Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, New Me!

Happy New Year and all that Jazz!
I have to confess my 2010 has not ended in the wild fashion that would befit the year I have had! I have had the strangest year of my life and that deserved some celebration but after 4 days in Disneyworld and a 10 hour drive the most I could manage was some sparkling Pinot and a blog! No point opening Champers if you're knackered. I had planned some fireworks I smuggled in from Georgia but they will have to wait til tomorrow now! You can buy a gun in North Carolina from Walmart. When she moved house, one of Hubby's colleagues 'went into the yard and fired a couple of rounds off to show 'em I was packin'. That apparently is perfectly OK. Shoot your gun to show your neighbours you mean business. Dare to set of a firework and that is a criminal offence. My 'TNT Texas Cyclone, Mighty Python and Colour Pearl Flowers' could land me in Jail! (I'm sure those names mean something completely different in Thailand and would definitely put you in Jail). So my New Year's Eve has not gone with a bang and given I need to see in the New Year with Champagne and fireworks tomorrow there is no point pledging to give up alcohol as a resolution.
So what will my New Year bring me? Given how mad 2010 has been I can't imagine anything too crazy. I feel I need to settle down into my new life in a strange land and embrace the strangeness. I need to get out more, join in a few community activities and assimilate! To do this I picked up a 'Cary Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Program Brocure' for 2011. I have to say I am shocked by my options! Southern Appalachian Clogging for beginners may be good in the heart of the Pisgah Forest but for a girl from the original Birmingham? I cant see myself clogging to be honest. (I said CLogging). Then there is the 'Shag Beginner' and I quote 'Living in North Carolina and you still don't know about shagging? Learn the basic shag'. I'm sure the legal age is at least 18 here... I think I can do the basic shag and I get by on being self taught. So,  I have opted for Belly Dancing classes. When I went back to the UK a couple of weeks ago I got lots of comments about my weight. I was told my weight gain suited me! Well, I guess I have to put the super sizing to good use and make use of my extended belly! The classes promise to offer a work out 'while you explore your inner eroticness'. (is that even a word?). Anyway - put like that I'd rather belly dance than shag.
So - here's to the New Year. Bring on the strangeness! I'm ready for anything!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It’s Tradition!

We spent our first Christmas in America. We were lucky to get back from our trip to the UK at all. It snowed a lot and the only two flights in 5 days happened to be the ones Hubby and then me and the children were booked on. Hubby claimed he had to be back two days before me to go to work. We all know the truth. It was to avoid being on the same flight as our 5 year old son! Being snowed in for 4 days in the UK before my departure prevented me from ramming my suitcases full and being charged for excess baggage. As it happens I was a whole suitcase short! Tragic. I could have filled it with Ribena!
As it happens I did smuggle some illegal substances to ensure we had a traditional English Christmas. I was keen to impress our American neighbours who were coming to lunch on Christmas day with our ‘traditional’ Christmas! We did bend the rules a little… Well a lot really. I didn’t feel like I could do Turkey because 1) I hate it and 2) it is a big thanks giving thing here and that would give them something to compare too and didn’t offer a unique ‘British’ experience so I opted for roast beef and all the trimmings. English mustard was a treat! Perhaps I should have warned that too much of it makes the back of your neck fizz and your nose burn! Particularly cruel when experienced by 5 year olds but very funny! I smuggled gravy mix in to the USA because their idea of gravy is grim and I can’t make it from scratch. They couldn’t get enough of the Yorkshire puds soaked in that English gravy.  I was pleased on Christmas day but looking back now I am horrified that I FORGOT the parmesan parsnips (Delia of course) and the red onion marmalade- both waiting patiently in the fridge. I guess our visitors will not know what a hideous faux pas I made by not serving parsnips with beef! Oh the shame!
I did of course smuggle in a Marks and Spencer’s Christmas pudding. I soaked it in Brandy and set it alight. Impressive! Almost as explosive as the crackers I had packed in my suitcase. I wonder if they would have been considered as gunpowder. I heard somewhere that you could no longer buy Christmas crackers in the UK under the age of 16 because of the danger they posed. No idea if it is true but it seems very sad if it is! It also makes them the dodgiest of my illegal contraband! My guests loved the crackers and I got away with having cheap ones. They didn’t know that you are classified in the UK on the basis of the shit that comes out of crackers. I would never have got away with it at home!
The other tradition I ensured we honoured was to make sure copious amounts of alcohol were consumed. I have my own little mini tradition that I must drink champagne on Christmas day. (I know – you can take the girl out of Kings Norton… but I have come a long way from my Lambrini days! In fact – more like Lambrusco aspiring to have Asti Spumanti). So I fed my guests lots of Champagne- and who could resist? Have you tasted Californian Champagne?! Following that we served some very nice French Red. Our guests were a little perturbed by the French infiltration and claimed that on a blind taste test Napa Valley won over the French. I've yet to find Californian wine I like and you can only get Champagne from France and nothing else comes close!  It is fair to say that by the end of dinner we were all jolly! Perhaps that is why I forgot key ingredients!
We have our own tradition of giving ‘table presents’ – cheap gifts for each person to amuse at the dinner table. I had a bit of a British theme going. One of the gifts was a little box of trivia questions – about the funny habits of the British. Our guest began asking us some of the questions although I had bought them to ‘test’ him. We knew most of them and I felt a warm glow at the quaint little habits, customs and nuances of the British. Questions such as ‘After driving to the coast, where is it said that the English eat their sandwiches?’ Where else but the car?! The question on street graffiti was barely started when Hubby and I both answered Banksy. Other topics were centered on things like Morris dancing, cheese rolling and gurning. Our guests were so shocked that they thought we must have pre read the questions. I felt smug! We knew tradition. Then a question was asked about which person was accused of eating his girlfriend’s hamster. We both knew the answers to that too. Perhaps it isn’t so much that we have more tradition (which goes without saying) but we also have something that is not good at all. We in Britain are united in a common knowledge.  We have the tabloid press that reaches the whole nation on a daily basis. You don’t have to buy celeb mags to know the answers to such celeb shite because our press reports on it. More than that – It seeks it out and ignores significant news. I can still remember the front pages of the tabloid press reporting the ill-fated end to a poor hamster’s life, and I suspect the death of a celebrity career! On the other hand I knew all about the things that make Britain weird and wonderful. Now had that hamster been smeared in Mustard and followed by a nice cheese board and port… Well that would have been perfectly acceptable!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Let it Snow!

