Musings of an Englishman who literally quit his life in Devon in mid-2012 to move to Tijuana to love a girl.
They ended up in San Diego where he became a TV anchorman (yes really...), they got married, and now they're living in England together.
Simple as that really.
Follow your heart, who knows where it will lead.

Crazy. Beautiful. Madness.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Food for thought

I’VE eaten some amazing dishes in the last two weeks.
I’ve also eaten some weird things which I didn’t know whether to consume, or flush.
“What’s this?” I ask sat around the dinner table.
“Mole” Jacky’s mum replies.
“Er...” cue smile followed in quick succession by confused look.
“Um, muy bien... que... por que... como... Oh what the hell, sounds good to me”.
It’s black, it has the consistency of mashed baked beans and it tastes like chilli and chocolate.
Oh, and it’s served over chicken.
It could be a lot worse.
Another favourite dish over here is chicharron – known to you and I as pork scratchings.
Apparently chicharron is a dish which has been around since forever in Mexico.
While we know chicharron from the weird taste in our mouths the morning after a good night out at the pub, over here the pig skin (because that’s what it is right?!) is boiled and served with a kind of tomato sauce – and of course chilli, LOTS of chilli.
I think this is the only dish I’ve tried over here which I don’t like.
Crunchy pork scratchings when drunk = good sooooo good.
Soft and sludgy pork scratchings when sober = bad.
I’m even enjoying eating cactus, which is once again boiled, but served as a meal’s accompaniment like green beans.
It doesn’t really taste of anything, and it doesn’t give you the hallucinogenic effect I was half expecting.
Of all the dishes I’ve tried the classic ‘Mexican’ dishes still take some beating.
Traditional quesadillas rock my world. As do the tortillas.
Jacky’s mum also creates this amazing dish which is basically scrambled eggs with chorizo sausage and grated cheese on top.
She is a very VERY good cook.
Just about everything smells and tastes good. Even the street taco stands produce some pretty good meals for a few pesos.
And the Mexican almond shower gel smells good enough to eat.
When I bring Jacky to the UK later this year for a short holiday (that’s the plan), I’m sure she will look at the menu of Arriba’s or Lorenzo’s – or that of any other Mexican restaurant – and laugh.
Real Mexican food is so far removed from what I knew before I arrived here it’s hard to fathom how it can actually be described as being even slightly authentic.
It’s like our pasty – in any other country it’s just NOT a pasty. It’s pastry with meat and veg in.
The staple ingredient of any dish here – whether it be a main meal, a packet of crisps, or even a candy bar – is chilli.
Every single meal has chilli in it, and there’s fresh chilli in salsa present on the table at every meal time.
I swear Jacky would have salsa or chilli on her cornflakes if she ate breakfast.
Jacky also took great delight in introducing me to Tamarindo candy which is basically made from a fruit called tamarind, and... surprise suprise, chilli.
Yes, that is the picture of the fruit. Looks like it should be 'flushed' right?

Appealing hey...?

You know that expression your face pulls when you’re not expecting to be repulsed so much? Well, that’s the expression my face pulls whenever Jacky tricks me into trying the same product in different packaging.
It is, put simply, rank.
This is not the face of pleasure

While my Spanish is improving daily I‘ve still been caught out on more than one occasion in recent days.
For instance beaming with pride in myself for successfully asking for and ordering a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and un rollo de canela (a cinnamon Danish) at a cafe shop, I was almost immediately brought back down to earth.
“Caliente?” the girl behind the till asked.
I replied “Tristan,” thinking that she’s asking me for my name to write on the paper coffee cup.
She was in fact asking me if I want the Danish ‘hot’.
So what did I do? What does an Englishman do when abroad and asked a question he doesn’t understand in a foreign language...?
Answer: I repeated my name again only louder just in case she didn’t hear me the first time around.
I have an awful lot to learn.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Hardly Driving Miss Daisy...

