Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Bean, gone

Just when you thought the world couldn't get any worse, my coffee machine has broken.  My coffee machine!  Suddenly the only black liquid more important in this house than oil has been cut off, resulting in an energy crisis just as desperate as any caused by fossil fuel.

Basically, the machine still heats up and the pump still runs but only develops around 3 bars of pressure.  How am I meant to make espresso with only 3 bars of pressure!?  It's a nightmare of underextraction that leaves a very bitter aftertaste.

Now, I realise the dangers of narrowly basing self-worth on a single aspect of your life, but cappuccino making is a) the only employable skill listed on my resumé, and b) the sole reason that Hannah allows me to hang around.  "No espresso, no caress-o," my wife has stated.  "If you're not foaming, you can go roaming," she added.  Or maybe not - I'm having significant caffeine-withdrawal hallucinations at the moment.

Between the bouts of wailing, gnashing, and drinking drip (drip!!) I have managed to arrange to return the machine to the manufacturer who, for a not-so-small fee, promise they will fix it.  The turnaround on this process can be up to six weeks, but at least I get my Lenten fast out of the way early this year.

At moments like this, it is helpful to keep things in perspective.  Current events are producing threats to the fundamentals of liberal western democracy that have not been this great for many generations...and now my coffee machine has broken!  Time for the only acceptable British response to such a crisis: put the kettle on.

The manufacturer was nice enough to send me packing materials to return the machine.  Sure that box is big enough?  I'm returning a coffee machine, not a child!  Although if that's a service you offer...

Goodbye machine, do not go gentle into that good night...

Coffee, in happier times.  Aaaaarrrrghh!!!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

I went down to the demonstration

While we were recovering from being Texan for a night we missed some kind of inauguration that happened in DC.  But that's OK, as it was only the prelude to the main event: the Women's March on Washington!

The new president has said less-than-nice things about quite a number of people, and today some of those decided to protest about it.  It was time to assert our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly, even though as a non-citizen I don't know if I'm technically covered by those rights.  Whatever - it was time to march.

The Metro down from Wheaton was a party train, packed with banner carriers and slogan wearers.  Pete was entranced by all the shouting that continued as we alighted at Union Station.  "Oh my goodness!" he stated continually in his fine British accent.  And there were a lot of people.  Like, literally.

We finally got up the escalators and began our wander down to the Mall where we became three of the estimated 500,000 there.  I told you it was a lot.  The volume of people was reflected in the diversity of issues that have been stirred up in this horrendous presidential campaign, and I can tell you from the banners and signs that we humans are an imaginative, hilarious lot when we get together.  There were also plenty of hats.

Having wandered for the best part of two hours, and got somewhat freaked out by the density of the crowds while trailing a four-year-old, we headed back to the station before the marching proper began.  If the noise continued like it did while we were there then no amount of bulletproof glass is going to keep things quiet in the Oval Office, and hopefully the message that in a democracy "the people" means everybody - not just the minority who voted for you - will get through.

An average day at Wheaton Metro.

Posters out!

Things filled up fast.

The Trump memorabilia man at Union Station was not doing great business today.

Sauntering down.

Love, peace, kindness.  Amen!

Pussy hats of all varieties were on display.

Thank you, Canada.

We were there!

And so was everyone else.

Yes!  I'm not alone!

One of these signs is not like the others.

Another of my faves.

Pete picks a typically intellectual subject to protest about.

And in half-a-million people we bumped into Amanda!

Fighting the power.

And that about sums it up.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Black Tie & Boots

Yes, it finally happened.  President Trump has been sworn in, commencing a period of division and political instability unprecedented in modern American politics.  In DC, where only 4% of people voted for him, you can imagine the mood.  The city decided there was only one solution: to party.

DC is a fairly sleepy place most of the time.  Or, rather, when people aren't sleeping it's because they're working rather than having fun.  But once every four years all the parties happen at once, as each state throws a knees-up to celebrate/commiserate about who is moving into that white building at the centre of town.

So Hannah, in her ambassadorial role, got tickets to a few inauguration balls, mostly to babysit Chevron board members and their wives.  But I did manage to sneak into one as her arm candy, and it was the biggest and best of them.  Texas!

