The Freeways

I have been in the US for over eight years. I have retained my lack of accent and continue to use English idioms and pronunciations; very few Americanisms have crept into speech. There is one linguistic tic that I picked up early and oddly marks me out as non-local almost as much as my lack of accent.

When I talk about a freeway I say “I drove on The Five”. The addition of the definite article to the freeway number is Southern Californian habit that is not used up in the Northern half of the state. A local would say “I drove on Five”, or possibly “I drove on i-Five”. A former colleague, unaware that I had arrived in The Bay Area from Los Angeles, expressed surprise at my use of the definite freeway article. Once I explained the six months spent living close to The Ten, she understood

Published in: on 16 October, 2014 at 20:16  Leave a Comment  

California Pleasure

Seven years ago my wife gave me one of the first iPhones as an anniversary presents. I took her to Calistoga and we tasted Luna Sangoviese for the first time.

This weekend, my wife bought me an iPhone 6 for our anniversary ; the fourth Apple phone I have owned. It is odd; a larger screen, yet so much slimmer and lighter than my old 4s, that it seems smaller. It is a beautiful piece of hardware; another example of how Apple’s control of software and hardware make each generation better than the previous one.

In a beautiful example of symmetry, we are going to Luna pick-up party this weekend.

Great phones and great wine; both made in California.

Published in: on 19 September, 2014 at 23:21  Leave a Comment  

Sparkling Weekend

On Saturday evening we celebrated a friend’s birthday. A group met at our house before heading out to Lucy’s in Yountville. The birthday girl brought two splits of Veuve Clicquot, but not being a champagne drinker she had forgotten to chill them. Shockingly, we had a bottle of sparkling wine already chilled in the fridge. It was Chandon’s basic Brut from Napa.

We put the real stuff in the fridge and it was ready when we returned from our meal. Both half bottles were consumed as we played Cards Against Humanity.

On Sunday my wife and I drove up to Mumm North of Yountville. We each had a tasting flight, we were in agreement in the wines we liked; the Santana Brut, Mumm Reserve, and a sparkling Pint Noir.

We headed home via Gloria Ferrer, which is a beautiful location, but neither of us were impressed with any of the fizzes we tried.

Back at home we opened a bottle of fizz that needed two sips before it was used to clean out the garbage disposal. Fortunately, we had an ordinary, but very drinkable Trader Joes sparkling wine already chilled. My wife is sipping it neat, whilst in order to get into the writing mindset, I am drinking the Ernest Hemingway created Death in the Afternoon; Absinthe and Champagne.

The winner for the weekend is Veuve Clicquot, with the Mumm Pinot Noir in the silver medal position.

Published in: on 7 September, 2014 at 16:53  Leave a Comment  


I have been in the United States for eight years. In that time my lack of accent has remained. I still know that the letter ‘u’ should be used more often than is the habit here, and I know that ‘r’ goes before ‘e’ in the centre of all theatres. I pronounce route the same way I do root, and beta sounds more like ‘beat her’ than ‘bay tar’.

However, there are signs of corruption. I have, as readers of the blog will know, fallen in love with America’s pastime; the game of baseball. Now, after my wife threw a Western themed Summer party, my choice of footwear had taken a local turn. Ever since that event, I have been wearing the cowboy boots that my wife bought from E-Bay, even though they are not a perfect fit. We are now talking about buying a proper pair of boots. Combined with a Western style belt and hat, I am almost a convincing inhabitant of the Western US, until I speak. “Howdy” sounds as wrong coming from my lips as “Gnarly, dude”

Published in: on 1 September, 2014 at 6:35  Comments (1)  

Post the Quake

In the early hours of Sunday August 24, we were woken as our bedroom rolled as though it was on a ship crossing through a storm. This was a level 6 earthquake centred in American Canyon, which is about 7 miles from our house. It was the largest quake to hit Northern California in twenty-five years, since the 6.9 in 1989 that collapsed bridges and freeways.

We escaped unscathed, apart from losing several hours sleep. The city of Napa was not so lucky. The downtown took a beating, several wineries lost bottles and barrels.

On Friday, I took the day off work to drive my sister-in-law around Napa valley. The vineyards we visited had not taken much damage, apart from a cracked fountain at Artesa.

