Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Friday, August 28, 2009



Today is another day, Friday to be precise, and I have gotten all these lovely messages from friends and family urging me to 'keep blogging'. I never knew my writing would be thus appreciated, so who am I to disappoint my fan base?

So far I have written about travel, driving, and random things about me. Today, I have sat and looked at other people's blogs, my Facebook page, my email, and a delightful page called Worst Album Covers, which was a good chuckle.

I'm a bit tired today and I can't really get inspired, so instead I'm going to direct you to some other thumping good reads.

The Geograph British Isles project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland, and you can be part of it.

For another good laugh or two, try Awkward Family Photos, which shows that no matter how bad your family portraits are, there are other families with worse ones.

My friend Patrick has been on many adventures and you can read about them on Journeys.

And lastly, I nearly wet myself laughing at these photos of terrible tattoos.

Have a good day everyone.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Road To Seattle, part 3 - or, I'm Sitting Alongside Carlton Blanchard


As I mentioned previously, breakfast was already taken care of as we were staying right next to the Cracker Barrel. So, after a nice egg-laden repast, we set forth on the next leg of our journey. We were California bound.

Most of New Mexico, as those who live there or have visited can attest, is desert. So is Arizona, unsurprisingly. I'm not complaining - it's beautiful! It is, however, uneventful. So, all we really did that day was drive, stop for gas, food, and beverages. Nice big cold ones. Kristy has always been of the 'as-much-ice-as-you-can-get-into-the-cup' mindset. I, however, being British and still regarding ice machines as one of the wonders of modern technology, require just a small amount. My thinking is, the less ice you have the more room for the drink! Maybe I'm just cheap. Ah well. I digress.
So, after one of our stops, we drive on, post-bevvie, and Kristy naps. A good while later, she wakes up and we are still driving across the desert, in fact it was Saguaro National Park. Without saying a word, she leans over to her cup, which has just a little ice left in the bottom and nothing else. I am driving and keeping my eye on the road, but I can see with my peripheral vision what she's up to. She holds up the cup to her ear, shakes it, then peers down the straw, then back to the ear for another shake, then down the straw again. She repeats this process once again, and puts the cup back in its holder. Leaning over to me, and putting her lips up close to my ear, she bellows, "THIRSTY!!"
My response is something along these lines - "Well, dear, as you can see, we are in the middle of a large desert with no buildings, including gas stations or convenience stores as far as the human eye can see. When I see such a place, mayhap I will pull over and you can then avail yourself of some ice cold refreshment."

The reply comes back, "THIRSTY!!"

"Well, " I started to say, but was interrupted by a regular stream of "THIRSTY! THIRSTY! THIRS-TEE!!!"

This went on for a few minutes, with me not knowing whether to act serious or laugh out loud, and simultaneously doing both.

After a while it got quiet.

Now I am not sure if everyone reading this is familiar with the show Wings. Those who are will likely recall the character of Carlton Blanchard portrayed by the late great William Hickey, best known as the aging Don in Prizzi's Honor and Uncle Lewis in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
In the Wings episode "Das Plane" Blanchard wins a contest for a free flight anywhere. Since the Hackett brothers neglected to specify 'anywhere that Sandpiper flies' Blanchard talks them into flying to Las Cruces, New Mexico. With Antonio and Lowell in tow, they fly there, during which they crash in a cornfield in Iowa, and finally end up in Las Cruces to meet Milford, Carlton Blanchard's brother whom he has not seen in 50 years. During their flight Carlton Blanchard annoys everyone, especially Antonio, by asking hundreds of inane questions such as, "What do you suppose they do with those little pieces of metal they punch out when they make a flute? "
I encourage everyone who has not seen it to do so. It will make you laugh until you cry.

So, we're driving across the desert, as I said, and Kristy has informed me in no uncertain terms that she is a little parched. Suddenly, after a few minutes, she points at a small mountain (or large hill, if you want to see it that way) off in the distance, and says, putting on a Blanchard voice as she does so, "Say... see that mountain over there?"

"Yes," I said.

"How much d'you think it weighs?"

"Umm, I have no idea."

"On a Saturday afternoon, in the middle of August, about 3 o'clock, how many people d'you suppose drive past that big mountain?"

"Ummm, dear... how would I know?"


Oh Lord. Here we go.

"... if a monkey were to bite you, what kind of shot do you think they would give you?"

"I... don't...know."

And on it went. For about 25 minutes. Finally, joy of joys, I see a gas station and we can pull off and cease this line of questioning.

