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Kentucky Journal
December 7

Today was shopping day and so Deb and her daughter Laura took me shopping with them for even more Christmas decorations and presents.  I was quite slow getting ready as Deb had prepared a feast of Ribs last night for dinner with macaroni and cheese with peas, sweet corn and mashed potatoes and they were so delicious I had a second helping. I was thus well weighed down as we started off for the expedition. 

I am struck with the hard work it is at Christmas when you have the kind of extended family that Deb and Steve have.  Mind you Deb sure enjoys it... and I suspect Steve does as well despite him complaining about having to put up all them damn lights on the outside of the house <grin>

We picked up Laura from her home just a couple of hundred yards further up the Hollow.  She kindly showed me around the house which was very large with a great basement.  I was also pointed out several houses for sale in the area and the costs are only around $35,000 - $45,000 so well below what a similar sized house was in Scotland.  There are also a great many trailers they use for homes.. some 80 feet by 14 feet... but surprisingly large for all that.  I got shown around Deb's fathers house and he had two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and a large kitchen come living room.  Certainly large enough to live in comfortably. Good trailers can be had second hand for around $10.000. For all that I'm told trailers do depreciate quick quickly whereas homes will appreciate in value.

Most of these houses come with some 2 acres of land, albeit including a chunk of the hill so there is certainly scope for building extra living space.

Anyway... after seeing around Laura's home we headed down to Williamson, West Virginia, where most of the decent shopping is in the area.  One thing you don't really see are many independent food shops. In Scotland we always seem to have loads of competing bakeries but here there are none.  Similarly we always seem to have a local butcher but here there are also none.  There are other grocery stores other than the huge Wal-Mart store but none of those personal food stores we have in Scotland. I've also noted that there is little lamb available and almost none of our meat pies that we have in Scotland. I haven't found any fresh fish stores either although we are rather far from the sea here in Kentucky.

There is certainly a huge range of merchandise available as you'd expect and one of the popular stores is the "Dollar Store" where all items sell for a dollar or less. All in all there is plenty of shopping available. The prices are not all that different from the UK but some things stand out.  For example a loaf of bread costs around $1.69 here whereas a loaf of bread can be purchased in Scotland for around $0.25. In Scotland we seem to have a very basic range of food which is considerably cheaper than the USA.

Petrol here is of course considerably cheaper than in the Scotland but of course most of the transport is tied to road traffic and with the huge distances they have to travel it is understandable how they want to retain cheap fuel as long as possible.

I also note as we live in a hollow that there is really no way you can live without a car or truck in the family. We've talked about various places they travel to that take 2 - 12 hours of driving but it is really very much easier by car.  In many instances there is neither bus nor train available to take you to many of these places.  Also where we live there are no taxis available.  So a car is essential and not a luxury.

While I'm still exploring the area I've also noted that there is quite low pay in the area.  Certainly hourly rates are lower than our own minimum wage in Scotland.  My initial understanding of income tax is that there is no substantial difference between our two countries although we do it differently.

They don't have council tax here on homes so when you own a home you only have to pay the electricity bill and upkeep.  There is a monthly charge for getting the garbage collected of $10.00. Where Steve and Deb live they have their own well so are independent for water. They use a septic tank system for sewage.  I'm told they can be connected to the city water supply if they stump up around $3,000 but they seem happy with what they have and it all seems to work well.

Here in Kentucky they don't seem to worry much about historic properties as we do in Scotland. Deb was telling me of a fine historic building in Williamson that was over 200 years old. They wanted to use the land for something else so just tore it down and burned the building.  Deb was saying that she and others would have been happy to have got the opportunity of taking some of the wood and fittings but they didn't even get that opportunity. Given their history is a lot younger than hours it is amazing that this can happen.  Mind you further down the hollow is a building well preserved that is where Ford of Ford Motor company fare one lived.

This area is a huge mining area and driving back up the hollow Deb was pointing out where the managers, owners and workers used to live.  Again a lot of the building have been torn down and other buildings put up in there place.

Here in Kentucky we are in a dry zone when it comes to alcohol although it is sold in the city limits of Williamson in West Virginia. So no pubs as you'd know them in Scotland. There are some of the usual eating places and today had lunch in a place where they serve fish and chicken with chips where I enjoyed some fish while Deb and Laura had chicken.

About a mile down the road from the house is a small convenience store and post office which is the last remaining shop in the hollow. I haven't yet visited it but as I have some mail to post I hope to get there next week.

In Scotland we have many glens and of course a hollow is the same as a glen.  Here in Kentucky there are homes in all the hollows whereas in Scotland most of our wee glens have no habitations at all. It's also quite amazing how many small trailer homes and houses there are in those hollows and some in places you can't help wondering how they got there in the first place.

Anyway... these are my observations and impressions so far and I'll be adding lots of photographs when I get the chance and will put them up in here.

And hey... I came across a picture of Steve as a young lad and Deb let me have a picture of her at around the same age...

Steve Deb
Steve and Deb May

A May Clan Gathering at home in Pinsonfork

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