My Old Kentucky Home away from home

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Christmas draws ever nearer, and I have now collected and installed my Christmas tree. Hannah rang us the other day telling us about her beautiful Christmas tree. She sent the photo on the right so we could see for ourselves just how she decorated it. She is having an early Christmas celebration for all the grandparents and the Bathams next Saturday. I’m sorry we won’t be there.

I decided I had to have a real tree for this year and my criterion for choice was that the thing had to be able to fit in my car. The tree man found one that looked the part, and we pushed the front passenger seat as far forward as it could go and proceeded to jam the tree in. As I tucked the top in towards the rear window space, I did momentarily wonder if I would ever get the thing out again, but decided to fret about that when I got home. I now know why Americans have SUVs. It’s so they can get their Christmas tree home! After some heaving and hauling, I was successful and even managed to assemble the tree stand and have my masterpiece in position by the time Peter got home. I am waiting for Nick to come to do the decorations, but I couldn’t resist tying on the stars that Virginia had used to decorate our gift. They are lovely. I have also put on my gift tags from the family group Secret Santa.

Our weekend adventure took us south to Louisville, Kentucky. MaryJo Milburn is another of Peter’s conference contacts whom we visited on our last trip and with whom we were keen to renew acquaintance this time. It’s about a three hour drive and MaryJo invited us to stay overnight. She is a very generous and enthusiastic host and we knew we would be in for a good time. I was particularly keen to make sure Peter was well-dressed on this occasion. I still have flashbacks to our last visit when we were “on the road” and looking like it. I select my travel wardrobe to minimise the need for ironing, but Peter has a liking for chambray shirts which require a bit more attention. His shirt was clean but un-ironed, and looked absolutely terrible. He assured me his body heat would smooth out the wrinkles. Well, I know he’s hot stuff, but even he could not generate enough thermal energy to make that shirt look decent. I closed my eyes and decided that nobody knew us and I could always pretend that I was not really with him anyway. MaryJo had organised tickets for us to go to a local club dinner meeting. Far from being able to remain anonymous, we were greeted and announced as “two professors from Australia”, and were asked to stand so people could make us welcome. I was mortified!!!! Needless to say, this time Peter looked gorgeous.

We arrived in time to go for lunch at a beautiful restaurant by the Ohio River, and then did a bit of a drive around the city. Then we went to Churchill Downs, the home of the famous Kentucky Derby. They have a great museum there showing lots of the history and capturing the atmosphere of the great races they run. The fellow at the entrance noticed our accent (obviously we have not lost it yet) and said : “You guys have the Mell-born Cup down there, don’t you!” I was delighted to meet such an afficionado, but I thought I better move along before he realised how little I knew about it.

They have a model of the highly coveted rose garland which is draped around the neck of the Derby winner. It is made up of over five hundred red roses each in individual glass vials with water to keep them fresh, all stitched onto the draping fabric. It must weigh a ton. I felt a bit sorry for the poor horse after putting its all into the race and then being rewarded with a burden like that. I’m sure they get some other treats as well. The main feature of the museum is a movie theatre in which images are projected all around the walls. It is a great way to get the sense of “being there” and feeling the hustle and bustle of the crowd.

In the evening, MaryJo had invited some friends around for dinner to meet us. We had a great time telling tales of Australia – they all said it was a place they wanted to visit. Our accents continue to be the main attraction. At about 9pm we interrupted our tales to make a call to the family group Christmas gathering at the Dingles. MaryJo said she was really excited to hear even more people with those wonderful accents. Peter and I were delighted to get to talk to each of you. We are really missing everyone there, particularly at this time. It was a special treat to find Hannah there too.

We headed back on Sunday morning, but I opted to take a deviation to go to the town of Santa Claus. We found that last time and I loved all the little gift shops. I thought it would be a great place to visit at this time of the year, and I also hoped I might be able to send the grandchildren a card postmarked from there. I didn’t expect the Post Office to be open on Sunday, but thought the local gift shops might be able to arrange something. We drove through very heavy rain to get there, and we took a side trip to visit the Marengo Caves. These are an interesting limestone formation and we were very pleased to have happened upon them. As has often been the case with our little trips, it has been the unplanned events that prove to be more exciting than our original goal. We arrived at Santa Claus to find everything but the supermarket closed. We got drenched getting from the car park to buy some lunch before heading back north to Lafayette. If you go to Santa Claus, don’t go on a Sunday. It is obviously his day off.

Tomorrow, we head off to New York for a couple of days. I am very excited about that.

The answer to last week’s quiz was Indiana. Robert knew that it became the 19th state of the Union on 11th December 1816. This week’s question is: how is it that mum and dad and Peter and I will all celebrate our wedding anniversary at the same time this year?