We carried on till we got to California, and stopped in a little town just inside the State Line called Blythe, which sits on the Colorado River. We found the Motel 6 and settled in for the night.


I love Denny's. An institution as American as Debbie Reynolds. Denny's gets a bad rap sometimes, but you cannot beat it for sheer amount of food. My wife and I both agree on this... Denny's is awesome.
The morning of Day Five we ate at Denny's, just down the road from the hotel, and took off. We were headed to LA, where we would pick up I-5 and follow it all the way to Washington. Today our drive would take us past Joshua Tree National Park, where I would endure yet more Carlton Blanchard-style questioning. After that, the drive would take us to Palm Springs, where I noticed a bunch of windmills up on top of a hill. I'm naturally curious, and I've always been a bit of a green pinko Commie liberal recycler, so I said, out loud, "Wow, look at that wind farm." At that point it hit me that a wind farm is usually placed in a windy area. As if reading my thoughts, the wind then picked up with a big gust, and here I am driving a large heavy object on wheels with a flat side, something akin to a sail. For the next few minutes, steering the big rig was incredibly difficult, as Mother Nature was trying to force me off the road. Once we got past that area the wind calmed down and we headed straight towards LA and of course, rush hour traffic.

We all know what rush hour is like when driving a regular car. Driving a big truck in rush hour traffic and towing a regular car behind us is indescribable. I can't remember much about it. All I know is I was glad when it was over.

Now it was getting toward dusk and we stopped to eat, I can't remember where. We decided to keep going as far as we could before stopping for the night as we were anxious to get to our destination after being on the road for so long. My left leg, not being used for anything while I sat in the driver's seat 12 hours a day or more, would go numb, as would my butt. We pushed on northwards until I had to pull into a rest stop, as I could see several sets of white lines in the road and I couldn't make them join back together. Kristy didn't want to sit in a rest stop next to all these truckers so she got out and I moved over, and she got in and drove for a couple hours so I could sleep. Finally we stopped in a town called Williams, just north of Sacramento, and found a motel.

DAY SIX - Homeward Bound!

Now we were in Northern California, and all was smooth sailing until round about the town of Redding. Here is where you can find Shasta Dam, the 2nd largest and highest concrete structure in the USA, and a source of some controversy since its opening in 1944, when a Native American tribe, the Winnemem Wintu, lost a lot of land including burial grounds and other sacred sites for which they have yet to be compensated and also they have yet be allotted any land which was promised to them over 60 years ago. Shasta Dam is incredible to look at though. But we were starting to go endlessly uphill and the poor old U-Haul was not happy. Slower and slower we went, up, up, uuuuuuppp. "Dear God, " I thought, "please don't break down."

After a while we figured out how to drive these hilly areas, and soon we were at Mt. Shasta, driving these mountain passes and looking at the scenery. Suddenly I saw a sign that made a warm fuzzy feeling come over me. The sign? "ESPRESSO". At long last! I was home! Back then (1998) Starbucks had not really made the inroads into the South that it now has. It took us until we were in Northern California before we found good coffee. That's a bit sad, isn't it?

After fueling up (the place was next to a gas station) we headed on. Pushing northward through beautiful green Oregon, we finally crossed the big bridge at Portland into Washington around 11 p.m. and were immediately hit by a wall of the most inhuman fog you ever saw. This stuff was thick, even thicker than the fog in my school's production of "Oliver!" on the first night when they hadn't got all the bugs worked out of the fog machine. I mean, it was a 'real pea-souper'! My natural instinct, only being able to see 4ft in front of me, was to put my bright headlights on. This only made the fog brighter, but just as difficult to see through. For about the next hour I drove at a snail's pace until it finally cleared.

We got to Olympia and gassed up for the last time. It was at this point that a kindly soul who was also gassing up pointed out to me that the brake on my tow dolly was on.

I had been driving with it on the whole time.

Have you ever felt really, really stupid and embarrassed? I started to think to myself, no wonder it was such tough going up those hills! No wonder people were giving me funny looks as they passed me! Ack!

