Archive for August, 2016

Twenty Years Living in America

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

I emigrated to USA in 1996, and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. A couple of months later the Olympic Games descended upon the City, and I might have attended a few events, but the whole experience was  just a blur as I came to terms with my incongruous decision to move across the Atlantic. A little Frenchman told me it would take approximately two years to settle down, and he was spot on. Twenty years later, the adventure continues. Based on my time in Atlanta I’ve listed below things I like or liked about living in America and conversely things I dislike or disliked living there:

20 Things I like/liked about living in America

  • Blue skies with not a cloud to be seen.
  • Hot Wings and baby back ribs. My favorite places for those culinary delights are Taco Mac (the original location in Virginia Highlands,) Three Dollar Café and Wild West Wings, and Blue Ribbon which also does a mean martini.
  • A big house, bang for the buck which we couldn’t possibly afford if we were still living in the UK.
  • Health care, and I’m not referring to Obama Care.
  • NBC coverage of the Premiership. I can watch more Premiership games live than my son can living in London.
  • Air Conditioning
  • Variety of places to travel in one big country: mountains, desert, tropics, beaches where the water is actually warm. Alaska and Hawaii would have been difficult to reach if I still lived in the UK.
  • Visiting Monument Valley at sunrise was breathtaking.
  • Touring the national parks in Utah was a truly awesome experience.
  • Learning another language; American-English. I’ve battled for twenty years to master the dialect, but I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. Allow me to apologize to y’all. For example,  Atlanta is embracing the merits of the roundabout, but have labeled it the traffic circle.
  • Visiting Great American cities; Washington DC, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles to name but a few.
  • Our dog Tiger, was an unusual mix of chow and collie  who passed away in 2007, aged 17. He was probably my  best friend in America. He was  brave, strong, loyal, loveable with a sense of mischief.
  • Open air concerts at Chastain Park ranging from Harry Connick Jr., Tony “Bleeding” Bennett, Ringo Starr All Star Band, Huey Lewis and The News, BB King (God rest his Soul,) Chuck Berry and Ray Charles.
  • Grilling out on the Big Green Egg for nearly 10 months of the year.
  • The High Museum of Art. I had the  privilege of viewing an Impressionist exhibition, a Norman Rockwell collection of originals, and Elton John’s photography collection by several famous photographers.
  • The opportunity to attend four different professional sports in one city: basketball (Hawks) ice hockey (Thrashers now extinct,) baseball (Braves) and American football (Falcons.) a Major League Soccer team, Atlanta United, will be playing here next season.
  • Visiting Hawaii and Alaska both of which provide breathtaking scenery. Active volcanoes, bears catching salmon, a flight around Mt. McKinley were just a few of the highlights.
  • Chick_Fil_A, easily the best fast food restaurant chain in America.
  • Lightning bugs and humming birds in our backyard.
  • Close proximity to an international airport.

20 Things I don’t like about living in America.

  • Traffic where the increasing number of tractor-trailers intermingled with idiots make driving conditions extremely difficult not to mention driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Dog days (excluding Tiger…) of summer when the humidity is at its highest and most unbearable.
  • Political correctness.
  • Lack of community spirit.
  • Sense of entitlement of certain racial ethnicities.
  • Deteoriation in customer service in stores, restaurants and bars.
  • Insularity. I’m afraid the “special relationship” that supposedly exists between the UK and USA is grossly exaggerated. Millennials don’t relate to  World War 2 or the British Pop invasion in the ’60s. As one local talking head put it so succinctly: “Britain is that little island off the west coast of Europe.”
  • Total bias of major TV and radion networks whether it be conservative or liberal. The media has become propaganda machines favoring one party over the other unwilling to give the public objective commentary on current affairs.
  • Eighteen months of personal mud slinging campaigning to earn the right to be the presidential candidate for your Party. And boy have we ended up with two humdingers in Clinton and Trump.
  • Sixty feet high trees falling on my house and in my yard.
  • The fallacy that I could reinvent myself in USA.
  • Noisy restaurants. I can’t understand why people need to shout and scream at each other across the table.
  • Roofs (shingles) which only have a shelf life of 15-20 years. Where is the good old Welsh slate when you need it?
  • The South’s obsession with college football. Alabama doesn’t have a professional sports team, but the Crimson Tide (University of Alabama) attracts 90,000 to home games. They enjoyed a similar attendance for a practice game last season. (14)
  • Sports radio stations in Atlanta, and the irrelevant pre-season NFL football games.

Burgeoning Egos on the Touchline.

