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