Sunday, November 16, 2008

Maybe Too Much Information

I've never been one to tell too much about myself and my 'history' on this blog.  The thing is, over the years, personal items get mentioned at times and if anyone cared enough to make notes, they'd pretty much know as much about me as most of my real life friends !  Probably more.

But as in my non internet life (yes I do have one, albeit a sad, miserable one !!), things can get confused and people forget and portions of a life story can become as jumbled up as headphone chords on an mp3 player.  

As this personal info has all been aired on this blog at some point over the last couple of years, I'm not giving any new secrets away but putting it all into one post may help clarify things for anyone who cares. And who knows, maybe others may do the same as I know I get confused (and make embarassing gaffs) about the names of bloggers and more to the point, their relationships with other bloggers. Yes, YOU know who you are !!

So, sounding like a newbee at an AA meeting, (I'm virtually standing up now), lets begin..........

My name is Ian and my blogging name is Silverback.  Feel free to use either.

I was born in 1952 in N. Ireland but since 1973, I've lived in Leeds, England.  I'm single, never married.  Just one of those things !

My dad died in 1986 (74) and my mum in 2003 (80). I have one brother (58) who lives with his wife in Wales.  Both were teachers and although retired, moved from Yorkshire to mid Wales a couple of years ago and run a superb B&B and holiday cottage business, so feel free to stay with them anytime you are in the area.  There, that's got the family plug over with.

I've been a blogger since 4th May 2006 and this is my 297th post. Prior to this, I had been blog post free for less than 24 hrs so I guess I'm an addict.  But I don't need help.  I don't think.

I chose Silverback as a blog name as my US friends (more about them later) had just bought a monster 5th Wheel to replace my travel trailer over here and it was called a Silverback.

Of course I thought this would be a fairly unique name in the blogging world but I now realise I share my name with everything from a gorilla to a computer application.

Moving on........

I started visiting the US on June 16th 1989 with the obligatory trip to Florida and my current visit here this year is my 23rd. For some reason I took a break from the US in 1999 but that's been the only 'missing' year so far. This Christmas will be my 11th spent in America since 1989, so more than half. My shortest visit was 3 weeks and my longest, 9 months.  I've also worked out that in the 96 months from Jan 2000 to the end of this year, I'll have spent exactly half of them (48) here in America.

Obviously I like America (ya think !) but I'm well aware of the problems here. No country can be 'the greatest in the world' and it seems you either love or hate this place with equal intensity. I never try to change anyone's mind about this and I simply relate my experiences to maybe redress the perception of America for those people who have never been here or may have visited for only a few weeks. You really have to spend time here to get to know the place. The country is a touring dream and it can't all be seen in one lifetime. In my experience the people are open and friendly and what you see, is really what you get.

I've visited every state except Alaska and been on several cruises while on holiday here. Over the years I've made many US friends but none closer than the couple from Michigan. It's not for me to tell much about them on this post but most of my regulars should know who they are.

With my with solo touring days mostly behind me, I started staying exclusively with them from about 2000 when I took a sabbatical from work and spent 9 months here. On my return to the UK in January 2001, I found it VERY hard to get back into the work ethic (employers who offer sabbaticals take note) and imediately started the countdown to my 50th birthday and possible retirement. Then fate took a hand and within a few weeks, my company (IBM) were looking for volunteers to take early retirement and my hand shot up faster than a addict at a drug sample giveaway.

And so it was that I retired on my 49th birthday on 25th June 2001, barely 5 months after my 9 month US trip which had sown the seeds of retirement in my mind for the very first time. Officially I think one has to be 50 to retire so IBM simply gave me a years salary in a lump sum (tax free) to get over that little problem !  I didn't protest.

Since then I've been coming here to the US for 6 months at a time as this is the longest I can be here on a tourist visa. My Michigan friends also retired and after a trip together down here to Florida, we agreed to get a place here for the winter months (well 7 months for them and 6 for me).  I now come in October ever year and stay till the end of March. We have a place in a retirement community park just a couple of miles south of Sebring, Florida and we all love life here.

