Things I Learnt In Florida

  • We passed the Bush/Cheney motorcade. Two hours later, mum became very ill. Coincidence? I think not.
  • The Orlando Wal-Marts are dimly lit and almost entirely populated by rude British people.
  • The iPod is a wondrous thing to behold.
  • Chocolate Fudge PopTarts are the Breakfast of Champions
  • More girls should wear Say Anything and Invader Zim t-shirts.
  • You can stay a week in Orlando and not visit the downtown area.
  • Lego makes Advent calendars.
  • Planet Hollywood censors music videos.
  • Just how The Sure Thing ends.
  • Americans don't understand the concept of queuing, going as far as cutting across grass verges on the I-4 to get to another road.
  • A visitor's flea market is not the same as the real thing.
  • Alligators will follow you when you're not looking.
  • Diving underwater is not good for your nose, especially when you're in the 3ft end.
  • Even teddy bears look fierce when dressed in leather and sitting atop a Harley-Davidson…

currently playing: Kenickie — Come Out 2nite (Peel Session)

I Get The Internet Working...And...

Are teenage dreams so hard to beat
Everytime she walks down the street
Another girl in the neighbourhood
Wish she was mine, she looks so good

I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

I’m gonna call her on the telephone
Have her over cos i’m all alone
I need excitement oh i need it bad
And its the best, i’ve ever had

I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

He always said that they’d only get him to leave Radio 1 in a coffin…

John Peel — 1939-2004




Five of us in a seafood restaurant, and only one had fish!

currently playing: Dexy's Midnight Runners - Jackie Wilson Says

Summing Up...


Don't Panic!

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…

currently playing: Johnny Boy — Johnny Boy Theme

Florida Bound

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:

Hobart Paving

Lots of Florida fun to come!

currently playing: Black Box Recorder — Start As You Mean To Go On

with apologies to robin carmody

England Made Me single coverEngland Made Me Black Box Recorder Chrysalis Released: July 1998 Highest UK Chart Position: 89 Available on: England Made Me

Understand: 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.

Round 4: Crisis On Infinite Ballots

Last night, I discovered that there exists a version of Holding Back The Years as sung by The Frantic Elevators, Mick Hucknall’s original punk band. Is it sick and wrong that I desperately want to hear this? Apparently, it sounds like The Fall covering Simply Red. It needs to be part of my record collection.

Anyway. The final debate. Breaking news of this evening:

Nevada does its best to remind everybody that you shouldn’t pick on Florida all the time. And, Travis, I know you’re not reading this, but still: do you really want to vote for a party that supports this sort of thing?

The Libertarian Party fails in its lawsuit to get its candidate in the debate tonight.

And, while I’m not going to link to it, The Smoking Gun manages to top the thought of Nicholas Soames’ lips by printing a sexual harassment suit against Bill O’Reilly. And really, paragraph 81 tells you more than you ever needed to know. Trust me.

Music for this evening is supplied by Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A.. Because I’ve never listened to it before, and it seemed fitting.

I have a bad feeling about tonight. In the past two debates, Kerry managed to drive Bush to and beyond the point of annoyed by beating on Iraq. It seems to be the one subject that the President was accept no argument on, and he quickly becomes unhinged when pressed. Tonight is national issues only, so Kerry can’t do that, and as we saw last week, Bush seems to be more confident when it comes to talking about America. We shall see…

Right, back to the first debate rules, or joint press conferences. And everybody is probably watching the Yankees- Red Sox game instead. Here we go…

First question to Kerry: “will we ever be safe and secure again?” Back to cargo holds, shipping containers, and alliances again. Bush: “we’ll be safe when we spread liberty around the world”. Hmm, another replay of the first debate, along with a gratuitous use of “freedom on the march!”

HAHAHAHAHA! We’re being blamed for the flu vaccine shortage! Screw you and your alliance, Bush! Oh, and apparently, another reason is because the companies are afraid of being sued.

Hmm, Bush seems once more on his feet, and projecting…arrogance?

Our first mention of McCain! Go bipartisanship! Hah. Kerry talks about his plan, in almost quite specific terms, and Bush lists all the times he voted for tax rises. Stumbling over each one.

Mr. Bush! Clean your dribble! Kerry goes for a Sopranos joke. It even manages to raise a laugh from the audience. Now talking about outsourcing; I like how he admits how he can’t stop it, but how he will make it more attractive for companies to stay in America. Kerry talks about many issues, and Bush can’t understand it all.

Bush breaks the rules, stumbles, then drops into the standard “YOU’RE A LIBERAL!” spiel.


By the way. did we mention that Dick Cheney has a


daughter? I dislike the way how the Democrats handle themselves on this issue. But he’s against the amendment, so it’s better than the alternative. And Kerry handles the abortion question well once again, standing firmly behind Roe v. Wade.

And now onto health insurance. Exciting stuff. Bush’s speech about bringing down the price of healthcare was terrible, stalling, talking about buggies and horses, and just sounding like somebody who shouldn’t be there. Kerry calls him on a few points, but he’s on the defence.


Privatising Social Security! That’s a wonderful idea! Heh, and now Bush plays the bipartisan card. Bush has forgotten that today’s workers pay the fund. But Kerry hasn’t. HAHAHAHAHAHA. “We fixed it. And Bush broke it.” But now they’re just talking about taxes again. And once more with “It’s Clinton’s fault!”

And now, border crossings! Hmm, I think that Bush’s talk of a temporary workers card probably won’t go down well with some of his base. Oh dear, Kerry hops about the biometric bandwagon.

Kerry goes for raising the minimum wage. And kicks it out of the park. And Bush…talks about education. Umm, okay.

Bush avoids answering a question once more, and Kerry gets to say “I’ll defend Roe v. Wade.” More education stuff, and Kerry slams him down.

No draft! I can’t be bothered to rehash this; Bush talks about the ‘global test’ yet again, removing all that unnecessary context. Pesky little thing that.

Bush really wanted to sign the assault weapons ban. Honest.

Ooh, affirmative action. Hah, and Bush mentions Pell Grants again, to try and deflect Kerry’s earlier criticism. He looks very smug and satisfied when he stops talking.

Kerry handles the religion test okay, including a “love thy neighbour” attack on the other guy on stage. Bush now complains that the Democrats won’t work with him, forgetting of course that the Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the Executive Branch. Hahahaaaha. And then slams down his hand lots of times.

How come Bush gets to finish last this time and last time? I can’t remember back to the first debate. Anyway, Kerry gives a decent enough summing up, and Bush only trips up a few times.

Again, no meltdown, but again, Kerry seems like a person you can trust to look after a country, whereas you’d be wary of giving Bush the keys to your car…

Incidentally — there were no questions about education, or the environment tonight. You might have thought they would have been issues of national importance.

That’s the end of the debates! Now only a short time until the actual voting. That might also be blogged, but I might succumb to the alcohol before the results start to come in, so don’t rely on it!

currently playing: Presidential Debate 2004

A Song For People

This will probably be the lost song posted for a while, unless I come across something really good while I’m in Chapel Hill and Florida (I do have a list of albums to buy, so this is quite likely). Anyway, a song from a while back, bought from Piccadilly Records in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, although its origin lies in the American South:

LambchopUp With People

Final debate tomorrow, remember!

currently playing: 52nd Street — Cool As Ice