Tag Archives: london life

Why Is It “Great” Britain? They Made A List

14 Sep

I know to the outside world it seems that this blog is a professionally run and eddited internet publication. No doubt whenever you think of how and where all the journalistic gold is produced, you inevitably conjure up images like this:

Or maybe this:

The reality is in fact quite different, and the only thing that changes in my writing environment is the billboard outside my local coffee conglomerate getting swapped. It was a welcome sight to behold when George Michael was replaced with David Guetta, let me tell you.

The true nature of BBS actually entails teetering on the brink of various catastrophic problems. Of the two most common dangers, one is toppling into complete irrelevance despite having relevant travel things to report on. Curiously, the other is running out of travel things to report on.

Luckily when things seemed their most dire, I remembered a loyal reader had sent me a newspaper list titled ‘What Makes Britain So Brilliant?’

I thought it would be an interesting idea to peruse this list and pick apart some of the reasons why Brits incessantly refer to their homeland as “Great” Britain. Seems awfully presumptuous to me. First things first, I thought it deserved a better title. So here is a selection of the top reasons why “Great” Britain should be renamed “Better than the hat with plunger” Britain:

By the way, that’s not an insult to Britain. How cool is that!?

(Editor’s note: all the reasons in quotation marks are taken from the article verbatim, it should not be misrepresented that I am British)

  1. “The Earl of Sandwich’s groundbreaking concept of putting a savoury filling between two pieces of bread.” Hard to argue with this one. Though I did do some research a three second browse of Wikipedia to discover that the rough idea of a bread-like substance surrounding different types of filling had been around for some time (thousands of years in fact). However it must be said that if The 4th Earl of Sandwich wasn’t such an enthusiastic gambler that he didn’t have time to leave the poker table for a proper meal, the humble sandwich may not be the staple it is today.
  2. “Our politeness – no matter how irritated we get, we are always too British to say anything.” This doesn’t however, mean they won’t whinge about the weather, the government, immigrants, the government letting in the immigrants, and immigrants controlling the weather.
  3. No matter where you are in Britain, you’re never far from a pub.” This one is true and a credit to British society. One of the few things I will gladly declare that Britain does better than Australia.
  4. “Cream teas. In case you’re wondering, Cornish is jam first, Devon is cream first.” I’ve actually no idea what that sentence means at all. If anyone knows and it takes less than two sentences to explain, drop me a line.
  5. “Our international language. Travelling abroad is a doddle.” This one I understand perfectly. Basically if the person at Starbucks (who doesn’t get paid enough to care if you get your caramel macchiato or just the contents of a wrung out washcloth) doesn’t understand you the first time, you should speak louder and slower before getting frustrated that everyone don’t talk like us the way they should. Or you could go to Australia or the United States.
  6. “Some of the very best museums and galleries on the planet. Free.” I actually agree with this one too. If you like looking at things (and I do!), this is the place to be.

OK that’s my pick of the reasons why I now live in “Better than the hat with plunger” Britain, and maybe you should too. Or at least visit us over here. Despite all my “wry humour” (as my writings have been referred to in the social media) it is an absolutely fantastic place to be. And if you don’t like it, I promise there’s other places nearby.

It also occurs to me that posts may become less frequent as I’ve sadly resumed the drollery that is regular work. I will endeavour to keep updating you on all things “travel-y” and otherwise.

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J

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What Do You Expect? M&Ms “World”

4 Sep

Recently I became an unwitting witness to the new epidemic of graffiti that I’m going to call “gratiffiti”. Rather than the usual tags and genitalia added to front fences and rail carriages, this new scourge gives unsolicited polite greetings:

These aimless hoodlums have since stepped up their work to include helpful advice. Take a look at this I saw appended to a brick wall on my way home from the station:

And this on my afternoon run by the Thames:

Nice of them to use stencils too.

Anyway, apart from going around looking at polite street art, this week I also thought I’d come good on a promise I made a few months ago but which you’ve no doubt forgotten about or didn’t read in the first place. That’s right, I went to M & Ms World! Needless to say I was pretty excited when I reached Leicester square and this came in to view.

 

In actual fact I wasn’t that excited, I was more intrigued to know how a store based on one type of chocolate confection could constitute a “world”. Upon first setting foot inside, the answer to my wondering was “with irrelevant souvenir crap”. 

No I didn’t put him in this position, I swear.

There were plenty of nauseating British cliches to go around, including this one which wasn’t even historically accurate:

First one to guess what’s wrong with this picture (other than that they’re M & Ms and it is ridiculous) wins a signed picture of me.

