Monthly Archives: July 2012

What’s the Point?

It’s Munden Point!

At the weekend we ventured a few miles south to Munden Point, an area of park with your usual picnicking and leisure amenities.  And a HUUUUUUGE lake that was full of people jetskiing and boating.  Really quite impressive.  It’s obviously a popular place as all the covered picnic areas were reserved for parties (and when I say “picnic” I mean they have electric hookups and BBQs and all sorts of stuff, not just a picnic table like you would expect in the UK).  (And when I say “picnic table”, the ones here were the size of a boardroom table, not the size of a handkerchief like you would expect in the UK).

We played Frisbee Golf, which is a real game and not just available on the Wii Fit.  Who knew?  All that was missing was a dog to catch the Frisbee really.  It’s a very similar set-up to normal Golf, i.e. 18 holes, you have to get the frisbee into the hole in as few shots as possible, I’m rubbish at it, etc.

What I thought was a little weird, but then afterwards thought was really quite touching, was the big group of 30 or so people who were having their annual family reunion at the park.  I knew this because they all had matching T shirts printed, saying “Travis Family Reunion July 2012 Munden Point”.  Brothers of mine, watch out, this may be our collective look when we have the “Hall Family Reunion 2015”!

The other thing that I found really strange, having only been out of the UK for less than a month, is that the road to Munden Point is a one-lane-per-side winding road through the countryside.  You know, pretty much like every road in the UK.  And absolutely no roads whatsoever in the US.  Most of our neighbourhood streets are long, straight, 3-4 lanes each way minimum..  It was something of an experience driving our tank-sized car along a narrow (“normal”) road, with me checking we didn’t cross over the middle line and the husband making sure we didn’t career off into a ditch.  It was a masterful feat of skill and daring 😀

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Jim’ll Fix It

You know how, in Desperate Housewives and the like, the maintenance men are always young and hot?  That’s not the reality, let me tell you.  I’ve called the maintenance man out three times when the husband’s been at work, and while he is undoubtedly adorable (and actually good at fixing things, which I suppose is the key point), he must be fast approaching 65.  Sigh.

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Driving Miss Crazy

It’s been weird enough being a car passenger over the last couple of weeks.   Getting into the right hand side of the car and not having a steering wheel in front of you, well, that’s just bonkers.  Travelling on the right (or should I say WRONG) side of the road ……  not normal.

Today I took it a step further.  I drove our new car!  Round our car park first, then down a straight road, then I went crazy and turned a few corners.  Heck, at one point I even put it into reverse!  The main thing you need to remember is, when turning a left hand corner, MAKE SURE YOU STAY ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD.  I personally have not had a problem doing this yet.  In my extensive half hour of driving, that is.  But I know other people who have 😀

The other thing we keep having an issue with is remembering where we’ve parked the bloomin’ thing.  It’s bad enough when you lose your trusty old car in a small Asda car park, but you try finding a hire car that you’ve only just picked up and then parked in the biggest Walmart car park you’ve ever seen ….. (although last night, queuing to leave the KISS gig, I was mightily cheered by the sight of the couple who walked past us three times in half an hour, clearly still searching for their car.  Happy days…)

We have an automatic car – it’s very rare to drive a manual in the States.  I keep wondering where the clutch is.  Also when I pull away I really want to change into second gear.  But my main problem at the moment is forgetting to take the handbrake off when I start.  It won’t take long to remember, I’m sure.  (It’s kind of a giveaway when you put your foot on the gas and the car goes nowhere.)

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Crazy Crazy Night

When we found out we were moving to the States, one of the first things I put on my wishlist was to see KISS.  Well, two weeks in and I have ticked off that ambition already!  We saw them last night at an outdoor venue (well, we had a roof over us but no walls), which was quite an experience with a huge thunderstorm going on around us at the same time.

The first band on were called The Treatment and they actually hail from Cambridge (“Hey, we’ve come all the way from the UK!” they said as they started.  “Big deal”, we said, “so have we!”).  I’m surprised that in this day and age a group of British teenagers would want to make hard rock, and I can’t imagine they will get much success in the UK market, however they went down well over in the US and will probably go onto great things over here.

