Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Superb Owl in Las Vegas

I love owls - they are superb. And when I talked Mrs AC into watching the superb owl in Las Vegas I was as excited as an ADHD kid who had forgotten to take his Ritalin. Not only did I have a long weekend of drinking to look forward to, the mighty 49ers (spoiler - it didn't go well!) had made the big game and I was seeing Mrs AC for the first time in 2 weeks since I'd left NY before the MLK holiday weekend.

So on Tuesday (I did something that I've never done before: I'd got it into my head that my flight was on Wednesday and I'd even put Wednesday into my flight spreadsheet, luckily the app sends reminders about my flights so I had a surprise on Monday afternoon when a pop up told me to check in for Tuesday's flight - a good job too as there is no BA flight on Wednesdays) I took the afternoon flight from London to Vegas and did my usual trick of going nuts with the booze as soon as I hit the airport - I'd actually not had a drink since the night of the NFL championship games, plus I'd not been able to partake of any of BA's finest champagne since I'd already had a glass in the lounge on my first trip back to New York after new year. As I'd ballsed up my drinking challenge on that Sunday night and had no reason to keep going I had a couple of drinks in the lounge plus another one on boarding the plane. As soon as drinks were served in the air I had another glass of their champagne, plus at least 3 more whilst I did some work. More wine was drunk over dinner before having a decision to make - do I stay awake for the flight then get an early night when landing or do I have a nap now then get up to some fun once I get to Vegas? I obviously chose the latter, so having had about 4 hours sleep on the flight I'm as fresh as a daisy when I get to Vegas and am checked in, showered and changed just after 8pm. I've got exactly 48 hours before Mrs AC arrives from NY so I'm going to use that time wisely. By wisely I obviously mean stupidly though - poker and beer are high on my agenda.

So off through the MGM to the poker room I went, hoping for a repeat of my session there back before Thanksgiving To say the game was dire was an understatement! It's too early in the week for the weekend crazies to be in town yet but at least the waitress service was good and I managed to hit double figures before calling it a day about 2.30am with an extra $24 in my pocket. I keep hearing about Coronavirus in the news but I'm not sure if Corona is the cause of, or cure to, this problem so it's almost guaranteed that I'm either immune due to my intake or will most surely become another statistic. Given that I'm not writing this via a medium from beyond the grave I'm pretty sure I'm immune.  

Due to my flight date screw up I still needed to do some work so spent all of Wednesday working and I'd tentatively made plans with Flynn & Ollie to meet for a beer or a poker session. But mid morning I received a call from my client in LA asking if I could get to their offices on the Thursday. Oh joy - what is it about employers actually wanting me to do some work rather than enjoy myself? Just what I'd wanted so I ended up booking a 6.10am flight over to LA which put paid to any ideas of poker or drinking so my session the previous night turned out to be the only time on this trip that I got to play - what do they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Sorry F&O - I'm sure our paths will cross at some stage. 

I've been awake at 4am in Vegas before but that is usually in some sort of drunken stupor at the poker table or leaving a club - awake and stone cold sober getting ready to head to the airport is a first for me but I'm in a cab to the airport before 5 and surprisingly the place is empty. That's because anyone with a modicum of common sense is still asleep or having fun from the night before rather than heading off somewhere - but at least I get a longer than usual TSA groping as the agent is just happy to have someone to delay. A boring flight to LA followed then I'm at my client's office by 8am and a day spent drinking coffee ensued.

Once I'd finished with my client on Thursday afternoon I headed back to LAX to await Mrs AC's arrival (AA don't fly directly from JFK to LAS at the moment so her flight was via LA) and I had a few drinks in the lounge before she arrived before we took the same flight from LAX to LAS. That's after she'd walked straight past me at LAX anyway - I hadn't told her that I'd meet her, just in case my plans changed, and she told me she thought that I looked like a weirdo trying to hit on girls at the airport as she had her "New York ignore everyone, thousand yard stare" on whilst changing planes. I admonished her for implying I'm trying to hit on girls at the airport but I had to concede her point that I probably look like a weirdo. We made my original seat mate's day when Mrs AC gave up her seat in the pointy end and slummed it to sit next to me in the cramped seats - I can't promise I'd have done the same!

When we got back to the Signature and sorted ourselves out we headed out to pick up some weekend supplies from Walgreens and just caught up over a few drinks and a late dinner in the MGM for the rest of the evening before heading off about midnight - we'd both been up since before 4am once the east coast time difference is factored in.

