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Mitt, Florida and Beyond; Getting Caught Up in the Hype

With a rampaging win in Florida, Mitt Romney is back to receiving the plaudits and predictions from the press of an early conclusion to the primary contest. Do we ever learn?

After Iowa and then again after Massachusetts the media and conventional wisdom had the nomination down as a forgone conclusion. A combative New Gingrich in South Carolina and the eventual official result that Rick Santorum had won Iowa reversed prior commentary and all of a sudden the race looked as if it was going to stretch all the way to the convention.

After such a dramatic win in SC, Gingrich was full of momentum going into Florida and had overturned a massive deficit in the polls. For much of the race he was the frontrunner. But Romney came out swinging in the debates and wrestled the lead back, eventually winning the state with a 14 point margin. Now the commentary has switched back behind Romney and it would appear that the race is as good as over.

But this race has already proved conventional wisdom, regarding primaries, to be flawed. Nevada is next on the campaign trail and Romney is expected to win. But if one of the other candidates can come through with a credible challenge then we are back to where we were before Florida. Neither Paul or Santorum ran aggressive campaigns in Florida. They figured the best use of their resources was to concentrate on the run of western states that come next. The more that the public see of Santorum the more his numbers continue to rise. He is a confident and likeable guy and is having some cross party support. This is only going to grow as the GOP voters get to know him. I wonder how long it will be before Romney turns the massive firepower he has at his disposal fully against Santorum rather than Gingrich?

Gingrich seems to be a bit of a busted flush. He put in some extraordinary performances in SC but was found out in FL when he attempted to present a more presidential style. It just doesn’t fit. He will return to the combative style but whether that will garner the same kind of results it had in SC only time will tell.

The problem for the GOP remains the split field. Romney doesn’t inspire the party but whilst there are two conservative candidates fighting for the same section of the party it is unlikely that a strong enough challenger will emerge. Strength in this case being the ability to consistently challenge Romney state after state. I think the GOP elders are scared that this challenger might be Gingrich.

Santorum I think has a real chance of having a major impact in this race. I don’t think he can win it, at the moment, but if things were to change, I can see him getting stronger and stronger. He is not out of this contest yet – I would go so far as to say we have yet to see the best from him and he is the only real challenger to Romney getting the nomination.

This race has continued to throw up surprises and I don’t think we are done just yet.



All Good Things – Mexico pt V

Tuesday 24 January


Picture: Blood red sun setting behind the house.

Last full day in Mexico. It is really a packing up day and sorting things out for the trip back up to the US. We will travel up to Tucson tomorrow and stay overnight before heading into Phoenix on Thursday morning. It is quite an operation as besides my organising and trying to get things together before leaving my father and Miros are making lists of the things that they need. They don’t make the trip often so there are appointments to make and shopping lists to put together.

I am again very tired this morning. I hope this is the side effect of one of the drugs and not something else. When I get in to see my Doctor on my return I will ask if there is anything else I can have. I need a medical report from the doctor who treated me at the hospital in order to make a claim on my travel insurance. We don’t have a lot of time to turn it round so I hope he responds and we can pick up the report on the way through.

It is Obama’s third State of the Union address tonight so that will be interesting. The GOP candidates have been beating each other up in Florida and Newt seems to be riding the wave following his win in South Carolina. He is very calm and righteous ant the moment but you can’t help feeling that he is always just one step away from putting his foot in his mouth.

I try and lie down and get some reading done. I have started a new book – Knut Hamsun’s Hunger. I manage at least two pages before falling asleep.

Earlier I the week I read an article in Newsweek by Andrew Sullivan. It is all about Obama’s long game strategy and how we will start to see more of the work of his first term come to fruition. It’s a fantastic article and the speech turns out to echo a lot of what Sullivan highlights. It is a very smart address with a clever opening that uses the military as an example of teamwork and collaboration as a metaphor highlighting the failure of Congress to get anything done. He returns to the theme in an extremely powerful closing. Although he doesn’t mention Romney by name there are more than a few bombs thrown in his direction.

Watch a bit of the post speech analysis and then go to bed.


Wednesday 25 January


Track: Hotel California, The Eagles


I have packed and repacked and think I am finally ready to go. I think my bag is on the limit but it should be ok.

