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Monday 9 March 2015

Turning Fifty

This entry was posted on Monday, March 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am and is filed under Getting old.
Keep Calm

Keep Calm

The year is 1997

And I am twenty five years old.

I drive my car on the Saturday evening involved over to the cricket club near Croydon where the fiftieth birthday party is taking place.  I have a card and present which I’d wrapped at the last minute stuck on the seat next to me.

I arrive on time, which means I am early compared to most other people which makes it a little awkward at first, although it gets better as more people arrive.  The main person that I know is the person who is turning fifty, and I know them very well – along with his wife and a couple of other relatives as well.

The rest of the evening is a little awkward as I now am in a world where a beer is bought for me (even though I didn’t really want one), and I feel like I don’t have a lot in common with others to talk about.  I don’t have any dirty jokes to swap, or stories of being out on the lash late last night, and I definitely feel that I am judged as being the weird geeky one.

I do spot though that that someone has nicely created a ‘Gallery of 50 years’ using old photos of that person’s life although I note that there is a distinct lack of pictures of a particular person in the gallery.

Mainly though, what I remember is that the evening culminates when a stripper arrives.

Someone has booked one, and we all get to watch a young lady in her twenties strut about in lingerie as the build-up act, for the finale to be just for the birthday boy to be suitably entertained with when he alone gets a ‘chest only’ view of the particular person hired.  Everyone whoops and cheers … well, maybe no everyone, but I know that I didn’t as it felt a bit awkward.

The year is now 2015

Straight away, I’d like to say “Fuck! Where did the time go?” as that is my first thought of seventeen years later, as I am now 42 years old – only eight away myself from the big ‘Five Oh’.

No, I am not turning fifty myself just yet, but one of my friends is.  A good friend, someone that has helped me with something in the past that I will forever be grateful for, and someone with whom I have a lot in common with.

This person isn’t having a party. They might be having a small social gathering hurriedly arrange at the last minute, but it won’t be held in a cricket club where there are signs – stolen from all around the world from when the club goes on tour – brought back as trophies and stuck on the wall.

And this person most certainly won’t be getting a stripper, so there will be no pert jiggly breasts thrust in towards them on their big day.

I thought about these two people and the turning-of-their-five decades a lot the other day.  And the contrast between them.  Two people, both known well to me and yet I have totally different relationships with, in how I interact with them, talk and swap stories with them, and generally deal with the differently when I meet them in real life, and they celebrate their 50th in completely different ways. And I just find that fascinating.

The latter doesn’t have a 25 year old son to come to his non-existent party, the former probably couldn’t imagine not celebrating it in some way.

My Dad will be 68 this year – maybe he’ll have another stripper when he turns 70 in a couple of years time. My friend however will no doubt write a brilliant piece for his blog, and sound like anything-but a 50 year old, because I see him as someone who looks and acts much younger.

And I really hope that in eight years time, I still don’t look my age. And please – don’t book me a stripper.

Happy Birthday DG.


Tuesday 30 December 2014

The decline of popular music

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 at 11:22 am and is filed under General, Getting old, Music.

A vivid childhood memory that I have when I was 11 years old, is coming home from school in the winter just as it was getting dark around 4pm, and coming home to my mum. She would make me a tea, and as a pre-dinner snack we would quite often have some Bovril on toast (with thick, crusty white bread) which was delicious, and we’d take it with our tea into the front room to eat it, where my mum would have the Radio on – Radio 2 to be precise.

Fast forward a few years later, and at the age of 14 (a little later than some of my friends) I finally discovered music, got my first record player, and with pocket money started buying 7″ singles. The first single I ever bought was in the summer of 1986, Madonna’s ‘Papa Don’t Preach‘ and I remember buying it from Boots (yes, Boots the chemist used to sell records!) for a £1 – discounted, as it had been number one in the charts already and was now falling away. I took it home and put it on – only to hear ‘Ain’t no big deal‘ the B-Side track. “That’s funny” I thought “They’ve put the labels on the wrong way round”, so took off the needle flipped it over only to hear ‘Ain’t no big deal‘ – it had been pressed on both sides!

I took it back to the nice lady at the record counter in Boots who promptly didn’t believe the 14 year old scallywag who was trying to wind her up, and only when I insisted did she then play it around the back, and I heard her say “Ooh, he wasn’t making it up!” to her colleague as she discovered the same. Years later, I massively regret this – and wonder how much it would be worth on eBay to a Madonna collector who could have a 7″ single mis-press with the B-Side track on both sides.

