Archived entries for UK

New Year in London

I spent New Year’s Eve in London this time. Not in some super-expensive, dance-till-collapse club where they charge you loads to get in for the treat of paying £15 a shot (“I’ll have…Christ, give me half a shot of orange juice, please”) but at my girlfriend’s friend’s house party. It was great, an interesting location and a varied mix of people and just the right amount. I met someone who works as an architect specialising in sliding roofs (why not?) and had a chat with a gardener about power tools. I didn’t come close to having to listen to some high-rising financial player bore me to tears about how awfully exciting it was to be finally closing the multi-billion-pound deal with the American firm. I also didn’t expect to find myself within walking distance from the Canary Wharf Tower; Zoe used to live in London and was used to it. I, on the other hand, was stopping every five minutes to proclaim something really touristy: “Hey look! It’s the headquarters of Reuters! No, look, the real thing! It’s even got a…where’s she..? Hey, wait for me!”

london.jpg

London’s an interesting place, for me I never feel like I’m in the heart of the UK because it’s just so different from anywhere else, it’s on another scale altogether in so many ways. Perhaps I felt the difference more this time because as part of my Christmas trip I also visited Hampshire, where Zoe comes from, and that really does feel like proper England. It’s got the rolling hills, the country barns and pubs, and Winchester, especially with its famous catherdral and narrow, cobbled streets, really felt like quite a timeless place (it could have been 1407 if it wasn’t for some of the high street shops) but very English all the same.

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Maybe international capital cities, such as London, Washington DC, Buenos Aires and so on, should be separate (e.g. London being the “international capital” of the UK, for example) and at the same time perhaps we should establish “national capitals” which better represent the national character. As seems to be the way of things in 2008, to get people interested, a national vote could be held on TV, with people phoning in to nominate different cities; I hope the ideas people at ITV are reading this.

Welcome to the Uninspiring Kingdom

 Sarkozy at the European council

An exciting afternoon visit to the European council in Brussels on Friday. Particularly interesting because it was at the “where next” stage in many respects for the EU. We’ve signed the Lisbon treaty, now let’s see if it’s actually effective. What will in mean, really, in practice? The UN climate talks in Bali were taking place at the same time, and they’ve not amounted to much except for an agreement to carry on talking. Sarkozy was enthusiastic about his new idea, a “committee of the wise” to oversee the future of Europe, and said that it was possible that this could include discussing a “new European dream”. It was a well delivered speech, and Sarko made his points with a lot of passion (see my photo above, which I’m pleased with, among other things, for capturing the essence of this post) and was lively when answering the questions.
Shortly afterwards it was Gordon Brown’s turn.
What a boring half an hour that was.
Where Sarkozy was quite animated and pretty secure in the knowledge that he’s one of the hot topics in Europe right now, Brown was quite frankly just an embarrassment. He could have at least tried. It was all vague nonsense along the lines of the challenges of addressing “freedom, prosperity, security and energy” with all the enthusiasm of a damp towel. The UK is now being laughed at by the rest of Europe. I mean, I can understand schoolboy lateness, but to miss the main ceremony of an EU treaty? Maybe he was trying to make a point, to be the stubborn uncle in the family. Even so, you wouldn’t turn up late to your nephew’s christening in order to convey the hint that in all honesty the baby is, let’s face it, a bit on the ugly side.
When are we going to grow up, I wonder?



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