Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Howdy Doody!

Roll up, roll up! See the high falootin’, rootinest, tootinest, gun twirling and slinging, shootinest cow gal in the West!
AKA Pistol Packin' Paula!
I am not going to mock – for several reasons, not least because she has two REAL nickel plated .45 Cimarrons, weighing 2 ½ lbs each. Try twirling them on your pinkie! Besides, she was great! Authentic, with holsters and chaps and tassels and everything.
We had the delight of heading off to the floodlit basket ball court to watch Paula after a delicious Thanksgiving dinner during our long weekend on a ‘dude’ ranch. Dude ranches are where city folk pretend to be cowboys. We were staying at one that reminded me of a Butlins camp, only with horses and cacti! We had our own little chalet with wardrobes that had doors covered in piebald pony hide! Nice! We certainly looked the part in our bandanas and Stetsons. Tourists! No real cowboys would have dressed like us! We arrived at the ranch with Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy blasting out of the car stereo. We are nothing if not cliched and predictable! John Wayne, Slim Pickens, Willie Nelson and a whole ‘bunch’ of people I ain’t never heard of had stayed at this ranch. By the way ‘bunch’ is the collective noun for anything and everything in America!
Two elderly cowboys sat in the corner during the Thanksgiving meal, one playing the guitar and the other singing country. They didn’t look as silly in their Stetsons as we did! They were so good. There is something about the country warble that makes you feel you are longing for something… usually home!
Is anyone out there?
Pissed up Paula… sorry Pistol Packing Paula (she was sober, had I been pissed I might have really really enjoyed the spectacle!) was the gala entertainment.  I won’t hear a bad word said about the star turn….although I think I might have missed it, there were so many turns, twirls and twists! I, for one was mesmerised by the twirling guns with moves like the butterfly and the helicopter. I disagreed, when my 9 year old said after about 2 minutes of watching, that she wasn’t very professional. She has won the World (as in World Series – only in America) Gun Spinner championships twice! I did have to concede to the poo-pooers that it wasn’t that difficult being the ‘Best lady Gun Spinner’ in the US when she was the only professional lady real-gun spinner in the US. …and although I made the suggestion that using real bullets, and not just real guns, would make the show far more exciting, I was only trying to keep my family engaged. My suggestion of glow in the dark, neon guns was just to point out that in the pitch black, in the middle of the Texan desert with only a couple of spot lights, the guns were hard to spot and I might have missed a crucial spin. It was only a passing thought that had I been a real outlaw in the wild west and I had come across the world champion gun twirler and faced her in a gun draw I could have shot the silly f**ker while she was still twirling.  I only had to get up and leave half way though because the bleacher seating was uncomfortable, not because there is only so long you can watch guns twirl before losing the will to live.
Besides… The camp fire was calling. You wouldn’t be a cowboy without sitting round the campfire but perhaps real cowboys don’t eat s’mores. S’mores are toasted marshmallows and melted chocolate between two graham crackers (which are sort of like digestive biscuits only crap). A must for any camp fire.
No Dude ranch experience would be complete without mounting your trusted steed and galloping off into the sunset. I suspect then, no Dude ranch experience is complete! We did go ‘trekking’ on our old knackers: Horses that don’t stray from the beaten track – nose to tail – apart from the one that my daughter was on that in it’s panic of losing the whiff of the horse’s arse in front tried to take a short cut and came very close to a ravine!
I asked if they had anything on offer for the more experienced horsewoman. Billy Joe Bob – who appeared to be at least 90, he was so gnarled, chewed on his bacci, spat it out and growled! They used to offer advanced rider experiences but the city folk kept falling off and suing the ranch. How can you fall off an American Saddle? – it has a built in handle to hold on to. My son seemed to elicit something more from Billy Joe Bob than the utter contempt he showed everyone else (maybe he was still bitter about Brokeback Mountain). My son’s saddle slipped round and the ‘wranglers’ ignored me pointing out it was ‘wonky’ (as they had no idea what that meant). I thought my son was about to fall off and called out to say so. For an old git he could move. In a flash, faster than a twirl of Pistol Packin’ Paula’s guns, Billy Joe Bob had leaped from his horse, to my son’s rescue. He said it was the first time in 20 years he had done that. I wondered if he had just left other city slickers to fall on their heads. No wonder they sued!
