bookmark_borderFrance. 1:01

I went to Paris last autumn, got the Eurostar train there, two hours twenty minutes, not bad going and delivered into the heart of Paris. It was one of those rare days when neither the trains, ferries nor airports were on strike. (I think in fact the farmers were on strike but as nobody could tell the difference it made little odds.)

In general, France is a safe destination, though I should warn you that, from time to time, it is invaded by Germany. Traditionally, the French surrender more or less at once and apart from a temporary shortage of Scotch whisky life for the visitor generally goes on much as before. Fortunately the channel tunnel has made it much easier for the French government to flee to London.

Chief amongst its contributions to western culture are champagne, Camembert cheese, escargot, the guillotine, Sacha Distel, oh and croissants which is interesting for two reasons, this is a previously unknown use of the term ‘culture’ and secondly, croissant is one of two words that Americans can never pronounce correctly – the other of course being aluminium (sic).

What I do like about France is it’s complete disregard for any EU rules – or even any rules at all, the EU passes all these laws and the British implement them immediately but the French tend to ignore them, it’s a bit like Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean “And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules”. Consequently, driving around Paris is like taking part in the Monaco Grand Prix and even just trying to cross a road is fraught with danger as traffic lights are ‘advisory’. The French know this because they see their President and even minor ministers blatantly flaunting the rules and think well, if they can do it…

The French of course can’t bear anyone who isn’t French and will give anyone who doesn’t speak perfect French a hard time. I have a friend who went to Paris a few years ago, Murphy, a furniture dealer decided to go to Paris to see what he could find. After arriving in Paris, he visited with some manufacturers and selected a line that he thought would sell well back home. To celebrate the new acquisition, he decided to visit a small bistro and have a glass of wine. As he sat enjoying his wine, he noticed that the small place was quite crowded, and that the other chair at his table was the only vacant seat in the house.

Before long, a very beautiful young Parisian girl came to his table; asked him something in French (which Murphy couldn’t understand); so he motioned to the vacant chair and invited her to sit down. He tried to speak to her in English, but she did not speak his language. After a couple of minutes of trying to communicate with her, he took a napkin and drew a picture of a wine glass and showed it to her. She nodded, so he ordered a glass of wine for her.

After sitting together at the table for a while, he took another napkin and drew a picture of a plate with food on it, and she nodded.. They left the bistro and found a quiet cafe that featured a small group playing romantic music. They ordered dinner, after which he took another napkin and drew a picture of a couple dancing. She nodded, and they got up to dance. They danced until the cafe closed and the band was packing up.

Back at their table, the young lady took a napkin and drew a picture of a four-poster bed.

To this day, Murphy has no idea how she figured out he was in the furniture business.

bookmark_borderThe Sixth Sense

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore, or even Tooting

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in ‘Blink’ that sometimes we make decisions just based on a hunch, on instinct and we can’t figure out why, we just have an intuitive sense of something being right or wrong. He goes on to propose that it’s our subconscious talking to us, picking up little clues that our conscious mind doesn’t notice and he starts off his book with the story of ‘The statue that didn’t look right’. The Paul Getty museum was offered a statue from the sixth century BC, it was an almost perfect specimen and the price was just short of $10,000,000. The museum got in experts from all over the world and even took a sample of marble from behind the knee and tested it under every sort of scope one could think of. It passed all tests and did indeed appear to be bona fide, they paid up and had a big four page spread in the New York Times about this new find.

However, when a member of the Trustee Board first looked at it she immediately thought it was a forgery, she couldn’t say exactly why but it just didn’t look right, and more and more experts felt the same way, one thought it looked ‘fresh’, not the first thought one should have upon looking upon a 2,500 yr old statue. The statue is now in the Getty catalogue as “Greek, about 530 B.C., or modern forgery.”

These experts were following their hunches, their instincts in calling the Kouros a fake, and we all develop our own set of hunches, instincts or ‘spiddy-sense’ if you are a fan of Spiderman. In Northern Ireland one could instinctively tell if the person taking to you was Catholic or Protestant, if the area you were walking though was Catholic or Protestant area and even the commentators on the radio/tv what religious tradition that had been brought up in, in a country where being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be a matter of life or death literally then one develops these survival instincts and tailors ones conversation to one’s audience.

