Monday, September 29, 2008

St. John's Gate

This may be London's last standing model of a medieval city gate. Wikipedia tells us it protected the priory of the Knights of St. John, aka the Knights Hospitalers. (The vestiges of these crusading monk-knights are seen today in the St. John Ambulance, headquartered by the gate.) One look at this gate and one gets the sense of how hard it would have been, with the war-fighting technology of the time, to attack a fortified city--a suicide mission for so many soldiers.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Pearly Kings

This is something I've been meaning to write about for some time. The Pearly Kings (and Queens) are a tradition that's so London it hurts. Its origins are with the Cockneys, and as you can see the gent above has as his kingdom the area within earshot of the Bow bells, making him the cockniest of Cockneys. Now a charitable society, the Pearly King originated among the street vendors of London's East End. I'll recommend you go to the Wikipedia entry on the Pearly Kings and Queens if you want to read more about their origins. I can't link from here since I'm writing remotely.

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stay Tuned For This Party Political Ad

Or not. Annie Mole is hot on the trail of a Tube ad campaign featuring Barack Obama's image that nobody is quite sure about.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

That Speech Went Well, Didn't It

Mrs. Werbenmanjensen adds the following quote from the Financial Times:

"New Labour without Tony Blair is like Genesis without Peter Gabriel."

(Has little to do with a certain speech last night, I know.)

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday Moonblogging

Inner-city vistas. From a couple of weeks ago.

(Note: Blogger's not letting me upload larger photos.)

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Monday, September 22, 2008

That's The Way It Was And We Liked It! We Loved It!

I'm looking at some recent posts and realizing I've come across as rather cranky. (Examples: here, here, and here.) It doesn't really sell a blog to come off as shrill, does it? (Oh, wait, maybe it does.) Others have noticed it, too. Mrs. Werbenmanjensen says, "You hate everything." Friends who have noticed this post here and on Facebook have commented on it. Some have correctly wondered if turning 40 has affected me. (Did I forget to mention that I turned 40 on the blog? What an omission!). I'm willing to consider this as a possible explanation. But anyway ... over the weekend Mrs. W and I went to visit the lovely beach town of Brighton, also known as "London-by-the-Sea," and I pledged to become a new person, more loving and life-affirming in my words and deeds. So I will have to say no to cranky posts in the future as much as possible.

Unless it involves banks.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Part 2

Forgot to mention:

Don't get all snarky if I refer to the game you call "football" as "soccer." You also call it "soccer." I am now watching a TV show on a sports channel called "Soccer a.m."

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Things I Miss

The word dude.

Yes, the multi-expressive dude.


Familiarity Breeds Contempt

I know that's the adage, and it's true in my case, at least lately. I've been struggling on occasion in my relations with British people, and it's an attitude problem. I think it's that I've wearied a bit with the "first and best" attitude held by some when it comes to their contact with Americans.

I can trace my attitude change to an incident at a party held by a colleague of Mrs. Werbenmanjensen a month or so ago, when I was about to get the "why-do-you-call-it-the-World-Series-when-it's-only-teams-from-America?" lecture, as if this had never occurred to me nor had anybody ever mentioned it to me. I finally had to ask him if an English cricketer would rather win the World Cup, a contest among all the cricketing nations of the world, or The Ashes, a contest with just one other country (PS: It's The Ashes). He didn't think that a fair comparison, but he did point out in the same vein that the Six Nations is technically only a contest between four nations.

This conversation was the first of several incidents I've found at least a little irritating lately. Perhaps the whole thing was accelerated during the Olympics period when the British press was picking a fight over medal tallies. (No, it wasn't just so Americans look good this Olympiad. We've always done it that way. It's you who choose to denigrate silver and bronze by failing to count them.)