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

The Premiership season begins with a vengeance on Saturday, and there are going to be some new managers on show with huge reputations treading the touchline. They will be in the accompany of Jose Mourinho unceremoniously  fired mid-season by Chelsea who will now handle the reins at Manchester United. Arsene Wenger will be returning for his twentieth season in charge of Arsenal. Below is  a list of the major personalities and a summary of the major honors they have accumulated in their managerial careers:

Pepe Guardiola @ Manchester City



Bayern Munich

Jurgen Klopp @ Liverpool (hired halfway through last season)


Borussia Dortmund

Antonio Conte



Jose Mourinho

In ten seasons of club management, Mourinho has led his club to win its domestic league eight times, the UEFA Champions League twice and the UEFA Cup once. Between 2003 and 2012, Mourinho did not go a single calendar year without winning at least one trophy.


Inter Milan[201]
Real Madrid[201]

Arsene Wenger



Football is all about the money and the lucrative  European  Champions League is the ultimate goal. Guardiola and Mourinho have each won the trophy  a couple of times. Klopp and Wenger have had to be content with runners-up spots.  Conte has returned to club management following a two year stint as Head Coach of Italy where he achieved moderate success.  Mourinho’s ego took a hard shot to the head when he was fired from Chelsea, but it appears to be rejuvenated at Manchester United bolstered by the expensive signing of Paul Pogba.

Wenger enjoyed considerable success at Arsenal between 1997-2004, but the cupboard has been bare for several years apart from two FA Cup wins in 2014 and 2015.

Guardiola is the cream on top of the strawberries. He introduced ticky-tacky football including false number 9s at Barcelona; winning La Liga 4 times, and the Champions League twice. He won the Bundisliga three times with Bayern Munich, but failed to bring home the bacon in the Champions League. He is a man of vast experience, talent and success, but can he deliver in the highly competitive Premiership where the technique and talent maybe not at the same level as La Liga or Bundisliga, but it is fast, furious and physical?

Conte won Serie A with Juventus in three successive seasons. He is very intense, emotional and wears his heart on his sleeve. Just watch him in the technical area this season, doing imitations of a windmill on speed. It remains to be seen whether he can rediscover the magic formula for Chelsea this season.

Klopp was hired half way through the season replacing Brendan Rodgers. Klopp has a big engaging personality and proved to be a huge hit with the fans on Merseyside. He made promising strides in a relatively short time, and he begins a full season with a squad moulded into the Dortmund way.

Mourhino believes it was his destiny to manage Manchester United. He has a resume arguably only second to Guardiola, but the pressure to return United to the top of the perch will be enormous. Mourinho usually wins  a title in his first season with a new club, so it could be a match made in football heaven.

Wenger brought style to the Premiership, but he has a habit of refusing to make the big signings to complement the foundations of a very good team which could possibly turn them from perennial top four into title winners again. Typically, Wenger’s only major signing in the summer was Xhaka (35 million pounds) a midfield player where he has an embarrassment of riches.

Itemized below are other major signings in the transfer market by clubs in the top tier of the League:

Liverpool: Mane (30m,) Wijnaldum (25m,)

Manchester City: Sane (42m,) Gabriel Jesus (27m,) Gundogan (21m,) Nolito (14m,) and Stones (47.5m.)

Manchester United: Bailly (30m,) Mkhitaryan (26m,) Ibrahimovic (free) and Pogba (100m)

Tottenham Hotspur: Janssen (18.5m,) and Wanyama (11m)

Chelsea: Batshuayi (33m) and Kante (32m)

Leicester City: Musa (18m,) Mundy (13m,) and Mapustka (7m.)

I include Leicester City in the elite category because they are the current holders of the Premiership title. They have bolstered their squad with players who are not household names, but significantly they were forced to sell Kante to Chelsea who was arguably the key cog in their success last season. Leicester proved that you don’t have to spend millions on players to achieve success, but  their manager Claudio Raneiri was recently quoted as saying: “there’s more chance of ET landing in Piccadilly Circus than Leicester City retaining the title.”

The transfer window doesn’t close until August 31st, so clubs could still be active in the market depending on how the first half dozen games of the season evolve. Owners want immediate success and  expect their highly paid managers to deliver. It could be an exciting season on and off the pitch, but don’t expect another surprise title winner.





