Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Singing Pinkie Pies, Ugly Foxes and Zombie Ponies

The computer is off to PC World to be fixed (AGAIN) so this is a hastily-written blog before it goes...

June 21st 2011

The longest day of the year.  Being the pessimist that I am, I never enjoy the long summer evening and instead look ahead to the fact that the nights will now be getting longer again.

Mum and I had a walk in Lammas Park.  Once again, we walked around both "loops", covering the entire park.  For all Mum's moaning about how unfit and ill she was, she wasn't even tired at the end of her walk...while I was left gasping for breath!

I found another Tripleprint packet and scanned the contents for Mum.  Now I had finally finished my part of the scanning job that I had promised to do.  Hard work doesn't pay off though.  Instead of gratitude, Mum started moaning at me to do the part of the job that DAVID had promised to do!  "The more you do, the more you may," as my great grandmother used to say!

I opened up my "Paint Your Own Ponies" and had a bit of a disappointment.  The quality was very poor compared to those I had bought at TK Maxx the previous year.  You could hardly make out some of the moulding of their manes and cutie marks at all.  They were also slightly smaller and less MLP-like.  They were definitely authentic though, so I suppose they must have just been "seconds", hence the cheap price.

You can see the differences from my photos (the TK Maxx ones are on the left, the Family Bargains ones on the right)

And, just for fun, a whole army of zombie ponies!

I washed my bed linen and, in the evening, we took it to Grottsville to hang on the airer there.  We brought the last lot of laundry back with us as well as the latest batch of items that I had sold on eBay.  What a crazy way to live between two different houses!  Oh well, at least I got to see and record the new Friendship is Magic trailer on Boomerang.

I tried to do a bit of tidying up in the library over there but it was already getting dark.  Even in the short while that we were there, we witnessed two gangs of thugs buying drugs from a dealer's car outside our house.  I'd forgotten just how bad that area was!

David slept at Woodberry that night, and I felt a lot less disturbed.  I wished we could all sleep under the same roof instead of living this peculiar life.

My hair wasn't even bothering me as much today but felt awfully dry.  It really needed to be conditioned but I was always too scared to wash it.  It was full of split ends...I wondered if the dry hair shampoo was actually contributing to the problem.

June 22nd 2011

Mum called me excitedly to say that she had seen an "ugly fox" in the garden.  I did not get to the window in time to see the poor creature, so I have been left wondering forever since what made it so ugly that even a fox-lover like my mum could call it as such!

David took the afternoon off work to go to the building society to discuss the mortgages.  He informed the financial adviser that he intended to keep working and extend his interest-only mortgage until he was 75.  Oh, the arrogance!  I'm not sure how he thought they would allow him to extend his mortgage for that many years...or how he was so sure that he would find work and be capable of doing it until that age!

We found out that Mum's money had dropped again.  (No wonder they had taken the records off of their website!)  If I've learnt one thing, it's never to invest my money in stocks and shares that can go down in value as well as up.  It's just not worth the risk unless you know what you're doing.

Mum started on about how worried she was about her pension as she hadn't got 30 years of contributions behind her.  When I pointed out that I would be in the same boat since my parents are so keen to stop me doing anything with my life, I was told to shut up as this conversation "wasn't about me".  No, they never are, are they?

Mum and I had a walk around the shops in the torrential rain and got our feet soaked.  I wasn't feeling well again and didn't hear David ringing us to tell us where to meet him.  Mum then had a go at me for not hearing it and for "walking around with a silly grin on my face".  To be honest, I was dizzy and almost fainted a couple of times.  I think I was overweight, however much my parents tried to convince me otherwise and stop me doing anything to improve my fitness.  I could feel that my underwear was digging in to my flab and felt a lot better once it was unhooked!

When we got home, David wasted the rest of his afternoon off asleep on the bathroom floor.  Happy Summer Days!

June 23rd 2011

Mum and I walked to South Ealing where we found Heather Winds and Paradise Palms for 50p each in one of the charity shops.

I later sold them for £3.00 each.  I don't think that's such a bad deal. ;)

After our charity shop tour, we headed to Lammas Park.  It felt nice to be getting out and about a bit again, although I think it would take more than a gentle stroll to get all of the excess weight off of me now!

It didn't last long though.  No sooner had we got to the park than the heavens opened and we had to run back.  It was the first time since our American adventure that we hadn't even considered rain because it was so sunny outside.  By the time we got back, my umbrella had almost blown inside out!  Ahh...the sweet, unpredictable British weather!

David hoovered the extension floor when he came home from work, for which I was very grateful as I always felt too ill lately.  I had a sore throat as well and feared my allergies were returning due to the dust everywhere...  The last thing I needed was for the Grottsville allergies to follow me to my haven at Woodberry!

June 24th 2011

Mum and I walked through both Lammas and Walpole Parks.  It was nice to be able to walk in the parks after so many years locked up in Grottsville, but depressing to see all the (younger) college kids getting on with their lives.  I tried to broach the education topic with my mum again and she just went dead quiet.  Nobody wanted to discuss my future with me...then again, I think they hoped I wouldn't have a future and would just stay in prison with them forever more.

I had a bath and finally sucked up courage to wash my hair.  It was a nightmare.  I lost only six hairs in the tub but loads of it began falling out after my bath.  My hair felt so thin afterwards and - shock horror - I could see my scalp through it when it was wet!  I lost lots of little short 'baby hairs' in the dry hair shampoo residue on my scalp and I still didn't feel it was properly rinsed.  Amazingly, my hair and scalp actually felt better for conditioning!  Looking back, it's quite obvious how much damage I was doing purely by not washing it for months on end and using so much powder on it.  But fear makes you do strange things.

David went to see a doctor about his prostate.  Thankfully, they told him it was just a bit swollen and not cancer as he had feared.  After his appointment, he scooted straight back to his newspaper land at Grottsville without even going to Tesco.  The only milk we had in the house had "use by June 21st" written on it and tasted fowl.  Well, I suppose there are worst things that can happen in the world!

June 25th 2011

I didn't leave the house...which was something of a relief for once as I didn't want people to see my thin, freshly washed hair.

I was supposed to go to my nephew Allan's confirmation the following day and didn't want to go there for the same reason.  Emma hadn't even told us it was taking place until two days previously and obviously didn't want us there (which had upset Mum).  Now she was sucking up to Mum, saying how "we were her own family and of course she wanted us there".  Mum was left grinning from ear to ear about Emma's "change of heart".  Gullible fool.

David was in a fowl mood and didn't want to do anything towards clearing the house up or helping us in any way.  He shouted and swore because Mum asked him to hang two pictures on the wall...and then rushed off to work.

I tried to de-stress about my thin hair by filming my Sing 'n Dance Pinkie Pies (yes, the freaky things that kept me awake at night - I figured I'd film them in action just in case they ever stopped working!  You know, just so I could give myself nightmares forever more) and indexing some more old cassette tapes.

I leave you with a few Pinkie videos...

If you really want to see more of the Singing Pinkies, you'll find plenty more videos on my Youtube account.

I will return as soon as the computer does!

Best wishes,
Desirée  xxx

Another five days...

Today I have a stiff arm from a blood test, and a sore eye from getting grit in it earlier...but I am still determined to do a little catch up blogging, especially as the computer is probably going away to be repaired again tomorrow!

June 16th 2011

Another day, another exciting trip to Tesco at Osterley.  David was determined to prove that this branch wasn't as good as the local branch at Grottsville.  Tonight's complaint was that they only had one loaf of his favourite brand of bread on the shelf (considering it was almost 11pm, I'm not really surprised!), and this loaf had a tiny hole in its plastic packaging.  David went and complained to a member of staff and was told that he could have it at a much reduced price, but this wasn't good enough.  He chose to go to our local Tesco Express instead!

Tesco was my only outing of the day.  We were enjoying typical British summer weather (RAIN, that is), so it wasn't really feasible to go for a walk.

