Archive for the ‘society’ Tag
So, four years now (or, rather, next week it will be…here’s the annual reports for years Three, Two, and One for historical perspective).
We just received our new visas valid until 2016 but plan to take the next step toward citizenship in a year, Indefinite Leave to Remain…sort of the British Green Card. There is an exam, first, but in general it is all downhill from here.
The view from Western Street near the new house…also all downhill
Additionally, we are in the process of moving house (which is why I rushed the annual report a week forward) from just north of the Oasis over to Old Town to a house situated close walks to either the Beehive or the Castle or the Globe (recently reopened!)—three locals instead of one and all three of high quality—and dozens of others a short walk. The new house has three bedrooms each larger than its counterpart in the old house, the two receptions are larger and made into more of an open-plan configuration, the bath is larger and has a tub (not just a shower), and there is a finished basement; on the down side, the kitchen is a little narrower and more primitive as is the small garden but everything we do and everywhere we normally go in Swindon (save for the butcher) is so close.
The only races I did this past year were the London Marathon (5 pubs plus a can of Carling on the last mile) and the Beerathon (5 miles with a pint and a hefty food item between each) and the mileage run for the year suffered from this lack of focus—1950 give or take about 25 (most estimates pretty good using gmap-pedometer), while the last several years (except for the year of the wreck) were in the 2200-2500 range.
On the runs, I visited 255 new pubs with a stunning 67 new ones (steep part of the graph) in September when I took two weeks off work and ran at least 10 miles per day in new territory each day. The 1000th wasn’t as big a thrill as I thought it would be, but I saw some really nice places and met some really fine folk. The September holiday found me visiting Gloucester, South Wales, Slough (exotic, I know) and Exeter along with some nearer-to-Swindon trips. The 100 Yellow Beer Challenge was responsible for a lot of second visits to pubs I might not otherwise have gone to after an initial stop and many of these seemed better the second time around. Oh, and my Workingman’s Club appears to have failed or at least hasn’t been open the last several times I’ve popped by (I have a grand one scoped out for the new neighbourhood, though).
Best pubs in Year Four (reverse order by First Visit write-up):
The Southgate Inn, Devizes
The Hop Inn, Swindon
Dicey Reilly’s, Teignmouth
The Brass Monkey, Teignmouth
One Eyed Jack’s, Gloucester
Ye Olde Red Lion, Tredegar
The Rose of Denmark, Woolwich
The Volunteer Rifleman’s Arms
The Green Dragon, Marlborough
The British Lion, Devizes
The Blue Boar, Alsbourne (for the Dr. Who connections)
British Citizenship Exam Prep
Assize Court, Bristol
Paul Simon in Hyde Park
The Bremen Musicians (German children’s story)
Sex Tourism in Wiltshire
Modern Algebra for Omid
Burns’ Day Lunch
There are others search for ‘made me laugh.’ The blog may or may not have made some of the over 100,000 visitors laugh, but the damn fools keep checking in (that’s you, that is).
An arduous journey culminated in landing at the tiny Bremen Airport (larger than the one in Athens, Georgia but smaller than Lovell Field in Chattanooga). My hotel was attached to the lobby by a covered walk across the tramway and after exchanging notes with my colleague who arrived earlier I retired to my room where I cracked open a Becks and found a rubbery packet placed on my pillow (but I’ve stayed in crappier places that I SHOULD have been able to say that about).
I awoke at 5 by habit but was still sleepy and lounged around till 6 before stretching and going for a bit of a run around the bleak neighbourhood (mostly industrial park). There are as many bike lanes in Bremen as in a Dutch city, so finding a place to run is pretty straightforward. Work was a chore because we left so many bits we actually needed back in Oxford (on the advice of my boss and the folks at the development labs). Non-disclosure agreements limit that discussion to essential that.
Okay, it means radio-controlled clock; but, I like the idea of getting my daily newspaper at a place called, “Funk Hour.”
Work went on, regardless, and we eventually released our tired hosts and my Russian mate went home to the hotel. I opted to change back into my running gear and went out to explore the beer/running dichotomy, Bremen style.
Bremen is never going to be a huge tourist spot, but it is quite a charming city. It has a contrarian history (one of the furthest west Soviet Republics, until this was quickly quashed) and the folks here are quite nice if you try at all to meet them halfway. For instance, I sometimes can surprise myself at my comprehension of spoken German because, although I have good grades on my high school transcripts for German language coursework I have absolutely no recollection of ever enrolling, attending, or being examined in these lessons; nonetheless, I managed to follow the simplified-for-my-consumption conversations at the three bars I hit on the route. Very nice of them to let me try.
Down an alley I spotted the Spitzen Gebel and dashed in for a pilsner. I had a Haake Beck, which I think I could get used to, then smelled something strange…hey! Folks were smoking in here! I only have an occasional stogie, but this is what a bar should be like. The small venue was packed and friendly and reasonably priced. Moreover, I was the only non-local in the place despite its proximity to what should have been the highest density of visitors in the town.
Needing nourishment and loving a kebab, I found a döner place. No, check that, I found a very good döner place and had quite a delicious pita with lamb, salad, and chilli sauce; not at all greasy and the meat tasted like (and had the texture of) meat. Result.
Tasty and high quality though it was, I wanted something to was it down and to cleanse the palate. About a third of the way back to hotel I spotted the weird little side street bar, Baldu, with its Tiki Bar interior and 70’s soundtrack. I ordered a Franziskaner Weißbier and received an enormous glass of this faintly orange and wheat loveliness that I can still make out, faintly, even after the ‘run’ continued on for one more stop.
