Stroking the Aardvark

Moving from England to Las Vegas has come with its fair share of life adjustments (if you hadn’t already noticed from this blog!).

Amongst these was something I did not see coming.  Something that was never an issue in the UK because it was rarely hot (or warm, for that matter) and the humidity was a lot higher.

Plus it rained….a lot.

So what is this new stress in my life?

Dry skin.

Now, in the past when I have visited this fine city as a tourist, it was always hot and I spent a lot of the time slathered in cream; mooching along the strip, shopping, eating, gambling or simply laid out by the pool getting shitfaced.

All of this was fine because I was covered in enough cream to mistake me for a female porn star at the end of a shoot (pun intended).

In case it wasn’t clear I was always moisturised.

The same can be said now that I live in Las Vegas…but only when it’s hot.  I’m either covered in factor 100, sitting under a huge umbrella or neck deep in a pool.

It’s a hard life.

Without any form of sun protection, I tend to resemble a cooked lobster…in glasses.

lobster shades

I am, without question, the sun’s bitch.

However, it’s currently Winter here in sin city which means I’m covered in layers of clothing rather than cream based chemicals and the lack of humidity in Nevada has resulted in me having incredibly dry skin.  This is especially so on the most exposed parts of my body; my hands.

It was getting to the point where it was hurting.  I was worried about making a fist in case my hand crumbled like dry leaves.  This was difficult because lots of things in life make me want to make a fist.

To combat this I decided to be a bit of a girl and buy hand moisturiser (that’s ‘moisturizer’ to my American friends…just in case you guys aren’t sure what I mean).  So last week I went to Wal-Mart and headed to the skin care aisle.

Fuck me, there are a lot of moisturisers on the market.

I was stood there for at least 5 minutes trying to decide which hand cream would be the best.  I was getting some strange looks from people as I tried to decide which would be the best without spending $15.

Seriously?

$15 for a tube of moisturiser?  That stuff had better be laced with heroin.

Eventually I settled on a small unassuming tube of Vaseline intensive care because…

  1. I recognised the brand
  2. It was specifically designed for hands and
  3. It was fragrance free.  I did NOT want to smell like yo’ mama!

And that was the end of that.  My hands are now pain free and supple.

It’s not an exciting story, nor does it have a particularly witty climax.

Or so I thought….

Fast forward to yesterday at work.  A friend came over to my desk to see how I was doing and, during the conversation, I pulled out my tube of cream and started applying it to my hands.

“Sorry about this.  I know it’s a bit girly, but my hands are so dry.  I don’t usually use moisturiser”

He smiled at me.  It was a smile I didn’t recognise.

“Sure you don’t”, he said.

I was confused.

He continued to smile at me, adding an eyebrow wiggle.

raise eyebrows

There was a further pause as he realised I didn’t have a fucking clue what he was getting at.

“You…you DO know what I’m referring to, right?  You know, ‘moisturizer’?”[1]

The penny dropped.

It was my turn to smile.

“Sorry mate.” I said, “I don’t need it.  That’s the difference between us Brits and you guys”

It was his turn to look confused.

zoolander turtleneck

Peek-a-boo

This did get me thinking about my trip to Wal-Mart though.  To me, I was trying to figure out which hand cream would best moisturise my poor cracked hands.  To others I was openly looking for a lubricant; picking them up, smelling them and basically making a performance of choosing a decent dick cream.

No wonder I got strange looks.

Now that I think about it, people were scurrying away; probably before I had the opportunity to ask them which one they thought would be best for some good ol’ fashioned self abuse.

Us Brits don’t need it.

Not where we come from.

Not in our hood.

Baby Aardvark

Gotta love the little wrinkled bugger….

 

[1] Spelt the American way, because he’s American and would’ve said it that way.

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Nothing fine about French dining

Last weekend my wife and I took a trip to Paris.  To many it is an opportunity to visit landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre, but for us it was all about visiting Jim Morrison’s grave as my wife is a massive fan of The Doors.

As a city, I’ve never really been a big fan of Paris. Years ago I worked for Eurostar which meant I had been to Paris a lot and the more exposure I had, the worse it got; a lot like toxic radiation.

Aside from the smelly sewers, unruly traffic, overpriced dining and poorly signposted Metro system; my main gripe with Paris is the people.

It’s no secret that the French and the English aren’t particularly fond of each other, but I’m not referring to the French in general; just the Parisians.  They can be summed up in words like Contemptuous, Unfriendly, Nasty, Terrible and Smug.

I’m sure I’ll think of an easy to remember acronym but one escapes me right now.

Let me tell you why I’m not particularly keen on these people.

Firstly, not a single one of them looks like this.

french clichefrench onion

That in itself just goes to show their lack of respect for tradition.

Secondly, the attitude they have towards anyone who isn’t French is abysmal, particularly if you’ve ever attempted to dine in Paris; it’s an experience that soon becomes a chore.

Forget a cute little café owned by a friendly fat Frenchman called Gustav; Paris is monopolised by McDonalds, Quick (France’s answer to McDonalds, even though the question was never asked), kebab shops, grills and bistros.

