Archive for the ‘USA’ Tag

Thanksgiving 2016   1 comment

 

trumpsgiving

I’m escaping work now for the Thanksgiving holiday (one of very few American things I cling to).

This year, no recipe to publish but the meal is roast duck, cornbread dressing, green salad, sweet potato pie for dessert, and too much to drink but we’ll give it a go.

I am quite thankful that I am no longer an American, by the way.

UK Passport   2 comments

passport-and-mojito-mixings

 

“When I was an American, I ran as an American, I drank
as an American, I traveled as an American: but when I
became British, I put away those childish things.”

 

The application for your first adult UK passport is another boondoggle (see ILR saga and Citizenship).  Having just been granted citizenship, this should be straightforward but that would be too straightforward.

For instance, Section 4 of the application (required only for your FIRST adult passport) asks for the names, dates of birth, nationality at the time of your birth, and date of wedding of your parents.  Seems fair enough; and, if they have British passports you should also supply these details (mine did not and as they are rotting in hell this should be the full extent of the inquiry).  But, no.  As they were born overseas, I needed also to provide these details for my grandparents even though the application is based on my Certificate of Naturalisation and not on any claim of British Nationality by birth.

Additionally, I had to have the endorsement of someone professional or with other standing in the community that knows me well enough to pick me out of a crowd (or, as is more likely, to avert their eyes if they spot me across a crowded room).  I know loads of people with letters after their surnames like DBE/KBE, FRS, PE or CEng, DPhil/PhD but most of the ones I would usually hit up were unavailable in the time I set aside to take this document to the Post Office.  I opted for one of the professors I work for at Oxford and all he had to do was sign, date, and write this statement on the back of one of my photographs:

I certify that this is a true likeness of First Middle Lastname

Which he proceeded to do leaving out the word ‘true’ and my middle name.  He also failed to date the photo (which I noticed and added myself hoping the other bits would go through).  He also needed to fill in some personal details on the form in BLACK ink (which he did in BLUE ink then when I pointed it out he went back over in black).  At the Post Office, they rejected the photo for those omissions, and the next one (it is my fault for not checking behind him) for leaving out the word ‘this’ then when I returned with my final copy of the photo done correctly the document checker was concerned that the blue ink might make the passport office reject the application.  “But, there’s black ink on top…blue is only bad because it is transparent to the reprographics equipment they use.”  I took a clean form, filled in everything myself, and got his signature on that one in the event the manager says that this one shouldn’t go in.

spoiled-passport-photos

 

But, that’s only the start.  Even though they have seen every pay stub and immigration document I have ever received since the day I applied for the job, have an iris scan, all my fingerprints, and letters of reference from the Chancellor of Cambridge University and a chaired professor at University of Oxford (who is also a Dame Commander of the British Empire) vouching for more than my identity but also my good character — even after all that and granting me citizenship — the passport office required that I come down to an appointment to confirm my identity based on info they have garnered from this application and a related credit check.  They had my US Passport, my Certificate of Naturalisation, and access to roughly 5 kg of documents supporting applications for a Work Permit (starting late 2008), a Tier 2 Visa and 2 renewals, Indefinite Leave To Remain, Citizenship, a Patent, Work and Pensions documents, and specific dates for each house I’ve lived in and every trip abroad whether for work or vacation (and letters from University of Oxford and Cambridge University stating that they were aware that I was abroad during each of those periods away).

The interrogation — they call it an interview — was meant to be a relaxed thing and only in place to prevent identity fraud.  So, I went in relaxed.  My interviewer asked my full name and I gave her those and spelled each of them.  I was probably a bit too relaxed from then on. For example:

“What is your occupation?” I started chuckling at that so before I could answer, she asked why.
“I’m a research scientist and engineer but I generally tell strangers I’m a rodeo clown or an underwear model.  At best, I just say I work in a lab.”
After a pause, she said, “okay, then,” and briefly consulted her computer screen. “What does your job as research scientist entail?”  I resisted, barely, the urge to say, “standing around in my skivvies while photographers and lighting techs work their magic.”