But it’s not only in Northern Ireland that one develops these instincts, Bill Bryson wrote in ‘Neither Here Nor There’ that when he was in Belgium that really the country was divided in two, the northern Dutch speaking Flanders and the southern French speaking Wallonia. The Flemmings can’t stand the Walloons and vise versa and one day he was being shown around the city by a guide who would glance sideways at a couple sitting sipping coffee in an outdoor café and hiss ‘Dutch!’ to Bill. Bill said how can he tell and the guide was amazed that Bill couldn’t tell they were northern but of course to Bill they just looked like everyone else in Belgium. The guide had obviously become sensitive to the little tell-tale signs that makes one group different from another and when Bill asked him to explain how he knew they were northern Dutch the guide couldn’t say, he just knew because ‘it was so obvious’!

I know how the guide feels, I spent a large part of yesterday and today looking at cars for sale  in Croydon, a satellite town south of London where I lived in for the first seven years of London life and my spidy-sense was on full alert. It’s not that hard to describe Croydon, when I lived there it was cheap, messy and quite rough but now it’s just a huge ginormous sprawling monster, like when I was there it was a troublesome teenager that one hoped would come good in the end but instead it’s metamorphosed in Jabba The Hutt.

Unlike the Belgium guide and Michael Gladwell, I know full well why my spider-sense was on full alert, there are certain characteristics that one judges an area with and whether it’s safe to walk the streets or if one’s going to be a target, you may use some of these without knowing it. If I see people sitting outside in a café sipping coffee and chatting away, generally that area is OK. I saw none of this in Croydon but I have a broad set of criteria before I damn a place, another thing I look out for is a bookshop, specifically a full bookshop, vandals and larger-louts tend not to frequent bookshops and I did indeed find one in Croydon but it was almost empty… strike two.  The other thing connected with this is did I see anyone reading a book on the bus/tram down to Croydon, apart from myself there was no-one else reading on the bus, not even a Kindle…not a good sign. However, the most telling sign and one most Londoners aren’t aware of is – are there people on bicycles. You can tell an area is OK simply by the presence of people going about their business on bikes and the abundance of cycle lanes. Even Tooting’s got well used cycle lanes but in Croydon I saw not one person on a bike, I saw two adults on scooters blasting through the Christmas shoppers but no one on bikes and that’s very telling. There are bike lanes leaving Tooting and heading in the general direction of Croydon but they peter out the closer one gets to Croydon, it’s like the council knows there is no point in painting them on the road, they will never get used. The dystopian Los Angeles so brilliantly created by Ridley Scott in Blade Runner already exists just south of London. I’m glad I managed to escape alive.

However, there’s one more bit to this story that I need to mention and it’s got to do with relationships. I do the same thing with relationships, I judge them on factors I can’t really explain, it’s nothing to do with looks, height, weight, age, personality or even distance, I can’t explain it but I know instinctively if a relationship is going to be long term or short term and it greatly colours how I treat that person, and I don’t know what it is, some folk say it’s ‘chemistry’ and maybe our bodies detect the pheromones given off by each other but I’m not so sure, I think it’s even subtler than that but I can’t explain it, all I know is that if my guts tell me it isn’t going to be the love of my life then I pull back because ..well..because it doesn’t feel right to go against your guts, does it.. and it’s a bit of a bugger because I’ve missed out on a lot of kissing because of it but when I look back at least I’ve got a slightly cleaner conscience and that’s kind’a important, at least for the London Leprechaun

bookmark_borderLove, Money, Companionship. Choose One.

Yes, it's this easy to find love, if you start now you might make it by summertime 2012

(High definition version here  and info here courtesy of The Met)

The painting above by Jean-Léon Gérôme is one of my favourites, I was wandering around The Met in NYC (as one does) and came across this hanging unloved and un-admired in a dark corner. I guess some of you will be familiar with the story of how the sculptor Pygmalion fell in love with one of his statues, and how Aphrodite took pity on him and allowed the statue to come to life. There are many versions of this painting and you’d be amazed just how many storylines in plays and movies have been inspired by this theme.

