Manhattan

There is something strangely unique about New York; it’s rather like a vacuum packed London, all the good and bad bits squeezed together into a pulsating, squealing, squirming mass. As soon as you step outside your door you are hit with the chaos of the streets with every person rushing from one place to another, the filthy litter blowing into doorways where lost souls have made their homes and shoving, brusque rudeness. It can take its toll on anyone, irrespective of how sturdy a disposition they may have. And yet, there is a different side … ask anyone for help and they’ll do more; they’ll smile, chat and ask questions, and when you take the trouble to instigate a conversation with a stranger, you’ll have a new friend for life. Perhaps New York is a sheep in wolf’s clothing after all and not so frightening underneath the snarling exterior.

We are exactly halfway through our posting here. Eighteen months gone and eighteen to go.

It has been a rollercoaster which sounds so predictably trite and yet … what with the usual frustrations of settling into a new country, we have had however the antidote of parties in Central Park, people of every nationality to meet and learn from, the beauty of the towns we’ve explored, the outrageously glamorous Hamptons, the museums and theatres … it’s been everything and more than we’d hoped for.

Within weeks of arrival we had an electricity blackout that wiped out the entirety of Hell’s Kitchen all the way to the Upper West Side. This hadn’t happened since the early 1970’s. The chaos that ensued was staggering. That’s a lot of people stuck in a lot of elevators.

After 24 hours we decided there were only so many games of Scrabble we could play, so walked down the 49 floors to the nearest bar until a couple of hours later our legs had stopped shaking long enough for us to walk back up again. Had we known that was the start of many, many games of Scrabble in future months we might have invested in a larger scoring pad. As I type, we are exactly 77 games a piece. That’s 154 games in the Coronavirus Challenge. That’s a lot of Scrabble, a lot of checking the dictionary and a lot of expletives.

For a time we were slap bang in the epicentre of America’s coronavirus. So we battened down the hatches, took to Zoom like the rest of the world and watched the Navy hospital ship ‘Comfort’ sail into and then finally out of Pier 90. All faintly surreal, like seeing Florence Nightingale float up the Hudson dressed in white. We watched the news desperately, religiously day after day and as life crumbled around the planet all we really wanted was to be closer to our family.

And then, Trump vs Biden. I shall refrain from any political ramblings, but again, we are witnessing extraordinary times.

Suffice to say it’s been an interesting time with ups and downs like everyone else, but a time for plenty of reflection and thought … And dare I say it, thank God for Scrabble.

Katie

This is Manhattan …

There are no yellow cabs now in Manhattan.

The streets are empty with only a few scurrying individuals collecting their groceries, faces all but hidden behind masks. Except the eyes. Darting, accusatory and nervous.

There are no tourists wearing their backpacks, looking lost and filling the horse drawn carriages for an expensive saunter around Central Park. The enterprising men and occasionally women who dance, juggle, sing and leap over each other to make a few bucks from anyone who’ll watch are all gone. … Except one solitary man, who sits just a few yards from Times Square. He has no shoes but wears long, dark shorts and a faded cap, and in his hands he holds an old battered pair of drumsticks. In front of him are a variety of pots, tins and the occasional glass jar. Every single day he is there. He sits and beats out some sounds with a strangely beautiful rhythm. But today he lacks his energy; he is wilting. He has no audience and the street is empty.

In Central Park, parents sharply order their children to walk in single file behind them and curtly step off the path to let others pass. Scarves are quickly lifted to cover strained-looking faces.

There is a solitary helicopter hovering above the edge of the park. There are very few police on the streets, but there is order. Silent queues stretch around the block from the grocery store.

With empty avenues and streets, the true numbers of the homeless are glaringly apparent. Lying on the subway gratings where the warm air blows, in filthy doorways and on the sun-warmed benches around Columbus Circle … anywhere offering some shelter. But without a tourist in sight and few people passing, their opportunities for donations of money, food or cigarettes are limited.

For a few hours each morning in Central Park, dogs are allowed off their leads. They bounce and bound, oblivious to the troubles of the world, simply enjoying their daily freedom, chasing the pigeons and squirrels. It is their same routine every single day without a single care or worry to curtail their fun. Bliss.

Kx

Ps What’s it like with you? Is it the same or different? Where are you?

Food Glorious Food!

As I typed the title of this post, the song from ‘Oliver’ burst from my lips making the Colonel leap up from his slumber in bewilderment. It was, after all only six o’clock in the morning.

“Sorry darling. Got a bit carried away.”

He made a harrumphing, grumbling noise to make his displeasure known and then settled back under the bedcovers.

Back to the original point … Food.

Food in Manhattan is monumentally expensive. For my lovely British friends let me tell you that a can of baked beans is $3.49 which in today’s exchange rate equates to £2.87 … two pounds and eighty seven pence for a can of sodding baked beans. We no longer eat baked beans.

Meanwhile, a loaf of bread last week was priced at the equivalent of two of those cans of baked beans! We don’t eat bread now either.

However, whilst I scrabble around in my purse for the last few pennies, there is a little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Or should I say, a Costco. Indeed, it is at the end of the tunnel because the nearest one means taking two subways, or to get the biggest and best Costco, a subway, a boat and a walk. Take your pick.

Costco means buying in bulk. Costco means buying in bulk but extremely cheaply.

Now, each and every cupboard in our apartment is filled to the gunnels with vast vats of gloopy washing liquid, a bin bag full of pineapples, enough loo rolls to keep every Andrex puppy in England happy for months, and more tin foil than you can wrap a dozen turkeys in. I shan’t bore you with more detail, but you get the picture.

The Colonel however, is happy. Always one to enjoy a good deal, he smiles at our over-filled cupboards, content and dare I say, a little smug in the knowledge that should Manhattan ever have a power cut again and we are stranded, we shall at least be able to get a grip on the washing … oh, except last time all the water cut out too.

Nevertheless, the sun in streaming in through the windows and although I won’t be having toast for breakfast, we do still have four rather large pineapples in the bathroom cupboard that need eating up …

Katie xx