In September 2001, Dad visited Richard in Baltimore with two friends, Ang and Trevor. During this visit, Dad didnt do much of the cooking, but he provided more than his fair share of entertainment. What follows are some of Trevors recollections, with a bit of editing, and one or two additions from Richard.
It's Not My Favourite
Norman has a serious ice cream addiction. Over the course of the visit, has was averaging two to three a day! One evening Norman suggested we should drive somewhere to sample his beloved ice cream.
We drove to the Little Italy section of Baltimore to Vaccarios, where they sell only ice cream and specialist desserts. Richard told Norman that the ice cream servings were very large, and he might have difficulty eating a whole one, but if he did, Richard would pick up the cheque.
Ang & Trevor decided to share one ice cream, which they just managed to eat. Richard had a slice of tiramisu cake but only ate half. Norman then took the uneaten half, and mashed it into his giant strawberry ice cream. To Richard's amazement Norman ate the whole lot.
Richard asked, Did you enjoy that Dad?
Norman replied, It was O.K. but its not my favourite, - but I had to eat it all since you said youd pay!!
One night Ang, Trevor and Norman enjoyed a lovely supper which included sausage gravy made with milk thickened with corn flour. Norman had been saying all week how he was missing his beef and gravy.
Trevor asked Norman, Want some gravy?. Oh yes please!, was the enthusiastic reply. Trevor passed the gravy jug to Norman, who looked at it for a second. I don't like the look of that - its not BROWN.
Trevor remarked that it was lovely but Norman said, No, can't eat that - its the wrong colour!
0n a visit to the Arundel Mills outlet shopping complex Norman was looking for a gold cross to go with his newly acquired gold chain. He came across one he liked, and asked Ang her opinion. This was a smart move, because several days earlier a pretty girl in Sears sold him the chain for several hundred dollars on the basis that it was on sale. Norman didnt realise that in the US jewellery is always at least 50% off, so hed effectively paid full price! Once bitten, twice shy, Norman asked, Whats the price, and the assistant returned a couple of minutes later to say 26 dollars.
Ang said, That's a very good price Norman, you should get it.
Norman thought for a while then said to the assistant , Am a pensioner from England, is there any discount?
Shoes Sagas - Size Matters
Richard noticed one day that Norman was having some difficulty walking in a pair of brown shoes he had brought from England.
Richard said, Are those shoes too small?
Norman replied, Yes - but I liked em so much I bought them anyway because they were the only size they had!
Shoes Sagas - A Day Late and a Half-size Short
Norman bought some new trainers - size 9. A day later he asked Richard if he would take him back to the store to change them because they were too small. Richard asked if he had tried them on before he bought them.
Of course said Norman, but I didn't really want this pair but the assistant was so persuasive that I bought them.
Richard returned to the store, and Norman bought another pair, size 8.5!
What a Tip
One evening, just after arriving in the US, Richard took the crew to Friendlys Restaurant for the first of many ice creams. Ordering the ice cream went smoothly, the young waitress, Barbara, delivered the orders and the bill was about $20. Dad offered to pay. Richard thought this would be a good opportunity to remind dad about tipping.
Tips usually run 10-15% of the bill, Richard explained, so how much would that be?
20 Dollars, said Dad (whos mathematical skills were clearly badly affected by sugar!)
Way too much - thats 100% Richard explained, Guess again.
10 Dollars!, Dad exclaimed, while Richard rolled his eyes.
OK, 6 Dollars said Dad.
Richard had lost the will the argue. Its a hell of a tip he said, the girl should give you a kiss for a tip like that, but go ahead and pay
Dad went to the counter to pay, and conversation at the table resumed. Then, over a lull in the talking, we heard voices at the cash register ..
If I give you a 6 Dollars tip, will you give me a kiss asked Dad.
How about a nice smile, answered the waitress.
With thoughts of sexual harassment lawsuits whirring around his head, Richard sank slowly under the table, and has not been back to this particular Friendlys since!
Editors Note : In March of 2002, the store closed permanently. Coincidence?
Please Be Seated (AKA Educating Rita)
Norman met a woman called Rita in the Manchester airport departure lounge. Rita, Norman, Ang and Trevor chatted for less than 1 hour before they all boarded the plane. Norman was seated on the row in front of Ang & Trevor. When the stewardess passed the seat, Norman asked if the guy sat at the side of him could be moved so that his friend could be seated alongside. The poor guy, who was by then settled in with his book, was somewhat puzzled since this was the first he knew of the proposed move. Somewhat bewildered the guy spluttered, "yes, er o.k." and shuffled off down the aisle. Rita faced with a fate accompli moved into the recently vacated seat, and spent a happy 7 hour journey with Norman.
