This month, we’re very proud to introduce to you our latest columnist…

As an opinionated sort, I’ve been asked by the chaps at the Essential Journal to entertain and thrill you with my thoughts, musings and rants every month – joining the EJ team as its first columnist. I may touch on politics, culture, sport or I could just be ranting about whatever is ticking me off that month.

At present, life finds me juggling a career as jobbing actor, with owning and running three bars; Ma Boyle’s and Ma Egerton’s in Liverpool and Bock Biere Café in Manchester – along with a residential property business. You may also happen upon me as a news pundit on Liverpool’s talk radio station, City Talk. Because of the above I generally have no personal life.  Prior to this I was Director of Music & Marketing for club brand Cream, back in its Imperial days and was also Brand Director for the Baa Bar Group. A former career as a PR also had me as Press Officer at ITV for Coronation Street for several years and for film festivals around the world including Edinburgh, Berlin and London.

However, I spent what I consider to be the best years of my life, living the dream in New York when I was training to be an actor at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. The combination of living in the best city in the world along with the best theatrical training in a school that had produced some of the best stage and screen actors of the last century made this my halcyon years. But after my VISA and money ran out I had to be dragged back to England kicking and screaming, with a promise from myself to return to live there. Because of this I still feel that America and I have unfinished business and I make up for the lack of permanent relocation with as many holidays there as possible.

When an opportunity arose last month for a mini American road trip, I jumped at it. One of my brothers Owain was on secondment playing for Detroit City FC’s summer league. And so a plan was hatched for myself, my Dad and two other brothers to take in 4 games during our 10-day visit -passing through a total of eight states between New York and Wisconsin. As you can imagine a lot of time was spent on the road, pounding the interstate highways and byways.

We traveled through some pretty remote towns, and bizarrely our reception from locals in Trump’s rust-belt America at times meant myself and my better looking younger brothers were treated like rock-stars. Indeed, at one pit-stop gas station, the worker gave us our petrol and our many bags of shopping, for free – just because he loved the English. One girl in a fast food outlet literally couldn’t stop screaming when I gave our order. Maybe that’s why I love America so much.

Where myself and America part friends, like a lot of Brits, is the thorny issue of the Second Amendment   – ‘the right to bare arms’ and all that entails. A particular favourite car game of ours became to count how many roadside billboards were advertising the sale of guns. The more rural you got, the more billboards for guns and ammo you saw. For the trigger-happy the messages became more alluring ‘try before you buy, ’ ‘no ID required’ ‘Guns are why America is still free’ “Pure American’ ‘July is buy your husband a new gun month’ ‘disarmament is why bad things happen to good people’. One billboard cheekily announced, ‘Why carry a gun?” with the answer ‘ a policeman is far too heavy’! Hilarious, isn’t it?

I also spotted an old flaking festive billboard with a rifle wrapped in tinsel with the seasonal warm message underneath ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’. The big chains were also getting in on the act as well with Walmart advertising ammo rounds loud and proud ‘for less than a quart of milk’.

Astonishing really. It felt like we were at time travelling through a parallel universe and not through one of Britain’s closest allies. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is such an influential lobbyist that even stopping adverts encouraging people to carry guns is a non-starter. Try debating gun laws to average non-urban American and they think you are nuts – they’d rather have their healthcare taken away than their firearms.  The coloration between more guns, more shootings and more innocent deaths just doesn’t seem to add up for most Americans. The prominent people that have spoken out against gun laws have become pariahs – accused of being un-American. Donald Trump used Hillary Clinton’s proposed revision to gun laws as a major attack on personal freedom in the US election campaign.

On the open road in the US you begin to feel the vastness of the country, 52 states the size and diversity of almost 52 countries. A glorious country of states that’s very often not united. Until next time, America.