Posts Tagged ‘uk’
In England they ask: “Is it for charity?”
In Flanders, France, Italy and Spain they say: “What beautiful madness.”
From the 2013 Dunwich Dynamo route instructions.
The Dunwich Dynamo is an overnight bike ride of about 200km from north-east London to the coastal city of Dunwich, in East Anglia. I’d read about it on the web somewhere in February, when I was researching cycling in London. It seemed like a fun thing to waste some energy on, and when July came around I managed to convince two friends and my sister to join me.
We’d left late – my fault, as I had forgotten to prepare my gear – and arrived for the start in Hackney after a 20km ride that involved crossing central London on a busy Saturday evening. Despite being an hour and a half late, there were fortunately still plenty of cyclists around the pub in the park. The Dynamo Dunwich isn’t organised – it’s just an annual ride from a group of cyclists that got out of hand – but there are some food stands along the route and there are organised buses back to London. We managed to get our hands on some route descriptions, which proved themselves very useful later on.
It was already dark by the time we left, and for the first while we didn’t see any other cyclists. The first bit of the route was as frustrating as the ride to the pub earlier in the evening – an endless stream of cars, and traffic lights every couple of hundred meters. It took an hour or so before we’d left everything you could possibly call London behind, and were out on the dark country roads.
Soon enough we ran into other cyclists, and then more. Before long, we were part of a long snake of endless blinking red and green lights, contracting and expanding as we climbed and descended hill after hill. We had kept it basic – bright front light and decent back light – but some people had gone out of their way with the light shows on their bikes. The atmosphere was friendly and chatty here, and no longer as hushed as back in the city. Everybody who stopped for a break was asked whether they were okay or needed help by passersby.
After 30 or 40 kilometers we arrived at our first stop: a small village of which I forgot the name, with two pubs packed with cyclists. Not long after that we had our first flat tire, and if that wasn’t bad enough we had to watch all the cyclists we had recently overtaken pass us. After fixing the tire, we paddled on on our own until we hit the first semi-official stop. When we got there it turned out that they had just run out of food and drinks, and the same thing happened at the next stop where somebody was selling hot dogs. As B. was trying to fix the bump in his recently replaced back tire with one of those crappy small bicycle pumps, he accidentally broke the valve and so we had to use our second and last spare tube.
We hit the 85km marker and not soon after, dawn set in. Unfortunately it was kind of drowsy and grim – there were clouds everywhere, and it had started drizzling – so we didn’t actually get to see the sun rise above the horizon. We grabbed breakfast at a truck stop and then continued on. At this point we also started getting cross traffic – some cyclists apparently were tired of the Dunwich beach already and had decided to paddle back to London.
At the next stop we were quick enough to grab the last cups of tea,. The last 20 miles were fairly uneventful. We got to the beach some time around eleven, much later than we had originally estimated. We had a quick glance at the sea, bought an ice cream and then hopped on the bus back to Londinum.
It was a great night, although it seems more like a dream than a memory now, because of my lack of sleep. It had a special kind of atmosphere. I’ll certainly do it again next year, and perhaps I’ll ride back as well.
As an expat I have only casually followed the news of the ascension of King Willem-Alexander in the homelands. I assume it’s been a proper party and a slightly more-special-than-usual Queens/Kings day over there, orange-themed as always and lubricated with booze.
It’s been surprising how much attention there has been for the change of regent in the Netherlands here in the UK. I thought it was just the Dutch media who would publish an article every time one of the royals in our big neighbour farts. I feel proud – in an awkward sort of way – to see that the Dutch royals have their personal lives scrutinized just as much in the UK.
The coverage was fairly predictable. There was the rehashing of the background of the Oranges (Wim-Lex once had the nickname “Prins Pils”, etc) and then the discussion about how all this compares to the British crown (when will dear Liz step down?). The only somewhat interesting topic was the whole “koningslied” debacle. E.g. the coverage on Have I Got News For You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICOo4SC-gbM
Dear people of England,
I know all y’all have a big obsession with queueing. The art of people in lines is your thing, like we Dutch are in charge of bicycles and being stoned. Everybody in the world has to queue sometimes, but nobody else can (or would bother to) boast about the skill, variety and finesse with which they do it. And while us foreigners are annoyed with being in an orderly line of grumpy waiting people, you seem to be almost excited about the prospect.
