It’s the way things are…

Gnashing of teeth again on my part that the last entry on the blog took on an unintended appearance; it was dispatched late on Thursday evening, failed to appear so after 15 hours we re-sent it, it arriving instantly in miniature format and shortened lines. Perhaps it was the last minute italicizing of film titles that did it…? However, grateful thanks now to Techno Son-in-Law, just back from his bird-watching trip to Norfolk, for reformatting the text – and for updating the location map.

Friday 26th – Sunday 27th November  

So – at the end of the last entry I was puzzling about "Black Friday". Apparently it is so called because retailers trade at a loss throughout the year until "Black Friday", the day after Thanksgiving, when huge discount sales bring in the shoppers in huge numbers – at which point their businesses "go into the black" as opposed to "being in the red"! 

As for the other common feature of post-Thanksgiving traditions – yes, it's Christmas lights time.  From Thanksgiving Night until early January an enormous Holiday Lights extravaganza occurs on Del Mar racecourse (on the coast, just north of San Diego; think Ascot racecourse). It's a drive around the track occasion to view hundreds of lit shapes and scenes. Here the family spent a mere five hours busily assembling and erecting lights: attached to the eaves, strung in the bushes, hung from the branches and planted on the lawn. (See photo…) It was a combined effort: the men slaved and problem-solved, the children swept leaves, the Cal Mom arranged the pretty bits – and I held the baby. Other householders in the neighbourhood have been similarly busy and this evening Cal Guy and Cal Girl did a local walking tour of the light shows installed so far. 

In the supermarkets all traces of Thanksgiving had been banished, to be replaced overnight by mock holly, tree-type displays and "Holiday" foods and accessories. I am found guilty of wandering around a supermarket looking at the signage rather than the produce – and certainly it can be entertaining. It was while in a local one on Saturday afternoon that my attention was taken by the magazine titles beside the tills: OK's chief story is "Wedding Special", US has "The Making of a New Princess", whereas The People's main story is "A Perfect Princess". Is the same level of interest in the Royal Family shown in other English-speaking countries? While at IHOP for breakfast the other morning another diner cross-questioned us on when Prince Charles was going to have his go at being King. And he also added " Say, haven't you got a new Prime Minister? It seems all your guys are young and handsome right now." How others see us…

To today's adventure: a trip to the New Children's Museum in downtown San Diego. Right down amidst the skyscrapers, near the International Convention Center, not far from a trolley-bus line is this superb and very recent (May 2008) attraction. Its purpose is to provide inspirational art experiences for children from toddler age to teenage. A massive Trojan Horse dominates the museum, originally constructed to sit on the US-Mexican border. During the course of our four hour visit the children used chariots, blew bubbles, dressed up, made rubbings, made bird houses, painted an outdoor structure, added paper links to a chandelier, climbed ropes and rock walls… the list sounds trite but it is a delightful airy building which encroaches onto outdoor space on two levels and all activities are well-managed by the staff. The location, right downtown, a block away from the seafront in one direction, from the Gaslamp Quarter in another, is stunning. But it is the Museum's rationale that is the more thought-provoking: due to the continuing cutbacks and shrinking of opportunity in the public education curriculum the Museum seeks to provide visual and tactile experiences to school groups and workshop sessions.  It seemed to have been funded " by the great and the good". There is much talk of how parents fund music and sport in schools, and how science is a fee-paying extra-curricular activity. If there isn't enough in the public purse provision is pretty limited.    
Our route home was initially through the city via the harbour, past the enormous cruise liner that was disabled during a cruise a few weeks ago, past US Midway (World War 2 carrier, now a floating museum) and up the coastal freeway past The Californian Son's (relatively new) workplace and then inland over a few very steep hills before reaching San Marcos. We climbed up past San Elijo Middle School, yet still there were houses some height above it – and it occurred to me that in the UK we reserve hilltops as places to be walked to. Here the hilltop is sliced off, flattened and built on, the slopes below are carved and terraced – and then more houses built.

Thanksgiving Holiday is over: Cal Boy and Cal Girl were in bed thirty minutes earlier tonight as tomorrow school starts again. Roads and airports are busy as people return to work and to colleges. That's the way things are out here…   ​

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