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.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Don't wanna be an American idiot

IT’S stupid-o-clock. It’s some time between 2am and 2.30am and I can’t sleep.
I probably would have been able to sleep had I not incorrectly set the air conditioning/thermostat thing to ‘ludicrous’ heat before settling into bed.
My dreams began peaceful and placid and slowly progressed to being infinitely weird and hell-like.
You know those dreams where you’re parched and desperately trying to find something to drink? You got it, times infinity.
Air conditioning is admittedly something I’ve never been able to get my head around.
I mean, hailing from England how or why the hell would I know how to operate an air conditioning unit?
All I’ve ever done is light gas fires to combat the freezing winters.
Air conditioning? Pfah.
Where I come from ‘air conditioning’ is opening or closing a window. Or asking your flatulent friend to leave the room.
Holidays in Egypt… that’s what air conditioning is designed for for us Brits.
So yes, I can’t sleep. My bedroom, and in fact my entire apartment, is currently a blazing furnace.
I’m in a state of undress with sweat dripping from my brow onto the keyboard. Ewww…
It’s warmer in here than it is in the desert on a summer’s day.
I hear you… ‘open the windows’ and ‘stop whingeing’!
They’re open. And it’s really warm outside. Even at stupid-o-clock.
San Diego, it seems, doesn’t do ‘chilly’.
It’s actually so warm here throughout each and every day, that the city’s parks and recreational spaces boast an unbelievable amount of tramps – or ‘bums’ as they’re called here.
They’re largely harmless. They just sit around sleeping, acting weird occasionally if anyone offers them a glance.
It’s like a year-round bum summer camp. And we’re their entertainment.

Honesty deserves charity

Anyhow I digress.
As I write this I’m also Googling the bloody air-con unit instruction manual in the hope that I can rest easy tonight without the sleep/sauna detox.
I might talk the talk and walk the walk but there is no doubt, here in the U.S. I am a still a stranger in a foreign land – just as much as I was in next-door Tijuana.
I’m daily misunderstood, and often confused.
In the nine weeks that I’ve been here in San Diego I can tell you that Americans are a fascinating bunch.
Oh and in case you didn’t know, they are crazily open and honest about health and religion.
These are two things that people here love to talk about openly.
These are two things that we Brits never really talk about when we’re in the UK.
We have a funny way of avoiding discussions concerning our illnesses, ailments, and of course religious leanings.
Personally I’m not really comfortable talking about either – especially with someone I’ve just met.
“What do you take?” I was asked recently.
“Now? Nothing, I feel fine”.
Again: “Seriously... what do you take?”
Me: “Uh… aspirin or ibuprofen for a headache… a ‘Lemsip’ if I’ve got a cold…?”
*cue long lingering stare*
*stare continues*
“And… nothing… I don’t take anything. Nothing to get me through the day, nothing to help me sleep, nothing.”
“Isn’t that weird?” I was then asked.
It’s only when you go to a supermarket (otherwise known here as a ‘grocery store’) that you begin to appreciate the national obsession with remedies.

Drugs - 'aisle' buy that for a dollar!

Shelves and aisles of pills and potions to cure everything from headaches and sports injuries, to sleep deprivation and toothaches. There are pills for things I’ve never heard of.
And natural remedies featuring seemingly unnatural-sounding ingredients.

'D3 5000 I.U.'....? Isn't that a brand of motor oil?

Sure, we have pharmacies in England but wow.
I’m sure there’s actually medication for medication here.
When you’re seen to be new to town religion is the other big talking point.
Within seconds of meeting some people they’ll ask you if you go to church and if you want to go to their church.
I always consider that I must have sinned during the conversation leading up to that point and that they’re trying to cleanse my soul as a result.
I immediately feel uncomfortable and I try to joke my way out of it.
Bad move.
So forgive me.
The actual process of greeting someone here in California (or indeed the U.S.) also confuses me on a daily occurrence.
Rather than simply offering a hardy handshake or a pat on the back, people here seem obsessed with a greeting known as ‘fist-bumping’ – or variations of it.

Bump day

How the pros do it

It’s basically the action of putting out your fist for someone else to ‘bump’ with their own fist.
I’ve observed plenty of Californians doing it here and I must admit, they look cool.
I however, do not.
There are simply too many variations for me to get my head around.
There’s the actual fist bump. Then there’s the high-five. And there’s some of other part-handshake part-grip thing.
And these are just three of the more popular types of greetings.
And for me, who is new to town and the whole fist-bump thing, I panic when someone puts out their fist or hand because I don’t know which greeting they’re planning on using.
It’s always an awkward moment and, despite the fact that the whole thing is supposed to look and feel ‘cool’, I don’t. I can almost feel my coolness dripping away as and when someone puts out their hand for the bump , or slap, or whatever.
I always hesitate.
Once or twice I admit, I’ve pretty much just thought ‘bollocks to it’ and shaken the outstretched bump fist.
Epic fail.
I actually freak out that one day I’m going to face-palm someone by accident.
So I’ve taken to YouTube to try and teach myself some basic rules…
Anyhow. People are strange when you’re a stranger right?