The Dude ranch was set in a one horse town complete with a spit and sawdust saloon bar. It was almost perfect… if only the two old cowboys singing had recognised that they were the real thing and all the entertainment that was necessary. No amount of fancy gun twirling was gonna convince a city slicker otherwise!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Crafting a future!

I had a vision of the future and it was not good. I caught a glimpse of me in old age if I continue down my latest path. It was shocking. Imagine (or remember) the shock of  finding that first grey hair (not on your head) and then times it ten fold. It was such a reality check that I have vowed to change my ways before it is too late. And no! I didn’t see an old drunk, pissed on the sidewalk at midday. I drink too much but don’t connect my one or two glasses of vino with out of control alcoholism or rotting liver in later life. What I saw would make being a down and out lush a preferable alternative in old age. If ever I become what I saw – someone please put me out of my misery.
I was stood in the queue at Hobby Lobby. This is bad enough in itself. I have been very bored and thought I should do something creative with my time. I don't think this was quite what I had envisioned for the new year! When I was in the Cotswolds at Christmas (doesn’t that have a beautiful ring to it? Where better in the world to be at Christmas?!) I saw these lovely (for lovely read as any old tat that that reminds me of home!) Union Jack felt cushions and little felt bags.  They were really eye wateringly expensive and probably aimed at the American market. Most of the little tourist shops in the Coltswolds had union Jack stuff with ‘London’ written on it so the Yanks could be sure they were in the right place. (‘what do you mean, we’re not in London anymore? Does Great Kingdom of the United Britain have anywhere else?’) In my wisdom I thought I could make my own union jack felt lavender filled hearts and purchased most of the ingredients from Hobby Lobby here in Texas! I couldn’t get lavender there. Too European!
I made my own pattern using clip art and auto shapes! I was impressed with the paper version. I haven’t sewed since I was around 12 years old and I wasn’t very keen then. I don’t know why I thought my sewing would have improved in the 30 intervening years without any practice or refresher stitches!  Added to my general lack of skill, since having my eyes lasered I cant see close up and nearly made myself sick trying to focus to thread the f**king needle. I made two hearts and my efforts were sweet …for a 12 year old.
The over all cost was something akin to me buying the real thing in the Cotswolds. I spent a silly amount of money on felt and threads, even with my ‘40% off one item’ coupon. I hate those coupons. There are certain shops over here that have these featured coupons on their websites EVERY week. If you can get 40% off something all the time, it means everything is overpriced by 40% all of the time. Stop it! It is silly. Just charge the proper amount. I’m sure some people are taken in by it and feel they are getting a bargain. They fill their baskets with things overpriced by 40% but as long as they get 40% off that one expensive item, they feel like winners! I almost fell for it! I almost brought a sewing machine!
Craft shops over here are vast and virtually devoid of customers. They are filled with things I don’t believe make the world a better place. If all the craft shops in the world got sucked into a black hole only a very special group of people would notice. The ‘crafters’ who go to these shops spend hours in there. They look for that next special project that will result in something someone would actually want or use. The Holy Grail! They look in your basket to see if you have found the next big idea. They looked into my basket and gave me a wide birth! They spend a fortune! $13.3 million in 2010 on cross stitch alone! $1.040 BILLION on card making!
I almost became one of those special people. Buoyed by my early successes I decided to branch out into other designs. I decided I would make some other felt shit using the Texan flag as the design basis. I returned to the Hobby Lobby to purchase more essential ingredients and that is when I realized I was on a dangerous path that few escape from. It starts off as a harmless whim ‘oh I know what I’ll do today; I’ll make pointless lavender filled felt hearts, without the lavender, reflecting a flag theme’. It grows and takes on an entity of its own. One day a little heart, the next I’ll be attending national quilting conventions in Georgia, making furniture fashioned out of wine corks, and turning old jhorts in to quirky handbags. It doesn’t stop there though.
