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U3A Writing: Buffalo, Bureaucracy and Beauty

Peggy MacKay flies off to Orlando, Florida – there to have her nail scissors confiscated.

For the first time in a number of years I got a direct flight from Manchester to Orlando. Great! And my wheelchair arrived with a pleasant chap to push me. He took me to the Duty Free for a cup of tea before boarding.

Once seated and buckled-up we were informed by the Captain. I can’t remember his name, but his co-pilot was Capt. Jamie MacKay. Reassurance if I needed any, which I didn’t.

The flight was uneventful apart from a few bumps over Florida due to storms. When we arrived at Orlando I was met with a wheelchair, and I walked through the X-ray doorway with my holdall and my bag on the scanner. But as I sat down in the chair, the man said there was something in my handbag.

Now I had (I thought) taken everything out and put it in my suitcase, but he insisted and proceeded to empty my handbag. And indeed there it was, a pair of nail scissors with a leather sleeve. He said he must confiscate them.

I apologised and said OK, but I had to ask why. I had gone through X-ray in Manchester, travelled all those miles with them.

He said, “Well there a lot of people sitting in this airport.”

There was I sitting in a wheelchair, and I could run amok with a pair of nail scissors! I had to smile – ludicrous – but he was doing his job, and I understood.

As always there was much talking, and my sister informed me that Joe next door had died and we were to go to his wake in the morning. This was a new experience for me, and I must admit to being a little apprehensive.

However, off we went. There was Joe in his Sunday suit lying in a huge satin-lined coffin whilst his granddaughters in their teens gazed at him, laughing and chatting together. I met the family. I already knew Helena and it was quite a pleasant experience.

We attended the funeral the following day. Joe was Hungarian and Helena, German. At a later date Helena came to dinner and talked about her life in Germany. I must say I was quite surprised at some of her remarks and viewpoints, but found them interesting even though I couldn’t agree and kept my opinions to myself.

Our outings this time were nearer home as my brother-in-law isn’t so keen on driving these days. The weather was sunny and warm for the most part but unusually cold nights, so much so that the water in the swimming pool never warmed. I only braved it once and nearly froze.

We visited Rainbow Springs, Cedar Key, Crystal River and Fort Island Beach at Crystal River and a new park in Ocala. Shalom Park was built by a businessman in memory of his grandfather, a Russian Jew who found sanctuary in the States in the early 1900s. A lovely, tranquil place with walks and gardens and a lake and plenty of seats.

We did have a tornado during the first week. We had just got indoors from shopping when it struck and, though we were on the edge of it, it was quite dramatic. The sky was black, and the wind bent the trees almost to the ground and the rain along with it for about 20 minutes. We didn’t have any damage, but there was some in the town.

I should mention that Ocala is in central Florida and known as horse country. There are stud farms and racehorses and green pastures. In two hours one can visit Dunedin, Inverness, Beverley Hills and Longwood.

Likewise in Colorado driving from Denver to Fort Collins one passes through Windsor and Brighton, which would suggest these were the places from which the early settlers came.

At the end of April we flew to Denver and my nephew met us there and drove us to Fort Collins on a nice spring day. But by evening there were snow showers, and this continued for three days, by which time we had six inches of snow and icicles a foot long. Coming from 86 degrees it was quite a shock to the system, and we were delighted to borrow my nephew and niece’s winter jackets.

However, after three days things improved and spring returned. So the day before we left we took a day in Cheyenne Wyoming, my first visit and most enjoyable. The station has been revamped, and inside was a shop where I purchased cards etc., and the assistant was delighted to meet me.

She came to Britain regularly and stayed in Sheffield University, visited York, Chester, Edinburgh, Dublin etc. Our fish and chips are unbeatable. Nowhere in the world except here can you get them.
That goes for English pubs too. I spent twenty minutes with her. It made her day, she said.

We then visited the Country Store, full of cowboy outfits, some very ornate. But I wasn’t tempted. I couldn’t think where I could wear one.

I was quite fascinated by the piped music. It was all hymns. I did enquire and was told the store was owned by a Christian family. I must say it made a change from the usual racket that is broadcast.

On the way back to Fort Collins we called at a buffalo farm. Buffalo meat is very popular there and tasty too. Unfortunately we didn’t see the buffalo except at a distance, but there was a field of camels, which I thought a bit unusual for that part of the country. The drive back was quite breathtaking with the snow-capped Rockies always in view above the hills. Altogether a happy visit.

We did have a party for my sister’s great grandson’s fifth birthday. This took place at Chucky Cheese’s. Now that was a new experience – a miniature fairground inside with a concert party on stage in fancy dress.

We flew back to Ocala the following day to 86 degrees again, and ten days later I flew home. My companions on the flight came from Liverpool, a middle-aged couple, very pleasant and very with it.

Home again to the family, always good, after a happy holiday.

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