Monday, June 20, 2011

What’s for Dinner? Fnarr! Fnarr!

It is my turn to host ‘Dinner Club’. I am grateful that I was invited, by a neighbour to join ‘Dinner Club’. It got me out the house, the first Friday in every month at , to meet other couples, 7 of them. (Dinner Club has rules!) The host decides on a ‘theme’ and the other guests contribute a dish – an appetizer, side or Dessert. I have had some very interesting culinary and dining experiences. Making fried green tomatoes to contribute to ‘Southern living’ night was a challenge, not least because green tomatoes were not in season. I made them with red and hoped the other guests thought my tomatoes were blushing (at being called tomaytos instead of tomartoes for one thing!) That night I experienced grits. It changed my world. I went on to join a Grits Festival facebook page to which I regularly contribute! There are whole worlds out there you just don’t know about until you are stupid enough to look. Sometimes I wish I remained ignorant!
Another memorable Dinner club night was the Japanese night. I made Tuna sashimi for the first time and prayed I wouldn’t kill the other guests with virtually raw tuna. After all, these are people who refuse to eat Tiramisu if it has raw eggs in it! That night was mostly memorable (or rather – mostly a blank) because of the Fuki-saki!
On the ‘Thanks giving’ theme we were asked to take something we always cook for Thanks giving – I took f**k all! Not really – I took something I always cook at Christmas. Delia’s braised red cabbage. I may as well have taken f**k all. It didn’t go down well. Come to think of it – it doesn’t get eaten on Christmas day either.
Until I moved it forward a week my dinner club date was originally for the holiday weekend for the 4th July. I purchased tons of union Jack stuff when I last visited England (I got  tableware and serviettes – napkins as they call them here – they don’t know what a serviette is – I hate asking for napkins as it doubles as the word for sanitary towels here too. To add to the confusion they call towels in the bathroom to dry your hands on ‘sanitary towels’. I am worried that one day someone will get confused and it will end in terrible embarrassment!). I thought it would be funny to serve dinner decorated with the antithesis of stars and stripes for the 4th July. I get asked by Americans if we celebrate 4th July in England. People are surprised when I say no – given it is to celebrate independence from Great Britain why would the Brits celebrate it? Actually, having lived in the USA for a year I think it is ironic that we don’t celebrate it in Britain after all!
I have to decide a theme for Dinner club. This isn’t as straight forward as you may think when inviting 7 other couples who you know only in a fairly formal setting. Did you know for example that putting Lasagne in the menu is code for a Swinger’s party? Neither did I until I was told that there was a healthy swinger’s community here around Azalea Lane and I should be careful what I cook up! Not for the first time I was stupid enough to search for information on Google. (Not sure I want to ‘like’ what I found on Facebook – one thing is having mad ‘grits festival’ status’s popping up but what would pop up from a swingers status?! One website boasted 9872 Cary Swingers within 100 miles. Housing estates are called sub-divisions here. I wanted to know where the swinging sub-divisions were. I thought about posting a query on i-neigbours… If only I had a pair of balls! How funny would that be (my query, not me with balls!)? I wish now I had set up a mock i-neighbors account to do that!
What is swinging? According to one website it is ‘For Those Who Want More Than Just One Bite Of The Apple’. How do you know who wants apples…or lasagne? In the UK we had a hot tub- another sign of a swinger that I didn’t know about until we got a hot tub. I never told anyone we had one in case we were mistaken for swingers. We knew of a couple who found themselves at a ‘hot tub’ party. Turns out it was a ‘speculative’ party for new recruits. One half of the couple proved eager to join while the other looked on in sheer horror, knowing from the face being pulled, exactly what was going on under the bubbles! Whilst true to swinging, the act was done in the presence of both spouses, it certainly broke the swinger rule that it must be done with the consent of both partners!
So – Lasagne is off the menu for Dinner Club. I don’t want to create the wrong impression, even unwittingly. I have opted for the British National dish of curry. It fits in with Dinner club rules – it challenges the taste buds and the culinary contributions of the guests. Indian food is not widely eaten here (other than those from or of Asian heritage) so I am hoping my menu of poppadoms and all the trimmings, Chicken tikka masala, prawn Rogan josh , kheema curry and saffron Rice cannot be misinterpreted or seen as a sign for anything other than great tasty food. I may be pushing my luck with Bombay Sapphire Gin and Tonic sorbet – who knows what can happen after a bowl of that!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Commercial Break #6 God is Not Great! Not sure my blog is either!

