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F1, Rugby, Cricket: Anything but football

Friday, 30 July 2010

Mexico City

Mexico City is a difficult place to sum up. A place of such great size, diversity and complexity requires a great deal of detail to explain and also a great deal of time adequately explore it. In all we were there for 6 days which was enough time to see a great deal but not enough time to scratch the surface of what the city had to offer.

It 1st thing that struck me about Mexico City was its size, and I had just come from LA. The airport terminal was ginormous, and that was the small one Lau told me. The highways that connect the various corners of the city have a second tire of road network which stand 25 meters above those on ground level. These look like something out of a science fiction novel but it is an example of contrast rather than of similarity. The majority of the roads are like capillaries with all kinds of small streets branching in all directions. It is a complicated inner city to navigate, and thats for the Taxi drivers, most of whom had to ask for directions for where they were going. At night they are empty but during the day, above all when the rain floods in, the roads are themselves are flooded by a sea of Taxis, SUV's 4bye4s, VW beetles which are very popular, and all kinds of automobiles. Along the roads you see high rising skyscrapers standing next to small ramshackle huts where the street venders sell their wares for the kind of money that in England you would think twice about picking it up off the floor if you dropped it. Contrast, contrast contrast, but it is this that makes Mexico City interesting.

We started my going to the Mexico City Museum of fine arts which, thanks to Priscilla's curse of scaffolding, has it beautiful exterior obstructed by the iron construction. Mexican art very often takes the form of large murals which tell romantic stories or Mexican revolutionary history. There were half a dozen of such murals which had the ability to compel you to stair at them for hours. Mexican artists love to tell stories of their history through these murals and, moving from left to right, a 100 year story can be dramatically demonstrated in a 10 by 5 meter space. We had a lot of things to see and much less that a 100 years to see them so swiftly we moved onto our next port of call The Excavaciones Del templo Mayor. This was a detailed account of the establishment of the ancient city of Tenochtitlan home to the Aztecs until the arrival of the Conquistadores and Hernán Cortés in 1518. On the 18th of July 1325, probably a Tuesday, Wondering Aztecs ordered by the Gods to search for their kingdom which would be marked by an Eagle on a Cactus eating a snake happened a pone and Eagle on a cactus with a snake in its mouth. Before you think the Aztecs were a lucky bunch to find the exact obscurity they were looking for the cactus was on an Island in the middle of a lake.

193 years later Cortés raised the city to the ground but must of liked the location as he built the new city of Mexico on top of the old one on top of the lake. When Jesus preached the Parable of building the house on the rock he probably felt that man didn't need to be told that building the house on water was a bit of a no no. It does seem self evident, lucid that water is, that city construction on top of a lake is a recipe for disaster but I think this a reflection on the ambitious nature of the Aztecs and then of the Spanish rather than on their respective stupidity. Nevertheless we were told one day the water will rise up from the ground and the city will be engulfed and there is nothing that can be done about it, maybe this was what the Mayas were on about?

With an overwhelming sense of foreboding as water gushed around us (it was raining but I couldn't help but wonder) we went for lunch. There we were serenaded by the Mexican version of a weeding singer who crooned and swooned his way through an hour and a half of material, while we ate and tried desperately not to catch his eye.

The evening had a personal ambition in store for us. But it is so important that is deserves its own post.

More to follow.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Teotihuacan, Queretaro and Guanajuato

So, it's official, we have arrived. We are here safe and sound and already managed to get through so much stuff.

While we have spent some time in Mexico City I haven't been able to get my head round the place yet and there is still so much more to see so I will start by telling you about the Towns and sites we have seen other than the Capital.

The first place we went to on Monday was Teotihuacán, the site of some ancient Pyramids which date from the 6th century CE. After traversing the Mexico city by metro we caught a bus to take us out of the City and to the Pyramids. A feature of Mexican buses of a certain age and style is that they are fitted with an engine from a World war One airplane, this was such a bus and every time he accelerated it sounded like a squadron of biplanes was swooping over head. The Driver had fixed the biggest Jesus on the cross icon in all of christendom to the inside of his windshield. While an icon of that size must provide a great deal of protection I felt the obstruction to his view it provided was of greater significance.