We didn't really surface until late morning on Friday so after lunch at the restaurant outside Paris (bizarrely missing F&O by an hour or so as I found out later through Twitter) we just did some touristy things along the strip for most of the afternoon. Being from NY, Mrs AC is a fast walker and I'm usually the same but it was quite nice being the ones who got in other people's way for a change as we slowly walked up towards the Wynn and back down the western side of the Strip. Mrs AC said she'd booked us dinner at Fleming's in Town Square (which I'd never been to or heard of) so after changing we headed down there about 6pm for drinks at some fancy bar which I can't remember the name of then a lovely steak and a decent bottle of wine. We headed back to the MGM after dinner and Mrs AC said she fancied a few more drinks so we bar hopped our way through the MGM before crashing out around 2am.

Saturday was spent much like Friday - really nothing blog worthy so I won't waste your time!! But if you ever get the chance head to the skybar at the Waldorf Astoria - expensive cocktails but the view over the strip is very good. We had a very good evening at the Mayfair Supper Club inside the Bellagio - it reminded me of the fancy restaurant that Henry takes Karen to in Goodfellas although when I told Mrs AC that she was as old as that film it made her feel old and me feel even worse! So we plied each other with booze which cheered us both up.

So now it's Sunday - superb owl Sunday and I can't wait to see the owl. But where? Mrs AC is on the hook for this weekend in lieu of us going to the game so she's organised everything except the hotel and she hadn't told me where we'd be watching the game. When we'd last looked at locations together the only places we could find were Caesars' sports book which was charging a ridiculous amount just to sit and watch the game, or strip joints which seemed to be advertising like hell on google. Now Mrs AC is no prude and knows what guys get up to in Vegas (I've told her all about my misadventures with her boss when he took me out last time I was in town but even I didn't particularly fancy watching the game in a strip club.  

So over breakfast she asks me where Silverado Ranch road is. No idea sweetheart - I know the Strip and maybe 4 roads off it. Turns out it's fucking miles away - a good 20 minutes in a cab, which at Vegas prices is probably going to need some sort of government bailout to cover. It's (only!) a $45 cab ride before we arrive at Slater's 50/50 - a beer and burger bar. A very good beer and burger bar as it turns out.

It's ticket only so we've already been guaranteed a seat plus it's effectively an open bar - although I've already been warned that this does not mean I have to get as drunk as a poet on payday. I may have had my fingers crossed when I told her I wouldn't get too drunk!

We shared a table with another couple plus a group of 4 - the latter were 49ers fans as well so they were very pleased when I said who we were supporting as neither of us were in team colours. I can't bring myself to wear sports attire if not actually going to a game - it's just not "English". Actually it is very English - but the people who wear their soccer shirt in everyday life usually look like it's the finest item of clothing they possess and that they'd give themselves a coronary kicking the ball back to the actual players if it ever came their way. The other couple were neutrals but said they'd cheer the 49ers on given that the rest of the table were all fans.

The beer flowed, we made some new friends and we enjoyed the food and atmosphere whilst watching the game. One grievance I do have with American sports is just the amount of dicking about they can do - there's a big debate around the use of video replays in soccer at the moment as it seems to be killing the game, with fans essentially not celebrating a goal until replays have been studied in minute detail for any possible infringement. But American sports do this in spades, meaning a game can take longer than the known age of the universe to complete. But nothing comes close to the level of dicking about at the superbowl - cutting to commercials every 2 minutes and spending 5 minutes to determine the exact blade of grass to spot the ball. But the elongated game just gave me an excuse to drink more beer and by the time the game had finished I think we got good value from our tickets - I later found out these were only $125 or so each which was great value given the quality of food plus the decent drinks selection. If this had been on the Strip it would have cost 3 or more times as much so Mrs AC did a very good job indeed.

After the game we said goodbye to our table mates and headed back over to the strip in a cab - we had a couple of commiseratory drinks along the way through the MGM and crashed out just before midnight.

We didn't get up to much on Monday - we checked out before heading out to lunch and just killed time before heading to the airport at 4pm for the short hop to LA. We had dinner and a couple of drinks in the airport before Mrs AC caught the overnight flight back to NY and I headed off to my hotel, where I'll be for the rest of the week before heading home on Friday.

After this week I've got 3 weeks in the U.K. which is the longest I'll have spent there for about 6 months. Mrs AC is coming for a long weekend at the end of February and then I'll be back in the US at the start of March - but where will depend on whether I've made my mind up about working more for the LA based client. I don't really like being over in the west coast compared to NY (PITA to get home over a weekend, Mrs AC being NY based and my liver can only handle so much abuse) but one client wants me to do a more permanent role, which might be hard to turn down.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The happiness arbitrage

At the start of the NFL season I jokingly promised Mrs AC a trip to the Super Bowl if the Giants made it - knowing full well that there was more chance of me giving up beer than actually having to deliver on my promise. She reciprocated, thinking that the 49ers were just as unlikely to even make the playoffs, let alone make it all the way. She's been sweating since mid season as apart from 3 narrow losses they've managed to win every game - even the game after Christmas against the seahawks was a nail biter as it effectively turned into a winner takes all game for the number 1 seed, a bye and home field advantage versus the wild card route. My own record when watching them during the regular season has only been 4-3 so I was starting to think I'm a bit of an unlucky omen. We only get 5 NFL games on TV during a normal week so it's virtually impossible to watch every game which is why I didn't see them much at the start of the season.