Ten Reasons why Trump can defeat Hilary

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Since Donald Trump was announced as the official Republican nominee to be President of the USA, he appears to be hell bent on putting his foot in his mouth every time he makes a speech. What he fails to understand is most Americans don’t understand sarcastic humor which is constantly dripping from his lips. Despite negative media bias towards Trump, Daily Mail columnist Piers Morgan believes there are 10 reasons why Trump can win the White House in November:

it’s actually happened: Donald Trump IS the official Republican nominee to be President of the United States

1) ‘Crooked Hillary’. Trump’s most effective strategy has been to brand his opponents with mocking monikers they find impossible to shake off. ‘Low Energy Jeb’ was a devastating knockout blow to the chances of a third Bush reaching the White House. ‘Little Marco’ reduced Senator Rubio to a diminished laughing stock. ‘Lyin’ Ted’ struck a metaphorical machete into the Cruz campaign. And John Kasich’s miserable record of failure on the primary trail led to Trump dubbing him ‘1 for 38 Kasich’ then ‘1 for 44 Kasich’ and so on until he threw in the towel. Now Trump’s relentlessly targeting Clinton with the title ‘Crooked Hillary.”

Trump's family is a huge asset - like wealthier Kennedys without the baggage. The more we see and hear from them the better

Trump’s family is a huge asset – like wealthier Kennedys without the baggage. The more we see and hear from them the better

2) His family. The Trumps are a bunch of aesthetically pleasing, articulate charmers who would slip effortlessly into life as America’s new First Family. They’re like the Kennedys only without all the baggage and so wealthy they’d probably view the White House as a small holiday home. Ivanka is a beautiful, razor-smart, very personable, high-heeled vote-winner who will wow even the most anti-Trump voters.

3) The TV debates. These will break all records for U.S. election encounters as Americans rush to see the ultimate one-on-one showdown between two equally divisive and polarising, but also hugely famous candidates. Hillary’s not bad at debating, but the big stage is where Donald comes into his own. He’s a TV superstar and a natural showman who loves working the camera and audiences. It’s his domain, his lair, and I can see him working Hillary over with well-planned zingers which might penetrate even her Rhino-skin.

4) The Rust Belt. Trump has to turn some of Obama’s blue states red to win the big prize. That means places like Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the margins of Democrat victories at the last election were all relatively small. Trump’s great advantage in these areas of America is that he is very similar to the very blue collar workers he needs to deliver for him: brash, non-nonsense, plain-speaking. They lap up his jobs’ talk and patriotic, chest-thumping style. The working class white vote played a big role in Trump’s advance through the Republican primaries and if he can simply drive down the Democrat vote in that demographic in the Rust Belt states, it’s game on for the presidency.

5) His VP pick. Trump was much smarter here than people seem to realise. By going for an unknown like Mike Pence, he defied all expectations that he’d choose an equally charismatic running mate like Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich, who would both have over-egged the testosterone soufflé. Instead, he played safe with a middle-aged, conventional, grey-haired white guy with Midwestern values who’s worked in Congress, been a Governor, is popular with evangelicals and has views that tie him to the very bowels of American Conservatism. He’s the complete opposite in other words to John McCain’s 2008 VP pick Sarah Palin. Pence won’t thrill the crowds, but he won’t scare the horses either and he will appeal in his own quiet, calm way to many Americans sitting on the fence about whether they can vote for a flamboyant maverick candidate like Trump. If I were Trump, I’d have Pence out everywhere.

Vice Presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana was a great pick. He defied expectations with the choice, who is not thrilling maybe, but won't scare anyone. Here stands on stage rehearsing Wednedsay

Vice Presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana was a great pick. He defied expectations with the choice, who is not thrilling maybe, but won’t scare anyone.

6) His gut. Trump’s almost miraculous success in this race so far has been down to a number of things but predominantly his instinct for what will ‘play’ with the media and the voters. Trump’s a businessman at his core and has run a spectacularly effective marketing campaign based on his gut feel for what will grab headlines and what real people actually care about. Hence the Muslim ban, the Mexican wall, and the constant attacks on China stealing American jobs. When I spent some time down in Texas and Florida recently, immigration, Islamic terrorism and jobs were far and way the biggest concerns of most people I spoke to. Trump must continue to trust that gut of his because as far as winning votes goes, it works.

7) Social media. Trump’s got nearly 10 million followers on Twitter now and millions more on sites like Facebook. His posts are staggeringly bold, confrontational, dynamic, positive and abusive – sometimes all at the same time. They’re also authentic, in the sense that it’s obviously Trump speaking and he seems to believe everything he’s saying at the time he says it. People like that. He doesn’t hide behind politically correct statements, and isn’t afraid to attack those who attack him. This is resonating strongly in a country full of very angry people. They really are starting to believe his constant hype that he can ‘Make America Great Again.’

8) Get organized. Trump has started to surround himself with political bruisers used to fighting national elections and he needs more of them. You can’t win the presidency on a whim, prayer and dollops of bombast alone. He has to get his backroom team in serious order fast and there are signs he is doing just that. If he cracks the ground game, and avoids too many amateurish missteps, he can definitely land the presidency.