We were greeted by the terrifying sound of wild jaguars roaring! these turned out to be venders selling a object which blown into with enough force produced the fearsome cry of the wild cat (I hoped it didn't also function as a mating call for the real thing). The site was in fact an ancient town with (imagination required) a long street running across with a small(ish) Pyramid at one end an a large one at the other. The entrance was a wide, gravelled street with small boutiques selling all kinds of memorabilia on either side. We all noticed while climbing the Larger Pyramid how thin the air was as it only took a few vertical steps for us to be out of breath. Lau told us on the way up about a game the dead civilisation of the Teotihuacános would play where the winner would gain the ultimate prize of being a human sacrifice to whichever god needed pleasing at the time. While to modern civilisations it may seem an odd prize Lay assured us that it was all a part of the sacrificial culture which existed.... no wonder they all died out.

We too had a dice with death when we went to find something to eat. outside of the main site there was street where all the restaurents for the tourists were. It really needed a sign reading "Enter at your own peril!!" We went in for food but it was us that was fead to the wolves!!! We had barley set foot on the street and we were suddenly surrounded by a gaggle of screaming Mexicans all trying to convince us that theres was the best restaurant in town... given the town was a 1400 year old ruin this didn't seem much. it's funny how "please come and sample our delicious Tacos" in a foreign language can sound like war cry. We almost turned back but ended up hurrying to a restaurant more for sanctuary than for food. I'm glad the encouragement we received to pick a restaurant wasn't so discouraging that we turned around because the food was simply excellent, this has been a recurring theme.

The rickety old bus of the journey there was replaced with a rickety new bus for the journey back. Buses are the main form of public transport within Mexico and we would be taking them to get to the places we were going the next day: Queretaro.

To be continued,


Queretaro is typical of the Towns of its region in that they are colonial in nature and climb up the side of mountains which rise high into the sky. Both of these things make towns in the region, also called Queretaro, exceedingly beautiful. what makes colonial towns colonial in Mexico is a unique mixture of bright colours and old, original architecture. Not a single house wasn't washed with red, yellow, blue, orange, pink or green (not all on the same house though). The building facades are uncomplicated but this simplicity only adds to their beauty. The sensory orgy is amplified by the ecstatically pleasing nature of multi-coloured houses piled on top of each other as the town climbs up the mountain side.

Our guide for the day was Juan, a serious looking man who gave me the impression that he could relax in a bath without necessarily filling it with water and If he hasn't taken part in an olympic walking race he has missed a trick. He set a ferocious pace but this was probably a good thing as there was an awful lot to see. We scaled the mountain side at record setting pace, Temsing and Hillary would have been trailing in our wake, zigzagging our way up the slope like an alpine road. Pena De Bernal, the peak which stands the tallest over the city, rises steadily and then abruptly so we could only get so close to it. I think Juan was keen to get to the top but I had left my crampons at home so we only went as far as our lungs could take us. Other sights of the town included various churches, an aqueduct and a huge monument to Benito Juárez who was Mexico's father of secularism. juárez, in person, was no taller than 1m 37: short even by the standards of 1900s Mexico. (I've decided I am too tall for Mexico: my head sticks out over the top of cubicals in Public toilets). However it seems that the commissioner of the statue had a gross misjudgement of scale (it may have been Juárez) as it stands 10 meters tall though, perhaps more accurately, the statue is standing on top of a box.

After a few moments of photo taking we said by to Juárez and soon after to Juan and jumped back on the bus for Guanajuato where we would spend the next 2 days.

The drive into Guanajuato was spectacular. The town is much larger and the valley is much steeper so everything that was true of Queretaro was equally true of Guanajuato only more pronounced. As we made our way through the valley houses would appear in rows on the summits as the Zulus did in the famous film at Rourke's Drift (no spear throwing though). Our hotel was neatly nestled into a smaller sub-valley which gave it a certain peace and tranquility. On Wednesday (we arrived Tuesday evening) we were given a grand tour of the town which took us to all the sights of Guanajuato. The tour was given in Spanish but Pao and Lau acted as excellent translators for us.

