Tuesday, November 09, 2010

On the Road Again

After three years without a car, I finally bought another car. Actually, I bought two. First, I bought a VW Golf. I had it fifteen days, then I crashed it. It was a write off. I had to wait a month for the insurance check. Once the insurance paid off, I started looking for another car. With the Golf, I got lucky. I found it the first day I started looking with money in my pocket. The second car took me over a month to find. I finally settled on a Peugeot, which cost half as much as my Golf. I never dreamed I would ever buy a French car. In any case, the Peugeot has survived and gets good mileage. It's great being off public transport and I get to and from work in half the time.

A woman I wanted to date turned me down, a couple of years ago, because I didn't have a car. More recently, last year, another woman I was briefly dating complained that she didn't want to go on dates with me riding on the bus. This was despite the fact that she didn't own a car and road the bus every day, herself. She told me, "you need to buy a car." I let her know that I would buy a car when I was ready, not when she snapped her fingers. Both these women lost out on a relationship with me, because they couldn't be patient. I wonder how many others made the same mistake?

When I was younger, I always wanted flashy sports cars. Several times in my life, I loaded myself with expensive car payments to support this desire. This time, after three years with no car, I decided that any car is better than no car. I paid for my modest car cash. No loan payments to make, it has cheap insurance, and good fuel economy. Maybe I have finally learned a lesson.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The End of An Era

After several years, my second housemate, Hitler's Nephew, has moved out. Although I didn't get along with him and we spent much of those years not speaking to each other, I miss him, after a fashion. At least he was interesting. The new guy, D1, is nice enough, but he's bland and dull. He doesn't have any interesting stories and isn't even quirky enough to provide the basis for anything funny for me to write about. At least I still have my other housemate, Nando, my racist Italian housemate.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

It Finally Haappened

Finally, I got to see myself on the big screen, in a proper film.  While watching "Green Zone," with Matt Damon, I saw myself, in the background.  There's an old saying, "you wait ages for a bus, then three come along at once."  Well, I saw myself in another film, "The Infidel."  I'm clearer in there and visible several times.  I wonder when the third one will come along?  I did manage to attend the world Premier of "The Infidel," my first premier, but they didn't let me attend the after party.  Shucks!

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Speak English!

I get frustrated with some people who talk on mobiles while on public transport. Okay, it’s not what you think. Plenty of people moan about being bothered by people having mobile conversations on buses, trains, even on the Tube, when it runs above ground. I have no problem with it. In fact, in these tough economic times, I think it’s a golden opportunity for free entertainment. Instead of berating these travelling talkers, listen in on their conversations. You get endless hours of free amusement, then. Why waste money on an iPod, when you can hear one half of a juicy conversation, free? The songs on your iPod you’ve heard before anyway. This is fresh, real life, and it’s drama!

I’m sure there are some of you, out there, who’ll claim that earwigging is rude. “Nonsense,” I say. If people are going to talk loudly, in public spaces, they should expect people to listen. It’s fun trying to guess who the person on the other end is, when you only have half the conversation to go on. This can be especially useful, when you’ve completed the easy and intermediate sudokus, and are stuck on the hard one. As you listen in on the conversation, you can try to figure out if it’s to a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, parent, employer, employee, business associate, or just a friend.

However, as no good column would be complete without a moan about something, I do have one complaint. As London is a cosmopolitan city, with people from all sorts of nations and ethnic backgrounds, you do get some spoilsports who insist on talking, on their mobiles, in a foreign language. It is to these people that I say, “Speak English!” Otherwise, how are the rest of us supposed to listen in? I will defend to the death (yours, not mine) your right to talk loudly into your mobile, on the public transport network, as long as you do it in English. Otherwise, you can sod off, back to where you came from. I’m an immigrant too and if I can do it, so can you. Those of us born into families that speak English are notoriously bad at going on to learn other languages. Therefore, it’s up to you lot, who learned English as a second language, to speak it whenever you’re talking on your mobile, in public. Have a nice day.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Quiet Cinqo De Mayo

Of course, yesterday was Cinqo de Mayo. For ten year, I have been saying that I would go out for Cinqo de Mayo, to a Mexican restaurant, here in England. In the past, I always forgot, or, one year, I just couldn't be bothered. Since I have started driving buses, in London, I have seen several Mexican restaurants, in various locations around South London. I almost forgot again, this year, but, at the last minute, I remembered. So, after work, I caught a bus to Spices Yard, in Croydon. There is a Mexican restaurant across the street and that's the nearest one to the garage where I am based. Nobody I sent a text to showed any interest, but I didn't let that stop me. With great anticipation, I walked into the restaurant. It was deserted. There was on couple there and the staff outnumbered the customers. What went wrong?Back home, in New York, Mexican restaurants put on big Cinqo de Mayo celebrations. It's some sort of holiday, in Mexico. This place, in Croydon, was dead as a swine flu victim. There weren't even any signs of the holiday, anywhere. It was midweek and Arsenal were playing Manchester United. Maybe that was it. Even after I wished each staff member a happy Cinqo de Mayo, they each seemed underwhelmed. I had my first margarita ever, order dinner for one, ate, then went home. Has swine flu killed off all Mexican enthusiasm?

