Is it too late to wish you a Happy New Year? As you get older, the weeks whizz by a lot more quickly and I am surprised to find we are not in March already. Although we may be by the time you read this, given how slow I am to upload updates to my blog these days.
Mrs. Fiendish and I both lost our fathers in 2008, so it is not a year we will look back on with too much fondness. For my part, admittedly, the death of my Dad prompted mixed emotions, given that his dementia was in an advanced state.
The death of my father-in-law, an apparently vigorous and healthy man who contracted pneumonia after a heart by-pass operation, probably hit me harder. (Thanks for all the commiserations and kind words, by the way. Much appreciated).
Still, 2008 does not rank as the worst year of the millennium for the Fiendish family. There was one horrible year when number two son, the poster boy for the Asperger’s Syndrome community, was getting in trouble with the school and the rozzers on a regular basis, which prompted our move from Enfield to Hertford. I guess you could call the move a partial success in that he’s kept out of trouble with the Peelers since then but school remains a challenge. He’s a very talented artist and our main hope is that he will make it into art school; if he can’t hack it in an institution chock full of individualistic free thinkers then there is no hope for him.
On the bright side, we did have a pretty good holiday in the US of A, just before the US dollar exchange rate moved fiercely against sterling.
I’ve not bored you with my holiday reminiscences and you probably thought you had got away with it, but you are out of luck, as I intend to give a few belated thoughts on our trip to the west coast, Stateside.Go west!
We went in August, with the party consisting of me, Mrs. Fiendish, sons numbers one, two and three (the full set) plus number one son’s girlfriend, Philippa.
The flight over with American Airlines went very smoothly. We caught a connecting flight at Chicago airport, which gave the boys their opportunity to order their first genuine all-American McDonald’s meals (they are teenagers, after all).
The boys were startled to find that the person serving them could not understand their order. Given that their purchase request was likely to prominently feature words from a vocabulary limited to about three hundred words (Big Mac, fries, shake, etc.) it was astounding to them that their accent should prove so undecipherable to the person serving them.
After a certain amount of pointing and slowing down of speech, they got their food order. All agreed that the hot food was saltier and the shakes sweeter than back home. They were not impressed. This was the beginning of our quest to try every possible burger chain (we never did get round to Wendy’s, probably the best) to find an artery-clogging meal we liked.Lost Wages
The first three days were spent in Las Vegas in what is probably the tackiest hotel on the strip, the Excalibur. The outside looked like a kid’s toy castle, with grey walls and pointed turrets in bright red. Inside it was dingy and decorated with a sickly green and yellow colour scheme, possibly inspired by the existence of the Sherwood Forest dining room.
Not to worry, the rooms were excellent, the weather warm (just 108 degrees Fahrenheit), the pool welcoming and the beer … the beer was American, but you can’t have everything.
I, personally, found the temperature too hot, but you know what they say about mad dogs and Englishmen.
For various reasons, I never got to play any poker, which probably saved me a few bob. We were far too busy shopping, presumably on the basis that the rest of America would not have any shops and that, while in Las Vegas, it would be silly to waste your time gambling.
The kids discovered a clothes shop on the Strip that did spray paint designs on T-shirts. Number 2 son, being a keen “graffer” (his work is coming to a wall near you, soon), was very taken with this idea and spent a lot of time working on a design he wanted sprayed on his T-shirt. The fact that, at home, he has an airbrush and all the paint he needs to do his own T-shirt design was not considered sufficient reason to bypass the opportunity to stand around in the baking sun for about 90 minutes while the man in the shop spray painted four T-shirts – one each for the boys and one for number three son’s girlfriend, with whom he has now broken up.
Still, they were pretty cool. Shame the boys have already outgrown them.
We didn’t go to see any of the shows. They all seemed overpriced and not much different to what’s on offer in the west end of London. I was half tempted to go and see Craig Ferguson do a stand-up, but not at £35. Apparently Ferguson is now a successful talk show host in the USA; wonder if the network knows his first stage name was Bing Hitler
Food was a recurring theme of the holiday, and our inability to order properly or understand what we were ordering.
I read a lot of US private eye novels so I was reasonably au fait with some of the conventions, but Mrs. Fiendish looked bewildered after ordering fried eggs when the waitress asked her: “How would you like your eggs?”
To which the ancient comedy answer is, "unfertilised, preferably."
A quick explanation from me about the difference between sunny side-up and over easy sorted that one out, and I was also able to warn the kids to order Sprite or 7-Up if they wanted lemonade, unless they wanted to end up drinking lemon juice. However, I don’t think we ever did get to grips with the whole Canadian bacon thing, or the various types of bread. Ordering a cheese sandwich at a US sandwich bar is a five minute ordeal, and they look at you as if you are a madman if you say you don’t want a side.
“But it’s free! It comes with the sandwich,” they cry.
“But it’s tasteless shite and a waste,” we reply, being none too fond of rabbit food.
Still, the food was pretty good and sufficiently different to what we get at home to make experimenting worthwhile. Biscuits and gravy, grits? Weird.
I think the kids enjoyed this part of the holiday the most, as the hotel had a pool. Why we didn’t just take them to the Costa Brava, I don’t know.
I would have preferred to have visited Vegas later on in the holiday once we had got the shopping bug out of our system.
More of this twaddle next time.