Tuesday, November 23, 2004


So I got to thinking about choices.

This happened while I was negotiating the website that is www.amazon.co.uk It’s Joe‘s birthday on the 28th, he will be ten. Yay! Double figures at last. Anyway, I needed to buy a present that I could have delivered. I already posted a card, but postal rates being what they are, it is cheaper to pay the Amazon delivery charge. I’m not going to tell you what I bought, because there is a chance Joe will read this before Sunday, and the element of surprise will be lost. It is worth a small diversion here to remind everyone that an element of surprise is important to Joe; it reminds him that the adults in his life can still, with careful thought, outwit him.

So where was I? Oh yes, Amazon, and choices …

Well Amazon served to remind me that around a half a million or more items to choose from for a birthday present is way too many …. Maybe I should have just search for “under $5” …. Ha! Only kidding Joe … $5 is far too generous, unless we are talking Canadian Dollars, but that is a whole other journal entry

That is one kind of choice. If ever you want an example of the danger of too much choice, think no further than mobile phone ringtones …. I need say no more!

The other kind of choices, are the life choices that have lead me to be here, and away from Joe (and Tom) on his birthday, in the first place. At this point in my journal, I stand bare-arsed under the cold shower of reality. I miss them. And missing them is set to get a whole lot tougher, just at a time when other aspects of my journey take on an exciting new phase. Sometimes I wonder how people remain intact, sane, functioning, under the pressure of such competing emotions. Then I remember that they often don’t, and am minded to count my blessings. A friend of mine uses a “Tag-line” something like this: If my barn burns down, it simply gives me a view of the stars. She stole it, I am sure …. But all the same, it’s great.

Tonight I am flying to Tulsa by way of Dallas. I am writing this while I wait for my flight at Baltimore Washington International airport. I am flying to meet Jodie and, for the first time, her children, friends and family. I am flying to be “on show”. People want to make judgements, and they have the right. I am flying to sing at Annie’s birthday, to eat turkey and visit a High School. I am flying to my future and, miss my boys tho I do, I am happy tonight.

Happy Birthday Joe, I love you.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Sweet South Carolina

Hey little guys :)

It’s Monday morning and I am on a train. I am going from Florence, South Carolina, to Washington DC, and as I go towards the capital of this nation, I pause, and think a little of the place I am leaving.

The Carolinas are not the rich bit of America. Sure there is money here, but there is also unemployment and grinding poverty. Look at the houses as you drive through, or ride by on the train. Trailers, park homes, tumbledown houses with old cars outside …. You see them in the old movies on tv ….. here they are where people live. Alongside are often new properties. Out in the country there are no apparent ghettos, just places where people put their homes. Professional next to labourer, rich alongside poor. It looks a bit odd, but it seems to work :)

There is something else here too. There is a spirit, and a cheerfulness. A welcoming of the newcomer, the foreigner, the Limey. From the girl in the Dollar store to the guy in the gas station … everyone has a smile and a few welcoming words. The girl in the store moans a little. She is 23 and *I was born in Kershaw, and I’ll likely die in Kershaw. Be nice to see someplace else first tho* All this delivered in the kinda accent that mangles what is left of English even after you average American has had his tongue round it for a while .. lmao

Then there was Junior. Junior is in his sixties, lives in a small house in rural South Carolina with his wife Edith. Junior has been a manual worker all his working life. Doesn’t have much, doesn’t ask for much; he seems happy. Junior breathes oxygen from a machine. When you are in the house, you can hear the constant hum of the machine running 24/7. It is a reminder that, without this noise, Junior will die as his lungs were ripped apart by tobacco. Kinda ironic as tobacco is one of the crops that give most employment to guys just like Junior, not too far from here.

Anyway, it would be reasonable of Junior to have a few moans and complaints. Not a bit of it. I spent about two hours talking to him and his wife, and he was a man full of tales, full of curiosity, full of life. Kind of makes you thankful for what you have. And don’t you all get to feeling sorry for Junior …. He wouldn’t hear of it :)

So my friend Ripley drove me to the station this morning. About 60 miles. After a few miles I could have sworn it had been snowing (damned sure it was cold enough). Nope, I had seen my first ever cotton fields. Kids you’d have loved it. Ripley stopped the car and let your daft old Dad pick up some cotton from the roadside. I guess I felt the same way we do when we first see the vineyards in France. Wow! It really is soft, just the way you would imagine it to be from the pictures we see on television.

Now I leave behind Ripley, and her friend Michael, and about 178 dogs (not really) and I thank them very much for their hospitality, their kindness, and for showing me a little of a world I never dreamed existed.

Washington calls ….

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Wally World

Walmart has come to England in the shape of a takeover of Asda. There the similarity ends. There really isn’t anywhere in the UK remotely similar to Wally World, and I am not sure yet whether or not this is a good thing.

France has Auchan and Continent, etc. These come pretty close to the idea that is Walmart, but French hypermarches have one fatal flaw:

They do not sell Krispy Kreme!

To call Krispy Kreme a doughnut, would be to call the Mona Lisa a painting! Krispy Kreme may be to spelling what Donald Rumsfeld is to relaxed tolerance, but they are what taste-buds were invented for.