My 'Michigan' friends bring their little doggie, Pixie, with them of course and I've known her since they got her almost 9 years ago. She doesn't miss the Michigan weather at this time of year either and enjoys barking at all the other dogs in the park. I estimate there are about 70 dogs and 6 cats in the park as retired people do enjoy having pets. There are very strict guidelines about owning a pet here so none run free and all poop is picked up.

One of the main reasons for wanting to retire early, apart from the usual, was that I'd had a heart attack on 22nd Nov 1992 (yes I was just 40) which was followed by a quintuple CABG. Statistics told me this procedure had a 'life' of about 12-15 years and sure enough, to prove statistics rarely lie, I had another heart attack on 20th July 2005. As this came just 6 days before I was due to fly to America again, I was seriously pissed off. This time I was treated with extra medication as another bypass was not recommended.

Since then I've been heart attack free and I can highly recommend it.

As a last point, and to keep it firmly in my mind, my 10 year US visa expires next year and so on my return to the UK at the end of March, I need to plan on getting a new one. This isn't as simple as it used to be (send off your passport to the US Embassy and wait a few weeks) and as it now involves a trip to London and an interview with Homeland Security, it could happen that I'm not given one. They've never been too happy with me coming here so often and for so long (go figure) and on several occasions I've been taken off to a little room and held for hours while they flex their muscles and almost make me beg to enter their country and spend my money here.

So if my new visa is refused, well it honestly doesn't bear thinking about. I may have to spend my winter months in New Zealand or somewhere - Kate be warned.

And I think that's about it. Oh sure I could tell you much more but then I'd be both sending you to sleep AND cutting down on topics for future posts.

After all, even a 56 yr old needs to have some mystery in his life.


Yellow Swordfish said...

I was fortunate enough to work in New Zealand for a year and t is, without doubt, one of the best places on earth. You couldn't regret spending time there

Daphne said...

Although there's nothing in this post that you haven't told me, it's great to read it all set out like that and I really enjoyed it. I'm Daphne, by the way, the one with the posh voice and the ginger hair. You'll be seeing me on Friday when we turn up by that very sign in your post. I'll have a wide open mouth that will just keep saying "OMG I'm in America!" And it will be lovely to see you again: because, characteristically, you forgot to tell your readers what a Very Good Thing you are.

Jennyta said...

Well, if you can't go back to USA, I have told you you are welcome to come to France and stay with us - whenever that happens! :)

rhymeswithplague said...

We have a couple of things in common. I don't think I have mentioned this before, but I am an IBM retiree also, have been one since 2000, just three weeks before my 59th birthday. And I also had a heart attack, four years earlier, at age 54. No bypass for me. I was treated with "diet, exercise, and medication." Two out of three ain't bad -- after the initial few months of cardiac rehab, exercise pretty much fell by the wayside.

Did you ever know an IBMer at High Wycombe named Doug Braund?

I hope your U.S. visa will be renewed easily when that time arrives.

Jay said...

... and that's cleared up a few more things! I was, as you know, getting confused. My memory isn't what it was, you know, and while I've been reading your blog for a while now, not everything stays in the sieve that passes for my brain these days!

Did anyone tell you how lucky you are? ;)

Mortimer Sturgess said...

Enjoyed the post. Lets hope that the US authorities are smart enough to let you back in to, as you say, spend more of your hard earned. Best wishes for the future and good health to enjoy many more Florida winters.

Silverback said...

Thank you peeps.

Yes at times I do feel lucky, Jay. I assume you mean for being able to retire and live part of the year in Florida - or maybe you mean for surviving 2 heart attacks. Yes to both.

I'll be brushing up on my O'Level French when I get home, Jenny. You may well regret those kind words !

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