After all, they had known one another for over an hour!
During one of many trips to Wal-Mart, Norman purchased a pair of shorts. The next day he decided to try them on. Not surprisingly they didn't fit - they were size XXXL. Norman called for Richard and said, "Here son, you can have these, they're too big for me". Richard had to explain that he was actually 2 sizes smaller than Norman! Why did you buy them, Richard asked. didn't you see the size?. Oh yes said Norman but they were reduced to $3!
Editors Note : The shorts were very clearly labelled XXXL. The $3 price just covered up the two middle Xs, so Norman only read the last L!
A Bit Ropey
A few days into the holiday Ang told Norman that she had lost 3 lbs since leaving England. Norman got weighed and said he had gained 7 lbs (given his consumption of ice cream this was no surprise for Ang!).
A few days later Richard noticed that some of the
ropes on the garden hammock had snapped, and spent an
hour repairing them. Slowly but surely, over the next
week or so, more ropes broke. By the end of the holiday
the hammock had surrendered to fate.
Trevor thought Ang had been using the hammock, but no, it was Norman's ice cream enhanced waistline!
[Update - For the 2002 season, Richard bought a new hammock - rated at 400 lbs capacity!]
A Cheap Present (ere ere!)
Norman was upset when he bought a pair of genuine gold earrings for his mum for 50 cents - and was charged 3 cents extra for tax!
Editors Note : Is this is an example of history repeating itself? America was born because the Colony objected to English taxation. Now the senior visiting Englishman is objecting to American taxation.
Shitzu is Good for You
During a shopping trip to Arundel Mills Norman and Ang decided to have a go in some state-of-the-art Shitzu massage chairs located in the middle of the mall. A 3 minute massage was only $1. During the massage Norman groaned, pinched, squirmed and pulled faces, whilst contorting his body into a range of Karma Sutra-endorsed positions! This spectacle caused no end of amusement to passing shoppers.
After he had his dollars worth, Richard asked what all the noise and faces were for?
It was painful, explained Norman.
After spending a few more hours (read at least 4 hours) shopping, Norman passed the chairs again, and to Richard utter amazement, sat down and put in another $2.
I thought you said it was painful?
Oooh it is, said Norman , but if it hurts it must be doing some good!
On the Street Where You Live
The crew visited Valley Baptist Church on their first Sunday in the US. They were each given cards to fill in. The cards asked a few questions, had some boxes to check, and had space for contact information. Ang & Trevor wrote Richard's Lutherville address on the card. Norman however wrote down his English address.
Just for devilment Ang asked, Which box have you ticked Norman - after the address. I must have missed that part, said Norman, and since the service was about to start, he quickly ticked a box.
After the service, when they handed the cards in Ang noticed that Norman had ticked the box that read, "I would you like a home visit by the pastor".
Well Done (read Cremated) Meat
Every time the crew had meat, bacon or sausage, Norman always insisted on his being WELL done. At a Saturday BBQ in the garden Richard thought he would cook a burger to his dads specifications. He and David turned up the gas, and left one burger on the grill for 30 minutes after the rest were cooked. Result - Cremation! A burger so black and hard, it looked like a lump of coal.
Unfortunately by the time it was ready Norman had broken with his usual tastes and eaten a normal burger intended for David. Now he was full and pronounced the burger lovely.
David was left with the choice of eating more of Richards rabbit jock (a Normanism for salad) or eating coal!
Turning in JFKs Grave
On their first (and last) trip to Washington DC, the crew visited Arlington National Cemetery - a beautifully maintained national monument. Trevor was keen to see John F. Kennedy's grave. On the drive to Washington, and again as they walked from the visitor centre to the grave, there was a lot of discussion about how clean the place was and how much plastic, paper, glass and metal was recycled. We slowly walked up the meandering driveway to the clearly marked grave site. It was enormous, with high, sweeping stone steps, a stone patio, markers for JFK and Jackie O, and the words of JFKs speech - Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do with your country carved on a massive wall. The enormity of the site was beyond question.
Norman took a few quick photographs before asking, "Where's the grave then?"
Ang helpfully pointed out the eternal flame and the headstones. Then somewhat puzzled, she turned to Richard and asked, Is the flame kept going from the gases of the bodies?
Theres a lot of recycling in America, but we dont reuse buried bodies yet!
New Jersey or Bust
Early in their visit, Richard told Ang, Norman and Trevor about the new state quarters minted by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. They decided to collect three sets of the new 25 cent coins as souvenirs. As of September 2001, 13 of the 50 state quarters had been issued and were in circulation.