ACCORDING to Jacky’s dad, there’s a saying in Mexico which goes ‘if you can drive in Tijuana, you can drive anywhere in the world’.
Seeing first-hand how motorists drive in Tijuana I think the saying should be more like ‘if you can drive in Tijuana, why not actually prove it?’
I actually think more than half the population here got their licences free in a box of cornflakes.
Over the years I’ve been very fortunate to have travelled around the world.
On these trips I’ve seen some pretty scary road manoeuvres (Cairo in Egypt and Bangkok in Thailand immediately spring to mind) – but drivers over here are a different class.
Central reservation? Who needs one... these guys just use each other stay on the right track.
It makes a dodgems ride look like an Institute of Advanced Driving course.
You indicate to pull into a different lane and the driver behind speeds up to close the gap like you’ve just insulted his wife.
I’m sure I saw one bumper sticker which read ‘I brake for no man – only tacos’.
It’s like playing real life Grand Theft Auto.

I haven’t yet driven because I actually have the ‘fear’.
Seriously, it’s scary.
One of the most annoying things I’ve encountered so far is obtaining information on what you actually need to legally drive in Mexico.
Everyone seems to be an expert but no-one can give me a definite answer.
One person I asked actually told me that you don’t need car insurance to drive in Tijuana.
I just can’t believe that.
Besides, every single piece of literature I’ve read states that it’s not uncommon for people to be thrown into a cell while you prove you have the funds to pay for repairs should you have a crash.
I just can’t imagine the trouble you’d be in if you actually killed or seriously injured someone here and you didn’t have some sort of insurance.
Ignorance is bliss when it comes to most things, but I think it’d be mad not to have some sort of cover for driving over here.
The web is also pretty useless as it contradicts itself time and time again.
I called the AA – you know, the AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION – just before I left the UK to ask them about insuring myself or a vehicle over here.
They said they couldn’t help me (?) and instead pointed me to the DVLA.
When I called them they said ‘call the AA’. And so the frustration began.
I have my full licence and an IDP (International Driving Permit) but I want to make sure I have everythig I need.
I know what you’re thinking, call a Mexican insurance company!
We are planning to do this but it’d be good to have some knowledge first on how to go about things.
Especially because there is the obvious language barrier – I don’t want to pay for something I’m not going to use.
And I’m sure deep down Jacky doesn’t know for sure exactly why I have concerns.
Her English is good but trying to explain how things are in the UK is difficult – even we don’t understand the levels of bureaucracy and red tape!
Things are very different here to the set up in the UK. Different country, different rules.

Despite the obvious risks of driving over here, I have to say the prospect is tantalising.
The strength of the pound compared to the peso is awesome, so using what I got for my Alfa Romeo to buy a car over here should be exciting – especially as I’ve seen some pretty amazing-looking Ford Mustangs growling around.
Yeh, I could quite happily be Steve McQueen in ‘Bullitt’ (for the record if you haven’t seen the most incredible car chase in cinematic history check out:
For now though I’m going to be a co-pilot and let someone else take the risk.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

An idiot abroad...

