Thursday, September 02, 2004

St. Annes, UK

Back in the nest, all downy feathers and lie ins. A morning newspaper, the washing up, rubbish on the box, popping over to Dave's house unexpectedly, cups of tea and nearby piano. creature comforts? essential living, I say. Its been a while, perhaps too long but no time to look back.

4 days in London are always welcome - the houses, the back streets, the squeak of bus breaks, changing tube lines, watchin the people, the unmistakable suburbs. Every visit to londonVillage is different and increasingly good.. could really get used to it. Must be memories of an Ealing babyhood.

What is there left to be proud of? I remember a few years ago discussing the escargot-ish Italian postal service in mocking tones, with the rose tinted image of Postman Pat's stoic 'the post must get through' Royal Mail in the fore of my mind. A sad misconception today obviously as the Royal Mail manages to fall short of all 15 targets!?! Come on guys, at least one? OK, a success rate of precisely 0% can be swallowed if it means the company isn't still running at a mammoth loss (don't know if it does mean that, mind) but it was with a start (and a reference to Murphy's law) that I read that my very own Fylde was the 7th worst performing borough this year! Remind me never to send a letter here, else it may be more likely to write a bestseller than ever be delivered. Guess that'll be no chrsitmas prezzies this year.

My rose-tinted, nay blind, view of the postal service is probably one of those idiosynchracies referred to by lovable lil Bill Bryson at the start of Notes from a Small Island (note that sudden bout of literacy, and I use the term loosely, is due to a recent bank holiday browsing in Waterstones with my BA in English Literature endowed cousin), along with the fact that we islanders have a habit of perceiving the UK as a big place. Something Mr. Bryson, and my sub-continental cousin are only too hasty point out.

They are right though, I now appreciate this after the last two months. Reassuringly, I think the Czechs whom I met were worse for this: although happy in the knowledge that anywhere in the republic is accessible in half a day (it would seem), there was still a tendency to regard the journey there and beyond as a long haul. They don't, of course, have the island mentality that exists, albeit on a huge scale, in Britain. I might add that the fundamental difference between British and continental cultures can be traced directly to this geographical difference, and which also accounts for certain similarities with Norway (An island perhaps not in the geographical sense but certainly in the economic and social).

I end on a recently discovered book review of the afore mentioned book, which certainly 'clears up' a few things with me concerning the shameful state of Blackpool's (and don't you believe it, St' Annes') beaches:

He delightfully intermingles political commentary with travelogue. He visits
Blackpool, for example, where there are long beaches - that officially don't
exist. "I am not making this up. In the late 1980s, when the European Community
issued a directive about the standards of ocean-borne sewage, it turned out that
nearly every British seaside town failed to come anywhere near even the minimum compliance levels. Most of the bigger resorts like Blackpool went right off the
edge of the turdometer, or whatever they measure these things with. This
presented an obvious problem to Mrs. Thatcher's government, which was loath to
spend money on British beaches when there were perfectly good beaches in
Mustique and Barbados, so it drew up an official decree -- this is so bizarre I
can hardly stand it, but I swear it is true -- that Brighton, Blackpool,
Scarborough, and many other leading resorts did not have, strictly speaking,
beaches. Christ knows what it then termed these expanses of sand -- intermediate sewage buffers, I suppose -- but in any case it disposed of the problem without
either solving it or costing the treasury a penny, which is of course the main
thing, or in the case of the present government, the only thing."

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