A Message from the Queen

Dear reader, as you may have noticed I have been somewhat slow in producing the latest Blog. Yes it is on USA Vs UK  History so a bit of a one sided match. (Urgh must not mention Match after the English Ladies football team!) but it is actually unfortunately work keeping me busy! I will endeavour to finish the missive this weekend particularly as I have a long flight to Brazil on Sunday, but in the mean time please be upstanding for a message from the Queen! (Not the work of Charlie Chaucer but still amusing)




To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
1. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour,’ ‘favour,’ ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise.’ Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).

2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ”like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u” and the elimination of ‘-ize.’
3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.
5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.
8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.
11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
13.. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.
14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the QUEEN


The Law!

So dear reader I am writing this blog as my wife drives us to Horseshoe Bay near Austin. As those who have been in a car with her, or read my earlier driving blog will know, we are currently travelling at Mach 6 and on arrival I will be kissing the ground like the Pope in thanks for a safe delivery, so if there are any typos you will know why!

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Anyway to the Law

There are some big differences here in USA/Texas versus Blighty (Slang for UK) However as you would expect with the Law a quick disclaimer: All observations are my own and may or may not be factually accurate! I am sure those more knowledgeable will point out my errors in comments but here goes.

Considering England and USA started from the same Common law it is surprising how far apart they have diverged in a few hundred years.

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Let’s start with Civil law

In the USA people seem to have an inalienable right to never be at fault for anything they do, no matter how careless or stupid. This results in many crazy law suits and often payouts just to avoid expensive litigation even if the person being sued is not at fault.

This is amply demonstrated by the infamous case where a Winnebago driver actually thought if she put her RV in cruise control this would be like auto pilot. (And yes she was a woman so probably actually read the instructions) She was therefore somewhat shocked when having engaged said cruise control, and left the wheel to go into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee the vehicle crashed. Needless to say after they had peeled her from the wreckage, she sued the Winnebago Company as their instructions were unclear. And worst of all an Oklahoma jury awarded her $1.75m!!!

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Not the actual Winnebago :0)

The result is manufacturers and sign writers now write instructions as though you are mentally impaired. Some finer examples brought to my attention are:

  • On Sears hair dryer: Do not use while sleeping.
  • On a bag of Fritos: You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.
  • On packaging for a Rowenta iron: Do not iron clothes on body.
  • On Children’s Cough Medicine: Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.
  • On Nytol Sleep Aid: Warning: May cause drowsiness.
  • On most brands of Christmas lights: For indoor or outdoor use only.
  • On an American Airlines packet of nuts: Instructions: open packet, eat nuts.
  • On a child’s Superman costume: Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.
  • On a toboggan: Beware: Sledge may develop high speed under certain snow conditions.
  • On a take away coffee cup: Caution: Hot beverages are hot.
  • Emergency safety procedures at a US summer camp: In case of flood, proceed uphill. In case of flash flood proceed uphill quickly.
  • In a microwave oven manual: Do not use for drying pets. (Really!)
  • On a bottle of laundry detergent: Remove clothing before distributing in washing machine.
  • On a muffin packet: Remove wrapper, open mouth, insert muffin, eat.
  • On a can of air freshener: For use by trained personnel only.
  • In a car handbook: In order to get out of car, open door, get out lock doors, and then close doors.
  • On a birthday card for a one year old: Not suitable for children aged under 36 months or less.
  • On a toilet cleaning brush: Do not use orally.
  • On a push along lawn mower: Not to be used as a hedge trimmer.
  • On a box of fireworks: Do not put in mouth.
  • In a dishwasher manual: Do not allow children to play in dishwasher.
  • On a toaster: Do not use underwater.
  • On a mattress: Do not attempt to swallow.

And to prove it is not just USA that has been infected from Sweden on a chain saw. Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals. (OMG! – Now my step brother lives in Sweden and this could explain a lot !)

Anyway you get the idea.

The litigation culture in the USA is now truly out of control and has had several consequences.