Derek has gone to school. We pick him up at 1.15pm and will then drive up to Tucson. All is well and we are on time.

My last meal in Mexico – mushroom omelette. Thank god eggs are still on the list of things I can eat.

Pick Derek up from school and hit the road. He has got a load of homework as he is not in school for the next couple of days. He is not massively happy about this (the homework).

About half way to the border there is a new checkpoint. It was installed only a few months ago. It there primarily it seems to x-ray trucks. The line of trucks stretche for miles before the checkpoint. It has to imagine how long it will take for them to get through. When you hit the back of the line you cant yet see the checkpoint. The inside lane is much quicker and is for cars (and I think buses). We get to the barrier quite quickly and wait to be processed through. They have never been stopped here before.

We get stopped.

We join a group of a dozen cars and told to exit the car and wait at the side of the road. After a 10 minute pause a police x-ray van processes down one side, lines up again and then does the other side of the line. We can then get back in the car.

We are picked out for a secondary inspection.

This does not look good as one of the other cars that had earlier been pulled out is now parked up and in pieces as the soldiers/ police go through it.

We have to unload all the baggage and take them through an airport scanner like x-ray device in an office building whilst they check out the car.

All is fine but it has delayed us a good 50 minutes. Making the border by sunset now could be difficult. The quality (or lack of) is why the timeline is so crucial. There is a habit of putting major speed bumps in the middle of the road, which at the best of times, can be hard to see but when you are travelling at 50mph on a dual carriage way and you come across one of these it can be lethal, as well as the general condition of the surface, pot holes and craters abound. Much of the road doesn’t have a hard shoulder either so if you do veer off to one side you will be off the edge of the road – in a ditch or over the side.

We get to the border as dusk falls. Last time they came through, a couple of days before they picked me up from the airport, it took them three hours to get through such was the length of the queue. Fortunately there is no logjam this time and we are at the checkpoint in twenty minutes. The immigration is slightly officious but is ok. He asks to see my ESTA (the visa that they now have in place) but I don’t have the paper copy. He asks why? I say I was told I didn’t need a paper copy. I had filled it out online and it says there you do not need a paper copy as it is all held online.

There is a moment’s pause whilst he thinks about this and we all hold our breath.

I am correct, it is all held on the computer system, but he could delay us if he feels it necessary. Personally I don’t understand the purpose of having a system in place if the instructions to use that system are not correct or comprehensive in their instructions. I choose not to raise this at this point.

He accepts that my entry stamp into the US is good enough proof that my ESTA is in place and lets us go through.

To my utter disbelief there is another checkpoint to pass through – some thirty odd miles into the US. A checkpoint this far in would seem to defeat the purpose.

The new immigration officer (I think state rather than federal) scans Miros and Derek’s passports, glances at my father’s, doesn’t even look at mine.

And finally we are in.

We still have a 45min – 1hr drive to the hotel in Tucson and it is dark when we arrive.

We go to eat at the next door restaurant, a Cracker Barrel. I was worried that the menu would be restrictive but it was actually pretty good, they even have a low carb section of the menu. Although listed as one of the low carb options is the Cracker Barrel Cheeseburger. I do not have faith in this menu. But I think every restaurant menu in the US has steak on it and Cracker Barrel is no exception. I order a rib eye and salad. It barely touches the sides. I am starving.


Thursday 26 January


Track: He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, The Hollies


Last day.

Flight takes off at 21:10 so don’t have to check in until 7pm, so we have a day of shopping; I don’t need anything now but my father and Miros have a few things to pick up. We make a pit stop at Walmart and then get back on the road for the trip to Phoenix which will take about two hours. I get in the back and promptly fall asleep.

We arrive in Phoenix at 11am

We start at Home Depot, which is like B&Q on steroids. I don’t like B&Q. I really don’t like Home Depot. I find the garden furniture and sit myself down and let them go off and look at dimmer switches for the living room lights.

After Home Depot we stop for lunch at Red Lobster. I am slightly disappointed with the food. It is years since I have been in one but I remember the food being much better. The meal we had was nice but it felt very much like food from a large chain, which it is, but I remember just being of a higher quality.

Check into their hotel so they can dump their bags before heading back out to go to a local mall. Miros and I can do a bit of shopping and my father has an appointment at the optician.

