Palm Springs

Growing old can still be a lot of fun


The photo above is one of our neighbours here at the Ocotillo Lodge in Palm Springs, Ed Rooney.  Yep – Ed’s part of our Irish diaspora & when he isn’t sunning himself over the winter in Palm Springs he lives up in Portland, Oregon – which as everyone knows is more like Ireland than Ireland itself – even the weather is the same.  Ed visited Ireland a year or two ago with his son, Ted Rooney.  Ted’s an actor (isn’t everyone in southern California?) who’s been hampered throughout his acting career by simply being too tall – all the romantic leads are automatically snapped up by short men because all of the Hollywood starlets are tiny.

Ed is exactly how I hope I’ll be when I’m in my mid 80s and he’s a shining example of how a person can still have a lot of fun, even when they’re getting a bit older.  He’s independent, keeps himself active, he’s out & about every day, has loads of friends and he’s always got plenty of stories to tell which I love to listen to.  I snapped the pic yesterday just before Ed was going for a swim.  He’d just been telling me about how his brother Art used to try & pass himself off as THE Art Rooney when they were young, growing up in Pittsburgh.  I’d been telling him about how I was next to Art’s famous son, Dan Rooney, in the White House last month on St Patrick’s night – Ed wasn’t too impressed by the whole White House thing but he was impressed that I’d met Dan Rooney.

I wonder to myself why it is that Ed’s the way he is – so positive and so cheerful.  Is the answer as straightforward as having been born with a sunny disposition or is there something more that we can do to as we get older to make sure we maintain a positive outlook.  Ed has a computer & keeps up to date with what’s happening in the world.  He uses skype to keep in touch with his family & many grandchildren.  He was a schoolteacher & reads more than most people I seem to meet these days.  So is that his secret?  Remaining plugged in & up to date with current affairs?  Look forward to your thoughts on this subject.

There’s a big outcry in the US at the moment re the price of petrol – it’s $4.50 a gallon in Palm Springs (it must surely be 3 x as much as that in the UK).  Everyone’s baying for blood on this – especially as the oil companies’ (massive & obscene) profits were announced this morning.  Ed’s talking about trading in his big saloon car for a Mini Cooper – someone’s told him they’re perfectly comfortable for guys 6’3” & taller – I’m only sorry to be leaving Tuesday & missing out on going out for a spin in it.  I hear someone in the desert is selling Mini Coopers that have been “Kiss” customised – gonna see if I can persuade Ed to get one of those before I leave…


Top 10 things I love most about Palm Springs


I’m on holiday in Beautiful Palm Springs in the southern California desert this week so it’s only right that I should tell everyone how lovely it is here.  This is my top ten not anyone else’s – I’m just getting that in now before people start giving out about the fact that golf or celeb spotting aren’t mentioned anywhere on this list!

1.       It has to be the weather.  OK – so it gets a bit hot in the middle of summer but the rest of the year you can’t fault it.  It makes outdoor living a reality.  Even Palm Springs airport is outdoors (it calls itself a resort-port instead of an airport – how cool is that!)

2.       Our wildlife – especially the glorious variety of colourful garden birds & hummingbirds that you see everywhere.  I also have a soft spot for the bats that appear at twilight and the roadrunners I see running across the lawn when I’m swimming early in the morning.  You can also visit the Living Desert if you want to see the stuff that lives here but isn’t readily visible – owls, tortoises, big horn sheep – check it out at this link

3.       Healthy, tasty, cheap vegetarian food – it’s everywhere.  Without doubt the worst thing about living in Northern Ireland for me is the poor choice of restaurants to visit for people that don’t just want to eat steak or chicken (I know – market forces – small population – I accept it’s my fault…)

4.       The people – most people who live here are blow-ins so there’s a rich tapestry of stories from pretty much everyone you meet

5.       The ubiquitous palm trees – who would have thought there’d be so many different types – don’t knock em until you’ve tasted a date shake

6.       Location, location, location – easy driving distance to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix & San Diego – just in case you ever get bored

7.       The flowers – especially the spectacular cactus flowers that are blooming right now and this year’s flame red ocotillo flowers – absolutely spectacular

8.       The mountains – changing colour all day long & allowing you to walk in snow at the top of the tram ride – even when it’s roasting hot down in the valley

9.       Mid century architecture everywhere & giving Palm Springs it’s unique retro look – it’s what we’re famous for & you can’t see it anywhere else

10.   The Ocotillo Lodge where we live – built in the mid 50s by the Alexander company & still exactly as it was the day it was built – just beautiful & with the best pool in town – that’s it pictured in the photo.

That’s my top 10 – would love to hear from you what I’ve missed.




Hummingbirds truly are the jewels of the desert…

One of the many pleasures of a Palm Springs location is the variety of amazing small birds of every colour under the sun that visit our back garden.  Top of the pile for me however without any close competition is the hummingbird, as commonplace here as sparrows are at home.  I can still remember clearly the first time I ever saw one.  I was with a crowd of engineers in Silicon Valley – they didn’t seem too impressed & I then felt a bit embarrassed for making such a fuss and showing myself to be such a newbie in the Valley.  Out here I see them many times a day, but each sighting still stops me in my tracks & I watch them for the few seconds they remain in a single place, feeding or perching.  In flight, they’re harder to track than a golf ball on the tv, flying in short bursts at up to 60 mph.  They are like tiny bright jewels, moving at a million miles an hour in a blur of iridescent colour & wings, chattering away to themselves constantly. 

We’re staying at the historic Ocotillo Lodge in Palm Springs.  It’s one of the many examples that still exist out here in the Californian desert of fine mid century architecture.  Aloe vera plants line one edge of the champagne cork shaped swimming pool and the hummingbirds seem to love the orange trumpet flowers.  The one I’ve been observing this morning is a female Costa’s hummingbird.  She’s about 3½ inches long and after feeding on the flowers, perched for a couple of minutes on the fence around the pool so I could get a good look at her.  Last week I watched one taking a shower in the raindrops – it sat on the fence during a brief downpour & fluffed up its feathers.

Hummingbirds are territorial & fiercely aggressive for ones so small.  They will attack other hummingbirds that are encroaching on their territory (when I’m swimming, I can hear them angrily “buzzing” at each other) and also much bigger birds without hesitation or any evidence of fear.

If you’ve never seen one check them out on Youtube, follow @WeLuvBirds on Twitter and enjoy the great bird photos they post up every day or follow @craignewmark also on Twitter – Craig has a live webcam on his hummingbirds in San Francisco during the breeding season and provides enjoyable daily coverage of news about the babies.  Thanks Craig!

My camera isn’t good enough to capture a hummingbird in flight so I’ve borrowed this picture from the excellent site – I hope they don’t mind.


Diet Coke and Alice Cooper in Palm Springs


This is a photo of my friend Barbara & me on our way to see Alice Cooper in Palm Springs, CA last Hallowe’en.  That’s why we’re both wearing black.

The reason for it being so sunny at Hallowe’en is twofold.  First of all, Californians go out & come home again early (unlike the Irish).  Secondly, it’s always pretty sunny in the desert until it gets dark.

It was a great night – Alice sang all his hits and he got to play a few rounds of golf whilst he was there – so everyone won.  The concert took place in the sports hall of a casino and to an outsider (i.e. a non American like me) it was utterly alien.  I’m more used to going to see bands at the Academy in Brixton where you’re lucky if you get to the bar & back without someone pouring a pint (or worse) into your pocket.  In California it was all no-smoking and diet coke.  How very different.