Motley Crue did a really good show, with all the usual rock clichés (bikini-clad ladies, who are now at least young enough to be their daughters).  The Crue are all about twice the width they used to be, although with a lot less hairspray and makeup, except Nikki Sixx who is still keeping up appearances.  The highlight was definitely Tommy Lee’s revolving drumkit, which has to be seen to be believed, although the constant thought of a hamster wheel popping into my head did detract somewhat from the effect.  I’m pleased to say they played “Girls Girls Girls”, which is all I really wanted to hear!

I’m not sure I can adequately express how amazing it was to see KISS!!!  Something I never thought I would do, and I think it was all the more brilliant for being in a slightly bonkers American audience.  It was a spectacular show, considering they are all fast approaching pension age and Paul Stanley is awaiting a third hip replacement (let that be a warning to all you high heel wearers out there).  I’m pleased to say they were in full makeup, although only a disappointingly small proportion of the audience wore the same.  Lots of explosions, lots of fake blood, lots of Gene Simmons tongue action, all projected onto a 40 foot high screen in glorious technicolour so we couldn’t miss any of it!  Not wanting to be outdone by Tommy Lee’s revolving drumkit, Paul Stanley flew out over the heads of the audience and Gene Simmons played one song standing on top of the lighting rig above the stage.  I have gone temporarily deaf in one ear, but permanently giddy that I’m a bone fide member of the KISS ARMY at last.

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USS Wisconsin – 20th July 2012

Today we visited the USS Wisconsin which is an Iowa-Class US Battleship that was in service from the 1940s to the 1990s.  If you’re not familiar with this type of ship, it’s quite a lot like the one in this Cher video.   No such cavorting in evidence today (far too warm for that type of thing) but we did meet a US Navy veteran who had served on the ship from 1944-46 and told us a few tales of how they used to pass the time and make their own entertainment in cramped conditions on the ship.  All very impressive.

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Radio, Wall of Sound – 15th July 2012

We have no TV yet (however, having experienced a night of US TV in our hotel room, we’re not sure whether 250 channels of nothing are actually worth the money anyway) so we’ve been listening to the radio.  The USA has far more radio stations than the UK, with many being very specialised (I haven’t found the late 80s/early 90s/goth/indie/metal station yet but no doubt it exists).  We’ve already found some favourites though, and they are surprisingly similar to the UK stations.  93.7 BOB FM is where we are currently “keeping our knob” (yes that is their slogan) and it plays a mix of “proper” music old and new, i.e. the stuff played on actual instruments and not your dancey rubbish.  It’s very similar to Absolute Radio in the UK.  It even has the same no-repeat workday guarantee.  I expected to hear a lot of unfamiliar songs but it seems that 99% of US bands must have made it big in the UK as I know nearly all of the music BOB plays.  I’ve also been surprised by some of the UK music BOB plays.  While obviously Adele is on non-stop and Coldplay are regulars, I’ve also heard the likes of Jesus Jones and Human League.

Meanwhile over on Sirius, the satellite stations similar to our UK digital service, they have 80s and 90s stations just like Absolute Radio 80s and 90s.  Sadly we only get Sirius on our hire car which is being returned shortly, as I will miss both stations.

Of course, once my internet connection is up and running I will be faithfully listening to Radcliffe & Maconie on 6 Music again, this time as my breakfast show 🙂

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Supersize Me – 11th July 2012

As expected, everything is mega-sized out here.  The cooker, the fridge-freezer, the tumble dryer and the washing machine are all about 1½ times the size of their UK equivalents (and don’t get me started on the cars…).  And the amount of controls on the washing machine … well … it’s just designed to confuse me.  What’s wrong with a simple on/off switch?

It all makes me wonder whether, in three years’ time, we’ll also be supersized.

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A Place of Our Own – 7th July 2012

We moved into our apartment and it did not disappoint, not one bit.  I can safely say it’s around twice the size of the flat we have just left in the UK (including 9 foot high ceilings).  The master bedroom has a walk-in closet which is so big you could fit a double bed into it.  It’s going to be my “safe room” when we have a hurricane warning (who wouldn’t be comforted by the sight of all those shoes???).  The fridge probably isn’t far off the same size (too cold to be a safe room though).  Or the oven (too hot for a …. oh, okay).  We have a balcony which is just crying out for a table and two chairs, although not really necessary as we also have the use of a communal pool area full of sun loungers.  It was way too hot to try that out though … 102F and still rising.

