Tag Archives: UK

British Library Sci-Fi Exhibition

Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it.

I wish I could visit this. I used to walk past the British Library every day when I worked at Euston Station – I would get the train to King’s Cross Thameslink and walk (or get the bus if it was raining).

The exhibitions are always good, because they always manage to put a twist on things. For example, an exhibition on maps wasn’t just some old maps (which would have been fascinating in itself), but about how maps have been used and abused through the ages. There were several maps showing where the Garden of Eden definitely was/is. There was an English map of the south coast of England, annotated in red in German, with notes like “Bomb here”, “Well-defended shipyard” and so on. Another amusing map of some remote territory in Africa had the surveyed hills named with anagrams which spelled out something like “My boss is a prick” or similar, implying the soldier doing the surveying didn’t enjoy that particular job.

I bet this exhibition will be just as good.

Professor What?

Cassie emailed from work to ask about Doctor Who, because she said she and her colleagues were trying to figure out some things and thought asking a Brit would help. As it turned out, this was a big fat fib – she was just asking to find out which Who I liked so she could borrow the right DVDs from work. That evening she had brought The Key To Time box set with Tom Baker, and a couple of classic Davisons. She’s a keeper. But not that Keeper.

Anyway, based on what I wrote to her, here are my thoughts about the whole Who thing.

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The Same But Different, UK-US Differences Part 3

Blanket duvet / quilt
Quilt thin quilted cover with design on it like they used to make.
Sheet Sheet
Sherbet Sorbet
Fizzy sweet powder Sherbet
Comforter thin duvet
Flan Creme Caramel pudding like what used to make me cat up when I was a kid.
Pudding Blancmange
Dessert Pudding

The Same But Different, UK-US Differences Part 2

UPDATE: This is all being moved to a dedicated page, where I will continue to document the differences.

The Same But Different, UK-US Differences Part 1


= pretty much equal to
~= similar to
/= not equal to
CVS = Boots
Rite Aid ~= (a slightly shabby) Boots
Walgreens = Boots
Target ~= what Woolworths could have been
7-Eleven ~= Londis / Wavy Line (as was)
??? = WHSmith (I’m still looking)
Reno 911! ~=
Sanford & Son = Steptoe & Son
Hershey’s chocolate /= chocolate
Sidewalk = Pavement
Pavement = road surface
Smoke a cigarette = Smoke a fag
Smoke a fag = shoot a homosexual dead
Rick Warren ~= Rowan Williams
Brian Williams /= Zeinab Badawi (but kind of, and I ran out of ideas)

I Want My Money Back

Got up this morning, and before I could do anything else I had to put the heat on for the first time in my apartment. What the hell? I’ve been joking recently to friends back in the UK that it’s been so cold here that I had to roll my sleeves down. Now that Xmas is a couple of weeks away, it’s finally getting properly cold, albeit still not as cold as London.

Looking from my 14th floor office window, I’m greeted by a view pretty much like the one I had from my London office in Victoria, except for the 4 US flags I can see from my chair, whipping in the wind. It’s grey, dingy, and rain is spattering against the glass. If this keeps up, I won’t be walking the three blocks to the gym after work. And so the decline begins. I think I’ll just drive home.

The problem with rain in California is that because it is so rare, the roads don’t get rinsed off so often like they do in the UK. This means that when it does rain, the first thing that happens is the roads are coated with a thin film of water, dust and oil. This makes the commute interesting, and you hear the radio reports of crashes and delays, in the same way that snow in the UK makes the commute “interesting”.

If Cassie and I are planning to move to San Francisco next year, which is indeed the plan, I had better get used to weather like this. But it won’t stop me from moaning for the moment. I still have the scarf my Mum knitted for me as a child – best dig it out.

The Same But Different, UK-US Differences Part 1

Here’s my ongoing project to spot which US products are like which UK products, because it has never been done before anywhere, in slim humorous books or elsewhere. These are my observations as and when I think of them, so don’t expect completeness or accuracy, or indeed entertainment. Keep your expectations low, is what I’m saying.


= pretty much equal to
~= similar to
/= not equal to

(* includes bonus reactionary curmudgeon entries! No prize if you can spot them!)

Pine-sol ~= Dettol
Clorox = Domestos
Good Humor ice cream = Walls ice cream (same logo)
Lays potato chips = Walkers crisps (same logo)
3 Musketeers ~= Milky Way
Milky Way ~= Mars
Snickers = Marathon*
Vons ~= Sainsburys / Tesco
Gelsons ~= Waitrose
Albertsons ~= Asda (I think you know what I mean)
Cif kitchen cleaner = Cif, which used to be called Jif
Jif = a brand of peanut butter
Starburst = Opal Fruits*
Bro-Magnons =  Townies (i.e. collars flipped up)
Glenn Beck / Sean Hannity = Richard Littlejohn / Peter Hitchens
Larry King /= Jeremy Paxman (no matter what Larry thinks)
Larry King ~= Michael Parkinson (i.e. sycophantic but with a delusion of being a hard-hitting interviewer)
NPR and its local affiliates KPBS, KPCC, KQED and KALW etc ~= BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service

Status Of Missing

So, how is the great experiment doing? Am I missing the country of my birth? A little. I miss my ex-dog quite a lot. My Google Reader feed of all Flickr photos tagged “westie” is either helping or not helping. I miss my good friends. I didn’t have such a huge circle. My brother and sister are up to their necks with family, so we’re separated by years, miles, and lifestyle. I miss them, but it’s cool. I guess things are still not settled here. I like my condo, but it is clearly a temporary thing, and I guess I want to have a home.