Note: This blog is an advertisement!
It is not uncommon to see locals wearing t-shirts with biblical slogans; psalms and stuff. Hubby has a t-shirt that says ‘Jesus is Coming (look busy)’. He also has one that says ‘I am not American’. I have one that says ‘Trailer trash and darn proud of it’. We don’t wear them here. I’m not entirely sure why not!
I have written many blogs that question and make fun of religion here, and have worried that I may have offended the faithful by questioning religion- time to reflect… Here endeth any apology for my 'religious' blogs. Is it time for the faithful to apologise?
I’m not an academic, by any stretch of the imagination. I grew up on a council estate and thought broadsheets were oversized bed linen until I was in my 20’s. I was accused once by a very stupid man in a position of power of being too academic for a school I worked in. Can you imagine a teacher being ‘too academic’? What he really meant was he was too stupid to understand the latest ‘academic and educational research’ on school improvement I presented him with. How he ever got to be in the position of ‘headteacher’ I will never know… Oh wait a minute – I do know. He had a mate (who also thought I was too academic to work with rough council estate kids) who gave him the job… I’m not bitter. I’m also not an academic. I have the utmost respect for intellect. As they say, I would like to think I am intelligent enough to know how stupid I am and how little I know.
I have never been religious but it inevitably impinges on my life – we were a ‘Church of England’ family (you know – the one invented for convenience in the 16th Century) in that I was christened and we went to church for weddings, christenings and funerals. I never felt I had to justify my beliefs and never felt challenged or the need to challenge others. I objected strongly to religious door knockers who have no right to disturb my world by trying to impose theirs. I did enjoy ‘engaging’ in debate on occasion but they never seemed to ‘listen’ to me. I got married in a church largely to please my Nan. She died the week I booked the wedding. If I had believed in God I might have taken it for a sign! I should have cancelled it then. Ironically my wedding was the only time a display of ‘atheism’ affected me badly! Someone who should have been there in the house of God that day to see me get married wouldn’t come in because, following a family tragedy, she no longer ‘believed’ in God. Never made any sense to me. I didn’t believe either but it was such a beautiful church I associated with my childhood that if I was gonna do it, it was the only place for it! I think it was more a case of someone ‘blaming God’. Didn’t make for a happy day. Afterwards, I felt so strongly (for many reasons, not least my atheism) that I shouldn’t have married that we considered an annulment. If anything threatened a divorce – it was being married!
It is only since being in America that I have felt challenged by the absence of any religious belief. I would not have been permitted a visa unless married to my hubby. Being together 20 years and having 2 children is not sufficient in America to warrant access as a family. Some ex-pats have had to marry in order to get visas.
I was asked very early on if I had found a church. When I said I wasn’t looking the person persisted – ‘when you are ready come to our church’. I had to be blunt and tell her I would never be looking for a church. She ignored me a week later in the supermarket. Very Christian. This isn’t usual and my church going American friends do not discuss my atheism with me. It doesn’t stop them talking of their ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ or bible study, or church to me. I don’t feel ostracised. I just feel their ‘judgement’, a sense that I don’t measure up (and I accept that this is my perception not voiced in any verbal way by them explicitly) and it makes me want to scream.
Having studied (and I use the term lightly) history I understand how nebulous the truth is. It is never a given. Anyone in pursuit of the truth should always be applauded. I have just read the most incredible book in pursuit of truth. It is ‘God is not Great’ By Christopher Hitchens. I read ‘God is not Great’ at the pool. An Irish friend suggested I cover it with ‘playboy’ magazine, the idea that porn at the pool would be less offensive than a book challenging religion. I wanted to get ‘caught’ reading it to see why might be said but I know it would be considered offensive. My atheism is something that is fine here as long as I don’t mention it. The book challenged me intellectually. I found myself having to look up stuff on the internet that I did not have sufficient understanding of to process the meaning. I frequently had to look up words in the dictionary to make sense of a sentence I had just read. Having finished it I might just have to read it all over again. It put into rational, intellectual and academic terms something I have believed for a very long time. ‘God is not great, and religion poisons everything’. I almost feel evangelical about this book. Everyone should at least read the first chapter. If everyone read the whole book with an open heart and mind the world would change overnight.