OKAY, so ‘tengo mucho calor’ means ‘I am so hot’. Or roughly defined, means ‘I have much heat’.
This is what I meant and SHOULD have said – in Spanish – to Jacky’s mum while sitting round the dinner table having spent the day in the sun.
What I actually said was ‘estoy muy caliente’.
Which, to my utter horror, I’ve just been told means ‘I am so HORNY’.
Up until that point I thought my grasp of the Spanish language had been going pretty well.
I’m now physically cringing, pondering the notion that I may well have said this phrase more than once or twice to more than one or two people.
The neighbour? The neighbour’s young son? The old lady in the shop? Jacky’s sister?!
Dear god.
Potentially everyone I’ve met in the last week may well now have me down as some sort of English sex pest.
Thankfully Jacky’s dad didn’t hear me, and her mum simply laughed realising I didn’t mean to say it!
Adapting to life in a country where English is not the primary language is tough. There’s no two ways about it.
Our actions – as English – are also very different from what is considered to be the ‘norm’ for most other nations.
When we English see the sun we seem to like nothing more than to take off as many clothes as possible – as quickly as possible – lay down, and roast ourselves alive.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. We’re starved of the sun in the UK so when the sun does shine, why not make the most of it?
“The BBC says the sun’s out for like 15 minutes in North Cornwall tomorrow... let’s go to Polzeath, hammer a wind break into the sand and get a tan!”
Gotta love the English.
Of course over here it’s different.
I’ve been here for a week and I haven’t seen one spot of rain. Just sunshine.
“It’s going to rain in a few minutes...” I said to Jacky’s dad a few days ago as I gazed up at a huge black cloud.
“No, no, no,” he replied.
Sure enough by the time you could say ‘cagoule’ the sun had burnt off the cloud and it was once again brilliantly sunny.
Yesterday I made a few curtains twitch by sitting outside the front of the house in the sun with my top off.
A guy walked past looking surprised.
“Esta MUY calor” (it’s very hot) he said.
“Si! Me gusta!” (yes, I like it) I replied.
“POR QUE?” (WHY?) he asked.
“Um... Soy Ingles!” (I’m English!) I said proudly.
Cue laughter and a shake of the head.
“Bueno, bueno...”
When the sun shines here everyone scurries inside into the shade. Somehow watching a movie inside, knowing it’s like 25 degrees and simply divine outside, just doesn’t feel right.
Besides, I want a tan. I don’t want to be known as the ‘pale English boy’ (or indeed sex pest) living up the road.
In a way I like being the odd one out over here. With England on the TV (actually winning games) in the Euros I also feel a huge sense of pride.
I can’t say it enough... ‘I have a Latin girlfriend’.
But Jacks seems to be equally proud to say she has an ‘English novio’.
Sure I’m also a foot-and-a-half taller than everybody else (Mexican people are pretty short) and like a giant but it’s kinda fun to be different.
Anyhow, the search for the holy kettle!!!
You know, after six days I found one! It was tucked away in a House of Fraser-style department store over here wedged in between lemon squeezers and electric whisks.
I guess they just didn’t know what it was, and gave it its home there.
Finally I felt relieved and reassured that I had proof that I wasn’t simply making up this mystical creation called a ‘kettle’.

Sure I also paid a grand fee for it but hey, it’s a home comfort.
So thank you to my former colleagues at The Herald for collecting the money to allow me to buy it.
Right, I’d best go and embarrass myself a little more.
Thanks for the lovely comments, and for taking the time to read this.
Muchas gracias mi amigos!

