Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year!

Tomorrow is the ‘big day’ all around the world (at different times, obviously), but woo hoo it’s New Years Eve - the night of massive parties, celebration, lots of drinking and dancing drinking into the early morning.

Unless you are in America, that is…

One thing I have noticed is that American’s don’t really know how to party.  Now, I’ve never been to New York on New Years Eve, so it might be different on the east coast, but here in California it’s a bit of a dud.  In the last 20 years, I’ve been to a few New Years’ parties, but what really surprises me is that as soon as midnight strikes people generally say “Happy New Year” and then GO HOME!! Yes, really, midnight is not the start of the party like it is in England.  It’s most definitely the end. And that is if most people haven’t gone home well before midnight “to avoid the traffic and all the crazy drunk drivers.”  Party poopers!

But there are fireworks if you can get them (although illegal in most parts of California, people still manage to find them).  Then there are the guns.... people with guns who like to shoot into the air! You don't really want to be outside at the stroke of midnight for fear of being hit by a bullet falling from the sky.  

As we know, in England the whole of the country listens to Big Ben chime midnight to bring in the new year, but at least the whole country is in the same time zone.  What amazes me about living on the west coast is that Los Angeles does not have it’s own countdown clock.  Just before midnight the telly is turned on so everyone can watch the countdown and the ‘ball drop' in New York - which was recorded Three Hours earlier! I assume this is repeated a few times across the country in all the different time zones!  Just weird… and nobody cares!
It's a ball on a stick!
These are only my observations - perhaps the party in Vegas is a night long event, but the average Californian party in someone's house is not.

But I must admit, the best bit of living in California is that I get two New Years celebrations.  If I can manage to get to an English pub or bar as everyone gets to celebrate (and drink, of course) at 4:00 p.m. Because obviously, we have to celebrate with home ... Absolutely brilliant!  

So to everyone who reads the blog I would like to say HAPPY NEW YEAR wherever you are and however you celebrate.  


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Good Old English Christmas

There’s nothing better than the run up to Christmas in England…. The weather is cold (usually raining), the lights go up around town and the radio is filled with Christmas songs.  Bliss… and I may be fantasizing a bit about how nice it is, having been here over 20 years, but there are still things I miss.

This on the radio:

Or this

I haven’t actually heard these songs in years.  They are never, ever played in the US.  Instead we get stuff like Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Frosty the Snowman.  Every now and then, I hear George Michael’s Last Christmas.  But you really only hear them if you are listening to a station that plays continuous Christmas music.

Christmas Specials on the Telly
I used to love to sit down at Christmas and watch the specials.  Only Fools & Horses was always particularly brilliant.  Blimey, even the soaps have a special on Christmas Day – you can always guarantee a shocker in Eastenders.  But here? Not a chance.  There may be a little mention of Christmas and perhaps some snow, but that’s about it.  And most of the programmes shown on Christmas day are repeats.

The Queen’s Speech
Yeah, nobody ever watches it but it’s more than likely on in the background.  I’m not saying I want to watch it, but it’s an English tradition, isn’t it?  I’m sure if I wanted to, I could find it on the internet somewhere, but really, I’m not that fussed.


Cadbury’s Selection Box was always a favourite for Christmas.  Could you imagine opening a present on Christmas morning and finding a bag of six or seven chocolate bars?  It would be a bit disappointing, not to say a bit lazy - but put them in a fancy box with a picture of Father Christmas on the front and they become extra special and the present everyone wants.

And what about Quality Street?  Do they even sell those big tins at any other time of the year?  They are a total necessity at Christmas and who doesn’t argue over the hazelnut in caramel (aka the purple one) or the gold toffee stick or toffee penny?  Nobody ever wanted the orange or strawberry crème and they would always be in the bottom of the tin until Easter when they were finally thrown away.

Mince Pies and Christmas Cake
What would it be like to have no mince pies?  Just ask me – bloody awful, that’s what.  There were a few years there when I couldn’t find them.  They are not a thing here.  Ask someone for a mince pie and the likely response is “Oh that pie with the kidneys you Brits eat? Eew”  (Yes, the eew is always at the end of that sentence.)   Um, nooo, that would be those scrummy fruit pies you eat with custard.  I have actually found a couple of specialist shops that sell them now, and I think last year they sold them at Fresh & Easy.

