Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dear Santa, Jesus, God...

As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods,
They kill us for their sport

Dear Jesus, The Holy Shamrock, Zeus, Santa and all the other big wigs!

I am sorry! I have clearly pissed you all off …a lot! I know I have mocked religion just a little in my blog. I include Santa as a God because he has the same credentials… imaginary, blindly believed in by millions of hapless people (in this case, children, lied to by parents rather than priests) and he promises things if you are good but never delivers… someone else has to fake it! He shares a special day with Jesus. Oh, and like religion he is a massive commercial success! I have failed to maintain the magic of Santa for my 10 year old who now thinks you’re fake (sorry!).
I know I’ve been a bad girl but I didn’t realize how bad until the Karma came back around!
Being told I have to leave the promised land of Americana, the land of milking the honeys to move to Sweden should have been enough punishment for all my badness. To exchange the glorious sunshine and shallowness of Texas for cold dark days in Sweden will give me time enough to reflect on my sins, but no! Not enough for you bastards.
First, you cause me to break my little toe en-route, not just stub it…an oblique fracture which means it twisted and broke diagonally! I was forced to endure the hideous shame of having to buy and wear fake crocs. This guaranteed the whole trip hurt a lot!
Maybe Santa it was because I eat smoked Reindeer on my first day in Sweden, looking for houses and schools that you butted into the equation to ruin Christmas. I was told it was a delicacy. It looked bad and tasted worse and I will never do it again! I promise. I’ll stick to fermented herring from now on as a form of self flagellation for ever eating Rudolf!
We were shown a house that I now see represents heaven! A heavenly aspiration a bad MoFo like me will never attain! It was beautiful. It overlooked a lake. It had its own little jetty and a boat. It had a sauna. And the pièce de résistance, a potato store! You’ve made it in Sweden if you have a potato store. Most swedes can only dream of such a thing, although I don’t think you have to limit storage just to potatoes!  A whole room dedicated to root vegetables so we could bunker down in the winter. It was there in the Lake house. Heaven! So close… and yet way to fucking far from civilization! 3 hours a day dedicated to the school run is just too much! Like heaven… out of reach! You Bastards!
So we looked at houses in the town! You showed me heaven and gave me hell!
Hell #1 was a tiny apartment that quite clearly some old person had died in. Not only did it not have a potato store it didn't have space for a washing machine. There was a communal laundry room where I would be given a WEEKLY slot to do my washing! You godly bastards know I have to run a washing machine 24/7 to clean up after my son! His lack of bottom wiping skills alone fill a washing mashing load on a daily basis.
Hell #2  I grew up on a council estate of blocks of flats. It was condemned years ago. I thought it had been knocked down but no! It had been moved brick by brick to Sweden Karmly waiting for me to come back round!
Hell #3 A house smaller than my first 2 up 2 down house. I accept that the house in Texas is absurdly big but moving into a living space the size of our bathroom in Texas is too much of a compromise
Hell #4 I think the torture chamber scenes from ‘the girl with the Dragon tattoo’ were filmed here. More than one person had died. Think trailer park trash Swedish style! Maybe it was the mock crocs giving out all the wrong signals to the relocation agency about the sort of person I was!
Then there were the schools! Only a choice of two that had English lessons. One school would not take my son (I thought his reputation preceded him but they do not take kids under 10) and the other that appeared to be floating on a mud lake! I could turn a blind eye to the ramshackled shit hole of a building. I could turn a blind eye to the lack of adult supervision outside, it was cold! I could turn a blind eye to the poor behaviour I saw in the classroom, I couldn’t understand it and I would have played up because it was in Swedish! SWEDISH!!!! That bit I couldn’t ignore! 50% of lessons at the ‘international’ school were in Swedish! My daughter struggles with maths in English! Added to that, my son started school at 4 in the UK. They made him start again at 5 in the USA. They want to make him start again in Sweden at 7. They showed me the reception class of 7 year olds. It looked like a nursery class. My son reads novels!
So the punishment continues! I tried to be creative. Live in the lake house, I reasoned! Store potatoes, invite the neighbours round to view the impressive array of root vegetables and drive 50 kilometers to the school each day. Pretend the school was lovely. Go to university to fill the time while the kids are at school. The only Masters course I could apply for? Holocaust and Genocide studies! Sweden has a higher suicide rate in polar winter. I fear the rate may increase by 1!

So! I move to Sweden in January.

My dear gods! I know I haven’t prayed for … a very long time…. Errr Ok, never! But I’m f**king praying now!

Yours repentantly

Stranger about to enter a Stranger Land Still!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kiddie Party Time! Texas Style!