But now they've only gone and done it - for only the second time in my adult life they have made the big game. And I can't wait. But unfortunately they are going to have to do it without me in the crowd - the tickets were just ridiculously expensive, as were hotels in Miami who seemed to have taken a leaf out of Vegas's books and ramped up their prices to gouge anyone who wants to visit - tickets alone were going for 5 figures a pair. 

But we're going to be watching the big game in the next best place - Vegas. It's actually going to be cheaper to fly, stay, eat and drink for the entire weekend than just a game ticket would have cost so it's really a no brainer to spend the weekend where public drunkenness is encouraged (in my mind it's actually illegal not to be carrying an open drink down the strip). Not that Vegas isn't gouging the public to watch the game - Caesars' sports book was charging close to $1,000 for prime seats plus all you can drink (even I can't drink that much to make it financially viable).

Mrs AC is taking care of the details so I don't know where we'll be watching the game but she knows my one stipulation is that there must be alcohol involved and she's told me that she's not going to disappoint me on that front. I'm flying in from London on Wednesday and staying on for another week as I have to see a client in LA, whilst Mrs AC is flying from NY on Thursday and leaving on Monday.

I've already bet on the game - but not for the 49ers to win. I want to lose my money. Mrs AC thinks I'm an idiot - why on earth would you bet on your own team to lose? Now I'm not really much of a sports bettor - I think the most I've ever wagered on a sporting event is £50 ($65) and I don't think I've actually ever bet on an NFL game before (I place the occasional parlay on a few Saturday soccer games to make the afternoon a bit more interesting if I'm watching the games) but when I do bet I rarely bet on my own team to win - not only for the fact that they don't win very often but it's that I'm doubly invested in the result - financially and emotionally. If my team loses then I'm pissed off and I've lost money whereas if they lose and I've bet against them at least the emotional loss is off set by the financial gain - it's what I call the happiness arbitrage. So I've placed £50 on the Chiefs to win at -125 on the moneyline. I did think about betting the spread giving up 1.5 points but that could have lead to a worst case scenario if KC won by a point whereby I would lose the game and the bet.

So in just over a week I'll be spending a weekend doing things that I love - beer, Vegas and spending some time with Mrs AC (if Mrs AC asks that order is reversed) plus the added bonus of cheering the 49ers on. And for once I'll be more than happy about losing money on my bet.

Oh - I ballsed up my drinking challenge the other night. I was watching the NFC championship game at home and had already drunk 4 beers when I opened one of my fancy Belgian beers, as soon as I'd opened it I realised I'd taken a few down to my friends who we spent New Years with and we'd had one on New Year's Day - I just couldn't bring myself to waste such a good beer so I drank it. I made it for 19 days which included 4 transatlantic flights - the highlight being a very good English sparkling wine which I'd never have had if I'd not been doing this. Final tally - 38 different beers, 1 champagne, 16 wines, 2 gins, 4 vodkas & 3 whiskies. Even though some of the wines and spirits were generous pours I'm actually amazed at how little I've drunk so far this month - it's my equivalent of a "dry January". I'm sure I'll manage to boost a few booze makers' share prices next week when I'm in Vegas!!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Two nations divided by a common language

There are many anomalies between the British and Americans - chief of which is our supposedly shared language. The obvious ones include Americans' inability to use the letter "U" in common words (colour, valour etc), putting a "Z" where a Brit would use an "S" (notarized for example). As an aside a "Z" is pronounced Zed, not Zee, the famous rapper is definitely Jay-Zed!!

But whole words or phrases can have completely different meanings as well, telling a British girl that you like her pants is liable to see you getting slapped as, to her, pants are underwear. What an American knows as pants we know as trousers (or rubbish, describing an item as pants means it's rubbish, at least that's what the cool kids tell me).

Well, having an American girlfriend is a constant source of amusement (for me, not her - she thinks I'm an idiot!) when we're discussing things as we can often have no idea what the other is talking about. "The faucet is broken" followed by "what the fuck is a faucet?" or "I'm only going out for 2 drinks" being misinterpreted when any Brit would know that it actually means "I'm coming back at 3am and passing out on the bathroom floor with my head in the shower" being recent examples. Don't even get me started on Cockney rhyming slang - Mrs AC gets confused with it being the non rhyming part that is said and the obvious rhyming part remains unsaid (taxi becomes sherbet in CRS, the cockney part being sherbet dib-dab) so I'm trying to teach her a few phrases so she can sound like a Londoner when she's here albeit I may as well be trying to teach her Swahili. If you can translate "I went down the apples to use the dog and order myself a ruby" from CRS to real English in the comments below I'll buy a beer to whoever gets the best result.

