London, Part 1.

I’m back from London, and I have brought with me the dreaded Lung Rattle, Accompanied by Nasal Snot. I make this upsetting horking noise, like a cat regurgitating lawn clippings, it’s not good. But other than that, it was a great trip. I have sorted through all the pictures, and I will end up blogging about 110 of them. They’re all cropped and organized, but first I want to talk about the picture-free aspects of the trip. I was in London for six days. I had been there before, but Cricket had not, so we did all the tourist attractions, and since I hadn’t been there in eight years it was nice to have the refresher course. London is a wonderful city, but it has one huge tragic flaw in my book: its street layout. Here’s the city planning of London – Romans arrive and name it Londinium in 43 A.D. There are some houses. They put a street near those houses. Then there are more houses. Another street appears near them. And so on and so forth, with absolutely no concern whatsoever for, you know, any kind of order or anything. It’s a horror to navigate. A street map of London looks like Dr. Seuss took some acid and dropped uncooked spaghetti on the floor. Here’s a map I found on the web.

See? The streets change names and have odd angles, and they’re leaving out all the smaller streets and alleys and dead ends. It’s like Lower Manhattan, but all over. I was so sad. If I lived there, I would have to have a chip put in my neck so people could find me after I wandered off so I wouldn’t get mired in a peat bog and be found perfectly preserved thousands of years later.

My favorite comedian in the whole wide world is Patton Oswalt, and I have a bootleg performance of him in Atlanta in 2002. He talks about one of his trips to England and Ireland, and I pulled a small chunk out for you to listen to. Warning: some coarse words.


Now, I’ve heard that for years, and I was like, oh, game shows can’t be that different in England. Hoo boy, was I wrong. I was in the hotel one afternoon and I caught a bit of a show called Countdown. First of all, it’s like the SATs. You have to be good with both letters and numbers. Second, they have a resident lexicographer named Susie Dent, who they occasionally go to for fun word info (in the episode I caught, she explained the origins of some of our favorite dinosaur names for a good three minutes, which in game show time is a month and a half). There’s no background music. There’s no cheering. Watching it is like penance for a crime. These two contestants bust their humps with word and number problems for a half-hour. The loser got (I’m not making this up) the Oxford Dictionary and a mug with the Countdown logo on it. The winner, who was on his eighth day, they didn’t even mention what he was going to win, whenever that happened. I had to look it up. Brace yourself: He or she wins a leather-bound copy of the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary, worth £4,000, which is about $6,000 (okay) and THE UGLIEST TEAPOT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

So let’s review: The contestant I saw had been on the show for eight straight days, I have no idea how many more days he has to be on to win, and when he does wins, finally, he will bring home $6,000 worth of books and an affront to mankind masquerading as a teapot which he will most likely display on his mantle to appall people’s good taste for years to come. I’d like to see this show last on American television for two episodes. On the Game Show channel, at 2:00 in the morning. Even then, it wouldn’t happen.

Tomorrow, I’ll start on the many cultural wonders I saw, but for now, after editing all those pics, I’m going to bed.

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