Merchants in Houston - Chapter 1

Hi there, how y'all doin today? My name is Angie and I will be your email correspondent for today. Don't hesitate to call me if I can be of any help. Our specials today are duels and disasters with waiters and mosquitoes served with an obligatory side helping of inconsequential observations and liberally seasoned with a bitter 'erb dressing of English sense of humour followed by an indigestibly oversized portion of house hunting sweetened with a liberal sprinkling of dining out and shopping. Y'all have a nice day, now!

If there's anyone still reading, I solemnly promise that this will be the very last time such Texan inanities will voluntarily spring from my lips or even my fingertips. I just had to get it out of my system which, I have to admit, has been somewhat disturbed by our move to the good old US of A even to the point of waking at 4.30 am, full of beans and not sure what to do with myself. This was truly frightening. Was I going to turn into some sort of all- American SuperMom, all housework done by 10 am and then forced to frequent one of the myriad branches of Darque Tan, Nu-nail and Leif's Hair Den (a Norwegian hairdresser?!) to while away the empty hours until the return of the Head of the Household (he of the Social Security Number) at 4 o'clock? Well, fear not, those of you who know and, hopefully, love me as a slothful, TV watching, book reading, cat loving, lieabed the problem is solved as of last night when an unexpected remedy was discovered by way of 2 large glasses of Nappa Valley chardonnay and a sudden blow to the head (more anon) which resulted in my sleeping in till 10.30am this morning and from which blissful unconsciousness I was only roused by an unsolicited visit from hotel maintenance, Brian having long since disappeared up Beltway 8 to the delights of his new work operation.

If I need any reminders that I have finally made the transition from Middletown to Houston one usually comes my way about every 20 mins from one or other of my 20 Texan mosquito bites, crimson and about the size of a 5p piece on my arms and hands, a lurid purple and 10 - 50p size on legs and feet and necessitating the wearing of evening attire (long sleeved TK Maxx silk blouse and wide leg black trousers) during broad daylight and temps of 95F lest I suffer the humiliation of being denied access to even the less salubrious retail emporia (eg Wal-Mart) as a purveyor of the Black Death or some other deadly European disease of which they seem excessively fearful over here. This putative humiliation is nothing, however, to the very real, and potentially life threatening, indignity which befell me in our local Pappadeaux restaurant last night. While innocently deliberating between the Blackened Jumbo Shrimp with Dirty Rice and the slightly more inviting Snapper Royale with asparagus I was struck, on the right temple, by an oversized frisbee or miniature flying saucer - either explanation seemed entirely possible such was the shock of its arrival. In fact my assailant was none other than Roy, our octogenarian waiter, and his choice of weapon the drinks tray he had (most unadvisedly) been balancing above his head in imitation of his younger and thankfully, more adept colleagues. He seemed almost more astounded by his loss of control and its consequences than his victim who was immediately pounced upon by the manageress (one Billi-Jean) offering free meals and ice packs in a (totally successful) bid to ward of any future litigation. So while Brian and our dining companion, young Dan, lost no time in ordering starters, specials and another round of drinks, I clutched an ice cube filled napkin to my right eye while with the left observing that we, or more accurately I, was the talk of the surrounding tables where I thought I detected more than a little Schadenfreude of the "that's one in the eye for the Brits" variety.

But it's not all beer and skittles or even margaritas and sun loungers here in Houston. There's hard work to be done and it's not for the faint-hearted. Forget the oil industry, I'm talking HOUSE HUNTING! When I tell you that we drove 300 miles in the last couple of days, not to mention distance covered in the back of the toy and dvd strewn station wagons of various realtors you will understand that this is a heavy undertaking and not without its nasty surprises. Houses built in the 1970's may look very pretty on the outside - window shutters, porches, balconies, immaculate front yards but the interior is another story, sometimes even two! In a house already darkened by overhanging trees, flyscreens and internal shutters why would you install dark oak panelling, maroon flock wall paper and bottle green carpets? I must be missing something here. And then there are the toilets! Realtors were keen to assure me that it is only the effects of "horrible" mains water (nothing new there then) and the extreme humidity and not the indolence of Texan housewives which turn the bowls and seats black and spotty but I was not convinced. However, all is not lost. After we eschewed the 70's for the 1990's we came up with a (very) short list of one house in the NW suburbs for which we have put in an offer (to rent. There is presently a slight impasse as the owner was not too keen to allow residency for one small, inoffensive English cat and we are very keen for him/her to arrange to remove all traces of 3 very active young American children but hopefully a compromise can be reached. I shan't go into details of the accommodation at this juncture in case you think I'm boasting (which of course I would be!) but suffice it to say there is plenty of room for family and friends and yes, it has the all important backyard pool. Hurrah! There will also be the necessity for much furniture shopping and I have already started Brian on his induction course with the purchase to date of one metal dog of South American origins complete with big teeth, spiked collar and dangly bits which we intend to place outside our back door to ward off marauding racoons, alligators etc. You can also open a little door in his rear end and insert a night light if required. Just the sort of canine joke which appeals to us feliphiles. Also one table lamp with leather stitched shade sporting a bear and a moose. Well, its not often Brian leaves a shop with a smile on his face, especially when he's had his wallet open. We are also blessed to have the only Ikea in the whole of the Southern States right here in Houston and our house falls just inside the free delivery limit so everyone is happy.

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