Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mysteries of Britain, Part I

Even though I've lived in MOE for more than 3 years now, there are still some things about the culture I just don't understand. I encountered one today: It's raining out, and no one has an umbrella. Some people (mostly old men trying to cover their bald patches) were wearing hats, one or two had hoodies up, but no one I saw had a brolly.

Why? Do people here like getting wet? Are they genetically altered to have skin and hair on which the raindrops bead? Mr. W says it's about "toughness." Brits are tougher than we Yanks are. I say they're just wetter than we are. Anyone care to enlighten me on when it's appropriate to use protection when it's raining out?

Thanks in advance,
Ignorant in Islington

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Monday, January 19, 2009

More Things I Like, Things I Don't Like

Things I like: Trains.

These past two weekends, I've ridden my bicycle to Cambridge and ridden a train back, and taken a train to Stevenage for a running race and come back. In both cases, my wait for a train was minimal and travel time was tolerable. Train service is frequent and more often reliable than unreliable. You can get to more than 2,500 destinations by train. Now if you ask a Briton, it's gone downhill since Margaret Thatcher reorganized it. And having been on Swiss trains recently, I can say that they appear to make more allowances for bicycles than British trains do. But still, the rail service makes car ownership optional for a larger share of the population than the United States.

Things I don't like: Northern accents.

I shouldn't make fun of the way people talk, but there is something in the northern English accent that rubs me wrong. I love a broad Scottish brogue and a Welsh lilt, but strong Yorkshire and Liverpudlian accents are at times almost incomprehensible to me. The TV serial Hollyoaks best exemplifies the accents I hate. See if you don't want to punch your computer screen when you click through to this Hollyoaks clip for which embedding has been disabled.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Things I Like; Things I Don't Like

The stamp on my UK visa tells me I entered this country on a permanent basis Jan. 21, 2006. Three years (or thereabouts) gives me some perspective on life here. It's not long enough to be cynical ... OK, it's long enough to be cynical about some aspects of life here ... but long enough to have developed some clear likes and dislikes. Or at least things we enjoy and things we find peculiar. So to celebrate the three-year anniversary, I thought I'd do a series of posts on things I really like and things I really don't like (Mrs. Werbenmanjensen is free to join in as she wishes).

A thing I like:


It is fortunate that I live in a land with so many good beers. It is unfortunate that I am unable to try each and every one of them. So my advice to those who ask me what they ought to drink when visiting Britain is to tell them to walk into the nearest pub, look for the long handles on the bar and order what looks interesting from the selection of badges on those handles. Those are the cask ales, pumped by hand from a cellar to your pint glass. While over time they may have gone from being made by specialist brewers to being a brand owned by a major conglomerate, they are beers you won't get in any other country--bitters, porters and the like. Across the rest of the bar you may see familiar names--Guinness, Kronenbourg, Carling, even Budweiser and Coors. But you can get those at any old bar. I like to try something I haven't drunk before.

A thing I don't like:

The obsession with the carbon cost of heating a kettle of water for tea.

This is a comparison you'll find in many contexts. This morning, the BBC reported that two Google searches consume the same amount of energy as boiling a kettle of water (never mind the auto trips to the library averted by Google searching). A major train operator advertises that its trains are so energy efficient that they actually make up for millions of boiling kettles (the first of four on this clip):

Look, almost every action causes carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. If we're going to drink tea, it will require energy, and until our energy sources are 100% sustainable, that energy consumption will result in carbon emissions--no matter if we heat our water in kettle, on a stove, or in an animal skin over a wood fire. If you don't want your beverage to have a carbon impact, drink water. From a stream.

This obsession wouldn't be so bad if it weren't trivial in comparison to some of the choices we make in our lifestyle, living accommodations, residence, commute, and leisure travel that release far more than the 14 grams of carbon that a kettle does. But we don't like the thought of giving up our houses, yards, automobiles, and sunny holidays, so we obsess about tea kettles.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Death Of An English Folk Tradition

Without comment, I'll note this following article about the feared demise of Morris Dancing:
The numbers of people participating in the traditional British folk dance are dwindling whilst the age of the dancers is increasing, according to the Morris Ring, an association representing over 200 Morris troupes across Britain.
It is warning that "unless younger blood is recruited during the coming winter months, Morris dancing will soon become extinct".
Charlie Corcoran, Bagman of the Morris Ring, said: "There's a distinct possibility that in 20 years' time there will be nobody left.
"It worries me a great deal. Young people are just too embarrassed to take part.

Embarassing? I'll let the reader be the judge:

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas From Your Local Pub

Which, you will note, is open noon to 3 p.m.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday Catblogging

Greg and me. (Apologies for the quality: It's a photo of a photo.)

Well, there's some bad news on the catblogging front. Greg has departed. Not this plane of existence, but he's gone to live with our pastoral assistant, who was his chief caretaker. A lot of turnover in the parish--several longtime priests have moved on to another parish the order runs Kent--meant that Greg was feeling a little out of sorts. His new home is a little more rural, perfect for a maturing cat like Greg. I was chatting with the pastoral assistant about his new life. She said he'd mastered the catdoor to go outside, but was having a little trouble figuring out how to get back in through the same door. To teach him how to do it, she said she'd gone out another door, then "posted" him--as a postman might--through his catdoor.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

London, 8:26 a.m.

Somewhere over there is the sun.
-- Post From My iPhone