It is hard to entertain Kids these days. They live in a fast moving high tech world where it takes a lot to impress. This is especially true when it comes to planning their birthday parties. When I was little a birthday party meant having a maximum of 6 friends round for beef paste sandwiches and Jelly (made in the special rabbit mould that was only used for birthdays). If someone was really pushing the boat out they had French Fancies or Swiss roll. We couldn't afford French Fancies! Fortunately I hate French fancies so I was always very excited by party ring biscuits! Still am! Nothing like a sugar coated party ring!
There was no such thing as party bags. If you were lucky you got the prize from pass-the-parcel and a slice of home made birthday cake! These days party bags are such a nightmare. I have spent many a sleepless night worrying about whether I’ll measure up with my party bag offerings! The world of party bags is very competitive, and it isn’t limited to party bags. My daughter went to one party where there was a basket of toy fluffy cute puppies at the door, for each girl to take one as they left. I’m surprised they weren’t real pooches! In my day the party bag was the girl who had already started puberty early and behaved inappropriately with someone’s brother, or worse, their dad! Still is!
In America my son’s birthday is well into the Summer holiday so I was at a loss as to what to do as there are only a few of his friends around. My daughter had her party at a place called Gatti–Town! You can eat as much Pizza as you want and I have to confess to loving their coconut and custard pizza (I know! Irresistible!) but that aside it was as vulgar as it sounds! You buy each party guest a ‘credit card’ which they use to gamble on Amusement arcade type games. They win tickets which they can exchange for tat. A $25 card will win them enough tickets to exchange for around $2 worth of absolute shite. The kids love it. They expect at least $25 each on their cards! One of her friends manically tried to win a big ball in one of those grab machines. Each go cost $2.50. The balls are for sale in Wal-mart for $2. Two of the girls managed to get a ball. She spent her whole card trying to get one in the first 10 minutes of arriving. I had to buy her another card so that she wasn’t sitting alone for an hour with bugger all to do, while I walked round with huge balls! I don’t want to go there again (except for the pizza pudding) I really don’t want to engage in such blatant corruption of small children again. It encourages gambling and a desire for big balls at the very least.
There is no point taking him to somewhere like the new $60 million Pleasure Pier at Galveston. Not only will there be height restrictions on some of the rides which will be sure to frustrate and disappoint the Birthday Boy but it will be worse than Blackpool! Redneck heaven! ‘Galveston’, ‘Pleasure’, and ‘Ride’ are not words that should be naturally associated unless you’ve been on the moonshine or you are on holiday to Galveston from Kentucky with your cousins!
I have found something authentic for his birthday. Something that is Texan through and through and it is very local! A birthday party at the local Gun range! I don’t accept the obvious criticism that a party atmosphere in the context of firearms for children is wrong, misguided, dangerous or irresponsible! I know some kids get a sugar rush after cake but it’s not like they’ll be doing anything dangerous - just firing off a few rounds! This is Texas FFS! Better still, there is no age limit and the only height requirement is that the kids can see over the shooting tables (approx 36” so even toddlers might qualify!)
There are some rules from the Arms Room in Houston to ensure maximum health and safety:

  1. Keep muzzle pointed down range AT ALL TIMES. Do not point a weapon at anything you do not want to destroy.
Best make sure siblings are not together then at the party… oh and the class weirdo that no one likes. Don’t invite him. Have you read ‘There’s something about Kevin’? It starts when they are young.
  1. Index your finger out of the trigger guard. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
Have you ever played any sort of competitive game with a 7 year old where they have to wait? They never wait until the ‘Go’ on ‘Ready, Steady…’ I knew a trained professional police office who once ignored this rule to his complete shame! He put his finger on the trigger, got over excited and discharged his fire arm all over the place. Very messy!
  1. Do not load firearm until ready to shoot. Loaded firearms must always remain in the shooting stall, pointed down range.
Confusing! Once loaded and ready to shoot how can you shoot if they have to remain in the shooting stall? Apply a small child logic and that rule has none! I have a small child mentality and it isn’t logical!
  1. Hearing and eye protection must be worn AT ALL TIMES when on the range.
This will work, because my son always wears the nerf gun safety glasses and never purposely shoots anyone else in the face with foam bullets.
  1. Absolutely no running or horseplay when on the range. All children must be under adult supervision AT ALL TIMES.
Children! Absolutely no running or horseplay …at a birthday party where everyone is over excited. Don’t be having any fun! Oh and parents – control your f**king own children. I can barely control my own!
  1. No shooting from the hip or quick drawing. Fire from chest level or above only.
So, kids, all those cowboy movies you’ve seen where the hero quick draws and kills all the baddies… Not at this party! No Fancy Nancy gun slinging here! No rootin tootin paula style twizzling of your guns!
  1. Everyone must obey the instructions/directions of the Range Safety Officer AT ALL TIMES.
  2. In the event of the Range Safety Officer ordering a Cease Fire: UNLOAD your firearm, place your firearm on the bench (pointing down range), and step back off the firing line.
As a teacher I know, according to professional research, it takes 5 seconds for student’s brains to disengage from whatever it was they were focused on in order to focus on an instruction from me. As a mother I know that is just bollocks and kids will do whatever they like at a birthday party (or anywhere else for that matter. Selective hearing is an art form of the young!)
Oh…and that small child logic? If they have obeyed rule number 4 and have their hearing protection on they have a perfect excuse not to hear any adults!
  1. When leaving the firing line: All weapons MUST BE UNLOADED, locked in the open position (with chamber visible) and carried in a safe manner off the firing line.
No last minute Dirty Harry shoot out to be the last man standing! This isn’t musical chairs with a difference. Everyone must still have legs to stand on! Are you listening Kevin?

For my fortieth birthday, ‘friends’ took me paint balling. It was great. I got shot in the head and had pink paint running down my face to prove it. Those paint balls hurt! The big issue for that was how much ammo to buy. Too much and it can get out of hand. Too little is no party at all! I confess I went completely over the top and got paint grenades and smoke bombs and way too many paint ball bullets! I got shot so quickly every round I didn’t get chance to shoot anyone else! I thought I was Rambo! Children were not allowed to go paint balling as it was seen as too dangerous! Texas is a proper place. They give the kids real guns for fun at the kiddy ‘birthday cake and guns’ party. My big dilemma will be how much ammo to apportion each child! There will always be one trigger happy mo-fo that uses up all the ammo in the first 5 minutes and spoils it for everyone else! Especially if the kiddy in question is called Kevin, didn’t much like the other kids and abided firmly by rule no.1.

Addition September 2014
After writing this blog, in August 2014 a 9 year old shot dead her instructor at a firing range in Arizona, with an Uzi. There really is nothing funny in the message of my blog. It is deadly serious. There is something deeply disturbing and tragic about the American psyche. It's no laughing matter. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Something Fishy!