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Sunday, May 03, 2009


My regular readers have probably noticed that my once prolific blogging has, lately, slowed to almost a standstill. It's not been for lack of desire, but I am way more busy than I used to be. Also, since my car blew up, almost two years ago, getting around has become a lot more time consuming, thus using time I used to blog. I am planning on acquiring a laptop, soon. This may result in me finding more time to blog.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Nando Blew Up Our Kitchen

Last night, I was relaxing in the lounge, watching TV. Beginning to get hunger pangs, I was waiting for Nando, my racist, Italian housemate, to finish in the kitchen, before starting to prepare my evening meal. Suddenly, I herd a loud popping noise, followed by Nando yelling, "shit!" in an Italian accent. "Are you alright," I shouted over the sound from the TV set. There was no reply. I yelled again, still nothing. Hitler's Nephew, my other housemate, looked up, but made no effort to ascertain what happened. Then Nando walked out of the kitchen and went upstairs, holding his face, but he wouldn't respond to my questions. Had an improvised explosive device (IED) gone off in the kitchen? Were we the victims of some terrorist attack? No. Nando had blown up his coffee pot.
I don't know what caused it to happen, but there were coffee grounds everywhere, in the kitchen. Eventually, Nando came back downstairs. He was fine. He'd merely gotten some coffee grounds in his eye. Fortunately, he'd not been standing closer to the pot when it blew and I wouldn't have to miss the rest of "the Family Guy," driving him to the hospital. I did have to wait an hour and a half for Nando to finish cleaning the kitchen, before I could have dinner. The top half of the pot had rocketed into the ceiling, chipping the plaster and leaving a big, brown, splash stain there. The ceiling would need to be repainted by someone, not me. Once I was assured that Nando wasn't injured, the whole thing did strike me as a bit funny. Who needs satellite TV when there's this kind of drama in the house? Eventually, I got to enjoy a steak dinner, with a jacket potato, sweetcorn, broccoli, and cauliflower. The steak was topped with fried onions and mushrooms, plus A1 steak sauce, imported from America. I washed it down with a cold, Becks beer. Life is great.

