5 Worst Headlines To Wake Up To

In ascending order of awfulness:

  • Democrats Take House, Senate And White House In Election Upset
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer Named To Head BATF
  • “Not Guilty” Verdict In Clinton/Obama Treason Trial
  • N. Korean ICBM Strikes Hit San Diego, Miss Seattle, Portland, Berkeley
  • Amy Schumer Married To [your name] After Wild Night In Vegas

Your suggestions in Comments. The more tasteless, the better.

Suspicion Confirmed

I suspected that I’d been “randomly” selected for additional screening when I left Britishland (see below), and I was correct. After reading this article, I found my old boarding card and lo: there in the corner was the “SSSS” notation.

This is why I couldn’t check in online, this is why the ticket-chickie was so curious about my trip Over There, this is why I had a pat-down at the entrance to the secure area, and this is why I had another body-cavity search at the gate, without even the courtesy of a reach-around.

What interests me is that the TSA had selected me for additional screening and then communicated that to American Airlines so they could tag my record locator to start the whole process. And they hadn’t done it for both legs of the flight, just the return.

AA is already on my Shit List because even when one has the proper U.K. temporary firearms licence, they flatly refuse to transport any privately-owned guns to the U.K.  — long guns, not just handguns, which I’d understand given the Brits’ mortal fear of the latter. This means that when I go to visit Mr. Free Market for a bit of birdshooting or deerstalking, I can’t fly on American; I have to use British Airways. As they’re “OneWorld partners”, it doesn’t affect my airline miles, but it does limit my travel options somewhat. And to judge from the comments on frequent-flier websites and forums, BA seems to have turned into a pretty second-rate airline over the past few years.

And yes, you read that right: an American airline refuses to transport legally-owned long guns to Britain, while a British airline has no problem doing so. Were it not for the fact that I fly out of DFW (American’s major hub), I’d using another airline, you betcha — but all other U.S. airlines out of DFW require that I connect in another city rather than fly direct to Heathrow. And in a couple of those connecting cities (Newark, Boston, New York), possession of a firearm can result in harassment at best, and being arrested at worst — even though you’re just passing through their little gun-hating jurisdiction. (Amazingly, Chicago isn’t a GFW city, in this situation anyway.)

Bah. A pox on all their houses.

The (Continuing) Pussification Of France

I know, France is already well down the slope when it comes to how French men are being emasculated. But this little snippet just makes me want to laugh painfully:

Emmanuel Macron [whose picture appears in the dictionary under “pussy-whipped little fart”, see below — Kim] wants to ban men from following women and asking for their phone number under new plans to end the ‘macho’ culture in France.
The 39-year-old French President vowed to crack down on harassment on public transport and in the street when he was on the election trail earlier this year.

You know, the definition of a male pussy includes the clause under “Pussy Politician” which is defined as one who, when there are difficult but critical actions to be taken (e.g. dealing with radical Islam) instead decides to deal with an irrelevant political issue (like this one).

A lot of male pussies are also in thrall to their mothers, e.g. Mrs. Macron:

Oh wait, that’s Macron’s sixty-four-year-old wife. My bad.

Anyway, there’s one more observation I’d like to make about about this issue:

A working party set up by, Marlene Schiappa, the under-secretary for gender equality, is now looking to produce legislation making it illegal to harass people in a public place – and this could mean outlawing wolf-whistles.

And one definition of a pussified government would be one that has pointless and stupid government posts like “under-secretary for gender equality”.

All that said, this Marlene Schiappa chick is pretty sexy:

…although I’m probably going to get fined by the gendarmes for saying she looks like she knows her way around an orgy.


Familiar Things 1

Now that I’m back, and my body / brain have more or less got over the fact that it’s really 11pm and not 5am, I thought I’d share some of the things I found I missed whilst Over There.

Carrying a gun:
Of course, that’s streng verboten in Britishland, but as I’d been staying out in Hardy Country for most of the time, I hadn’t really missed the 1911 or backup S&W 637 on my hip. However, when Doc Russia picked me up at DFW, he dropped the S&W into the seat divider with the casual comment, “Thought you’d want this.”

…and he was right, of course: as I slipped it onto my belt, it felt at once familiar and comforting.
Also, I like driving with guns in my car without that feeling of paranoia that the fuzz are going to get shirty with me just for doing so. One one occasion, Mr. FM and I were traveling north to the shooting range, carrying the usual assortment of rifles in the back of the Land Rover, when we had to stop at a supermarket en route to get supplies. I offered to stay in the car to look after the guns, but Mr. FM pointed out to me that if the rozzers were to find me in a car with guns that weren’t licensed to me, I’d be arrested — in other words, it would be less hassle just to let some criminal asshole steal the guns. Ugh.