I have a fish phobia. There are several incidents I can connect to this but I’m not sure which ones caused the phobia and which are the result of my dislike for all things fishy!
When I was very young my Dad would take me fishing with him, in the early hours of the morning. Why is it that fishermen feel the need to go fishing at 4am? Are fish nocturnal? Are they early risers? Being dragged out of bed at 4am to sit on a freezing cold riverbank for hours on end may have been the start of my dislike.
I’m not sure if it was the horrid little wriggling gold fish in the net or the smell of my sister’s rancid fish tank made me heave when I was forced to clean it after she left home and abandoned her fish but by the time I was in my teens I had a serious aversion to fish! One once leaped for freedom from the tank and my little Jack Russell dog picked it up and delivered it to me in my bed! It is painful to relive the moment! Too Gross!
I don’t mind eating them as long as they no longer resemble fish! Live fish make me physically heave! I once virtually cut my finger in half trying to chop the head off a trout I was going to cook without looking at it. The first time I met hubby’s whole family was at his Grandmother’s birthday. I ordered fish and prawns but to my horror they arrived with all their shells and bits still attached. I pulled a head off a prawn and yellow snotty gunge oozed out while the fish looked at me through its milky boiled eye! I eat nothing and blamed my subsequent level of inebriation on lack of food. It, or should I say I, failed to ever impress the future in-laws but his 80 odd year old grandmother enjoyed the show and the family discord that followed!
I probably shouldn’t say this but my own dear grandmother used to fish …on the settee! Perhaps some gynecological problem related to old age! It certainly left an impression on me!
When we moved to a house with a double garage I got hubby a pool table for Christmas and installed a brand new beer fridge in the garage. The fridge had barely cooled when my mother house sat for a week. She has a fisherman friend and was often the lucky recipient of Seaman Stains’ catch from his little tug boat on the high seas. When I returned there was a gigantic dead salmon in there, with head, bitey teeth and blood dripping! It was so huge it had to be curled round on the empty self so it could fit in! I think that was the moment I switched to red wine which doesn’t need to be chilled. Indeed, fish may be the route cause of my alcoholism! …and I never played pool!
The local supermarket here in Houston boasts a live crawfish fest every weekend they have a huge vat of live crawfish (crayfish) that look like a cross between huge beetles and cockroaches. There are big tongs to use to pick out the best for your crawfish gumbo. . I don’t understand how a nation with so little taste and so lazy (you can buy spray cheese and all your vegetables ready chopped – if you are insane enough to cook and not eat out) buys living, whole creatures to boil alive! I try not to look every week but it has the same pull as a car crash. I head to the wine aisle quickly afterwards!
I have been driven to drink again today by fish, lest I dwell on the new horror I face here in Texas. I have spent the day vacuuming and spaying toxic bug killer that, knowing America will contain chemicals known to render my children infertile, but is completely acceptable because it kills the bugs! The cause of this frenzied activity? No! Not acceptance of my lot as a desperate house wife …I will never surrender on that one! It is my fear of fish. I don’t care that SILVER FISH are not technically fish; they look and move like a fish -out of water. I could accept that they might lurk in damp dark bathrooms but I found one in the wardrobe on an item of clothing! That means they could be anywhere! They like eating books, clothing, hair and dandruff and while they can live a year without food they wont need to in my bedroom with all those things in abundant supply! They like it hot and humid! So did I till I discovered them! Welcome to Texas!
The bastards are nocturnal! As I go to bed tonight, glass of red in one hand, Dyson hand held vac in the other (and hubby in Detroit where it is cold and dry and silverfish free) I will reminisce fondly of those early mornings on the river bank with my father … because , come to think of it, he never actually caught a fish!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

See You Next Tuesday!

Texan Gynaecology
Well Woman’s Clinic – Every Tuesday!

Rules of Engagement for fellow Gynaecologists

To guide you though this special profession remember Philippians 14:3
 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!’
In other words what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Jesus turned those two fishes in to 5000 and I bet not all of them were fresh. If he could put up with the smell so can you!

  • Always have a female nurse present. Imperative to avoid any lawsuits for malpractice. The presence of a nurse should not inhibit any mal-practice. Who are they to distinguish between an examination and a fondle or a fiddle?
  • Always wear loose fitting pants and keep your gun in its holster. No Texan wants a loaded gun misfiring whilst at work
  • Always remove your Stetson. A miner’s hard hat and lamp are far more practical, although the wide rim of the Stetson can stop you going in too deep.
  • Always wear gloves but remember to take them off for lunch and coffee breaks.
  • Disregard the dating rule of ‘tits first’. An assertive approach heading straight to the vagina keeps it professional.
  • Do not describe the utensils. Some women are alarmed if you describe the brush spatula. One believed it was needed in relation to her unkempt appearance down below.
  • Follow the ‘Head, shoulders, Knees and Toes’ song but change the body parts (essentially Vagina, anus, stomach and breasts in that order - however more playful words make it catchy when you sing it during clinic. For example: 
‘Vag, arse, tummy and tits, tummy and tits!
Vag, arse, tummy and tits, tummy and tits
Pies and eyes and mouth and bits,
vag, arse, tummy and tits

  • If you hit teeth either you have gone too far or the myths are true. It is not the best entrance for an oral examination.
  • A ‘Bimanual examination’ is not a 2 man job – just a 2 hand job – one on the tummy, the other inserted inside the vagina and then see if you can clap!
  • A rectovaginal examination allows for a complete evaluation of the uterus from behind, particularly if any suspicious masses are appreciated.– any other masses encountered are usually immediately identifiable and should not be manually removed!
  • Do not use the same fingers for each orifice. It is best to give notification when switching from one to the other.
  • Do not examine both breasts at the same time. While many gynaecologists are perfectly capable of this, it seems to upset the patient!
  • Avoid personal references and observations, even if medically relevant. 'You have a beautiful vulva' may not be interpreted professionally!
  • Never tell the 'Swedish pathologist' joke
  • Never conduct an oral examination
  • Always bid your patient farewell with a cheery ‘See you next Tuesday’

Monday, May 7, 2012

Basketball v's Binatone!