  1. Insurance premiums are eye wateringly high
  2. When people are really injured the “no win, no fee” Lawyers who prowl around hospitals persuade the injured party to engage them and they take a ridiculous 40%+ slice of the winnings for cases that can normally easily be won. Even worse the lawyers often settle at too low an amount as they want to do as little work as possible and settle quickly to get their cut and move to their next Victim.
  3. Regulation in the USA is weaker than it should be as bodies are too scared to set standards for fear if they miss something they will become the party sued.

An example is when I worked for a Toy and Game Company and we were the European distributor for a number of USA Toy Companies. Goods were manufactured in China (Of course) to be USA compliant and when we tested samples sent over to the UK for UK and European standards they would invariably fail for what you would imagine are pretty serious reasons such as: finger entrapments, being made with potentially hazardous materials, swallowing threats etc….

The UK started to go down the “no win no fee” lawyer route and litigation started to mount. Fortunately the Government at the time saw sense and banned this approach.

I do acknowledge however in certain cases, primarily drug or pollution negligence (we all remember Julia Roberts as Erin Brokovich) No win, No fee class actions are realistically the only way most injured individuals will ever get justice against the wall of defense ranged against them. So it is not universally bad. Plus Julia looked good even in that role!

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Now we live here in the USA, you will be pleased to know my wife has fully embraced the USA blame free culture. This was evidenced when, late for golf (as usual) she reversed out of her garage at speed ignoring rear view camera, mirrors, and more bleeping sensors than the space shuttle and hit my car which was parked near her garage. This of course was my step-father’s fault for parking there not her trance like driving state. Still I digress.

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And Ok it was not that bad, just a dent – LOL

Criminal law

America spices things up by having Federal Law , State Law and to really confuse things the Constitution which overrides everything. This leads to a level of uncertainty that until the European Court was established citizens of the UK just could not begin to comprehend.

Now the Constitution is pretty special. Since it came into force in 1789, it has only been amended twenty-seven times. (Per Wikipedia so it must be true) In general, the first ten amendments, known collectively as the Bill of rights, offer specific protections of individual liberty and justice and place restrictions on the powers of government. The majority of the seventeen later amendments expand individual civil rights. The Constitution means that where Politicians referred to here as “Lawmakers” pass any laws, they can be challenged if they breach any constitutional rights.

Now in the UK we have the House of Lords to keep the Politicians/Law Makers in line but the Constitution seems far better to me.

State law can also be challenged via the Constitution, but just because you can challenge them, does not mean States have the same laws. There are now for example different State laws on just about everything including drugs, use and possession of guns, alcohol consumption….

There is also the ultimate difference on punishment in that the death penalty exists in some States but not others and where it does exist, it can be for different crimes! All very confusing for Americans let alone Aliens like myself!

Another major difference is the Police are all armed. In the UK police have pepper spray, batons and occasionally Tasers though there are attempts to ban these as they keep frying people. Guns are reserved for highly trained specialist squads or Military police. Not the regular doughnut chompers, as exhibited by Chief Wigam of Simpsons fame.

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Now granted here in Texas there is a high probability that most people being arrested are in all likelihood armed, they do still seem to have a tendency to overreact!  In a basic car stop you often see multiple Police vehicles involved. And as for an arrest…..

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And this was a shoplifting Grandmother with one leg! (Just Kidding LOL)

Joking apart though there was a recent incident here in Texas where an officer pulled his gun on some kids causing a disturbance at a local pool. Fortunately the episode was filmed on mobile phones and he has since resigned.

Now in general despite the comments above I am a supporter of the police as the majority are there to protect and serve us the great unwashed public.

However there are always a few rotten apples and whereas in the UK errors may result in a defendant being potentially injured and/or false imprisoned, death whilst being captured or executed are far more final.

The solution being called for is to equip all police with body cameras. However as has rightly been pointed out, often cameras need to be turned off as police are dealing with domestic incidents where individuals will not want to be filmed. If police can turn off cameras, as has happened in a number of previous incidents, the crucial footage will more than likely just happen to be missing!