Holiday break:
Have I blogged as much as I can about my experiences of North Carolina? I set out to cover the strange life I found myself living in NC by themes and hope I have achieved this. I know there are many things that I haven’t covered (some I wouldn’t know where to begin!!!) so if you can think of any please comment. Blogs don’t flow so easily of late. Readership has changed too - I have more readers in the USA than the UK now. I think I might be boring my friends at home... or they have forgotton me already!
I may post the odd blog over the next couple of weeks (perhaps they are always odd) so look out for new posts. You can subscribe and I think it emails you with new posts! …but it is time for a blog holiday. I have little idea of who reads my blogs and I am so glad that you do/did. I hope you enjoyed them. xxx
I will leave you to read ‘God is not Great’ and I will start to pack up my life once again in readiness to move to pastures new. We had it officially confirmed today that we will be moving to Texas in September.  I feel certain that it will not be long before I feel a blog coming on! A new improved blog with new improved experiences (Something tells me Texas will be rich in material!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lie back and think of England!

I have a confession to make. Forgive me for I have sinned. It has been a year since my last dental visit. Your reaction to the sin might well be based on where you are reading this. Apparently British teeth are the butt of American humour. They believe Brits have bad teeth. In an episode of The Simpson’s, Lisa Simpson was shown "The Big Book of British Teeth" by her orthodontist, presumably to scare her into flossing! I found whole debates on line on whether this stereotyping of teeth was justified.
I think at the very least there might be some confusion between teeth that are bad and teeth that are simply not American. Big, white and fake! I happen to love big white fake teeth and would happily have some oversized gnashers in my own gob for vanity. I also happen to like the fact that my teeth are my own, relatively straight, relatively white and they do fit and have been declared healthy in my regular 6 monthly check ups that I have observed until I moved to the land of the teeth. 
Maybe I was afraid to go to an American dentist. Teeth here are superhuman after all. My daughter was upset when her ‘yellow’ teeth were pointed out by an American kid. She was 8 at the time with strong, healthy, normal teeth. They are not bleached – I guess that doesn’t make them dazzling white. It was suggested that I take my son to the dentist when he lost his first tooth (by natural means, unlike the American YouTube clips I found where kiddie teeth were pulled by string attached to dogs, doors and rockets!) My 5 year old was taught all about flossing in school. I am a bad mother. I haven’t introduced him to the art of flossing. As I may have said before, he can barely wipe his own arse, let alone floss and I would hate for him to confuse the two. Annoyed by the American attitude my children experienced I was pleased to find that when it comes to Children’s dental health Britain does better than the USA. (America, I confess fares better with 35-44 year olds!)
I was afraid of going to the dentist not least because of the whole complicated insurance stuff but I did finally book an appointment. I had to fill in pages and pages as a new patient. It asked what I liked best about my previous dentist. I said ‘that he only ever did something that was absolutely necessary’. Initial appointments are 1 ½ hours long! Plenty of time to lie back and think of England! I had around 8 dental x-rays. I then had a check and my gum pockets measured. They are deeper than they should be at the back and require deep cleaning. I am reminded of cleaning carpets for some reason! I sat for a good 30 minutes while my health insurance was contacted to see if they covered the clean up. While I waited I was shown a DVD of how to clean your teeth properly. I have a further confession. I use a firm toothbrush. They are bad. The film said so. That must be why I couldn’t find ‘firm’ amongst the vast choice of tooth brushes.