Miros wants to take me to Dillard’s as it is cheap and she is sure I will find things to take home. Dillard’s is like a TK Max on steroids. I sometimes find TK Max overwhelming; I can even begin to face the acreage that is the men’s department of Dillard’s. Rows and rows of cloths rails. My brain can’t cope. I can’t face going through a whole rail of jumpers to find the one that I might like to only find that it doesn’t fit properly and then have to resume the search. They also don’t sell coats, the only thing that I might go through the process for.

It is cheap though. Very cheap. Miros comes out with two large carrier bags of clothes for my father and herself. It came to a grand total of $15 (£10).

We go to the optician to meet my father but there is a delay and when he does come out he needs to check something over that has been written on the prescription with the optician again, so there is a further wait. I have spied a Macy’s as we come in and ask Miros if they do men’s clothes? They do but they are “very expensive”. So I wander off and go and check it out.

It’s fantastic. Macy’s is like House of Fraser. Not on steroids. It is just the right size.

The classic brands are here, Ralf Lauren, Hillfiger, Calvin Klein. This is much better. It might be expensive when compared to Dillard’s (I think most anything would be) but compared to the UK it is fantastically cheap. I pick out a Ralf Lauren jumper which would retail in the UK at easily £100 if not more. It is on sale at $40 (£25). I buy two. Unfortunately space in my bag and time in the store are limited. It is 5pm and we have to make our way to the airport. I don’t have to check in for a bit, but they have to be off and I am happy wandering around the terminal and looking at the duty free.

We say our goodbyes. They head off and I go and check in. I am more sad than I thought I would be.

Phoenix Sky Harbour Departures is in desperate need of some renovation. The security gate bit is really quite nice and there are plenty of shops. Not wanting to get caught out I ask at information if there are shops on the other side of security or whether this is it? I am confidently told that “yes” there are indeed shops on the other side. To be fair she was telling the truth, there are places where you can exchange money for goods. To call them shops might have been an overstatement. Aside from a couple of restaurants and a large newsagent, the “shops” consist of shelving units with a cash desk lining a couple of parts of the corridor immediately after you pass through security. I am quietly cursing (or so I thought, although I get a few looks from passers-by, although that could just be the odd shape of my face as I try and conceal the frustration. It’s not a good look) that I didn’t spend longer in the nice book shop that was outside.

They are however showing the Florida debate on TVs in the departure gates. A ray of sunlight in what otherwise would have been a very dull experience.

The diet is taking a backseat. I have just bought some chocolate coated pretzels and am settling in for the viewing experience.

It is hard to follow what is going on at times as the sound is not great, but Gingrich is looking very subdued compared to earlier debates. Romney easily bats away the fire that comes his way and looks far more robust (not that was hard given his previous performances). I really, really don’t like Rick Santorum, or rather I can’t stand the political principles he stands for but he is having a very good night and is a very compelling performer. He could hang round in this contest for a while. 

And that’s it. It’s time to get on the plane home.

It has been an extraordinary trip in many ways and like all holidays, they are long time coming and so quickly over. But I am going to be back over in the not too distant future and that is something to look forward to.

I have some healing to do when I get home.      

Brokered Convention Anyone?

Is the Republican Party heded for a brokered convention?

A brokered convention occurs when no one candidate has won enough pledged delegate support to carry a majority. After the first round of voting the delegates are the free to vote how they like in an attempt to get behind one of the candidates. It is at this point that the deals are potentially done and perhaps, a new candidate could emerge for a second round of voting to break the deadlock.

It has to be said that brokered conventions are extremely rare – the last being in 1976 between Reagan and Ford. It is even rarer for a new candidate to emerge to break the deadlock in the second round. In 2008, the Democrat race was extremely close between Clinton and Obama and still a brokered convention was avoided. It may even be more unlikely than ever in terms of the maths than before given that in addition to the pledged delegates win through the primary process there are additional Super Delegates (usually senior party officials) who could break any tie by voting in one direction or another as they are not tied to the primary results.

But what if those Super Delegates don’t want to back any of the candidates going into the convention?

In recent days, following the first three primaries that have produced three different winners, chatter has increased that a brokered convention might be on the cards. With no candidates looking as if they are going to drop out anytime soon and with a majority of states being proportional rather than winner take all, the nomination process is going to be a long haul. It is only after 1 April that the primaries become winner take all with 21 states yet to decide.