Luckily we know the Muckers of Texas, who babysat Pete and loaned me everything I needed to look like a cattle/oil baron.  All I had to add were my own cowboy boots, which I scored from a thrift store for $8 (50% discount with my Value Village loyalty card).  I may possibly have given my non-Texas-ness away the second I opened my mouth, but I was quite impressed by my look if I stayed quiet.  I attracted the attentions of more than one Dallas divorcee.

Among the other 10,000 people at the ball there were some genuine Texans, a lot of ten gallon hats, plenty of...er...expensive chest enhancements, and a full line-up of country music stars and dancers, across four ballrooms.  Oh, and The Beach Boys, or the two of them who still tour.  You could buy paintings of Trump at a silent auction (no one had) or guitars signed by Willie Nelson and Phil Collins (yes, renowned Texan Phil Collins).  When some big Republicans gave the inevitable speeches from the main stage and asked shoutingly "How many of y'all voted for Trump?" the response was muted.

All extremely fun and bizarre.  But then bizarre is how things have been for a while now, and how I imagine they'll continue for four years until the next parties.  Tomorrow we're off into town for the Million Women March.  Checks and balances!

Immigrants, anchor baby.

A lot of "Texans", and some Texans.

Free bar.  No more questions.

They had an excellent, mellow singer-songwriter room upstairs.

And downstairs it was all kicking off!  These are the Lil' Wranglers of College Station, TX, and they were amazing.

Want this hanging on your wall?

How about a Willie Nelson signed guitar?  He's from Texas, at least.

Watching some of The Beach Boys, 50 years after their sell-by date.

OK, it's decided: we're dumping DC and moving to Texas to start a cattle ranch/dance club.  Much more straightforward than being around here at the moment.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Go fourth, my son

Why is it that, just as you get used to tussling daily with a three-year-old, nature conspires to send the Earth around the Sun one more time to leave you with a four-year-old!?  And now when you say things like "eat your broccoli or you can't play computer games," they say things like "if you let me play computer games, then I'll eat my broccoli".  Life has not equipped me to deal with these sorts of mental challenges, so I'm left replying "ask your mother!" and then scurrying away to find a parenting book.

Weren't you a lot smaller once?

Pete requested for his "party" a trip to Chuck E Cheese (argh!!) with his best friend Ethan.  Cheap, so how could I refuse?

Now, the Muckers actually know how to throw a party, and with JJ's birthday conveniently close to Pete's we got to eat even more pizza and cake at Flight, an awesome indoor trampoline centre.  They make the kids trampoline before the party food arrives, for explosively obvious reasons.

What fresh hell is this?

Low-resolution ball pit.

Come on!  You can make it!!

Ahhh - two of my old babies.  Both of whom are much more of a handful now.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Little snowpocalypse

A lot of people are hoping that we receive a classic East Coast snow deluge to coincide with the inauguration on 20th, but today we had a small appetizer when a couple of inches of the white stuff fell roundabout.  Not quite deep and crisp and even but plenty to sledge in.  It didn't affect anyone too much apart from making Maryland drivers even crazier than usual.

I'm anticipating congress's new child labour laws.

Wrapping up warm (snow or no snow - it's been brass monkeys out here recently...)

It's all fun and games until somebody starts a snow fight.

Payback time for last winter.

Black diamond run.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Lonesome dove

So that's it!  Hannah's back at work, Pete's back at school, Ellen and Meg are back in the mother country, and I'm back to days of trying to beat my high score at Candy Crush Soda Saga (where's a Striped Lollipop when you need one?)

We decided to finish the holiday on a cultural high by looking around the National Portrait Gallery and then drowning our sorrows at the ever-wonderful City Tap House.  Neither disappointed.  Excitement was provided on the way home by Hannah forgetting her rucksack and then getting into a shouting match with a man who had found it and claimed the Peppa Pig magazines inside were his.  Ah, city living.

Then it was a last, beautiful trip around the Beltway to Dulles to drop our British guests.  The drive was thankfully far less congested than when they arrived, and I got home to find that Meg was putting her new Christmas tablet to good use and messaging me copious pictures of the pizza she was eating at the airport.  What is it with young people nowadays having to share every detail of their lives online?  Where could she get it from...?

Someone is going to miss another someone very much.

Ladies soaking in the culture...before soaking in the beer.

Take kids into DC, release them into an art museum.  Job done.

Meg contemplates the organic transmutations of volumatic space made solid.

A bit more contemplation.

The fabulous National Portrait Gallery.

The fabulous City Tap House.

One for the road/plane.

Until next time...