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, 25 July 2012

An Olympic-sized pain in the a*s

SPENDING just a few hours in America is enough to make you feel normal and sane.
People in the US are always keen to talk to you once they know you’re English or British.
And they seem to think we all personally know Prince Harry.
Sure I’ve met once, but we’re hardly ‘mates’.
I’ve now given up trying to explain exactly where I’m from in England.
The conversation generally goes: “Where you from there?”
“Plymouth, you know... in the South West of England.”
Usually at this point I draw a map of the isles in the air and point to the bit on the left.
“Is that in London,” they then almost always ask.
“Er, you know what? Yes it is... in fact, the WHOLE country is contained within London.”
I just can't be bothered.
I’ll never ever forget a pompous Aussie in Sydney asking me the same question.
When I replied “Plymouth,” and “it’s near where the best beaches are in England” his response was “you have beaches?!”
"Yes that’s right, because we live on a frikkin island.”
Mexicans are different.
I’m sure most Mexicans have never visited London but they seem to have a better grasp of the geography.
I can't be too critical of the Americans as their country is just so huge.
Bizarrely San Diego itself seems to be more Spanish than Benidorm. The closer you get to the border the more taco stands and Spanish-language signs you see.
When we’re in the US Jacky and I seem to swap roles.
In Mexico I let her lead the conversation. But in the US, being predominantly English speaking, I take the lead role.
It’s strange and I often forget, letting her stumble through a conversation while I stand in the fold.
It’s only when I open my mouth that I realise I can wholly engage in conversation again.
Most of the time though I can’t help but answer ‘si’ or ‘hola’. Weird huh?
Christ, I even order burritos when I’m the States.
As you can no doubt appreciate all conversation at the moment revolves around that small sporting event we call the ‘Olympics’.
Everyone keeps asking me if I’m ‘excited’ about the games.
So much so I reply, that I moved to a different continent.
Looking at friends’ comments on Facebook, I’m sure that given the chance many Londoners wished they had too.
London is one of the busiest places on earth, so what’s an extra few hundred thousand visitors?
A few extra cars, a few thousand more tourists with cameras.
I can only imagine what rush hour on the tube is going to be like. I feel bad enough getting in the way of commuters as I stare blankly at the tube map when I visit.
Imagine all those foreign visitors clutching huge maps and puzzled expressions. 
God, even the thought of it sounds like an Olympic-sized pain in the ass.
I really hope it does help to boost the UK’s economy and end this existential ‘funk’ which walks hand in hand with the double dip recession.
But hey, I couldn’t really give a toss about the games themselves.
To gain my interest they should introduce some new games.
Maybe a two-mile sprint event for footballers who have just been told they have had their Ferraris torched by Seb Coe?
Or how about an archery event with everyone aiming their arrows at Sepp Blatter in his hospitality box?
Or wait, how about an event where Gary Lineker eats as many Walkers crisps as there are starving children in the world?
One name captures my imagination, and his event is the only result l will listen out for. Tom Daley.
Smash it mate, make Plymouth proud and put the 'Great' back into Great Britain.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Life is a roller coaster