We in Britain, it has to be said, do not handle extremes of weather very well! Usually a bit of snow brings the country to a stand still so, unsurprisingly, when there is a shit load of the white stuff the consequences are bad. There have been no flights to North Carolina for two days. After sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours waiting to be de-iced and parked following a flight from Germany on Friday Hubby ventured to Heathrow this morning expecting to fly back to the states at 12pm (mad dogs and English men!). Astonishingly, he boarded on time although he sat on the tarmac again for three hours before finally taking off. Why do airlines do that? Why board? He was lucky in the wide scheme of things! He flew! I may not be so lucky to fly back on Wednesday with more snow forecast.
You may think I would want to be snowed in. Most of me does want to be so I can stay here a bit longer before returning to our voluntary exile. I have had a great trip home but the snow has marred it. I couldn't get to a concert at Birmingham Cathedral on Saturday. Medieval Baebes were crooning. What rotten luck to miss that! (Although for compensation we sat in a local pub drinking mulled wine all afternoon) We had an early family Christmas dinner on Sunday but half the family couldn't get here because of snow (but it was white- I seem to always look at the negatives but it has been pointed out that I got my white christmas...magical, if not quite the one you dream of - which never has parents stranded and unable to pull a cracker- something my Mom and Dad rarely fail to do in their own ways)  The kiddies couldn't visit their old friends today and were very upset. My friends and family couldn't visit me or me them and I have half my presents undelivered. I am perhaps grateful that not all gifts have been delivered to me! I have been surprised by the gifts bestowed. I can just imagine the questions at the airport... "are you carrying anything from anyone else?" ... I have had to open the gift wrapped presents in case they are banned from aircraft! Apart from a particularly vicious perfume most gifts could not be classed as offensive weapons. The biggest challenge, other than the snow, I face in getting back is getting all the presents in my suitcase and not being charged for access baggage. The sizes of the presents are slightly ridiculous. I don't know what my dad was thinking.. a Super Mario game for the Wii - great... but TWO Wii wheels and FOUR hardback annuals for the kids??? That weighs. At this rate I might have no room for my own contraband - I have to at least try to smuggle an M & S Christmas pudding into the states for Christmas day.
I am always pissed off that they don't weigh me with my suitcase. Why am I only allowed the same weight in luggage as the fat bastard behind me? I can see Ryan Air catching on to this. The more you weigh the smaller your suitcase has to be! Call me fattist but it seems fair to me.
All of that aside I still want to go back to that strange place I now call home. Hubby will hopefully be landing later today and I miss him already. He is the most familiar thing to me in that strangeness (bit of a turnaround given he used to be the strangest part of my life before America!)  I also have an obligation to my cats. After all they were as pissed off as I was to have to leave England in the first place. They had even less choice than me too. Most importantly we need to be back for the Kiddies Christmas present. A huge surprise that they didn't know about at all...  until someone just called by to wish us all a safe journey home, a happy Christmas and a great trip to Disneyland on Boxing Day!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blogger's Block!

I don't plan my blogs, they come to me - like a visitation - a voice in my head and I have to write them to get the words out of my head! If I don't write it down it annoys me until the words and ideas lose meaning and I forget what it was I was going to write but am left with a need to try to remember. Yes - I am sure there is a clear medical diagnosis for my condition and I could be cured with a shit load of tablets... in America (did you know the average American is on 9 prescription drugs???). For now I find the best solution is to sit and blog!
I have been in England almost a week with no such blog visitations. I get up to three a day in North Carolina! I had to contrive a poem about the flight when I got here so I could post something. I decided my blogger's block was because I was no longer a stranger in a strange land. That changed this morning when I felt a blog coming on - whilst frying bacon! It occurred to me that I have yearned for so many things over the last six months that I couldn't get and now I can have them they don't hold the same attraction. It is probably a good job, the bottle of Ribena I got was guzzled by my nieces and the bottle of Faustino Rioja, by my sister! I didn't read a single page of the Sunday Times I WALKED to the newsagent to buy. .. and the bacon I was desperate to eat -was thicker than I remembered and I burned it whilst I purged myself of this blog! To top it all there was no tomato ketchup. That wouldn't happen in America! The glorious breakfast butty dream I had kept going for 6 months was shattered at the eleventh hour!
I was warned that I wouldn't quite fit in when I came home. Well for a start I haven't got a home here anymore but my sister has been the perfect hostess. We have completely invaded her space. She has entertained our friends and has also been an excellent taxi service as I have no car here either (she did draw the line at doing my washing though so my Mom has been a star there!). She is not the only one who has put me up and/or ferried me about and fed me and my children. My daughter had such a lovely time seeing her old school friends at their Christmas party.  I have loved seeing my friends and family and the only downside is I haven't had enough time to spend with those people. I have loved the traffic, the grey sky and the supermarkets filled with amazing choice and variety for Christmas. I have made flying visits everywhere, consuming far too much alcohol, as I was reminded is the way with the British. We don't normally need an excuse to drink but add the Christmas festivities and seeing friends I haven't seen for 6 months and it is a recipe for pickled liver!  I have had such a great time!
I may be a guest here but if I am strange here it is because I always was and if it is a strange land it is because it always was! I cant blog about it because it is all completely normal to me and it is so good to feel normal after feeling so strange for the past six months. I return to North Carolina next week. I suspect those hot tears I felt when I left in June will return, feeling hotter cause I'm leaving on a jet plane! This time I haven't got the sense of excitement and adventure that I had when I didn't know what it would be like. Equally, I haven't got that fear and trepidation I felt the first time. Either way I expect it wont be very long after landing in that strange land that I'll be missing Ribena and feeling a blog coming on!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bucket Class

At check-in they were all smiles
'Sir, would you like to upgrade for a trillion air miles?'
I saw Hubby's resignation...Oh fuck it!
'No thank you, I'll sit with the wife and kids in bucket.'

Flight 173 - you can now board,
First class and frequent fliers before the hoard.
Not spent a fortune flying with us?
You're on last at the back of the bus.

I could stand to wait last in line
behind the people who fly all the time.
What I couldn't take was their smug faces
as they walked ahead - all airs and graces!

The order of boarding the plane
reinforces the American 'special club' game
Not a member? Wait til the very last
Made to feel like an outcast.

My seats may have been relatively cheap
I didn't have a lie flat bed for sleep
But to my delight I had room aplenty...
Bucket class was half empty!

When boarding they may have been quick
when it came to quick thinking I was slick
I grabbed three seats just for me
(daughter 2, son 2 and Hubby 3)
Our own lie flat beds for free!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Will you still love me tomorow?

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As shepherds look after their scattered flocks when they are with them, so will I look after my sheep

