Saturday, April 30, 2011

Critters on Shitters

If my son was a gangster he’d be called ‘Mickey Two Ticks’. I have seen sheep ticks in the UK – big fat white things that bury their heads into animals and turn into big fat red things when they are full. Disgusting. My cat had a tick on her ear once and when I pulled it out with tweezers and dropped it, it crawled away – almost full to exploding, like Mr Creosote!
Ticks here are very different. My first encounter with a Deer tick was on my son’s neck. It was tiny. I thought it was a scab till I touched it and its legs moved. They are round, flat and reddish brown in colour and look like miniature crabs or squished spiders.  I took him to see my nurse friend who surgically removed it with some Tweezers. I resisted the American way – which would have been to take him to Urgent Care and have him tested for all manner of tick related diseases.
His second tick looked like a third nipple. This time it was hubby’s job to remove it. I have a real aversion to them and besides – it needed brute strength. It was bloody hard to get out. He tugged on the tick with tweezers and my son’s skin was pulled into a peak but the tick held on, waving its little crabby type legs in protest. I've since found out you should twist clock-wise as you pull. Vile!
He was almost ‘Mickey Three Ticks’. I found one on his bedroom floor making a beeline for him. He was adamant that no deer had been in his room so I was unsure how it got there but I have been given a likely explanation at the bus stop the other day. I cannot tell you quite how the conversation started but my neighbour’s cat was in the bushes and she pointed out that that is how they pick up ticks. Having two cats it seemed likely that is how one was in my son’s room – although both cats give him an extremely wide birth so the deer theory is still a possibility.
My neighbour complained that ‘Frontline’ (offering ‘treatment and control of fleas, ticks and chewing lice for cats…) had not stopped her cat getting ticks. It reminded me that I needed to ‘frontline’ my cats. She advised that I check for ticks around my cats’ bums. I was surprised: a) that she said this and b) that she had ever thought of looking there in the first place. She said that the ticks latch on there as it doesn’t have any fur. I asked if she removed them herself but apparently if they have been treated the ticks die and drop off. She offered to check for me (my cats’ bums not mine) but I politely declined. My little ginger pussy is very shy and I didn’t think an examination of bum holes would help! Perturbed by the tick prospect I went home to have a look for my self.
The first cat seemed to be tick free – around her bottom at least. Hard to tell because she is black but her bottom was spotless! The little ginger cat was more difficult to examine- and more difficult to decide. There were small circular attachments around her sphincter. As she has not been treated with front line recently I thought perhaps I should get the tweezers out. On closer inspection, which was difficult as I was holding the cat virtually upside down, I couldn’t tell if the small brownish attachments had legs. There was a considerable possibility they were in fact what an old friend of mine used to call ‘tag nuts’; little nuggets of shite attached to hair on your bum! Tick or cat poo – I wasn’t keen on removing either. I decided to treat her with ‘Frontline’ and hope whatever is attached to her nether –regions will fall off of its own accord. Meanwhile I will make sure my bedroom doors are shut to prevent ‘them’ falling off in my bed.
Oddly enough the cat has given me a very wide birth since the examination and runs away every time she sees me. Perhaps I should have accepted the neighbour’s kind offer to check my cats for critters on their shitters!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fly the Flag!

If asked ‘where are you from?’ which is frequent in these parts – if they haven’t already assumed I am Australian (or once it was French) I say ‘England’.  When I am asked my nationality, it is British. For me you cannot be one without the other. I was in England for St George’s Day – not that you would notice it. There were not many English flags waving. The shops were swamped with Union Jacks in preparation for the Royal Wedding. I loved seeing the Union Jacks everywhere and purchased quite a few souvenirs. I was asked if I would be celebrating St George’s Day. Given I am not religious there should be no reason for me to acknowledge it or him but it is there to celebrate being English, so why don’t we?
St George was from Syria (St Patrick was probably English, St Andrew was from Galilee and only St David was from the place for which he is canonised!) Perhaps if we want to celebrate being English we should choose a different figurehead to represent us. As a largely secular society, or certainly one that is a big boiling pot of different faiths and religions, St George doesn’t cater to all tastes. Any Suggestions? Billy would get my vote! Shakespeare not Connelly, Idol, Eliot or Bragg!
The other issue on St George’s day, apart from George, is the English flag. When I left England last year, I had a surge of patriotism. I wanted to wave the flag for the first time in my life. I could have chosen the red cross on white and had ‘Made in England’ tattooed on my forehead like the morons who favour the English flag but I opted for the Union Jack. More stylish for a start! In the week before I left, I packed very tasteful Union Jack stuff. A retro rug and cushions from Debenhams, my aunt got me a door stop from John Lewis and my sister and mom gave me a Union Jack charm for my bracelet. Had I not been leaving home I would never have had such stuff. American’s have flag poles outside their house with the American flag flying proudly. You can buy it all at Wal-mart.  Why don’t we?
If we wanted to celebrate being English as well as British,  we have to reclaim the English flag from its current racist, bigoted, BNP voting, council estate scuttering, benefit scrounging, football hooligan waving supporters.  I might be generalising a bit but I see nothing positive connected with the flag. It has been hijacked by arse ‘oles! I saw a YouTube clip of some vile twat (hopefully the offensive language gives the appropriate image of him) from ‘the English Defence League’ talking of the ‘muslamic’ threat. He could barely speak coherent English, yet he was actively involved in politics, the sort that involves zero IQ and violence! It was more than depressing! Had he been mispronouncing a salad dressing it might have been funny. The ELD make me ashamed of the flag I should be proud to fly. Journalists who have covered reports on the ELD have received death threats. It is a good job ELD members are unlikely to be able to read – me and my blog are hopefully safe!
We should also get some enthusiasm for our traditions. Americans are buzzing about the forth coming royal wedding. I was hard pushed to find anyone to have a positive word at home other than being glad of an extra day off! Love ‘em or hate them we should be glad that we didn’t chop their heads off and make Britain a republic (look at France, Russia, USA, Germany…). If nothing else the royals are a tourist attraction and the envy of the US!
There are so many amazing things that are worth waving the flag for. One of them is our multi cultural, free society that is the envy of so many other countries. I was struck by the beauty of England when I visited last week. For those of us who sang ‘Jerusalem’ in primary school, we’d all agree on the perfect English anthem (with a bit of rewording to take God and violence out of the equation). The greenness, the winding country lanes, the magnificent and varied landscape, the depth and wealth of history in every city, town and village that again is the envy of Americans. I wish we English had the same enthusiasm for all things English.
We don’t have to define ourselves by saying what we are not or by putting other cultures and beliefs down! Underneath my ‘candid’ look at how strange my new life in America is, is my recognition that my life before, in the UK, was good and there are things special and unique to that which I miss and that define who I am – roast Sunday dinners, Ribena, tea, crappy weather, fancy loo rolls... if you are English… or British, none of it requires any explanation!
I found the picture for this post on facebook quite by accident. It was someone’s profile picture. They had friends! I do not know the person. I shouldn’t judge! The sentiment in the picture ‘Does my England flag offend’ sums up what is wrong with the English flag. The sentiment is that anyone who doesn’t like it must be a foreigner who should go back to their own country. I don’t like what the flag has come to represent for me and I wish I could fuck off back to my own country but it would be a nicer place without the England flag wavers.

