Archive for the 'UK' Category


Two weeks back in Europe

My whirlwind trip to Europe begins very soon. I’m just about packed.

  1. I work a half day tomorrow, then head to Sydney International Airport.
  2. I fly to London (via Bangkok) and meet up with my better half, who’s already there.
  3. I have five awesome days of holidays back in London. I lived there for 9 years, but have not been back since I left two years ago. I’m planning to see a lot of people.
  4. We fly to the south of France, for a few days in the spot where we got married (aww).
  5. She flies back to Oz. I, however, take the train from Toulouse to Barcelona (via Montpellier and Figueres).
  6. I have a work conference for five days in Barcelona.
  7. I fly back to Sydney, via London and Singapore.

If you look close, you can see me in a window, very smug. Photo from velodenz via Creative Commons license


Goodbye London: you’ve been great for traveling

One of the other benefits to living in London is that it’s a GREAT hub for traveling. I’d done a bit from Canada: various parts of that country, the US, Japan, and a 3-week tour of Europe (mostly eastern). But my wife introduced me to a higher degree of travel bug than I thought I had. The places I’ve visited for at least a few days since moving to London in 2001 are listed below. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my opportunity to see the world.

  • England – too many places to list, really. From Dorset to East Anglia to Shropshire to Kent to the Peak District to Northumberland to Brighton to Berkshire to Cornwall and lots in between.
  • Scotland – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Loch Lomond
  • Northern Ireland – Belfast
  • France – Paris, Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Savoie, Alsace, Toulouse, Auch, St-Lary, Champagne, all over, actually. I used to visit southeast France regularly for work. I got married in southwest France. I guess I really like France.
  • Australia – Sydney, Brisbane, Byron Bay, the Blue Mountains, Noosa, Port Douglas
  • Austria – Vienna
  • Belgium – Brussels, Bruges
  • Croatia – Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korcula
  • Czech Republic – Prague
  • Germany – Munich
  • Greece – Athens, Santorini
  • Hungary – Budapest
  • India – Mumbai, Delhi, Rajasthan
  • Ireland – Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains
  • Israel – Tel Aviv
  • Italy – Rome, Venice
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands – Amsterdam
  • Norway – Oslo
  • Portugal – Lisbon
  • Singapore
  • South Korea – Seoul
  • Spain – Madrid, Barcelona
  • Sweden – Gothenburg
  • Switzerland – Geneva, Zurich
  • Turkey – Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bodrum, Ephesus

Great British voices

Here’s a more unusual thing I’ll miss immensely when I leave the UK: two of the regular voices on BBC Radio 4. One is the host of afternoon news programme PM, Eddie Mair. The other is regular Thought For The Day contributor and Chief Rabbi of the UK, Jonathan Sacks.

Just listen to them. So deep, so smooth, so classy.


Moving down under

Alright, time to go public on what’s no longer a very well-kept secret:

I’m moving to Australia.

In late October my wife and I are moving to Sydney. This is something we’ve been heading toward for years. In the last few months we decided it was time.

We’re doing it for lifestyle and for adventure. We don’t have jobs or a place to live yet. We’re working on that.

I’ve been in London for over 8.5 years. That’s longer than I imagined I might: I think London does that to people. And I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I’m not running away from London at all, I absolutely love it here. I’m sure I’ll wax poetic about it several times here before I go.

Okay, maybe I’m running away from the weather. And the house prices.

But mostly I’m looking forward to starting some new adventures. We’ve been to Oz several times and are getting to know it pretty well. I’m looking forward to living in a country with some grand spaces again, and with a sense of newness. I’m looking forward to sunshine and strange animals and new places.

I’ll still blog, naturally.  I know that’s what you’re most worried about.

Alright, I’m off. There’s a lot to do in the next few weeks.


Laughing at funny names

There are three names that always make me laugh when they’re mentioned on BBC Radio 4 (and they’re mentioned quite often):

  • Chief of the Defence Staff of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, Sir Jock Stirrup
  • British Secretary of State in the Department for Transport, Lord Adonis
  • Cabinet Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls

I’m such a child.


East Sussex walk

We decided we wanted to get some fresh ocean air yesterday. I found a seaside circular walk online, and so we drove south to the East Sussex village of Fairlight.