The 1st stop was to an old silver mine that was only in use for training up budding Mexican mining proteges. While there is a lot mining in the region most of the skilled labour comes over from Canada so the facility was paramount in teaching the important skills to natives of the region. There was a single shaft which descended about 100 feet into the mountain side. The lower levels had been consumed by flooding and at the far end there was a deep well that descended into the water and darkness which, if you looked down, made your head spin and your stomach turn.

After the mine we ascended up the the valley and stopped at a church. At the time of its construction Guanajuato already had a Cathedral and as Mexican tradition states that a town can only have one cathedral the commissioner of the church, whose name I can't remember, had to leave it incomplete with one steeple missing. Still its orange exterior and lavishly decorated interior made it very pleasing on the eye.

Less pleasing was our next stop, the home of the inquisition in Mexico which was far from a Montey Python sketch. I guess what we are meant to not expect by "no-one expects the spanish inquisition" is the gruesomeness. the instruments of brutal torture demonstrated all to clearly mankind's capacity to inflict needless pain on itself. All the tools of medieval barbarism designed to bring the suffer within an inch of death, and then the rest of the way, by inflicting the most amount pain possible were displayed and described by guides dress, presumably to add even more atmosphere, as monks none of whom were Michael Palin, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry jones or eric Idle.

Our next encounter was of a less traumatising kind. 100 yards down the road was a Mexican Sweet shop. Having spent almost a week in Mexico the one universal truth about the place is that the culinary delights they serve up are simply exquisite, without exception. However life has taught me that there are no such things as universal truths and Mexican food is no exception, if you follow. mexican sweets are the one thing that I can't abide. mainly because they are not sweet in taste. Priscilla on the other hand loved them and she almost bought the whole store out!!! I sampled as much as I could stomach but found nothing of my liking.

We then made our way to the statue of Pípila who was a hero of the Mexican war of independence. While the view of the statue was impressive if you turned your back to it, no disrespect intended, you got a magnificent view of the entire town. En mass, the town looks like little milti-coloured blocks of lego piled on top of each other. From the hill side you could see all the principal landmarks of the city. The Cathedral, the University, the indoor market which many mistake for a church but I thought looked like a victorian train station. Inside it looked even more so, its roof a carbon copy (made out of iron and steel) of Paddington train station. We stopped off at the "Callejon de Beso" or "Alley of the kiss" where people like to get photos of themselves embracing loved ones. I didn't get any kisses but did embrace a low door frame with a bump on the head. With a bruised cranium the last stop on what was a whistle stop tour of the city was the theatre. nothing was playing but we did get a tour of the insides and a brief history lesson with the usual excellent Lau/Pao translations.

We would spend the next day in Guanajuato, ambling around taking in the atmosphere of the place. I fear that if I go into too much detail I will never catch up so I will leave Guanajuato for now and move on, in the next reasonably exciting instalment, to Mexico City.
More to follow.


Saturday, 17 July 2010

On the Boardwalk

If god had brought onto the people of egypt before the curses, before the blood, before the frogs, lice and flies, before the death of livestock, the bringing of boils, hail, locust and darkness, and finally the death of the 1st borns of Egypt, if before all that he had brought unto the people of Egypt the hangover of biblical proportions that we were engulfed with yesterday morning then this biblical story would have been a lot shorter!! we got started a lot later than intended. Priscilla's state as a living being was riding blindfold on a unicycle around the edge of the pit of doom, a slight destabilising moment would send her into the abyss.