I’m sure I will give my age away when I say I had a Binatone tennis game as a child. At the time it was the height of technological entertainment. You plugged it into the TV and on a black screen two little sticks could be moved by two players to hit a ‘ball’ back and forth. It was exciting for the first five minutes, fuelled in part by the toxic fumes emanating from the plastic casing slowly heating up. Unless the game was timed it could go on for hours with little differential between the scores – unless one player was closer to the fumes! I was reminded of the hours of ‘fun’ my Binatone gave me when I went to see my first ever Basketball game!
This time the little sticks were replaced by very tall sticks and more than two. I’m not sure how many there were. They ran up and down and wouldn’t stand still long enough for me to count them. The light-headedness I had as a child inhaling nauseous gasses (mostly from the overheated Binatone) was caused by vertigo up in the rafters in the cheap seats. We were some distance from the $1500+ ring side seats and had to share a pair of opera glasses I had the foresight to steal when I went to the theatre once. The game action was almost exactly the same as Binatone tennis. The ball went from one side of the court to the other at a relentless rate! I found myself sleeping for much of the time, lulled by the hypnotic pendulum effect of the game. That and total boredom!
I liked it much more than the other American sports I have been subjected to. At least the game was lively, if a little monotonous! I felt I knew something about the game from playing netball when I was 12. Watching some American movies featuring basketball, like High School Musical helped too. I know the difference! In basketball it is a hoop and not a net and netball is loads harder because you can’t do a slam-dunk, which until now I thought was something rather vulgar you did with a Rich Tea Biscuit in a cup of tea! You have to keep your feet on the floor in netball, the net is smaller and without a backboard. Basketball is netball for Americans! We have a basketball illegally erected on our drive. I received a letter from the Neighbourhood association telling me I had to have planning permission!
Wanting to demonstrate my expertise I tried to join in as much as possible. I did get a few funny looks though when I shouted ‘Goal Attack, shoot the outside J’ and ‘gotta keep your head in the game!’
My hubby declared a love of the game and a desire to buy a season ticket. I thought this was really odd as the only time he paid any attention was before they started playing and intervals during the game when the cheer leaders were on. Still, he seemed to be taking it seriously and even practiced dribbling. He may have even performed a double dribble!
Unlike American football and baseball, the players actually move which made it seem more like watching a ‘sport’ rather than a  warm up session on ‘the Biggest loser’. They weren’t fat like the muffin topped baseball players and wore no protective gear at all. They were certainly fit but what amazed me was how often they missed the hoop. The average height of an NBA player is 6’7” and the hoop is 10’. They haven’t got to throw it that far! Seems like an unfair advantage if you are very tall. If they put the hoop lower, shorter people could play!  Even missing it frequently the score was pretty tight all the way through. Binatone standard!
We left early. My son had been shouting for the New Orleans Hornets to win and we were in a stadium full of Red T-shirt wearing Houston Rocket fans. There is no demarcation between home and away fans but given the cost of tickets and travel you would have to be pretty dedicated to travel to away games in different states. I think he was the only Hornet fan there! The locals tolerated my son’s Rocket booing in very good humour considering the rockets were losing. Sport here really is a family affair and there is no spectre of threatened violence hanging in the atmosphere like you get at football matches in the UK!
As we left, with just a quarter of the game to go we noticed people arriving and the stadium filling up. I realised why when I checked the score the next day. The game is all about the timing of the final whistle. It is so close in point scoring that it matters who has the ball last and scores those final points. The Houston Rockets won 84-77. When we left the point difference had been the same against them. Binatone scores!
Even though it was bright orange, the basket ball was certainly more colourful than my Binatone game and they blasted some great spurts of loud rock music in between play at the Houston Rockets which was way beyond the capacity my Binatone game console but with the mind altering fumes it delivered, I think the Binatone had the edge.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Commitment Issues!

I was told that once I came to America I would never want to leave. Companies expect their ex-pats to want to stay, certainly to extend their time here and be resistant to a move. It is the lifestyle America affords: Bigger house, bigger car and bigger teeth! I lack commitment. My home was big enough for my family in the UK, my car was nice enough and I like the fact that my teeth don’t double up as glow sticks in the dark!
I’m not sure if it is the commitment or enthusiasm I lack but I am resistant to any real assimilation!
My son is desperate to fit in here. To do so fully there are certain things he must have or do:

1)     He must have an allergy.  He asks me almost daily what he is allergic to and is so disappointed when I remind him that he isn’t allergic to anything! He came close to getting his wish today! I got a call from the school nurse. He had complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. He had been running in 28ºC weather and not had water. I didn’t feel compelled to take him to ER! They are a bit over zealous here. They would have been performing open heart surgery as soon as they got hold of my medical insurance card! As it happened we had a trip to the doctors arranged. A final written warning that if I didn’t get my children vaccinated against hepatitis A, they would be excluded from school compelled me to find a doctor, just 6 months after moving. They didn’t need Hep A in North Carolina. In fact, according to the internet, it is a vaccine usually given only to people travelling to third world countries with low standards of hygiene ,druggies, homosexuals …and Texans! I think it is because of their proximity to Mexico or the Republican fear of all of the above that makes it compulsory in Texas. They certainly don’t travel anywhere! The Doctor justified its necessity because ‘Americans like oysters’. He was Chinese. I think he was politely saying they eat shit! Before getting the jab I asked the Doctor to check him. He listened to his chest, asked me if he had asthma (to which I said NO) and prescribed a spray for him to use! I politely declined! He was so poorly, my son came home and jumped fully clothed into a freezing pool! He hasn’t got a nut allergy! He is a nut! I foiled his opportunity to queue at the nurse’s office for whatever drug each kiddie is plied with to feel special! I can’t commit!