But what we do share is our love of sports - Mrs AC likes sports as much as me and is more than happy to attend a live event, which we do quite regularly when I'm in NY - our favourite (note the "U") being hockey. I've been watching hockey for the past 20 years or so and bizarrely it came about through my love of beer - I used to live near the arena in London when they had a team and it was actually cheaper to go to hockey and drink rather than spend an evening in the pub. I've also been watching the Rangers play since I first came to New York in the early 2000s, albeit the tickets and beer are much more expensive than I'd ever paid back home.

I've always had a routine when I go to hockey, when I arrive I get a drink, watch the first period then I get a couple more during the 1st interval to last for the rest of the game to avoid the awful queues that generally plague MSG if the place is more than half full. And so I continued this routine when I started taking Mrs AC to games - she doesn't always want the 3rd drink but I've always made sure that it's found a good home. But at a recent game she said something that will live in my memory forever. I'd just arrived back at our seats carrying a tray of 4 drinks when she asks "Why do you always want me double fisted at the hockey?"

I've almost lost half a beer spat down the back of the guy in front's head. "What the fuck? I've done no such thing."

She continues "why don't you just get 1 drink and we'll get another during the next interval?" She then asks why I'm giggling like a schoolboy.

I tell her that what she said means something completely different to us Brits - and you definitely wouldn't want your girlfriend announcing it in public (if you're unaware of the British interpretation don't google it at work, or on your partner's phone unless you know how to clear their browser history).

I was actually told this recently in Vegas as well - a waitress brought me a beer then she insisted that she take the bottle in my hand even though it was 1/3 full and she told me "Sorry hun, we're not allowed to let you get double fisted here" which to my British mind is absolutely fine but if I'm thinking like an American I really don't like it at all.

Drinking challenge update:
9 Jan - 4 beers
10 Jan - 3 wines, 2 gins
11 Jan - 6 beers whilst watching the 49ers win. Go 9ers! (I also watched the 1st half of the Ravens/Titans game but it was 2.30am on Sunday, I'd only flown in from NY at 9am Saturday morning and I had an evening flight back to NY so really couldn't stay awake any longer)
12 Jan - 2 beers, 3 wines
13 Jan - 12 beers, 4 vodkas (took my heavy drinking client to see hockey and this was my hardest day of drinking although a walk in the park compared to our last event in Vegas, although flights are becoming a pain now as they've not changed their menu this month yet)
14 Jan to 15 Jan - None
16 Jan - 2 beers, 2 wines

Flying back to the UK for nearly 2 weeks today so after tonight's flight the only time I'm going to drink for the next couple of weeks will be watching the NFL championship games on Sunday night. Good luck to Ace's Titans and hopefully they'll be playing the 49ers in a couple of weeks in Miami. I keep hearing about these Superb Owls but for the life of me I can't figure out what it means

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Good call - I have 10 high

One of the most difficult aspects of poker is bluffing. It's easy to win a hand if you're holding close to the nuts (getting someone to pay you off is another matter entirely) but bluffing is what separates the wheat from the chaff. I always think that if you're not caught bluffing enough then you probably don't do it enough - it's a reason why I very rarely show bluffs unless there's a player who is likely to go on tilt when he knows he's been bluffed.

But bluffing at lower stakes can be especially tricky - some players are such call machines that they'll "hero call" with such marginal hands that bluffing against them essentially becomes unprofitable. The majority of low stakes players generally don't think too deeply about other players' starting ranges and positions, or even notice when the the tightest player at the table is 3 barrelling for the first time in 2 hours.

I'm on the button and call a raise from MP holding 9-10 of diamonds and we're 5 ways to a flop of Jd-8d-4s and it's checked to me. I bet and only the preflop raiser calls. The turn is another Jack which is actually a good card to continue my bluff - my opponent is unlikely to have a Jack considering he checked on such a wet flop into multiple opponents. I again bet once my opponent checks, which is called (after a minute or so of thinking). The river is another 8 and I'm not likely winning the hand without bluffing so I bet 1/4 of the pot. This screams a value bet with a Jack - betting more really says I've got nothing or a Jack whereas such a small bet looks like I want a call. Given the run out I really don't think my opponent has a Jack and I'm only getting called by a hand that beats me - if I'm raised I'm obviously folding. My opponent doesn't snap call which is good and internally I'm screaming for him to fold. He doesn't. He thinks for a good couple of minutes before announcing call. Fuck.