Good news – My insurance covers 80% of my cleaning bill! I had to ask what 20% meant in real $ before I agreed to a deep clean. I was in the chair for 2 hours, watching videos, having x-rays and having an interim clean. I have to go back for deeper cleaning! I have to say as scale and polishes go, the dentist just did the scale (polish on a later visit!) and it was the most thorough scale I have ever had. I shot out of the chair a couple of times when the assistant applied the suction directly on a mouth ulcer I have. Fun!
I was advised I needed 1 filling (which I was told was not as important as the cleaning), and all 4 wisdom teeth removing, as they serve no purpose and one of them, which is filled, would be too hard to refill! I had never been told this before. I have heard too many horror stories about the removal of wisdom teeth, including a jaw splintering with the force of pulling the wisdom tooth! Mine are staying!
On the way out the receptionist asked me if I flossed. She had obviously heard that my teeth needed deep cleaning. I answered honestly, given the circumstances– I don’t take flossing as seriously as Americans seem to. I have another confession, I do not floss quite the way it told me to, with quite the same thoroughness and enthusiasm they recommended in the DVD. She asked me if the UK adhered to World Health Organisation standards of an annual check up. WTF?! I curtly informed her that the UK recommends check-ups every 6 months, just like America, and that dentists in the UK (if you can find one) are as qualified. |I should have added ‘…and we have dishwashers’.
I checked the World Health Organisation’s website and couldn’t find the annual dental recommendation. They seemed far more focused on some of the basics hindering good oral hygiene like poor living conditions; low education; lack of traditions, beliefs and culture in support of oral health…inappropriate exposure to fluorides…poor access to safe water or sanitary facilities’.
I was interested to see one of the biggest challenges to healthy teeth was sited ‘as the consumption of sugary soft drinks which is a major risk factor in dental caries. Also, dental erosion seems to be a growing problem and in some countries an increase in erosion of teeth is associated with an increase in consumption of beverages containing acids.’
My teeth need some ‘deep cleaning’. Is this because:
1.      I missed a 6 month check up?
2.      My dentist in the UK has lower standards ?
3.      I don’t floss as much as I should?
4.      The Americans are nuts?
5.      The absurd amount of Coke-Cola I have consumed since arriving here has rapidly caused the need for a ‘deep clean’?
6.      All of the above?
I do believe, bottom line, that dental care is down to the individual. People all over the world have bad teeth. Americans can have bad teeth although some teeth I have seen here would make Simon Cowell’s teeth look natural. Cosmetically stunning teeth are not the same as healthy teeth. Since arriving here it would seem I have neither – time to go and see my UK dentist for some reassurance! He, after all, only does things that are absolutely necessary. Until now I really believed ‘deep’ cleaning my teeth fell into that category!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Man For All Seasons!