What we need is proud patriotism not aggressive nationalism!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Illegal Contraband!

Last time I went to the UK I got snowed in for the final 4 days of my trip and arrived back in the USA with SPACE in my case! That is not good! I wasn't going to make the same mistake again. Highly unlikely that I would get snowed in, in April but you never know! As it was, the weather was glorious. While I was soaking up the Sun in England, tragically 29 people died in the tornado that swept across North Carolina last week, not 20 miles form where we live!
After arriving in the UK, as soon as I had had a snooze, a cup of tea and a 'Richmond' sausage sarnie I was ready for the supermarket. I'm not entirely sure what you can and can't take into the USA but I think customs would have been fascinated by my UK essential purchases. I’m not sure what they say about me but every one of them was essential and if customs had stopped me and tried to take my contraband from me they would have had to have prised some of it from my cold dead fingers before I would willingly give them up. They are the things that will help sustain my Britishness until I next go home for a fix:

1 pack of M & S Toilet roll
Beautiful cream loo roll with gold swirly patterns. Stepford wives eat your heart out! I have put it in the downstairs loo and need to make sure hubby and kiddies do not use it. It is too pretty for anything shitty!  It is purely for show as you can only get white loo roll in America!
America is not a nation of curry lovers. You have to travel far and wide to track down spices. I smuggled loads in at Christmas but was still missing some – Star Anise (not sure what it is but a Gordon Ramsey recipe demanded it), curry leaves, cardamom pods, cumin seeds (now, I know you are not supposed to bring seeds into the USA but I don’t think I will plant them and grow a cardamom or cumin tree), black onion seeds (I am tempted to plant those!) I am building up to inviting the good folk of Azalea lane* to a curry fest at our house
PG Tips
No explanation needed (240 bag box with 50% free) Box of 40 in local US supermarket was about £4!!!
Sure cotton fresh deodorant x5
Believe it or not the range of deodorants here is just rubbish. They have little choice and most of it smells like that old pink or blue block toilet freshener you used to get. Vile!
Schwartz roast beef Gravy mix x5
You cannot beat it and I can’t bloody make gravy without it!
Digestive Biscuits
A neighbour borrowed a recipe book and wanted to make a cheesecake with digestives as the base. I promised I would get her some in the UK. I am sitting here dunking them into my tea as I type. I hope she has forgotten!
Cadburys Chocolate bars 230g x 4
To give to friends to show them how bad Hershey’s is! That is, if I don’t eat it all first
Fry’s chocolate Cream x 4 bars
My dear Irish friend in the USA misses it. I have never met anyone before who actually likes it!
Kiddies Easter eggs x 8 plus 4 chocolate bunnies
The Easter bunny was generous but our return to the States was only a day after Easter. Even my children could not consume the vast amount of chocolate they got in one day
Sainsbury’s Moroccan style wrap kit
If you have tried it you’ll know why! If you haven’t, you should!
Mint Sauce
Not available stateside and I need it for the curry night I am planning
M & S knickers (pack of 5)!
-or panties as they say in the USA but panties make them sound sexy – these are comfortable, functional knickers! And you can’t beat M & S for comfort and function!!! There is a bit of lace – not complete granny pants. 2 of the 5 pairs were all lace at the front but I swapped them for plain ones from another packet – very naughty I know but someone else might appreciate more pairs of lace pants. I don’t like see-through pants. Who wants to see through them? Some things are better covered up! My hubby continually reminds me I am supposed to be a lady in public and a whore in bed not the other way round. For all my loud and obnoxious language and sauciness in public I am really quite shy and old fashioned! Honestly!
Union Jack paraphernalia
This warrants a blog all of its own – in fact it will result in two or three blogs yet to be written. I purchased shit loads of the stuff as it was in abundance in the shops, including 2 trays, dip dish, pitcher, cocktail shaker, bunting, serviettes, paper cups and plates
I also got 4 teabag trays (those little things to put soggy tea bags on – these were shaped like a teapot with a union jack on- for the kiddies teachers along with a gift box of tea bags, also decorated with red buses, telephone boxes and union jacks!!!) A union jack eco bag and a key ring.
There would have been more but space in the case and glimpses of sanity stopped me.
Quilt cover x1 superking, with fitted sheet and pillow cases
American beds are different sizes. You don’t think of these things when you move here, that even trying to buy a new quilt cover causes undue stress because you bloody well can’t! Only a double bed is the same size! No good when you have a king size bed!

