Thursday, 25 February 2010

Is Spring Here Yet?

The days are slowly getting longer but the temperatures don't seem to be increasing with it. My frustration at the slow change of seasons has been building for a while now. I am more than eager for the warm temperatures to return.

But I have another frustration, I am missing my creative energy. Most of you who have read this blog probably don't realise that for 11 years I was a garden designer and landscaper. For most of those years I loved every minute of it but then slowly I started putting my body under pressure by taking on too many jobs at one time, I had the habit of saying "yes" to a job before I'd worked out a way of finding time for it. Then I moved into the basement of a beautiful Scottish mansion rent free in exchange for cutting the lawns of the 8 acre garden.

It seemed a good idea at the time but the increased workload meant that my back gave out in a bad way and I had to give it up under doctors orders. 
Now that my back is stronger again and I've had to endure an enforced rest I really miss the opportunity that I had to use my creative juices and interact with clients.

Most of my clients usually had a fair idea of what they wanted their garden to look like but are overawed with the creative design process so they come to me to put their ideas on paper. It was sadly rare for a client to come to me and say 'do whatever you like'. I have to admit that I would have loved it if a client let me go wild with my ideas and gave me a budget to match but really that would be impractical for many reasons. Firstly I did not do the design for me, my designs were for the customer. Therefore I had to design something that appealed to them aesthetically. I also had to design a garden that suited their lifestyle. There was no point in designing a garden that involved a lot of maintenance if they weren't keen gardeners or if they worked two jobs and simply didn't have the spare time or energy to maintain it.
I don't believe in instant gardening, by that I mean I don't believe in buying specimen plants that are going to fill an area out. I believe that gardens should have a period of growth. Gardens evolve with time, they change with the seasons and mature.
The gardens I designed (unless it was a really small garden) usually took a period of 3 years to fill out and mature into the design I laid out on paper. Some gardens would even take up to 7 years to go through this gestation period. I tended to encourage my customers to spend less money on the big showy specimen plants that would instantly fill out the space and instead encourage them to spend the money on more plants that were smaller in size. There are advantages to this approach to gardening. With each passing season the garden will mature and change, giving my clients something new to see. An instant garden will always look the same, it might look beautiful but without change it may become stale and a few years down the road ripped out and started  afresh. Also if you buy smaller plants but buy more of them its looks more natural than just buying them in ones, twos and threes. Another advantage is that occasionally over time you see where plants might be better placed, its not so easy moving big plants about but not only that if your garden takes 3 years to mature it gives you 3 years or more to settle on the plan that you want and not one the designer wanted. A plan can look great on paper but doesn't always translate so well in practice, even designers can get it wrong sometimes. I always advised customers to look to nature to see what will work for their garden. Nature has a way of showing the designer who is boss, no one does it like nature. Now that a new Spring season is almost upon us I have taken the opportunity to make up some new adverts to try and get new work in a new country, wish me luck.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Cheap Weekends & Parents

One of the simple pleasures about living in the US is being able to spend a cheap weekend at the cinema. If we had spent the same Saturday paying the monthly bills back home in the UK there would have been no way I could have contemplated going to the cinema with SCW once, nevermind twice, on the Sunday. At a minimum of 12 pounds for two tickets we would probably put it off thinking about what else we might need to spend that money on the rest of the week. But the UK does not have the dollar theater.

2 cinema tickets for $2.50 is pretty good value in my book and when you are skint it doesn't break the bank too much. I can totally understand the temptation to take the family there for a cheap weekend, but taking a young family to see a movie like The Road would not be my choice. I try not to be too judgmental of how other parents bring up their kids but after seeing the previews to The Road whilst watching another movie there was no way I could have let a 3, 5, 7 and 8 year old watch this movie.  It turned out the film wasn't as terrifying as the previews made it look but I still think that for kids of that age and with it being rated R that it was a totally inappropriate film to watch with young children.

Good movie for adults though.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A Little Light Hearted Controversy

I'm going to talk about US politics in this post, sorry dear you might not want to read this one.

I am not going to pretend that I am understand American politics because I don't. I have one issue that I am interested in and the rest I couldn't give two hoots about to be honest. Even that one issue (health reform) I don't understand. As much as I try to make head or tail of the latest news regarding where health reform might be heading I cannot keep up with it. I am as confused as when I started taking an interest in it, maybe even more so.

The only thing I can safely say about US politics without fear of being wrong is that this time last year Obama was popular, this year, after a year of talking a lot but not being able to change very much, he isn't. I like Obama but I feel sorry for him. He's hampered by what the previous occupant of the White House let happen on his shift. I kind of admire Obama's willingness to look for consensus in everything he does, but I think he's living in another world if he thinks he can find some sort of consensus with the Republican party. I think American politics is too divided for that. If the Democrat party talks red, the Republican party shouts Blue, and vice versa.