Lots and lots of fucking bloody bistros.

I think the word ‘Bistro’ means ‘to add 80% to the price’

 

Jacques – “François, ow can we put ze prices of our mediocre food up wizout upsetting all ze people?”

François – “Oh Jacques, zis is eezy peezy, just put ze word ‘Bistro’ on ze sign.

Jacques – “Oh François you are ze clever boy, no?”

 

Here is a dining experience my wife and I had on Sunday.

It was a summer’s day in Paris, so naturally it was freezing cold and pissing with rain.  My wife and I had decided to give up walking to Notre Dame and instead looked for somewhere to eat.

Eventually, amongst all the bistros, we found (oh look) another fucking bistro.

We walked in and were greeted by a smiling waiter, “Bonjour Monsieur”.

I replied with “Bonjour”.

His smile quickly dropped at the sound of my accent and he curtly replied, “Table for two?  Zis way please” with less enthusiasm than he started with.

He sat us down at the smallest table in existence, thrust menus at us and walked away.

After literally (and I mean literally) ten seconds he returned; “What would you like Monsieur?”

Holy shit, I hadn’t even found the drinks section of the menu yet!

I flipped through the menu frantically and then scanned the drinks in a panic, choosing the first beer I recognised.  It was 9 Euros for a pint. Nine Euros!  My wife ordered the cheapest red wine at 13 Euros for a glass.

Just a glass, NOT a bottle.

He wrote down the order, snatched away our menus and disappeared.

After thirty seconds he returned with our drinks on a tray and the bill which he placed face down on the table.  This was because he preferred us to look at it after he was gone so he didn’t have to deal with “Twenty two fucking Euros for two drinks??”

I asked, “We’d like to order some food please” which was met with a scowl that said, ‘why didn’t you order ze food with your drinks you stupid Eeenglish?’ followed by a very audible sigh.

I really felt sorry for this guy, having to go the whole 6 or 7 metres back to the entrance of the restaurant to retrieve our menus.

He ‘gently’ handed our menus back to us, rolled his eyes and disappeared for approximately eight seconds before returning with “What would you like Monsieur?”; standing right over us while we perused the menu at a pace he was clearly not happy with.

The word ‘Waiter’ suddenly made a lot more sense.

My wife indicated she wanted me to order for us so I asked for the Caesar salad in my best attempted broken French and pointed to the ‘Vienna’ club sandwich for myself.

I assumed he understood.

He nodded a bit.

Then, as he took the menus away for the second time, I said “Merci”.  This cheeky bastard – who resembled a shaved giraffe with bad hair – let out a small chuckle under his breath; his stupid French breath.

He then picked up our drinks bill, still face down, and disappeared again.

As we sat there sipping our life savings away and chatting, we admiring the view of the Seine river through the heavy traffic, beggars and tourists.

Ah, Paris; The city of romance and love.

Eventually the waiter returned with my wife’s salad and a ‘Vienna’ pizza.

A whole pizza.

A whole pizza that I hadn’t ordered and yet cost twice that of the 10 Euro sandwich I’d actually asked for.

Did I dispute this?

Did I fuck.

I wasn’t even going to attempt to take on this guy.  Besides, the pizza did look good.

“Thank you” I said, in English this time as he placed the original drinks bill face down on the table with the food bill now stapled to it.  I noticed he had crudely scrawled the total on the back in red pen, or blood.

Either way it looked angry. The paper was slightly torn along the ink lines.

(I have to say at this point that the food was very good).

(I also have to say at this point that, at those prices, a shit sandwich would have been very good).

Whilst we were eating I noticed our waiter walking back and forth behind us like a big cat stalking its prey.  It soon becomes evident he was checking to see if we’d paid yet.

Hold your horses Pierre, we hadn’t even finished eating yet!

Furthermore, what if we’d want to order more drinks?  I fear the stapler would have to come out again.

Eventually we finished eating and the waiter leapt like a…like a….hmm, I want to say ‘frog’ but I’m pushing my luck with this post as it is.

He leapt like a….like a toad.  Yes, like a toad; clearing our plates before we’d even finished chewing.

I picked up the only thing he’d coincidentally left on the table (other than our overpriced drinks) which was the two page bill.

The total came to 53.90 Euros.

Jesus. We’d only ‘popped in’ for a light lunch.

Aside from feeling like we were being mugged slowly and in comfort, this created a dilemma; I only had notes. No coins.

I could either pay 55 Euros and come across as a cheapskate, or pay 60 Euros and then risk not getting change.  I’m not a light tipper, but I will be damned if this pompous prick was getting over 6 Euros for his ‘service’. Also, in all honesty, I was a bit scared to ask him for change.

So I bit the bullet and went with the 60 Euro option.

The moment the notes touched the surface of the table at a microscopic level our toad was there, scooping up his loot, er, I mean the payment for lunch with a smug “Merci Monsieur”.

He disappeared for about four and a half seconds before returning to give us our change.

‘This will be interesting’, I thought.