I had taken things to the UK such as an enormous tub of Cheese balls for my niece so I had space in the case for the return journey. I was marveling at how incredibly well I had done to fit all of this into the cases along with a remote control helicopter my dad has brought my son for his birthday and 3 rooms of dolls house furniture I ‘won’ on Ebay when I got a message from my sister earlier today. I had left a wash load full of our clothes in her washing machine!
Mmmmooooooom! Can you put the stuff I left in your case for me when you come over – along with some more of the above! x

Azalea lane* I have referred to where I live as Wisteria Lane but as we are in North Carolina and they love Azaleas I think I shall hence forth call it Azalea Lane!

Monday, April 18, 2011


The good news is my son’s passport arrived the day before our flight to the UK. Nothing like a bit of drama! The lack of time meant that I packed efficiently, didn’t keep stuffing extra things into the cases and I had no time to shop. I had been tempted in the previous weeks to go Christmas shopping. I know how sad that makes me and it proves I have too much time on my hands, but I could then leave the presents in the UK for distribution in case I don’t get back again this year. The panic about the passport consumed my waking hours and Christmas shopping was forgotten about!
The bad news was I had an 8 hour overnight flight to the UK with a 5 hour time difference and no prospect of sleep. Jet lag -caused apparently by the body's circadian rhythms (posh word for body clock!) being out of sync with the local destination time. The condition is not linked to the length of flight, but to the transmeridian (west–east) distance traveled. A ten-hour flight from Europe to southern Africa does not cause jet lag. From North Carolina to the UK, it is guaranteed!
Symptoms of jetlag include insomnia, irritability, indigestion, and disorientation. These are the exact same symptoms I suffer from drinking too much alcohol. I guess I should manage jet lag well with all the practice I have. Recovering from jet lag takes one day per time zone crossed. In my case – 5 days. It is much worse traveling eastward from the US to the UK than the other way. When I get to the UK it is really hard to go to sleep at night then even harder to get up in the morning. It makes you feel perpetually knackered...or hung over. On return it is easy to sleep and get up!
There are all sorts of ‘remedies’ for jetlag. Obviously some sleep on the plane would help. I managed to book 3 seats in a row of 5 thinking we would be able to spread out. We ended up being the last to take our seats as the kiddies were invited into the cockpit and sat in the pilots’ seats. They loved it! When we got to our seats, entrepreneurial people had assumed they were empty and had claimed them. Bastards! I went to find the stewardess who offered us a row of 3 at the front. Given we were about to take off I took them. I should have taken my brother-in-law's advice for the perfect revenge on our seat stealers as well as my unruly children. It has nothing to do with jetlag but it made me giggle! He says, and I quote:
“I find that eating eggs during the flight help to disguise the awful smell erupting from my arse. 80% of smells can be hidden by surreptitious means of looking at the passenger next to me in a distasteful way as to ‘blame them’ The last 20% can be blamed on the children that accompany you.”
I paid ₤30 for some ‘liquid oxygen’ on the plane last time I came home. It claimed to be ‘an invaluable travel and flight companion’. What bollocks. It did not offer any companionship whatsoever. Didn’t say a word. Did fuck all to alleviate jet lag either or the ‘headaches, light headedness, sluggish circulation and drowsiness’ caused by ‘Low oxygen and re-circulated cabin air.’  Didn’t mask the eggy smells continually re-circulating (that were not emitting from my bottom – I knew what the bloke giving me funny looks was up to – he was trying to blame me and my children for his foul bottom burps – my brother-in-law was right!!)! I guess I should have known the ‘liquid oxygen’ wouldn’t work! Wouldn’t you need hydrogen to liquefy oxygen? Would that make the ₤30 bottle of ‘liquid oxygen’ H2o?
I researched another ‘cure’ for jetlag. Metatonin is a hormone which controls our circadian rhythm- our body clock! Metatonin is released at night and suppressed during the day. Crossing time zones messes that up. You can take metatonin supplements for jetlag but unsurprisingly studies show it may actually slow the recovery of jet lag, energy, and alertness. Too much metatonin can cause vivid dreams and nightmares!
Day 1 in the Big Sister House: Feeling wide awake at bedtime! I eventually fall asleep at ( in my world). Before going to bed I had flicked through a book my mom had got for me as I couldn’t get it in America. It was written by someone I once knew in a Rock band. There were photos of the rock band.Scary! I awoke to find those people crawling on the floor in ‘the big sister house’ having morphed into creatures from some Kiddie movie I had watched earlier. I tried to scream then realize I was dreaming or hallucinating. Too weird! Clearly too much daylight or twilight!!! Cant work out if I need more light or dark to ensure that doesn't happen again! Maybe I need therapy! I just hope it is the metatonin levels adjusting!
Day 2 in the Big Sister House: Drank too much because the usual two glasses don't send me to sleep - Assumed I could drink more - forgot that it is jetlag keeping me artificially lively! Struggled to get up the next day. Put this down to jet lag not hangover!
Day 3 in the Big Sister House: Had to share bed with son. Could not sleep. Neither could he. Made him sleep foot end of the bed. Fell asleep around again! Struggle to get up before ! Again! Mental note to self - ensure children sleep in cousin's beds for rest of stay!

