So This Is The New Year

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The boys are here and enjoying themselves - Dave and James here shown chilling out during a game of pool at Southpaw in Brooklyn, while live music pounded out from the stage, beer flowed from the bar, and I pulled off pool shots the like of which have not been seen before or since. Unfortunately everyone was looking the other way at the time.

It is New Year's Eve!

So far during their visit I've had the pleasure of accompanying the lads around town; ushering them into Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge, riding the Staten Island Ferry, jumping queue after queue at the Empire State Building (I'm sorry to say, horde of tourists which hath descended 'pon New York, that if you don't know that there are side doors to the ESB and you choose to queue at the front door; New York can be a jungle and it's impedance of the thickest), eating possibly the best burgers in the city, the famed Junior's cheesecake boasted to be the best in the world, hacking our way through Macy's (God knows why - sorry chaps), drinking beer and martinis and sake and munching street dogs and gherkins and Vietnamese food and walking through the city with mixed expressions of awe and mirth and confusion and laughter...

We're having a good time.

Have a great New Year's Eve, one and all.

This is the end of 2004 - it's not been bad at all, has it?

Lest auld acquaintance be forgot, lang may yer lum reek, Happy New Year, get the fuck out the old, ring in the new...and other such sayings associated with the changing of the number of the year.

It's becoming traditional, what with this being the third NYE that the Autoblography has been knocking around for, for me to suggest that you, nay, urge you to party.

Party.


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Get out there and make some trouble!

A Little Rhyme My Daddy Taught Me

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Christmas day in the workhouse, the snow was falling fast we took the christmas turkey and shoved it up the Vicar's...chimney.

(Sung to the well known wholesome family tune of 'For he/she's a jolly good fellow')

I spent New Year away from home and my friends once - in my third year of university I was working the Christmas season at the JD Wetherspoon's pub in Leamington Spa, and on the big night between 2001 and 2002 I was busy juggling bottles of J2O and attempting to weasel tips out of 300 people at once. I rang people after midnight, but missing out on the traditional gathering in St. James' Square in Newport on the Isle of Wight was a bit of a downer.

I missed out on all the traditional New Year's Eve pursuits: spotting people you know vaguely from school in ridiculous costumes and chatting to them over beer like you used to be best friends instead of the archrival teacher's pet and scapegoat you actually were (no clues given, sorry).

New Year on the Island is always...interesting. There's things like having to throw away a favourite shirt the next day because it smells irredeemably of raw onions after you pinched the unsavoury elements of a friend's Frenchman costume, there is the nearly annual tradition of me dropping Dave on his head whilst drunkenly trying to carry him on my shoulders. There is the big random hug-all at midnight in the Square, when the people you know are everywhere and everyone, seemingly.

There is the memory of being so goddamned determined to party on December 31st 1999 that I went out to Newport despite the fact that there were no buses and taxis couldn't be had for love nor money. We partied, we drank, we danced, we drank some more, and when it was time to go home because all of our energies and money had been exhausted, I started walking home. Luckily for me, ten minutes after I set out cross-country, it started to rain, so I doubled back to the road and was home thirty minutes later because...I mean, come on - how many drivers would let someone walk home in the rain on the first day of a new Millenium?

Christmas is for family, New Year is for friends. That's the way it breaks down, generally - am I correct?

This year I celebrated Christmas with new members of my family, the family I have joined through marrying Krissa. I missed my parents and my sister an awful lot, but I had a wonderful time. It began to snow, heavily, on Boxing Day, and we stayed a night more than we had planned with Krissa's parents, playing cards and drinking hot cocoa as the flakes slewed down outside. I received marvellous gifts for which I am hugely grateful, gave some which were recieved with tears of joy (always a boost, that) and had a great time.

This New Year...this New Year's Eve, I'm celebrating with...Krissa and the New York Krew, obviously, but also with two of the friends who have made years and years' worth of celebrations so much fun already - Dave and James, who should be touching down at JFK in about four hours.

This morning I've been doing odds and sods of DIY - drilling and hanging the guitars on the office wall, putting in extendable bathroom mirrors and hammering all sorts of random things for good measure.

I have a portait photograph of my family on the mantel of the window behind this computer, and no way to end this post properly.