IT’S not often that a grown man asks you if you’d like to ‘touch’ his monkey during daylight hours in full view of young families in a steamy bustling street.
It was a first for me. And my reaction was one of disbelief as much disdain.
You see over here in Mexico everyone seems to be making up new ways of making a few pesos.
And this attempt to prise a few pence out of my pocket almost deserved reward – if only for making Jacky and giggle uncontrollably for hours afterwards.
The Mexican wasn’t suggesting anything sordid. In fact, he did actually did want us to ‘touch’ his monkey – a mal-nourished-looking sort of marmoset.
While it might not be unusual to see these kinds of people parade monkeys or parrots around in resorts around the world, here they’ve taken the idea to new levels.
Sure, in Tangiers I was offered to hold a snake for a photograph for a few pence. I think in Tenerife I also held an exotic parrot.
But over here these people have upped their game.
Kittens and puppies and even tiger and leopard cubs are offered to hold and pose with.
Did we take them up on their offer? Hell no, we don’t agree with it.
But you have to admire the efforts of the street men.
I mean, where the hell do you get a leopard cub? eBay?! Walmart?! (They seem to sell everything else bar cafetierres).
Another thing Mexico has an abundance of is dogs.
It seems that you’re not Mexican unless you have at least one. And sadly there are so many strays they nearly outnumber people.
Driving around Tijuana is difficult enough without having to avoid hitting a dog.
And most of them are big enough to cause more damage to your vehicle than to them if you do hit them.
With the intense 24/7 sunshine here (I’ve seen one drop of rain in just over five weeks) the odds are that the bugs are going to be bigger.
And they certainly are.
That ‘thing’ which I posted a picture of a few days ago was nothing I’m told.
We ended up spraying it with enough insecticide to wipe out an entire species. And then it wriggled and writhed around like it was enjoying a cold shower.
The old faithful foot stamp was the only way to deal with it in the end. But you just know it has friends who want to join the party.
Cockroaches are the norm around here. As are spiders and spiders of the 'black widow' variety.
You know, the Mexican (or Spanish) word for spider is ‘arana’.
So when I ask someone what kind of aranas they have over here and they reply “well, tarantulas” you know that that arana is going to be pretty special.
I mean, a ‘tarantula’ is a ‘tarantula’ in any language surely?
So the ‘tarantulas’ over here are not going to be your average money spider are they...?
I am yet to meet one but you’ll know when I do.
They say that in space ‘no-one can hear you scream’, but believe me – the guys on the International Space Station will hear me when I see one.
Last weekend I’m also pretty sure you would have heard the screams of 20 or so thrill-seekers who got stuck on America’s tallest theme park ride.
Jacky and I – together with one of her best friends – visited Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles which is home to a ludicrous amount of rollercoasters.
One of the newest rides is the ‘Lex Luthor – Drop of Doom’ (  which throws people up to a height of 200+ft, pauses, and then drops them down about a thousand times as fast.
It’s the world’s tallest and most vertical drop ride. When people drop they do so at 85mph in five seconds.
We were queuing to go on this new ride, watching people going up and down, when all of a sudden it went up... and then stopped.
Can we come down now please?

A long way down...

Now THAT was the stuff of nightmares. The usual delay before plummeting is about 20 seconds. But these guys were up there for about four minutes.
So stood aghast with feelings of impending doom, what did everyone on the ground do?
They took photographs of course... me included.
Once a journo always a journo right?!
Fortunately the thrill-seekers made it back to the ground in the planned fashion, albeit slightly delayed.
And by that point we were no longer in the queue.
Six Flags makes Alton Towers look like a pink merry-go-round.
Life is a roller coaster

Not the time to drop your keys

Not for the faint-hearted

And Jacky is its biggest fan. I’ve seen excitement on a face before, but Jacky’s expression at the mere mention of the attraction is something else.
When a grown man gets off a ride you’re about to get on and says ‘THAT is f*cked up’, you know you’re in for the ride of your life quite literally.
‘X2’ is its name. And it’s worth googling. You sit in it backwards and you’re thrown around a track upside down and left to right.
You actually feel slightly abused when you get off. Well, at least I did. Jacks was bouncing.
So we got a little excited...

It would appear mad to queue for two hours for a two-minute thrill but it’s worth it each and every time.
So the next time anyone is in the US put it in your itinerary. It might seem strange to pay to be abused but hey isn’t that what council tax in the UK is all about?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The thing...

