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Spiritual NHS January 14, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Darlings, what to do when you hit a spiritual low? When you’ve reached intellectual rock-bottom? When inspiration is lacking and you feel as creative as an accountant? Why, you go to the spiritual, intellectual and inspirational NHS, of course, to stock up on spiritual, intellectual and inspirational drugs, and all at someone else’s expense: the BBC.

And don’t you even think of thinking that I’m one of those nasty BBC-bashers. I’m sure, if I was harangued long enough, I could vaguely begin to understand why some folk find the licence fee and the BBC at least as morally wicked as torturing kittens, and that it and the NHS and Sweden are the true axis of evil, but I’ve never gone in for minding myself. Anyway, I now kindly allow you UK residents to fund the BBC for me while I’m away, which is awfully kind of you. But lest you Brits feel especially singled out, rest assured that here in the Bundesrepublik we also pay for the privilege of owning a TV, though I have no idea where this money goes and if it’s just a straightforward tax or goes to fund some channel or other.

But the BBC. The glorious BBC. Its place in my internal world grows ever more mythic with every new day I spend in exile. It’s like Big Ben, Stonehenge, cricket and spotted dick rolled into one. I don’t have access to its televisual efforts – well, I’ve got that BBC World thing – but the TV has long since been replaced by the wireless as my favourite inanimate and unimbibable source of entertainment. If you are happy, then I presume Radio 4 is already a great part of your life. If you are happy but don’t listen to Radio 4, then listen to it and you might well drop dead of happiness within minutes. If you are miserable, listen to Radio 4 and you will become happy. In a flash. It IS the perfect cure-all. Far from worrying that we have all become too atomised, virtualised and straightforwardly wicked, I think we’re not nearly atomised and virtualised enough. I think people should be housed in single-resident pods with a chute that delivers food and, far more importantly, 24-hour, high-speed internet access. I would advise folk to go to this page, click on Listen Live and then spend ALL DAY, from dawn till dusk, and dusk till dawn, if they can manage it, listening and having all their spiritual, intellectual and inspirational nourishment needs tended to.

So as I bumble and lumber through January as skillessly as usual, Radio 4 keeps me company and keeps me sane. I have seen B. confirm to RFM that Radio 4 is the best thing ever with the latter seconding the advice of posh folk from Vanity Fair that Radio 4 is well worth dropping in on. See? EVEN Californians and New Yorkers recommend it…

But a couple of more targeted links for you. Here’s what’s done it for me in the endless hours of spiritual, intellectual and actual darkness in the last week: first there was this today, an excellent half-hour programme about the closing of The Bow Street Magistrates Court. More characters than in an episode of Little Britain. A perfect range of accents for anyone wanting to do a PhD on social class and how the English speak. And a lifelong criminal of the type I thought existed solely in the minds of Jake Arnott and Eastenders scriptwriters. In a bonkers way, it made me glad to be from London. And glad to be alive. (And wonder – again – what the fuck I’m doing here.) Second, this comedy show, which nicely takes the piss out of us internet types. “A fast-paced new sketch show about modern communication, media noise and contemporary obsessions. It brings you deluded bloggers, home broadcasting, interactive soaps, celebrity kidnaps and e-mail scams,” goes the blurb. Made me titter. And continues a fine tradition of comedy on Radio 4. They rarely seem to get it wrong.

So thank you, licence-fee payers. Surely keeping Brits abroad happy is well worth other people’s money.



1. A Blogger - January 15, 2007

Without wanting to sound like an ignorant convict colonial (albeit one with the Ashes in the bag), I had a listen to Radio 4 based on your prompting, Broke, and turned it off half an hour later.

The sports section of the news had some old codger describing through his pint his game plan used when beating someone else to the All English Darts Championships in Hampton-Upon-Heath, or Frankston-Upon-Green or some other hyphenated town.

It then went on to describe the installation of Japanese installation art in the industrial north and, ah, ah, ah, yawwwwnn…

I know, I know, as an Ozstray’en, I can hardly comment on the culture, or lack thereof, of other countries – least of all Mother England. And yet, I am. Call it my faux Irish blood, wanting to better the bastards that shipped my grandfather’s granfa out for the price of a loaf of bread, or whatever.

I’ve no point to make, unfortunately, just that Radio 4 wasn’t my cup of tea, to adopt a phrase no doubt heard on that frequency.

2. MountPenguin - January 15, 2007

A Blogger, BiB appears to have omitted this fact, but it is generally accepted that only those who have grown up to the sonorous tones of the Shipping Forecast can truly appreciate that which is Radio Four.

To anyone living in Germany and who has received a threatening-sounding email from the GEZ, the people who are responsible for extracting the licence fee: it’s a fake with some nasty virus-wotsit as an attachment.

3. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

BiB, Radio 4 is also my constant companion at home and at work, providing me with company and reassurance that, really, life is worth living and the world is a, not entirely, rotten place.

I understand that there are people who find Radio 4 loathsome (one of my sisters-in-law says it makes her want to kill people!) but , even although it sometimes broadcasts programmes in which I have no interest whatsoever, I greatly appreciate the fact that it makes these programmes at all. In this modern age of easy, cheesy, lowest common denominator-please-y broadcasting, it is so comforting to find a broadcaster which isn’t driven solely by ratings, isn’t celeb heavy and, once in while caters to the minority interest.

I LOVE Radio 4.

4. BiB - January 15, 2007

AB, of course I shouldn’t have mentioned cricket in my paean to ‘home’. Truth be told, I loathe cricket, don’t know what silly mid-off means (which probably means I’d fail a citizenship test), and have only ever got interested when England has won the Ashes, which has happened about twice in my lifetime: once in 2005, of course, and whenever it was that Botham was in his heyday.

But you got darts from Widdle-on-the-Fuddle and Japanese art! Bad luck. And I heard those moments too. Well, I suppose it can’t hit the spot all the time, but it so does it for me. (It’s ringing in my ears as I type, of course.) (But it can alternate with the World Service when The Archers or Gardeners’ Question Time comes on.) I think age helps. You have just turned 30, if I’m not mistaken, so perhaps you’re moving slowly towards Radio 4 age. Remind us to have this conversation again in ten years’ time and I betcha you’ll be addicted.

Penguin, what DO we pay GEZ for, actually? Am I funding Deutschland Sucht den SuperStar? I’m quite a late adopter of Radio 4. I grew up in a crowded house so it was mostly just pop music and shouting in my youth. And I’m sure my mother has never listened to Radio 4 in her life. But, being here, it’s a nice little connection to home and isn’t usually TOO parochial. Darts from Widdle-on-the-Fuddle aside, of course.

Marsha, are you listening RIGHT NOW? In which case, SNAP! But screw Radio 4. Give me the weekend’s gossip, for god’s sake. Who was there? Who was nice? Who was nasty? Whom did you fancy etc. etc.?

5. Mark - January 15, 2007

don’t know what silly mid-off means

That makes two of us.

6. BiB - January 15, 2007

Mark, thank you for your solidarity. I’ve sometimes wondered if I should get down to Wilhelmstr. and hand back my documents as an unworthy citizen. But you are undeniably a fully paid-up Brit and if not knowing cricket-speak is good enough for you, it’s good enough for me.

7. MountPenguin - January 15, 2007

The only thing I have learnt about cricket (derived mainly from half-heard sports news) is that has its origins in an ancient English rainmaking ceremony. Apart from that all this talk of sticky wickets and players going out for a duck mystifies me completely.

8. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

BiB, the weekend was very pleasant, if vaguely surreal! I met Patroclus, bluecat, Pashmina (thegrammaticalpuss.blogspot.com), realdoc (menkeskinkyhair.blogspot.com), Heather (heatherdazedandconfuzzled.blogspot.com) and cello. They were all lovely and I was delighted to finally meet them after two years of reading their various blogs (cello, who doesn’t blog, and Heather I’d met before, in Edinburgh, last summer). I did feel that I didn’t quite measure up to my “companions” but such is life (mine anyway). Stephen Mangan (one of the cast) came along for a while and was a really good sport, getting involved in all sorts of silly games (I watched from the sidelines). Apologies again for the fact that I can’t do the linky thing, but you can google him and see what you think. The actor I’d really fancied in Green Wing (Julian Rhind-Tutt, more Googling) wasn’t there, but the presence of the writers and the Q & A session they did more than made up for this. In fact the writers (James Henry, Richard Preddy, Oriane Messina,Rob Harley and Billy Sneddon, who edited the programme) were the best thing about the whole event. Oh, and the other bloggers. I received some encouraging comments regarding taking up blogging again, which was nice, especially from people whose blogs I admire. Finding my way around London was a bit of a challenge for a hick from the sticks like myself, but I managed. I’m glad I went, even if I did feel a bit inadequate, I’d only have spent a lot of time wondering what had gone on if I hadn’t. The whole thing was being filmed by Patrick and Finn, who worked on Green Wing, and I think the intention is that some of the footage should appear as one of the “extras” on the DVD boxed set – so you may be able to see the whole thing for your self at some point in the future!

