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.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Oh, no it isn’t… oh, yes it is - the panto!

OH, NO it isnt… oh, yes it is.
It’s a blog about the annual British pantomime – or panto for short.
This past weekend saw my Mexican wife’s latest induction to her new life in England.
For those of you in the US and overseas, the dictionary definition of pantomime is this: a theatrical entertainment, mainly for children, which involves music, topical jokes, and slapstick comedy and is based on a fairy tale or nursery story, usually produced around Christmas.
After sitting through the hour-and-a-half performance at Plymouths Theatre Royal, Jackys definition of a pantomime is simply this: ‘It’s crazy.
The Christmas panto is a British tradition. It’s as British as you can get – and its roots reportedly go all the way back to the 16th century.

Men dress up as women, women dress up as men, they sing songs, tell rude jokes and just have a laugh.
It’s bonkers, bizarre and quite brilliant in its silliness.

I hadn’t been to the panto since my mum won tickets in a newspaper competition when I was about seven or eight.
And boy did I NOT notice the sexual innuendos back then.
The kids love the audience participation, and the colour and ridiculousness of it all – not least the songs and chorus of ‘he’s behind you… oh no he isn’t, oh yes he is…’ lines.
The adults love the clever (but silly) jokes, the double entendres, the forgotten lines and mistakes, and the occasional glances from the stars referencing how ridiculous it all is.
I couldn’t help but glance over at Jacks throughout the whole ordeal, sorry show, to check that she wasn’t horrified by what she was seeing.
The expressions on her face spoke volumes of her enjoyment of the show.

Panto selfie

Huge credit has got to go to the entertainer (and true star of the show) Bobby Davro who – on greeting the audience and revealing how happy he was to be back in Plymouth, went on to he’s the only entertainer of his age left who isn’t in prison” (referencing the ongoing sexual abuse scandals rocking the British entertainment industry).
Fair point.
And if the panto itself wasn’t crazy enough, the annual panto after show party made for a pretty wild night.

Here, on the top floor of the venue, saw a mix of panto stars and theatre employees, footballers, journalists and city businessmen – with a large shot of something very alcoholic.
“Youre hungover…?” friends asked us the morning after the show with a look of equal part disbelief and horror.
“You went to a kids pantomime and got drunk?!”
“Have you been to a panto recently…? Wow…” I smirked.
Times have changed…
A journalist colleague of mine told me recently that one year one of the previous stars of the Plymouth panto asked if he could do his interview lying down”.
The interview just so happened to take place the morning after the panto party.
Anyhow, watching the Christmas pantomime is another tick on the list.
Now were set for our first Christmas together in the UK.
Oh, yes it is… its CHRISTMAS!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Twitter: @tristan_nichols

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Traditions, and the war against the cold

Meet 'Teddy'.

This 8-inch-tall furry fellow is my Mexican wife's latest weapon in the war against the British winter.
If having three duvets on the bed at night isn't enough (with Jacks more often than not wearing her down coat to sleep), we now share our space with a cute Teddy covered hot water bottle.

Naked Teddy
And winter has only just begun.
Since arriving from San Diego/Tijuana seven months ago it's fair to say we've invested heavily in combating the onslaught of a traditional British winter.
Jacks has never experienced one before.
This time last year we were preparing our Thanksgiving meal in board shorts and t-shirts whilst contemplating heading to the beach at the weekend.
This time last year Jacks had never heard of 'central heating' or 'hot water bottles'.
This year, right now, we're donning hats and scarves in the house, and seriously contemplating hibernating until the spring.
In the last month my wife has well and truly discovered the joys of shopping – notably in charity shops.
So much so that I'm also contemplating buying a bigger house just to accommodate her new 'wardrobe'.
Jacks arrived here in the UK in May with one thin San Diego-style jacket/coat (i.e. a cardigan).
By my count she now has eight 'proper' coats. Oh, and enough scarves to shake a stick at.
In the last few weeks we've properly experienced some very English traditions as a couple – Bonfire Night being one.
Our friends in Mexico and San Diego have been asking us: "What the hell is going on in those pictures?! "

Bonfire Night on Plymouth Hoe
Simple, that is to someone from these shores.
Guy Fawkes night.
Traditions are weird right? I mean, when you're from a different area of the world experiencing something for the first time.
What one culture thinks is perfectly normal, another finds completely weird – bordering on bonkers.
In Mexico they have the ’Dia De La Muerta’ (’Day of the Dead’) during which dead people’s lives are celebrated.
At first I thought that fairly weird – not least wandering into a Mexican supermarket in downtown Tijuana to be greeted by a full-sized altar complete with skulls and cobwebs.
But after being told what it’s all about (celebrating the lives of those who've passed) it didn’t seem so sinister.
However, you try explaining the tradition of Guy Fawkes night…
"Well, you throw an effigy of a ’man’ (or 'guy') onto a fire, and everyone stands around watching it slowly burn generally while having a good time. "
Cue confused, (almost frightened) look.
"It's a real family occasion," I said now desperately trying to convince Jacks that it's not really that weird.
"People come from all around... thousands in fact. They have fireworks and everything!"

