Robin Hood Stateside

We have just been invited to visit America by some friends. Naturally we are thrilled at the possibility and it has produced a flourish of internet activity by my wife and I looking for info on holidaying in Florida.

Mrs M started her search by looking for clothing recommendations for sub-tropical climes and then planning shopping expeditions to prepare for the adventure.

I, on the other hand, wanted to ensure that I was ahead of the game when it comes to all things guitar related; this is after all the home of the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Strat.

Visiting a new place has all the potential for both adventure and culture shock so we are right to prepare.

Some years ago we became friends with an American couple living in the UK. They were stationed here by the USA air force and were determined to make the most of their time here in Blighty.

As part of their induction they were given instruction on how to understand British culture. Needless to say the details were wildly general and over stated.

One of the main areas of confusion was related to the amount of space we live in; or lack of it. Whereas stateside they have the luxury of almost 10 million square kilometres on which to house their 300 million inhabitants, we have only a quarter of a million km for our 60 million residents; hence their conception that we are a densely populated isle with very little room to move.

There are times, when stuck in traffic at the Saltaire round-a-bout, that I feel there assessment may be correct.

Still we are heading across the pond to see the land of the free; I wonder what mistaken views we might have built up over the years.

I tend to think of long dusty roads and small one-street towns, but then I grew up watching old western movies. I know too that there are skyscrapers and yellow taxis, as well as large canyons and giant redwood trees.

Of course we get most of our views from the movies and the TV so it is hardly surprising that we believe certain inaccuracies. Hollywood, and perhaps Elstree too, have a lot to answer for here.

Some years ago Kevin Costner treated us to his Nottinghamshire/Californian accent whilst playing Robin Hood in a major motion picture.

Other than the stars verbal mismatch the film holds tight to historical accuracy by showing Costner and Morgan Freeman returning to England via the White Cliffs of Dover then, after walking along Hadrian’s Wall, arriving at Sherwood Forest; the only way to travel through this land I think.

I hope our journey to Florida doesn’t take equally preposterous diversions. In order to fit in I might practice my east coast accent (Florida not Norfolk). Well it can’t be any worse than Robin Hood sounding like a prairie cattle rancher.

Whichever way we travel I must try to avoid the Saltaire round-a-bout.

Credit Crunch

In these days of our credit being crunched we all have to make little sacrifices. I for example am committed to making sure that we consume all of the food in the house before we shop for more.

When I announced my plan to the female members of the family it was treated with a high degree of derision.

I don’t know what they are complaining about we did this every year when we went camping; its amazing how breakfast cereal can bulk out a curry on the last night of a holiday.

I searched through the kitchen and found several tins that seemed to have been in the cupboard for years; mackerel fillets, pears, luncheon meat, sweet corn, and kidney beans. I can’t remember the last time I bought sweet corn and yet there always seems to be a tin in the cupboard.

I have to admit that I couldn’t find a suitable recipe to include them all so we had an omelette made with the eggs that were seconds from their sell by date.

For dessert I offered them crushed ginger snap biscuits heated with butter, topped with ice cream and toffee sauce, which everyone agreed, proved a great success.

During my search I discovered a new taste sensation that the rest of the family were quick to turn their noses up at. It was a combination of two of my favourite tastes that, coincidently, the rest of the family cannot abide.

Liquorice pieces dipped in Marmite.

I accept that some of you will be immediately disgusted by such a thought. But there will be some, just a few, who will find the whole idea intriguing and will be rushing to the kitchen to test it out.

My wife, ever the wit, patted me on my extra sized tummy and questioned whether it was pregnancy cravings.

I have a friend who has admitted to also being conscious of the need to make savings in their weekly grocery bill. He has, however, upset his wife in the process.

Being a keen fisherman he knows the intricacies of finding the best bate for successful angling. He slipped up by admitting that although he has made the sacrifice of buying the cheapest sweet corn for the family cupboard he has continued to buy the premium brand for his favourite hobby.

It seems that saving money is important but we all need the opportunity of making a luxury decision now and again. In light of this I suggested that each family member had the chance to nominate a couple things that would not be sacrificed as part of our economy drive.

The list included such minor luxuries as coffee and breakfast cereal but there were a few items that the female members of clan Molineaux were agreed on: Tomato Sauce, Shampoo, and Tea bags.

As for me; I was happy to concede that although most value options were worth trying I was adamant that neither Marmite nor liquorice would be sacrificed. I have my standards!

A Spot of Sun

What do we British do when we wake up to the sun shining on a Sunday morning in late winter? Well mostly we get on with the usual things because we can’t quite believe it is happening.

