Recently in Life In London Category

Me: What's in the "Vegetable Extravaganza?"
The Waiter: Vegetables. And, um, "extravaganza." That's a kind of Italian cheese.

"Probably Worth Heading Over"

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Thanks to the arrival of discount airline Zoom Airlines, there's a fare war going on for flights to the US. Just in case low fares aren't enough of an incentive to travel, the UK version of the travel website Travelocity has just sent out the following e-mail advertisement:

On the 4th of July the USA celebrates everything that's great about their homeland. When the people who live there love their country so much, it's probably worth heading over to check it out for yourself.

I can't figure out if we've just been complimented or insulted.

Good-bye, Tony

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A few hours ago, I watched Tony Blair announce that he'll be ending his decade as Prime Minister on June 27. (Or "27 June," as we like to call it here.)

Pundits seem to be zeroing in on the part of his speech dealing with the invasion of Iraq, but for me, the most striking moment was when he said six simple words: "This is the greatest nation on earth."

In an American political speech, such a declaration is pretty much mandatory. Somewhere in the US, there may be an elected official who has never declared that America is the greatest country on the planet, but I doubt it.

In England, though, it's much rarer. We Americans are comfortable selling ourselves, individually and collectively. But the trappings of patriotism that Americans love--giant flags, country-wide celebrations of national pride, boasts about our nation's greatness--seem to make the English a trifle embarrassed.

After a bit of Googling, I've been able to turn up just one instance of a modern British politician using the phrase: in 2002, Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith told his party conference, "For me, this is the greatest country on earth." And note the first two words of the quote, which qualify it as a subject personal preference, not an indisputable scientific fact.

If you read Blair's quote, you'll notice no such hedging. However, if you hear it, or watch the video, you'll notice a slightly defensive tone in the way he says it.

The Revolution is coming!

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For many years, Man has maintained mastery over Dog for a simple reason: we know how to buy dogfood, and they do not.

Now, I fear, this may change. I bring you shocking photographic proof that dogs have mastered the intricacies of capitalism:

As the Metro reports, service dogs are now being trained to use ATM machines. Sure, it seems cute and helpful now, but when you wake up one morning to find your bank account empty and a diamond-studded humancollar around your neck, you'll wish you had heeded my warning.

Monsters!

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I was excited to see this banner headline the other day:

Alas, closer inspection revealed the following:


Turns out it was just a front-page ad for a British TV show.

The Voice of the People

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In an effort to encourage participation in democracy, the British government is having a trial of an electronic petition system. Many of the most popular ones are for frivolous causes like changing the tax structure or repealing certain laws.

Fortunately, there are some Britons with their priorities straight. Among the fifty most-popular petitions is this one, signed by 3060 patriots:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stand on his head and juggle ice-cream.

Almost as popular is this one, signed by 2,485 music lovers:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to replace the national anthem with 'Gold' by Spandau Ballet.

We, the people of Britain, feel that our current National Anthem has lost a bit of its sparkle.

When we are confronted by the rare occasion of us winning a medal at the Olympics, we all have to mumble through "God Save The Queen", well God help us in 2012!

We would thereby like to table the suggestion that we change the National Anthem to something more modern and appropriate and that will re-invigorate our pride.

What we specifically want to see, is that the National Anthem be changed in favour of "Gold" by Spandau Ballet.

Further, we would like our National Olympic Committee to decree that Tony Hadley is the only person permitted to handle medal ceremonies where the National Anthem is played.

We don't mind what he wears when he does this, but preference is given towards a a gold colured suit.

Fortunately, the Government is vigilantly ensuring that no frivolous petitions sneak in along with such noble causes. A plea to ban "dyhydrogen monoxide" (also known as "water") was rejected because "It was intended to be humorous, or have no point about government policy."

My favorite petition, though, is this one, because I'm dying to know the story behind it:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to End the rules of male primogenture with regard to succession to the Earldom of Stirling via a Resettlement-by-Letters Patent to the current Lord Stirling.

Submitted by Earl of Stirling of Clan Alexander

My career plans

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Apparently, the English are looking for a new royal familY:

There has long been debate regarding the validity of King Harold's claim to the throne, so to mark the opening of the new £2.3m visitor centre at Battle Abbey and Battlefield in February, English Heritage are researching the history that might have happened.

We aim to inspire people to take a fresh look at history and we want to explore any of these possible alternatives:

Were your ancestors Anglo Saxon or Danish nobles before 1066? Perhaps you can trace your heritage back to Harold, Edward the Confessor or Edgar the Aetherling.

If you have documentary evidence that your family could, theoretically, make a claim on the English crown, we would be interested to hear from you.

Please send a summary of your claim with copies of any supporting documents and stating your most likely gateway ancestor to:
Claimants to the English Throne
English Heritage
1 Waterhouse Square
138-142 Holborn
London EC1N 2ST

A panel of expert genealogists and historians will be assessing the information. While there can be no 'winner' as such, the strongest claims will be publicised as part of our programme to raise awareness of this key event in English history.

Oh, sure, they're claiming it's just a theoretical exorcise. But they would have to say that, wouldn't they? Otherwise the Queen would get wise and would execute them all.

Unless... Maybe this is all a plot by the Queen. She wants to flush out all her rivals so she can lock them in the Tower.

Attention, descendents of Edgar the Aetherling! Don't answer this call. It's a trap! Flee, my liege lords, flee!

Cheap as Chips

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While you Americans deal with petty economic issues like high oil prices, we here in Britain have to worry about something real:

Fish-and-chip prices are about to skyrocket. They are expected to even surpassing the £5 mark at takeaway chip shops in south-east England.

Who is to blame, and what will the consequences be? It depends on who you believe. The right-wing populist Evening Standard blames those pesky environmentalists who want a fishing ban on the endangered North Sea Cod.The left-wing Guardian blames weather damage to potato crops (and perhaps, by extension, global warming.) The Telegraph--which likes to brag of its wealthy, health-conscious readership-- says the mania for Omega 3 fatty acids has driven up the price of fish. Scotland's Herald frets that competition from McDonald's is forcing Glasgow chippies to keep their prices low in the face of rising costs, potentially driving them out of business.

If the British government had as much vision as the Americans, they'd find a pretext to invade the Republic of Ireland, and seize their strategically vital potato fields. At the very least, they'd have a National Vinegar Reserve they could tap to keep prices down in the run-up to elections.

"In the past, cricket's not been seen as a sport with a native drug problem."

Breaking News from England

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From the BBC: "A breakdown patrol man who came to the rescue of a woman motorist has managed to get her car started using her dog."

As Juliette Piesley of Surrey was changing the battery in her electronic key fob, the immobiliser chip fell out, and her dog ate it. Now she can't start her car unless the dog is sitting inside it... at least, until the chip comes out the other end.

The article presents this story as a charming accident, but I think it's something more sinister. For nearly a century, dogs have longed for a way to force their owners to give them car rides. Now one dog in Surrey has finally cracked the code. Soon they will figure out how to start and drive the cars themselves. Then they will work out how to lift up the toilet seat when they are thirsty. And then we will be obsolete!

Flee! Flee! The dog revolution is about to begin!

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