Snap Of The Fingers

Watching the Brit TV show “24 Hours In The A&E” the other night, one of the characters asked an intriguing question of another:

“If you could snap your fingers and be anywhere in the world, where would you choose?”

New Wife and I talked about it for ages.  Where to go?

  1. A place that you’ve been to before, and loved?
  2. A place you’ve never been to before?
  3. By yourself, or with a partner / wife / buddy etc.?
  4. For how long?  A day, weekend, week, or a month?

Here are mine:

  1. Never been to Lake Como, always wanted to, also a week.
  2. By myself: on a driven bird shoot, somewhere in southern England, for a day or two.
  3. With New Wife: somewhere scenic in the U.S., either where I’ve been before and she not, or where neither of us has been.  Whatever the choice, for two weeks.
  4. With my buddy Trevor: somewhere in Europe where neither of us has been to before, for a week.

(New Wife, by the way, chose only one locale:  any Indian Ocean island — Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives — for two to three weeks.)

And now it’s your turn.  Feel free to work the conditions, any way you please.

Snap your fingers…

RFI: Eastern Wyoming

“Well I’ve been all over this crowded planet… etc. etc.” (with apologies to Paul Williams).

One part of the world that isn’t crowded is eastern Wyoming — you know, the part that isn’t full of Hollywood trendies of the Jackson Hole variety.  Or at least, as far as I know.

My knowledge of that corner of the U.S. is limited to a brief sojourn — and I suspect I’m not alone in this — to Rapid City SD en route to Mt. Rushmore (where I got into a fight with the Parks Dept. asshole who was manager of the gift store, another story).

I have to say that I thought the area was very pretty, if on the rugged side, but I have always wondered what it’s like to live there, be it the climate, people, whatever.

I know that South Dakota is famous for its windiness, but surely the Black Hills act as some kind of a windbreak?  Is Sundance WY as windy or unpleasant as Spearfish SD, for instance?

As I said, I know little to nothing about the area, and when I was at Mt. Rushmore in early April it was wonderful:  cool breezes, morning mist and so on.  As I recall, I stayed in a motel in Keystone and while the town is something of a dump — or was when I was there — the surrounding country looked magical.

Here’s the general area:

…and the scenery which I found so appealing:

The reason that I ask all this is because I want to take New Wife on a little trip to parts of the U.S. she hasn’t seen before, but I’d also like to go where I haven’t been, either — or at least, only driven through, like this part of the world.

All personal anecdotes, experiences and recommendations are welcome.

Prole Drift

I think it was the late (and much-missed) Paul Fussell who in one of his books (either Class  or Bad ) coined the term “prole drift” to describe how American society was shifting inexorably towards the working classes in terms of clothing, manners, taste and so on.  (Aside:  I love books written by ur-patricians like Fussell because I’m one of them, and unashamedly so.)

So I gladly admit to bias when I read articles like this one:

Almost a quarter of the population of Marlow in Buckinghamshire are aged over 65 and many of them think a Wetherspoons pub will attract ‘the wrong sort of people’.

For Readers of the non-Brit persuasion, Wetherspoons is a massive chain of pubs found all over the place, whose modus operandi  is typically to buy a failing pub (or any failing business, for that matter) and reopen it (sometimes under its own name even) as a place that sells cheaper fare — beer, wine, food whatever — to attract a large and it should be said loyal customer base.  Needless to say, the toffs and trendies tend to look down on Wetherspoons because inevitably, the kind of people attracted thereto are quite definitely Not Our Kind, Dear.

So this latest kerfuffle in Marlow should be seen in that context.

As it happens, I’ve actually been to Marlow simply because in looking for a place to have lunch while on a road trip, I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up there.

It is undeniably beautiful, as these English small towns go, but like the curate’s egg, only in parts.  While the main street is lovely, there are also parts that resemble Typical Brit Suburbia (i.e. fugly semi-detached dwellings) with a population to match. Not Yorkshire Mining Town, to be sure, but not a place where Mr. Free Market would feel at home either.

Here’s what I discovered when I retraced my steps and went back up to Marlow Road (the main drag):  fucking hell, it’s an expensive place to eat and drink, even by Brit standards.  Worst of all, the high street pubs are of the gastropub variety — at least, the ones I looked at were — and when I finally did find a place to eat — off the main street —  I ended up ordering a simple cheese sandwich, chips and a pint which still set me back close to £10 (which was a lot, back in the early 2000s, when the same meal in London cost me just under £5).  I don’t remember which pub it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t The Coach (as mentioned in the article).

So I can see why Wetherspoons would choose to open one of their corporate or franchise pubs there, because if you’re not one of the Snooty Set, there’s nowhere to get a decently-priced pub lunch in Marlow.  And while the Snooty Set are well represented in the town’s demographics, there is also a sizable percentage of people like, well, you and me;  and that that makes for a sound business case.

Finally, I find the outrage at the “prole” Wetherspoons to be hypocritical.  Why?  Because on that same Marlow Road can be found a Domino’s Pizza and Subway sandwich shop.

And if that ain’t prole, I dunno what is.

Not Even For The Chocolate

I’ve recently been hammering on about re-visiting Britishland and doing a pub tour of the villages therein.  But I’ll be skipping this one:

Tiny English village is like going back to the 1960’s with chocolate-box houses
Located in southwest Birmingham, Bournville is a tiny village that was built by the Cadbury family.
The model village was founded by George and Richard Cadbury, the sons of John Cadbury.
You don’t have to be from Birmingham to instantly recognise the name, Cadbury, with the chocolate giant celebrating its 200th anniversary this year.
John Cadbury originally opened a small shop on Bull Street where he sold tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

All well and good.  However:

Because of its Quaker heritage, there are no pubs in Bournville.

So… pass, then.

Not that I’d want to go anywhere near Birmingham anyway, having been warned off by Mr. Free Market and other such worthies.

Here’s an alternative:

More my kind of place altogether.  That’s in Burton, Gloucestershire:

Note the uh, other attractions thereabouts.  Yes, altogether much better than some silly Quaker stronghold.  And they even serve brekkie.