A number of police have said they support cameras as we will be able to see what they put up with. So the demand is not all one sided.

Now one positive here in the USA/Texas is the lack of speed cameras. Unlike the UK where they are everywhere creating large revenues for the Government.

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Texas started to go the same way. But using them was proved to be unconstitutional since they were principally aimed at fleecing drivers rather than safety (As all Governments claim) and they were pretty much all removed. Though as a result there are far more speed traps here.

There are also some cameras at junctions watching for motorists shooting lights which is probably not a bad thing! The reason for this is that in the UK an amber light means slow down. Here it means drive as quick as possible before light gets to red. Infact I nearly caused a number of accidents, and severe displeasure to several of my fellow drivers, when on my arrival I actually started to stop or slow down when lights were on amber. Needless to say there are quite a number of traffic light accidents, though to be fair, drivers (Aware of the trait) do not rush off when lights go green as they realise there is always the chance that a late straggler will come flying across.

Recently I was going through a light, one evening, when there were loads of flashes to the point where I felt like John Travolta in a 70’s disco! I assumed I had been knicked. (British term caught) However this is not necessarily the case! (besides the fact it could have equally have been one of the other 8 drivers still crossing with me who set the cameras off) As a leaflet I recently received from a strange looking man handing them out says, the payment of any camera fine cannot be enforced, due yet again to someone using the fine US constitution to challenge this. Therefore apparently even if you are caught you won’t have to pay the fine. Unless a Cop catches you in which case you would be wise to pay up of face a jail cell!

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Now it is true to say that I may have been caught and summonsed. But my Wife (Who used to work for the UK Royal Mail) only goes to the post box to collect the mail every few weeks as a mark of protest, at not having deliveries to our door!

On the subject of cameras there are quite a few CCTV cameras in the USA but in the UK they are everywhere with one camera for every 11 people were recorder in 2013 and it is probably worse now! This has been used as an excuse to cut policemen from the streets. The problem however is when they do finally track down the owner of CCTV’s that have films incidents the recording have either not been properly saved or they are so illegible that you cannot make out the individual on the film.

In USA there are also hardly any police walking the streets but that is because they are all firmly entrenched in their cars. The exception to this is in the morning when Companies pay the police to marshal traffic so their staff can get their safely across roads, in their cars of course, into the car parks.

And so another Blog reaches its end. The next episode will be on History or in the American case the absence of it. Until next time this is Charlie Chaucer signing off.


Food !

This weeks Blog looks at the differences in the UK and Texan approach to food and naturally the first difference has to be size!

Everything is bigger in Texas!

The first thing you notice coming to USA and Texas in particular is the sheer size of the portions. This is exacerbated by side orders one of which is normally enough for 4 people. The result of this is that in most restaurants you have so much food that a hoard of Waiters are required to deliver it to your table.


Now in the UK there is what we call the “waste no want not” mentality. This probably stems from the War when there were food shortages and rationing. This mentality has been banged into every child since 1945 and has resulted in it being seen as cardinal sin not to empty your plate.


So when I came to Texas following this doctrine, there was a severe chance I was shortly going to be the size of Mr Creosote or Austin Powers greedy friend!


It took me some time to discover (Fortunately before I exploded) that most American’s when they dine out, expect to get enough food to take home for at least one or two meals. In fact a number of friends, whose wives generally cook about as frequently as a Martian landing in their dustbin, happily live off these left overs on nights they do not go out.

I have also now learnt that there is a code in Restaurants as to how big the portion is likely to be.

– Small = Large

– Large = Enormous

– This is a generous portion = outrageously large

– You might want to share it, if you order this = Watch out for the forklift truck delivery!

Now my first experience of the sharing principal happened, when I ordered some chocolate cake. They said it would be good to share and I though fair enough my wife can have a slither. (One of the many good things about her is she is allergic to dark chocolate, unfortunately she compensates for this with alcohol consumption but that is another story). Anyway when the Cake (And it was close to being a whole cake) arrived it resembled something from the Roald Dahl film (Movie) Matilda.