My memory might be playing tricks on me but all I can recall from youth is weekends of ‘rain stops play’ followed by Wednesday afternoons of occasional sunshine. If the sun did try to peek through the clouds my mother would insist on making me wear a hat so that I didn’t get sunstroke; I ask you sunstroke on the edge of the Pennines.

So this Sunday we were all surprised to see that we were presented with a pleasant day. We went for a walk in order not to miss the moment and enjoyed the experience of passing weather related comments with neighbours and strangers alike.

“What a lovely day!” we would exclaim as if taking some credit for the arrival of the sun.

We used this phrase millions of times during our stroll towards fellow strollers making the most of the early spring like day and when I say millions I mean several.

Without exception the response was the same from other happy Yorkshire dwellers; ‘Yes! But is due to get worse tomorrow!’

It was amazing, we get one pleasant day in the midst of the grey and we can/t allow ourselves to enjoy it for the thought that the next day might be a more gloomy picture.

My wife, who has just been to see a film called ‘Confessions of a shopaholic’, took this temperature rise as an excuse to look at her wardrobe and make plans for buying apparel suitable for warmer climes.

In a few weeks time we will be off to the USA to visit friends and she has already exclaimed several times that she doesn’t possess any Florida type clothing. I asked for explanation of what might count as suitable for such holiday-wear but none was forthcoming, except for the usual “I’ll know it when I see it”.

In her search to travel abroad correctly equipped, Mrs M is hampered by our general lack of belief in hot weather. And so it is that, at the same time as looking for vacation garments, she is planning to include in our suitcases items that will keep us warm if the temperature should drop.

Think about it for a moment; we are travelling to an area noted for its sunshine and this English couple are planning for the possibility of a cold snap.

I wonder if when we get there we will feel the need to comment on the weather with the Americans that we meet. One thing is for sure they are highly unlikely to reply with comments about the conditions getting worse. But just in case we are not going without some handy thermals, after all you never know!

Plastic Bag Crimes

I am not sure what is happening but shopping has become a lot harder. Up until recently a quick trip to the local supermarket was just that; ‘quick’. Now, however, I am faced with a question at the end of the process that has put my head into a spin. ‘Do you want a carrier bag” says the till operator.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be sarcastic but what on earth do they think I am going to take my goods home in. I could possibly fit the toothpaste and paracetamol into my jeans pocket but I am not sure I have room for the two bottles of cola, six pork chops, and large bag of spuds.

Before I could even answer this question I was faced with another receptacle centred choice: ‘Would you like a bag for life?’ I was asked as if this were a perfectly normal part of the retail experience.

‘Well actually, I just want it long enough to get me home’ I stuttered wondering what other odd questions might be coming my way.

Apparently this is now the way of things in the world of supermarket shopping with all the major retailers eager to be seen as green when it comes to the public’s consumption of plastic bags.

Where as once upon a time the whole till area was covered in strewn plastic carriers we are now being encouraged to buy some higher quality ones before being reluctantly offer the wafer thin variety that are booby trapped to split just before you reach the boot of your car.

It seems that non-biodegradable plastic is today’s shopping equivalent of the lead in our petrol from a decade ago.

The bag for life schemes are aimed at getting lazy shoppers like me to bring our own carriers to the store so that we don’t continue to fill the world with plastic. Apparently if all the bags used by shoppers in one year were laid end to end they would still rip when you tried to carry two bottles of coke in them.

At first the rebel in me balked at the idea of being forced to think about whether I wanted a bag or not; usually because I am far too eager to end the whole shopping experience. The policy seems to be working because now I am starting to think for myself about my responsibility to the world around me. The fact that the supermarkets make you feel like a minor war criminal if you dare to turn up without the required carting equipment probably helps in this regard.

It started off as ‘Do you want a carrier bag?’ and then moved to ‘Do you want a bag for life?’

Soon, in true Oliver Twist meets Mr Bumble style, it will be ‘You want what!......A Plastic Bag!’

I suppose it is all part of life in the modern world where we are collectively influenced to live responsibly in all that we do. Apparently if I use too many plastic bags it has a direct effect upon the progress of global warming; so that explains why my two weeks holiday was so full of rain!

I went in a store recently that gave me the choice of a ten pence bag or a cardboard box at the end of the till. Ten Pence! That is a quarter of a chocolate bar. If I buy enough for the whole of my shopping I could end up spending a full pound with nothing but a clean environment to show for it.

All went well at first as I loaded my purchases into the box that was once used to transport detergent. Then, as I tried to retrieve my pound coin from the shopping trolley the bottom of the box gave way and all good spilt on to the floor.

At that moment I remember thinking that two shilling for a carrier bag didn’t seem that bad after all. Saving the planet is such hard work!