2)     He must be on the swim team. Every neighbourhood in Azalea Lane has a swim team linked to the community pool. In theory it is a great way to get children swimming more and competitively. My son swims like a dolphin! Literally – he swims below water, surfacing for air. He has no technique other than natural ability. He would benefit from swim team. In reality swim team is 6 weeks of hell… for me! A swim practice every night (different times for different ages so I could be there for hours with two of them), a swim meet every week where they race against another club (but everyone is a winner) that goes on til the early hours of the morning to fit all the races in. The Moms have to be time keepers and pizza fetchers. I cant commit

3)     He must participate in an American sport. Read swim team and replace week days with whole weekends, often in different counties 100’s of miles away for matches and games (where scores are not shared for fear of upsetting the losing team! Everyone’s a winner). The thought of having to ever sit though another moment of baseball fills me with dark thoughts of self harm. I cant commit!

4)     He must embrace all school projects like his life depended upon them! Schools set big homeworks that require an immense amount of parental involvement and expense. My daughter’s science project took me ages and unlike all other mothers I didn’t actually do it all! I made her do the experiment and all the work was in her own words. I just helped with the art work. We experimented on dropping eggs out of the upstairs window with various protective wrappers. My son thought it was just an egg throw and proceeded to chuck eggs onto the garage roof. The stains are still there! The cat was photographed inspecting a cracked egg. She (me) labelled her ‘the adjudicator’. My daughter’s teacher asked her what one was. I do hope she was testing her and not puzzled herself. We went to the Science Fayre. I was really chuffed when I saw my daughter had got ‘first prize’ till I realised about a third had got the same! Everyone’s a winner! The greater the parental involvement, the greater the ranking. Those kids who had done everything themselves got third prize! I asked one boy with first prize what his very complicated graphs demonstrated. He said ‘I don’t know, my mom didn’t tell me’. The over all winner was suitably nerdy looking. While other kids had washed stained socks in different detergents or grown sees, he had carried out rocket science. He was sat by himself on the ‘peanut free table’ They use it at lunch for the ‘allergy’ kids…no nuts there! Will my son ever make it to the nut free table for his contribution to science or through medical malady? I can’t commit!

5)     He must go to church because kids are so busy all week doing a ridiculous number of clubs, sports, activities and extra tutoring they don’t have time for friends. They have to go to church so that they have a friend in Jesus! I can’t commit!

With such a lack of commitment we are fast approaching the time when we have to make some decisions about what we do next if we do not stay here. Visas expire! This time next year we could be back in the UK. I might have to find a job and go back to work. We could be asked to go somewhere cold!
Lying on the sun lounger next to the pool in glorious sunshine reflecting on this I suddenly can’t remember what it is I am having difficulty committing to. I know I have a busy week ahead …swim meet, collect anti-histamines from drive through pharmacy on the way to next game, oh and I have a really exciting robot project to work on…We are blessed! Thank you Jesus!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bacon Joint!

I have been pondering what to do when I return to England and I think I know what it is. I want to run this pitch by you before I run it by the banks. If you wish to invest in the venture feel free to send me money – but don’t expect freebies.

A restaurant totally devoted to BACON! Trust me! Bacon is the new black!
Why? Everybody loves bacon, even vegetarians. Bacon is the food of the Gods…well, the Western gods at least!
Little did the Two Ronnies know when they did a silly parody of an ice-cream parlour where the customer confuses ice-cream flavours with potato crisp flavours that they were on to something. It took Heston Blumenthal to take up the mantle and transform smoky bacon ice-cream from a joke to a reality. If making ice-cream out of bacon infused milk makes him a culinary genius America is the gastronomical capital of the world! Admittedly it has been done in America already with Denny’s leading the way with ‘baconalia’ but I think the UK is ready for the import! Using the American take on Heston Blooming-mental’s concepts I have come up with some signature dishes, more ‘Fat F**K’ than ‘Fat Duck’.

Please note: all dishes are made with American bacon – think, crispy, fatty and smoked!

Bacon choc ice:
Inspired by Burger king’s Bacon Sundae which I thought looked a bit silly with two crispy rashers sticking out of the top of chocolate ice cream. Paying lip service really!
This will be layers of dreamy Bacon ice cream followed by bacon crumbles, sandwiched between two wafers and dipped in chocolate, topped with a sprinkling of bacon dust.

Bacon Smoothie
Inspired by Jack-in-the box (burger chain) bacon milkshake which could be heavily criticised for being made with bacon ‘flavoured’ syrup and containing no actual bacon, this ‘healthy option’ smoothie will combine a pound of real crispy bacon with a banana, fat free yogurt, a pinch of nutmeg and honey for a yum-a-licious breakfast treat of snack.

Bacon Triple burger kebab on a stick
Paula Deen (famous celebrity 'southern belle' cook here in the USA) made the donut burger famous, especially following her diagnosis of type 2 diabetes (the one fat people get).
I say if you are gonna do it, do it with bells on. This will be Paula’s burger and bacon, with fried egg slapped on, sandwiched between a sugar glazed donut with a twist. It with be held together on a kebab stick, dipped in batter and deep fried then smothered with gravy, cheese and bacon crumbles for the perfect topping.