The Queen's Stuart's Speech

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Eet has been a yeahr owv mowst cyelebrated joy - of fainding love and of maiking long jourrneys. Karissa aind Ai would laike to say a most heartfelt and wonderous thank you to hyou all.

Stuff that. I'll leave the accent to HRH. It's too much trouble to type it.

There will be posts before the new year, too, so there's no great and pressing need to sum up 2004 just yet. I have a sneaky suspicion that I haven't done as well on my 'To Do' list for 2004 as I did in 2003.
Ah well.
There were a few things I did which weren't on the list, including the getting married thing and the emigrating thing, which I'm perfectly happy about even though they weren't, strictly speaking, on the agenda.

But lo! It is the time of gifts and coldness and Winter Festivals of varying religions...unless you're in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case it is the time of gifts and warmth and Festivals which bear no resemblance to the seasons going on outside. But I'm sure you'll improvise masterfully.

Have a great and good time with your holiday, whichever it may be, wherever it may be, and whosoever you spend it with.

As this rounded chunk of rock spins around its star, spare a thought for all those who you have brushed with this year - be it passing them on a pavement or sidewalk, on a train, a bus, in the shops, over the phone to a customer services department (yes, even those sods) on the Internet, through your work
or sport or play or anything...and know that they and the people they've brushed with and beyond, those they came into contact with and theirs and theirs and theirs...as the web of contact and connection fans outwards and around the planet, know that that is all of us, all of us on this planet, living together on this spinning piece of rock which wobbles around a star.

And I, in the biggest, most ambitious broadcast sentiment ever, in the most stretched-thin CC-style, would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not - just have a fun 25th of December 2004, okay?

There. That means I don't have to wish anyone else a Happy Christmas again this year, and I've improved my productivity enormously.

So with that, Krissa and I are retiring to her parents' home in the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations for the holidays, where we shall no doubt aim to have a riotously good time.

Back soon.

And when I mean 'back soon', I mean 'back soon, when in the next thrilling episode two of my best friends from England join us for New Year's Eve revelry and tourist New-York-ness on a Biblical scale'.

Thought I'd better clarify.
Have fun, one and all.

Lord knows I am not a religious man, but JESUS CHRIST it is cold in New York.

Here was I recalling all those film scenes where couples skip jauntily down snow-covered sidewalks as jovial hot dog vendors look on with a bad-toothed grin and the smoke from a dirty cigar coils around him in his shirt and jacket...visions of Macaulay Culkin wandering around New York in nothing but a small red coat and a woolly hat...not to mention the fact that it snowed when I came to New York for the first time in March - and that wasn't so bad. Mind you, it melted pretty much the next day, and within a week Krissa and I, newly in love, were picnicking in t-shirts outside the Lincoln Center...

This isn't exactly how I had imagined. I had imagined snowy scenes along the lines of those in the UK - snow comes, it's a tit bit nipply out and all you have to do is wrap up a bit more and all is fine and dandy, dandy and fine.

I walked Krissa to the subway this morning, and now I'm beginning to think that it was a mistake coming back to the apartment to warm up, have a cup of tea and rethink my clothing strategy whilst waiting for the post before heading back out into the city.

Because I'm SCARED.

It started snowing last night at about eight thirty, as Krissa and I tumbled out of a bookshop on Union Square, and a very fine white powdery snow was swirling in the street lights. We were laughing and running through it, this first New York snow, and we grinned widely as four carollers in the subway station produced marvellous harmonies which resounded sweetly off the dirty tiled walls and fought for hearing with the movement of the trains. We smiled at the falling snow and drew shapes on parked cars on the way home from the subway and when we stole outside to play before going to bed.

This morning I pulled on two t-shirts, a wool jumper and my arctic-kick-ass coat. Jeans. The megaboots. Gloves and a beanie hat. With this rather complete ensemble, one would think survival was a bit of a given. In fact, come to think of it, the fact that I'm telling you about it makes my survival a bit of a given, but roll with me here.
Sitting in the comfort of our office as I am, listening to the sweltering Cuban melodies of Buena Vista Social Club and drinking tea, the following numbers strike an atheist's fear of God into me:

Temperatures for New York City, New York, 20th of December 2004:

13F or, with windchill (of which there is a fair bit about) -5F.

In modern money, that converts to

-10C or -25C with the windchill.