Christmas cake, to an American, is a dry, fruit concoction that gets passed around family and friends for years and nobody will eat it.  I’m not surprised, I wouldn’t eat a cake that’s years old either.  But when I tell them “our” Christmas cake is soft, moist and fruity with lots and lots of alcohol it gets a good reaction, especially when I tell them it stays in the cupboard for months after baking and Brandy is added every week or so.  What’s not to like about that?
American Fruitcake - Nope!
Boxing Day
Oh dear me.  This one is a killer.  Every year for the last 20 years I have had to beg and plead for the day off. Nobody cares [*sad face*].  Boxing Day (or as its known here, the day after Christmas) is when everyone says “well, that’s Christmas done and dusted, lets throw out the tree.”  (When they come home from work, that is).  A pretty sorry state of affairs.  Oh how I miss that day.  Even though I have actually managed to never work on the day, it’s just not the same.  You don’t get any more presents and you certainly don’t have cold turkey and piccalilli, mainly because you can’t get piccalilli anywhere. (Isn’t that a wonderful word… piccalilli – mainly pronounced here as Piccadilly by anyone with the slightest idea of what I’m talking about).

Oh and then there's the footie.  What would Boxing Day be like without a football match to go to, or at least watch on the telly?

If you don’t sit around the table, pulling crackers, wearing a paper crown and telling silly jokes, you are not doing Christmas right.  And there’s an unwritten rule (in my family anyway) that you don’t pull the crackers until after the turkey, but before pudding.  That’s just how it is.

Not like the first time I cooked Christmas dinner for only my American friends.  I was devastated to realize nobody knew what a cracker was or what to do with them.  Can you imagine the look on my face when I realized people were shaking them, trying to look inside and actually pulling them on their own!  I’ve got to say, it wasn’t the best Christmas I’ve ever had and there may have been a moment when I lost my temper and I “might” have actually slapped someone for doing it wrong. Christmas officially ruined!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

California at Christmas

It is certainly different in California at Christmas and sometimes a little bit weird.

Hot Weather
I never really thought about it, but California is hot, or at least a bit lot warmer than England at Christmas.  I always knew Australia has Christmas in the summer, but it had never occurred to me that December in California is just as sunny as any other day of the year.  Obviously there are parts where it gets cold and it snows, but down by Los Angeles, it’s pretty much warm all year.  It’s so strange to open presents and have the sun shining and to possibly eat your dinner on the patio [how fancy am I?]

Not quite this hot, but close - Happy Christmas!
Christmas Shopping
I’m sure everyone’s heard of the crazy Black Friday panic buying.  Well, I wasn’t prepared for it that first year (nor every year since actually).  It’s a crazy game nearly everyone plays.  And every year it’s getting earlier and earlier.  I tried it once…. I got up at what I thought was an unearthly hour of the morning, went to the shop where I had seen a laptop and when I arrived,  found there were about 300 people in line already!  I turned around, went home and got back into bed.  Needless to say, my daughter did not get a laptop that year and apparently, 6:00 a.m. is not too early, in fact, it’s quite positively late.

Christmas Eve
It seems to me that this is the day most people celebrate Christmas.  The family get together for a meal and…. to open presents!!  And I don’t understand what that’s all about.  Why would you open your presents the day before Christmas?  This may not be true about everyone, but I have heard from many, many people that they open at least one or two presents on Christmas eve.  How terrible - that would be like opening presents, well, before Christmas!  What happens on Christmas morning when you’ve got nothing to open?  Talk about spoiling the surprise and taking the fun out of Christmas morning.  Bah Humbug!

Christmas lights on palm trees
The first time I saw this, it was amazing.  California had been so very hot since we had arrived in August and in about November the lights started to go up.  It was quite a surprise and also quite nice. I don’t know what I thought would happen, but Christmas lights on palm trees was a nice touch.

Christmas Lights on houses
And then there’s this…..


That first year we were here was so eye opening.  Everything was different and strange and sometimes down right weird.  The whole Christmas light phenomenon was crazy.  At the end of November our neighbours began putting lights up.  Nothing wrong with that, we thought.  It will look nice and christmassy, we thought. Oh, that’s quite a few lights, we thought.  When are they going to stop putting lights up?, we thought.  Oh bloody hell, what have they done, we thought!!! [*sigh*]

Every day we would come home from work and there would be more lights – not just on the house, but on the trees, the bushes, around the windows, on the door – you name it, it was covered in lights. Even blow up animals, snowmen, father Christmases, etc, etc., etc…. on the front lawn.  On and on, it was endless.  But it was definitely a talking point!  

I have not joined the over-the-top house decoration contest, but I will admit occasionally we have a Father Christmas on a Harley Davidson in our front garden.  And why not??

Monday, December 1, 2014

An Unfortunate Innuendo

When my son progressed into a "big boy's" bed, he had this duvet cover, which was handed down to my daughter and subsequently was brought to the US with us.  [Obviously his was blue, not pink].

The dog's name was Snatch and he had a cat friend called Hatch.  Emblazoned across the side and bottom of the cover were the words "Snatch & Company."