Other ideas:

Bacon donut – a regular donut smothered in bacon crumbles
Bacon Taco: a taco shell made out of bacon and filled with …urm… bacon …and so on! Possibilities are endless!

All dishes will be nut free! Any nuts in the restaurant will be replaced with bacon crumbles!

Baconaise will be on every table. Baconaise is a bacon flavoured spread, used to ensure everything that isn’t bacon tastes like bacon!

Sides: All meals will be served with a side order of Lipitor
Lipitor is possibly America’s leading brand of atorvastatin, taken to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Décor will not be tacky and pig inspired! I’m thinking ‘Little house on the Prairie’: all red and white Gingham. Twee! 
90% of what we taste is odour (I really don’t want to dwell on that thought given the things I’ve smelled!) and who can resist the smell of bacon? I’m hoping Yankee Candle will com on board with little bacon scented candles and big extractor fans blowing bacon smells into the street to lure in baconardos!

I am so excited about this bacon venture either I had a pre-emptive embolism or my heart just skipped a beat! Where’s the Lipitor!

if the link below doesn't work try or search 'Paula Deen's heart attack' on Youtube!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don’t Get Out Much?!*

For one night only:

Don’t Get Out Much?!*
Not sure if this title is a question, a description or a warning

Brit 1
Brit 2
Hubby 1
Hubby 2
Fat old American (FOA): Know-it-all  Norman, Older, Bore
Young skinny American (YSA): Tall, Weird, American Twenty-something, Camp As Christmas

: smoke filled ‘British’ bar (silly paraphernalia on the walls, depicting an American vision of England), band playing too loudly.
Two British women standing talking, when two American men approach

FOA: Gee Girls; do you like the smell of my cologne? Thrusts wrist into faces of the two women They give it to you in the bathroom
Brit 1: gagging No! You smell like an old lady.
FOA: …like lavender and mints?
Brit 1: No. Like Wee!
Brit 2: You smell Gay! You are clearly in touch with your feminine side in your pink shirt!
FOA: Really? Smoothes hands over pink shirt covering huge wok like belly
YSA: Thrusts forward like an ostrich Y’all from London. Ahh kin tell.
Brit 1: Genius!
YSA: Ah been to London town. The girls loved me in London. Why d’ya think that was?
Brit 2: I really can’t imagine why
YSA: do you think it was ma accent?
Brit 1: No!
YSA: Girls love ma accent in London (gives a thumbs up sign to FOA to indicate it is going well)
Brit 2: Where are you from?
YSA: Ahs from Kentucky
Brit 2: Ahh! Have you got many cousins? Isn’t Kentucky where you marry your cousins?
YSA: Looks confused on many levels. Why are those two guys staring at us? points over to 2 men standing just to the left They’re not your BOYFRIENDS are they?
Brit 1: Oh, those two men? They aren’t our boyfriends. YSA looks relieved ...for a moment They are our husbands!

FOA: goes over to Hubby 1 and 2 with outstretched hand Hi, my names Ed Winchester. Do you play Golf?
Hubby 2: No, no!… I’m still sexually active
FOA and Hubby 1 & 2 break off and chat

YSA: still marveling that we have husbands Just how old is you?
Brit 2: to Brit 1 rolling eyes He thinks I’m a MILF Brit 1 shakes head
Brit 2: eyes widen in shock He thinks I’m a Cougar?!
Brit 1: Nooooo! You’re not quite old enough… and besides, cougars are very glamorous!
YSA: Is your husband gonna be, like, mad at me?
Brit 2: No… It is ok. I’ve got a hall pass
YSA: Really? Great! What’s a Hall Pass?

Inane chatter and loud music ensues Fade out

Hubby 2: approaches I’m leaving. The Fat  Old American is boring us to death.
Brit 2: I’ll get rid of him.  to FOA I think American football is shit and pointless!
Mortally wounded, FOA leaves stage left
Hubby 2: I’m still going. I have had six pints and they won’t me serve anymore because they want you to get home safely. Bar policy! You stay if you want.
Brit 2: No! I’ll come home with you
YSA: whining But you have a Hall Pass! He tries to lean in…possibly to snog I thought you said you had a Hall Pass
Brit 2: looking horrified and I thought you said you didn’t know what a Hall Pass was! It was a joke! Besides, even if I had a Hall PassYSA is already walking off towards a table of women where FOA has seated himself
YSA: calls across bar as the 4 Brits leave You have lead me on! Jezebel! Ma cousins would never do that! When they gits a Hall Pass they make dang sure they use it!

* A true story (virtually word for word with the exception of 2 or 3 lines!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mumbai Magic!

As you know, I don’t normally get on my soap box about things but I do feel passionate about learning…and teaching. In my former life I was responsible for the continued professional development of around 60 staff. I was totally dedicated (obsessed) to finding ways for teachers to facilitate better learning. Knowing stuff doesn’t mean you can teach others. Being an expert in something is pointless as a teacher if you don’t have the skills to deliver. A little knowledge goes a long way when you are skilled in the art of teaching. I had the privilege of observing and giving feedback to many gifted teachers. I always felt sad when I sat in a lesson where learning didn’t take place…an hour of opportunity lost because of poor facilitation!
I had a recent ‘learning experience’ that made me appreciate this!

Here is a copy of the lesson observation notes carried out by an OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) Inspector who happened to be at a recent class I went to:

Lesson observation: Tuesday
Class: 15 students: 1 American, 3 Dutch, 11 British. (4 called Herbs, ‘erbs and were deemed as having special educational needs. On further assessment 3 were French speaking and so ‘erbs was acceptable)
(alleged) Aim of lesson: ‘The Spice of Life’ - the spices that go into Indian curry demystified. A cookery class.