There were odd questions about the house we currently live in and the house we moved from; I tried not to give odd answers but I was already rolling at that point. Then, this came up: “now, I’d like to ask about your family. What can you tell me about your parents?”
“What can’t I tell you about them? My dad died in 2006, mom in 2004 but they were ancient and had never taken care of themselves so they were living in double overtime at that point.”
“They didn’t take care of themselves? Were they workaholics?”
“Ha! ALCOholics, but at least you were half right.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry, we won’t go there, then.”
“Noooo, you brought it up; this is for you.” I couldn’t contain my glee. “Mom was also on a warehouse of prescription meds. She was working dozens of GPs to get ‘scrips. I had a theory that she actually passed away 20 years earlier but the exquisite balance of pharmaceuticals, nicotine, and alcohol gave her the appearance of life or, at least, animation.”  Nodding to myself, I added, “that would explain the weird noises she made.”
The Passport Office woman’s mouth was open as she stared, aghast. I clicked my fingers and she shook her head slightly. “Do you have any siblings?”
“Oh, well, there’s my sister but I disowned her and her whole felonious, white-trash brood and if I never see any of them again it will be too soon. What do you want to know about her?”
“That’s enough,” she answered too quickly.  “One…sister,” she mumbled to herself as she typed.

A couple of questions later she seemed to have regained composure and asked if I could describe the process I went through such that I was now applying for a British Passport. “Do you mean the whole saga or just the bureaucratic hoops I jumped through?”
Wincing as she nodded and pointing at me with her pen, “yes, just the Immigration process,” then in the brief moment before I could continue, “please,” as though she were asking for mercy.
“Okay, but it’s a better story if I tell you how I decided to abandon America,” I offered.
“No, I’m sure it is, but no.”
“That’s a pity. Right,” and we briefly went through what I remembered of the applications submitted these last nearly 8 years.

At the end, she asked if I had any comments about the interview and I pointed out how I felt it was surreal. She replied, “really, you found this surreal?” so, I responded with a condensed version of the first part of this post about how they already have all this info on me having conferred citizenship just a few weeks ago.  “Don’t YOU think that’s all kind of weird?”

“No,” she answered. “I meant to ask how it is YOU found this surreal.”
Her point was valid and I smiled broadly and shrugged. “You do these all day, every half hour?” I asked as I rose to leave.
She smiled and nodded. “But, not usually like this.”

That was just before 9 am Wednesday.  My passport arrived just before 10 am Friday.

passport-scan-pixellated

September 11 Run, Fifteen Years On   3 comments

suicide-pilo

 

I went for a run today, like most days.  Nothing special: I have done roughly 8 miles every September 11 since my flight to Edinburgh got cancelled that morning in 2001.  Then, when I returned home I found the corpse of a Jihadi Sparrow who suicide piloted his ass into the side of my house.  You can never escape it, these days.  But, you must always be vigilant.

 

northolt-hills

 

The run was nice, marred only by assholes on the canals and at the pub stop.  The Great Ealing Battlements (above, now renamed ‘Northala Fields’ for some reason) originally built to keep the hordes from the Boroughs of Harrow and Hillingdon out of the quieter — and more civilised — London Borough to our south and southwest are now a recreation area complete with a motorway view to add some breathing challenge to a family day out.  I run past this on a regular basis, lately, and it reminds me that the Donald’s plans for a wall (a great wall, the BEST) are nothing new.

 

hm-prison-ruislip

 

Near at the end of the run, I snapped this shot of HM Prison Ruislip.  The photo had only a coincidentally September 11 link (this is where the worst of the potential future terrorists are re-educated to become drones of society); I shot the picture just because the site was used for the high school scenes in the Inbetweeners, a film I TiVo’ed only to see the Ruislip Gardens neighbourhood scenes and fast-forward through the rest.

 

chinese-sex-chair-to-garden-table-1

 

I mentioned the Chinese Sex Chair before.  I removed the arm-rests (which double as *ahem* posing supports) a few years ago and have been using the mahogany piece as a garden table but on the day’s run, whilst not thinking about nor even considering the horrendous anniversary today marks (Pinochet should have died in the Hague!) I came up with this idea that I could turn this piece into something Mediterranean…Greek or Cypriot, like.  Updates to follow (I haven’t yet mixed the right shade of blue).  Just a note, though: while the US frets about Arabs pantsing them in public, the Chinese have been taking their lunch money for decades (thanks go out to Ronnie Reagan for both).  Opa!

