Silly labeling

 Posted by at 13:27 on 16 May 2014
May 162014

We received our supermarket delivery the other night (I love the fact that supermarkets here deliver; I generally get about one delivery a month to save lugging quite so much – toilet paper, etc is bulky). I don’t generally get produce [fruit & vegetables] in these deliveries, generally preferring my local greengrocer’s, but the watercress was on a particularly good sale, so I got some of that.

As we were checking through the order to make sure we’d gotten everything, Chris read the back of the watercress and burst out laughing – not a typical reaction, so I was curious. He then immediately turned to me and asked, “Who have you been talking to?” He then thrust the package at me so I could see for myself:


Ah, we’re supposed to decant the watercress. *giggle* Decant is one of my favorite silly words, you see. It only means put it in another container, but it sounds so fancy! Posh, even. In this context, slightly pompous, actually, aided and abetted by the “Do not exceed the Use By Date.” Or else it will EXPLODE, clearly.

Not to worry – after removing it from this wrapper, we have, indeed, decanted the watercress. It’s not languishing about uncontained!

May 152014

Another exciting installment — we finally hit the road this day! Eventually…

Day 1 (Friday, the 29th of March 2013) (by Chris)

Now we actually get to normally numbered days: Friday was scheduled to be the first day of the road trip! However, the first chunk of the day wasn’t actually spent on the road; it was spent doing yet more sorting. I’ll spare you the details. I never knew we could have that much to sort out and resort, but we did. All the while, Nannie was trying to clean the house around us, as SJ’s brother would be coming to stay that night, and she had to get things ready for him! Things got a little bit frantic, but we left around noon. Nannie had asked SJ which way we’d be going, and where we were aiming for while we were getting things together. SJ told her, “North!” We hadn’t actually decided on that yet, or even looked at the map yet, and we think this horrified Nannie a bit…

That’s not strictly true. I had looked extensively at the map in planning the trip before we left; I had to decide where we could get to, where we couldn’t, and which order we’d go in. I’d arranged to stay with various relatives along the way, with tentative dates for each of them. The path, of course, was circular. When it came to the nitty gritty details of each day’s path, though, you have to understand that part of my joy at roadtripping is NOT having a fixed, firm schedule. After dealing with English public transport for a solid three-year chunk, part of why I NEEDED this road trip was the freedom to be able to just stop if we found something that looked interesting – the freedom to go and stop and go again at will, rather than dictated by a timetable that isn’t followed anyway. So, while the highlights were planned already, the in between wasn’t. On this first chunk, our first planned stop was in Michigan, 1100 miles away, so we had a bit of flexibility in how we got there.


However, even after leaving Nannie’s, we still weren’t On The Road proper: we had a number of stops to make around Bossier City before we could leave, including SJ’s parent’s house. SJ’s dad was waiting for the new waste bag for their riding lawnmower when we called by, to be delivered by a guy in an 18-wheeler. I remember that sort of thing from when my lathe was delivered: it’s a very strange experience to see this big truck pull up and a guy checking that you’re waiting on a delivery.

We also headed to Target (now that it was actually open). Now that we had a better idea of the things we needed for the trip, SJ went around picking up those things while I went and hunted for jeans. I apparently earned myself Good Husband points by actually trying them on there (in the fitting rooms, I hasten note, not in the middle of the store), and when one pair didn’t fit I even went and found a different pair and tried those on too! There were several other errands, including extending the Junk Food Tour of America with Arby’s and an Icee for me. I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow, but I will say I still miss white cherry Icees, and Arby’s was actually surprisingly decent – less greasy than I remember.

Image by Steve Snodgrass.

Image by Steve Snodgrass.

The last stop we had to make was for doughnuts. We had been trying to get to Southern Maid, the makers of the most tasty doughnuts in the entire world, and the well-deserved recipients of the only commercial endorsement Elvis Presley ever made in his life, but we had consistently failed to get out early enough on the previous days to get to the Southern Maid near Nannie’s in time to get any. We remembered that there was one on East Texas Street, and that one had been open later the last time we had been in the US, so we decided to try it just in case.

Thankfully, they were still there, and still open. Not only were they still open, they had doughnuts too! We bought a variety to last us a couple of days – although a couple of them didn’t last very long at all for some reason. Outside Southern Maid, surrounded by the delicious smell of awesome doughnuts, we pulled out the maps and decided where we wanted to try and get to that day, eventually settling on aiming for Memphis, Tennessee following I-220 East to I-20 East, and then I-55 North.

Bossier City, LA to Grenada, MS. “And so it actually begins” (by Chris)

Day mileage: 340
Southern Maid Donuts, 4701 E Texas St, Bossier City, LA 71111 to Super 8 Grenada, 1451 Sunset Dr, Grenada, MS 38901 via Shoney’s Restaurant, 1526 Sunset Dr, Grenada, MS 38901

And then, finally, around 2:30pm we got on the road!

Ever since we’d washed the car the day before, we’d started to hear a high-pitched whine when the car was moving at speed. I’d tried to work out what was causing it, but it was over on the driver’s side and I couldn’t really root around to work out what was going on. It was pretty easy to ignore at city driving speeds, but when driving at highway speeds it grew into a loud, high-pitched whine akin to the collected, extended caterwauling of an entire girl’s school of petulant, spoilt teenagers being fed feet-first through a woodchipper. Somehow SJ managed to block it out, but it slowly began to drive me ever so slightly unhinged. I should imagine the girls would be considerably louder, dear. Also, you left out the “more” in your last clause. πŸ˜‰

Our route east along I-20 took us south of El Dorado, Arkansas. SJ has an old acquaintance there, and was considering diverting north to visit her. We eventually managed to contact her son, and he told SJ that his mother was actually over in Dallas visiting a relative, and would be there the entire time we were in the US, so we wouldn’t be able to meet her in El Dorado. The northward detour no longer being needed, we continued along I-20 and tried to get hold of SJ’s brother in Memphis to try to arrange visiting him. This proved to be more than a little tricky: he had only fairly recently moved to Memphis, so we had no phone number for him, I sent him an email (that data connection was starting to be useful already…) but had no expectation of a quick response, and then SJ suggested that I try to contact his wife through Facebook. Now, I Don’t Do Facebook, but under the circumstances I agreed that it was probably necessary – unfortunately, trying to log into SJ’s account from the phone tripped security measures, and we were unable to get past them (in no small part because they didn’t work properly).

So, we decided to shoot for Memphis anyway, passing through Monroe, into Mississippi and through Vicksburg and then around Jackson on the loop (also called I-220. At this point I should have started to suspect that the US road system had it in for me) before joining I-55 north.