Prior Learning:
 Participants had attended a 4 hour ‘beginners session’ in the ‘fundamentals of Indian cuisine’. The teacher described it as a ‘win-some experience’ on her blog. (winsome meaning ‘sweetly or innocently charming’) This wind-some introduction was targeted at the American market and did not stretch the British students who were already very familiar with the subject matter. Curry is the British national dish so rice and daal were well within the students’ capacity to cook alone and unaided without a step by step demonstration. By the end of the lesson the students were very familiar with the chosen university path of the teacher’s son, having listened to a 2 hour monologue but had not added to their curry repertoire.
Student A's own curry dish
During the Plenary the opportunity was given to provide feedback to the teacher, One student (student A) said she did not like the Paneer (cheese) and Spinach dish. Student B and C agreed. The teacher suggested it may be their western palette at fault. Students disagreed. It may just have been shite. The teacher asked for written feedback which student A promised to provide. (Student A did seem very studious- taking notes throught the session observed) Students were distracted by the teacher’s dog intensely licking her bare feet for quite a while. Student A was concerned about hygiene and wondered if the teacher had Paneer in her toes.

Start of the lesson sharing the big picture with learners… what they will do, how and why
The teacher was very thorough in ensuring everyone had paid… in cash and had signed a disclaimer against food poisoning, ceiling fans falling on their heads (as reported in a previous lesson), broken wrists, spontaneous orgasm, convulsions or slow and painful death by boredom.
Student A seemed to distract several other students waiting patiently for the lesson to start, causing one to snort as she tried to avoid laughing out loud (or LOL ), by teasing the teacher’s small dog and saying ‘Don’t lick me, I know where you’ve been.
The teacher asked who had done their reading homework, having pre-sent 30 emails with numerous attachments. Some students began whistling and looked at the ceiling. Student A whispered that the teacher’s dog at eaten her homework along with the toe paneer.
Connect and engage the class: lively and engaging start
The teacher said she liked to be entertaining so that students didn’t tune out. A lone note was heard. I name that tune in one: The high octave of chalk scratching on a blackboard. Either that or someone had not had asafoetida today.
The teacher spoke at the class for 1 hour. Wind-and-then-some.
Siting Doctor Oz and his American TV show as the basis for much of her research, the teacher spoke of the benefits of spices and Indian cuisine in a generic way, telling students that the mortality rate is lower in India (although she failed to say where she was comparing India with, to give students a perspective – perhaps Afghanistan or Belize). She said people in India did not suffer from Alzheimer’s and there was no Autism, just children who were a ‘little slow’ and would have to be looked after by brothers and sisters…or in her case, servants. Although not relevant to the lesson she mentioned having servants in India 17 times.
Not quite in line with winsome and wholesome aims she told students that Indian food kept the bodily fluids of blood, phlegm, vaginal and seminal secretions in balance. (there may have been other fluids but students were unable to hear after the first four because of student B snorting and student A howling).
She told the students that chilli intensified orgasm. It wasn’t clear if this was when ingested or through topical application. Student A referred to a recent article in Time Magazine that claimed 15% of females at the gym orgasm during exercise. Student B became concerned that when she got hot, sweaty and red at the gym it could be misinterpreted. Student A asked if any noises were involved. Gym students confirmed that they often grunted. Student C said she would no longer sit on the bikes at her local gym. Several students wished to discuss the merits or otherwise of chilli and exercise in assisting flow of the bodily fluids mentioned but the teacher did not allow the discussion to flourish and flower…A feeling Student A was familiar with, with regard to the subject matter.
5 students arrived 1 hour late. They seem to have purposely intended to miss the start.

Activating learning:
The teacher gathered the students round her cooking area (the lesson was in the teacher’s home. She preferred ‘homely’ to ‘professional’ kitchens). The teacher demonstrated cooking a potato and egg plant masala and a chicken masala. One student asked if some pre browned onions should be that brown. The teacher said it was very difficult to cook them correctly and that she was not a cook. Several students could not see from the back and began chatting amongst themselves. The teacher sharply told them to pay attention so they could listen to her reminiscing about her mother’s diabetic coma. I noted that several students also appeared comatosed. Several students went to adjust the air-conditioning which seemed to be set on ‘artic’. They did not return to the kitchen!
She recommended adding asafoetida to curries for flatulence. Student A asked whether it was to cause or prevent flatulence. Perhaps students would have been interested to know that asafoetida is also known as ‘devil’s dung’. Student A later said she had discovered the answer for herself. Coincidentally, there was indeed a distinct smell of dung.
Students were not given any opportunity for ‘hands on’ participation or to demonstrate their own learning. They eat the masalas for lunch while the teacher asked who would be attending the next session ‘Mumbai Magic’.  No one was available that day even though no date was confirmed. Win-some-you-lose-some

