Sunday, December 26, 2010

Four Croak-o?

Did I ever tell you about the illegal drink I had?

If you read the international news sites, you may've seen some recent discussions on California's status as a nanny-state. America is a bit of a confused country right now. It seems to be swinging between the laissez-faire, survival-of-the-fittest, step-over-the-bodies-of-the-poor attitude, and the sort of pointless meddling in people's lives that would make Tony Blair blush. Frankly, I think the whole country needs to sit down with a psychiatrist. And a financial planner, for that matter.

The 2 Californian examples that made news were:
  • They recently banned toys from McDonald's Happy Meals, to try and lower childhood obesity.
  • They banned a drink called Four Loko, because it killed a bunch of teenagers.
I love you, my loyal readers, but there is no way I'm eating a Happy Meal for you. So that leaves us with the Four Loko experience. Luckily, I was stuck in California for a couple of weeks in October just before the ban came into effect. In another example of American confusion, in the hotel where I stayed you're allowed to smoke, but you aren't allowed alcohol. So I had to smuggle it in.

I live life on the edge, baby.

Four Loko comes in a huge can (I think it's about a pint). The drink is 12% alcohol, and full of caffeine. As you can see from the photo, the one that I had was the delicious-sounding watermelon flavour. I asked an American in the know where I should go to buy one, and he said "Find a liquor store with a bunch of hobos out the front", so I did exactly that. It was very cheap; I think it was under $2 for the can. It was apparently the drink of choice of the homeless, but it was only when rich kids at parties started drinking it and dying that it became a problem. Proponents of Four Loko point out that it's not really offering anything different to a Red Bull and vodka, it's just in a massive volume, and very cheap. Which is probably the problem.

I think I can honestly say that I've never tasted anything so horrible. I didn't get through much of it before pouring the remainder down the sink. It was like watermelon-flavoured turpentine, only worse. I wouldn't ban it to protect stupid college kids, but I would ban it for epicurean reasons.

Apparently, This Kiwi Can't Fly

It serves me right for showing off. My Christmas turned out to be about as un-Kiwi as you can get. On my day of departure last week, I did a 7-hour bus trip to Heathrow only to be caught up in snowy chaos along with thousands of other people. Let's be clear about this: It was handled abysmally badly by BAA. No one had any idea what was going on. They just told everyone to go away.

Last Christmas Eve, I slept on a bench at Gatwick. This year I spent hours slumped on a small patch of tiled floor at Heathrow. I plan to spend my holiday next year in a janitor's closet at Luton, just to complete the set.

I moved flat in the last week or so. Here's the view from my new window. That snow has now been lying for 9 days. I think we made it through a full week without the temperature getting above 0C. It's fricking freezing in here, Mr Bigglesworth.

Here's the view from the window at work, during the week:

I've actually had a lot of commiseration and sympathy from people, and meal invites, which has been quite touching. In the end, I went to my boss's place to join their family dinner, which was very nice. We played drunken Pictionary, where I was accused of not getting the answer "tent" correct, because I was saying "tint". Thanks, England - way to burn off my sentimental feelings towards you.

Anyway, with a bit of luck I'll get to NZ some time soon. It'll be a truncated visit, but that's the way it goes.

Thanks for reading. As I said to the guy at work who fell off his bike on the ice and ended up with his arm in cast: "Have a good Xmas break". Oops.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Roast of Christmas Future

England's a nice place and all, but I wouldn't want to have to eat there. Seriously, what the fuck is a turbot? A "flatfish that lives in brackish water in the north Atlantic. Also known as a butt." Only a complete nong would put that in their mouth.

But in less than 15,000 minutes now, I'll be flying for NZ. Not that I'm counting or anything. Sing along if you know the tune:

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love* gave to me:

- 12 Burger Rings
- 11 Hillyers pies
- 10 Orange Frujus
- 9 sausage rolls
- 8 Cookie Times
- 7 Sammy's souvlakis
- 6 Ginger Kisses
- 5 blue cod
- 4 slabs of Peachy
- 3 roast lambs
- 2 L&Ps
- And a pavlova slathered in cream

* Depressingly, the "true love" buying all this for me is presumably me.