As we approached Canton, Mississippi we drove past the absolutely immense Nissan plant. I can honestly say that, until that point, I had never seen a single building that big, it just seemed to keep going and going as we drove past. Measuring it on the map now, it comes out at over 1.63km (1 mile) of continuous factory!

Image by Brad Montgomery.

Image by Brad Montgomery.

On we drove into the evening, north past places with names like Pickins (one of the many names I enjoyed saying in quite silly tones during the journey…), and past Holmes County State Park (we never found a corresponding Watson County; we were most disappointed!). Soon after we passed Winona we started to get really hungry, and as we approached Grenada, SJ saw a sign for Shoney’s. “Shoney’s! We have to stop at Shoney’s!” SJ exclaimed, practically bouncing in the seat. “It’ll probably be foul, but it’s a nostalgia thing, you’ll just have to go with it.” I sat there kinda going “Bwuh?! Well, you’re driving!” so we pulled off the interstate at Grenada and passed a variety of hotels before spotting the Shoney’s sandwiched between a Holiday Inn Express and a Wendy’s.

SJ warned me that Shoney’s would have a menu and a buffet. We checked out the buffet, and then the menu, and decided to go with the menu (neither of us are great fans of buffet restaurants): SJ had a salad, and Philly Cheesesteak sandwich she didn’t have to cook for a change, and I decided to try a Turkey Club. The server was helpful, cheerful, and competent, and the food was tasty. After a few minutes I looked up from my food and had to exclaim, “Wait, there was a sandwich on that plate, I saw it!” SJ must have been really hungry to have inhaled it that quickly! Our original plan was to share main dishes at restaurants (having gotten used to the smaller portions served everywhere outside the US), but in the end this only happened on a few occasions – and if we’d tried it that night there just wouldn’t have been enough food, we were that hungry.

We finished eating at around 9pm, and we were both tired and wanted to stop. We hadn’t gone as far as we wanted, but we’d covered over 320 miles, and even though we were still 100 miles south of Memphis, we decided we’d gone far enough, we should just get a room and head to bed. We didn’t want to spend too much, so we started with the Super 8 Motel just across the road from the Shoney’s (once we managed to get across to it, which was surprisingly difficult even at that time of day). The lobby was nice, the clerk was efficient, competent, and friendly, the price of the room was good, so we decided to stay there rather than traipse around the other properties in the area. She told us that our room was “three doors past the pool,” but when we asked her when the pool was open she replied with, “May.” So alas, no chance of getting any swimming in before we left in the morning.

We were in a ground floor room, and the motel had exterior corridors, so it was easy to get stuff into our room. The room was clean, decent, and surprisingly spacious, and we managed to get ourselves settled in quite quickly. Unfortunately, the wifi refused to work correctly, and at this point SJ really needed to sort out our money. Thankfully I was able to tether the laptop to the phone, and she used the data plan on the phone to get to the internet. It worked very well, and SJ managed to get everything sorted, but shortly after she was done I noticed my phone behaving oddly: sending data unexpectedly, turning on the GPS, and generally acting odd. I eventually worked out that Prey (an anti-theft app) had decided that my phone had been stolen and had gone into active reporting mode, but trying to fix that was hilarious over a rather pedestrian connection, especially as the Prey website is as slow as molasses going downhill in a Candian winter at the best of times! I eventually fixed it as SJ finished showering, and explained to her why I had been feverishly working away and stressed. Next it was my turn to shower, and we collapsed into bed around midnight.

The data connection on the phone was SO SLOW compared to what we’re used to. We determined in the end that the US simply has slower connection speeds than Europe. I feel I should clarify: we each have a smart phone, but we opted to just get the Red Pocket plan on one phone and share it for the duration of the trip. We decided to use the other phone for audio logs, playing music (my car radio doesn’t work, and being in a car without soft music on is absolutely torturous to me), etc. Since my phone had the 16GB microSD card, mine became the music & audio storage. Sharing phones was a bit trying at times, but we managed.

Happy Music

 Posted by at 00:45 on 15 May 2014
May 152014

I was feeling kinda down earlier today.

Whine, whine, whine …

I’d missed two events yesterday I’d have liked to have gone to, because the latest medication I’m trying (in my effort to not have a face that randomly hurts half the time) makes me extra sleepy, so I couldn’t get up in time for the first, and I was so overwhelmingly tired I napped through the second.

Then this morning, I woke up to a glorious blue sky and sunshine – absolutely perfect for the bluebell morning a friend was putting on in her fabulous garden, which I was looking forward to a great deal – with a back in such pain I could barely move. At one point this morning, I stood up and nearly blacked out from the pain. I couldn’t really face being social while in that much pain, so I gave it a miss.

Yesterday and today both I’ve dealt with customer service workers who were ineffective at their jobs, always a thing which grates. Yesterday’s completely unexpected car repairs came out to quite a hefty amount, too, so that was certainly lingering.

But I decided around lunchtime that that was enough, and sought to turn my day around. I filed complaints about the service workers with their respective companies. I enjoyed the sunshine. I revelled in no longer being uncontrollably tired all the time (I started halving the dose last night). Chris had massaged my back, and it was doing a bit better. We swapped the mattresses to see if the guest bed mattress would do my back better.

Happy music! …

Making lunch helped me change gears, and then while eating it I browsed the latest videos from some of my favorite artists. Happily, Alex Boyé has just released a new one, and that really did the trick. The message he wrote in the Description section was really wonderful, and the song is so brilliant for that particular moment. I just have to share:

When my career seemed like it was going nowhere, a few moms and mom bloggers began sharing my videos, and my career was suddenly revitalized. YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. DON’T STOP BLOGGING!!!!

I thought about sharing that, and then I thought, why not make a post collecting a few of my happy songs together? Peponi remains my favorite song and video of Alex Boyé’s:

Lindsey Stirling’s music also always picks me up. This is my favorite video of hers – when have you ever seen a violinist rock out? πŸ™‚

Artie Hemphill is one of my new favorite country singers, and this is a fun song:

And last but certainly not least, no list of happy music could be complete without the song “Happy”!

Hope you enjoyed! πŸ™‚

US Trip 2013: Day III: Car Day & Chinese Food

 Posted by at 17:26 on 14 May 2014
May 142014

Continuing the series, we have our final day in Bossier before heading off. Mostly, we addressed the headlights and cleaned the car, but we managed to get fixed up on Chinese food, too. No pictures from this day, I’m afraid.

Remember, my interjections are in green text.

Day III (Thursday, the 28th of March 2013): Bossier City and Shreveport (by Chris)

Thursday was primarily Car Day. We set to work on going over Iolana to prepare her for the road trip. The first thing we concentrated on was the headlight problem we’d experienced the previous night, and at the time we thought we’d solved it! The headlight bulbs and their wiring harnesses push and twist into the headlight assembly, and they had worked loose so that the headlight bulbs were no longer firmly held in place. We came to the conclusion that the problem we had been having the night before was caused by the bulbs falling back into the engine compartment, and then back into the headlight assembly as a normal result of acceleration and getting bumped around by the road surface. This may well indeed have been part of the problem (it was not, as we later found out, the fundamental issue. But we’ll get to that later, dear reader), and it was a really easy thing to fix.