You can feel that -25 on your face when you step out and in the first thirty seconds you're all, 'Oooh, touch brisk this morning' then after that thirty seconds you're going numb, which is about as bad I've been in the UK, and you're all, 'Oh, right, really is a bit cold!' the next thirty seconds it feels as though the moisture embedded in your exposed skin is turning to ice and rupturing everything around it into the bargain, like pingos.

Pingos are mounds or hills formed by growing cells of ice under the ground in periglacial regions. The ice grows and grows under the surface until a hill is formed and all the earth on top and around is displaced and churned up. Like that, but in your face.

What is all this talk of pingos? Well there's a certain icy clarity of thought outside. A-Level Geography: 'Cold Environments' just came flooding back to me, in a face-freezing torrent of information. Along with it came the cold, terrible realisation of which global-scaled ocean flow I had unwittingly opted for this season...

This season, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have opted to sport the Gulf Stream. A warm, caressing current, this little beauty transports a monkeyload of thermal energy right across the Atlantic after it says goodbye to North America about halfway up the Eastern Seaboard, having been born in the Tropics and the Gulf of Mexico. A wise choice, some might say, for the Winter Fashion Season, the Gulf Stream is giving the British Isles a bit of a leg up in the temperature stakes, lending a mature and gravelly wet-grey aspect to this season's haute couture, which is offset rather nicely by the rich British Racing Green of the hedgerows, fields etc. A mild ensemble, but practical.

On the other side of the Atlantic and several degrees further south, we have the North East of the United States of America. This season the states of the North East are sporting something rather special in terms of oceanic accessories.
Now it might be seen as something of a faux pas in fashion circles - the all out mad dash for a certain look. All denim - not a good idea, just as the same applies to all-polka-dot, all-tartan ensembles and the like. But when done with panache and flair and a certain...I don't know what...things like the Labrador Current can really come off beautifully. Sliding grimly down between Northern Canada and the wastes of Greenland, the Labrador Current is bringing white...yes! White! ...and a hint of blue to the North East US. A bold, stark move in terms of look and feel, white is *in* this season!

Now I'm pretty much done with this post. It's cold. There's only so many ways you can say it, but there's something else I've got to say.

As children, our wonderful Mother was always concerned about Jemma and I in cold weather. There are, at the last count, over three hundred,"That's The Quickest Way To Catch A Cold" sayings on record. I have to say that there were more than a few occasions throughout my childhood when a brief cough and a bit of a temperature were played out for more time off school than they really warranted, and as a result Mum became very practical in terms of clothing, and this has been the lead for years of taking the mickey out of her for overconcern.

Whenever it's been a bit cold, or I've headed out for a summer's evening with friends in just a shirt, the old 'Are you sure you don't want a balaclava?' joke has been wheeled out, dripping in sarcasm.

Only now I think I might want one.

Don Ye Now

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Kevin Kringle shops at a certain gadget store to try and outdo his famous brother, gangs of marauding carol singing models in brightly coloured woollens are stalking the land passing on messages on the behalf of a certain chain store, if you drink a big creamy coffee from a certain store an enormous light bulb is screwed into your brain and makes you happy, and if all the other TV ads are to be believed as well, most people in the US give cars as christmas presents.

It's Christmas in New York, people. Christmas in New York.
I've seen the giant tree (yes, you've guessed it - it's pretty big) at Rockefeller Plaza, seen a lit wreath as large as a restaurant door, and the stunning musical and animated window displays at Bloomingdales; this year on a 'Phantom of the Opera' theme.

But what I want to attract your attention to is something on a slightly different scale. In most civilised countries you can be assured that the better style and class of something will be of a reasonable quality - of good taste, even. If you go to a boutique or even a reputable high street store in search of your Christmas decorations, then you are likely to be presented with a reasonable selection; of prices, styles, colours, sorts...and, being an Autoblography reader you will no doubt walk away with the pick of the bunch, a collection of twinkling supernovae to hang from the tree, haute couture stockings to wedge over the fireplace, and tinsel which carries an epilepsy warning.

But that's just boring. It is my own considered opinion that you can tell more about a country and a place by the budget decorations - by what people are prepared to try and sell you, and what people are prepared to buy, if it means they can save money.

So I bring you, noble and distinguished reader, to the corner of an unnamed store in New York, where we will take a bit of a browse through the ornaments on sale...

