Thursday, 20 July 2017

Home improvement

"Come on, how difficult can remodeling a kitchen be?" I asked Hannah, only somewhat rhetorically.  Her withering gaze was all the answer I needed and - to be fair - a 1973 MG Midget in pieces in my brother-in-law's garage shows that I may not be the most adept at putting things back together.  So I threw myself into the crazy world of American home contractors.

First was a designer lady who had done the bathrooms for the previous owner.  "Yeah...I could do this for around sixty-five thousand," she told me with no hint of a smile.  "OK.  How about we drop these bits," I suggested, choking slightly, trying to communicate that I didn't care whether the marble came from Sicily or Skegness.  "Hmm...still about sixty-five thousand," she told me.  Again and again.

Then there was a builder who turned out to be British!  Yay!  Except, after much nagging, he still hasn't got back to us with a quote.  Just like a British builder.

Finally we found Regina who, like a detective from a hard-boiled novel, is happy to cut some corners to get the job done.  That's my language, and so far things have gone very smoothly.  "So far" because we have not yet entered the rebuilding stage.  If a kitchen lacks cupboards, work surfaces, a sink, a cooker, etc. is it still a kitchen?

But there are tiles in the garage that I'm told will be on the floor tomorrow and cabinet construction commences at the weekend.  The whole thing should be completed in two weeks.  Ha!  I'm sure I could have done it quicker and cheaper myself, but there we are.  Anyone want to buy an almost complete MG Midget?

This is the kitchen that was.

I was entrusted with hanging up the dust sheets in the garage.  They fell down, but I hung them up again.

Looks like I put a bit too much chili in my con carne!

And then they took the walls away.  So this is how things are right now!

And the current "kitchen".  Espresso machine, camping stove, toaster...what more do you need?  Don't bother putting that other one back together.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Dependence Day

Just like America declaring independence, it was time for me to emancipate myself from my parents (or was it the other way around?)  We waved them off from George Bush airport and I've just heard that - after some minor kerfuffles with National Express coaches - they've made it home.

The last few days of their stay involved a packed schedule of dashing from one air-conditioned place to another as temperatures soared to 100F+.  Dad was able to flash his Royal Navy credentials and board the local warship, USS Texas, and Pete took his Grandparents around his favourite museums.

And now, just like America, I realise that independence from kind and loving parents isn't what it's cracked up to be.  Mum, Dad, Britain - come back and re-embrace your errant child soon!

Arriving on Mars.

Some are more independent than others.

Mum gets acquainted with slothzilla at the Houston Museum of Natural History.

Modern (and ancient) art at the Menil Collection.

High-calibre mother.

Dad brings out the big guns.

Not like the cruises they normally go on.

Dipping her toes in the Gulf of Mexico.

One of these will change, the other never will.

Love is like a butterfly.

In the Houston butterfly house.

Don't ask me, I studied theology.

Pete in a periscope.

4th July celebrations, adding a few names to the Declaration.

Dad enjoys some patriotic games.

Why are Grandma's visits so popular?

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Ride 'em in

If you're a cowboy like me, you come to Texas to rope 'em steers, brand 'em, and...whatever else you do with cattle.  Unfortunately the ultra-urban setting of Houston gives scant opportunity to drive a herd of longhorns thousands of miles across the plains, and the newly-formed Davies Tours (Texan Division) knows what its customers want to see when they visit.  We needed a plan.

Luckily something called the Internet informed me that George Ranch Historic Park was just down the road.  It's a place with a long and storied history; Texas used to belong to Mexico but no one would live here, so the Mexican government contracted with one Stephen Austin to bring Americans down to become Mexican citizens and populate the place.  If you said you were going to be a farmer you got 170 acres of land.  If you said you were going to be a rancher you got 4000 acres of land (seven square miles!) and owned whatever wild longhorn cattle happened to be roaming about there.  Strangely most people became ranchers, and after a rebellion or two Texas was born.

The George family eventually accrued a good 12,000 acres, ran a massive cattle business, then found oil, etc. and remain quite a local force.  The ranch takes you from their first wood cabin to a prairie home, a Victorian mansion, and finally a cattle complex.  More importantly there are cowboy demonstrations every hour!  Except that even at 10am (when we were the only audience) it was already too hot to rope the calves.  Too hot for Texas cattle?  I pitied the many costumed volunteers who recreated ranch life as we traveled around.

This is what Texas is all about!  So taken was I with the experience that I went on the website to see what employment opportunities I could find.  "Part-Time Cowboy" jumped out at me immediately!  "Basic roping skills" it requires.  I can tie my own shoelaces - does that count?

We've been farming these plains for three generations...

"Tex" the longhorn.  Don't stand too close when he tries to swat away a fly.

Babies getting a dip.

Spud, the tame one, enjoying a brush.

Ride 'em, cowboy!  So proud.

Do you have wi-fi?

Put out to pasture.

Look before you sit.

Of course, there are other ways to make money in Texas beside ranching.