A Travellerspoint blog

June 2008

Buy DVDs and Save Your Soul on the Streets of London

The London street is a market. Actually, so are the pubs and restaurants.

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Okay, to make up for a depressing entry last time, a few light, humorous observations.

If I was in Toronto and wanted to purchase a DVD, I would go to HMV. Here in London, I just go into any restaurant and sit down. Within 10 minutes I will have someone approach me, most likely an Asian female, and offer me DVDs for sale. At first I thought it was just one woman trolling through my neighbourhood, but now I have had it happen to me in other parts of London with different people. It's common place here, really.

It surprises me for a number of reasons. The first is that people wandering around with plastic shopping bags full of DVDs can make a living approaching people on the street and saying, "Hello, DVD?"

The second reason is that so many restaurants and pubs don't seem to mind these people coming in and selling DVDs. I have only ever seen one place that protests the practice. They have a sign on the door that says "NO DVD SELLERS." After sitting there for 10 minutes watching the Euro 2008 and drinking a pint, who walks in but a DVD seller.

"Hey," the bartender, a young woman, calls to the DVD seller, "come over here."

Oh, fireworks!

"Let's see what you got," the bartender said, who then proceeded to spend 10 minutes looking through the massive collection of DVDs on offer. I guess the sign is more for show.

The other folks that approach me on the street aren't selling anything, except perhaps for a little piece of mind about helping others, the charity fundraisers. We have them in Toronto as well, folks on the streets with binders with a charities logo plastered on it asking, "Do you have a few minutes to spare for..."

They are pretty ubiquitous here in London, so much so that you sometimes encounter them in the most unexpected place, like trolling the line up for Wimbledon ground passes. A recent editorial in The London Paper bemoaned the guilt trip that one gets from these fundraisers, with their questions of "...“Why not?” “So you’re saying you can’t give up one hour’s wages?” And my personal favourite: “Oh, so you don’t like helping people then?”"

Luckily for me I have a built in defence against these folks, my accent. When approached by one I have found if I look up and say, "sure, I have a minute to spare, what's up?" they immediately decide that I am a tourist, and therefore not able to provide a UK bank card or Credit Card for monthly withdrawals. With an "Enjoy London," they pretty quickly dispatch me on my way.

Another thing that is ubiquitous here in London is comedian Jimmy Carr. He seems to be on my TV constantly and is even playing a live show tonight at Regent's Park. He is also, I was surprised to learn, not gay, just very British. For those of you without a built in Canadian accent to dissuade charity fundraisers, he offers this potential solution.

A lady with a clipboard stopped me in the street the other day. She said, "Can you spare a few minutes for cancer research?" I said, "All right, but we won't get much done."

Posted by GregW 06:45 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)

Singing the Immigrant Blues

Feeling Low Far From Home

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Some days it all adds up
And what you got is not enough
Some days are better than others

- Some Days Are Better Than Others, U2

I was feeling very low on Friday, and sometime around Friday at 10:00 pm I really hit bottom, finding myself crying as I was watching the scene from Cast Away where Wilson, the volleyball companion of Tom Hank’s character Chuck Nolan floats away, and despite his best efforts, Tom Hanks cannot swim out to retrieve Wilson. He cries out, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” as he swims back to the boat, abandoning Wilson to floating across the ocean by himself.

Now, lest anyone reading this worry about me, Saturday I woke up to a sunny day and felt very good. So don’t worry, this was just a short blip, the kind of thing people far from home experience from time to time.

I have certainly had days like this before, like my last day in Buenos Aires back in 2003 on my South American trip or sitting in a train station in Jining, China, abandoned and alone with the drunk and the insane surrounding me. Days when you realize that you are far from everything and everyone you know, that you have little in the way of support or help, that whatever comes your way, you’ll need to handle it on your own. Sometimes that can be an invigorating thought, but some days it can overwhelm you.

Friday started out all right. It was cloudy and lightly raining, but I got up feeling good, doing some research for an interview I was going to have that day and ironing a shirt for the interview.

