Five Things You Didn't Know
published: Thu, 4-Jan-2007 | updated: Thu, 4-Jan-2007
Ye Gods, I've been tagged by Dustin Campbell to list Five Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Me, But Were Afraid To Ask (or something like that). Yes, it's one of those viral bloggy things that I thought I'd escaped. But no, Dustin scraped the bottom of his barrel and came up with me.
1. In between the ages of 7 and 10, I lived in Le Havre in France. No, I wasn't on my own in exile, my whole family was there too. This accounts for the fact that I can speak a modicum of schoolboy French (that's French schoolboy French and not English schoolboy French, which as any fule kno is nil), and I can read Tintin and Astérix in the original language. My favorite TV programme during the time I was there? Thierry La Fronde, a French Robin Hood character from the era of the Hundred Years War, where the baddies were the English. I can still hum the theme tune.
2. I am a Pet Shop Boys completist. Anything publicly released in the UK or US on CD (which means I don't go for the promos or vinyl) I probably have. I dropped and broke my original Very CD case (the one with Lego-like bumps on the top) and just had to buy a new one. The PSBs are also bloody amazing in concert (I last saw them on the Fundamental tour in Denver last year, and I saw the Nightlife tour in Paris, and the Performance tour at Wembley), although I admit (bonus fact!) I had a ticket to see them (the Release tour) in Vegas five years ago when I was working there but I completely forgot to go. In fact I only remembered about it on the night of the concert itself — while on the flight back to Denver.
3. Before I came to the States, I used to own a Volvo 1800S, the rare 1969 normally-aspirated two-litre version. Once I made it from Brentwood in Essex (that's east of London, where my girlfriend lived — hi, Wendy!) to Hammersmith (West London, where I lived) right across the center of London at night with a broken gearbox where the only two gears working were third and fourth. If there was a red traffic light in the distance, I'd ease off the accelerator, hoping that the lights would change by the time I got there, knowing that if I had to brake and stop I'd never get started again. Needless to say, once I got home it had to be towed to be repaired.
4. I used to work for Deutsche Bank in London and every now and then had to go to their head office in Frankfurt on business. I remember getting to Heathrow on one occasion, early in the morning, only to realize that I'd forgotten my passport in my flat. D'oh! No time to make my way back to Hammersmith and get it and still make the flight. I then had an interesting discussion with the British Airways check-in guy as to whether I could get into Germany with just my Deutsche Bank corporate Amex card. He was of the firm opinion that I'd make it ("it's an Amex card and it says Deutsche Bank on it as well; stands to reason it'll work, dunnit?"), but I just had this vision of getting into an international no man's land, where no country would accept me. I rebooked to a flight a couple of hours later instead. (Yes, those were the days when flying was still pretty fun.)
5. I failed my first driving test. Back then, we lived near Matlock in Derbyshire, but the nearest driving test centre was in Ashbourne, about half an hour away. Also -- now draw closer and listen closely, kids -- at that time in England there was a segment of the test where you had to use hand signals instead of turn indicators. Yep, it was that long ago. So that day my instructor and I drove down to Asbourne and on the way he taught me how to do hand signals: stick your right hand out of the window (remember we drive on the left in England) and flap it up and down for slowing down, straight out for turning right, and wave in a circle for turning left. Piece of cake. I start the test with the examiner and after about 10 minutes he tells me to use hand signals. No problem, I'm ready, chief. Turn left at the next junction he says, so I stick my right hand out of the window and wave it around in a most professional manner, and start to brake. I change gears ready to make the turn and suddenly realize that I have no hands on the steering wheel. Pwned, as they say these days.