Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fool for Your Lovin'

I thought about writing a canny April fool’s Blog. In the UK if you try to fool someone after you are the fool! The joke can last all day here in the states. (actually – it seems it can be fairly permanent!) Not wanting to appear a fool I was concerned about timings! If I wrote a trick blog and it was read in the UK – given the 5 hour time difference it could back fire.
I have been feeling extremely homesick the last few weeks. I have no idea why the intensity now. The closer I get to my trip home in a couple of weeks time the harder it feels to be here. I thought about writing a blog about how sensitive and supportive hubby has been during my melancholy but everyone who knows him would see straight through it and see that it was an ‘April fool’!
So – here is a small snap shot into my Hubby’s approach to me feeling down:
This all happened within 10 minutes – a bombardment! Hubby came home after being out for 12 hours at work. 12 hours where I didn’t really speak to anyone (apart from the kiddies and my Mom).  This is the standard of conversation I get when he walked through the door:
He said ‘You seem to be in a better frame of mind – you are cleaning the kitchen’. I was puzzled. I couldn’t connect the two things. He said ‘Well about every month or so you seem to get energised and clean cupboards’. I’m still fairly perplexed as to how that demonstrates a good mood! I think it just makes him feel better.
Our son is colour coded for behaviour at school each day. Hubby asked what colour he was on. He then asked me what I had done today – His favourite past time – ‘Guess what wifey did today?’ I saw the idea form, the glint in his eye before he decided I too was ‘Green’ today. This was awarded for my efforts on the kit form dolls house I am making for my daughter’s birthday. It is a very grand affair. A house just like the ones we saw in Charleston; three stories high with a porch. The difference in price between kit form and completed dolls house was about $400. When I opened the box I could see why. Even the window frames have to be constructed, after being painted. Every roof tile is separate and had to be stained individually. 1500 of them. Her birthday is in May. After I explained the painstakingly process I had gone through today, painting the window frames twice, he said ‘Perhaps you should have started in January!’
Hubby knows writing my blog gives me a sense of purpose. He informed me that my last blog post wasn’t very good. The only way I can get him to read them is to email them to him. I appreciate constructive criticism. I’ll see how he likes it when I email this to him!
He then did a double take. ‘Is that a padded bra? Pedicure; padded bra; You’re getting to be like a desperate housewife’.
‘Yes and I shall be shagging the gardener next’ (shagging for any American readers is NOT a dance in the UK – it is more of a jig!)
This was designed to shut him up but he was on a roll, ‘I would if I were you, I’ve seen him…’ I reflected on this. The gardener’s help is indeed a handsome young chap with a six pack but he is very short. As Hubby pointed out – padded bra height.
I asked him if he would care if I did. He said ‘No, but do you think you could try me first…’
I don’t have a fool to contend with just on April 1st.
You might be feeling very sorry for me at this point but the thing is, he has never been any different. Living in this strange land and feeling as stifled as I do it is so refreshing to have a complete arse for a husband! x

Check out this link for the top 100 April Fools (hubby doesn't appear on the list - I might for putting up with him) of all time:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Commercial Break #3 Garden and Gun

I sat this morning awaiting my thrice weekly torture at the Chiropractors. Today I went in feeling great and came out in pain following another sickening twist of my spine. It can’t be right! I’m beginning to think each visit is designed to necessitate the next. While I was waiting for my appointment I picked up a magazine from the rack, this month’s edition of Garden and Gun. Wtf?!!
Some things are made for each other and naturally partner for magazines such as ‘House and Home’, Horse and Hound’ and ‘Homes and Gardens’ but 'Garden and Gun'?! What sort of readership does that attract? AK47 wielding old ladies who tend to their azaleas when not firing a few rounds at the local Tea Party gathering (perhaps a cup cake tea party rather than the ultra right wing political group?!)
It certainly makes for a heady mix of articles!
In this month’s magazine an article entitled ‘The art of the Fillet Knife’ describes ‘…a fillet knife you’d actually want to hand down to your children’. Funny – there are some things I want to hand down to my kiddies but a fillet knife has never occurred to me as being a desirable family heirloom! To illustrate the incongruent mix, another story, unconnected to guns in any way shape or form is about gardening in the Appalachians with ‘rare pinkshell azaleas’. They love their azaleas here – with good reason.  Perhaps Garden and Gun are married together in the article about the ‘versatility’ of Rhubarb. Perhaps that is where the fillet knife comes in handy. I didn't get chance to read it!
It was a nice magazine, fully of glossy pictures …of gardens…and guns (and man things like fishing) Maybe it is the ultimate his and hers loo magazine,  something to leave for all guests to read in the bathroom. The strap line of the Magazine is ‘The talk of the South’. I think 'Garden and Gun' is such a mad combination it is certainly a talking point for me today!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Question of Jhort!

I feel everyone needs a hobby or a sport. I have discovered something that combines the two. Jhort spotting!  I'm not sure if Jhorts (or jorts) are limited to the USA but I think the long hot summers in North Carolina certainly lead to more Jhort wearing. Jhorts, if you don't know, are jean shorts. There is nothing wrong with Jhorts if you are 5 or if you are a very beautiful, tanned, fit and nubile young woman with very long legs and very short jhorts on- in California. Otherwise jhorts are very bad. Very, very bad!
My new hobby is to spot and surreptitiously photograph Jhorts. I got the idea in part from a friend who spots and photographs men in speedos with hilarious results. I'm amazed one of the results hasn't been her arrest or some hairy speedoed man getting the wrong idea about her interest in his swimwear! The sport is in not getting caught and in scoring the jhorts. The aim is to find a perfect 10.
I am still working out all the rules for the scoring but as a basic concept:
The older the person, the higher the score;
The fatter the person - the higher the score;
The more extreme the jhorts (too short or too long, too wide or too tight, too high on the waist or showing someone's crack or sack... you get the idea!)- the higher the score.
So a 20 year old with with a 24" waist would be lowest (0) on the score board (unless she was really ugly with hairy legs or worse - that would push the score up) Some of the scoring is subjective and based on gut reaction. If your gut stirs at the sight of the jhorts the score is higher!