The day started going downhill when I got a call telling me the interview had been postponed. The reason was sensible and doesn’t hurt my chances of getting the job (in fact, I have another interview with the company on Tuesday), but I think after spending an hour in the morning getting ready for the interview had pumped me up a bit, and the delay deflated me a bit.

I didn’t really notice until later in the day though. I went out for a wander, as I do most days when I don’t have anything specific planned. I went and saw New Scotland Yard for no other reason then they mention it on TV police dramas all the time and show that rotating sign, so I wanted to see it for myself.

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Just after I snapped my photo though, it started completely without warning pouring rain, and I got caught out for a good 30 seconds in a torrential downpour until I could find shelter.

The rain stopped, and I went back to wandering around the area, but my clothes were still damp, and that put damper on my mood.

I eventually grabbed some food at a pub before catching the train back home. Though I have certainly eaten alone in restaurants many times before, for some reason (probably my foul mood), it just struck me that I was eating alone in a restaurant full of people who were not alone.

Walking back from the train station, I noticed my big toe on my left foot start to ache. I got home and checked it out - a big blister. “Great,” I thought, “this day can’t get any worse.”

It could, in fact, get worse.

About half an hour later on a trip to the bathroom the blister broke without my being aware, and I ended up tracking blood across my apartment’s floor and letting a good amount out on my white comforter before realizing what had happened.

I cleaned up my foot and applied a band-aid. I walked back to my bed and surveyed the splotches of red blood on my white duvet. I sighed and then spent the rest of the evening listening to sad music and looking up depressing video clips on the internet, which is how I found myself crying as I watched a volleyball float across the water.

I almost didn’t write this entry, as my moment passed quickly. This morning I woke up pretty happy, and after a load of white laundry felt even better to see all the blood removed from my duvet, I had a nice lunch of bagels and smoked salmon and a desert of fresh plums and all was right with the world.

Why write about something, I thought, that is probably only likely to worry those back at home?

When I moved to London I decide that I would use my blog, in addition to it’s use for documenting fun touristy things like Wimbledon or Stonehenge, to also document what life is like for someone who picks up and moves to a new country. That means both the good and the bad.

If nothing else, perhaps there is someone out there tonight who has moved to a new place and finds themselves feeling lonely and low.

This is reminder that you are not alone, others have felt the way you feel, some of them are probably feeling that way right now, and even more will feel that way in the future.

This is also a reminder that tomorrow will be a whole new day, and things can be better.

And finally a reminder that while we may have seen Wilson float away into the vast ocean, just because that’s the last we saw him doesn’t mean that what happened to him next was bad. Heck, he could be sitting on a beach in Fiji right now, surrounding by beautiful native women and drinking Mai Tais.

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Some days you feel ahead
You're making sense of what she said
Some days are better than others

- Some Days Are Better Than Others, U2

Posted by GregW 14:59 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad migration_experiences Comments (1)

One Day of the Fortnight

Watching people bat around balls at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club in Wimbledon

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It has been more than 2 months now since I last worked, and as such haven't had any reason to set an alarm to wake up. You get used to it, the sleeping until you feel like getting up. That's not to say that I am sleeping in until noon, at least not any more. I am usually up and about by eight or eight-thirty in the morning, so I am not a complete, lazy slug. I'm just not used to having to get up because an mechanical buzz tells me to, and so it was shocking to hear the alarm go off at six o'clock in the morning yesterday.

Hanging my feet over the side of my bed, I rubbed my eyes and wondered if it was worth it. "I could just go back to bed," I think. No, I decided, this event only happens once a year and when it rolls around next year I'll probably be too busy working to get a chance to go. So I stood up and headed to the shower to get ready for a day at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club to watch "The Championships, Wimbledon" known for those outside of London simply as Wimbledon.

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Wimbledon is one of four major Tennis grand slam events and is the only one played on grass. Wimbledon is also the only grand slam that allows non-ticketed fans to line up to get tickets to centre court, court 1 and court 2 on the day of play. With only 500 seats for each court, however, you have to get up a lot earlier than I did. Specifically, you need to spend the night camping in Wimbledon park to get those tickets.

