A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: GregW

Little America - Milton Keynes

The "New City" of Milton Keynes

sunny 24 °C

When I went to the British Grand Prix, I stayed in the nearby town of Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes is a "New City," designed in the late 1960s to be a commuter suburban town for London. The location was chosen to be equal distance from London, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge, both to serve commuters and to eventually become a regional hub. The designers put together a town with wide, straight boulevards to allow ease of traffic movement, and designed the city on various levels to keep pedestrians, local car traffic and through car traffic separated.

With its long, straight roads and newish buildings, the place has the feel of a North American city, especially the newer ones out in the West like Denver or Phoenix.

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The long straight roads of Milton Keynes

The long straight roads of Milton Keynes

The central area of Milton Keynes is dominated by CentreMK, a massive shopping complex that runs for blocks and blocks.

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The CentreMK contains Milton Keynes most famous work of art, The Concrete Cows. Created by artist, Liz Leyh, the sculpture is three cows and three calves.

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On Saturday night, in the spirit of the Americanism that Milton Keynes seem to represent, I had dinner at TGI Friday's, an American chain restaurant that has a few locations in the UK.

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Milton Keynes is not all straight roads and concrete, though. The town was designed to be a "City Within the Forest", and there are lots of parks surrounding and within the Milton Keynes area. Outside of the centre, the area is dotted with a number of little villages, some old villages that have been consumed by the growth of Milton Keynes, and some purpose built. A lot of people here in London have talked about how grim Milton Keynes is, and I can see if all you saw of it was the Central area you would think that. But with a 10 or 20 minute walk, you can easily be in a nice park, a dark forest, a tiny village or on the banks of a nice lake.

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The sun sets on Milton Keynes

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Posted by GregW 02:15 Archived in England Tagged cities Comments (2)

Formula One British Grand Prix 2011

July 10, 2011 at Silverstone

semi-overcast 20 °C

Time again from my quasi-annual trip to see some cars go round and round and round. This year, instead of the Eurostar to Belgium or the night sleeper to Monaco, I took the Clapham Junction to Milton Keynes Southern service to see the British Grand Prix held at Silverstone.

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The track is an almost 6 kilometre long circuit. It is mostly open, so from my seats I could grab a few peaks of the cars at the other side of the track. Mostly, though, I saw the cars coming out the Stowe corner and down a short straight to the Vale corner. I was also right by the pit entrance, so I could see when the cars went in.

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It was a good time, though I was a bit far from one of the screens so didn't actually follow much of the race as it was happening. The crowds were amazing, though. Very different than my time in Monaco a couple years ago. A lot more camping and muddy festival vibe than champagne and yachts. But Silverstone put on a great party.

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It wasn't all mud, though. There was a touch of glamour...
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Post race, there was a music festival / drivers interview session. The bands were famous, or especially great, but it was a lively atmosphere and was probably the closest I'll get to the experience of Glastonbury this year.

Can't see the video - go to Youtube to watch

Three tracks down. Now only another 17 or so to go!

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Posted by GregW 03:42 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged sports events formula_one Comments (0)

Out-manned

I may not be a man, but I am more than a mouse. Somewhere between mouse and cat, apparently, is where I fall.

rain 13 °C

I had lunch today with a friend of mine. We ate a hardy brunch, and afterwards had a cup of tea and a chat. We swapped stories to catch up on what we have missed in each others' lives, I mentioned that the previous night I had head down to the local pub for dinner.

"I headed over to the local pub, the Fox and Hounds, for some dinner. I walked in, and the place was jammed packed. Much busier than I had ever seen it on a Friday," I said.

"So you go there often," my friend asked.

"Yeah, probably twice a week," I said.

"Like Cheers," my friend said.

"Well, I don't think they know my name," I confessed, "but they do know me by sight."

"So, you're a regular," my friend said.

"Yup, I guess I am now a regular," I replied. That made me surprisingly happy. Always nice to have a local pub, I think.

"Anyway, the rain was chucking down," I continued, "so no one was out in the beer garden. Instead, everyone was inside. When I walked in, I didn't see a table open, but after a few minutes, I found a small table with one chair open in a quiet corner. I put down my copy of the Evening Standard and hung my jacket over the chair. I then went up to get place my dinner order and get a pint of Sambrooks."

"...As you do," said my friend.

"As I did," replied I.

I took a sip of tea, pausing for dramatic effect... or perhaps just pausing to take a sip of tea. However, dramatic effort sounds much more impactful, so we shall say that was the reason.

"After my order was placed, and my pint poured, I returned to my seat, and it was taken," I said.

At this point, I shall mention that the Fox and Hounds (Battersea) has a resident mouse catcher and otherwise fuzzy habitant in a the form of a black cat. The first time I ever went there - the day I moved in - the cat jumped up on the seat opposite me when my food arrived, and stared at me for the entirety of my meal. Reminded me of my flatmates from University, who used to sit on the floor, staring at you while you ate delivery pizza and occasionally saying things like "what toppings did you get" or "are you going to finish that WHOLE pizza?"