I like this painting a lot because it chimes with feelings, emotions, yearnings, deep inside me and I suspect a lot of others. At times a part of me knows how Pygmalion felt, the search for someone special, someone to love seems endless and if I could then I would carve my own perfect match out of stone and pray to the gods to bring her to life. Mind you, knowing my artistic skills – or obvious lack of – I suspect I’d create Frankenstein’s monster and have to learn to love him  ummmm.. her!.

The ancient Greeks have a myth that we were once literally bonded together with our perfect match. We were so happy the gods became jealous and cut us apart; and ever since, we each go in search of that perfect mate from whom we’ve been separated. The older I get the more credence I give to that myth, my mother Doris thinks the same and had to wait until she was 81 before she found the right soul for her and I’m beginning to suspect I’m going to follow in her footsteps. I know I’m going to miss out on lots of rumpy-pumpy but what choice does any one of us have, do we cut our losses and settle for someone just OK and hope we will fall in love with them eventually, is it better to have at least companionship than wander these shores alone for the rest of your life?. This was the biggest problem with my marriage and I am aware that those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. I have friends whom met someone reasonably suitable and got married and I look at them and wonder are they really happy, is it a deep deep love or just ok, convenient, easy..

Jackie Kennedy famously said the first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship but I strongly disagree, she lived in a world very different from us mere muggles, (plus I wonder what Liz Taylor has to say on the subject), I think those are the three factors but she’s got them mixed up, I know money was not a factor for Doris and Bob and that companionship was a factor but I’m pretty sure in the end the only reason they married was for love. I’m wondering just how long I have to wait before Aphrodite takes pity on me.

bookmark_borderBallymoney aka Brigadoon

When I was a kid our mum used to make us sit quietly on rainy Saturday afternoons and watch some tedious black and white movie on BBC2 whilst it bucketed down out’a the heavens, sometimes the movies were so bad that the rain seemed the better option. The story of my youth was to spend Saturday afternoons in Conlig with extended family and assorted pets, rodents (and various wildlife pretending to be my brothers), attempting to find a space to sit on the floor in the living room between all the bodies and tails. It was a tight fit with nine of us and mum and pets, trying to get close to something approximating comfortable; not too far from the fire to get cold, not to close to get burnt, not too near to the constant draft of the living room door and most importantly not within arm reach of mum or we’d get a clip around the ear if we dared make a noise and distract her from the movie.

We’d be bored senseless with various Al Jolson musicals but at least warm, and occasionally there would be a movie I actually liked. One particularly wet afternoon there was a movie on called Brigadoon and I was mesmerised. It was about a Scottish town lost in the midst of time;

Quote from IMDB

“Americans Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, on a hunting vacation in Scotland, discover a quaint and beautiful village, Brigadoon. Strangely, the village is not on any map, and soon Tommy and Jeff find out why: Brigadoon is an enchanted place. It appears once every hundred years for one day, then disappears back into the mists of time, to wake up to its next day a century hence. “

Ignoring the awful American attempts at a Scottish dialect (filmed all in Hollywood and not one single Scottish actor in the whole movie), I thought it was a sweet movie, a love story but in Brigadoon (circa 1956) there were no telephones, no radios, no cars, no mod-cons, no Facebook, no modern day attitudes, and dating life meant being chaperoned by some uncle.

It puts me in mind of the town my mother Doris and her hubby Bob live in. She lives on the outskirts of a town called Ballymoney and I like to think of it as the Northern Irish version of Brigadoon, a town of people interested only in Daniel O’donnell and the benefits of cod liver oil.

They have this strange tradition that I completely forgot about now that I live in London, it’s called ‘half-day closing’ and on Wednesday afternoons most of the stores shut up shop so you canny even buy a loaf of bread, never mind internet access time. I’d forgotten about half-day closing, as kids the only shop in Conlig used to close on Thursday afternoons and it was always a disappointment to run around to the shop on pocket-money day and find the door to the sweetie shop firmly shut.