This was on someone's face book status. I 'm hazarding a guess that is is from the bible. It got me thinking of some of the good folk of North Carolina that I have met. I didn't like what I thunk! On the surface, people have been very welcoming and I was starting to feel like I had some friends. Usually, making friends has an ebb and flow to it, new people come into your life through a change of job or moving house or whatever and others leave because they overexpose themselves or move house... When you move to a whole new country you don't have anything to ebb and flow with - it is an absolute drought! It is worse than starting a new job or walking into a new situation because the whole of it is new. As well as being a new face you also sound different. You are different so those initial conversations that you have when making new friends get warped. Normally, where you meet someone can dictate the structure of  the 'new friend conversations' - it starts off around the kids at the school gates and quickly moves on to how much wine you drank to cope with them the night before or about a previous job at a new work place.
When you are a stranger in a strange land they just want to talk about your strangeness and all the conversations are the same and few move beyond them satisfying their curiosity. Now I accept that might be because they didn't want to be my friend - and that is normal - for every new person you meet very few become friends, let alone good friends - although I have to say some of my longest and dearest friends I have met as total strangers on holiday! (there was a strong connection centered around alcohol though!). When it is so intensified by the fact that you know no one - it is hard.
Most of those initial meetings I had were at the community swimming pool in the Summer. Some conversations moved beyond inspecting me and I would be given a phone number to call 'if you need anything'. I did need something - friendship- but I didn't call the numbers. I didn't want to be needy.
We were invited to people's houses for dinner gatherings - always where there were more than just us and the hosts. Safety in numbers in case we were too strange? Inevitably these turn into an alcohol fuelled interrogation of our strangeness with the odd conversation centered around their love of Scotland thrown in. You get the sense that you are the entertainment for the night. I would sincerely hope that wasn't the hosts intention but it is usually the outcome. This drives you to seek your own kind and latch on to UK accents. When I am with such people I feel like they are friends with me, maybe because they also feel the need to be with other Brits, but also because they like me. There is no novelty factor so if you see them more than once it is because you get on. I had a great night at Billy Elliot with some lovely Brits - laughing at the terrible North East accents in the stage show! It was great!
There is something worse than being the entertainment for the night - and that is being their salvation! I remember one of the neighbour's children said to us when we were round having dinner 'We always have to have you round for dinner because you don't know anyone else.' Out of the mouths of babes? Now it is kind to invite someone round because they have nowhere else to go but I don't like the charitable sentiment. I would hope the reason we were there was because, after the initial interrogation and entertainment, we were liked! A recent gathering  we went to felt like a gathering of lost lambs. People with nowhere else to go. 'Meet my husband - he's a shepherd rounding up the lost and lonely, like the Good LORD!'
I am going home to England tomorrow for a visit. I have been away 6 months. I guess friends will have ebbed and flowed and prolonged absence is a real test of friendship. Some will ebb away and some will strengthen as a consequence. I would like to think I have made some connections stronger through my blog. I worry that readership is tentative and if I don't write for a week or so over the holiday season when I return no one will be there to read. Ironically in this case I like to think I am some sort of entertainment for my friends! I may be a lost sheep but my real friends know there'll be no salvation for them in saving my soul and will raise a glass to that! ...and I know you will still love me tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let there be light!

Sometimes it is easy to forget when you are a stranger in a strange land that it is the little things that are most weird. It is also those things that make you yearn for home.
I put my Christmas tree up. It is one of those snowy trees - cost a fortune and still look tacky next to real ones - but I like it.  Last year I bought some beautiful lights - Mistletoe leaves and the little white berries are the lights. They are still in the box!
Have you ever seen an American plug and plug hole? Again - for a nation so obsessed with dangerous killer germs (apple bobbers beware) they don't seem to consider the more highly likely possibility of getting electrocuted from their 3rd world standard plugs! They are two pronged affairs - there is an option for a third prong but it is rarely used. They don't appear to be fused. You have to have fit electrical surge protection as an extra to guard against frazzling your TV in thunder storms. Given the quantity and stunning quality of such storms it seems mad that they don't fuse their plugs. The holes you stick them in are just as bad. There is no switch so when you plug stuff in - if you do it at an angle you can have a mini light show from the sparks. That cant be safe! Thankfully my 5 year old son hasn't discovered this yet!
Visitors to my house LAUGH at any things I still have with a British plug attached. Yes - they are bulbous and ugly and often bigger than the device they power but they seem study and dependable. Most electrical goods from home don't work here. We got a couple of transformers to power the Wii and TV for the kids and for my desk top but they are really expensive. We sold most of our electrical things before we came - There were some real winners on eBay! (See 'Take me home...') Can you believe someone would pay £360 for a 4 year old SMEG fridge??? A positive was selling the front loading washing machine and tumbler dryer and replacing them here for monstrous top loaders. They are fantastic!
We thought lamps would work. They don't - plugged in with an adapter plug they give off a feint glow and get mega hot!. That leaves us with a dilemma - buy nice lamps that you aren't ashamed of (other than their silly little plugs) or buy any old shit because they wont export back to Britain when we go home! We opted for the cheap stuff - Hubby is tight!
So it was with great sadness that I was prompted to reflect on strange little plugs when I came to put my tree up. My pretty little mistletoe lights wont work. It isn't that bad though - they don't seem to know what mistletoe is here and the Christmas lights are very cheap. At home the occasional street has a house that is 'lit up like a Christmas tree' literally! you know - the very tacky ones that we all love but are glad they aren't living next door? Well here almost EVERY house is like that - and we aren't talking trailer trash chic! The bigger the house - the more lights and festive lit up figurines (more angels than Santas here given their tendencies). I guess my tasteful little berries would have looked as silly as their plugs!

Monday, December 6, 2010


My In-Box is full - daily. Sadly not with notifications from friends on face book or alerts for comments on the blog or even from friends just sending me good old fashioned emails - in spite of my pleas for communication. No! My inbox is full of promises... Lies and Promises. I don't mean I have secured a publishing agent and have promises of a book deal on my blog. I have missed that boat - some bint in the North has already done that. (actually I really must read that book because apparently one day her new neighbours discover she has been writing a blog about them and their ways... I could do with some top tips of how I extricate myself from such a situation in case my American neighbours ever discover my blog... I wonder if they still lynch? This is the south).
No! My inbox is full of promises of rewards from stores. Somehow I have joined LOTS of store reward programmes - inadvertently lured when I have been asked for my email address from the store assistant. They ask for your email address like your purchase depends upon it and stupidly I have given it.... and WHAM you have SPAM!
America is a real 'something for nothing' coupon culture. A good colleague of mine told me once there is no such thing as a free lunch. He was right. I paid dearly for my free lunches as a teacher. Dry cleaning bills for the tomato sauce skirted up the back of my suit, the stress of having to sit with students in my only free time, the toll on my digestive system of free school dinners... He needs to tell Americans that there are no freebies! They get sooooo exited by 'Must have deals' that are so good it's like they are paying me... so good it is like it is free... so good the more I spend the more I earn! People actually shop according to the coupons they have. How does that work? could do with some cat food, my cats are starving but I don't have a coupon for cat food but hey I have a coupon for Cake. Let them eat cake!
My daughter loves the sparkly clothes they sell at one particular store. It is nasty  . Clothes designed for hookers to fit little girls. (can they sue me for an opinion? Probably - this is America- Would I have to prove that hookers shopped there or little girls who shopped there became hookers in later life to escape a visit fro the law enforcement officer?). The prices at the ironically named Justice are expensive by USA prices for clothes unless you go on a 40% off everything (YES! 40% off everything) day. Then the prices are acceptable. Or you can go on a 'spend $50 get $25 off' day. Beware of these deals - sometimes you get the money as a rebate by sending in your receipt, joining their club, ticking the box accepting a shit load of spam, waiting 50 years and signing in blood... then you get a check (cheque) in the post minus handling costs.. not a lot you can do with a nickle and a dime (whatever they are). Just got a great deal though. My daughter is looking slutty tonight! Party girl!
Then there are the special member's deals - to our special friends we have priced this item as it should be. Not in our club? then pay treble you non belonger! For most of these kind of deals you just have to sign up for the aforementioned free store 'rewards' card. Yes! they will reward you with bright lights and voices in your head... No - sorry, it is God who does that. These cards just reward you with reasonable prices. Then there are shops you cant even go in unless you are a fully paid up member. Shops they charge you to join! How does that work! I inadvertenly tried to fill up at a petrol station of such a club. Luckily someone wanted the reward points they would get from me buying petrol and let me use their membership. I felt special - if only for a short while - then I was out of the club you have to pay to join...
I have realised that you have to resist the coupon culture - it sucks you in to buying shit you don't need. Hey - I had a coupon for a frontal lobotomy - BOG OF - I had one myself and gave the other to my BFF! The Buy-one-get-one-free deals are mostly for things you would not want two of! I have got to the point though where I do not pay full price for clothes. I have also realised that the more expensive the clothes or shop - the better the deal, probably because the initial mark-up is so absurd. My children now wear clothes I couldn't afford in England - Ralph Lauren, Gap, Osh Kosh... because you can get them for less than shopping at the equivalent of Tesco if you are savvy. I don't keep coupons (I forget I have them) but I do use common sense. You also have to resist the 'OMG - This is so cheap I'll have 6 of them' - because then it isn't cheap! (remember though - you are not allowed to say 'oh my God' - You can say 'Oh my Gosh' as a substitute - like saying freakin for f**king - I love the hypocrisy!!!)
So this is the land of the free (maybe) - but that doesn't include freebies. Don't believe the Lies and Promises... The Promised Land is full of them!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do you want that gift wrapped?

