"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese

Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

A Farthingsworth of Tall Tales from Blighty's Fameless Blog
Newsflash from New York (no, not that one!) |  Are the British better drivers? |  The Story of the Telephone Kiosk |  Drinking Nelson's Blood |  Screaming Jelly Babies |  Flying to the UK is very dangerous! |  Brits to drive on the right |  Who hung the monkey? |  Upper class virgins |  Double, double trouble |  What a Lovely Morning for a War

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tolkien's Lost Last Work

The great English author J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings was born to an English family stationed in what is now South Africa. The Tolkien family moved back to England when young John was just three years old. It was in England that he penned the legends that have made him internationally famous.

Blighty's Blog's antiques expert Wilfrid Geandstove has just returned from a buying expedition to the United Queendom. During his travels, Wil uncovered a cobweb covered manuscript in a dank, dark basement below an ancient book store on the High Street in Whopping Lye.

Experts in England have poured cold water on the idea that the great J.R.R. Tolkien himself penned this manuscript, but our own panel of experts here at Blighty's Blog headquarters in Canada believe the style is unmistakeably Tolkienesque. Here is a transcript of an excerpt from the text from which you can form your opinion as to its authenticity.

The Sun rose rapidly from its slumber below the horizon and, just as quickly, the mists of the night lifted their veil from the verdant, green fields of Middle Earth. The great day had arrived. At last, it was time to set off on ... the Quest.

Jim-Bob Hobbit and his lifelong companion, the elf known simply as "Elfie" lifted their sacks up onto their backs and set off on the long and winding road. Elfie looked over his shoulder as their home shrank into the distance behind them. "Our house is a very, very fine house; with two cats in the yard. Life used to be so hard ..." he thought aloud. "Oh!" sighed Jim-Bob "what's it all about Elfie?"

As the Sun rose further into the sky they came upon the river across which lay the highway of cars. They were about to cross the river via the ford when suddenly, without warning, a loud noise beset their ears. The guardian of the ford, Effwun Fiefdee rushed towards them. Diving into the ditch beside the highway of cars they escaped his clutch by inches.

They walked on, determined to fulfill their quest. The Sun peaked in the overhead sky, its golden rays glinting off the hot shiny surface of the highway of cars. They heard a rattling sound. Faint at first, but as the source of the noise grew louder they recognized it. It was none other than their old friend Shev Roletimpala.

They exchanged warm greetings with their friend and climbed aboard his dilapidated wagon. "Take heart my friends" Shev told his companions, "you shall soon arrive at your destination".

And so they did arrive at their destination; the Plaza of Staples. Pausing to rest, they pulled a parchment from Jim-Bob's sack. "Seek ye not the first door to the south" it read "seek ye neither the next door thrice times two" it continued. "But go ye to the north and retreat one door from thence and there ye shall find the great door through which ye must pass".

They knew their quest was close to its end. They were determined to retrieve the prize which legend foretold a cad did bury in a secret place in the ville of Orange.

Elfie and Jim-Bob followed the directions and arrived at the great door. Staring up at its mighty, imposing stature they pondered to themselves: "but how shall we enter within". They turned once more to the parchment and read: "know ye the secret words which ye shall need to enter within for they are four". They read the secret words and, standing together before the great door they cried out in unison: "BLIGH ... TEES ... TUCKS ... TORE."

No sooner had the words been said, the great door groaned open and a bright light shined forth upon the travellers from Middle Earth. By the shimmering glow of light they could see the object of their quest laid out before them in great measure. They had found the ... bar of chocolate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Maypole Leaf Forever

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
In a tiny valley nestled among the rolling hills in the county of Dorset, England is a little village called Whopping Lye. It is a community with a great wealth of tradition. There are morris dancers, sword dancers and, on the first day of May every year, Maypole dancers.

A Maypole is a vertical pole from which gaily coloured ribbons hang. The dancers weave their way around the pole intertwining the ribbons and then skilfully unwind them again as they reverse their steps. It is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years.

Whopping Lye's Maypole, in fact, has stood since the mid-fourteenth century. It is so firmly planted in the ground that the villagers have been unable to move it. It also has another distinction. The pole was crafted from unseasoned wood. Over the centuries the pole has developed roots and, every spring, sap rises up the pole.

Around about the mid-seventeenth century leaves started to appear at the top of the pole. All but the very peak of the great pole is brushed and scraped by the Maypole ribbons which destroys any buds that try to emerge. But at the very top, about thirty feet above the village green on which it stands, a small sprig of leaves sprouts at the beginning of May each year.

With the ringing of Morris Dancers' bells in the background, the villagers dance and sing to celebrate the traditional start to summer and to charm the leaves into making their annual appearance. The words of the song will be very familiar to Canadians:
The Maypole Leaf
Our Emblem Dear,
The Maypole Leaf Forever.
God save our Queen and heaven bless,
The Maypole Leaf Forever. 
The song was brought to Canada by early settlers and has become something of an anthem over here. But, as you sing its stirring lyrics always keep its real origin in mind. The story behind the song originates in a Whopping Lye from England.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

True Blue But Pink Stinks

Ever wonder where the expression "true blue" came from? It dates all the way back to medieval times where the cloth dyers of Coventry developed a blue dye that would not fade when washed. The full expression is "as true as Coventry Blue".

The expression has come to mean faithful, trustworthy or reliable. Blue has also traditionally been the colour associated with boys. At the same time, pink has always been the colour associated with girls. But a pressure group in the United Queendom, eschewing the massive disruption caused by the global economic meltdown and the imminent demise of civilization due to climate change, is focussing on banning the colour pink.

"Pink stinks" they say. Forcing young girls to wear pink clothes condemns them to a life of femininity, they claim. Perish the thought! Blighty's Blog London bureau staff member Carna Bystreet reports that many British men think it's actually rather jolly good that ladies are brought up to be feminine.

Meanwhile, a newsflash just received at Blighty's Blog headquarters reveals that Mexican women have a different point of view. A new fleet of pink taxis has hit the streets of the Mexican capital and every one of the vehicles has a lady driver.

So young British men, when all the girls in Britain's streets have adopted drab grey fashions to match the drab grey skies, say Hola Mexico where the sky is a bright sunlit blue and the girls aren't afraid to be girls.

High Jinx and High Jump

Regular readers may remember the Blighty's Blog post (Upper Class Virgins) about the goings-on aboard Virgin Atlantic's fleet of jumbo-jollies aircraft.

Well, it seems the British are all for a little fun and "how's-your-father" whenever they look out of the window and see clouds below them. Who can blame them really? It rains all the time on the ground, but hop on a jolly old aeroplane and the sun is shining all around you.