I really quickly found out that in America snatch has an entirely different meaning - needless to say, I made sure those covers were not on the bed if my daughter invited friends for a sleepover!

I'm just glad Snatch was the dog and not the cat.... that would have been a whole other kind of unfortunate innuendo.

Did anyone else have these sheets??  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Dirty Little Thanksgiving Secret

Here’s my secret – although people who know me might already guess this …..

[*whispering*] I don't particularly like Thanksgiving!!

Oh no, I hear the cry… why ever not?  You must like Thanksgiving, it’s an American Tradition, it's the best meal of the year!  Well, let me explain

While I love, love, love turkey, it’s a traditional Christmas dinner and something I look forward to all year. I appreciate many American’s don’t do the family thing at Christmas, but in England it’s a big deal. Turkey with all the trimmings – roast potatoes, chipolata sausages, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, broccoli, gravy and of course, Brussels sprouts – is the perfect Christmas dinner. So to have turkey a few weeks before Christmas takes all the thrill out of it. It’s kind of like opening all your presents before Christmas and then having no surprises on Christmas morning.

All the Trimmings
Ahh yes, all the trimmings, American style…

1. Sweet potato – what the heck is this stuff?  It’s sweet, it’s orange and it’s definitely not a potato. (okay, it might be, but I'm not an expert)  Not only that – it’s usually topped with marshmallows.  Ugh, sweet and savoury should never, ever go on the same plate;

I have no words
2. Mashed potatoes – nope, no lovely, crispy roast potatoes but mashed.  And mashed is kind of a subjective word because most likely there will be lumps and skin in there.  Reminds me of icky school mashed potatoes.  Sometimes, there’s even garlic or some other concoction of flavours added.  I'm a purist when it comes to mashed potatoes, no lumps, no skin, no flavours except potato - it probably has to do with having a former Irish mother-in-law.
Lumpy potato
      3.      Ambrosia Salad – okay, this is where things get really weird. Ambrosia is a so-called salad which in my opinion, it most definitely is not. Mandarin oranges, pineapple, coconut, mini marshmallows and whipped topping is not my idea of a salad. A pudding (dessert) maybe but never a main meal – and to top if off, you have to eat it on the same plate as your turkey! Holy crap that’s so wrong – see number 1 above.
Nope - Definitely a pudding
        4.      Green Bean Casserole – I will admit I really like this, but at the end of the day, it’s just a tin of runner beans mixed with a tin of mushroom or chicken soup and some crunchy onions. It is the best part of the meal, actually and I tend to eat more of this than anything.

My favourite part
5. Vegetables – oh wait, there are no vegetables really.  Sometimes there might be carrots, but then they’re covered in sugar and probably marshmallows too.

Pudding (“Dessert” if you’re America)

What no Christmas pudding or mince pies?  Of course not – it’s not Christmas, even though your're eating Turkey!

Pick your punishment preference:

Pumpkin pie – I’m sure pumpkins are not made for eating, otherwise why would the flavour have to be totally concealed in cinnamon or nutmeg.  Not to mention the texture is awful.

Apple Pie – oh yes, something I recognize.  Wait, it’s so over seasoned with cinnamon that it doesn’t even taste like apple pie.
Pecan Pie – I have no comment on this one.  I’ve tried a pecan once and it was awful.  I’m sure there are at least two or three spoons of cinnamon in there too.

Sweet Potato Pie – Wait, didn’t we just have this with our dinner?  And it looks suspiciously similar to pumpkin pie.

Ok, I will admit and you might have noticed I don’t like cinnamon and the problem in America, especially this time of year, is that it’s so overwhelming in everything.  I think I will stick with the Ambrosia salad as my pudding, thank you.  (Although it’s usually cleaned away by the time you get to desert).


So here’s the thing, it seems that no matter where you go, you have to do the whole “go around the table and give thanks thing.”  Everyone has to take turns saying what they are thankful for and of course, it’s a time you are in the spotlight (kind of) and all eyes are on you.  I’ve said things like “I’m thankful I didn’t have to do the cooking,” which I’m not entirely sure is what is expected.

Also, sometimes, there’s praying!  I know, I shouldn’t say bad things about praying, but it just makes me cringe and feel really uncomfortable.  There's also hand-holding sometimes.  And heaven forbid (yes, I said it) that I’m  actually asked to say the prayer!

So how do I get around this, being engaged to a wonderful Yank you say?

Well, sometimes I just have to suck it up and eat the turkey.  But, for the last couple of years, we’ve been to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving and it works out absolutely brilliantly.  We go to a buffet and he can get his Thanksgiving meal with all the trimming and I can have bloomin’ Chinese food if I feel like it, or Mexican, or Italian, or anything I want without ruining my Christmas.