I announce "Good call - I have 10 high" and turn over my hand. I'm expecting to see a hero call with Ace x or maybe even a badly played overpair. He announces 2 pair and turns over pocket 7s.

I don't think he's clocked the board is double paired as he's waiting for the pot to be pushed to him - his face is a picture as the dealer pushes me the pot. What have I said about players in Vegas not paying attention?

Drinking challenge update:
1 Jan - 6 beers, 2 whiskies
2 Jan - none
3 Jan - 2 beers, 1 wine
4 Jan - none
5 Jan - 1 champagne, 3 wines, 1 whisky
6 Jan to date - none. As soon as we got back to NY on Sunday night I felt a bit "peaky" so apart from heading to the office I've quarantined myself in my hotel room, hence now having time to write some stories up. Unless I've got Ebola in which case my organs will liquefy and I'll leave a bit of a mess for housekeeping to clean up. I think it probably is Ebola though as I feel dreadful - it's that or a heavy cold!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Beers resolutions

It was whilst chatting with Ace that I came up with a new booze related challenge - my last trip to Vegas entailed me drinking my own body weight's worth of beer which is detailed in my entries from November & December. 

I usually have a good few weeks without alcohol in January as I'm often not travelling but I've already got travel plans for the first couple of months of the year and I'm not sure I can cope with the tedium of long haul flights and multiple nights in hotels without having beer to keep me amused. Plus my tag line of drunken idiocy would be a bit boring if I relayed tales of drinking tea and getting early nights.

But I'm going to set myself another booze related challenge - I'm going to see how long I can make it without repeating the same drink. Now this might not be as easy as you think because I'm not always in control of what booze is on offer as quite a lot of my imbibing is done whilst I'm a few miles in the air on my travels. Given that nearly all my travel at the moment is within Europe and transatlantic I really only use 2 airlines (British Airways and American Airlines) and they have only a limited supply on board so I may have to get creative. 

I did think of allowing myself a couple of exclusions - the champagne on BA being the first. Alcohol is taxed weirdly in the U.K. and airlines take the approach of anything they serve on the ground has to have tax paid on it so the only alcoholic drink they serve preflight is champagne - first world problems I know. The BA champagne is usually very good so limiting myself to one glass for an undetermined duration would probably be classed as cruel and unusual. 

The second exemption would have been Corona - whilst its not the best beer I drink it's my go to drink at the poker table (every place serves it so I don't have to waste the waitress's time by asking her to run through their beer list, it's not overly strong so I can usually have a few over a long session and still see straight and in my mind it's healthy as it has lime in it). 

But I'm going to go with zero exceptions - I'll obviously look like some sort of nutter when I'm on my 6th different beer at the poker table (I'll likely be in Vegas some time in January and possibly February as well). I've got quite a few different brands of spirits to get through - luckily BA and AA serve different brands of gin so I can have a few G&Ts. Wine will be ok though - I just need to keep a list of those I've had and luckily there are usually a few choices on the menu on BA and these are changed quite regularly. I'll obviously not be able to open a bottle because as once I've had a glass I can't have another of the same bottle - Mrs AC may have to step up to the plate here although I don't think I'll get any complaints there! 

Beer away from the poker table will be easy though - there are a plethora of choices available at nearly every bar and I'll often only have one of a particular beer on a night out. Plus I was given a beer selection pack for Christmas so I've got about 20 different bottles and cans at home to choose from, albeit I'm only going to be spending about 8 nights at home for the whole month. 

I think my biggest challenge will be when I go out with my heavy drinking client in mid January but all I've got planned is going to a NY Rangers game which is likely to be sandwiched in between pre and post game drinks. 

Not sure how long I intend to do this but I'm going to start on January 1 and will post an update towards the end of the month. 

Happy new year to you all - hopefully you had a good Christmas and have made more sensible resolutions than me, which is probably not all that difficult! 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Welcome to the family sweetheart

Christmas was a nightmare - or an unmitigated disaster. Probably the latter. There's a saying that you can choose your friends but not your family and it basically sums up my life. As dramatic as you think my life is, most of the drama is caused by other people - I'm sane, rational and completely sober. Well 2 of those are true anyway. But anything involving anyone else leads my life down a path that is completely bonkers - especially anything that involves my family, so when they all get together it's like some form of "quickening". For idiots, not immortals though - at least I hope my family are not all immortals, I would rather lose my head than do this for the rest of eternity.

