No More Instant

I suppose I should be grateful to Starbucks for one thing: they brought the concept of “brewed coffee” to the U.K., even if it was only their shitty burnt water. Now, of course, you have chains like Costa (excellent) and Caffé Nero (not-so-excellent), but I was struck by the fact quite forcefully when I ordered “filter” (i.e. not instant) coffee at a breakfast kiosk in Edinburgh’s Waverley Station last week, and it was quite acceptable. I was also reminded of that when at lunch at Fortnum’s a couple days back, I ordered an “Americano” (diluted espresso) and was served a lovely cup of coffee. In fact, you can order an Americano just about anywhere — which is a hellacious change over what used to be Instant Coffee Country.

It’s not Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme coffee, but it will certainly do.

And Costa is pretty much ubiquitous — I think there are more of them than Starbucks, which is a relief because their coffee is better and about a third the price of Starbucks’s overpriced shit. Just about every larger gas station has a Costa dispensing machine, which makes traveling less of a caffeine-deprived nightmare, and in the towns, there are generally several Costa outlets.

Sadly, there are no Keurig machines in Britishland that I can see — certainly, none in the houses / apartments where I’ve been staying. Mostly, it’s the Nespresso option which is fine, but Nespresso seems incapable of making coffee that isn’t hair-raisingly strong, which I can only overcome by making two large cups of coffee from a single pod. I miss my trusty Keurig, and my Krispy Kreme Regular.

But it all beats instant.

Bagging It

One of the things which catches U.S. tourists out here in Britishland is that retail outlets frequently do not offer bags to carry out any purchases — or, if they do, they charge 5p each for the wretched things. And it works, if the goal is to reduce trash.

Now Tesco is apparently doing away with the cheap flimsy ones, and is going is issue sturdier bags — for 10p each  — which can survive multiple uses.

Now, as Doc Russia reminds me, this is all very well; but it should be noted that the number of disposable bags may well have gone down, but that has been offset by a concomitant rise in sickness from e. coli bacteria infection. Yup… traces of bacteria from fruits and especially fresh meats will stay behind in the bag and be transferred to future purchases.

So if you’re going to do the Green Thing, wash that bag, y’all. And by the way, I’ve been doing this for a long time and let me tell you: canvas bags work better than any of the sturdier plastic things, which don’t handle the washing machine experience well at all. You just have to remember to put the damn things back in the car before you go out to do their shopping (something I fail to do quite often).

Mourning Dress

In Britishland, there are groups of “travelers” (gypsies) a.k.a. “pikeys” who,as their name suggests, are of no fixed abode and who wander all over Europe in vans, RVs and mobile homes (caravans), and take over private land by simply squatting there and refusing to move. Being of no fixed abode, and apparently having no legal income, they survive essentially by being criminals, both petty and massive, and often violent.

I leave it to my Loyal Readers to ponder how they would be treated by both police and members of the public in various locales if they tried that squatting nonsense in the United States.

Anyway, a week or so ago two such groups of pikeys were apparently locked in a deadly feud with each other, and in one lovely incident a yoot belonging to one tribe was beaten to death with a shovel. Ordinarily, this would occasion little comment as it falls into the “Chicago drug dealers kill each other over turf” category, i.e. nobody cares.

However, pikeys, like the Italian crime families of yore, are known for their elaborate and costly funerals. This particular dead yoot brought forth an extraordinary one, even by pikey standards. You know you are respected in death when mourners dress in somber funeral attire such as this:

Among ordinary people, this creature could easily be classed as a Train Smash Woman, but I suspect that the term is probably generic for all female members of these tribes.

And lest I be accused of misrepresentation, here’s a wider view of the funeral procession:

Not the sort one would find at a Free Market Towers garden party on a Sunday afternoon, I suspect, and a game of “Spot The Virgin” would be pointless.

I’m frequently amused, on similar occasions, by the wails of the dead miscreants’ mothers: “He was taken too soon!” they scream before collapsing into some supporter’s arms.

“Not taken soon enough” would be my assertion, and I suspect that I’d most often be correct.


