Better Things To Do

I was not here over the weekend. Feel free to follow the link to find out why. Okay, here’s a hint:

Also, this.

Nor, for that matter, was I here. Another hint as to why:

Instead, I was over at the King’s Arms with the Englishman, listening to a local band performing on the pub’s lawn:

No police presence required, no obnoxious displays of flesh, no loud noises (other than the occasional burst of laughter from Yours Truly back in the pub); just families having a good time on a gorgeous summer’s day. Catering was likewise discreet:

…and provided locally-made hamburgers and sausages:

Altogether, I think you’ll agree that I had the better time of it.

Not Vulnerable Enough

Let’s suppose for a moment that you find yourself in a perilous situation, and have to call 911 — only the responding officer deduces from your accent that you’re Black, and therefore not worthy of immediate assistance. Imagine the furor if this was made public.

Now try this, from Britishland (RCOB* Alert):

“Increasingly, as we go forward we will look at things like trying to assess people and crime on the sort of threat, the harm, the risk and people’s vulnerability.

“It’s absolutely feasible that if my neighbour is a vulnerable elderly person who has experienced a particular type of crime, that she gets a face-to-face service that I don’t get. So we triage things, we assess people’s vulnerability.

“Vulnerability can manifest itself in a number of ways – people with learning difficulties, a whole range of things, some people for whom English isn’t a first language.

“That’s about how we get those resources focused on the things you can make a difference with. But also, as demand grows, you have to have a way of controlling and triaging.”

Now as any fule kno, what this Plod is really saying is, “If you don’t increase our budget, we’re going to have to look at foolishness such as this, because crime is on the increase and we’re stuck with the same resources.”

Nevertheless, do you think for a moment that he’d keep his job if this were the U.S., and he’d made comments similar to those with which I opened this post, just to argue for a bigger budget?

Yet he’s not going to get fired, because I’ll bet that a whole bunch of people over here are just going to nod, and say, “Well, we’ll just have to accept this.”

*For my New Readers, “RCOB” stands for “Red Curtain Of Blood”, such as that which comes over your eyes when you read foolishness like the above.

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.