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.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

England - fit for a Queen (and Jacks of course)

‘THE PLACE where fairies and castles live’ is how Jacky referred to England before we visited.
Thanks largely to the landscape, the people – and of course the small matter of THE proposal – she now refers to the motherland as simply ‘Fairytale-land’.
It’s only when you look at something through the eyes of someone else that you truly appreciate what you’re looking at.
It’s like staring at a piece of art which you normally wouldn’t give a second glance to.
If the artist or art expert is standing next to you telling you about the intricate detail of the piece, you’ll soon appreciate the effort which went into creating it in the first place.
And so earlier this month I took on the role of host for our whistle-stop tour of Devon, Cornwall and London.
To say I am an expert tour guide is an understatement only equal in size to Big Ben.
I think I learned more about England in two weeks than I did from living there for 34 and a bit years.
In order to give Jacky the best overview I had to do some serious swatting up.
By the time I’d read most travel websites on London I thought I was pretty up to speed.
Devon and Cornwall?! Pfah. That’s been my backyard for over three decades, I know as much as anyone would need to know surely?
Epic fail on all counts.

Jacks: Why do the ponies live here [on Dartmoor]?
Me: Um… because they can afford the rent...? Oh, um, er… pass.

Jacks: Why do they serve fish and chips with wooden forks?
Me: Because... oh b*llocks, I don't know. Pass.

Jacks: Where are we right now?
Me: Central London.
Jacks: Where?
Me: Um… somewhere between Leicester Square, Notting Hill and Picadilly Circus.
Jacks: You don’t know do you..?
Me: Have you ever seen a real pigeon?

Jacks: Where are all the English people in London?
Me: Very good question. Hmmmm… pass.

Jacks: Why is it called ‘Boxing’ Day?
Me: Because… of… the... fights which take place on December 26th? Ok, pass.

Jacks: How old is that building?
Me: Which one?
Jacks: That one. Points at castle-type building in very Central London.
Me: Very old.
Jacks: How old?
Me: Bugger. I don’t even know what that place is.
Jacks: Isn’t that the Tower of London?
Me: Of course it is, I was just playing with you. Um, have you ever seen a real pigeon?!

So now I think we’re both pretty clued up on England.
Returning to England with my Mexican treasure on my arm was the stuff of dreams for me.
Her meeting some of my friends and family was insanely lovely.
And as I mentioned, taking in some of the sights – especially in London – was a unique experience for both of us.
I’m constantly amazed at how old many of the buildings are. You feel like you’re walking through the pages of an encyclopedia.
I’ve been to London plenty of times but only really for certain events. You know, a concert, a birthday, a West End show.
This trip was different. The aim was to cram as much into four days as possible – without us both needing a holiday after taking a holiday when we returned to Mexico.
And we certainly did as much as I think anyone could have.

Big Ben and big red bus - check!

In no particular order we visited The Houses of Parliament, The Tower of London, The London Eye, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Notting Hill, Camden Town, Harrods and Knightsbridge, Buckingham Palace (twice), London Bridge, The Natural History Museum, The Victoria & Albert Museum, and Abbey Road to name just a few places.
Our visit to The Natural History Museum was of particular note when I mentioned that the 'casts' which Jacky was looking at were in fact real dinosaur fossils dating back millions of years.

Don't look now but I think we're being followed...

CCTV in London has undergone a major upgrade

One of the museum's education displays, with its fun house mirrors, also raised a few smiles.

Does my bum look big in this...?

My offer to take Jacks to the world-famous Abbey Road was also comical. When I asked I was met with an enthusiastic "yeh..." only for me to ask her if she knew what it was and for her to reply just as enthusiastically "no...".
She soon got the picture (literally).

Walk this way

When you’re showing someone around who has never seen it all before you can’t help but feel pride in what they are witnessing and experience.
London is beautiful, historic and crazy all in equal measure.
And I felt like bursting at the seams hearing Jacks quite literally cooing at the visual delights – made all the more beautiful donned with tinsel and Christmas lights.
So are any of you planning a trip to England in the near future?
If you are then you might find the forthcoming paragraphs useful with regard to must-see locations and info/prices/web addresses and contact details.
While many attractions such as The Natural History Museum ( are free to visit, there are a great many other paid-for attractions which simply have to be on any visitors’ list.
One of these is The London Eye ( / tickets from £17.01) which will obviously now always hold a special place in our hearts.
It’s 135 metres in height (roughly equivalent to 64 iconic red telephone boxes) and it offers stunning panoramic views across London.