Does anyone remember Candlewick bedspreads? Anyone ever wondered what happened to all those old bedspreads with the advent of quilts and central heating? I discovered what happened to one fuchsia pink one. A old crafter had made it into a jacket. She was proudly wearing it in the queue. She was getting one or two curious glances from other crafty candlewick bedspread owners who had not considered the possibility of a clothing line and had, thus far, only made cushions and quirky stuffed animals out of their candlewick. I also looked, disbelievingly. I saw my years stretch ahead and realized if I don’t stop now I will reach the pinnacle of ‘handmade, home made’. I will find myself, years from now standing in a queue in Hobby Lobby, clutching my 40% off coupon to buy components that would be cheaper and better purchased whole and complete, wearing old crap cunningly recrafted to still look shit in a new form.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ee Bah Gum!

I’m one of those mean moms! I do not allow my children to have chewing gum. It wasn’t really an issue for them in the UK but here in America, everyone seems to chew it. According to Wrigley’s, 50% of Americans chew gum; One in two people; Every other f**Ker you meet! The children now continually nag me on a daily basis for gum! I would put chewing gum in room 101. I think there is something deeply unpleasant about an adult constantly chewing gum. The older they are the more incongruous it seems. I used to chew chewing gum as a teenager but even then I bucked the trend and opted for Wrigley’s Spearmint rather than the more popular Juicy Fruit.  I chewed it until it lost its flavour (a whole 5 minutes) and then I disposed of it appropriately. I did not leave it on my bed post over night nor did I stick it under my school desk. I quickly grew out of it and have never chewed it since.
As a teacher I learned to despise chewing gum for many reasons. Kids would eat it purely because it wasn’t allowed. It took all my professionalism not to slap an offender who, after been asked to throw their chewing gum away, would open their horrid big gobs as wide as they could and waggle their tongue around and deny having any chewing gum whilst inviting me to check for myself. As irritating was the offender who would dramatically throw half of it away in the bin at the front of the classroom and then swagger back to their desks chewing the other half like I wouldn’t notice. When challenged they would do the whole tongue waggling thing. Look! Nothing there! Genius!
These would be same kids would bleat when they got stuck to some chewing gum someone (probably them) had left on the underside of the desk. I would have to dispatch them to the Science Department to have the offending gum removed. Apparently gum is now given to kids in American schools as a reward to aid concentration and improve exam performance. All those slobbery chops chomping gum in an exam room – the thought of it makes me feel sick!
Against my better judgement, I let my guard down over Christmas and allowed my children to eat some gum, but only under the close supervision of their older cousins. My son, unsupervised, came to me upset because something was wrong with his tummy. Horrified, I thought he may have swallowed some gum and it had wrapped around his epiglottis and would kill him. I blame my parents for such deep seated beliefs. My mother told me to never swallow! Upon inspection I discovered his brand new designer boxer shorts (so cute) were stuck to his stomach with green chewing gum. I tried putting his boxer shorts in the freezer to harden the gum so I could snap it off. This was really unhygienic as he had worn them all day and chewing gum wasn’t the only debris. Whilst everything else froze and dropped off, the gum stayed supple and wouldn’t budge. Along with some chocolate chip cookie ice cream which I could no longer guarantee was pure chocolate, I had to throw his boxers away. Perhaps it was a lucky escape. The tendency to wear jeans lower than boxers came from United States jails where jeans were worn below the butt as a sign to others that you were open for butt sex from other prisoners. In his desire to flash his designer underwear my son may have been misunderstood!
According to the ‘International Chewing Gum Association’ chewing gum provides a low calorie snack! I don’t think a stick of gum would fill me up and satisfy hunger. It’s known as ‘sham feeding’ – making your body think it is going to get something to eat. Cruel! Like never swallowing anything. That makes me feel more hungry. All that chewing and nothing actually lands in my stomach. As I hinted at, when I was little I was told that if I swallowed gum it would wrap around my wind pipe and I would die, or some shit like that. This isn’t true but swallowing chewing gum with other things that might stick to it can cause a blockage! You can not digest chewing gum,. The most that you can hope for, if swallowed is that you have a minty lump in your poo. It does however have some medicinal benefits, It can help with  gastroesphageal reflux disease (is that indigestion?!) by neutralising acid in the esophagus. On the down side it can also cause stomach ulcers by stimulating the stomach to secrete acid (in readiness for foods that never arrives!). One Brit over here in the states took her son to the doctors with earache. He prescribed chewing gum!