In addition to the 1500 or so tickets mentioned above, there are also 6000 ground passes given out every day. Ground passes allow you onto the ground and you can see any match at any of the other 16 courts (though only 14 were in play this year as they are building a new court # 2), as well as giving you the option to line up for standing room for Court 2.

This year, Wimbledon has instituted a queuing system to prevent "queue jumpers." Figures that if anyone was going to invent a better way to queue, it would be the British. But seriously, the queuing system is a lot like how some places do lining up for concert tickets - you arrive and are given a card showing your place in line. Those who get the premium court tickets get wrist bands as well.

Arriving at around 7:45 at Wimbledon park, I was number 3,890 in line, so no wrist band for me. I got was my queue card and "Guide to Queuing," a booklet that tells you how to line up (in case you didn't already know).

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There was a group of 8 guys in line who had bags full of ice and cans Carlsberg beer, and 8:30 in the morning. I guess that's one way to have breakfast at Wimbledon. (Only North American's will probably get that joke).

Around 9:30 we started moving, the line snaking its way from Wimbledon park through the Wimbledon golf course, for the tournament in use as a car park and eventually over a bridge and up to the ticket office. £20 and about an hour and a half later, and I was in the grounds of Wimbledon.

Checking the schedule of play I saw that Canadian Frank Dancevic is playing American Bobby Reynolds on court 18, starting at noon. I took a quick wander around the site and grab a bite to eat before heading over and getting my seats. There is no reserved seating (save for a few seats for player's families and trainers) in the courts, so it's first come first serve. I got a seat one row back (there's only three rows) about 10 feet from centre court.

About 10 minutes before noon the ball boys and girls (ball kids? - what's politically correct here?), line judges and chair umpire come out and start getting ready for the match. I couldn't help but feel that in their jackets with the white striping, all the line judges and umpires look like people who lived in The Village from the freaky 1960s The Prisoner.

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With a few minutes to go before noon, Frank Dancevic and Bobby Reynolds arrived and took their seats on the sidelines. The chair umpire looked up at the sky and frowns. Clouds were rolling in and there were drops of rain falling. He delayed starting the match to see what the weather would do.

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Luckily the clouds pass without releasing their rain onto us, and play started just a few minutes behind schedule.

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Canadian Frank Dancevic serving. Wild hair, no?

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American Bobby Reynolds, getting ready to receive. He looks suspiciously like actor Ryan Gosling, but I knew it couldn't be because Ryan Gosling is Canadian, and wouldn't pose as an American tennis player, even if he is researching a role. In the foreground you see one of the ball-children... or is it ball-young-adults?

I was cheering for Frank Dancevic as he is Canadian, and was wishing I had a little Canadian flag to wave when an American woman sat down beside me. She obviously was going for the American, and brought out her little American flag to wave, which brought snickers from the British folks in the crowd. That made me glad I didn't have my flag.

Now it is here that I should probably make an admission. I don't know much about tennis. I know that between two and four people stand on opposite sides of a net and hit a ball back and forth using a racquet, which for the first 10 years of my life I thought was a toy that one used to simulate guitar playing when a cool song came on the radio. When the tennis balls are not being used, they can apparently be tossed in parks to make dogs run endlessly after them and tire themselves out.

I only knew that Frank Dancevic was Canadian because there was a little Canadian flag beside his name on the schedule of play, and on seeing that I seemed to vaguely recall his name being mentioned in sports broadcasts in Canada after they had covered hockey, baseball, basketball, football (both American and Canadian), soccer, lacrosse, auto racing, track and field, swimming, kayaking, skiing, tiddle-winks, competitive eating and contract bridge. But I never let my ignorance get in the way of my blind patriotism, so I was all out cheering for Dancevic.

Now, "all-out cheering" at tennis matches is a very subdued affair. It appears that mostly you get to say the phrase, "Come on, Frank" at points when play was not happening, and clapping politely at the end of a point if your man got the point. One time some guy said, "That's the way, Bobby," and I must admit I think I saw some raised eyebrows in the crowd, no doubt thinking that abandoning the tried and true "Come on, <insert name here>" was just not cricket.