The first song in my 1986 playlist

The first song in my 1986 playlist

Anyway, ‘Papa don’t preach‘ is the first the record I ever bought, and thus would appear on the first ever paper list that I made of ‘My favourite records’ when I got to the end of the year. A year later when i got my first cassette walkman, I would make a compilation of my favourite records – mainly the ones i had bought, but some I had taped off the radio too – and took it with me.

Years forward again, and that tradition continued when I got my first CD Recorder, and then (even easier, and a format that I still like) a MiniDisc player – every time I bought a new current single, or record that I had enjoyed that year, I would add it to my compilation CD or MiniDisc for that year.

My Playlists

My Playlists

Enter… iTunes. Now in the year 2004, when it first came to the Windows platform. Straight away I discovered that you could of course make playlists, and I immediately created a ‘My 2004‘ playlist, for songs that I had bought and/or had been enjoying at that time. And then quite soon I realised that I could retrospectively make playlists for previous years, going all the way back to 1986, and the first time that I had bought a record, which is why the first ever song on my ‘My…‘ yearly playlists is the first 7″ single that I ever bought – Papa Don’t Preach.

And so it went – every week or so I’d updated my ‘current’ iTunes playlist adding in the latest new song that I was enjoyed or had bought – or indeed now of course downloaded, and at the end of the year it would then act as a musical diary of your year. “Oh, THAT song was when I was doing that…!”, and so on. Marking out the good times, the bad times, but in all – just defining your year musically.

And the best way in which it works is one of the simplest – I total up the number of songs that feature in that year for each playlist.

In 1990, when I was at my 18 year-old-self zenith, I had 75 tunes in my playlist for that year which is a very high amount! Yet by 1994 and 1995 it had dipped to just over 30 tunes – a time when I wasn’t enjoying my music so much.

In more recent times I can definitely equate getting an iPod and iTunes to 2005 when my number of favourite songs shoots up to 67, but then dips down in 2007 to 36 when I was having a horrible year of my life. In 2008 and 2009 when I was free from the shackles of the previous couple of years, I proceeded to live live to the full again and my tune count shot up. Look, here’s the graph showing how many songs have been in my yearly playlists…

How many songs in each playlist since 1986

How many songs in each playlist since 1986

Which is why I’m worried about 2014. As I get to the end of the year and I look at how many tunes have made it into my ‘favourites’ for this year, and I can see that it’s at its lowest total for a while. One of them is even a comedy song – The Axis of Awesome with ‘Phone$‘ which I heard before knowing the song that it was a parody of – when I find that song (Wings by Macklemore) I discover that it’s a song on Youtube that’s been played 56 million times and I have never heard it before. Seriously  – a 56 million time played song – that I have never heard of!

So my graph is dropping. In fact it’s dropped to just 27 songs which is the lowest number I’ve ever had in my ‘favourite’ playlists since I’ve been doing it – all 29 years of them. And I’ve thought about it – I’ve thought about it a lot.

I don’t think it means I’m unhappy. It’s simply a sign that I am now in my 40’s and my time is spent on other things that enjoying popular music. Popular music that is harder to discover now anyway, as ‘new music’ on Radio 1 just grates, and yet I am not ready to be my mother and switch over to Radio 2 yet. Which means I listen to 6 Music which plays music that I do like, but not all of it new meaning my chance of discovering ‘new’ tracks has fallen rapidly, and thus the number of new songs appearing my tunes playlists I think will now forever remain low for the rest of my life.

Maybe one day, it’ll dwindle completely – and I do wonder, how old will I be when I stop caring, and not make a yearly playlist at all?

Gotta dash, I just heard the toaster pop. And I need to go and butter it and spread some Bovril on it.

Sunday 15 November 2009

1,293 days later. The final tally.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 15th, 2009 at 2:34 pm and is filed under USA vs UK, Video.

And I’m on my way home.

One thousand, two hundred and ninety three days later (thanks to the Date Duration Calculator for that one) and it’s time to take a one-way ticket back again.

Whilst reading through all my blog entries the other day it was fascinating (if not, slightly excrutiating) to discover my posts that I wrote when I had been here for 6 months, 12 months and a year and a half which I gave all ‘xyz days later’ headings, hence the title of todays post and video. It’s the final tally.

It’s been fun, Charleston – thanks. You offered a lot and I took it all, and obviously you will not be forgotten. But it’s strange how sometimes the smallest things are those that can stick in the memory the most.

Driving down past the American Theatre on King Street, seeing a CARTA bus around town or using a classic US blue coloured mailbox – will be missed. Shopping in the Harris Teeter, getting money from the Bank of America ATM – all those routine daily things with signs, symbols and slogans that you come to recognise, learn and love – are all about to NOT be part of my daily routine.