The local Elementary school are collecting - gifts for the less privileged children in the school. I am asked to be generous at this time of year. Well - Christmas is for giving... But I am not ALLOWED to wrap any gift in Christmas paper as it might offend the recipient! Hang on a minute... What about offending the gift bearer? Who decided it might be offensive and that it wasn't allowed?
What if Mary had said to one of the wise men 'Sorry - I don't like your choice of gift wrap - it really doesn't go with my colour scheme' or  'Myrre? What the F**ks that? I'm homeless and just given birth and you bring Myrre!' or 'Frankinsence? Too spicy for me. I prefer Channel'. You get my drift (and don't get sanctimonious about the suggestion that Mary might swear- it's for effect!).
Now I know this 'political correctness gone mad' isn't only the remit of Americans. The Early Learning Centre introduced a pig ban from their play farms to avoid offending Muslims and Jews. (apologies for the Daily Mail link!!!) Such political correctness offends everyone and causes resentment and misunderstanding! It highlights a difference in culture and presents it as a barrier that isn't necessary. You wouldn't go to a Muslim country then be offended if they wouldn't have a bite to eat for lunch during Ramadan! I don't believe Muslims are offended by a cheery 'Happy Christmas'! To illustrate this and take religion out of it - it would be like going to a vegetarian's house for dinner and expecting them to cook a big slab of meat even though it would be offensive to them to do so. Equally you wouldn't invite a vegetarian to dinner without cooking some vegetables but  it wouldn't stop you eating meat. This doesn't quite work as an analogy in America as they seem to consider shrimp (prawns) as vegetables. By any stretch of the imagination a shrimp isn't a vegetable even if some sprouts are more intelligent. 
Why would someone who doesn't believe in Christmas be offended by the wrapping of a gift they need or want?  It shouldn't matter what a gift is wrapped in - although I confess to being anally retentive about wrapping Christmas gifts in a themed colour that matches the tree. I decide on a colour scheme on Boxing day and spend the whole year obsessing about it- so for me the wrapping is everything! It shouldn't even matter what the gift is - but again I guess that isn't entirely true. The more you know someone the more it matters. When you give something to a complete stranger that they need because you have more and can - then how can the wrapping paper matter or offend? Putting that sort of offensive barrier makes me not want to bother at all. You have to think passed the ignorant bigots who make up these absurd rules in a superficial attempt to acknowledge other beliefs and cultures -  to the true meaning of Christmas whatever you believe in. Cliched I know, but it is about giving - whether that is of time, of love or of gold frankincense and myrrh!
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Something for the Weekend?

My experience of hairdressers in the UK (rather than anything to do with the standards of American hairdressers) has made it difficult for me to find a hairdresser in America.  Aside from always worrying that my hairdresser might be the first to spot if I had head lice (I never have but it is an obsession- I wonder if they would tell you if you did?) I had an experience with a hairdresser which, perhaps unfairly, left me a little mistrustful!
My first real hairdresser was one of the best in Birmingham at the time.  He owned a horse where I went riding (or rather where I hung around hoping to scrounge a ride of someone else's horse!). The fact that Stuart the hairdresser experimented on our hair, dying my best friend’s hair electric blue and mine ‘titian’ (or rather belisha beacon) didn’t deter me. After years of home perms I recognised the quality! He was grumpy and mean but so funny. I don’t think he intended to be – he was very camp and at 14 it amused me. He called us a pair of ‘Dinge queens’ which has stuck as a mutual nickname to this day. No idea what a dinge queen is but I am fairly certain it isn’t complementary! He set the standard for my future expectations: He was gay (I like that – I feel safe with a gay man cutting my hair – which is after all a very personal and possibly sensual experience), he was a friend (he still lived at home and his mother once cooked me lamb chops – I was a vegetarian!) and he was good! I lost touch with him when my friend, destined to become Miss England refused to have her hair died red white and blue for a hair dressing competition. Very patriotic but not the look for a beauty queen! (if it had been in America she would have been guarenteed to win with such a show of patriotism!)
After that I always opted for men to cut my hair. My husband and brother-in-law have confessed to liking large breasted ladies cutting their hair because their breasts end up at head height. I should make it clear from the start that I did not opt for men to cut my hair so I could have their genitals rubbing on my shoulder – but it does happen! It is one of the downsides.
After the university years of being back to home perms and dying my own hair fuchsia pink I sought a new hairdresser and found one that reminded me of Stuart. He was short, funny and camp! The only indication of him not being gay was his 6’2” Amazonian wife – with cropped bleached blond hair like something Americans stereotype as being from the Russian Olympic team (or the Russian in Rocky 4!).
I didn’t worry about my new hairdresser phoning me at home. I should have. He would flirt outrageously when I went to the salon. I didn't worry about that either. He did it so openly that I thought he must be like that with everyone. Maybe I should have been flattered when he exposed himself to me. I told him to put it away and went home and cried. It makes a great dinner party story now. (You can imagine the sort of dinner parties I have!) Looking back it was quite comical. This little man trying his luck. I’d gone upstairs to look at the flat he had just purchased above the shop. Naive I know. When I turned from the window, there it was, erect... in all its glory! I have very large hands. Something, I have been told, is also the fate of some of the world’s most beautiful women. No one, however, looks at their hands! Someone once said my hands would make any willy I touched look small. There was no way I was touching the one presented to me that afternoon above the hairdressers shop even if for once my hands were perfectly proportioned. It was huge. I am surprised he didn’t faint with such a blood rush from his little head. He did put it away as asked, noted that he had indeed 'gone too far' and picked up a guitar lying near by and began strumming that instead (I kid you not). I even paid for my hair cut before I left! I didn’t have my hair cut after that for a very long time!
My next hairdresser was married and his wife and two daughters worked in the salon. I was safe!
It was with caution that I approached a hairdresser here. In fact I asked Hubby to book an appointment at the local salon for our anniversary after I had been here 6 weeks. It is a plush modern affair that boasts its European credentials (I’m not sure what they are – other than charging Paris prices). My first trip was a disaster. I got there to be told that Hubby had in fact booked at their ‘sister’ salon… it’s only 10 minutes away, they said… It could have been on the moon – It may as well have been. All my resolve vanished and I went home deflated and defeated- all confidence gone. It was another 6 weeks before I finally had to do something. Through recommendation I booked Matt. I prayed he would be gay. He reminds me a lot of Stuart my first hairdresser– same nose – which isn’t a complimentary thing to say. He is funny and entertaining but there are some worrying signs:
1.      he isn’t Gay – or at least he was married – albeit only for a few months
2.      He told me another client had asked for a ‘just been f**cked’ hair do. Now that is a bit overt – especially for Americans who don’t swear much. Thinking about this – my hair looks like that most of the time – I wouldn’t pay good money for it
3.      He asked me what I wanted him to do with my BANGS!!!! Now I was alarmed and told him I never wanted him to touch my bangs – ever.
I left the salon with a fairly decent haircut but my fringe was far too long. In fact he didn’t cut it at all!!! How was I supposed to know ‘Bangs’ are fringes???!!!
I shouldn’t tar everyone with the same hair brush! I should visit  the hairdressers more often – I certainly need to get my barnet sorted and my BANGS are desperate. I will hopefully squeeze in an appointment before I go back to England for a visit. This time I’m gonna tell him to give my bangs a much needed boost! I don't think I will go as far as telling him to do what he likes with my bangs! I don't trust him enough yet!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Answers in triplicate please

