This is more of an observational than a news piece, hopefully some of these will crop up in my blog from time to time
London, 13 years on
I left London 13 years ago and apart from a couple of weeks in 1990, I haven't been here for more than a day or two between trips since, until this year. I've now spent four days in London twice this summer and I've been fairly astonished by some of the changes. Maybe it's that my friends have all grown up, and them's that was struggling professionals are all living in big houses, but London seems to have matured, while Britain has become more petty. I always had the idea that British politics and culture were dominated by big concepts like the future of trade unions in government or the role of Britain in the world. Now it seems that producing trash TV shows for Americans to copy (Pop Idols
, anyone) is all that the country aspires too. So in wondering around I mused on several things that seem to be new and different.
1) Boobs & fashion ==
OK, so it was a hot week in September, but I never remembered girls on the street in London revealing half as much as they do now...and I don't remember them having half as much TO reveal. Luckily my quasi brother-in-laws' copy of the News Of the World
had a special "Breast Supplement" that helpfully explained that British girls were the biggest up front in Europe (the Belgians came in a distant second). I think they showed 48 breasts in 12 pages, but I might have miscounted! For more typical NOTW fare click here
2) Boobs on the Boob Tube ==
Related to this, of course has been a huge growth in the amount of satellite TV, all owned by Rupert Murdoch. With all those new channels something has to go on it, and now there are several specialist titilation channels thatshow up after midnight. You can also pay extra to get the real thing, but my Dad is either too cheap or uninterested. My favorite freebie channel is called "Men & Motors
" and featured a superb dopcumentary on some very high-class strippers going to Dublin for the weekend followed by a successsion of topless babes beating each other up wearing huge boxing gloves. No wonder I never got over my jet lag.
3) Estate Agents ==
London house prices used to be crazy, now they're insane. Making hay before the crash, every second shop front houses an estate agent
. British agents work on a lower commision rate than Americans, but at 1 million GBP for a 2 up, 2 up, 2 down in Notting Hill, they still appear to be coining it.
4) Mobile phones==
Despite the (in some cases coming) bankruptcy of all telelcom companies, including the venerable British Telecom, the Brits are crazy about mobile phones. Not only has everyone got one (and I mean everyone) but they all have color screens, send automatic text messaging (which unlike in the US they actually use), and will give you a shave and a blowjob...well almost. Most importantly they all play a special tune when called. My favorite was the opening of "Blue is the Colour" which I heard on a Chelsea fan's phone on the way to the game.
5) Cars ==
The other thing that is new is the Cars. English cars rust so you dont see the old cars you see in Califoirnia. They also have to pass the pretty tough MOT Test
inspection which none of mine would get through! But what's really changed is that Londoners are falling prey to the new trends of every man having a Porsche Boxster and every woman a SUV. The Jeep Cherokee, which is a) a useless car, b) far too big for London streets, and c) made in Austria by Daimler-Chrysler, is everywhere. Yet in England it never snows, so it's even more useless than it is in California and gas is $5 a gallon!
6) Money ==
Which brings us onto the main problem with London, and England. A 25 minute train ride is $15. A meal out is double the US price. And for the biggest change, when I used to go to see Chelsea in the 1980s, it was 4 GBP to stand and the most expensive seats were 8 GBP. Last Saturday I paid 45GBP. However, these days thay are quite good,and the ground/stadium
7) And finally, as soon as you leave dinner you can't get a drink because the pub still closes at 11pm.