I really thought chewing gum was designed for kids to annoy adults. Not in America. It seems that here it is perfectly acceptable for adults in restaurants to take their chewing gum out and stick it on the table until they have consumed their $ menu and then resume chewing. It happens in the best of places – the white table linen places. Surely they cant be that crass? I was in denial when I was told something by a fellow Brit. I thought she was more extreme than me in her appraisal of Americans so I did a bit of research and what I discovered shocked me and yet comforted me. I have been pretty mean generally about all things American – I have implied that Americans lack sophistication, culture, manners and depth. I now have fairly shocking proof that I am not wrong. I rarely am. She told me that adults put gum under the table in restaurants – just like snot nosed kids in rough schools in the middle of council estates in Britain. I didn’t believe her. Since this was revealed I have checked in every place I have eaten in. I am a lady wot brunches AND lunches. I get out and about. I have yet to find the underside of a table chewing gum free. We are not talking MacDonald's. We are talking sophisticated adult orientated restaurants with entrees! Maybe it is considered a low calorie appetiser! Maybe the chewing gum aids concentration and improves dinner time performance. They take eating very seriously!
I’m sure God will forgive. 'Eee Bah Gum' is on the surface, nothing to do with Chewing gum. It is what is known as a 'minced oath'. It is a reference to God ! Yorkshire for OMG! Well... I beg to differ. 'ee bah gum' is a godly reference to the holy act of chewing gum! It is a holy act... In America! According to John H. Lienhard, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and History at the University of Houston, Frankincense (normally burned as incense) is a form of resin which can be chewed and he takes ‘odd comfort in the image of the Wise Men offering chewing gum to the Christ Child’. Maybe I could take some comfort in this cultural metaphor of America too, only this time it is me sticking my tongue out, waggling it about and saying 'THERE IS NOTHING THERE!'

Oldie but Goldie!
I was calmly having my breakfast when an American (noisily chewing gum) sat beside me.
I ignored the American who (lacking any social etiquette) started a conversation.
American: "Do you eat the whole bread?"
Me (looking at American like he was an idiot): "Of course!"
American: "We don't. We only eat what is inside and the outside we put together in a container, recycle it, transform it into crumpets and sell it to
I listened in silence.
The American insists: "Do you eat the bread with jam?"
Me: "Of course!"  (at this point I called him a knob, He smiled and thanked me for reminding him that bread and Jam is often taken with butter! Knob!)
American: "We don't. We eat fresh fruit for our breakfast, put all the seed and the rest in containers, recycle them, transform them into jam and sell the jam to Britain"
I asked: "And what do you do with condoms once you used them?"
American: "We throw them away, of course
Me: "We don't. We put them in a container, recycle them, transform them into chewing gum and sell it to America."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Windy Pops!

Ill blows the wind that profits nobody  
(Shakespeare, Henry VI)

I’m not quite sure of the American attitude to farting. I know they must find some sort of humour in it as it features in their comedy, although I am convinced that anything in American comedy is the antithesis of what most Americans find funny. I haven’t found a single American that finds South Park funny. I haven’t heard any Americans fart!
American children say fart. I found this shocking when I first heard them say this without reprimand from their parents. Maybe that is why they refer to the function matter of factly rather than in a hysterical giggle. When I was growing up we were not allowed to say ‘fart’. It was considered rude. We had to say ‘pump’. It still makes me laugh out loud to this day. One friend had to say ‘excuse me for doing a windy pop’ whenever she let one rip (and boy could she do some belters.). I would cry laughing from a very young age. In fact I have a very juvenile attitude to farting. As an educated professional (and I use both terms very loosely!) I should not know from experience what colour gas farts produce when lit (green and blue if you are wondering). I guess no responsible parent should ever hear their child plead late at night in a hotel room ‘will you please stop watching fart videos on You Tube, I’m trying to get to sleep’. ‘The Pooter’ on You Tube is really very funny. A man is filmed in Walmart loudly blasting them out around unsuspecting Wal-mart folk. Their reactions are caught on camera. Laughter is rarely one of them. Had they been expected to apologise for their ‘windy pops’ as children they would be rolling about in the aisles.