The first few minutes of the first set Dancevic looked strong, but couldn't close. It's a good thing I had a basic understanding of the rules, because if I had formed an opinion of the rules based on Dancevic's play, I would have assumed that the point of the game is to get the other player out of position and then hit the ball into the net. However, Dancevic managed to settle down and won the first set.

During the second set at a pause in play he went and lay down on the sidelines.

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"Kind of a strange time to have a rest," I thought. Turns out he had injured his left oblique, a muscle so mysterious they named it with a synonym of obscure. A trainer came out, sprayed some stuff on Frank's side and applied a bandage. Not sure why the bandage, perhaps it's like when you were a kid and you hurt your knee, your mom would put on a bandaid even if the skin wasn't broken, just to make you feel better.

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Anyway, after that the match continued, but Dancevic didn't look the same, and after a tightly fought tie-break during the 2nd set which he lost, Frank lost the next two sets and the match 4-6, 7-6 (12-10), 6-4, 6-4.

Strangely, I probably know more about women's tennis than men's tennis. I think that has to do with the fabulous set of blonde clones coming out of the former soviet countries, who when not playing tennis seem to be on TV advertising expensive watches. As such, the next match I went to watch, which was already in progress, was between Russian Elena Dementieva and Italian Maria Elena Camerin. As the match was already in play and folks had staked out their seats, I had to watch from inglorious vantage points like through a hole in the fence or over a hedge. Given the youth and grace of the players, it made me feel a little like a dirty old man, peeping tom...

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Camerin, who some drunks in the hedges with me kept cheering on with a chant of "CAMEROON," pronouncing it like the African country, always a popular chant during the FIFA World Cup.

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Dementieva. Pretty.

After Dementeiva won, I decided to grab some food and try out a few of the traditions of Wimbeldon, specifically Pimms and Strawberries and Cream.

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I'm not really sure what Pimm's is, but it was a brownish, cold liquid poured into a cup with ice, mint and a slide of lemon and lime. It tasted a little like cold tea. I don't mean iced tea. I mean hot tea that has gone cold. Like all strange, foreign foods I don't know, it was worth trying, and then it was worth switching over to beer.

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It's only £3.80 for a pint of Grolsch. That's actually not too steep a price compared to the price of a pint in a nice bar in central London. I'm used to be gouged at sporting events. This price was just a small gash.

After finishing off my strawberries and cream, I took a wander around, taking in the sites.

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The sun was beating down and I was starting to fear sun stroke, so I staked out a chair in one of the covered courts. The match in progress finished up and I looked at my order of play to see who was up next. "Oh, I know that name," I said, reading that Amelie Mauresmo from France was set to play at this court.

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I watched most of the first set, which Mauresmo lost before going on to win 4-6, 6-1 and 6-1 over Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain. I noticed that most people were doing what I was doing, hopping from match to match without really watching any one in full. Other than the Dancevic-Reynolds match, I didn't see any match from beginning to end.

I hopped in an out of a few more matches as the sun started to go down and the shadows started to get long.

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I looked at my watch. 6:30 in the evening. I grabbed some food and a couple pints of Grolsch, and headed up onto the hill overlooking the big screen TV attached to court 1. For those of us with ground passes, this was really the only way to see the action on the main courts. When I arrived, Roger Federer was playing, and the Swiss fans were cheering loudly.

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Federer won easily. The TV switched over to the match between David Ferrer and Igor Andreev. Along the bottom of the screen scrolled the notification:

Centre Court and Court 1 resale tickets are now available. The cost is £5 and the proceeds go to charity

Folks with tickets from the top courts who decide to leave can put their showcourt tickets back into circulation. In the evening, those inside the grounds can then buy these tickets at a low price to get a chance to see action on one of the big courts.

I thought about. After all, £5 is a small price to pay to get a chance to see one of the main courts at Wimbledon, even to just see the building.

I decided against it though. The sun was going down, leaving most of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club in shade, but it was still sunny on the hill. In front of me the action played out on the big screen, with the Centre Court building behind, and off in the distance a church steeple in Wimbledon. Off to my left I could see London - Westminster and the London Eye, "The City" with the Gherkin standing tall, the Docklands with the tall buildings at Canary Wharf and the four white stacks of the now defunct Battersea Power Station. Behind me a pond and water feature gurgled away.