On the other hand, while checking the headlights, we found that the passenger side parking light wasn’t working at all. There were no fuses we could find to check for that, so we decided we had to get to the bulb to check whether it had blown, and that proved easier said than done. The owner’s manual contained information on getting to the headlights… but nothing about how to get to the parking light bulbs, so I had to consult the Great Internet Oracle to find out what to do. I determined that we needed to unscrew a couple of screws on top of the headlight assembly, and pull the entire assembly out to get to it. Sounds nice and easy!

What the Great Internet Oracle didn’t tell us was that the headlight assembly is held in at the bottom by a very stiff and awkward friction pin that defiantly holds on for dear life, so getting the assembly out requires a lot of cursing and pulling before it deigns to release its death-grip on the car. Thankfully, after all the effort to get to the bulb, we found that it had indeed blown: an easy thing to fix! After replacing bits so that the car didn’t look like a complete mess, we headed to the auto parts shop to get replacement bulbs, spare fuses just in case, and some of that most important of substances: WD40. I was shocked when I realized I didn’t have any in with the car supplies in the trunk; we had to fix that post-haste.

We ended up in conversation with the cashier, and he told us he was a Fugitive From The Law in the UK: he had visited England, and failed to pay the congestion charge while driving in London. What started out as an Β£8 charge had, by the time they found him and demanded payment, ballooned into over Β£500 of charges and fines. He’s been told not to bother paying it, and not to go back to the UK… I do wonder how much has been added to the fines since then!

We got the bulb replaced quickly and easily once we got back to Nannie’s – the headlight assembly was much easier to get out and put back when we knew the trick – and then we tidied and emptied the car so that we could go over to a nearby self-service carwash.

On the way to the carwash, we stopped for lunch at one of SJ’s favourite Asian places, a take-out called Mayflower that happens to have a few tables for people who want to just eat there. It’s unpretentious, definitely not fancy, but their food is tasty, and the staff is friendly and welcoming. We split a lunch of egg drop soup (which is impossible to find in the UK), spring roll, and lo mein. I wasn’t impressed by the soup, but the rest was great, and it was a welcome break from running around at this point.

I miss Mayflower, and American Chinese food in general. It’s different from British Chinese food – Chris recently learned that it’s because the Chinese who settled here in Britain mostly came from Hong Kong, whereas the Chinese who settled in America mostly came from mainland China, and those two cuisines are different. They each were adjusted to suit American vs British palates, of course, further adding to the disparity. The bog-standard soup in American Chinese is egg drop, whereas it’s chicken and sweetcorn in British Chinese. I like both, so I miss egg drop soup. Thankfully, it’s very simple to make, so we make it at home. American Chinese lo mein dishes are another thing I sorely miss – and, though we’ve found lo mein noodles, I’ve yet to manage make it taste right.

At the carwash, we began feeding a quarters (in a quantity I don’t even want to think about) (it was less than $10; I got a roll of quarters from the bank specifically for this. Rolls of coins – another thing I miss.) into the wash and vacuum systems so we could give Iolana a pretty thorough cleaning, inside and out. They’d changed the setup since we were last there, replacing the half-useless “vacuum and perfume” system with a proper “vacuum and carpet cleaner” option, and SJ and I worked in tandem passing the hose around as quickly as we could to get the most out of our quarters. It wasn’t a perfect job – when racing the timer on the car wash equipment, you can’t really do as good a job as doing it by hand at home – but it was decent enough, and a vast improvement on the grimy condition the poor car had been in.

Returning to Nannie’s, we finished the detailing: Armor All, treating the leather, hand-cleaning the inside fittings, cleaning windows and mirrors properly, and so on. (Yes, I’m very particular about my car, why do you ask?) We were going out for dinner with friends later, but we had time to get properly cleaned up, so inside we went to get sorted. At that point we discovered that we had been horribly mistaken: we hadn’t actually been washing away the three years of dirt on the car! As it turned out, we’d actually been collecting all of it under our fingernails; that’s the only way to explain how they could have become so horrendously dirty. Shortly after this discovery we determined that there doesn’t appear to be a single nail brush anywhere in Nannie’s house (she wasn’t home to ask). We managed to extricate the Muck Of Ages through Vigorous Cleansing, but my fingers were complaining for a couple of days after this…

We got to Peggy and Rodger’s exactly on time, despite managing to get somewhat misdirected on the way to their house (it’s a left, then a right, then the first left … no, wait, it was the second left … oh, phooey, where’s the map?), only to be greeted with “About time!” from Rodger. We’re pretty sure he was referring to the three year delay since our last visit, though… We visited for a while, catching up on things that had been going on in our lives since our last visit. Talking with Peggy and Rodger is always highly amusing for me: Rodger is a big, rough South Louisiana Cajun, while Peggy is… definitely not, and their interaction is always fun to watch. Eventually, Rodger declared that his belly was rumbling, so we piled into their car to go to Imperial Cathay. The meal there was wonderful, and they have been added to the list of places we know we can go to to get decent food when we’re in Shreveport. (Yes, that’s Chinese for lunch and dinner. What can I say? I was really jonesing for Chinese.) We chatted over dinner, and eventually returned to Peggy and Rodger’s house for more catching up and dessert in the form of cakes baked by the children of their neighbour as part of a charity fundraiser and educational exercise. They were pretty tasty, and were cooked into Easter bunny shapes as we were pretty close to Easter at this point. Neither SJ or myself are religious, but that Easter Sunday would take on some significance during our trip…

When we left Peggy and Rodger’s we finally looked at the time, only to find it was 10pm – time flies when you’re with good friends! On the way back, we decided to go to Target, as I needed new trousers: I’d found that the black jeans I’d brought over with us had a hole in them, so I only had one pair of wearable trousers at this point! Unfortunately, when we got to Target, they had just closed; the doors were still open, but when we walked in we were informed that they were closed by a very peeved-sounding worker over the store PA system. So we headed back to Nannie’s, did a bit of sorting for the next day, and generally prepared ourselves for bed, although we had to stay up until 12:20! SJ was still taking antibiotics at this point, and the timing of the pills, and fitting food around them, meant that we couldn’t have any more of SJ’s ice cream birthday cake until 12:20. We’re generally up til around then usually, but it would’ve been nice to get to bed earlier the night before setting off on our road trip. Hey ho.

After consuming cake, we headed to bed for the last night at Nannie’s before the Great Road Trip.

