US Society – thoughts on Cheese, Nuclear Turkeys and ……Cleanliness

Jake has a new nickname

I have a thing about litter.

Another lifetime ago I lived in Chiswick, in West London. I loved the area, but it was a messy place with piles of builders rubble, that passed for gentrification.

One day I was walking down to Chiswick High Road, when a car window opened in front of me, and the occupant threw a cigarette packet out. Without thinking, I bent down, picked up the packet, and threw it back through the car window. I hate litter, it was an obvious thing to do, it seemed right.

I kept on walking, but hadn’t got more than a stride or two before a huge roar erupted behind me, followed by the sound of a car door opening. These are occasions when one should probably act before thinking, but I turned, looked, and thought….”that man is big and angry”. Yes, I legged it.

I am thinking about this story now because we have moved into a lovely new area, in Greenwood Village, in Colorado. And there is no litter. By which I mean, NO litter.

This is the cleanest place I have ever seen. I have spent time in Singapore, where they literally lock you up for dropping chewing gum, but I have never seen anywhere as clean as South Galena Street. I haven’t seen any litter collectors, and there are very few waste bins, but there is no rubbish what so ever. Yes Middle Class Middle Americans take much more pride in what is around them.

At first impression these estates are nothing like anywhere in England.

First of all our estate has a great name, hey Sundance Hills has a much better ring to it than Walnut Close, or Gaveston Gardens. Well perhaps Mr Gaveston has some kind of story attached as well.

I keep wanting to tell people……I live in Sundance Hills. It just feels good.

And all the houses are individually designed. It is not like lovely old Oxfordshire, no offence guys, but your houses are all the same, these are all unique. Different materials, different styles, to an Englishman it is totally mad. To a town planner in the UK…..well he would die of fright.

It is all extremely lovely. And clean, did I mention that already?


Two countries separated by one language, but American men do share a pastime with Europeans, and that is watching sport. Last weekend we went to our first Football game, which of course doesn’t mean we watched some over paid idiots kicking around ball and falling over a lot (that is this weekend), we actually went to an American football game.

It stated with a tailgate party, what you & I would call a BBQ, and yes, someone brought one of the biggest gas BBQs I have ever seen. On the back of a truck. Like you do.

And everyone was lovely, someone even recognised the football shirts that Ben and I were wearing in homage to our league leading team. Couldn’t pronounce Leicester, of course, but all very sweet.

But strange things happen at football matches everywhere. At West Bromwich Albion they bounce up and down making strange sounds, at the Airforce Academy of Colorado Springs they throw cheese at the team. And when the home team scores, all the cadets rush to behind one goal and perform press ups. Since the score reached 25 points, and they do one for each point, they must have been knackered at the end.

15,000 people enjoyed a college football game in a ground which holds more than the average English Premier league team, and Our Jake had a turkey leg the size of his arm. But how can they make 4 quarters of 15 minutes each last 3 elapsed hours?

Everything is extreme in the American Dream, and I’m really enjoying it. The people and the cleanliness.

So what is that makes an English family move from an idyllic English village to live in America? Madness or a sense of adventure?


The main answer is work, the other answer is probably a form of mid-life crisis.  But since I was just 60, probably better to call it an end of working life crisis.  I have always wanted to live in America for a while, and I have travelled extensively across the continent with work, and for pleasure.  I love America, I love Canada, but can I really uproot the family, two school age kids, and push them into American society?  Hey, yes, what an adventure.

This blog is my means of recording the experience of it all.  Partially to get it out of myself, cathartic and all that, and partially as a record for me and other interested parties.  An adventure story.

Two countries, separated by one language……I have always found the differences amusing in the main, and hilarious in the extreme.  But what is it like to live in a foreign land, a foreign land with the same language, and a culture that one is confronted with every day via the media?

So, to begin at the beginning, we set ourselves an impossible job.  To pass a visa interview and then move in exactly 5 weeks.

It was impossible, apart from the fact that I have some wonderful friends who packed, who stacked, and most importantly, who looked after the things that spilled over the edge of the abyss.  Stella “the every wonderful” is still trying to rent our house out, John sold Heather’s car, Jason and Rob sorted the things that were falling off the house.  In passing, I have to say that selling cars privately is a strange world that I hadn’t been in for 35 years, and I hope never to have to inhabit again.  I now realise that they are a strange people who buy second hand cars privately advertised on web sites.

So, a simple decision to limit our possessions and force us to “travel light” led me to impose a baggage limit on the family.  No shipping, if you can carry it, it must be worth taking.  So we left England on a drab Wednesday, and 25 hours later arrived in Denver, Colorado, with our 16 suitcases still intact. 

“16?”  Yep, this wasn’t the right way to do it, but we didn’t know that until we changed planes at Dallas, and had to pick up the bags, despite BA assuring me that the luggage was booked straight through.  But that is all best ignored and long forgotten, I can perhaps even find it funny now…… image two adults, two children, 16 bags (and hand luggage) running through Dallas airport trying to reach a connection that had already left.  Yes, there were tears.

So we get out of bed on a Thursday morning in a hotel in Denver, tired, grumpy, and stressed.  But the sun shines, and the American way soon washes over us.

Skip forward to Saturday at 6pm, and I am sat in my new home, on my new “Simpsons” settee, watching my new TV, with full cable connection, and fast internet. 

Leaving aside the fact that we rented a house unseen, from an advert on the Web on Craig’s List, which I still think was one of the most bizarre things I have ever done, the rest of the story is an everyday story of American folk.  Things happen in America, service is paramount.  When the cable folk said on Friday we would be online the following day…….we were.  Buying the furniture from a store & warehouse which is the size of 17 football pitches is bizarre enough to a mere Englishman.  But then the delivery guys turned up early two days later, were polite, ran up the path carrying our new possessions, and even agreed to replace an item we had ordered by mistake.

Yes, the American Dream does exist.  I have repeated this story to a number of newish American friends and they don’t get it.  Why wouldn’t this all happen?  Because in England I know a family who haven’t had an internet connection for two months after moving in, because every delivery man I have ever met in the UK is grumpy, mainly rude, and certainly not flexible.

I love America.  But there are some very strange things about the country, some things that are worth exploring, and some that are just plain wrong……(to be continued)