The Napa visit was an introduction for a first-timer, so we went to three tried and tested locations. We started with a glass of champagne on the terrace at Domaine Carneros, before enjoying the modern art and excellent wines of Artesa. We browsed the art shops in Yountville, before eating at R+D Kitchen, which was a recommendation from a work colleague.

We finished at the ultimate tourist winery, the centuries old Italian Castello d’Amorosa that was built in 2007. We did the grand tour, which finishes with a very generous tasting of wine. The castle was so far North in the valley, that it’s loss was a total of two bottles.

Published in: on 31 August, 2014 at 18:15  Comments (1)  

Pride of Anglia

Norwich City are no longer in the Premier League and so all of their games are not live on US TV. There is, however, a channel (bein) that amidst its coverage of French and Spanish football has some English Championship games. This weekend’s game was the East Anglian Derby between Norwich and Ipswich.

I did not watch the game live; 4am on Saturday morning is not a time that I wish to be awake. I also think my shouting and yelping would not be appreciated in the wee small hours.

The last time I saw a game at Ipswich, City were drubbed 5-0. Granted that was over sixteen years ago. Today, it went far better. Norwich won 1-0. Granted last time we played them at their place, it was 5-1 to the Canaries.

Published in: on 23 August, 2014 at 7:51  Leave a Comment  

Six Again

I saw my first Doctor Who episode when I was six years old. It was the opening of Mind of Evil. Now, thanks to Hulu streaming, I am watching it again.
When I first saw it we had a Black and White TV. When UK Gold showed it in the mid nineties, the surviving print was Black and White. Since then it has been restored to colour.

Published in: on 9 August, 2014 at 14:41  Leave a Comment  

Sea Breeze over Madras

Our Holiday weekend in Southern California is ending by the pool in a hotel in Santa Monica. I return to work on the morrow, by going into our Santa Monica office.

It was cocktail time, for it was six o’clock, albeit in a different timezone.

My wife was stumped on what to drink. She recalled a beverage from our stay in Hawaii last year – the Sea Breeze. I looked it up on my iPad app (Can you believe that I have a dedicated application for cocktails?) and reminded her of the ingredients; Vodka, Cranberry, Grapefruit. She thought for a moment and said she would like that, but with Orange Juice in place of the Grapefruit.

I caught the attention of the poolside waitress and asked if she knew what a Sea Breeze was, she replied in the affirmative. I said I would like one, but with the OJ substitution. She said that is a Madras.

I checked when I returned to my lounger and that is indeed the name of that drink. I was impressed. My wife loved the drink.

For my part, I had an Indian Summer, a refreshing mix of Gin, Dry Vermouth, Grapefruit Juice, Simple Syrup, and Basil. This was from the pool menu. My app is silent on the subject and there was no wifi poolside, so I shall have to wait to find the proportions.

Published in: on 6 July, 2014 at 19:24  Comments (1)  

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was 4th of July, the day that the US celebrates its Independence; although thus date is the anniversary of the Congress approving the document making that declaration. John Adams thought, at the time that the 2nd July, would be the date that would be celebrated; as this was the day on which the decision to declare independence was taken. To coin a phrase “You know nothing John Adams.”

We went to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, something my wife and I had done for a 4th July when we first met, sixteen years ago.

The first part of the concert was assorted stirring and patriotic music performed by The LA Phil. The second part was a Bluegrass concert. The lead Banjo player, Steve Martin, had a great line in funny repartee. Mark my word, if playing the Banjo does not work, he has the potential for a career in comedy.

The night ended with a firework spectacular.

Published in: on 5 July, 2014 at 13:51  Leave a Comment  

The Language is Called English

Last week we did the tour of Alcatraz with some friends who were visiting from out of town. There is an excellent audio tour, but I was a little perturbed by the board with instructions at the start. It showed information in various languages. Each section had a flag to illustrate the language, the flag of France for French etc. In the case of Portuguese, there were two flags – the Brazilian and Portuguese flags. The Mexican and Spanish flags were also paired up, as were those for the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan.

There was but a single flag for the English language section. No British flag sat aside the Stars and Stripes. Anti-British discrimination at its worst. 

Published in: on 10 June, 2014 at 6:00  Leave a Comment  

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