So, with the brake now off, we headed to Lake Stevens. We got in at around 4 am, and decided to leave unpacking for the next day. But we weren't going to bed yet - I had been waiting all this time to give Kristy her Christmas presents and I wasn't going to be satisfied until she opened them, dang it! For weeks I had been buying little gifts here and there and adding them to a big big box, along with confetti, streamers, sprinkles, noisemakers and party poppers. I sat her down and made her open everything. Lots of little bottles of perfume, books, teas, etc. were crammed in there and we spent a good half hour opening everything. I had done it. I had achieved surprise. Finally, when we were about to start using matchsticks to prop our eyelids open a la Tom & Jerry, we decide to get some sleep. There was some serious unpacking to do tomorrow. And now, we had stories to tell our friends, our kids, and our grandkids.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” - John Steinbeck

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” - St. Augustine

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” - Mark Twain

“Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover / Breath’s aware that will not keep. / Up, lad: when the journey’s over there’ll be time enough to sleep.” - A. E. Housman

Driven To Tears

I hate driving.
Let me rephrase that.

I dislike driving more now that I live in the South than I did when I lived in Seattle, and I hated driving more then than I did when I lived in the UK. There are many reasons for this, of course, but number one with a bullet is the fact that someone rewrote the Highway Code for Georgia drivers. Seriously, I was never that nervous about being either a passenger or a driver in a vehicle (oh and by the way, the correct pronunciation is 'veer-kul', not 'vee-hickle') until coming to Georgia.

I will have to make this a list, I think, because serious venting requires organization.

I HATE....

1) Cruising along at 70mph doing the speed limit with some jackass breathing down your neck. It's like, "What, are you trying to read my odometer, buddy?!"

2) Getting pulled over for doing the speed limit. This actually happened to me, I kid you not. I was driving home from work one night, in my Outback uniform, doing 45 in a 45, and other cars were just zipping on by, doing 55 or 60, when I see in my rearview the flashing lights. I thought, surely that can't be for me, so i kept going. When the lights didn't move from behind me I realized it was me they were after. When I pulled over I was asked if I'd been drinking! Evidently, not speeding and staying in my lane when everyone else was zooming around like their arses were on fire was a clear sign that something was very wrong.

3) Getting in the left lane to pass someone and being passed on the right by some knob who thinks that 78mph just ain't fast enough. This is usually the same dork who doesn't believe turn signals have a purpose.

4) The idiot who honks me when the light turns green because I took more than a nanosecond to put my foot on the accelerator. I save my best obscene gestures for this guy.

5) Back to tailgaters again.... this time it's the guy who, when the car in front changes lanes, accelerates to fill the vacated space, like he's in NASCAR or something.

6) The people (and there are a lot of them) who, despite dozens of signs saying Reduce Speed Now and Speeding Fines Increase In Roadwork Areas, still maintain a constant 75mph in a 50mph zone, as if to say, "I don't have time for you people to mend roads - I'm important! Got places to go, things to do, people to see!"

And lastly.... 7) The twit who can't seem to go faster than 45mph whether driving a clapped-out Dodge Aries or a Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer. The pedal's on the right, buddy!

Places are too far apart in this country. Not enough sidewalks. You can't walk anywhere. Have to have 'walking trails' specifically designed to walk in because walking on the street will get you killed. People go for their morning walk by driving to the mall and walking around indoors and watching the Starbucks and the cookie place open and thinking "I'll get me some of that when I finish walking." Can anyone else see the ludicrousness of the situation or is it just me? No wonder we're all fat bastards.

Alright, rant over. Nighty night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Road To Seattle, continued... or, More Merriment On Wheels


So we set off again after breakfast (which was not, I hasten to add, eaten at Shoney's) and head westward in the general direction of Texas. We went through Louisiana, of course, but the only thing I really remember about Louisiana, as well as Mississippi and Alabama, was how crappy and full of potholes the roads were. What a welcome relief, then, to find that at the precise moment we enter Texas, it's nothin' but smooth fresh blacktop. At the state line there's a crew made up of State Prisoners tarmacking for all they're worth. Smooth sailing!!

Now, Texas, I'm thinking at this point, I should be able to get some good eats here. Tex-Mex, right? I was jonesing for some full-on, screamin' Mexican chow. So we roll into Dallas as evening approaches and the first Mexican joint we see, we pull off the highway and go in for a bite. I don't remember the name of the place, thankfully, but the building was pink. Anyway, at the time, I was vegetarian, and I wanted a cheese enchilada. I don't understand why there was beef in the enchilada sauce, but there was, so I picked it out. Eccchhh. Oh well, tomorrow's another day, right?

So after the gross enchilada place, we drove on to find a nice motel. After driving through Fort Worth we found a nice-looking place right off the freeway with a vacancy sign, so we pulled in. As I neared the place I noticed it had an inside courtyard with parking so I thought, I'll just park in front facing the motel and I can turn around in the courtyard in the morning. Brilliant, eh? Sure.


