So Ebay huh? What a very good thing that turned out to be! I chucked about 150 cd’s up there for sale, sold all but 20 or so and gained £540 quid in the process. Given that the video camera that I had my sights set on was £315, that all worked out terribly well. My friend Geoff (him of the first month in New York and being lovely in lovely Bergerac – see the archives if you care enough, New York is September last year when I was still allowed into the US, and Bergerac is somewhere around December in a festive way) anyway, my friend Geoff pointed out, with his elephant like memory for embarrassing, minutiae that I had once tried to sell him a very scratched copy of “4 from Toyah” when I was 13 which put him off my recent Ebay shenanigans a bit, and probably quite rightly given this email that I received from a slightly less than satisfied customer…

“Hi, I recieved the CD this morning – many thanks for a quick delivery. Unfortunately the case contained two CD’s but neither one was the correct CD. I would appreciate it if you could get back to me so we can resolve this.”

Ho hum, well he turned out to be a very nice fella despite his disregard for the “I before E” rule and a refund was his AND he got to keep the 2 wrong cd’s so really he got a bargain. And I got a video camera!

People are funny aren’t they? I met a funny one in the post office just the other day while I was idly posting 70 or so cd’s world-wide (which was admittedly taking a little time as for some reason the main post office in Epsom doesn’t have one of those nifty machines where you drop your package in one end which gets launched by a system of rollers into a mail sack at the other end all stamped and nice. It has instead a sticker printing machine that does one at a time, slowly… I n t e r m i n a b l y…. S l o w l y….) So bloke who has been queuing for long looks at me and says do you have to do that here? Answer being well, yeah, this is post, this is a post OFFICE. This is the right place to be when you have a lot of post to, ahem, post. Clues in the name of the place etc. Then he called me inconsiderate… So I asked him what he was doing which turned out to be cashing a cheque so I told him to go to a bank… He didn’t have an answer to that.

I have a video camera. Cool!
France from Wednesday. Coooool!
My head hurts from accidental over beerage last night. Ouch!
Someone told me that they’d done more for Africa than Bob Geldof. Hmmmmm!
I have to go to the post office. Bleurgh!

no news is, well, no news isn’t it…

Do you know what’s worse than having a cold? Having a cold and a hangover, that’s what. And do you know what’s worse than having a cold and a hangover? Having a cold and a hangover and an early morning dentist appointment, that’s what. MMMmmmm antiseptic goop that you can’t swallow in the back of your throat while you hang nearly upside-down with all the blood pushed into your already pounding head, while someone manages to cram both of their hands in your mouth and a fair bit of steel, and their assistant keeps getting the sucky thing stuck to your tongue…. Still they were very nice and told me that I have perfectly healthy teeth that shouldn’t cause me a problem in later years, although they refused to sign anything to that effect… Proves that my policy of a dental visit every 10 years is paying off. If you don’t go to see ‘em, they don’t get a chance to break your teeth. How many other jobs can you name where the worse job you do on someone, the more you get paid? Don’t trust ‘em!

Twinkle, twinkle, uncle Floyd. Focus dear, focus!

So what’s up? Hungover from a night watching me sisters boyfriend (Rob’s) band playing in a little Epsom pub. They were very good. Bizarre night as all these burly, balding, football-shirt-wearing, 33 year olds kept coming up to me and saying “Alright John?” when I had literally no idea who they were. Turned out they were all mates of my sister when they were 12 or 13 and so I remembered them kind of differently as skinny, 4 foot tall boys. All entertainment.

What’s this then? It’s either the reason I need a new camera or art…

And talking of entertainment, I’ve booked an apartment in the South of France overlooking the Mediterranean for, count them, 2 MONTHS. That’s what I call a holiday. If they don’t want me in America, I’ll go somewhere nicer, so there. Off on the 29th of June and back on the first of September. Feel free to continue to hate me, I would. You know what would really punish me? If you bought my cd’s…

Things to do in London when you’re dead…

So one week on, where are we? After I arrived back dazed and confused and VERY tired last Saturday morning my Mum and Sister were having a barbecue with all of their friends so I got to be a local celebrity as the only deportee everyone there knew, but as the week went on and I spoke to more people, I realised increasingly that I am not alone in my predicament. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have a Department of Homeland Security horror story that had happened to someone they know, including the guy who was pulled into the immigration interview room and told to stare at the US flag while their case officer left the room for a couple of hours. They didn’t try that one with me thank gawd. Think that may have been the thing that pushed me over the edge! Also found out that every time someone is refused admission to the US, the airline that took them in has to pay the DOHS a £2000 fine, and that BA paid out c. £15,000,000 in these fines last year. Let me help you with the maths; that’s 7,500 people refused admission just on BA. Multiply that number by the number of airlines going in to the US and you soon get the picture that not only are they turning back a real large number of people but they are on to a nice little earner. Glad to be helping out that trade deficit.