7 Years in Britain   1 comment

7-year-itch

 

For what it’s worth, today we have beaten the Statutes of Limitations on most felonies in the United States: 7 years and a day since we moved to England.  Here’s the breakdown of this most recent year (noting that the annual run review already covered the calendar year 2015 so this will be a relatively brief look back at the residence year).

Speaking of residence, we were granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in June.  I visited 167 new pubs (plus 10 in the new Irish category) and ran slightly more than 2515 miles (including 86 miles in one go).  There were trips to Maastricht, Tennessee & Atlanta, and Ireland (where we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary).  There were 22 new Fish and Chips entries to the blog (and 3 kebabs) but not a lot of experimentation in the kitchen (only 6 Recipes added).

Going into year 8 there are no goals, no major plans, and no great expectation of many new pub visits (unless we move house or I do a lot of travelling this year).  Maybe I’ll try to write a little better…don’t hold your breath on that one, though.

Looking at annual recaps, past:

At 1 year, 290 pubs and impressions on British running, mostly in Cambridgeshire
2 years saw more maps (2000+ miles that year), travel, and 240 more pubs
3 years ended with 280 pubs and links about another house move
The 4th year ended with 255 more pubs, another house move, and some brilliant racing
Year 5 yielded 134 pubs, some decent travel, and yet another house move
The 6th year entry was very brief, but the anniversary kind of snuck up on me (only 95 pubs)

Monthly Run Review – September 2015   3 comments

September 2015 run chart

This is the first of the monthly updates after 7½ months of weeklies.  Most recent previous weekly update, here and the following monthly one (October), here.

It was an eventful running month as I used my remaining holiday allotment (more than 3 weeks to burn by the end of the month) to keep my edge after the big race.  The first half of the month was all UK but all over the South and near-West.  Then, there were two weeks in the States.  The next several months will be much more concise.

The month started with 4 days rest and recuperation after my Ridgeway Challenge survival which resulted in a badly inflamed talofibular tendon swollen the size of two fingers (but not full-blown tendinitis, more like a sprain or even a repetitive stress injury). A pressure bandage and immobilisation boot/brace helped as did some ibuprofen gel frequently rubbed into the area; ice packs a few times a day as well.  I finally gave it a test run on the 4th and it was fine but every other complaint I had during the race screamed for further attention (pain in left IT band and right plantar fascia, sore hamstrings and quads, couple of lost toenails…the usual).

2015-09-03 immobilised ankle day 4

After four days off I had a bit of a run streak working my way up from a puny 3.4 miler after work Friday to XXX on Tuesday plus G-Hads on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Monday’s commuter run to work was especially interesting, serendipity-wise: I had just lucked into a Keith Moon spotting in a film I was watching Sunday having just commented that Monday was the anniversary of his passing.  The movie revolved around, in part, the main characters working in an amusement park and as I emerged from the meadows I was faced with the St. Giles Fair’s annual emergence:

2015-09-07 St Giles Fair

 

I took a couple of days off the middle of the second week and rode to Heathrow with Jackie (she was travelling ahead of me to the States). She’s been applying for positions at some of the London universities and if one were to come through we would need to move somewhere convenient for me to commute and that we could afford. Ruislip, Hayes, and Uxbridge are top contenders but I decided to focus on Ruislip for this intitial scouting run. But, starting at Hounslow West tube stop I decided to see a bit of the landscape directly in the flight paths of LHR:

 

Hounslow Tube Station

 

Hounslow looks like it was once a fine town but the houses generally seem in a state of disrepair. I really liked this art deco garage across from the Army barracks on Beaver Lane, though.

 

Deco garage Hounslow

Moving north toward Ruislip, the area improves in noise first and then, just past Southall, starts to look fairly civilised…even ‘nice.’ Around RAF Northolt, there is a fine memorial garden to the Polish airmen that died during World War 2, and moving toward Ruislip I spotted the Bondage and Discipline Newsstand.

