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A spot of admin

I’ve just realised that I haven’t actually updated my blogroll for about two years, which means it’s as out of control as my bikini line. There are many of you who comment here regularly whose blog isn’t listed, so if you’re missing and you’d like to be included, either leave a comment here or else drop me an email.

And yes, for the easily bored, this is the first blog post of mine that has ever come in at under 100 words. Move along now, nothing to see here.

Happy New Year (or “Why I hate Jude Law”)

Stuck for something to do this Christmas and New Year? Desperate to get out of the house in order to escape Aunty Flo’s attempts to foist brazil nuts (that she’s sucked the chocolate off) onto you? Keen to avoid being forced to watch Crocodile Dundee for the eighteenth time? Do me a favour – don’t go to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan. I used to read the books when I was a kid, and avidly devoured the adventures of Holmes and Watson. But there are three impeccable reasons not to see the new big screen depiction of the man from 221b Baker Street.

1. Robert Downey Jr is not Basil Rathbone
I like Robert Downey Jr as much as the next man (and the next man happens to be wearing a badge saying ‘I ? Robert Downey Jr’), but let’s face it, he’s no Basil Rathbone. Like Sean Connery as James Bond, or – erm – Steve Guttenberg as Sgt Carey Mahoney, some roles were born to be played by only one man.

2. Guy Ritchie is the director
Guy Ritchie is the cinematic equivalent of the ugly guy who once managed to convince a supermodel to sleep with him – they both had a one-off success, and are forced to spend the rest of their lives trying to achieve it again while silently accepting that they were just punching above their weight. My grandmother is a better movie director than Guy Ritchie, and she’s been dead for almost twenty years.

3. Jude Law
The three kindest words I can think of to sum up Jude Law are “irritating little tosspot”. And it’s all downhill from there. Arrogant, self-involved, over-rated – just a few of the phrases his own mother would use to describe her son.

Of course, part of my antipathy towards the man whose name uncoincidentally rhymes with “Rude Bore”, is that he’s been able to turn a fundamental lack of talent into millions of dollars. He’s also managed to find a seemingly unending supply of beautiful women who are attracted to men of limited height and ability. Fair play to him for that.

But it’s not just jealousy that makes me hate the 17th most famous person to come out of Lewisham.

Last spring, I was taking a flight back from London to New York, and noticed the aforementioned Mr Law as I sat having a glass of wine in a British Airways lounge. He walked through alone, smirking the smirk that only the truly atrocious can somehow seem to muster. Nothing specifically wrong with that though, and I thought nothing more of him as I got on the plane and sat through the seven hour flight.

Now, at this point, I should say that I had been away working for over a week, and we had just found out that The Special One was pregnant. Being away made me as popular as a human rights activist in China. So when the plane landed, I was understandably keen to get back home as quickly as possible.

As somebody who made around 25 transatlantic flights in 18 months in an attempt to woo The Special One, I am a world class expert at the Race To Immigration Slalom Challenge. Essentially, the challenge involves bobbing and weaving between fellow passengers in an attempt to make your way to immigration as quickly as possible, in the vague hope that you get there before the passengers of the packed flight from Haiti that arrived at the same time as you.

On this occasion, I ducked and dived past a couple of people, before coming across a man, a woman and three children who took up the whole of the corridor. I edged behind one of the kids, and waited patiently until she inevitably zig zagged enough to allow me to pass by.

“Ooh ooh, there must be a fire. Quick, quick!” said a voice that managed to be snarling yet effeminate at the same time.

I turned around to see a thunderous Jude Law, looking angrier than an angry thing on its angriest day, rolling his eyes and muttering swear words vaguely under his breath.

There are three things of note to say here:

1. The woman – who I presumed to be a brow-beaten childminder – and the children had not been immediately evident in the airport lounge. Clearly Jude is such a good guy that he decided to go into the lounge, and leave the kids and the hired help outside. Maybe he gave them a discount voucher to buy a sandwich at Pret A Manger? After all, he has to save money where he can – it can’t be cheap maintaining an ex-wife, three kids and the occasional illegitimate child.