Oh yes, and I forgot about the worst part - there are no presents!!!  You see, Christmas is so MUCH better.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gambling - A Great British Tradition?

The very first time we came to America to have a look at what we were getting ourselves into, my dad took us to Las Vegas – of course! Everyone has to experience Vegas at least once in their life. It was all very exiting!

So there we were, all packed into the car like sardines yet again, when we decided to stop for a late lunch at Stateline.  Now, as we came over the hill, I thought we were actually in Vegas – all I could see were casinos and lights.  But apparently not, Stateline is just a little teaser of what’s to come.

The buffet was calling our name and there was quite a wait, but hey, we were in a real casino so let’s gamble…. Or at least let’s feed a few pennies into a fruit machine.

So while the others were queuing up, I tootled off to the closest machine and began shoving quarters in one at a time.  A couple of minutes later, I hit it big…. Well, okay, I won about $50.  Nice - or it was, until I was suddenly surrounded by security guards.  Hmm… it turns out you can’t have a child in a Casino, or at least not next to the machines.  I was grilled as to who had put the money in the slot and why my son was with me (he had followed me over to the machine).  It was a wonderful introduction to the American world of gambling, I must say.  I think they only relented and let me keep the money because I was a tourist!  I sheepishly collected my winnings and did the walk of shame back to the family.  *sigh* They told me during lunch that if I’d put three quarters in at the same time, I could have won a bundle… but try explaining that to the security guards – I was happy to settle for the $50.

Although gambling is legal under US federal law, Nevada and Lousiana are the only states where casinos are legal statewide.  Other states have laws which restrict gambling to small geographic areas or to American Indian reservations. [Wikipedia.org] If you want to gamble, you have to really, really want to gamble because you will have to travel quite a distance (unless you already live in Vegas, of course).  The laws are extremely strict and heaven forbid if you’re under 21 and are caught trying to gamble or even walk into a casino on your own.  Gambling is a bit taboo in the US, mummies (or mommies) wouldn't dare let their child gamble - it's a big no-no, as if they will immediately be on the slippery slope to Gamblers Anonymous!

It’s a far cry from growing up in England where every seaside pier has an arcade choc-a-block with fruit machines, every pub and most chip shops have them too.  And anyone can play.  Here’s an example - my four year old nephew gambling away his pocket money in Brighton.

A big no-no in America
This is just something we do.  Growing up, if we knew we were going to the seaside, we would save all our 1p’s, 2p’s and 5p’s so we could go on the pier and – shock horror – gamble.  And blimey, us Brits gamble on anything – Horse racing, football scores, the elections, the weather, a white Christmas… you name it, and we’ll bet on it.  You can even see grannies having a flutter on the Grand National every year - its an English tradition.  Every corner has either a pub, a newsagents, a chippy or a betting shop.  A good Saturday night out for us was going to Wimbledon Stadium for the greyhound racing and letting my son pick the winners (or at least try to) and nobody worried about it!

Come on 6......
Although, there was that one time…..

I had been asked to put some money on a horse and went to the bookies with my 3 year old in tow. We were just in time for the race to begin so we stayed to watch.  To my utmost horror my son decided at that moment to stand on a chair and shout “Come on 6… Come on 6….” at the top of his voice, a result of  too many trips to Wimbledon, possibly.  The old fuddy duddies in the shop were not best pleased and we were asked to leave.  And once again I had to do the walk of shame…..  [is it just me or is this becoming a regular thing?]

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christmas in November!

After our very first Christmas here, I was absolutely gutted to see our next door neighbors' Christmas tree out for the dustbin men on Boxing Day!!!.... yes, the day after Christmas (as it’s called here) is just another day to Americans.  Can you imagine taking down all your decorations on Boxing Day. Bloody hell, we’re still celebrating in England, going to the other in-laws and wot-not. There’s still pressies to be had.  I want to stretch my Christmas celebrations out to at least New Years Eve!

And I know people are putting lights up on their houses earlier and earlier recently, but I came home the other day (it was November 2nd) and saw this...

Yes, my neighbours have their Christmas tree up already!  I almost died.  [Not the best picture obviously, because I was fainting when I took it]

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween USA Style

Halloween - Its a BIG deal
In October of 1994, we moved into our first house is the USA and our furniture had just arrived from England. We hadn’t brought our worn out three piece suite or our UK television, so we didn’t have any living room furniture at all.  So, by Halloween, the front door still opened into an empty room.  It looked like we were going for the empty, haunted house look - perfect!
Not my house
Having grown up in England where the only notable thing that happened on October 31st was my friend’s birthday, I’m not sure we were entirely ready for Halloween.  We’d seen the films, of course, and hoped that Michael Myers didn’t live in our neighbourhood.   I knew the children (and apparently teenagers after 9:00 p.m.) dressed up and went door to door “Trick or Treating” with a bucket or in some cases a pillowcase (greedy) collecting sweets, or “candy.”