Comes the morning and I go ahead with my plan. On pulling into the courtyard I notice as I'm about halfway in that it's a lot smaller than I thought. But it's too late to back out now. I'm committed. So I squeeze in and start to do a three-point turn. No, make that a five, no, seven, no, thirteen... well, I don't know, but with every turn, I inched forward, I inched backward, and the Corolla on the tow dolly was just about jackknifed, when I executed my final turn and slowly pulled out of the courtyard forwards, leaving my and everyone else's cars unscathed, much to the relief of Kristy and everyone in the motel. Phew!

A short while later we found a great little mom-n-pop breakfast place which was excellent, but I wish I could remember its name. After the disappointing Mexican food I was hungry, and I loaded up! Pancakes, eggs, home fries, toast, the works.

We drove all that day through the Hill Country and Big Bend Country (don't ask me, that's what they're called. Look it up.) and as dusk settled, we were looking for somewhere to eat. Or a town. Or a house. There is nothing there. It's just miles of desert, oil pumps and hills. The overriding aroma of crude oil is enough to make one gag at times. Finally we came upon a town called Van Horn which is just a few miles from the border with New Mexico. By now it was night and we were starving. We saw a restaurant with a nice big parking lot which caught my eye mainly because it meant I had somewhere to park the big rig. This restaurant was named Chuy's which sounded good. Mexican food! Yes! Maybe now I get some good eats! It also had big signs proclaiming its status as being on John Madden's "Haul Of Fame"! This place has to be good, right?

Sadly, either John Madden has no taste buds or he's part-owner of this insult to cuisine. Lousy American/Mexican food, overpriced, mediocre service.... the only good thing was the big parking lot. Ecch.

So, onward and upward. We left Chuy's (yes, the shrimp were very Chuy, I must say) and headed for the border. As we crossed into New Mexico, we both let out a little sigh of relief.

That night we stopped in Las Cruces. We saw the gleaming lights of the Budgetel, conveniently located slap-dab next to the Cracker Barrel. Breakfast was sorted!

The Budgetel was clearly undergoing a remodel because one whole floor was blocked off. As a result our room was incredibly cheap, but it was a very nice room. There was even Nintendo in the room. Cool. But enough.... in the words of Zebedee, it was time for bed.

The Road To Seattle

So I was thinking about what to post next, and I realized I had so many things to choose from. I don't want this blog to become a catalog of things that piss me off (although that is a rich vein to mine from), I want to talk about things I like, things that make me happy, stuff that happens and stories and anecdotes from my past.

I mentioned in the last post that I am constantly retelling my life story in a somewhat condensed form, casually glossing over parts that the average Joe doesn't need to know and just giving the basic outline. Here's one of the bits I leave out of the potted history. This is the story of the infamous roadtrip to Seattle.

Kristy and I had been talking with each other for several months: first online, in AOL chatrooms where we first encountered each other, then on the phone, long, looong phone calls that lasted all night. Many's the time we would wake up to the sound of each other on the other end snoring. I flew to Georgia to visit her around Labor Day, she flew to Lake Stevens to see me at the end of September. I then visited her again around Thanksgiving, during which time we went to Pigeon Forge with her parents and grandfather (with whom we had to share a hotel room). Finally we decided she ought to move to Lake Stevens to be with me... I scoped out condos for her and she made arrangements to move. Finally I flew down to Atlanta the day after Christmas, we rented a U-Haul with a tow dolly, put her car on the dolly and loaded all her furniture and possessions into the truck. Finally on the 28th, we took off. Her father hugged her tearfully, while her mother stood on the porch, arms folded and a look on her face as if a bad smell had just parked itself underneath her nose. I had slighted this woman in the worst way. I had stolen her daughter away from her. I was pure evil.