It's cheap too. For two ponies (that's fifty quid) you can escape the gloom, doom and Gordon Brown (but I repeat myself) and jet off to sunny Spain. Hasta la vista Gordo; hola Benidorm!

Benidorm. Ever been there? Me neither. They say it's like Blackpool with sunshine, but worse. Brits go there for cheapo boozo and hanky-panky.

I read an article in the esteemed Times of London today that suggests the hanky-panky begins long before the captain calls for chair tables to be stowed and seat belts fastened. Times readers wrote in to relate stories of their unusual flying experiences.

One told of a flight to Australia on New Year's Eve. As the plane crossed the International Date Line the captain turned on the cabin lights to wish the passengers a happy new year. As the lights came on, one surprised couple were, apparently, already having a very happy new year. If I can phrase this with appropriate delicacy, they were ... um ... worshiping Venus the goddess of love ... they were renewing their membership in the mile high club. The other passengers gave the couple a standing ovation.

Another Times reader reported a regular flight plying a triangular route between three European destinations. Often, one leg of the journey would be flown with only the flight crew on board. During take-off the flight attendants would sit on tea trays and slide down the aisles as the aircraft climbed.

Oh what fun it is to ride in a British Airways jet.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's a Topsy Turvy Old World

The English are standing on their heads this week. Or is it just that their world has been turned upside down? Blighty's Blog UK bureau chief Cliff Whitedover filed two reports from the Foggy Soggy Isles this week that left all the staff at Blighty's Blog head office in Canada shaking their old grey noggins.

The first item was a revelation from Britain's tabloid Daily Mail newspaper that the London soccer team Arsenal has somehow managed to win a soccer match against London neighbours Chelsea by scoring LESS goals than their opponents.

Apparently, according to the newspaper sports page headline, Didier Drogba led Chelsea to defeat against Arsenal. And yet Chelsea scored more goals than Arsenal. Perhaps the rules of the game have changed since I fled to Canada nearly thirty years ago. Perhaps a more likely explanation is that the rules of English grammar have been relaxed a little too far.

Tap Dancing in Norwich, Lap Dancing in Leeds
Britain's venerated Daily Telegraph newspaper, meanwhile, carried reports of a new dance craze at English universities. Scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit are tap dancing their way around an expose of massive fraudulent manipulation of data used to support global warming.

The weather forecast for the Norwich area, where the University is located, is for a period of unusually high temperatures. Meanwhile our business reporter has learned that the university is about to announce a rising tide of job losses over the coming weeks.

The red-faced tap dancing men of Norwich, who may soon be considering alternative employment options should think about sending their resumes up north to Leeds.

Right alongside the story about "Climategate" the Daily Telegraph carried a report that Leeds University is seeking red-faced lap dancing men.

Is it time to stop taking British universities too seriously? 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Brummie's Touching Tale

5th February 2010: There is an update to this blog post. Please scroll to the bottom of the post for details.

Blighty's Blog is taking a break from its usual tongue-in-cheek look at the British way of life to publish a very touching story submitted by a very dear customer and friend. Joyce Wildsmith, a proud native of "Brummagem" is 84 years old. Her life has been filled with strife, happiness, tragedy and very fond memories. I hope you enjoy reading her tale as much as I did.

My late parents Annie and George Wilcox managed the Junction Inn on the corner of Bloomsbury Street and Great Francis Street by Ashstead Row. There were many poor families who lived in the back to back houses in Great Francis Street. When the air raids started at 6:00 or 6:30pm the men would just be coming home from work and the women would run with their kids to try and shelter underneath the billiard hall in Great Francis Street. Their husbands followed and, not having had a meal, must have been hungry.

The Co-op butcher would give Mom bones and bits of meat and she would make soup for the people in the shelter to keep them warm. When a lull came in the bombing I would go with her across the road to the shelter and take the hot soup.  On the way home early one morning we noticed bullet marks along the wall of the inn. We both thanked the good Lord that we were safe.

One night there was not enough room in the shelter so my father took some people into our cellar under the inn - they were very happy to go in. The people began to sing and one man played a tune with a pair of spoons. Another man performed a tap dance and the children recited a poem they had learned at Loxton Street School. It was just like having our own music hall; the talent was amazing.

That particular night was one to remember. The air raids went on for thirteen and a half hours - all through the night and into the next morning. No matter how loud we sang we could still hear the bombs falling and we all wondered if our homes would still be standing when the raid was over.

The following day we heard the Germans had tried to bomb Saltley gas works. If they had succeeded we would all have been killed as the gas works was very near to the inn. Instead, the bombs hit Guys beer bottle factory. The street was littered with broken glass in the morning.

My grandparents had both passed away before the start of the war leaving their house on Warwick Road in Acocks Green to my father. My father worked at the BSA factory in Small Heath. I was just 18 and received my call-up. I wanted to join the Wrens but was sent to work at the Coop Invincible factory in Tysley. I also volunteered at the ARP post in Acocks Green where I helped dress the wounds of people hurt in the bombing.

After the war I trained as a hair stylist and took a job at Florence Partridge's shop on Warwick Road, then at Frazer's barber shop on Yardley Road. That was where I met my future husband Bert. We married in 1947 at St Mary's church. A bomb had destroyed a large part of the church roof so our wedding ceremony was conducted in a side chapel.

In 1955 I opened my own salon called Joyce Hair Stylist on Castle Lane in Olton. I kept that business for over 21 years until my husband died.

Our son Paul, who was born in 1951, trained to be a technical illustrator and was offered a job at Spar Aerospace in Canada. Paul created the drawings for the famous Canadarm used on the International Space Station.

I was alone again after a second marriage, and when in 1986 Paul offered me a home in Canada, I left Birmingham and came to live here. Sadly, Paul was killed in a snowmobile accident in 2001. At 84 I now live with my memories and new friends, several of whom are also Brummies, in a seniors community in the village of Tottenham near Toronto.

Are you a Brummie too? 
Blighty's has several copies of "Brummagem" magazine containing many stories like this one. The magazines were donated by this post's narrator Joyce Wildsmith. We'll be happy to mail one to you free-of-charge. Simply tell us your story of the Birmingham area using the comment field below this post

Joyce Wildsmith is very keen to hear from any of the staff who worked at "Joyce hair Stylists" on Castle Lane, Olton, Birmingham during the 1960s and 1970s. Joyce's employees were Christine, Gillian, Sheila, Jean and Lynda. If you recognize any of the faces in this picture please use the "comments" field below this post to contact Blighty's Blog. We will forward your information directly to Joyce.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thatcher Dies in Canada

The news was first released by, of all people, Canada's Transport Minister John Baird. "Thatcher has died". Prime Minister Stephen Harper was informed immediately.