The first jhorts of my collection - discovered in Charleston:

You may be thinking these are OK. You may even have a pair. They are not OK. Jhorts are not OK. Basic fundamental rule!
Youngish person - low score
mid knee Jhorts with a little handle on them (why?)
Average sized man- so lower score
Bad socks

I'll give them a 3

These score higher:
Wider at the bottom (the jhorts and the man)
His orange muffin top, tucked in to enhance the effect, boosts the score
If his wife had been wearing jhorts she may have been top of the board!
I give his jhorts a 5

These are great as bad jhorts go:
Too long, too fat, too old (and that's just the jhorts) 
Bad sandals and shirt
Her jhorts get a score of 7

I may adjust my scoring when I collect more jhorts. I may have been a little harsh. I remember from last summer there are some real Bobby Dazzlers out there!

The jhorts so far have been manufactured. They were designed to be jhorts!  I'm not sure if homemade Jhorts should score higher. Perhaps you could try making your own, courtesy of the video below. Be sure to email me with a photo of your creation! Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Everything's Rosy!

The past is a funny thing. We can put whatever kind of spin we want to on it, with the selection of certain details and the ignoring of others. This is why we often have the best days of our life in the past – because we carefully filter the negatives out until we have a rosy view of something idyllic. If we were honest, at the time, it was probably anything but! Years from now I might look back and consider my time in America amongst the best days of my life. I shall replace my wonky old glasses with some rosy ones and have fond thoughts…actually laser treatment might work!
I have said frequently that what I experience in the county where we live might not be typical of North Carolina, and North Carolina may not be typical of the rest of the states. I went to Charleston, South Carolina for the weekend and had the most beautiful weekend – not typical of my experience of the states at all then. However, if I was thinking of rosy reminiscences there were a few reality checks along the way.
Charleston was a charming place. As America goes, it was full of history. Most of it seemed to be glossed over, as any place of historical note in America involves the displacement of Native American Indians and/or slavery. Charleston’s history is rich in both. A monument gave me a sharp reality check and left me perplexed. It was a statue of William Moultrie with a dedication ‘This monument represents the high esteem in which all those who love freedom hold Charleston’s native son William Moultrie’. It praised his ‘1759 offensive… to suppress pillaging by the Cherokee Nation’. I wondered if I was alone in seeing the contradiction in the dedication and the acts of the man honoured. I think what shocked me most was that it was dedicated in 2007. Recent enough to expect some sort of reflection, if not apology, of the cost of such action on the indigenous population - the language used demonstrated neither.
The second thing that caused a double take was a stall in a charming street market. It was selling reproductions of posters advertising Charleston slave auctions of yesteryear. As an historian I have seen them before and was drawn to look at them. Had I still been teaching the history of slavery to 14 year old kids I would have purchased a couple. Who buys them otherwise? Would you want them framed on your wall? Next to them were reproduction slave rag dolls. Turn it one way and the doll was white, the other was black. Apparently slaves were not allowed to play with white dolls so they were able to hide the white half under the black dolls skirts. I can’t remember what the correct name for them was. Don’t Google ‘slave dolls’ it is XXX rated! Whatever you do don’t add ‘black’ to the search!
I passed on the opportunity to see the ‘most authentic slave cabins in South Carolina’ at a plantation and chose to walk around an alligator swamp instead. I suspected the cabins may be authentic for a given time but not typical of the experience of slaves on plantations. The view presented for tourism might have been somewhat rosier! I didn’t expect the swamps to have real alligators unleashed. I had to quickly teach my children to run in zig zags!
Charleston may gloss over its past but the real beauty of Charleston was in the present - although I would not have been surprised to see 19th Century southern belles sat on the porches of the numerous pastel coloured and wisteria draped southern houses! The sun shone and the azaleas were in full bloom. The gardens were a surprise – formal walled Italian garden meets English country garden with stunning results. There was a concentration of the most wonderful houses in the downtown historic area.
On Saturday evening I shunned a traditional southern fayre of shrimp and grits (I wasn’t fully under its southern spell!) and opted for an Italian restaurant. Sat out on a cobbled terrace eating the best food I have had in America, I mused that if we had been sent to Charleston instead of Cary I would have loved it and may have wanted to stay. Hubby gave me a number of reality checks. He said ‘You would still be lonely.’
Cheers! I said that I would feel different because it is more familiar – the gardens, the city living, cafes, bars, restaurants. I wouldn’t feel like a foreigner.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘you would still feel like a foreigner because you are one!’ Cheers again! I tried once more to create my rosy moment. I said that it was so beautiful here none of that would matter.
‘Have you forgotten driving into Charleston last night, about two miles out we locked the doors and hoped the lights didn’t turn red it looked so rough?’ Cheers yet again Darling! I had forgotten. So good of you to remind me! I had filtered out the bad bits already. I’m obviously quite good at doing that! I couldn’t remember what I had done to warrant Mr Grumpy for the evening!
Will I look back on my weekend in Charleston with Rose tinted spectacles? If I can filter out hubby’s reality checks, neck ache from bad hotel pillows and finding out that the world will end on 21st May I think I will be able to chalk it up as one of the best places I have ever been!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The End is Nigh!