Kids played in the grass, rolling down the hill. Young adults laughed and flirted as they drank their beers and Pimms. A couple of kids who worked on the grounds took a nap after a long day of work. Two couples grabbed a picnic table, brought out four glasses and a bottle of Champagne and uncorked it with a pop.

The sun was warm. The grass beneath my body was soft. My drinks were cold.

Nah, forget Centre Court. This was the place to be.

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Posted by GregW 03:14 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (6)

Would Brent by Any Other Name Still Smell As Sweet?

On the Borough of Brent's plans to change their name, and the branding of cities

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I live in Brent. Now some of you are probably saying, “wait, Greg, I thought you lived in London.” I live in London as well, at least in the Greater London administrative region. London, as most of us would think of it, is in fact one of 33 different cities, Royal Boroughs and Boroughs that make up the Great London area. The “City of London” is just one of these, a smallish bit near the river which contains about half of the interesting touristy-stuff, the other half with the interesting touristy bits being in the city of Westminster.

So my saying I live in Brent and I live in London is a little like how someone from New York can claim to live in Manhattan and in New York. Well, perhaps not Manhattan, given Brent’s outer borough status - maybe it would be more like someone saying they live in Staten Island and New York City.

As a “marketing professional” (at least in my previous job), I do take some interest in marketing stories when they appear in the news, doubly so if they are about something of interest to me. I am always interested in marketing stories that deal with travel and tourism, given my love of travel.

That’s why I was interested to read recently that the Brent Council is thinking of changing the name of the borough. Brent is named after the Brent River which runs through the borough, but the council feels that there is a more important landmark that the place should be named after.

This thing:

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That thing is Wembley Stadium.

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Wembley is a 90,000 seat stadium, which means that in my New York analogy I would probably be better off saying that I live in Rutherford, home to Giants Stadium, home of both the NY Jet and NY Giant's football teams.

The Giants, last year's Superbowl Champion, who played in Wembley during week 8 game of the 2007 season, facing off and winning against the Miami Dolphins. The Giants went on to win the Superbowl (the ultimate trophy in American football).

2008 sees the NFL returning to Wembley, with the New Orleans Saints set to take on the San Diego Chargers. San Diego is right now at 8 to 1 to win the Superbowl, behind only the New England Patriots, Indiana Colts and Dallas Cowboys, so it looks like the gambling world has picked up on something - teams that play and win and Wembley are likely to win the Superbowl. Hey, so far it's 1 for 1.

(Note, this is based on one online book at time of writing, odds change all the time and it depends on who you bet with, so don't take anything here as advice or anything else that could, in some way, wind me up being libel for your gambling losses).

Wembley is around the 20th largest stadium in the world. May Day Stadium in North Korea is in first place, by the way, with a reported seating capacity of 150,000. But unlike Wembley which sells tickets to willing participants, the North Koreans probably don't have a choice when they come out to watch Kim Jong-il's Karoke Night of Stars!

Wembley is best known here in England as the home of the English national football team, and the stadium (not this specific incarnation of the stadium, but the previous one) was the site for England's only World Cup victory back in 1966, lead by captain Bobby Moore, who is immortalized outside the stadium with a statue.

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For those from outside England, Wembley is probably best known as a concert venue. It held one of the many Live Earth concerts in 2007, twining it with the previous Wembley Stadium, which was one of the venues for 1985's Live Aid Concert.

Wembley is probably the most famous thing in Brent, and according to this news report, “In a recent newsletter by Brent Council's Chief Executive, Gareth Daniel, it is revealed the borough could be renamed to capitalise on the world renowned 'Wembley' brand.”

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Why risk the anger of the residents of the borough on the expense of changing all the street signs and potentially alienating residents in areas not in the area of Wembley? To increase overnight visitors and tourist share of wallet, of course. Tourism is huge business now, and places are always looking for any edge get people to come a little sooner, spend a little more and stay a little longer.

I’m neither for or against the move. I see the potential of a tourism pitch from the council of Wembley to come to the Borough of Wembley, but think they could probably accomplish that without having to spend millions of pounds to change all the street signs.