Right now the Republican party doesn't want anything to pass the house, especially anything they might have to change when they get back into power and yet still Obama insists on moulding and remoulding the Health Care Bill into something they can work with. You've got to give him credit for his stubbornness, but what is he thinking?

I think he's forgot he's black. I think he's forgot that not only will some Republican voters never want to see a Democrat in office but there are also some Republicans that a livid that a black man made it to the White House. Some of those voters are still of the 1950s mindset that he's a 6 letter word beginning with n and ending in r and not to be trusted. These people are generally nice people but think just a little bit differently from the rest of us and Obama will never be able to get these people on board. These people won't use the race card very much, its not 1950 any more they can't get away with being so politically incorrect, so instead they will say something on CNN along the lines of Obama not being American (Hawaii's not a State apparently) or that he's a communist. Seriously? What's still to fear of communism? I thought communism was dying in 1959. About the only communist country that made a success of it and is still standing is China, and they, ironically, are propping this country up. But these are the people hoping that Palin is a serious presidential candidate next time around, despite the fact she is probably the only conservative that has ever had to write 'tax cuts' on her hand for a television question and answer session.

Personally I think Obama needs to talk less and forget about consensus and just get on with the job and do the things he thinks is right for the country. And he needs a makeover.

I also think he also needs more help from the black community. No one community has more to lose from Obama failing than the black community. There are too many white people in this country waiting to say "I told you so", but on the other end of the coin there is a large black population waiting to say "we told you so!"

Obama needs to start acting more black. I don't quite know what I mean about that. But he can afford to black it up a little safe in the knowledge some conservatives like those who run Fox News are never going to like him anyway no matter what he does. He needs to remember that the people he can rely on through good times and bad is the black community. Maybe he should call on the R&B industry and ask each star such as P Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Kanye West, and Beyonce to give up one member of their entourage for the good of the country. What's more Uncle Sam than Obama calling on for a little sacrifice from the R&B community for the good of the country?

Imagine if Obama had access to an army of big, black, bling wearing 'bodyguards' to call on when he needed some extra emphasis to his policies. Those bankers with the big bonuses would be in a hurry to make sure the banks paid back all the money they owed the country as soon as humanly possible. With muscle like that to back up his intentions I'd give it two weeks for the bank debt to be repaid.

And maybe then he could concentrate on a fairer health system for all.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Living The Latin Life 101

As a Scottish white male unfamiliar with the latin world I was unaware what I was letting myself in for in when I signed up for living with a latina. I didn't realise that I was entering a world that was going to be different from what I was used to. I didn't realise that I was entering a new world, one that would have its own unique benefits, and sometimes, unfortunate downsides. It's been an education. Heres some of what I've learned.

One thing I loved almost instantly was never having to having to fear the question "Does my butt look big in this?" I learned, and to be fair I learned it pretty quickly, that there is a right answer to that question, when a latina asks it. Because in the latina world big butts are good. Those that don't have one, envy those that do. Those that do, shake it proud.

That's just a couple of advantages of living with a latina over a white girl. In my case I got lucky too in that she's hot. I mean seriously hot. I'm not. I am totally fine with that, I got the better deal and I'm selfish enough to not give a damn. It feels good to have other guys checking out my wife as we walk past. Mexican guys (and it usually is) can look all they like but shes with me. I ain't going to lie its good for my ego. I had to wait a long time for this and I am going to enjoy it for all its worth.

I never once think when another guy is checking her out that she might leave me for him. I'm comfortable in where we are as a couple, she loves me, I love her, I ain't got any worries. When guys check her out it just makes me smile because they are usually so obvious about it. To me its funny, we are almost always walking together hand in hand, sometimes hand on butt, and still they will look her up and down. I know that there is no way that she would be interested in a guy like that.

I learned early on that she has a jealous streak.

I had never had that before. It was funny, she's way hotter than me if anyone should be possessive it should be me. For like a week it was flattering. After about 8 days it was starting to get exhausting. The crazy thing is she has nothing to jealous about, I am all over her. I never look at other women, I don't need to, she does the looking for me. Meantime I'll be blissfully unaware. I'll be enjoying spending some time together in a park, listening to the birds in the trees, thinking everything but the sharp Utah grass stabbing my butt is wonderful. Then I will sense that the wife is getting short with something I have said and I realise that el diablo has started the process of taking over my wife.

I always imagined the devil to be a big guy. I didn't see him coming in the form of a 5ft 3 inch latina woman. My mistake. I now know for sure that when Ricky Martin sings she looks like a flower but she stings like a bee that I ain't alone. Latinas are jealous creatures, possessive and maybe slightly crazy when el diablo takes root.