BBQ and coffee:
Most of the time, I didn’t bother buying or ordering BBQ while Over There  because, well, I live in Texas. It would be like Mr. FM ordering a lamb curry or steak pie in Dallas: not the same, and most likely inferior. Last night I went to dinner at Bone Daddy’s with the Son&Heir and Canucki Girlfriend. I have three words to say: “burnt ends” and “brisket”. Welcome home, taste buds.
Likewise, I missed my Keurig, big time: as Longtime Readers know, I favor Krispy Kreme Light Roast in my K-cups, but wherever I stayed, my hosts had Nespresso machines with super-strong coffee in pods. Fortunately, I found a way round the problem, simply by making two cups from one Nespresso pod, using a big coffee mug to mix the strong and weak brews. Curiously, though, now that I’ve come back to my usual coffee, it seems quite weak by comparison — but I’ll get used to it in a while because it still tastes better.

Left-hand drive (LHD) cars:
…and their companion, driving on the right. Remember that I grew up in South Africa, and drove RHD cars in the left lane for a dozen years — so driving in Britishland was no big deal, just requiring a little muscle memory and perception change. However, I’ve been living Over Here for thirty years so I’m really more familiar with our system — and by the way, it sure is good to drive on wide, multi-lane suburban roads again in my VW Tiguan. On that topic, I rented two cars while in the UK, a Hyundai I-something and a Ford Fiesta.

Both are tiny cars [5,000-word exposition on getting my burly fat ass in and out thereof omitted], but no matter how small the car, most country roads in Britain are not two-lane, but 1½ lanes wide (and often less than that). I cannot tell you how often I held my breath as another car would pass me by, missing my wing mirror by what seemed like millimeters. (Even cheap rental cars Over There have the electric “folding wing mirror” feature, and it’s easy to see why.) Mr. and Mrs. Free Market, of course, drive their Land Rovers and Range Rovers with the knowledge that, as Mr. FM casually puts it, “he’s going to lose this one”, so oncoming cars generally get the hell out of their way; when you’re in a weenycar, not so much. And don’t get me started about trucks…
All that said, however, I have to say that it was a pleasure to drive among polite, courteous drivers who don’t mind yielding right of way and who don’t take it as a personal insult that you’ve usurped “their” position in the lane. Most of their asshole drivers seem to be in BMWs or Audis, but that’s pretty much the same Over Here in north Texas.

Opening hours:
Good grief, British retailers are lazy. Out where we were, supermarkets closed at 4pm on Sundays (!) and only re-opened at 6am on Monday. On weekdays, they closed at 9pm, on average — and this was true of Morrisons, Waitrose, Sainsbury, Tesco, whover. It didn’t seem to help their stock situation, though: lots of gaps in the shelves meant that even Waitrose was often out of stock of popular items much of the time, despite their long closing hours. (London, of course, was different, for obvious reasons.) The night before last, I realized that I’d run out of a couple of necessities, so at 11pm I went off to the nearby Kroger — and had to wait in line at the checkout.
And don’t get me started about pubs. Good grief: I have no idea why Brits accept the fact that landlords can dictate the hours wherein one may order food (generally, 12:30pm to 2pm for lunch, and 4pm till 8:30pm for dinner), as opposed to the Stateside attitude of [gasp] letting customers eat when they’re hungry. Some pubs advertise “Food Served All Day” on chalkboards outside, but let me tell you, they are few and far between. On several occasions I’d feel peckish, but after a while I got sick of going to pubs which weren’t open for food service — and I’d end up finding a Greggs instead (a national bakery chain which serves excellent sausage rolls, by the way); meaning, of course, that I also didn’t buy a half-pint of bitter, either so a double loss of revenue for the pub. Idiots. (I have a story from Mr. Free Market on this topic, but I’ll save it for another day because it’s a long one deserving of its own post.)

When I arrived in Britishland, it was steaming hot — I mean, close to Texas temperatures, in the mid-90s. When I left just over two months later, summer had already turned into damp, chilly fall — temperatures in the mid-50s and much cooler at night — while back in Texas, it’s still summer, of course, and I’ve been doing some Turkish-bath schvitzing just while walking from car to supermarket. Ugh. Mr. FM hates the British climate after summer; I have to say that on balance, I think I prefer it. My very first purchase Over There (after 6X and pies of course) was a fleece waistcoat, which is needed even on summer evenings:

I left it at FM Towers because I’m not going to need it until my return, but it’s going to come back with me in January, oh yes it will. I generally find the Texas heat oppressive and now I’ve been through a mild (by comparison) British summer, I dislike the heat even more. We’ll see how I do in the late fall and winter Over There, of course, but that’s typically been the time of year when I’ve traveled to Europe so it’s not an unknown climate to me. (And I used to live in Chicago, so cold weather doesn’t frighten me.)
Oh, and by the way, it’s really good to get back to temperatures measured in Fahrenheit and not that Celsius bullshit.