Big Ben? Pfah... not from here

The London Eye group is also now offering 40-minute sight-seeing river cruises down The Thames (Adults from £11.25) with live commentary.
I’ve personally never sailed down the Thames so this gave me a truly different perspective to London.
The tour guides are also nearly, ahem, as knowledgeable as me and they have plenty of facts and figures which will entertain the seasoned London-goer.
Oh and when visiting this area of London keep your eyes peeled for a celebrity or two. Batman director Christopher Nolan was spotted taking in the sights with his family around the attraction during our visit.
The Tate Britain ( which houses the UK’s collection of British art from 1500 to the present day, as well as special exhibitions and events is also worth a few hours’ of your time.
As is The Royal Observatory Greenwich ( which is the home of the Prime Meridian of the World, and London’s only planetarium.
Also if you’re looking for accommodation in the capital and – like we were – you’re on a tight budget, you’d be simply mad not to consider checking out The Umi Hotel in Notting Hill ( / tel: +44 (0) 207 221 9131).
Management here boast that there’s ‘no need’ to shop anywhere else on the web as they boast the cheapest prices.
It’s a 3* independent hotel and it has won several top awards and has been listed in The Telegraph’s Top 50 Budget Hotels.
It’s also super-conveniently located between three tube stations (Notting Hill, Bayswater and Queensgate), it’s minutes away from the West End, and it’s really close to Portobello Road famed for its market and Hyde Park.
Oh, and the staff are really nice and they serve a truly mean Americano coffee.
With us now back in the land of tacos it’s good to know the English can work some true magic, and that it’s still seen as being part of ‘Great’ Britain by new visitors from afar.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

One quick question before the world ends...

HANG on a minute… mad scramble to look out of window… the world didn’t end after all!
Uh oh, it seems I’m now in a whole heap of trouble.
You see, with the fear of impending doom I might just have done something a tad crazy…
Of course I’m kidding.
In the early afternoon of Monday 17th December 2012, at the very top of the ascension of the London Eye, looking out over my nation’s capital, I went down on one knee and asked Iliana Jaqueline Pantoja if she’d marry me.

I cried. She laughed, and then cried. And then the other people in the Eye’s capsule applauded, laughed, and cried too.
My proposal went something like this: “If the world truly does end in four days I don’t want to think that I missed the opportunity to ask if you’d marry me… So, with that in mind, will you marry me?”
Her immediate response was “Oh my god, oh my GOD…”
I obviously had to ask, “is that a yes or a no?!”
Jacks then said ‘yes’ not once, but six times.
“Yes, yes, yes… si, si, SI!!!!” she replied.

On top of the world

"If you like it then you should put a ring on it"

All those months of me freaking out about the slightest of details quickly dissolved into laughable anecdotes.
The moment was perfect. The weather on that day was crisp, clear and beautiful. We were together alone in our own private universe and, of course, she said ‘yes’.

Jacky could be heard again muttering "oh my god, oh my GOD!!!!"

That day marked the culmination of pretty much nine months of planning and preparation on my part.
From the very moment I met Jacks back in March I knew I had to have her.
After those sunny days in Playa Del Carmen for me, everything was leading up to this magical moment.
Our story is so unique and perfect. Even we find it all hard to believe. (For those who are unaware of the background click on the first blog entry).
I had a few ideas of how I wanted to propose, but I settled on proposing on the London Eye.
I liked the idea of traditionalism.
I bought the ring in Tijuana having shopped around in the UK, the US and Mexico. I liked the idea that she would be wearing something sourced from her home.
I wanted to signify our cross-Atlantic connection by proposing in my home country – and doing so while suspended above the country’s capital seemed perfect.

Moments before the proposal

My beautiful fiancée

Of course there was also the nice hook of Jacky's Mayan ancestors predicting the world ending in a few days’ time.
I know some people have raised eyebrows mentioning that we’ve only been together for little over 10 months but hey, in the (sort of) words of Beyonce “if you like it then you should put a ring on it”.
Those people can, quite simply, bugger off.
Yes, our relationship is under a year old, but the fact is I've spent 34 years looking for her. When you know, I guess, you know.
It’s funny how things work out. And it was truly bizarre that I actually bought and picked up the ring on the same day as Jacky’s sister’s boyfriend proposed to her.
Oh talking of traditions, the moment I asked Jacky’s dad for permission for his daughter’s hand in marriage was a moment of comedy genius.
I tried to ask in Spanish. But, having quickly realized I could quite easily slip up and ask for the family dog’s paw in marriage I resorted to my native tongue.
As history now dictates he agreed – he even mentioned it first which pre-empted my question.
Oh and here’s a reflection and a point that’s very rarely mentioned.
Everyone talks about THAT moment. You know, how exactly did you propose? Where were you? Did you go down on one knee? That sort of thing.
But what no-one ever talks about is what happens AFTER that moment.
Sure, there’s the hugging, kissing and crying bit. And the round of applause, if it’s a public proposal.
But how do you maintain the buzz? How do you match that level of intensity having asked the one question you hope never to ask again?
I have to admit to feeling a bit lost and in a slight flutter in the hour or so after that moment.
Should I have packed champagne? Should I be carrying her? Should I burst into song?!
Jacks was a little less intimidated it seemed, and made what now appears to be the obvious choice – to continue smiling and laughing.
There, a short distance away from the London Eye was a Mr Bean lookalike.
So we initially celebrated our engagement by goofing around with the character in front of an audience of dozens.