A few of my own thoughts on jet lag –
  • Copious amounts of alcohol upon arrival with help blur jetlag with a hangover. Hard to tell where jetlag ends and hangover starts!
  • Jet lag must not be confused with Jetslag! which, if pursued during the flight, will undoubtedly increase the symptoms of jetlag!
  • Jet lag is a necessary evil of travel!
  • Jetlag is better than homesickness!
  • If you want to avoid jet lag ‘Go West!’ (or south or north - it is easterly travel that does it!)
  • There is only one cure! Sleep!

Given my failure to bring home all my Christmas presents for friends and family, I will have to plan another trip to the UK in December. That gives me 254 days to recover from my jet lag and finish off my Christmas shopping! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The one that got away!

I didn’t realize what I was passing up when I simply photographed the weird critter just outside my house. I was sat looking out the window when something caught my eye – like a big tortoise with a long tail. I had seen one before when I was driving so I didn’t get a proper look. I grabbed my camera and went out to meet him. (too ugly to be female) It stopped. An inquisitive turtle! That or I was too much of an obstacle for it to walk over- it was on a path from which it did not deviate! It climbed up a big curb stone when inches to its left the curb ended. Turtle brains are tiny! We saw turtle skulls at the NC aquarium and there was hardly any space for a brain at all! It didn’t have much sense! If I had any sense I wouldn’t have let it get away!
I looked it up on line. It was a Snapping turtle - the largest freshwater turtle in North Carolina. The most weird bit was its long tail, which is saw-toothed along the top. It was about 12 inches not including its tail!
They spend most of their time in water but females nest on land. Perhaps it was a girl turtle after all or a male looking for some meat! They are apparently fond of road kill and will quite happily munch on carrion. They are frequently hit by cars - perhaps whilst eating road kill. Little brains! Not very bright!
They are aggressive and will bite, especially if taken out of the water. One man on line said:

I learned about turtles from my parents who learned from their German immigrant fathers. It has been told in family circles that my maternal grandfather would catch snapping turtles by hand. I never saw him do it because he was hit and killed by a truck when I was about nine years old. It was a big loss for me because he was just starting to teach me about turtles, wild mushrooms, dandelions and other natural things

I wondered if he was hit by a truck collecting turtles who were eating road kill. I could have caught this one by hand. It doesn’t seem such an amazing feat given their speed. Perhaps you have to experience a turtle bite to appreciate the skill of catching a turtle! They will attack people. Next time I go photographing a weird critter I might check out its credentials first! Luckily it didn’t attack me and I figured I could run away faster than it could pursue me. It just looked at me with its little beady eyes. It stayed still (in the middle of the road) until I was back in the house!
Snapping turtles have an average life span of 30-40 years if they can avoid mad German Grampas, cars and trucks and Turtle soup! People sharing ideas on a  website aimed at making their money go further would not have let the turtle stroll on by. This is a conversation I found with only the names changed (like Billy Bob says – ‘couldn’t have made this one up if I tried) I daren’t include a link in case it somehow leads these people to me…:
Billy Bob: Getting really stretchy here...Cuz's drinking buddies just brought in a snapping turtle and are butchering it in the kitchen sink.  I've persuaded them that the meat has to be soaked in salt water overnight, to buy me some time.  Not much meat on those critters.  Cuz can't have bell peppers or much onion, so that leaves out Cajun.  Anyone out there got a favorite recipe?  One site said that alligator and turtle recipes are interchangeable. I'm leaning toward the Palace turtle soup recipe just because a restaurant that expensive has to have good recipes. I'm not joking--couldn't have made this one up if I tried. It's been weeks since they've brought in catfish or bluegill.  We had neighbors who hit a deer but they were too innocent to bring the animal back for me to cook.
Bobby Bill: Oh, this brings back some memories.  :-)  Years ago, my dad brought home a soft shelled turtle or two and momma put it in the crockpot.  Tasted just like chicken.  :-)  Anyway, I happen to have a recipe book with game recipes... hope this helps. By the way, this recipe book has recipes for ALL TYPES of game/road kill.  I'm serious!  It has baked rattlesnake, smothered crow; simmered coot; duck, quail, phesant, squirrel, rabbit, bever tail, armadillo, possum, raccoon, porcupine, moose, venison, and buffalo.  If you need recipes, let me know... I hate to have them sit on the shelf unused. 
Billy Bob: Thank you!  I never know what these guys will bring in next.  I'm imploring for venison, since I can put it up in jars and pressure canning tenderizes it.  Now, I have to figure out how to clean the shell.  Last time I tried this, it was a Cherokee mud turtle shell--black with beautiful, vivid red markings--from a found corpse.  I put it into an anthill on some ex-Scout's advice. A fire ant hill, and some truly desperate dog or possum dragged it out for a meal. I never found the remains.   This shell probably will end up as a wall hanging somewhere. I can sell any turtle shell for $10-20 at the flea market, and a tanned roadkill coon tail will bring $3-5.