Now normally per above my British instinct would have been to try and clear the plate. However this was such a gargantuan task I gave in, and for the first time and hopefully the last I took a box. 4 days later I finished the dam thing and restored my dignity!

Texas is worse than most in terms of size. You can get steaks half the size of a Cow, Veal chops that look like they come from a regular cow, and as for the Turkey legs they must have a Giant Turkey lab somewhere as the legs are more akin to something from the Flintstones.


Frying Tonight

Talking of Turkeys that brings me to the other Texan tradition of frying everything. Well actually I have to mention it is more of a Deep South tradition (particularly as I now have two Louisiana resident followers) that has come to Texas.

In terms of Turkeys frying it is almost a religious experience. On Thanksgiving day. (For the benefit of UK readers, this is when Texans along with fellow Americans express gratitude for all they have to be thankful for, and eat every Turkey they can find in honour of their Puritan forbears.) Here in Texas and across the South the men folk risk life and limb preparing the feast in a Turkey fryer.

The turkey friar is basically a large vat of oil heated using a gas bottle and a device to lower it in to the boiling oil, that is normally woefully inadequate. This sounds simple enough but carries the same risks as nuclear fusion, as evidenced by the high number of Emergency room visits that occur every year.


In terms of Turkey frying there are a number of things that can go disastrously wrong!

Error 1. Over heat the oil – Two issues result here. 1) The Oil will catch fire even before you start 2) The Turkey can explode. I kid you not, if the oil is too hot or the Turkey is lowered in to the oil too fast it will explode.


Error 2 – Assuming you survive Error 1 the oil can and normally does overflow. This makes the ground around the fryer into a skating rink so that when our Heroic chef comes to get his turkey he slips and drops the turkey or worse falls headlong into the fryer.

Error 3 – Losing the Turkey – Now I don’t mean actually losing it as they are normally huge but the rope, wire or whatever else you have used to lower said Bird into the oil can become detached. The world’s most dangerous fishing trip then takes place as you try and secure the bird and pull it out of the oil without frying yourself.

Error 4 – When you extract the Turkey you normally have a large heavy bird covered in oil. (For the more dubious male readers I am still talking about Turkey frying here, not a gentleman’s club) Now as stated in previous blogs Americans are not famed for their attention span. They forget the fact they have just withdrawn the bird from boiling oil at several hundred degrees and touch it! Leaving a lifelong battle scar to remember the day by!

Assuming the process is completed time to cook is around 15 mins (Excluding Emergency room visit!) And yes it tastes surprisingly good and is generally bmoist!

Now contract this with the safer but more sedate and time consuming UK (And North of America) method. The main day for Turkey consumption in the UK is Christmas day. On Christmas morning the nominated cook must rise from their slumbers at the crack of dawn and do the following:

  1. Stuff Turkey – This involved inserting your hand up its backside removing the innards known as Giblets then pushing stuffing (Sage and other ingredients) back in the hole. This makes the Turkey taste great but is a highly unpleasant task especially with a post-Christmas eve hang over!
  2. Placing Turkey in the Oven – If it will fit as many people (Ok mainly Men) overestimate the size of their oven. (Sorry for so many innuendos in this Blog)
  3. Roast slowly basting occasionally. (Basting = spooning meat juices back on turkey to keep it moist, a challenge when almost the entire oven is full of the Turkey.
  4. After 6-7 hours, unless you have died of starvation, remove heavy bird from Oven and try not to burn self or drop.


It will either taste great or be totally dried out! But whatever the result with British stoicism everyone eats it and says how lovely it is, so as not to upset the Cook!

Now Turkey frying is just the start, here in the South anything can be fried!

When I say anything I mean anything: Vegetables, Chicken, I have even had (When I first arrived) a fried crab which was a bit of a shock after having had a lovely Cornish the week before!


Texas Crab       Last UK Crab in Falmouth before left for USA!

And yes the Cornish crab is that large, the mistake of letting my Godchildren Joseph and Harriet choose one for me at a restaurant when I was not with them!