So I went with Allen and Rachelle to Santa Monica, where they were visiting friends and I had a date with the Pacific. I had never seen it before and it has always been a dream of mine to stand in front of the worlds largest body of water and then to plunge myself into it. Allan and Rachelle dropped me off by the 3rd street promenade: a pedestrianised street which runs parallel to the coast about half a mile inland. I would inspect it later but right now I had a mission to complete. The Beach at Santa Monica is sheltered by a cliff face which stands around 30 feet tall. It was on the edge of this that I 1st the ocean. The beach was about 150 yards wide and ran along the cost line as far as the eye could see. Most of the beach was empty apart from a thin line of people who had set themselves up right on the sea's edge. I made my way down, flipped off my flip-flops and, stepping onto the sand immediately regretted walking barefooted. The sand was roasting hot, like fire. I made it 25 yards before I had to put my flip-flops back on again. I limped my way to the seas edge, set myself up and headed straight into the ocean. the sea was cool, which on a hot day brought some welcome relieve. the sea floor rose sharply which brought large waves crashing down on the people paddling in it. I took in a breath of the marvellous air looked to my right to sea small planes flying low carrying banners behind them in the sky. I looked to my left to see the Pier stretch out into the Ocean like so many I have seen back home. I then look to the sea and saw, slightly to me left, the biggest tampon, about a foot long, floating in the waves. I was not going to let this harm the idillic image of the Pacific I had built up in my mind, I was there and I was going to enjoy it. swimming in the waves I was enveloped by a particularly large one and when I rose to the serfice I did so without my sunglasses: My gift to the Pacific... my nicer than the one left by some unfortunate lady.
The Pier at Santa Monica was very simmilar to those you find in England, lots of tacky rides and tacky stores. The one eye opening difference were the suped up/ kitted out bikes... thats bycicles. They had tall harly davidson handlebars with hundreds of mirrors attached to them (see photo).
Our intended trip to the Cinema in the Cemitary was cancelled due to reasons byond our control (the hangover from hell). SO we spent teh night chilling and thinking about the next step, Mexico.
I'm a tad behind at this stage as I don't have as much time to write as I did in LA. So these should hopefully come every 2 days or so.
Mexican details to follow,

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Date: 17/07/2010
Time: 08:54 PT
Location: Hollywood
Population: 123,436
Taco Bells: 5
Weather: 101F: 38C
TV show: Channel 1007, KABCHD: Rookie Blue: Signals Crossed, Andy has her undercover skills tested then she is brought into help with a citywide sting operation; Andy and Dov attempt to impress Sergeant Boyko, but they leave an informant's life in danger and it's up to Andy to save her.
Word of the day (English): Palladian: Pertaining to wisdom, knowledge or study.

It's 9:50 PM and I am Professor Henry Higgins with Rachelle as Islisa Doolittle. The TV phenomenon that is Glee has sweepted the American nation as it has in the UK. The up shot is that it is perfectly acceptable for four adults to belt out show tunes at the tops of their voices, what was not so acceptable were the voices themselves, the males especially. I am getting a little ahead of myself, the day was not spent sitting in the garden singing songs from Les Miserables: that would come later.

At 1 on the dot we headed out towards the Getty Center (see Photo) which is just off the route 405 which, from the Getty Center, you can see dissecting Los Angeles right down the middle. The 405 is the Californian equivalent of the M25 and is a continuous traffic jam!! The Getty is Priscilla's favourite place in the state of California and I can certainly see why. The building sits on top of one side of a narrow valley, at the bottom of which lies the 405 and on top on the other side lies Beverly Hills and below Hollywood. you ride a tram from the car park to the Museum weaving its way up one side from the valley floor to the summit. To be honest the view is the main selling point of the museum which contained art, but not as we know it. From the balcony on the far side you can gaze on an unobstructed (apart from the smog, which is actually a rather large obstruction) panoramic view which stretches from the Pacific on the right to the snow topped San Fernando Mountains on the left.

More of Dimmock's famous water fetchers were on show, the count was 5. Is this a sign of an American obsession?!? Up high on the Valley, the sun beats down ferociously so we lasted about an hour up there and then descended back down the Valley to make our way to Hollywood.

All that I knew of Hollywood was the sign, one of the images that immediately comes to mind when thinking of California. I suppose when a town is upstaged by it's sign it aught to be an indication that the town may not be up to much, but I was still excited to go down Hollywood boulevard. But I have never been so underwhelmed in my life. Hollywood seems to be a place where all the girls are looking for husbands and all the husbands are looking for girls. how the girls seem to go about looking for husbands is to dress as prostitutes, which explains the fact that every other shop, rather than being Starbucks, is a trashy clothing boutique. I could see why photos of Hollywood are of the sign and not the place. So we got out of there as fast as possible, after 2 games of bowling (I lost both again. I'm sure there is a room in Priscilla's home in Boston full of Bowling trophies that she hasn't told me about). The drive up to the sign was a majestic wive through Beverly Hills. judging by the houses I think the kids must ask santa what he wants for christmas. You can drive up to the top of a Valley just below the Sign, a vantage point which gives you a perfect view of the sign and of the Valley floor below (here the smog was a blessing as you couldn't pick out Hollywood Boulevard).