Anyhow, can you please tone it down a bit for the rest of us ? A single line or one queue per register is okay. Queues are optional; there is no need to create an artificial one if customers are being helped immediately (I’m looking at you, local Waitrose). If you have a sign in your store that says “We are using a double queueing system”, then perhaps you’re overdoing it. If you have three people managing a queue for the two registers in your bank, then perhaps you need to rethink your staff assignments. Panic and chaos will not ensue. Not immediately, anyway.
It’s true, there are few things more exciting than experimenting with queues and different queuing systems. As a software engineer, I am well aware of this. But please do your experimenting in private – perhaps in some sort of club? – in your spare time. Or maybe you can have ceremonial queues on national holidays? Whatever, just don’t bother me with it.
I love you, London, but you too have your oddities. None of them are too big to be a problem, but some things are impossible to ignore. In two years time I’ll probably be defending these as perfectly acceptable, once the Stockholm syndrome kicks in. For now, they bother me.
I’ll start with the food. Your chips are weird. Sorry, let me misspell that for you so you understand it. Your crisps are weird. You have crisps made of non-potatoey things, like pears, turnips and carrots. And then you lack proper flavoured crisps. There’s crisps with vinegar rather than peppers. WHY??
For a city that features half a dozen different world kitchens in a single street alone, it is extremely hard to find decent bread. Most supermarkets just have soggy, soft wheat stuff packed in plastic. I’m sure you can’t tell the difference once it’s been toasted.
I won’t bother complaining about the lack of decently priced good cheese. I knew that was one of the things I had to give up when I moved here.
I realize fish and chips is hardly haute cuisine, but what’s that green goeey stuff that looks like guacomole and tastes like unfinished pea soup in my pub grub?
What’s up with the giant powerplugs? British engineers seem to take any questioning of the size of the UK power plug as a personal insult the size of, well, said power plug.
I’m sure there’ll be another installment of this in another couple of weeks.
“The English language is like London: proudly barbaric yet deeply civilised, too, common yet royal, vulgar yet processional, sacred yet profane. Each sentence we produce, whether we know it or not, is a mongrel mouthful of Chaucerian, Shakespearean, Miltonic, Johnsonian, Dickensian and American. Military, naval, legal, corporate, criminal, jazz, rap and ghetto discourses are mingled at every turn. The French language, like Paris, has attempted, through its Academy, to retain its purity, to fight the advancing tides of Franglais and international prefabrication. English, by comparison, is a shameless whore.”
― Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
I’m in love.
For about three weeks now I’ve been living in London. I knew I liked the place – I chose to move here after all – but it’s been even better than I had expected. Unlike the dozen times I’ve been here before – usually for between two days and a week – my stay here is now permanent, which makes it feel different. I’m not really in travel mode anymore; I cook at home (sometimes, and for certain values of “cook”), tourists have started asking me for directions (what spidey sense do they use to spot “locals”? is it the bowler hat?) and the bloody pedestrians that keep walking on the other side of the tunnel in the tube are starting to annoy me.
Londoners are an international bunch, and not as terribly reserved as their reputation makes them out to be, at least outside of public spaces. There are a handful of people here that I know, which is a great way to bootstrap my social circle. They’re not concentrated anywhere in particular, and the city is big enough that I don’t run into people who know me on every street corner. I don’t think I really understood how important that kind of anonymity is to me. It’s also good to challenge yourself and your insecurities sometimes; if anything can cure me of my shyness, it’s having to deal with lots of random strangers.
Waterstones in Oxford Street is heaven. I really should stay away from the place and stop compulsively buying more interesting books until I’ve worked my way through the current stack.
Beside that, there is enough to do here to keep me entertained. There are a handful pubs with interesting beers and people around the corner, restaurants and takeaway places in the next street over. If I so desired, I could spend every night at a good concert, play or meeting group for an obscure board game or programming language.
I’ve packed up my guitar, my books and my ridiculous shoe collection. Today I’m leaving the motherland to live abroad.