Bear in mind that I had been driving for a little over a year at this point.
The first part of the journey involved heading to the Akers Mill LensCrafters store she had been running to pick up some faxes. She had had the realtor for the condo fax all the papers to the store and we needed to get them before we came back to Washington. After we got those we drove all day, across Georgia and Alabama, finally ending up in Jackson, Mississippi at the Econo Lodge for the night. Kristy wasn't feeling real special at this point, and this condition was not improved by going to eat at the Shoney's in front of the hotel. Halfway through the meal she disappeared into the bathroom, resurfacing a few minutes later with a look of vomitrociousness on her face. Clearly she was not feeling well. We paid and left and headed for the hotel room.
Once there she esconced herself in the bathroom, and while she did so I went to the convenience store at the Chevron across the street to find flu-type medicine and some Tums and Pepto.
Upon my return I was informed by my sweet girl that a plunger was needed. This was just what I needed to hear. I dutifully went to the front desk and availed myself of said instrument, and went to work in the bathroom. By now she had taken some medicine and was well on her way to feeling better. Once done in the bathroom, I decided to shower and hit the hay as it was now quite late.
So I'm in the shower and getting nice and clean and soapy, singing a little tune as I did so, revelling in the steam, when suddenly I am shocked out of my hot watery reverie by a shower of ice. A whole ice-bucket full of ice comes over the top of the shower curtain followed swiftly by gales of laughter. Clearly Kristy is feeling better, and her sense of humor has returned. I knew she had one, of course, but at this point I didn't quite know what it was like to be on the receiving end of it.
I yelled and complained bitterly for a few seconds and then went back to my showering. I figured "Hey - she just used all the ice, what else could she do?". I didn't know that this was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
A couple minutes passed by, and I, suitably refreshed, stepped out of the shower to find that every single towel, washcloth and bathmat had gone from the bathroom. Just as I started to say,"What the...?" I heard the now-familiar gales of laughter coming from the next room.

This was DAY ONE. I did not know what I was in for.

Now, this started out as a road trip story, but turned into a story about my wife's crazy sense of humor. As it is late, and the road trip was a long one, I shall post the next leg of the trip in a future post.

G'night y'all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My First Ever Post

I think the time has come for me to start posting original stuff that wasn't culled from my Facebook. The question is, when one sets out to start a blog, what does one talk about? Some people clearly have an advantage over me in that they have a definite idea before they even start writing. My friend Marissa is an excellent example. Her blog, Wildhair ( is a well-thought-out, well written daily post, not just some mindless prattle put out for the sake of it. Every day she writes something new and entertaining and thoughtful. Oh, and funny too.

So what to write about? I have so many thoughts in my head but organizing them into something coherent is not necessarily my strong point. I once tried to write a novel; I got 13 chapters in before I realized that while the ideas in the book might be entertaining to me, Kurt Vonnegut I was not. I once wrote a review of a concert I went to and sent it in the form of a letter to my sister; she seemed to like it and said that perhaps I should do a column in a paper, sort of an "Englishman In New York" type of thing a la Quentin Crisp. Trouble is, I wasn't in New York. I was in Seattle, and yes, I was experiencing some culture shock, but not to a huge degree. Growing up in the UK, we got a lot of American TV, so a lot of the cultural differences were not new to me. More and more the Americans were colonizing the English mindset. Back when I was in secondary school in the 1980's, we didn't have a prom or a graduation, or even much of a school spirit. School was just a place you went because you had to, you learned stuff, took your exams, either passed them or failed them, and then you left. If you did well, you went to college, and if not, you got a crappy job, and life went on.

After I moved from Seattle in 2000 for the hell-hole I find myself in now (Georgia) I found that two things were happening; 1) I was sounding more and more American - I pronounced my R's and said laff instead of lahhf, bath instead of bahhth, etc., and less and less people noticed my English accent, and 2) those who did notice my English accent here in the South were more inclined to try to impersonate me, but all sounded like Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins". Now, I work at Outback, where everyone I work with has a go at the accent on a daily basis, usually referencing the Kellogg's Raisin Bran Crunch commercial as they do so ('Ello, guvnor!') and about 50% of the people I wait on notice the accent but do not know whether it's Aussie or Kiwi or English. This usually results in me explaining about the loss of accent over time and culminates in the question "So how did you end up here in Gainesville?", whereupon I have to give them a brief life story. I've done it so many times it's automatic now, but I am heartily sick of retelling my tale. I'd much rather talk about food or music or movies or, or anything. My coworkers also find it necessary to tell me when there's an English-sounding person at one of their tables; however, I can't help myself and usually swing by the table and try to catch a whiff of the accent, and sometimes stop and chat for a minute if I feel so inclined. The other day I had a lovely lady at one of my tables who was from Pinner, but had lived here for over 30 years and hadn't lost her accent at all. We had a good natter about spotted dick and blancmange and Bird's Custard. Everyone else at the table must have thought we were nutters. Ah well. Let 'em.

Well, I guess this post is about done, but doubtless there'll be more on this topic, as I'm sure I will feel the need to tell my life's story to you all, explain about certain cultural anomalies and the correct way to pronounce oregano.

Have a good day (not a g'day) and TTFN.

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