Where will I eat now that Boulevard Diner isn’t in my life? Where will I drink now that Moe’s Tavern is 4,000 miles away? Simple things, easy to miss.

So I made this video.

A personal video of all those simple things that I will miss and wanted to be reminded of, which may make no sense to you at all – which is fine, because this video is more for me than anyone else really. It have me a chance to catch up with a few people that I wanted to say ‘Goodbye’ to as well.

Cheerio y’all.

As this is the last post on the blog, at some point I’ll tidy it up and make it look neater. I’ll keep my website as a whole going and keep alive all the bits I want to keep up as an archive, but there will be no more blog.
The social networking revolution has changed the the way we use the internet, which means you’ll just have to catch me on twitter instead. Take care people.

Saturday 14 November 2009

1,292 days later

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 14th, 2009 at 2:15 pm and is filed under USA vs UK.

Going home is easy now, as I’ve finished my packing. I literally had to sit on my suitcase to squeeze down the top of my bag so that I could get the zip to go all the way across. I’m taking back more than I brought across with me, and I’m still leaving behind a big box of stuff in storage which I’ll have to come back and collect on a trip at some point in the future.

Going home is easy now, because I’ve said “Cheerio!” to everyone, and – if anything – have had too much time to prepare myself and get all my shit together. I’ve done all the last minute errands, I gave Beverly a fire extinguisher as a leaving gift (sorry about the fire), so I’m all good to go.

Going home is easy now, because I’ve done every single UK to USA comparison that I think I’m ever likely to want to make, and written about everything that I wanted to write about. Although, I never told you the story of my old boss here who wanted me to go for a drug test before actually giving me the job, but was happy to “Give me a couple of weeks if I needed it” to let anything clear out of my system that may have been there, or the one about the extreme-southern-Baptist funeral that I once went to. Where the tragic death of a 31 year old woman from cancer that I knew suffered (in my opinion) the indignity of having her dead body lie in the coffin in the church whilst her husband punched the air with glee and practically danced for joy that she was “Now with her maker” – to the backdrop of a cheesy gospel music powerpoint slide show complete with ghastly typos and spelling mistakes in huge words projected on a screen – embarassing.

Going home is easy now, because it’s the reverse of what I did the best part of four years ago. I know who are going to be my friends from here in the future because they’re the ones that have made the effort or reciprocated accordingly to mine. I know who the idiots are, and the ones that I will not speak to so often again. I know how that works now because the reverse happened when I came here. I also now return to those people knowing more than ever who are the ones that are worth it.

Going home is easy now, as I’ve done my time here. If I were an American citizen to begin with who found myself in the lovely city of Charleston as part of my American life then I’d be wanting to move on now anyway. There are far too many people who get stuck in the rut of the unchallenged ‘easy’ life here, and are letting themselves waste away. They should get on up and out and move on and push on, but they are not. So I’m getting out – on and up – and it feels just great, thanks.

Going home is easy now, because I’m all wrapped up and done. Which is why when I post tomorrow here it will be the last time that I do it. Yes – my last. I’ve recorded a very personal video and actually thought twice today about posting it, but I will and then be done – all done, because now is the perfect time to move on – on many fronts – not just the going home part. Which I’m really looking forward to.

Friday 13 November 2009


This entry was posted on Friday, November 13th, 2009 at 3:53 pm and is filed under USA vs UK.

No 10 thingsSo here it is then – my ultimate list of why the UK rules, and the USA sucks.

Ok, no – I’m not gonna do that. Do you really think I’ve learned nothing during me time year? (Don’t answer that!). Far from it, I’ve learned loads.

But when reading through every single post I’d written (and I do mean that I really spent about two hours yesterday when I should have been packing) in the last three and half years on my blog here yesterday, I realise that a lot of it was all about pointing out differences, complaining about things, and working out what was better in each country.

And I’ve come to a conclusion … the final ultimate answer when it comes to UK vs. USA. And it’s quite simply this:

There is no Utopia.

There are quite simply good things and bad things about each country, and I am quite quite sure that if you were to travel the entire world spending time living in different places and environments then it would also be there the same there and equate that really, truly, no one place is better, it’s just what you get used to and what you make of it.

As human people that we are, we can actually be more adaptable and versatile than we reliase. Even the biggest sloth in the world could adapt if they they were thrown into a different reality, it’s just that it rarely happens to them.

Whereas I’ve been most lucky to have had the fortunate experience to take away with me forever of what it’s like to be removed from everything that was stable and routine, and have to to work out how to exist in a new world instead. And of the many emotions I can think of the five that I can pin it down to is that it was painful, upsetting, tiring, then challenging and eventually fun. Oh, and of course completely ultimately rewarding.