Hey, I noticed my last blog post was popular in Latvia.
Bizarre, but very cool. Welcome Latvians!
At the bottom of this blog is a ‘translate’ icon if anyone wants to read it in a different language.
I can’t promise my ramblings will make any more sense but hey.
Thanks for lending me your eyes.

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Sunday, 16 June 2013

News team... ASSEMBLE!!!!

IT SEEMS that man Andy Warhol was on the money when he asked the question: “Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?”
I’ve pondered that question a few times in the last eight weeks since starting work as an anchorman in San Diego.
Of course, when I mentioned my new job role out here my friends, acquaintances and former colleagues – naturally – laughed and joked… “anchorman”, “Ron Burgundy”, “Stay Classy San Diego” etc etc.
In two months I’ve had much of the film’s script shouted/texted/emailed at me.
I laugh as much as the next person, so it seems only natural to write about it all.
Finding myself living and working in this strange new world, I can’t help but try and relate to what I know about the city – thanks largely to Hollywood.
A). San Diego was of course the home of Ron and his Channel 4 News Team.

B). Much of the film, Anchorman, was shot here, including the iconic “BAAAAAAXTER!!!!” scene on Coronado Bridge.

"Well guess what... now this is happening..."
C). ‘San Diego’ translates to a “whale’s vagina”.
No wait… one of those is clearly wrong.
In getting to know the city I’ve actually been amazed to learn about how much of Anchorman's story imitates life here in America’s ‘Finest City’.
For instance, San Diego Zoo DOES have a ‘Panda Watch’ as highlighted in the movie.

'Panda Watch'
This week U-T TV used the footage of the amazing water-skiing squirrel as featured in the movie.
And comically, San Diego does have a crazy abundance of television news networks.
You remember the fight scene in the movie? The scene which involved a stupid amount of news crews?
While I haven’t seen a real fight between the networks here, it’s fair to say each and every one is fighting for the position of the city’s top news channel – including my very own U-T TV.
I’m from a UK city about a tenth of the size of San Diego.
On a typical high-profile news story there you’d probably see reporters from two newspapers, a couple of photographers from a newspaper and/or an agency, one or two radio stations, and no more than two television news networks.
Here, U-T San Diego is the only newspaper in the city, so on a typical news story you’re only likely to find one newspaper reporter and one photographer.
I’m yet to meet a radio news team on a job but – I kid you not – if a press event is called there will be at least six or seven television news channels represented – all covering the same thing for the same San Diego audience.
It’s a TV media circus and I lose count of the number of stations.

Media scrum
From what I’ve learned so far, there is Channel 5, Channel 6, Channel 7, Channel 8, Channel 9, and Channel 10 - and numerous others, depending on what story is breaking.
Of course each and every one claims to be the ‘local source’ and ‘leader’ in offering breaking news.
I can’t keep up with the number of networks which operate here in this county.
Attending these jobs and seeing the mass television media presence, I can’t help but laugh.

Last week the scene of a burst water main in the city resembled a scene from the Cannes Film Festival.
I actually heard a resident warn her friend, “don’t go north, you’ll get filmed…”.
When the mayor of San Diego called a press briefing at Balboa Park earlier on last week, he wore so many TV radio microphones on his shirt he looked like a human cyborg.
These types of scenes make me laugh each and every time.
And they remind me so much of the ‘fight’ scene in Anchorman.
You could argue that I’m biased, but in terms of presence and appreciation among typical San Diegans, the U-T is hard to ignore given its proud history and its newspaper/web/TV offering.
Anyhow, much of the buzz about town recently has been involved with Anchorman 2.
My first reporting job for U-T TV was actually covering the Anchorman 2 casting call in the city on a Saturday morning.

"When in Rome..."
For one morning this otherwise ‘quiet’ area of the city became a haunt for every potential Burgundy wannabe on the west coast.
With the possibility of being cast as an extra in the forthcoming movie, people travelled from far and wide to be a part of it.
Some extended their Friday night’s drinking and partying by staying awake through the night to attend the casting call; some queued for the sake of it without actually knowing what the queue was for; and others came properly dressed for the occasion with some pretending to be Burgundy’s long-lost brother.
Getting interviews with these people for U-T TV was easy as every single one of them was there for one purpose – to be on camera.
It was easy pickings and I can tell you, it was a WHOLE lot of fun.
People began queuing at 4am. By 10am there were roughly 2,500 people.