More familiar things as I encounter them.


Retail Developments

My body can best be described as a compact, stocky frame. In other words, I’m a tubby short-ass. I will also acknowledge that my dimensions don’t fit into the sizing scale used by most clothing outlets. My current waist measures 41 inches (give or take a half-inch or so) and my inseam leg measurement is [sigh] 29½ inches. For some reason, U.S. trousers measured at 40/30 fit me fine, but in the U.K., Marks & Spencer’s offerings require me to pick the 42/29 in order to fit me properly. Don’t ask; I have no idea why the two countries’ inches are of different length, and why I should have to go up a size at the waist, and down a size in the length in the U.K. (The same is true of shirts, by the way: U.S. XXL shirts fit me perfectly, but I have to get XXXL shirts at M&S to accommodate my 51-inch chest and 18-inch neck.)

I should also point out that M&S is pretty much the only place I buy clothes in Britishland, and the only place I buy underwear, period. (Cliff Notes reasons for the latter: comfortable, durable and quality workmanship.) One of the reasons I like M&S so much is that their materials feel wonderful: I have very sensitive skin, and clothing that most people seem to wear without complaint drives me crazy with itching/scratching.

I’ve told you all that so I could tell you this.

Via Insty, I note that Nordstrom is testing a “new” kind of store in California (where else?) that features “personal stylists” who will guide customers in their purchase decisions, advising them on fitting and such — and then having the customer order their final choices online, to be delivered later (I guess) either to the store for pick-up, or direct to their homes. Stephen Green says:

“That might be a smart move, given that expensive floorspace and (especially) carried inventory costs are two huge disadvantages of traditional retail versus e-commerce,”

…and I agree.

I’m not going to go into a critique of this methodology, because Nordstrom generally does things right and they are, if nothing else, keenly aware of their customers’ wishes and wants. All I can say is that if they’re going to offer tailoring services (as the article suggests), they’d better have their logistics ducks in a row.

Marks & Spencer has sort of gone this route, except that they now encourage people to look at what’s available in-store; if you can’t find your exact size, then order it online at one of the many kiosks in the store, and M&S will then deliver it to any M&S location you choose — even their food-only stores and gas station outlets — if those are closer to you than the department store. It makes sense, I guess, but it also drove me scatty a while ago when I went to shop for some trousers at the Salisbury branch.

I found not only one style of trousers I liked, but three — except that only one was available in 42/29. So I asked a clerk if they might have any 42/29s in the stock-room, only to be told that M&S no longer has any stock-rooms — what’s on the floor is what you get. So I asked whether they were getting any deliveries in the near future, and was told that one was expected in a couple days’ time. Would this delivery include more of the 42/29 trousers, I asked, and was assured that their stock re-ordering system would probably handle the shortcoming.

You can guess what’s coming, right? I went back a week later, credit card clutched in my sweaty little hand, only to find that nope, their re-ordering system had obviously missed the out-of-stock situation. So I gave up, and reassured myself that in a couple weeks’ time, I’d be able to go to M&S’s giant flagship store on Oxford Street in London to get the two missing items.

Once again, you can guess what’s coming: not only did M&S not have that size in stock, but they didn’t carry that style of trousers at all. The Oxford Street branch did have some excellent shirts in XXXL, which I bought, but not the trousers I was seeking.

Never mind, I told myself: in a week’s time I’d be going to Bath, and surely I’d find my chosen trousers — which were now becoming something of an obsession — in Somerset. I’d also find some more of those excellent XXXL shirts in Bath (I’d cleaned out Oxford Street’s miniscule supply of the XXXL), so I could, finally, get all the clothing I wanted.

Not quite. Bath stocked the 42/29 trousers, which I snapped up greedily, but not that style of XXXL shirts — which they didn’t carry at all, and never had.


So when people ask me about going shopping, and why retail outlets are losing business to online shopping, I can give several reasons why. Because next time, I’m going to find the clothing I like at Marks & Spencer, not bother with looking for the sizes I need, and order them online.

But if I’m only in town for a short while and the delivery won’t be quick enough, I just won’t bother shopping there at all — which bugs the hell out of me because I love Marks & Spencer.

I love shopping at Nordstrom too, so I hope that someone there reads this and learns the appropriate lesson(s).