Merchants in Houston - Chapter 3

As most of you already know, the past couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride with more downs than ups where cats and houses are concerned. Decisions have had to be made and we are now in the equivocal position of moving into a dream house at the end of this week but it is a dream house with a terrible flaw; no cats allowed. It has been a long, convoluted and at times extremely painful road to this point and I won't go over old ground as tears are never far from the surface on this subject.*

One big comfort in recent weeks has been the safe return of the itinerant Daughter Number 3, browner, thinner and rather more worldly wise after her 10 week stint at the horrible Golden Acres (scathing letter to Camp America already in the post) and brimming with excitement after a week long stop over in New York and an overnight trip to Niagra Falls. While Brian continues to consult on operations in Middletown from his Houston outpost we have fallen into a very comfortable routine, reliving our childhoods in the NeverNever Land that is long-term hotel living. Waking around 9am in time for the first of 2 back to back episodes of Dawson's Creek (repeats) we lounge in bed swigging chocolate milk and chomping on cookies until 11am when it's time to go down to the pool. Here we amuse ourselves for an hour or so inventing new aqua-aerobic routines such as "Spotty Dog" and "Rodent Races" then shower, dress and repair to the Mall for lunch and a little light shopping while the maid "does" the rooms. Then back to the suite for 3 o'clock and 2 hour long episodes of "Judging Amy" doing our best to avoid the knowing leer of the young male management trainee, who, we recently discovered to our acute discomfort, has a pool monitor hidden beneath the reception desk. I don't know why "Judging Amy" never made it to British TV; it is an excellent "family values" type of series and has the added attraction (for me) of featuring an extremely rotund, conspicuously grey Tyne Daly (late of Cagny and Lacey). Still room for a few more banana smoothies then. We will have to clean up our act tomorrow and come up with some new diversions when Lucy, Number 3's best buddy from Golden Acres, arrives from her visit to Disney Land, Florida. We might even have our nails done at one of the numerous Vietnamese-run salons as the constant high temperatures and absence of domestic chores have actually allowed me to grow some. On Wednesday night we begin our investigation of the Houston "gig" scene. We have been pointed in the direction of two venues offering Open Mic sessions; the Howlin' Ferritt (sic) and the Parrot Pub. I think we'll try the latter as the former is reputed to be a haunt of "rednecks" and probably just too out'n'out Texan for delicate English sensibilities.

I must tell you of the unexpected achievement of a life long ambition this week with the arrival of my Bank of America debit card. No, not the green light for unlimited spending. After almost 50 years of keenly felt deprivation, I have at last acquired a middle name, well middle initial, anyway. I am now officially Angela F Merchant. Oh the joy and the decisions. Shall it be Francesca, Finula or the more sober yet dignified Frances. Whatever it is, it definitely won't be one of my dear husband's suggestions (Fatima, Fishface and Frankenstein - Frankenstein??!! That perfectly justifiable comment on his navigation skills must have touched a nerve after all...

So what else? I hope it has been noted that no mention has been made so far of the dreaded shopping or eating. This is not only in the interests of good taste and etiquette but also in deference to a complaint received from certain of my readership (no names, we know who you are!) who reckon that the two activities listed above just don't do it for them (who are they kidding?!) Anyway, point taken. There must be more to Houston and indeed Texas than shopping malls and restaurants although much of Houston's reputation is based on just those two attractions. There is a lot of history and culture, some world class galleries and museums, the Houston ballet (which we will attend this Christmas), a vibrant, newly rejuvenated Downtown area, a varied and attractive coastline, acre upon acre of parks and countryside etc etc but we just haven't had time so far to do more than note these things for future exploration. "Merchants in Houston" is not intended as a travelogue but a personal, and necessarily biased, impression of a family adapting to life in what is still, for all our borrowings and similarities, essentially an alien culture. So if you fancy experiencing the idiosyncracies of American, Texan or even Merchantdomestic life then Houston is as good a place as any and conveniently situated midway between Florida and Mexico for those in need of greater stimulation or just better beaches!

* After initial agreement, the owners of Angela and Brian's Houston rental property (now living in Brazil) reneged on their promise to allow William to join them from the UK and within the same 24 hours they heard that their other cat, George, rehomed in Ruralshire, had met with a fatal road traffic accident.



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