A house in Celebration, FL, getting ready for Hallowe'en.
A house in Celebration, FL, getting ready for Hallowe'en.
The Lego Store was fun.
There are times, however, when panic is quite understandable. I’m sure that one of these times must be when you have been sent to the Department of Homeland Security office, a mirror-walled room which can see out, but you can’t see in. You have a red file, and to be honest, you think Cuba is only a few hours away.The journey to this point was fine. I like travelling on buses to airports; there’s something wonderful about the idea of everybody on the bus travelling to different places. Glasgow, Paris, Vienna, Singapore, Rio, Florida; all these journeys began on a bus from Gloucester Green station. There are upsides to Bonnie’s condition: with her being in a wheelchair, we managed to jump hundreds of queues, from check-in to security clearance, and we were the first people to board the plane to Washington D.C. It wasn’t the most exciting of flights, but! We had a Blue Peter presenter sitting next to us! So if you see a BP report from Virginia or Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the next month, they came over on the same plane that we did. Also, I’m pleased to report that home hot-dog cooking has progressed from just one choice of dedicated cooker; the new SkyMall magazine has two different types, the new one promising to heat sausages just like they do at baseball games. And of course, it warms your buns too. When we landed at Washington, I was rather worried. If you remember from other times I’ve talked about it, or you’ve flown into America before, you know that the Visa Waiver form has a series of questions on the back, asking things like “do you have a physical or mental disorder?” all the way to “were you a Nazi?” If you answer yes to any of these, you’re supposed to contact the US embassy, because it may mean you aren’t eligible for the waiver. Normally, we all laugh, and tick no to everything. Except one of the questions is: “have you ever had a US visa cancelled?” And the last time I flew in, my education visa was cancelled. Bonnie also had to answer yes to the physical disorder question, so both of us were concerned that we were going to be deported back home. Again, we skipped the queue, and went up to the customs official. After our fingerprints and pictures were taken like common criminals (except for Bonnie, who managed to get away without doing either, hence if you hear about a wheelchair-bound terrorist spree, blame the nice woman at D.C. immigration), I was sent to the mirrored room. My mother and I were the only white people there except for the staff. Eventually, I was called up to be questioned. They just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to try and restart my education at UNC, which wasn’t helped by me telling the official (a man who called everyone “Boss”; except for me) that I was going to be staying in Chapel Hill with friends. Oh, and I was unemployed (oh, technically, I am a freelance journalist, but seeing as how ‘journalist’ seems to be a Homeland Security codeword for “take out back, strip-search, and then send to Outer Mongolia,” I decided that unemployed might be better). Luckily, he was satisfied with my answers, and sent us on our way. Deep breath. Our flight down to Florida was just a blur; one hour and fifty minutes of “I didn’t get deported! Hurrah!” going through my head. Our next trial was at the car rental stand. They had run out of mini-vans. The man behind the counter did us a favour and upgraded us to what he thought was the next step up; an 8 person van. We when got there, however, it was a 15-seat minibus. Or The Bus of DOOM. So Dad’s first experience of driving in America again was a huge bus, in the dark. Oh, and we following somebody else’s directions to get where we were going. As you can imagine, a few tempers frayed on the journey, but we made it here safely. And here is really lovely; a huge house, with a small pool in the back garden, bedrooms with silly-sized wardrobes, and a 5-disc DVD player. Not that we’ll be using it, but it’s still impressive. I’ll try and get some pictures up in the next few days. We’re here, then. And that was Friday. Tomorrow I’ll write about today, which is shorter, although it does involve President Bush’s motorcade…
I’m off again. I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update the blog over the next few weeks; if it’s anything like last time, it will probably be more active than it normally is (but I’m on a dial-up connection for the first ten days, which may slow things down somewhat). Anyway, while I’m gone:
England Made Me Black Box Recorder Chrysalis Released: July 1998 Highest UK Chart Position: 89 Available on: England Made MeUnderstand: Luke Haines Hates You. In his previous band, The Auteurs, he railed against the nostalgic reinvention of the 1970s, using the album How I Learned To Love The Bootboys to expose the rotten chipboard soul behind the rose-tinted talk of Spangles, Space Hoppers, and the Bay City Rollers. With Black Box Recorder, he expanded his range to pour scorn over the idea of “Cool Britannia”. That there is something about England, something sinister, something that grinds us all down into the ground, making us bitter and twisted, constantly looking back in time to make the monotony of the present day bearable. England Made Us, and no matter what, we cannot escape from its shadow. The cover adorning the single features Lord Lucan; the perfect image for England’s past; landed gentry, a member of the class we all supposedly aspire to. Somebody who would have probably been aware of, and possibly even involved in, the plot to overthrow the Labour Government of the 1970s, to prevent us upstarts from ruling and placing the country back in the hands of the benevolent gentlemen of the Conservatives. Lord Lucan, who killed his nanny and fled prosecution when it became clear that there were things even a Lord couldn’t get away with. And the song itself? Sarah Nixey’s perfectly upper-middle-class English accent speaks softly as she delivers her lecture on what it means to be from England, only singing when the chorus interrupts; a sad lament of “England made me”. Instead of offsetting the disturbing lyrics, the school teacher delivery makes them all the more haunting. The first line sets the tone; the spider trapped within the glass. England as sadists, drummed into us even as children. The music that goes along with Nixey’s vocals is minimal, reminiscent of a children’s ITV show, and like Sarah, only comes to life during the chorus. For the most of the song, it provides a melancholy and ghostly backing; the spectre of England that can’t be described using mere words. Only at the end does it open its gaping jaw and swallows everything. Luke Haines Hates You. But he knows it’s not your fault. A year into the rule of New Labour, and the sheen still hadn’t worn off; 1997 was the first time that Thatcher’s children got a chance to vote, and we sent them packing, hoping for a real change. Haines points out that we were just fooling ourselves. England never changes. It changes us instead.