Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Best of Both Worlds

With a nod towards Rudyard Kipling; for my daughter, my little half-breed, I wish her:
  • The freedom of the New World and the humility of the Old World.
  • An English vocabulary, the American confidence to speak up.
  • The drive and ambition of America, coupled with a sense that the greatest happiness can come from a quiet and unassuming life.
  • The competitive spirit of American sports with British fair play and good sportsmanship.
  • A good education without the need to wear it across your chest or on a bumper sticker on your car.
  • That knowledge is an end in itself, not just a step in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
  • To know that beauty is not defined by blonde hair, blue eyes, a size zero or straight white teeth (sadly both of her countries will fail to teach her this).
  • To live in a country where neither the Old Boys Network nor a lack of money will determine her future.
  • The confidence of her own opinions without the need to enforce them on every person she meets.
  • The 'freedom' to support the Lakers, Manchester United, the Dodgers and England football club otherwise she will be disowned.
  • To be as happy knee deep in muck on a windy hillside as lying on a million dollar yacht in a sun-drenched harbor.
  • American generosity, without overeating, over-dressing or over-killing.
  • To be comfortable with her own body and able to physically express herself, with the knowledge that she won't die if she sees a naked breast on TV or on a beach.
  • To have fun, play, and be a child, yet be able to behave with dignity and class.
  • To dream big, like Americans, and still be happy with living small.
  • To forgive her mother her idealistic ramblings.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


LK knows a lot about tennis. When we first started going out he told me that he was 'All American', and I replied 'oh that's nice, I'm All British'.

I'm amazed we've made it thus far.

Anyway, one of the wonderful things he has introduced me to is a love of tennis. In 2005 B.C. (Before Child) I must have played about 4-5 times a week, rising to the rank of '#1 doubles team' at our local club.

It's an honour to know me isn't it?

Now, 2008 A.D. (Anna Dominates) going to Palm Springs to watch the Pacific Coast Open is about as close as I get to a tennis ball. I miss tennis, I really do, but not enough to pay someone $15/hr to watch the creature while I run around having fun. These are tough times people.

We bought grounds passes to get in to the tournament, which is such a brilliant deal because every single player you could wish to see is there warming up on the side courts and you can get much closer to them than if you were in the stadium watching them play.

Being that close brings out the star-fucker in everyone. Check out this ASS (actual star sighting):

Federer (looking rather dapper and far less caveman-ish than usual I thought).

Plus, the players are having fun, warming up, playing practice sets, and in the case of Djokovic taking his shirt off entirely and running around with a bunch of other Croats playing football leaving LK to comment 'he should really stick to tennis'.

Nadal, he seems like such a nice bloke but I can't get over the fact that he looks like a rodent.

My Mum saw these pictures LK took of Sherapova and said
'at first I thought it was you'.

Thanks Mum!!

3 months of doing 'group power' at the gym have not quite garnered me abs like that....but a girl can dream, and LK can hint. (As an aside, he once said to me 'I wouldn't mind if you got really buff you know').

Hmm, I'll get right on it.

Here's my personal favourite, Ivan Lubicic.


This completely throws LK who cannot understand why I fancy this balding bloke who looks more like a thug than a tennis player. To which I reply I'm not exactly a delicate flower myself and 'tall and powerfully built' has always made me look less of a she-man and for heavens sake stop questioning me and let me drool in peace.

So LK wandered off to take eleventy-billion photos of Anna Ivanovic, and the next time I saw him I hadn't moved a muscle and he busted me doing some more Lubicic-stalking:

See how I'm trying to pretend that the massive green stroller to my right does not belong to me?

I may look like a drowning fish, but that's me trying to look shocked and indignant that he thought I'd been watching Lubicic the entire time he was gone......