May 142014

Hey, look – today you actually get a few photos!

Day II (Wednesday, the 27th of March 2013): Bossier City and Shreveport. (text mostly by Chris)

The second day in Bossier City was mostly designated to be the day of The Grand Sort. Several suitcases of personal items, documents, household items, and other bits and pieces had been stored at SJ’s parent’s while she was in the UK, and this was the day we decided that we needed to go through them to work out what needed to be kept, what could be brought back to the UK with us, what should be left in the US when we left, what could go – either to Goodwill or into the trash – and what we needed to bring with us on the road trip.

The Grand Sort took a good 4 or 5 hours, involving much juggling of things between a variety of suitcases and bags, and some hard and careful decisions. Eventually we managed to get it mostly done, so that by around 2pm we were able to head out.

Nannie had arranged a birthday dinner for SJ for the evening of the 27th (as her birthday would actually happen part-way through the road trip), and we had to go and arrange vital things like an appropriate ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery. So, off to the Louisiana Boardwalk we went.

Goofing off in front of Bass Pro

Goofing off in front of Bass Pro

I adore ice cream cake, and miss it very much. I’ve tried to make it, but couldn’t get it right, and rarely have the freezer space to give it a go. Maybe one day … in the mean time, I’ve decreed that Cold Stone Creamery ice cream cake is a must absolutely every time we go to the US, whether there’s an occasion or not!

I also thought our UK readers might double-take at this sign, on the front door of Bass Pro.

I also thought our UK readers might double-take at this sign, on the front door of Bass Pro.

The boardwalk is essentially an outdoor mall, a bunch of retail stores collected together in a pedestrianised area with attached parking and outdoor piped musak. We went into a few stores – notably Bass Pro, as they sell my favourite kind of socks, and I badly needed new ones, and I needed a decent travel mug to go with the Airpot. I do wonder what the response of some of our English friends would be to Bass Pro. The clothing, footwear, and camping gear probably wouldn’t faze any of them… but then the wide selection of firearms, the hunting gear, the fishing equipment you could bludgeon one shark to death with while reeling in another, and all the rest might make them double-take ever so slightly.

With other errands done, we went into the GIGANTIC WALL OF NOISE. I mean Cold Stone Creamery, I think. It was so loud in there that it was hard to tell, and only the presence of delicious, delicious iced confectioneries really gave it away. After leaving the store so that we could hear ourselves think enough to calculate how large a cake we would need, we braved the Physical Embodiment of Din Upon This Puny World once more to order a cake with a message iced onto it. And because it’s required by law or something, we got some ice cream to eat as we sat in the relative silence out by the river for a while. At least I think it was relative silence; I think my ears had shut down in self-defence at this point.

As it turned out, we could have ordered the cake online, being in the future and all, but between frantic packing, travelling, and illness that wasn’t going to happen. And we wouldn’t have had the tasty ice cream by the river, either, and that would not have been appropriate at all.

Pork butt is pork shoulder; it used to be packed in barrels, then called butts, hence its name.  The double meaning of the word does yield all manner of puns, though... :-)

This was in Bass Pro. Pork butt is pork shoulder; it used to be packed in barrels, then called butts, hence its name. The double meaning of the word does yield all manner of puns, though… πŸ™‚

After we left the boardwalk we crossed the Texas Street Bridge and just drove around for a while, eventually ending up back over the Red River in Bossier City. We decided to go for a gawp and a giggle at the silly McMansions in Plantation Trace and other subdivisions that have sprung up around it. The buildings in those areas are so weirdly designed, all over-large sloping roofs and peculiar floor layouts and structures with odd sides and nowhere near enough yard space for their size. I got the impression of someone getting their kid to mess around in a CAD program overlaying chunks of building in strange ways…

Heading south we saw in the distance a Great Monstrosity and blemish upon the undeserving land: the new Parkway High School, a new construction that looks more like a prison than a school. Barricaded from the road, hulking in the distance like an expensive, artificial hulking thing, we looked at it with some disgust, and not a little irritation. SJ turned us around and we headed back up to the Parkway she attended, the real Parkway High School, now housing Elm Grove Middle School. To add insult to injury, we pulled up in the parking lot to find that the old Parkway Panthers logo on the boys’ gym had been covered by air conditioning ductwork! To make matters worse, someone had painted “Elm Grove Eagles” at about chest-height further down the wall in abysmal block-lettering that any decent graffiti artist would be embarrassed to stand near. But still, we got out to talk as SJ looked around at some of the band marks on the parking lot – where the marching band used to practice – and did a little marching to see how well her muscles remembered it, reminiscing about the times spent there.

Marching band … such fond memories I have from it. I was so disappointed to learn they don’t have it here. Then I heard about a military tattoo, and got all excited, and dragged Chris down to Birmingham to see one … only to see one of the most boring things I’ve ever come across. They were in an arena (you know, like what popular singers give concerts in). They took the entire floorspace, and simply marched back and forth in straight lines, arranged in simple rectangular blocks of individuals. Blegh. I’ve resigned myself to not seeing marching band performances unless we’re in the US. For any readers confused about why that’s not marching band, this is what I mean by marching band (you can skip to 0:58, when they actually start marching):

Also, here’s a brilliantly-executed vintage show, from Bossier High School, 1960.

Oh, and – my muscles pretty well nailed a standard 8-to-5 (8 steps in 5 yards). Huzzah. I think we had about 1,000 hours of marching practice over the four years, back in my day (an intensive month of 12-hour days just before school started, plus practice throughout the 4-month football season). So in case you wondered, that’s what it takes to ingrain good muscle memory.

We headed back to Cold Stone Creamery for the cake – on which they’d actually managed to spell SJ’s name correctly! – and then on to Ralph & Kacoo’s for SJ’s Birthday Dinner The First.

Remarkably, we got there before the rest of the family, and got there early. Something was obviously wrong with the world! (I’m always late; I’ll be late to my own funeral. It’s just the way of things. It felt very peculiar to be early.) Nannie had arranged for a private room off the main restaurant, and we sat there waiting for the others to arrive. Before long Nannie came in, and then other members of the family arrived in groups of two or three so that eventually most of SJ’s local family were there. Over the meal we were told how SJ’s Uncle the Cyborg and his son had debugged a problem with her Uncle’s cochlear implant. Apparently the implant inside the ear connects to a plate just under his skin, and the pickup and other gubbins sit on the outside (so there’s none of that nasty and easily infected transdermal cabling). There had been a problem in the external hardware, but they’d traced what was wrong on their own – even using the troubleshooting guide, no less – to the utter shock of the audiologist, who proclaimed them her favourite people ever for doing it.

I chose the strawberry passion, which was Very Tasty - heartily recommended!

I chose the strawberry passion, which was Very Tasty – heartily recommended!