Romney has failed to cash in on his presumptive nomination and he now faces an uphill battle in Florida. A loss in Florida will be a big loss and give Gingrich a huge amount of momentum.

If the GOP is in for the long haul then several things might happen:

1)      The electorate, who was never much that enamoured with Romney, falls behind Gingrich – he is winning primaries, voters tend to back winners (why momentum is so important). But with Santorum still in the race Gingrich will find it hard to secure enough proportionally to knock Romney out completely and there is no way Romney is going to drop out.

2)      Voters start to want to prolong the process and a certain amount of tactical voting starts to occur to keep it all fairly even – if this starts to happen it is not impossible that by the time 1 April comes around the pattern continues. Although much harder than in the UK to employ tactical voting it is not impossible.

3)        The longer it goes on the more likely it is that Gingrich implodes. But the GOP electorate has never liked Romney and are waking up to the possibility that there are ways to stop him and keep Gingrich alive.

4)      Party bosses get very nervous about the real possibility that Gingrich might win the nomination outright. There will be little they can do but will be looking around for a candidate than might unify the party at a brokered convention – or as a viable VP pick if Gingrich does look as if he is going to win outright and attempt to apply some pressure.

Statistically a brokered convention is unlikely but there are going to be a lot of people getting very nervous with a dragged out process.

The GOP will have a number of problems with a brokered convention and finding a “new” candidate to break the tie if it goes all the way. Firstly, is there a consensus candidate that could in? If there is why weren’t they in from the start? Whilst the new candidate might get a bump in the polls just from being fresh and new, the likelihood is those numbers would plummet as soon as the novelty wore off. Without the vetting of the primary process it is unlikely that non-Republican voters are going trust the new guy.

The GOP field is weak and the pool of talent is thin. The Republican talent are all still young and inexperienced (Marco Rubio) or have baggage (Jeb Bush) and none of the candidates that are touted as possible have ever run a national campaign. The party is divisively split between those who identify themselves as Tea Party, Evangelicals, Libertarians and Social Conservatives. There is always going to be some cross over between the factions but they all have they hard core support that is entrenched and whilst they might all coalesce around one candidate come the general election it is doubtful that they would back down in the selection of that candidate, especially in the case of a brokered convention and a new person entering the field.

The Republicans are facing a huge problem and at the moment they look divided and weak. To independents they look out of touch, incoherent and completely unelectable.

Contrast that with Obama and his State of the Union address last night. A powerful and impassioned speech designed to launch a re-election campaign and set the record straight on his achievements. As things stand the only thing that is going to stop his re-election is a massive financial meltdown.

Praise be.

Can’t Hold It In – Mexico pt. V

Sunday 22 January – I sleep, I dream


Track: The House of the Rising Sun, The Animals


Sleeping with one eye open really isn’t working for me. I am trying to pull the right arm closing eye trick but it just doesn’t feel right and I can’t get comfortable.

I am awake. I have no idea what time it is. The sun comes up very quickly here so it could be anything from 2am onwards.

I have had the strangest dreams which include a whole section of a former colleague (Andy K) and me devising an interpretive dance sequence around the ramparts of an old fishing village. Perhaps these drugs do have some interesting qualities after all…..

It is 5am and I give up. I may as well get up and do something other than lie here and achieve nothing. I sit at the computer and catch up with the blog.

I am plugged in listening to some music. Miros has come in with a really rather worried face. “where is Derek?!” – I don’t know…..

He is sitting on the floor of the pantry. Doing nothing, just sitting “looking for Mama”. Crisis over the coffee is on and we plot the rest of the day.

Derek is very keen to go and play on the beach. I am looking forward to some nice grilled fish.

We head off to Kino. I have been warned in advance that there is nothing there – just a road with a couple of restaurants and stalls selling tat. This is where the locals come to party. It is a long beach on the Gulf of California. We spend some time looking at the beach front houses that if they were a few miles up the road on the US side would cost somewhere in the region of $2 million. Here they cost $200,000. There is a 5 bedroom house whose front garden is the beach and is about 30m from the sea, and has a separate apartment that is going for $210,000. The property market here has crashed. Particularly when the apartment in the holiday weeks of Christmas, and particularly, Easter will fetch rent in the region of $5-6,000. Kino is in the middle of nowhere and that is its charm. There is nothing here – they weren’t joking. There is a business here I think that caters for the young, rich US university set coming down for gap year or post exam parties…  This site might just be a bit too remote, but there are dozens of sites like this up and down this stretch of coast.