9. bowleserised - January 15, 2007

I got Diana Dors and Thor Heyerdahl – great stuff!

10. Ed Ward - January 15, 2007

I remember my first visit to Britain back in the reign of Ethelred the Unready, and my pals in the village I was staying in huddled around the television for some very, very crucial cricket game. Not only did I not, in the two hours I watched, understand a damn thing, but there then came the moment when they switched off the tube and said “Well, we’ll see what happens tomorrow, then. Let’s go down the pub.” A game that gets continued? Dang. But at that moment, only the last sentence really registered.

What GEZ does is, to my American brain, very salutary: it funds the public broadcast network here, radio and television. This provides not only production money, but subsidized the symphony orchestras and such that are affiliated with the public stations. You have your national public station (ARD), and then your regional ones (RBB, WDR, etc). Of course, I *would* think this, drawing a major part of my salary from America’s public radio and television, which is supported by listener and viewer donations.

I’m also shocked that A Blogger doesn’t know how to spell Stryne. Shocked, I say!

11. BiB - January 15, 2007

But why oh why did the English need a rainmaking ceremony? Although I must be careful not to give into stereotypes. It rains more here than back on the island. I’d like to know all that cricket terminology, in a way. I would deliberately use it in front of unsuspecting foreigners to pretend I was a duke or count. But, alas, I know no more about cricket than I do about American football. Well, a bit more. (You do know what a duck means really, don’t you, Penguin? I met an English lady once – I’m sure I’ve blogged this before. My whole life has now been fully documented in minute detail. Better than flipping Hansard – who didn’t know what the men with the ball were doing or meant to do in football. I thought that was an admirable level of imperviousness to outside influences.)

B., I got a bit of Diana Dors too, though not Thor. I remember Dors’s husband committing suicide – it was in the programme too – and thinking that was romantic, though naughty, because they had children. And someone in the show said she might have become Peggy Mitchell in Eastenders rather than Barbara Windsor had she lived!

Ed, I have some French pals who are of English origin (well, and the man of the house, who is the Engländer, is also a pal), and they would regularly turn up in England to visit other pals. Once this coincided with some cricket match that youngest Frenchy was forced to sit through and she could hardly wait to tell me how mind-staggeringly boring it had been. She was practically suicidal when I told her that a Test Match can last five days.

12. MountPenguin - January 15, 2007

Erm, if I had to guess I’d say a duck is when the chap with the bat sees the ball whistling towards him at a great rate of knots, and knowing that it is a very hard ball, ducks, and hence allows the ball to hit the wicket thingy, which then explodes into its component pieces, and everyone runs onto the pitch and shouts “huzzah”, possibly using the remains of the wicket-thingy to start an impromtu fire with which to taunt the English cricket team for the next century or so. Then everyone retires for tea.

13. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

I know what “a duck” is in the context of cricket (and in other contexts too!) but I cannot pretend to understand, or even care, about what the rest of it all means. However, I’m a Scot and I think you really have to be English to stand any chance of “getting” cricket. I also am bamboozled by a game which can go on for five days and have no discernable (to me, anyway) result. Eh?! I like the idea of cricket teas, though.

14. BiB - January 15, 2007

Penguin, spot on. I was a bit worried I might have to steal your passport and go and hand it in at Wilhelmstr. too for a moment. Mmm, tea…

Marsha, I can’t link in comments either – unless I go back and edit once I’m done, when the nice link function appears – but I’ve had a look through the cast so that I know whom to fancy in advance here: http://www.sitcom.co.uk/green_wing/actors.shtml and my vote goes to Oliver Chris. Now stop being a naughty girl with your feelings of inadequacy, although I mostly feel inadequate too, but find that drinking an enormous quantity of alcohol then helps enormously. Of course this redoubles the feelings of inadequacy the next morning/afternoon, but is an awfully good short-term solution… And where was it held? Did you have to find your way to an obscure bit of London or was it at the Savoy (turn right outta Charin’ Cross and ‘ead dairn The Straynd)?

15. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

Oliver Chris is indeed a very attractive young man, but I have to say, in Julian’s defence, that “that” photo is probably the least flattering photo of him in existence on the internet. If I could I’d direct you to some very lovely photos of him.

Am with you on the enormous quantities of alcohol reducing feelings of inadequacy thing, although I usually don’t have to wait until the next morning for the re-doubled feelings of inadequacy, as I’m frequently a wreck before bedtime (whenever that occurs!) trying to remember exactly what I’ve said to whom and if they’ll ever speak to me again…

The “do” was held in a pub in Hammersmith (or should that be ‘Ammersmiff?!)

16. MountPenguin - January 15, 2007

Right-o. Still stuck (haha) on the sticky wicket thing though, or is that just a euphemism for something else entirely more interesting? And now I come to think of it, isn’t it “howzat” they shout at cricket matches? Actually, I vaguely remember enjoying cricket at school, because all one had to do was find a strategic position somewhere the ball was unlikely to come flying, and lounge around until the period was over, omitting to swap sides whenever one of them was hit out for a dicky bird or whatever.

17. BiB - January 15, 2007

Penguin, quite right. Howzat it is. I don’t know what sticky wicket means either, but – damn his archives – I wanted to send you over to http://www.blognorregis.blogspot.com/ as his take on sticky wicket was a scantily-clad lady on a cricket pitch. But perhaps it’s something to do with the surface of the pitch. No idea. Aber, your take on school cricket reminds me so much of Richard W_’s advice to me at school when we were forced to play football. He was equally unsporty but had a humanitarian streak and tried to allay my fears. “Stay away from the ball and kick it off the pitch if it does come to you.”

Which ties in seamlessly to Ammersmiff, Marsha, as we were taken to Games somewhere west of Ammersmiff – school near Hammersmith too – and were dropped off there on the way home. Did you have to negotiate the Hammersmith & City line, which surely rivals the Northern as London Underground’s greatest non-achievement? Although it may now incorporate – I think it does – the original bit of the Metropolitan line, which was the first ever underground line, so it was an achievement, actually, and I should shut up. But I’ve heard other bloggers talking of meeting in Hammersmith. Was there a spillover meeting or you didn’t get a chance to meet everyone?

..and Scotland does do cricket, doesn’t it? I’ve seen them at the World Cup, dressed in blue. Naturally I want Scotland to lose at football, but I was rooting for them in the Cricket World Cup. I’ve got a feeling they didn’t win it.

…and I’d try not to worry overly about the ‘trying to remember exactly what I’ve said to whom and if they’ll ever speak to me again’. Hopefully folk don’t offend too easily. On average, I’d say the English DO offend more easily than their French and German cousins – Russians offend easily-ish but in different ways – but I think this lessens with age. Don’t know how the Scots compare on the offendability scale.

18. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

BiB, I am aware of the bloggers’ meeting in Hammersmith of which you speak (although I wasn’t aware of it until I arrived at the GW do and I couldn’t have gone anyway because I only travelled down on Saturday morning. Oh, and I wasn’t invited.) But the Hammersmith and City line, hmmm. It wasn’t running when I arrived on Saturday (I think there’d been a fatal accident, which would normally make me think “Oh, how horrible” but instead I just thought “Bugger. How selfish” I had to get the Circle line, then the Picadilly (so, very pleased with myself for managing that).

Scotland does do cricket but not so’s you’d notice, really. It’s very much a minority sport (like soccer in the USA, sorry Becks), although Edinburgh, in typical trend-bucking form does have a fair sprinkling of cricketing going on in season (all our “posh” schools follow a far more English sporting programme than Scottish State schools). I presume Scotland obliges you by losing at football most of the time? They’ve made something of a speciality of it recently. Interestingly, Scottish football fans (the “Tartan Army”) are far more welcome abroad than they used to be in the days when they were all thugs and the team occasionally won something. Now they seem to consist of a bunch of happy, slightly drunk blokes who turn up, sing a lot, make a bit of a mess, but, basiscally, do little harm. Some people (you know the ones who think sport is important, bless them) think this MISSES THE POINT and LETS THE SIDE DOWN and symbolises EVERYTHING that is wrong with Scotland. I like to say to them:
“It’s only a game…”

19. pleite - January 15, 2007

Marsha, to be honest, I haven’t noticed football recently. Well, apart from the World Cup, during which England does fantastically well at not winning. But when I was a youngster, it seemed to happen quite often that England wasn’t in the World Cup but Scotland was always there, playing their hearts out. (Actually, where England does losing-on-penalties, what does Scotland do in the way of heroic losses?) (I remember a Scottish colleague being less than impressed when Scotland once lost to Costa Rica.) Anyway, why oh why (again) isn’t there a UK football team? We are technically one country, after all…

20. Mark - January 15, 2007

The aforementioned young lady can be found here http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2006/12/where_the_bloody_hell_is_she.html along with some funny comments

And I don’t know the original meaning of a sticky wicket either other than its use to describe a tricky situation. I just like double entrendres. Although sometimes that’s one entendre too many.