Whether you agreed with her politics, or not, the former British Prime Minister was one of the most influential characters in world politics.

Baroness Thatcher was 84 years old and still a prominent public figure. In recent days she had attended a Remembrance Day ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London. News of her death hit Ottawa hard and the Canadian Prime Minister briefed his aides who drafted an official government statement mourning the sudden passing of Britain's Iron Lady.

Margaret Thatcher was Britain's first woman prime minister and served for eleven years from 1979 until 1990 making her the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th Century. Her strong stand against the powerful miners union and her leadership of the country in the Falklands War of 1982 earned her the monicker of "Iron Lady".

The embarassment of a terrible mistake swept through Ottawa as quickly as the original erroneous news. It was true, Thatcher had died. Minister John Baird is an admirer of the Iron Lady and had named his pet cat after her.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Thousand Quid!

Cor blimey! It don't half cost a packet to take a train ride these days. Back in the good old days of British Railways you could hop on a choo-choo for a few bob and go anywhere.

The Man With the Big Chopper
Then along came dear Dr Beeching who took an axe to the rail network in the 1960s and closed half the lines. Then in the 1990s Her Majesty's government decided to privatize the rail network. Things went from bad to worse.

Money is No Object
When the railways were nationalized (i.e. state-owned) fares were cheap because the bottomless pockets of the British taxpayer paid all the bills. Once privatized the government offered subsidies to the private network operators to aid in transition from a publicly-owned to a private network.

Yippee, Another Chance to Pay!
The subsidies are, of course, paid from the bottomless pockets of the British taxpayer. I took a trip to my former home and native land a couple of years back. For reasons of expediency, I landed at London Gatwick but I needed to be in Manchester.

Ra-ta-ta-tah  ... ra-ta-ta-tah
Back in the good old days of British Railways I would have hopped on a Southern Region electric train from Gatwick Airport rail station, rattled my way up to London Bridge station, humped my suitcases onto the Tube to Euston (mind the gap) then caught an Inter-City Express to Manchester.

World Warm 1
In the reality of the twenty first century it was cheaper and easier to fly up from Gatwick to Manchester which is exactly what I did. But, in so doing, I left a huge, honking great carbon footprint on the British Isles. Those who preach the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it as a result of World Warm 1 would have been appalled, of course.

My Bottomless Pockets
Just like the British taxpayer, my pockets are bottomless. But the bottoms fell out of my pockets as a result of wear and tear. Wear and tear from shelling out too much money for almost everything. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse I heard some news that made me rush to the doctor's office for a hearing test.

A Thousand Bloomin' Quid?
You must be joking I thought. The BBC newsreader on the jolly old telly was talking about a £1000 train fare in Britain. "Struth" I thought to myself. "Have the Brits gone bleedin' bonkers?".

But no, it was true. You can buy a First Class Return from Newquay in Cornwall to the Kyle of Lochalsh in Scotland for a cool thousand knicker! Gordon bleedin' Bennett!!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blushing British Bollards

They might have been called "Hore Beacons" if it were not for the eccentric trait of the British aristocracy in adopting "double-barrelled" surnames.

An insurance company manager in Devon, England called Jacob Isaac Belisha and his wife Elizabeth became the parents of a man who name is immortal throughout Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Jacob passed away a year after the birth of his son Leslie. Elizabeth remarried. Her new husband was Sir Adair Hore and they adopted the surname Hore-Belisha.

Half Famous
Leslie went onto a political career marred by prejudice about his Jewish heritage. But his name, well at least fifty percent of it, will live on forever.

Leslie, you see, is the inventor of the "Belisha Beacon". These blushing bollards can be found at either end of a "zebra crossing" (okay, that's another blog post).

The Blushing Baron Meets the One-Eyed Dutchman
Belisha Beacons are intended to attract the attention of motorists to the location of a pedestrian crossing. But of course the 1st Baron Hore-Belisha couldn't have anticipated competition from the One-Eyed Dutchman called a Gatsometer.

Nowadays, British motorists have their eyes firmly fixed on their speedometers to avoid being shot in the back by the ubiquitous, mindless, robot speed cameras.

Pedestrians crossing the road have been relegated to the status of collateral casualties in the war against helpless British motorists. Leslie, 1st Baron Hore-Belisha, would have turned bright orange at the very thought of it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Doing The Wash

Blighty's Blog spent a Fortnight in the United Queendom in August and came back with some ripping yarns to tell. Here is another "Tale From the Trip".

A big bit of Britain is missing. Maybe it was the Vikings (my ancestors), maybe it was the Romans or the Normans. Somebody, or something, sometime, took a giant bite out of England's east coast.

Danger! ... Danger!
The missing bit is a bay 20 miles long by 15 miles wide called "The Wash". The Wash is a dangerous place to be. Navigation through its shallow waters is fraught with hazards. The Royal Air Force uses the western shoreline as a training area and frequently drops bombs on it, but I didn't find that out until an RAF fighter jet whistled through my hair.

Diamonds Gone Forever
It was dangerous even before the RAF earned its wings. My namesake, King John of England, lost the Crown Jewels in the Wash. I have shared my first name with only one English monarch and his whole reign was something less than spectacular.

I decided to visit The Wash this past summer. I had never seen it before and decided that this was the year to put a check mark against it. My tour route took me past the western shore (the inland coast) of The Wash.

The Fool on the Hill
No problem methought, just make a slight diversion, find a place to park near the seashore and stroll along the beach. Fool.

There are no signs indicating "beach this way". There are no traffic jams of holidaymakers carrying mother, father, 2.5 kids and the family dog on a day out to the seaside.

Instead, after a lot of navigation guided by the Sun, we managed to find a "white road" (the lowest classification of roads on a British motoring map) that wound its way through the hedgerows ending up alongside a huge wall of grass covered earth.

We parked the car, walked along the edge of a field, climbed a steep flight of steps and found ourselves on top of a massive dyke overlooking The Wash.

The first attack by the RAF took us by surprise. One of their fighter jets screamed in very low from the south. I pointed my Canon at it and fired off a few shots but the jet managed to get away.

The Parting Shot
The same jet made several passes, its undercarriage skirting through the parting in my hair, its engine noise pounding my eardrums. Eventually the airstrike was over; the pilot pulled back on his stick and flew inland.