When you fill in on-line applications where it asks for your occupation Home maker is an option. I never thought of it as a career move - but then I am not very good at it. Hubby plays a game every night when he gets in from work. It's called 'Guess what wifey did today'. He can rarely tell!
When I left work in May to come here I still checked my work emails. I was bereft when they cut off my access. I had spent so many years checking manically and responding to the deluge of emails on a daily basis, often deep into the night, that when they stopped it made my isolation more acute!
When I started this blog it was done in the heat of the moment. Boredom! After the first one a dear friend of mine emailed in utter alarm that I had 'started blogging  with mentalists'. I have to say - she is right - cyber-space is full of weird blogs. She and my mom assured me that I was loved and missed - although she did concede that I had always been strange.  I do confess the time I chose to write my first blog was driven by loneliness and boredom but that is not why I write it. I wanted to communicate, to write (and I amuse my self no end!)
I now do a mini replication of manically checking emails, face book and for comments on my blog! I know people are reading them because I have had emails from lovely people telling me. THANK YOU! but... no one is commenting. Communication is always a two way process. I would love to hear comments - good, bad or ugly from you. I've been told that it is really hard to leave comments. I didn't realise you had to have a particular account. To make it easier if you want to leave a comment - and I hope you do -I have added 'anonymous' as an option (where it says 'comment as') so you don't have to sign up. Although it can't be that hard - my mom was IT illiterate until she went on a computer course at Tudor Grange Academy in April. If fact she had NEVER used a computer before - and she babbles every day on my blog! Cheers Mom!
So come on! Stand and be counted- Sign up and talk to me and feel free to pass the link on to anyone... (Really ANYONE!!! Well maybe not menatist bloggers and anyone in NC - they might drive me out of town for taking the p*ss). I can end Hubby's mean game by telling him tea is not on the table because I am no longer a homemaker, I am a Blogger and I had correspondence to attend to. It's better than the excuses I come up with at the moment!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Free Willy

I did say I would share my experiences of finding a doctor, a dentist and hairdresser (In God We Trust). Well, here is the first of three. The first time I needed medical assistance over here is well told amongst friends and family. I had put off finding a doctor and a dentist. It seemed too over-whelming. It isn’t just a case of go to the nearest one. You have long lists of those ‘allowed’ on your medical plan. They each have different specialities. You have to choose who you want. It confused me so I didn’t bother. Then I was forced to!
My 5 year old son was messing with the zip of his swimsuit – a sort of Surf-cum-Victorian affair to protect his albino skin from 100 degrees plus. I had seen some of the American children laughing at it at the pool, with good reason as it turns out. I had barely got the words ‘stop that or it will end in tears’ out when we heard the blood curdling scream from the back of the car. The following silence was scarier. He was too terrified to move. His willy was well and truly stuck in the big chunky wetsuit style zip. After some tentative examination the only way to release him was to pull the zipper up more and it was going to be messy.
We found ‘Paediatrics Express’ – urgent care for children on the Internet. We didn’t know the routine. Cash first – questions later. We handed over the medical card and it seemed to take an eternity before she asked us what our deductables were. I was stressed so I should be forgiven for shouting ‘I don’t know what f**king deductables are and I don’t care - Please just attend to my son’s attachables’. My son was by now just whimpering occasionally in my arms when I moved too quickly. As it turned out they attended to him well once I got passed the admin – after applying some numbing cream, used to pierce ears, they pulled the zip up. The volume of screaming would suggest the cream didn’t work. Still, he has an impressive war wound to show the girlies when he is older. Unfortunately he is quite keen on showing it already! He did note only today that the hole in the middle never heals up....
I still hadn’t found a family doctor when the school were threatening to exclude the children as they were not vaccinated against Hepatitis B. We don’t routinely vaccinate children for this in the UK. It is associated with drug users and medical workers and contracted through dirty needles. Maybe they are preparing the children for their future use of drugs ‘in da hood’. They do a double whammy – My son brought his first ‘I am drug free’ poster home last week at the age of 5 as part of his drugs awareness education. If that early intervention doesn’t work at least he has his hepB shot.
After finding a Doctor I now know that first admin experience is usual. The level of care and where you attend depends on medical cover. The deductables are the amount you have to pay – a sort of excess. I tried to find a ‘family’ doctor rather than each have a different doctor but you have to get past the admin!!! The first receptionist said that I could attend but should take my children to a Paediatrician. I explained I wanted a family doctor to treat us all, as a 'unit'. She said that paediatricians use smaller needles!!! I left quickly. The second doctor’s receptionist said she would put a request in to see if the doctor would allow us to see him (rather than one of their well trained health care professionals – I think they meant glorified nurses) I left quickly.
I finally found what seems to be a normal doctor’s surgery – as I would expect at home, except that I have to flash the cash each time. The doctor was nice – spent time talking to me about his love of Scotland and only charged $210. Americans I meet are keen to talk to me about two things, Scotland and the NHS. They are terrified of the consequences of such a service being fully adopted in the USA. (Obama is still pushing ahead with it now)The ones who speak to me don’t want it. Paying for treatment fits in with their approach to things – a sort of survival of the fittest - you work hard you get what you want and if you don’t then you don’t get anything.
I have found the level of choice difficult. How do I know who is best to treat me for different illnesses. I want my doctor to tell me. I don’t want to take prescription drugs on the basis that I saw a good ad on TV for them (although to be fair the ads here are never good!). I want my doctor to choose on the basis that he was the one who went to medical school and should know. Once you get passed the paperwork and  have found a doctor the biggest thing is there are no queues if you can afford to pay. I guess that is exactly the same in the UK!