I spent a glorious weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. The concierge at the hotel was very helpful and gave me his own ‘special’ map with places of interest to look out for. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to tip him but had no money with me anyway. Being British, I confessed to this. He smiled and said it was a complimentary service and hearing my wonderful accent was worth his time. I should have known then he was taking the piss. No one ever says that in England! As I stood to leave he gave me one last map. A church cemetery that was a ‘must see’ for its ‘spooky graves’.
The thing that makes graves spooky are the dead bodies buried beneath. In glorious sunshine with azaleas flowering, it looked a very peaceful and beautiful place for the ghosts to be turning in as my 5 year old son ran over their graves. It was so lovely I took lots of photos. Not sure I should be posting them on face book – 'yes here is a lovely grave, and another, oh and there’s another – a fresh one!' If the end were nigh it seemed a nice place to rot!
As we left the graveyard I was handed a leaflet by an inocuos old man. He smiled and thanked me when I took it. I was sorry I did. I know that if my dad precedes any statement with ‘a bloke down the pub said…’ he will hold it as an irrefutable truth. That is until another bloke down the pub holds up a new irrefutable truth. I wonder if the same thing happens if the centre of your world is the church rather than the pub?  A bloke down the church said… The problem with that is the bloke down the church precedes any statement he may make with ‘God said’ and you can’t argue with the Divine!
I felt I should have taken more care of the leaflet so I could fully impart the gravity of the situation to you. It said the end of the world was nigh and judgement day was approaching. Actually it was very precise. The world is ending on 21st May. The ‘irrefutable proof’ was carefully laid out in tiny print and tedious detail. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to explain it all. It painstakingly explained where he had got the date from. They had a good solid source of information to draw upon. It was true because it was in the bible. MY daughter read a bit of it and, satisfied that she would still see her 9th birthday, she threw it in the bin! I had meant to keep it so I could share some of the wording with you! Sorry! You can take my world for it. I did see a slight flaw in the foundations of the argument – as it was based upon the bible… but if God said…you can’t argue with the Divine.
Now, having this knowledge do I take a leap of faith and accept it as true? In which case do I spend my last days on earth debauched and disorderly and having a wild time till May 21st? Do I turn to the church (a little late in the day) and see if I have time to get some brownie points before I face Judgement? I’m not sure that would be enough – The Independent ran an article on this very subject today and according to the leaflet’s author, only 2% of us will go straight to heaven. I think I’m with the other 98%- straight to hell. I happen to think I’ll find the author of the leaflet down there too – He spouts such hatred. Harold Camping says the Gay Pride movement is a sign that the end is nigh. He’s missed the point – I hope it is a sign that the end of religious zealots is nigh! If we all survive on 21st May, Harold will be able to claim divine intervention, that God will have decided to save Judgement Day for another time!
There is another consideration. Did the concierge know that the old bloke (could have been Harold himself!) hung around the cemetery doling out his death knell to the tourists and he sent me there on purpose? I could disregard the warnings and accept it as my just desserts for not tipping the concierge!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Love Thy i-neighbor

i-neighbors is literally an on-line community for the local neigbourhood. Instead of knocking on your neighbour’s door and talking face-to-face you can talk virtually to all of your neighbours behind your closed door. No casual dropping in to borrow sugar or have a cuppa, unless a formal invite has been issued via ‘evite.’ 
i-neighbors is great for sharing information quickly. I found out more information on i-neighbors when the children were in ‘lock-down’ at school during a local bank robbery than I did from the school. It also acts as a ‘neighbourhood watch’. It also seems to offer support or information on all sorts of other things, most of which I feel I never need to know about. The hot topics this week are ‘grass’ (demanding a blog all on its own) and this was posted today (exactly as it was written…I have taken out the model number so that the dishwasher cannot be identified- I don’t like to name and shame!):

I'm just wondering if anybody might have had similar issue like mine and may shed lights on this problem? I've been using this stainless-steel dishwasher (model number …) for 2 months and have noticed quite a few times that the glasswares came out cloudy and spotty. For the details, I only used the manual dispenser instead of the Smartdispenser setting. So far I tried two different Cascade powder packs (one green, one blue), both had similar poor performance. In contrast, they were great when used in my old house. Right now, I'm sure the loading was fine according to the manual, and I even made trials for just loading a few pieces, but the outcome was still the same. I've also checked the water hardness here, which is 2.14 grains/gallon according to the water lab, so I know the detergent amount I put in was fine (1/2-1/3 full). Currently, I'm contacting the builder to take a look at the issue. Any input/suggestion are welcome. Thank you very much.

A few responses come to mind:

We had this problem back in Blighty but found if you pay your dishwasher a decent salary and have a little chat with them now and again regarding personal hygiene, you can all but eliminate any ‘spotty’ issues. I prefer a more mature dishwasher, when they have tended to out- grow acne.
Depending upon what you put in the ‘glasswares’ will depend on how much you care about the end results of washing them. Try Vodka. NEAT!
The builder is very talented… at building houses. The dishwasher was made independently of that process. Not sure the builder will be of much use
Life really is too short! Get one!

As it happens the real responses are better:
This could be more of a water than dishwasher issue. The Town is currently doing some flushing of their main water lines, and the different "ingredients" in our tap water may be the culprit. We had the same issue in our former home due to those very water main flushings by the township and the problem rectified itself after a few weeks.