My son was around 8 at that time and wanted to trick or treat with his new friends, so it was just my daughter and I at home that night.  We were ready, we were prepared, we had a couple of bags of sweets to give out, we had the lights on inside and out, I got a dining room chair and put it by the front door and we waited for the first children to arrive.   And did they arrive!!!

One after the other, in droves, with parents, without parents, babies in pushchairs (why would babies need candy?) and the costumes - from Disney characters and superheroes, to vampires and zombies we saw them all.  One notable costume and one which was my daughters favourite was a tiny little baby in a Tweety Pie costume.  That baby’s probably around 22 now and might really want to forget it, bless.  Some parents are very inventive with their costumes and I'm sure some of those babies might grow up to hate their parents for the indignities handed out.  For example - this one ..
So anyway, there we were, giving out handfuls of sweets to every child and about an hour in I realized that we weren’t going to have enough. We had been willynilly throwing handfuls into each bucket and I thought the children were really nice when they were saying “Wow, thank you”  Look at me, I thought, I must have the best sweets on the street.  Nope, it was that they couldn’t believe I was so generous and I have since learned that they get ONE each…. Yes only one!!
Only ONE each!
So Plan B went into action – one sweet each and if possible, only pretend to put a sweet in their bucket.  Yes, this sounds like a terrible plan and it actually was…. I still remember the angry look I got from one little boy who knew I hadn’t put anything into his pillowcase and I stood there looking at him, daring him to tell me he knew – bad karma, I know (*cringe*)  I only tried it that once though – I couldn’t handle the guilt.

And throughout all this, every time I opened the front door, the first thing those little kids saw was an empty room.  I did get quite a few questioning looks that night and think I might have scared some of them actually.

And what do you do when you run out of candy?  Well, you close the door, turn out the lights and pretend you’re not home.  But that doesn’t actually work.  It seems those flippin’ kids will knock on every door in their hunt for sugar!  And then, as it got later, the children got bigger.  I was opening the door to teenagers, some of whom even had mustaches – and not the stick on kind.  Surely there should be an age limit to trick or treating?  My daughter and I eventually had to go and sit in a back bedroom because, quite frankly, she was getting scared (she was only 2.5) of all the big monsters knocking on the door.

Nowadays, I end up having way too much candy and I tend to buy what I like and fortunately, I now live in a neighbourhood where there aren’t so many children.  But then, I end up eating ALL of the sweets myself.  Not such a good idea after all!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Undertaking, Overtaking - The Freeway Free-For-All

I’ve been reading with interest posts by my blog mate ukdesperatehousewifeusa about undertaking. Now, until she had mentioned it a couple of months ago in this post, I had never heard of it.  Reading her heading, I thought someone had died!  But no, that’s not the case.  Undertaking is basically the act of overtaking in the slow lane.  

She lives in the east coast and I’m thinking the roads are a tad smaller there than here in California, where freeways have five, six or sometimes seven lanes – each one of them choc-a-block full of cars. And there’s usually that idiot (or old fart) who wants to drive at 50 mph in the “fast’ lane.  Those people drive me nuts!  The only thing to do is go around on the right….

And here’s my secret – I love it!  

Yes, I love the fact that you can go around all those people driving too slowly (or what I presume to be too slowly). I have been told I've got a lead foot, which in English means I am a bit of a girl racer. I must admit though, it’s a bit like Wacky Races sometimes what with everyone having a free-for-all on the freeway.  I don't break laws, it's just so much more convenient to be able to go around on either side.
The freeway free-for-all
Look at me getting all sciency... yes, I know it's DNA, not the freeway, but it looks just the same sometimes.

I’m sure if I lived in a different state it wouldn’t be the same.  I wouldn’t undertake in London, so I’m not sure I would do it in New York either.  It's just how the roads are here and I was told, long ago when I started driving here, to never drive in the slow, or far right, lane because you will have more chance of getting hit by cars entering and exiting the freeway.  

Oh, and if there happen to be any California Highway Patrol reading this, um… I don’t speed, per se, I just like to get through traffic.  No need to hunt me down and give me a ticket  *sheepish grin*

Hope he's not pointing at me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's Not a Hurricane!

