Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Visit to The Colonies

Having returned to The Old World in February, I ventured out to see family in Canada (one of Pam's cousins) and then onto Florida to see my own kin. The flight to Canada was awful, some girl of about 5 kept nattering the whole flight, in a very loud squeaky voice. I was tempted to fix her vocal cords, but the plastic cutlery was not strong enough. But, once arrived, it was nice to see the sun! It has forgotten to come out here in the UK for two months now.
The first job was to get some beer. In Ontario, beer is only available in beer stores, run by the government. You usually go up to the (only) cashier, and order what you want. They will go out of a door, and the beer appears on a conveyor belt type of thing. The cost is almost on a par with beer in the UK - expensive, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. These beer store employees are on a par with rabid alligators when it comes to manners and demeanor. They must be related to government workers in the UK. They are called 'civil servants' here in the UK. Both words are oxymoronic in their world.
I digress. I got the beer. I then went to an ATM to get some cash. My bank in the UK declined my card. Once settled into my abode, I called the bank in the UK using the number on the back of the card. Spoke to some guy in Mumbai. He put me on hold so that I could talk to the correct person. This holding pattern lasted 11 minutes - all at my expense of course, but he did assure me that the call would go through. Eventually, I spoke to another guy in India. By now the quality of the line was abominable, and it was very difficult to understand him. The gist was that they'd noticed I'd tried to make a withdrawal in Canada, and as I hadn't told the bank that I was visiting Canada, they'd canceled the card. Best not to put into print what my reply was in case children might read this, but I did ask when did they decide that I needed to tell them of my travels. Pulling teeth from a hen in heat would have been easier. I was lucky, I could still transfer funds to my wife's account, who could then withdraw money. Her card had been cloned the week before, so they knew she was on the road.
In the meantime, we went for a meal, and I tried to pay with a credit card. Declined. Turns out this one (from a US bank) had been cloned, and a new one issued a few days previously. As it is a US bank, the card had been sent to my US address (I'm not allowed to have the card using a UK address). The new card was sitting at my daughter's house, waiting to be activated. Fortunately, I had another credit card, but I'm beginning to think that the best way of traveling is to carry wads of the real thing. Plus a 44 Magnum.
I made it to Niagra Falls, and duly lost $40 at the Casino. But it was nice to be there as I met up with the widow of my old buddy Bob who passed away a couple of months back. Joyce and Bob moved to Ashtabula, Ohio about a year back, which is only about a two hour drive from Niagra. I still miss Bob, he and I used to chew the fat a couple of times a week over a few brews. When he retired a few years back, he bought a PC, and became one the most knowledgable amateurs I've ever met. He was good. (Worth mentioning that Rik saved his life story which Bob had written and somehow managed to delete!) He and I were known the Grumpy Old Men where we lived. Very appropriate. Bob was also an avid reader. He would read history books, science books etc and could ingest the knowledge where I could only marvel at his ability to understand the big words. He was chief security officer at a casino in Vegas at one time. Told me about a lot of tricks that people get up to. RIP Bob. You're sorely missed.
I also managed to meet up with an expert blogger - Ricardipus himself. A terrific guy, and he showed me around his place of work. An excellent time was had chatting and sorting out the woes of almost every country in the world. Except France.
He's a great guy, and added to this was the fact that he spent a year in N Wales when a lad in short trousers. We discussed why the Canadians insist on placing all signs in French and English. Even where no one speaks French. We also discussed why they went metric. Bad move in my view.
Then off to Florida. God's own country. Having lived in, or experienced many countries, I still believe that the US is the best country in the world. Many people berate Dubya, but despite the politicians, the country is still great! I fear that if Obama wins, things will dramatically change. (Enter Joy with rebuttal... In my defence, the Dems should have chosen Hillary. She did get more votes after all. I fear that Joy and I will finally agree on something!)
Unfortunately, another flight to Florida spoilt by screaming infants. But my daughter and granddaughter were there to meet us! We spent 4/5 glorious days, sitting outside on the beach, getting sunburnt, and generally enjoying the heat. It was 91 which I believe is about 32 in new money, or Civilized as my Antipodean friend would say. It was great on Sunday to get an opportunity to drink beer, watch the game (the Bucs won in overtime) and meet up with the old gang. A lot of my old buddies turned up at my daughter's house. My son-in-law and I sang a few songs while I was there. We do that. Make the words as we go along. The tune is irrelevant. Maybe we sould be on one of these talent shows, maybe not. My granddaughter is delightful. Most people who know me know that I have a passionate dislike of children and babies, but this little girl is like my grandson - special. Cute too, well, I guess taking after her grandfather.... Maybe I'm mellowing in my old age.
The flight back to the UK was the worst ever. An infant cried solidly for over six hours. The child was obviously distressed, and the parents had no idea how to calm the child down. I wondered if the child was really theirs. The proffered food was an Indian Curry, complete with onions and garlic. About 30% of the passengers were Asian, so I suspect this concotion was to their delight. However, not all Asian food is ruined by these ingredients. At least the bread was edible.
The pilot and crew were from 'Keybeck'. No one on the flight could not understand English, so the need for French was superfluous. It would not be so bad if the crew spoke French, but the accent that the Keybecks pass off as French is not French.
Upon landing, it was 3 degrees Civilized. Or very uncivilized after 91 in Florida....
Now to enjoy the trauma that is jetlag. I swear that once I hit 40 (in hexadecimal), it has gotten worse. But I have the Internet to amuse me at all hours.
Here endeth today's lesson.