I must say though, there was one very impressive part of the store. Strangely enough it was the part with actual M & Ms in it. This allowed you to mix and match all types of colours and flavours from huge glass tubes. It makes for a vibrant sight:

I would be equally as impressed with M & Ms “World” if it consisted only of this room, which would then only require one level rather than the three that house the other irrelevant crap. But to be fair, people vote with their feet as they say, and this place was packed with people who couldn’t get enough.

To be honest I thought a self proclaimed “world” would have yielded a longer blog post, but rather than pad it out with more irrelevant stuff I’m just going to leave it there for now.

‘Til next time, keep it relevant.

 

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J

 

Hooray! There Is No Pun For “Jubilee Celebration”

3 Jun

Aren’t you lucky?! Just when I thought I had run out of material for this blog and was about to copy and paste the lyrics of Nik Kershaw’s Wouldn’t it be Good” in lieu of an actual post, I discovered it was in fact “The Queen’s diamond jubilee weekend spectacular and maritime transport fanatics conference”. I personally think they could have settled on a snappier title.

In honour of our monarch’s 60th consecutive year of being uncontroversial, I took it upon my self to be your exclusive link to all news events occurring within gumboot-throwing distance of my house. Luckily we live quite close to the river and Sunday’s celebration took the form of a one thousand-vessel flotilla.

BREAKING NEWS: SWANS UNIMPRESSED BY ROYAL FLOTILLA, CONTINUE PREENING

Not caring much for the swans’ take on things, I ventured further down river. After standing for quite a long time with no bird life to gauge thoughts, this happened:

That’s either a member of the royal family or the cast of The Only Way Is Essex.

That was followed by the restart of the Oxford/Cambridge pompous canoeing race:

The four-knot speed limit meant everybody wins!

Luckily, from what I could tell the swans were the only ones unmoved by the event. Everyone else was in exceptionally high spirits, especially when we realised that the Queen’s royal barge was to depart from further down the river where we would not see her. Fear not, for I typed “royal barge” in to an image search so you wouldn’t have to miss out like I did:

I’ll just pause while you sing “God Save the Queen”, wiping away a tear.

While it was all very exciting, I did lose interest after a little while and made my way back to watch it on TV. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Queen has done a bang up job for a long time. But unless you’re a boat enthusiast and in to brass funnels, gypsy sails and the merits of the various ways of dealing with Somali piracy (as some nearby me obviously were), it was a bit much to stand out in the rain waiting to see boats 800-1000.

On my way back however, I came across a party in a cemetery.

Believe me, they’re hard to see but the gravestones are there.

Nothing says “fun day out to celebrate” like resting your Pimms cup on the memorial of Kenneth R. Bracegirdle (1834-91) while you go and get your photo taken as a novelty Beefeater. It’s what he would’ve wanted I’m sure. You should’ve seen what they were getting up to in the Mausoleum.

In any case, the vast majority of people I saw were having a fantastic time, whether they were celebrating on a burial ground or otherwise. It’s fantastic to see the people of Britain united in their pride for their monarch. It’s equally unfortunate to think what will happen when Charles finally takes over.

In other news, tomorrow I head for Copenhagen to take time out from my busy part-time work and coffee drinking schedule. However I will be taking notes and reporting on all things Dansk, in the hope that I may be able to write the trip off on tax. Stay tuned.

 

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J

 

Fads and Obsessions: Scripted Reality Bites

28 May

In my role as what passes for an amateur journalist these days, I’ve noticed that nobody does fads and obsessions quite like Britain.

For a start there is Brits’ preoccupation with the weather. This seems a shame as for much of the year Britain is known as “Europe’s car wash”. Though because good weather doesn’t come around very often, it does give Brits an enviable appreciation of the sunshine. Like the way I feel about eating lobster.

Then there’s the whole football (soccer) thing. I like football, and I wouldn’t mind this obsession if it didn’t encompass everything from game results right down to every player’s latest legal misdemeanour, or “team bonding session” (eeeeeeew!).

Which brings me neatly to the football player’s natural harvesting ground. Television. It seems that for a while now Britain has been gripped by something termed “scripted reality”. The chief offenders in this genre are shows you’ve probably heard of like The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea. Or if you prefer your perfectly-framed reality with funny accents, Desperate Scousewives.

To give you an idea of what the show looks like (if by some happy chance you’ve managed to avoid this assault on intelligence), here is a shot of a typical scene.

Realising she’d bought ebony shoes instead of black, and would have to return them.

