marine encounter the two kids – the 9 year old girl especially – loved, and which I later joked to my Irish friends was perhaps the best value for 25¢ I had ever gotten in my life. Yet the fish-feeding had proven itself to be an unexpected learning experience too. However, not in a way you might think.

It had all started when I had given our friends’ 11 year old son a quarter to slot into the dock edge (environmentally safe) fish food dispenser, which resembled an “old-fashioned” gum ball machine. Bear in mind he can no problem handle iPads and land 747s using Flight Simulator. Indeed, he is so sharp that early last year, after his mother, “Maureen,” had explained to us at their Dublin breakfast table how she was flying Emirates to Abu Dhabi on her way to India to join our now late friend Kam there, while munching his toast he flat-out contradicted her idea of her own travel itinerary:

Young son: “Mum, you aren’t on Emirates. You’re on Etihad. You’re going to Abu Dhabi.”

Maureen: “No, darlin’, I’m on Emirates.”

Young son: “You’re stopping in Abu Dhabi. You can’t be on Emirates. You would be going to Dubai.”

My wife grabbed her iPad and checked the web. Yep, sure enough he was the one who was right. “Good luck you didn’t turn up for an Emirates flight!” my wife laughed.

But that same lad in Key West the other day didn’t understand he needed first to slot the 25¢ coin into the machine and turn its handle until the coin was swallowed…. and that he needed next to position one cupped hand below the chute to catch the falling feed…. as that feed would be sliding out and down into that hand the second he raised the chute’s cover with his other hand.

Stumped by how to operate it, he hesitated. I bravely took charge of the archaic technology. Oh, and, by the way, it is “technology” that had once been commonplace in the Republic of Ireland too.

Good grief, young people these days. ;-)