9) Charm. We’ve seen plenty of the aggressive, pugilist and sometimes downright nasty Trump in the past year and some of it has been pretty unedifying. Now it’s time to show a softer side too. The kind, caring, loving man that his family keep telling us exists. I’ve seen plenty of that side myself during my 10-year friendship with Donald and he can turn it on like a matinee movie idol when he wants to. America needs to see that beneath the King Kong image lies a beating heart, a man who truly cares about his fellow Americans, and at least the semblance of humility.

Worth mentioning twice - Crooked Hillary. When in doubt Trump can just keep whacking her

10) When in doubt, whack ‘Crooked’ Hillary. I started with this and I will finish with it too. Trump will win the presidency if he can persuade enough Democrats NOT to vote for their candidate. He doesn’t underestimate her. When I saw him in New York last month, he told me: ‘The Clintons are always formidable opponents.’ And he said it in an admiring way, like one champion boxer to another. But he also knows that she is deeply unpopular with a lot of her own people and has run a lacklustre campaign in which she even struggled to beat a 75-year-old socialist. Trump must play on her weaknesses hard and ruthlessly, as I’m sure he will. In Trump’s business world, you kill or be killed when it comes to landing a deal. This is the biggest deal of his life and Hillary’s about to discover just what he’ll do to land it. As I wrote a year ago, it’s very dangerous to bet against Donald Trump.

WE SHALL SEE………………………………..


It’s Olympic Time Again

Friday, August 5th, 2016

It’s difficult to comprehend that it’s four years since Britain won a record haul of medals at the London Olympics. As I write this piece, the opening ceremony to the Rio Games is less than two hour away. And yet the Olympics are already shrouded in controversy.

Some of the star golfers, Spieth, Johnson, Day, and McIlroy  pulled out of  the Games because of concerns over the Zika virus and an apparent lack of security in one of the World’s most dangerous cities. The Russian track and field team are banned from the Games because of drug and substance abuse, but the IOC in their infinite wisdom decided to leave the fate of other Russian participants to the individual Sport’s Governing Bodies who promptly decided to allow Russians to participate in all the other sports.

Participants in water sports such as sailing, rowing and canoeing could be at severe risk since Rio’s sewage system is pumped directly into the ocean. It sounds mela dramatic, but it was reported that body parts were recently washed up near the beach volleyball venue. It was also determined that the air quality would not meet the standards of the Western World.

Two or three athletes were mugged in the Olympic Village, and yesterday a Moroccan boxer was arrested for attempting to rape two chambermaids in the Village. Meanwhile Team GB athletes have banned Brazilian cleaners from entering their rooms after kit was stolen.

A Greek athlete has been expelled after failing a drugs test, and Olympic athletes from several nations have posted videos in the internet showing horrendous conditions inside the Olympic Village. It’s not surprising then that the multi-millionaires of USA’s Dream Team (basketball) have chosen to stay on a luxury cruise ship moored in Rio Harbor.

Day one of competition is yet to begin and we already have had sufficient drama to provide material for the complete works of Shakespeare, a Greek Tragedy and a British “Carry On.” Indeed it is a farce. The Olympic competitors are mere pawns in what has become a giant financial circus; lining the pockets of drug barons, media moguls and fat cats in the financial capitals of the world.

It was rumored that Brazilian football legend, Pele, would light the Olympic flame, but he has declined the invitation due to ill health which is very convenient, so has not to tarnish his reputation with this debacle. Another significant individual who will not be present at the Opening Ceremony is Brazil’s President. She is currently suspended from office facing impeachment over allegations she manipulated the Government budget.

But despite the pollution, security issues, muggings, and allegations of sexual harassment, the IOC has buried its head in the sand of the beach volley ball court, and declared that the event is to celebrate ecology, diversity and joy. Fingers crossed, let’s hope we are not counting body bags on a daily basis.



The Road Trip to Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Just over a couple of weeks ago, I embarked on a road trip to Pittsburgh. My friend Bob is originally from Pittsburgh and he was to be my trusty guide covering 1200 miles in the space of four days. Travelling north on the first day from Atlanta, we drove 440 miles to our first destination, Lewisburg, West Virginia. We booked into our hotel for the night and were surprised next morning at breakfast to be surrounded by a plethora of Red Cross workers. We soon realized they were relief workers cleaning up after  the severe flooding that engulfed West Virginian the previous week.