I've recently been reading about hurricane Gonzalo which apparently is about to batter the United Kingdom with 70-80mph winds.  It looks like this time people have had a proper warning about what's coming, although the weather maps pretty much look like a normal British summer

This looks normal for this time of year
Which brought me to thinking about that infamous 'hurricane' of 1987.  One of the most famous bloopers ever, if you ask me.  I'm not sure Michael Fish has lived it down to this day.  "There's not a hurricane coming..."  Famous last words and all that.


October 15, 1987 it was.  I saw the weather forecast that night and obviously didn't think anything about it at all.  Since when does England have hurricanes and anyway, we lived in London.  Not much can go wrong there, surely.  Off to bed we went and at some time in the night I was woken up by empty coke cans bouncing down the street.  I didn't bother to get up to see what it was, I just thought it was a bit windy and someone had left an empty can in the road.  How rude!

The next morning rolled around and I wandered into the kitchen to make a cuppa and looked out into the garden.  Well, that was a surprise, I wasn't only looking into the garden, but across the road and down the street too.  My fence was completely gone.  Neighbours were wandering around as if in a daze and I walked out my front door to see the road completely littered with broken roof tiles.  (It apparently wasn't Coke cans I had heard, but roof tiles hitting the floor).  Surprisingly, and much to my relief, not a single tile had landed on our car and how that happened I will never know.  The weirdest thing and something I remember to this day was our big, burley builder neighbour from across the road asking us if we had "lost a bunny" as he was cradling a little white fluffy bundle in his arms - bless.  I never did find out who that rabbit belonged to, or if he had kept it himself - he did seem to be quite taken with it though!

We were actually quite lucky with only having a bit of damage.  Not so, for many other people.  19 died and it was classed as the worst ever storm to hit the south east of England for 300 years. 

They used to be caravans
And poor Michael Fish?  Well, he's still going strong and still works for the Met office.  In later years, he says there was never actually a "woman" who rang the station, but it will still go down in history as a big Ooopsie!  

And there is now a "Michael effect" in weatherman circles whereby British weathermen are now inclined to predict "a worst-case scenario in order to avoid being caught out" [Wikipedia]

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brits In LA

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to see a couple of British singers right here in Los Angeles.

Sam Smith - Greek Theater

I’d never been to the Greek before and it’s quite a small, intimate, open air venue (Oooh, don't I sound like a fancy music critic…?)  Although it's an outdoor arena, considering we are in Los Angeles in September we didn't need any blankets to keep us warm.  In fact, the Margaritas were perfect.  (Oh, that would be $15 Margaritas, by the way).
The opening group were 'Broods' a New Zealand band.  I've never heard of them, I think they might be quite new, but they were okay.  They sang for about half an hour and then the anticipation began ..

When Sam Smith came onto the stage, the crowd erupted and quite frankly, he was bloody brilliant. He has the best voice and it literally sounds like you are listening to a CD when he sings.  

He sang almost all of his songs as well as his Whitney Houston cover, La La La and Latch. (Even though Naughty Boy and Disclosure weren't actually there, you couldn't tell).  All of them sounded exactly like you would hear on the radio.  He sang for over an hour and chatted away to the audience and he seems just so, well, sweet (for want of a better word)

I found out the next day he was actually suffering from laryngitis! You can see why this boy is going to be MASSIVE!

Lily Allen - The Palladium

I thought the Greek was small and intimate – well, it’s flippin' Wembley stadium compared to the Palladium, a standing only venue on Sunset Boulevard.  Although at $15 for a beer, you won’t be getting drunk there any time soon.  We tried, we really did, but it just wasn’t going to happen at that price!
Pretty in Pink

It was all very girlie – the stage lit up in pink and purple and lighted baby bottles everywhere.  I’m not sure if that’s because she’s had a couple of babies or if it was something more subliminal.  Most of the songs were from her new album Sheezus, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get to hear some of the favourites – LDN (which reminds me of home), Smile and of course, the brilliant F*ck You! As soon as the first few bars of that one were heard, the crowd went wild.  There's nothing better than jumping up and down giving the 'V' sign, although since this is America it technically wasn't the 'V' sign, it was the middle finger!

Where's the baby fat?
She may have taken some time off to have those babies, but she can still belt it out - and my God, look at those abs!  

I do like to see an English band play in LA – I’ve seen the likes of Simple Minds, Mumford & Sons and Madness,  but I just missed Jake Bugg.  I always have the fantasy they will ask “Is there anyone from England here?” and I will put up my hand and say “Me, me, me..” and I will get asked up on stage…. That’s pretty much where it ends as there is absolutely no way I would get up there and be in front of all those people.  It would just be really awkwardly uncomfortable…  And that’s probably why they don’t ask.  If they did, there would just be a lot of averted eyes in the audience while people prayed “don’t pick me, don’t pick me….”  in typical English fashion.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Where's the Washing Line?