We finally headed home for a BBQ accompanied by alcohol which lead to raucous singing (details will follow). today seems to have been about seeing things for the wrong reasons. We went to a museum to see the view and to Hollywood to see the sign. Tomorrow we're heading for Santa Monica and the Pacific cost and then a film at a cemetery in the evening, normal stuff here then.

more to follow,


Friday, 16 July 2010

Angels in the Outfield

Date: 16/07/2010
Time: 10:06 PT
Location: Anaheim, Orange County
Population: 353,643
Taco Bells: 10 (I saw one)
Weather: 79F: 26C
TV show: Channel 1116, MGM HD: Straight Out of Brooklyn: An inner city youth tries to gain money for his poor family by robbing a drug pusher victimising his neighbourhood.
Word of the day (English): undercast: something viewed from above through another medium, as of clouds viewed from an airplane.

Thursday started off with the customary dip in the pool and a few hours in the sun. Once Priscilla was free of Jacques we bolted out the door and headed across Los Angeles towards Anaheim where we were going to see the Angels (of Anaheim) take on the Seattle Mariners at Angels stadium. Before hand we were going to stop off at Priscilla's sisters office to take in the view of the LA business district (see photo).

The 1st thing to say about LA is that it is big... really big. Its rather like a pice of toast that has been lightly spread over with butter, the butter covering the entire slice in a thin layer. Whereas the London toast slice would be partially covered with a chunk of butter 1 centimetre think. With things being so spread out public transport is non-existent so everyone above the age of 16 is on the roads, most of the time in a car. Traffic is thus the proverbial nightmare, all day, every day. The problem is such that the car pool lane's minimum requirement for access is that there be more than one person in the car. Even this seems to much for the LA locals because the lane was empty. the shear size of LA is further demonstrated by the fact that we travelled by car for 1h 30 mins whilst at all times remaining in LA to go see the local team play.

We arrived in Anaheim, home of the mighty ducks and disneyland (the two are linked in a rather bizarre way which I will elaborate on later). We had an hour to kill before the game so we found a Bowling ally and had a quick game. I was rusty and Priscilla, being American, could bowl to an international standard so I lost. But we're having another game tomorrow so here comes the big comeback.

We got a little lost on the way into Anaheim so we got to see much of its suburban district, (the sat nav took us to Mall boulevard instead of the Mall). there didn't seem to be much too the place and I think the bowling ally, Disneyland (which was right next door)and the ball park are the 3, and maybe only, things to do there.

We arrived at the stadium about an hour before....pitch off? as everyone is on the roads, and as there is a lot of space in the western States, there was parking for every one of the 45,050 seats inside the ground. In the car park or lot, I saw my 1st hummer. The fact that a hummer was, for at least one American, the vehicle of choice to go to a Baseball game was not the biggest shock. The most outrageous thing was that the car fitted in the parking space!!

outside the stadium there were proselytisers holding black and yellow signs with slogans such as "receive salvation through Jesus", "I am the way the truth and the light" and, with slightly dubious syntax, "return is the lord"... "the lord is returning" maybe? I wasn't sure what they were doing? Were they protesting? is there a new commandment: thou shalt not hit balls? Priscilla told me that this kind of thing was common place at America sports games and I told her that the Welsh loved to sing hymns at a rugby match, we are kindred spirits!!!

We took our seats inside and readied ourselves for the game. The guy next to me, Jack, saw my England shirt and ask if was "English or just stupid?", I said "both". He told me how his Mum and Dad were from Birmingham and that he was "routing" for England during their brief stay in South Africa. He would fill the roll of chief explainer of what the hell was going on. He couldn't explain however why there was a water feature (see photo) in the middle of the stadium. the ground was recently revoted so I can only assume it was done so by Ground Force. The rapid water cascading down the landscape had Charlie Dimmock written all over it.