Mum had another of her dreadful stomach pains.  She was clutching her stomach, rolling around the floor and screaming as if she was about to die again.  It only lasted around ten minutes but that was enough to stress me for the rest of the day.  In fact, I developed bad breathing, chest pains and lost a whole load of hair. (I swear stress had an instant impact on my hair loss issues!)  Mum got cross with me for "going on at her" about this though when she had "real health problems".  Both of my parents seemed to just ignore my health issues (and just about anything else I spoke about for that matter!) - they'd just talk over me no matter how hard I tried to get through to them.  I was getting quite concerned about my own health at this point.  I always felt overtired, dizzy and breathless.  I guess stress was the underlying cause but it would still have been nice to think that my own family cared about me.  Who knows?  Maybe if they'd cared, I wouldn't have been so stressed in the first place!

They were just insensitive to my concerns.  As I was sitting there, crying and shaking, following on from the stress of Mum's pain, David scooped a load of hair off of the carpet and waved it in my face, shouting at me for "not keeping the house clean enough".  Pretty mean when I was already so upset about my hair loss, I think.  I was trying my best to keep the house clean too, although I admit I had felt too ill to do much housework since we had got back from the USA.

He did finally give me the three ponies that he had bought for me for my birthday though.

June 17th 2011

Mum and I walked around the block via the three South Ealing charity shops.  We witnessed a man clearing one of the charity shops of "rubbish" (perfectly good quality books, from what we could see!)  I wouldn't donate to those shops if you paid me.  They're so upmarket that they'll get rid of anything less than designer clothing and jewellery.  They must be in real need of the stock they keep begging for, eh?  (It almost makes you wonder if the guy was REALLY taking the books to the tip...or if it was a cover for the fact that the volunteers and their friends take a lot of the donated goods to sell for their own causes...)

We were still having heavy showers so we didn't dare to walk as far as the park again.  Mum was "bored with the park" anyway. (But kicked up a terrible stink if I spoke about going without her!)

I spent most of the afternoon doing Mum's scanning as usual.  It was such a tedious job, especially when I had to sit on the front room floor because we didn't have a desk for the laptop/scanner.  I must admit that I was enjoying looking through my old coin operated ride pictures though.

I had managed to identify my 2005 photograph of an Edwin Hall Muffin the Mule ride (shown in a previous blog) as having been taken in an arcade on Deal seafront.  Google Maps showed that it was still there as late as 2009.  My 2005 diary made reference to a second arcade "full of old rides" but I had no photographs and couldn't find any trace of it on Google Maps.

My stress levels continued to rise, mainly about the hair loss (which was - ironically - definitely made worse by stress!)  Everything disturbed me though.  Now I was watching videos of the riots in Vancouver and getting upset over those.  I was grateful that my friend was in Los Angeles, even if he was still in hospital, as he lived right in the middle of the riot zone back when he was in Vancouver.  I still had another friend who WAS living in that area though, and it was worrying to hear her emails talking about being sent home from work early and being told to "buckle down and wait it out".  Seriously, what is wrong with people these days?

June 18th 2011

David rolled up at noon again.  He blamed Mum for making him so late.  She had  "woken him up too early which had caused him to sleep through his alarm".  The alarm clock had been set for 8:15 to get to Woodberry before 9am, by the way.

Due to this, we missed Hanwell Carnival.  Well, it was raining and pelting hailstones as usual anyway so I guess we didn't miss much, but I do like to wander around the stalls in Elthorne Park just in case there are any ponies for sale.

My anxiety was getting beyond a joke.  I tried to remain calm by spending the day listing on eBay, but I couldn't stop stressing about my hair and comparing the thin mess to how it had looked even just a few months previously.  I just felt so depressed and ill...then Mum had another minor pain and stressed me even further.

The usual trip to Osterley Tesco was the extent of my daily excitement.  The stress followed me there and I jumped a mile when I happened to see a woman move in the car parked next to us!  I couldn't keep up with David either as I kept going so dizzy.  He didn't notice though, of course, and thundered on ahead.  I had an awful backache which he also failed to take into account when he kept asking me to bend down and get things off of the lower shelves in the shop.

He departed for Grottsville earlier than ever; as soon as we got back from Tesco, in fact.  What a friendly family man.

June 19th 2011

I had got into a real panic about my hair again.  When you look back at my blog notes, you can see the waves of anxiety and depression shining through.  It's a shame that my doctor can't study them and see what she thinks is causing it all!

We had a fantastic trip to Brent Cross Shopping Centre today in search of curtain tie backs and hooks.  No luck, of course, as Mum wanted "something a bit different" and you're not going to find that in John Lewis!  I got upset to see all the pretty women walking around with their long thick hair...crikey, Desirée.  Take a good look at yourself in the mirror.  If you're worried about pretty women, I think the hair is the least of your troubles!  Funnily enough, I was just thinking today (in the present day, that is) how I have no idea about applying make up or even what colours/products I should use if I wanted to.  Aesthetic beauty doesn't seem to even be about what you look like naturally any more, it's about knowing how to present what you've got to its best advantage.  I wish I had somebody to give me a nice little make up tutorial.  I'm curious to know what a proper make up artist would do with me!

I did manage to redeem my free £5 birthday gift at The Body Shop anyway.

We also learnt that a Lush was opening there that July.  Nice to have one a little nearer than Watford (not that I can ever afford Lush prices anyway!)  Annoyingly, I couldn't update my Boots Card with its "Treat Street" points - which you used to earn for shopping on eBay back in those days - as the points weren't ready to collect.  They came through one hour later.  Grrr....

We crossed the road to the retail park opposite to buy some laundry bags from Lakeland.  I had a wander around TK Maxx too, but found no nice clothes that weren't too low cut for my standards.

We went to Laura Ashley in search of curtain tie backs after that.  David was horribly rude to a lady who worked there, abruptly asking if they sold tie backs in eau de nil to match our wallpaper and not even thanking her afterwards.  Mum and I scurried out of the shop in embarrassment and went next door to Family Bargains.  I got some Weetaflakes (Family Bargains being the only shop that still sold my favourite type of cereal) and, more surprisingly, three boxes of "Paint Your Own G3 Ponies".

I had been looking for more of these but the price in TK Maxx had been too much for my budget.  I thought they were long gone from the shops now and had given up hope of ever finding any more.  These were also very cheap compared to TK Maxx - maybe now I would be able to make the characters I had been wanting to paint for so long.

I listed 90 items on eBay over the course of the free listing weekend.  It had been so long since eBay's last free listing promotion that I had lost all of my old photographs and descriptions, so I didn't think I'd done too badly.  Alas, now that eBay seems to have stopped these promotions all together and I am totally bankrupt, I am cursing the ten slots that I didn't use and wishing that I could redeem them now!

June 20th 2011

Mum and I had a nice stroll in Lammas Park.  In fact, for all Mum's moaning about how "bored" she was with the parks, once she was there she didn't want to come back, so we walked around twice.

When we got back, I finished scanning all of the old "Tripleprint" photographs from when I was a child.  Then I started work on cleaning - I only hoovered two rooms before I got tired and had to sit down though.  There was definitely something wrong with me, but I was determined that David wouldn't have another chance to say that I didn't TRY to keep the house clean at least.

Having seen my eBay listings (which included some Happy Meal toys), Emma wrote to me about a cardboard treasure chest full of McDonalds toys which had been donated to the kids' school for their summer fair.  She asked me how much I thought it was worth, but I had to admit that I had never seen anything like it before.  I don't know what happened to it in the end as I don't think it got sold at the summer fair just in case it was worth more than they knew.

Despite all of David's nastiness of the last few days, I was feeling guilty about Father's Day as I hadn't got anything for him.  Then again, what do you get for a man who does everything in his power to avoid even having to see you on a day to day basis?!

Well, as I am literally falling asleep where I sit and still have to have a bath before bed, I think I had better leave it there!  If you hear about a girl drowning in her bath in Ealing, know that the blog is to blame!

