Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eng-er-lund swings (like a pendulum do)

A family member is off to swinging London (the one in Eng-er-lund) in a couple of weeks, and as so many people I know tend to do, she came to me for advise on what to see and do while across the pond (which is gimp-talk for 'across the Atlantic.) Well, first things first. "Why in the name of all things damp would you want to go there for?" I asked. "We live in the best place on earth (at least until the water-wars of 2036 and our friends to the south [the United States] initiate Operation Crimson III and invade with a classic clamp-action from Washington and Alaska states) so why would you want to go anywhere else?"

"Well," she said, "the opportunity arose, so why not?"

Ah, I hadn't expected that, the logical confluency of Schlingdigger's Conundrum. "Well played," I muttered, "Where exactly are you going?"

'London. You do know about London, right?"

Now that was just insulting. "As you well know I have been following the British with a passion that is only surpassed by that bunch on Fox News who wet their pants whenever they mention the Royal Family (British division). I'm not sure what they do in their pants whenever they mention that broad who was married to that Prince guy. Not the one he's married to now but the first one. You know."

"Lady Diana?"

"Yeah, something like that. As you know I have studied Andy Capp, Red Dwarf, Monty Python and the Vicar Of Dibley, and I have read everything Douglas Adams ever wrote, not to mention that Harry Potter chick, so I think I am very well up on the British, including London, thank-you very much. Blimey and all that."

"Okay," she said, "so tell me about London."

"Right. London. First settled in 1492 by Ben Westminster and his merry band of rogues and scallywags. A bunch of wars later Bill Shakespeare hit town and then things really started to hopping with Catholics being burned at the stake every other weekend and the odd bout of Black Death plague just to keep the rats fed. The British navy under the command of Horatio Noseblower and Nelson Rocketfella sailed the ocean blue and unless I am very much mistaken gold flowed like lumpy water back to the English coffers. Those were good days with every Englishman a castle with moats and dragons and kings yanking swords out of stones, and talking owls. Or was that Disney? Anyway, the fog was so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, or your nose in front of your face for that matter. Then came Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper tore up the town for a while and if you jumped into the river Thames your skin would burn right off your body, and it seems to me there was something about a giant radioactive lizard, but that might have been from somewhere else too. And the Battle of Britain where so few gave so much to so many, and two if by sea... Hold it..."

"Listen," the family member interrupted. "I hate to interrupt when you're in full flow but what does all this have to do with me going to London?"

"This is what we in the business call 'deep background'. It's the stuff that they kept out of the history books for one reason or another. I feel that it is important to have a basic understanding of a place's history before visiting, thus giving one a deeper appreciation for that place."

"Fine," she conceded, "Consider me educated then. What do I need to know for this trip?"

"Most people over there talk English but they say stuff funny. They call a car's wind-shield a 'wind-screen' for example. They say 'pip-pip' and 'eh-wot' and 'Bob's your uncle' doesn't actually mean that Bob's your uncle. They use a rhyming slang that can be kind of tricky to figure out so if someone offers you a cup of pee they are probably offering you a cup of tea, but that is one I would check out carefully before saying yes. They drive their cars on the wrong side of the road so you'll want to watch for that. Remember that English cooking involves lots of water since they boil everything. Beef, chicken, halibut, it all goes into a big pot of water and gets boiled until it screams. Also, they eat eels over there. In fact, the English passion for eels is almost equal to the French passion for slurping back snails. At least the French use garlic to hide the taste of snail while the English just boil them up, toss them on a platter and hope for the best. Then to get the taste of eel out of their mouths they go to a "pub" and drink warm beer and smoke cigarettes until they puke. This is British culture."

"Got it. How will I get around while I'm there?"

"My guess would be poorly. Sherlock Holmes use some sort of horse and buggy affair. I believe that during the war they just scurried from one pile of rubble to another. That James Bond fellow drives a car of some description and from what I have seen on TV there are taxis in London. Not too shabby for a country that has just discovered the push-button telephones and which still has out-door toilets in it's major metropolitan areas, that's pretty good."

"Okay. What sort of culture should I expect to see over there?"

"None. Since Monty Python broke up and Sid James of the Carry On gang dies, they've got nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Not a thing. The last gasp of energy would have been the punk music thing and that ended almost thirty years ago. Heck, Johnny Rotten works for beer commercials now. A United Station delusionality of their own past is all they have left now, so there are plenty of museums. It's a "look how great we used to be" mentality. Sad really but they just don't know any better."

"Is there anything worth seeing in London? You sound kind of down on the whole English thing."

"Hey," I clarified, "don't get me wrong. The English are okay as long as your expectations are low."

She was looking a little depressed. "Is there anything you think would be worth doing in London? Anything?"

I had to think for a minute. "Well, this is kind of interesting in a necrophiliac sort of way. I have heard that deep in the darkest depths of the London cityscape there is a small brass plaque, set into a wall at about knee height. You have to look close but printed on that plaque are the words, "John Lennon urinated here 27 times. Thanks John." I'd like a picture of that.

Anyway... Humouroceros

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