What this story did do, though, is got me thinking about how cities which do get a lot of visitors, like Paris, New York or Tokyo probably didn’t take into account overnight visitors or share of wallet when naming there cities.

Imagine, if you will, the founding of Rome with the additional drama of having to attract tourist dollars...

---

Stupid Dream Sequence / Historical Flashback With Highly Fictionalize Pieces Starts Here

B.C. 753. Romulus is standing atop Palatine hill, watching the work unfold on his grand city. His brother, Remus, enraged and saddened that Romulus is to be king, leaps over a trench meant to fortify the city, embarrassing Romulus by suggesting that his city is easily breached. Romulus, enraged slays his twin brother, declaring , “So perish every one that shall hereafter leap over my wall!” Sadly from Roman citizens some 800 years later, this incantation didn’t apply to the Visigoths, but that’s still a ways away.

Romulus looks over the scene, wipes his brother’s blood off his sandals by dragging them along the grass and declares, “I shall call this city Roma!”

Romulus heard a voice from behind him. “Sir, if I may interject something here.”

Romulus turned to see Innuo and Acquiesco, the two “marketing gurus” his brother Remus had made them hire. Romulus rolled his eyes. “What it is?” he asked.

Innuo spoke up, “Roma? Rome? You think that’s a good idea?”

Romulus would have slew them on the spot if it wasn’t for the fact they had an iron-clad contract that paid them double in the event that they were run through with a Gladius while on the job. There lawyer, Lex Legis was famous for his posthumous contract clauses.

Romulus puffed out his chest, “Of course I think it is a good idea! Why would naming your city after your king be a bad idea?”

Acquieso stepped forward, “Ah yes, you are a very great and powerful man, sir. But it’s just that Rome didn’t play well with the focus groups.”

“Focus groups?” stormed Romulus.

“Yes, yes,” said Innuo. “Rome sounds exactly like roam, which makes people think of leaving the city. It’s not at all good for increasing overnight visits. We want people to come and spend their aes graves here in Rome, and not somewhere else...”

“...like with the Sabines,” Acquieso proffered, scrunching up his face to show distaste.

Innuo nodded, “Exactly. We want visitors money flowing into the city, not leaving because they are thinking of ‘roaming.’”

Romulus sighed, staring at the heavens. “Is this some kind of revenge, brother? Are you already among the gods toying with my fate?” he thought.

Acquieso continued, “in addition, though Obviously I think...”

“...we think,” corrected Innuo.

“Yes, yes! Though obviously we think...” said Acquieso, nodding and smiling at Innuo. “...that you are great and powerful and deserving of a city to be named after you, the focus groups found it... umm, what was the exact words they used, Innuo?”

Innuo looked down at a sheet of parchment, and read out the results of the focus groups, “arrogant, unwelcoming, and uninviting.”

“Unwelcoming?” asked Romulus.

“Yes, they find feel that a city named after the King will be more focused on the King’s needs, and not so much on theirs as potential citizens or visitors,” said Innuo.

Acquieso nodded and agreed. He seemed to do that a lot. “Yes, exactly. I believe one lady said she felt that she would rather go to Padua, who apparently put on a very nice horse show for the guests and have excellent market selling woolen goods.”

Innuo cited another example from the focus groups, “there was a man who said he’d rather take a nice Mediterranean cruise instead.”

Acquieso smiled, “Ah yes, that nice man Ulysses. Fine chap.”

Innuo frowned, “Acquieso, remember the focus groups are meant to be anonymous.”

Acquieso shook his head and splayed out his arms in a sign of forgiveness, “sorry, sorry. Anyway, with that feedback, Innuo and I did some brainstorming last night, and came up with some suggestions. Instead of Roam, what about Stay.”

Innuo smiled, “Yes, what says ‘increase overnight visitors’ more than a town named after what overnight visitors do, stay?”

Romulus started to pull out his sword. Innuo put up his hands, “hey, we are brainstorming here. There are no bad ideas. Criticism, especially of the fatal kind, is not allowed in brainstorming sessions.” Romulus, confused, let his sword slip back into it’s sheath.