I remember being a little offended a few months into my time here when someone left a comment on my blog here that “I wouldn’t want to return to England anyway”, and they listed a whole bunch of reasons of why they didn’t like it anymore. Well, I can list a whole bunch of reasons (most of them which I pointed out at the time could apply to both countries) why living in the USA might be just as bad. So it is of course what you make of it, and what you decide you’re going to get out of your life.

The great stereotypes that exist about American and Americans (fat arses, no passports/untravelled, drive-thru-everything culture) certainly do exist – because a stereotype wouldn’t exists if there weren’t that fact for it to originate in the first place – exactly in the same way that what the Americans think of us in a certain way (bad teeth, England rains all the time, no space left in our ‘tiny’ country), but it does not mean that it applies in the majority – it’s just a small number of people, and there and many more that don’t fit the stereotype that you want to label them with.

So there’s no lists today. No final ‘10 things I love…‘, or ‘10 things I hate…‘ which is what I thought I was going to do when I planned this final week of blogging a while back.

Just accept that in everywhere you go in life and whatever you do, some things are better and some things are worse. And it’s up to you to make the most of it, even if you are hopelessly out of your depth and feel that there is nothing you can do about it.

‘Farewell’ video coming on Sunday.

Thursday 12 November 2009

184 Weeks later

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 5:06 pm and is filed under General.

I’ve been busy. No, really. I’ve been back today and read through every single blog post that I have written in my time in the USA, and been reminded of everything I did. Some of it is fun, some of it is well written. Some of it is embarassing to read, and some is just painful and I never want to read it again. But it’s all there, and it’s an excellent record of realising how much I’ve packed into just a short time.

Obviously I emigrated and went through the lengthy immigration process – interviews, blood tests, more interviews and jumping through the hoops to prove that you wern’t fresh over the border from Mexico and you were going to get a cash in hand job.

In my first week here I got married. Then I was homesick, jobless and friendless for several months which was just awful. Car-less too which meant just getting around by bike (& having it stolen and getting another one) Charleston is quite a bike-friendly town, but my goodness do you need a car to survive in America – yes. You do.

I had to evict the dope, coke and heroin dealer from my flat back at home, i.e. pays lots of MY money for the priviledge of kicking the wanker out of my property.

Then I got married again – except this time we told everyone. I built a giant papier mache camera. I created a table plan in the design of the tube map. I even sang at my own wedding.

I became a dab hand at taking photographs of other people’s weddings. I visited most of the south-eastern cost of America by car and discovered that a four to five hour drive is nothing in the USA.

I went to the beach a lot – taking advantage of Charleston’s 8 month long summer period. I experience the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. I learned to live in a town under the threat of hurriances.

I discovered that American women have really masculine names.

I got a job which took me up in planes, onto boats and videoing alligators and snakes. I recused a loggerhad turtle from the ocean, met a 13 year old that could do the Rubiks cube in 24 seconds, flirted with Miss Teen South Carolina, interview American Idol contestants and a guy that worked on the first atomic bomb. I even got to meet Cat Deeley.

Then I got seperated. And divorced. And stood in a court to say that yes I was quite sure that I wanted to split up actually, and felt like I was right in court-room-movie drama.

I bought a car, and was threatened with being sued when I tried to return it because it was broke. I bought another car, one that worked this time.

I went to Alaska. (As well as Boston, Chicago, New York, D.C. and Seattle), which was just a warm up for my road trip really.

Improv sneaked its way into my life. I ended up performing in shows on stage. I discovered a whole bunch of unforgettable people.

I helped launch a rather wonderful local news website in Charleston. I made them videos. Loads of videos. Loads of really good videos. I made awesome personal videos too.

I drank too much Starbucks. Far too much Starbucks. Got into trouble when flirting with the baristas too.

I crashed my car – twice. Got five speeding tickets. I managed to set the house on fire and called 911. I shot a gun.

And I drove round all the other mainlaind states on a ten week roadtrip, blogging, videoing and tweeting as I went.


That’s kinda busy. I’m going home to get a regular job and have a rest.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

The Best … Going Home to London Album in the World – Ever!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 at 4:49 pm and is filed under Music, USA vs UK.

Going Home AlbumI’ve been making a ‘Going Home’ playlist.