We did fit in our first trip to Walmart, already known by us as Asda.  Sadly I have to report that none of the infamous “people of Walmart” were in evidence.  Probably the biggest freaks in there were the two Brits trying to explain to bemused Americans what orange squash is.  They don’t have it, apparently.  What I did find was “Drink Enhancer”, which to all intents and purposes is a Barbie-sized squash bottle and you add about half a teaspoon to a glass of water to flavour it.  Weird, but I quite like it.

Other than that, we just bought the essentials (bedding, bin liners and lightbulbs) and then spent the day unpacking, which brings me to here, sitting on a stupidly large bed in an unbelievably huge rom, going “Are we really here???”

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Oh Luggage, Where Art Thou? – 6th July 2012

We braced ourselves for Customs and entering the USA.  Well, we would have done if we’d had time.  It was around three minutes from stepping off the plane to having our passports stamped.  It was then relatively painless to get ourselves through screening to the connecting flight, although it certainly took most of the two hours we had to do it in.

The second plane was way smaller (maybe a 50 seater?) so no quite so luxurious as the previous flight and I certainly felt every bump along the way.  However everything had gone like clockwork and we were now on the home stretch.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, our luggage had enjoyed itself so much in Washington that it decided to spend the night there instead of following us to our final destination.  Some fifteen hours later it eventually caught up with us, but not before I’d spent a fraught night imagining the worst (not helped by lack of sleep which made me feel like I was swaying on the deck of a small boat in high seas).

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A Class of Their Own – 6th July 2012

Well, Virgin excelled themselves today.  Forget any gripes I had yesterday.  Yes, I can be bought.

The day started with the husband waking me up at 4.30am.  We didn’t need to leave until after 7am, but that’s just him.  I was not happy.  Things got better.

After another free bus back to the airport (thanks again, National Express lady!), we arrived at the Virgin desk.  Our allocated seats from the previous day had been cancelled.  The flight was overbooked.  We were on standby.  I have to say the check-in person was lovely.  She turned a blind eye to our suitcase being 10kg overweight – phew.  We got some seats eventually and proceeded to duty free where we pottered around, sprayed on lots of smellies etc etc …. you know, the usual stuff that everyone does (don’t they?  Please tell me it’s not just us).  Eventually we proceeded to Boarding, thinking – this is actually going to happen.  We are going to live in the USA.  Then the call came over the tannoy.  Could we return to the boarding desk?  Buggeration, we thought, they’ve destroyed our luggage in a controlled explosion.  Well, apparently not.  Actually we were being bumped up to Upper Class.  Woop!  But did we mind that we couldn’t sit together?  Er …. No!!!  Who wouldn’t ditch their nearest and dearest for the chance of 8 hours of luxury at 36,000 feet?

I have to say I was not disappointed.  I’ve always loved the whole in-flight experience of having your own little Barbie cutlery etc, but this just takes it to a whole new level.  You get your own entertainment and relaxation pod with fold-flat bed (which I had to play with) and complimentary socks and duvet (always high on my list of priorities).  And you know that advice you sometimes read about dressing smartly in order to get an upgrade?  Take it from someone who was dressed in Primark trousers and cardi – it’s not necessary!

I must admit, I was surreptitiously watching other people for guidance at key points, but thanks to The Wedding Singer I already knew what the hot towel was for.

Lunch was preceded by an amuse bouche, which to all intents and purposes was cold mushy peas and a breadstick, but being served on posh china in Upper Class elevated it to something entirely different.  With the cheese course (a cheese course!!!  I know!!) I took the opportunity to sample the port, something I have never fancied before and I can see now I was right not to bother with.  Still, I finished it.  Well, it was free.

I met the husband at the bar for a drink (a bar!  On a plane!!  I know!!!) but for the most part I spent my time horizontal under my duvet on the nice fold-flat bed, drinking complimentary champagne and watching everything I could on the TV (I can highly recommend The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, if you haven’t seen it).  Unlike the man across the aisle who has clearly been in Upper Class too much, as he slept through most of the flight and all the meals.  Upper Class was clearly wasted on him.  Give it to people like me every time please Virgin – we truly appreciate it and make the most of it!

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