Best wishes,
Desirée  xxx

Monday, 26 May 2014

Borrowed Books, Nasty Nightmares and Other Uninteresting Tales!

I'm supposed to be at a theatre show tonight.  Instead I'm sitting writing a blog about my sad existence three years ago.  There's some sick irony in that, I think.

June 11th 2011

I didn't leave the house again.  According to my blog notes, I was "sick of being cooped up and feeling fat".  Why didn't I get up and walk out of the front door then?  Wasn't that the whole point of moving to Woodberry?

Maybe the reason lies in the fact that I was still feeling very ill with my rotten cold.  I don't often catch colds but when I do, I may as well be dying.  All these days later I was feeling dehydrated and spinny with a headache and neck ache whenever I blew my nose (which I had to do continuously after everything I ate or drank, hence the dehydration issue).  I had a horrible smell in my nose as well.  Well, at least I could smell something, I suppose...not sure if that was an improvement or not!

David felt sick (perhaps he was also suffering with the same virus but it had come out differently in him?) so only visited us briefly in order to dump a box of books, use the toilet (a water meter had been fitted at Grottsville so he was trying to avoid using water over there!) and drink a mug of water.  Then he returned to the other house.

Mum received a very strange letter from her old friend, Aubrey, telling her that he was "now happy for her to keep the books he had given her on loan 20 years ago".  Hmm...well, that was good to know.  The books in question had been badly water damaged from being carried on a boat to and from Australia many years ago and Mum had actually thrown the worst of them away - with pages that were literally stuck together - when he GAVE them to her (not on loan) all those years ago.  People can be so weird and random.

I was feeling pretty depressed, fat and ugly again.  This time I'd decided to home in on my legs.  I'd given up on using the Boots Smooth Skin system because I'd decided it wasn't doing much good anyway but was now miserable about the fast regrowth of my body hair after shaving.  If only the hair on my head grew like that!  To make things worse, Mum started laughing about an advert in a catalogue for "a magic wand that whisks hair away".  You'd almost think she could read my mind.

My friend was still calling for long hours from his hospital bed.  I guess his relatives had all gone back to Canada by this point and he was bored.  I had downloaded Skype now so at least our calls were free.  It was very disturbing to see and hear him, but nice that he seemed to be getting better now at least.  I drew a birthday card for him to cheer him up.  Funny that he now claims his birthday is in September...

June 12th 2011

I had a bad nightmare about Mum being followed by a gang of thugs and stabbed on "The Trail of Death".  Don't ask.  I was obviously pretty disturbed by all of the recent occurrences and kept having weird dreams.  Now I was scared to even go to bed for fear of having another one.

My hair was thinning out terribly again and what was left of it kept falling in my eyes as a constant reminder of this.  The strangest thing is that the problem had practically gone away in the USA, so I suppose this was also down to stress.  However, I thought stress-related hair loss was supposed to take several weeks to show up.

David only came to Woodberry for three hours again.  He seemed to stay in Grottsville as much as he possibly could these days.  He reluctantly agreed to drive us to Grottsville to collect a few bits we had sold on eBay.  He sat on the stairs and prevented me getting up to my bedroom to get changed, but I was STILL ready before him because he continued to look through paperwork for some time.  By the time he was finally ready to leave, I had to use the bathroom again.  Then he had the cheek to say, "Not being funny or anything but how long are you going to be?"  He really resented doing anything for either of us.

He spent most of his time at Woodberry moaning at Mum about how "all hope was lost when she decided to keep Woodberry" (rather than selling it and letting him have the money to either build an extension in Grottsville or buy another large house to store all his rubbish in an equally rough area).  She countered with the dramatic statement, "I know I don't deserve anything as I have never worked and had two stints of children, neither of which I wanted...but that doesn't mean I was going to let you spend my money however you chose!"  I went for a lie down.  Anything was better than listening to the same argument playing out for the millionth time.

Mum also told me off for "wearing my nice t-shirts for every day".  (The nice t-shirts in question were those that I had got at Walmart)  So hold on, I wasn't supposed to wear pretty little dresses or nice t-shirts except or special occasions.  What was I supposed to wear on a daily basis?  Or was I supposed to walk around in the nude?!

My cold was finally drying up a little but I still had a bad cough.  However long was this blasted thing going to last?

June 13th 2011

I spent 30 minutes at Osterley Tesco.  Wow.  Still, count your blessings, Desirée.  Most days I didn't leave the house at all.

I was awfully disturbed about my future but, as usual, nobody would talk to me about it.  I was suffering from more and more ridiculous dreams and nightmares every single night.  Last night's had been about The Black Pony of Darkness (a character from the old My Little Pony fanfiction series that I wrote as a child) capturing my entire family.  Oh well, at least it wasn't another dark and graphic nightmare about "The Trail of Death"!

Mum spent most of the day researching the family history of her first partner (Emma's father).  She couldn't seem to understand why I wasn't interested in the ins and outs of when and where they were all born and, more to the point, why I couldn't remember each and every little detail.  In contrast, if I tried to speak to her about anything else (and especially anything concerning myself or my future), she didn't even bother to listen to me and would instead give two or three general responses, as if hoping to find a suitable one and hide the fact she hadn't been listening!

I couldn't do any scanning because David's laptop wouldn't switch on.  I later discovered that this was because he had left the scanner plugged into the computer.  He advised me to always unplug it before turning the computer off from now on.  Uh...but I always had done that.  Why would I leave them connected up?

I heard that Friendship is Magic was to air on Boomerang here in the UK from July.  Of course we didn't even have a television at Woodberry so it would be up to David to tape it for me at Grottsville.  However, David claimed we didn't even have the right channel (which I knew was an outright lie because he couldn't be bothered to set the timer before work each morning).  Grr...why couldn't we have basic technology like everybody else?!

June 14th 2011

I didn't leave the house again.  Happy summer, one and all.  I actually thought about braving Mum's temper and going for a walk, but I was still feeling poorly with my cold.

Instead, I wasted another boring day doing her scanning (extra to make up for not being able to do any the previous day), indexing cassette tapes and playing Zoo World on Facebook.  Oh, what fun to be young.

David was wasting all of the long evenings at work.  He didn't even get paid overtime, it was just an excuse to stay out of the house all the time.  He claimed that he "didn't know the time" so never knew when he was supposed to come home.  Well, didn't he notice everybody else leaving the office around him?!

I was still spending long hours talking on Skype to my hospitalised friend in Los Angeles.  I think the penny was finally dropping with Mum that he and I were a bit more than ordinary e-friends.  Considering he'd been talking about marrying/sponsoring me for over a year at that point, I suppose that shows how little interest she takes in me.  She asked to see a photograph of the "mystery man" so I showed her a picture on his Facebook profile.  I should have guessed what her reaction would be, but even I was a little taken aback at how viciously she threw her head back and laughed at his appearance.  I'll admit the guy is nothing to look at but I liked him for who I believed he was on the inside at that time (yes, ignorance is bliss for sure).  Mind you, he could have been a supermodel and she would have reacted in the same way. Still, what a nice thing to do when somebody is in hospital with a paralysed arm and unexplained seizures!

I was looking through some old ride photographs whilst I was doing the scanning and happened to notice something interesting about these two rides at Earnley Gardens, photographed in October 2002...

They may be hard to spot in the smaller size published on this blog, but I noticed the small black signs on top of the coin slots.  And then I remembered something I had photographed on my favourite "Running Horse" ride in London recently.

Surely that was the same sign on the Earnley Garden rides?  But why would an Edwin Hall Ostrich ride have a sign on it saying that it was manufactured by Edward Savill?  I know Edward Savill used to distribute Edwin Hall's rides in the '60s and '70s, but he only began manufacturing his own kiddie rides after RG Mitchell bought Edwin Hall's company in 1976.  The plot thickens...  I wondered if the rides were still at Earnley Gardens for me to confirm what the signs actually said, but I realised that was a very long shot after all these years.

