A Travellerspoint blog

September 2011

The Best (and Worst) of The British Newspapers

Reading the London newspapers

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Newspapers may be slowly circling the drain, heading down until they are no longer relevant. But they do still provide some interesting bits and bobs.

There are two types of papers here in the UK. The tabloids - those papers that search for the lowest common denominator - and the broadsheets - those who the Tories read.

The tabloids haven't had a great time recently, with the News of the World being discontinued after it turned out they hacked into the voice mail boxes the famous and the powerful.

Yet, the tabloids still serve their purpose. This week, the most talked about story in the office I work in was not about the UK economy, the Eurozone, Libya or any other story. It was about Percy Foster. He died this week, a sad man who probably suffered from a legion of issues. He was a dwarf, and some how ended up working in porn movies. A co-worker on the film Hi-Ho Hi-Ho, It's Up Your Arse We Go said he looked a bit like celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, and so soon enough was appearing in Midget MasterChef: Assbasters 7.

This week, his body was found dead, and half eaten, in a badger hole in the English countryside.

And this really highlights the differences between broadsheet and tabloid newspaper editors.

The Times editors splay out the stories on their desk. They quickly dismiss the story of Percy Foster, and instead concentrate on the local stories. Instead, on a story a sheep rustling, adopt the headline "Baad news for farmers.". The Times Editors redeem themselves after the bad pun with "Not even being spartan is going to save the Greeks" with a picture of Gerard Butler and co. from 300 with shields replaced by giant Euro coins. Satisfied with the outcome, they have good chuckle and agree to meet up for G&Ts at Groucho Club.

The Sun works feverishly to come up with "Gordon Ramsay's porn-star dwarf doppelganger eaten by badger," before hitting the local pub for pints and a brawl.

Somewhere between the two stands the British citizen. Half-Tabloid and half-broadsheet, we like our news serious at the same time liking to hear about the strange and wild world that exists outside of our middle class existence.

And so this week, I spent my time reading about the Eurozone and American economies slipping into the darkness, while at the same time reading about the midget Gordon Ramsay look-a-like whose life was so desperate that he somehow wound up walking into the English countryside and let his life slip away.

Posted by GregW 12:03 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

World Trade Center: 10 Years Later

Examining the fall of the twin towers on my own life over the last 10 years.

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Anniversaries drive reflection. And this is a big one. Ten years ago I was sitting in an office in Toronto when someone said to me "a plane has hit the World Trade Center is New York." As the day unfolded, I started to wonder in which direction my life was heading. Do I want to be at my desk, in a office tower, when it comes my time, I asked myself.

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So, my life since September 11th has been quite different than before. Before September 11th, I was living in Toronto, trying to get up a corporate ladder and not taking many holidays at all. Since then, I have sacrificed work for travel, made sure I take all my holidays and looked at how I can mix a love of travel with a life of ... well, not starving to death and actually eating.

I can't claim that September 11th alone lead to this change. It was a catalyst, but September 11, 2001 was just another straw on the camel's back (or another brick in the wall, for the Pink Floyd fans). The big changes that September 11th was a part in feeding, at the time that the twin towers were falling, were still years away.

I experienced a series of events, from 1999 through to 2002 that all ended up changing my life more than any event since... well, probably my birth in 1970. It is hard to add them all up, or separate them out, but the events included turning thirty, bad jobs, failing romantic relationships, strained friendships and September 11th.

The most important event, though, was the death of my mother in 1999. It impacted my life, and continues to do, in ways I could not imagine when she passed away in the autumn of 1999. It was the start of a long, slow slide towards a low point in 2002. And so, in the early months of 2003, to try and recover my sanity and my happiness, I left my job, got on a flight and flew south to Chile.

It was all the start of a long march to where I am today, a 40 year old living in another country, with a reasonable but not overly impressive career, a vaguely decent pension fund and a year long lease on a flat - you know, in the event that something better comes up in South Africa or Hong Kong or Sao Paolo.

Ten years later for September 11th, 2001, the lesson I take away from that horrific day - and all the horrific days in life that came before - my mother's death - and after - work stress, health problems and burn-out in general from life - is that life is too short to stand by and wait for it to come to you. You have to reach out and find it for yourself. Sometimes it won't work out, and sometimes you will make awful mistakes, but at least you tried. Ten years on from September 11th, I am happy to find myself in a place I would never have thought I would be - in another country, on a different career path and just trying to find a way to make my life work.

To me, the best tribute to those that have come before is to live your life - as you want to live it - to the best of your ability.

Posted by GregW 12:35 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (0)

Playing Tour Guide, and Getting A Set of New Eyes

How showing around visitors lets me see more of my city, and even see the familiar bits with new eyes

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I have two sisters, and they recently came to visit me in London, spending 8 days in England. They spent a few days staying at my flat, before moving to a hotel on the Southbank for a more central experience of London.

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The great thing about having visitors is that I wind up doing things I haven't yet had a chance to do. For me, this was an opportunity to final get up on the London Eye, the massive wheel across from the Houses of Parliament.

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Visitors also provide a chance to see and do thing I wouldn't normally do myself, even with my local friends. I went out to see David Tennant in Much Ado About Nothing, toured the Victoria and Albert Museum and even had afternoon tea at Kensington Palace.

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More importantly, though, it reminds me that my life in London isn't just life, it is an experience. Much as I talked about in a previous blog, sometimes it is easy to get yourself into a routine. Work has been very busy lately, and many days I am tired and just want to get home and relax.

Having visitors, especially new ones to the city, is a great way to see things that you take for granted every day in a new light. One day, we were sitting in my front room, and my sister was staring out the window. "My God," she said. "Look at that view. What an amazing view!"

I looked out the window, and saw the set of buildings which used to be a school and is now high-end flats and offices spaces for creative industries, backed by a grey, cloudy sky.

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"Umm, it's not exactly overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral," I said.

"No, but it is so much different than what you would see at home," my sister said.

I am not sure if the view of my window is really amazing, but it is different than the view I had out of my apartment in Toronto, and I do live on a street of Victorian row houses which you don't get back in North America. So, I looked out the view again, through the eyes of someone who had never been here, and realised it is pretty special, because it is so different than what they might see elsewhere. It's just my everyday view, and the kind of view that people might have all over London, but it is a view of London.

It was a great reminder that I shouldn't take my local commute, or the view out my window for granted. It may be every day to me at this point in my life, but it certainly isn't every day of my life so far. It is my a special experience living abroad, and I can't forgot that.

Now, when I look out my window, thanks to seeing it through my sister's eyes, I can remind myself that it is the view of an experience I am living, and that is pretty special.

Posted by GregW 06:56 Archived in England Tagged migration_experiences Comments (0)

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