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Easier Christmas Shopping

Yesterday, I awakened to find that my racist, Italian housemate, Nando, had the day off from work. I rushed downstairs in my robe, to see if he was going out. Sure enough, he was sitting at the kitchen table, fully dressed in house leaving attire and smoking a cigarette. In front of him was a cup of one of his coffee concoctions.
In response to my inquiry, he informed me that he was going into town, to do some shopping. I asked him if I might tag along, if I got dressed quickly. After cautioning me that he would be out shopping for a couple of hours, he agreed that I might accompany him. The advantage for me is that Nando has a car, so I would get free, door to door transport, between home and the town centre. I'm not sure what the advantage would be for Nando, but that was his problem, not mine.
As Nando pulled into a pay, multi-storey car park, it occurred to me that we could enjoy free parking in Camberley. When I suggested going to Camberley instead, Nando said he couldn't be bothered. He's willing to pay a couple of quid for parking, rather than make the effort of driving a couple of extra miles. His first errand was to go to the bank and pay a bill. There are so many ways that Nando's life is less convenient, as he refuses to get a computer and and internet access. So much of what he goes out to do, I can do over the net, from the comfort of my bedroom.
After the bank, our next stop was a card shop, where he started looking for Christmas cards. It was so crowded, I decided to wait for him outside, where I managed to find a bench to sit on. As I sat, I addressed a Christmas card to my mother, back in America. Most likely, this would be the only Christmas card I would send, this year. Having finished addressing the envelope, I read a book, as I continued waiting for my Italian friend. When he finally appeared, he told me not to get up, as he wanted to sit and have a cigarette.
After his nicotine break, Nando walked over to a store, diagonally across the pedestrianized square. This emporium boasted massive discounts, on large, red signs in all its windows. At the entrance, I told Nando that I was going to the post office. I might as well get my mother's card in the post, as soon as possible. While Nando had been in the card shop, I had tried to find my voucher for a free eye exam, from one of the high street, optical chains. Having my eye exam was one of the tasks I was hoping to complete on this trip. Sadly, I had been unable to find it. I would have to print off another one, so that was one task that would need to await another trip.
Arriving in the post office, I was shocked to discover a very long queue. This was a Thursday afternoon. Where were all these people coming from? Don't they have jobs? Also, why is it there are about nine windows in the post office, but they never seem to have more than three of them staffed, at any one time? One staff member was standing near the front of the queue, asking people if they wanted to apply for a Post Office credit card. Everyone was turning him down. Surely, he would have been better employed manning another one of the windows, so the line could be serviced quicker. As chance would have it, I ended up with the only female working the windows. She charged me £1.22 to send my card to my mother. That seemed a bit higher than I used to pay. Usually, it's under a Pound. At least she stamped and posted it for me. That's much better customer service than in the past, when they hand me some stamps and my envelope back, which I have to put in the post box myself.
Having escaped the postal ordeal, I then visited my bank, which is just across from the post office. I checked the exchange rate for Dollars. Then a young man in a bank uniform asked me if he could help. I asked what the current fee was for international money orders. It had been years since I had sent one to my mother. While he didn't know, he asked a beautiful, female member of staff and she informed me that the price was £1 more than it was the last time I used the service, over five years ago. It was still £5 cheaper than a wire transfer. The young man proceeded to engage me in conversation. He admitted that the bank was quiet and there was definitely a business slowdown, for them. We discussed the pros and cons of my getting another loan, next year, to finance a motor vehicle purchase. Then we talked about the economy and the futile attempts of politicians to control it.
Eventually, the young banker was needed, to do some actual work. I left to find Nando. Checking my mobile phone, I discovered that Nando had sent me a text, about twenty minutes earlier. At that time, he was heading to HMV. He could have been anywhere after twenty minutes, so I called him. When he answered, he informed me he was at W. H. Smith, so I told him I'd meet him there. After I caught up to him, we went to Boots. There, he purchased several items, including four of the same thing. He said that item was buy three, get one free. I suggested that his friends might get annoyed if he gave four of them the exact same Christmas present. Undeterred, he rationalized that none of the four knew each other and like he felt about most things, when it came to Christmas shopping, he couldn't be bothered. Since Nando didn't have a Boots loyalty card, he agreed that I could have the points from his purchase. As we were near the car, he decided to put the purchases he'd made so far in the car. I waited in the warmth of Princess Square shopping mall, reading my book.
When Nando returned, he led us to Argos. He informed me that he was looking for a CD rack, for his girlfriend's daughter. I suggested that he try Woolworth's, as they were closing down, or Bentall's, although the latter would not be cheap. I also suggested that he try the discount shop, run by the geezers in the turbans. As Bentall's was closest to our position, we went there first. Nando found some crystal wine glasses he wanted, there, but thought they were a bit pricey. Leaving the glasses, we went to Costa Coffee. Nando wanted a cup of coffee and a cigarette. He bought me a hot chocolate. I wonder if he'd forgotten that I now earn more than him? We sat outside, European style, where he could smoke. Over our refreshments, he informed me that the planned regeneration of Bracknell town centre had been put on hold, again, due to the credit crunch. We agreed that the town centre looked dismal and needed a regeneration. There seemed to be fewer Christmas lights, this year, and fewer children's rides.
Having refreshed, we made our way to Woolie's. I looked for bargains in the CD section, while Nando went off in search of a CD rack. I resisted the temptation to buy any CDs and Nando found nothing there he wanted. This might end up being the last time I step into a Woolworth's. The chain closed in America, over a decade ago. On to the discount store, run by the turban wearing geezers. After browsing awhile, Nando inquired. One of the non-turban wearing staff agreed to show us their selection of CD racks. The Italian picked out a wall mounted unit, which happened to be the cheapest.
With CD rack in hand, we returned to Bentall's, so Nando could purchase the wine glasses. While we waited to pay, Nando looked over the CD rack. Puzzled, he asked me how it stood up. "It's a wall mounted unit," I replied. "You screw it into the wall, just as it shows on the picture." It was then that I discovered that Nando hadn't realized that his purchase wasn't a free standing CD rack. He's not very good at this shopping stuff, I suppose. I suggested that he return to the discount shop and ask to exchange it for one he preferred. He had doubts about the willingness of the shopkeepers to exchange it, but I reassured him that, given that he wasn't asking for a refund and that he'd be purchasing a more expensive one, they'd be fine with it.
Back we went to the discount shop, which was in the opposite direction to the car. Several times, Nando expressed doubts about being able to exchange the CD rack, but each time I reassured him. Once we were at the store, the exchange went off without a hitch, as I expected. We headed back towards the car and I helped Nando carry his packages. So, I turned out to be some use to him, after all. In the car, I helped pay for the parking, as Nando didn't have enough change. I ended up covering about 35% of the cost, which was less than my hot chocolate cost.
As Nando drove us home, I reflected on what lessons could be learned about Christmas shopping, from our day out. Use the internet, whenever possible, so you don't have to gown into town, if it can be avoided. Be careful that what you buy is what you want, what you really, really want, like the Spice Girls. It then occurred to me that I had only looked at things to buy myself, during the outing. Christmas shopping is much easier if you only shop for yourself. They say it's better to give than to receive, so surely it's best to give AND receive. Buying gifts for yourself would ensure that. Nando experienced frustration, while I had an enjoyable day out. I spent a minimal amount of money, looked at several purchases, but didn't make them, and I even got my mother's Christmas card into the post. Santa Claus could take lessons from me. So, if your tempted to buy anything in this run-up to Christmas, don't. Have a cup of hot chocolate instead, preferably at your friend's expense. Have a merry Christmas and if no one gets you the gift you want, buy it yourself, during the after Christmas sales.

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