I have to start with a startling confession, my wife has been stalking me at parties.
It was a good Xmas, or as the whole of America put it, the holidays. It is certainly a strange idea to a European immigrant, but they are so scared of upsetting someone, that they don’t wish you “Happy Xmas”, it is always “Happy Holidays”. All very odd, as a Hindu work contact said to me this week, he still celebrates Xmas.
Politeness is endemic in middle America, and unlike far away places like New York, Colorado drivers are also very polite. But they have this very strange traffic control device, known as the All Way Stop. Just imagine that you are going down a straight road, which is clear and visible for several miles, you approach a junction, and then this red sign looms, All Way Stop. A merry dance ensues, when cars approach in all 4 directions and stop in turn, and then eventually someone goes.
It is bizarre, as if the local traffic planners have never seen a roundabout. In fact they have just built a roundabout in the area, and it certainly leaves a lot of locals very confused. I have seen people heading the wrong way round the first one round the corner from our office.
The driving competition in the house is hotting up, with Jake and Heather both beating my amazing 92% pass rate of the driving theory test. They both made 96%, yet another thing I am not going win at. But you have to feel sorry for Jake, the kids round here can drive a year earlier, at 16. But, we have discovered that he has to hold a driving permit for 12 months before he can get a full license, so he will actually be later driving on his own here than if we had stayed in the UK. Perhaps a good job his lovely girl friend can drive very well.
You would not believe the cars that some of the kids drive out of the school car park. Jake saw a Ferrari draw up alongside a kid, the driver got out and moved to the passenger seat, and then the kid got in and drove it off. No surprise they get an accident in the car park every year, this term a boy was run over twice. He got a broken leg as the girl backed over him, and a broken shoulder when she pulled forward again.
Xmas day was great, snow on the ground, and the lovely Roz and the fantastic Wayne staying with us. The ground outside was frozen, and so was the dinner. Heather ordered two ducks and a goose off the web site of the most expensive food shop in the country. Whole Foods is an unbelievable place, I counted 20 types of olives at the “olive bar”, they have an enormous range of every type of food, beautifully presented. It is like Selfridges food hall, but 100 times bigger.
Heather turned up to pick up the food on Xmas Eve, to find the items were frozen. An argument ensued, but the store manager did not seem to understand that the web site not mentioning the minor fact that the items were frozen was significant.
But in some areas American law has a very extreme amount of consumer protection. In particular I fail to believe that anyone ever buys the drugs they advertise on the TV, if not every ad break, at least several times an hour. We have all read the leaflet which comes with our latest miracle cure, and wondered which of the many side effects will get us. But on American TV drug adverts, the side effects are read through thoroughly, which leaves you no doubt that the drug is not at all useful, but absolutely deadly. Obviously such protection does not extend to food stuffs on the Web.
And the best Xmas news is that we were invited to a few local parties. The things we all missed most were our friends and family, and the Pub. But round here, the drinking takes place at people houses, and we certainly managed some drinking with some really lovely people. And some of them were Australian.
But the big problem is that Heather is very concerned that I am going to upset everyone, which will then mean that she won’t get invited to a party ever again. Where did she ever get this idea from?
But the real problem is that middle class American men right now are obsessed with tax, and particularly in not paying more tax. And I am not good at ignoring comments on big issues, and so the discussion begins. Again.
I am consciously trying to avoid being party political, but it is only logical to me that middle America has to pay more tax. Every country in Europe is paying more tax, due to the recession, which was started by the American obsession with selling mortgages to millions of people who could not afford them. But in the last 4 years America has had tax cuts through this recession, and the Government has borrowed to pay the recession costs.
Now there is a price to pay. Is this an argument I can refuse to address?
As I say, my wife is stalking me at parties. The key benefit is she is looking great, she has lost huge amounts of weight, and is very lovely. Perhaps this is another reason I need to keep starting the arguments having this discussion, but I am not sure I can cope with the chunks her high heels are taking out of my shins.