Mr Bean strikes again

I think that says a lot about us.
Oh, and just in case anyone thinks I’m a tight b*stard for not buying champagne, we then went on a boat cruise down the Thames followed by ice skating at the Natural History Museum. (Note: my practical interpretation of ice 'skating' was more ice falling).

Ice ice baby
Skating on thin ice

We then had dinner at an Italian restaurant at Leicester Square to reflect on the craziest day of our lives yet.
Fun times indeed.
So there you have it.
Before any more people ask ‘do you have a date?’ The answer is ‘no’.
It won’t be this year (obviously), and probably not next year.
I need to sort this job/visa thing out, and we need to save some serious cash.
Oh, and the ring is a traditional diamond solitaire ring. The ‘rock’ is just short of half a carat and the ring is 14ct white gold.

Jacky's bling

For now though I hope this brings a smile to some faces and I, well… we, hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year.
Keep dreaming guys.
Crazy beautiful madness.
P.S. Holy shit, I have a fiancée!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

An appetite for 'fairyland' adventures

FEW things in this world can be as amazing as witnessing a truly genuine smile.
The kind of smile which warms your heart on a cold winter’s night, the kind of smile which makes others around you smile, the kind of smile which melts your mum’s heart too.
Jacky’s been smiling a lot since arriving in England.
In fact her smile has been ear-to-ear and a permanent fixture.
Her first visit to England – which she calls ‘fairyland’ – has been full of the magic which you’d associate with someone experiencing something new – with the added decoration of it being Christmas.
Her visit has also boasted a variety of ‘firsts’ which people can’t help but smile about when they hear them.
For instance, this trip was the first time Jacky had heard of (let alone tasted) mince pies, mulled wine, fish and chips, Christmas pudding, pasties (no-brainer really!), fruit scones, clotted cream, chicken casserole, chicken kievs, and Brussel sprouts.

Fish and chips!

Devonshire cream tea
Sat around the dinner table for our early Christmas meal, it was also the first time Jacks had eaten a traditional roast chicken with stuffing, let alone worn a paper crown and pulled a cracker.
When I mentioned the traditional English Christmas activities before, she looked at me like I had suggested her participating in some bizarre Pagan ritual – along with my parents.

They're called "pigs... in... blankets...?!"

Crown rights

When mum asked if she wanted some trifle for dessert one evening, Jacks asked what exactly it was, followed by the question: “what’s the yellow stuff?”
Custard it seems isn’t well-known in Mexico.
By her expression – which boasted a mixture of crazed excitement and bewilderment – neither are wild ponies.
The horse whisperer

They would have had to have been mini unicorns for the English among us to share the same level of excitement.
Wide-eyed and positively gleaming though, Jacks asked “you have THESE here?!”, shortly before one pony tried to kick her.

Jacks very nearly getting a 'kick' out of meeting wild ponies

Some things are just priceless.
For the foodies and curious-minded among us I know you’ll want to know what a Mexican girl’s favourite food was upon visiting England.
And the answer... crumpets.
Well, these are her words and not mine: “(cue big smile) because they are delicious, crunchy, and yummy.”
Not a bad answer really eh?
However despite the obvious passion for our culinary delights there has been one glaring omission from the menu which was raised by Jacky last night.
In the sort of fixed and serious glare you’d associate with a heroin-starved junkie, Jacky looked at me before declaring: “I NEED chilli.”
I did warn her that it’s not part of the UK’s staple diet. And that sadly there just aren’t many chilli street dealers around South East Cornwall.
Sorry, should I not be laughing? Har har har...
I guess it was all the same for me when I first stepped foot in Mexico just over six months ago. Things still surprise me on a daily basis and that’s what makes it all so fascinating and exciting.
I still can’t get on with the chilli but hey, sticking feathers up your bum doesn’t make you a chicken right?
Anyhow, I think it’s fair to say that Jacks has made a good impression on my friends and family.
They love her (at least I think they do).
And it’s been lovely taking her to my old haunts – and even some places that I’ve actually never been to.
Anyone been to Botallack before in West Cornwall? You’d remember if you had.
Wow. The old mining engine houses on the cliff faces are a sight to behold.