Anyway they also fry Snickers, Cheesecake and Oreo biscuits (See below stall at Houston Rodeo). Though to be fair the Scots fry Mars bars but they are one of the unhealthiest races on Earth!


Speedy Delivery…..

The speed of delivery and eating is also a big difference. In the UK and even more so in mainland Europe a meal is a social occasion to be drawn out and savoured, often lasting several hours.

In most American restaurants (Obviously ignoring fast food joints as they are meant to be fast!) you find that if one of your party is finished their plate is immediately cleared before anyone else has finished or perhaps only just started. This then encourages the others to eat faster. Also the food is delivered at what resembles a conveyor belt pace. So if you take time eating your starter, the Entree (Main course) is already being delivered to your table. This leads to a good turnover of diners but takes away some of the experience.

Then again it reflects the speed of life that most American Customers wish to live at. I always remember when I had a Saturday evening job making starters in a UK restaurant that if a table of American Diners came in, we pushed their food through before everyone else, or they would complain about the speed.

There are however some high points in Texas cuisine

The Barbecue

A Texas BBQ is unlike any you will get in the UK. Also it is very important to note that what the British call a BBQ is so I have been informed called Grilling. A BBQ involves coating high quality large (Of course) cuts of meat in amazingly tasty sauces and slow cooking in a giant oven which has smoked wood producing the heat that is skilfully circulated by the Chef to achieve perfect texture. The highlight for me is the Ribs!


Now Texans take their BBQ seriously, in fact the World BBQ Championships take place here annually, and it is one of the few places I have ever been where men wear aprons as a badge of Honour. The size of the BBQ’s also have to be seen to be believed. (See below)

Loads of teams compete for the Championship, per middle picture, and the food is served up to those lucky enough to go to hospitality tents where they also generally throw in Beer and a Band. I am lucky enough to have been several times and when cooking is in full flow the smoke is so thick it is like being on a battlefield or in a forest fire.

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They also even have branded tents and Caravans / RV’s.

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The other Texas (And to be fair USA) high point for me is:



The selection of Oysters you get here is excellent. I have tried far more types and sizes than you get in Europe, granted they still insist on trying to fry some of them but most places serve them on the half shell albeit with dire warnings in the menu about the dangers of eating them!

The final difference worthy of mention is:


In America on top of the portions and the profusion of fast food (Which I have not covered as it is now unfortunately pretty much the same the world over) is the scourge of the Soda (Or fizzy drink to the Brits). Here you do not only get free refills (You pay by the glass in the UK) but the cups they give you in the first place are normally the size of a large dustbin.  Coupled with the fact it is so hot here in Summer, that people take out a 2nd refill when they leave this is a recipe for sugar overload!


And no this is not me!

Alcohol is however the opposite. If you order a bottle of wine here you are definitely in the minority a) As many people order Beer but b) If they do order wine it is normally by the glass. This constantly leads to problems as if you want a bottle you need to speak to the server as though they are a caveman or cavewoman since they are normally on auto pilot and will automatically bring you a glass of wine.

The wine lists in many restaurants are also limited. This is disappointing as apparently after California Texas is the second biggest Wine producer in the USA. I was told this in Frederiksberg, Texas at a Vineyard so it may not be totally true, but Texas does produce a lot of wine.


Now I am not talking about the top restaurants as they have lists to match or even exceed good European restaurants but in most Restaurants Red Wine = Cabernet Sauvignon and White = Chardonnay. That said Spanish wines are great value here, I can only assume as the Hispanic population order so much of it!

So by this point dear reader you can now understand why I have put on so much weight since moving to Texas, (although there was one incident involving pulled pork, that resulted in me losing a record amount of weight over a very short period of time, and scarily it was the wife of the Hearse driver from the last blog perhaps trying to drum up business,) but I digress.

Anyway it is now the end of another Blog.

Please feel free to forward the link to anyone you know and if they like it get them to sign up as followers. Although there are now 40 so I don’t feel like I am talking to myself.