2. Jude was angry because I’d had the temerity to walk past his daughter. I hadn’t knocked into her, caused her to cry, or – for that matter – even made her notice that I was passing her. Clearly life as an award-winning actor means that you have to have a ten yard exclusion zone around you and your family at all times. Oh, except that Jude hasn’t won any kind of award in more than ten years. Unless they give out awards for Least Convincing Actor To Play Alfie, that is?

3. I ignored his comment and walked on to immigration. As I waited in a lengthy line (watching in horror as Law was led to the front of the queue), I realized that what I had really wanted to say was “No, there’s no fire Jude. I just want to get back to my wife as quickly as possible. But of course, you don’t have a wife, because you f***ed your nanny.”

Anyway, despite his obvious character flaws, I’m prepared to move on. In the spirit of the festive season, Happy New Year Jude. And may 2010 see your tiny little winkie get you into much less trouble than it has over the last few years.

The red mist descends

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you want to experience the pretence of peerless customer service, but an experience that’s as much fun as having your testicles scraped with a rusty razor blade, New York City is the only place for you. Despite having lived in the city for well over two years now, it still somehow comes as a surprise to me when I’m inevitably regarded as an irritant by somebody who makes their living from ensuring that I hand over cash to the business which they represent.

Take, for example, a discount department store that shall remain nameless. We’ll call it “Century 22”, which should be enough to confuse at least 75% of the staff that work there. I would normally avoid it like the plague, but had the recent misfortune of being dispatched to explore its dubiously stocked aisles for some curtains for our new home.

As an aside, I would like to make it clear that The Special One had rightly not trusted me with making an aesthetics-based selection on my own – asking me to pick out appropriate curtains would be akin to asking Joseph Goebbels to judge the prestigious Humanitarian of the Year contest. But even I couldn’t mess up picking up some pre-selected curtains.

Inevitably the course of true drapery never runs smooth, and having discovered that the store only had four of the aforementioned curtains, I looked around for somebody who could help me. I can only assume that nearby staff had seen me piling into the racks of carpets with befuddlement and frustration on my face, as by the time I glanced up, I could have been forgiven for believing that an announcement over the loudspeaker regarding an imminent outbreak of anthrax had caused all employees to scatter to the four winds.

Now, at this point, I should point out that the staff of “Century 22” all wear a badgebutton on their uniforms reading something along the lines of “I care – just ask me!”. So when I finally found somebody, I gave a winning smile and asked if she could check to see if they had any more curtains in stock. The response of “you’ll need to find somebody in drapery, I work in homeware” was almost certainly coquettish flirtation, although the fact that she turned on her heels and walked off would seem to be playing too hard to get, if you ask me.

After five minutes of wandering around, a manager finally and reluctantly disappeared off to a computer before returning to tell me triumphantly that they had fourteen more sets in stock, and introduced me to a colleague who would help me find them.

Which is when I met the true hero of the story. As long as the story we’re talking about is “How To Turn Customers Into Mortal Enemies”.

We’ll call our hero Marcus. Largely because that’s his name. When it came to ‘effectiveness’ being handed out, Marcus was infront of the mirror preening himself and making sure he could still fit into his skinny jeans. And let’s just say that he hasn’t exactly taken out a lifelong subscription to Enthusiasm Monthly, either.

After five minutes of sorting through the entire curtain stock of the store (something I had done myself in around three minutes flat), Marcus went back to the computer to check that a mistake hadn’t been made. On his puzzled return, he spent ten minutes repeating the entire process once more. And then he disappeared upstairs to check the stockroom.

By this point I’d already been in the store for half an hour, and there was a vague chance that the smoke coming out of my ears could have set off the sprinkler system. But safe in the knowledge that returning home with new curtains would bring a smile to The Special One’s face, I swallowed my impatience, and hung around pretending to be interested in pillowcases.

Twenty minutes later, and there was still no sign of Marcus. Store customers couldn’t get access to the kitchen appliance or luggage sections, such was the unbearable angry heat radiating from my cheeks and making it impossible to get within twenty feet of me.

