Clowns & Jokers

Stuck in the middle.... Left, right, centre. It's a mess out there.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sept 10th 2001

Yikes so were tipping into the second half of the first decade of this brand new century ( i had to get that pointless comment in as it has slipped past most of the MSM :). Er, yes basically its 2006 already.

In the last year I stumbled across the blogosphere. Until then I thought it was just me and the odd taxi driver that had started to feel a bit like Victor Meldrew too early on in life.

For some reason I got to thinking this morning about my relationship with the US and it set my mind racing. This is the long rambling boring result. It goes nowhere, attempts to say very little but I decided to blog it. Because I can.

I think in part this was due to my sister making her return to California. It was quite an emotional farewell. She lives a long way away and the US aren’t generous with holiday time which makes it hard for her to make the trip over. You need a fortnight to make a proper go of a holiday. After moving there she was home sick for a long time. This has lessened a little now she has Mr S and Im glad that she has someone to go home to. When I left the house to go to work yesterday she was still at home waiting for a cab to take her to the airport. It was a pretty odd feeling. It started me thinking about how much my feelings have altered towards the US over time.

Im going to hold my hand up now and say with all honesty that I HAD something of a love hate relationship with the US in a previous life. I had bitter rows as a teenager with my father who was always pro US. I was very anti. At one point I even decided against going on holiday with the family to Las Vegas and LA because of my very strong opinions.

The latter arose from growing up and seeing Gerry Adams being welcomed like the prodigal son in New York. I have very strong memories as a kid - witnessing the death and random destruction heaped on us by that bunch of terrorists. In particular one memory stands out - my mum hurriedly switching off the news when i was very young after the Hyde Park nail bomb. I went to bed traumatised and was haunted for months by the images of those men and horses lying in tatters and agony – it deeply affected me. Then a week or so later you would switch on the tv and watch (never hear) Gerry Adams and his cronies living it large in New York City with the US tut tutting at Britain.

On one occasion my sister was trying on shoes in Kensington only to find herself showered in glass from some bomb left in a bin. There were evacuations every other day, tube delays from bomb scares, bins banned in Oxford Street resulting in overflowing rubbish and a dirty city, a lucky escape with the huge Docklands bomb and one on a London bus. I was plodding down Fleet Street with my walkman on when an armed officer pulled me into the side of the road whilst some stand off went on overhead on the rooftops between armed officers, army and god knows who. I was always very lucky. But often I would switch on the news and view others who weren’t.

The bombing campaign around London that reached intensity in the late 70s was mostly run out of and funded by the US – one of the terrorists running round bombing London and who shot dead a police officer was American. At one time at church I was having a conversation with an American woman when we started talking about some bomb atrocity that had occurred a day earlier– I was fifteen at the time – I started my sentence with “Well the IRA..” and she stopped me dead in my tracks and said very loudly “Im a proud Irish American don’t YOU talk to me about the IRA. Im behind them!”. I was left confused and fuming that i wasnt allowed to opine on something that affected every day living in London , the UK & NI by a woman who lived thousands of miles away in safety.

The fear of terrorism is life altering. It was random, protracted and infuriating. But we carried on.

Back in the 80s everything American was viewed with some fascination and it was always perceived as cooler. To an extent this reinforced my anxiety with America since I had no interest in basketball or Michael Jordan quite honestly. I identified with them on so many levels but not always. I loved Margaret Thatcher but wondered about Reagan. That whole thing about Russia seems like another lifetime. I never felt remotely threatened by the USSR but everyone seemed obsessed with them. Even Sting questioned whether or not the Russsians loved their kids. That wouldn’t be the politically correct thing to do at all nowadays of course. I even suspect that on some level he is even quite embarrassed by that track! Havent heard him ask the same of Osama Bin Laden.

Gradually it all changed. My twenties were heavily influenced by a return of British culture, Trainspotting kicked it all off, post clubbing cups of tea, football, the British guy’s wonderful sense of humour and fascination with the pint, the underground club scene and the music generally which was quintessentially British and occupied that entire section of my life via parties, clubs, fields and festivals. It was bold brilliant and exciting and I had little time any more for Madonna, rap or the Beastie Boys. I was left cold by Clinton, his wife and the obsession with his sex life that went on and on and onnnnnn….I didn’t feel this angst towards the US anymore, I ignored the IRA.

