"Stand on the right" is the mantra for users of the London Underground. It's a simple rule which helps to alleviate the maul that ensues as passengers make their way from the depths of the earth up into the polluted daylight (or vice versa). The sheer capacity of people in London means that standing, even momentarily, on the left of a moving escalator - meets with vocal disapproval, particularly from those who wish to climb or descend on the left. It is for this reason Londoners become quickly indoctrinated with a subconscious urge to stand on the right (or walk on the left) of any given moving escalator, be it in London or elsewhere. Having spent over ten years in London, nowadays when I find myself upon an escalator, I try to make a conscious decision to stand on the left, or in the middle, or a even fluid combination of the two. In short, a position-gait-posture combination that lets me physically express myself, and not feel like the docile laboratory rodent I was in London. It's an immensely [...]
Back in the UK, the falling of white stuff from the sky is usually greeted with general displeasure. It's not that we don't enjoy making snow-men and chucking snowballs about, on the contrary with think it's the bee's knees; however it's arrival, without exception, can be guaranteed to cause travel chaos. In Alsace though, everything seems to be running smoothly. We had a good six inches of snow on Tuesday night, and while much of it still remains, the roads, rail and cyclepaths (yes!) are clear, thanks to a stirling effort by the public services to grit, salt and plough all major thoroughfares. My one complaint would be the pavements. It seems pedestrians are not quite so high on the safety list as in the UK (which you could probably put down to the 'compensation culture'). It is for this reason that pedestrain numbers around the city centre have fallen dramatically, one supposes, down to a general fear that one might fall-over - dramatically.
Speaking as someone with socialist leanings, I have rarely had a problem with taxation in the name of furthering the greater good. In Strasbourg I have seen many things that fall into this bracket - municipal fairs, street decorations/landscaping, clean streets, recycling services, affordable public transport ... all good causes. However, this week I saw something which just sang 'waste of money' to all and sundry. All over the city, wherever there is a free ad hoarding, Strasbourg City Council (CUS) have erected bright pink information posters, emblazoned with a smiling father and child next to a TGV train. So what's the message that Strasbourg Council feel warrants such ad-spend? Well, it's not exactly critical to the well-being of their citizens... "Happy New Year"
"To liken them to your auld-warld squad, I must needs say comparisons are odd." (Robert Burns) There are two things you can be sure of when you find a British ex-pat community somewhere in the world. they will usually all congragate in the same pub (normally an Irish one), watch sport and drink dark beer from pint glasses they will be more British than the Brits back home. (For example, when I was told that the Queen's Birthday was on the list of annual must-attend events in Strasbourg - I thought they were joking) So it should come as no surprise to you then that last night, along with 200 other people, I attended the annual ESC Burns Night Supper. Which was, near as damnit, no different from a Burns Night celebration back home. We had haggis, tatties and neeps; whisky (straight); bagpipes; Scotsmen reading Scottish poetry; and lads and lassies bounding around to widdly-diddly ceilidh music. The only way you could possibly have told that all this was taking place in another country - was that the ceilidh [...]
When I moved to France I thought one neat way to stay in touch with my roots - would be to retain my subscription to the satircal twice-monthly magazine "Private Eye". While I still chuckle at it's gags and cartoons, it's true investigative reporting makes grim reading - political bungling, fat-cats, fraudsters, education up the spout, farming and transport as good as dead... and no matter how you put it, even the greatest satiricist cannot hide the fact that the state of the nation is no laughing matter for the British tax-payer. But then - I'm not a British tax-payer! So while I may not be laughing either, I can't help but feel exceedingly smug for a few moments once a fortnight. Thank you Private Eye for reminding me why I moved to France!
Tomorrow and Friday are expected to bring more unseasonable weather to Strasbourg, with temperatures expected to reach as high as 14 degrees C and plummet as low as er, 12 degrees C. Average January temperatures should be around the zero mark, so something's very wrong with the world this year, despite what certain idiots in the USA might think.
Old Gordy Brown has been complaining that his party's policy of devolution has spurred on an opportunistic nationalist movement in the UK, and the SNP (Scottish Nationalist Party) are expected to make major in-roads into controlling the Scottish Parliament for the first time. So is an independent Scotland on the cards? Ironically it is thanks to the existence of the EU that makes separation from the UK a real possibility for the scots. They already have and run most of their own public services, they even have their own legal system and banknotes. So as far as I can work out, the only thing they need to sort is their immigration service. (But how hard can that be?) The rest would be taken care of by the EU. And so the switch from being a UK nation to an independent republic is so easy that it could take just a matter of months to realise. So the question is - just how close to Brussels do the Scots want to get? Will we be spending Euro's at the Edinburgh [...]
We British are very proud of our sporting heritage, mainly because we have introduced the world to many now popular organised sports and games. I say 'organised' because we can't necessarily garner credit for inventing the games themselves, rather the rules that govern them - which were by and large written by the British. But this pride seems to weigh heavily on the shoulders of many of our sportsmen, whose successes involving silverware become rarer and rarer as the years go by. So while we may be happy that our favourite summertime sport, cricket, is becoming popular in France, deep down we're dreadfully afraid that the French (if they ever go professional) will simply prove to be another opponent who give us a sound thrashing at every opportunity. There ought to be a rule that says "He who invented the game - must be allowed to win." ... but alas that's just not cricket!
The French have an amusing habit when it comes to communicating numbers. It seems for one reason or another they are incapable of delivering a string of single digits in conversation. No, it has to be done in twos, in pairs. For example, take an arbituarary eight digit number (06672582) - this is how it would translate into words: In English: Oh double six, seven two five eight two. In French: zero-six, sixty-seven, twenty-five, eighty-two Voila - the French use more or less the same number of words, but do so in this irritating yet 'easy-to-remeber' fashion. However - the whole system falls down when they have an odd number of digits to recite. To get around this problem some try to stick in a 'hundred' figure somewhere, others chose to isolate a digit at the beginning or at the end of the number, but reading out a single digit is an uncomfortable change from the norm. To you or I it would seem to be far simpler just to read the number out, but it seems the French [...]