And then I saw him. Marcus. Standing and laughing with some colleagues near the bathroom towels, about thirty yards away. My guess is that they weren’t discussing curtains. I’d go as far as to say that he would have struggled to tell you what a curtain was at that precise moment. As I approached with my face full of thunder, I began thinking of all the things I would say to him to make sure he never treated a customer like that again. I was almost looking forward to it.

Then I realised that I was English, and meekly asked him if he’d found anything. He told me that he’d have one last look through the stock on display. You know, just in case. And I let him. Fifteen minutes later – an hour or so after my arrival – I left emptyhanded, having thanked him for all his help.

I showed him who’s boss, I can tell you.

The red tape of parenthood (aka “I’m drowning, not waving”)

I promise that normal service will resume shortly, working on the assumption that all babies sleep for 12 continuous hours every single night after the age of 1 month, right?

Anyway, you’ll no doubt be delighted to know that things are calming down at Casa del Brit Out Of Water, although to be honest it would have been difficult for things to get any rockier. After all, there can’t be many newborns who have their first trip out of the house to move house, the second to be rushed to hospital, and the third to go to a funeral. But we always knew that she was going to be special, I guess.

What isn’t so special is the administrative black hole that you immediately fall into as soon as you have a child. Never (knowingly) having had a baby in the UK, I’m not sure what the red tape situation is over there. But frankly as I alluded to in the last post, the paperwork nightmare that is childbirth in the US is enough to convince anybody that one son or daughter is plenty enough, thank you very much. From trying to convince a pharmacy that your doctor didn’t write a prescription for a non-existent child, to persuading your healthcare providers to not send letters addressed to Newborn Child Jones, it’s far from easy to plot your way through the minefield of technicalities and odd requests.

That said, nothing can be as odd as the sheet that has to be filled in immediately after your child is born.

I have filled in some ridiculous forms in my time. And yes, Inland Revenue, I’m looking at you. But nothing can prepare you for the glorious majesty of the “mother’s worksheet” element of the New York birth registration form. It’s the document that is used to put together your child’s birth certificate, so in many ways, it’s pretty important. But when you’re handed the form by your midwife mere moments after the birth of your daughter, and you’re holding a glass of champagne in your hand, it’s kind of difficult to digest some of the questions you get asked.

Of course, there are the expected teasers such as child’s name, mother’s name, date of birth, social security number etc etc. But just after they’ve got you warmed up, they throw in a few corkers.

For a start, they want to know the mother’s ancestry – the nationality, lineage or country which the mother or her ancestors were born in prior to coming to the US. For clarity, even if your family has been in America for a couple of hundred years, you can only put down “American” if you are of native American extraction. Apparently the response should reflect what the mother considers herself to be, and is not based on the percentage of ancestry of any given parent or grandparent. Anyway, don’t tell The Special One, but I put down that she’s British. I mean, she’s been to Old Trafford and she’s been on the London Eye, so surely that’s enough?

Next they want the weight of the mother at birth, and the weight of the mother pre-pregnancy. Now, I’ve only been married for two years, but even I know that you never EVER even mutter the actual weight of your wife, let alone put it down on paper. I can only assume that this question has been placed on the form as a nasty little trick against men. Any unwitting new father who – in the adrenaline rush of the moments immediately post-birth – writes down any figure that is not at least 25% under the actual weight, will find himself sleeping on the sofa until their son or daughter is approaching university.

Somewhat easier, but still perplexing, is the question on whether any illicit drugs were taken by the mother during pregnancy. Among the options are heroin, cocaine, methadone, and methamphetamine. You’ve got to appreciate the effort, but do we really see anybody fessing up to a weekly freebase and the occasional snort of charlie?

Sadly on the question regarding whether the mother had swollen or bleeding gums during her pregnancy, there was no answer box marked “it’s none of your sodding business really, is it?” for me to tick. And on the question regarding whether the mother was at all depressed (‘a little depressed’, ‘moderately depressed’, ‘very depressed and did not receive help’ or ‘very depressed and did receive help’), can I make it clear that any mother who ticks ‘not depressed at all’ must surely have either high tolerance for discomfort, or else made full use of the narcotic options mentioned earlier.

