Being British in Florida 5

If there’s one thing that struck me while we were in Florida, it was the difference in driving speeds. Driving on the opposite side of the road, and the rules about turning right at red lights were easy enough, but I found myself taxed far more adjusting to different speed limits.

This makes me sound like some sort of speed obsessed petrol head, I’m sure. As with most observations here, it is a matter of nuance though.

Painting with a very broad brush, my observation of US driving is one where people generally see speed limits and drive up to them, unless they’ve decided to not bother and just push past, mostly on the freeways. The roads are so large, and the amount of space swallows up so many vehicles, that the experience generally feels quite laid back. There’s rarely a sense of rush, just constant motion.

Driving in the UK however… well speed limits are often seen as minimum speeds, and there’s a lot more aggression. It may be sometimes quite restrained, because we’re British, but the tailgating, lane weaving and silent imprecation-mouthing traditions that can be seen up and down our country are a wonder of focused hostility, angst and rampant blood pressure.

Its probably because we don’t have as much space here. The physical boundaries of our vehicles give the illusion of personal space, but there’s just no great space between them.

One of the secret glees of our trip was overhearing a conversation between two Texans wondering why all British cars were so small. The number of facts, figures and conjectures summoned up from thin air were highly amusing, and will almost certainly be mined for dialogue in a story at some point

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Fiction Fragment: Sassing An Angel

Wrote this recently as a block breaker:

“I know I’m not the world’s greatest theologian,” Paul said, “but aren’t you guys supposed to be pants-wettingly awesome instruments of divine will whose first words are usually ‘Do not be afraid’?”
The freckle-faced teenage girl in front of him blinked and became a towering multi-headed giant with three sets of wings, and a flaming sword. Silhouetted by the sun behind it, the angel leant forward. “When you’ve changed your trousers, we can start again if you like, but time as you experience it is running rather short.”

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Being British in Florida 4

It’s no secret that I love theme parks, and most of our Disney and Florida holiday was spent in them. It almost goes without saying that I was expecting to notice a couple of differences between UK and US parks.

image

Pumpkins at Disney

The most obvious of course was the cleanliness. There was far more time, manpower and inventiveness that seemed to be employed in US parks to keep litter, wear and tear to a visible minimum.

I’m not sure that this is a cultural difference in the littering habits of park guests either, given the number of UK holiday goers we met in our travels. If anything highlights the huge amount of planning and operational inventiveness at Disney it’s observing the cleaning and repair crews in quiet and effective action. There’s a huge difference in comparison with what sometimes appears to be a half-hearted approach at my local parks.

By far the more jarring difference however was the number of older children being pushed around in strollers in the US. I lost track of the number of six to eight year olds perched in strollers while parents or grandparents pushed them round. This is just totally alien.

You just see this so rarely in the UK. I guess you could make an argument for this being a reaction to the heat of the day, but even in our hotter summer days I’ve not noticed a similar practice over here despite some comparable temperatures. British kids just seem to want to run and explore more than many of the kids we saw in the US parks. Is this a valid comparison or was I blindsided by the strollers?

To be fair, there were plenty of kids running around and playing around and I didn’t make any in depth enquiries, but those damn strollers and the kids perched in them in parks and shopping areas has just stuck in my memory

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Tech, Games and Gaming

There’s some small game or other come out this week by the name of Destiny and I’ve been greatly enjoying it. I’ve also been back in the swing of writing articles. For some reason, at least one client seemed rather surprised that the speed at which articles were produced had not been compromised by my playing it – I’m rather proud of that (quietly)

Well, I would be if I actually had any great problem with keeping some degree of discipline and time-keeping but fortunately I’ve developed enough little tricks over the years to reward myself to sticking to the keyboard. It’s not perfect, especially on days where inspiration is running a little thin, but I get by.

So I’ll write a bit about Destiny soon, now I’ve had a chance to get my teeth into it. I’d say I’m a distinctly average and casual gamer, so don’t expect exacting under the hood comparisons and tales of ‘l33t’ braggadacio. There may be the odd wry chuckle however.

Meanwhile, I’ve surrendered the controller to Lady M so that she can start playing it while I type up this week’s D&D Eberron game. One of the ways that I could tell this game would be good was how she enjoyed the Beta much more than playing Titanfall. It’s good to be an inclusive gaming household again. With any luck we’ll be able to hook up with Lady P as she plays on her console, and indeed with a number of our other friends to get some regular nights going.

I’m looking forward to this.

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Being British in Florida 3

I’ve been thinking back over the things I’m missing about our Disney trip, and how many of those are a result of the different expectations of being British in Florida – and therefore taking more notice of things that just tend not to happen or at least to be common back home.

Evening view across the lakes at Saratoga SpringsThe one that springs to mind as I look out over the balcony this evening was the sight of turtles and the sweet smell of the palm trees every day at the resort. We were staying at the Paddock in Saratoga Springs, and so every morning the most direct route to get breakfast was across a long wooden bridge. This crossed one of the many lakes that dot the resort’s grounds. The plain boards and simple painted rails added a reassuring solidity to our passage across the lake, and we often stopped halfway across to watch the wildlife.

We were expecting to maybe see just the usual ducks that would normally grace the average British lake, but instead we were treated to herons stalking the reeds, otters dipping lazily into and out of view and every now and then, turtles swimming through and around the duckweed.

I’ve got a friend in New York State who loves turtles, and on many occasions she’s shared stories of how her pets hide and amuse her family, so seeing turtles in the wild in the lake most mornings, as well as occasionally by the side of smaller roads near the wetlands, always put a smile on my face and recall those tales, even while appreciating their beauty.

My daughter observed in a quiet moment that for her, the sight of palm trees has always been a marker of somewhere exotic and far-away. The realisation that the palms all around us were just the local vegetation was just mind-blowing for her. In theory I know that if positions were reversed that many Floridians would find the local West London/Surrey flora and fauna just as odd, but I can’t really quite bring myself to think that there’s the same sense of wonder and joy.

 

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And finally, new updates…

Well it’s taken a little longer than expected, but this week’s Eberron adventure is finally all written up and ready for bemusement… More silliness and fiction fragments will follow this weekend, along with more thoughts on being British in Florida recently…

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Fiction Fragment: Roadside Carnage

I really do get the strangest ideas while driving around. This was inspired by someone I encountered while driving in West London today. I’ve no plans to expand it so I thought I’d just bounce it out there:

The old man walked out into the street without another word. The grenade that had suddenly appeared in his hand looked no more dangerous than an apple, and no one paid him any attention as he ambled into the middle of the road. He weaved through gaps in the traffic with casual affability and without pause.

A couple of cars threaded between him and the guards as he reached the central paint lines, and he popped the live bomb through the open driver’s window of the first vehicle. It was a casual motion, made as the sedan passed him, and he continued his path to pass behind the second car at the same unhurried pace.

To anyone who hadn’t been paying attention, it would have seemed a miracle of good luck that he was shielded from the resulting blast by that second car.

He stepped forward and plucked the rifle from the hands of one of the surprised guards, just as everyone began to react to the explosion. Three shots in quick succession saw the other guards fall before the first even realised what was happening. He was still reaching for his sidearm when the old man clubbed him down with the butt of his own weapon and dropped it beside him.

“Where did you dig him up from?” whispered Tom, “and how big were the Keep Out signs?”

“I thought he was with you.” Jen replied. “Do you think he’ll notice if we run away now?”

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