We retreated. "Blimey" I thought, as we drove back to the main road, "they don't like tourists here". I pulled out my itinerary and put a big black check mark against another item on the list. We had done The Wash.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Free Tickets to Australia

This story was filed by Blighty's Blog correspondent Ian Legbe-Forewicket
The Government of Ontario has hatched plans to provide British immigrants to Canada's largest province with free passage to Australia.

In what, at first blush, sounds like a promising move for expat Brits eager to escape the onslaught of another cruel winter, the announcement today from Queens Park has sent shudders of fear through Ontario's bulging British community.

The announcement follows hard on the heels of the McGuinty government's attempts to starve the British out of Ontario by forcing the closure of all their small butcher shops (Blighty's Blog uncovered this story a few months ago: the McGuinty government used economic pressure to force haggis makers out of business- editor).

Now a new ministry has been setup to forcibly remove Brits from Ontario. It has been given the terrifying name of "The Ontario Ministry of Transportation".

British and Australian citizens are well familiar with judicial transportation. The practice of shipping undesirables to Australia was common practice in 18th Century Britain.

A spokesperson for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty told Blighty's Blog: "look it's really very simple; we just don't want haggis-eaters hanging around our province. If this new measure doesn't work we are going to have to use get-tough tactics such as ... continued on page 94

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Murder Most Fowl

Aaaarrrggh! Help! Help! Keep  the women of Peterborough, away from me! No, no I am not being paranoid; the paranoids are chasing me too.

When I first saw this set of knives in a Peterborough store window this past summer, I thought: "that would be handy; a good set of knives for carving the Turkey on Thanksgiving and for chopping chicken for Sunday dinner. And look, there are smaller knives for partridge and quail."

"You could murder most fowl with this set of knives" I thought. And then I noticed the knife holder.
It happened during my trip to the UK this past summer. One of the local women took SWMBO (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) and I into a shopping mall. This bizarre and strange object was displayed in a store window.

Is there a demand for things like this in Peterborough? Are the women of Peterborough so angry with their men that an object such as this is openly sold?

What ideas did SWMBO get when she saw this? Should I be concerned when, on returning home, she ordered custom licence plates for her car that read "Boudica"? What should I read into her question about whether the Ontario Ministry of Transportation would allow rotating knives on the hubcaps of her "chariot"?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Upper Class Virgins

There is something saucy going on aboard Virgin Atlantic's aeroplanes. Now I am sure we all like big comfy seats, free booze and being treated like somebody special at check-in when we fly. But, hey, Sir Richard Branson has taken special treatment to a whole new level onboard his fleet of Virgin Atlantic jumbo fun and shenanigans planes.

I don't think, strictly speaking, that you really even have to be either upper class or a virgin to join in the fun. You do, however, have to shell out a bucket load of coin for the privilege.

Here is what Virgin has to say about its "Upper Class" service:
From the complimentary limo to the onboard bar and fully flat beds, Upper Class provides the VIP treatment that you deserve. (Uh-huh).

Your seat is a suite. Complete with a private power source, and guest seat for meeting or entertaining. (nudge-nudge, wink-wink). When sleep beckons, your seat converts to a totally flat, super-wide bed complete with a duvet and turn down service.

We all have our own little comforts that help us get the best possible flight's sleep, but individually our needs are all different. (Steady on Sir Richard, you'll frighten the horses)

Sip a signature drink at the onboard bar. If films are your pleasure, enjoy over 43 channels of programming on your widescreen personal entertainment system. (Is it getting a little warm in here?)

You'll find the expected and the unexpected in our unique Clubhouses. (Saucy!)

Whether you want to work or play whilst onboard, our in-seat power will keep your gadgets going. (Alright, now you are going too far Dickie).
 Oh what dirty fun it must be to be upper class!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Get Online While Visiting the UK

So you are planning a visit to the UK but you desperately need to stay in touch with your email while you are away. At home, checking on your latest messages is a trivial and routine matter, but once you are overseas things get a little more complicated.

This was the problem I had to deal with when I took a two week long personal break in my former home and native land earlier this year.

Leaving the Laptop Behind
Here in Canada I access my email on my laptop. But my laptop wasn't coming along for the trip. I like to be notified of incoming messages even when I am walking the dog (Trunkles - the dog with the blog) so I also have a smartphone on which I can read messages anywhere within range of a cell tower, 24 hours per day.

My cellphone provider's roaming charges make it prohibitively expensive to use my smartphone overseas, but there is a simple trick that I used to access my email through my smartphone for free. We'll get to that in a moment.

No Drive-by Logins
I found several pubs and restaurants offering "free WiFi". Simple, I thought. Just get within range of their signal and then world-wide-wam-bam-thank-you-man. But it was not so easy. I bought breakfast at one restaurant dangling the free WiFi carrot to boost trade. Sure, the WiFi was free but I had to ask my server for an access code before I could get online.

So Long Ted
So what was the simple trick that got me online for free using my Canadian smartphone? My phone has built-in WiFi and can connect to the Internet without using the cellphone network. I simply removed the SIM card from my phone to prevent it automatically roaming through a UK mobile phone network and thereby denied Rogers Wireless the ability to empty my bank account.

But what can you do if you don't own a smartphone? Most people use phones that can access the Internet but many phones do not have WiFi. There is still a way to put a dent in the cellphone billionnaires' pocket book.

Removing the Shackles
Cellphone network providers usually lock their phones to their own network. They tell us that this is because they subsidize the cost of the phones while tying you into a long term contract. However, you can unlock most phones for a small fee. Despite what your cellphone provider might tell you, this is not illegal. A simple Google search will reveal lots of companies who can do this for you.

A Quid a Day
Once in the UK you can simply go into a mobile phone store and buy a UK SIM card. UK mobile network Orange will sell you a whole day's unlimited Internet access for just £1.

Renting Time
Squinting at a tiny cellphone screen isn't good for the eyes. It also makes it difficult and/or expensive to view email attachments. So an alternative is to use a public Internet access computer, buy time online using a credit card and surf.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #11 A Famous Pair of Wellies

Last of the Summer Wine
Our travels in the United Queendom this year took us to the small Yorkshire town of Holmfirth to seek out the filming locations for the iconic British comedy TV show "Last of the Summer Wine".

The show is filmed in and around the town and the area is rich with scenes from the show. In later posts we will share information on how to make an overnight stay in Nora Batty's house and where to find Sid's Cafe.

Bill Owen, Member of the British Empire
But, in this post, we'll talk about British actor Bill Owen MBE. Bill played the role of "Compo" in the show. When he died in 1999, his real life son Tom Owen joined Summer Wine in his place.