Now I am concerned! Flushings? Ingredients? Tap water! All three should not be in the same sentence! And certainly not in my glasswares!
A further response:
We saw a story on the news about this! (I did tell you the News was limited to local issues here!) It caught our attention because we've noticed a difference too. (Why haven’t I? – must be the Vodka!) This is what was reported: dishwasher detergents can no longer have phosphates in them because of some "environmental issue"; they MIGHT be getting into streams/lakes and hurting fish.  The phosphates are necessary to really CLEAN the dishes.  I don't think this is a water problem or a malfunctioning dishwasher.  It's the dang SOAP! Hope this helps...

Thank heavens! Dishwasher tablets no longer contain phosphates….Fish will no longer glow in the dark. I do not feel so assured about things. I have never given a toss about my glasswares but I drink water. I am still hung up on the first response. My flushed water has ‘ingredients’ in it that could be to blame for leaving ‘glasswares cloudy and spotty’. I wonder what the ingredients do to the fish. Worse still, could these ‘ingredients’ be responsible for driving what may well be intelligent, college educated American folk to write inane comments on i-neighbors for all to see? Even more worrying, I go one step further. Having consumed the ‘flushings’ from my tap with strange ‘ingredients’ added, I not only find myself reading i-neighbors, I actually spend time thinking about it, writing about it and I share it with you! It must be something in the water! dang WATER! Still, there is hope. The neighbour says the ‘problem rectified itself after a few weeks.’ Let’s hope I and the dishwasher are restored to full working order. If not, we can always add a little phosphate. I’ll borrow a cup from an i-neighbor!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Size is Everything!

You cannot say America has completely ignored the metric age. It does have decimal coinage! Equally you cannot say that Britain completely embraced all things metric. Typically we took some of it that we liked or were bullied by the EU into accepting and ignored the rest. I like to think of myself as bi-lingual. I know what I weigh in stones and Kilograms. I know how tall I am in meters and feet. The only shared measurement I have as a stranger in this strange land is miles. They are the same! (3781 miles from home!) Funny! I do centimetres and metres but not kilometres! I don’t like the idea of kilometres. There would be more of them and that would make me feel further from home!
The other night my son seemed unusually quiet. I found him on his bed, arms behind his head, legs crossed, fast asleep. A cuter version of his father without the warthog snoring! It is very unusual for him to sleep in the day ‘from son up, to son down’. He felt hot. I got the ear temperature thingy. At least I think that is where you are supposed to stick it. 39.2ºC. We had friends round. She is a nurse and didn’t look in the slightest bit concerned. When I converted it to Fahrenheit (102°F) it had more of an impact.
Fahrenheit is the official temperature scale of the US and Belize. You might forgive Belize for not catching on but the US? Hey! America – the rest of the world use Celsius! Get with it already! Fahrenheit is so complicated compared to Celsius which gives you obvious markers: 0ºC is freezing and 100ºC is boiling. Easy! On the Fahrenheit scale, the freezing point of  water is 32 °F and the  boiling point 212 °F. It gets very complicated when talking about the weather. I phone home and tell them it is 84°C and they ask ‘What is that in real money?’ It’s hot for March! The Fahrenheit and Celsius scales converge at −40 °F (i.e. −40 °F and −40 °C represent the same temperature). I wonder where on any scale Brits and Americans converge? 
Cooking is hampered by the silly use of Fahrenheit too! It is all about scales. I can do ‘gas mark’ because the scale is small. Gas mark 1 – just keeping stuff warm. Gas mark 9 – burned to a frazzle! Simple – cook most things on gas mark 5! It took me a while to get used to an electric oven and using Celsius. I don’t know instinctively what temperature to cook things on but 190ºC is easy to use as the gas mark 5 marker. Now I have to cook with an oven that only has Fahrenheit! This is after I have made things with USA recipes that uses CUPS as a measurement! Hey – weighing scales have been invented! No wonder my cup cakes are shite! What sort of measurement is ½ a cup (equivalent of a B cup?!) Americans have had the audacity to laugh at the weight measurement of a ‘stone’ and they use CUPS!!! A stone is 14 pounds. What is a CUP?!
They use gallons but their gallons are a different size to the UK. A UK gallon is 4.5 litres, a US gallon is 3.81litres. Maybe that is so they can brag how little their big cars do to the gallon. They use a scale of dress sizes that is different to the UK  too– 2 sizes smaller (UK 10 is a US 8). That makes them sound smaller than British counterparts!  Their shoe sizes are bigger though (a UK size 6 translates to size 8 ½! Boats!) Maybe there is no correlation between US measurements and the rest of the world. I guess they are pretty unique! Maybe their pounds are bigger to make them weigh ‘less’. Maybe their miles are smaller so America sounds bigger! Maybe I am further from home than I think!

Monday, March 21, 2011

If you don't like it, you know what you can do!