Does eating Turtles cause very small brains or do people with very small brains eat turtle? I couldn't work on if they were male or female!
So if ever I come across a turtle again – or indeed if you do – here’s what ‘Earl’ advises before you select your recipe:

ü   To butcher a turtle you start by chopping off the turtle's head. Be careful because the head will still bite even after it is removed from the body and the body will still crawl away after the head is removed. Turtles don't die right away.
ü      When the body stops trying to crawl away, dip it in boiling water and scrape off the exterior layer of skin, including the shell. The result will be a bright white carcus, compared to the muddy brown-green you started with.
ü      Next step is to remove the shell. Cut along grove on each side between the front and back legs. It is the narrowest part of the shell. The tail, neck and all four legs are attached to the top of the shell. Remove from shell and you have the bulk of the meat. However, there will be some meat on the bottom shell and top shell.
ü      It is at this point that you remove the fat. Just roll back the skin and with a paring knife and your index finger scrape out the fat.

Good luck with your turtle soup. Just cook it long with lots of vegetables and it will be good if you removed all of the fat. – Earl

MMMmmm! thanks for that Earl. That must surely work up an appetite! Just one or two recipes here after you have Beheaded and eventually killed your turtle:
Cut turtle in small pieces, wash and drain. Flour and salt turtle, fry in hot oil until golden brown. Put fried turtle in Reynolds wrap and place in heavy pan or roaster. Bake 350 degrees for about 2 hours or until tender.

Cook 3 pounds of turtle meat. Remove from bones, keep broth. Chop into small pieces. Chop 6 hard cooked eggs up fine. Heat 8 quarts of milk, 1/4 pound of butter; add salt and pepper. Add meat, eggs. Do not boil. Add broth with milk.

If you are not local I bet you are just so jealous of me- living in this strange land and having all these opportunities open to me – with great advice from some super folk! Why on earth would I want to fly home tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Aches and Pains!

I hit my hand with a hammer yesterday. I was trying to progress the building of my daughter’s doll’s house. It hurt. My knuckle has a deep purple bruise on it.
It was nothing compared to the pain I felt trying to progress the renewal of my son’s passport – stuck somewhere in the bureaucracy of a government organisation. It is my fault. I trusted the advice on the UK passport site about renewing a passport in a foreign land. It said allow 4 weeks. I allowed 7 weeks. I forgot the maxim ‘trust no one, not even yourself’. I failed to make a sensible and trustworthy decision – which would have been to fly to the UK and renew the passport while I was there! I have two days before I fly or change the flight date (for the small fee of $1000). I can’t change that unless I know when I will get the passport! The premium rate $2.50 a minute UK ‘careline’ has done nothing to help or care. It seems the most thay can do is email the Embassy in Washington! They said they had done that a week ago and ‘someone’ would contact me within 72 hours. When I phoned after 5 days they told me that the 72 hours expired that evening. Even taking out the weekend and using GMT, there is still something amiss! They mistook my extreme stress for rudeness. They probably emailed the embassy and said ‘stroppy cow, make her wait’. That’s exactly what I’m being made to do! Today, they said they could email again…with a 72 hour response time. I don’t have 72 hours left!
I read that scientists have discovered that you do in fact ‘feel’ emotional pain in the same way that you feel physical pain (Time Magazine, April 11). They experimented on jilted participants. When they were shown pictures of their ex the same pain circuit in their brains lit up as when they were probed with a heat sensor (sounds like fun!). The intensity of emotional ‘hurt’ activated the same pain pathways that are tapped into by something physical such as a slap …or hammer to the knuckle.
The challenge is how to treat such pain! For my knuckle an ice pack would help. For the stressy headache I have, a tablet might ease it. There seems to be no easy remedy for the pain caused by the prospect of not going home to the UK on Thursday.
When I am stressed I sometimes try ‘Paul McKenna’ type associations. This involves sitting calmly and visualising the place you feel at your happiest. You are supposed to squeeze your middle finger and thumb together, Zen like, to give the thoughts a physical trigger. When you feel anxious, in theory all you need to do is trigger the calming visions by a squeeze of the fingers. Doesn’t bloody work for homesickness! Like the participants shown pictures of their ex’s, my vision causes the pain. I visualise the beautiful Dorset coastline at Seatown!   I thought I would be there for the Easter weekend. It hurts more than a hammer!
Perhaps some in this strange land might say my misfortune is a result of my blaspheming and criticisms of the Church in my blogs. If there was a God, he would not be this malevolent!
I have two days left, 2 days in which to drive to Washington to collect the passport if I have to, if I can! Two days where my son can ask, as soon as he opens his eyes in the morning ‘Is my passport here today?’ Two days to hope. Two days to pack. Two days to carry on with the dolls house and just hope I don’t get anymore hammer blows!

I may aswell be in outer space!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Two Monkeys Cafe!

