As we waited for our visas to return to Paradise, we spent the time in God’s Waiting Room, otherwise known as Florida. You might well ask, “What’s ‘not to like’ about Florida?” The answer would be,’nothing’; it’s all good. Like New Zealand’s subtropical North Island, the winter grass is greener, flowers bloom all year long and we can live outside. We love the beaches, bird life, wildlife, nightlife and most of all, the warm sunny weather. Sunshine in winter, soothes every northerner’s soul. Why, even the alligators can’t stop smiling.
There’s an abundance of bird life in Florida, beautiful native birds and introduced species, who thrive in the Florida climate. The pastel colored spoonbill rosette is stunning. The Anhinga has beautiful blue eyes and when the Sand Hill Cranes come calling, they prefer to walk. Just as waves of migrating Godwit birds return to Ohope each year, Florida attracts thousands of snow birds. The Great Grey Migration starts in the fall, as Snowbirds head south to escape winter. The population swells for ‘The Season’ and returns to normal by May, when the last of the snowbirds fly north. Marching to the beat of a different drummer, Mr. Bill and I did not journey northwards; instead we dropped out of flying formation and continued south, on to gentle Ohope Beach.
What New Zealand lacks in dangerous predators, namely- snakes, insects and reptiles, Florida has in abundance. You don’t have to go tramping in the numerous preserves to encounter nature, it will obligingly come to your doorstep. Alligators love golf but they don’t play fair. Mr. Bill has conceded many a ball to the gators, when his ball has landed a little too close for comfort. Alligators really shouldn’t be allowed to sunbathe on the fairways but they do. They also don’t respect the etiquette of the sport and are guilty of causing slow play, the most tiresome of conditions. Alligators have been known to lay claim to the tee box, holding up play for as long as they wish, rather than allowing faster golfers to play through. Very rude. When attending the Honda Classic Golf Tournament with Mr. Bill, I was torn between watching Padraig Harrington hit his tee shot and keeping an eye on the alligator who was stealthily gliding along on the water hazard. With only it’s eyes, nose and the top of it’s ridged back above the water, the alligator could easily be mistaken for a drifting log. Padraig’s ball landed safely on the green and the play advanced, past the floating reptile. When the tournament official raised the quiet sign, the crowd obediently hushed. However, instead of silence, there was a loud alarming noise. With a mighty crack and a thwack, the gator snapped his jaws shut on it’s prey and thumped it’s tail to dive.
The alligators weren’t the only noisy spectators at The Honda. A gaggle of Egyptian Geese were causing quite a commotion, on the drop area of the 15th hole. We came upon two geese, locked in an embrace with their wings wrapped around one another and dancing on their little webbed tippy toes. I was delighted! Was it a mating ritual? No it was not. Feathers flew as they began biting each others neck. Soon, the strongest of the two, dragged the weaker one into the pond, biting, squawking and dunking it’s head under water. The humans watching, all held their breath; instinctively rooting for the underdog or rather under duck. All looked lost, until up he popped and the tables were turned. Loud raucous honking, heralded more geese who swooped in to witness the fight. They flew in from two different directions, circling wildly above the fracas, seemingly calling out encouragement to the combatants. It was life imitating art. The two cheering sections reminded me of the fight scene, between the Sharks and the Jets, from West Side Story. Enter Stage Left- Mother Goose, with her goslings in tow, emerged from her hiding place behind the sand bunker and joined the fray. She screeched and flapped her wings, as if she were beseeching the fighters to stop. They paid her no heed and she retreated backstage to safety. Eventually, Under Duck prevailed. He limped home, while the loser and the spectators flew away. Did he get a hero’s welcome? NO! Mother Goose came back out of the bunker, honking louder than before and shaking her tail feathers. She was furious. I think she was saying, make your own d*** dinner. That Dear Readers, is something Mr. Bill has never had to do. He’s one lucky duck.
Always listen to your adult children, they teach their parents well- especially when it comes to nightlife. When Audry told Mr. Bill, that he would love the cover band, Sierra, he gave it a go. When he’s in Florida, you can find Mr. Bill listening to live music every Saturday night, at our local, Paddy Macs, in Palm Beach Gardens.(www.paddymacsirishpub.com) Go early for dinner, Edele and Hugh will give you a warm Irish greeting and Chef Ann cooks the ultimate comfort food. Grab a pint and settle in but once the band comes on, watch out, for Mr. Bill becomes a Sierra groupie. Mr. Bill loves hearing his favorite classic (we don’t say old in Florida) rock songs played live. However, the love doesn’t stop there. Mr. Bill now has new favorites by contemporary artists. He likes Florida Georgia Line, Bruno Mars and Kid Rock (new to him). He fell hard for “Wagon Wheel”, which turns out to be an old country song by Bob Dylan covered by Darius Rucker. I’m pleased to note that Mr. Bill now plays “Wagon Wheel” on his guitar. One song in particular that always gets everyone on the dance floor is, “Kate by the Ocean”, by Dnce. Curious about the lyrics, I googled the song and learned that the title actually was, “Cake by the Ocean”. How very strange- I mistakenly thought it was a ballad about Kate, who lived by the ocean. Intrigued, I read on and discovered what, cake by the ocean, is an euphemism for… oh my, what a dessert! Imagine us boomers ignorant of the expression’s meaning, bopping along with the millennials and lustily singing, “cake by the ocean”. It’s a catchy tune, that happily has become stuck in my head. Last week while grocery shopping at New World, in Whakatane, my ears perked up when I heard the song. Immediately, I was transported to Paddy Macs. Much to my chargrin, what happens in Florida, didn’t stay in Florida. Forgetting myself, I began to sway with the beat and sing along in the wine aisle, “Keep on hoping we’ll have cake by the ocean”. Poor Mr. Bill.
Good things come to those who wait. After four months, our visas were granted and we are back home in Ohope Beach, where there is sunshine, birdlife, wildlife, nightlife and Pavola by the ocean.