The American National Anthem is a funny old thing. Its not that they don't sing, If the etiquette was to let the professional singer sing it for you then that would be fine. Its that 39,900 Americans were murmuring it. You would have though that Americans, oozing with Patriotism that they are, would love a good rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. But it seems they prefer to sing it to themselves that sing it to everyone else. There is, however, only a certain length of time an American can last without wooping and sure enough on the phrase "And the ROCKETS red glair," the wooping started and didn't stop until the end of the song.

While the singing of the National Anthem is perhaps out of character the game of baseball is most certainly not. The athletes on the field performed tremendous feats of dynamism with effortless ease and grace. The fielders would glide from side to side and extend their arm to gather in the ball without breaking into a sweat, then fire it off like a tracer bullet to the baseman. The balls trajectory seems to defy the laws of gravity as it travels parallel to the ground. they made the impossible seem routine.

Baseball seems to be a game where an educated crowd knows what going to happen before it happens. The ball has barley left the batters.... bat and the crowd are cheering because they know that the fielder is going to dive to his left, reach out and catch the ball, regain his feat, fire the ball across to 1st base 60 yards away and the 1st baseman is going to catch the ball without moving from his position. its rather like at a fireworks display but in reverse. imagine you sound travelled faster than light and you heard the bang before you saw the colour. It seems the athletic manoeuvres the Players have to perform are by no means out of the ordinary. On one play the scoreboard ticked over from 2 to 3 men out and the batter was half way to 1st base and the ball was 75 yards away in the fielders glove. More physics defying stuff there.

Queueing for a Beer another fan noticed my accent and mentioned the world cup. While Football hasn't really reached America it has reached it enough for them to know how bad we did. There were some interesting moments of self policing from the fans also. One guy, in a moment of rage at the Angels batter said "don't just effing stair at it (the ball)." even in moments of extreme rage the man managed to avoid a wee swear. Perhaps we have found a new football chant "who the effing hell are you!!!!... as if.

baseball is a long slog and my mind started to wonder. I noticed the other side of the freeway another indoor stadium and i asked Jack if thats where the Ducks played. He said yes and then explained how the team was created after the films in a bizarre case of reverse engineering. Not the sort of thing you normally associate with the manly sport of Ice Hockey.

Another sign, literally in this case, of prototypical American culture towered high into the sky 200 yards away from us. It was a billboard with Cools Light written on it, and it was meant for us, 200 yards away. As if you can advertise to people visually that far away. On the freeway back I noticed that a lot of shops and fast food chains have there boards 100 feet or so in the air. Its as though they are advertising for whoever is behind whoever is next to what they advertising. As though those who are closest have seen for themselves whats on offer and are thus a lost cause.

here endith the lesson,

More to follow,


Thursday, 15 July 2010

Voyage & Arrival

08:12 PT
Location: West Hills, Los Angeles.
Population: 38,834
Taco Bells: 3
Weather: 87F: 30.5C.
TV Show: Channel 1518, VH1 HD: Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch: Fielding His Team: At the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, 85 women from across the country will compete against one another in Ochocinco's dating training camp in hopes of being of the 17 dates on his tournament bracket to find true romance.
Word of the day (English): Brannigan: A carouse, a squabble.
word of the day (Spanish): Moral: Morale, morals.

Airports are truly international, in more ways than seem immediately obvious. The people there, the purpose they have and the places they are going conspire to make Airports the worlds true multi-cultural societies with their own cultures and customs. Even something as constant as time is affect by the lucidity of the Airport, for time is relative to the perspective of the traveller. For example, for a frenchman flying to Paris it was 09:00 in the morning, for me, travelling to LA, it was was midnight of the previous day, and we were sitting next to each other; Is this what Einstein meant with all the E=mc2 jazz? Time, in an airport is whatever time you want it to be.