The subject of the next Blog is the Law! And it will be more fun than it sounds honest!


Driving in Texas /USA vs UK

The USA and more specifically Texas have always had a love affair with the Car.

In fact Houston being the 4th largest city in the USA loves the car so much it has virtually no public transport system. Aside from a light railway, that does not really go anywhere people want to go and a bus service frequented by those you would normally cross the street to avoid.  (I did warn you at the start it would not be politically correct :o)

As a result of this Houston roads are incredibly busy, though given the volume of traffic most drivers are reasonably polite and courteous the odd Road rage incident aside. This could of course be due to the fact most drivers have a gun in their car, and therefore people are only being nice to avoid being shot. Though as a woman last year found, that does not always work. (Google: Woman shot in car during road-rage incident on 610 South Loop as evidence)

Houston has tried several solutions to alleviate the grid lock:

Idea number 1:

Adding more lanes to roads. Most motorways now have 6 or 7 lanes each way accompanied by feeder roads running parallel to them that have 3-4 lanes. So you can end up with a total of 18 lanes of traffic at large junctions. (9 each side for the innumerate amongst you)

Idea number 2:

Put in High Occupancy Vehicle lanes (HOVs) to encourage people to share their cars. Unfortunately pretty much everyone drives alone so the HOV lanes only take up space. The other issue is that they do not have that many exits and are essentially little more than a large single lane surrounded by concrete barriers. As a result those normally using the HOV legally as 2+ occupants or more often illegally as single occupants are normally those in a hurry and tend to push those not travelling at Mach 6 to speed up. As you can imagine when there is an accident on the HOV it really becomes a problem.

Idea number 3:

Adding ring roads and flyovers. Houston has an impressive array of ring roads (Or beltways), flyovers and junctions that resemble spaghetti! In fact Spaghetti junction near Birmingham in the UK is positively pathetic compared to Houston. Even my step-father (Not a man easily impressed) marvelled at the Houston flyovers.

None of these have really worked and it is too late to build an underground (Or Subway) so all this additional tarmac or as it is mainly here concrete just means more people are stuck in the traffic.

Aside from the number of vehicles there are some other factors that hamper driving in Texas.

Let’s take the points in turn:

– Driving on wrong side of the road – Self explanatory  :o)

– Indicators – Allowing indicators the same colour (Or color to our American friends) as brake lights is probably one of the most crazy ideas ever!


This may be why to mitigate this most people do not feel the need to use them. When one approaches a motorway junction in Texas it is somewhat akin to a Stampede. With what seems like little warning all the vehicles from whatever lane they are in migrate to towards the exit.

Off ramp

If you are the unfortunate one not wishing to exit this leads to the scary experience of being dive bombed. And even when you get really close to the junction and the exit lane has officially run out, don’t be fooled there will always still be someone who wants to try and get off!

Error off

The only positive is that as mentioned the roads are so busy no one is really traveling fast enough to cause anyone else serious damage.

– The next factor is size. The phrase everything is bigger in Texas certainly applies to Vehicles. The USA already drive more SUV’s than any other Country on earth. Texas compounds this by having oversized pickup trucks and other excessive vehicles. I never thought I would go anywhere that a Range Rover would look small.

The size of some of these trucks has to be seen to be believed.

As an example Ford built a range of Trucks appropriately named F vehicles, or perhaps it should more appropriately been WTF vehicles.


F150                       F250               Or for anyone who wishes to tow their house down the road an F350!

There are also numerous custom vehicles with jacked up suspension and the obligatory gun rack in the back. Even for those not driving trucks, regular cars and SUV’s are as Yogi would say “larger than the average Bear!”


I know it was Smarter not larger but you get the idea!

Take my friends Lincoln MKT and I am sure he wishes someone would after we have all (Me more than most) remorselessly taken the piss out of it. His car is enormous. Affectionately known as the hearse due to its black colour and size this car is so big you could live in it. Or be buried in it for that matter.