We wanted to find where Bill was buried and pay our respects. With some determination, some white knuckle driving and some really splendid assistance from a local funeral director, we succeeded.
Park At Your Peril
Bill Owen is buried in St John's Church graveyard in the village of Upperthong just outside Holmfirth. The church is on a very narrow, steep hill. You can park a car at the side of the road outside only if you have a small vehicle, a very good parking brake and park with the passenger side of the vehicle right up against the stone wall.

Bill Owen's grave is on a steep slope behind the church. You can identify it immediately by the pair of Compo's wellies standing beside the grave.

Hair Raising Ride
And when you leave, you will have a hair-raising ride down one of England's steepest, narrowest hills, winding between parked cars on both sides of the road, meeting cars struggling to make it up the hill and passing you with a fraction of an inch to spare.

It was all worth it. Thanks for all those years of great entertainment Bill. Rest in peace.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #11 Double Double Trouble

When a Canadian walks into a donut shop and orders a "double double" he generally expects to get a cup of coffee with double cream and double sugar. When I walked into a fish & chip shop in Northumberland and ordered "fish & chips twice" I might have inadvertently ordered more than I expected.

Fish & Chips Twice
"Fish & chips twice", as I recall from living in the United Queendom twenty eight years ago, was a way of saying "could I have two orders of fish and chips please". I wanted one order for myself and another for senior management (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed).

Ski School
To my astonishment, what I received was two very large pieces of cod and a mound of chips so big that Canadians would call it a ski hill. Twice. Yes, that's one small school of fish and a ski hill for me and the same again for my wife.

It was a very good meal too. But do the people of Northumberland usually eat such huge meals or did I miss some nuance of the local dialect and order a double-double fish & chips?

A Double Blow for Mary
SWMBO and I toured several cathedrals during our visit to the Land of Hope and Glory. Peterborough Cathedral is one of the smaller cathedrals, but a very interesting building all the same. We came across the former burial place of Mary Queen of Scots.

Following her execution at Fotheringay Castle in 1587, Mary was interred in Peterborough Cathedral. She was exhumed when her son James I came to the throne and re-buried in Westminster Abbey near her sister Elizabeth I who had signed her death warrant.

A sign in the cathedral simply noted that Mary died on the second blow of the executioner's axe. "Ouch" I thought and wanted to know more. I had always thought that royal beheadings were neat, clean deaths. Not so, it seems.

Sorry, I Missed
The headsman's first blow caught Mary on the back of the head. His second blow severed her head from her body but for one strand of sinew that he cut by sawing at it with the axe blade. How horrible.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #10 Bad Beer

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.

We British love our beer. Even those of us who no longer live in the Land of Hope and Glory still love our beer.

Ice Cold Tubes of Slop
Forget about Bavarian purity laws and Aussie slop whose only claim to fame is how cold it can be made without actually freezing.

The Beer That Made Milwaukee Flameless
American beer is used for putting out brewery fires in Canada which is a terrible shame because, if there is any justice in the world, most Canadian breweries should actually be left to burn.

It's Alive!
What makes British beer the best in the world? It is alive! Literally. British real ale is delivered with live yeast in the barrel. The big Brit breweries tried to convert us to pasteurized, pressurized keg beer but their malevolence was defeated by one of the fundamental rules of physics: "to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction".

Throw it in the River
The reaction to keg beer was a massive public uprising in favour of traditional ale. Blighty's Blog travelled to Peterborough, England this summer and saw what the people there do with beer that doesn't measure up to their standards. As our picture shows, they simply toss it into the river.

Time Gentlemen Please
So why then are British pubs closing at the rate of 40 per month? Some blame the ban on smoking, others point to supermarket aisles bulging with cheap booze. I blame people like the friends I stayed with while in England. The poor pubs just couldn't keep up with their appetite for English ale. God bless them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ignatieff Congratulates England

Canadian politician Michael Ignatieff congratulates the England soccer team on qualifying for the World Cup competition in South Africa next year? Does anybody else see the resemblance?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #9 Seven Feet Under the Sea

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.
It was a strange experience. I was standing seven feet below the sea without getting wet. Sure, the ground beneath my feet was damp but, as I looked around, I could see that I was definitely on terra firma.

The Lowest Point in England
I was in Holme Fen near Peterborough, England. Holme Fen is the lowest point in England at more than seven feet below sea level. The picture above shows one of the Holme Fen posts. They are used to measure the depth of the land below sea level as the fens are drained.

All Dried Up
The whole area used to be covered by England's second largest lake called Whittlesey Mere. But the lake was drained dry in the middle of the nineteenth century and the peat began to erode as it dried out. There are date markers on one of the posts showing the height of the land at various points in history.

On the Level
The top of the original post was level with the ground one hundred and fifty years ago, but erosion of the peat has dropped the land to its present level.

Dykes Everywhere
The terrain in the English fens is quite unique and unlike any other part of England. Vegetation is thick and rich due to the peat base and ample water supply. Thousands of dykes carry water away from the fields and they all have names. One of them is called "Pig Dyke"; nobody knows why. This was definitely the lowest point of my trip!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Driving on the Left - All Change!

I had to check my calendar this morning. I was feeling groggier than usual after the long weekend and I thought maybe it was April 1st. BBC World News was announcing that the nation of Samoa had just switched to driving on the left hand side of the road.

Just over a year ago Blighty's Blog reported that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was planning to switch British drivers over to the right hand side of the road in time for the London Olympics in 2012 (read "Brits to Drive on the Right?").

Dry British Humour
That post was written in dry British humour style. So dry, in fact, that the hard copy pinned to the back wall of the store has misled many customers. Some come up to the cash desk shaking their heads in disbelief at how far off the beaten track Britain's unpopular PM has slid.

That post was, of course, a spoof. It told of a 2-phase transition in which cars would do the switchover first as a trial. Later, if the transition was successful, trucks and buses would also switchover to the right.

Three Cups of Coffee Later
So, when I heard the BBC reporter telling viewers of a smooth transition in Samoa I was a complete skeptic. Three cups of coffee later I checked the BBC News website to dispel my skepticism. Yes, it is true. At 0600 today, sirens sounded and all the drivers in Samoa crossed over to the other side of the road.

Stone Cold Sober
A two day holiday preceded the switch and alcohol sales were suspended to ensure that everybody was stone cold sober. Complaints poured in about the driver's side door being on the wrong side of the vehicle but no accidents were reported.