Plenty of 'oohs and ahhhs' going on here...

They even have sparklers!
"Remind me of the story of Bonfire Night," Jacks asked me by now looking more perplexed.
"Well… some guy called Guy Fawkes (who apparently was a bit of bastard), tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in ffuuuussssbvvvvv um… – anyway, the date doesn’t matter.
"They caught him, and they burned him alive, thus creating the reference throwing a 'guy' on the fire."
When you consider it, our tradition is much more sinister-sounding than the 'Dia de la Muerta' right?
So anyway, it's cold here and it's only going to get colder.
I keep asking Jacks if she's still 'happy' here.
She hasn't said 'no' yet so I think I've found a keeper.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Twitter: @tristan_nichols

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Winter is coming...

I HAVE thick skin.
At least I do compared to my wife it seems.
I must have.
Do I need to sleep underneath TWO thick winter duvets in the middle of the British summer to fend off the cold??
I do not.
My wife it seems, does.
Over the centuries our British bodies have adjusted to living in the northern part of the world.
So our idea of a 'nice' summer, is not the same as a North American's idea of a 'nice' summer.
For about five minutes in August, when the old Victorian house was so warm that no amount of open windows or doors would shift the heat, Jacks was happy and content.
Even our chili plants were happy (who knew you could REALLY grow chilis here? In Devon??)
This WAS summer.
But this was not actually summer.
This was in fact an anomaly. A climatical mirage if you like.
For the two months gearing up to us moving to the UK I pre-warned her of the "cold, damp, fairly miserable conditions" which she should be prepared for on a "daily" basis - basically "year round".

It became a running joke when we were watching the HBO series 'Game of Thrones'.
When we heard the slogan "winter is coming" I said: "It is... when we move to England".
When we found out we were actually moving back to the 'shire (that's Devonshire – not Hobbit-land) we set about preparing Jacks for nothing she had ever experienced before.
We visited store after store in San Diego trying to find something called a 'coat'.
No luck.
"You need to visit a different state for that... maybe Alaska, or the East coast maybe?" store staff would suggest with a wry smile.
"Why would WE need coats here?!"
Fair one. With a year-round average of 21.5 degrees Celsius in Southern California why would you need a winter coat?
So I prepared my wife for the worst, we jumped on a plane at the tail end of April and what happens…? We experience one of the best summers in years with 'above average' temperatures month after month.
It was so nice and warm and lovely that day after day we were blessed with glorious sunshine.
It got to the stage where we didn't actually need a forecast because everyday seemed to be the same day after day.
Our chili plants re-flowered, every day seemed to be a 'beach day' and people began to smile more (as they only do when its sunny).

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow
Feeling the heat - another of our very happy chili plants

Chili farmer

But then in the space of what seemed to be just a few hours, it appeared to get darker with the nights drawing in; our chili plants half died; I grabbed my brolly (that’s umbrella for you guys outside the UK); and Christmas decorations, treats and adverts began appearing in local stores and on the TV.

The view at Tesco - never one to miss a trick (Sept 9th)

So now the true shock is about to settle in for my Mexican wife.
As the storm clouds gathered over our Plymouth home, I declared: "This IS England".

Incoming... the view over Plymouth Sound

The view a few minutes later...

"When's it going to be warm and sunny again," I can hear her asking in a few days, if not minutes.
Um... 2015... maybe in May...2015?
Yes, you try telling a Latin girl that that's it for a while. Show's over.
The sun is on holiday for a bit.
In San Diego there's a saying that goes: "May grey, June gloom".
That saying doesn't actually mean it's going to rain.
Californians are just weird.
It means it'll be 23 instead of 25. Oh, and it'll be a tad cloudy.
I'm not sure what the saying is here... "summer (usually) shit, autumn (generally) bleak, winter downright evil?"
For the seasoned Brits these seasons are a piece of cake.
Step one: Pack up the board shorts, 90 per cent of t-shirts, flip flops and sunglasses. Oh, and the factor 30 sun block you didn't use.
Step two: Unpack the hoodies, jeans, down jackets and gloves and scarves.
Simple: Change summer wardrobe for winter wardrobe.
As Oscar Wilde wrote: "Wisdom comes with winters".
It goes with the territory.
If there's one way to test the resilience of a wife and all that "for better or for worse" jazz then it's this.
Batten down the hatches sweetheart, I'll introduce you to a seasonal friend we call 'central heating'.

Update - Oct 13th - 7.15pm.
Jacks' first ever experience of central heating. Remarkable.
I think she'll be sleeping here in the hallway tonight.

That warm fuzzy feeling

Follow me on Twitter: @tristan_nichols