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The Hearse (AKA Lincoln MKT)

Don’t get me wrong there are some useful innovations here. Firstly there are very few roundabouts. Primarily due to American vehicles, and presumably their owners, only being able to go in straight lines.

In addition car parking spaces are even larger than the vehicles! This ease of parking encourages the locals (And I kid you not) to move their vehicle from one end of the Shopping Mall car park to the other to avoid the walk!

There is also the very clever right turn on red that speeds things up and adds a hint of danger to the morning drive!

And finally the 4 way Stop sign!

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For those of you in Blighty (Slang for UK) a 4 way stop is a junction without traffic lights or a roundabout. Participants (And it is like a game show) pull up and the first one who stops at their line  gets to go first. Now I must admit I have found Americans, more than most nations, have a short attention span so when, as at the quiet end of my road, they have an 8 lane 4 way stop this is the equivalent of vehicle Russian roulette. Even I begin to lose count of who should go first and needless to say the Guy or in many cases Girl in the biggest car (Or the German one) who don’t believe they should have to wait always add an element of uncertainty.

The result is I lose yet more of my precious hair every time I go that way, but it certainly gets the adrenalin flowing!

With the modern green view even penetrating the Oil Capital of the World a number of the Greener, or poorer, individuals have gone for smaller cars. In fact Mini’s are very popular in the USA.


My boss even has one but I cannot help feeling as we are flying down the motorway that it feels like being in a motorised beer Can!

can carcan flat

                                                                                   That could be squashed at any minute.

It would be remiss of me not to mention this week’s floods in Houston and as it was the roads that took the brunt of the storm cars played a key part.


Unfortunately due to the size of the cars a number of my fellow Houstonians appear to have overestimated the power of their vehicles. After all to date only Jesus has managed to walk on water let alone driving in an SUV!

I myself drove in on Tuesday morning and used my Jeep’s 4wd elevated suspension to go through some rather deep 3ft puddles, which was really Cool!

As ever though my wife brought me back to earth with the following email.

“Another Jeep driver who thought he was smart….? ? ? ? ?”


The guy unlike to date 6 other unlucky Houstonians survived.

Next time the Blog subject will be a subject close to my heart FOOD!


So here we go the first Blog of Charlie Chaucer!

Why Charlie Chaucer ?

Well Charlie Chaucer was the nickname my Grandfather gave himself when he did his Doggrel (Amusing poetry) and having found so many other names already used it seemed fitting to use it.

I have set this blog up anonymously, not because I want to hide my identity. (Most readers will know who I am anyway) But when your surname comes up as DEMOTE on spell checker you take every opportunity you can to avoid using it. And yes I am sure I will eventually upset people, so anonymity has its benefits.

Also Before I start a few ground rules

I am more than happy to receive any comments and may even respond to some. However I am not the most politically correct of individuals so to gauge how many people I upset I will keep a personal tally of complaints on my totaliser.


Next I am sure the presentation will get better as I learn what the hell I am doing, but as a WARNING for those of a sensitive nature all word Fonts, SIZES and Spellllllllings are Likely to be highly random !

Finally the Brits amongst you will be pleased to know that unlike my American readers I will try to avoid liberally scattering Z’s around!


So why a Blog ?

Well I moved to USA from the UK at the end of 2011 and in that time have noticed many amusing differences between the English and Americans or more specifically the Texans as I live in Texas.

For some inexplicable reason people have found my observations and presentation style amusing!  May be I inherited some skills from my late father who was an excellent Motor Journalist and Editor, when he was not propping up the Bar of his local Hostelry (A Bar or Pub as the English would say).

So to begin….


I can say, without doubt, having travelled reasonably extensively that the Texans are by far the friendliest people I have ever met. Well at least the ones not trying to shoot you. That said, it certainly a different society here!

Guns are one of the major differences. In the UK there are no legal guns on the streets, the vast majority of police apart from specially trained units are unarmed and even Sports guns are severely limited and must be locked in Gun Safes at a shooting club or the owner’s house once they have been vetted by police. Ok there are plenty of illegal guns and even some legal gun holders occasionally go on the rampage, Hungerford and Dunblane being two examples, but there is nowhere near the level of Guns in USA and more specifically Texas.