There is nothing quite like the feel of getting into bed at night and having crisp clean sheets, which have been dried on the washing line.

Yesterday I did five loads of washing (yes, five!!) and not only easy dry stuff, there was one load of towels and a load of jeans.  Of course, they are all dry and put away now because I live in California and I have a washing machine and a dryer.  It took a couple of hours, but they all got done.

Which brings me back to that first bit – doing washing in England and hanging your clothes on a washing line.  It was a bit of a chore, to say the least.  A little washing machine in the kitchen  (if you were lucky), no dryer and usually no sun!  It could take days for a washing line full of jeans to dry.  

pic: Courtesy Wikipedia (Michael Gabler)
And then there was always the chance of rain… at which time, the collective female residents of the street would gasp, usually utter a curse word, drop everything (literally) and run into the garden shouting “It’s raining, come and help me get the washing in.”  The thing is, the washing was probably still wet from when you hung it out so a little drop of rain wouldn’t make a difference anyway, but that’s not the point and it never happens that anyone says “Oh, it’s raining, lets just leave the washing hanging out.”  Nope, the reflex is to run around the garden like a banshee, tripping over your own feet and quite possibly dragging your nice whites through the mud.

If you were at work and it began to rain you heard the groans of “Oh bugger, my washing’s going to get wet!” coming from all around the office.  (And this is only in the summer)

Winter brought a whole new host of problems.  Wet weather for weeks, cold and ice.  There were many times I left my washing out overnight only to find everything stiff as a board the next morning.  You have to bring your jeans in and stand them in the corner!  The washing is then hung or draped across radiators, or in front of the fire and your house suddenly turns into a very unexotic damp and steamy sauna.  Oh the joys of English weather.
Yup - done that!
So I came to California and was really surprised nobody used washing lines.  I thought people were just lazy, actually.  All that wonderful sun and you dry your washing in a dryer? It didn’t make sense to me.

Of course, I wasn't going to be like other people, No not me, I would show them.  So I had a washing line put up in my garden (which was actually a piece of string because you can’t find washing lines anywhere).  I had brought my peg bag with me, so finding pegs wasn’t a problem. I was very proud of myself when I did my first load and carefully hung it out.  I knew it wouldn’t take long.  “Wow this is wonderful, I thought, this will dry in no time!”  

Fast forward an hour or so.  Out I go into the garden (or back yard) and feel my washing – lovely and dry.  So I begin unpegging and taking the clothes down when I noticed, or rather felt, the dust all over them.  Everything I touched left a dirty mark on the clothes.  California is so dry that the slightest bit of wind sends dust everywhere, including onto my lovely clean washing!  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, every bloody item had a yellow burn mark where it had been hung across the line.  The sun had burnt every piece and do you think I could get that out?  Oh no.  So not only did I have to wash everything again, I had to throw some of them out because that burn was never going away.  Lesson learned.

But there is an upside in all this.  Washing day is much, much quicker and I have come to love my dryer – mainly because you don’t have to iron anything - anything!  I have not used my iron for years and I’m glad its gathering dust in the cupboard.  I hated ironing with a vengeance. 

But I really, really do miss getting into those crisp, line hung, sheets.  It just doesn’t feel right to have clean sheets feel soft and fluffy.  Oh well, I think I can probably live with it.  (*smile*)
Miss those crisp sheets

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Not Quite English

Last weekend, my daughter and I went on another brunch quest looking for a little bit of England in California.  This time, we tried Lucky Baldwins, a ‘British Pub & Café’ in Pasadena.  They have three locations and apparently have been there some 18 years, so it should be great, right?

First of all, we got there a bit late for breakfast and/or brunch.  It was around noon, which in theory should still be time for brunch, but whatever.  The actual menu was very patriotic, Union Jacks all over it, but that’s pretty much where it ended.  The only two items of a British nature that I could see were a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich (American bacon, Irish bacon for an extra charge) and a full English (an extra charge for crumpets instead of toast).   Oh, I could have had a cup of PG Tips too.

Very patriotic
Of course, we ordered one of each (with Irish bacon and crumpets).  Hannah had the breakfast sandwich which had a lovely runny egg and a couple of bits of bacon.  This would have been a great breakfast if you had made it at home, but in a restaurant you would expect a little bit more on the plate – even a bit of dead cabbage for garnish would have made it look a bit fancier.  But she said it was lovely, even though she thought she could have eaten another one!