The collectors got off to a strong start, and pretty soon, through careful scrutiny of their change, together with searching Richards coin jar, had amassed three quarters from each of 12 states. Unfortunately, New Jersey coins were very hard to come by, and with only a few days left in the U.S., the count of Garden State quarters was zero! The search was notched up a few gears.
On the penultimate day of the trip Richard drove the crew to Starbucks for a morning coffee. Everyone ordered their drink, collected it from the coffee bar, and one-by-one returned to the car for the days tour. Ang & Richard were first back to the car. Trevor was close behind. A few minutes passed. Where was Norman? We waited. We waited some more.
Ten minutes later Norman emerged from the coffee shop with a cup of coffee and a large grin on his face.
Where have you been?, asked Richard.
Oh, I just had the young assistant in Starbucks, who was starting his break, sift through their tills and the tip jars looking for New Jersey coins, replied Norman happily, and he found one!
Richard looked pale knowing there were 3 tills and 2 tip jars! He knew there was a massive line of coffee addicts waiting to be served, and that the server only got one 10 minute break all morning. He knew that he got coffee there most days, but would not dare show his face again for a long while - fearing guilt by association! Worst of all, he suspected Normal might want to come back for another search and coffee mission!
Later that day, we all went to Annapolis to wander round. At one stage Richard disappeared. When he turned up again, he silently handed Norman two New Jersey quarters.
Where did you get these from? asked Norman.
I went to a coin shop answered Richard, and bought them at twice their face value.
He went on to explain that he considered this an excellent investment - insurance against future embarrassment or a lifetime ban from Starbucks!
Richard drove the crew to one of his favourite places in Washington DC, the National Arboretum, and slowly drove them around the manicured drives and huge collection of trees from all over the world. Ang, Trevor and Norman were completely unimpressed with the place. Comments ranged from, nothing but a lot of trees. We have those in England you know? to "They all look the same".
Somewhat disappointed with their reaction, Richard tried to show them the 400 year old Bonsai collection. Sure it would impress them, he told them about the beautiful shapes, tiny flowers and intricate settings. Alas, it was closed. Desperate to find something they liked, he nervously introduced them to the Herb Garden. The huge collection of colourful flowers and smells, combined with the arbour and fountains brought some signs of interest from the English lot - especially when Norman spotted a large bird bath sunk into the ground.
It was a hot day and Normans feet had been troubling him, so without hesitation he took off his shoes and socks and began to paddle in the cool water. [Editors Note: Is it any wonder that Americans consider the English eccentric?]. This might have been a highlight for Norman, but Richard anticipated ridicule and disgust if spotted by other visitors, or arrest if noticed by the Park Service Police! Fortunately, the place was deserted, and he slowly began to relax! Having avoided an international incident and keeping his visitors entertained, Richard was relieved and cheerfully humming to himself while driving back to Baltimore.
Then, slowly, he became aware of activity in the rear of the car where Norman was sat.
What are you doing Dad?
Norman had taken his shoes and socks off and was rubbing his feet with a large, ominous looking nut.
I found it in one of the gardens.
What sort of nut is it, enquired Richard.
I don't know. I just found it on the ground - but it doesnt seem to be doing any good!
Richard silently concluded that there were at least two nuts on the back seat of his car.
In Flight Entertainment
Whilst in Washington DC the crew visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum - the most visited Museum in the world (with 50% of all visitors driven there by Richard or Bala!). After looking round a while we came across a crowd of people watching a demonstration on supersonic flight, and stopped to watch. After a few minutes, Norman lost interest and wandered off. The rest of us watched a bit longer, and when we eventually turned round we were treated to an unusual visual and olfactory experience. There was Norman, sat down and taking off his shoes and socks!
Richard began to sense the increasingly familiar potential for embarrassment, but Norman was unconcerned, remarking My feet are ot and Im not going to wear socks.
Where are you going to put the socks?, asked Richard nervously, aware of a gathering cluster of museum-going onlookers who considered slow sock removal vastly more entertaining than fast flight. By way of an answer, Norman stood up, and to the amazement of the crowd, and the horror of Richard, started to undo his shorts! Then slowly, and deliberately, he hung his smelly socks half in his pants, with the other half dangling out over the waistline - then he zipped up his pants as though this was the most normal thing in the world. [Editors Note: Richard should have been happy at this point - its easy to envision much worse endings to this story!]
He then walked round the rest of the museum oblivious to visitors sniffing the air in much the same way that Stinky does in the presence of fresh compost.
In all Richards visits to the Air and Space Museum, this was the first time he reported having entire viewing galleries to just his tour group! Not another sole in sight!
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