I dug all of my big MLPs (Styling Ponies, Dream Beauties, Bubble Bath Bottles etc.) back out of the cupboard and displayed them on top of my chest  of drawers.  No doubt this would cause further nightmares about the Sing 'n Dance Pinkie Pies which always appeared to move in the shadows as soon as the lights went out.  Yes, I am totally crazy!  I couldn't even stand to look at those things after dark because their eyes seemed to follow me around the room.  But I needed the space in my cupboard for other things so what else could I do?

June 15th 2011

Sure enough, I couldn't drag myself upstairs to bed until almost 3am.  Even then, I had to sleep with the door open so that I could see that those blasted Pinkie Pies weren't coming to eat me in my sleep!

Mum and I went for a walk in Lammas Park.  Our first walk since arriving back from the USA.  It wasn't a very pleasant one.  The weather was hot and sticky and the park was packed with a mixture of scantily clad women sunbathing on the grass and vulgar men leering at said women.  Even Mum picked up on the staring and drooling this time.  How on Earth have a whole generation of uncivilised men been raised to think this is acceptable?

The temperature was equally unpleasant indoors but we didn't dare to open the window for fear of the resident squirrels and the neighbours' cat in our back garden coming in for a visit.

I had yet more scanning chores to do for Mum.  Somebody came to the door while I was sitting on the living room floor - probably one of my grandparents' old neighbours.  There was no way that we could go to the door with the house in such a state, and yet there was nowhere for me to hide either.  I ended up crawling behind the living room door but there wasn't enough space there and should the mystery person on our doorstep have chosen to look through the window, they would have seen a pair of legs sticking out from behind the door!

Mum was still being unpleasant about the photograph of my friend that I had shown her the previous day.  Apparently it didn't matter if he was now too ill to sponsor me as "he didn't look like much of a catch anyway from what she could see".  Charming.  Nice to know that everything in this world is based on physical appearance too, eh?

I saw on the McDonalds website that the Oreo McFlurry had been discontinued in favour of the new limited edition Flurry, Drifter.  I hadn't even had the chance to taste my beloved Oreo McFlurry this year.  Now I was even sadder that I hadn't had one in the USA!

And I think that rounds up another five boring days of my life nicely.  If only I could keep up at this rate, I'd have caught up in a year or two!

Best wishes,
Desirée  xxx

After Returning to England...

It's late and I'm tired, but here's a quick catch up to bring us a week nearer to where we really are. (It'll make a lot of difference in the scheme of three years!)

June 4th 2011

We were all exhausted upon our arrival home from the USA.  David and I actually fell asleep in the car on the way back from the airport.  I have to feel a bit sorry for our chauffeur really. And I thought holidays were supposed to be relaxing!

I battled to unpack my suitcase as soon as I walked through the door.  I knew that if I didn't keep busy, I'd just close my eyes and fall asleep for the rest of the day, and then the jobs would never get done.  Miraculously, both the house and the car were okay.  David drove over to Grottsville to check the house there and made a big thing of scaring us about it, calling us to say, "Well, at first it looked a mess but..." as if somebody had come in and vandalised the place.

He successfully wasted the rest of our day by claiming that he was coming straight back from Grottsville and  then not doing so.  Because of this, I didn't do my laundry or start cleaning in case he had other plans for us (of course, it was also a good excuse not to do anything since I was so tired!).  I guess he fell asleep at the other house.  And so it started again - the dreadful drifting.  Nothing would ever get done while I was living under my parents' roof.

June 5th 2011

I didn't leave the house.  Heck, I didn't even wake up until noon...and I was the first one awake at that!  I'd heard of jetlag but this was ridiculous!

What little of the day I did see after breakfast at about 1.30pm was frittered away as usual.  I needed a set routine or nothing would ever be done.

I still had a really rotten cold which might have added to my tiredness and inability to do anything.  I felt horrible with a sore nose and peeling lip.  Mum complained that the potatoes we had for dinner tasted icky and were of the "disgusting yellow variety".  I could see that they were yellow-er than usual but I was spared the gross taste because I couldn't actually taste anything!

We were still trying to get settled back into life in this country.  Today David went to the storage depot to collect my grandparents' cremated remains (yes, you heard that correctly - we put them in storage because Mum thought they would be safer there than in either of the houses!)  He "couldn't find" Mum's money which he had also stored away there though!

He also couldn't find the camera's memory card with about half of our holiday photographs on it.  Thankfully it turned up (as did Mum's money) but we had a stressful few hours of looking for it.

June 6th 2011

I went to the very exciting Tesco, my first time leaving the house since we had arrived back from the USA.  Well, I found a penny by the self service checkout so that was my reward for finally dragging myself out of bed!

I finally did my laundry too - a whole washing machine full of underwear, it seemed!  I've no idea how I got all of that dirty laundry back to the UK in my tiny little suitcase!  There wasn't even anywhere to hang it all.

For those who may be wondering about my hospitalised friend in California, he now had a new mobile phone (having lost his old phone in the car accident) and was feeling well enough to talk...for hours on end.  I didn't mind, of course - I loved him and it was nice to hear his voice, whatever time of day or night.  But keep going to bed at 4am was probably not doing much to help me to recover from my jetlag!  And even when I got to sleep, he would sometimes call me up again and wake me.  I always kept my phone by my bed though, determined that I would be there for him in whatever small way I could be.

I remember him crying down the phone on the night after we arrived back, apologising profusely for "letting me down"  by being disabled when he had promised to find work and sponsor me.  Hmm...pity you don't feel that way now, boy, huh?  A car accident was not your fault, but you had a choice in other things.

My left arm was killing me for no apparent reason.  It felt like a pulled muscle.  But how could I have pulled a muscle when I hadn't even left the house for the best part of three days and had spent most of my time napping anyway?!

June 7th 2011

Another exciting trip to Tesco was on the agenda for today.  Not even the main Tesco, but the little Tesco Express around the corner.  We needed bread.  I found that the shampoo and conditioner I used for my ponies was on sale on a 3 for 2 offer.  Now I would be able to wash the Happy Meal Ponies that I wanted to sell.  Oh yes, my life in England was so fantastically thrilling that even these details got noted in my blog notes book!

David spotted a Clancy Docwra van outside the shop (Clancy being the company he worked for at the time) and put on the most ridiculous false smile you've ever seen.  But he didn't recognise anybody anyway and was soon back to his normal miserable scowling face!

He was back at work now, but overslept once again, making himself late.  He called in claiming to be ill as an excuse, then his earache really returned.  My mum always said never to lie about illness or it would come back and bite you on the we know it's true!

I had got a box of Sultana Bran at Tesco the day before and had some breakfast that morning.  I liked it but it was much chewier and not as nice as Raisin Bran Crunch.  I was missing Hershey Chocolate too!  Things just didn't feel right in the UK somehow.

Having said that, we had tomato soup and rice for dinner which was very nice.  I had missed eating warm meals at regular times while on holiday.  Although I guess that has more to do with my travelling companions than with being in a different location.  People don't generally starve on holidays!

Mum was still suffering from her two and a half weeks of semi-fasting.  She had a bad stomach and her depression was rubbing off on me right at a time when I needed to try to be cheerful and positive in a country I didn't want to be in!  It was hard to feel cheerful when I STILL had such a bad cold and cough though.

June 8th 2011

I didn't wake up until 12.10pm.  How crazy.  I wondered if I would ever get myself turned around to GMT hours again!  I had spent another night on the telephone though...and then had been further disturbed by David listening to a loud radio in the loft.  How was I supposed to sleep at the right time with all of these interruptions?!

I didn't leave the house again.  No wonder I wanted to leave that darn place.  I was so depressed and my hair felt sickly again.  Funnily enough, it had felt better in the USA.  Was it simply because I had been happier over there, or maybe the different humidity/climate?  I know my skin improved when we were in Iceland many years ago due to the water quality.  Perhaps this was a similar thing.  Maybe England really didn't suit my health and it wasn't all psychological after all!