Scientists have tried to develop stink warfare – a smell, when released that is so bad it incapacitates all who smell it. So far they have been unable to find a smell that no one can tolerate. This is because we have a tolerance (even a liking) for our own farty smells. Indole and skatole are used to make perfume. These are the chemicals that cause poo to smell foul! So that is why they call it Eau de toilette! Maybe I should bottle my hubby’s flatulence (which is in abundance) and sell it to the highest bidder. It would change global warfare. He is proud to tell the story at dinner parties of the time he farted and it made me physically sick. This is true but he was helped enormously by the fact that I was hung-over and we were in a car. I get travel sick. His fart was the catalyst though. He has refrained from telling this one at American dinner club. The lack of any display of camaraderie and envy that he usually gets from British men would have been more than he could bear. We had a flatulent cat once whose farts would have given even my hubby a run for his money. He was called Archibald Trumper. Given the English attitude to breaking wind you could just let off farty noises at British troops on the battlefield and everyone would lighten up and stop fighting!
We told the children before we moved to here that it was illegal to fart in public in Texas. Turns out we were not so silly after all. I discovered this week that in Florida it is illegal to "pass gas" after .  I am unclear whether this is in public or anywhere.  How can you suppress a natural bodily function? I concede it is like swearing – there is a time and a place for it but unlike swearing we sometimes have no choice. It just sneaks out! A violent sneeze can be disastrous! Caesar once declared ‘All citizens shall be allowed to pass gas whenever necessary’. Here! Here! You can’t litigate against farting! The law is an ass. In this case, a windy ass! Pretty hard to enforce although I did read about a man in West Virginia who faced a ‘battery’ charge (assault) for farting near a police officer and fanning it towards him. Apparently ‘"The gas was very odorous and created contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Patrolman Parsons," the complaint alleged.  (Would that be ‘parson’s nose’!) The ‘perp’ admitted to farting but said he had an upset tumkin and didn’t aim the fart at the officer. He was also pissed! Beer farts are bad but not deadly. They had to drop the farty charge and do him on the more trivial offence of diving whilst under the influence!
More shocking is the story of a 12 year old boy in Florida who was arrested after he ‘deliberately passed gas to disrupt the class," according to police.  As a teacher I am very familiar with this form of disruption. I would often walk into a very farty cloud in the classroom. It can be very disruptive when all the kids around are gagging from the putrid smell with their eyes watering. I would say ‘somebody needs to go to the toilet’ in a stern voice then giggle to my self, knowing it was me!
We have been trying to work out what hypothesis to test for my daughter’s 4th Grade Science fair. I have only ever seen this portrayed in American movies and have no real idea what it involves but I think I have an idea. She could research into American attitudes to farting.
Some suggested explorations:
  • Which food produces the greatest flatulence, British or American? (Obviously ‘greatest’ would need defining in terms of noise, smell, longevity, and residue)
  • Do American Children find farts funny? (She could do a whole range of controlled experiments – utilising ‘The pooter’, her father and clips from The Young One’s to see if they induced any hilarity)
I guess I would soon find out American attitudes to farting when she submitted her paper!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I’m no MILF

You know you are too old when you go out and someone too young to reasonably be your son uses the acronym ‘MILF’ in a conversation with you.

I normally write about the weirdness of America but sometimes you don’t have to travel that far to feel like a stranger! I felt like a stranger in my own land in some strange bars over Christmas. It had been a while since I frequented such bars and I learned the hard way why they are strangely bereft of any women of a certain age!

I remember in my youth seeing old men letching in bars at the girls. I realise that they weren’t that old now I am that old. I also realise that they were fairly harmless and benign in that they knew they didn’t stand a chance so they were just out admiring the view. Some would overstep the mark and actually try to chat up someone young enough to be their daughter and if that someone happened to be my best friend they would get such a put down that they would either go back to window shopping or never venture out again. Once, Joan Collin’s husband (or former husband – hard to keep track) chatted her up. He was probably 25 years our senior and 50 years Joan’s junior. My friend made it clear to him that she had no money so there was no point in him ‘gold digging’ like he had with poor OLD Joan. (why else was he with her?) She then said she could see why his nickname was ‘Bungalow Bill’ as there was nothing upstairs but it was a misnomer as there was nothing downstairs either! Poor bloke! That was mild to the usual put-downs such as ‘your breath stinks’ or you have the hairiest ears shaped like lamb chops I have ever seen. I found it funny when I was 20. Not so funny now.  I am mildly alarmed at how my presence in a bar in a provincial town full of year 20 olds might be viewed.