The time to be here is in the evening as the sunsets are spectacular and the dolphins come out to play. The Californian Baha is far enough away that you look out to open sea. We have come early, in time for lunch, as travel on Mexican roads when it gets dark is not the safest course of action. The roads are long and arrow straight which can mean that a) it is a bit of a drag race and b) drink driving is extremely common and c) if anything did happen you are stranded in the middle of nowhere. You also have the problem of not being able to see any obstructions or craters in the road surfaces (which are not uncommon) that could send you flying into the verge. City driving in Hermosillo is even worse apparently. So we have come for lunch which is fine by me.

Fantastic fish. With garlic. I finish my three fillets and polish off Derek’s left over chicken. I am constantly hungry. I don’t know if it is the drugs, no carbs or what, but I can’t stop thinking about and searching out food. Telling myself that I can’t be hungry is not working for me.

We spend a really nice forty minutes playing on the beach and taking some pics. The weather is fantastic, it is hot but the wind off the sea is pretty brisk and cools everything down. In a month’s time it will be baking. The beach is virtually deserted; there are a few groups on this section but probably no more than a dozen people.

We get back home for late afternoon just as the sun is in its final throes.

I am fiercely tired. It has been a good day.


Monday 23 January – Recovery


Track: Spinning Away, Brian Eno and John Cale


I am really tired today. I slept much better than last night; I took my meds and was out almost immediately. I would like to do something today but not sure I can muster the energy.

Sometimes I convince myself that my face is getting much better and almost back to normal and then something comes along and catches me out. I was feeling things were progressing well and I was coming out of this; I take a mouthful of coffee and my mouth can’t cope. It leaks everywhere as I try to swallow. If nothing else it is bloody funny.

Spending today watching the GOP rip each other to shreds. I can’t figure out if they actually believe the things they are saying or whether it is just for the crowd. To a man they are peddling untruths about the state of the country and the economy – I mean factually wrong. No shades of grey. Just wrong. Does the average American have such a short memory that they cannot remember George W. Bush?

Seriously thinking about coming back in November so that I can watch the general election from this side of the Atlantic. This probably makes me a bit of a nerd.

Aside from coming back over to watch the election it would be nice to give Mexico another chance. Events have rather got in the way this time round and so I have not seen or done as much as I would have liked but what I have seen has been really interesting. I don’t suppose the drug war will have come any kind of conclusion between now and November so some of the trips I would really like to do might still be out of the question; I would really like to do the Copper Canyon train but it is in the heart of drug land. Stats that were released yesterday put the death (read murder) toll at 47,500 in the last three years alone and Miros says we are not going anywhere near there at the moment so that will have to wait for a bit. Just to re-enforce the point, coming home yesterday there was a road block. Twenty Federal Police (they looked more like Special Forces) complete with balaclavas and M16s pulling over cars.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Mexico before heading back up to the US. We will probably stay in Tucson overnight Wednesday and get into Phoenix at a sensible time on Thursday so that I can do some shopping if I need/ want to before my flight back. I have just upgraded to Premium Economy for the return flight. It was only £150 and is probably worth it.

Settling in for the Florida debate tonight. I have got a chicken and broccoli stir fry on the go which is in desperate need of some soy sauce and/ or some nam pla but a) we haven’t got any and b) even if we did not sure I am allowed it. Miros has managed to find some ginger so all is not lost.

 Stir fry done. Sit down. TV on.

We don’t have that channel.


Back to the Root

Romney is in serious trouble if he can’t put Gingrich back on his heels. And soon.

While Newt Gingrich has skillfully used the long series of GOP primary debates to keep himself alive, mount at least three unanticipated returns from the dead and, most recently, to trounce his South Carolina opponents, Mitt Romney—the once-presumptive front runner—has been mostly flummoxed in his one-on-one debate engagements with Gingrich (in the same sense that Bikini Attol was mostly flummoxed in its engagements with the hydrogen bombs being tested there).