 

Polish Airmen Memorial

Who has been a naughty boy?  I guess reading the Sun is punishment enough:

B & D Newstand Ruislip

And, there was beer. Pub stops included:
The Earl Haig, Hounslow
The Three Horseshoes, Southall
The Black Bull, Ruislip
JJ Moons, Ruislip, and then on the second run (for the sake of the G-Had) there was
The Edinboro Castle, Camden, and
The Sheephaven Bay, Mornington Crescent

2015-09-08 london runs

Left, Hounslow to Ruislip. Right, G-Had from Baker Street to Mornington Crescent

 

The second day off was devoted, in the first instance, to Dismaland but in the 6-8 miles I walked around Weston-super-Mare I seemed to have developed a blister on a toe and a possible stress fracture, both in my right foot which was swollen as badly as it had been at the end of the Ridgeway Challenge. But, there was more running to do as another great G-Had target was hashing that evening in Portishead, a town with a spectacular coastal path on the edge of a steep ridge and at least three decent pubs to take refuge within (the Windmill at the coast, and the Poacher across, more or less, from the Plough back in the town). The run here was gorgeous but did nothing for the foot injury and I limited the next day to walking.

 

Wilts and Berks Canal bridge Abingdon

Friday the 11th, I went to Abingdon to run a loop out to Drayton but the targeted pub, the Wheatsheaf, was not open.  The run itself was pleasant, though, following the Thames and then cutting through an active quarry (gravel, so not too exciting).  The Red Lion in Drayton was open, though, and once refreshed I was able to make it back to Abingdon where the evening led to more pubbing.

I mentioned the Tidworth fiasco of the 12th of September in its own write up, here.  That was really the low point of the first half of the month although the Welcome Stranger 80% of the way through the run was a highlight of the Endless Pub Crawl.  At 19.4 miles, this was the longest run, save for the Ridgeway, I had done in a month, too.

 

South end of Endless Street

With the hand swollen from the Tidworth disaster and tendinitis flaring in right plantar fascia, right talofibular tendon, and both IT bands I did more walking than running the 13th (but still logging close to 7 miles) in and around Salisbury.  The pubs are written up elsewhere (start with Deacon’s and follow links backward if interested) but I got a little extra tourism in, as well.  For instance, one of the shortest streets in the city is Endless.  Another interesting find was this plaque on the Debenham’s department store (they call their dining room the Blue Boar and I’m tempted to see if I can get a beer in there my next visit to town):

2015-09-13 Debenhams Salisbury Blue Boar plaque

I had another short jaunt toward Wantage after my last day of work then up the next day to Bath for the Two Tunnels run which was published earlier.

The England section of the runs summed out at 86.2 miles over 11 of 16 days, with 3 of the rest days involving recovery from the Ridgeway run.  The US trip involved 2 days of travel on either end plus one day of travel to (and watching) the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival as well as other days off so I only got 7 of the remaining 14 days in and most of those were short days resulting in 36.3 miles and 122.5 on the month…the least in a year.

Bristol run

The Bristol run, above, on the morning after the festival was in the dark which helped me find a quiet place to smoke some pot which, in turn, made me paranoid about taking the rental car across a state line not authorized in the rental agreement: State Street is the state line and I was carrying the car keys — I know the GPS was in the car but weed is a funny drug.  I wound up making a loop with a flat top then laughing at myself and cutting the effort short.

Another good one was the Freedumb run the day Jackie’s nieces and half-sister showed up near the end of the visit.  I smoked up the last of the pot and thought a bit about the previous 2 weeks with the soccer fields nearby in mind.  All I could think of was stupid Americans and their obsession with “Freedom” without understanding the word in even the most abstract way:

2015-09-27 freedumb run

My last run gave me the first squashy possum of the trip.  There was a time when there’d be three-to-five a day on a stretch of road like the ones I jogged:

2015-09-28 possum on dunlap highway

The t-shirt retirements that I used to map had fallen to the wayside but I had some ready to go.  Oddly enough, one of them was planned for Debra because she likes Native American crap (and it was my original 30 Pack Marathon shirt) then she asked if I was still doing the t-shirt retirements by leaving them for people to find.  Hence, on our trip out of the States I slipped these beauties (the Stroud Half Marathon and the Pewsey Half Marathon both from 2013) behind the bedding in our room at her place:

3 shirts dumped at Debra's

Back on the horse next month.  Don’t-Stop-Tober for October.