We (the cost centres plus Mrs AC) flew up to Scotland on the Sunday before Christmas to stay with my mother for 5 days. Along the way we'd stopped in the supermarket to pick up some booze (my twitter poll said I'd not bought enough) and within 5 minutes of arriving I wish we'd stayed at home. No amount of normality is enough for my mother to not treat the most uninteresting act as if she's been on a quest for the holy grail. She went to the supermarket on Sunday, Monday and again on Tuesday - before panicking that the shops were shut on Christmas Day itself and she'd arranged a delivery on Monday evening as well. Then she popped to the shops on Thursday. How in bejesus does she manage in normal life? Or maybe I just need more booze.

So anyway. On Monday we went to the local town to get away for a few hours - it's like being in the walking dead. I live in London so I'm used to crowds, albeit that I hate them, so I'm more than used to large groups of people meandering pointlessly but her local town is something else. Dozens of people not looking where they are going did nothing to infuse me with the Christmas spirit - I've got very pointy elbows and a bizarrely low tolerance level so a few of the locals were sporting some bruises. The highlight of the day was one cost centre wanting to buy his Nanna a present - I'd told him to buy a DVD or something small, maybe costing £5 ($8) or so as the adults don't really expect much in terms of presents. He declared he had no money (his mother probably x-rays him on the way out the house to ensure he's not carrying anything of value and she's not out of pocket) so he asked Mrs AC to borrow £20. Mrs AC then tells me that she has only got dollars and no pounds so asks me for £100. In economics we call this the money multiplier effect (it's a way that the banking system effectively creates money in an economy) but for the life of me I can't work out who is trying to con who the most.

On Christmas Eve my brother plus family arrived - individually they are usually tolerable but as a family I call them the Flintstones, because they generally leave a trail of chaos in their wake. My brother is the most disorganised person on the planet so I'm actually surprised when he turns up on the expected day but he's usually left everyone in a foul mood by being late for a flight and not having pre-booked a car or accommodation. Or when he's sorted himself out he's not told anyone of the plans so is surprised that no one knows what is going on. But this time he's actually got his act together and they are staying in the same cottage that we'd stayed in over the summer (about 100 yards from my mother's house) whilst we were in the depths of hell staying at my mother's. I wish we'd been staying there, or further away. At home maybe. Or even abroad.

Along with my brother and his wife (my brother is 12 years older than me and his wife is 6 years older than him so I'm actually closer to his kids than I am to them) were his 2 grown up children and their girlfriends. I've only met the older nephew's GF a couple of times but I've never met the younger one's before. Mrs AC has only met the older nephew and hasn't met anyone else, apart from my mother, before. The older nephew's GF has one topic of conversation - herself. Which is probably why I, and the rest of the family, don't particularly like her. She is hot though - which is probably why nephew 1 is infatuated by her. I don't have it in me to tell him that hotness will fade and his infatuation will be replaced by annoyance and contempt. Unless she's filthy, in which case he's infatuated for a good reason.

The younger nephew's GF is lovely and Mrs AC chatted for hours with her as if they were old friends. Nephew 1's GF hated this - and proceeded to make thinly barbed comments to them both during the 3 days we all spent together. The highlight being on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) when she handed nephew 2's GF a beer and pointed out the health warning of the dangers of drinking whilst pregnant, but the warning was worded "there's even a danger of girls getting fat if they drink too much". None of the girls are overweight or pregnant but Mrs AC told me she'd have taken a swing for her had she said the same to her. She then managed to piss off Mrs AC by telling her that she was an expert on New York because she'd been there 4 times and questioned what Mrs AC could possibly know about the city - when Mrs AC replied she'd lived there for the best part of 30 years it shut her up. For a bit anyway. I'd stopped listening by then and was really just waiting for the violence to start. My money would have been on Mrs AC - I've got 6 inches and 50 pounds on her but she'd probably kick my head in if we came to blows. I'm a lover not a fighter!!

So to Christmas Day - I was doing the cooking but I had no idea how many for. My younger brother had been invited plus one of my mother's friends. My younger brother can be a stroppy sod and told us he'd decide on the day - fine. But he lives 20 minutes away plus he doesn't have a car so he's expecting to be picked up then dropped home - this then precludes someone from drinking which is very selfish (he's rebuffed the idea of staying overnight or even of taking one of the cars and us arranging to pick it up the next day) but given I'm cooking I'm not letting it get to me.

At 7am on Christmas Day we woke up to the sound of wrapping paper rustling - the cost centres had been given strict instructions not to open presents before we were all up so I was more than prepared to give them a shouting at. But it wasn't them - it was nutcase mother who was up and shaking presents to try to decipher their contents. Once she'd been admonished the kids were up and my mother reverted to her usual activity of buggering about - spending an inordinate amount of time banging around whilst achieving exactly nothing. It took her 2 hours to empty her dishwasher - the only rational explanation is that it's a cross between Dr Who's tardis and the wardrobe from Narnia leading to some sort of infinite crockery paradox necessitating such a long time to put everything away. This went on for what seemed like an eternity so when she took the dog out with the kids I thought I'd gone deaf, such was the peace and quiet.