I had the misfortune to experience something akin to what those old men felt but in a weird reverse way when I ‘went up town’ in England over Christmas. Why is it you got down town in America and up town in England? It was a Thursday so not heaving but busy enough. Full of men of various ages.  I caught a young chappy staring at me. In fact he kept grinning inanely in my direction. It was quite clear he fancied me. As he was no Ashton Krutcher I was not flattered. Besides, it annoyed me. Why would someone half my age fancy me? I was old enough to be his mother! I looked up MILF on ‘Urban dictionary’ which said MILFs are mothers of any age desirable enough to want to f**k. It said If they've ever breastfed, they have really responsive nipples and a core of erectile tissue in their breasts. (Do men want that? Sound a bit Oedipal to me!) The ones in good shape have worked at regaining control over their vaginas (Kegel exercises). MILFs are usually real careful about birth control, they know accidents happen but they take responsible steps. They want to fuck with abandon, with no romantic complications for their under-19 family. If that was what the young man was hoping for he was truely deluded! Any mom with a family under 19 is too exhausted to do anything but sleep and eat chocolate with abandon. The authors of Urban Dictionary were probably his mates and had only dreamed of an encounter with a MILF and had no actual reality to base their definitions on! Maybe he thought I was a Cougar – all the rage, apparently, in America! Urban dictionary describes ‘An older woman who frequents clubs in order to score with a much younger man. The cougar can be anyone from an overly surgically altered wind tunnel victim, to an absolute sad and bloated old horn-meister, to a real hottie or milf. As I wasn’t the one inanely grinning at him I don’t think I could have been mistaken for the sex predator in this scenario.
He was with his mates (also of kindergarten age). Encouraged by them and vast quantities of alcopops, he walked to the table I was at, grinned at me, paused to say something and then backed off. He got himself into a bit of a loop and repeated this several times! I suspect he thought this charade of shyness was charming and cute. It wasn’t. It was bloody irritating. I was having a nice girly night out with friends I hadn’t seen for 8 months. I didn’t want to play! I stood up and he was over like a shot (so typical of young men! Maybe this is why they seek the experience of older ladies!).  He immediately went to put his hands around my waist. I am not a tactile person. I considered this an imposition and slapped his hands out of the way and said ‘don’t you touch me’, probably in my best teacher voice! Hell hath no fury like a pissed young man embarrassed in front of his mates. Rejected by someone who, in his eyes, should be grateful for the attention he said ‘You’re no MILF. That one over there’ (pointing at my sister) ‘She’s a MILF. But you’re not …And you’re rude!’ The last statement was said with a quiver and a pout. I thought he was going to cry!
His Mommy had taught him enough manners to know that I was in fact rather curt and rude to him and this had upset him but he hadn’t enough manners to realise that he shouldn’t be trying to grope me in the first place!
His friend rushed to my defence ‘I’d do stuff to you’. I wasn’t sure whether to thank him or slap him too! Uninvited, someone had invaded my physical space and insulted me (or at least tried). It’s bad enough being considered a MILF.  It is worse to have your MILF status withdrawn due to lack of compliance and gratitude!
The old men at the bar were watching. As I have grown older my view of old has shifted. Due to a hard life and too much beer they looked over 55. Old! One informed me that he was a GILF! I don’t think it should be a self proclamation. I got the Granddad bit! I felt my 20 year old self kick in. ‘I don’t think so’ I told him. I resisted telling him his breath was bad. As I left the bar my MILF sister misunderstood the story and thought I had been called a GILF! Could it get any worse?
Well yes! A man violently throwing up all over his shoes outside the bar as we left caught up with us and had the audacity to ask where we ‘ladies’ were off to. This time I did tell him his breath smelt and headed home!