There’s very restricted mobile phone coverage, I always struggled to get a signal when there, I had to balance on a stool in the upstairs back bedroom and hang out the window and could only get a signal when I implored the great God T-Mobile and the wind blew from the south, a rare occurrence in Northern Ireland. So in a town of 10,000 there’s no official internet café which is a surprise as most of the residents seemed to be under sixteen and bound to be Facebookers. Perhaps they haven’t discovered ‘the internet thing’ in Ballymoney yet. Or deodorant. Some of the school kids sitting beside me in the bakers-come-coffee-shop-come-part-time-internet-café stank and yes, I had to email via a bakers shop and I had to sweet talk the girl behind the counter into letting me use her steam powered computer.

There’s a city 120 miles to the north east of London called Norwich. I visited it a few years ago and right from the moment I got off the train I realised there was something different about this city, everyone seemed to be just slightly out of phase with London, people wore slightly different clothes and attitudes seemed a step back. However, travel 500 miles northwest of London to Brigadoon – I mean Ballymoney, and it’s like travelling through a time warp, Ballymoney seems to be the town that style passed by, just like the 70’s (the decade that fashion passed by) everyone wears clothes that are impossible to find in the London High Street, polyester slacks were for sale in the local market, I thought there was some UN treaty banning the use of polyester worldwide but apparently Ballymoney didn’t get the memo.

And the pace of life is much slower there, glacial if truth be told, there doesn’t appear to be any rush hour as far as anyone can tell – except on Wednesday mornings when the OAP’s (Old Aged Pensioners) race and I used that word in the loosest possible meaning, to the Post Office with their zimmer-frames, thick stockings falling down their legs, to collect their pension and do a discrete head count to see if anyone has kicked the bucket since last Wednesday.

However, it’s not all bad, there are some good things going on there that, living in a big city like London, I forgot about. They drive under the speed limit. And will let you out of junctions unlike here in London where it’s every man, woman and car for themselves. And people talk to you. People are friendly and people will make time for you and will engage with you. I always get caught out by that and considering I spent the first 25 years of my life growing up in Norn Iron then I don’t know why I should be surprised.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more Ballymoney is like Brigadoon and that’s not a bad thing to say, it’s actually a compliment. No wonder Doris and Bob live there.

bookmark_borderPretty As A Picture

A friend of mine introduced me to Vernazza the other day, pictured above. Fantastic looking place and definitely going to be on one of my random trips to Europe one day for some nice photographs, hiking and sticky buns.

I wonder about the folk living there and if they get fed up with all the tourists, in times past it was (and probably still is) the only port for miles around and that’s how everyone made their living but now the major industry is tourism and no wonder because it’s so pretty.

One of my friends lives in the New Forest in Hampshire (nice video) and he hates the tourist season because the roads are full of cars all driving well under the speed limit and admiring the views and New Forest ponies. This irritates him as he’s nearly always late for work. The people who live there in the New Forest have a name for tourists, they call them Grockles (or in Tony’s case Bloody Grockles!) and I wonder if the residents of Vernazza have their own words for all the Grockles that descend on them in droves.

My mother Doris spent the first eighty years of her life living in somewhere equally beautiful, Cranfield, Killkeel. She was ‘out in the sticks’ as we say, the nearest neighbour was quite some distance away. She lived in a cottage that generations had been born/raised in, had walls hand built, whitewashed and about four foot thick. The first thing I noticed when I first found her (at age 18) was not that she had no gas, electricity, water, sewerage, television (but an outside loo and a well by the back door) but that she had stunning views of fields, meadows and in the distance views of the Mourne Mountains, all from her kitchen window. She too lived in somewhere simply stunning but one year I went down to Kilkeel to visit her and was aghast to see a garage had been built in front of her kitchen window. I said to her why on earth would she want a garage built just there in front of the window and she said it was the most convenient place. I said but what about the fantastic view of the fields, the cows, the meadows and the mountains, and she looked at me puzzled and said what view? I pointed in the direction of the Mourne Mountains and sighed..