Glasvegas – Please come back home
The Clash – London calling
James – Come home
Supertramp – Take the long way home
East 17 – Around the world

“I’ve been around the world, but there’s no place like home”
Simon & Garfunkel – Homeward Bound
Crowded House – Better be home soon
Kayne West – Homecoming
Depeche Mode – Home

“And I thank you, for bringing me here, for showing me home”
Catatonia – Londinium
“Euston, Paddington train station please, make the red lights turn green, endlessly”
Pet Shop Boys – Home and Dry

Any other obvious ones that I’ve missed?

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Three and a half years later

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 at 8:51 pm and is filed under USA vs UK.

So I’m packing clothes into a suitcase today, and I’m hit with the strangest of thoughts.

I’m folding up an old crappy t-shirt that I remember I used to wear back in Britain, and started to worry that I might have had it too long. “Will it look weird if I go home with some of the clothes that I brought over with me? Will people notice? Will they have forgotten? Or will they say things like ‘But you were wearing that jumper [sweater] before you went’. Having a definitive time period of three and half years is making me think about all the things that have gone on in that time.

Most of all, it acutely brought into focus a whole bunch of technology-related thoughts. Developments that have happened in my time here. Things which are now part of my daily routine that weren’t before I left.

Facebook ListsFacebook didn’t exist. Ok, well it did because it was dreamed up in 2003, established in 2004, and really took off (mainly in US universities [colleges]) in 2005. But I didn’t get on board until the end of 2006/beginning of 2007. And since then, there’s rarely been a day gone by that I haven’t checked into my virtual world of friends.

And there’s a whole little conundrum waiting to unravel there. How much will I really care about American friends once I am back in the UK? Sure … all the time that I’ve been here, I always knew that I would (one day) return back over there and have the reverse of keeping track of people in England that I didn’t really see. So will my virtual world become unbalanced once I’ve gotten back into the swing of things back home? I’d like to think not, but you never know.

Twitter ListsStaying with social networking technology, what of Twitter? That definitely didn’t exist in May 2006 when I first moved here, but by the end of 2007 I had signed up to it. Strangely I was one of the few people that got in before it became popular, and when I was first on it – it seemed like no one else was, and I dropped off for a while. Come the beginning of this year though and I started tweeting again, and am now writing a book entirely based upon my 2,000 tweets from my travels around the 48 lower states of the USA this summer.

But I have never tweeted back home in London. London is a city of 11 million people, compared to the smaller 200,000 that Charleston has to offer. I bet people don’t tag #LDN for London there like they do with ‘#CHS’ for Charleston here, because the scale is so much different.

I’m going to have adopt to a whole new twitter lifestyle, and wonder if I really want to know the chatter about local Charleston events, whilst getting my head around my new home back home. But that shouldn’t be any different to me trying to get my head round what’s going in London now, whilst I’m still currently here. Should it? Either way, looks like the new list feature could come in real handy for me, just in time.

I’d never Geocached in my life until I came to Charleston. Now – in my last week here I find myself that I’ve set the goal of trying to get all the regular-style caches within the I-526 area. I’ve got six more to go. Looking at the Geo-Google-Cache Map of London brings up hundreds of caches. What do I do? Try and do all the ones within the M-25 area? The mind boggles. A world of geocaching in England awaits. I am practically salivating at the thought of it.

The DigitelI worked for two media/news organisations in my time here. The Post & Courier newspaper, and the rather wonderful Digitel news website. In the same way that I religiously checked the BBC news website every day that I was here, will I care about what is going on back in Charleston? How often will I click on websites to keep my finger on the pulse with what’s going on? When will I start not to care?

And you know, the iPod Touch and iPhone didn’t exist in my previous British life. Now I move back in the week that Orange get on board as O2 lose their exclusivity deal, and I can’t see myself having anything but an iPhone now upon my return.

And whilst in the iWorld, it occurred to me as I lay I bed last night listening to a podcast that I have downloaded every week for the past three years here, that I never used to listen to podcast back home in England. I felt like I didn’t really need to because I could listen to as much current radio as I wanted to. Here, it was all about the podcasts – subscribing to the one for Spurs, and my favourite technology related one. I always felt like I was a little outpost 4,000 miles away grabbing a lifeline back home when I lay in bed in the small hours of the morning, unable to fall asleep listening to them. Now I’ll be back home downloading them. How different will that be?

All that to worry about. And I still don’t know if it’s okay to wear clothes that I’ve had for more than three and a half years, dammit.

Monday 9 November 2009

223 tunes later

This entry was posted on Monday, November 9th, 2009 at 1:38 pm and is filed under Music.

My PlaylistsOne of my main obsessive compulsive behavioural things-to-do, is to neatly make playlists in iTunes called ‘My…’ followed by the year, which is a chronological list of my favourite songs throughout the year.