End of the lesson: Review and Evaluate:
The teacher gathered everyone back round to conclude the session saying she had many tales to tell which were bugger all to do with the lesson objective and spices. Student A said she had to leave very promptly with Students B, C and D. The teacher insisted she first share some of her knowledge of traditional Indian jewellery. She said it was always made of 22ct gold, from what was left after the British took it all. Describing the Mangalsultra necklace, the Indian equivalent of a wedding ring, she said they are given by the Mother-in-Law and often have huge phallic shapes on them. There was more LOL amongst the students. Student A, wishing to check if this was true, looked through pages of Google images of Mangalsultras without seeing one single willy shape. (although an initial mis-spelling yielded some shocking results!) The teacher told the class Indian toe rings were worn to activate a pressure point on the second toe connected to the Uterus. Student A looked from the teacher to the foot fetish, toe licking dog, horrified! Other students began playing with their toes.
Student A again said she had to go. The teacher said she could leave after carrying out group meditation. She asked students to close their eyes and cup their hands upward. She physically corrected student D, twisting her arms upwards. The student complained that the teacher was breaking her arm. Student B was alarmed and warned the teacher that student D had arthritis. Student A bowed her head, began convulsing and making sobbing sounds and appeared to lose control, all initially unnoticed by the teacher. Student B’s subsequent loud snorting attracted the attention of the teacher who then moved student A to the other side of the room. She gave student B a tissue even though it was student A who was crying and had black mascara running down her cheeks. Student A was able to see this when the teacher gave each student a little mirror at the end of the meditation so they could ‘look within’. The message was lost due to poor delivery and classroom control by the teacher. Several students were giggling uncontrollably with one particular student leading the disruption. The teacher should have dismissed Student A earlier. The teacher paused to allow Student A-D to leave, promising many more stories for the others. Students E-N also took the opportunity to depart!

The teacher largely failed to target the curry loving aficionado audience at the appropriate level and engage them in any meaningful way. Spices were not a mystery in the first place. The learning outcomes were not as intended. One unintended outcome was Laughter. Student A had a headache from laughing so much and banging her head whilst getting into the car for a quick getaway. Another unintended outcome is the sale of chilli, Gym membership and toe rings have gone up in the Houston area!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bursting Balloons!

‘The world is a book and those that do not travel read only one page

There are a lot of books out there and even the most avid reader sometimes misses out on a real tale. In an effort to cover the classics we may miss out on potential best-sellers…

Page turner #4

I love Winnie-the-Pooh. Not the horrid fat American Disney Pooh, I love the E. H. Shepard pencil drawn English Pooh. Piglet is my favourite but always felt some sort of affinity with Pooh. We share the same name. In what I can only define as an act of cruelty my sister called me Pooh when I was a child. When asked why, she would tell them it was because I smelled. This was bad enough in the confines of our home, but it stuck and all her friends called me Pooh too (some still do!). She is three-ish years older than me. By the time I reached 16 it became unbearable when one of her peers, who I really fancied, came over to speak to me at a party. I thought I’d pulled until he opened his mouth and said ‘You’re Pooh!’ Even though it turned out he had come over to chat me up I couldn’t get over the initial disappointment. I felt utterly deflated, just like Eeyore’s birthday balloon that piglet had accidentally burst before he got to Eeyore! It ruined the moment!
I felt a little bit like that today when I realised I had missed out on a real opportunity. I recently went to Dallas and covered the classics. I stood where JFK was shot. I stood where JR Ewing was shot. I walked the tourist tracks. In doing so I missed something off the beaten track… a possible life changing opportunity…held in Dallas this week… The World Balloon Convention. When I first learned of this extravaganza I thought it was all about hot air balloons. We had a neighbour in the UK with more money than sense who had his own hot air balloon shaped like a huge lemon. He tried to land it outside his house and managed to land it in everyone else’s, removing the roof tiles from most neighbouring houses. I don’t like hot air balloons.
It wasn’t big balloons, it was little balloons… a week long world convention devoted to the magic of balloon art! Not world as in ‘World series’ this really was global, even prompting some discussion on the radio in Britain about the shortage of helium. There is a world shortage of helium but never fear, I have discovered through my interest in this event that you can mix helium with nitrogen to save money when inflating your balloons. Don’t try this at home! I suspect such heady mixes could be explosive for a balloon beginner. I'm not sure you should still breath in the helium from balloons at parties to do a funny voice anymore!
I knew I was really missing out when I ‘liked’ them on Facebook! There were comments like ‘had a great time at the balloon jam last night’. After watching a few clips of the opening ceremony and seeing all those funky guys wildly waving those long balloons you can make poodles out of, I can only begin to imagine the fun to be had in the ‘hands on Deco-twisting Jam room at night! There were photos of all sorts of wacky things made out of…yeah you’ve guessed it…balloons. In a quirky twist there was even a hot air balloon made from little balloons- not a lemon shaped one, a fish shaped one! They made a full size car and motorbike, complete with balloon people. Amazing and fun! They made hats and dresses! I don't think you could wear the dresses for fear of a strategically important balloon getting burst. There would always be one prick to burst that balloon! I think my personal favourite was a (non-functioning – for fear of explosions) table lamp. At least I think it was a table lamp. Maybe it was that participant’s first trip to the convention. Imagine that as your table centre piece instead of a real table lamp! I feel really crap now for only having a little party pack of balloons for my kids’ birthdays in the past!
I’m not sure I would be an ideal delegate. I discovered today I am not always able to concentrate in group learning environments and it says on the balloon convention web site that as well as being in retail you have to want to develop a stronger professional balloon offering beyond the ‘3 balloons on a string’ concept. I’m still wondering why the f**k anyone would make a table lamp balloon sculpture so I guess I’m not ready for balloon advancement.
I really should stick to the tourist beaten track after all! I thought I might still get something out of the balloon convention even if I wasn’t going to get there and had no business going! I thought about Eeyore’s disappointment and Piglet’s sadness at bursting Eeyore’s balloon. Could a certain balloon have survived piglet landing on it after a fall down a rabbit hole? Professionals at the World Balloon Convention would surely know! I posted the following on the balloon convention’s facebook wall ‘What are the best balloons to withstand a boisterous party and not burst so easily?’ I didn’t want to bias the responses by telling them a pig and a donkey were involved. As yet, no one has responded! I guess what they say in their website must be true: the event is so ‘phenomenal’ and ‘mind-blowingly awesome’, that they are too busy in the Deco-twisting Jam room to give any sound advice to Pooh!