Mum was still in a deep depression, moaning about making alterations to her will "before she died".  Apparently the wording made reference to "Emma's children" and this needed to be changed to "grandchildren" as "you never know what might happen".  Well, with the only guy I would have ever even considered as a father for my children partially paralysed in a foreign hospital with no way of sponsoring me even if he'd wanted to, I think it was a little premature to be thinking along those lines!  Actually I found it a bit offensive that she was STILL waffling on about me having children at a time when it was becoming clearer that I would never have a family of my own.

David seemed to have taken on the photograph scanning job that I had started before we went away.  Good for him. I had given myself a bad back sitting on the floor for hours on end scanning Mum's old pictures so it was nice to have a rest from it.  Then I took a look at the way he was scanning them.  WTH?  All of the photos were mixed up in unmarked folders (no dates whatsoever) and he was scanning all of the pictures two to a page, meaning I had to crop and separate them all anyway.  It was like he just couldn't be bothered and was rushing the job.  These were all of my childhood photos too (including my precious coin operated kiddie ride picture collection).  Needless to say, I ended up re-scanning everything in the format that Mum liked anyway.

Not yet though, as many of the pictures were still at the storage depot.  He refused to bring them all back because we supposedly "didn't have space for them all".  This lead to another argument on how Mum should have sold Woodberry and built a loft conversion in Grottsville as there was no space for all of his junk here.  Well, in case you don't recall, David, the hope was that we would move here in time for me to go to college for free to get the qualifications that you didn't allow me to get at school at the correct age.  Of course, the work got dragged out for so long that I didn't get here in time anyway.  But even so, he KNOWS I wouldn't leave the house in Grottsville due to the weirdo drunks who used to follow me home every time I walked out of my own front door.  I guess that didn't matter to him though, as long as he could keep all of his old rubbish.

June 9th 2011

David overslept again and had to book an entire day off of work.  He'd already got the afternoon off to see the local council about getting a parking permit for his company car so I suppose it was only the morning that was wasted really.

Having slept at Grottsville the night before, he didn't roll up at Woodberry until 2.30pm.  He arrived with Mum's jumpers and some more of the stuff that she had insisted was put into the storage depot before we went away.  Then he went to Ealing Broadway to return a library book.

He didn't even offer us the chance to go with him, despite the fact that he knew I needed to go to The Body Shop to claim my free £5 birthday gift and to Savers to buy some facial wipes.  Nowadays I would just run there by myself but it would appear that at that time I didn't even do that much alone (I forget how much progress I actually have made, considering my life is still so abnormal!)

As it turned out, I was pretty glad that we hadn't been invited though.  While he was at the library, somebody broke into the car.  Don't ask me why they picked our car.  It hardly looked like it belonged to a rich person who would be storing valuables in the boot.  Still they smashed the back window and tore the boot open.  All they found were carrier bags full of bubblewrap and other packaging materials for eBay though.  They must have been very disappointed.

Mum and I couldn't have got back in the car with all of those shards of broken glass on the seat though so we would have ended up walking home in our semi-jetlagged, wobbly state if we had been invited to Ealing!

Of course, while we were grateful that nothing had actually been stolen, we still had to get the window and back seat repaired.  David took the car to Grottsville as this was "an easier location for the bloke he'd chosen to come and fix it".  The bloke then announced that he wasn't coming until another entire day was wasted.  David spent the rest of the day in Grottsville reading books and newspapers/watching TV and I didn't leave the house again except to walk out into the street to take the above photographs.  I was feeling so fat and unfit.  I really wanted to walk but Mum was still too weak and had made me feel guilty about going without her.

June 10th 2011

I used the fact that we needed bananas and milk as an excuse to walk to South Ealing.  My shopping trip was not very successful.  There were no bananas in the Co-Op or Sainsburys and I discovered that we actually DID have enough milk for breakfast so I had wasted 45p for nothing!

I visited the three charity shops while I was there and bought a nice dress for £4.00.  The neckline was a little low for my standards but I figured I could wear it around the house if nothing else.

A vile road sweeper felt it necessary to actually stop work to leer at me and whistle as I walked past.  Suddenly I remember another reason that I had been put off of walking out of my own front door.  Men make me feel sick.

In the evening, we went to Osterley Tesco where I experienced my second nasty man of the day.  This one actually followed me around the shop, blatantly staring.  Crikey, anybody would think I was a super model.  I presume all women go through this but they just learn to turn a blind eye to these inferior creatures.

It was an unpleasant outing all round really.  The car seat and floor was still covered in tiny pieces of glass which got stuck to my trousers, and felt dirty from where the would-be thief had broken in the day before.  Then David dropped a bottle of bleach at the checkout and shouted at ME that it was all my fault for "not putting my bag down". (?!)  I had my bag on my shoulder while I opened carrier bags for him actually.  I'm not quite sure how putting my bag down would have prevented him from dropping a bottle on the other side of the checkout!

I spent most of the day on the front room floor with the computer/scanner and did a ton of scanning but Mum still didn't think that I had done enough.  "Well," she said, sitting on her sofa throne and reading a magazine, "I suppose you haven't done any for a few days so you needed to ease yourself back into it".  I'd only scanned five packets of photos (around 150 pictures), you know?!

She also kindly told me that "my face was changing with age and I now looked like Katie".  Katie is a cousin she has always hated.  Nice.  Way to make me feel good about my appearance, Mum!

Sparkle Dental Boutique rang and postponed my next orthodontic appointment by a week, which was rather disappointing as I was eager to get the work done.  My special toothbrush with flossing brush on the handle had broken while we were in the USA too and I was hoping that they would give me a replacement.  But no, they said that any replacement would have to be bought from them at an exorbitant price.  I would have to make do without flossing my teeth properly...not something I wanted to do while I was wearing braces and my teeth were at a higher risk of decay.  But there was no way I could afford an expensive new toothbrush every couple of months.

Wow, an entire week written out in one blog entry!  If only I could keep that up, maybe I really would be able to catch up again someday.  Anybody want to place bets on me doing so?!  No?  Thought not.

Best wishes,
Desirée  xxx

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Great American Adventure - Part Seven

The last instalment of my first ever trip to the USA.  Only a few YEARS too late!

May 31st 2011

Another early start.  Today we were to drive to another of the big sights on our itinerary; The Grand Canyon.  After breakfast, Mum and I went to the computer room to get a last minute update on my friend.  He was still in hospital, still having seizures multiple times a day.  His cousin had now told me that his right arm was completely paralysed but he was in a "stable condition".  She gave me the details of the hotel in Los Angeles, obviously convinced that I would find my way out there on one of the free days at the end of our tour.  But how was I supposed to travel the 200 miles from Las Vegas when I was on holiday with my parents without so much as a car?  It broke my heart as I would have dearly loved to visit him and I was "so close" (relatively, compared to England), but it was impractical.

I turned the computer off, practically in tears.  Mum and I sat in the lobby outside the computer room, waiting for David to return from our room where he was still packing his suitcase from the previous night.  Evan then came and started making fun of us for using the internet again.  "Have they locked you out of the computer room?  Or has David banned you from spending more than two hours a day on there?" he laughed.  Well, he picked the wrong moment, didn't he?  I glowered at him and if looks could kill, he would have fallen to the floor!  He obviously realised he had made a mistake.  "She doesn't look very happy...  What's the matter with her?" he said to Mum, as I continued to glare.  (Apparently men don't even dare speak directly to me when I'm in a bad mood!)  Mum explained about my friend and he was actually very apologetic and sympathetic, telling me that I could use his smart phone to check for updates whenever I wanted.  I don't think Evan actually meant any harm with his jokes, but these tour guides certainly seem to have a strange sense of humour!

We made our way out to the coach and saw a group of three horses wandering by the side of the road.  They must have escaped from a local ranch, I suppose.  I was very worried about them, scared that they would walk out into the road in front of moving traffic.  Then I noticed there were three dogs watching over them and trying to herd them back!  I hope their owner was able to find them and round them up before anything bad happened to them.

