Letter from America 30th October

Hi Guys and Gals,

Sadly last Sunday we had to attend a funeral for the first time here in Florida. We were not sure what to expect as we had been asked to attend on behalf of our American daughter-in-law who lives in the UK. She had only just returned from New York and within an hour of landing learnt that her grandmother had passed away. It was not as if it was someone we did not know as we had met the 86 year old and visited her house on a number of occasions. She was quite a local dignitary as after her husband’s death, she managed the family business of M & J Groves and represented the growers as a Director for the Umatilla Citrus Growers Association for over 30 years. She was the Umatilla Citrus Growers Association’s representative to Citrus World in Lake Wales and served as a Director from 1984 to 1997.

This was a big event for Umatilla as a number of dignitaries would be attending and we do not keep our best bib and tucker for funerals over here! The temperature on that Sunday afternoon was in the high 80’s and with over 150 people attending in a century old Methodist church without air conditioning it was cooler outside than in! The service lasted for about an hour and was much less formal than we have become accustomed to in England. The cortege to the internment at the cemetery stretched from the south of Umatilla to the north. A police escort with nothing allowed out of junctions and the traffic lights controlled to let us pass. This was then followed with a reception at the Church Hall. Quite an afternoon, not an experience we wish to repeat especially as we had to return from where we had been visiting my son and family on the Gulf side of Florida at such short notice.

The seasons are certainly changing here. In October 2009 I reported that the month had broken records for the highest temperatures ever recorded for October here in Florida. At that time a local agreed with me that it was “August in October”. Well this year it is even warmer and once again breaking the records for high temperatures. Last Wednesday it was up to 93F, we had the air conditioning set at 80F during the day as anything less than that felt cold when you came in from outside. The humidity is very low as we have had very little rain, just one short heavy shower Tuesday evening. That shower must have been under the radar as they are saying that Central Florida has not had any rain for the last 33 days! The heat suits me but when we return to the average temperature of the mid 70’s for this time of year I am not sure how I will cope as I feel the cold so easily, 70’s and in tights? By Thursday we had returned to the high 80’s but on Friday a cold front came through lowering temperatures to the low 80’s. Temperatures next week are due to return to slightly higher than average for the beginning of November. The dry conditions are causing concern for the fear of wildfires. Further north however they have just experienced an extreme storm stretching some 2,000 miles long and 3,000 miles wide from Dakota to the east coast. Some 500 flights cancelled, snow 4” to 6” deep in Minnesota , 135mph winds, tornadoes and 200,000 people without electricity where the power lines are down. We have a short break arranged visiting New York starting next Wednesday, only hope things improve by then.

Before we leave for New York Discovery’s last scheduled flight is due from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral on Monday at 4.30pm. During the last week they have had to replace some suspect seals in the orbital manoeuvreing system pods. These are the twin engines in the shuttle’s tail that are used to steer the ship on orbit. The crew of six are due to blast off from the launch pad in the middle of a 10-minute window to begin a two day trip to the space station. The eleven day space mission will include two space walks. This will be Discovery’s 39th mission; it was first launched on August 30th 1984, is currently the oldest orbiter in service and this is its last scheduled flight before becoming a museum piece. The daytime launch is not so spectacular as a night time launch. However subject to there being clear skies we will be able to view the launch and the separation of the rockets from where we live. Have just learnt that they are still experiencing trouble with the system pods and launch is now forecast for 4.17pm on Tuesday. There is a good chance of a further delay which will mean we will miss it. On Fox news on Wednesday evening they interviewed Richard Branson who was officially opening his “Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America ” in New Mexico. Taking over when NASA closes up shop?

Will let you know how the New York trip goes next week. We are staying adjacent to Times Square which appears to be the centre of activities, just hope it all works out. In the meantime hope all went well with the rides to Camelia Botnar and Four Elms.

Bryan Staples

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