Back in the days of cassette tapes, I used to make up compilations (as everyone did) of my favourite current songs. That then switched briefly to CD – and even more briefly for me – to an era when I used MiniDisc, the best part about that being is that they were re-usable (unlike CD-R’s) meaning you could ‘delete’ a song that you liked hearing lots a month ago but not anymore and add in your new favourite choon.

So with the advent of iTunes and playlists (and smart playlists – still the most underused and underated feauture if iTunes I reckon) you can make all these sorts of things and keep them permamently. I even have one called ‘MD’ which replicated that MiniDisc era – and is simply just the last 14 songs that I have added and have 3 stars or above as their rating.

That star rating is most important to me amongst all the metadata I add onto my tracks (the year, the genre, the artwork, star-rating – all filled in for EVERY song in my iTunes) because you can look back and see what your favourite songs were for a particular year or any time period.

I can look back over the last four years, and be reminded of the happy times and sad times all because of the music I was listening to at the time and how I’ve rated them. And by counting the number of songs in each of my yearly playlists (I normally average about 60 favourite songs for the year, and I’ve gone back and retrospectively created playlists since 1986 – the year I started to buy music), I can see that in 2006 I had 64 songs, 2008 was 62, and even now in 2009 I’m up to 59 tracks. But the year of 2007? I have a mere 38 tracks in my favourites playlist.

Now does that mean that 2007 was a particularly poor year for music, or was it because that I was so unhappy generally that I was failing to get excited by the music at the time and unable to generate good memories by association. When I look back at my ‘My 2007’ playlist, so few of the songs really stand out as favourites for me.

So I’m using the 5-star rating system to see if it makes things clearer. I’ve added up the number of stars in total for each year and divided it by the number of tracks in that year to give us an average. And it goes as so:

2006 average rating = 3.09 [5 stars: 5 songs, 4 stars: 13 songs, 3 stars: 28 songs, 2 stars: 18 songs, 1 star: 0 songs]
2007 average rating = 2.60 [5 stars: 2 songs, 4 stars: 8 songs, 3 stars: 12 songs, 2 stars: 15 songs, 1 star: 1 song]
2008 average rating = 3.17 [5 stars: 4 songs, 4 stars: 14 songs, 3 stars: 33 songs, 2 stars: 11 songs, 1 star: 0 songs]
2009 average rating = 3.31 [5 stars: 4 songs, 4 stars: 18 songs, 3 stars: 28 songs, 2 stars: 8 songs, 1 star: 0 songs]

My 2009

So you could take from this, then when I turned up in America in 2006, I was happy (3.09 – When I thought that everything was going to be great), which then took a turn for the worse during 2007 (2.60 – realised that it wasn’t and marriage not going to last), which got better in 2008 (3.17 – became single again started to piece life back together) to 2009 (3.31 – the happiest I’ve ever been in the USA as I’ve had a brilliant year).

Now I don’t think that 2007 was a bad year for music at all. I just think it means because I was having a shit time in my life, that my unhappy mood was reflected in how receptive I was to hearing new songs and enjoying them at the time … and perhaps even more importantly when I look back upon those songs of 2007, the mood is still there and I find myself feeling glum, rather than happy. The power of music, eh?

Sunday 8 November 2009

Hello, I must be going … home

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 8th, 2009 at 7:54 pm and is filed under General, USA vs UK.

Last week in the USA then.

As I sit and type this, I realise that at this time next week I’ll be on a plane. First I go north a bit to Philadelphia, and then east quite a bit more to London. It’s time … The Prodigal Son returns to the City of Londinium next Sunday, and if I’m completely honest I can’t wait to get back and crack on with things.

The 2nd of May 2006 will be one of those dates emblazoned onto my cerebrum, remembered in the same way that other people remember dates that are important to them. As that was the date when I first arrived here, only for me to return – just over three and half years later – back to there.

So I’m signing off my American experience with a whole bunch of things that I’ve been saving up for a while, that I knew I would blog about only when it came to my last few days here in this fascinating country. And these are now, those last few days.

A blog post a day, right up until I leave next weekend.

Friday 30 October 2009

The Second Amendment

This entry was posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009 at 10:44 am and is filed under USA vs UK, Video.

With just over two weeks until I leave the land of the free, two of my friends here Chet & Andy decided that they needed to take me for a proper American experience – by shooting a gun. So off we trotted to the local firing range to ‘play’ with some 9mm’s.

What really got me was the whole casualness of doing it. We turned up without a bookoing, and the guy in charge didn’t want to know if we’d shot before or give as any more of a basic instruction of how to use the gun. We just showed some ID that proved we were old enough, paid our money and he handed over the guns & ammo.

