Welcome to our Shores!

It can’t have escaped the greater part of the world that here in little old Britain we are experiencing a time of flux. Amongst the dire predictions of disaster that are flying from every media orifice are those of unaffordable foreign holidays, difficulties over flights, problems with customs queues, visas, reciprocal health cover and more besides. Horrors!

The gloom that has settled over our British summer is further compounded by an unseasonal bout of wet, windy and miserable weather. So not only are we facing the prospect of holidaying in the domestic bliss of our home shores but will be doing it in thick sweaters, raincoats and wellington boots.

To be fair, wet, windy and miserable summer weather is so far embedded in the ethos of a British holiday it has become an essential component-part of the essence of a traditional British seaside vacation. For the uninitiated, what else should a new visitor to British shores expect from their holiday?

To begin with, there is the matchless experience of staying in a British hotel, guest house or B&B. Where else are you provided with sticky carpets and overpowering aromas of disinfectant? You may get to sample the famous, ‘full English’ breakfast-a carb and fat-fest consisting of a lack lustre sausage, some pinkish, slimy bacon, a greasy egg and blotting paper toast. This feast is designed to arm you for the rigours of the day to come, when you are to set off out into the gales and torrential rain for some sightseeing.

What should you see? You should not miss the delights of the pier, where you may stagger along against the wind to the end, where although the view may have been obliterated you will be able to while away an hour or two feeding coins into slot machines-this will also provide some shelter. Exiting the slot machine arcade gives you an opportunity to enjoy the pier for a second time as you stumble back to the promenade. You may wish to hire a deck chair for an hour or two, weather permitting. Be sure to open your umbrella. You will be rewarded by the sights of British beach-goers as they walk their dogs or scour the beach with metal detectors. There may even be a lone swimmer-dressed of course in wet suit, goggles and cap.

If you have made it to lunch time you should not pass up an opportunity to try that great bastion of traditional English cuisine, fish and chips. Years ago this mainstay of the national diet was served rolled up inside sheets of newspaper, providing the added bonus of reading material once the contents had been consumed. These days, with the onset of health and safety, together with dwindling newspapers the packaging consists of a polystyrene box and may or may not be furnished with a plastic fork. Examples of the packaging are readily available to view around the streets and pavements of our towns.

The afternoon can be spent browsing the shopping centres, where a range of pound stores and super-buy  emporia interspersed with charity shops will clamour for your attention. Your evening will consist of a return to your accommodation for a tepid shower in your rustic ensuite, followed by an evening meal in one of the many and culturally varied restaurants at your disposal. Will you choose the kebab house, the Indian, the Chinese or MacDonald’s?

Well-what are you waiting for, international tourists? The pound has rarely been lower! Welcome to the UK!

 

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The Birth, the Nation and the Aftermath

By the time you read this it will all be over. It has been growing for almost a year-starting very small and developing during the days, weeks and months.

In the beginning nobody could predict what the outcome would be-who specifically it would be. The nation is divided. Some are actively involved and interested, keen to know the outcome; others harbouring a fervent wish for it all to be over, although I suppose none more so than the protagonists.

The journalists have massed in the usual fever of enthusiasm, camping out on doorsteps, interviewing the public, attempting to summon something-anything-that can conceivably be imagined as ‘news’ and succeeding-as always-in producing only conjecture.

STOP PRESS: Baby Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana has arrived.

Elsewhere in the news, the UK has held a general election. Elections are a gift for the press. Not only is there a protracted build-up, providing infinite opportunities for fevered speculation but an aftermath in which results can be examined, discussed, regretted or celebrated to the point of mortality.

You can analyse and dissect as much as you like, bringing it all down to this or that policy- immigration, housing, health or education, but to me it is much simpler. I think of political philosophy as a circle. At one end of the diameter are those who are self-seeking and wish to line the nests of themselves and others at the expense of someone-anyone-worse off themselves. Perhaps this is an ingrained, natural human characteristic, linked to a survival instinct. Who knows? At the opposite end of the diameter are those who seek to suppress their innate desire to stuff everyone else by wanting equality of wealth, health and happiness for all alike.

Around the circle lie the various ‘shades’ of these two beliefs. Everyone has a place around the circle, maybe nearer to the self-seekers, maybe next to the equality lovers.

Strangely, it appears that both extremes can lead to dictatorships. This is demonstrated repeatedly in history all over the world; and dictatorships do not usually lend themselves to majority happiness.

As one meagre vote among an entire nation’s, it seems hopeless to expect to make a difference, but that one vote is the one and only little speck of decision we have as individuals so we must apply it, hopeless or not. Here where I live there will never be a change and yet I exercise my right to vote, placing my pencil cross each time against a no-hoper who best represents my views.

It is now all over bar the inquest, the result a dismal endorsement for the self-seekers. Some will be happy, many depressed. We brace ourselves for another five years and hope for better-next time.

World Cup Football-the Agony, the Ecstasy and the Indifference

                There are people who are obsessed by sport. Some spend every moment either playing it or watching it. Then there are those who only want to watch, and many of these are in the champions’ league for slobbing on the couch with takeaway pizza, tubes of Pringles and cans of beer. Myself, I fall into a sort of twilight category, a section of society that flirts with both participating [in a very minor, non-competitive way] and keeping half an eye on international games whilst peeling the potatoes.

                At school I loathed team sports.  I was always frozen on the hockey pitch in winter [I was tiny] or frozen out on the netball court in summer [again, I was tiny]. I liked gymnastics, inside in the warmth of the cavernous gym, and was happy shinning up the ropes or somersaulting around a bar, although never brilliantly enough to catch anyone’s eye or warrant coaching.

                As a teenager I pretended a mild interest in supporting the local football team as a ruse to bump into a boy I’d earmarked for attention. Against all odds this strategy actually worked, which was exhilarating until I found I had to attend the local games on a regular, weekly basis in all kinds of weather clement or not.

                Later there came a period in my life when I and my children’s lives were dominated by football and cricket schedules to the point where outings, celebrations and holidays had to be planned around the fixtures-football in winter and cricket in summer.

                Nowadays I can get behind our national team to some extent, although not to knowing all the players’ names or who they are to play next. At the time of writing this has all become academic as England have just descended down the plughole with a resounding gurgle and the team members might well be packing their suitcases as I type were it not for one last, sad, compensatory game. Then the contest will rumble on without them.

                I suppose winning an international sporting contest does inject a ‘feelgood’ quality into the victorious nation, yet I am one of those who do not experience any strong emotions over my mother country or its sporting triumphs and cannot identify with those who weep openly when their team fails. Whether this is down to my lack of competitive spirit or nationalistic verve I don’t know.

                In my previous life as a proper working person [teacher], my team partner and I once organised a sports day based entirely on non-competitive activities and were roundly criticised for it; the doting parents preferring their little ones to be kicking one another’s shins than achieving their personal bests. The day was memorable in that one of the mums saw fit to grab me round the throat in frustration when I requested that her offspring wait her turn. It all goes to prove that you can’t win ‘em all…and England seem to win less than most…