I’m in England. Not quite in London, but in and out to visit friends and relatives. Here’s a few thoughts so far…
- England is 100% less sunny than Denver.
- England is 100% less warm than Denver.
- I still love the BBC. Sorry America, “Homeland” notwithstanding, there really are more good (entertaining, informative) shows on the BBC alone in a day than on US cable in a month (whether or not the Beeb’s version of Mad Men (“The Hour”) will be up to scrap is another matter). This is TV that harks back to the day when television production was more than just grabbing the nearest, weirdest group of people you can find in some corner of the country, sticking them in front of a camera and yelling “GO!”.
- Unlike the US, England lets average people be on TV. News readers are normal people, not models. Obviously everyone likes a pretty face, but some of the most-loved personalities are old and craggy, not young and/or primarily famous for a sex tape or some such. Some are frankly quite unattractive, and yet they have some serious celebrity longevity. It really is striking to me now how much of a wider variety of voices and faces you can see on TV in the UK, and it is reassuring.
- London is truly the most cosmopolitan city. On the bus, on the pavement, in the shops and restaurants, people of all shades and speaking every language imaginable are making their lives there. It’s a microcosm of the world, and it’s fantastic.
- Travel on the bus, not the tube. You’ll see London, you’ll pay less and you’ll actually start to realize where things are located in relation to each other. It’s not even complicated! I’m a newly-minted London bus-lover after my most recent visit.
- London is ludicrously expensive…or shall we say, it is if you are not careful and more specifically, if you are not spending pounds! However, one thing I love about the UK is its sandwiches, and for perhaps $5-7 or so a pop you can live on those quite happily. Sandwich shops abound, purveying everything from Vietnamese baguettes to Christmas dinners between two slices of bread. However, if you’re not careful, you’ve spent your life-savings on a salad. Beware! (On a related note, the next time I hear someone say British food is crap, I will hit them in the face with a gastro pub menu… British food is not crap, primarily because most food you eat in Britain is not British. And what is British is now “gastro”, which essentially means “a bit fancy”, as in “that sandwich is a bit fancy” or “that sausage is a bit fancy”. Expensive, yes, crap, no…)
- London pubs should truly be considered a wonder of the world. I heard recently that they are being considered for UNESCO heritage-status, and coming back after all these years I can appreciate why. The history, the culture, the character…it’s a drinking experience that’s second to none (okay, Colorado micro-breweries have got the beer down, that’s for sure, but a British pub – whether it be in the heart of London or a tiny village – is a magical place).
- Transitioning back to a dumb phone from a smart phone is much harder than transitioning to a smart phone from a dumb phone. It is scary, because in finding yourself in the middle of a large city suddenly aware that you have no idea where you’re going or how to get there, you realize how much of your thinking and memory you have outsourced at other times to this electronic device. Maintaining an intricate system of notes, telephone numbers and maps then becomes necessary for survival. On a related note, kudos to London for upgrading their public mappage. No matter how wonderfully labyrinth-like London may be, there really is very little excuse for getting lost.
In other news, the IMF has just officially changed its mind about capital controls – measures which can be taken by governments, central banks or other regulatory bodies to limit the flow of capital in or out of a country. This is a sea change of grand proportions. Like a doctor who has given bad medicine to a patient, the IMF should truly be liable for its ill-advised directions to governments, which were often tied to the ability to access IMF bailout funds. But given continued reliance on the fund, it probably will not be.