I’m trying to build up a circle of friends in SD, but that’s a slow process when I’m away most weekends. We’re having a work happy hour this evening, so I’ll try not to alienate too many people there.

I knew it was going to be hard, but the whole philosophy of it was that sample at the beginning of Sweat Loaf:

“… it’s better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven’t done…”

…and I certainly don’t regret it.

Cassie is coming down at the weekend, and though it’s a little cooler here now (I’m wearing a suit jacket to work!) we’ll walk on the Coronado dog beach and have some fun. We’ll watching Gordon run in huge circles growling as he streaks past us, then stopping to frantically dig a hole in the sand and stick his schnozz into it. This will require a visit to the dog wash, which he needs anyway.

Before this though is another Friday off, which I’m filling with taking my PC to the repair place, my eyes to the optometrist, my wallet to various places, and my lazy fat arse to the gym (perhaps).

Lloyds TSB Are A Rotten Terrible Bank, And Stupid

This little item made me smile. A guy in the UK had his bank password set to ‘Lloyds is pants’, and they changed it behind his back and told him it wasn’t appropriate. He told the media, and now it’s all over the Web. Well done you!

I’m a Lloyds TSB victim customer, and I’ve been on the receiving end of some great service over the past few months as I moved to the US. For example, I filled in the change of address form, making it clear I was moving out of the country. When I arrived in San Diego, and I was buying large stuff like a bed* and other furniture, they were kind enough to block my debit card, causing Cassie to have to sub me hundreds of dollars. When I called them to find out why (and spent $30 on pay-as-you-go international cellphone charges in the process) they told me that someone was trying to buy stuff in a foreign country. I told them it was me, pointing out my new address matched the city where the purchases were made. They said, “Oh yeah sorry” and claimed it was “for my security”. Thanks, but “my security” means having a bed to sleep on and a bank that wasn’t run by a shower of incompetents. Why don’t I change banks? Hassle, time, energy, they’re all the same, etc. You find me a bank, and I’ll consider it.

Anyway, for a long time I had a bank password that insulted the bank. They never complained.

* I got my bed from a place called Sleep Train, and I was very disappointed that when I walked through the door I wasn’t greeted by a guy with an engineer’s hat pulling an invisible whistle chain and yelling, “All board the Sleep Train to Slumbertown!”.

(via Neatorama and Graham Linehan)

I Wear My Wartime Coat In The Wind And Sleet

My friends Brian and Stacy are away from Hollywood at the moment. They’re on their delayed honeymoon, which for them is to fly to England, retrieve their scooters from storage, and then do the things and have days. You know, ride to the Isle of Wight, Paris, the Ace Cafe (now scooter-friendly, apparently), all under the banner of Vespastics. An irreverent name, to be sure, for an irreverent club. It’s had a rocky history, but they’re back on the road, picking up where they left off, and they have a new wesbite to prove it.

When Brian found out I dabbled with this web stuff, he asked how it could be done, and I immediately recommended WordPress, my platform of choice. He kick-started his webspace, checked the domain was still there, and set me loose. A few short hours later, they were back online, and recreating the alliances that make the scooter subculture so strong. As a result of my help, Brian tells me that I’m an honorary member – I’m very flattered to accept.

I used to own and ride a Piaggio Zip 50 in the first years of the 21st Century, not the most stylish of scooters, but pretty nifty. It sipped petrol, which was useful during the 2000 fuel protests, because one tank lasted the whole period. 

 I used to get comments from my collegues at work about not having “a proper bike”. My response was that being only 28, I wasn’t old enough to have a mid-life crisis and squeeze my aging flabby carcass into some ill-advised leathers and buy a Harley. That shut them up. Well, it didn’t, but they kind of blinked and smiled and moved away.

Scooter culture in the UK got a bit of a boost in the dread post-Britpop world of Paul Weller hero-worship which made it actually OK to actually like Ocean Colour Scene. Lambretta clothing became popular, named after the popular scooter brand, but not associated with the scooter company. Just branding. Ben Sherman, already a big name, rode the wave as well.

I eventually got rid of the scooter after it became clear I was going to die on the road if I didn’t. People in South West London, not the most concsiencious drivers, were after my blood. I would be challenged to races from stop lights by bunches of twats in hatchbacks. Certain areas of London allowed motorbikes to ride in the bus lanes, other did not, but it was unclear which. This sometimes meant you were riding in the centre, out of the bus lane, and this made some car drivers very angry. They would accelerate around you, sometimes on the inside, and deliberately come close to knocking you off. All that, and the weather, led me to get a car.

It was worth it for a while though. It was cheap and fun. Perhaps a faster, more powerful scooter could have kept up with the traffic and not hurt the poor car drivers’ delicate feelings so much.

Should I get a scooter here in San Diego? Wait, I’m getting a message; it says, “NO”. Perhaps an Ape. This one’s nice.

I’m proud to say to you…



Englaender is German for spanner