Me, I don’t like cricket, don’t like rugby, don’t like football hence I’m obviously not sporty. I cycled 137miles (220km?) this weekend but I’m not sporty.

21. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

Scotland’s progress through the initial stages of the World Cup seems (to me, at least) to follow roughly the same pattern each time:
1) They are drawn against 3 other teams. One is very good (e.g Brazil, France)
2) One is a team from a country even smaller than Scotland and made up of part-timers (e.g Faroe Islands)
3)One is an averagely good team (erm, my knowledge of football is limited, sorry!)
4) They play the part-time team first. They lose. Spectacularly. 15-nil, that kind of thing. They receive no points.
5) They play the average team next. They draw. They receive 1 point.
6) They play the very good team last. They WIN! Not by much but they win! They receive 3 points.
7) They fail to qualify (again!) because the very good team and the average team have amassed more points than they have.
8) The fans go home happy to have seen Scotland beat the very good team.
9) The pundits begin their post-mortem. I lose what little interest I had in the first place.

22. BiB - January 15, 2007

Marsha, I suggest you start campaigning AGAINST the dissolution of the union immediately. We are clearly much more similar than Sean Connery would ever dare admit. The Russian was visibly mystified when I explained that the English enjoy a really heroic loss and that Tim Henman losing 98 times in the semis at Wimbledon is enjoyed just slightly more than if he actually won the thing. I didn’t know what to feel when England won the Rugby World Cup. It was the only big sporting win by England that I can remember. Though, obviously, I get a minor thrill at moments like – cue stories of British sporting decline – Coe and Ovett at the Moscow Olympics. And I will be rooting for Murray and Mackin when I stay up all night to watch the Australian Open tonight.

Mark, so many miles! You must be as fit as a fiddle and as strong as an ox. Tennis is my only sport. My body clock will be properly screwed for the next two weeks. I like cycling if I never have to go up (or down, ideally) a hill. I might be able to manage 137 miles in Holland.

23. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

Personally, my problem is not with English sportsmen/women or even with their fans, but rather with the way the BBC reports or rather(in the case of sport in which Scotland has a stake) doesn’t report things. Andy Murray is good example. If he does well he will be universally referred to as “Britain’s Andy Murray” “the British No.1” etc etc. If (when?) he loses, I bet he becomes “the unlucky Scot”! Now call me a chippy Jock if you will (aye, an’ ah’ll fuckin’ blooter ye, pal!), but that has been my experience.

I didn’t know you were a tennis player. Do you think Murray has what it takes to win Wimbledon and finally, after all this time give the fans a British champion?

24. pleite - January 15, 2007

Oh gosh. I don’t actually play! Well, I mean, in theory, I can plop a ball over the net but I can barely serve and I don’t have a backhand.

Yes, I can imagine this must be a pain of not being English in the UK. Even the saintly Radio 4 – on now, natch – is pretty anglocentric, which I suppose is partly to do with numbers, and partly to do with things being in London and Londoners thinking Birmingham is practically abroad, never mind Scotland. And feeling is, I’m guessing, as important as all the money-related and practical arguments of any (normal, not bonkers) nationalism. If Scots feel they are an ignored appendage of England (forgetting all that West- or Midlothian stuff), that’s as much grist to the SNP’s mill as arguments about Scottish gas (or is it oil?) and all that jazz.

But then it’s a matter of priorities too, I suppose. Personally, I am likely to say English before British when asked what I am, but am perfectly happy with either. And I suppose I do feel I’m in a noticeably different place when I’m in Scotland, but then I feel that in Newcastle too. So it’s hard to say if that’s really a national thing. My sister, who moved to Scotland with her family, says she feels sort of almost abroad. And I feel like a total arse when I can’t understand what some Scots say. The shame! (Bugger. Don’t know ‘blooter’ either and it’s not in my Chambers dic and I’ve just checked where Chambers does its stuff and it’s Edinburgh! Actually, I don’t know ‘chippy’ either, which is in my dic, but as meaning ‘promiscuous’ in North America!)

Um, Murray. Well, he’s exciting and talented and has a personality and I hope he can win a Grand Slam. To be honest, I can’t think of anyone winning anything while Federer is around, although he doesn’t win everything, obviously, and perhaps Murray has a chance at something. Federer is so brilliant he sometimes actually makes me cry. So beautiful to watch. And it helps that he doesn’t seem like a total arse.

25. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

And the Swiss government give him a cow every time he wins a major tournament (or something). How cool is that!

Oh, BiB, please don’t think I’m anti-English (Mr K is English through and through, and one of the loveliest people you could ever meet!) As for feeling an arse when you don’t understand (some) Scots people, hell I don’t understand some of them and I AM one! The north east of Scotland specialises in impenetrable accents. Why SHOULDN’T you say English before British when asked? You ARE English! There’s a depressing amount of anti-English sentiment up here, mostly low-level stuff, but even people whom I regard as very dear friends occasionally feel it’s OK to make remarks of a sort which I’m sure they wouldn’t if my husband was, say, black or asian. This is why I’m not a nationalist in any sort of meaningful sense (the one exception to this statement is any scenario which invloves my schwegereltern (sp?)) For the record “blooter” is a slang term which means roughly “to batter or mash to a pulp”. “Chippy”, in this context at least, means hypersensitive.
Please say we can still be friends.

26. BiB - January 15, 2007

Darling, I didn’t think you were being anti-English for a single sec! Not a single sec.

I think I can sort of understand Scottish nationalism. As with the English/British thing for me, I’m sure Scots must feel the Scottish/British thing just as strongly. More strongly, perhaps. England dominates numerically, after all, although of course there’s English nationalism galore too, which I haven’t got a handle on. Plus I’ve been away for so long now that some aspects of UKdom do matter less and less. But I will follow the Scottish elections with (something bordering on) excitement later this year. I’ve mentioned before somewhere that Andrew Sullivan said if the UK breaks up, it will be like Yugoslavia with cups of tea! I’d be mega-interested if something as constitutionally momentous did happen. But I won’t hold my breath just yet!

27. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

No, me neither. One of the problems with a lot of so-called Scottish “nationalism” (and with Irish and Welsh nationalism too, I suspect) is that for centuries the Scots haven’t needed to think about what it is to be Scots – they’ve been content to define Scottishness as “not English”. This is why we constantly trot out the same tired old cliches when asked to define our nation. Scotland’s corporate image still leans heavily on the tartan shortbread tin and the whisky bottle (against a background of heather-covered grouse moors, of course). Not that these things don’t feature in a Scottish identity, but they are a long way from being the whole story. Coincidentally, I was having thoughts along these very lines yesterday, when I landed at Prestwick airport and realised that its corporate logo incorporates the phrase “Pure Dead Brilliant” – a phrase coined by Glasgow comedienne Elaine C. Smith. A fitting summation of a country with aspirations to be a nation state? I don’t think so. In fact, I was going to do a long, angry blog-post all about it…and then I remembered I didn’t have a blog! So I’ve done it here instead!
Oh dear! this has gone, in a few short comments, from being a light-hearted bit of banter about the male cast of “Green Wing” to a (slightly) bad-tempered rant about Scottish national identity. Ah, the wonders of blogging!

28. pleite - January 15, 2007

Hurrah for blogging. It can be a spur for you to reestablish yours.

Corporate branding for a country sounds wank, doesn’t it? I don’t know if England does it yet. Are there adverts for England on CNN with Big Ben, Stonehenge, cricket and spotted dick? You know, like those ones they had for Malaysia, truly Asia? And I think India and Poland do the same now. Although all that Cool Britannia stuff was just as wank, and not even really true, was it? Because Oasis went to No. 10? But it got the tourists in, perhaps, so served its purpose.

Mind you, from a distance (more in time than actual miles now), SNP-style nationalism doesn’t seem too wank. I mean, it’s not all about nasty English gits and oppressed Scots, is it? Just them stating their economic case. Or do they go in for kilts and bagpipes in a big way too? A friend of mine was once on some TV programme and I think he had to hang around with Alex Salmond in some ante-room beforehand (or afterwards). He said he was a diamond geezer who heartily encouraged partaking of the free booze.

29. Liukchik - January 15, 2007

The Hammersmith and City line is my favourite – the bliss of the journey out alongside the A40 – Trellick Tower – then back into the joy of Shepherd’s Bush an Hammersmith. Maybe I need to grow out of my Clash-related romanticisation of west London.

30. MountPenguin - January 15, 2007

In an independent Scotland, would there be some kind of law which finally cleared up the vexatious question of kilts and the wearing of underwear beneath same? It doesn’t come up quite as often as the London fog issue, but as someone hailing from the same island I am occasionally required to field enquiries in that direction, and clarity would be appreciated. (For the record I usually say that nowadays underwear is only dispensed with during traditional events connected with the haggis hunting season).

31. Liukchik - January 15, 2007

I can’t keep up with the volume of posts, dear boy… Some of us have to work, you know. I’m out of it for a couple of weeks and you start setting new records.

32. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

I’m sure for the Nationalist politicians it isn’t just about nasty English gits and oppressed Scots. I’m also sure that, if Scotland wasn’t economically important to the U.K and was the huge drain on the exchequer that some politicians south of the border would have you believe it is, it would have been independent a long time ago. I have some good friends who are nationalists and, although I said before that I’m not a Nat. in any meaningful sense, I do broadly support the Scottish parliament, partly because I’d like to think it would make us grow up a bit as a nation and stop blaming England for all our problems.

Is your avatar Dolly, the cloned sheep? I was thinking that Dolly should feature in Scotland’s corporate branding – leading the way in biotechnology and all that. Instead Roslin (home of the Roslin Institute(!), where Dolly was “created” has found fame for being the location of Rosslyn (older spelling) Chapel, which features in the bloody Da Vinci Code. Rosslyn Chapel is, of course, also famous for being where Mr K. and I got hitched, all those years ago (20 years this November, if you’re interested!)

There! I’ve managed to end on a cheerier topic and, hopefully, stem the flow of bile and spleen!

33. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

MountPenguin, I am very much in favour of kilts, but, frankly, anyone who wears one without undies is a madman. Oh, and haggis hunting has gone the way of fox hunting, although I believe the haggis-hounds are allowed to do drag-hunting and follow the scent of a haggis. The trail is usually created by dragging a dead sheep through the heather!

34. MountPenguin - January 15, 2007

but, frankly, anyone who wears one without undies is a madman.

Marsha, we are talking about the same country where they actively consume deep-fried Mars bars? (I thought that was an urban legend but Germany’s excellent public broadcasters recently went to the trouble of making a documentary about the phenomenon).

Well, can’t banter all evening I’m afraid, I have a batch of cucumber sandwiches to make for the cricketers’ tea tomorrow, the wicket needs greasing again and I need to take the duck to the vets to be treated for concussion.

35. pleite - January 15, 2007

Liukchik, but as a quasi-pseudo-Scot, can you help answer any of these vexatious quandaries? Must Scotland go its own way, are we all one, or should there be a Ministry of Kilts? I sometimes claim to vaguely have some Scottish ancestry of my own but I can’t remember if this is based on anything resembling fact or if I have completely made it up. Gypsy is my latest probably mythical ancestry of choice.

I see your perversion for concrete porn hasn’t wilted AT ALL. When I saw the words Trellick Tower, I thought, “Oh god, he doesn’t mean that block of flats with the sticky-out bit, does he?” and googling proved that, of course, you didn’t disappoint. My Danish pal(ess) of our mutual acquaintance still might be known to say, “That Liukchik’s an awfully nice chap, but that concrete fetish…” And then we shake our heads and rub our hands and look serious… I had forgotten about the existence of the A40. And am now having murky remembrances of tube stations like Royal Oak and Latimer Road which seem to serve concrete structures only. Ladbroke Grove’s nice. But West London will be for ever associated with school.

Penguin, if I remember rightly, you are a man of the Midlands yourself. Are you never asked to field questions about your own region? Or do Germans only go for high-profile enquiries, like London, The Queen, Loch Ness etc.? Awfully bad luck on the obscurer bits of the country. Let’s write a CNN advert for Birmingham. Or Wolverhampton.

Marsha, yes, I am Dolly. And she is me. She’d be a contentious corporate logo for Scotland, though. Hasn’t Roslin now come up with a vaguely cloned cow too? I was very stricken by Dolly’s fate, for reasons I haven’t yet understood myself. Everyone’s tried to convince me she was just a regular thick sheep, while also being her mother, but… but… Anyway, yes, I am Dolly.

36. pleite - January 15, 2007

Penguin, we overlap. But, yes, Marsha, it’s true. I saw deep-fried Mars bars on German TV too. (If I remember rightly, the presenter enjoyed his.) Gosh, I might try and find some plastic English bread and have some cucumber sandwiches one of these days. If we had any posh cups, I’d even drink tea. But was it the BBC which wrote recently about tea and milk being shit for you? Or less good for you than black? Which I know is a crime on the island, but is yet another reason why I think of handing in my passport at the Embassy. Tea with milk? Obscene. The Russians know what they’re doing.

Anyway, we can’t discuss tea. We’re not 90.

37. Marsha Klein - January 15, 2007

MountPenguin: The deep-fried Mars Bar exists? Typical, you live in a place all your life and yet remain essentially ignorant of its cultural heritage!

BiB: If, by some miracle, you ever make it to Edinburgh, you can see Dolly (albeit stuffed and mounted!) at the National Museum of Scotland. The “cloned” cow (Dundee Paradise) is only the daughter of a clone, she’s not actually a clone herself. I think she was born on a farm in the Midlands.

38. Marsha Klein - January 16, 2007

Can we discuss tea as in “Afternoon Tea”, which is one of my favourite things in the whole world, despite not being 90. I can’t drink tea without milk. I didn’t drink it at all when I met Mr K. (through whose veins it flows. Probably, I haven’t actually checked) but he wore me down eventually.

39. MountPenguin - January 16, 2007

Acksherlly I’m a man of uncertain Heimat. Statistically I spent most of my UK life in the general vicinity of Birmingham, with a brief excursion up north, but am sore pressed to name any particular town, because even my parents have abandoned the place where I/we/they last lived, and the rest of the family lives all over the place anyway. By the time I’ve explained all that the subject usually gets changed, to my relief, because I’m not qualified to say anything useful about the place…

As to the tea I think it was the BBC, the gist of it being black tea declogs the arteries, but milk counteracts the declogging effect. Inspired, I’ve started drinking my tea straight, and it’s quite alright actually, and makes me feel as if it is counteracting all those full English breakfasts one is reputed to eat.

Hmm, I think I shall have to join you at the Embassy.

40. pleite - January 16, 2007

No, I have to draw the line at tea… OK, go on then. I’ll have to do a separate tea+Scottish nationalism post one day soon. I remember missing the whole Mrs. Merton phenomenon – probably because of being abroad – can’t remember – or in cloud cuckoo land – does she still exist? – but when I did finally catch it, her let’s-have-a-heated-debate debate was about tea. And one of the old ladies said she preferred coffee, and Mrs. Merton hollered back, “Look at ‘er goin’ all continental!” She’s probably sharing that bedsit with Cathy Dennis and Keith Chegwin, come to think of it.

41. pleite - January 16, 2007

OK, last word on tea… Penguin, you’re doing the right thing. Add a bit of lemon and I’ll give you an honorary-Russian-soul certificate.

Tune in tomorrow for BiB’s cardigan tips.

42. Marsha Klein - January 16, 2007

OK, no tea then! Probably no more Scottish nationalisn either? It seems to make me very cross. Henceforth, I will speak only of kittens and candyfloss and…other things of no consequence!

43. Liukchik - January 16, 2007

Well, I have to say that I have a less than romanticised view of the Scots – my relatives are/were all denizens of some of the roughest parts of Dundee. As far as dissolving the union goes, I think self-determination for each of the parts of the union is the way to go (God, I sound like Cameron now!) – but, to be quite honest, I find it all slightly ridiculous – we are hardly Serbia and Montenegro…

44. MountPenguin - January 16, 2007

Iiih, what a waste of a good lemon. Mind you it can’t be worse than Japanese canned milky black tea, available hot and / or cold from all good drinks vending machines.

For the sceptical: piccies of the deep-fried Mars bar.

45. Liukchik - January 16, 2007

My younger brother, btw, would like to live in Trellick Tower – he is tremendously excited by the thought of having all his doors on rollers, rather than hinges. The effects of a Portsmouth childhood…

46. pleite - January 16, 2007

No, no, let’s have a heated debate on Scottish nationalism by all means. I can sense a wicked emotion germinating inside me where I actually half-want the country to break apart JUST TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS. Call me a break-up porn-fan if you will. Although perhaps it’s playing with (an easily put-out-able and not rapidly spreading) fire.

Liukchik, you illusion-shatterer. I could hear the wheeze of bagpipes and see the wrinkle of manly knee o’ kilted leg and you go and bring rough Dundee folk into the equation. And Serbia and Montenegro. I wonder if we’ll also have TV riots for the sake of the Eurovision entry.

47. Liukchik - January 16, 2007

Even better, the Stonner – Murdoch-backed scaremongering or sign of a country with one of the highest rates or heart disease in the world? You decide…

48. Marsha Klein - January 16, 2007

Liukchik: Yuck! (see also “Ewww” and “Bleah”!) Dundee eh? Jam,jute, journalism and one of the most impenetrable accents ever! Mr K.’s folks hail from Portsmouth (not that you’d know – a lifetime in the RAF, don’t y’know!)

BiB: You devil, you! Enjoy your tennis – I have to go to bed now, before Mr K. goes stomping upstairs in a huff! Goodnight all!