Acequieso continued, “well, if you don’t like Stay, how about naming it after a colour. People like Yellow, how about Yellow?”

Romulus rubbed his head, “the only colour I can see right now is red!”

Innuo frowned, “No, I think red is to aggressive. We need something calming, like a light blue or pastel peach.”

Romulus, Innuo and Acquieso brainstormed late into the night, and that my friends is how the the Eternal City of Comfortio, now capitol of Italy was founded.

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If you are interested in touring Wembley Stadium, information can be found at the majestically named Venue of Legends website. For £15 you'll get to see the the door leading to David Beckman's box, what the view looks like from the top level, the dressing rooms, the pitch, the royal box and you'll get to snap a picture with this replica of the FA cup.

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If no interesting events are going on while you are visiting, you might even get to see them re-seeding the grass of the pitch.
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For information on tours of Wembley Stadium and to find out what the borough of Brent has to offer to the tourist beyond Wembley stadium, please see:

http://www.brent.gov.uk/tourism

They do have the largest Hindu temple outside of India (I should check that out) and a ton of curry restaurants.

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Update: 2008 06 30

The Londonist blog has an entry on the story of The Borough of Brent's possible name change, along with a link to a news report stating that Boris Johnson, Mayor of London is contemplating unearthing a number of rivers that have been buried underground, including Brent. So, on one had we have the council of the Borough moving to new offices near Wembley Stadium in the town of Wembley, and on the other hand we have the re-emergence of the Brent River from it's underground concrete path. Hmmm, interesting times!

Posted by GregW 14:46 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

A £ of Flesh (Part 01): The Price of Clean

Yes, now I am going to complain about the cost of things in London.

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"You know, London is really expensive."

I can't count the number of times people told me that when I said I was moving to London. In fact, I did already know that.

Just to back up the assertion, a March 2008 survey by Swiss bank UBS found that it is, in fact, the most expensive city in the World, outpacing such outrageously expensive competitors as Oslo, Dublin, Copenhagen and New York.

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Despite knowing that, I am planning on writing about how expensive things are. In fact, I came up with the clever title "A £ of Flesh," and seeing as I am probably going to write about how expensive things are in the world's most expensive city a lot, I have already decided that this post will be first in what will probably be an excruciatingly dull, navel gazing and self-indulgent series of blog posts.

So, in the future if you see the title "A £ of Flesh" and don't wish to hear about me gripe about the price of stuff, you can just skip it and wait for something more interesting.

First, though, some good news, which is that things aren't as expensive as I had feared. This is due to two things, both based on my past visit to London in August of 2007. First, as I am in the "outer boroughs" of London and not right in the heart, things aren't priced for tourists and rich bankers, but rather for regular folks. Secondly, in 2007 it took 2 and a half Canadian dollars to buy a Pound Sterling. That has now dropped to 2 Canadian dollars for a Pound Sterling. The nightly news talks about Britain's slow decline and the devaluation of the pound against international currencies, but I am loving it.

Anyway, I have found that some things are priced around the same as Canadian prices, like Coke in 2L bottles and pints of beer in bars. Some things seem to be about 2 times the going Canadian rate, which sadly includes housing. But I was expecting that.

I got my first real shock today when I went to wash my dirty clothes.

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£3.40 for a wash?!? In Canada the most I paid was $2.00 for a wash, which works out to somewhere around £1.00. Even a £1.50 I would have put up with, but when the price of laundry is THREE-AND-A-HALF TIMES the Canadian rate, I had to balk.

Unfortunately, all the walking I've been doing meant that my clothes were... umm... ripe, so not doing Laundry was not an option. So I sucked it up and did a wash. I did something, though, that I haven't done on purpose since I first learned to do laundry, and had only done once before by accident, an accident that resulted in all my white shirts turning a light pale colour of pink. I washed my whites and colours together and crossed my fingers that nothing would bleed.

Luckily nothing did.

Laundry.jpg

Crisis averted and fresh laundry put away, but I am still in shock at the price. Maybe I am going to have to start washing my clothes in the kitchen sink...

Posted by GregW 04:41 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

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