And I think this is probably what it’s like for the residents of Vernazza, stunningly pretty place but if you live there day-in, day-out then you probably stop noticing it and get annoyed with the tourist – unless of course you run the one and only decent café in the whole town.

I went driving around the Mourne Mountains in the late 80’s with a friend, Jen. It was eerily quiet and spooky but quite special. Deep into the mountains I had to stop the car as the road lead up a steep hill and then just disappeared into a cloud. This wasn’t hundreds of yards away but just a few dozen yards away. We got out of the car and looked up, it was eerily silent, not a sound, no birds, no wind, silence, the air was incredibly still and a cloud hovered just inches from our out-stretched arms, I could almost touch it, it was incredibly well defined, like someone had drawn a line in the air and said ‘below here there be air’ and ‘above here there be cloud’. It was spooky, made me think of Twin Peaks or John Carpenters ‘The Fog’.  Jen suggested we didn’t go any further into the Mourne Mountains version of the Bermuda Triangle and for once I didn’t argue..

bookmark_borderPractice makes perfect?

Between the ages of 27 and 30 I used to go on holiday a lot with my friends, usually to somewhere in the Med. Cheap and hot was what the guys were looking for and that was just the woman. Sandy beaches and most importantly lots of bars were the next priorities for the guys. I’ve never been a great drinker but I was dragged along because I could be depended upon getting the rest of those reprobates back to the hotel in one piece, usually when dawn was long past.

I normally went with Tony, Neil and Steve, Steve had this funny idea that air travel made him unbelievably attractive to the opposite sex.  This delusion started to kick in on the way to the airport and he would transmogrify from quiet unassuming Steve who wouldn’t say boo to a ghost unless he had a drink in his hand (think Rajesh Koothrappali from Big Bang Theory) to superstud by the time he got off the Gatwick Express and arrived at check-in. By that point he was under the delusion that he was God’s gift to every woman and the check-in girl was obviously flirting with him.

This was OK except it started to get even worse by the time he was on the plane, he became very loud and thought every single woman on the plane had the hot’s for him. Last time I went on holiday with him (20 years ago!) I was convinced the airline was pumping hallucinogenic drugs through the ventilation system, but thinking about it now this does sound a little far-fetched as I was my usual (cough cough) quiet self.

On a trip to Corfu via Monarch Airlines (only slightly better than Egyptian Airlines because of their recent ban on hen, chicken, sheep and goats) I watched Steve chat up this blonde girl for the entire three hour flight. Every move she made, every word she said only confirmed to him that she wanted him and wanted him now! By the end of the flight he had delusions of a sordid threesome of him, her and her friend that she was meeting, in bed together for the entire ten days holiday. However, these castles in the air crumbled to sand when at Corfu arrivals she mentioned the friend she was meeting was not another hottie but her boyfriend.

Steve (and the rest of the guys) hit the bars immediately and I had to drag them all out to find a taxi and get us to the hotel.

I don’t know if many of you have been to Corfu and I’m sure there’s lots of culture and history but my somewhat patchy memory was the Red Lion pub followed by fish ‘n chips cafe followed by yet another Red Lion pub and then into some club with pounding music.  By the end of day one my ears were starting to bleed because of the noise.

Neil was the looker in our bunch, I used to watch how he plied his trade, he’d stand at the edge of the dance floor and  just stare at someone dancing, she’d notice, giggle and they’d keeping swapping glances for another minute and then Neil would just walk in and almost drag her off caveman style from her friends. It was like watching a wolf picking off the weakest of the herd. And we wouldn’t see him again until next morning when he’d come back with stupid big grin on his face. And then sleep the rest of the day. I had a dog that behaved exactly like that too. No, I’m not envious… no no, not me..  no, not all all…mutter mutter mutter. Of course it helped that Neil was very good looking, tall and built like a brick shithouse and had a Northern Irish accent too, oh and that his father was fifth in line for the throne – at least that’s what he told the girls but I would wonder then how then he explained the Irish accent.