Blair was ushered in, Diana died and Saddam Hussein had become the new bad guy. Diana hit home hard. I can distinctly recall bursting into tears over Diana’s funeral whilst frankly never particularly liking her. To me she often represented everything that was abhorrent about a certain kind of woman: pretty, blonde and perfectly capable of turning on the tears when it suited to get her own way with the media. She often came across as incapable and helpless and it pissed me off. Not the kind of woman I wanted to look up to at all. But at the same time she did give you something to smile about when you checked out the magazine stands. She was ravishing - and her relationship with people made the world a brighter better place. Something it lacks today even whilst so many film stars lord it - unsuccessfully filling our lives with their crappy personalities.

Anyway I found myself questioning what it was that made the world tick.

In September 2001 I made my first proper trip to the US. I was meeting a friend in Seattle to travel to L.A by car with a stop off in San Francisco. It was a life changing experience.

I discovered for a start that ordinary Americans were great people. Inquisitive, interested, polite. My view of them distorted by the film industry, occasionally by the brash attitudes of a few that id met – but, mostly, in recent times by the world’s media. We met many people as we rattled down the freeways and through some off beat places. We both drove far too fast with no regard for any of the speed limits. I stopped off at a dried out river bed to enjoy the massive moviescope scene that was unrolling before me. Of course I had to trot down into, get stuck in and take an hour and half to get out of it and back to my friend.

We camped in the Redwoods and watched in fascination as people rolled in, in huge caravans and then duly decked out their homes in Stars and Stripes. They would always pop over to say hello and shake your hand. Wished id taken my Union Jack ;)

My friend had started seeing an American (whom she later married) and was often wrapped up in phone calls from some pay phone in a deserted Redwood street whilst I sat in the little wooden shack like bars and unwittingly attracted table fulls of ‘cowboys’ who’d get me to talk about anything for hours on end. No idea who they were! Were they ‘rednecks’? We’d stack the car full of beer drive back to the campsite and then id spend the rest of the night trying to find the goddamn toilet in the dark. Our tent was always lopsided since we were mostly pissed when we put it up. We’d head off.

The coastline rushed past us towards SF and looked a lot like a large Cornwall, long and rolling and wild. San Francisco was an interesting place. We stayed with two gay men in a house with a cute name (the house that is). They had adopted a daughter. My friend didn’t have an issue with this at all but I felt pretty cold about it. We never argued about it but we weren’t completely comfortable with one another at that point.

I tried to park the car on some SF street that was at an acute bloody angle - but couldn’t reverse in. It took me fourteen attempts and a crowd of blokes watching on. I tried hard not to cry like a total bird with the pressure and refused any offers of help til the last. It did occur to me that he might drive off like Jonny Depp in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas but he turned out to be a decent guy (who didn’t look remotely like Jonny Depp sadly). Anyway they made me laugh out loud. Got directions to the local boozer. SF was smaller than I thought but fun, I liked the jazz and I enjoyed driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. Who wouldn’t?!

The coastline at Pebble Beach was truly stunning. At this point we turned around and headed back up to Seattle where we stopped near Mount St Helens. We decided LA was too far. We drove up and up and up to a campsite that could easily have been Nowheresville and put up our tent up in the dark - with the howling 'somethings' from the forest behind us.

My friend slept easily. I had a restless night. I couldnt get comfortable, it was freezing cold and Id gotten food poisoning after accidentally eating an oyster, yeuch (im allergic). Its not fun chucking up in the dark onto frozen ground (nice sound effects) with something rustling behind you in the bushes. In the UK ive woken up to the odd cow or wild pony outside the tent when we’d camp at music festivals but these noises were louder and the creatures therefore bigger in my mind. The next day it was quiet and we felt somewhat removed from civilisation up by the lake overlooking the volcano. After an odd start to the day we made it down to the café at the bottom of the mountain.

Without my contact lenses im half blind and my heart sank when I saw smoke billowing from a tall building on the small tv screen at the back of the bar.