So through a friend I now have an immigration lawyer. Even if I don’t want to immigrate. I decided that if I have a case, as they kept telling me in Detroit, it was best to get a grownup on my side. When I tried to work out what my options were sans legal representation, I discovered that I should wait 8 weeks before even contacting the embassy, and then they would take another 16 weeks to make a decision on my visa. More maths help for you, that’s a 5 month wait at the end of which you may still be refused a visa. Excellently, even if you do get the go ahead from the embassy, you can still be turned back on arrival in the US if you meet a friend of Officer Shithead, and, if you get turned away for a second time, you are NEVER allowed to enter the US again. Even though you have done nothing wrong. Hilarious.

On the headline ticker on the BBC news website today it said “LATEST: Tests suggest the US has a case of mad cow disease, or BSE.” he he. The whole country? That’d be an explanation…

Look how fat I got!

Err not really

So anyway, rant over for now, I’’ll keep you all up to date. That last post about my being turned back is the most popular post that I’’ve ever put up here with nearly 200 individual readers of it. That’s loads more people than I actually know so I’’m guessing that some of you have forwarded the link on to other people that I don’’t know. Look at me mum, I’m famous. I really want to say thanks to all the people that emailed or called making sympathetic noises. What a bunch of very kind people I know. OK sincerity over.

So what have I actually done? Seen some friends, watched the new Star Wars movie (stinking), spent a gorgeous afternoon on Wednesday wandering around the Docklands area and then on a tube up to the South Bank to wander along the Thames in the sun. Nipped into the Tate Modern for a couple of hours of culture. Took lots of illicit pictures and video’s in there of amazing things and then managed to delete them all by accident, doh! Highlights were the “Open Systems: Rethinking Art c.1970” exhibition especially “Going Around the Corner Piece” by Bruce Nauman where you are in a room walking around a large cube which has a TV on the floor of every corner in which you can see yourself from behind walking around the corner. Madness. (I took a great video of this that I was going to put on here but hey that’s technology for you.) and all of the Warhol stuff in the Society gallery.

After all that culture it was important to get drunk, which I did in the Red Lion, very successfully with very nice people.

Next plan? France for a bit, I think, while all this visa nonsense is getting worked out.

Celebrate good times cum on!

So remember back then when I was saying about how I jokingly thought I was due a run of really bad luck for all the nice times I was having in Barcelona and France? You don’t? Well read the posts below first silly or this will all be in the wrong order. Anyway, how we laughed right? Good job nothing bad happened after that then isn’t it?

Oh, OK, Here’s how it goes…

Booked a flight back to the US for the next 3 month stint and left bright eyed and bushy tailed on Thursday. Managed to do the online check in so when I got to Heathrow, getting through to departures was a breeze, literally took only 5 minutes from arriving in a cab to sitting in departures sipping a cappuccino. Mmmmmmm coffee and efficiency, what a fine combination. The flight passed easily too. 8 hours of minor boredom (not helped by Keanu Reeves in the appallingly badly scripted Constantine, and the disappointing sequel of the year that is Meet The Fockers.) But hey it was all cool and relaxed and the flight zipped by.

Then I got to immigration bought to you by the cuddly people at the new Department Of Homeland Security. Up to the desk with people barking orders unpleasantly at the line of fresh faced British holiday types, and then the usual questions from the girl in the uniform; what are you doing here? Where are you staying? How much money have you got with you? Blah, blah, blah… And then something different. The guy who had been silently standing behind her leaned forward and started to advise her. Horror! She was a trainee! And before I knew it another innocuous sounding phrase, “That’s fine sir, we’re just going to take you in there where someone will ask you a couple more questions.” OK, so far, no major alarm bells, she’s a trainee so she’s getting put through her paces. Go with it and stay cool.

