October 24, 2015 by Michael Madden

Confessions Of A Blogger

Ahhhh, bliss. I write this from poolside. Its mid 70s at 10am, expected to rise to mid 80s by the afternoon. Sally has gone shopping, Ole is doing homework (also by the pool), and Zac is in the hot tub. No – I’m not going to wake up in a minute – this is really happening. And if I glance to my left I can see Chelsea just about to kick off against West Ham on a screen that would not look out of place in an IMax cinema. Is it too early for a beer? Its never too early for a beer. Miller Lite anyone?

Now, of course it didn’t just happen, and we went through a lot of pain to get to this position. Yesterday was a bit of a nightmare, particularly for Lady M. I put her through the ordeal of flying economy, and even on Virgin this is not great for one born in to privilege. The man next to her had BO and spilled a bottle of water over her, but then again I told her not to sit next to Zac! (only joking). Lets just say the chap had few social graces! The airport was horrific. We were kept on the plane for an additional half hour as the airport was supposedly full. When we did get off the queues were ridiculous. 90 minutes just to get to Homeland Security as the Yanks like to call their immigration booths. And when we got there the machine was playing up. They didn’t bother with Zac’s finger prints, and just did one hand of mine, which saved us a few seconds. Then we headed for the car rental. At Orlando Airport there are probably 15 different car rental desks all lined up alongside each other. Hertz and Avis had no queue, but in the distance we could see a long, snaking line of people. Nooooo, I thought, and fortunately this was Alamo, refuge of many a fly drive customer. We were further down at the Dollar and Thrifty desk, with just one person in front of us. Now, we paid around £400 all in for an SUV. In this case a very spacious Chevrolet with plenty of room for bags, children and all kinds of other stuff. It included cover for an additional driver (me), a full tank of fuel, every insurance under the sun, breakdown cover, etc. At the customer service point next to us a rather large Brit was trying to persuade himself and the agent that he and his four companions could fit into an economy sized car. An economy sized car in the US is something like a Fiat Punto, and this chap looked like he could fill a Punto on his own, never mind four pals and a load of suitcases. The agent summed it up nicely. ‘Economy cars are like toys over in the US.’ The man was adamant, and clearly wanted to save the £100 for a week of decidedly uncomfortable motoring. We continued on our way, and then got stuck in traffic. Not great after such a tortuous journey thus far, and Zac had just about reached the end of his tether. ‘I’m writing to the President,’ he announced. ‘Obama needs to sort this out.’ I will let you see the letter once he has written it.

I always enjoy going on holiday, but I was a little rueful this time with our first granddaughter due any minute. In fact at the moment Gabi went into hospital to be induced we were flying high above somewhere called Goose Bay which is presumably in Canada. I was hopeful that there would be a gleeful text message when we landed, but not so, in fact as I lie here nothing much has happened. Maybe for the next instalment…

Sometimes, you think the difference that you make to things is like pissing on the Great Fire Of London. You are probably aware that the UK has now started charging 5p for carrier bags. No such problem in the US. We have just returned from Walmart where every item is triple bagged by the checkout lady, and often there is just one item to a bag. Given the scale of the US compared to the UK I suspect a landfill the size of Wales wouldn’t cover up the number of plastic bags they get through in a year.

Ole just asked why I write a blog, so I told him it encourages creativity and its good to practice writing. Suggested he might like to write one himself. ‘Its just effort,’ was his typically teenage reply.

What a sporting triumph Zac’s birthday was. His team won 5-0, Ole’s team, won 4-3, then Zac’s cricket team also triumphed. Add to that a win for the Bengals and it couldn’t have gone much better! One sport that could do with improvement is ‘Pie Face’. This game involves people taking turns to turn a wheel. At some point a turn of the wheel triggers the mechanism to make a plastic hand filled with cream rise up and splat the cream in the person’s face. Great idea, I just feel that it needs a little more violence. As it is the victim gets a blob of cream on the end of their nose. Its just not enough.

Ive got a confession to make. Remember, back in the day, when anyone who wore fancy football boots was likely to get a good kicking on the pitch? And in those days ‘fancy’ generally meant white, which was the only alternative to black, In fact, even the three white Adidas stripes were considered decadent. Well, at the start of the 1970/71 season Alan Ball sported a natty pair of white boots, and a national newspaper, The Sun I think it was, launched a competition to win a pair. Well, I entered, and I won. Don’t really remember getting a kicking for wearing them, but if I did it would explain a lot relating to my current knee problems. Anyway, the competition was to pick your best ever England football XI. As an 8 year old boy it was a pretty good achievement to win a competition like that, but I have to confess, some 45 years later, that it was actually my dad that picked the team. Phew, I’m glad I’ve got that one off my chest.

And speaking of knees, it looks like my osteotomy is going ahead. I saw my consultant on Monday and he showed me some amazing pictures from inside my knee. The good side looks like a billiard ball, the bad side looks like some ancient stonework that is crumbling away. I go back on 23rd November to discuss dates (for the osteotomy, not the fruit). Having been in the US for less than a day, and suffered at the airport and carrying heavy luggage, I can safely announce that the osteotomy can’t come soon enough.

Winter is coming. I know this because of the little yellow warning light on my white car. I had no idea what this meant at first. It was two yellow lines with a yellow snowflake in between, and the only time I have seen yellow snowflakes is on the way home from the pub late at night (Mike Harding fans and men in particular will understand this one). Anyway, I looked it up in the manual and it said the temperature had dropped below five degrees so I should drive more carefully. I look forward to more creative warning lights as the winter months progress.

Over the last few years I have gambled with many a ropey B & B and hotels in Nottingham, but last week I stumbled across a great place called Roomzzz. For £59 you get a spacious apartment with cooking facilities and a grab and go breakfast of coffee, juice, fruit and pastries. Beats spending a tenner at Wetherspoons, and after tucking in to home made Mexican Chicken I spent a relaxed evening writing course notes and catching up with the world. I will certainly be trying Roomzzz again, or even the slightly more expensive Saco Apartments. Highly recommended.

One of the issues with being in the US is you can’t have a bet. I once did this on my Paddy Power account, but they detected my location and suspended all activities as it is outside their territories. Now, the power of Facebook is often contentious, but I think that PP can probably detect through this medium that I am once more Stateside. So why do they keep offering me special deals via email and Facebook promotions, encouraging me to breach their rules again?! Isn’t this some kind of entrapment?

Finally, it was our 21st Wedding Anniversary last Thursday (the day before we flew to the US). Holiday Eve is always a stressful time, and as I had already given Sally 4 pastel shaded Caribbean style rocking chairs a few weeks earlier there was not really any great fuss. However, I gave Ole a card and gift to give to his mum and dad, which seemed to cause him an inordinate amount of teenage pain as he realised he would have to do something and remember something. ‘You guys have an anniversary every five minutes,’ he complained. Actually Ole, anniversaries tend to be once a year. Looks like he will be getting a dictionary for Christmas.