“Is that London?” I squinted.

“Nope ma’am that’s New York”

The drive back to Seattle was weird. We tried to continue the holiday but things started to shut down. The news filling in the gaps was awful and the images were strange and seemed totally out of place with the US. The drive back became harrowing. We were tired, felt odd and worried and would take turns to burst into tears, sob, drive, sob, drive. Then I felt an odd sense of anger “well you know what…it sucks doesn’t it – terrorism. Horrifying, unjustifiable, frightening and crazy isn’t it. Still think irish terrorism is ok??!” It was a brief knee jerk reaction. This was a vast attack. A nation id always thought of as impenetrable suddenly didn’t feel that way anymore & frankly the world was a changed place.. The Americans we were staying with didn’t seem overly bothered (liberals) to begin with. I wanted to go home.

Id long since grown up and balanced out my feelings about the US, id enjoyed my experiences there and I knew exactly where I stood on this. I wondered why others couldn’t do likewise and figured it was because moonbats, as I later came to know them, are stuck in teenage mode unable to grow up and open their eyes. No I don’t always think America is right. I question its direction and its modern responsibilities in the world along with the rest of us, I get frustrated at the occasional patronising by those who think the British and Empire = bad. I’m not 100% convinced I liked Roosevelt (from what ive read not from personal experience obviously!).

Sometimes I find their reactions more surprising than my own. When I first stumbled across various blogs I discovered a comment on July 7 from an American who posted “Perhaps we will hear less about Guantanamo now” as his first reaction to July 7. If blogs had existed in 2001 I doubt I would have posted my fleeting knee jerk angry thoughts about 9/11 (above) because ultimately I don’t consider it just dues or a ‘that’ll shut them up’ to see people jumping out of the twin towers to their death - for all my personal anguish towards the political posturing of some IRA supporting New Yorkers.

I would hope that Americans know that there are a lot of us here who couldn’t give a flying f***k what happens to the orange boilers in Guantanamo! I was disheartened by the comment as I scoured the blogs. But that doesn’t change much. To me the US is an extension of a way of life, values and thinking that emanated from western Europe into a larger land mass across the pond. Funding the Irish terrorists has dried up along with for the most part the attitude that championed them.

Whats to dislike. Whats to counter, patronise, undermine and sneer at? I guess some people still need to get over (their own personal) ‘it’ and grow up.

Meanwhile im still enjoying discovering how much we have in common - in spite of the BBC & CNN’s best attempts to make me think otherwise.

To us - to 2006.



At Wednesday, 04 January, 2006, Blogger Neo said...

Alison -Nice rant. :)

I'm glad you were finally able to meet American's that were good and kind. You might wanna check out Philly some time. We're hard core, but once you're our friend we stick together.

America has a population of around 300 million people. In terms of that number, you have to understand that you're going to have bad apples. The average working glass citizen, bust's their hump for a low paying job, no long term security, and barely any decent medical.

Sadly, there are some in our government that are just corrupt. We're working on weeding them out.

Alot of our foreign policy sucks, and is designed with huge amounts of greed and sloth in mind.

Sorry to hear of your stories about the IRA, Ireland is a beautiful country, again you're going to have percentages that just don't agree.

I look forward to a day when we're all just "Humans." Instead of pawns.



- Neo

At Thursday, 05 January, 2006, Blogger Alison said...

Nice comment Neo :) Oh I enjoyed every minute of my trip to the US, all the people i met and what i learned. ill try and post some pictures later. I just wonder at those who are blinkered and narrow minded and anti US who never grow up. Re the bad apples - id say the same for over here. I hope that the BBC & MSM (for example) doesnt give the wrong perspective to you guys about us.

At Thursday, 05 January, 2006, Blogger Rottweiler Puppy said...

Welcome back. Good Christmas?

"I hope that the BBC & MSM (for example) doesnt give the wrong perspective to you guys about us."

Yes. That worries me, too.

At Thursday, 05 January, 2006, Blogger Neo said...

Alison -No need to worry. I'm one of those people that can think for themselves. ;)

Oh wait, that's not very P.C. these days huh?


- Neo

At Friday, 06 January, 2006, Blogger City Troll said...