So, the entire holiday was spent chasing tail, going to parties and getting very very drunk at some silly games. One game was called ‘Bond’. We’d watch a James Bond movie in the local bar, (we’d make a point of getting very friendly with the bar staff so they would play what we wanted on the screens) and one evening we got the entire bar to watch the The Man With The Golden Gun with us, with one slight (but important) difference.  Every time the name ‘Bond’ was mentioned in the film we had to take a slug of Tequila. The entire bar did this. The name ‘Bond’ comes up eleven times in the first half hour. I can’t actually remember much more of the movie. Nor could anyone else.

I do remember looking around and some girl was showing Neil her henna tattoos. Next time I looked over they were playing Tonsil Tennis. I thought to myself, those tattoos will last longer than that relationship.

bookmark_borderHappy (belated) Independence Day ;)

It’s officially the 4th of July now in the UK – so Happy Independence Day across the pond  – and I hope you lot are looking after the old place or we may have to rescind the Declaration of Independence, I fully expect you all to leave the place in just as good a condition as you found it ;p

I was in NYC during 4th July 2009 and sadly had to leave that evening but as the plane took off it banked around in a low circle and we all were rewarded with a magical view of hundreds, if not thousands, of firework going off from private parties and official events, it was something special to witness (and I’m trying to convince myself that it was to celebrate Independence and not the fact that the US was finally getting rid of The London Leprechaun!)

Today, Monday, 4th July is just another normal working day here in London and it’s weird to think that I shall be slaving over a hot computer coding away whilst across the pond flags will be out and parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches and ceremonies (thank you Wikipedia!) will be the order of the day. Well… when I say slaving I mean in-between tea breaks, coffee breaks, lunch breaks, social rounds, cake rounds, biscuit rounds and general tomfoolery but I’m almost certain I might be able to squeeze in some work as well!

(My beasties asked me earlier what I’m reading about and I said ‘Independence Day’ and they both groaned and said we’ve already seen it! You can tell they are not American.)

It’s also a bit weird that you lot are all celebrating the 4th of July as really that’s two days late, in reality the legal separation from Great Britain happened on the 2nd of July, 1776 when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence, but you all know this anyway, don’t you, you were paying attention in history class and not making gooey eyes at the boy sitting next to you?

After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

(Don’t ya just love Mr Google & Wikipedia!?)

Adams’s prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.

It’s an anachronism that seems to pass some Americans by, ‘official’ Independence day was the 2nd July 1776 but everyone calls the 4th July Independence Day, however, I mustn’t grumble, Christmas isn’t really on the actual date of Christ’s birth and the Queen has two birthdays, the public one and her private one so I suppose it’s OK for you lot to be a bit soft on dates too and at least you manage to arrange your big celebrations in the middle of summer and nice weather where-as we seem to have all ours during the rainy season aka Spring, Autumn and Winter (and a large part of summer!).

What I did find spooky was that in a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, you see, with the benefit of hindsight they might have made it the 31st of December and maybe squeezed six more months out’a life 😉

Oh, found this link, seems the folk in Doncaster can’t get enough  history, so they swipe some of yours too 😉

Anyway, you will have all seen this extremely (and without a doubt) genuine document from years ago when America couldn’t decide between Bush and Gore

(BTW, you picked the wrong one!)

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

(You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

1. Look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour’, ‘favour’, ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise’. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ‘like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u’ and the elimination of -ize.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables but still use pints and miles because we like to confuse everyone.

Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

8. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with ketchup but with vinegar.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

11. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.

12. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don’t try rugby – the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.

13. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 5.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.

15. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

16. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

(And let the flank begin! )


bookmark_borderIn as few words as possible.

But not all at once.