Brits are fairly obsessed with the weather. Unsurprising really given it is so unreliable and interchangeable in Britain. It also gives us something to moan about. It is different in North Carolina – not in the least because the weather forecasts are usually spot on! When people ask me if I like it here in North Carolina I diplomatically answer ‘I like the weather’. That worked until April when tornadoes killed people a couple of miles from where we live.
When we moved here last June it felt like stepping off the plane when you go on a tropical holiday. Extremely hot and the oxygen tap had been turned off. The weather all summer stayed in the high 80’s up to 100°F. (30-38°C) Add the extreme heat to up to 90% humidity and the weather has health warnings for the old, young, infirm and pasty white! Too hot to do anything unless in toe dipping distance of a pool or the ocean. As a rookie to the heat I accepted a table outside at a restaurant where people had a 30 minute wait for a table inside. I couldn’t understand why everyone was inside where the air-con was set so low you needed a jumper (now there is a word that makes the Americans laugh – I think it means some sort of hillbilly denim dungarees – they say ‘sweater’ which is far too descriptive for me!). I felt smug, jumping the queue and going out on the patio. I didn’t feel so great not actually needing a sweater but being one! Sweat dripped profusely from the end of my nose (I know ladies are supposed to glow and horses sweat but the glow was so intense I almost spontaneously combusted) and flies swarmed round me like a sweating old mare in the field. Ugh!
Two weeks ago the weather was still a pleasant 25°C (77°F) and not humid. At lunch time a restaurant said their patio wasn’t open. I said I would go elsewhere to eat. It is so lovely to eat al fresco when the weather is good that I didn’t want to miss the tiny window of opportunity to do so here. Two weeks on and it is already up in the 30’s. Our electric bill goes from around $50 a month to $350 on air con. Hubby likes it fridge cold (leaving me in my jumpers at night!) but some days it is such a relief to walk in from the heat.
Rain doesn’t clear the humidity and it doesn’t really cool down at night! Sub tropical and lovely… until the thunder storms and tropical cyclones start. I had never seen or heard storms like it until I came to NC. Someone once said thunder is God moving his furniture. Well, in NC he is smashing it to smithereens! The noise is deafening. The lightening forks like it does in the movies and white-lights the darkness. The first time it happened, in the middle of the night, the kiddies came running in to our room along with the cats with ‘WTF?’ expressions on all our faces! If we’re lucky thunderstorms bring torrential rain. If we are unlucky we have hail – huge hail! Head hurting, bonnet (hood) denting hail! We also get summer fog! Weird! Like a Turkish bath house!
By September it cools but that brings Hurricanes! We had constant warnings last year. Hurricane Earl promised destruction while we were at the beach There was mass hysteria, as unlike Katrina which destroyed downtown New Orleans, Earl had the audacity to threaten
Wisteria Lane
’s beach houses. As it was Earl was nothing but hot air – Full of promise but petering out to nothing after being ruffled by a light breeze. Apparently they only started using men’s names for Hurricanes in 1979. I know a few like Earl! There is a whole system for naming them which isn’t as random as you would be forgiven for thinking! We regularly have chaos and mayhem from Hurricane Charlie here in NC!!!
We had some cold weather over the winter – far less depressing than a UK winter because it was far less cloudy. Even when really cold the sky is blue. It snowed a few times and made for a hazardous trip to Florida on Boxing Day. You can ski in the mountains in NC up until March (although when we went in February the snow was man made).
The big shock this Spring was the tornadoes. North Carolina has two or three a year but is outside ‘Tornado alley’. I didn’t expect the scale of tornadoes that hit in April leaving over 20 people dead, hundreds injured and thousands of lives devastated by the destruction of homes and properties. Our house was 20 miles from the eye of the storm. Being in the Land of Oz I was able to put on my ruby red slippers, click my heels three times and say ‘there is no place like home (and be thankful I flew to England, 2 days before the storms hit).
We are back now to the sub tropical summer. I got comedy sunburn last weekend. My 9 year old daughter applied my sun lotion (factor 30) to my back which in retrospect could be described as slapdash – leaving some areas unprotected. My son then sprayed factor 50 in the middle of my back. The result? Modern art.
I have been here a year in June. Do I like it in North Carolina? Well, I like the weather, apart from the extreme heat, extreme humidity, tornadoes, hurricanes, hail, fog, thunder, lightening and snow – Yeah… I love it!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Commercial Break # 5 Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat

