Paul and Margaret Hardy

Mail forwarded from:

15 Kentings, Comberton,



Tel (when in UK) 07739 755623



Current residence:

1400 Barton Rd - Apt 2416,


92373, CA., USA

Tel +1 (909) 856 8300




November 2005


2005, still in Exile


Life is a strange blend of good and bad here in California. Paul is enjoying his work at ESRI, and we have achieved a lot of interesting travel, both local and further afield. On the down side, Margaret still has no work permit (and little chance of getting one), so is making the best of her status as ‘accompanying alien spouse’ and joining Paul on his travels. She has acquired a ‘ragbag’ of voluntary work, which keeps her off the streets when in Redlands.

We thought we would give you a taste of the highlights and lowlights of our year:

Natural Disasters - California had its wettest winter since records began, ending a six-year drought, resulting in impassable mountain roads, flooding and landslides followed by road closures while repairs were made. We’ve had three noticeable earthquakes – ‘shakers’ but not ‘breakers’. We’ve also had three forest/brush fires within 10 miles of Redlands, all of which burned several square miles (and in one case 10,000 chickens at a battery farm).
Plus side - We luckily do not have hurricanes, which confine themselves to the east coast. We do get a lot of sunny days (oh no, not another sunny day!), and we’re still in shirtsleeves in November. The wet winter produced the best Spring flowers for many years – seas of orange poppies and pink gilia.

The best things about Redlands – the San Bernardino Mountains on our doorstep, where we often go hiking. We’d like to bring them home with us, though they would alter the landscape (and the climate) of Cambridgeshire quite dramatically – we think they would fit nicely between Cambridge and Ely.
The worst things about Redlands area – the heat in summer (over 100F most days), closely followed by the year round air pollution (we’re at the head of the valley taking all the car exhaust from LA). Also the train sirens every 14 minutes on the Southern Pacific line, a mile away.

The most fascinating wildlife – hummingbirds, which come to the feeder on our balcony even when we’re sitting there. They’re so small, so swift – and so quarrelsome.
Wildlife to be avoided – mountain lions, bears, snakes and skunks. Margaret’s colleague Mike had a skunk get under his house and spray. The smell permeated everything and windows had to be opened for weeks afterwards when Mike was in the office. A hiking friend was recently clawed on the face by a bear, which wanted his ‘bearproof’ food container. Having secured the container the bear sat on a log and ate the contents. Jim had to have stitches and anti-rabies and tetanus shots (after hiking 12 miles to the nearest road).

The best buy in the US – ‘gas’ at less than 3 dollars an American gallon (half the price of UK petrol).
The worst buys – anything made in China (which includes almost everything on sale here)

The best uses of leisure time – hiking, sightseeing, music (Paul plays concertina in a monthly jam session and Redlands boasts a good symphony orchestra), swimming and reading.
The worst uses of leisure time - shopping (with the exception of Redlands’ excellent Barnes and Noble bookshop), watching TV (awful programmes continuously interrupted by worse commercials) and ‘working out’ at the gym (we leave that to the Americans).

The best times for Margaret - leading educational visits at Children’s Forest in the mountains.
The worst time - being excluded from volunteering at Children’s Forest when a permanent (paid) education manager was appointed, after it became obvious that she couldn’t get a work permit.

The most amazing place we’ve visited – Bryce Canyon, which has fantastic red rock formations called hoodoos, and which we thought ‘out-wowed’ the Grand Canyon.
The most amazingly unreal place we’ve visited – Las Vegas, a warped re-creation of the civilised world in the desert, with complete disregard for historical accuracy - the pyramids have been moved from Cairo to Luxor, and volcanoes erupt regularly on the half-hour!

The best city we’ve visited – Washington DC, which has an efficient Metro, good restaurants and wonderful monuments and museums, most of which are free. (Closely followed by Berlin, and then by San Francisco and San Diego).
The worst city – the 100 miles of continuous urban sprawl of Los Angeles.

The best museum – the Museum of American Indians in DC, closely followed by the Getty in LA. The Page museum at the La Brea Tar pits in LA gets an honourable mention as fulfilling Paul’s childhood memories of sabre toothed tigers and woolly mammoths.
The least inspiring museum – The San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands (only notable for its world-class collection of bird’s eggs!).

The top ten places in the US we’ve visited - Bryce Canyon and Zion NP in Utah, the Grand Canyon, Sedona (Arizona – red rocks and hippy culture), Sequoia National Park (really big trees), the Big Sur coast (Santa Barbara to San Francisco) and the north California coast (San Francisco to Mendocino), Sonoma valley (champagne), Catalina Island, and Washington DC.

The top ten places outside the mainland US we’ve visited - Big Island, Kauai and Maui in Hawaii (verdant countryside and volcanoes); Cusco (Inca stonework), Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, the Colca Canyon (condors), Arequipa, Iquitos in the Amazon jungle (where Paul got bitten by a black bullet ant!), all in Peru (Paul’s belated 50th birthday present), and Berlin.

Ten places we hope to visit in 2006 – Mexico (on a Ramblers’ trip), Death Valley NP, Yosemite NP, Yellowstone NP, Anza Borrego desert state park (nearby, towards San Diego), Arizona, Oregon, Washington (state), Wisconsin, Colorado (and, of course, England!).

We’re off to Portugal over Xmas for a Ramblers holiday, then to England to stay with Paul’s mother (now 92 and still keeping well) over New Year. We’ve seen Barry/Dom (our foster son) a couple of times during the year, and he is surviving OK.

We’ve actually got a trip to ‘Europe’ in late November. Conforming to American tradition we’re coming ‘home’ for Thanksgiving, followed by two weeks of business visits for Paul in the UK, France and Belgium. Margaret will spend the first week in the Cambridge area and join Paul for the second week when he has business meetings in Paris and Brussels.

We’ve enjoyed having various visitors during the year, including Paul’s mother again. We welcome any friends or relatives to stay – it’s easy to skip the lowlights and enjoy the highlights!


With every good wish for Christmas and the New Year,


Margaret and Paul