After the entrΓ©es had been consumed, SJ opened cards. After a while her cake was brought forth, so I began to get it ready. We’d been unable to find number candles to put on it, so the correct number of individual candles had to be added and individually lit – thankfully SJ’s mother packs at least two lighters, and helped me get all the candles lit, but I still came pretty close to setting my own thumb on fire (which, admittedly, would probably have made it easier to light the remaining candles…).

After we sung the Happy Birthday song and SJ blew out her candles, it was decided that I should be the one to cut and serve the cake. This is a task I have had before, but would have been much, much easier if they had provided an appropriately useful tool for the job rather than a flimsy plastic-handled knife (I, inevitably, managed to break it).

As you can see by the inferno, I'm officially old.

As you can see by the inferno, I’m officially old.

Before too long people began drifting off, as by this point it was getting towards the bedtime for many of SJ’s family (many of whom get up at quite terrifyingly early times in the morning). We needed to go out that evening to pick up more water and Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai, so after we’d dropped stuff off at Nannie’s, we headed out again.

As we passed over the Shreveport-Barksdale bridge, there was a section where the streetlights on the bridge were off. While driving through that stretch we noticed that at least one of the car headlights was coming and going, and there was a short period where we may not have had any headlights at all. Just on the other side of the bridge there is a brightly-lit McDonald’s by the side of the road, so we pulled in there so that we could check fuses and see if we could work out what might be wrong. This was Wednesday, and we were due to start on the road trip on Friday: having wonky headlights could have thrown a serious spanner in the works for the journey, and we were both pretty stressed and worried at this point. We couldn’t see anything obvious, and the headlights seemed to be working fine while sat in the parking lot, so we decided to leave exhaustive checking for the morning – in daylight, warmer temperatures, and not on a random parking lot. Thursday had been set aside for working on cleaning and checking the car anyway, so we went into Walmart to buy the things we needed (Walmart’s the only place we can reliably find that Bolthouse Farms drink), and headed back to get ourselves ready for bed.

US Trip 2013: Day I: Doctor and Visits

 Posted by at 02:06 on 13 May 2014
May 132014

Our few days in Bossier City and Shreveport before setting off on our road trip were a blur: shopping, preparations, squeezing in a bit of family time as we could (it being weekdays, people had to work, of course), etc. We took hardly any photos in this time, and none from this first day. Chris has somehow managed to tease a narrative out of what I thought were boring enough days to merit skipping … so I suppose I should go ahead and share it with you!

(Remember, my interjections are in green text.)

Day I (Tuesday, 26th March 2013): Bossier City and Shreveport. (by Chris)

Why yes, I am using Roman numerals for the day numbers at this point. Much like preface material in a book, the first few days in the US were preface to the road trip; days will be numbered in a more conventional decimal form when we get there.

I woke and shambled (he’s good at shambling, especially before his first cup of tea) into Nannie’s kitchen a while before SJ, seeking hot water to apply to the bags of precious life-giving Tea I had carefully packed to bring with us (US tea is, in my experience, almost universally bletcherous). (So very true; we’d brought his and hers tea supplies.) To my immense shock and amazement, Nannie had a wireless access point right there in the kitchen (in fact, she also has a tablet and a kindle, something that completely blew away SJ and I!) I could even get my phone to talk to it, thanks to strategic placement of the password! After correcting the alarmingly high level of blood in my teastream, some food, and some chanting of the Ancient and Forbidden Words of Command (“Work, damnit, useless thing! Work!”), I had the data connection on my phone working properly.

I had no idea at the time just how massively helpful, if not vital, that data connection would be for us over the next few weeks…

After SJ had emerged from the depths of slumber and consumed breakfast, we headed out to deal with earwax. Yes, wax of the inside-the-ears variety, specifically SJ’s. SJ suffers from slow but inexorable wax buildup, to the point that it will seriously impair her hearing if not addressed from time to time. In the UK the local GP practice (and all others I’ve heard about) is incredibly reluctant to syringe ears, and when they do the method is so horribly ineffective as to be pointless, so we decided that one of the first things we would do when we got to the US would be to get SJ’s ears thoroughly evacuated.

Off we went to visit a doctor SJ has seen in the past, the inimitable Dr Lippton, an individual who can best be described as being “something of a character.” (US readers: you should note this is Chris employing that infamous British understatement thing you hear about sometimes.) He was more than happy, if not positively enthused, to clear out SJ’s clogged ear canals, presenting the extricated globulous clumps with something approaching a paternalistic pride, all the while providing a commentary that, if a British doctor even attempted it, would cause massive scandal. There was absolutely nothing wrong with his patter, mind – it was highly amusing and entertaining. I’d thoroughly recommend Dr Lippton to anyone in the area (or passing through) – his amusing banter helped lighten the mood during this uncomfortable procedure, and he’s always known just the thing to fix me up – including my first ear syringing some years back, before I’d ever heard of it. It’s just that British doctors are supposed to have Zero Personality, it seems. Despite this, his ministrations were spot on: SJ’s ears were cleared, and as soon as he’d finished he saw what our GP couldn’t (because of the earwax in the way!): SJ had an ear infection. (I’d gone to the Dr a few days before leaving.) Dr Lippton prescribed ear drops and antibiotics – of a strength I don’t think you can get outside of hospitals here (Judging by how big my UK doctor’s eyes went when I got back and showed her the paper for it, I think Chris is right). With vouchers [coupons] in hand, we headed off to a nearby grocery store to get them filled.

While waiting for the pharmacy we wandered the grocery aisles in a sort of daze, “So much lovely stuff! So much stuff the import stores don’t carry! What is their problem?!” Despite us being on the Junk Food Tour of America, we managed to resist the urge and did not stock up on… well, everything, but a few things did manage to end up in the cart anyway.

When we’d finished there, we returned to Nannie’s, and were bundled into her car to go to Sam’s Club. 1 We prefer a few American things enough to import them, so we wanted to take the chance to stock up before we returned to the UK. However, we found that there was very little we needed that we could get there. While they had a lot of stuff, there was very little selection within any given type of item: for example, I found exactly one type of one brand of toothpaste, and this singular form of tooth goop is not one that either SJ or I use. We found a few things on our list there, got some boxes of snacks for the trip, and managed to get a 2.2 litre Airpot flask for my Life-Support-Tea-While-Roadtripping needs. However, the majority of our list included things we simply couldn’t get there, and we left somewhat disappointed.