The ‘Two Monkeys Café’ opened today here in NC. I wouldn’t recommend it. The service was awful. After being served some wooden pizza I was asked for payment in real dollars. I then had to wash up. One monkey chased the other with a spit covered wooden pepperoni to try and wipe the spit on him. The fleeing monkey ran into the TV stand and it ended in tears and an ice pack! I never intended to have children. I had my first at 36. People said you must have another, they will play together! Those people already had more than one child. They knew the truth and they lied! I bet they even giggled after that said it! The collaboration of siblings for the short commercial existence of the Two Monkeys Café demonstrated that my children can not play nicely together. Naughty monkeys!
We share 98% of our DNA with monkeys. I guess it is amazing the difference that 2% can make (or not) to us. There is a massive educational debate in America about evolution. According to Time Magazine most USA high school biology teachers do not endorse Darwin’s theory of evolution in class. A whopping 60% of them will only teach the principles of evolution – ‘pertaining to molecular biology as one theory among many as necessary to pass national tests’. In other words they will not teach human evolution. It goes against the idea that God created each creature individually! According to one creationist, the Grand Canyon was not the
result of millennia of erosion but was created during Noah’s flood! Good job he had a bloody big boat for all the animals. Scientifically (and in every other way) incest is bad but for the good bible lovin’ folk, they don’t seem to mind that all animals derive from the pairs going on that arc. There must have been some seriously incestuous relationships weakening the gene pool there! It explains animals like the aardvark! Perhaps that was Noah’s little joke after some species cross contaminated during those long dark arc nights!
In the UK schools must teach evolution as part of the science national curriculum. Creationism is strictly for the remit of religious education – a belief and nothing to do with science. To be scientific there has to be evidence and testable proof! In the US, states direct their own curriculums and as you can imagine some states advocate creationist theory to be taught in Science and for Darwin to be presented a ‘theory’ not scientific fact!! States are actively trying to minimize the teaching of evolution and promote the idea of creationism or at least the idea that there was ‘intelligent design’ (i.e. with the influence of a higher power). I like the idea of ‘intelligent design. If the creationist were intelligent they would tie it in with scientifically proven evolution and claim it was ‘God issuing upgrades’ Ha!
 Just a small example of State madness:
Alabama: Biology textbooks in Alabama have included a disclaimer describing evolution as a "controversial theory" Controversial? Yeah – all those fossils and radioactive dating – just theory! Made up by Darwin and mad university types! You know – scientists! Instead, let’s teach the kids that one all-powerful being did it in six days (albeit long ones). Not controversial at all!
Arkansas: had to remove stickers on text books saying that evolution alone is "not adequate to explain the origins of life." There MUST be something else! Now where the f**k is the God particle? Must be somewhere. Let’s get 10,000 scientists to build a huge particle collider to find the one which is God! Particles are tiny. May take some time. In the meantime – let’s teach that God is huge and created the whole caboodle!
Georgia: Stickers on science books stating that evolution is "a theory, not a fact... this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."  were ruled unconstitutional.  Goooood Jawb! Georgia is still contesting the ruling! Tax payers! Helloooow!
Kentucky: Public schools in Kentucky are allowed to teach creationism in addition to evolution. See the application to be a resident of Kentucky below! (if you cant see it there's a link to the website I took it from!)
Ohio: Emphasizes the "debate" over evolution and creationism as equally ‘controversial theories’. Yep. Equal! Proof of one is all that scientific research. Proof of the other is the ‘Good’ book!
I was relieved to find that North Carolina does not allow the teaching of creationism as an alternative theory to Darwin in its public schools, but I did find evidence of teachers who ‘cheat’ and will not refer to evolution of humans! The following comment on one NC message board was particularly interesting:
"It's really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism," county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday's meeting. "The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists."

This implies that atheists have been involved in a process of evolution whilst creationists haven’t. I guess that 2% DNA really does make a difference after all!

One day the zoo-keeper noticed that the orang-utan was reading two books - the Bible and Darwin's The Origin of Species. In surprise he asked the ape, "Why are you reading both those books"?
"Well," said the orang-utang, "I just wanted to know if I was my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Poke Me!

I picked up a magazine this morning; ‘Our State, North Carolina’. It was the first time I had seen it. I flicked through and an article caught my eye. One of the emboldened excerpts said ‘The poke can cure more acute ailments than homesickness”. I had to buy it, suffering from acute homesickness and having been poking a lot recently, I thought I should find out more.
Poking has been on my mind. Before you form an inappropriate opinion I mean poking on Facebook! A poke is apparently a way to say ‘Hi’. Here was me thinking for years it was something so much more meaningful! All those pokes in the past that I have regretted – were nothing more than an over zealous ‘Hello’! I’m a relative newcomer to Facebook and succumbed when I was press-ganged to join as part of a school reunion In June 2009. I hadn’t poked any old school friends since the reunion. The opportunity didn’t arise on the day of the reunion although it was mad how people were quite happy to confess how much they had wanted to poke me 26 years before. They didn’t mention it at the time! I have since found out it is rude not to poke! Rule is, if someone pokes you- you poke them back (unless you don’t know them! Don’t poke strangers! They can see your profile – actually they might see a whole lot more! My mother should’ve taught me that!)
I have recently embarked on some poking activity. I’m not sure what polite poking etiquette is. Do you poke back straight away? Allow a time-lapse so that you don’t give the impression you are lurking, waiting for your next poke? Or do I just need to chill? Pokes should ease tension, not cause it! I have realized that a good morning poke back is better than a poke in the back in the morning! Perhaps I am over thinking it but Facebook is strange, it offers me social connectivity whilst being socially isolated. I wondered if I was spending too much time on Facebook. I took The Facebook Addiction Test (FAT) to see if I was.
It asked questions like
How often do you find that you stay on Face book longer than you intended?
How often do you neglect household chores to spend more time on Face book?
How often do you check your e-mail before something else that you need to do?
It wasn’t looking good!
But then some questions such as:
How often do you prefer the excitement of the Facebook to face-to-face friends?
How often do you fear that life without Facebook would be boring, empty, and joyless?
How often do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with soothing thoughts of the Facebook
made me realize that I don’t overuse Facebook.  It really doesn’t do that for me! Nothing can replace the real thing! I scored 21 in the FAT test. This was just into average- almost below average use!    (20 - 49 points: You are an average Facebook user. You may surf Facebook a bit too long at times, but you have control over your usage)
I am on the other side of the world.  I am socially isolated in this strange place. I think a score of 21 is surprisingly low! Facebook offers such a great link to home. I confess the first thing I do in the morning is turn on Facebook, Check emails, my blog and skype – well almost the first thing….
The time difference means that if I send anything in the evenings you UK buggers are in bed so I don’t get any responses till morning! I would hate to wake up to nothing! It all makes me feel like I still belong, so I am so glad I get poked on a daily basis. Look forward to it even! If I am over-zealous in my return pokes hopefully I won’t get a bad reputation!
The magazine article was about a different sort of poke. Pokeweed: ‘a gangly plant, beanpole skinny at the bottom and topped off with an unruly wig’, considered a weed here but grown in England for their ‘eye-catching quality’! We admire it, we dont try to eat it!  It is poisonous and you can die from eating it yet it is recommended here, perhaps as a side to grits, as long as you boil it two or three times. It is ‘tastier than turnips’…. and we all know how tasty turnips are! It allegedly wards off such ailments as syphilis, hog cholera (!) and ‘the seven year itch’. I can see how a poke might do something for the seven year itch. Not sure it would cure it and it might even cause syphilis!
One commercial gardener said in the magazine article, ‘I have a poke in the middle of the flowering plants section…they’ll point and go, ‘look at that’. I bet they do. You just don’t expect to see a gardener having a poke in the flower bed!
They have recipes for Poke Salad in North Carolina and other southern states. It is poisonous and ‘ingestion can cause severe stomach cramping, nausea with persistent diarrhea and vomiting, sometimes bloody, slow and difficult breathing, weakness, spasms, hypertension, severe convulsions, and death. Severe poisonings have been reported in adults who ingested mature pokeweed leaves and following the ingestion of tea brewed from one-half teaspoonful of powdered pokeroot’
I'll stick to PG Tips!
It is claimed the poke weed cured homesickness because soldiers in the American civil war used the poke berry juice as ink to write home to loved ones. I guess Facebook pokes are the modernd day equivilent! I think I’ll give the North Carolinian poke a wide birth. My Facebook pokes from home keep the homesickness at bay but there is only one cure for such an ailment and that is the real thing…