49. pleite - January 16, 2007

Penguin, is ‘iiih’ German for ‘yuk’? I thought it was one of those IMHO-type abbreviations for a minute. Anyway, breaking my tea-ban for just a second, lemon is the way to go. Though black is good. I’m afraid I’ve been known to sip green, though its beneficial qualities are no doubt outweighed by the 9 million calories a day, 400 cigarettes and 30 bottles of wine and beer. Deep-fried Mars bars alone – even a single one – mean Scotland is unfit for independence and should have its rather expensive parliament building turned over to Jamie Oliver.

Liukchik, does Trellick Tower only do sliding doors? It’s a listed building, isn’t it? I remember a documentary about it once. Has it been gentrified to fuck? And thank you for the new recipe.

Marsha, yes, I am about to go into tennis-zombie mode. Luckily, I don’t have any cigarettes to hand or I would chain-smoke from now till when I ultimately crash out. Scotland’s brave Mackin (to be declared British upon victory) is first up in fifteen minutes’ time, though I’ve got a feeling his won’t be the match being shown on Eurosport…

50. Liukchik - January 16, 2007

Rooibos for me. After 3pm anyway – otherwise coffee, black and strong . This is the place to go if you are (a) in London and (b) want real coffee. Freshly ground and cheaper than Tesco’s economy. I am currently enjoying Velluto Nero, and when that finishes it will be an Ethiopian.

51. Liukchik - January 16, 2007

Trellick Tower does seemingly have sliding doors – hopefully no subsidence, as that would make things very difficult. I assume that’s what he meant, rather than that each flat comes with a dreadful Gwyneth Paltrow DVD. I think it has been gentrified, but unfortunately the inordinately large concrete wasteland around it has not.

52. MountPenguin - January 16, 2007

Oh, was I in the wrong language again? Dunno where that came from though, standard German for “yuk” is “igitt”. Have a horrible feeling it might be a Penguin household-specific term. Green tea is of course extremely good for you, I saw a documentary on Japanese TV once scientifically extolling its virtues (a la prevents cancer and syphillis and gives your hair a healthy shine) – but only Japanese green tea mind you, not the muck they grow in China.

53. MountPenguin - January 16, 2007

And to direct the conversation away from tea back towards the original subject of Scottisch independence, I’d like to propose that the Scots can have the North Sea oil if the English can keep the tea mines (the Welsh, no doubt, will be content with their existing natural resources such as slate, sheep-infested bracken and combustible holiday homes). Hadrian’s Wall will of course have to be reinstated to prevent subversive smuggling of deep-fried confectionary.

54. pleite - January 16, 2007

Penguin, I must invest in some Japanese green *** – that word is now forbidden – as I want neither cancer nor syphilis. Do you and the good lady wife speak German or Japanese over your fried English breakfasts? Hadrian’s Wall is wonderful. Have you been? I’m sure the Great Wall of China isn’t nearly as good. Yes, if the Cumbrians/Northumbrians affected wouldn’t mind awfully, I suggest redrawing the border there. That’s such a nice bit of the world. I went for a blustery, wintery holiday up there once. Freezing, snowy and full of ruined castles. Heaven.

Liukchik, living with Gwyneth would be a pain, not least because she has a gaggle of children, I think, called Apples and Pears, which must be complicated in London, especially if not in a bungalow. Mind you, she’s bloody good at accents, I’ll give her that. And isn’t her husband an utterly unknown (to me) pop-star? What if he wanted to have jamming sessions with his long-haired colleagues at 3 in the morning? Hopeless. I recommend booze, rather than coffee, to assist sleep… Speaking of which, having done nothing useful all day (apart from being my own secretary and cooking an utterly uninteresting dinner), I think I’ll sacrifice the tennis and try to keep my body-clock vaguely regular. Radio 4’s almost shut up shop for the night anyway…

55. MountPenguin - January 16, 2007

Ah, Cumbria, that was where I spent a few happy childhood years gambolling amongst the sheep-infested bracken. I’m sure they can spare a little, as they have it in almost as much copious abandon as the Welsh. Never made it to the Wall, as far as I remember, but there were the ruins of a Roman fort we ended up at fairly often, what with it being the only-non Beatrice Potter-orientated attraction for miles, if you don’t count Sellafield which was just along the coast.

56. BiB - January 16, 2007

Presuming Hadrian’s Wall does stretch across both Northumberland and Cumbria – or is it Northumbria and Cumberland? – I have still only seen the Northumbrian bit. Another reason I need to go and hand back my passport and ask for honorary Euro-mutt status is that, to my shame, I have never been to either the Lake District or Cornwall, for which oversights I think the death penalty wouldn’t be too harsh a punishment. But I have seen Stonehenge. And Loch Lomond. And Big Ben. And cricket and spotted dick.

57. MountPenguin - January 16, 2007

Traditionally it was Cumberland, and was reformed to Cumbria, no idea what it now is (Flint & Montgomeryshire probably). I think, without resorting to an actual map, the top end of the county is quite narrow, meaning most of the wall would be in Northumb(ria|land).

I’ve never been to Cornwall either. Stonehenge I have not seen, nor (Northern) Ireland. Been to Alton Towers several times though.

58. BiB - January 16, 2007

I’m still gutted that Gwynedd and Dyfed have ceased to exist. And I even got quite attached to all those Avons and Humbersides. Haven’t they been abolished too and turned into the Riding of South Bristolshire or something? Although I’m on a one-man crusade against Middlesex (oh god, and don’t even mention that effing novel). I’m so hard that when I write to my mother – admittedly, about once every 36 years – I write London instead of Middlesex. Admit that you’re impressed.

I need to do something useful today. Better pop out and buy some fags.

59. Mark - January 16, 2007

Doesn’t Cumbria incorporate Cumberland, Westmoreland and Barrow-In-Furness which got swiped off of Lancashire. I blame Ted Heath’s government for inflicting this nonsense on us.

60. pleite - January 16, 2007

I didn’t know there was a technical difference. It does seem bonkers, fiddling with internal borders (ignore my nonsense about redrawing the Anglo-Scottish border at Hadrian’s wall) and presumably is an enormous amount of fuss and money when one authority is abolished and another is created. Mind you, I’m reminded of an East Berliner friend I know who lives round the corner from me now but in her childhood lived on the edge of Berlin. And when everything changed, and she had to go and register herself here rather than there, it was, (wo)manning the computers and rubber stamps, as she put it, “the same old bitches”. Oh well. Keeps ’em off the streets, this bureaucracy lark, I suppose.

61. Mark - January 16, 2007

I’ve been aware of these guys for a while but I didn’t realise there was a sort of Real IRA version. They seem to be ploughing a farily fruitless furrow but like the cut of their jib nonetheless. Militant fogeyism!

62. MountPenguin - January 17, 2007

I trust they are going by the borders as they were prior to the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844.

63. Mark - January 17, 2007

Why stop there. Go back to the Domesday book. I’m talking to you live from the Rape of Chichester!

You’re right though, it’s going to arbritrary no matter what.

Although, what with detached parts, what’s so great about contiguousness I wonder? Michigan copes. There are bits on Spain surrounded by France and bits of the Netherlands surrounded by Belgium and vice vera. Wasn’t Mold or Flintshire cleft in two before now. And there’s definately a cluster of houses in Hitchin that belong to a different parish.

64. MountPenguin - January 17, 2007

Personally I think it was a mistake to abandon the Roman administrative divisions…

The former West Berlin had a couple of “exclaves” in East German (not East Berlin) territory; I think some got exchanged for more convenient pieces of land over the years, but one called Steinstücken was a small settlement sort of inside Potsdam / Babelsberg; the US Army had to run a helicopter shuttle until a (heavily fortified) road was built linking it back to West Berlin.

65. BiB - January 17, 2007

I now see I am a terrible mixer-and-matcher when it comes to my favourite county-period. There I was saying I had a bit of a thing for Cleveland and Avon and all that, but this map does look all nice and succinct. Except it gives me London culture shock, and I’m a bit concerned about London being erased from the map like that. And I’m a bit gutted to see the Welshest-sounding counties aren’t there, but there is at least Merioneth, which is satisfactory on the Welsh-sounding scale. Scottish geography has always been a mystery to me, but I’m disappointed not to see Shetland referred to as Zetland.

Penguin, be warned. Mark could win Mastermind with his specialised subject as ‘enclaves and exclaves’ (RIP Magnus). Mark, was it chez toi that I read about the bit of Germany that’s in Switzerland? Or rather, in Germany, but surrounded by Switzerland? So on the map I’ve linked to, is that a Suffolk enclave or exclave Lesothoishly in Cambridgeshire?

Excellently boyish research there, boys. Well done!

66. Mark - January 17, 2007

Suffolk’s prong(!) is around Newmarket and it does have an itty bitty corridor. Whether it’s always been quite like that I couldn’t say. Also, from your map, I see I was right about Flintshire. Oddly too, there is a bit of Cornwall east of the Tamar and a bit of Devon to its west. I think it’s so their villages are wholly in one county. Mind you Mark Steyn often mentions a town called Derby Line which is half in Vermont USA and half in Quebec CA and they seem to manage.

