In which I talk about stuff

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

My Girlfriend, the Musical Terrorist

My girlfriend is many things. She is American, she is pansexual, she is a musician, she is mixed-race, and she loves anime, to name but a few. We met while she was studying here in Glasgow for her Masters in Popular Music Theory. Her name is Sabrina, and she’s known to the music world as Jupiter Star.

She usually has some problems travelling in and out of the United States because she has family from Iran and shares their Iranian surname (this puts her on the terror alert list, despite her and her family being no threat to national security whatsoever – but that’s a rant for another time).

However, she’s never had any trouble going in and out of the UK (besides our perpetual unpreparedness for snow and ice), until now. She arrived at Glasgow Airport last Wednesday and was held by security at International Arrivals for over an hour. You won’t believe why.

Being seated near the front of the plane, Sabrina was one of the very first people to arrive at the Customs desk. They asked her a few odd questions, like what I did for a living (I’m currently unemployed), the names and occupations of everyone she planned on visiting, and where she bought her plane tickets. Eventually, they decided she was holding up the line, so they told her to wait while they dealt with everyone else. Other people who’d been told to wait were dealt with far sooner than she was, and for actual serious visa issues, such as a woman who was trying to enter the country on a spousal visa despite since getting divorced.

Eventually, when everyone else had already been sent through the Arrivals gate to greet their friends and family, Sabrina was called forward by the customs officials. As always, she’d put down her profession as ‘Performer’ on her customs form. This had apparently rung alarm bells for the customs officials, because they then proceeded to question her about it. Over, and over, and over. As I’ve been told, the conversation went something like this:

“Are you going to be performing while you’re here?”

“….no?”

“I’m going to ask you again. Are you going to perform while you’re here?”

“No. I told you that before.”

“Are you sure? You aren’t planning on performing here?”

“No, even if I wanted to, all of my instruments are at home.”

“Yes, but you’re a vocalist. You don’t really need them, do you?”

“Actually, I do. It sounds crap when I sing alone. What’s going on?”

“We looked you up online. Jupiter Star is just you, right?”

“No, it’s me in collaboration with friends.”

“So how do I know you didn’t form this band while you were here before?”

“It was formed in 2001. It says everywhere on the Internet. And most of my collab people are in the States.”

“And what does this Rachel do, if she’s unemployed? Where did she work before?”

“At a casino and a call center.”

“And she’s a musician?”

“No, she’s a zoologist.”

“Ah, so she’s good at making animal noises then.”

“….”  *shocked face*

“I’m going to ask you one more time, and don’t lie. Are you planning on performing while you’re in the country?”

“No! I was never planning on it!”

“I just have to ask because if you perform at all while you’re here, even at open mic nights or jam sessions, we will find out about it. We’ll check the CCTV feeds. If you’ve lied about not performing, you’ll be denied entrance to the country if you ever come back.”

“…..”

“Do you have musician friends here?”

“Yes! But I’m not going to perform!!!”

“Even if they ask you, you’re not allowed.”

“I understand, I’m not going to–“

“Even if they’re playing at home, you can’t join in.”

*Aghast* “In a private residence?”

“No. And you can’t attend any of their shows where they might ask you to perform.”

(By this point, Sabrina was just beyond words. It took a lot of effort for her to ask the next question, as she was pretty terrified of what they’d say.)

“Can I attend other concerts?”

“DON’T TELL ME ABOUT THAT. You can’t attend anything where you might perform.”

“I WON’T BE PERFORMING. I just want to know if it’s okay if I go to see a band at Oran Mor or something while I’m here, to listen and enjoy like everyone else!”

*grudgingly* “…That would be fine. But if you perform–“

“I UNDERSTAND.”

“Good. That goes for karaoke as well. You can go now.”

My reaction when she filled me in outside the Arrivals gate was pretty much, “WHAT. THE FUCK.” And wondering if we’d be taken seriously if we made a complaint. In retrospect, it made for a very amusing story to baffle people with while she was here. Luckily, she made it back out of the country without any hassle.

We still have no idea what the hell the “animal noises” thing was about.

Best. Bus Ride. Ever.

Most people ignore loud headphones. That annoying tinny sound, caused by music played loud enough to damage the ears, is the expected soundtrack to any bus journey in Glasgow. What’s not so expected is for an elderly drunk man to retaliate by getting out a clarinet and playing jazz.

Check out these videos.

– King of the Road 🙂

– He busts out the Star Spangled Banner for my girlfriend Sabrina, on a visit from America 😀

– Tell Me Ma. I love this song.

– And in this one, a lovely medley of Show Me the Way to Go Home, In The Mood, another tune I recognise but don’t know the name of (anyone know?), and What a Wonderful World. Made for a lovely end to a great day out.

Sabrina really wanted to sing along to some of the tunes, but was on threat of deportation if she did any singing while in the UK. More on that in my next post 🙂

Dreaming of Paris

A keychain of the Eiffel Tower.
Image via Wikipedia

Someday I’d like to go to Paris. I’ve been to the south of France, a pretty little place called Perpignan, but I was disappointed by the lack of frogs’ legs. It sounded like such a cool thing to eat (I was thirteen). I remember frustratedly trying to order them from the puzzled waiter with my literally translated high school French: “Jambes de grenouilles, s’il vous plait!” I’ve since learned that the term is ‘cuisses de grenouilles’, but it still wouldn’t have gotten me any frogs’ legs, since apparently it’s a northern France thing.

Paris, of course, has more than just frogs’ legs. I did a project on it in primary school, cutting and sticking pictures from French magazines, admiring the shape and structure of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, and fighting with my classmates over the best picture of a plate of croissants or the Metropolitan. I remember the pictures of the city at night to be full of such beautiful lights, and during the day to be green and flowery and just plain gorgeous. Just looking at Paris on Google Maps, I’m fascinated by the geometric patterns of the city’s streets, and all the amazing architecture. I imagine I’d spend hours wandering around, filling up the memory card on my camera with everything I see.

My imagination likes Paris a lot. It blends together my memories of the south of France and what I’ve seen on television, and comes up with a dream-like image of sitting at delicate cafe tables, eating pain au chocolat in the sun, of wandering along the Seine, chatting away in French. Never mind that I haven’t studied the language in over eight years and can only just remember how to introduce myself and ask for directions; in my imagination I am fluent. The atmosphere is always very romantic when I imagine Paris. That’s probably influenced by being constantly told that Paris is the ‘city of love’, but I think it really is. Cliches are almost always fueled by reality.

It’s strange that Paris has always seemed so far away to me, when in fact, if I wanted to, I could catch a flight there in an hour and a half. It’s not that far. It’s even fairly cheap. Perhaps I’ll take my girl there one day, sit in a swanky restaurant with her and order escargot and cuisses de grenouilles, at long last. It’s definitely on my Bucket List.