Beautiful Botallack

St Michael’s Mount, Mousehole, Rame Head, Burrator, Tavistock, Plymouth, and Dartmoor to name a few places have all been on the list too.
We also spent the day in a recording studio so I could demo a new song I’ve been working on in Mexico, and found time to have coffee with my way-too-glamorous-for-Plymouth cousin, Catherine.
And I’m pretty sure, judging by the fixed grin, that Jacks has enjoyed every minute of every day.
Yes, it’s been cold and the central heating at mum’s has been on 24/7 for her benefit.
But the air’s been so lovely and crisp, almost magical.
AND... we found some snow up at Princetown. Now THAT is what Christmas is all about!

Snow joke - Jacky was a little excited about the discovery

Wrapping a Mexican girl up in as many layers as you can find has also been quite fun.
And now we swap the calm and peaceful climes of Devon and Cornwall for the crazy fast-paced nature of central London.
This could be interesting...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Home from home from home

Hi everyone! Wow, so THIS is what jet-lag really is eh?
Waking at 3.45am is simply not big, or clever. Especially when everyone else (Jacks included) is blowing zees.
Anyhow my early rising has rewarded me with a few minutes to check-in here, and to upload a few pictures.
It's been amazing re-visiting many of my old haunts, and seeing Jacks' face light up at the mere sight of another wild Dartmoor pony, or mum's home-made trifle.
Countless 'firsts' going on here and it's a joy to instigate and watch.
Needless to say we've been flat out with day-trips so here are a few photos of the story so far.
I'll post a proper blog later this week so please pop back a little later on.
Hasta luego amigos y amigas!

A coastal walk to blow away the cobwebs
Forgot to mention the wind and sideways rain - welcome to England!

Jacks getting into the spirit of things...

Sadly not every English boy lives in a castle

Well, it would have been rude NOT to have taken the picture right?!

Room with a view... of the beautiful Cornish coast

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Animal magic

WITNESSING the 'big five' on an African safari, watching humpback whales gleefully leaping out of the ocean, photographing an endangered bird in its natural habitat.
All the above are great, but if catching a glimpse of a Tijuana zebra-donkey isn't on that 'things to do before you die' list then it might as well be void.
Is it a zebra? Is it a donkey? Is it actually a horse with a seriously bad case of mistaken identity?!
Who knows... but the mystical creatures live on the streets of downtown TJ like four-legged gods walking among mere men.
In all seriousness if you're a tourist, no trip to downtown TJ would actually be complete without a picture of one of the hapless sun-baked animals.
And on visiting Avenida Revolucion you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid seeing one – not least being pushed onto one by its owners desperate to grab your cash for a photograph.
I'd heard about them before from Jacks but I didn't actually realise how famous they are. Their existence in the city is woven into the fabric of Tijuana's identity.
The zebra-donkey has become something of a cultural icon here over the decades and people actually travel from far and wide just to see one - even internationally.
Two or three of the animals are paraded around certain spots on a daily basis in front of a cart containing enough colourful sombreros, throws and rugs, to make your eyes water.

Stranger than fiction - behold the zebra donkey

Okay, kids if you don't want to know the truth look away now... the 'zebra donkey' is basically a white donkey which has black stripes painted on it. It's as simple as that.
And people love it so much they have even daubed huge neon pictures of them on shop fronts.

The 'zonkey' expertly presented by Jacks

When I first heard about the animal I thought it was linked to some bizarre legend Tijuana, or indeed Baja California.
But it seems there is no legend.
The truth is in fact stranger than fiction.
A quick scan of the internet states that the bizarre idea to actually paint the stripes on the animals came about in the age of black and white photography so that the animals stood out in the tourists' pictures.
Despite the invention of cameras which could take colour photographs, the animal graffiti stayed.

Personally I question whether back in the day the donkeys got on to their agents demanding more recognition for their role in the tourist trap?
They must be the laughing stock of the farm when they return home after a hard day's work!
What made me laugh even more was the discovery of some websites which are actually claiming that these animals are in fact a "unique breed" - much like the people who try to force you into having your photograph taken with them.

So is it too early to say 'Happy Christmas?!' Well, there you have it!