One last question stood out, asking “Thinking back to just before you were pregnant, how did you feel about becoming pregnant.” The four options given are as follows (with my commentary in italics):

1. You wanted to be pregnant sooner (but my joke of a husband was firing blanks, and it took me a while to find a new tennis coach)
2. You wanted to be pregnant then (back THEN I wanted to be pregnant, but boy would I change my mind after the last nine months of hell)
3. You wanted to be pregnant later (what do you mean, condoms have only a 98% success rate?)
4. You didn’t want to be pregnant then or at any time in the future (if it hadn’t been for those 16 vodka cranberries and the glint in the fireman’s eyes, I wouldn’t be stuck with this thing or that stupid lump of a man…hold on, my children don’t get to read these comments in the future do they?)

Can someone tell me what use any of these statistics are? My guess is that the public relations industry lobbied hard to include them, simply so that it creates a much-needed job for a PR flunkey who gets to issue an annual press release saying that 27% of New York babies are unwanted accidents.

Oh, and one thing the form makes very clear is that the father is of no importance whatsoever in this process. All they want to know is his name, date and place of birth, and social security number. Essentially it’s a case of ‘who are you, and can you pay for this thing?’ No questions about depression, nothing about my ancestry, and not even a passing interest in the state of my gums.

To be fair, I’m kind of glad they didn’t ask about my pre- and post-pregnancy weight. It’s not easy eating for two, you know.

New York City: it’s not that scary

The night before I came to New York for the first time, I cried my eyes out. In part this was because I was leaving my first important girlfriend behind, and didn’t have the age or experience to understand that “three months apart = being cheated on within six weeks”. But at the same time, I was upset because I was a smalltown boy for whom travelling to New York on his own would likely resort in near-instant death. Knowing that you’re almost certainly going to pop your clogs on foreign soil within 24 hours can be upsetting, as I’m sure you can probably imagine.

As it was, three or four beers under the radar of New York’s then-ridiculously lax licensing laws, and two Marlboro Reds hanging out of the window of my room, were enough to calm me down. I don’t even smoke, but cigarettes give you instant cool when you’re 18, until the moment you puke your guts up and suffer prolonged waves of self recrimination. Nonetheless, purchasing a soft pack of cancer sticks was enough to ward off evil spirits in my mind, and New York instantly seemed less threatening.

The fact is that New York just Isn’t That Scary. While it may be home to 8 million people and seem like a teeming metropolis, in many ways (like London) it’s just a collection of small villages and hamlets bound together by apartment blocks and corner shopsbodegas.

When you’re someone who cares about eating and drinking, of course, the problem is that there are so many great places to visit that you might never find, just because they happen to be off your beaten track or because they can’t afford an expensive PR agency. I’m almost certainly missing out on the greatest meal of my life right now, and all because Time Out has neglected to visit some Senegalese hole in the wall in the depths of Queens.

The flipside is that if you ever get the chance to wander, you’re bound to come across something good. And – as it turns out – all it takes is a failed sleepover to open your eyes to what New York has to offer.

Not that my sleepover had fallen apart, you understand. The Special One tends to frown on the concept of me having a sleepover, especially when it’s Drew Barrymore’s mummom who has called my mummom to see if I can come over to play for the night. But The Youngest is allowed much more flexibility, it would seem. Sadly when the birthday party sleepover turned out to be just a birthday party, it was me who was designated to make the long trip to The Middle of Nowhere to pick her up.

Fortunately the long walk to the aforementioned back of beyond began in Chinatown, and given that I had almost two hours to kill, that gave me plenty of time to explore. Luckily I remembered a blog post by NYC Girl Uninterrupted which had made me dream wistfully of dumplings for months. One visit to Prosperity Dumpling later (and only $1 lighter for the experience), and I had five delicious dumplings in a box in my hand. Admittedly ten minutes later I had lost most of the roof of my mouth to hideous third degree burns caused by the dumplings being kept at a temperature which suggested that they were the product of nuclear fission rather than the frying pan. But pain is so close to pleasure, and no more so than when your mouth is handling a perfect piece of pork and chive dumpling filling like a cross between foie gras and a small ball of molten lava.