Monday, November 29, 2010

When in Rome...

One thing I still find difficult in America is the whole tipping thing. Service is always with a smile. It is done so enthusiastically! Everybody greets you with ‘how are you today? I have learned the stock ‘Good, Thanks’ answer. They really don’t want to know how you really are! (…well, I’m not too good today, me Nobby Stiles are playing up blind and I’ve got a bit of phlegm I cant clear… is not what they want to hear… mind you I don’t think anyone does!). They respond to any ‘thank you’ with a gushing ‘you’re welcome’. I got reprimanded by my son for not saying it to him when he thanked me for something today. Everything is a ‘Gooooood Jawb’ whether it is or not. Their departing shot is ‘Have a nice day’. All false, but pleasant and practised to perfection. They have no qualms in saying it like they mean it. Some of them do! It doesn’t work anywhere else – for example at Disneyland Paris they just can’t pull it off but it works here. Why the enthusiasm – it is for the obligatory tip!
During our trip to Washington, the happy bus tour guide voice over gave some helpful tips on tipping. For your hotel maid $2 per day, for the porter $1 per bag, For restaurant service 15% standard, 18% for parties of 6 or more and 20% for excellent service. What about bad service? To be fair the service is normally excellent. It has to be. Waiters get paid a pittance and rely on tips. Is it better than England where they don’t have to give a shite cos they get paid anyway?
I do get a bit pissed off here by the feeling of being ripped off (by the way – using the word ‘pissed’ is generally ok in America). The price quoted for a menu item is never what you pay – add around another 22% on in service charges and taxes! I have embarrassed my self in stores when I have accused them of overcharging me. ‘I’m sorry Ma’am, that’s the sales tax!’ Ahh! Thank you – you were legitimately ripping me off then! My mom said she had to make an emergency dash to buy some new glasses before VAT goes up to 20% . This is double the average sales tax in the USA yet I feel more ripped off here. The reason is simple; I don’t feel so ripped off in England because the tax is included in the price you see on the price tag. What you see is what you pay! It is the same for food! The service charge i.e., the waiter’s wages is factored into the price of the food in the UK. Any tip is a genuine bonus for good service. When you stop in a hotel room you pay for clean sheets and a clean room – per night! So why the obligatory tip for that service?
At the hotel we had our car valet parked. We went out to collect it. The driver took our suitcase (at least $1 then but we hadn’t been told how much to tip for the car that you have already paid to have parked for getting it back again!). He carried the suitcase into the road and tried to open what he thought was our door. It wasn’t. He had the wrong keys. The other driver ran out shouting ‘this is mine!’  He left our suitcase in the middle of the road without a backward glance. Smile gone. It was no longer his tip. He didn’t care... Bastard!
So -what happens when the service isn’t so good? We had poor service in a Chinese restaurant in Washington. I waited… and waited for chop sticks...(pretentious I know!) even after finally attracting the attention of the waitress. My food was cold when I finally got to shovel it in! Cold Chinese food is not good. I waited…and waited to order drinks. It was not good service. We didn’t have to wait for the bill with 15% already added on. I asked her to remove the gratuity and let us decide how much to give. I refrained from telling her it is rude to snatch when she whipped the bill away. She was very angry that we had questioned the tip. Not a hint of an apology. It should not have come as a surprise! I had complained twice during the meal. I guess people just pay.
Afterwards in the taxi on the way back to the hotel (well the happy bus stopped at 5pm) the Taxi driver commented on the fact that we were British (He noticed!) and that we had a new Prime minister (he noticed more than me!). He asked what would make us Brits happy. I told him -Nothing - We're British - we love moaning! Maybe we do, but equally we have a reputation for not complaining, for shutting up and putting up (not sure where from!). Sometimes it is justified not to tip and not feel embarrassed about it!
I got an email from one of the Moms from the bus stop. She is collecting for a ‘holiday gift’ (as we are not allowed to say Christmas) for the bus driver. She wants $10 from each child. That’s around $350 if all gave. I had another 2 emails from the ‘home room moms’ (moms who help out in the classroom!) in my children's classes. They were also collecting for holiday gifts… for the teacher, for the TA, for the baker the butcher and the candlestick maker. Now – is this another form of tipping for a ‘Gooooood Jawb’?
I want my children to express their appreciation by selecting a small gift and giving it to their teacher. As I teacher I might have welcomed a collection of £15 from each parent but it would have meant nothing. I wouldn’t have remembered the children. I still have one of the baubles (I broke the other one and cried when I did) that a boy in my class gave me wrapped in beautiful tissue paper for Christmas in 1998. I still remember his name. Now his mother might well have been behind it all but he gave me the gift, he was excited for me to open it while he was there. He was pleased. So was I. True appreciation, not a tip!

I asked the Taxi driver what would make Americans happy. He said the economy. Well, for me I would start with price tags that reflect what you have to pay, wages that reflect the job done and tips that are genuinely given in appreciation because people do their jobs exceptionally well.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seen it, Done it! Next!

We have never taken the children to London. I have never done the London tourist stuff. I really shouldn’t be surprised when most Americans I speak to haven’t been to Washington. Sorry – I should clarify for any American readers – Washington DC not the state of. There are two apparently.
To get to Washington we had to run the gauntlet of Virginia – now you will know if you have checked out that this is a dangerous thing to do. I was more than mildly alarmed when I read the road signs ‘Speed limit enforced by Aircraft”. How? A rocket launched up our tailgate if we aren’t going fast enough? Bomb a big crater in front to slow us down? We survived Virginia almost without incident but then I didn’t wield my camera! What I had not really factored in was the danger of going on a 5 hour car journey after Hubby had tucked into thanksgiving turkey and stuffing the day before. It was bad! In America they don’t mind the word ‘fart’ but object to the word toilet – preferring ‘rest room’ or ‘bath room’. Well. Hubby farted and it wasn’t a rest or a bath he needed…
Washington was cold...and sat on the happy open topped tour bus was absolutely freezing. They seem like a good idea until you realise that the hop on and off thing is pretty inflexible and they only go one way round the circuit – so if you are on stop 29 and want to go to stop 26 you have to sit on there for 2 and ½ hours… or walk but we are in America so that wouldn’t have been right. The tour guide voice over was very safety conscious, ‘Please keep body parts inside the bus. It is for your own safety and it is the law’! What body parts would you dangle out? It was too cold for most parts to be unsheaved! Not for the first time I wondered what a law enforcement officer would do to uphold the law. In this case I think the body part in question may affect the response!
We did all the sites, even a tour of Congress, although my daughter was miffed at the airport like security, ‘We have to throw all our drinks away just to go into this thing?’ I thought Hubby was going to wolf whistle during the introductory video where they told of the British burning down the original Congress building in 1812. A case of sour grapes I guess for losing the War of Independence! I made the mistake of asking a question just before the end of our guided tour. You could see the tour guide take on a slightly deranged look with a glint in his eye as he launched into his undergraduate speciality of Lincoln, only pausing to negotiate some stairs before resuming on an excruciatingly detailed response to my inane question. There’s always one and this time it was me!
We saw a cavalcade of black cars by the Whitehouse. I don’t know if the flying flag means that Obama was home. I had been telling my daughter how rude it was that we weren’t invited in for tea at the Whitehouse. After all, if the President were to call by my house I would invite him in. Perhaps he was just on his way out. Maybe over the years when I reminisce about my trip to Washington I will recall him waving from one of the car windows. I’m sure I will be thankful for my visit to the railings of the Whitehouse when I get that pub quiz question ‘who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?’
We were the most typical of tourists. We had our photos taken at all the famous landmarks. Hubby thought it hysterical to frame any shots with me in them with the landmark coming out of my head. I carried around a Worcester breast Care Charity bag (after all everybody knows somebody) and took its picture at famous places too. For Charity! We jumped off the bus, did the photo and hopped back on. This isn’t really the way to see places and it was made painfully obvious at Arlington National Cemetery. Hubby tried to contain our son by telling him it was a grave yard. I know he didn’t get it when he asked about the Gravies. I explained what each headstone represented and he was reflective and quiet for a short while. I felt touched by JF Kennedy’s eternal flame burning by his grave stone. Hubby said I was more tapped that touched. We had 30 minutes before the next bus, not enough time to visit the grave of the ‘unknown Soldier’. As we jumped back on the bus the voice over paid lip service ‘…as we peacefully resume our tour…’ We too had paid lip service – it should have been a place where time didn’t matter, but we had a schedule and I still hadn’t seen the Reflecting Pool!