It is for this reason that I has no qualms whatsoever about having a pint at 8:30 in the morning because for where I was going, LA, a Beer at 12:30 at night is perfectly normal. I saw the man next to me give me a look as if to say "he's starting early" so I reassured him that this was " normal behaviour for where I was going" and the man then said, to my amusement "what, Liverpool?". The slight scouce accent hinted that comment may have been a self deprecating one.

All of this played out at Huxley's Bar & Kitchen, of terminal 5Heathrow, which served an entirely edible full english breakfast for £9.50 (high point was the triple bacon portion though the tomato was inevitably pushed to one side). the Orange juice it was served with came with a straw and was definitely not Tropicana ( I am a bit of a OJ snob!!). I had with me, to pass the time while eating my breakfast, or midnight snack in LA, the book "A year in the Merde" by Stephen Clarke which tells the story of an englishman who goes to work in Paris for a year, he's just arrived and is struggling with the formalities of French greetings.

Other delights of heathrow's terminal 5 included a Sony shop which didn't sell mini-discs for my camera but did sell widesceen TVs. Who buys a TV in the departure terminal of an Airport? where do they put it once it is bought? The issue of the discs is yet to be resolved but i'm sure there must be at least one shop that sells them in LA.

The flight was, for a 10 hour journey, a rather painless one. I had the giddy pleasure of turing left rather than right at the doors which made me feel really rather important. I was sat next to an Indian lady who seemed to be flying alone but after the seat belt sign was off her husband came over to say hello (i'm guessing) and he did so at regular intervals. our seats were the 1st of the compartment so there was extra leg room. I thus assumed, her husband had given up the larger more comfortable seat for a regular cattle class chair. However a few hours in I saw that there was a 1st class compartment between us as the next economy class section. So, with little grey cells buzzing, I became BA 279 chief inspector. Was this man the gallant gentleman visiting his wife in the luxurious surroundings he gave up for her or was he a cowardly swine? For his next visit I was standing and thus had a good view down the aisle, as he walked away from us he reach the end of the 1st class cabin, stopped, turned and took his place in high luxury... (think tit say tut)... tut. And I was going to offer him my seat so that they could sit together, though that would have been win win for me if he had said yes.

The inflight entertainment was normal, lots of films, nothing majorly exciting but don't watch avitar on a screen the size of a iphone, they look like Smurfs!!

We landed in LA on time and I was rearing to go and take on the force of US border control. I had to re-scan my finger prints because I wasn't pushing down hard enough, the officer told me to push down with my other hand on top to add pressure, -2 lad points there I think. I was Picked up by Juan, from Chilli, in a Beige Lincoln (a type of car, not the 16th president of the United States). Juan, who is from Concepción in Chilli, the same town as my Friend from Rennes, Stephan, started life in the shopping cart or Trolly industry. He would collect carts from the homes of the various shoppers and return them to the super market. While that business is still running he now joint owns the limo service with his brother which i was using. He told me Mexico was a great place (didn't mention LA though...) and the danger lay mainly in the border towns.

I arrived at 6616 Valley Circle Boulevard (see photo) with the temperature a searing 107F to be met by Priscilla, my dear friend from Boston. She is staying with her sister, Rachelle, and her husband, Allen, to look after their newly born son Jacques for the summer. To continue my summer tradition I was straight in their pool too cool off and wind down. Other than meeting Priscilla's family plus their 2 dogs Hilo and Murphy and updating each other on our lives we haven't been to active today, though we went to a Cinema to see Toy Story 3 in 3D. this was my 1st 3D experience and it was spectacular, though I was dosing off a lot.

Tomorrow, or today as I am writing has a lot more action in store, but I will fill you in after the events.

much love,


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Up, Up and away.

Time: 22:50 BST.
Location: Maidenhead, UK
TV Show: Channel 113, Living + 1: New Dating in the Dark: New series of the unique dating show. do looks matter? Can seconds of light destroy days of chemistry? Apprentice star Ben looks for love. Will he hit it off with Playboy Model TJ?
Word of the day (English): Vestigial: Relating to a body part which has become small and lost it's use.
Word of the day (Spanish): Frente: forehead.