Anyway, in the many times I have been to the Fox and Hounds since that time, the cat and I have bonded. At least, I say we have bonded, but I really mean that in the feline sense. By that, I mean that I try and get the cat to come around, and the cat basically ignores me unless I have food, in which case it eats the food, scratches me, hisses, and then moves on.

So, back to the day before today, and the story I was telling my friend. My seat was taken, and by now you might have guessed by whom.

Photo not taken by me, but this is what I found staring at me when I returned to my table

Photo not taken by me, but this is what I found staring at me when I returned to my table

"The damn cat had jumped up on my seat," I said.

"So," my friend asked, "what did you do?"

"Nothing," I admitted. "I stood and drank my pint until the cat decided to move on. After that, I sat down, and then my food came so I ate."

"So, you were out-manned by a cat," my friend said.

I stammered a defence, but ultimately, he was right. A cat stole my seat, and I did nothing about it. I let him sit there, smug in his feline superiority, until he decided to move on.

Out-manned by a cat. Shameful.

Posted by GregW 15:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged funny Comments (0)

New Year's Day

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ?

sunny 25 °C

January 1st is such an arbitrary date for starting the new year. Granted, it is the first day of the month named after Janus, the Roman God who had two faces so could look to both the past and the future at the same time, however there are a number of more significant days that could be the first day of the new year. Either of the equinoxes or the solstices, September 1st - traditionally around the start of school for children, or even sometime in April when the tax year starts. Heck, even personal new years’ on your birthday would make some sense, but January 1st? Random day, it seems.

Today, as I walked home along Elspeth Road after dinner back from a Chinese noodle house, I decided that is my personal New Year’s Day.

I didn’t just decide on today randomly. For me personally, today is not without any precedent for the switch of a new year. It was three years ago today that I landed at Heathrow Airport and entered London as a new immigrant. Therefore, it is the anniversary of a new period of my life.

Not only that, but I have recently moved house, and now live in a new place. So not only the anniversary of my new life, but a new place and a house warming to celebrate.

So I took a quick detour to the local wine shop, and picked myself up some bubbly to celebrate.

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So Happy New Year, all, and I shall take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Posted by GregW 14:44 Archived in England Tagged migration_experiences Comments (0)

Why did you move HERE?!?

Common question by UK residents dreaming of a better life in the colonies...

sunny 25 °C

I had a conversation recently. It's become common enough that as soon as it starts, I know how it will end.

I was speaking with a new acquaintance, a British woman. She asked, "What made you move to England?"

As this was a work situation, I answered with my typical answer for work folk. "I had been working in North America for 15 years, and felt like I could use some international experience. The US market is so big, you tend to focus solely on servicing that if you are in North America. Over here in Europe, because there are many countries with relatively similar sized economies, you get a lot more experience working with cross-border issues and the like. It's a really different way of working."

She leaned back and nodded, but there was a hesitation in her movements. I could tell that I hadn't answered the question she wanted to ask.

I leaned forward. "What you meant by your question," I said, "was why would I move to England, when so many English people want to get out and move to Canada?"

She smiled. "Yes, exactly!"

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I have had this conversation often. I have met many people here in London and around the UK who really want to be some place else. Former British colonies are popular destinations. I was on the tube reading the few paper earlier this week, and there was an article which named Canada as top destination for former British residents, with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa close behind. Lots of English people here have romantic images of living in the large open spaces and less cramped countries away from smoggy London.

Of course, as I spoke of in a previous blog entry on my moving to London, anyone packing up sticks and moving abroad probably has unrealistic expectations of the place they are moving to. London is big and crowded and smoggy, but so to was Toronto. And while Canada has lots of wide open spaces where you can get land cheap, you could do the same in the UK, if you wanted to. You'd suffer the same fate in both places, though - being far away from anything and anyone.

I have even gotten some people talking about how much nicer it would be to live in a country that doesn't have such nasty politics that leans so far right. While Americans often hold up Canada as a socialist (paradise / hell - depending on what side of the debate you are on), it is in my opinion further to the right than most European countries, including the UK. It is only in comparison to the USA that Canada is socialist. Compared to the UK, I think Canadian politics is probably shifted right.

No mind. Sometimes you just have to move, as I did. And if anyone asks, I always tell them that I love Canada, and I didn't move to get away from Canada, but rather to more towards something - a life abroad. So any Brits out there thinking about moving - go for it.

After all, walking around London and hearing the number of Canadian, Australian, Kiwi and South African accents, it seems only fair that you send some folks back our way.

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Posted by GregW 00:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged migration_experiences migration_philosophy Comments (0)

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