If I were an American reading this blog I would say to me ‘If you don’t like it, bugger off back to Blighty’! Let’s face it; I do not have much to say that is nice about Americana. I don’t sound like a very nice person at all which seems a little unfair because I like me most of the time. How can I be nice when I have nothing nice to say?
I decided it was time for the couch. Not quite therapy. I mean time to lie down on the settee and have a think about this negativity. I once told a neighbour’s child to stop jumping on my settee. He paused, said ‘It’s a couch, not a settee’ and dive bombed over the back of it again. I made it quite clear as I turfed him out that it was a settee in my house! It is funnier to be mean about things. It is hard to be amusing when trying to be nice – it would seem disingenuous (although – as one of my favourite words I wouldn’t mind its more frequent usage!)
To get to the root of my negativity I feel I need to go back a little, not as far as my childhood – that would be way too revealing and disturbing. Three years ago I received a text from Hubby. It simply said ‘South Carolina?’ At the time I was struggling. My boss was a hideous bully. (I shall not blog about him; I am saving him for a special book I shall call ‘Disgrace!’. I tried to offer a snippet to the Telegraph a couple of months ago when he was finally sacked from a school but didn’t get a response! Maybe I should have offered it to the Daily Star!) My son was 2 years old at the time. When asked if I would leave the UK and a job I hated to focus on my family and my sanity I didn’t have to think about it for long. A month later we flew over to look at houses. I found a dream house. It was on a shared ranch with a 4 mile horse trail, over-looking the Appalachian Mountains. A dream life was waiting…
We were gutted when it fell through. It was another 2 years before the offer of North Carolina came up. We had moved on. My children were now at school and I was learning to love my job again as a Vice Principal with a new Principal I relearned a lot of positive things from. I was ready to take on a headship of a school – what I had worked towards for years. I had more to give up this time. I felt more like I was giving up a dream than chasing one. It didn’t feel as right but it didn’t seem to be something to pass up on either. We agreed to go!
We had every intention of making it work. Even though it was a 3 year contract we told everyone it would be at least 5 years as we would want to extend it. We sold our house to free ourselves to buy one in the US. A month after hubby had started work in NC and the day after we moved house, we received an edict from hubby’s company. We could NOT use the housing allowance they paid him to buy a house. That changed everything. We did not want to throw money away on rent for 3-5 years and then try to stay longer and have to buy later. It changed from being something we had to make work because we were going to commit everything to it, to something we had to endure on a temporary basis. If you see something as long term you look for reasons to love it. If something is temporary you don’t want to make those emotional attachments so you look for reasons to dis-like it. It is fundamental to self preservation.
So, I will bugger off back – eventually! In the meantime – don’t take the negativity to heart – I am just incapable and unwilling to form emotional attachments to anything American! It is fundamental to self preservation!

Just to try and embrace my new temporary life and show you I can be nice, here are some things I like about North Carolina
They know how to make a damn fine burger
They know how to make a good sarnie!
Free refills (as long as the waiter asks first if you want one)
Tree frogs on the windows at night (if only they would eat all the mosquitoes!)
Clear blue skies and sunshine
Spectacular thunder storms
The mountains in fall
Wide roads
Yellow traffic lights suspended on wire (silly but I like them)
Writing a blog
All the things I can make fun of …(but that would be disingenuous of me to add it to this list!)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A full English!

I have an Irish friend who is so Irish I thought he was American when I first met him! Well, the American accent comes from somewhere. Scottish – Canadian. Irish- American. He is one of those people who will try anything and do anything. He exudes fearlessness. He will challenge you on anything and you have to run the gauntlet on whether he knows bugger all or everything about a subject when you choose to engage. He didn’t just kiss the Blarney Stone; he bit chunks of it, chewed it and spat it out. I wonder if that kind of confidence comes from hiding inner self doubt. I love him for the touch of vulnerability glimpsed very occasionally like the shadow of a cloud momentarily across a sunny sky.
He makes the perfect breakfast. I’d like to say the perfect English breakfast but a perfect full English is Irish! It has to be Irish sausages and Irish white pudding. Bacon needs to be Danish! Free range eggs and Heinz baked beans are also a must. The day after St Patrick’s Day, at great expense, my mail order Irish breakfast arrived from New York. Shipped in dry ice and ill prepared for our current heat wave and 25ºC+ weather. The stuff arrived a little warm. I was a little concerned. Not so concerned that I didn't cook it and eat it!
American breakfasts are good if you are here on holiday but long term they just don’t cut it. Bacon is thin and streaky and usually smoked. Sausages are ‘fragrant’. Bread is sweet. Pancakes are like ‘Scottish pancakes’ – mini sponges and it just isn’t right! Think MacDonald’s breakfast and you have the substance and flavours.
Today I made a full ‘English’ Breakfast – Sausages ‘with ingredients imported from Ireland’). They were perfect. English ‘style’ bacon,  white pudding (with ingredients imported from Ireland’), mushrooms, Heinz beans (at $2.50 a tin!) tomatoes and fried bread made from HOMEMADE white bread. Free range eggs 'sunny side up'! All washed down with orange juice (Florida) and Tea (English breakfast). A 'full English' from all over the world!
It was damn fine!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You're Not Irish!