So in we go to the secondary immigration waiting room where many Asian and Arabic people are sitting looking sad and confused, surrounded by their luggage in the waiting area and I’m asked to take a seat and someone will call me up shortly. OK, well hope it doesn’t take too long. I’m being picked up at arrivals you know…

10 minutes later my names called and up I dutifully go, all smiles and politeness. I know how to deal with these types you know. Shit, not this guy I don’t. He’s a big mean looking monkey with piggy little eyes, a moustache and a gun. And now he’s telling me that I’m spending a long time in the US, so I explain my story, the quitting of job, the mortgaging and renting of house and the holiday of a lifetime exploring his great country. I laid it on thick with the flattery of course.

“So it’s true to say that you are currently living in America sir?” Woooaaaah there fella, no that’s not true, I’m a travelling British type just checking it out, got friends here you see, been to Sarasota, Burlington, Ann Arbor, New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago. I’ve been everywhere man and this time I’m off to Ann Arbor then up to New York again, then Boston, and hopefully to Burlington and Sarasota as well, maybe Tampa too. Travelling you see? Wherever I lay my hat etc.?

“Sir you have been resident in the US for the past year.”, ahem no, no I haven’t. I came over early September to early December, then mid Jan to Mid April and now I’ve just arrived back. Only been here six months really of the last year.

“Sir, you came here summer last year and you intend to leave summer this year. That seems like a year to me.” No, No, let me take you through the maths, six months you see? One three is three, two threes are six etc. With me?

“Sir step away from the desk and take a seat, we will call you again when we’re ready.”

This is looking decidedly not good I thought. And I thought right as for the next 4 and a half hours I had 3 different good ole boys of the DOHS asking me the same or similar questions, all with equally bad maths, or “math” as they would call it. I was photographed every which way repeatedly, finger printed, made to unpack and repack twice and told that “Sir, if you continue to lie to us it will not do your case any good”. SHIT, I’ve got a case! That’s never a good thing! And hey! I ain’t lying!

Then off to another little side interview office and the very nice Officer Trevor Brooks, my case worker. I don’t want a case worker. I don’t have a case. I’m just passing on through right? Wrong. Still, he was friendlier than the rest and asked me questions which I answered honestly (it’s the best policy you know, much better than the Mutually Assured Destruction one that they favoured in the 60’s through to the 80’s) constantly thinking, it’s all a mistake, it’ll all be over soon. It wasn’t.

“Sir, what we are going to do is to hold you as an inadmissible alien. Do you understand?” Hmmmm, not sure that I do but is it somewhere in the area of “let’s have a nice cup of tea and a laugh about all this, possibly ending with you offering an apology for taking my time and a cheery wave to send me on my way out of the building?”

“Sir, I believe you have been helpful to us and as such I will allow you to leave here now and on your own recognisance to report back here at 1pm tomorrow when you will be interviewed further and then at 6:30 pm take your return flight to your home country. The visa you have is valid but we believe that you are attempting to immigrate into the US by using a tourist visa. That being the case you must leave and apply for the correct visa.” Wuhuh? Me immigrate into here? For why? I come from the land of 5 week holiday allowances as standard, free healthcare, free-ish education, easy travel between the sun-drenched, wine-soaked, cute-girled member states of the EU and a full welfare safety net. Think of what our nation stands for. Books from Boot’s and country lanes. Free speech, free passes, class distinction, democracy and proper drains etc.

Balls. It was all true. They think I’m a Mexican trying to sneak in and get a job flipping burgers in the land of opportunity so I can send money home to Juanita and my 17 mewling kids…

So one night, call it 15 hours of quality freedom time in the US, before reporting back for 5 hours of incarceration in immigration, being told that I could not return to the US on a tourist visa ever again, then being marched most embarrassingly onto a full BA plane, passportless for the pilot has that and he can’t give it back to me until we’re back on British soil, and sitting confusedly staring out of the window as we taxied off to Berlighty. Then half way through the flight, the old guy sitting next to me has a heart attack and slumps to the floor of the aisle and I end up holding his legs up in the air to get the blood to his brain and barking at 20 or so clueless American women to back off and give the guy some air while a nurse administers resuscitation and oxygen at the other end, and then we try to land at Heathrow but the landing gear doesn’t work so we spend an hour circling London at nauseating angles, listening sweaty palmed to the tortured whine of the landing gear motors straining heroically to do their job, which fortunately, eventually they do with a gut wrenchingly scary banging noise. And then I’m outside Arrivals in the British rain and my heads spinning and my mouths dry and there’s an industrial sized lump in my throat and it doesn’t feel good to be back.

Best £600 quid I ever spent for a night out.