Yes, it's true, I've not scribbled anything here since before there was jam in doughnuts, and it's time for that to change. Partly because I've now got a little time to write some things, but mainly because three different people have asked within the last couple of days as to why I've not been blogging.
If your name isn't Jonathan, you'll guess it's the usual excuse for such a blog hiatus: work. A week in Cincinnati (about which more anon) was followed by a few days back in sunny Kokomo, then on to Willoughby Hills, Ohio, which is just the other side of Cleveland, reached by what can officially be classed the world's most boring five-and-a-half-hour drive, which I did every weekend for about a month. Such journeys have a way of making me tired, no matter how exciting NPR's news programme can get (and with the Democratic selection process reaching its conclusion, NPR was at fever pitch, even mentioning the China earthquake from time to time, to its credit), so the evenings and weekends were filled with sleep, curry and sleep.
However, following the conclusion of the Cleveland travelling and before we head to the UK for eleven days of Big George's fish'n'chips, Dewdney pasties and Dandelion & Burdock, there's a little time for some catch-up news from downtown Kokomo.
- Back bacon has been found, and not just from the link given there. Imported from Ireland, it can be purchased, frozen, by the half-pound from a giant shop called 'Jungle Jim's' on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Also there you can find anything you want that you might get from Sainsbury's or Waitrose, including Alpen, Golden Syrup and, quite bizarrely, bath-related products such as Radox shower gel, despite the fact that almost-identical products are freely available over here. Most disappointing were the sausages picked up from next to the bacon. Marked 'Irish Bangers', they looked the real deal, especially as the bacon was imported. Closer inspection, some time after purchase, revealed they were made in Chicago (by Irish immigrants, presumably?). They were rubbish.
- Runner beans are growing in a tub on the flat roof out the back. Found one solitary packet earlier in the spring, containing twelve seeds, of which seven germinated. Six-foot canes are currently erected and the flowers are just starting. It may prove to be too hot, but we'll see how they do.
- Rupert Lowe is back at Saints, bizarrely alongside Michael Wilde, and they are currently dismantling the family woodwork to sell off (having already sold off any family silver in his previous time in charge). News today reached us that twelve-year club stalwart Claus Lundekvam was told by the new management that if he wanted his promised testimonial, he would personally have to pay for it, including fees for Celtic to come down and to have the pitch relaid. Total amount: £600,000. Not that Claus needs the money from the testimonial, but still, as I stated on the Saints Forum earlier today, it's just plain weird.
- Atlanta Braves have successfully managed to lose Smoltz, Hampton, Soriano, Moylan and now probably Glavine to long-term injuries. And all this before their usual June slump. I remember when they used to win things. Weird thing is, player for player, they're a pretty decent team, probably better than some of the division-winning sides of recent years.
- Plymouth Argyle released Paul Wotton because he wasn't good enough for the Championship. He just couldn't get in the team. Saints this week snapped him up. Apparently, he's a contender to be the new captain. Seriously.
- Jonathan and Bill inform me that pasties are not only well-known over here, but actually considered a specific delicacy of northern Michigan. All due to Cornish miners moving over, it seems. I've yet to try one.
- I know it's old news now, but Boris Johnson is still Mayor of London. How embarrassing is that?
Biggest news story though goes to the extended weekend back in Texas a week or so ago. Gloria's sister runs Camp Change, a kid's camp largely attended by Baptist churches from all over north-central Texas (and, for some reason, a random church from down near Houston). Protocol dictates the family turn up en masse and help out, and this year that meant me for the first time (last year's camp clashing a little with PhD graduation).
So off we flew down to DFW, and onwards to the Riverbend retreat centre in the middle of nowhere (actually close-ish to a town called Glen Rose, but since that means little to you we can safely call it 'the middle of nowhere'). Flo Jr, the sometimes wacky GPS system, actually kept her head for a change and seemed to know even the tiny roads running through the enclosed camp site, which was impressive.
Of course it's called a camp, but the kids don't actually stay in tents. It's more dorms-and-chalets than poles-and-canvas, more Spring Harvest than Soul Survivor. Still, it gave a tremendous sense of being outdoors (right down to the rumours of rattlesnakes in the woods) and overall proved to be a fantastic facility. The kids had main meetings in the big auditorium (happily air-conditioned in the 100 degree Fahrenheit afternoons), lunch in the giant dining facility, and played games on the courts and fields around the site, including a new one on them this year: "English dodgeball", where I got to be like Mr Copley at Cornwood Primary school and mercilessly chuck balls at close range against the scampering legs of nine-year-olds.
Highlights for me: 'Camp Live' in the mornings, where four or five of us would do 'Whose Line Is It Anyway' on stage for a couple of hours (best moment: miming taking a number-one loo break on the stage, which I believe was a first for Camp Change), and then, of course, there was The Race.
So there were three race drivers. Me, Chris and Vince. Each of us displayed a character flaw which didn't fit with Micah 6:8 (mercy, justice and humility respectively), and by the end of the week, and the race itself, we were to resolve these issues. We had a scripted (or sometimes unscripted) sketch in a couple of the meetings each day, building up to the race, and the race itself took place on the final evening, and saw us racing round tracks and through the main auditorium on highly-decorated golf buggies. Photos to follow once we get them off the camera and onto computer. Final lap: Chris and Vince crash, I zoom past mercilessly... then show mercy by getting out and helping my competitors, and we all cross the line together, character flaws corrected and declared joint winners.
Didn't entirely work as planned, of course. The problem partly came from how our flaws were presented: as the mean-spirited Duke of Rottingham, I was scripted to tell the folks that I'd run over a grandmother and her grandson, and had only been upset by it because of the damage it did to my car. The worst crime of Mr Unjust (Chris Gibson, playing a frighteningly-accurate Mexican character) was to bribe border guards with sopapillas. Mr Vain's crime was looking at himself in the mirror too much. So: all flaws, yes, and all in need of correction... but I'll give you three guesses who ended up as the pantomime villain. Ah well.
Still, a fantastic week and one I'd highly recommend to anyone in Texas in mid-June. Next summer the theme is 'Superheroes': what's the betting I end up as 'Captain Evil'?
Meantime, it's time to pack up and prepare to visit the old country. Let's see if I can still remember how to drive on the left.