Lifeguard seat sign…not from above but from the local neighbourhood. Early morning bike rides along the beach often turn up something unusual or eye-catching so the camera is always packed in my rucksack. This post’s photo collection initially started as a practical moment, an attempt to record the warning flags that fly at the beach and advice about rip currents so I could avoid any dangers lurking in the ocean. But as I rode around the beaches area I spotted other signage that would be unusual to the British readers of this blog, despite being just part of ordinary daily life over here. It’s a chance to practice photograph composition too. Hope you enjoy the images of just another day around Jacksonville Beach.

Beach warning sign
How it all started – beach warning sign

Rip currents
Rip currents – if in doubt do nowt, stay on the beach!

Sea Oats sign
People of North Staffordshire appreciate the importance of their oats too

Welcoming sign
Strict. Makes a change from “No ball games by order”

Wrong way
There doesn’t look much wrong with this way at all. Rather pleasant in fact

Ragtime Neptune Beach
Ragtime Tavern Neptune Beach

Sign overload
A plethora of signs – including the Florida Times-Union newspaper known to some around here as the “Jacksonville Joke”

Bike signs
Don’t worry I always do

The American adventure is over for the time being. I got back to Leeds today a day late. Bad storms over the Washington and New York areas on Monday meant the Air Traffic Control was knocked out of kilter so my 5:10pm departure from Jacksonville actually left around 8:30pm. Apparently this is common over New York as the rather disinterested assistant at check-in told me, offering me “good luck” in getting my connection rather than reassurances. Needless to say I missed my connection by 10 minutes and was looking at a night in a New Jersey hotel. Continental tail and NY City skylineThe process of updating my ticket, getting a new boarding pass, and receiving hotel vouchers seemed smooth enough, but the transfer to the hotel wasn’t on two counts. Firstly it was about 30 minutes drive away and the use of two small shuttle buses meant waiting over an hour before it was my turn to be squeezed on. Secondly having crammed us four to a bench seat built for three the driver proceeded to weave his way between the traffic at speeds up to 90 mph as the bus swayed from side to side, particularly disconcerting when passing through a narrow coned single lane section of roadworks at double the 40 mph limit.

However the consolation was this experience brought strangers together unified by the inconvenience and resigned to international flights the following evening. The gallows humour at the shuttle waiting area and in the bus itself kept morale high, and fellow travellers swapped tales of travel woe and life stories. To be fair although many miles south of the airport and New York city, the hotel was wonderful, my room far exceeding the levels of luxury I’m accustomed to. After a reasonable night’s sleep the new band of delayed comrades once again greeted each other and the conversations helped the morning pass by quickly until it was time to catch the last shuttle bus to the airport at 1:30pm. The irony is that I choose a two hour connection this occasion to avoid the mind-numbing five hour wait I had last time at Newark which I think is an awful airport. Of course by missing my plane not only did I again have the five hour wait at the airport but a night in a hotel as well.

However it was not all bad. I must mention in dispatches Wayne the University of Florida Careers Director who was on his way to various meetings in Ireland, Brian the plumber returning to Dublin after some while in Boston, and the unnamed “soccer enthusiast” who was on his way to Madrid to meet up with his son. Without the amusing, interesting and friendly conversation of these three fellow delayed travellers the day would have dragged by. Thank you all for your company, and to all those other travellers who passed the time of day with a few friendly words. Indeed being around a similar age Brian and I got something to eat, shared a couple of beers, and talked our way around Newark Airport such that the five hours passed very quickly. It reaffirms the belief in human decency and warmth when in mild adversity brief acquaintances are formed and one can share and learn from others’ life stories. It will be something I always remember and from an inconvenience came a positive enhancing experience.

That said I was glad to be away from Newark and its dodgy internet connections with mouse pads that go up for down and left for right and finally on my plane. Continental had made all of the arrangements go very smoothly but somehow failed to transfer my special meal request to the new flight. Departing Newark - NY viewHowever I am indebted to the Flight Attendant who went out of his way to rustle something up for me, raiding Business Class for a vegetarian meal. I have to say the spinach and ricotta cheese pasta parcels in a tomato and eggplant sauce was done to a turn, quite excellent, easily of restaurant quality and one of the best meals I’d had on my holiday in America. I suppose it should be for the price of those sorts of ticket. I have no real complaints about Continental, just the hub they choose for their connections.

Once in the grey UK I was not glad to be back. I missed the first available train by a few seconds, arriving as the doors were closing and in the typical service orientated culture of modern Britain the guard (or is it Train Services Manager these days?!) hanging out from his window said “Yer’ve missed it mate, it’s off” as I tried desperately to prod the button to encourage the doors’ parting. Finally on a train the bleak day did little to enhance the passing countryside and only helped remind me of what I’ve left behind. Where I'd like to beNot only the warm weather, sunshine and beaches, but the special person I’d shared two weeks with and who I’d like to spend a lot longer with. It doesn’t really feel right to be here. I know too how much Tina will be hurting that I have gone and she has no definite date for my return. I will try to make it as soon as possible whatever the obstacles. Not wanting to mope about the house I actually went to work this afternoon even though I told my boss I wouldn’t be in because of the delay. It didn’t make me feel much better either. I didn’t feel tired and I reckoned it best to continue to stay awake as long as I could, hopefully getting some decent sleep tonight.

My good friend and fellow Stoke fan Dave (GoatMajor on the Stoke fanzine message board) called around the house tonight. Putting everything into perspective is his recent loss of his mother to cancer. Dave’s mum was a lovely woman, the typical genial generous hostess found in North Staffordshire, always happy to welcome you into their home and lay on a good “spread” of food. She always put family above herself. Dave has been living in Sweden and I have stored some of his things for him including the suit he needed for the funeral tomorrow. To cheer ourselves up we dined on North Staffordshire Oatcakes with cheese, beans and veggie sausages while watching the Germany v Turkey Euro 2008 Semi-Final. (What a great game but those jammy Germans drive me mad, oh the injustice!) I think the silly Stokie humour, larking about and watching the football helped lightened Dave’s load and I was glad to see him too. I hope he had a safe trip back to Silverdale and things go as well as can be hoped for tomorrow. My thoughts will be with him and the family. On that sombre note I will turn in for the night because the need for sleep is finally catching up with me.