My mother's friend (she's in her 80s but is far more sensible than my mother) had been told we'd eat at 2pm - she turned up at 1.55pm. Now this is very Scottish, rather than rude. If I'd invited friends in London with the same timings they'd probably arrive at midday, have some drinks and a chat ahead of eating but it's a different world up in Scotland. Every single time I've ever cooked with people coming over they've always arrived 5 minutes before the allotted time then departed before the plates have been cleared away.

Mrs AC had one job whilst I cooked - keep my mother out of the kitchen. My mother is usually as loud as thunder but somehow becomes ninja like when I'm in the kitchen so I'm wary of turning round whilst carrying a pan of hot water or fat and spilling it all over her. Or of carrying a sharp knife and accidentally stabbing her, multiple times. Again and again, over and over just because she's in the way. Mrs AC failed - which gave me the excuse to drink. Luckily I was closest to the fridge and managed a few beers before the flintstones arrived. So I've just about kept my sanity whilst I've been cooking - and I mean just.

Now there's one thing you need to know about my brother's wife - she's not British (albeit she's lived in the U.K. since the early 90s). When she came to the U.K. for the 1st time she said something that is the daftest thing ever said when we sat down to Sunday lunch - what is bread sauce made of? Have a guess, seriously, ask your dog because he'll know the answer to this. We laughed our arses off at this and she's constantly reminded of this whenever it's served.

So as the dishes are being passed around the table Mrs AC is looking a bit suspiciously at a few of the offerings - there's a side dish called skirlie which is beef fat plus oatmeal which isn't everyone's cup of tea so I told her to ignore it but when she came to the bread sauce she uttered those immortal words - what's bread sauce made of? The entire table erupts in laughter and my brother says "welcome to the family sweetheart" whilst we go over the story of his wife saying the same sentence nearly 30 years previously. His wife thinks I've put her up to this but it's totally on her this time.

So Christmas day passed and I managed not to kill anyone and we arranged to eat the leftovers on Boxing Day - it's a holiday in the U.K. originally where the gentry would give presents and leftovers (in boxes, hence the name) to their servants. There's also a full football program on so after my mother went to the shops (fuck knows what for as the fridge was full and it's less than 2 days since her last visit) we all sat down to watch the football and have some beers.

Well the guys did - those without a Y chromosome were in a different room exchanging thinly veiled insults. We did what guys do best - ignore the nonsense and drink a few beers. Even the kids got wind of the idiocy when my oldest cost centre told me he was glad he didn't have a sister - he didn't say he was glad to have a brother but it's effectively the same thing when a pre teenage boy tells you that.

One last episode of batshit insanity ensued on the Friday - this time courtesy of one of my mother's friends. As we were loading the car up for the drive to the airport her friend arrived and handed me a Christmas present - a bottle of something which was wrapped. I thanked her for it and stuffed it into a bag so it wouldn't get broken on the journey. I'd completely forgotten about it until Saturday morning when we were unpacking and I gave it to Mrs AC to open and told her we'd share it after we watched the football later that evening. She opened it and declared it wasn't what I thought it was - I'd just assumed it was a bottle of wine. It wasn't. It was bright fucking blue. It was a bottle of an alcopop called WKD - the sort of thing you drink when you're a teenager and want to spend the evening vomiting foul coloured slime all over your friends' shoes when you're about 15 and don't like the taste of alcohol yet. Why in fuck's name she thought I'd want or even enjoy this I have no idea. That didn't stop us from opening it though - after we'd been out to the pub on Saturday to watch football we decided it's still booze after all. It's vile. It's sickly sweet and is probably only any good if it's used as de-icer, except that the alcohol content is only 4% so it would probably freeze quicker than water anyway. We tried it with vodka and it made it slightly better. Then we had the vodka straight up just to get the sickly sweetness out of our mouths and that was much better. So thanks for the blue stuff anyway. I'm going to put a positive spin on it and hope that my mum's friend thinks I'm still 15. I probably would have drunk it then if I'd got my hands on it - just that now, as an adult with quite a few years of drinking practice under my belt I need a lot more than one bottle to get the job done.

But now it's Sunday morning and we've got NFL all evening - Mrs AC is eager to not see her beloved Giants get steamrolled by the potentially playoff bound Eagles and we're both staying up late for the 1.30am kick off of the 49ers against the seahawks. Come on the 49ers - Mrs AC has promised to cheer them on even if it's one step closer to her owing me a trip to the Super Bowl if they make it all the way.

My travel plans are up in the air at the moment but we're heading down to Devon on Tuesday to spend 2 days with friends for New Year's then heading back to NY with Mrs AC on the 5th. I'll be in NY for at least a week but after that I haven't got confirmed plans yet.