Dairy Diet Santa
It would appear that this Santa ain't all that well. Proof that a glass of milk in every house in every country around the world can seriously affect your health. A condition first identified by Dr. E. Izzard (UK), Calcium Overdose is a sad thing to behold. Despite the considerable advantages to begin with - superb bone strength, award-winning teeth, beautiful cuticles - calcium overdose sadly leads to excessive tooth growth, spiky, unwieldy fingers and, in the terminal stages, social exclusion and tireless pursuit by teams of elite CIA dentists.




The Obese Christmas FairyA Fairy for...the Lower Branches
Are you more than a little fond of Sugared Plums? Are you finding your daily flit from house to house and tree to tree a real grind? Do you find your energy reserves depleted before the end of your wish-granting day? Have you considered eating a little less? A sphere may be an aerodynamically efficient shape, but man, getting one off the ground when it's made of pure, unadulterated, 100% fairy is another matter entirely. And the botox isn't helping any.


Copper Jazz Chickens - a great name for a band.Four Piece Combo Bucket
You've heard of Squirrel Nut Zippers. You've sung along to the hits of Naked Lady Bears. Tonight, yours for a mere $20 apiece, I give you...COPPER JAZZ CHICKENS! They're not musical, they don't move...they just. look. cool. Well - coppery. And like foot-high chickens. Isn't that enough in today's cruel, capitalistic world? Buy them now, please, and enrich your life immediately to the tune....no, not musical - I said already...of four copper cockerels, primed and ready to change the feel of any room in your house!


Drunk OrnamentThe Sherry Looks A Little Low This Morning
Need an extra drinking buddy this Christmas? Don't worry. This little chap has it already covered. At night when you're asleep and you think the rest of your family is too, your children will incur major therapy bills in later life by tiptoeing into the living room and witnessing the simple, joyful Christmas miracle of this guy swearing his way down through eight or nine prickly branches of your tree, heaving himself into your drinks stash, helping himself to some scotch, and climbing back up the tree to do indecent things to the fairy.


Traditional. Obviously.
All Hail Your Stripey Christmas Majesty

You have to admit, there's a certain restriction on Christmas animals. There's reindeer with a variety of nose accessories, but how many of them can you shift in a pre-christmas sales drive, when you sold a load of them last year? There's robins and snowmen and...well...the nativity animals...camels...um. Oh! And all the animals from the Twelve Days of Christmas song. Turtle doves, a partridge...well. They're all a bit plain, aren't they? A bit staid?
So it's not surprising that someone somewhere decided that the time had come and that some diversity was clearly called for. What is surprising is that in that bold sweep they decided to call for young King Quadraped here. It's not just that they decided that it should be a regal zebra, but that it was clearly a zebra of the Elizabethan era and hence needed a large pouffy ruff around its neck. This is pretty disturbing stuff. If zebras were already up to ruffs and plastic jewels at the time of the birth of baby Jesus, then they're obviously much more advanced than we are. Fear for your lives. Your LIVES.

First Impressions

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It was a familiar trick. In an unknown situation like this, you kept an eye out for someone with a guidebook, and followed them, checking everything as you went.

I picked up the in-airport train system, smooth white plastic which reminded me of the Docklands Light Railway.

I overheard the accents of the couple with the guidebook and wandered over, minding my towering backpack on the dangling handholds. I was going against the advice of my hostesses, but I was sure that in an English-speaking country I shouldn't have any difficulty using public transport. We were heading out in cold air under a pale sky over marshes with unfamiliar reeds and large birds flapping slowly across the stretches of mud, with the low horizon of uniformly arranged painted wooden houses in the background. The glass in the train's windows was smoked, giving everything a moody, twilit edge.

Smiling and waving my tiny tome, I borrowed the couple's rather more comprehensive guidebook and checked the lines from the airport. A tiny glimmer of white blue metal could be seen in the distance but the train track began to dip lower towards a terminus. We got off and I descended, waiting in the cold open air for a train as the sun began to dip and blind those on my side of the station. I took a couple of photographs of the houses across the tracks, and paced up and down the concrete, waiting, wondering if it wouldn't just have been simpler to take a taxi. A group of birds scattered and lifted away, curling in a loose bunch over the platform fence and into the marshes.