Monday, 18 June 2012

New beginnings and the search for the holy kettle

WOW, what a difference a week makes.
No job, no car, no phone, no direct debits, no rain, oh and no kettle (we’ll get to the latter later).
But you know what? I couldn’t be happier. Seriously.
It’s true, sooner or later your possessions start owning you.
So I can’t tell you how incredibly liberating it feels to shed yourself of all the things you’ve become so dependent on.
I’m now living in Mexico. Tijuana, Mexico, to be exact, as a legal alien.
And I have THE most beautiful Latin girlfriend – which is what inspired this move after all.
I’m in that delirious mental place where nothing else matters but the love of another.
Am I dreaming? If I’m not then this is as close to perfection right now as I could ever close my eyes and wish for.
I can’t pretend that it’s easy being an English guy living in a predominantly non-English speaking country.
But it’s a challenge and sink or swim right?
In the space of a few days my Spanish has improved dramatically.
It’s amazing how much you can remember from GCSE Spanish lessons like 20 years (eek!) ago.
And it’s fun just making up your own phrases. I figure that if you can, at the very least, make people smile with your quirky language then you’re half way there.
Jacky is working full-time so I have no choice but to learn to speak Spanish to her mum – who for the record hardly speaks a word of English – and her dad, who only speaks a little.
This is a new beginning for Jacky and I, and we always said that as long as we were together we could make a plan. And that’s all that matters right now.
Anyway kettles, that’s what I really want to talk about today.
Now I’m pretty sure that no-one has ever asked you this question before in your lives but, have you got any freaking idea how difficult it is to buy a ‘kettle’ in Mexico.
I mean seriously?!
I’m actually laughing out-loud writing this.
Re-locating to a different continent you need some home comforts right?
Sure, I packed some Golden Virginia tobacco, menthol filter tips and Trebor extra strong mints.
I also packed my coffee bean grinder because, no matter what day it is in any part of the world, you need a good coffee to start the day right?
So having packed the grinder, and purchased some lovely looking Mexican coffee beans over here, I was all set.
But then I noticed that Jacky’s mum and dad don’t seem to own a kettle. Well, a ‘kettle’ in our sense of the word.
What they have got is a coffee percolator which they use to heat water but it’s not quite the same right?!
So anyway, I said I’d buy a kettle as a sort of mini gift for mi nuevo casa.
No sweat I thought... wrong!
Seriously, it’s turned into an epic pursuit which rivals the search for the holy grail!
There are no Dixons or Currys here. Sure I could order one online but hey, Jacky’s still waiting for a card I posted nine WEEKS ago from the UK.
So we checked out Walmart, the cornerstone of America’s domestic eating arrangements.
You know you can buy a MOTORBIKE and tyres in Walmart in Mexico?! I sh*t you not.
Sadly no kettles. I was walking round and round the aisles trying to explain to Jacky what the hell I was on about, and to no avail.
I’m determined though, so watch this space.
Hey so last night I shared one of my other home comforts with Jacky – a cup of Tetley tea!
You see, the last time I was out here Jacks mentioned she had never had ‘tea con leche’ (tea with milk).
She offered to make me a cup of tea and asked what type I’d prefer.
“Tetley?” I asked.
“Que?” was the reply.
“Er... PG Tips?”
“... English... Breakfast... tea?!”
Cue another confused look.
We settled on cafe con leche.
So one of the last things I packed before I left the UK was a small packet of Tetley tea bags.
And I’m pleased to say that we have some new Tetley fans. In fact a whole family of Tetley fans.

I’m seriously thinking of becoming a Tetley ambassador over here.
So there you go, this is just a short (well, not really) update on my new life in Mexico.
Oh and for the record mum – I’m eating and sleeping well, I’m not talking to strangers, and I remembered to pack my ‘Ps and Qs’.

Monday, 11 June 2012

On the outside looking in...