I loved the comic Viz  when I was younger. I still find it funny now but when it first came out it was outrageous. If you haven’t heard of this UK phenomenon Viz was a comic that looked like an innocuous children’s comic but it wasn’t. It was offensive toilet humour mocking comics with characters like ‘the Fat Slags’ and one of my favourites, ‘jelly Head’ and mocking the tabloid press with spoof stories. It had a hilarious top tips section. It even had fake advertising. I remember two: One was a ‘salad thief’ which was telescopic and you could take a ton of salad at the ‘visit once only’ salad bar; Another was a ‘glitter shitter’ which was designed to sprinkle glitter over dog shit to make it look pretty on the pavement! On the website today they are selling T-towels of the life of Jesus in cats Jesus died for your sins... now let him DRY for your sins with this fantastic Life of Christ in Cats tea towel’. I want one of those! Some of my stock sayings originate from Viz, from ‘Fnar, Fnar’ to promising ‘god will reward you with bright lights and music in your head’ taken from one of the spoof stories. It was clever, raw, crude, lewd, rude and funny. It also took the piss out of silly celebrities who took themselves too seriously -the antithesis of ‘Hello’ and ‘OK’.
I was very excited this weekend at the beach, waiting in a queue at a convenience store when I spied a Viz like publication. ‘BUSTED LOCALS’. It had all the Viz ingredients. The front cover was full of ‘Mug Shots’ of criminals with silly strap lines beneath each photo, taking the piss out of how they looked such as ‘You can’t charge me if I cry’ beneath a sobbing girl and ‘real men cry too, just ask my mom, she’ll tell you’ underneath a tearful man. An old man with bad teeth had ‘I’m here for the dental exam, right? Pure comedy. There was a competition advertised on the front page ‘Match the perp to the crime’. There were 8 mug shots and 8 crimes from domestic abuse, trespassing and aggravated assault. It encouraged the maximum attention to racial and social stereotyping in order to unite 'perp' with the offence. Had to be a joke! Didn’t even say charged or ‘alleged’ crime. There was a caption competition too. Another mug shot and the invitation to add ‘fun with captions’. My favourite section was ‘Scum of the week’. It said ‘these punks are charged with atrocious crimes’ and there were the mug shots, names and atrocious crimes. Dirty Harry would never have taken them alive.
I stood in the queue chuckling away. I got some funny looks. I often do so I ignored it I carried on reading. There were Viz style spoof stories, one under a heading ‘Wild and weird’ telling of one man in England who bit the head off a snake (and it wasn’t Ozzy Osbourne) and a hit an run (only in America) by a man with clown makeup on who was part of the ‘Insane clown posse’ It is a cult and the followers are called ‘Juggalos’. They had a picture of the offender next to a raccoon. I thought it was a spot the difference game. I couldn't see any difference at all! It turned out that the raccoon wasn't a perp but a victim. (I had missed the vizesque 'poor raccoon' caption). Police in Texas discovered raccoon meat being sold at a car wash (along with drugs and liquor!).
It was like Viz but it wasn’t subtle enough and clever enough! The comedy was too obvious! The mug shots were organised into The drunk tank, Arrested’ Theft, Traffick, assault, and one was ‘Sex offenders near you’ which also gave addresses as well as names. I stopped laughing. I noticed the very small print; 'all pictured are innocent until proven guilty’ (except the sex offenders who carried a warning that the information was for protecting the public and taking proactive protective measures but not to become vigilantes). I asked someone in the queue behind me if Busted Locals was for real. It was. I asked if it was meant to be funny. It wasn't. 'It's no laughing matter, ma'am'. The mug shots were of people arrested in the area in the last two weeks or so (being published bi-weekly). For $1 I could look at them all. For free, I can follow Busted Locals on Facebook.
When I thought it was a joke I found ‘Busted Locals’ funny. Maybe Viz should launch a new section in the comic- I would suggest ‘match the perp to the crime’ has some mileage. Not sure Viz would do a much better job of it though in terms of pure comedy!
As a serious publication I find Busted Locals shocking! ‘Innocent until proven Guilty’ was enshrined in the Magna Carta of 1215. Given America lifted their legal system form the UK it is firmly in law here too. It is part of the 5th Amendment "No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law ..." i.e. a fair trial! Not sure where Busted Locals features as part of due process but if not assisting ‘trial by Media’ it seems a tad bit unfair to publish mug shots when the crime is only ‘alleged’ (I couldn’t find that word any where in the mag) and not proven in a Court of Law.