On the subject of Sports guns. After the Dunblane shooting when 16 Children and a teacher were killed, there was an understandable backlash against guns, particularly as the guns used were legally registered. However the rules on ownership were tightened so much that target shooting, one of the few sports the UK were good at, (Principally as the UK are only good at sports involving sitting or lying down) was severely impacted and many dropped out due to the gun control rules that came in.

Here owning a gun is incredibly easy and in a recent discussion with friends at work it transpired that the vast majority of the team (Mainly Women) owned guns.

When we moved over we went to a shop called Gander Mountain as I was looking for some fishing tackle.


Whilst I was perusing the fishing selection my wife, as she often does, had the uncontrollable urge to buy something, so she went round the store and eventually meandered towards the Gun section.

Well the choice was impressive!


You could go from Dirty Harry to Barbie in terms of Hand Guns and they also had Shotguns, rifles and semi-automatics!

The shop assistant seeing her looking asked if she was interested in any particular gun. She asked what was required to buy one and he said she could have one immediately if she had a Texas driving license. Now I took the Texas driving test and unless I was asleep there was never anything on how to handle guns! More worryingly my Wife also had obtained her Texas license so in theory was good to go.

So she then asked what sort of hand Gun they would recommend. The shop assistant asked if it was for home protection and she replied in the affirmative. He then immediately, without hesitation, recommended she get a pump action shot gun!!!  WTF!

And the reasoning:

  • If the assailant hears the pump action in most cases they will run
  • If they carry on coming in, and you have to shoot, the spread of shot is wide enough to pretty much guarantee you will hit something. (Other than the fridge, dog, cat or back door)

So by now impressed by this she found me, explained what had happened and asked if she should get one!

Now for those of you who know my wife, who even her own family would admit is occasionally a little volatile, you will immediately appreciate this was a really BAD idea. Those of you who don’t, suffice to say that I had images of Oscar Pistorius (The South African blade runner) who “accidentally” shot his Girlfriend through the Lavatory door claiming he thought she was an intruder.

So on the basis I did not want my last view on this earth to be the back of the Khazi (UK Slang name for Lavatory) door exploding in my face, I engineered a hasty exit.


Now following on from the fact it is so easy to obtain a weapon, to make matters even more different to Bilghty (Slang nickname for UK) Texas has a Law called the Castle Law. This basically means that if someone comes into your house uninvited you can shoot them without warning. It certainly keeps house burglaries down but was an immediate shock to me.

This Law was particularly brought home to me, (If you will pardon the pun) when I had just moved over and heard the following story on the radio. The station had the police tape of what sounded like a young single mum calling 911 (UK equivalent of 999) to say she had two guys trying to get into her house and she was alone with her baby. She said she had a gun and could she use it? The answer from the dispatcher was yes. Did she have to warn the assailants ? No. There then followed two loud bangs. The dispatcher asked the woman if she was alright and after a short delay she came back on the line and replied yes and she had shot the men. It transpired that she had killed one and disabled the other.

Contrast this with Tony Martin, (And I am oversimplifying the facts) but he was a UK Farmer from Norfolk who shot a teenage boy in the back and wounded another as they tried to burgle his isolated farmhouse. Th same or other teenagers had apparently done this on several previous occasions and were basically terrorising the farmer. He was found guilty of murder and sent to prison for life.

Passing three sentences of life, 10 years and 12 months (Life means something different in Texas – Probably a subject for a later Blog) to run concurrently, Mr Justice Owen said: “It seems to me that this case serves as a dire warning to all burglars who break into the houses of other people.

Now as far as I see it, surely it was more a dire warning to property owners not shoot people burgling their homes, and Texas though not perfect certainly has it more right.

Having discussed guns with local friends it transpires that a high number of them have guns in their cars. Which based on the way most Texans drive is perhaps understandable. But I end now as Driving will be the subject of my next Blog provided more than 10 people read this one!