Do I have to explain? I mean home is the only cure for homesickness, not a real poke!
...although - it is rude not to!

Elvis knew all about southern Pokes!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Listen with Mother!

I am ‘Mystery reader’ tomorrow for my daughter's class at School. The mystery for the children is who will turn up and read a story to them. The mystery for me is why on earth I volunteered again and what the bloody hell I'll read. Last time I did it I read an extract from 'Boy', Roald Dahl’s Autobiography. I read the bit about how he believed liquorice was made from rat stew. I took in a cauldron with pretend rats (it was near Halloween) and gave them liquorice to eat. I thought I had been very thorough and clever. With hindsight I realize they hadn’t a clue what I was taking about. Roald Dahl's adventures whilst at a Preparatory School on the Welsh Borders, wishing he was an older boy ‘wearing his cap at a jaunty angle' was probably lost on 8 year old Americans!
Maybe I should read something authentic -  An extract from Huckleberry Finn? I could even try doing a proper accent! I love the real southern accents. I don’t hear it often in these parts as I live in CARY, what the southerners refer to as ‘Containment Area for Relocated Yankees’. You have to go to the more rural areas to spot real southerners. To get a feel for the accent think about the way they say ‘most’ in ‘Bill and Ted’s MOWWST Excellent Adventure’ and then add the sound of a banjo strumming and speak like that! I wonder if they put on an English accent for Shakespeare performances over here. Somehow Will’s most excellent works wouldn’t sound right with Keanu’s twang! I thought about doing some witty translations from Shakespeare to southern drawl. I made a start on Hamlet:
‘Rekon’ it is, or rekon it aint? That sho is worth askin’. Been ponderin’ so hard, aint had time to think’
It just doesn’t translate well at all!
Maybe I could take a well known story and give voice to the southern sayin’s:

Back yonder there was a lil girl, all cotton an caramel, pretty as gingham. She lived with her paw in the trailer park jus’ by the forest. They called her Red Ridin’ hood. Red hood on account of her washing her whites with Paw’s huntin' gear. Ridin' on account of all the shaggin' she does on a saturday night at the barn dance. Paw aint worked out what ridin's gotta do with shaggin' and Lil Red aint worked out what dancin's gotta do with it neither!
One day he hollered ‘Lil Red, Granmaw’s takin' to punin’ around. She’s a growed to her bed. Git down to her trailer and take her som grits. Don’t git jibber-jabbin’ on your way an look out for them comers and goers.’
Paw went back to his whittlin’. ‘Paw,’ she said, ‘if you whittle anymore y’all gonna have no stick left.’
‘Ahm only done what your mother done told me to when she up and died – she said 'Red' on account of ma red neck, 'keep your daubers up'. Now Git!’
'But Paw - daubers means courage not that! 
Lil Red set off on her ways. She seed a clump of azaleas, as pretty as a picture. She was mighty notioned to ignore her daddy and stop awhile. I’m gonna git me some of those she thought.
A mighty powerful Coyote stopped by, ‘where are you off to?’
‘Hell fire and damnation a talkin coyote!;
'Quit your cussin and your blasphemin!'
'Sorry Mr Coyote, I forgit meself for a while! I aint up to much, jus visitin' down yonder. Ma granmaw’s hungry as a lil’ ol bug in a tata patch an’ ahm takin’ her some grits. But quit, you slab sided galloot. Paw told me not to go a-flutin an a-flyin with no tuckyhoes.’
The Coyote quit but angel wings won’t stop his devil mintin’. He trotted off to granmaws. When the agger-pervokin’ ol’ buzzard opened the door he darn gone and gobbled her up. He put on her best bloomers and climbed into bed. Lil red arrived a few minutes hence.
‘Oh Granmaw – you looks like you washed in a mud puddle and combed your hair with a towel. Yo sho nuff look pitiful as ham without eggs.’
‘Don’t joree me’ said the Coyote in his Sunday best church voice to sound like Granmaw.
‘But Granmaw – You must be ailish! That sure is a mighty hellacious wind you’re a-blowin’
‘Gawd has stuck me down!’
‘Your wind nearly killed me outright! An them there ears are homely nuff to curdle milk’
‘All the better to hear you with,’ said the Coyote.
‘Don’t give me that gator tail. Them eyes – ugly as home-made sin.’
‘All the better to seen y’all with, lil Red’
‘Don’t try to cute me! Them there teeth sho are makin’ me nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs. What googery-boogery are you up to?’
With that the coyote, jaw leakin’ water, said ‘I’m done with this fancy talkin’  and gobbled Red Riding hood up. Sounded like he was crunchin’ picawns tween his toes.
Ol Red, Lil Red’s paw come seen what all the fussin’ was about. He was a mighty powerful man and dove on the coyote. The coyote got the livin’ daylights displeasured out a him til he was limp as paw’s whittling stick after he done whittlin’. He cut open the coyote with his whittlin’ knife and found his ma and Lil red inside. They all sat down and enjoyed a plate full o’ grits.
That’ll teach ‘em fo cavortin with coyotes!