If I’m honest, mentally I left England’s fair shores the moment I met Jacky in Mexico in March.
It was only when I returned home after those 11 precious days that I actually realised all the reasons why.
Since then I’ve found myself becoming increasingly infuriated by the UK’s continuous attempts to reach into my pocket.
It’s only really when you’re trying your best to save money that you realise how many people are trying to take it from you.
In the past few weeks I’ve cancelled my phone contract, Sky TV, internet, car insurance etc, settled up, and walked away.
But in the space of a week these ‘providers’ have all been on the phone again asking me to consider a different tariff or package “best suited to my needs”.
“Er, I’m leaving the country – as I explained to one of your three million colleagues – so I don’t need a UK phone, oh and I don’t have a UK home to watch said Sky TV in so...” go figure.
“Do you realise how much you could be saving by blah blah blah...?”
Um, do YOU realise that you’re shortening your life by gassing on so much?!
In law there really should be a thinner line when it comes to what constitutes ‘harassment’.
Oh and the cost of cancelling my car insurance...? £50. And I’m now expecting a letter or email charging me the £4 admin fee for making ‘changes to the policy’.
On reflection we’re all encouraged to ‘shop locally’ and ‘save our high streets’ from commercial decline, but what real incentive is there to actually do so?
The fact is that if something is available for a cheaper price – like online, why would we spend more?
Yes, I’m all for helping to save the local shop – and the local jobs – but I can’t help but feel that we’re all being taken for granted.
I was further reminded of all this profiteering earlier when I popped down to the local Co-op  to grab a few bits.
The young girl behind the till scanned all my groceries and stocked them up in an untidy fashion on the other side of the till.
“Have you got a bag for these?” I asked.
“I’m afraid there’s a charge now for the bags,” was her reply.
“Helping to save the earth are you?” I asked half-jokingly.
“Humpf,” she replied.
More like half blatant profiteering trying to pull the wool over the consumers’ eyes, I thought.
Of course Co-op bosses and the like will argue that it ‘helps to cut down on waste’ by tempting people to think twice about using excess bags, but hey I’m guessing that the profits of selling the bags won’t go to Greenpeace.
Even a ‘penny sweet’, by its mere definition, costs more than it actually says on the tin.
I don’t really know what’s happened to this country. I mean, when did we – the consumer – stop arguing the toss?
It seems that we’re now all too happy to go along with what is dictated to us by the people who rely on us to survive for business.
I’m not saying that things will be remarkably different in Mexico. Sure each community has its ups and downs.
All I can say is that somehow, we’ve all become mugs.
Furthermore who would want to tackle the high street with so many young families armed with prams so big they could be used as props in the next Gulliver’s Travels film?
It seems that the recession is inadvertently helping to increase the creaking global population.
I guess people can’t afford to go out and pay for entertain, so instead they stay at home and well, make their own ‘entertainment’ which – nine months later – results in a bigger bill than that Saturday night out would have cost.
Oh and ‘fuel duty’.
There, those two simple words have enough weight to enrage even the most placid of individuals.
When I mentioned to a Mexican friend that it costs the equivalent of $1,860 Mexican Pesos to fill up my small Alfa Romeo he fell about laughing.
“Why?!” he asked. I wish I had the answer other than that of Government , petrol station, and oil company, greed.
Also ever noticed how things seem to cost a great deal more in Cornwall during the summer months?
“We know they’re coming so why don’t we put up the price of the car park or pasty?” they seem to think.
It seems that these businesses spend the cold winter months snuggled up in their nest eggs thinking of new ways to rip us off.
We spent £5 in February to park the car in Bantham by the beach. There were like three cars alongside ours so the car park owners hardly lucked in. They simply made us think twice about parking there again.
So there you have it.
A friend asked me ‘why’ I was moving to Mexico.
“Why not?!” I replied, and began to list just some of my reasons – not forgetting the smoking hot Latin girl waiting for me.
So by now you’re either thinking ‘lucky git’ for catching a break to make a break from England, or you’re simply wishing me to shut up and quit my bitching.
Ho hum. I promise my next entry will return to a happier note.
I’ll be smiling from ear to ear knowing that I’ve left all the bullsh*t behind.
Hasta luego.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

'Crazy. Beautiful. Madness,' and how it all began...