He fumbled around in his pockets for a bit, jangling change and eventually dug out his wallet.  He opened it, peered inside, tutted loudly and then went back to rummaging around in his pockets.

After an eternity he pulled out a small selection of coins.

Ok, zere is one…two….

This performance of a poor and desolate waiter was worthy of an Academy Award as he picked through the pathetic collection of small coins held in his hand.

Any minute now I expected him to drag his elderly sick mother from the back of the restaurant or a homeless beggar from the street to help him pay the evil fat cat English pigs that were extorting money from him.

It was like watching a charity appeal advert on TV.

“Every day a poor Parisian waiter has to give change to tourists following an overpriced meal with underwhelming service. Please call or text to donate 5 Euros a month so we can provide these [insert acronym here] with the simple things in life like striped shirts, berets, bicycles and bad manners”.

Once he began crying I folded and waived him away.

“Keep the change”

Oh Merci Monsieur!”

Yes, Mercy indeed mate.  Be thankful I resisted my urge to slap you, you pompously arrogant twat.

We finished drinking up next month’s mortgage payment and left.  By the time we got outside and walked past the window we had been sat by, another Eeenglish couple were already sat in our seats having a drink, holding the bill in their hands and sobbing gently.

Ah, Paris.

Au Revoir.

french waiter

The Great(?) British Weather?

We Brits hate our weather.

Let’s be honest, it’s a constant battle to try and second guess what clothes would be best to wear for the day.

“But it’s supposed to be nice later”, you’ve said whilst looking out of the window in your pyjamas at the thunderstorm destroying half of your garden.

The warmth of your house feels so lovely compared to the cold touch of the glass, and the fact that half of the neighbourhood’s kids have just flown past your window (being chased by frantic parents) only reinforces the belief that maybe, just maybe, the weathermen are wrong.

Yet, by 2pm, it is glorious sunshine and the massive chunky knit jumper you’re wearing suddenly seems like a bad idea. You’re slowly shrivelling to a sweaty little raisin under the sheer depth of insulation you stupidly decided to don.  Luckily you didn’t wear anything underneath so there’s no chance of beating the heat by shedding a layer without the possibility of getting arrested.

This is why we Brits talk about the weather, a lot. It is unpredictable and ever changing, so of course it becomes the focal point of most conversations.

We hate it. We long for consistency in our weather; preferably involving a lot of sun, plenty of sand and an assortment of brightly coloured fruity beverages with umbrellas in them.

The irony of the umbrellas is often lost on us.

It is because of all these things that we love to travel. We love to go to faraway places and do nothing but eat, drink, shop and tan. In fact, the quality of our holiday is often judged on just how dark we can go.

Also, the colour of choice is brown; the darker the brown, the more awesome the holiday. Dark pink, on the other hand, is as welcomed as it is on a chicken leg at a barbeque.  Burning and peeling is deemed a sign of a bad holiday and, by the laws of British conversational etiquette, usurps weather as the prominent topic of which to moan.

“I was so burned I had to have an ice bath”

“I can’t stop peeling. George A. Romero called me to see if I wanted a job as an extra”

So off we fly, to faraway lands and the limitless experiences that await us. We eat, we drink (and being British, we DRINK) and we meet lots of different people, cultures and customs. We also take plenty of photos and videos to ensure we keep Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on their toes; buying bigger data servers to accommodate our overwhelming need to show off

‘Point of view’ shot of your feet by the pool?

Don’t mind if I do.

You see, these holidays are a necessity for us. We manage to sleep better than we have in years and we allow the stresses of everyday life to dissipate in the bubbles of our in-room Jacuzzi. In fact, whilst having a massage in the spa, all we have to worry about is whether we’ll be having white wine or a cocktail with dinner.

Obviously it depends if we go for the Lobster or the Sirloin.

But we’ve earned it. We’ve worked hard for this. Day in, day out we’ve endured deadlines, emails, phone calls and everything in between. We’ve saved our pennies and now it’s time to cash in and treat ourselves to a little luxury.  This is what life is all about, right?

We simply love our holidays.

Then, when it’s all over and we arrive back in good old Blighty, there’s an odd part of us that looks forward to going back to work.  We look forward to others commenting on how brown we are in our carefully chosen white shirt.

That is unless we’re the type, guide book in hand, running around at breakneck speed to ensure we’re getting in as much culture and sights as possible.

Can’t miss a thing!

We end up spending more time inside buildings than outside them, resulting in us returning home almost the same colour as when we left.

The upside is we have a lot of photos to show you in a well prepared four hour slide presentation.

“Here’s Bob next to a tree”.

“Here’s Bob inside the cathedral”.

“Here’s Bob eating an ice cream”.

“Here’s Bob next to a tree”.

Ad Nauseum.

And after all is done, as we commute to work in the rain, we think about where we were this time yesterday and where we want to go to next.

Yes, we Brits hate our weather sometimes, but without it we wouldn’t have the desire to go out into the world and explore what’s on offer.

Mind you, our summers can be pretty damn good!

Pimms anyone?

British socks and sandals