As a result, Romney has tended to treat the former Speaker…ummm… gingerly…in direct encounters throughout most of the early debates, relying instead on a large field of contenders to bash each other while he manfully deployed ‘third-party-sponsored’ attack ads—especially in Iowa—to blast at Gingrich from the safety of a duck blind (or whatever it is Romney uses as cover when he goes out hunting ‘small varmints’ as…

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Romney vs. Gingrich in Florida and some VP picks

Well… what a week that was with Gingrich coming from way back to take South Carolina by 12-13 points.

But was it really so surprising?

Yes and No I think.

Gingrich had always planned on this as being the firewall that would halt Romney’s progress. He is a southern Republican from a neighbouring state and if Mitt can do what he did in New Hampshire then so could Newt in South Carolina. He speaks their language and his particular brand of confrontational politics plays well. Coming off the back og the negative ads by the Romney camp in Iowa he had the perfect environment to basically skip New Hampshire and focus on home ground in South Carolina and come out swinging. Newt does negative really well in person. Mitt doesn’t, his attacks are weak and never really seems to have the conviction that Newt has.

The debates were where it was won for Newt. He blew the house the down (twice) and won the hearts and minds of the SC Republicans.

Mitt battled with tax questions and never recovered.

And, as usual, we all got caught up in the media hype and bought into the “conventional” wisdom being touted that this was going to be a Romney juggernaut and over before it had really started. Why? We knew the result in Iowa was probably going to come down on the side of Santorum (I am still fighting with Betfair to honour the official result as announced last week, not the announcement on the night and give me the £300 I should have won) and Romney was never going to do well in a state like SC where they have an enormous amount of miss-trust in him. We you have the monicker the Moderate from Massachusetts you are never going to do well in a state like South Carolina.

Having said all that Romney did better in SC than the last time round in 2008.

Gingrich must be praying that he can do some sort of deal with Rick Santorum and become the only social conservative left standing. The GOP must be praying Santorum stays in the race as long as possible and makes things a bit easier for Romney by taking a few votes from Gingrich. The GOP leadership know that Gingrich is totally unelectable in a general election.

Romney needs to do a Newt and come out fighting in Florida. A poll this morning, the first taken after SC, bucked conventional wisdom and all the polls up to now and gave Gingrich a significant lead. But, a significant percentage (10% if not a bit more) of the electorate in Florida have already voted and so will not have been influenced by the SC result. This may be crucial in the summing up in Florida.

Gingrich might not do as badly as many are predicting – the demographics arent terrible for him. High proportion of evangelicals and a strong Latino population (which Romney hasnt dont well with in the past) and southern voters may just decide to vote for a southern candidate. Gingrich has it all to do though – Romney is still the front runner, he needs not to go into panic overdrive. But whatever the result this has a long way to go and despite the other two candidates in the race this is now a straight fight between Romney and Gingrich.

The first Florida debate tonight will be interesting.

I wonder if Romney and Santorum won’t come to some sort of deal – perhaps even a place on the ticket as VP, to stay in as long as possible. Santorum in his speech after the SC result says he is in for the long term. Romney could do worse – Santorum will energise the base and get people who otherwise might not to go out and vote for Romney. I think Romney could do better, but it is not the worst idea in the world. Santorum’s brand of (extreme) social conservatism will help to neutralise some of the moderate image of Romney in the eyes of the right. Whether they will be able to work together after the attacks already made by both sides is a serious question but given what might turn to desperation and/ or panic to secure the nomination for Romney it may be a marriage of convenience.

VP picks will depend what happens in this nomination process – if it extends past Super Tuesday, which it almost certainly will, then all sorts of factors come into play. If this is a relatively short campaign Chris Christie has got to be in with a good shout. Marco Rubio would be the dream VP candidate but he has ruled himself out on more than one occasion, he has time on his side and he is nailed on for a presidential run of his own.

I have it down to a choice from four:

Rob Portman

Paul Ryan

Rick Santorum

Chris Christie

But VP betting is like the Grand National – the winner can come from anywhere. And if it rains, all bets are off.



Sleeping with One Eye Open – Mexico pt IV

Thursday 19 January – The Waiting Game


Track: Time to Pretend, MGMT


First morning on the new meds. The plan had been to go to San Carlos today, as has been the plan for the last three or four days but things keep happening. Now that I am on meds and we don’t really know how that is going to work out we are giving it a miss today.