Having sated myself on dumplings, I still had 45 minutes to kill, and so wandered randomly to find a coffee shop or bar I could while away the time in. The only place I could find in the area that was vaguely empty was The Ten Bells, a wine bar with blackboards and seating vaguely redolent of something you might find on a back street in Paris. Having taken a seat, and been poured a glass of Rioja by the guy behind the bar, I instantly felt at ease – and only mildly annoyed that I had missed their half-price oyster happy hour by a matter of minutes. Ah, the problems of the bourgeoisie…

As I sat reading a paper and drinking my wine, I reflected on the fact that the evening had been the perfect reminder of all that New York had to offer. Tiny little nooks and crannies filled with great food and drink – what’s not to like?

And then four annoying Sex & The City wannabes sat at the bar alongside me, were rude to the barman, and filled the air with inanity and self-obsession. My bubble was burst.

All idylls must come to an end it would seem, and for all it’s charms, New York’s just another city after all.

Clash of the titans

When it comes to sport, there’s no place for people who sit on the fence. I can understand people who don’t particularly like sport at all, but it’s the sports fans that can’t quite bring themselves to pick a team that are weirder to me. Yes, I know that in a ideal chocolate box utopia where the world is governed by cute little puppies, sport should be about the Olympic ideals and the dignity of sportsmanship. But this ain’t no utopia, and when it comes to sport, tribalism and the desire to win lead the way.

The thing is, I love a sporting rivalry; the above-and-beyond enmity and loathing that exists between two teams, sometimes than for a reason that was forgotten decades ago. The kind of competition between two fierce rivals that has fans of both teams thinking of little else for the week before they clash, and which causes the losers to slink off with their tails between their legs resolving not to read the sports pages for at least a month.

Britain does sporting rivalries particularly well. In cricket, there can be little more exciting than a clash between England and Australia, even if the only thing at stake is a tiny urn containing a bit of burnt wood. Infact, so strong is the rivalry that the avid English supporters known as the Barmy Army (or, as I prefer to call them, the ‘Public School Oiks With Too Much Time On Their Hands After Daddy Died And Left Them A Castle’) have landed themselves in deep water for attempting to put the Aussie captain Ricky Ponting off his game with booing and some polite inquiries into the exact nature of his parentage.

Then there’s England vs Scotland (or indeed England vs Wales) in the rugby – a rivalry more explained by England’s political domination of its two smaller mainland United Kingdom territories. After all, when it’s still effectively legal in my native Chester to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow after nidnight, it’s not hard to understand why the Welsh and Scottish might get a little hot under the collar about a sporting chance to redress the balance.

It’s football (or, as I have to insist on calling it in the US, football) where the fiercest rivalries exist. Up and down the land, local rivalries such as Portsmouth & Southampton, Norwich & Ipswich, Chester & Wrexham, Sheffield United & Sheffield Wednesday, and Newcastle United & Sunderland all exist to fill newspaper column inches and the minds of those who support one or the other.

For me though, the fiercest rivalry is that between Manchester United and Liverpool. I mean, I would say that, given that the pain of being a sixteen year old in the away end at Anfield watching my beloved United taking a 4-0 beating at the hands of Liverpool still hurts to this day twenty years later. I’ve sung more songs about my inner contempt for Liverpool supporters (mostly people I’ve never met, let’s remember) than I’ve eaten bags of fish and chips. And let me tell you, I’ve eaten a lot of fish and chips.

Put simply, United fans and Liverpool fans hate each other, and never the twain shall meet. Apart from in the home of my (Liverpool supporting) sister and her (much more sensible and United supporting) husband, obviously.

And to be fair, I’d never have it any other way.