“Do you let just anyone fire a gun?” I asked. “Almost anyone … yes … but not if they smell of marijuana” came his considered response. “Besides, I’ve always got this” and revealed my his side his own concealed weapon.

“Do you take that with you everywhere you go, or have it just here?”. “Everywhere I go. Y’see … look at me – I can’t run fast, I don’t swing a punch well … but I can shoot straight”.

And off we went to fire some rounds …

Friday 23 October 2009

The day I dialled … 911

This entry was posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2009 at 7:00 am and is filed under General, Improv.

Dial 911 on iPhoneThe iPhone. All hail the flippin’ iPhone, which I got sucked into buying back in August during my summer road trip when my trusty old Nokia finally broke when one of the function keys broke, and so I got a new phone when I passed the gleaming AT&T store in Salt Lake City later that day.

The iPhone which has put a camera (and with the later models) a video camera into everyones hand so we can more easily than ever blog, twitpic and generally log our lives for the rest of the world to see more than ever.

The iPhone, which today caused me about 10 seconds of valuable time when I was trying to dial 911 to call the Fire Department to summon their help … as my kitchen was on fire.

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, and still just dressed in my boxers I was uploaded some video to my PC from the night before. I scratched my balls, yawned and stretched and wandered into the kitchen to make some tea. And like countless numbers of days before that I have done in the morning whilst living at Beverlys house, I filled up the stove kettle (not electric) with water, put it on the front left ring of the stove, turned on the dial .. and went to wee whilst it boiled.

I ducked my head back into my room to check that the video uploading was going ok – all good, and then went to the bathroom where a wee turned into a sit down effort, and so I sat down for a minute. And I was getting close to finishing when I heard something go ‘thump’ and perhaps fall over outside. Was that one of the cats? We have three of them in the house, and they like to get inside boxes, open doors, jump on the counters and tables – one of them knocked over a guitar propped upright in the lounge the other day .. so I thought I’d check it out just as soon as I was done. Which is when I heard a ‘whump’ noise .. which .. made me think “No, really – what was that?” and I now wanted to investigate immediately, except I couldn’t because I was on the loo and hadn’t finished .. so i quickly finished, wiped, stood up, flushed and headed out to the kitchen, where I saw a sight that I really don’t ever want to see again. Literally, ever.

The stove is on fire – badly. The kettle itself looks ok, but the pan (last nights dinner) on the ring on the stove behind it is blazing away – flames many inches high. That in turn is setting fire to the cabinet which hangs over the cooker, and there’s another one of those slow motion moments where someone presses the virtual-go-slow button on your life remote and time comes to a crawl.

“FUCK! FIRE!”, I think were the two words I could manage to yell at the top of my voice and in an instant span round to get my iPhone sitting on the side charging just a few few away and ran outside to the front door – and dialled 911.

Well I say I dialled 911, but in reality what happened was:

• I slid my shaking, panicing thumb over the ‘unlock’ switch – and a combination of my nerves, and the thin layer of burnt plastic that was already in the air and had deposited on my phone meant that I didn’t do it proplerly the first time, and it took me two tries.

• “Diall 911! Dial 911”, I’m thinking in my head (thank goodness I didn’t try and do ‘999’ first, eh?) and can’t remember what app is was on at the time, but I had to hit the iPhone ‘home’ button to go back to main screen, to then fire up the phone app – missed – fired up messaging instead – hit home, went for the phone app again, and then thought … “FUCK! WHERE’S THE FUCKING KEYPAD!”, because I think in all the time I’ve had the phone, I’ve used the keypad on it about twice, as all my other numbers are programmed in so I’ve never really had to type a phone number in.

• So it takes me another couple of seconds to stop, think, ignoring the now roaring flames in the kitchen behind me where it’s now taking hold on the cupboard to the left, eventually press with my sweaty finger the ‘keypad’ button, and in near-blind-panic, manage to punch out ‘911’ and ‘call’.

The dispatcher answers. Ok, now I’m panicking like a big girl and it takes me three attempts to say the address correctly until she can understand it. “Now just calm down honey and give me that add-ress again” she might have even said in her southern drawl. She patches me through more or less instantly to the local fire department .. which I know where it is, Johns Island fire department is 90 seconds up the road around the corner, and the guy that talks to me asks me to describe the situation, if there are any other people in the house, and advises me to get out of the house as “We’re already on our way”.