That might have been BigFoot in those woods that night.....

NEO I didn't relize you were in my neck of the woods. If we can get her over here will have to get her a chees steak the question is Geno's or Pats????

At Friday, 06 January, 2006, Blogger Alison said...

Cheese steak?! Im there!

The BBC is Big Brother, theyre out to get ya!

Thanks RP yes i did have a great Xmas. Im off on holiday to Brazil in a few hours. But i plan to update the blog while im away. From a laptop on the beach ha ha. I expect the de menezes thing will break whilst im gone. Will be interesting

At Saturday, 07 January, 2006, Blogger "Alice" said...

Alison: Thank you for writing such a great post! I loved it. I'm glad you have been able to sort the straw from the wheat (so to speak). I wish more from here would be able to find out by themselves what the US is really like.

My home country definitely has its faults as everyone other country; however, the majority of us are just ordinary people trying to get by: living and loving life.

Hope you are having a great trip in Brazil.

At Sunday, 08 January, 2006, Blogger Fred said...

I agree, this is a great post. So good, in fact, that I'll have to print it out and read it again.

The worst part about the BBC is the darned license fee. When I was there, it was 101 pounds for the privilege of not watching it.

Hope you’re doing well.

At Tuesday, 10 January, 2006, Blogger Tom Tyler said...

What a fascinating post!

At Saturday, 14 January, 2006, Blogger Dangerouslysubversivedad said...

Fantastic post Alison. Really great stuff.

I remember Sept 11th didnt hit me properly until I heard the 'Lets Roll' transcript. My first reaction was an uncharitable thought about US support for the IRA in much the same vein, but this quickly turned to something else. A friend rang me just as I watched a news item about the 'one that didnt make it' and I simply burst into tears - partly with horror and upset, partly with anger, but also partly with pride at those who had that kind of desperate, unflinching courage.

I hope we all have it when the time comes.

At Monday, 23 January, 2006, Blogger City Troll said...

pulled from upi

tehran to test nuke bomb


At Monday, 23 January, 2006, Blogger Alison said...

Hi all

Thanks for all the comments - im back in UK. Just didnt feel like blogging whilst away in the end! Lots to catch up on in blogosphere. Will do the rounds very shortly cant wait to catch up on you all.


At Tuesday, 24 January, 2006, Blogger "Alice" said...

Glad you're back Alison. Hope you had a great time.

At Saturday, 28 January, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...amazing that you found out that Americans, for the most part are human, friendly warm and outwardgoing people. Yeah there is a strong Irish element, especially in New York who supported the IRA but in terms of their population at large it only represented a minute proportion. The only thing the Americans have ever been guilty of is being rich and successful and therefore a target for jealousy and envy..

Let's wait and see how the world handles the next big superpower - China!

At Saturday, 28 January, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I echo a previous comment, glad to see you back, love your blogs

At Saturday, 28 January, 2006, Blogger Alison said...

That Irish element funded the IRA one of the worlds most highly organised and revolting terrorist organisations ever. It may only have been a small contingent but they certainly found a good deal of cash to keep those shits going. It isnt something to brush aside as irrelevant. Not to me anyway. Im just glad its over and i can get over it.

I personally never had an issue with 'jealousy'. I consider myself lucky to live where i do (and proud to be British - not very fashionable but hey ho). There are those who have trouble getting past the jealousy and dont see the good the US does. They prefer US bashing and cant see past their own ignorance. Just as there are those who cant get past the British Empire (still!) and its enormous benevolent and positive impact on the world.

The media does a grand job at puffing up bigots and nobodies. Blogs will hopefully start the revolution needed here.

Id suggest the US takes an inward look just as we here in the UK are wading through political mire. I work with many liberal americans who do more damage thru what they say about their own country in half a morning than the BBC could do in a fortnight.

I note that the white population of the USA is on the decline BIG time & with career women powering their way to the top they arent in the least bit concerned that asian immigration to the US is on the increase.

I also wish we would just get on with the job in hand and nail Osama. Its been too long now and is damaging. He remains a powerful inspiration to many who previously werent so hung up on their desire for world domination.

I agree with your last point - i personally see China as a big threat.


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