As cities go Washington is a very beautiful one. It is compact so you really can walk most places. I recommend it. I’m not sure how it quite compares to a tourist trip to London – I’ve only ever gone there to get drunk with Friends. I must put London on my ‘to see and do’ list, get my camera and tour bus tickets, and go!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No! Really! I'm lovin' it!

You could be forgiven for thinking I don't like America or Americans much. I guess I have focused on those things that irritate or bewilder me and that I find strange. Today I would like to give thanks to those people who have shown absolute warmth and kindness in welcoming me and my family. We spent thanksgiving with such people.
Admittedly it is irksome when they titter at words we use. For example, I got asked to pass the pot holders. I looked blank then realised it was the oven gloves they were after. They sniggered at 'oven gloves'.
'Of course you'd call them oven gloves,' done in a mock English accent. Well, that's what they are - gloves for the oven. Pot holders could be any number of things.I confess though I do laugh more at them saying 'erbs to be fair (for all you Facebook fans tbf). Although in return the mock 'Charlie bit my finger' is wearing really thin every time I call my son's name!
I got asked to bring sweet potato pie. I really didn't fancy it myself: sweet potatoes and an obscene amount of butter and sugar, topped with more sugar, butter and pecans (pronounced Pea Caaaarns). I also made Delia's roast Parmesan parsnips and just substituted parsnips for sweet potatoes (I'm such a wild child). They were better than the pie. (I think I should get some sort of fee from Delia for so much advertising). It was a big turkey roast with some weird trimmings - sweet potato, corn bread, other stuff with sweet corn - like Christmas dinner on the wrong day with the wrong trimmings... but good. There were lots of pies including pumpkin pie, pecan pie and apple pie. I guess I should have refrained from sharing that 'pie' in the north-east of England meant something different. I tried to explain but it gets complicated when other slang doesn't mean the same... you know... pie is another word for fanny... but then Americans don't use that word either in the same way  so It may cause offence!! When you have to explain that much it wasn't a good idea to say it in the first place!
There were 18 family guests and other friends and it was nice. The whole thing has an autumn/harvest theme in line with the original meaning of  Thanksgiving. We got asked to write what we give thanks for on paper leaves and to stick them on the windows. I had to stop Hubby getting his coat. He's not partial to emotional outbursts.
I wrote mine and gave thanks for kind people who had invited us into their homes and lives and shared their thanksgiving with us. I am so glad I have some good friends here. I miss friends at home and, even though I may not have seen them often before I left the UK, I think about them virtually every day now. I am thankful for the new friends I have found here and I guess I will be missing them when I return home!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In God We Trust

Today Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. It is allegedly a secular holiday now but its origins are steeped in religion. On 6th September 1620, 102 men, women and children left England for a new life in America. Thirty five of the travellers were Puritans, unhappy with James I who would not adopt their ideas about how God should be worshipped. Obviously they would be able to worship how they wanted in America because there would be nobody there to stop them. In 1621 in Plymouth, New England (imaginative lot weren’t they?) to celebrate their successful harvests and to give thanks to God for their fortune, the settlers tucked into a feast of turkey and goose. Thanksgiving was born. The date got shifted to where it is now in the 1940’s by F D Roosevelt to extend the Christmas shopping period. The sales start tomorrow – Black Friday. (at least that’s what I think Black Friday is for but I am in the south! Who knows?!). Sales before Christmas are better. In the UK you feel utterly ripped off when all the crap you gave and received for Christmas is in the bargain sales bucket on Boxing day. Weirdly, Thanksgiving is like a Christmas day albeit without presents and a Christmas tree but it has the traditional turkey roast, friends and family gathered and a deluge of sales ads on TV!
I wonder what the Pilgrims would make of the absence of God in the society they are acclaimed to have found. Well – absence isn’t quite true. In a recent poll (I may have made up …but didn’t) 96% of Americans believe in God…. But there is a web of silence…
‘In God we Trust’ is on every American dollar and swearing allegiance to the flag is done as ‘one nation under God’. Just as an aside, My son’s rendition of swearing allegiance is hilarious. He knows the tune rather than the words and it is done with a total American twang! They do it every morning at school. He has to do it on a regular basis on Skype to the relatives. In England, every morning in school, the children simply swear!
Here, every other building is a Christian church and yet I have been told you can not say ‘Happy Christmas’ in case it offends so ‘Happy Holidays’ is used. Religion is the one thing no one talks about. I expected to be invited to everyone’s church. In fact I was warned about it before I came. A neighbour asked my daughter to join them for a Sunday morning church session but I declined on her behalf. I haven’t been asked. Maybe I have something of the devil about me beyond saving!
The 'Yellow Pages' listing for Churches is just mad. Under each heading is a huge list of individual churches. The headings include Presbyterian, Presbyterian Evangelical, First Baptist, United Methodist, Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal Zion, Assemblies of God, Baptist Free Will, Baptist independent, Baptist missionary, Baptist southern… this list goes on and on and they have the Pilgrim Fathers to thank for that! The strange thing is, it is not talked about by any of the Churches’ respective flocks. (I said FLOCKS!)
It reminded me of a Monty Python sketch in the Life of Brian. You know the one where they are in secret anti Roman groups…. I have changed just some of the words and names (all the swearing is original Monty Python!)…