So to any native who might be reading this: I've lived here two and a half years. So please understand:

1. The "British" Open was the first of the major golf championships in the world and should therefore be called "the Open Championship." I know this, so please don't lecture me about it.
1a. No, really, Americans don't take the Ryder Cup that seriously, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise. Golf ain't a team sport.
2. There are various claims about inventions attributed to Americans that may have been British. History is written by the winners.
2a. We could get into a long debate about who exactly invented the first computer. Suffice it to say: IBM and Apple are not British companies.
2b. You are way ahead of the US when it comes to broadband, digital television innovation and mobile phones. I said it. Leave me alone.
3. You spell honor with a "u", check with a "que" and summarize with an "s". I work for Americans. Therefore it would cause some difficulty if I got in the practise of spelling like you.
4. (Courtesy of Mrs. W) When I say things like "VY-ta-min D" there's no point in you saying back to me "VIT-a-min D." I know we pronounce it differently. I'm not going to change, and neither are you.
5. I'm not saying things like "brilliant" and "bugger all" to make fun of you. It's things I've actually picked up.
6. "High-fives" are not something British people do or are that comfortable with. But I'm going to do them when I'm excited anyway.

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Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Aye, it's Capn Smitty here to remind ye it's Talk Like A Pirate Day, which be a holiday in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Celebrate or I'll keelhaul ye! Ye mateys can start by singing this shanty.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Letter From Steve Guttenberg

Hello Friends,

Here I am trying on my pantomime costume, whilst making the most of the LA sunshine, before I pack my bags and head for Bromley this Christmas. I'm over the moon about making my UK pantomime debut as Baron Hard-up in the magical Cindarella.

Working with rogues during my Police Academy days should, I hope, be a fine workout for my battles with the Ugly Sisters; but I'm sure I can count on your help to boo them off! The song and dance routines will be awesome--something I'm really going to enjoy after taking part on America's top-rated show Dancing With The Stars. I am also delighted to announce that the Absolutely Fabulous Helen Lederer will be joining me as Fairy Godmother to add a sprinkling of comedy magic to the fun.

It's going to be a truly wonderful Chrismas for me in the UK, so make sure you join me for the biggest and funniest traditional pantomime around and book your ticket today.

See you soon!

Because you want to: Who holds back the elec-tric car? Who made Steve Guttenberg a star?

(Hat tip to Annie Mole, whose Twitter feed alerted me to this show.)

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Now, This

Like George W. Bush and the presidency, I spend more time breaking from blogging than actually blogging. But it's true: I can't blog for a few days. I will update the twitter feed frequently (right sidebar, underneath the links). But before I go, I hear from Annie Mole that Boris is announcing Tube fare increases today. Otherwise, go read a brother blog like Kevboy's realm.

And for your enjoyment, to celebrate the start of football season:


Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Squatters overpower Army base? Well, not really:
AN army of squatters encamped on a military housing estate has escaped eviction after an embarrassing legal blunder by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The mistake means residents in nearby upmarket homes could be subjected to weeks of noise, late-night parties, and disruption to their daily lives.

The squatters moved in last week to the barracks in William Gardens, Putney, after some 300 of them were kicked out of a previous squat in Balham, south London.

Officials attempted to evict them out by obtaining a court order yesterday but a blunder meant they went to the wrong court, letting the squatters off the hook.

MoD lawyers brought the case before a judge at West London County Court in Hammersmith. But the judge immediately threw it out, saying they should have gone to Wandsworth County Court in Putney, less than a mile from the occupied flats.

It could take now take weeks for the case against the 50 or so remaining squatters to be heard again.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tradition Bows

Steps forward:
The Ministry of Defence will meet an animal rights group tomorrow to discuss ethical alternatives to the world famous bearskin hats worn by guards at Buckingham Palace.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) will suggest new designs for guardsmen's headgear, which could mean the end of the traditional 45.7cm (18-inch) tall fur hats.

The charity said the MoD was not happy with prototypes for a similar hat. Now it is proposing a new shape is adopted and has approached designers including Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Marc Bouwer. Robbie LeBlanc, Peta's director for Europe, admitted suggesting a new shape was controversial but added that a new design could be "iconic" too.

He said Peta campaigners had spoken to people watching the guards at Buckingham Palace about the use of the skins of Canadian black bears to make their hats.

"Most people think it's fake fur and when they find out it's real and it takes one bear to make a hat, they are appalled."

LeBlanc said the MoD spent just over £320,000 on bearskin hats in the past five years. Other fur, like the leopardskin aprons worn by ceremonial drummers, has already been replaced with fake versions.

Should Charles become king, I would guess that the hats will go, given Charles work to make the royal household greener. Nobody will notice the new hats.

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