I turn to the back door of the kitchen .. I’m aware of the thick black smoke that is collecting on the ceiling of the kitchen. I have flashback to junior school where they show you safety videos and tell you that smoke is actually a killer in a fire, and not the flames and and I run to the backdoor – in my barefeet, still just got my boxers on – and open the back door, and leave it open to try and get the smoke outside.

I turn back and look inside at the stove now ablaze and realise that in the two minutes that it’s gonna take the fire crew to get here, this is going to be bad unless I do something about it. So I step back inside.

I grab a tea-towel. WHY I didn’t wet it, I don’t know – because a wet tea towel over a burning pan is something that they also show you in the safety videos to put out a fire by starving it of oxygen, but I do remember thinking “It’s an electrical fire on an oily pan, I can’t use water” – fuck knows how I managed to have some sort of sense in the state of panic that I’m in. Instead, using the tea towel wrapped around my hand as protection, I pick up the kettle on the ring that it is on – the plastic handle is melting – grab it and toss it outside onto the back yard lawn.

I go back in for the pan .. that was on the ring next to it. It’s hugely ablaze. I carefully – and boy do I mean carefully – grab the handle and more slowly than the kettle take it outside, and throw it away from me to the ground. (Later, we find a patch of blackened burnt grass, the size of then pan where the fire burnt the lawn nicely). And then I go back in for another pan that is half ablaze on the third out of fourth rings on the stove.

But there’s still fire. The cabinet above and to either side are ablaze, and one of them is burning away nicely at Beverly’s collection of Tar Heels plastic cups. That CAN be put out with water I remember, and grab another cup nearby, and douse the flames in three or four attempts of water from the sink.

I dash back outside to make sure that I am breathing some clean air, and then duck back inside. It’s just the stove ring that is still on – glowing all orange and bright. “Turn off the source!” I think in my head, and lean forward to get to the controls (tea towel still on hand) and see to my dismay that all the control knobs have burnt and melted away – there’s no way to turn it off.

I go outside again – nothing is on fire, it’s just all smoke now, and in the distance I can here the sirens of the fire trucks. All of that has taken 60 seconds and I go back outside in the car porch and sit on the ground. I find my phone. I burst into tears. I am a mess. And I call Beverly to tell her to come home because her kitchen is on fire …

About 20 minutes later …

There are big burly firemen – and one fire woman – stomping about the place. I had to call Beverly back to ask her where the location of the breaker box was so that they could cut the power to the cooker.

They have place an enourmous fan at the entrance to the house and are getting the majority of the smoke out of the house with it.

Beverly comes back, we hug, I cry some more, and we go on a hunt for the cats – all three of who are beautifully cowering under the beds upstairs.

Katie turns up. I get her to video me. I take photos … using the dreaded iPhone. Yes, the device which took me 10 seconds longer to dial the emergency service is now the catalyst to the meta explosion which is now almost expected in any ‘drama’ that people like to blog about.

Why do we do this? Why do we now feel the need to log ourselves in the middle of a crisis that it happening to you right in the moment? Because this is what we do now. This is what the world has become. And so I fire off some tweets too, and do my first ever facebook status update from my iPhone.

A fireman goes into my bedroom and comes out with my jeans and a top for me to wear. “I’m feeling a little naked”, I think I might have said to him, so he saved my blushes.

My feet hurt. At some point, I’ve trodden in burning matter, and now the adrenalin has gone I can feel pain in my feet. I’ve got a small burn on my hand too where I’ve touched something hot. It’s amazing how I can’t recall at all ever thinking “Ouch! That was hot!” because when you’re in the middle of something like that, your pain receptors switch off.

I actually end up bitching to the fire-chief like-bloke (he must be, he’s the only one wearing a white shirt) about the shittyness of the iPhone for dialing the emergency number. He nods and agrees.

The reason why I bitch so much is that on my old Nokia, and lot of similar phones of that design, they:

i. Had a physical keyboard, and …

ii. Even when they were in locked mode you could press ‘9 1 1’, or ‘9 9 9’, or ‘1 1 2’ and hit ‘send’ WITHOUT having to unlock the phone. Just the four buttons you need – like really need – to dial that number in a hurry.

The kitchen is a mess. It is black. The house will be uninhabitable for a bit whilst it’s cleaned up. I feel embarrassed, stupid, angry. But at the same time people point out to me that it was an accident, not my fault, and putting out the fire rather than ducking outside and waiting for the crew to turn up means that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I have a headache. Breathing in burning plastic is not good for the head, it would seem. There is a fine layer of burnt plastic bits on the surfaces. The insurers have already been called, and a surveyor has been round to inspect the damage.

I normally like a little drama. But I’m starting to have enough of it now. Can I go home yet please?

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