One of the cartoonists of Viz once said “"We pride ourselves on the fact that you're no cleverer when you've read Viz. You might have had a few laughs, but you've not learnt anything". That’s something Viz, Busted Locals and my Blog have in common!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What did Pink Panther say when he stepped on an ant?

Dead Ant, Dead Ant....Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant...

I was reminded, this weekend, of the dear little dog I had when I was growing up called ‘Happy’. Her favourite things were chocolate, beer and fighting! She was a vicious, mean little Jack Russell who would bite you given half the chance. Her name wasn’t a misnomer. She was truly ‘happy’ and never more so than when causing someone or something else some misery.  Old ladies would hit me with their walking sticks when my dog had attacked their little pouches unprovoked. I would desperately try to get her on her lead as large Alsatians approached. Their owners would call out ‘Don’t worry, my dog is friendly’. It was never their dog’s temperament I was worried about. It was their dog’s safety and welfare. I’ve seen her make a Rottweiler cry. For a small dog she packed a punch. I have seen her swing off the back of horses’ tails and Hell’s Angels’ jeans. A boy I really liked came round to see me at our house on Christmas day when I was 15. I took it to be a favourable sign of his interest. My dog saw it as an imposition and bit him so hard on his finger he lost his fingernail. He lost interest in me almost instantly!
She came off worse with two Irish Wolfhounds she attacked in their own garden and had to have 13 stitches. It didn’t deter her. There was only one person who wasn’t fair game for her. That was me. For me, she was the sweetest, most loving and loyal little dog I have ever known. She was my best friend for 17 years, through my teenage angst, family traumas and my early twenties. Friends came and went but she was steadfast till the end at the ripe old age of 17.
Given my love for her it might seem odd of me to compare her to a vile Red Fire Ant. Like me, the ant is not native to North America so strictly speaking it is called the Red Imported Fire Ant. (what do you call and ant from overseas? Important!) It has invaded from the south and is marching northward. It has colonized North Carolina and hit Virginia. It causes all manner of damage to roads ($200 worth per ant caused ‘depression’ – a hole in the road where ant tunnels have caused it to cave in- in NC!) and chewed through electrical wiring! Red fire ants are the leading cause of traffic light shorts in Texas, apparently, where they cause more than US$140 million in damage each year. (Remind me never to go to Texas – I think I should migrate north ahead of the ants!)
They are feisty little f**kers, like my dear old dog. Happy never bit my dad but she saw him as a target for relentless torture. Apart from drinking his beer, when he mowed the lawn with his hover mower she seemed to take this as a personal affront and would attack the mower with everything she had. She did the same when he tried to ‘mop’ or sweep with a broom. She would latch on to the broom and not let go. You could swing her round and she would hold on, growling and tugging with all her might. Her teeth firmly attached and embedded. If she managed to get any purchase she would dig her heels in and treat it like a tug of war, jaws locked and snarling. She loved it and there was very little you could do to shake her off. She attached herself in much the same way, to a wooly hat my mom had on once!
I was reminded of my dog when we went to the beech this weekend. We were just leaving the beach house that boasted a glorious beach front view of the Atlantic Ocean. (That was last year, before someone erected a 3 story beach house just in front of it! The owners had an ‘L-shaped’ plot and chose to build on the _ bit that had a 2 story house in front. They build a 3 story house and boasted glorious views… until the 2 story house grew a story! How silly when they could have built on the ‘l’ bit of the L.)  My daughter ran screaming back saying something had bitten her. That something was still attached to her foot. You could literally see it tugging with its little teeth- like a psychotic Jack Russell on the end of a broom. Teeth holding on while it stung her foot from its abdomen, up and down like a rampant rabbit. I did what I could never do to my dog. I squidged it.  It left a nasty welt on her foot.

Dead Ant, Dead Ant....Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant...

I checked on line for suggested natural treatments for ant bites. Here are some of them, should you encounter an aggressive red fire ant:

  1. Vegetables and fruits are a great natural remedy for treating ant bites. For example, you can pour lemon juice directly onto an ant bite. A slice of cucumber on the bite is also helpful, as well as a little bit of onion or a clove of garlic. (Are we still talking fire ants, vampires or a nice salad?!)
  2.  Aloe Vera – especially straight from the plant. If you can get your hands on one (Yeah… They are growing all over the place…. Maybe in Texas!)
  3. Make a thick paste out of baking soda and water. Apply it straight onto the ant bite. Besides taking care of the pain, this paste should also help with the itching. This is also a great way to treat bee stings.  I think it is also a really good solution for cleaning bathrooms….according to Aggie and Kim!
  4. Apply a tea bag to the bite to neutralize the acid in it.  Not sure I would use up one of my precious PG Tips, even for my daughter
  5. Apply ammonia to the ant bite. (Is an alternative to ammonia, to wee on the ant bite? I got bitten by a feral cat in Greece once and was told to wee on it to stop the infection. I did, and it did! (wee on my bite not the cat) Didn’t think I should encourage my daughter to wee on her feet or for me to do it!
  6. Worcestershire sauce is another secret weapon against ant bites, which can also be found in the typical kitchen. All you need to do is cover the ant bite(s) with a piece of paper towel and soak it with the Worcestershire sauce. Now they are taking the pee!
While I saw the resemblance of my dog to fire ants in the instant I saw the little critter attacking my daughter she was not like the fire ant at all! Unlike Red Fire Ants, while really disliking small children, my dog rarely bit them. Unlike Red Fire Ants she caused minimal damage to farmland and livestock, spare the odd horse’s tail. She never chewed though electrical wiring, although she did her best to kill electrical appliances such as the hoover and mower. Unlike Red Fire Ants she never invaded the States but like any good redneck she would come out all guns blazing and would kill for a beer!