I’ve also taken the liberty of transcribing a passage of scintillating dialogue. I can’t be bothered finding out the names of these “real script readers”, so they’ll be called Burberry 1 and Burberry 2:

Burberry 1: I might try these on but I don’t know what size to get.

Burberry 2: What size are you normally?

Burberry 1: I’m a size nine but I might get a size seven.

Burberry 2: Why?

Burberry 1: It’ll straighten ’em out so they look proper fresh.

Burberry 2: Is that what you do, buy ’em smaller so they don’t crease?

Burberry 1: Yeah but everyone does that don’t they?

Burberry 2: No.

I wish I could say I made that up myself. Anyway, it seems to me the whole idea of reality is that its unscripted. Surely another name for “scripted reality” is a term that’s been bandied about the industry for a few years now. Drama. Though I’m sure we could think of a more accurate and less flattering one if we tried.

 

If you’re going to simulate reality, you best know and understand the subtle differences between reality and drama. For instance, here is a “scripted reality” meeting between myself and Noel Gallagher:

ME: Hey Noel, can I get a photo?

NOEL: Hey man, yeah why not? In fact, come down to our hotel with us for a pint and meet some women with questionable morals.

ME: Nah mate, I would but I’ve gotta get back to write a travel blog entry. Those Ludacris links don’t put themselves in there, ya know.

NOEL: Come on man, you can come to the gig later and hang backstage with us!

ME: Do you have wifi?

NOEL: Yeah.

ME: Alright then.

(Exeunt)

 

To highlight the difference, here is what happened in reality:

ME: Hey Noel, can I get a photo?

NOEL: Fuck no.

 

TV drama connoisseurs will no doubt have picked the subtle differences, the rest of us are stuck in blissful ignorance of what’s real and what’s “scripted real”.

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

Call that a Drought? THIS is a Drought!

15 May

I’ve heard many ludicrous claims over the years (not to be confused with Ludacris claims). For instance, a friend of mine once told me that “man, Bowling For Soup are gonna be the next big thing!”

My usual reaction to such claims sits somewhere between humour and disinterest, mainly because I want to get back to talking about how The Knack were harshly done by. But when the source of the claim is a reputable news outlet, I generally take notice and reach for my douchy writing notebook. On this occasion it was the BBC’s assertion that much of Britain is in the grips of drought.

Britain? Drought? At this point I thought it much more likely that I’d misheard and Britain was actually beset by trout:

This may be a dramatisation

However, it turned out I’d in fact heard correctly, and much of the UK has experienced two years of below average rainfall. Now back in Oz, as this guy will tell you, we do two things right. Hunting knives and droughts. I’m not saying Britain isn’t in drought, but I’d implore most Brits to have a little perspective and not start beating your water drums until you’ve had over a DECADE of below average rainfall.

When water restrictions prevent you from crying without spreading the tears on your chrysanthemums, then you’re in a bit of trouble.

Luckily Britain has some cool, calm and collected heads down at the water department. And they’ve managed to employ the “irony technique” to combat this crisis. This approach consisted of introducing a “hosepipe ban” a little while back. Since it didn’t stop raining for a month thereafter, I can only assume this was a direct (and ironic) consequence of introducing the ban. Another job well done.

In other information that will pad out the rest of this post interesting news, I’ve decided a decent bicycle trip is in order for me this summer. Given the opportunity to say so, none of my friends or family think this is a bad enough idea to tell me not to do it. That, or everyone back home is too busy watching The Voice. 

In any case my only choice now is to go ahead and ride from London to Dover. From there I will undertake a Top Gear-style challenge and attempt to convert my bicycle in to a pedal-powered jet-ski (or take a ferry, whichever costs less). Upon arriving in Calais I will then reassemble my bike and use nothing but my croissant-fuelled legs to power me towards Brugge and possibly Brussels. If I don’t land a job as a Belgian beer/chocolate taster within 72 hours, I’ll probably make my way back as well.

If it sounds foolhardy and ill-planned, that’s probably because it is.

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J

For Cycling and Seismographs: Flatness can be good

25 Apr

Unfortunately this past week has left me wondering if it’s possible to blow your nose so hard your skull comes out your nostril. Never fear casual readers, a mediocre “travel” blogger’s work continues even in the throes of illness.

Ever since I caught my first glimpse of the road race at the 1992 Olympics, I’ve been interested in cycling. It was an old TV and my memory isn’t what it once was, but I believe it looked something like this:

I believe the 1992 games were the last Olympics before compulsory mustaches were abolished, a great shame.