Yes, Blighty's Blog has a reputation for being written with tongue-in-cheek and should often be read that way, but this story is (to the best of our knowledge) completely true. The BBC News link "Samoa Switches to Driving on the Left" may not work for ever, but while it does you can read the story for yourself.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #8 A Day at the Races

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.
I was handed this itinerary for a day out at York races while I was in the UK. The identity of "the pub" has been removed to protect the innocent (that's me actually. These blog posts are cross-posted to Blighty's Facebook page and the landlord of "the pub" is a Blighty's Facebook fan).

As you can see, the itinerary is fairly "liquid". But, whose itinerary is it? None other than the police in a Manchester suburb! I understand that the coach driver was teetotal.
08:30 Meet at the pub
08:35 A Pint
09:00 Breakfast with a pint
09:30 Have a bet with Keith, and a pint
10:00 Try the quiz, with a pint
10:30 On the coach
11:30 Stop for a couple of pints
12:30 On the coach to York
13:00 Enter the racecourse
Enjoy the races and have a few pints
18:00 Back on coach after last race
Back to the pub for a curry and a few pints

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #7 Everything's Tickety Boo

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.

Up The Great North Road
Our journey up to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (see last post) took us along the "Great North Road" (more on that road in a future post). We didn't want to waste any time because, as you will understand if you did read the last post, the time of the tide waits for no man.

Mighty Castles, Beautiful Beaches
On the return trip to the Sunderland area we took the coastal road. The road along the Northumberland coast passes many castles and beautiful beaches. Along the way we made a short stop in the small town of Seahouses. This small town, during a one hour visit, provided Blighty's Blog with enough material for a whole series of blog posts.

How Are You Today?
We enjoyed a fish and chip supper (there's a blog post on that meal coming up) and then, on the walk back to our car, came across the fascinating vehicle pictured above. I have been fond of using the phrase "tickety-boo" for a long time. When some folk say "how are you today" they don't really expect an answer. So an appropriate response is "tickety-boo" which I used to believe was meaningless.

Tikai Babu
But when I researched the phrase, using the excellent resources of phrases.org.uk, I discovered that, in all likelihood, "tickety-boo" really does mean something.

According to a contributor to that site who uses the cryptic identity of "TheFallen" , t
he Hindi phrase transliterated as "tikai babu" means "everything's fine, sir".Which is exactly how I felt after eating an extraordinarily generous portion of fish & chips.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #6 Time of Tide Waits for No Man

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.

At the insistence of SWMBO (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed), a family reunion in the north-east of England was punctuated by a trip even further north to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne just off the Northumberland coast near the Scottish border.

Celtics 1 Vikings 1
SWMBO wanted to immerse herself in the Celtic culture celebrated on the Island. I was drawn there by another instinct. Over a thousand years ago, my ancestors crossed the North Sea in small boats intent on rape, pillage and plunder.

Rape, Pillage & Plunder
The Vikings made their first British landing on Lindisfarne. They proceeded to import their own unique stlye of brutal nordic tourism up and down the east coast of England, establishing a Viking presence in Britain that lasted several hundred years.

Twice a Day
Lindisfarne is actually only a true island twice a day. It is connected to the mainland of Northumberland by a three mile long causeway. At low tide, hundreds of cars pour onto the island to soak up its ancient culture and visit its historic priory and castle.

Pay Attention!
There is an ancient English phrase "time and tide wait for no man". No one knows the origin of the phrase but visitors to Lindisfarne should pay particular attention to it. If you are planning on crossing the causeway, never ignore the fact that the time of the local North Sea tide really doesn't wait for anybody.

Saved From a Watery Grave
Every year a few foolhardy tourists seem to want to find out whether their cars are amphibious. They usually become clients of the Royal Air Force whose helicopters, based at nearby RAF Boulmer, pluck them from the crude and uninviting rescue towers along the causeway.

The tidal currents are very strong and, even though the RAF or the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) may be able to rescue the foolhardy, their cars remain at the unforgiving mercy of the North Sea.

Rush Hour
Tide tables are available online and safe crossing times are posted at each end of the causeway. But here's a tip from Blighty's Blog: if you wait until the latest possible safe crossing time you may be competing with hundreds of other cars trying to squeeze a few extra minutes on the island.

And whatever you do, don't run out of petrol on the causeway!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #5 The Haunted Inn

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.

The Bailey Round
When I was just a young lad I worked as a newspaper delivery boy. Although I was a Londoner by birth, fortune had taken my family to the City of Durham in the northeast of England. I must have impressed my employer for I was given the prestigious "Bailey Round". My route took me to the doors of all the high church officials associated with Durham Cathedral.

Posh Folk Don't Tip
As I later discovered, none of the other boys wanted anything to do with the Bailey Round because the high-ranking, wealthy people living in the posh homes surrounding the cathedral were very poor tippers at Christmas.

In the Dim Light of Early Morning
So, at six-thirty every morning, I loaded up my canvas sack with plentiful copies of the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Church Times and the pink broadsheet Financial Times and set off for the finest neighborhood in the whole of the northeast of England.

Grotesque Gargoyles
The homes along "The Bailey" are ancient stone structures. The grotesque gargoyles atop the cathedral buttresses leer down at passers-by. The street is narrow, deserted and spooky in the dim light of early morning. I was often startled by the creak of an ancient door opening and sundry other noises that broke the eerie silence in this most ancient quarter of the city.

A Towering Cathedral and Ancient Castle
The Bailey runs along one side of a spectacular peninsula created by a horseshoe bend in the River Wear. The ground enclosed by the bend rises high above the river. On top of the high ground sits Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle - two mighty buildings that dominate the city and can be seen for miles. This is the district in which distinguished theologians ply their trade and students with sights set on entry into the church learn their profession at the ancient collegiate university.

Something Very Strange
I must have performed my duties with distinction because, after a couple of years, I was promoted to the role of supervisor of newspaper delivery boys and no longer had to carry that heavy canvas bag through those dark, sinister streets. But I had no way of knowing that something from those streets stayed with me. Something that would lie dormant and come back to haunt me many years later.

The Recurring Dream
I left Durham City a few years later and did not return until the summer of 2009 - nearly 40 years later. I had to go back. I was curious. For several years I have been having a strange recurring dream. In my dream I visit a public house on Saddler Street which leads directly into the Bailey. I walked that street every morning on my route.

It is a very vivid, yet brief dream and it is always the same. I could not even remember whether there was a public house on that street and I never paid much attention to the dream.

But, in August 2009, I returned to Durham City, determined to find out whether that pub existed. It does, and what I discovered when I found it was profoundly disturbing. A sign on the outside of the pub reads:

This building dates back to 1109AD. It was an inn called The Ostler & Groom in 1468AD. It remains one of the most haunted pubs in England.

A strange tale, but completely true.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #4 All Manor of Rabbits

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.