The Americans recognise 3 countries in Europe without too much difficulty: Italy, Ireland and Scotland. They will usually tell you they are one of them or all 3. If they have actually been to Scotland they will tell you their family tartan. (Yeah, how much did they charge you for that little nugget! Don’t tell me – you are descended from Highlander and you are from the Clan Macleod!)  Dig a bit deeper with a question like ‘Where in Scotland are your family from?’ and they are clueless. You know – Scotland! They are from the main bit called Scotland! I was on a train to Inverness once and some Americans were admiring a ‘Cute little man chopping wood in the glen’. They are so romantic. What I saw was a knackered old bloke having to chop wood in the middle of nowhere.
The other day I was told by one of the American neighbours that she was Irish. (I think she means ‘of Irish descent’ because she isn’t Irish). One of her distant relatives had the surname of Bryan. From this it had been deduced that they were O’Brians but had dropped the O – Was this because other Americans thought they were answering in a perpetual state of shock ‘OH!’ or, according to her they wanted to drop the stigma of being Irish? I like my idea because no American would deny being Irish. Everyone here wants to originate from somewhere in Europe (as long as it is Scotland, Ireland or Italy). Today, in honour of St Patrick, they will claim some sort of distant link to be Irish like ‘I drank Guinness once’. If they can say ‘I drank Guinness once in an Irish bar with an Irish person’ they will become instantly more popular for a short while.
In Savannah, Georgia they dye the fountains and water green today for St Patrick’s Day. When we visited Savannah they told us on the happy trolley tour bus that 18% of the population of Savannah is Irish. Now I assume this is Irish with Irish passports otherwise everyone would proclaim to have a bit of Irish in them! This reminds me of the fabulous Phil Lynott live – ‘has anyone got any Irish in them? Would any of the girls like a bit more Irish in them?’ When asked once what it felt like to be black and Irish, he replied ‘Like a pint of Guinness!’ What he might have more honestly said was ‘I’m not Irish, I am of Irish descent. I was born in West Bromwich!’ Enough reason to want to latch on to Irish heritage.
I was asked yesterday what I would be cooking to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Cooking? A special Celebratory St Patrick’s meal – like all the other wives of Wisteria Lane who have no Irish connections. One woman was making a ‘traditional Irish salad’. I really must ask my Irish friends to guess what was in it – I don’t think they will! I could have lied. I could have said ‘I’m making cabbage’ but I didn’t. My response produced that look I disdain I often get here – I said ‘Nothing! I am not Irish’. I am more Irish than those concocting their special Irish meals for tonight. My Nan’s parents were. Surname O’Neill. (Like the surf stuff- cool – I might change my name!) Or maybe my Nan was surprised by the question when asked of her surname and she said ‘Oh! Neill!’ I consider myself very much British with grandparents with names like O’Neill and Evans. I suppose I could take on the American tendency to look at ancestry and seek a Nordic name ending in sen/ - søn (= son) or -datter / -dotter (= daughter) so that I can claim my true Viking heritage- arriving on a boat with horns! Why don’t we Brits do that? Oh yes! Because we would have to go back too far to before anyone could read or write. At least in America you haven’t got that much history to plough through (unless native Amrerican Indian) before you find out you arrived on a boat.  
My kiddies’ clothes were laid out for school this morning. They ususally protest. I miss school uniform. It made life much easier and cheaper. Today they absolutely refused to put on what I had got out… Because it wasn’t green! My son was convinced he would be pinched at school if he didn’t wear green. At Christmas they were not allowed to say ‘Happy Christmas’ and had to say ‘Happy Holidays’ so it wouldn’t offend. Today they have to wear green to celebrate a very Christian celebration. I had selected Blue for my son – ironically it is the original colour associated with St Patrick! My Daughter’s homework this week was to make a lepechaun trap. This was set by the teacher who told her catagorically that fairies did not exist. (being subversive I told her to ask her teacher if angels exist! My daughter is a sweetheart and wouldn’t be so rude)
As for St Patrick himself? Formally known as Maewyn Succat. He wasn’t Irish but was kidnapped from Roman Britain by Irish raiders. He escaped but must have loved Ireland so much he went back.
For fear of a Leprechaun taking offence I am not criticising anything Irish, far from it. I get why people want to be Irish. I just don’t get the American take on things. There is a huge Irish population in America – and some amazing city parades where the Irish populations are concentrated and the Irish celebrate like only they know how. That happens in cities all over the world but in America big business, as usual has highjacked something and turned it into a charade. As soon as Valentines Day was over the party/card sections in shops were filled with all things green. For most part, what St Patrick’s day is over here is a commercial success. For a real Irish shin-dig you need a vital ingredient that seems to be lacking in many celebrations here. You need some REAL Irish people! Then you have something worth joining in and celebrating!

Enjoy the song!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

To Kill a King!

Today I hope to exorcise my self of a demon and free myself of the OCD (Obsessive compulsive Disorder if you are trying to work it out) I have developed over the last few months. Every time I leave the house I try to resist but it has just been getting worse and worse. I get so far before I have to turn back. I even phoned a neighbour when we were on our way to the mountains for the weekend to check for me. Other people have been dragged in. It has to stop. I cannot help myself. After leaving, I turn around, come back into the house and check that I haven’t left the kettle on the hob! (They don’t call them hobs here!) I check even when I know I haven’t.
I can pinpoint the exact moment that started this compulsion. The traumatic moment of horror. It was the day I killed the kettle. Because we are only here temporarily it seems silly to invest too much…in friendsfurniture… electrical appliances! They have silly plug holes. They have different wattage and voltage. They have no fuses. They don’t have much of a spark really!
I like nice kitchen appliances – not that I use them but I like them. I am a bit of a label whore when it comes to kitchen things and it has stood me in good stead in this strange land. I was here 5 weeks before my belongings caught up with me. We had a sofa, a mattress, camp beds, a couple of deck chairs and some stuff from Ikea to keep us going. Not a single neighbour called by in those first 5 weeks. As soon as my container arrived I was inundated with visitors. I thought they were being friendly. They asked for the ‘grand tour’. What they really wanted to do was look in my cupboards. They were checking me out to see if I was acceptable, to see if I was Wisteria Lane standard. My Le Creuset pans stood me in good stead as did the comedy cup cake mixer my hubby got me for our anniversary – it was Kitchen Aid…one of the few exceptions to buying American appliances because, in his eyes, the comedy effect was worth it!
They didn’t seem to know what to make of my kettle. Very European! Maybe they were left thinking we didn’t have electric kettles in England. Rather than investing in an electric kettle hubby purchased a special gift – a King of Kettles…. (or maybe more a goddess) – an Alessi. You are forgiven for not knowing what one is. In fact you can smugly read the rest of this thinking what a sad Tw*t I am (for those who find swearin’ an a cursin’ offensive, I missed out the ‘i’). The kettle is a thing of beauty (I am sober!) I had coveted such a kettle from afar and couldn’t believe that I was the proud owner of one. They say pride comes before a fall… My kettle had a little whistling birdie. The birdie whistled when she was boiling (you know the sort!). One day I ignored the little whistling birdie. I ignored it long enough for it to run out of steam. Long enough for the whistling birdie to lose the will to live, to melt and drop off, for the handle and lid to melt and for the base and innards of the kettle to turn black. I didn’t pay it the attention it was whistling for and it died from the neglect and resulting injuries. Maybe not murder – manslaughter!
You can see that this would be traumatic and make me want to double check in the future but this wasn’t the point of trauma. That came shortly after. The kettle had been a gift but I think hubby got it because he was secretly a tw*t too and wanted one. Whilst I was horrified that I had killed the kettle, it seemed easily remedied. I would order another from Amazon. That is when the real trauma occurred. I had wanted an Alessi kettle and I might be a tw*t but I would never have paid that much for one (like Le Creuset – far more expensive in the States than the UK). I had killed The Precious!
I got the cheapest stove top kettle I could find and confessed all to hubby! It is a real shame that it took such a mistake to learn from it. I took very good care of the cheap kettle. I jumped at its first lousy spluttering (no birdie singing) and I came back for a second, sometimes a third check on it before I could depart from the house. No long slow death for that ugly son-of-a-bitch.
Today, I am a serial killer. Today I took control. I smashed the kettle (a little vindictively) and threw it in the bin (trash!). I purchased a third kettle. I have succumbed to silly plugs in exchange for peace of mind. It is an ELECTRIC kettle. This Kettle was cheap (relatively), has no fancy credentials or name! It has clearly heard about me – it just sits in the corner and doesn’t make a noise and most importantly it turns itself off! Now all I have to worry about is its stupid little plug and the absence of a fuse. There is more than one way to kill a kettle!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Oscar Winning Performance?