A train appeared around a distant curve and rattled, slowly to a halt. I smiled at the shiny logo on the side of each carriage as it went by. I was doing a good job of containing my excitement, but I knew what I was doing. I sat with my backpack between my legs and tried to look as if I did this every day.

When the train began to bypass stations I began to panic again. I got off at the nearest station I could see on the maps in the train, and got above ground to get my bearings. The streets thronged and it was close to being fully dark. Lights span and sped around me as faces bobbed by in the electric-white-shot half darkness, and I found my way up to a main road, which had the distant lights of a bridge structure blinking in the distance. I was painfully aware that my backpack had me standing out by a good eight inches above the crowd. Okay, I thought. Fair enough. I'm late, I'm in the wrong place, I can't see a train that will get me where I'm going, and it's dark and I'm feeling threatened here. Time to take that taxi.

Taxis that close to the bridge, were either going across it with passengers, or coming across it with passengers - my attempts at hailing a taxi proved fruitless, and I was really beginning to panic. I walked back and forth across the main road. I ate a Big Mac. I found a bus map. I hailed a bus, and was ejected for trying to pay with notes. I bought a chocolate bar to get some change which made me feel sick, and finally caught a bus which was heading in the right direction.

I got off, and walked another few minutes in what was now really biting cold. I found the building I was looking for and rang the bell. Upstairs were two women, one a good friend and the other the woman I would come to marry. Within minutes of arriving, of surviving the silly ordeal of being stuck and lost in an unfamiliar city, not knowing where I was or which direction I should be heading in, she gave me a compass.

*

It's occured to me that despite having a lot of free time, I haven't been blogging all that much. It's time for some impressions of New York...and I thought we'd start with the first one. I've no idea where I'll take this series. Let's see, hmm?

Cor Blimey Guvnor

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It's funny, really. In 2003, when I had been unemployed for nine months, I wrote the following post:
The Theory Behind the 'Then Three Bloody Buses Come Along At Once' Phenomenon

Clustering, stochastic temporary delays and the same reasons behind why, if you're driving along an isolated blasted heath on a winding country road in the middle of nowhere at three o'clock in the morning (as you do), you have a couple of cars behind you and cars only ever go past in twos or threes.

ANYWAY.
I feel like that. Only, to create the analogy properly, I have been waiting for the metaphorical bus for almost nine months...
Details to follow.

Funny really.

The Caption Camp: Week Three

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Everyone is balanced precariously on the rims of their seats as, in the darkness, a hush steals over the audience and continues down amongst the seats and steals their wallets and purses for good measure because once hushes start stealing they can be a real pain in the arse to stop.
But the audience doesn't care.

After a few complaints to the manager about how the seats don't fold down properly, everyone sits fidgeting silently in the gloom, eyeing their competitors with slitty hating glances until they share eye contact and everyone is smiles and deference. In the background a hush is read its rights. It's just your average awards ceremony.

Ladies and Gentlepersons, it is time again (a collective breath from the audience) to announce the winner of last week's Autoblography Caption Competition!
The competition was intense, with over 26 entries from around the globe, and many competitors coming up with multiple captions to try and kick their rivals into touch. But the time has come, as many a walrus will tell you, for the winner to be announced...

"In the case that your erection lasts more than four hours,
you should consult a doctor immediately, otherwise
the prescriptive effects might start to spead to other parts of the body."

So a big well-done to She-Dork and a round of applause, please, as she takes the mantle from John for the rest of the week...as she takes the...mantle...John, give her the mantle...JOHN! Thank you. That wasn't so hard now, was it?

And on with the next one!

Here is the picture which welcomes your creative input this week..we desire...a...a..a CAPTION!

Hold these truths

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Today will be followed by tomorrow, regardless of whether or not you care about it, put it to good use, or are alive to see it.

If my dreams are the same tomorrow, if they are no further along, if my future has not changed, then I have failed. If I have not taken a step today, if I have not moved on, made way, left a wake behind me, then I have failed. I have not grown today, if I have not learned today, if I have not changed in some way, I have failed.
They say, 'And this too, shall pass.' is the only truth, yet these things will always be true of me.

As shall their opposites.