We went to this same tournament 2 years ago when Anna was knee-high to a grasshopper. LK had wandered off again, and I swear I just happened to be right by the gate when Lubicic walked off the court. I ditched the toddler and grabbed the first piece of paper I could find to get his autograph, and as if by magic LK appeared behind my left ear and said 'oh that's nice'.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Palm Springs Weekend

Palm Springs, where white people go to die.

Seriously, have you ever been to Palm Springs? It's got to be one of the most bizarre places on earth. It's full of death-defying Caucasian retirees in pastel-coloured lightweight cotton casuals.


I'll admit we were staying in the heart of country-club-ville but you get the impression that there is literally nothing but gated communities, sprinklers and golf carts. Where are all the normal people who service this lifestyle? Where are the children, the cleaners, the huddled masses?

My sense of the surreal was not helped by the fact that the house we stayed in had piped music playing in every room all the time. Frank Sinatra and the like. For the first few hours as that first margarita sank in it was all rather retro and hip. Then it started to get annoying, and I could only find seven of the no doubt eight radio controls (literally mounted next to the light switch in every room).

Bing Crosby continued to serenade me.

But I could lie in bed and look out at the snow covered mountains, see the grapefruit and lemon trees outside my bedroom window and watch my gently sleeping child.

While LK golfed.

(I think this photo is upside down but I can't be arsed to fix it.)

It sounds fun, but I was literally terrified of falling asleep in case Anna woke and somehow found her way unsupervised to the pool, with which she was obsessed.

My weekend went like this:

"Can we go swimming?"
"No, sorry love it's too cold"
"Because it's not a heated pool"
"Because it's usually too hot here to have to heat it"
"Because this is the desert?"
"Can we go swimming"
"No Mummy has to get drunk now"
"Because I said so"
"Because this is the desert"
"Can we put our swimsuits on and, and, and, go in the swimming pool" - nice change of tack there with the addition of 'can we put our swimsuits on' - but no dear, it's still a no.

- Pause of maybe 3 nanoseconds -

"Can we go swimming in the, swimming pool"

Poor thing. Fortunately there was a bathtub the size of a small Santa Barbara apartment. Where we swam.

A lot.

Apart from the terror of toddler-drowning and 10am cocktails we had a lovely time. We were there to see the Pacific Coast Open (more on that later), the late-night golf cart rides through the sprinklers on the 9th, 10th & 11th holes were just gravy.

The truly terrifying thing about Palm Springs is that's where LK sees us in 40 years time. Him golfing every day and me no doubt on my 4th Bloody Mary by 10am, bracing myself for another browse through the Coldwater Creek catalog.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bad News Bourbon

A few weeks ago I came clean about some stuff and wrote this post and the lovely Fluffy made good on her promise and delivered both a cherry pie and a bottle of bourbon:

The cherry pie clearly didn't linger long enough to be photographed.....

Anyway, I decided to name this bottle 'bad news bourbon' and to drink it whenever I felt in need of a little Kentucky Kourage (rather than Dutch courage). I can't express how gobsmacked I am that it's almost one month later and the seal is still on the bottle. You can trust me when I say I'm touching wood when I'm writing this!!

The point to this post, other than to thank a truly lovely lady, is to say I will be drinking a shot in her honour tonight as I've just heard she might be in need of some Kentucky Kourage herself.

So here's to you Fluffy.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Rincon Classic

I spoke to Mum and Dad on Sunday and heard they'd had sleet back home.


Not quite as gloomy over here. This weekend we decided to head out to see the Rincon Classic, a surf competition being held on a famous break just outside Santa Barbara. It was beautiful weather, so here, mostly for Daffodillly, are some sunny quintessentially Californian weekend photos:

I'm not sure quite what I expected in a surf competition, but when we arrived it was the 'teeny wahinis' (young girls) surfing, and it had the bizarre feel of a soccer tournament transposed to a rugged stretch of coastline.

Things soon picked up with the Mens Open, which I was able to appreciate only slightly more than mens luge at the Olympics courtesy of LK being a surfer and me picking it up through, well, osmosis probably.