That said, reading about the fragment of West Berlin surrounded by East Germany did remind me off a spot of bother arising over access to a certain German exlave some years ago so maybe there is something to be say for contiguousness after all.

67. pleite - January 17, 2007

Overlappage, because it took me three weeks to research my last comment…

David, ooh matron! Divvun’t knaa aboot Northumbria/Northumberland like, except that I know it’s a blindingly lovely part of the country. I had a permanently drunk pal from Yorkshire at uni who drunkenly sang, if he ever had visitors from said county, some chant with YRA in it, which stood, of course, for Yorkshire Republican Army.

Penguin, I once took a train from Vilnius to St. Petersburg which was actually a Russian train going from Kaliningrad/Königsberg/Kantgrad/Karaliaučius/Królewiec to St. Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad/Sankt Pieter Burch which was fun, dealing with Lithuanian, Latvian and Russian border folk. The Russians were most intrigued and were amazed to find I had all the necessary 98 visas. “All your papers are REALLY in order,” said the female official with rock-hard, yellow hair.

68. BiB - January 17, 2007

Yes, Cold War non-contiguousness left a lot to be desired. I am sure that, as champion claver, you know of Gorizia and Gorica, (sort of) one town half in Italy and half in Slovenia. OK now that we’re all happy EU bunnies, but more tricky when it was Italy and Yugoslavia (or Yugoslovakia, as an old friend of my parents used to say). Although Yugoslavia was hardly East Germany. I remember my sister had a Yugo-pal – she’s Macedonian now – she’d met on holiday in Greece who came to visit us in the mid-80s. Of course I was longing to ask her questions about communism and socialism and all sorts, and did, which she happily answered, of course, all the while my parents waving their hands in a don’t-even-go-there way behind her back. They were polonium-wary before their time. My dad was very much a believer in not trusting anyone with an -ich or -ov peppering their surname.

69. Mark - January 17, 2007

I was thinking more of East Prussia… What’s it now? Kalingrad or something. It’s come full circle and is now an exclave again just with under different management. On that celebrities trace their ancestors programme David Baddiel’s mum’s family came from there.

Gorizia and Gorica I hadn’t heard of them but it’s not surprising. I suppose Trieste is the big one out that way. They had to have a pleblicite after the war to decide whether they wanted to be in Italy or Yugoslavia – I’m not sure the stop watch has been invented that could measure my decision making time on that answer.

I’ve just noticed another enclave on that British counties map. Dudley: in Worcestershire but surrounded by Staffordshire. Odd.

70. David (TEFL Smiler) - January 17, 2007

Wow, you’ve got a lot of comments of late! It’s hard to keep up.

I like that map of the counties, showing the true size of Yorkshire. Pity bits have been stolen from it over the years.

Wasn’t Northumbria the Anglo-Saxon kingdom, all the way down to the Humber? Also used now for the police and the old poly up in Newcastle.

71. pleite - January 17, 2007

Dudley… O Midlands! Most of my father’s family came from there and my father was often heard – OK, it probably happened once – to get into an ungovernable rage if the noise ‘West Midlands’ was ever mentioned. “Birmingham is in Warwickshire,” he’d exclaim. (Or is it Worcestershire? Anyway, one of those W counties. Wessex maybe.)

Kaliningrad. It pops up on TV quite a lot here. Germans wander back to old Königsberg to see if they can still see the Germanness. (They can a bit, but it’s a pretty Soviet-looking place now, with a famously ugly House of Soviets, which was never finished but was started on the site of the city’s ruined castle.) Also a potential location for the famed Amber Room (or is it Chamber?) stolen from the palace at Tsarskoye Selo/Puskhin near St. Petersburg. Jesus, if I had to list every-town-mentioned-here’s various names, it’d take me all day…

72. David (TEFL Smiler) - January 17, 2007

Trust me to get a pervy comment number!

73. MountPenguin - January 17, 2007

Kaliningrad, ex-Königsberg.

There’s a whole load of towns down the Oder such as Frankfurt and Görlitz which were split between the GDR and Poland after the war. Unfortunately all this EU business has made the borders there a lot less exciting.

My favourite “bordery” place is Basel, because you can get a tram to the French border, then take another one through the city to the German border, then take a (German) bus which weaves in and out of Switzerland most of the way to back to the point where the three countries meet. And it has rail stations owned and operated by DB and SNCF respectively.

74. redneckarts - January 17, 2007

Hi…I don’t know how to respond to your question about the photo of the hall on my blog so I’m doing so here…this message has little to do with bbc though I listen to it all the time. The photo of the hall…used to be my central hallway up north in a big railroad flat in a little town of three hundred souls. Nearly froze to death there but I’d go back in a second. A real railroad flat, like we don’t find here now…I dream of returning.

Now I’ve an Orangeman’s hall down the highway a bit in a yuppified town. Smarter but not so romantic. I felt like I was living upstairs in a western whorehouse and lord I miss that.

Link to me as you wish sir, and thank you very much. I’m working on a set of photos I took in that hall you admired. I’ll let you know when/if I post them. Sorta adult entertainment.

I’m going to play in the snow.
You take care


75. pleite - January 17, 2007

Redneck – if I may abbreviate so! – there is no requirement for relevance here. I never know my arse from my elbow but still see fit to write it – my arse – down for anyone-who-feels-like-it to read here.

I will be googling ‘railroad flat’ and ‘Orangeman’s hall’ forthwith. Somehow, I’ve got a feeling neither has anything to do with railways or Northern Ireland.

Consider yourself other-linked.

76. redneckarts - January 17, 2007

“railroad flat” is American usage I think, that I picked up in my travels. When the railroads came through the country here, buildings sprang up, lodgings for workers etc. See the paintings of Edward Hopper for a closer description of the feel than google will offer.

Oh and orangeman’s hall has everything to do with northern ireland lad, everything. My hometown up north was split right down the middle, heavily Irish. Fights and parades and fiddles. My parents married across that line. You should hear my accet when I turn it on…

77. narrowback - January 17, 2007

ah, finally something I feel qualified to comment upon in this thread…”railroad” flat does not refer to dwellings that sprung up alongside the rails as they extended west (or east if you’re from that west part of my country)…

“railroad flat” is a description based on the floor plan of said dwelling unit… a decidedly linear layout without a hallway per se… you travel from room to room straight thru – kitchen into bedroom one, bedroom one into bedroom two, bedroom two into living room… I spent the first five years of my life in one in NYC.

It was the prototypical tenament design in east coast cities from 1890 (or so) until 1920 (or so)…there are regional variations for other parts of the country eg. the “shot gun shacks” of New Orleans

78. redneckarts - January 18, 2007

har…thanks for that….I’m in rural Canada and the usage varies I guess…I could see the old train station from my back yard and the train men used to board in the flat I rented. My grandmother always referred to the few rentals in town as railroad flats. Used to be an old chinese restaurant downstairs. Now it’s a metis resource center. They used to bring horses in on the trains and my grandfather broke and trained them. But the trains run no more. You wouldn’t happen to have any jpegs I could use for painting sources…..

79. A Blogger - January 18, 2007

Narrowback, I envy you. Since launching this flood of comments, I’ve not once felt worthy of writing anything. I know a bit about cricket, but the conversation so quickly turned to turning one’s nose at people (colonials) who know about that worthy pursuit. And then it was all Europe and language and borders and Scotland. Those bloody Scots! They get into everything…

80. narrowback - January 18, 2007


sorry I can’t accomodate your desire for some photographic inspiration. I’ve been after my ma to scan the old family photos from that era but to no avail (so far) … narrow and incredibly dark are two descriptive terms that jump to mind (the interior rooms rarely had windows and when they did they usually opened on to an airshaft – that one plus in favor of mietkasernen over new world tenements…those interior courtyards/hinterhof arrangements.)

When I first arrived in Chicago and I used the term “railroad flat” to describe an apartment nobody knew what I was talking about so I figured it was an “east coast thing”.

A Blogger,

I can usually hold my own in discussions vis a viz (or is it viz a vis?) Old World/New World but the discussion of county borders was a bit arcane for me

81. Blonde at Heart - January 18, 2007

To return to Marsha’s comment about the World Cup some hundred comments ago, allow me to draw the Israeli way in the World Cup:
1. They are in a group with one very good team (France! It is ALWAYS France), two good teams (e.g.: To use the quslifiers for the last Cup: Switzerland and Ireland) and one unknown team (e.g.: The Faroe Islands).
2. They manage to win narrowly in the game vs. the good team, lose spectacularly to one of the good teams and then everything depends on the game vs. the uknown team.
3. They move a stage and manage to somehow lose a sure win.
4. The Israeli team comes back home, the coach of the team immediately quits and all the Israelis turn to support the teams of the country of their parents’ (or great-greatparents’) origin.

About tea, I think this German study is a way to make English people less English and prepare them to join fully the EU.