For dinner, we went to a Mexican restaurant called Trejo’s. SJ actually used to work at Trejo’s back in her wild, rebellious youth (I had one of those? Learn something new every day!), and we were both looking forward to some real Mexican (well, Tex-Mex) food that we hadn’t cooked for ourselves. Unfortunately, we were both quite disappointed with the meal: SJ’s entrΓ©e (Bistek Mexicano) was entirely too spicy, mine (a chimichanga) was okay but it was certainly nothing on the food we cook, and the sides – refried beans and Mexican rice – were similarly disappointing. Maria, one of SJ’s old co-workers, was our server, and she and SJ caught up a bit. I mostly looked on with bemusement, and couldn’t really join in the conversation, as I could barely understand a word Maria said, her accent was so strong! (Oh, yeah, it is … sorry, love, totally didn’t think about that!) When we’d finished dinner, on the way out to the car, SJ ran into Joey Trejo (He’s a classmate and former co-worker of mine – he runs this location now, I believe. Sweet guy; I was glad to hear he and Danielle are busily living their own happily ever after.) and caught up with him a bit, and thankfully I could actually understand him.

Just as we were sitting down to eat, SJ’s dad had called. After dinner we decided that it was rather silly to phone him back when, for a change, we could just drive over and see him, so we did! We visited for a while, chatting about a variety of things, but then he showed me some of his workshop, the cabinet he was making, and made me immensely jealous by showing me his stores of hard woods (which, in the UK, would be insanely expensive). Much of the work I do has to be with pine, simply because hardwoods tend to be ruinously expensive in any useful quantities, and seeing all that hardwood there made me very tempted to find a way to sneak it back in to the country. Alas, I suspect that wandering through airports with large pieces of hardwood shoved under my shirt wouldn’t work too well. We did discuss cutting it into lengths to fit in a suitcase, but Chris oddly vetoed this idea.

After tearing me away from the shiny, shiny wood store, SJ and I picked up a few things from the shop. Water was high on the list of needs, as Bossier City water is drinkable, but it didn’t taste like what we’re used to. We decided to opt for bottled water. We also got some bottles of a drink I love, but can not get in the UK: Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea. I find this drink weird bordering on gross, but hey, to each their own.

By this point it was getting late, so we headed back to Nannie’s and headed to bed.

  1. For the UK readers: Sam’s Club is a warehouse-style, membership-only retail chain run by Walmart, where goods are often sold in bulk or with no frills, and sometimes – but not always! – for lower prices. Much like Costco or Booker Cash&Carry, but anyone can pay the fee and join; you needn’t meet any criteria to qualify. []

US Trip 2013: Day 0: And so it begins…

 Posted by at 01:32 on 12 May 2014
May 122014

Last year, we had an epic, month-long vacation to the US. I adore road trips, and was absolutely itching to go on one again. I’ve been meaning to write it up ever since – in my “spare time.” Let this be a lesson to us all: I don’t have spare time. It’s like how stuff always expands to fill the available space: in my life, activities always expand to fill the available time – overfill, really. If you ever need something from me, say so, and give me a deadline.

Preamble …

My memory isn’t good, so I always want to record my trips so I can remember them later. Making logs of trips I’ve taken has always caused me problems. I write slowly, and I jam pack my trips. Anytime I have tried to write a log while I’m on a trip, I always end up not writing very much and still resenting the time it takes to write it – I could be out doing stuff! So we gave this conundrum some thought before we set off on this trip, and eventually we hit upon a winning idea: since we’d be in the car alone together for long stretches, and we have these fancy smart phones that can record hours and hours of audio, we’d make audio logs as we drove along. It worked out really well, and we recorded LOTS of detail. We even managed to record some of those “Hey, look at that!” moments you get on road trips, spotting something interesting/weird/etc out the window.

Of course, we did so much recording – there were photos, too – that the sheer volume daunted me for the longest time. Recently, Chris got the urge to listen to our recordings. It being a year ago since our trip, I realized I’d need some help if I was ever going to get the write up completed that I promised everyone as we drove along. So, I’ve asked him to write up our audio logs into written logs. I’ll edit them and curate and add photos, and post them here. So, the text for this series will mostly be in Chris’ voice. I feel I should interject sometimes – I’ll do that in green text so you can more easily tell the difference.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get started…

Preparations … (written by Chris)

Glos Chron 2013_0328

Towards the end of March 2013, as the UK was deep in the chilly grip of the dreaded DOOMSnow, SJ and I escaped to the US for a month. While the vacation was bookended by several days in north-west Louisiana, the majority of our time there was spent on a road trip involving over 4500 miles of driving, crossing or recrossing 15 states. We took over 1500 photographs, and recorded over 18 hours of audio log as we travelled; far, far more than we can really share in any sane fashion. But here, and across a series of entries, I am going to attempt to recount some of the events of the journey. This should not be considered an exhaustive account, if for no other reason than the fact that even those 18 hours of audio log do not cover everything that happened. In any journey of this size, long stretches of road go by, many hours of conversation are made, stops for gas and supplies must happen, and I could not include everything, even if I wanted to. Major events will be recounted, routes and places will be described, and many details will be given – sometimes even mentioning gas and supply stops! – but there will be omissions, either by choice or simply because we never recorded anything. But all that said, join me, dear reader, as we embark upon…

The Adventures of Chris and SJ and The Great Road Trip of 2013

(subtitled “The Junk Food Tour of America”)

The vacation itself came perilously close to not happening at all: in the two weeks before we were due to leave, SJ’s social calendar was packed to breaking point… literally, as it turned out. On Wednesday the 20th – just 5 days left before our flight out of the country – she developed a full-blown raging snot-tornado of a cold, a sinus infection, and (as we found out later) an ear infection. Over the next couple of days, while we prepared clothing, luggage, and supplies, this got worse and worse, to the point where on Sunday the 24th we seriously debated and looked into the possibility of delaying the trip – or even outright cancelling it – but the cost of delaying was prohibitive, and cancelling it was something neither of us wanted to do. SJ had started to feel at least a little better at this point, so we decided to go as scheduled, snot and all.

I will spare you the description of the frenzied preparations, the pondering and revising of itineraries, and the tetris-like packing and repacking process. Suffice to say, the days leading up to the 25th were far from sedate, and our plan to head to bed by 7pm on the 24th failed utterly: it was gone [past] midnight when we finally got to bed, only to have to be up and finishing off everything at 3am so we could leave for the airport at 5. Worse, SJ spent much of those scant hours in bed awake and coughing, and I got little sleep.

SJ and I are emphatically not morning people, and 5am is still “middle of the night” for us, let alone 3am with almost no sleep. This is consistently the hardest part of transatlantic travel for me. Flying and its accompanying navigation of airports is tiring, uncomfortable, stressful, and degrading, but appropriate flights from the UK to the US leave exclusively in the morning, and with the airlines and airport recommending checking in 3 hours before the flight, insanely early starts are unavoidable.