It was our first night in England. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I were checked into the Premier Inn at Gatwick Manor in southern England.

Sshh! Come and Look at This
We were enjoying a quiet stroll around the ample grounds of the hotel as dusk was setting in. A small meadow stretched into a quiet wooded copse behind the building. As I approached I saw a group of half a dozen rabbits sitting on the grass.

I summoned my wife to come quickly and quietly so that she could share in this first sighting of British wildlife on the trip. Little did we know what sights we would witness before we left the hotel two days later.

Medieval Manor Under Siege
Gatwick Manor is a medieval manor house under siege. The six rabbits we saw on that first night were a scouting party for the hundreds we were to witness over the next couple of days.

By morning, the main rabbit army had arrived. Echelons of rabbit infantry were advancing onto the manor grounds, sweeping across the long winding driveway leading to the parking lot of the hotel.

I Fired a Few Shots
I pulled out my Canon and fired a few shots at them from across the battlefield. They retreated but then reformed and advanced again. We climbed into our car and drove as quickly as we could toward the main road to Crawley.

The entire rabbit force of several hundred - maybe several thousand - was concentrated in the grounds of Gatwick Manor but the roads were clear. Once we were out of the manor grounds we were safe.

Continued on page 94.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #3 Premier Inns

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.

Where to Stay in Britain?
She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I spent two weeks touring England in August. A few nights were spent with family and friends but the rest of the time we had to find our own accomodation.

Bed & Very Big Breakfast
During previous trips we had used bed & breakfast establishments and were reasonably happy with the arrangement. This year, we took a serious look at the economics of staying at B&Bs and made a different decision.

B&Bs can vary a lot in quality and comfort and the cost includes the famous "full English breakfast". SWMBO and I rarely eat a cooked breakfast at home so we questioned why we should pay for a meal we don't want when travelling.

A little research on the Whirled Wild Web produced a handy alternative that we decided to try this year. We chose Britain's largest chain of budget priced hotels - Premier Inns.

Premier Inns Outnumber Pubs?
There are so many Premier Inns in Britain that they will soon outnumber pubs (which, we learned, are closing at the rate of 40 per week). Behind the familiar sign on the front lawn nearly all Premier Inns are strikingly similar. The rooms are all so alike that we felt a strong sense of deja-vu as we moved from town to town.

Our double rooms each had a king-size bed with phone, TV and a room heater. One thing that is missing though is air-conditioning. One or two nights were quite warm and our room was stuffy and humid.

Gastronomically Good
Most Premier Inns are co-located with a gastropub in which meals can be purchased. The quality of food was excellent and the prices were very reasonable. Two can eat for £9.95 if you take advantage of the early evening special.

Get Online for a Couple of Quid
Every Premier Inn features two computers in the lobby. You can purchase 40 minutes of high-speed Internet use for just £2 to catch up on your email. Payment is by credit card or you can buy vouchers at reception.

Inn and Out
Premier Inns can become very busy so you would be well-advised to book ahead. We showed up without a reservation and found a fully-booked hotel on two occasions. Every Premier Inn has access to a booking database for every other Premier Inn. Just ask at reception at any Inn and they are very happy to make reservations for you in another city.

High Marks
Blighty's Blog gives the Premier Inn chain an overall rating of 8 out of 10 and will be using Premier Inns again on our next trip.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #2 FlyGlobespan

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.

The Curse of Blighty's Blog
Blighty's Blog travelled to the Land of Hope and Glory last year on Zoom Airlines. They let us down so we put a blog curse on them. Weeks later they went bust. This year we ventured across the sea to England once more; this time with FlyGlobespan. We loaded up for bear, put on our woad, gritted our teeth and prepared for battle with another airline.

A Hex on Zoom
A year ago we shelled out a few extra dollars for "Premium Economy" seats on Zoom. We got priority check-in and boarding but we were shell-shocked to discover Zoom's "premium" seats were identical to their regular seats except for being four inches further apart.

So Much Better
So, this year, when we arrived at the airport with our "business class" tickets (for which we paid about a $150 premium each way) we were primed for another disappointment. We didn't receive any priority check-in or boarding at the airport which was a surprise and a warning. But when we entered the aircraft - a nice wide-body Boeing 767 - we were pleased and relieved to see that our $150 was well spent.

Leather Luxury
FlyGlobespan's business class seating was very comfortable. The rows were sufficiently well-spaced to allow the deeply reclining leather seats to be fully deployed without annoying passengers in the row behind. Each seat also had an adjustable leg and footrest. Economy class seats are also leather-covered but are narrower and do not have the wide row spacing found in business class.

A Better Airport
FlyGlobespan flies in and out of Hamilton Airport which is a pleasant change from Toronto's Pearson Airport. Hamilton Airport is an efficient, well-equipped regional facility and far less crowded than Pearson. There are no jet bridges so passengers have to walk across the apron and climb stairs to board the aircraft. That could be a problem in wet weather.

Our flight departed on time and arrived early. We travelled to London Gatwick via Belfast where we had a forty-five minute stopover. The journey was comfortable and the flight crew were polite and efficient.

Don't Board Hungry
Our flight departure time was around 8pm and we weren't served dinner until a couple of hours into the flight. My suspicious mind decided that this is a cost-cutting measure. Airlines probably have to feed passengers at particular intervals during a flight. By delaying dinner service as long as possible they escaped the obligation to serve a breakfast before landing. Sure enough, "breakfast" was a small cup of water.

£2 for a Cuppa
Flyglobespan charges even for tea and coffee in flight (even in business class) but meals are included in the ticket price. Headsets and blankets are offered for sale. The seat headset jacks are the common 3.5mm stereo type found on almost all audio equipment, so if you have your own headset, take it with you.

Car? What Car?
Flyglobespan operates a ticketless service. Book online and check-in with just your reservation number and photo id. We had rented a car at Gatwick through the airline and that created a problem when we arrived. After making our way to the car rental hall at Gatwick we realized that the airline had not advised us which car rental company they do business with.

Fortunately, the very helpful staff at Avis and Thrifty finally found our reservation (with Thrifty). It wasn't easy though. FlyGlobespan had not forwarded our booking to Thrifty who had no record of our car reservation. It was only when their helpful desk attendant made a few phone calls that we got our car.

Despite our apprehension about travelling with another budget airline we completed our round trip with a generally positive feeling about FlyGlobespan and would recommend that you give them a try.