The Life of Jane
JANE: Are you the Zion Baptist Missionary Church?
CHUCK: Fuck off!
JANE: What?
CHUCK:  Zion Baptist Missionary Church? We're the Missionary Baptist Church of Zion! Zion Baptist Missionary Church. Cawk.
BOB: Wankers.
JANE: Can I... join your church?
CHUCK: No. Piss off.
JANE: Hey. I don’t want to commit sin. They make me do it. I hate the Devil as much as anybody.
MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH of ZION: Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhh. Shh. Shhhh.
CHUCK: Stumm.
TAMMY: Are you sure?
JANE: Oh, dead sure. I hate the Devil already.
CHUCK: Listen. If you wanted to join the M.B.C.Z, you'd have to really hate the Devil, and Catholics.
JANE: I do!
CHUCK: Oh, yeah? How much?
JANE: A lot!
CHUCK: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Devil are the fucking Zion Baptist Missionary Church
M.B.C.Z.: Yeah...
TAMMY: Splitters.
M.B.C.Z: Splitters...
BOB: And the Zion Missionary Bible Baptist Church
M.B.C.Z : Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
LORETTA: And the Missionary Baptist Church of Zion.
M.B.C.Z : Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
CHUCK: What?
LORETTA: Missionary Baptist Church of Zion. Splitters.
CHUCK: We're the Missionary Baptist Church of Zion!
LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Episcopal Baptists.
CHUCK: Episcopal Baptists! C-huh.
BOB: Whatever happened to the Episcopal Baptists, Chuck?
CHUCK: He's over there.
M.B.C.Z: Splitter!

It has been tough enough choosing a Doctor, school and Hairdresser (all of which I need to share with you). Thank God I’m an atheist and I don’t have to decide who to entrust my soul to whilst in America!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Take Me Home, Country Roads

My blog wasn’t funny yesterday – apparently. I’m not sure it was supposed to be. Just to relieve the pressure of trying to be funny I’ve decided to write a sad blog. This is about leaving England. I cannot describe the emotions I felt the day the container left with all of our furniture. I felt so gutted I wrote a Haiku! A prelude to blogging. A warm up exercise. It read:

The removals came that day.
Behind, in the rain
I left something of myself.

I was pleased with myself until I realised I had got the numbers of Syllables muddled (7,5,7 instead of 5,7,5) Can you imagine my embarrassment? No – Probably not. Those of you who are worried by my lack of humorous blogging would have been more than concerned by a technically incorrect haiku!
I remembered when Hubby left England at 6am, 6 months earlier – the pioneer setting up our new life – only it didn’t feel quite so romantic - more like the nutter who was wreaking our old life. It was just heartbreaking.
I hate to wake you up to say Good Bye.
But the dawn is breakin', It's early morn`,
The taxi's waiting, blowin' his horn.
Already I'm so lonesome I could die.
Leading up to me leaving I was in a perpetual state of anxiety or exhaustion. I had to sell our things – the TV I never had time to watch – sold for 10% of the original price to a fat man on eBay. (A description of the people who turned up from eBay could fill a book, let alone a blog!) I thought he was going to die from a heart attack carrying his prize away! (You ‘win’ on eBay!). I’m not sure how much of a winner the woman who bought Hubby’s full size pub pool table was. She was never going to get that up her stairs to her spare room.
I had to throw things away I had kept forever. In a hat box I found the sort of bits and pieces you shove in hat boxes in the absence of anywhere appropriate to put them (except for hatboxes!). There was an almost empty bottle of ‘Jules’ by Christian Dior, circa 1987. I told people I wore it because I preferred aftershave to perfume. Truth was, I was obsessed with the hottie who lived round the corner who wore it. He used to turn up – visiting from Uni every so often and smelling of Jules, woo me (that’s a polite way of putting it) and, when he had had his wicked way, bugger off. I couldn’t help myself. Even now – sniffing the bottle and inhaling deeply, like I did then, I remembered him, and the state of excited anxiety I felt when I saw him. Waiting for something to happen… Like I did the day in the rain watching my belongings go.  Bottom line is – in both cases I expected I would be f**ked and there was nothing I could do about it!
When I finally sat on the tarmac at Heathrow ready to take off, I could do nothing to stop the flow of hot tears as we taxied down the runway. The song of John Denver still ringing in my ears:

‘Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane,
Don’t know when I'll be back again,

Oh Babe I hate to go.

As it happens I do know when I’ll be back home to visit. Only, as it has already been pointed out to me, I’ll feel like an outsider there too! An outsider supping Ribena, eating sausage sandwiches, staying out after 10pm and swearing a lot and no one will think it strange!

Do You know Bob?

This is a real Face book Conversation. My status read:

Stranger: Got asked if I was from England or France! How stupid can Americans be?
Stranger: Merd!
Stranger: Equally got asked for ID for alcohol. Like I look under 35. How sweet can Americans be!
Liam: They always think I am from Oz
Chris: One time I was in Canada lined up in McDonalds an American woman asked the girl behind the counter if they accept Canadian money. The girl replied of course we do this is Canada to which the women replied I thought you would prefer US dollars as its worth more. Bit random but true!
Chris: Nothing wrong with being from OZ either :-)
Carrie: I was in New York and the guy behind the counter in a shop asked me where I was from. I said, 'Liverpool', to which he replied ‘Do you Know Sheena Easton?’
Neal: French was the language in England for 300 years following William the conqueror, maybe they detected it in your accent. Ha Ha
Deb: I love all this.  What a laugh :)
Geoff: very
Stranger: And No I don’t know Bob from Leicester!!! When I explained where I was from yesterday (Birmingham), the woman said 'Oh so you're from the suburbs of London'
Neal: Used to get asked a lot in the Midwest if I was from out of town, I usually replied "overseas, I'm Irish but live in England", ‘what like England in London’, "No like London in Ireland" I'd say. ‘Wow. Do you have a castle?’
Geoff: two nations divided by a common language!!!

I went to the hospital for a blood test. The woman filling in the form assumed my place of birth was London. I said it was Birmingham. She was surprised ‘Really? Spell it. You know what – I’m just gonna put London. Is that ok?’
In answer to that - relatively England is a small place but I don’t think the scales are understood. Sure, England would fit into the state of Louisiana, yet there are 51.5 million people compared to only 4.4 mil in Louisiana. The UK is smaller in square footage than Michigan with 60 million more people. What I am trying to illustrate is that the significance of other places in the UK just isn’t recognised here unless it is full of brown tourist signs or Bonny Prince Charlie left a lock of hair there whilst passing through on his way to Skye. They have heard of Skye – population 6 and 1 million seals. Birmingham is the UK’s second city with 9684 people per square mile. Compare that to the US’s densest city – New Jersey with 1174 people per square mile. It comes very close to DC, the US’s most densely populated place with 9830 people per sq mile. It isn’t so much divided by a common language in this case as a lack of geographical knowledge. I don’t assume everyone is from New York. They shouldn’t assume I am from London so ‘No – it isn’t ok to put London’. Although, on the plus side, as no one at home ever said I had a beautiful accent maybe never having heard of Birmingham in the United States is a good thing after all!

*facts and figures are from the internet - not sure how reliable that makes them - maybe I should have made them up!