Flying … (written by Chris)

The process of checking in and going through security in Manchester was as enjoyable as ever – that is, not. The clerks on the check-in desks must mainline caffeine while downing amphetamines or something to be so bubbly and awake at godsawful-early-o’clock, but at least ours was efficient and helpful. This was made up for in security where, because SJ was still ill and half asleep, I hadn’t noticed, and the people working the security lines were falling down on the job, SJ ended up having to go through the Porn Machine That Gives You Cancer and then be groped quite thoroughly because she had forgotten to take her belt off. This wasn’t a good start, but thankfully it was the only time that this happened in our outward journey.

As it turned out, getting through check-in and security still only took less than an hour, so we ended up having an hour and a half of people-watching before our flight was even assigned a gate! I wanted a sandwich or something before boarding, so we wandered through the food court, where I spied this sign…

Beer for breakfast - yep, we're not going to see that again for a month.

Beer for breakfast – yep, we’re not going to see that again for a month.

Once we had a gate to go to, we headed over there to wait for boarding, and were amused to find a group of cowboys and girls talking animatedly and messing with smartphones. Even more amusing was the fact that they were all English.

The first flight was from Manchester to Chicago, scheduled to be 8 hours crammed like overheated sardines in a small metal tube hurtling through the air. It was scheduled to depart at 9am UK time (3am US Central time) and arrive in Chicago at 12:40pm Central time. Because of the airline charging ridiculous amounts for seats next to each other on this first flight, SJ and I didn’t even sit together: we were in the middle seats of sets of three, one row behind the other. SJ’s two seatmates were generally surly, uncommunicative, and unfriendly, in complete contrast to my seatmates who were quite friendly… and both scared of flying. The woman to my left, in the window seat, was quieter, seemed to like gripping the armrests, and was extremely shaky when it came to takeoff, landing, any manoeuvring, the small amount of turbulence we had, or gnats farting…. The man to my right, however, had come prepared: over the course of the flight he downed a sizeable bottle of whiskey, and partook of the alcoholic beverages every time the drinks cart came by. When we got to Chicago – almost an hour ahead of schedule! – he was quite happily inebriated, but remarkably coherent for it!

Chris and his cheerful new friend were behind me; he was a Scot. I at least got to eavesdrop on their conversation, not having any of my own. I didn’t even know the Scotsman had been drinking until we deplaned and Chris told me. The guy on my left wasn’t so bad; he was mostly asleep. The guy on my right, however, was rather surly. Hey ho, we travel for all sorts of reasons, and not everyone’s happy to be doing it.

In Chicago we passed through passport control quickly, after first confounding the person herding us by going through the US line together. I’d read enough online to know that we should go through the line together – separating our party would only confuse the immigration officers. I didn’t much care which line we went through, but started with the US line, what with my US passport and all. The woman directing traffic at the head of the line didn’t like to let us stay together, saying we’d hold up her line (processing Chris’ passport would apparently “take too long”), but let us through anyway. As it happened, it didn’t take long at all. We even encountered that incredibly rare and unusual beast, the laid-back, talkative, and friendly immigration officer! He spent some of the time while dealing with our passports telling us about the weather (so we felt right at home there…), and how we’d been lucky: snow had just missed Chicago passing to the north and south. Despite that, as we rode the Driverless Robotic Railway of the Future (which really freaked out SJ; “There’s no driver?!”) to the terminal our connecting flight was going to leave from, we saw some snow flurries, and later while waiting at the gate for the onward flight we watched planes getting de-iced as they prepared to leave. Customs and security passed without incident, groping, or Pornoscanners (hooray!), and while waiting for the next flight onto Dallas we descended upon Romano’s Macaroni Grill for food. By this point, I was quite, quite ravenous. SJ had eaten on the plane, but I have an unwritten rule to never eat airline food: I bring snacks, but the provided “food” never actually smells any good to me, and the one time I did partake of airline food I spent the next day and a half dealing with Emphatic Gastric Dissatisfaction. So, I snack and either plan to eat at the airports, or not at all.

While we waited for our food, I switched the SIM card in my smartphone for a RedPocket SIM we had bought in advance of the journey. The phone and text stuff worked flawlessly, but the data refused to work – it wasn’t until the next day I managed to fix that, but I’ll come to that later. Can’t recommend that RedPocket highly enough; it worked as it was supposed to, and was incredibly useful on many, many occasions. Food was tasty enough, but I sure looked forward to restaurants with better atmosphere – less tightly packed, and not having to manage our suitcases would be a good start.

Once fed, we wandered to the gate for the flight to Dallas and engaged in more people-watching, and watched in vaguely disgusted fascination as planes outside were sprayed with orange goop followed by green goop, producing quite foul-looking mixtures that apparently make the planes so embarrassing to go near that the ice will not form on them as they fly.

Orange goop

Orange goop

The flight to Dallas was fairly uneventful and straightforward. (It was scheduled to depart at 4pm and arrive at 6:40pm, so we’d had about a 4-hour layover. It’s important to build cushions in like this when you fly, particularly internationally.) We actually got to sit next to each other this time, and SJ dozed pretty well during the flight. I have only been able to sleep on a plane once – when I got bumped to business class between Philadelphia and Vegas back in 2006 – so instead I buried my head in a book and tried to stave off the boredom.

On arriving in Dallas we took another Driverless Robotic Railway of the Future to the terminal we needed, although we got a little misdirected on the way there (Warning: Driverless Robotic Railways of the Future may not be going where you expect them to). When we eventually got to the right place we decided we wanted a snack… only to discover that the place we should have got snacks from was the terminal we had just come from! Thankfully there was a small “corner shop” of a store in the terminal (just around the corner from our gate, in fact!) from which we got snacks: I got some US Kettle Chips (UK ones are different), while SJ got Crackerjacks, and a frozen burrito she microwaved in the shop. We also picked up some York Peppermint Patties, and thus began The Junk Food Tour of America!

Dallas to Shreveport is 180 miles; the flight is a half-hour hop. The plane barely has time to reach cruising altitude before it has to start descending into Shreveport. (This one was 8pm to 8:50pm, still Central; we spent about 20 minutes of it taxiing.) Once again, we got to sit together and watch as the lights of Dallas fell behind. The flight was so short that there was no drink service, but even if we’d wanted anything it wouldn’t have mattered, because the flight attendant ended up spending a chunk of the flight dealing with someone further down the plane who had become airsick. I decided against suggesting that they be made to get out and walk, tempting as the idea was.

Arriving at Shreveport was an eerie experience. We were on what must have been the last flight into Shreveport that day; the terminal was pretty much deserted, and everything was closed, quiet, and looking strangely abandoned. Just as we got off the plane, SJ went into the bathroom by the gates, and I made use of Shreveport Airport‘s (incredibly progressive) free wifi to track down why the data connection on my phone wasn’t connecting and dataing. While I found what the problem was, I didn’t have the time or brainpower to fix it, so I decided to leave it for the next day.