Everyone else in the bar was drinking equally large or strong drinks backed with shots of something or other (I recognised vodka and got one for myself after even the bartender rendered horrific face-pulls on some spicy black shot one of the punters bought her…the vodka enhanced the FW, whereas the mystery tipple might have ruined it).
The run started to approach my shoddy airport neighbourhood so I scanned side streets until I spotted a bier sign down one. I pulled up to the building to find it was a pool hall complete with some stinky bikers out front. It was still pretty tame inside, the soundtrack included Meat Loaf and the house wine was, I shit you not, Motörhead Shiraz…I had already ordered another Haake Beck but I really wanted to toast Lemmy (maybe I can get someone from work to come shoot a few racks before I have to leave).
The kids got married, Americans were quite embarrassing on tele, and Prince Phillip stayed alert (my bet failed) and as far as we know he didn’t hit on any of the bridesmaids. We went to the Glue Pot for a celebratory drink and found that the topic was off limits…fair enough, we are all sick to death of it [and as of this writing that is still the best aspect of Bin Laden‘s assassination: it knocked wedding post-mortems off the news]:
We didn’t get out in time to go to a street party, which is fine. We also missed Rock against the Royals at the Victoria, also just fine.
Update on 13th August 2011 — Okay, fair enough…some of you have taken offense at the smarmy tone of this post. I’m sure you will all feel vindicated by this ‘proper’ press article: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/08/13/edl-to-gather-in-telford_n_926111.html
Telford is a shit hole. There’s no two ways about it, and that’s a shame because for a new city it has avoided a lot of the architectural and city-planning gaffes that make Milton Keynes such a shit hole. Telford has its share of run down council housing but nothing too dangerous looking; moreover, it has large neighborhoods filled with trees and what appears to be decent housing.
They put up a mall and couldn't incorporate this historic chapel, choosing instead to dismantle it and put it in a playground...tsk
So, what makes it so shitty? Ah, the people do and they seem proud of the fact. If there was any demand for a restaurant that served anything other than a carvery with a buffet of slimy, overcooked vegetables (even by English standards) then we wouldn’t have spent two hours driving around looking for a place to eat. Even the chippies and kebab places were shuttered as if awaiting a riot.
Finally, we spotted a Greene King pub and while the food isn’t great at these, they serve it hot, cheap, and with beer; unless you are in Dawley, Telford and the signs showing the food that draw you in didn’t mention that the kitchen closed sometime before 8pm when you arrived. Granted, the blokes were helpful, directing us back to a mall Wetherspoons on a Friday night (I knew it was a bad idea to start, but I really wanted to see just how bad…and maybe I’d be wrong and could get a plate of pasta and a beer). Before we set off to the Wetherspoons fiasco, we did note one progressive sign on the wall of the pub:
The Wetherspoons was adjacent to an ASDA grocery store but it should probably be renamed ASBO, from the swarms of drunken teenagers hanging about. It has been a long time since I’ve seen that many white trash kids in one place…back home it would usually only happen when a Molly Hatchett tribute band was in town, or the carnival (everyone wants to go see their daddy if his tou comes near enough, don’t they?). And, the girls…obviously they spent all the money from their pole dancing tips on eye makeup because there wasn’t enough left to buy a skirt to cover their cooters (bless ’em)…or maybe they just needed to air out their genitals, it’s really hard to be certain.
NOT a Telford shop window
The Wetherspoons had bouncers that let us through but the place was 8 deep at the bar (where we would have ordered food or at least a round as it was going to be worth it to watch one or two of the inevitable fights that was imminent). Instead, we just went to the ASDA and got some sandwich makings and headed back to the hotel room.
Mmmm...the healthy choice for supper
The next morning, I went for a nice run through the area to see, up close, what sort of environment was responsible for producing this many miscreants which thrives merely on copious quantities of alcopops and anonymous sex (hey, not that there’s anything wrong with it…I was young once too; but 1) you’d have to substitute “powerful psychedelics” for alcopops, 2) to this day I only tolerate, very well thank you, but not thrive on, large volumes of alcohol, and 3) I’ve always needed an occasional pizza or other nourishment).
Trotting over the streets glistening with vomit and broken glass, I was surprised at the lack of graffiti. I can only suspect that the Telford Town Council has somehow found a way of channeling this undesirable behaviour:
There were some pleasantly wooded trails, and I only was a little shocked when I saw the first female condom I have seen in years, this one in Telford slag-size:
So if you’ve never been to Telford I hope you found this informative but I do encourage you to investigate it for yourselves. A good source are the Telford pages on another blog I frequent, with one example here, and another, less well written one here. Cheers.
This sign has a science fiction-esque, bleak futuristic hellscape sound to it: Play Area 50. Coming soon to a cinema near you. I like two things about this photo, though…some kids have vandalised the age limit to 100 years old and there’s the neighbourhood watch sign that seems to evoke ‘Big Brother,’ from 1984.
In Britain, they bet on everything. You can slap a fiver on the bar at a pub and bet on the colour of the scarf of the next person through the door and someone in there will walk away with a fist full of cash soon thereafter. The betting parlours were running a line on the next Dr. Who, recently. This week it is all White Christmas…the weather has had the bookies in a lather over the odds the last few days, but here is a screen shot of the latest line:
Went to Northern Wales to run, as it were, in a marathon. This didn’t go especially well and I’ll probably make some notes and post some fotos tonite. There were also a number of pub visits (three during the marathon itself), to post and some touristy things. In the meantime, here’s some photos lifted from the press last week about girls out for the evening in Cardiff (not where I was, but Wales nonetheless). There’s more than the beautiful landscape to make a southern boy feel right at home:
Gravitationally challenged panties...
Haircut that pre-empts the need for a friend to hold it