Our little klepto with approximately 45 shells she 'hunted' at the beach (look closely at her pockets....)

They stank to high heaven. I think one of them was carrying a carcass.

And finally, because even surfers can get a little put out by bad manners, here's a little education in surf etiquette. Not that you didn't already know this of course, but just in case you wanted to surf the left at Mavericks and weren't quite sure of the protocol:

If you're anything like me (and God I hope for your sake you're not) just reading this will be enough of an education in why I shouldn't be surfing at Rincon -

This reads like the surfers Highway Code, you mustn't 'drop in' or 'snake', the 'furthest inside and closest to the peak' has the right of way, 'paddle with commitment' (too right) and I'm assuming at the bottom it says 'danger, while you're floundering around snaking and dropping in we're up top at the car-park torching your car because these are our waves dudes.

Have a nice day.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Question - Has Craigslist Ruined Garage Sales?

One of the things I love most about America is garage sales, or yard sales or even 'yarda' in deference to most of our customers this morning. I love the fact that you can make a huge pile of all your rubbish on your front lawn, post a sign on the nearest cross-street and watch your hard-earned stuff walk away for 25¢ a piece. I know the UK has jumble sales at the scout hut and drizzly car-boot sales on that field off the ring-road, but there's something heartwarmingly freeing about being able to host your own, on a whim, because you need to raise a few bucks for your upcoming trip to England.

OK, not actually our lawn, because being professional slum-lords we know that if we even let our tenants have a sniff at having a yard sale there'd be one every weekend and suddenly all our garden furniture, nicer shrubs and guttering will have walked. We are nothing but cheap, and not a little savvy so we 'borrow' our friends yard in a much nicer neighbourhood for the occasion and make them feed and babysit our child while we make money. Good times.

I love selling too. Napoleon called England 'a nation of shopkeepers' and Good Lord it must be in my blood because I'll admit I get a little frenzied when the hoards arrive to nose through my hand-me-downs and it's a good job it's not held at my house otherwise I'd be plundering every room for things to sell.

It's an education in the true value of 'stuff' though. You have to mentally let your crap go well before you hand it over to that shuffling bloke who's spent an implausibly long time looking at your cast-off sports bra. There is nothing as disheartening as watching someone walk off with that mirror you spent $150 on two years ago, that has now a market value of $8 (and only $8 because you originally said $20 then they frowned, and you thought, crikey, I need the money, and then they didn't have a $10 they only had $8 and would you consider that?). Sheesh.

However, if you think about it in terms of people paying you to take away your rubbish then it's fine sport indeed. I would do it every month but even in America it's hard to accumulate crap that fast.

My question is though - have garage sales gone downhill? We don't go to as many as we once did, it used to be our regular Saturday morning pursuit, grab a coffee and a bagel and drive round the nice neighbourhoods hoping to pick up a $10 coffee table. Now LK works on Saturdays and the thought of buckling and unbuckling Anna into her car-seat so I can look for that one back issue of Hello magazine in a big pile of 'Watchtowers' leaves me cold.

Now that everyone uses Craigslist, no-one would even consider selling a nice couch, or an armoire that used to house a TV but no-thanks-we-now have-a-flat-screen at a garage sale for $30 and a chance it might not sell when you can just post a photo online and wait for the customers to come to you. Don't you think? If we were ever to get a flatscreen (ha, oh ha ha ha) and needed to ditch our armoire I would never dream of hauling it out on to the street on a Saturday morning when I could get my full asking price from someone who will haul it out of my house themselves. Has anyone else noticed this or is it just Santa Barbara? Is anyone still getting amazing yard sale bargains?

Sunday, March 02, 2008


The question of race seems to have been cropping up on a lot of blogs I read lately.