Okay, when I'm confident this THING is no longer living upstairs with us I'll be back on the Mac and updating this blog.
Ewwwww... It's like an insectileopard from Mars! And I'm sure it winked at us as we discussed ways to kill it.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

People are strange when you're a stranger

YOU know, most of the more interesting and funny moments of my new life in Mexico have happened around the dinner table.
Telling my girlfriend’s mother that I was feeling ‘horny’ when I meant to say I was feeling ‘hot’ (due to the sun) is a moment which those in attendance will never let me forget.
Another standout moment has got to be when numerous members of Jacky’s family tried to teach me to roll my R’s to get the perfect Spanish accent.
The sound that came out of my mouth was not a rolled ‘R’, it was more like the sound of a bee slowly dying (probably of embarrassment).
Having five or six people rolling R’s at me at the same time in perfect harmony was one of the most surreal moments of my life.
“It’s easy!” Jacky told me.
“Er... it’s really not,” I replied.
It is one of the most difficult things I have ever tried to learn. And now I am so self conscious of doing it wrong and simply making a noise at someone, that I can’t possibly EVER try it again.
I don’t understand how people can wake up one day knowing how to do it.
I’ve even tried googling it to find a video tutorial. To be honest the comments – mainly from half-wit Americans – are more entertaining.
So yes, I’m trying new things. I’m eating different food, I’m exploring new places, and I’m learning a new language (well, new for me).
An Englishman here in Tijuana (known as ‘TJ’) is a rarity.
And to say I stand out like a sore thumb is a massive understatement.
My skin colour is different, my accent is weird, and I’m literally about three feet taller than your average Mexican.
I stand head and shoulders above everyone. When I’m in a supermarket I peer out over the aisles like the Statue of Liberty gazing out over Manhattan’s ant population.
Jacky bought me a pair of boots as a welcoming gift and, while the size and length of the boots are fine, they are so narrow that I’m sure the daintiest British tinkerbell supermodel would have a job squeezing into them.
I now honestly believe that I – like many men who derive from the West Country – have ‘pasty’ feet.
Such has been the intensity of people’s stares here that they’ve nearly walked out into traffic.
I, more often than not, smile politely and say ‘hola’.
I’m not sure exactly what people expect me to say, but they often look bemused and give me a look to suggest ‘wow... it speaks’.
It’s strange being in a foreign land. And my foreign mind works in strange ways.
Wherever I am, somewhere in the chasms of my brain I immediately look for an indication of where the next toilet is. You know, just in case nature calls.
Last week Jacky and a contact of hers took me to a kind of TJ chamber of commerce event.
It was a weekly update for a huge expo style event called ‘Tijuana Innovadora’ going on over here in October.
It will undoubtedly be a big deal as they’ve lined up the co-founder of Apple as well as many other important speakers from the US and Mexico.
The event is all about celebrating TJ and its relations and standing with the world.
So unbeknown to me, my attendance at last week’s event – as an (award-winning... well, I can say that now right?!) English journalist – was seen as a ‘big deal’.
I walked into a room of around 100 people and people stopped talking and stared.
You know like the classic scene in a Western when the stranger character walks into the saloon?
People stopped sipping their coffee, they fixed eyes on me, the guy in the back stopped playing the piano... (okay, there was no piano player but you get the gist).
The next thing I know someone thrust a microphone into my hand and signalled for me to introduce myself.
I spoke some Spanish, I spoke some English, and I spoke something which is a cross between the two incorporating hand movements and weird facial expressions.
And I got a round of applause. Oh, and then everyone started dancing. Honestly.
I must have said something right? Right? People even wanted their pictures taken with me.
In that single moment I felt like I’d announced my arrival to potential future employers.
So watch this space.
At the weekend I also encountered something else which was new and weird in equal measure.
We drove past a hardware store (TJs equivalent to B&Q) and there was a large group of men shouting at the passing vehicles.
It turns out that these men were actually plumbers and electricians who were plying for trade.
Yellow Pages? Facebook group? Who needs em. Just shout loudly at your potential customers!
Personally I wouldn’t want to employ someone who scared the living cr*p out of me but hey, when in Rome... or Mexico.
It got me thinking that maybe I should just massively over pronounce my R’s and growl at people to show that I’m actually trying?
Hmmmm... maybe not.