It was a hike of a couple of hours that had a bit of everything: cliff edges by the sea, green and humid valleys, open fields, tracks, views, and climbs. Refreshing.

You can see some pics of the scenery here.

08 east sussex walk


Losing proof

I’ve been encountering increasing difficulty in recent years when it comes to proving where I live.

The default means of proving where you live in the UK (and maybe elsewhere, I forget) is to supply a utility bill or bank statement. If you have to renew your driver’s license, or parking permit, or apply for anything that is dependent on where you live, you’re asked to put in a bill from the last 3 months as proof.

But in an attempt to be gentler on the planet I’ve been systematically opting out of paper bills and choosing electronic statements. It seems a very good idea until suddenly I need to prove where I reside.

I need to do this in the next couple of weeks for my parking permit. I guess I’ll find out if an online bank statement I print out myself will do the trick with Ealing council.


Euro vote

I discharged my European citizen duty last night and voted in the pan-EU elections. We won’t know the results until Sunday evening since different nations are voting at different times.

There were some local elections in a few spots here in the UK as well. Those were being watched closely, as they’re expected to serve as an indicator about possible public dissatisfaction with the incumbent Labour Party. The results from those seem to indicate that that has indeed happened, with massive drops in Labour councillors.


European elections

There’s an EU election coming up (4 June in the UK). I haven’t done many of these since I haven’t been a European citizen for too long so I’m trying to do my homework. I know a lot of Brits that whinge an awful lot about the EU; I also know very few that seem to know much about it.

The BBC website on the election says that it’s the biggest trans-national vote in history. It also says – and this is clear to anyone who watches the news – that many new national laws are made in response to European directives. It’s pretty important to take this vote seriously.

The part of the process which I’ve found most peculiar is how the parties work. From the BBC page:

Do MEPs represent their national party or a European party?

MEPs often represent both a national party (such as the German Christian Democratic Union or the French Socialist Party, say) and a European party (such as the European People’s Party or the Party of European Socialists).

Some MEPs (such as British Conservatives) only belong to a national party – but even then, they are nearly always a member of one of the European Parliament’s parliamentary groups. Groups vote as a united bloc when they can, and have whips whose job is to promote group discipline.

However, it is usually the national party which decides whether an MEP is selected to run again in the next election.

Also different, though less confusing, is that – in the UK at least – you and your region have a number of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) as your representatives, not just one. Currently London has nine. (If you read my other blog you might recall that I contacted my MEPs in February on issues around music copyright.) From the next election, we’ll have eight. And the candidates for those eight positions belong to some interesting parties:

I bet the Yes2Europe people are all, like, “In your face, No2EU!” This isn’t the first time I’ve been amused by some of the political parties in Britain.

If you’re in the UK you can found out who’s standing for election right here.



I’ve just listened to the most deliciously bitchy exchange between pompous experts on Radio 4.

The interview was with professor of philosophy Roger Scruton and design consultant Stephen Bayley. The National Trust has organised a debate tonight that will consider whether Britain has become indifferent to beauty, and they’ll both be taking part. Scruton will argue that consumerism, selfishness, vandalism and litter prove that people are now indifferent to beauty (or at least prioritise it much lower than self-interest). Bayley says there’s evidence that this is not the case.

The part I loved best is when Bayley lists off a number of things that he says indicate that Britons are not indifferent to beauty:  that there are 9.8 million listeners to the very Today show programme they’re speaking on, that Britain has the best art education system in the world and produces leading fashion designers, that it has the most visually sophispticated advertising in the world, that it is a music capital, that it’s better to eat in London than in Paris, and that seven of the world’s top forty museums are in London and attendance of them continues to rise.

Scruton disagrees that all of these are examples of beauty appreciation, and that rather than being something to be proud of, advertising is a form of mass pollution.

Bayley interjects: “That’s such a philistine thing to say!”

There’s more back-and-forth, with the interviewer seeming to have a go at Bayley as well. It all ends with Scruton suggesting that his disagreement with Bayley on where beauty lies is simply “because I have a slightly superior sense of beauty to Mr Bayley.”

You can listen to it here. It’s only 5 minutes long.

My point of view? They’re both a bit right. There are newer forms of beauty, new ways of appreciating things, and most people do know beauty when they see it. But I don’t think people prioritise it as highly as they should. Getting a tan is not the same as visiting the National Gallery.