Possible Employment Opportunities

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Dear Sirs and Madams,

Whilst there has not been any specific advertisement for hired help or a definite vacancy, I'm writing to you in the hope that you might require someone of my abilities and expertise. I currently stuck in a rut with regard to my status of employment - my three year Bachelor's degree is roughly equivalent to the US four year Bachelor's, but few employers seem to appreciate this. In the past few years I have grown in stature in the arena I would prefer to be employed; I have begun to cover a greater area, reading more and more, commenting widely, enjoying it all to the last letter.

My own writing has been intermittent, I admit, but I feel with the application of a full working week and the not insignificant resources of my new coffee machine, which has a preset mode, enabling me to start first thing in the morning with no delays, I could really make a larger and more productive contribution.

I would like to propose renumeration based on a system of performance related pay. There might be days when I can't access the Internet, and I feel it only fair that you stop paying me on those days.

I present a portfolio of relevant work in electronic form to accompany this application - please find it backdated from this entry.

I would be extremely grateful if you could send me any details you might have about your policies on working under the influence of alcohol; this is an informal business, and without wanting to compromise my professional work ethic, many people find posts written after an evening of beer to be highly gratifying.

I hereby register my desire to be considered an applicant for the position of the World's first Professional Blog Reader/Writer.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter, and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Faithfully,

Stuart


PS Caption Competition Results to come soon.

Well, after the rush of comments for the last event, I am pleased to announce blogless John's eminent victory with:


'Still thinking in terms of purely Newtonian physics, are we?'

Congratulations John! You win the right to lord it over us lesser mortals and generally look a bit smug until someone else wins.

So onwards! Below lies the new competition picture! Suggestions for a caption to be deposited in the comments box in conventional fashion, please thank you please...thank you.

Please.

A Word To The Wise

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This afternoon I was given a few words of advice from one of New York's Finest.

I've been living in New York for nearly two months now, and I know my way around the subway lines I use the most, even down to getting in the carriage which will mean I can step off the train and straight through an exit turnstile at my desired stop...for a couple of stops, anyway. You can learn all you like, but nobody is perfect. You have to remember what you're doing at all times on the NY subway. On stations which run more than one line (i.e.: most of them) it is never a case of just catching the next train without checking which line it is. This afternoon on the way back to Queens I took an R when I should have taken an N, and I realised this when the train pulled up to the strip-lit platform of Queens Plaza instead of the muted daylight of the above-ground Queensboro Plaza. I looked up from my book and for the first time I noticed the giant digital 'R' on the side of the carriage, sighed, and got off. Queensboro Plaza was nearby, so I decided to walk rather than catch the subway back under the river and back out on the 'N'.

Stick with me. I'll get to the interesting bit.

At Queensboro Plaza, I climbed the stairs to catch my train. Now. The entrances to the subway in New York usually consist of a row of turnstiles and a large cast-iron service door. The deal is that you step smartly up to the turnstile, swipe your Metrocard and push through the turnstile, taking care not to clog up the line by bending over to do up a shoelace or similar. The service door is controlled by an electromagnetic lock under the power of the station superintendent...or whatever you call the person selling tickets in the booth. When the door is open, it's not uncommon for everyone to use it, because it's quicker and easier, and this is what was happening when I came to the entrance this afternoon.

The guy in front of me, uncharacteristically for a stranger, held open the door - so I stepped through. At some moments in life two things happen at once and you instantly and instinctively understand the way things are going to go from here on in. At the precise instant that I stepped through the door, I noticed the cop past the stairs, deep in conversation with an MTA employee. Even worse, he had noticed me noticing him. He pointed at me and beckoned me over, as more people poured through the door behind me and hightailed it up the steps. He made his excuses to the guy he was talking to.

"Sorry man, I'll catch you later. I'm going to give this joker a ticket."

Remember that axiom - an innocent man has nothing to fear from the police? Yeah, well, I have an in-built thing about as long as everyone understands, there's no problem. I have an unlimited-ride month-long Metrocard. I could swipe through a thousand times if I wanted to. So I started to explain.

"Sorry! I'll go out and come back through swiping if you like."

"So you thought you'd cheat the city out of money, huh? With New York the way it is?"

"I have an unlimited ride card. It's valid."

"What?"

"It's valid."

"It's what?"