Our first stop of the day was the Cameron Trading Post.  Mum had to use the restroom which ate up a lot of our time there, but we still managed to get some nice souvenirs.

Once again, I got upset to see an animal on the loose.  This time a poor stray, mangy dog.  He was walking around the car park, looking very hot and thirsty.  I hated having to leave him there, not knowing what would happen to him.

We moved on into Grand Canyon National Park, stopping first at Desert View Watchtower.  Mum didn't feel up to climbing the tower but even without climbing the whole way, we still had a nice view.

We realised that David was no longer with us and had to spend a lot of time looking for him.  We eventually found him here, proclaiming that he was "bored"...

Seriously?  Was I the only one enjoying this trip?

We travelled on to the Grand Canyon after that, where we would spend the rest of our day.  Wendy kindly gave me some nuts to eat...which, of course, I couldn't touch with my braces.  Nevertheless, I managed to convince her that I had eaten them by carefully hiding them in the palm of my hand and making fake chewing motions!  Yes, I am a very silent nut cruncher...

It wasn't a long journey and we were soon as the Grand Canyon.  Mum was, as usual, "seriously underwhelmed" and couldn't be bothered with climbing the viewing tower there either!

Having said that, it had got terribly hot and I'll admit that it was a battle to even walk around for five hours or so in those temperatures, much less climb up tons of stairs.  We sat on a bench in the shade for a little while observing this poor little insect.

I'm afraid I have no idea what it was.  The poor thing had a damaged wing and couldn't fly.  I moved it to the wall where I hoped it wouldn't get trodden on and could at least spend its last hours in peace.

We eventually decided to get up and brave the heat.  I soon realised that I had neglected to apply sunscreen that morning.  Big mistake...especially as I was wearing my one and only v-neck t-shirt (about the most revealing thing I own!)  Pretty soon I was burnt to a crisp.  Oh well, it was worth it...even if Mum found the views underwhelming, the wildlife was beautiful.

From lovely lizards...

...Great Ground Squirrels....

...and Beautiful (BIG!) Beetles...

...we saw it all.  There were also magnificent butterflies and turkey vultures, but I didn't manage to get any photographs of those.

Oh, and I don't care what my mum says - the scenery WAS breathtaking too!

We joined a talk about Californian Condors which was a bit of a let down as it was aimed at young children and we didn't really learn much.  In fact, the ranger couldn't even identify the mystery beetles for us (even though they were flying all around and obviously commonplace here!)

There was also some kind of special event taking place that day which included demonstrations of traditional Native American dance.  The performance we saw was very good; even Mum was impressed!  The commentator explained the meanings and history behind the different dances which was also interesting.  We stood and watched for a while, despite the heat.  (I honestly don't know how they had the energy to dance in that weather!)

The highlight of the day though was seeing our own condor.  It was late afternoon and we had just walked away from the dancers.  I was feeling pretty ill from standing in the sun for so long and was staggering around the path.  In fact, I almost fainted twice!  We probably wouldn't have noticed it at all had it not been for a group of bird watchers standing with binoculars and telescopes.

The bird was quite a long way away - too far for me to get a nice photograph - but still near enough to see what it was.  What a thrill!

We watched the condor preening itself for a while, then I stumbled again and we thought it best to go inside and out of the sunshine!  I had long finished my drink so David went looking for something to quench my thirst.  He returned with the largest cup of milk I'd ever seen.  "She'll never get through that," Mum laughed.  Ten minutes later, an empty cup was thrown into a nearby rubbish bin.  Gosh, I must have really been thirsty!

Soon after that, it was time to board the bus again.  For once, we were quite happy to do so.  We all felt that we had seen enough of the Grand Canyon to last us a lifetime, especially with the skin peeling off of our sunburnt noses!  Mum was maybe a little too eager to climb aboard and RAN for the bus, certain that everybody must already be on it and she was holding them up.  It was only when she heard the voices of the Australian family from our coach party calling her back that she realised she had chased the wrong coach...and everybody was casually standing and waiting for ours some way behind her!

When we got back to our lodge, David discovered that he had lost ALL of the postcards we had managed to buy on our travels.  Having not had much chance to buy souvenirs anyway, we were devastated to think that we had lost the few we had got.  In fact, David was so distraught that he ran and found Evan to ask for the phone number of the previous hotel...just to see if the cleaners had found our bag of postcards.  They hadn't but promised to call back if any were handed in.  Later, we found that David had left the cards on the coach...along with Mum's bird books, which none of us had even noticed were missing!

It was still quite early so we decided to go for a little stroll for once.  We walked down to the cafe to see what was on offer.  Yes, shocking, I know!  I think my parents were finally starting to get into the holiday spirit now that it was almost time to go home!  We found that the cafe sold baked potatoes which meant that Mum and I could actually have warm dinner for once.  The potatoes were very nice; much nicer than those offered at our hotel a couple of nights previously.  David chose mashed potatoes instead and was not so lucky.  It was full of bits of red potato skin.  Ew...  It seemed to be intentional rather than pure negligence too.  Yuck.  Who eats mashed potato skins?!

David was still struggling to get through it after Mum and I had finished ours (proving just how disgusting it must have tasted!) so we decided to go ahead of him back to the lodge.  We went via the gift shop where we found a nice souvenir for my nephew Allan, a dear little toy car for his collection with "Grand Canyon" written on the side of it.  Once again, Mum got caught out by tax though.  She just couldn't learn that it wasn't included in the quoted price as it is in this country and kept thinking that things would be cheaper than they really were.

On our short walk from the gift shop to our lodge, we stumbled across a herd of deer grazing right next to the path.  They were so close and yet so unafraid of us, it was lovely to see them and walk amongst them.  What a shame it was so dark, otherwise I could have taken some beautiful photographs.

June 1st 2011

Today we would travel back to where our great adventure had started: Las Vegas.  I was already feeling emotional and knew I would be in tears by the end of the day.  I had experienced the best few days of my life and didn't want it to end just yet.  Still, I must hold my tears back.  I didn't want to waste a moment of my time on the right side of the Atlantic!

Mum didn't feel up to breakfast again so David and I made our way back to the little cafe where we had eaten our potatoes the previous night.  Instead of the usual buffet, we had meal tickets this morning.  We looked through the options - there wasn't much on offer for vegetarians but they did have cereal.  Tiny pots of it.  "Looks like this is all you're entitled to," David said, handing me a pot of sickly sweet Raisin Bran Crunch and half a pint of milk.  He then proceeded to make his way to the hot breakfast counter where he got himself a big plate of cooked meat...and then ordered another big plate full with Mum's unused meal ticket!  He could have used that to get something that we could have taken away with us for Mum to eat later in the day.

The comparison in our breakfasts:

For some reason, his cooked breakfast allowed him to have three cups of any beverage of his choice as well.  Is that fair on vegetarians?  Oh well, I said I needed a diet!

We did have one stop as we travelled down part of Route 66 on our way to Las Vegas.  That stop was Seligman where we visited Angel Delgadillo's Gift Shop.  Walking into Seligman was like walking into a time warp.  Everything looked like it came straight out of the 1950s.

We wandered around in the gift shop for a while and got a couple of nice souvenirs.  We also got a nice America-patterned bag which was just the perfect size for aeroplane hand luggage...which would allow me to carry some of our souvenirs along with my own handbag!

Angel's brother had recently passed away but his car was still parked by the gift shop.  The cars were the thing that added most to the atmosphere, I think.  They were so beautifully vintage, even with their Disney Cars-style eyes!

All too soon, it was time to board the coach again.  I quickly posed with the sign outside the gift shop just to prove I had been on the famous Route 66, however briefly!

Our lunch stop was at another branch of Walmart, much to the excitement of the non-Americans on the coach.  There was also a Big Lots next door which allowed me to tick another of my "US stores I've heard of but never visited" off of my list!