And I know nothing about Cricket.

82. Beaman - January 18, 2007

I thought Blonde at Heart was describing the England football team for a moment but then she said the team actually wins.

83. BiB - January 18, 2007

Beaman, BaH, we must face the wicked truth that we are from nations of football-losers. It is our loss. And I wonder if Italians/Germans/Brazilians go through life thinking how fab they are. Except I know that Germans don’t, so let’s not worry too much about not winning the World Cup. The glory probably only lasts for ten minutes.

AB, we’ve got cricket, internal borders, tea and Scottish nationalism into one set of comments. What more could you possibly ask for? I’m scared to write anything ever again. Now that we’ve done tea, I think we’ve reached the blogging pinnacle… Mind you, the one thing being shit at cricket DID make me think is that the Brits aren’t bad at ideas, but then need to farm the ideas out to get made good by the rest of the world. Cricket to the Australians. Football to Brazilians, Italians and Germans. The internet to the Americans. The language to the Americans. Um, what else? Trains to the Japanese. What else have the Brits dreamt up? Concentration camps. TV and telephone. It’s a queer little island. (And I don’t even know that all those things were ‘made in Britain’, actually. Maybe some of it’s the small-country-big-ego thing.) (More than willing for people to tell me that the TV was in fact invented in Andorra.)

Narrowback and Redneck, thanks for that info. And don’t any of you Australians/Canadians/Americans ever think that we Brits are nose-turner-uppers at the Colonials. There is some of that, but I’d say it’s at least balanced or outweighed by envy. I got my sharpest pang of Colonial envy in New Zealand.

By the way, just to make sure I leave no exciting subject matter untouched… the weather. Berlin is bracing itself for a mega-storm ANY MINUTE NOW. I’m excited. We’ve been told to stay indoors and shut all the windows. And I’ve only got two fags left…

84. narrowback - January 18, 2007

my irish grandmother cured me of any inclination to exhibit a lack of self confidence in encounters with the english. Thankfully, I did not pick up her habit of spitting everytime I uttered the word.

…and what exactly is a “mega-storm” by Berlin standards? 18 inches (what’s that in cm?) of snow? 60 mph (again, what’s the metric equivilent?) winds? -30 C wind chills?

…your first winter in Chicago teaches you not to let your stockpile of staples dwindle so as to leave you with only two fags at the start of a storm. When presented with news like this do berliners storm the supermarkets and strip the shelves bare of bread and milk as the masses do here in the states?

85. pleite - January 18, 2007

Oh god no, it’s still boiling. But Hurricane Kyrill is on the way, they say. Apparently, we’re going to have… Orkanböen von 110 bis 125 km/h (30 bis 35 m/s, 11 bis 12 Bft), vereinzelt auch zwischen 130 und 140 km/h (36 bis 39 m/s ), so hurricane-strength winds of up to 125kph, reaching 140kph here and there. Sounds fast, doesn’t it? Dunno what it means though, really. It hasn’t got going yet (unless my windows soundproof better than I thought. Mind you, it is quiet, so perhaps folk are indoors) but I don’t want to tempt fate and say it’s not going to happen. The only hurricane I remember in England – spittoon, maestro – was preceded by perhaps the most famous weather forecast on British TV when some famous weatherman or other said something along the lines of, “…and to Mrs. Cholmondeley-Featheringstonehaugh who’s phoned in from Fuddle-on-the-Widdle concerned about a hurricane, let me assure you there is nothing to worry about”. The south of the country was blown to fuck about ten seconds later. (Far be it from me to see beauty in a disaster but it was an amazing sight. The sky was white, white, white in the middle of the night (, night, night).)

I don’t think there’s panic-buying here. There’s probably quite a lot of panic-lip-pursing and panic-tutting though.

86. narrowback - January 18, 2007

it’s been a mild winter here and the weather forecasters have been desperate for some form of meteorological diasaster..Denver’s had three blizzards in as many weeks, Seattle has been flooded by torrential rains & Chicago -supposedly notorious for its weather – has been diaster free. So, at the slightest hint of bad weather the TV announcers lapse into hysterics “Well folks, if these conditions persist and x, y and z happen to occur simultaneously we could have up to 2 ft. of snow by tomorrow’s rush hour”… residents strip store shelves bare, the city spends a couple of $100,000 in overtime as a result of having snow plows at the ready to clear the streets and… we see a single snowflake on the morning in question. It’s happened three times so far this winter and eventually panic fatigue will set in…then we’ll really get slammed and everyone will have ignored the warning.

87. pleite - January 18, 2007

I don’t want to be a disaster-slut, of course, but so far it’s just thunder, lightning and rain here. The neighbours are constantly wandering onto their balconies to see if they really need to hole themselves up indoors after all. I’m feeling so brave I might EVEN go out to buy some ciggies. Though I probably won’t.

No winter here, though the weather forecast for next week is at least predicting some below-zero temperatures at last. It can get properly cold here. -15’s the worse I’ve experienced. Much colder than London ever gets (where, regardless of season, the tempearture is ALWAYS +11). But I’m sure it doesn’t match Chicago or St. Petersburg winters for ferocity.

88. Daggi - January 18, 2007

I’ve just come inside after being outside since it was officially not recommended, i.e. since about 3pm, despite my flu, but one has to eat (and therefore go shopping), eh; and it’s nothing (yet). Rain, a warm wind. Hopefully it will get going soon. Bad news though for all those storm tourists, as now it’s too dark to see anything.

Technically, and I’ve read Michael Fish’s website, so I have this on good saving-his-own-reputation 19-and-a-half years later, on good something, i.e. I am reliably informed, that 1987 wasn’t in fact a hurricane, so when he said, “Ms Margo Ledbetter phoned today to say there’s going to be a hurricane – don’t worry, there isn’t”, he was technically correct. Obviously he didn’t say “…but it’ll be very bloody windy and a man from ‘Allo ‘Allo will have a tree smash through his windscreen, sending him into a coma and everyone finding out he was gay, and the tower block over the road from where Daggi lived would partially collapse”, which suggests Mr. Fish should stop being quite so technical and keep quiet.

89. pleite - January 18, 2007

My mother got up in the middle of the night during that non-hurricane and DROVE to my sister’s house. My sister was home alone – huband away somewhere on beeeznyess – and decided the hurricane meant she was being broken into so my mother hurtled to the rescue in her Vauxhall Chevette and without any weaponry. Had my sister switched on the TV or wireless, presumably she would have been informed that it was just mother nature, but no, although didn’t we only have 1 TV channel in 1987 which shut down at about 4pm? My mother made it, oddly, having been stopped by the police a billion times and told to go home, you silly old woman. And they sat through the hurricane together. No-one was burgled. (My apologies. I know the comments have got parochial here and we’ve talked about border changes between Powys and Gwent, but I can’t write ‘burglarized’. Sorry, I just can’t.)

90. MountPenguin - January 18, 2007

I’d like to point out that the non-hurricane of 1987 only affected the area of England where all the national broadcasters are located, i.e. the South East, making it a national, rather than a regional catastrophe. We primitives north of Watford Gap awoke to a slightly blustery morning and BBC Breakfast TV being broadcast from some sort of cupboard, and the local media pointing out that all the direwarnings to stay at home were only valid for the South East so everyone should go to school, please.

91. narrowback - January 18, 2007

I visited berlin in the middle of januaru once…my local friends thought I was daft to take a holiday there in the middle of the winter… I pointed out that it was a good 25 grad (F) warmer there than in Chicago… the two hours of daylight did take some adjustment however…how’s the weather (typicallly) in mid march?

92. A Blogger - January 19, 2007

You’ve been reduced to the weather, Broke. Time for a new post, methinks. But, since we’re on the topic and Australians can’t let anything past if we think we got something bigger or better, in the town in which I was born and grew up, we occasionally had cyclones, which in the Northern Hemisphere are called hurricaines. They made your Berlin-storm-to-be look like a puff of breeze, I have to say. One broke the wind measuring sock-thingy at around 300kph, so no one really knows how fast it got.

THAT was a mega storm. 70% of the town was destroyed or damaged beyond repair. My sister, who was two, looked outside from inside her intact kitchen and said, ‘I didn’t do that, Mum.’

Dad’s big boast throughout my entire life was that all buildings in Darwin designed by engineers (his chosen profession) survived, but those pissy little architect jobbies were blown away.

Not sure if this will work, if it doesn’t click here for an image, and here for a description.

93. MountPenguin - January 19, 2007

All typical weather has been cancelled… Some years there may be still frozen snow on the ground and ice on the river, some years there’ll be the first hint of spring in the air. This year I’m betting on tornados and rains of tadpoles.

94. narrowback - January 19, 2007

tornados? cool. maybe I can dispense with the return flight and be whisked back to the states by one a la wizard of oz

95. Marsha Klein - January 19, 2007

Mr K and I were in London the day before The Great Storm. He was sitting exams in the hope of being admitted to the august institution that has its headquarters at 1, Great George Street in Westminster. We left London in the evening to travel to Aylesbury, where his parents live, and missed the whole thing.
We were married a month later but, to this day, Mr K still gives October 1987 as the date of our nuptials. Clearly some weekends are more memorable than others!