Fanatical readers will no doubt recall I recently rediscovered my love of human-powered transport by purchasing a possibly-stolen bicycle. At this point I’d like to profess my complete ignorance and say there’s no way to know for sure. My conscience is clean anyway.

As an added bonus, because I am now in the rigours of part-time employment I have also discovered the joys of bicycle commuting. By now surely at least one loyal reader is saying “bikes and commuting have been round at least as long as hipsters, why is this important enough to waste six minutes of my day?” Fair enough too, but as friends of mine will tell you, I only recently discovered the joys and warmth of wearing long pants instead of shorts all year round. So in perspective, this is a big deal for me.

This new found love with bicycle commuting has caused me to notice still more things, as us amateur “travel” journalists do. So without much more rambling, here is a list of reasons why cycling in London is the most awesomest thing since the wearable tent. Click the link, it’s exactly what it sounds like.

I realise I’ve been going on a bit lately and don’t want to break my six-minute pledge. If I do I promise I’ll treat the next homeless person I see to their very own wearable tent. Anyway, here’s the list:

  1. It’s cheap, like WAY cheap. As an example my commute to work today cost me exactly £0.00 (AUD $0.00). Please don’t point out the fact that I had to buy the bike in the first place, that would ruin it. But in the long run it’s very cheap.
  2. Despite the excessive motion in the area, you somehow sweat less from your crotch than when you’re on the tube. Reread earlier post for my other thoughts on the tube.
  3. You get to stave off “travelling expansion” with less risk of running in to gangsta bees, or at least a better chance of outrunning them.
  4. It frequently takes less time to cycle than to drive the 12 or so kilometres to my place of employment.
  5. London is a relatively flat city (ie. good for biking).

This last point caused me to consider the appropriateness of cycling in various cities. For example London is relatively flat, as are two of the world’s great bicycle cities: Copenhagen and Amsterdam. On the other hand Sydney is, for lack of bothering to find a better word, un-flat. I’m guessing that’s why as far as I’m aware, there is less of a bike culture in Sydney and even less of a lawn bowls culture. And don’t even think of trying to play snooker…

 

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J

Fashionate about the weather: the Melbourne of the Europe

11 Apr

As most of you would know by now (given that if you’re reading this you are either a dear friend or a fanatic who’s read all my back-catalogue), I hail from the fair city of Melbourne.

At least, I’m from a place close enough to Melbourne that if I meet anyone not from south-eastern Australia, it’s just easier to say Melbourne to keep the conversation rolling along. Sort of like anyone from north of Byron says they’re from Brisbane, anyone west of Adelaide says Perth, and anyone from New Zealand says Australia.

Anyway, being from Melbourne you wouldn’t expect I could complain about the weather anywhere else. Well you’d expect wrong. I wouldn’t usually complain to a global audience of at least seven people, but for the fact that I’m still living out of my backpack.

Not that I haven’t unpacked yet. Over the last month and a half I’ve managed to spread my clothes among the two wardrobes, large chest of drawers, small chest of drawers, and shoe rack that inhabit my room. But in the sense that I am still wearing basically the same clothes I left Australia with, I am still living out of my backpack. Put it down to laziness or cheapskatedness, the result is the same.

My gripe with the weather makers comes only because now that I’m gainfully employed, I have a few extra shillings to spend on clobber. However I have no idea what to actually buy, and I have no intention of committing a fashion faux pas.

I could start filling out my summer wardrobe, but the way it is at the moment here, I could easily be in need of my traditional London outer-wear again next week. Or even next month. As I bring this to you from the front window of Starbucks, I can tell you in the last week or so we’ve had glorious mild sunshine, hail, rain and freezing wind. Hence the swap from my usual park musings to my local coffee conglomerate.

Now though, it seems the weather has settled to its default setting, which if they could talk would be the weather makers saying: “Yeah it’s not raining, you could go out like that. But those clouds look ominous, better not risk it.” This leaves me and most of London in a perpetual state of weather anxiety. And if I can’t get outside for my daily jog, how will I discover new pubs nearby? Though admittedly I’d run in to less gangsta bees (reread this post if that makes no sense).

So what am I to do? Aside from the £12 Primark hoodie (bargain, couldn’t make it for that), and the body-hugging lycra of my new bike outfit, I am at a perilous crossroads of the wardrobe. If you think you can help with a suggestion or two, or if you want me to post pictures of the body-hugging lycra, please leave a comment below. I don’t know how much longer I can pull this look off.

 

Safe travels. J

P.S. In much more exciting news I’m off to Hamburg tomorrow to eat sausages, drink beer, and track down this guy. A post will no doubt follow once he’s safely behind bars.