When SJ emerged we headed towards the baggage claim and the outside world, where SJ’s dad would be waiting to whisk us away from the world of planes and gates. Now, Shreveport isn’t quite the smallest airport I’ve ever flown into – that honour goes to the hilariously grandiosely-named Rogue Valley International Medford Airport, Oregon, where the terminal is not quite a tin shack – but it is pretty small. Despite that we were half way through the terminal when SJ’s dad phoned us to ask where we were. When we got to him, we could see why: most of the corridor had been blocked off by a metal shutter! Thankfully it didn’t extend all the way across, so we got around that and down to the baggage claim just in time, as they were about to start putting our luggage into the Lost Luggage office! “But I didn’t take that long in the bathroom!!” SJ protested. As I pointed out at the time, she hadn’t, and I was pretty certain that the other passengers had only just left. I guessed the baggage attendants just wanted to get everything away so they could finish for the night.

SJ’s dad drove us through Shreveport and over to Bossier City where SJ’s grandmother, Nannie, lives. We were going to be staying with her for a couple of days before starting on the roadtrip, and SJ’s dad had even moved Iolana (SJ’s car) to Nannie’s house. This was even more useful than he might have guessed: we hadn’t brought toiletries with us as we knew we had left some from the last time we were in the US, and those were in one of the suitcases SJ’s dad had put into the trunk of the car! After manhandling all our luggage into Nannie’s guest room, and finally digging the toiletries out of the very last suitcase, we found that Nannie had actually put some in the shower for us already! But, we finally showered, took sleeping pills to help make sure we could sleep properly and avoid jet lag, and collapsed into bed at just gone midnight.

We had been awake for 27 hours, and travelled over 4,800 miles, but we were safe and in the US; we had made it.

Introducing a new page

 Posted by at 16:42 on 12 April 2014
Apr 122014

Once upon a time, I spent a great deal of mental effort making sure to choose the right words and phrases before they came out of my mouth. It wore me out. I finally realized that, because I’ve moved from the US to the UK, and not the other way around, and particularly because I’m living in the friendly place I do, I’m surrounded by people who will just understand my meaning and roll with it, instead of doing that stereotypical American thing of demanding the immigrant to perfectly fit in, berating and shaming them if they don’t. Sometimes my friends and I don’t understand each other, but we just ask nicely; whoever was speaking will explain, and it’s all okay, really. It’s not the horrible thing I feared it would be. So now I just use whatever words come to mind, and I’m so much less worn out when I converse with friends, which is as it should be.

I do, however, still notice the differing word choices, and you’ve seen me include the translations here when I feel it’s appropriate, since I have readers on both sides of that vast ocean*. I’ve decided to start a page collecting up some of these words and phrases, with the best translations I can think of for them, linking to blog entries where I more fully explore their meanings and connotations – as I know them so far! Eventually, once more content is added, you’ll be able to check that page for a translation if you’re not sure.

I’m a little on the fence about the name for that page (ironically). It’ll certainly have translations, such as sick/ill/poorly/puny, so it could be called Translations. However, it may also serve as a repository for words and phrases specific to me / me & Chris / Glossop / Derbyshire, such as “When I were alive.” In that latter case, it feels more like a Glossary. For now, I’ve decided to take Chris’ suggestion and call it Words Of Interest, without the audio file that plays it in a booming god-voice everytime you look at the phrase (we concluded that’d be annoying). Anyway, so the name might change (or not), but you’ll surely be able to figure out what it is on the menu bar.

Oh yes, and finally: sometimes I may put tongue-in-cheek translations on this new page.

* I’ve decided: Anyone who thinks it’s just a pond has clearly never flown over it, or listened to Jan Meek talk about rowing across it. It’s a 24-hour day with three separate flights each time I fly to my parents’, and then the same again to come home. It’s an ocean.

I don’t feel so well…

 Posted by at 16:42 on 12 April 2014
Apr 122014

Ugh, I hate being this way.

What way is that? I have a throbbing head, a massive sneeze that returns frequently enough to make my chest ache, a running nose (I didn’t tell it to go for a run, no idea where it got that notion!), at night a sore throat, and so on. I have a head cold.

To my UK friends, I’m poorly. To my US friends, I’m sick, or ill.

These aren’t reversible …

These don’t work the other way around, I note: I’m not sick to my UK friends, because sick to them is a direct replacement for the word vomit. “I had to clean up her sick” means “I had to clean up her vomit.” It’s not a synonym, which usually has a slightly different meaning or connotation (take car, which has a synonym of automobile, but automobile means many more things than just car – could mean a truck, etc).

I don’t know how other Americans use ill, but I picked it up as a slightly more elegant way of saying sick, with the same range of meanings: you’re sick or ill whether you have a head cold, pneumonia, cancer, or whatever; you have to use other words to convey which it is (I generally unimaginatively use the words head cold, pnuemonia, cancer, and so on). A few times I’ve said someone’s ill to my friends here, and they react with such concern that it’s as though the person in question is on their death bed. I now usually remember to not use ill.

A new American word for my current state has entered my awareness recently: puny. My aunt wrote in a letter recently: “I have been a little puny this week, but as the day goes by, I am doing better.” Then when I was on the phone to my grandmother, she used the word puny to describe my current state. So I think puny and poorly are the best match, but I don’t know how widespread puny is (in this meaning). I just don’t remember coming across it that much, but then, it’s not the kind of thing I paid much attention to until having to learn the new vocabulary for it.

But then, in a recent conversation, someone was talking about his father, who’d been in the hospital for 9 weeks before dying recently, very sad. He said, “… but by then, Dad was poorly,” referring to that 9 weeks. So poorly doesn’t always mean a mild illness, clearly.

Forget sick/poorly/etc. I’ve decided that I prefer to simply call my current self a snot monster.

A canal walk around Uppermill

 Posted by at 01:37 on 29 March 2014
Mar 292014

On Wednesday, I went with some of the members of my WI for a walk alongside the canal near Uppermill, a town in Saddleworth, Oldham, Greater Manchester. It’s a beautiful place, very much like the High Peak, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I snapped a whole lot of photos, and wanted to share some with you.

My last photo-heavy post got no comments, and I suspect that it took so long to load that everyone gave up on it. This time I’ve resized all the photos, so it should load quicker, and added a link in each caption to the full size photo, should you want a closer view of anything. I really hate squinting at a small photo, trying to make something out, that would be dead easy to see if only the full size photo was available. This is the best balance I can think of at the moment. Please let me know how it works for you.

Photos incoming …

Remember to click on a photo to see it a bit bigger, and also to be able to read the whole caption.

And then we came home – I was worn out! I totted it up; we’d covered 4 miles in all – not bad!