Archive for March, 2009

The right to remain silent

 I hired a car a while ago that, according to the Arizona department of public safety, was seen travelling at a speed “greater than reasonable and prudent”. They even sent me a picture of the “offending vehicle” and driver and a diagram of the various cameras, road sensors etc. Now the interesting thing is that driver wasn’t me. I was behind the blacked out splodge on the passenger seat.

Anyway you can pay the (hefty) fine, request a trial or confirm that you weren’t the driver.  Of course I went for the latter option -I sent them an unnecessarily large enlargement of my driving licence (why oh why didn’t I just give the hire car people the UK one in the first place?)  which should easily confirm that it really wasn’t me. Now in the UK you have to grass someone else up to get off the hook (I remember a British couple hilariously blamed a fictitious Bulgarian lodger for a traffic offence, then went as far as sending postcards from Bulgaria to back up the story… shame she didn’t change her handwriting…). Here you don’t. Here you “may” give them another name. But you don’t have to. In the UK failure to name the driver is a whole offence in itself.

So I haven’t heard back yet. I hope I don’t.

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English as a foreign language: landscaping

When someone in Blighty talks about getting their garden landscaped, it generally invoves a restyle – the addition of undulating curves in the form of paths or sculpted areas with rock gardens, new trees, ornamental herb gardens, constructions  and a diversity of plants designed to excite every sense. Oh and landscaping ALWAYS seems to involve a water feature. I think it might be the law.

In the good old US of A – landscaping seems to involve a couple of spotty youths in a van who show up, plant a few of those odd looking conical shrubs and cover everything else in mulch.

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Hello boys – the bra you wouldn’t catch me dead in

I’ve seen quite a few cars with a strange cover on the front end. I initially assumed it was the car repair version of a temporary crown – ie a short term  covering. It isn’t.


This is a car bra. Not designed as you might think to provide uplift or support to front heavy cars, rather it is designed to prevent against stone chips and bug juice on your bonnet. You can get some that wrap around the whole front end, or just the leading edge of the bonnet. Two things about this strike me:

1) the result is infinitely worse than the after effects of swarms of insects of lorry loads worth of stone chippings would cause. Presumably these people are keeping their cars nice but for what? It is like putting plastic covers on sofas you use.

2) the only cars you see these things on are the crappiest looking Toyotas or Nissans that are so astonishingly unattractive that it is  inconceivable that anyone would bother trying to protect them from bugs or chips or anything at all.

I found one for my car. Here’s what it would look like:


No chance.

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Doorstep Delivery issues


Recently when the snow melted I found the remains of newspapers in various stages of decay dotted around in front of the house. I didn’t think much of it until then other day. I was heading for work and running late so was particularly irritated by the car in front which was driving at kerb crawling speeds, stopping and starting and generally being driven erratically. Then it dawned on me – this was a parent driving their chubby offspring around BY CAR to do a paper round. The aforementioned chubster was just slinging the papers in the general direction of the house with all the accuracy of a budget forecast.

I don’t approve of this. Much as I dislike the sort of unsolicited rubbish that is delivered to me, I am horrified that I have to go and collected it from the front garden before filing it in the recycling bin. I’m also  indignant on behalf of the people who have doubtless paid to advertise in these worthless rags that never get read and on behalf of whoever pays this lazy urchin to do the paper round in the first place. I’m particularly irritated by what must be legions of parents who ferry their slothful offspring around ENCOURAGING this in the first place.And this one in particular because it made me even more late than I would otherwise have been.

The strangest thing of all is that no-one else thinks that this is in any way odd. They don’t expect to have papers (including ones they have paid for) to actually arrive in a dry, readable condition on their doorstep. Why not I wonder?

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Crimes against food

I just popped into the supermarket and was browsing the fish section. I just found artifical crab meat. Oh the horror. What is artificial crab meat made out of? Fish. Crab flavoured fish.

That is a) wrong and b) disgusting. Why not just eat the fish, which I am sure started out perfectly tasty before it was transformed into Yank friendly fare by adding artifical flavours, colours and who knows what else.

I still explore supermarkets with great trepidation – in horror of the food crimes that lurk therein. Did I mention that you can buy bacon flavoured cheese here? Urgh. Oh and apparently obesity isn’t anything to do with the vile concoctions the locals shovel into their gaping maws, it’s down to their DNA. Of course. That’s the same science that brought us creationism I’m sure. Rant rant rant.

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The good, the bad and the downright confusing

If you ask a Brit how he or she is, the answer is generally along the lines of “I’m well, thank you.” Over here the answer from the locals is “I’m good”.

This grates on me probably because I say “I’m well” as opposed to “I’m sick as a dog, thank you” whereas saying “I’m good” makes me think of the alternative being “I’m a heinous monster with designs on global domination….” or something like that.

I’m overreacting aren’t I?

*on a separate and completely unrelated note – I’ve just started reading Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Big Country (sent to me by the wonderful Simon and Chloe). Turns out that even Bill had some language problems on return to the US of A. I laughed out loud that he struggled with spackle too.

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Must have accessories for cookers

I’m going native. One of my most recent purchases was a slow cooker. A monster capacity tub that cooks stews and other marvellous meals overnight or during the day. So I can throw a handful of ingredients in there in the morning – it spends the day cooking ever so slowly and then there’s a whole hot meal ready for me when I get back. Great. The food has been pretty good so far and there’s nothing like cooking a piece of cheap meat for 10 hours to give it that fall off the fork tenderness…

Here’s the puzzle –  guess what accessory I received with the cooker… was a carry case. Yes really, a heavy duty case for the cooker, like a little tent for the contraption when I go camping. It took me a while to work out what the case might be for – it is because Americans DO carry food to places – eg for potlucks and similar meals are all transported in these things, presumably in their carry cases.  I now have visions of hordes of yummy mummies clutching Louis Vuitton carry cases for their slow cookers…..a new market niche perhaps?

Slow cook

The real mystery to me is why they would supply the thing without a lid that closes. Yes really. So given that nobody here actually walks anywhere, it would have to be carried, in its case, in the back of one of those mobile blancmanges they call cars here. That’s just crazy.

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