I have tried my damnedest to understand the jealous thing. I thought at first maybe it was especially powerful at a certain time in the month so I tried timing it nope. I thought maybe it was times when I was less touchy feely so I tried that to see if I could control the beast. But that old green eyed monster always seems to come bursting out of when I'm not expecting it. I have since been convinced the creator behind the Incredible Hulk had a jealous Latina wife and substituted his wife for a man and added the ingrediant of gamma radiation so that she didn't catch on to his moment of inspiration. In my frustration I have tried to analyse it but the jealousy thing is like the Spanish language it gets lost in translation. About the only thing I do know is 1 can never look at someone else.

Most important rule to remember when in love with a latina, she is number one, don't look away! She has told me that the signs were there from the beginning, things I have written in this blog before I even knew her have bit me in the ass since, but love is blind I didn't see it coming.

I love latinos, if it wasn't for latinos I probably would not have anyone to speak to in this country. Gringos look at me like I am speaking another language when I open my mouth. Latinos know I am speaking another language but they don't give up trying to understand me. And then there is the good food.

However Latinos are also blunt. Scots are blunt too, so that's all good. Chileans though take bluntness to a whole new level. Chileans, always, have an opinion. In the company of Chileans you will get crap for being fat, or crap for being skinny, and there is no in between. You are damned either way. Someone makes an assessment and everyone joins in with the jibes. Sitting at a table with Chileans is like being the ball of a pin ball machine, until it is some other poor sods turn. Some of the comments that go flying around the table can be down right mean, but its love.

When I am out with my adopted family you will mostly find me parked at my wife's butt. It's like a family joke that I am her shadow. I admit it I pretty much am. I'm crazy about the girl. But as much as I love her, it might not be the only reason for my behaviour.

Another reason might be I observed early on in our walks around the latin mall that if you say the wrong thing, or someone says the wrong for you on your behalf you are liable to get hit. Not necessarily by the person who is most the offended but more likely by the person situated nearest to you at the time. With this observation I probably unconsciously decided that it was best that if I was going to get hit I may as well be hit by someone who I could at least have a conversation with. 11 and half months later and I am still her shadow. That might say something about how much I love her or how much my Spanish sucks. Or both. I'm trying to figure it out myself.

Monday, 8 February 2010

It Might Take Me Some Time Before I Can Become Accepted As An Honorary American

The game was good, once I got into it. That wasn't until the 3rd quarter when the game was nearing its climax. By the time the 4th quarter was done I was wondering if the Saints quarterback had any Scots heritage and could be persuaded to play at No 10 for Scotland, maybe then we might have someone who could dictate some decent play against the French.

As much as I enjoyed the second half. The first half was a struggle. I watched it, but it was struggling to keep my attention. Too much stopping and starting for my liking. 48 minutes of adverts for a game that is supposed to last 60 minutes was just too alien for me. I half suspect that the stoppages in the game are just so that some of the larger players can stock up in extra burgers and fries so that they have a little extra weight in which to hit their opposite number for six, sadly I can't prove this theory because the adverts got in the way of showing that element of the game.

Speaking of adverts.

I get the the need for the adverts, it pays for the game - but when there is 48 minutes of adverts during the game who is going to watch the program that comes after that shows the story behind the adverts? Seriously!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Tomorrow I'll Be Going All American

Tomorrow will be the first time I will be able to watch the Superbowl on US soil. It might also be the first in a long time that I will be able to watch all the way to the end without falling asleep. That's no slight against the sport it's just whenever I've watched it in the past its been on tv at somewhere between 1 and 5 in the morning. With work (or school, in the years before that) to go to later that same morning I usually found myself nodding off by the end of the 3rd quarter. Just when its getting exciting.

I blame the half time entertainment for that. It's just not something that Brits are used to in the middle of our sports.

When I was younger I used to get excited over who was going to perform the half time entertainment but then with too many years of the hype and expectation being greater than the performance have left me feeling that that part of the Superbowl experience has fallen a bit flat. I half suspect that some of the performers are overwhelmed by the occasion.

The half time entertainment of the Superbowl reminds me of the early hours of Live Aid when some of the early performers were doing ok but really doing nothing spectacular. What I would love to see is a Freddie Mercury type of performance and the occupants of the stadium be blown away. Instead I end up just longing for the game to restart. This year I have heard all about the advert controversies but I don't even know who is going to be performing at half time. And that's the way I like it.

If I'm honest I'm not really into American Football. It's a little too slow and stop/start for me. I don't have a favourite. However the Superbowl is one of the few sports I can sit down and just enjoy as an outsider. I'm completely neutral, I just want to see a good game.