One day when I felt particularly lonely, vulnerable and homesick I did something that really went against the grain. I can hear your minds whirring, wondering what extremity would be against the grain for me…I confess, I am open to all manner of things but you may have picked up that I am adverse to feeling like a stranger. I am a classic introverted extrovert. On occasion, the shyer I feel, the louder I become. At other times I will cocoon myself in silence in the center of the loudest and liveliest parties. I never dance but have been known to dance on a podium in a Mallorcan night club. I have spoken at regional and national conferences to 200+ strangers, yet to pick up the phone to call someone I vaguely know is incredibly difficult for me. I don’t even like phoning the Chinese takeaway! I did nothing with the phone numbers friendly people gave me when I first arrived here. I guess I don’t do casual very well. So feeling friendless I did something extreme, I went on Desperation! They have a local ‘BRITISH EXPATS’ group. Membership is simple. You have to be British, married to someone British or have spent significant time in Ireland or Britain. I felt I qualified on all counts. There were 141 members. I became member 142. They arrange meet ups – so that ex-pats can gather and discuss all things ex-pat. Maybe they play darts. Maybe they are posher. Maybe they play cricket or bridge. I don’t know. I have never attended any meeting and feel I never will. I don’t do strangers (…actually that isn’t entirely true but it was a long time ago!) Perhaps I should. I wish I could. I might add 141 followers to my blog readership!
Today I discovered an advantage of being a member of such a prestigious group!  I was forwarded this email from the British Expats:

My name is Chad Hillman and I am a Casting Director here in Hollywood, CA. World of Wonder Productions and a major cable network is casting for native Brits who have settled and opened a business in America for a new television show.  Ideally, the show is looking for a larger-than-life British family that operates a business together as well as a British expert.  This family or expert may end up with their own docu-series about their life and the challenges they face running their own business in America. We are in the process of casting and would like your help in getting the word out to your readers.  Any mention on your site would be greatly appreciated. If you need any additional information or would like for me to email you a flyer please do not hesitate to call. Anyone interested can also contact me at the information below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Somebody wants a Brit! My opportunity to take center stage? It does not specify what sort of business it has to be. It doesn’t say the business has to be successful. I take my blog seriously. I do! I could consider it a fledgling business (yet to result in any financial residue). I wonder what Hollywood would make of my blog. It and me have some desirable ingredients for the show. I am a Brit. I mean business. I am increasingly becoming larger than life with my ever expanding muffin top (actually growth seems to have plateaued with possibly a small amount of shrinkage). I am clear on the challenges a Brit faces living in North Carolina. I don’t know what a ‘British expert’ is. If it is someone who knows all about Britain: history; geography; social; political; literary; arts then I am pretty good at Trivial Pursuits and I was able to answer all the questions correctly at Christmas on the 'Mad dogs and English men’ quiz. I know what it means to be a Brit abroad. I've starred in school plays and Teacher TV. I can do drama. As an added bonus I am from the same city as Ozzy Osbourne and I swear like a trouper! I am your leading lady!
There may be a teeny weenie small problem. Generally, the Americans I meet like the British (on a surface level at least). What Americans shouldn't really know, or find out about in a reality TV show, is what we Brits discuss about America when we are together. The nature of my current blogging business is to examine this strange place with my British perspective and thoroughly take the piss with the never ending supply of content I am provided with! Not sure that is the content they are looking for, for an Oscar winning performance!

Just one final thought... do I email this to Chad?!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spinal Tap!

