Chris Kent

Chris was at Trinity from 1962 to 1968, and she writes: -

 

Hello Blighty

 

The time has just flown by since we moved to Las Vegas; I can hardly believe I have been here for almost three years.  Little did I know, when we passed through the immigration desk in LA that the next eight weeks were going to be the most hectic and anxious that I had probably ever experienced.
 
We emigrated in May 2001, and I had ten days in which to buy a house before returning to England to finish serving my notice at work.  Fortunately the process of buying a house in Nevada was a breeze compared to the UK.  Essentially once you make a deal, the seller has 30 days to get out. No ifs, ands or buts.  I spent the first three days running around looking at potential homes, chose one and put in an offer - the next seven days were spent organizing finance.  No one warned us that European credit references were worthless in the States, despite the fact that they were from Experian and Equifax, which are the prominent Credit Reference Agencies here too.  Inevitably, we were stung - a 7.7% mortgage rate versus the going rate at the time of 6.1%.
 
Anyway, job done, I left Graham in Las Vegas and headed back to Northampton for what can only be described as death by a thousand cuts!  I had already left my husband behind, next I had to kiss goodbye to my career, and then all the furniture was shipped for its eight-week journey.  Finally my four cats were taken away for two days in travelling cages to prepare them for their long flight from LHR to LAX.  They looked at me with such confused little faces as if wondering what on earth they had done to deserve to be put in jail!
 
So there I was finally - homeless, jobless and with my few remaining possessions in two small cases and feeling really sorry for myself.  The hardest task was left, saying goodbye to all my wonderful friends and my family.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I got on the plane, using my final Air Miles to travel in the comfort of British Airways Club Class.

 
I arrived at my new home at the end of June, the temperature was 105 degrees and the AC went out at the house the first day I was there - welcome to America!  It was such fun though for the first few weeks - we had a bed, two canvas chairs and a TV.  To cook, I had a microwave, a barbeque and a frying pan, but boy was it easy to keep the place clean.
 
Now it's almost Spring 2004 and I'm sitting out on the patio in the sunshine with that entire trauma behind me.  Las Vegas living is so different, and not just because of driving on the wrong side of the road.
 
The most obvious difference is the climate.  We seem to have just three months of 'winter' - which means it is cold at night and you sometimes need to put the heating on.  Even so, there are very few days when the sun doesn't shine and the sky isn't blue.  This last winter the daytime temperature has been between 60-70 (oh yes, we use Fahrenheit, feet & inches, pints & gallons, pounds & ounces: just like the old days!).  The hummingbirds stayed around all winter long, buzzing round the feeders we have hung around the garden.
 
Spring is my favourite time of the year, which means any time now.  The blossom is just starting to come out and by early March our neighbourhood will be a riot of colour.  The desert springs to life in March, it looks (almost) green and there are some really exotic looking flowers scattered around.  The desert tortoises start to wake up and amble around too.
 
Unless you love to bake your very bones, don't ever come here in July or August. It's usually 100 degrees by 10 a.m. - one day last summer it hit 128, the only other place that hot was Death Valley.
 
We are lucky to be just six miles from Red Rock Canyon, 25 miles from Lake Mead and 45 minutes from Mount Charleston.  These are our three recreational retreats.
 
Red Rock Canyon is a conservation area that used to be way out in the desert.  Now the developers are building all the way up to its borders.  It's still a wonderful place to waste time.  Rocks to climb, hiking trails, total peace and quiet - I just love going out into the desert.
 
Lake Mead is where we spend most of our summer weekends.  There are literally dozens of little coves where we can moor our boat and just chill.  We usually take an ice chest full of picnic food and plenty of cold beer!  We have seen more wildlife from out on the lake than anywhere else.  At about 1a.m. the coyotes start howling to each other across the canyons - it really is outrageous.
 
Mount Charleston is also a good venue in the summer because it is usually about 10-20 degrees cooler up there and a totally different ecology.  Unbelievably, people ski here 10 months of the year.  Real estate is expensive on Mount Charleston, and many of the well -to -do have their second homes here.
 
Lake Mead

So what about the Las Vegas that you see on TV?  The only time we venture there is when we have visitors.  The centre of LV is essentially a holiday resort and it has the third busiest airport in the US.  You can usually see a line of planes stretching back into the East, day and night, waiting to land.  There are two quite distinct parts of the city - 'Downtown' and 'the Strip'.  Downtown is where it all began, although nowadays (and despite a couple of face lifts) it is the seedy end of town.  All the new fancy hotels/casinos are on the Strip.  Here you can see Paris, Venice, New York, Rome and Cairo.  Tropical forests, volcanoes, dolphins, white tigers, medieval jousts, pirate ships - this IS Disneyland for adults.  The size and scale of it all is simply staggering and it is all really well done.
 

 
Lake Mead 
Each Strip casino has a theme and their own individual attractions but, make no mistake about it, they are there to separate you from your hard - earned cash.  The big casinos each need to make around $3M a day to break even.  Their day runs from 6a.m. to 6a.m. the next day.  By 9 a.m. they are starting to turn a profit. Each casino is like a little community; there's a bank (handling more money than all the banks in Northampton put together) at least a dozen restaurants, as many bars, armies of cleaners, florists, storekeepers, and security people.  Some casinos have their own bakery for all their breads and pastries.  Then there's the laundry and the trash to take care of - the logistics must be a nightmare!  Las Vegas really does have to be seen to be believed, as those of you that have visited the place will testify.  Love it or hate it, you have to admit that there is nothing else like it.
 
The trick to surviving as a resident is to stay away from the gambling.  Everyone here can tell you a story about people who have lost everything, but it's hard to escape the slots, you see them everywhere - bars, restaurants, even in the supermarkets.  That could be the reason why the population seems to be so transient.  For example, there are 12 houses on the cul-de-sac where we live - within 15 months of moving here, eight had changed hands at least once.
 
On the whole our move to the USA has proved beneficial.  The cost of living is lower so we have a better lifestyle and of course it's hard to beat this climate.  We live in a truly 24/7 society where anything is available, anytime.  There is always something going on, great entertainment often available for free admission.
 
What do I miss?  Good bread, pork sausages, 'real' chocolate, Indian food, the garden birds.  Most of all I miss my friends and family of course - thank heaven for the net!
 
Toodle pip
 
Chris 

The Tower Revisited  - The website for former Pupils of the Technical High School, Trinity High School & Trinity Grammar School, Northampton