I can't say that for the other sport I am enjoying this weekend. Thanks to BBC America I can watch the Six Nations Rugby tournament. I have to admit when I first heard that BBC America was going to show some of the Six Nations games I got as excited about this as the city of New Orleans got when the Saints made it to the Superbowl. My excitement was quickly dashed when I rushed over to the computer to check out what games were going to be shown and saw that whilst they were going to show 5 games of the tournament with England, Ireland, Wales and France all featuring at some point not one match covered was going to include Scotland.

To say I was not a happy man would have been an understatement. Thankfully since the match coverage was first announced someone at BBC America has seen sense and realised that maybe this was an oversight. I will now be able to watch Scotland play England in a few weeks time. Yes! I won't however be able to watch Scotland play France tomorrow. Bummer!

For those not familiar with the game of rugby it is a sport that has a couple of things in common with football of the American persuasion. It has a ball of a similar shape, and has very big strong men that like to tackle each other a lot. In other ways the game of rugby is nothing like football. There is no padding or helmets in rugby, just full blooded bone crunching tackles. I've been there, trust me, it hurts.

There is also no quarterback that can throw the ball 30 - 40 yards ahead, that would be a foul. The ball in hand can only go backwards or in a straight line. The ball can be kicked forward for positioning but in my opinion a better game involves two teams who like to throw the ball and run with it in hand. But every team has its strengths and weaknesses and some games will involve this kind of play more than others. Someone used to American football that decided to take advantage of the rugby game coverage on BBC America might be a little confused at first but I'm sure anyone doing so would get into by the end of the game and hopefully by the end of the tournament be eager for next years Six Nations to begin.

I will of course be hoping for a good Scottish performance over the coming weeks. However if any of my American readers want to do the reverse of me and go all European you can just watch from the sidelines and enjoy the English, Welsh, Irish, Scots, French and the Italians fight it out for national pride from a neutral standpoint. For those of you who want to pick a side to root for at the start of the tournament I would advise against choosing the Italians, they are relatively new to the tournament and really, apart from the odd individual performance, aren't that good.

Friday, 5 February 2010


I don't know what it is but I think I might have a switch missing in my genetic makeup.

I'm not what you might consider to be a nice person.

I try to be. But when it comes down to it I'm just way too judgmental.

It works like this the nicer a person is the more I don't like them. Don't get me wrong I don't dislike little old ladies that wouldn't harm anyone. Usually, somehow, they escape my judgments. However there is a certain type of person that for all intensive purposes who come across as being good-natured, generous and very much likable but for some reason I 'm not able to stand them.

Anyway, changing subjects. Maybe.

What possessed 10 Baptist missionaries to try to take 33 children from Haiti to the Dominican Republic without the proper documentation? Especially when 2/3rds of those children still had living parents.

I applaud those who have went to Haiti to try and help create some sort of normality or just do a little bit of good after the earthquake. I applaud those who felt moved enough to adopt one of the many orphans. But I don't understand the thinking behind taking kids away from their parents. If the parents are so desperate for their kids safety because they can't feed and clothe them then maybe at a last resort something can be done by one or two of the missionaries to get the necessary paperwork in order but in the meantime the other 8 or 9 missionaries could have stayed to make sure that the kids and the parents had what was necessary to keep them warm and fed and together.

I'm sure the missionaries all meant well and are nice people, but I don't see the logic in breaking up families and making artificial orphans when there must be plenty of orphans enough in Haiti already. If people are desperately in need of help and those missionaries couldn't have helped everyone they should surely have done everything they could to find an organisation that could. Or is it much better to be self righteous and judge that some aren't fit to be parents?

But hey what do I know? I'm just judging.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Forgive me for it doesn't rhyme, but it was never meant to

Our story is a strange one that crossed the sea,
You gave me butterflies and expensive phonebills.
Despite where we came from, you and me were meant to be,
My head said it was crazy but my heart told my head it would be ok.

Ours is a story of paper aeroplanes and homeland security,
Purple dresses, red landscapes, garish lights and Indian spices.
In our eyes its not a common story but its ours just the same,
Its a tale that includes music, spooning and strange but wonderful coincidences.

From our little box of memories,
A writer of fiction would struggle to make our tale believable.
But happiness has its roots in some formula,
That physicians and mathematicians have yet to discover.

You brought me from the land of heather, thistles, wind and rain,
To alien, for me, 105 degree weather and Mormon town.
You showed me that home is not the land that begat me,
But where the heart is.

As I sit here contemplating the right words to say,
I think of the way the light catches your face.
And think how lucky I am for that pleasure to be mine,
In you I see a lifetime of better days and opportunities.

Together we made that jump into the great unknown,
Because we knew that a second chance might not come along again.
Let's not be scared of what we cannot see,
We have survived the darkest time and now we have the lighter road ahead.

Como no?