Afterthought: I have been told that the term “pikey” is disrespectful. Very well; henceforth, in the interests of accuracy I shall refer to these people as “shiftless criminal bastards”. Nah, that’s too long and too much hassle to type out. “Pikeys” it shall remain.

 

Ah, London

Been in London nearly 24 hours as I write this, and I still haven’t heard any English spoken in the streets — well, apart from some homeless crone who screamed insults at me for not giving her any money; she was British, judging from the invective. Sadly, I had forgotten to bring my riding crop from Free Market Towers, so I just kicked her a couple of times and went on my way.

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The words of Samuel Johnson come to mind whenever I visit this place, and now that I’m here, I’ve become a London groupie all over again. Man, I love this place. Yeah, it’s hectic, full of strange people, the traffic is horrible (despite the stupid congestion charge which was supposed to end congestion, but all it did was fill the streets with noxious fumes from mopeds and scooters) and it has a street layout that can reduce strong men to tears.

Don’t care. Love the place anyway.

I’d skipped dinner, having had a pie earlier at one of the stations en route, but then I got really hungry at about ten p.m. Oh boy… would anything still be open? Silly rabbit: within a block or two from my hotel (the Fleabagge Inne, near the station) I had a choice of the usual crap (i.e. Mickey D and BK — not) but also Italian, Indian (duh), Middle Eastern (double duh) and that was just heading east down the street. All those restaurants were not only open, but full, and I was just about to turn around and see what lay in the other direction when… wait a minute: was that a Turkish restaurant? Indeed it was: “Best Mangal” managed by Erhan Poyraz, open till 2 a.m. on Saturdays, and a table for one was available after about a minute’s wait. Oh yes indeed: lamb doner with about four spicy sauces, and cups of Turkish tea (which I love) followed by a little complimentary dessert of baklava and basbousa (because I’d waxed poetic to Erhan about the delicious lamb). Total cost, with tip: £12. I think I’ll go back there tonight, if I can wait that long.

Were it not for the fact that I’m walking everywhere — and sheesh, London is a big city — American would need four seats to carry my bloated ass back to Dallas.

London is the greatest city in the world. I need to hurry up and win the frigging lottery, because Mr. Free Market was telling me of a nice little 2-bedroom flat he knows about that’s just come on the market: “It’s in a decent neighborhood, dear heart: nothing but absentee Arab royalty, Russian oligarchs and Chinese diplomats. You’d have the place to yourself most of the time, and you’re just a skip away from Lord’s. It’s an absolute steal at £1.75 [million].” Unfortunately, the word “greatest” can also be applied to London’s real estate prices

Don’t care. If I had the funds, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Just not where I’m surrounded by the aforementioned wealthy scum. That’s not for me, oh no: I’d get a place where there’s a decent chippy around, and where I’d be surrounded by wealthy British scum, like Mr. FM. His town house is nearby.

Journey Across No Man’s Land

…begins this afternoon, wherein your Humble Narrator leaves the warmth and comfort of Hardy Country for the metropolis of Londonistan:

For no reason at all, I’m starting to miss my Springfield 1911…

Anyway, I’ll be spending a couple-three days here and crossing two items off Ye Olde Buckette Lyste (details to follow) before heading north to Scottishland to check off yet a third: the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh.

Quote Of The Day

From the Department of the Blindingly Obvious comes this realization from Simon Heffer of the Daily Telegraph:

“This Tory Party is not a conservative party.”

As we say in Texas: “Ya thank?”

What gave you your first clue, Simon? The announcement that the government was going to end combustion engines in cars without having the infrastructure planned to accommodate millions of electric cars? That people can decide for themselves what gender they are, and change their documents accordingly, with the Tory government’s approval? And, and, and… [300 examples of (not-very) Conservative Party policies excluded]

Let us never forget that British citizens were disarmed of their handguns by the Conservative Party, not Labour.

The Conservative Party in the U.K. would be, if seated in our Congress, a party of well-left-of-center Democrats. They couldn’t conserve rainwater in a bucket without spilling most of it.