I had to giggle at this sign hanging in the drinks aisle in Walmart.  My punctuation is not great either, but I can understand why the blue pen holder felt irritated enough to correct this particular sentence.  The people of Walmart obviously have plenty of time on their hands!

We didn't have an awful lot of time in Walmart, especially after visiting Big Lots.  I still managed to find four cheap, pretty American t-shirts though (which I still wear to this day, as a matter of fact) as well as three MLP birthday cards.  Now I was glad that I had saved my spending money until this point in our trip!

The rest of our coach journey passed very quickly.  Evan had us all playing silly games (yes, even US - he was a good tour guide!), and continued to make ridiculous jokes about David's computer bag.  Well, at least I managed to get a recording of him saying my name!  Yes, call me crazy but I loved his accent and knew I would miss it once I got home to the land of the squawking cat people!  He made us all guess the total number of miles we had travelled on the coach and I'm proud to say I was in third place with my guess!  Alas, I now can't remember what my guess was or what the actual figure was!

I went a little crazy along the way, and began photographing and filming everything in a panic attack, realising that my time on "my continent" was coming to an end and this would be my last time seeing all that beautiful scenery.  Seeing all the signs to Los Angeles probably wasn't helping either.  So near and yet still SO far.  About 200 miles at our nearest.  Oh, if only...maybe things would have played out differently.  I guess I'll never know now.

Arriving back in Las Vegas, we first headed out to the airport to drop off the folks who would be making their way home that day.  Wendy practically ran off of the coach without saying so much as a "goodbye" to us.  I'm still not sure what we were supposed to have done wrong!

Then we headed back to the Hilton where we had started our journey almost two weeks earlier.  We had two more nights in Vegas before we had to head back to H*ll.  As soon as we were off of the coach and checked into our hotel room, I went and changed into my 'pretty little dress', much to my parents' horror.  I still don't know what they had against me wearing a dress but I'm sure they would have kept me in skin tight leggings forever if they could have done.  (Jeans were also out of the question back in those days...things must never change in the time warp of doom, you see?)  I can't have been more than 15 minutes in the bathroom anyway, but they were both angry with me for "wasting time".

"I don't understand why it matters what you wear," Mum said.
"Nor do I," David chimed in.

Well, if I felt more comfortable or somehow prettier and more confident in a different outfit, who were they to stop me?  They'd put me off throughout the entire coach tour so far, why shouldn't I dress up for our last couple of days in Vegas?

We went out for walk at around 5pm, but Mum was already too tired and hungry to take much notice of anything.  She said it was too hot and kept complaining that she wanted to go back to the hotel.  However, I persuaded her to keep going and she agreed so that she could "say she had seen Las Vegas".

We rode the monorail down to The Strip, but we soon realised that there was no way to see it all in such a short time.  Mum wanted to see a show while she was there but the tickets were so very expensive and she couldn't see anything she fancied anyway.  So we walked past the ticket booth at the station and out into the heat and crowds on The Strip.

We first visited the M&Ms shop which was "not half as good" as Mum had thought it would be.  She did have a good laugh when a member of staff dropped a box of the sweets down the escalator.  Packets rolled everywhere and crazy tourists (not us, I should point out!) began madly scrambling to pick them up while staff yelled at them that "the candy was not free".  Why on Earth would they think it was?!

We observed another grackle standing atop a nearby wall.  Unfortunately, the sun was so bright that my photographs wouldn't come out, but you can see his silhouette against the brightness beyond.

I had some kind of obsession with getting my photograph taken with the MGM Grand Hotel due to a promise I had made to my friend (the one who was now in hospital), who had stayed there a couple of years previously and had his photograph taken on the balcony with the very same camera I now had in my possession.  When he had given me the camera, he had asked that I "take it as near to that spot as I could and have my own photo make us feel closer".  It seems stupid as it turned out, but I didn't want to let him down.

Of course, I couldn't get anywhere near the exact balcony anyway, but I tried my best.  I doubt if he'll ever even read this blog post now but *I* never break promises, unlike certain people.

Walking across the bridge in the last photograph gave my parents an excuse for another attack on my choice of attire.  An unfortunate gust of wind blew my skirt up Marilyn Monroe-style!  I didn't say a word but, as I struggled to hold it down, Mum snapped, "Don't lose the camera.  Forget your dignity, that's your own fault!"  Geez, she really didn't like that dress!

She got in a further bad temper about the quality of the above photographs (which she took, of course).  She was "upset that she couldn't get a good picture for me" and said that I was "in a bad mood about it".  Me?  I was just trying to enjoy my time in Vegas, and ignore all of the petty arguments that were brewing!

She didn't want to see anything of Las Vegas really anyway.  She had decided that it was a total let down; "cheap, tacky and synthetic", she called it.  "How can they compare it to Blackpool?  Blackpool is much better!" she cried.

Well, I guess it did look a bit synthetic, but I thought that was what Vegas was all about.

We wandered into a mall where we had found out that the nearest branch of Lush was located.  We walked through corridor after corridor of boutiques and gift stores.  I laughed at the "World's Greatest Sock Store"...

Then we found our destination.

Here we hoped to buy the American exclusive product for my sister as a souvenir.  The lady who worked there promptly crushed that idea, telling us that there WAS no exclusive product.  She advised us to buy a type of soap which was no longer sold in the UK (although it had been available here before) which was what we did.  I got a small piece for myself as well, but I am not really keen on Lush soap to be honest.  I am more of a bubble bar and ballistics girl!

I couldn't even tell you all of the places we visited after that.  We walked for what seemed like hours and didn't cover anywhere near as much of it as I'd hoped.  I think I shall just leave you with a collection of my favourite snapshots taken that evening.

I also made a lot of films that night but all include a backing track of Mum's moaning voice saying how she needs to find somewhere to sit down and is bored and tired!  Because of this, I have just picked out one video, showing the dancing waters outside the Bellagio Hotel.  (I think you only hear Mum moaning once on this one!)

At last, we returned to the Hilton.  We ordered a very expensive baked potato.  Yes, one potato.  We couldn't afford more than that.  That's how expensive it was!  The potato arrived on its own table as if we had ordered a banquet.  For all of the pomp and ceremony though, it tasted awful.  Absolutely coated in salt and black pepper.  I couldn't even taste that it was a potato!  (Perhaps it wasn't, considering how many preservatives they seem to cram into things over there!)

 My parents were delighted to get back to their beds, but I felt unfulfilled.  All that way and we hadn't seen half the stuff I'd wanted to see.  I hadn't even seen the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign.  *Sighs*  Oh well, there was always tomorrow, right?

June 2nd 2011

Our last full day in the USA.  And oh, what a waste.

We were supposed to rejoin the remainder of our coach party for an optional excursion to the Hoover Dam in the morning.  We had paid for it and everything.  But Mum declared herself "too tired and uninterested" to go.  David wanted to go alone but she screamed at him how unfair he was being, and so all three of our tickets were wasted.  She even refused to get out of bed to comb my hair so that I could go downstairs for breakfast.  (I was too scared to comb my own hair due to it thinning out so badly)  David got snappy that she was stopping HIM going to that lovely Hilton breakfast buffet.  He asked why he couldn't do my hair for me.  (Crikey, if I was going to let HIM near it, I might as well comb my own!)  He also told me that "there was nothing wrong with my hair" and that "it looked no worse than usual".  Charming.

In the end, he went downstairs alone.  Mum perked up when he was gone, jumped out of bed, got washed and changed and combed my hair for me.  But hey, I wasn't allowed to go down to the breakfast room unassisted, of course.  What if I got lost or kidnapped?!  And so, I still had to wait for David to return before I could be chaperoned back.  By that time, Mum was back in bed where she stayed all day while David slept on the floor.  I sat on my bed, fighting tears of frustration.  As they were both sleeping, they even kept the curtains closed...but I kept walking to the window and peering down at the world below to remind myself that, although I was trapped in a prison cell as ever, at least I was in the right timezone for once.