Another day pottering around really and dutifully taking some pills as and when.

This is a weird sensation; I have not lost any feeling in the side of my face. It just doesn’t move quite as it should. My right eye does not close, not even to blink at the moment, which feels really odd. Always having one eye open is in an interesting experience. It is amazing how quickly the eye adapts though. I first noticed this as my right eye was streaming fluid before the hospital trip and I kept having to wipe it away as it blurred my vision. Today only a couple of days later there is very little excess fluid and vision is pretty good. I haven’t spent much time outside and that may make things interesting as it is very dusty here. 

At least I can still read. Shame the book I am reading is not really that interesting. I think I am going to give up on Eco after this. Name of the Rose is one of the best books I have read but everything else has just been a bit of a disappointment.

I am spending most of the day on the internet looking at my new diet to deal with the triglycerides. Miros is going out for food supplies so would like to know what I can and can’t eat. Given that I am completely off alcohol with the meds I may as well launch straight into the diet as well. The list of foods I can now eat has shrunk dramatically. Basically no carbohydrate. Any weight that I might loose from basically not eating anything is counteracted by the steroid that I am taking, so not even a silver lining there then.

At the moment my travel insurance company are making all the right noises. So far the cost of medical treatment and drugs is probably about $500-600. Thankfully my father has picked this up, I hope I can pay him back but he is resigned to the fact that the insurers might very well find some reason not to pay out. Whilst the treatment has cost some cash, it has been fantastic and I don’t think I could have done any better. (he wouldn’t even let me pay for lunch after we came out of the hospital)

I am a little weary now the drugs are kicking in. Not sure how much I am going to achieve for the rest of the day.

I have to sleep on my right side. My eye won’t close properly so I am using my right arm to cushion my head and apply the slightest pressure on my forehead which helps to keep it closed.

I don’t find it hard to go to sleep.


Friday 20 January – The Day Trip


I am feeling pretty good today. I have woken with some additional movement in my face, not much but I am taking anything at the moment.

The plan today is to head off to San Carlos, a small town on the coast and where my father used to have a house. They both still have a plot of land there so as well as a nice day trip we can have a look in on that as well. My father definitely thinks there is some improvement in my facial movement, I am not so sure. Much of the improvement I was feeling this morning has all but disappeared. For about an hour there was definitely an improvement but it seems to have disappeared.

I can’t stop making faces in the mirror. It’s ridiculous but I want to constantly check in and see if there is any discernable change – which probably looks absolutely ridiculous to anybody watching.

I don’t feel too tired at the moment; I actually feel quite awake and it is nice to be out of the house and in some sun.

Almost inevitably we have to stop off at a bathroom shop and look at some tiles after we have dropped Derek off at school. I let them potter about and compare shower heads.

“That’s a nice tile” – I can’t believe I just said that out loud. I am blaming the drugs.

Back on the road it is about an hour to San Carlos. We are not in any kind of rush as Derek is being picked up by Miros’ parents and will stay with them tonight. It is great to see some more of the country. If you have ever played Red Dead Redemption you will be well on the way to picturing the scene. It is a desert that has a fair amount of brush, lots of cacti. The dust here isn’t nearly as red as in the south western states of the US (Arizona and New Mexico in particular) but it has a similar feel. I continue to be surprised at just how mountainous the landscape is, it looks almost volcanic. I don’t really know why but I expected it to be much more barren and flat. The mountains and valleys are a dramatic backdrop and contrast against the azure skies.

San Carlos is a lovely town that has some fantastic property, but as is typical in many parts of Mexico has relied on the tourist trade (particularly from the US) and foreigners buying up second homes. The nearby coastal town of Guymas had a huge amount of money invested in the mid-2000s that dramatically improved the harbour and made it the fourth most important port in Mexico. Part of the development was to allow cruise ships to dock and bring in further numbers – last year they had six cruise ships dock all year. A complete disaster and San Carlos is suffering. You can buy a fantastic 3 bedroom 3 bathroom house overlooking the marina for less that £130,000. If you want to buy a plot of land and build your own house you can buy for as little as £20,000. The cost of building here is very cheap.

So we wander around for a bit and visit some old spots that they used to like and then go and have lunch in the marina. It is a beautiful spot. It is a fantastic day with a cool breeze which is taking the edge of the underlying heat. I am right on the new diet so tuck into grilled salmon and salad. And water.