We drove the short distance to the Greenbrier Hotel to take a tour of “The Bunker” which lived underneath the West Wing of this gargantuan hotel comprising 700 guest rooms. The former US Government Relocation facility was a top secret of the Cold War designed to accommodate both the US Senate and House of Representatives in the event of a national emergency.

Planned by the Eisenhower Administration, in cooperation with the leadership of the United States Congress, the facility was built under the Greenbrier  between 1958 and 1961. Once completed, it was maintained in a state of constant readiness by a small cadre of government employees.

The secrecy of its location was maintained for more than 30 years until May 1992 when The Washington Post  published a story effectively exposing it. The day after the story was published, the facility was declassified and phased out by July 1995.  It was finally opened to the public as an historic museum as an artifact of the Cold War. Included in the facility are 44 separate locations with 153 rooms comprising a total of 112, 544 sq. feet on two levels.

We continued our journey to Pittsburgh to pick up the cable car on the 138 year old incline which afforded us a panoramic view over the city. Once dominated by steel mills along the “Three Rivers,” downtown has been transformed into a modern city appropriate for the 21st Century.

Hunger pangs were beginning to take their toll, and we headed for The Church Brew Works which is a restaurant and brewery rolled into one. Nestled in the historic  neighborhood of Lawrenceville, The award winning CBW opened in 1996 as the first and only Brew Pub in the country to be located in a historic church.

The original Douglas Fir floors, stained glass windows and hand-painted cypress ceiling were all painstakingly renovated to showcase their original beauty, providing a unique and memorable dining and drinking experience.

The second day had provided magical moments for one who was new to the City of Pittsburgh, and we were happy and content to retire to our hotel for a good night’s rest in readiness for what next day’s adventures had in store.

We were up bright and early the next morning, and having consumed a nondescript breakfast at the Comfort Suites Hotel, we drove to Canton, Ohio to visit the NFL Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame experience is like a Disney Park for adults. The exhibit rooms were awash with jerseys and artifacts from NFL legends, Super Bowl rings, and my favorite, busts of every NFL Hall of Famer. As a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, I was dismayed to discover that only one Falcon, Claude Humphreys, has been inducted in their fifty year history, whereas Bob’s team, the Pittsburgh Steelers have 19 players inducted in the Hall of Fame. I guess 5 Super Bowl wins deserve some recognition.

We returned to Pittsburgh for an early dinner at Station Square before attending a Pittsburgh Pirate game. We found a cute restaurant, Bar Louie,  with a patio area along the river. We had luckily stumbled on happy hour, and wine and appetizers were half price and draft beer was $1.25!!!! In contrast a similar beer would later cost $11 at the ball park.

Bob dragged me from Louie’s kicking and screaming, and we boarded a paddle steamer to transport us across the river to the fairly new baseball stadium (PNC Park.) Unfortunately the night didn’t end on the brightest of notes with the Pirates losing 4-8 to the Milwaukee Brewers in a very slow contest.

On our last day, we had breakfast at a Park’N’Eat restaurant, where Bob had worked many years ago as a short order cook. The nostalgia continued for Bob as  we drove around the neighborhood where he was born and raised. He also caddied at a local golf course as a young teenager, but sadly the club went into bankruptcy a few years ago, and the course was almost unrecognizable since mother nature had reclaimed it.

Continuing the golf theme, we stopped for a few minutes at Oakmont Country Club where the US Open had been held in June and won in decisive fashion by Dustin Johnson.  Oakmont has hosted the US Open nine times, more than any other course. Some of the notable winners include Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, and Johnny Miller shot a course record 63 in the final round in 1973 to capture the Open crown.

We eventually headed for our final destination on the itinerary. Fallingwater , one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most widely acclaimed works was designed in 1935 for the family of Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar. J. Kaufmann Sr.

The key to the setting of the house is the waterfall over which it is built. Wright designed the house to rise above  the waterfall, rather than face it. Fallingwater was constructed of sandstone quarried on the property, and serves to separate reinforced concrete “trays” dramatically cantilevered over the stream. It is the only major Wright work to come into the public domain with its setting, original furnishings and artwork intact.

Sadly our journey was nearing its conclusion, and we returned to Pittsburgh where we had reservations at The Hampton Inn, close to the Airport in readiness for my flight home to Atlanta. The next morning I caught the hotel shuttle to the Delta terminal taking home a host of wonderful memories. Meanwhile Bob continued his journey to his final destination in Boston. It had been an unforgettable trip and I’m sincerely grateful to Bob for organizing the itinerary, plotting out the route, making the hotel reservations, and sharing his  wealth of local knowledge with me.

Thanks also to our Sponsors: Eat_N_Park, Sheetz, and Bob Evans