P.S I hope this comment is suitably parochial, although I did stop short of mentioning what we ate for dinner and the evenings TV schedule.

P.P.S I didn’t want to disappoint A Blogger and so, true to type, I have infiltrated this half of the comments thread as well – bloody Scots!

96. MountPenguin - January 19, 2007

Narrowback: Berlin is the European hub of EasyTornado, the low-cost no-frills meteorological phenomena transportation company. Book early for good deals. Seats not included; own parachute is recommended for a soft landing.

97. BiB - January 19, 2007

Penguin, we posh southerners did indeed get the day off after whatever-it-was. I TRIED to go to school (though I was a grown-up in 6th form college by then), which was a rarity, but trees did rather impede the Tube’s progress. Hurrah. I was in love for the first time and hoped it all might mean I’d get an extra chance of a quick see of my beloved. Alas, no…

…but you see, Marsha, I equate the hurricane with lurve too. I slept through yesterday’s one, if it did ever come. It did get quite howly, but the tree just outside our house survived heroically – aren’t trees clever? – and roofs are in tact and there are no cars with trees in them. (By the way, have you noticed that British no. 1 Murray is still going strong? Plucky Scot Mackin lost in the first round.)

Narrowback, it’ll probably be boiling mid-March. Or just sort of non-weathery, as it mostly is. Don’t forget to pack your red shoes just in case. (But will you end up in Kansas?) (I’ve got a feeling that’s the state Joan Rivers says has the dimmest people.)

AB, I’m struggling to blog. Will try to come up with some pus later today, although I hate Friday/weekend blogging. Temperate old Europe can’t compete with the Tropics when it comes to sexy weather. Here, maybe 70% of one house was destroyed. Although there was a tornado in London a few weeks ago which happened to strike the house of one journo who wrote the most (unintentionally) hilarious description of it afterwards.

98. narrowback - January 19, 2007

I’ve got a pair of red hi-top sneakers and a change in Ks. wouldn’t be the oddest routing I’ve been dealt with by the transportation gods

Ms. Rivers has obviously never been to such wonderful places as Level Plains, Alabama or Clarksville, Tennesee

99. pleite - January 19, 2007

Between you and me, I slightly can’t stick Joan Rivers. She was vaguely all the rage when I was young as all that sex-talk was new and daring for British TV, but I officially got bored of her when she was on some meant-to-be-dreary radio show – I think on Radio 4, actually, so we’ve come full circle – recently and had a very boring argument with some TV presenter. We were meant to think she was interesting, I think. She just sounded like a silly, thinking-herself-important cow.

100. Welsherella - January 19, 2007

Just had to comment so you had 100. A bit OCD of me, to be quite honest. But haven’t you become popular?! 100 comments?! Have you appeared in any magazine articles yet? I keep seeing bloggers in articles who have been sacked from their work because of their blog. They always seem to have obscene numbers of comments, so I shall start looking out for you. Perhaps I could get a job at Woman’s Own or similar and do the article myself?! What do you think? I would have to come to you, of course, and we would have to eat cake in a cafe late in the evening. That would be my only condition for giving you world (well, among Woman’s Own readers) fame. How kind I am.

101. pleite - January 19, 2007

Welshy, the queer thing about the increased commentage is not that I’ve got a gazillion new readers, but rather that the existing readers have just got more generously commenty. So it’s all thanks to you! The only part I have played is, I hope, making my box – fnarr, fnarr – a welcoming place. My box is your box, as I said to someone recently.

Anyway, I work for myself so can’t get sacked. And the people I translate for, I’m guessing, shouldn’t give a toss that I blog. Well, apart from any translatory people that think I should adore translation, because I loathe every single second of it.

You can come for coffee and cake without taking an interview. But because of the croissant-obesity mentioned elsewhere, I might have to refuse the cake.

102. MountPenguin - January 20, 2007

What makes translation so loathsome? I used to dabble myself, and it’s quite high on the list of things I would do to prevent myself sliding into an abyss of poverty and squalor, or even worse having to teach English. Or do you have to do something really dire, such as the minutes of the EU Stapling Safety Directive Subcommittee’s meetings?

103. BiB - January 20, 2007

I’m with you 100% on it being better than teaching English, which I only loathe because it is such incredibly hard work. I did teach English for a while in London and I would get home so exhausted and in such a foul mood that I wouldn’t then speak until going back to work the next day. It was agony. Though had moments of fun. Well, I like when the translation has something human about it, so even the minutes of the EU Stapling Safety Directive Subcommittee’s meetings could be interesting. But sometimes it’s soul-destroying. And the pay can be rubbish. And people take months to pay. BUT, at least I am my own boss, and I don’t have to travel an hour-and-a-half to work every morning, or indeed, I don’t even have to work every morning, of course. But I wouldn’t mind earning my living another way. Problem is, I have no idea how.

104. MountPenguin - January 21, 2007

Though I must say, to avoid unintended insult, that there are many talented and qualified English teachers out there who do an excellent job and no doubt enjoy it to bits. Myself, just because I speak English as my native language, doesn’t mean I have the faintest idea how to go about communicating the magic process by which I speak it. (On the other hand I’d probably make a much better German teacher).

105. pleite - January 21, 2007

I think maybe I could teach. Well, once someone taught me how. I think I know grammar well enough to explain queer rules. But all that talking to people! So exhausting! I’m still looking out for openings in a (natheist) monastery near you (or anyone).

106. MountPenguin - January 21, 2007

While we’re on the subject, a related article I found a mere three clicks away from my own blog (no, I’m not normally a Telegraph reader).

107. pleite - January 21, 2007

I have a friend of a friend who works (or worked) in Vienna, I think for the UN. He was paid an absolute total fortune and not an eyelid was batted when he asked for his piano to be flown in from the UK. Does the same apply in Berlin? I’m always looking out for tips for how to earn a living another way. I repeat: my qualities are that I’m anti-social, unreliable, lazy and almost skill-free. Tips?

108. MountPenguin - January 21, 2007

Berlin is, alas, sorely lacking in big and bloated international organisations. With skills like that there might be some openings in the Berlin retail sector though…

I had the privilege of visiting the uncle of a friend who worked at the UN in Vienna. His desk seemed was occupied by an in-tray and an out-tray (this was about 20 years ago), and upon my innocent question as to what he actually did, I received some long winded, detailed explanation which basically seemed to boil down to the addition of his signature to the documents which passed between the two trays.

109. pleite - January 21, 2007

I’d be brilliant at signing. I’ve said I want to be Akaki Akakievich from Gogol’s Overcoat before, and it’s still true. I could copy for England. Or Germany. Although one writes less and less in this day and age, of course. ‘s like ridin’ a bike tho’, innit?

110. David (TEFL Smiler) - January 22, 2007

I so-ooo chose the wrong country, it seems. But then, I never fancied Austria, anyway. Not enough coastline and too much snow.

TEFL’s easy, by the way – as long as it’s with adults, rather than being unqualified childcare. You just have to: (1) prepare as little as possible, and (2) not worry about whether the students are learning or not, as it’s ultimately their own responsibility, not yours. Pick up a few tricks for filling up time in lessons, and you’re home free. The only problem is the pay, the hours, and the typical bosses. But you can’t have everything.

111. MountPenguin - January 23, 2007

Aha, most of my (limited) experience has been in one-to-one situations with ambitious learners of the kind who already speak almost-perfect English and who require concise yet detailed explanations of the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional or whatever, which always left me a gibbering wreck.

112. David (TEFL Smiler) - January 23, 2007

“I could:

– tell you about this grammar
– supply you with an interesting text to read
– think of a topic for you to present
– etc

But I think there’s no point in me doing that, as it won’t help you learn.

Instead, I think you’ll find it’s for the best if you:

– read about the grammar in the book, check the answers in the back, and ask me about anything that’s unclear
– find a text yourself – something you’re really interested in, and then it will mean more, as it will reflect your real interests rather than what I think you might find interesting
– [for the topic, see the reply for the text]
– etc

You’ll thank me later!”

That’s the way to do it!

113. pleite - January 23, 2007

David, brilliant. I wish I could encourage the translation agency thieves I work for to do more of the actual work themselves… Although I have been fantastically lazy in January, or rather busy chasing the thieves who take three months to pay. God, being a freelancer’s a pain. But then really working would probably be more of a pain. This is the one life-dilemma I will probably never solve. (And you’re right not to go for Austria. The way Austrians speak even makes Berliners feel superior.)

Penguin, my short experience was in one of those Callan schools, which teach with their own method, which means talking non-stop. Literally. (Well, OK, you can pause for breath.) You holler the standard questions and holler back the standard answers with the student. God it was hard. Though at least I fancied almost all the students.

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