Well now, lookee here:
Well now, lookee here:
Ranked in ascending order of awfulness:
Your own suggestions in Comments. Bonus points if you’ve ever actually received any of them.
So after arriving at Heathrow yesterday, I wasted no time in re-submerging myself into Britishland culture: sausage roll and a cuppa at the station at 10am, followed by a lunchtime pint of Fuller’s London Pride (my tipple of choice where Wadworth 6X isn’t available).
…which I imbibed at this fine establishment:
For this last leg of my sabbatical, I’m staying in another hotel in Ye Olde Fleabagge Inne chain, this time in Earl’s Court. It’s been many years since I stayed here, but fortunately, it hasn’t changed much — although I continue to lament the disappearance of the excellent Hi-Tide chippie: last night’s fish & chips dinner in a nearby pub was mediocre. (I won’t mention the fucking background music because it was so loud it was actually foreground music, requiring that conversation had to be shouted to be audible; and in true Earl’s Court fashion — because all residents of Earl’s Court appear to be ESL* — the screams emanating from the neighboring table to mine sounded like a conversation between Latke and Simka from the Taxi TV show.)
All that said, I love Earl’s Court; it’s regarded with absolute horror by the upper crust — and I have had several letters from friends in said demographic commiserating with my plight — but I can think of no better catalyst to wake me from my somnolence after having relaxed in one of Johannesburg’s toniest suburbs for the past two weeks.
The difference between this:
…and this cannot be overstated.
And now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m off to find a decent Full English Breakfast amidst the curry palaces, Italian bistros, vegan vendors and halaal kebab restaurants hereabouts. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the only bloke in the place who’s reading the Daily Telegraph.
I love London.
*ESL = English [as] Second Language, to my non-U.S. Readers.
Fuck me but it’s cold. I just left the city with the world’s best weather and am now in late-December London.
I’ll post more as soon as I find my willy.
Yup; by the time you read this, I’ll have left the Old Republic to its own devices, and will be winging my way back to Britishland.
That’s assuming there was no Unpleasantness With TSA (Seffrican version). You’ll find out tomorrow, assuming there’s wifi in a South African detention cell.
As I get ready to leave South Africa, some random thoughts:
Unless something really strange happens, I won’t be back. Had you told me as little as a few months ago that I’d be coming back to the Vaderland, I’d have laughed in your face. I’d never planned on coming back, ever, once I left back in 1986; but here I am anyway, which means never say never. I sincerely doubt that I’ll come back again, though, because now that I’ve seen the post-apartheid Seffrica, it’s a case of “been there, done that” and repeating the experience would be meaningless.
The only thing that might tempt me into returning to Johannesburg is the weather. I’ve often said that Joburg (or “Jozi” as it’s now called) has the best weather in the world, and this trip has only reinforced it. Hot days are made bearable by the cool breezes — and there’s always a cool breeze blowing, 24/7 — and even if it gets really hot, the relative humidity seldom tops 10% unless during the frequent afternoon showers, which cool everything down. It’s what I’ll miss the most in chilly Britain and oven-like Dallas.
Times change, and so have my tastes. Castle Lager, for example, doesn’t taste as good as Wadworth 6X; even though Castle is better than any other lager I’ve drunk, I don’t enjoy lager beer as much as I now do bitter ale.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of South African fruit. Good grief; I’ve lived in the U.S. for thirty years, have eaten fruit there for all that time (I love fruit, just about all of it), and honestly, South African fruit beats it all by a country mile. This is not some kind of “fruit chauvinism”, mind you: it’s just better than anything I’ve ever tasted in the U.S.
Neither Seffrica nor Britishland offer us yogurt fanatics the variety and quality of the Murkin stuff. No other brand or type (and I’ve tried LOTS) in either SA or the UK has provided a decent substitute. I can’t wait to start eating Noosa again when I get back to Texas in January.
Malls are malls are malls. I’ve been to five different ones across two South African cities, and other than the local brands and kiosks, they are completely interchangeable with those in the U.S. and the U.K. All suck green donkey dicks, and unless I need a specific product or service that I can only get from a particular store, I don’t want to go back inside another one, in any country. The homogenization of retail has finally been achieved, and meatspace mall shopping is unexciting and a total drag. (Biggest letdown: Sandton City outside Johannesburg. Once the crown jewel of South African malls, it’s not only unremarkable now, it’s crappy, especially when compared to the Menlyn Park mall outside Pretoria, which is twice as enjoyable despite having about 80% of the same stores.)
As I mentioned earlier, I love the emergence of the Black middle class in South Africa. Here’s what actually makes me the slightest bit hopeful about the situation here: middle-class South African Blacks want precisely the same things as middle-class Brits, middle-class Americans and perhaps as the middle classes of any capitalist country. And the sheer size of the middle class Black sector is going to propel South Africa into a prosperous future, as long as (a big if) the government doesn’t fuck it up royally.
I’d forgotten how much I like full-service gas stations, with free checkups of fluids and a windshield cleaning thrown in. (The price of gas here, however, makes me homesick for Texas. Even the Brits have it better than the Seffricans.)
Not many girls have tattoos, thank Gawd. Maybe it was just a feature of middle-class Johannesburg, but I saw very few in evidence. The Seffrican men are about the same as Brits and Murkins, tattoo-wise, but guys are idiots so ’nuff said on that.
I cannot repeat often enough how much I hate the walled-up fortresses known as “homes” over here. Apart from the ugliness (and it is really ugly, even in otherwise-beautiful neighborhoods), I hate the insecurity and paranoia that the barbed-wire-topped walls must engender. This alone makes my return to SA a remote prospect — and despite the exchange rate that would give me a decent standard of living over here, the compromise of the quality of life… eh, forget it.
I met a bunch of old friends over here for the first time in many decades, and I’m pleased to say that nothing has changed. We’ve all gotten older and more rickety, of course, but our friendships have endured absolutely unchanged from back then. All of them — and they know who they are — have an open, undated invitation to visit me in Texas. True friendship really does seem to be eternal, makes nonsense of both time and distance, and I cannot express how glad I am of that.
And if there’s a better note on which to end my experiences here, I can’t think of it.