Krispy Kreme is, quite frankly, worth emigrating for. It is a doughnut well worth the trouble it would take to invade and conquer this mighty nation. I am now not surprised that US Immigration kept me waiting two hours at Charlotte airport to ask me the following questions … “Why are you here?” and “How long are you staying?”, before saying “Welcome to America, have a nice trip” …. They were, it appears, simply trying to keep me from discovering eternal happiness in a deep fried dough product.

Well now, America, your secret is out :p

You can keep your World Series … no one is bothered about Superbowl, and the Everglades sound like an air-freshener. But now we know about Krispy Kreme, your borders are that little bit less secure … deal with it.

I haven’t even got started on pecan pie yet ….

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Getting there

Hey boys :)

The big adventure started ... it was hard to go, in so very many ways. I guess you two felt it too. I went to Aunty Sue's last night, and while I was there Nanny called. It was nice to hear them, and I hope I can chat to them soon.

So, I was at the airport with Uncle Keir in time to watch him mangae TWO Egg and Bacon McMuffins for his breakfast!!! Two, I tell ya ... lmao

So I was kind of hoping I would get a couple of seats to myself on the flight over. Meanwhile, I was at the gate, looking around at all the fat people, and simply praying to whatever God was most likely to help, that they would be sat miles away from me. Those seats are small enough, without the next guy spilling over into mine :)

I thought I was in luck, when the plane was nearly ready to leave and the seat next to me was empty .... then a young woman (fortunately very slim) came and sat next to me. Things were indeed *looking up* :)

As I type this, we are about halfway. I think the pilot is still sober as the plane seems to be making a fairly steady way across.

I brought a picture of Osama Bin Laden with me (I won't carry it thro immigration) On it I wrote *This is your enemy* .... I have checked carefully, but he isn't on the plane*

More later ...

*thanks Spike

Thursday, November 04, 2004

My Clothes :(

Ok, so you know I'm packing (you do, because I said so earlier, and you've been keeping up ... right?) Well today I need to sort out my clothes.

I've been putting this job off for a while, and as a result, there is a good deal of laundry needing doing. I've also been putting it off, because the task will highlight my desperate need for clothing that looks either a) less like it's been slept in by cats for the last three years and/or b) less like my Nanan bought it for one of my uncles in the post-war depression years.

Also is the question of quite what to take. I have ONE suitcase, a backpack and a laptop case as the available space. Now OBVIOUSLY the laptop and it's attendant needs have to come first. Plus all the cables needed to connect it to a variety of TVs, natch! Then there is a big fat cookery book (Delia, again *natch* ... no Martha Stewarts here) and by the time I have included various bits and pieces essential to life in George Bushes new *Post Bush* USA, then I begin to wonder where the clothes will fit in. It really is a blessing that I have so few :)

I really should go get on with it ... jeans, leather jacket, a few t-shirts sox and pants, and that's about it I guess. All the rest of my stuff not immediately suitable can be packed for later (expensive) shipping. When it arrives, I will be able to sort thro everything and THEN decide to throw it all away :)

later ....

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

What voting means to me

In response to a request on a newsgroup, I posted this:

When we vote, we honour those whose struggles made possible the freedoms we cherish. We remember Emily Pankhurst. We remember Birmingham, Alabama. From the Mississippi Delta, to the Townships in South Africa, and in every country in the democratic world, we owe our rights, and have a duty towards, those brave people who struggled and died to create a fairer world.

So when I vote, I vote with conviction and with pride. My parents, among many, were in the forefront of the struggle for the rights of the less fortunate in our country, so when I vote, I honour their commitment too. I vote also to show my children that Dad feels this is both a right to be exercised, and an obligation to be proud of.

We are *quaint* over on Right Pond .... we still put a pencil cross on a piece of paper, which is then counted by hand by lot's of volunteers. Whether a pencil or a thumbprint, postal ballot or button to press on some fancy smancy gadget, it matters not.

What does matter is that you vote. Voting isn't *optional*, it's an obligation you inherited with the bald eagle on the front of the little blue passport. Not voting isn't *abstaining*, it's copping out! If you want to abstain, get to the voting station, and spoil your vote. If you choose not to vote, then you give up the right to make any comment about the performance of those persons elected to represent you and your country. You dishonour the real heros. It's your choice.

Black, White, Christian, Jew, Gay, Redhead, Native American, Democrat, Republican ..... whoever you are and whoever you want to vote for, all that matters tomorrow is that you do it.

Then you can walk or drive home thinking:

"I did what I could, with my hand on my heart, to make this world a better place when I leave it, than it was when I arrived"

my non-partisan 2p


Packing grrrrrrrrr!

So .... I am packing, and due to leave on the 8th November.

This is a worry ... although I recently had a major clearout (de-junk in modern parlance) I still seem to have a major amount of clutter, all due to be put into the dog kennel sized space my parents have for a loft :)

I guess it will all go in, in the end, then I will be able to relax on the flight, while the flight attendants lavish attention on my double hernia!

More later

Testing the journal

Never done a *Blog* before ... and I often wondered quite what kinda folk would want to.

Well I realise now that *my* kinda folk might :) I will be away from my boys, and that is hard for us all to get used to. This is one small way we can stay closer together.