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go. I've been watching the "long way Round" (Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman's epic adventure around the world) to get in the zone of travel. So BA0279 takes off at 9:55 BST and hopefully with me on it. I've never been much of a fan of air travel (were just too far out of our element all the way up there) and 11 hours is a long one but the inflight entertainment should keep me going, fingers cross I don't draw a massive fatty or a crying baby next to me. Very excited about leaving and everything seems to be in good order.

Next Stop Heathrow Airport terminal 5 and then LAX 11 hours later, I think a last minute BA strike is unlikely so should be fine on that front.

until tomorrow,


Friday, 9 July 2010

Fahrenheit or Centigrade.

The UK weather system, the sort of thing rocket scientists use as an example of what is too complicated for even their lofty brains to understand, has dealt me a kind and rather useful hand. It is a barmy 31 degrees centigrade, thats 88 degrees fahrenheit, which is good preparation for the searing heat of Los Angeles and the humidity of Mexico. While these temperatures are common place for where I am headed, for where I am they are something of a rarity. It's the kind of day where an active lawn mower is never out of ear shot. I'm sure that if you gather together all the mowers that were running at any given moment on a day like today in maidenhead they would create a noise similar to that which has drowned out the usual vibrant atmosphere of a world cup match.

Weather, or more exactly temperature, or more exactly still the measurement of temperature, is to be the topic of this post. One of the many adjustments and Englishman has to perform when in the states is the trill of translating the non-sensical figures of fahrenheit into the more practical and metric centigrade. Lord knows how hot 100 degrees F is, but is sounds positively ghastly, however I am told it isn't as bad as all that. As a part of my mission to elaborate on the various differences between our versions of english I thought I would explain briefly the origins of the two measurements and why the Yanks went with their one and the rest of the world went with the other.


I mention this one 1st as it was the 1st to be mentioned, by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1724. using three reference points of temperature Fahrenheit, using his scale work out the freezing, or melting, point of water to be 32 degrees F and 96 degrees F was the temperature of his thermometer when held in the mouth or under the armpit of his wife, though any wife would have done.


The scientific world was quick to pick up on the fact that scale Fahrenheit used was a little too bizarre to be considered practical. fortunately a new scale was hot on its heal and in 1742 Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius proposed a new, metric scale. however, showing a talent for getting the wrong end of the stick, almost literally in this case, Celsius put boiling point at 0 and freezing point at 100. (I have an image in my head of husband and wife in the car with wife holding the map upside down). It would take the passing of 2 years and of Celsius himself for common sense to manifest itself with Carolus Linnaeus' reversal of the system.

Interestingly enough, almost all scientific fields in the US use Celsius, but the general public are more comfortable and familiar with the fahrenheit system, so for weather broadcast and such things this system still in use, though the celsius system is taught in schools and can be found in many good cook books.

So all you needed to know about fahrenheit only to find out that you didn't really need to know it. 4 day until lift off and the blog can really commence.

Chiao for now,

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Date: 06/07/2010
Time: 22:12 BST
Location: Maidenhead, UK.
Population: 58,848. Tonight: 58,847 (James P is in Caversham)
Taco Bells: None
Weather: 21 degrees, Sunny.
TV Show: Channel 106, Sky One: House: Emancipation: A 16-year-old girl is rushed to Princeton-Plainsboro and subject to House's withering putdowns. Meanwhile, Foreman begins to doubt his abilities.
Word of the day (English): Bijou: Something small, delicates, and exquisitely wrought.
Word of the day (Spanish): Conquistar: to conquer, to win.

A single week rests before I put to air and head of to the the land of opportunity. Itinerary projects are hampered by the small stumbling block of an unwelcome visitor to Monterey called Alex. The hurricane has brought 60 hours of rain to an area which considers 60 minutes to be something of a deluge. While much reconstruction work is required I am assured that all will be well before my arrival in to the area in just over a month.

I will point out as and when it arises the differences between American english and the real thing. One such occasion plays out in a normal pre-traveling context of injection taking. Apparently in America the word injection is quite comical in that context and they have taken to using the word 'Shot' instead though I am reliably informed that you cannot order one at a bar with a round of beer.

more to follow,