Here in the United States, the level of rivalry in sports just isn’t there. Sure, there are college sports rivalries, and occasional local tensions, but nothing that would inspire more than a vague “Rangers suck” cry in a crowded bar; presumably a reference to the quality of New York’s ice hockey team rather than the sexual proclivities of the state’s country park guardians.

Part of that comes from the fact that there’s really no such thing as ‘away support’ in American sport. Sure, people expatriated from their home city might put in an appearance when their team swings into their new town, but there’s no away section and fans of both teams sit together in relative harmony. Apart from when one or other has had a few Bud Lights too many, obviously. Fortunately the New York Knicks haven’t hosted a game against the Chester Jets yet, so I haven’t seen a need to test the theory out too closely.

There is, however, one rivalry that seems pretty deep rooted – the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. So, feeling the need for some sporting tension this week – and, more importantly, acutely aware that impending fatherhood means that there will soon be more chance of me being invited to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world than spend a night drinking beer and watching sport – I grabbed a ticket for the Red Sox trip to the new Yankee Stadium to witness the battle for myself.

The sad thing was, the rivalry was muted at best. Sure, there was the occasional t-shirt alluding to the fact that there was never a curse of Babe Ruth and that the Red Sox had actually just sucked for 86 years. But apart from the occasional boo for a Boston player, or a jeer directed at a Red Sox-hatted fan, it could barely have been more harmonious. Of course, it helped that the Yankees battered the Red Sox, although that merely seemed to empty out the stadium way before the end of the game.

Thankfully though, order was restored an innings before the end of the game. A young guy mistakenly walked up the wrong staircase after a visit to the bathroom, and looked around confusedly for his friends who were actually a whole section away. Enjoying his mistake, a crowd of Yankees fans roundly booed and jeered him, and sent him scuttling back to his own seat with his tail between his legs.

Some people would say it was the baseball cap with Boston’s logo on it that caused the heated treatment. But I know that it was actually his t-shirt.

After all, you can’t expect to wear a Liverpool football shirt in public and get away with it.

Have yourself a telly little Christmas

You know, there’s only 351 days until Christmas now, which means that some shops over here will be just about ready to put up their decorations. As I’m keen as always to fit in around these parts, I figured I’d get my Christmas blog post in early this year.

You see, as far as I’m concerned, Christmas is all about tradition. Wherever you spend the festive season, and whoever you spend it with, it’s the longstanding or quirky yuletide customs that make the Christmas experience so unique wherever you are.

Back in the UK, She Who Was Born To Worry and I had a tradition of cooking the turkey on Christmas Eve, and indulging in a restorative turkey sandwich (yes it had butter on it, people) somewhere around midnight. Boxing Day always sees the family gather together for food, fireworks and games. And the EU wine lake is always a little bit less likely to overflow by the end of the holiday.

Here in the United States, Christmas with The Special One still has its own fair share of traditions. Apparently prawnsshrimp always gets served on Christmas Eve, and trifle is an essential part of the post-Christmas meal experience. If this year is anything to go by, a huge amount of lugging and DIY is integral to the experience, with furnace repair perhaps being some kind of contorted tribute to the handyman skills of that bloke who was born (coincidentally) on Christmas Day.

Still, the levels of the American wine lake are certainly always lower after the holidays, so some things never change.

When it comes down to it, the festive season is a happy time wherever you are in the world. But for a Brit moving to the States, it still comes as a culture shock to find that Christmas is a fundamentally TV-free zone.

TV is an essential part of the Christmas experience in the UK. Special one-off editions of all the big shows litter the schedules, and blockbuster movies get their TV premiere over the period. Chat shows get the hottest A-list stars, and celebrities fall over themselves to get on one-off quiz show specials. And Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a Bond movie.

Maybe it’s not particularly community-oriented, but in the UK, Christmas is televised.

While Britain huddles around the gogglebox, America gathers around the fire. Despite being obsessed by television all year-round, America largely forgets about it over the Christmas period. I’m sure there probably are TV specials, but they’re less advertised than the big new shows that are starting in January. Conversation seems more important than the extra-long edition of Gavin & Stacey, or the premiere of the Wallace & Gromit movie. Spending time with your family apparently takes precedence over Only Fools & Horses. Eating, drinking and cavorting is seemingly more essential to an American Christmas than watching a look back on 25 years of Blackadder.