The End!

How do you think it will go down with the class tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sod it!

Try as I might I cannot make this blog funny. It is about grass. Maybe if I tried smoking some I might be amused. i-neighbors is full of messages at the moment. I would go as far as calling it a frenzy! Everyone is getting very excited because the warmer weather is coming and they can obsess about their lawns. It took me a while to work this out as they refer to lawns as SOD! ‘How’s your Sod?’ I almost said – I’m waiting for my little sod to arrive home from school but their conversations led me to believe they were not talking about their children. With answers like ‘My sod is looking a little wilted, My sod is high maintenance, My sod has bare patches…’ I really was afraid to ask. I’m just glad I didn’t suggest a topical cream to rub on their troubled sods!
They have just got over a mulching frenzy. Here they mulch! March was Mulch month. I have been asked, in all seriousness whether we mulch in the UK! Not as a national past time, no- unless it has a double meaning! Again – I might have suggested a topical cream or band-aid to prevent excessive mulching… Truck loads of the stuff have been delivered to Wisteria Lane and the good wives have overseen the distribution of it on their current bun flower beds, you know the sort, under-sized plants on over-sized mounds of earth. If ever illegal immigrants want work – it is here – mulching and cutting lawns! My gardener can’t speak a word of English but has a six pack and knows how to sort out an unkempt sod! I haven’t engaged in any mulching with him. It isn’t included in the regular service. He charges more for that!
It is f**king hot in the summer! The language is necessary to convey the severity of the heat.  +100ºF and very humid. Having a green lawn in such weather is a bit of a status symbol. Having a green lawn in such weather is virtually impossible unless you spend an inordinate amount of time and cash on it! There are different grasses you can plant for the perfect lawn. I am so stupid – I thought grass was grass but not here. I know of two main ones but there are lots are variations of the two.
We have Fescue sod, the posh grass because it is green in winter and requires lots of watering all summer. Our Landlord pays for the irrigation, cutting and weeding and feeding of the lawn. I have to say in the height of the summer it struggled to look good. There isn’t enough soil and drainage so all the watering made it a bit swampy… Mosquito infested swampy! …Tennis ball sized bite on my leg swampy! But green, so the owners were happy! I would not be surprised if it costs more than the rent to try to keep the lawn green. The only correspondence I have had from the homeowner is to ask how green the lawn is… oh and ‘where is the rent?’ They charged us a non-returnable cleaning fee of $400 for the cats. I am wondering if this was in anticipation of the cats shitting on their lawn! They should know cats don’t do it in their own back yards, they go next door.
Next door has Bermuda or Zoysia sod – not sure which as they both seem to fit the same description and they would know I was stupid if I had to ask them what it was. In summer it is like a thick lush green sponge. It is dense and feels fab under bare feet. It requires less watering and can withstand the heat. Its downside – it is dormant in the winter and goes completely brown! Nice!
There are lots of Chinese and Indians in the neighbourhood. The Americans hate it because they are obsessed with their lawns and typically some of the Chinese and Indians don’t share the same enthusiasm. They don't bother with their 'yards'! You get a note from the Housing Association if neighbours can see your dustbin from the 'side walk'. You can imagine the wrath sent forth to non-gardeners. They are reported and in extreme cases, grass seed is sprinkled and they are sent the bill! I have a neighbour who has the perfect lawn. Next door to her is the antithesis of a perfect lawn. She sneaks around their yard after dark, planting and pruning and she probably can’t help but mulch! (it is all that stress and excitement!)
Recently a man in Mississippi shot his neighbour and dog because the dog shat on his lawn. I can appreciate the frustration knowing how hard people strive for the perfect green lawn. Thinking about it I think I ought to reintroduce a cat litter tray before my two moggies really upset the neighbours!
‘Is that cat poo on my Zoysia or have I accidently mulched?’ It could be a matter of life and death!

PS. posted on i-neighbors a week later:
Do we know when the Estates' entrance will be mulched?  Additionally...  the area needs to be either reseeded or sodded. Are we aware of any work to be done to fix these to make our entrance more attractive'
Nothing like some mulching and sodding to make an entrance more attractive!