I’ve travelled a bit around this world and when I think about it and my memories and if I had to describe each place in as few words as possible then this is my list;

(Some are repeated as I may have been there more than once)
Italy: Proper pizza
Italy: Cheap wine and 30 16yr olds getting wasted.
Holland: Porn mag machines by the station.
Egypt: Dry. Car horns. Disparity.
Tunisia: Rain. Rain. Rain. (sigh!)
Maldives: Photoshop not required.
Corfu: Red Lion pubs everywhere.
Germany: Beer. Big beer.
Dublin: Beggars on street. Friendly.
Barcelona: Pickpockets. Gaudi. Shades.
Isle of Man: Cats. Motorbikes.
Isle of Wright: Out of synch with mainland.
Silly Isles: 50 years behind mainland. Good.
Maine: A Funeral
Palm Springs: A Wedding
LA: Sex Shop. Coffee
LA: Mowed Lawn (is this a euphemism?)
Las Vegas: Eye popping.
Scotland: Rain. Community.
Wales: Wet. Green. Canals.
Iceland: Cold in February.
France: Smokers. Outdoor cafes.
Crete: Little Britain
Ontario: Maid of the Mist. Big pancakes.
Ontario: England. Fall.
Arizona: Scrub-land. Distant mountains. Yuma.
Colorado: Mountains.
Connecticut: Trees.
Florida: Plastic. South beach. Big waves.
Illinois: Terrible airport.
Maryland: Snake.
Massachusetts: Watching Ireland play rugby in Irish pub.
Minnesota: Cold. Deserted. Everyone in the malls.
Nevada: Big. Empty.
New Hampshire: More Trees. LOTS of trees.
New Jersey: Mafia. Not able to pump own gas.
NYC: Canyons in Manhattan.
NYC Paddys cathedral. Central Park culture culture culture.
NYC Home from home
North Carolina:  Furniture Week. Hotels Full. Irish ambassador.
Oregon: Good book store.
Pennsylvania: Hills. Valleys. Forest.
Rhode Island: Large roundabout. Confused drivers.
South Carolina: Hunting.
Texas: Ma’am. Manners. Republician.
Washington: PC taken to extremes.

Childhood: The smell of cut grass.

bookmark_borderGoing Down (Under).

Have almost finished reading Bill Bryson’s  ‘Down Under’ and here’s some facts I bet you didn’t know you didn’t know about Oz

The Opera House was designed by the Danish architect, Joern Utzon. His design was literally pulled out of the trash where it had been thrown after rejection in a competition to design the Opera House and the deciding committee couldn’t decide on a winner. Utzon, surprisingly, never ended up seeing his prized creation, after leaving the project due to disputes about its rising costs, and returned to Denmark .

Sir Eugene Goossens, the man who came up with the idea to build the Opera House, never saw the final creation either – while passing customs in Sydney, he was discovered carrying a large collection of what was deemed porn and was asked to leave the country. So, when you think about it, it was Goossens own erection that stopped him from seeing his greatest erection.

In 1857, naturalist Gerard Krefft caught two very rare pig-footed Bandicoots in the outback. Unfortunately, Krefft grew hungry and ate them. As far as anyone could tell – they were the last of their species… oops!

Krefft also was later appointed head of the Australian Museum in Sydney – unfortunately he was asked to seek employment elsewhere when it was discovered that he was selling pornographic postcards to supplement his salary. This gets me wondering, he was working in a museum, just what sort of postcards were they, see the Mummy naked, aka MILF (not!)… the mind boggles..

As some of you already know, Britain sent their convicts to Australia in the late eighteenth century. While the voyage took 252 days they were lucky – upon landing, the Brits spotted two French ships in the horizon. Meaning, had they taken a day longer to arrive, Australia would have been a French colony. The French ships simply turned around and went home..  doh

A suggested name for the nation’s capital Canberra was “Sydmeladperbrisho” (using the first syllables of the state capitals). Canberra is considered so boring that the 1996 Prime Minister John Howard declined to live there after winning the election. Instead, he announced he would commute from Sydney to Canberra as duties required.  This wasn’t in like 1950’s or 1960’s but in 1996! Canberra’s population is about 350,000 and I’m sure every one of them was insulted. The man’s got balls!

Sorry but I loved this too;


bookmark_borderStranger in a Strange Land: Part Four

NOT the London Leprechaun (although 'Twatt' does have a familiar ring to it)

One of the many things I find interesting about flying to the States is that when over Maine (ME) I always notice Bangor and Belfast come up on the moving maps, after being raised (ie trailed up backwards) in Bangor, Northern Ireland (NI) and spent lots of time in Belfast, it always makes me smile to see those names popping up.