It started when I read this post on racism by the always brilliant OTJ. One or two of her readers commented that they'd found the UK to be a much more racist place than America. I was honestly surprised at reading that, having personally experienced much more overt racism here than back home. I have been called 'the right kind of immigrant' more times than I care to remember, I've known so many intelligent and well-educated people carelessly toss the words 'wetbacks' or 'illegals' into conversations and blame them for everything from ERs closing to peeing in fountains. I always found this a shock, being an immigrant myself and knowing becoming legal is not as simplistic as some might imagine, and having struggled myself to keep everything above board. Plus, my one big issue with people spouting about 'immigration' here, is that their definition of an immigrant usually starts about 10-25 years after their forebears arrived.

You're all bloody immigrants.

This overarching concentration on race can go both ways too. At my first job over here one of my colleagues went to great lengths to explain that her fiance 'was white'. Ironically, her name was Blanca.

I was consistently amazed at the way racial slurs were bandied around over here, at the number of mass emails that would arrive in my inbox forwarded by people I knew, concerning how America was better when it was whiter, churchier, and everyone assimilated to a perfect WASPy norm. I'm sure this isn't specific to the States, I'm sure the same emails are flying around the UK, I just haven't seen them because I moved over here before the age of email *gasp*. Those emails make my blood boil though, and moved by what OTJ had said, I spoke up on a website that had published one of them. I agree that no-one should suffer discrimination, whether it's reverse discrimination or not, I agree that being seen as too tolerant a country can make you feel that your society is being taken advantage of. I understand what it is to love and cherish your country (two countries in my case). I understand it's a many-layered debate. I don't think that justifies vitriol. I think we should be trying to find some common ground, channel our inner John Lennon. This is America after all, the land of diversity. There was a lot of respectful discussion, and eventually a consensus that you don't have to agree on every issue in order to be friends. And after about 3 days my heart stopped racing at a thousand beats per minute.

I am not a confrontational person.

In contrast, my experiences with racism in the UK were very limited.

Until I gave it some thought.

Doris Lessing once wrote that the only people in the UK who thought the class system was dead belonged to the middle class. Basically if something isn't affecting you first hand it is hard to have any perspective on the issue. I grew up in a very white, rural area of Northern England. I distinctly remember the first time someone who wasn't white-skinned joined my primary school class. I was intrigued. Turns out they weren't Indian, or Pakistani, or Arabian - they had just come back from a holiday in Israel and were tanned.

When I went to University one of my non-white friends said she couldn't believe what a bubble Cambridge was, and how predominantly white. To me, on first arriving, it had seemed wonderfully diverse.

In essence, my experiences with race and racism up to the time I emigrated to California had been mostly academic in nature. I had not perceived the UK to be more racist than the US because I'd simply not been anywhere near the issue whilst knee-deep in sheep droppings or libraries. Upon closer reflection, I was being more than a little naive.

I thought I'd better turn the mirror on myself, was I standing in a big glass house with a fistful of stones?

When we moved to our present house, school districts were not at the forefront of our minds. The fact that we had the chance to own property where a two bedroom fixer-upper is six figures was our main concern. Plus the creature was minus 2 weeks old when we signed the papers. Things change though, and I found myself on this website last week and was pretty gobsmacked that Anna's prospective primary school was 98% Hispanic. You can bet that the phrases 'white flight' and 'sanctimonious hypocrite' flashed through my head.

I culled my friends' opinions. Was my sudden decision to start researching other primary school options for Anna as bad as saying 'if you don't speak the language get out of the country'? As usual my good friend set me straight:

"Dude, half my family's hispanic and I wouldn't have Anna go to that school either. That doesn't make you a racist. If it was the best school in town and you didn't want her to go because it was mostly Hispanic then you'd be a racist."

Big sigh of relief.

"It makes you a snob."

So there you have it. 98% of the school may be Hispanic, but 100% of the kids are listed as 'socioeconomically disadvantaged'. Apparently you can't be a Brit and shrug off that 'clarse' thing.