While it is not in my nature to blame anyone, following my recent considerations of the law and litigation it may help me feel better if I sue someone for the excruciating back pain I have today! I do, after all, live in America!
I have 5 nominees to blame for my pain and would like you, the reader, to decide!
Nominee No 1: The yoga teacher. Last week in Yoga someone requested we work on the lower back in the Vinyasa Stretch class. Vinyasa is supposed to give you a heat building flow to open up tight areas of the body and stretch them. The moves last week were less of a ‘salute to the sun’ and more like bending over exposing where the sun don’t shine! I did so many ‘downward dogs’ I felt more like a shagging dog (Shag is a dance here!). I felt something in my lower back stretch a little too far and rather than a heat building flow I felt a painful burn. Not good!
Nominee No 2: My darling little son, devil child and undiagnosed ADHD nutter ran into a brick wall on Friday. His head bore instant witness to the collision with a purple, egg sized lump on it. We were at a neighbours having King Cake. (Another story – it is apparently a Mardi gras tradition so it should have been on Tuesday – May be I should add her to the list of nominees for not doing it on the right day!). I carried my wailing son home, well half way home before I felt some more heat in my back.
Nominee No 3: A lovely neighbour saw that I was in pain today. My back had got steadily worse over the weekend until it took my breath away when I moved this morning and it hurt to walk.  She recommended I visit her Chiropractor and emailed me his details.
Nominee No 4: You the readers. I have never been to a chiropractor but not wanting to miss a blog-worthy experience to share with you I took the opportunity to book an appointment.
Nominee No 5. The Chiropractor. I didn’t know what to expect. Having become an avid fan of ‘Two and a Half Men’ since arriving in the US I wondered if I would get Alan Harper, given the show is all but dead in the water. Whilst waiting, I read a few leaflets telling me about the art of Chiropractics and spinal adjustments. It said that during the process I might hear a pop. This was just air releasing itself… from my spine. I hoped this was all I would release during the process.
Before he even considered my back pain, from looking at me standing, the Doctor informed me I had a hip misalignment and it was like one foot having a ¾ inch heal on! I am concerned that I have been walking like Quasimodo! He had a feel of my vertebrae (hey! What’s a joint like you doing in a girl like this? LOL!) I apparently have a subluxation; A misaligned vertebrae that needed ‘adjustment’. I lay down on a little couch with my head sticking though a donut like hole presumably for comedy effect. He did weird things to my spine and I thought ‘well this is ok as long as the insurance company pay up’. He put me on my side and kneeled on my leg whilst shoving my shoulder away with his hand, twisting me. He was a big man – over 6 foot and chunky. He twisted me. SOL!!! (I don’t know if that is official text talk for uncontrolled SCREAM OUT LOUD) He did it again the other side. SOL! (How do I distinguish scream and swear?) It seriously hurt. On a pain-o-meter scale of 1-10 it definitely hit 11! I asked him if that was right. If causing that amount of pain was considered a treatment. I think he said ‘no pain, no gain’.  He assured me it was all part of the treatment and gave me a tissue as my eyes were still watering!
I don’t know about a slight release of gas I nearly lost control of all bodily functions and was in danger of releasing much more! When I phoned my hubby afterwards, his first question was ‘Did you fart?’ He watches too much ‘Two and a half men’. The Chiropractor’s patients always fart on that show! The final ‘insult to injury’ was a neat little twist of my head until my neck ‘popped’. Just more release of gas! Are spines like pistons? Did he leak my hydraulic pressure? I have been feeling very light headed ever since.
In the brochure it said that after an ‘adjustment’ I may experience a ‘feeling of deepening peace and relaxation’ or a warm and soothing feeling. I may feel no difference at all but that doesn’t mean I have not benefited. That was me – no difference – still in agony. I knew it was taking the piss when it said some people feel ‘very energetic and do all their chores that day with a light happy feeling’ (presumably having just released themselves of any tension on the couch!!!) It went on ‘a small minority may feel discomfort or muscle soreness’ from an ‘adjustment reaction’. Nowhere did it say I would still be SOLing silently in my head for the rest of the day from the hideous flashbacks to the moment of ‘adjustment’. Not just an ‘adjustment reaction’. Typical of me to over react. I feel I will need therapy to ‘adjust’ post adjustment.

If I am going to blame anyone I suppose I should put forward a final nominee: ME! For being stupid enough to go to Yoga and for not knowing my own limitations. I may well be very flexible. My party piece may well be to put my leg behind my neck (I used to be able to do both legs at the same time– I really should have been more popular) but that doesn’t make me fit enough to do it! Just because I can doesn’t mean I should!!!
My son did really hurt his head but perhaps I need to be more disciplined. I should have seen it as a ‘learning opportunity’ to show him that heads are much softer than walls and then as a punishment for his stupidity made him walk home. Perhaps the pain I have now was worth those few tender minutes of carrying and comforting my son, his head on my shoulder while he wailed and moaned and asked for daddy!
This morning I should have resisted any Wisteria Lane visits to specialists (Bum Doctor, Back Doctor, where will it end? I’ve yet to visit the gynaecologist!) and taken a couple of pain killers with gin. I’m sure I could have found something witty to post after enough drugs and gin!
On the plus side in terms of the Chiropractor, he told me can not do any vacuuming or housework or yoga! Good Man! My hubby has told me tonight to stop ‘hamming it up’ as I walk around saying ‘Oh me back!’ but the chiropractor did tell me my misalignment was severe. I think he was talking in terms of my spine! He told me I will be better much quicker seeing him than a proper doctor.  I will need to go back for many more adjustments. I have another appointment on Wednesday.

Maybe I should wait before apportioning any blame and I might find I am considering who to thank instead!

Chiropractor Joke:
Doctor please help me, my husband thinks he's a satellite dish.
Don't worry Mrs Smith, I can cure him.
I don't want him cured Doc, I just want you to adjust him so I can get Channel 4