 

2015 USA Trip Review   6 comments

Confederate flags September 2015

 

I mentioned, earlier, that we spotted far fewer bumper stickers than in years past but more Confederate flags on this trip. Forget the irony that in this part of Tennessee most of the locals were open supporters of the Union; this is eclipsed by the further irony of putting a flag of treason at the same height as the flag against which it represents rebellion. There are firm instructions about the display of the flag in this country foremost of which is that the National banner shall never fly at equal height to lesser ones (which is to say — even if you don’t believe it — all others). So, here’s my little photo tour of nearly 2 weeks in the belly of the Great Satan.

US culture shock Jesus is Lord Gun Shop

 

Jackie spotted this on our way to Bristol Rhythm and Roots and I remembered to snap the shot as we drove past. After this, we were appending “Jesus is Lord at” to every billboard we could find. Like “Jesus is Lord at 24 Hour Adult Superstore” and “Jesus is Lord at Booties Exotic Dancers.”

US culture shock Jesus is Lord Gun Shop detail

Sausage is an urgent agenda item upon arrival from the UK. It may be full of fat but it is devoid of rusk and other filler in the British (I hesitate to call it) “equivalent.” The manufacturers are not afraid of flavour and actually use spices to prove that point.

Tennessee Pride Sausage tube

At a filling station in Bristol, Virginia (as seen from Bristol, Tennessee), Freedom Mugs are your ticket to cheap coffee refills. The place also carries discount tobacco.

US culture shock Freedom Mug
My brother-in-law drew the short lot on this trip to my mother-in-law’s place in Tennessee, so he stayed in the late step-dad’s room.

Their stepdad was a great guy. Not the brightest spark, nor even an ember for that matter he was an earnest sweetheart that seemed more big child than anything else. I used to think he was a long lost missing Stooge, perhaps escaped from the same compound where Moe, Larry and Curly were developed. We were visiting Jackie’s mom and her brother drew the short straw and had to stay in what we have come to know as the Indian Porn Room.

Indian Porn Room collection

You see, he was also a member of the Cherokee Nation and would travel out to the Oklahoma reservation every year or so and would come back re-Native-ized, just a wee bit (never very much so, though, nor long-lastingly). He started collecting these Indian themed plates and was very proud of them and the only thing that kept us all from laughing in public about it is that it might have gotten back to him and if he realised we were right about the erotic content he would die, mortified, where he stood.

What you you expect to read in this book?

What would you expect to read in this book?

As a funny related sidenote, Jackie’s mom got into cowboy literature a few years after the stepdad passed and was just loading up on books from thrift stores. She bought one with a photo of a couple of muscular lads wearing nothing but chaps on the cover with a title something like “The Ramrod” or “Tales of Leather Trails.” During the phone conversation about this, Jackie managed not to laugh almost all the way through:

J: “Whatcha reading these days, Momma?”
Momma: “I’ve been reading that there cowboy fiction.”

J: “Mmm-hmm. Like what? Tex Ritter and that?”
M: [after listing a few things] “Things like that. But, I had to throw one right in the garbage.”

J: “Why did you do that? Momma, you should have taken it back to the Thrift Store and let them re-sell it.”
M: “No, I WOULD NOT. That was the vilest bunch of filth I think I’ve ever read in my life.”

J: “What was wrong with it?”
And, then she described the book and gave its title.

J: “What did you THINK the book was going to be about, Momma?”
M: “I don’t know. Men working hard, camaraderie.”

J: “Well…it sounds like that’s what you got.”
M: “I’ve never been so disgusted in all my life.”