That's it?
I had the full English - bacon, sausage, two eggs over easy, (I still can't figure out what I am supposed to ask for here, but over easy seemed to be okay this time), baked beans (Heinz), mushrooms, fried tomato - Mmmm, lovely jubbly.... but then there was also that potato/pepper/onion mixture that seems to be a standard in American breakfasts - FAIL! Gentlemen, this is most definitely NOT an English breakfast requirement!

What is that potato stuff??  Definitely not English!
The sausage was lovely, as were the mushrooms and beans.  The eggs were runny enough and the (tiny bit of) bacon was nice.  But then there were the crumpets.  The waiter (who was new on the job, he said), didn't know what a crumpet was, but I assured him they were on the menu and I could have them instead of toast,  Well, when I got them, they looked (and tasted) like they had been heated up in a microwave.  They were rubbery like they had just come out of the packet, no crispy bits on the bottom and not only that, I didn't get any bloomin' butter, just a little pot of lemon curd.  In all my years, I have never eaten crumpets with lemon curd (and no butter), but there's a first time for everything, as they say, and I tried.  But quite frankly, it was pretty blah.

Hmmm....a bit bland
I'm not saying I'm Egon Ronay or that I work for the Michelin Guide, but I was just a little, well, disappointed with the food.

But, I'm sure if we had got there earlier when the Premier League football was on, the place would have been bursting at the seams with all the Chelsea fans watching Frank Lampard put a goal past his old club, much to his dismay.   It probably would have felt a lot more "British."

Unfortunately, by the time we got there they were showing American Football and we were sitting at a table next to the most annoyingly loud and obnoxious person ever (yes, really loud and really obnoxious). But I'm sure he might have said the same thing had he been there for the 'real' football and sat among a load of boisterous and, some would say also obnoxious, English footie supporters.

I might be being a bit harsh, the waiter was new and we were surrounded by Yanks watching American Football.  Not exactly a definitive British experience.  We were on the patio also - maybe inside it was decorated extremely English.  I am not ruling out ever going there again, so who knows. Watch this space (as they say)..... *smile*

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thanks for Staying Scotland!

IT'S A NO!!  

In my last post, I said I didn't think men in kilts were at all sexy and they should wear trousers in Scotland from now on.  However, doing a bit of a Google search, my attitude may have changed just a tad when I found these pictures.  (Men, you might want to look away now)


So, I would emphatically like to say THANKS FOR STAYING SCOTLAND  *swoon*

Unfortunately, in my experience, when you actually meet a man in a kilt, he tends to look like this:

Oh, and I'm also glad we don't have to change the flag.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scotland, Are You Really Leaving?

What with all the talk of Scotland's independence going around at the moment, I thought I would put in my tuppence…. I am not at all politically interested in anything (true story) so I’ve really only been reading the headlines.  But as with anything there are pro’s and con’s and I thought I would make my list.  So here goes


I know there are a lot of people out there who absolutely love them, but to me, the bagpipes sound like someone trying to strangle a cat.  It’s like nails on a blackboard to me – makes me cringe.  So maybe England can ban them?  Please.....?
Oh look - bagpipes!
Trafalgar Square
When England play Scotland at Wembley, the English would be able to sing and dance in the fountains at Trafalgar Square.  Up until now, the Scottish take over and you can’t get anywhere near the bloody things.  Mind you, it’s not that England supporters ever have anything to sing and dance about.
Can we have a go please?
Men in Skirts
I don’t know about you, but to me a man in a skirt is just not sexy and it seems that those bloomin’ Scots always want to show you what’s underneath and it’s usually nothing!! Please, please don’t do that….. Good old English trousers please!
I don't really need to see this, thank you.


You might have to show a passport to get into Scotland from England.  I’m not sure this is actually a con for me, seeing as I’ve never actually been to Scotland – the furthest north I’ve been is Newcastle and although they talk incredibly funny there, I don’t think it’s actually Scotland.

Walker’s Shortbread, who doesn't love it?  I love the stuff dipped in a nice cuppa.  Every Christmas I buy a big tin of Walkers. I won't be able to live without it.  (Well, I probably could, but I don't want to).  Will Scotland stop us being able to buy some?
I'm going to miss this
The Union Jack
This has got to be the biggest 'con' of the lot.. what will happen to our wonderful flag?  Am I going to have to throw away all my union jack emblazoned items.  Do I need to take my flag off my car?  It will look really odd (and a bit anaemic) without the blue.  And yes, I have just managed to make the Scottish independence debate all about myself.

Stay with us Scotland... we need your blue bit!
But I suppose we will all have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happens.  I'm a bit of a traditionalist and although Scotland already have their own Parliament, their own money and their own flippin' language, I just don't want them to go.  It will be like having your upstairs neighbours move out and although you've never actually talked to them, you're used to them because they were always there.  It's all a bit sad really.