There aren’t many similarities between both Bangors, Bangor ME has a population of 30,000,  an international airport and has the balls to call itself a city, Bangor NI has a population of more than twice it’s younger sibling and much more modestly calls itself a town and has one train station and a taxi rank. In one Bangor the main pastime is to sit in your car on Queens Parade and see who can gather the most dust and cobwebs, and the other, to quote it’s website ‘a friendly city that’s filled with excitement, opportunity and activity, and a gateway to the natural beauty of this great state’, you can probably work out which one is which.

I did find one similarity between the two Bangors, G.W. Bush managed to sneak aboard a transport plane and glad hand troops about to head off from Bangor ME  to Iraq in 2004 but during World War II, Eisenhower addressed Allied troops in Bangor NI, who were departing to take part in the D-Day landing.  In 2005, his granddaughter Mary-Jean Eisenhower came to the town to oversee the renaming of the marina’s North Pier to the Eisenhower Pier, my memories of North pier are of a decrepit wooden pier rotten to the core and closed off to the public but as wee nippers we climbed over the fence and barbed wire (and watch tower) to fish at the end of the pier, if Mary-Jean Eisenhower stood on that pier then she must have inherited her grandfather’s balls of steel

Bangor NI has been around a while, bronze age swords were found there in 1949 (took them long enough!) and a Viking burial ground in Ballyholme beach, a place all residents are familiar with as it’s the only beach that the sewers don’t directly spill out onto. Bangor was first mentioned about 558AD and Abbey Church there dates back to that time (which co-incidentally is about the same age as my car).

Bangor ME was incorporated in 1834 but how it got its name is a matter of debate, you see it transpires that Reverend Seth Noble, the first installed minister, went to Boston to petition the General Court of Massachusetts for an act of incorporation. Before his departure, citizens agreed that the town’s new name would be ‘Sunbury.’ Legend has it that Noble was humming a favourite hymn as he participated in the official proceedings and mistakenly answered ‘Bangor’-the name of the hymn-when asked the town’s name and thus Bangor was reborn.  Could have been worse I suppose, he could have been humming “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”

What’s equally interesting is that 35miles south of Bangor ME is Belfast ME, population about 7,000 but even they have their own airport albeit not an international one (yet), Belfast NI does of course have Belfast City Airport but come on, the population was 267,000 last time anyone stayed still long enough to be counted, exactly 260,000 more than it’s younger rival.

The way Belfast ME got it’s name was also as well thought out as Bangor ME, the founding fathers wanted to name the city Londonderry after their home in New Hampshire, not after the city of Londonderry in Ireland because of course that would be too sensible and after all, one can’t have too many Londonderry’s. It certainly wouldn’t confuse anyone having another Londonderry 200 miles down the road, “No no, you silly sausage, it’s the other Londonderry you want, down the road…” UPS would go crazy trying to figure that one out. However, wisdom prevailed and the founding fathers of Belfast did what all deep thinking men did and tossed a coin and Belfast won. This was of course, a new, previously unheard of definition of the term ‘wisdom’.

So I wonder about a few things, why on earth would you want to name your city after Bangor and Belfast, surely if you were going to name a town you’d create some new name or you’d pick a name that no-one would miss, there are literally thousands of tiny little hamlets in Ireland and the UK, some of them with only two or three houses and wouldn’t it be much wiser to put their names to greater use than copy Bangor seventeen times (yes, there are seventeen Bangors in the world, one close by in Wales and nine in the States, yeah, nine! and even a ship ‘The City Of Bangor’) but a cursory nosey with Mr Google brings up many alternatives such as Shitterton, Pratts Bottom, Badgers Mount, Crotch Crescent, Titty Ho, Ugley, Bottom Flash, Twatt, Brown Willy near Bodmin Moor, Berriwillock, Grimbister, Noak Hoak, Scrabster and Skoonspruit, names I’m sure no-one would miss, and between thou and I, I’m deeply jealous of Australia which has Burrumbuttock, Jiggalong and Tittybong,  and then finally there’s America, near Ely in Cambridgeshire, UK.. oh bugger, seems that one’s already taken..