I wrote a letter to my hospitalised friend on post-it notes (the only paper I had to hand), doodling little boats and other things I thought he might appreciate with the two pens I had brought with me.  It wasn't much but at least it made me feel closer to the person I wished I could be with while my parents slept on.  In the darkened room, I managed to get ink on my pillow!  Oops...I turned the pillow over and prayed that the staff wouldn't notice (not that they were allowed in to clean the room that day anyway).

I was already miserable about having to go back to the "wrong" side of the Atlantic and wasting this last day was killing me.  I kept crying and Mum kept shouting at me for doing so.  SHE was "miserable in the USA but she wasn't complaining"!  SHE "had only come here for me"!  Well, great.  Not much point going there and spending your whole time locked up in a hotel room.  David just kept complaining that he "wasn't looking forward to going back to work", which was very unlike him.  I said he was lucky to have work since I had no qualifications or prospects of finding a job and nobody to even help me to get on the right track to doing so.  He turned on me and said I was the one who had "wasted his money" by "changing into my dress the previous night".  This was apparently the reason that Mum had been too tired to go to the Hoover Dam that morning.  That dress had a lot to answer for, it seems!  We "don't understand the value of money as we've never had to work", don't you know?  Again, I pointed out that I WANTED to work but didn't know how to find a job with no education or work experience behind me, but he just ignored me.

Then, at around noon, David developed an earache.  It worsened over the course of an hour or so until he was yelping in pain and had to dash off to the local hospital by taxi.  I would have preferred to go with him rather than sitting in the hotel room (at least I might have seen something out of the window on my journey!) but Mum wouldn't allow that either, of course.

David returned (with antibiotics for a dental infection which had caused the earache) at almost 7pm which is when I finally got out of that place and into the world I'd waited so long to see.  We were only out for less than two hours when Mum decided she wanted to go back again though so we saw next to nothing.

Again, instead of going over the details of the trauma that was my rushed couple of hours in Vegas, I will just let you all look at the pretty pictures.

As you may have guessed from the images above, we visited The Volcano at The Mirage Hotel.  As usual, Mum thought it an enormous let down.  We waited for around fifteen minutes for the show to begin and, when it did, she thought that all of the spotlights appearing out of the water were actually synchronised divers!  I think her expectations of Las Vegas were a little high...

It was still a fun show, even if it didn't include live performers!

All too soon, it was time to head back to the hotel.  I cried as I headed towards the monorail that would carry me away from my last brief walk on American soil.

More tears fell as I saw the neon lights above our hotel.  It had all come and gone so quickly, and now I knew for sure that I belonged on this side of the big pond.

As we walked back to the hotel entrance, we saw dozens of cockroaches crawling over the pavement and outer walls of what I presume was the hotel kitchens.  Hmm...nice.  But even that didn't put me off.  I didn't want to go back to England.

June 3rd 2011

The day of doom.  The day when I would have to say goodbye to the place of my dreams and head back to my rotten little home in London.

I overslept, having been up most of the night staring out of the window at the big city below and daydreaming that I could stay in this country forever.  I finally got to breakfast at 10am.  There was only one mini box of Raisin Bran left, much to my dismay.  I knew I wouldn't taste it again once I got back to the UK and was going to treat myself to two boxes on the last day!

On my way back to our hotel room, I managed to find a stamp dispenser, allowing me to finally post my little letter to my friend.  Silly really, as I would be back in England and able to call him before it reached him, but I had promised his cousin that I would write again before I went home.  I only hoped that he was okay.

We signed out and dropped our cases into reception downstairs, then we called a (very expensive) taxi.  While we waited for the taxi to arrive, I had my photograph taken with The King.  After all, what's Vegas without Elvis?!

Our taxi arrived and we were driven to the infamous sign that I had longed to see for so long.

Alas, I couldn't get near it due to a wedding party and the fact that the taxi clock was ticking.

We drove downtown after that to see "all the tacky little wedding chapels" that Mum wanted to see.  We got out and had a brief wander around one of them.  No offence intended, but who would want to get married here?  Maybe I'm just bitter that I'll never get married now, and believe me, I'm not one to want to make a lot of fuss even if I had done, but somehow it would seem more sincere just to go to the registry office than to walk into one of these neon-lit pink parlours!

I was sad to have to drive by all the lovely little shops downtown - gift shops where I might have found a "Nevada" souvenir (I'd only managed to get an ornament marked with "Las Vegas" itself!) and massive thrift stores.  *Sighs*  What a waste.

Upon our return to the hotel, we had to sit in reception and wait for our cab to take us back to the airport.  I shed a few more tears but tried to enjoy my last few minutes in "my" country.  The sticky heat, the hum of the ceiling fan that made no difference, the "ka-ching" of the one armed bandits in the hotel's casino.  I took deep breaths, as if inhaling American air would somehow mean that I wouldn't have to go back.

But of course I did.

David asked the taxi driver if he could drive past the sign again (maybe there wouldn't be a wedding party there this time), but he apologetically told us that Milestones - our tour company - made him keep to a set route so that he could keep his expenses in order and charge them a flat rate.  And so I never did get my photograph taken with that welcome sign.

David managed to embarrass us at customs again by dropping tissues absolutely EVERYWHERE around the x-ray machines.  How many tissues was he even carrying in his pockets?!  Oh well, at least they didn't find a spare screwdriver in his bag this time!

I felt physically ill as we reached the boarding hall.  The common "Lan-dan" accents surrounded me once more, and I stuffed my MP3 player's headphones in my ears to try to block it out for a little longer.  "Shut up," I muttered under my breath as a gambling chav leered at myself and another young girl sitting near to me, making unsuitable comments about our appearances to his friends.  "What's wrong?" Mum asked.  "Your Canadian lot are common, you say.  Why doesn't somebody tell them to shut up?"  This had nothing to do with common.  Hearing the accent this time was like listening to my own death rattle.  I did NOT want to go back to the place where that accent originated!

The friendly chap who checked our passports as we boarded was cracking jokes with everybody.  I smiled and laughed at something he said to the lady in front.  "What are you all laughing at back here?" He winked at me and I smiled back as he pronounced my name correctly first time, something people back in my own country rarely do.  He gained extra brownie points for being the last person I'd hear speaking with that lovely accent.  Mum made a sarcastic comment about how "even he had noticed that I had been crying" (hence mentioning me laughing).  She didn't believe that I actually had been smiling at his jokes.

A final view of Vegas...

A last glimpse of the desert below...

A hazy image of the fading land as we soared higher...

And then it was out of sight.  Well, not quite.  I spent a long time filming and photographing aerial shots of the lakes of Manitoba which looked just beautiful.  I was gutted that we didn't fly over Saskatchewan this time so I had no chance at a glimpse of that little piece of water known as Candle Lake.

They put the lights out on us after that to get us used to British hours.  You can imagine how happy that made me too!  My mood worsened when my MP3 player's battery went flat, meaning I could no longer block out the surrounding English people with the American and Canadian voice clips I had brought with me.

I suppose my crazy emotions could have been blamed on hormones as it was that wonderful time that all women must experience each month.  Because of this, I really needed to use the bathroom on the plane, but Mum wouldn't let me stand up (apparently standing up on an aeroplane is signing your own death warrant or something).  She told me to sit on a pair of red socks that Virgin had given us instead!  After two hours, I defiantly told her that I was going to the bathroom, whatever she thought.

I had to queue for around five minutes but then it was my turn.  The toilets were surprisingly clean and comfortable compared to what I'd expected.  I sat myself down on my throne...and immediately heard an announcement.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we appear to be going through a patch of turbulence.  Would everybody please sit down and fasten your seatbelts?"  Just my luck!

And so ends our Great American Adventure.  Only three years late!  Perhaps I can start catching up with the less interesting stuff at a quicker rate.  Then again, don't keep your fingers crossed.  You might not hear from me for another three years and your limbs will have gone numb by that time!

Best wishes,
Desirée  xxx