Brits Pay More
One further note about FlyGlobespan. They have a Canadian website (flyglobespan.ca) and a UK website (flyglobespan.com). When we booked our flights in May we found that the same seats, on the same flights, cost a lot more if booked through their UK website (read about it here). When I went online - in the UK - to reconfirm our return flights I was blocked from visiting the airline's Canadian website. Perhaps the folks up in Scotland, where FlyGlobespan is based, read Blighty's Blog; lots of people do you know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tales From the Trip: #1 The One Eyed Dutchman

Blighty's Blog recently spent a fortnight in the United Queendom. We came back with some great "tales from the trip". Here's another one.

I wait with baited breath.The UK police have two weeks to issue a notice of intent to prosecute. Am I a wanted man? Did I get caught by any of their one-eyed Dutchmen while I toured around England?

They Shoot You in the Back
The "one-eyed Dutchmen" is the ubiquitous speed camera in use throughout the UK. I drove past hundreds of them during a two-week journey that took me from London's Gatwick airport to the Scottish border and back again. These Dutchmen shoot you in the back as you pass by. Cowards. Dumb, ignorant unthinking cowards. The most visible of them all is the Gatsometer invented in Holland. Hated on both sides of the English Channel many are condemned to death by fires set by angry protestors.

Evil Eye
The Gatsometer is a yellow box atop a post at the side of the road. It points its evil eye at a set of white lines on the carriageway. The one-eyed Dutchman fires a radar signal at the back of each passing car. If the vehicle is travelling too fast the Dutchman takes a picture of the license plate. A second picture is taken moments later to enable the dreaded box to compute the vehicle's speed.

What Size Shoes Do Policemen Wear?
The police then have two weeks to issue a notice of intent to prosecute - longer if the vehicle is a "hire car". The police, whose business revenue depends upon erring motorists paying fines, vehemently defend the notion that speeding causes accidents. But anybody with an IQ higher than his shoe size can see the shallow value of that argument.

A Double-Double and a Dutchie
What really happens on Britain's roads is that motorists drive hell-for-leather and slow down only when they pass by a speed camera. With many thousands of these devices throughout Britain to babysit road discipline the police are freed for other duties. Tim Horton's would do well there.

Go Like Hell
Britain's motorways are peppered with roadworks where the speed limit is lowered from 70mph to 50mph. Compliance with the 50mph limit is enforced by using cameras to measure average speed within a controlled zone. But roadworks cause traffic to become congested, frequently slowing to a crawl. When the congestion clears Britain's motorists can go like hell to compensate for the delay without exceeding the "average" speed limit.

Too Many Pedals
It took me a few days to re-acclimatize to driving on Britain's narrow, winding roads in a car with too many pedals on the floor and a strange stick beside the driver's seat. I drove very cautiously at first. British drivers were unforgiving. They drove so close behind me I could see the colour of their eyes. I upset a few of them by finding myself in the wrong lane approaching a roundabout.

Driven to Drink
One British driver has probably taken to drink to calm himself after encountering me on a bend in the road in Lincolnshire. My keener observance of the English Highway Code incited him to overtake me dangerously. He drew alongside me a little further down the road, wound down his window and said: "I am jolly cross with you old chap" - at least that was the gist of his blessing to me.

Seeing Red
And, just like here in Canada, red lights in Britain now seem to mean "floor the gas and go for it" to many British drivers. They have a camera for that too.

Monday, August 17, 2009

100 More Brits to Throw a Shoe at

We wrapped up our "6 Brits to Throw a Gong at" series by re-publishing the "100 Most Popular Britons" list. So, to keep the balance, here is the list of the 100 worst Britons filched from Wikipedia (although the original source is ITV).

You may be stunned to see H.M. The Queen in tenth place on this list. Apparently she appears here because of her family's German origins.

Once again, this is a very unofficial poll that shouldn't be taken terribly seriously (ESPECIALLY the bit about the Queen).
  1. Tony Blair
  2. Jordan
  3. Margaret Thatcher
  4. Jade Goody (since deceased)
  5. Martin Bashir
  6. Gareth Gates
  7. Alex Ferguson
  8. 'H' from Steps
  9. Geri Halliwell
  10. HM The Queen
  11. Liam Gallagher
  12. Chris Evans
  13. Victoria Beckham
  14. Rik Waller
  15. Anthea Turner
  16. Bernard Manning (since deceased)
  17. Robbie Williams
  18. Peter Stringfellow
  19. Neil and Christine Hamilton
  20. Jim Davidson
  21. Charlotte Church
  22. Darren Day
  23. Lady Victoria Hervey
  24. HRH The Prince of Wales
  25. Anne Robinson
  26. Edwina Currie
  27. Chris Moyles
  28. Jamie Oliver
  29. Cliff Richard
  30. Max Clifford
  31. The 3AM Girls
  32. Naomi Campbell
  33. Simon Cowell
  34. Sara Cox
  35. Harry Potter
  36. Tara Palmer Tomkinson
  37. James Hewitt
  38. Andrew Lloyd Webber
  39. Catherine Zeta Jones
  40. HRH The Earl of Wessex
  41. Tracy Emin
  42. Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen
  43. Mick Hucknall
  44. Michael Winner
  45. Pete Waterman
  46. Prince Naseem Hamed
  47. Ainsley Harriott
  48. Trinny and Susannah
  49. Peter Mandelson
  50. Ken Livingstone
  51. Darius Danesh
  52. Amanda Holden
  53. Zoe Ball
  54. Martine McCutcheon
  55. Elton John
  56. Ant and Dec
  57. Alastair Campbell
  58. Ozzy Osbourne
  59. Byers and Moore
  60. Richard Madeley
  61. Vinnie Jones
  62. Alan Titchmarsh
  63. HRH the Countess of Wessex
  64. Chris Tarrant
  65. Ben Elton
  66. Jeremy Clarkson
  67. Jeremy Spake
  68. Carol Vorderman
  69. David Dickinson
  70. Frank Skinner
  71. Paul Burrell
  72. Tom Jones
  73. Sarah Ferguson
  74. Carol Smillie
  75. Liz Hurley
  76. HRH The Princess Royal
  77. Guy Ritchie
  78. Delia Smith
  79. Johnny Vaughan
  80. Peter Tatchell
  81. Sting
  82. Gordon Ramsay
  83. Mick Jagger
  84. Damien Hirst
  85. Julie Burchill
  86. Richard Branson
  87. John Prescott
  88. Judith Chalmers
  89. Cherie Blair
  90. Nigella Lawson
  91. David Beckham
  92. Will Young
  93. Vanessa Feltz
  94. Ann Widdecombe
  95. Davina McCall
  96. Chris Eubank
  97. Lord Irvine
  98. Craig David
  99. Iain Duncan Smith
  100. Atomic Kitten