We start to head back at about 4pm – I am starting to feel very tired now.

Home again and whilst I am tired I can’t seem to go to sleep. Actually all I can think about is food. This carbohydrate thing (sugar in particular) is going to be tough.

I have noticed that after about eight hours the drugs are starting to wear off.

I stick a bit of chicken in a pan and make a quick salad. All fine but I am craving something sweet.

CNN debate in South Carolina tonight – looking forward to this. Gingrich is on a bit of a surge and Romney looking vulnerable. John King serves up a bit of a softball and Gingrich comes out swinging in some sort of biblical rage against the media in general. Gingrich gets a standing ovation. Gingrich is very good at doing nasty, Romney isn’t.

First half good for Gingrich, second half good for Santorum.

Gingrich could pull this off – and not by a little bit.

The fan on the ceiling of my room when lit from the spill of light from the corridor looks like something out The Blair Witch Project or The Wicker Man. One of the problems of only having a single eye that is working properly is that I am often waking up with one eye already open. Something wakes me in the middle of the night and the first sight the forms in front of me is a hanging idol from Blair With.

Scares the living crap out of me.


Saturday 21 January – The Shopping Trip


Picture: A small girl observed from the door way of a shop filled with catholic artefacts. She is staring at a carved image of the crucifixion with a mixture of wonder and abject horror.


If in doubt go for a bit of retail therapy. Miros is taking me into central Hermosillo to see a bit of “traditional” Mexican life. I am on the look out for some things to bring home for friends. Some of the more esoteric items being Lucha Libre masks and Day of the Dead artefacts. Downtown Hermosillo is a bustling, heady mix of people, traffic, and lots of music. Of course all I can concentrate on for the first half hour is all the street food and smells coming out of the numerous cantenas that I cant have.

It is great to finally be out and about. It has taken a while but I finally think I have seen, smelt and touched something of the real contemporary Mexico.

The shopping trip was a great success and I have picked up a nice bottle of Mescal – which I hope I will get to taste at some point. (Not that I am counting the days till I can have something other than water to drink)

The architecture is an interesting blend of colonial Spanish with some contemporary interjections but there is also a huge amount that is run down and falling apart. The heat I think has a lot to do with it. When you reach mid 40 degree heat (and higher) in the summer, poor building materials just crumble away.

There is so much to experience and always another shop to duck into, even if it is just to see what it is they actually sell. Which is not always obvious from the outside.

My face is better today. No question. But, it does seem to cycle in its behaviour (I realise this sounds very odd). One moment I am able to wink with my right eye, the next I can barely close it at all. I have given up trying to understand and make judgements as to how this is all going. Dosages increase tomorrow so that should be interesting.

Back home at 2pm. I am starving. And very tired. I keep telling myself that these drugs aren’t making me drowsy but I think I may be deluding myself.

I down a couple of glasses of water (I know how to have a good time).

Miros bought some very thin strips of beef whilst she was out the other day; I have three in the pan and a tomato salad put together for us all in the time it takes most mortals to think about whether to put milk in their tea.

Watching the South Carolina primary results come in.   Exit polls saying Gingrich has won by 9 points.

Gingrich wins by 12 points – not good for Romney. Worse I think for the GOP, Gingrich is totally unelectable in a general election.

Salmon and broccoli for diner. My father has potatoes. I am a little sad about this.

The plan for tomorrow is go to Kino which is a favourite holiday spot for the locals. It is a white sandy beach and apparently very beautiful. I couldn’t really give a stuff about white sand (I don’t really like beaches) but Derek will like it and I think there is a pretty good chance of getting some fresh local seafood. I am in.

I was promised some chilled out effects from these pills but I am really struggling to sleep.


Sunday 22 January – I sleep, I dream


Track: The House of the Rising Sun, The Animals


Sleeping with one eye open really isn’t working for me. I am trying to pull the right arm closing eye trick but it just doesn’t feel right and I can’t get comfortable.

I am awake. I have no idea what time it is. The sun comes up very quickly here so it could be anything from 2am onwards.

I have had the strangest dreams which include a whole section of a former colleague (Andy K) and me devising an interpretive dance sequence around the ramparts of an old fishing village.

Perhaps these drugs do have some interesting qualities after all…..