J: “Momma, let me call you back in a minute.” I’d been listening to Jackie’s half of the conversation and watching her contortions whilst trying not to laugh. When she stopped laughing and told me the other half of the conversation it took us 5 minutes to regain composure before she called her mom back, who (as is her fashion) skipped the pleasantries and started right back in:

J: “Hi, Momma, it’s me. I just had to…”
M: “…and, do you know, the people at the Thrift Store just laughed when I told them about it. It’s a Christian charity and they’re selling books about homersensuals.”[sic] “Lord, save my time. I don’t know what’s happening to this world…” My punctuation is here for your edification. When she gets started, there is only one long sentence and I even have doubts that there are even spaces between the words (this one ran for another minute-and-a-half with Jackie laughing all the way through it this time).

Dunlap Veterans' Memorial

The military is everywhere, especially in the South. Don’t get me wrong, it makes it good to be a veteran; but, EVERYBODY is a veteran around here. Put away the hardware and give it a fucking rest: there isn’t a military compound within a hundred miles (save for the National Guard center I ran past a few times).

And, then some shit is just weird for no good reason:

Kat's Car Wash Dunlap

 

The carbon footprint of mum-in-law’s house is about the same as that of Paraguay. She recycles the newspaper, at least, but no bottles or cans…straight to the landfill.

Recycling American-style

These signs turned up every 100 yards or so. Perverts…”we have a heart on for our children,” indeed.

heart on for children

 

And, on a visit to a friend of Jackie’s from High School (whose spectacular house is close to the massive Sequoyah Nuclear Energy plant) these signs:

Sequoyah Evac

 

An old friend (of both of us) has a catering business that got third place in the readers’ choice awards of the local paper:

Gin-Gin takes 3rd

 

I don’t know what the hell this is all about (West Valley Road, Dunlap, Tennessee):

Across from Sammie's

But, the birdwatching was good.  Hummers everywhere!

Dunlap hummingbird 1

It seems to be traditional to bring back treats for co-workers when you travel.  Moon Pies are a Chattanooga product (there’s also a DuPont chemical factory there, by the way and probably not coincidentally), so that’s what they got at our respective jobs.  Here’s the email I sent explaining the deliciousness that awaited them:

I have spent much (too much) of the last 2 weeks in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee where Moon Pies are made https://moonpie.com/.

I ate an inordinate number of these as a youth.  Today, I wouldn’t touch them but they will probably go over well with you lot.  Supplies are very limited but they are large and toxic, so share with your neighbours.  They’ll turn up shortly in the normal scavenger location…<ahem> ‘enjoy.’

Moon Pies for coworkers

No, indeed, we are adults and picked up adult treats for ourselves on the way to the airport…these are about 2/3 the price in America than they are in England:

Turkey and Tequila

Then, at the Atlanta airport, a final mocking insult came from the beer cooler at the bar (the barrel was supposed to be “Sweetwater,” but this is what I saw):

Twat beer in Atlanta Airport

Posted October 1, 2015 by Drunken Bunny in Drunken Bunny, Obits, Tourism

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Sequatchie Outlander still at it (2015 update)   Leave a comment

2015-09-28 Sequatchie religious freak 3

No trip to Jackie’s mum’s would be complete without a stop by the Sequatchie Outlander‘s house.  Photos from the 2008 and 2010 visits are at this link: https://1pumplane.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/usa-trip-dunlap-tennessee-in-general/

2015-09-28 Sequatchie religious freak detail 1

Always forward thinking and thought provoking, his yard signs are one of the best features of the Sequatchie Valley (if the stunning natural beauty of the place just isn’t your thing).

2015-09-28 Sequatchie religious freak detail 2

And, there’s always something new in the mix although the old favourites are still in heavy rotation.

2015-09-28 Sequatchie religious freak detail 3

Riddles? Koans? You really have to pause to take it all in.

2015-09-28 Sequatchie religious freak detail 4

As much as I would like to meet the genius behind all this fine work, I have opted to respect his privacy.  But, knock on his door sometime when you’re in the vicinity…bring a bottle and some interracial gay porn and I’m sure you’ll find a warm welcome.

2015-09-28 Sequatchie religious freak detail 5