Next time - my new drinking challenge. A new beers resolution!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A “fun” family Christmas

I owe Mrs AC a good Christmas - we sort of missed out on Thanksgiving due to my travel plans as we landed in London on the Thursday morning, there was no way of obtaining a fresh turkey as these are generally only available at Christmas and there was no real point in having a huge meal with copious leftovers as we were both flying back to NY on the Sunday. We did have a good weekend but I now owe her a decent turkey dinner. The original plan was for us to spend Christmas at mine with my cost centres then travel back to NY just after New Years. But my mother has decided that she's going to host a "family" Christmas - oh fucking joy.

The last time we had a "family" Christmas was about 15 years ago when about 18 of us got together and annoyed the fuck out of each other spent quality time together during the festive season - this was pre children for me but my brother's kids were still young.

My mother cooked - eventually anyway. Despite promising that dinner would be around 3pm we didn't sit down until close to 7pm, by which time everyone was too drunk to actually enjoy the food and too hungry for any conversation as we all stuffed as much down our throats as quickly as possible. How is it possible to be 4 hours late on something that only takes about 4 hours? No idea but it involved more fucking around than you could possibly imagine - fucking around being one of my mother's favourite activities. There is no task too simple that she won't spend hours procrastinating about then bugger around to within an inch of everyone's lives - in my house (and I assume everyone's) there's a couple of boxes to control the heating & hot water, I touch them maybe once a week - usually only to turn everything on or off depending on my travel movements that week but if I'm at home I'd never touch them. My mother spends a good 45 minutes a day fine tuning the timings and temperature as if her needs vary by the second. Or when she drives my car - bizarrely she doesn't adjust the mirrors but she will reprogram the radio stations so it matches the settings on the radio in her car. She only listens to 3 stations so why the fuck does she need to delete all my choices every time she gets in the car? It drives me mad.

I think my mother has only cooked me about 2 meals since then. She's really not good in the kitchen - her repertoire only consists of about 3 dishes, all of which involve over boiled vegetables and poorly seasoned mains. She does bake cakes, cookies & biscuits - usually burning them in the process though. Every oven my mother has ever used burns things - she claims the thermostats are broken but doesn't see the correlation between turning the oven down and leaving things in there for less time resulting in non burned food. When we were at hers over the summer I bought a selection of frozen pizzas to feed us all - they all needed slightly different cooking times and temperature but nothing overly complicated - she managed to fuck all 3 of them up, burning 2 and serving one at a temperature just above absolute zero.

But this year she's had a brand new kitchen fitted and decided she wants another family get together - and to show off. If there's one thing she does better than fucking around is showing off. But her showing off is not what you might imagine - it usually entails her telling the most inane stories of doing something not even remotely interesting - a recent one being spending a good hour telling me about everything she saw at the park when she came to visit me, as if I've never taken the kids there and actually don't know where it is, despite it being at the end of my road.

Usually when I take the cost centres up to see her we book a place to stay - I did this over the summer which was Mrs AC's first trip up, in order that we get some peace but we're only going up for 5 days, hiring a car and staying with her. My brother plus wife and their 2 grown up kids plus girlfriends are coming along so there will be 11 of us at Christmas - my brother has actually had the sense to rent somewhere as they will be staying a bit longer plus that many of us in the same house doesn't really work.

I've already mentioned in previous posts that she lives in the middle of nowhere and there's no pub within walking distance so along the way from the airport we'll be picking up enough booze in order to make a family get together tolerable - and I'm definitely not underestimating how much we're going to need. Mrs AC is getting an early Christmas present of a pair of walking boots so that we can go haggis hunting again (and it gives us an excuse to get out of the house before I want to murder everyone) and I've made one more important rider as a condition of us coming - I'm doing the cooking.

As useless as I am at all forms of manual labour (any household task more complicated than changing a lightbulb usually results in a load of swearing and blood pouring from various self inflicted wounds) I'm actually quite decent in the kitchen - it will ensure that everyone gets fed at the prescribed time plus it prevents everything from getting burned or the vegetables from being boiled to within an inch of their lives. As an added bonus the booze will be in the kitchen and I'll be closest to the fridge!

Anyway - merry Christmas to all my readers. I'm in NY for 2 days this week then we fly back to the U.K. until the new year when I'll be in NY for a week then I'll be in LA and Vegas for some of January and potentially some of February as well. I'm still writing up stories from my last elongated Vegas trip so maybe I need something to keep me away from the poker tables. Did someone say drinking challenge? Bueller? Anyone? Ace suggested a sobriety challenge but that's no fun so I've come up with a new challenge for myself - which I'll post shortly.