Put simply, at Christmas, in the US at least, ‘living life’ appears to be put before television. Baffling, I know.

Next they’ll be deciding that being nice to your neighbours or playing with your kids is more important than watching telly. It’s a slippery downhill slope, America.

Two people divided by a couple of pieces of bread

Whether it’s a sarnie, a butty, a filled bap or a crusty cob, I’ve mentioned before that I love a sandwich. And I’m fairly evangelical in my love of the bread-based snack product. So much so that I’ve even managed to convince The Special One to try (and enjoy) pre-packaged grated cheese and onion sandwiches.

However, our recent trip to the UK has revealed that there will always be a couple of essential differences between the two of us when it comes to the fine art of the sandwich. We’re working through it in counselling now, but I thought it was best to share the information with the group, so that fellow transatlantic partners don’t have to go through the same trauma. May our hell be your salvation.

1. All sandwiches, regardless of type of bread, filling or chosen condiment, start from essentially the same point from my perspective: remove bread from packaging, and slather in butter. This is not optional. The only exception to this rule is peanut butter, but given that peanut butter should never be used under any circumstances (least of all on a sandwich) so that shouldn’t pose any problems. Weirdly the only sandwich which The Special One has ever used butter on is a peanut butter sandwich. There’s no accounting for taste. Or indeed, lack thereof.

Oh, and for the record, mayonnaise is not butter in a creamy white disguise. It is therefore not a butter replacement and should never be considered as such.

2. Apparently cheese’n’onion crisps may be considered by some to be an unacceptable sandwich filling. Likewise sage and onion stuffing, on some arcane principle that putting a breadcrumb-based product between two slices of bread is somehow ‘bread overkill’. I fervently disagree. Carbohydrates have their place, and that place is ‘on my sandwich, thank you very much.’

The tragedy is that despite these two foibles, The Special One is comfortably the greatest sandwich maker in America, and a definite contender for the world crown. Her ability to make a sandwich that satisfies to the very last bite continues to astonish me. Clearly we have had to compromise though. The compromise that works for me is that on the occasions she makes me a sandwich, I get her to tell me that she’s put butter on it. I then don’t open up the sandwich to check that she’s telling the truth, for fear that the grim reality might cause me to stop eating it. If a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy can work for the US military, it can damn well work for me.

In the right place at the right time

I always used to think that I was in the habit of being in the right place at the right time. After all, I managed to meet The Special One despite the logistical difficulties posed by the fact that I was living and working in the UK while she was blissfully unaware of my existence on the other side of the Atlantic in New York. I’ve met some of my best friends through complete randomness, including Scottish Sally who merely called to book an advert when I happened to be staying late on the newspaper I was working on, and has been a lifelong friend ever since. And some of the best jobs I’ve ever had have been the result of conversations that might never have happened if circumstances had been even slightly different.

Of course, I was less lucky when having my lights punched out in Cambridge ten years ago, but on the whole I can’t really complain.

However, since moving to the United States, it seems that I am actually always in the wrong place at the right time, permanently destined to miss every big moment that the United States has to offer. When America celebrated its independence on July 4, for instance, I was flying out to Europe for a summer holidayvacation, missing the fireworks and festivities. When Barack Obama won the presidential election, I was sitting on a sofa in South London. And when he heads to Washington for the inauguration next month, I’ll be sitting in Heathrow Airport waiting for the next leg of a flight home from the South of France.

It’s a similar story with this blog. I wrote my 200th post on a flight away from the US for work. For the year anniversary of starting the blog, and the year anniversary of moving to New York, I was in the UK. And today’s my 500th day out of water, so sure enough I’m 3458 miles from my adopted home city, and will be celebrating the dawn of 2009 five hours sooner than East Coast residents.

Rather than, maybe I should see if is available instead?

Happy New Year, everyone.