I must have told this story a few thousand times already but hey... I still can’t believe it so it helps to tell it again and again!
For those people that think I’m crazy to just up sticks and move to Mexico to be with a girl you’ve never heard of, consider this:
Jacky – she’s actually call ‘Illiana’ but prefers her middle name of ‘Jacky’ - and I first ‘met’ seven YEARS ago when she sent me a friend request on Myspace.
I didn’t actually understand the whole social networking thing until my girlfriend at the time told me it was ‘the future’, and so set me up with the Myspace account.
Jacky – who is Mexican – stumbled across my profile, thought I sounded interesting, and added me.
For the next seven years we emailed back and forth as friends sometimes several times a day, sometimes weekly and sometimes monthly.
We talked about work, play, friendships, relationships, the sugar in our cafe con leche, the sun in the sky... everything.
We talked about meeting up throughout, and in March this year we did just that.
We’d both come out of relationships and figured it’d be nice to meet, given that we could simply start over as friends and talk about things without any preconceptions about anything!
We’d only ever emailed. We only spoke once on the phone briefly a few weeks before I flew out, and we’d never ever met.
Needless to say as soon as we met on holiday in Playa del Carmen in Mexico, it was immediately obvious that something magical was going on.
She was quite simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and when I asked her where she’d been all my life she replied “I’ve been waiting for you”.
I can’t reiterate enough that we met simply as ‘friends’, and nothing more.
There was no agenda or anything. It was simply two people from two very different worlds wanting to take a breather, and meet.
For the record I was actually seeing someone at the time and, as soon as I met Jacky, I had to end that as it was pretty obvious that something crazy was going on!
I was a gentleman throughout, and it wasn’t until Jacky wrote ‘te amo’ (Spanish for ‘I love you’) in the sand that I realised that my feelings for her were mutual.
On that cloudy day in Playa Del Carmen she said I would get a kiss every time the sun came out. I've never wished for sunshine so much in my life. It turned into the sunniest day we've both ever known.
Needless to say there were plenty of tears when the days neared for me to fly home.

Any fear about her not feeling the same as me was however quickly distinguished when she asked me if we have 'pinky promises' in England....
"You have pinky promises in Mexico?!" I asked.
To cut a long story short Jacky simply said "well my pinky promise to you is that now I have met you, I want no-one else. I will wait as long as it takes to be with you..."
After 11 days I flew back to the UK feeling that I had left my right arm in Mexico.
I walked into my house and immediately said to myself ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’.
So... four days after I got back to the UK, I re-booked my flight and flew back out two weeks later to meet her parents to tell them how I felt.
I then spent 11 days in Tijuana with Jacky and her family and we decided that the only way this was going to work was if one of us made some pretty major changes.
Since getting back from Afghan last summer I’d been pretty bored, so we didn’t even discuss her coming here to the UK.
I’d wanted a challenge, and a beautiful girl to love me, so it was perfect.
People always bullsh*t on about “it wasn’t an easy decision” to do this or that, but this was easy.
Having spent 34 years in and around Plymouth, and nearly 13 years at The Herald, the time is right to move on.
Besides, everyone is settling down getting married and having children and I feel like I’ve been sat staring at the clock waiting for each hour to pass hoping that the next day will bring something better than the last.
I’ve done some crazy crazy things at work. But job done, and I’ve got the medal.
So there you have it.
Boy meets girl and girl meets boy, worlds collide and I’m moving to Mexico.
'Crazy. Beautiful. Madness'. That’s what we call it.
Oh, and did I mention we have the same birthday? February 17th. Weird huh?
I'm not that naive to think that things could go wrong but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained.
Sometimes showing your hand is the best way to prove your worth. And I don't want to ever feel like I've missed a chance which fate has given me.
I've never been so sure about anything or anyone in my life.
In fact, the only time I felt 'uncertain' about her was when - an hour away from touching down in Cancun on my way to meet her - an American tourist asked (upon hearing the story)... "you've seen pictures of her right?! Well... you sure she's not a midget?!"
You know I'd pondered a lot of eventualities but, up until that point, I hadn't considered that she might actually be a dwarf-type person.
Thankfully, she wasn't.
Anyhow I thought I’d write this to fill in the gaps for those that don’t know our story.
Over the coming months I’ll update this blog to keep people in the loop about how an English boy settles in Mexico.
I’ll be over there for six months (on a 180-day tourist visa) learning Spanish properly, and simply being a boyfriend. I’m not planning to work just yet, I’m simply looking to take my foot off the gas and relax.
I’ll be back in the UK in December for a ‘holiday’ before I jet back with the intention of cracking America.
So there you have it. There’s the reason. Nice eh?