This is something I encounter quite a lot. For two people to understand each other in French, for example, both the speaker and listener have to understand French, but more importantly, they need to realise that they need to use French to communicate. Otherwise the first could reel off "Pourquoi est le singe sur le branch?" and the other, caught unawares, could only respond with, "Excuse me? OH French, right. Uh, Je ne sais pas pourqoui. Il est un scamp, non?" and then they're back on an even keel. The same, whether you think it or not, applies with accents. Neighbours was the top Aussie soap in the UK when I had to ask an Australian customer what the hell he was talking about when I used to work in a Newsagent. As soon as I realised he was Australian, I started listening in Australian, and we were away again. This happens a lot to me in New York.

"It's no good offering to go round now. You're robbing the city. What are you, on vacation?" Good cop. Nice cop...

"No, I've just moved here. To get married." I proffer my left hand as evidence.

"But, how? Wha? Je? Mu?"

"I've got an unlimited card."

"You've got an unlimited card. Right. I want to see some ID."

At this point another bundle of people stride through the service door. I turn, vaguely, to see them walk up the stairs unassailed. The piercingly blue-eyed cop I'm talking to follows my gaze and drops the hand he has held out for my ID.

"Look, you couldn't have done that in London, right? If you'd come through without swiping a Bobby would have hit you on the head."

I let this go. I'd stopped trying to explain. It was slowly dawning on me that he wanted to tell me off a little.

"Tell me. What did you think you were doing?"

"Well, the door was open. I thought since it was open and I had an unlimited ride card, it wasn't doing any harm."

"You didn't think it would do any harm."

"No."

Another bunch of people rolled through the door behind me. The cop extended a finger to a skinny black guy in a beanie hat who was already halfway up the stairs.

"Hey! What do you think you're doing?"

The guy on the stairs points at the door.

"She let you through?" said the cop. "Okay, go." He turned back to me and his mouth slid to one side of his face.

"Look," he said, "you can't suddenly offer to go round again - you've already admitted that you've done something wrong. Don't ever do that."

It hit me that this was, in fact, advice. I nodded, pitching for a facial expression somewhere between imbecility and remorse.

"You know you're lucky you got me. There are some cops who would use you to fund overtime, or line their pockets...or or to buy a new fridge. It's a $60 fine, you know."

Performance related pay? Thinks I. Interesting...and where can you buy a new fridge for $60? That's a bargain if ever I heard one...but I kept quiet.

"Look. You know now not to do it again. You're not stupid, you've got a job," again, I felt no need for correction, "so just be aware and swipe that card, okay? Or otherwise some corrupt cop could threaten to put you in jail for that shit. Got it?"

"Yes. Thank you."

"Okay. Go on."

I fled, embarrassed.

Since then I've been trying to shake both the feeling that I should be looking into a career with the NYPD, and my new and overwhelming sense of inadequacy over our fridge.

Adventures In Bureaucracy

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We could have posted them two weeks ago. They were documents relating to my adjustment of status to a legal permanent resident of the US, but seeing as they included our wedding certificate, birth certificates and so on, even if only in copy form, we wanted it checked through and we wanted a receipt...so we booked an appointment to hand them all over in person.

After ten minutes of frantic running around a monolithic federal building looking for the correct entrance, (No, no, you have an appointment made over the internet. This entrance marked 'Appointments Only' is for people with appointments made in person. Go around to the front entrance. Next!) we were ushered up two escalators and stood in line breathless but on time, and when we reached the front of the line we were told that in the district of New York, this particular application can only be posted.

After ten seconds of wailing and gnashing of teeth, the woman behind the desk looked through our pack of papers anyway and corrected a couple of mistakes, which was invaluable, as little things like that can stop applications in their tracks. Anyway. She told us that because of the transmutation of the INS into the new USCIS, the address we would have to post the package to was somewhere in Missouri. She also said that she didn't have the address; that we would have to go to another desk in the building to get it.

Down two escalators...into a long tan marble-floored room where there was a man whose sole job was to direct people into one of two queues...when there wasn't anyone serving the people in those queues. When we finally reached the front of the line after someone appeared, saviour-like, to serve, we were informed that no one, yet, had the Missouri address and that there was an interim address which we were given on a slip of paper. As we walked back into the lobby, Krissa gave a cry of bureaucratically-induced dismay.

The interim address was the building we were still standing in.

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