That escalated quickly...
At one bizarre moment U-T TV was stood alongside two other networks and out-of-town channels in the same spot. So naturally, we all interviewed each other for a laugh.
What did we discuss…? The sugar in our coffee? The best bad song in the last 20 years? I can’t recall. It was a surreal and funny moment nonetheless and the nature of the casting call’s movie only enhanced the comedy value.
As you can imagine each person who was selected as an ‘extra’ was sworn to secrecy.
The story goes that the extras found out the details an hour before the event via text or email.
We know one scene was shot at SeaWorld (with Ron involved in a ‘fight’ scene reportedly with a dolphin?!), and another was shot at Harbor Island, also in San Diego.

Will Ferrell at SeaWorld in San Diego
Sadly no-one could get an interview with Ron, sorry… Will Ferrell, so we’ll all have to wait and see how much of the movie is based here in San Diego when the film eventually comes out.

Ron and Veronica
One thing’s for sure though. With me in my new role, coinciding with the forthcoming release of Anchorman 2, the jokes and fun times will continue for a while yet.
Stay Classy… WORLD.

Oh, news just in... a new Anchorman 2 trailer has been released in the last few hours.
Copy the link into a web browser and take a look:

Twitter: @tristan_nichols

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

(Dis)count me out.

THE PROCESS of patiently waiting in line at a supermarket is something a Brit can empathize with.
It seems we’re a nation of queuers.
But here in California, despite the laid-back vibe of most folk, when it comes to queuing to buy food or ‘groceries’, Californians are impatient – at best.
So when you hear someone at the very front of a supermarket queue mutter the immortal line “wait, I’ve got a coupon for that” you know full well that people are going to be getting restless and a tad upset.
You see, having a ‘coupon’ for an item over here is like the equivalent of finding a golden Willy Wonka ticket.
To them it’s like winning the lottery. It’s the gold at the end of the rainbow. The real stuff of dreams.
That one ticket, franticly torn out of a newspaper or magazine, can bring sunshine to the darkest day. It can change lives.
To most here. Not me.

Not a 'coupon king'
And what does that ‘coupon’ get you…?
Maybe… say… $1 (£0.70) off the barbecue sauce you’ve waited your entire life to buy; $2 off that aromatherapy soap bar you’ve never intended to buy until now; or $0.25 (£0.13p) off a tin of dog food – and you don’t actually own a dog.
People hoard coupons like an ardent stamp collector… just in case one day they need to cash them in for something they’ve never really needed.

I can 'vouch' for the fact it's madness

(Dis)count me out

Ultimately, it seems that people do just that. They use the coupons to buy things they don’t actually need. And never will. Ever. Ever…
Sure, I like to save a couple of quid on groceries but jeez. Collecting these things seems to be a national past-time.
Is the whole nation like this? Or just Californians?!
A colleague of mine over here openly admitted he’s a coupon king – or to coin the phrase, a ‘couponer’.
Upon hearing a fellow co-worker had bought the Sunday paper at the weekend, another colleague ran up with a crazed look in her eyes and basically screamed “do you want your COUPONS?!”
Wow. I smirked. At least they’re giving me something to write about.
“You could have got a dollar off of that!” one person said to me recently as I paid for my shopping.
“Look, you just needed to buy this magazine…” (*cue woman thrusting said Woman’s Own-type magazine into my face).
“But… the magazine costs $2… that er, really doesn’t make any sense… does it…?”
“Oh, you’re a Australian… you don’t get it right?”
“Close… but no. And no... I clearly don’t.”
If you’re lucky, you choose a supermarket queue where the person left their coupon collection at home.
If you’re unlucky you get the person who’s waited their entire life for this one magical moment.
They even bring separate shopping bags full of collected coupons, and if they’ve forgotten something on the list which they have a voucher for, they make you wait while a member of staff goes to get it.
Is everyone stockpiling for something I don't know about? Have the coupon creators cashed in on North Korea's recent threats?
Of course, sometimes these coupons do work in your favour – such as when you’re eating out.
Sadly sometimes there’s also a reason why certain restaurants offer money off… inevitably because their food sucks ass.
I’ve actually found myself falling into the trap. Well, maybe once – but that’s all it took.
I think somewhere along the line I provided my email address to some firm which offers coupons.
Now every day my account is stocked so full of spam email I spend just as much time deleting them as I do actually reading and replying to messages from friends and family.
There are even websites dedicated to 'free printable coupons'. Some even boast 'extreme' couponing tips.
And my mailbox? My own personal MAILBOX? 

I don't check it for a couple of days and it seems I've been 'couponed'

A few days later: now this is just getting a tad silly...
Wow… are there any forests left in the world?
Can you get a coupon to save trees? I'll sign up I promise!