Rethinking Being British

I’ve been getting really big into history recently. 

It started off with Ancient Rome, and then extended its tendrils further and further into the evolution of Europe, thanks in no small part to my reading of ‘Death of Kings’ by Bernard Cornwell. I also recently read the first book in that series (Saxon Stories), ‘The Last Kingdom’, which was amazing, and I would urge anyone who’s even remotely interested in the period, or just good writing to read it.

After that I’ve delved into whatever I can scour from ask historians on reddit, to the British History Podcast, and I have to say that it’s really made me think about my country in a different light.

It helps, I suppose, that I’ve been volunteering in the Nottingham Natural History Museum at Wollaton Hall for these last few months. It’s hard not to be inspired walking up to a tudor mansion on a regular basis. That, and sorting the remains of dead creatures from millions of years before humans even thought to stack two stones together. 

In a way, I’m closer now than ever to understanding how some people can be proud of their country, though I doubt I’ll ever understand fully. I’m not proud that Britain has such an extensive and fascinating history, just as I’m not proud that there was life there for millions of years before humans that also were not me. I do however, find it extremely interesting, and, if I’m being honest, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of connectedness to it all.

I’m not proud to be British, but perhaps my feelings of attachment to its heritage are the closest thing I’m ever going to get to that.



Now that the shops are insistent that Christmas is coming I suppose I should probably hurry up with all of the stuff I’m working on at the moment, lest I want to say that this book took me a year and a half (and likely will take me longer, although I did lose 80 pages at one point, so that set me back a few months). By Christmas Britain will probably look like a brown version of Venice and we’ll be travelling around on speedboats dodging mini icebergs and wondering why the chancellor of the exchequer is still banging on about using gas for fuel pumped in from other countries, and although I’d quite like to get everywhere by speedboat I don’t really fancy the associated water-borne diseases and loss of property that comes with such an event. Also I saw some sheep being rescued from a flooded pen on the TV and that reminded me that a lot of life could be lost; you would think somebody taking ecology at university would think about that first wouldn’t you? No, apparently my first thought was about how cool it would be to get between cities on a boat.

More ridiculous things have come from my brain however, and I’ve heard even weirder in other places. I vaguely remember somebody talking about the plausibility of there being floating cows on Jupiter and for the sake of humanity and our collective intelligence I hope that memory is just a dream that stuck, otherwise the average intelligence of the population may take an impressive drop.

What these two ideas have in common I don’t really know, I only know that my brain thought they were relevant enough to each other to belong in the same blog.

Off The Rails

British people are known to complain about their trains a lot, and due to their tendencies to be heavily overpriced, confusing and going through England there is some genuine room for improvement. I will grant my fellow Brits that, but my experiences with trains have been largely positive, except for the trains in Belgium, they were not only confusing but unaccomodating. I’m making that a word now, I don’t care, I think it makes sense. On the plus side however, they were going through Belgium, so there’s that.

As someone who spends most of his time on the Internet having a one sided conversation with an implied but largely absent audience you would think that I would be one of those very Brits. Not so, although I do wish they were cheaper and offered places to keep your luggage that were lockable, but I only have the latter complaint because I’m a paranoid wreck.

I will admit that I suffer from the same condition that they suffer however, a largely British disease called being an ungrateful sod. The American equivalent is probably seven words long and containing lots of zeds, sorry, zees.

Pass The Torch

The Olympic torch is coming to Nottingham this week and might I just say that I wish I gave more of a shit.

I like the whole anti-xenophobia aspect of these worldwide events, I’d like some more money to be poured into the country’s economy and I’m very proud that my brother’s going to be a team leader at the Paralympics, but still I find it hard to care about a torch being run around the country.

Sorry everyone, but I’m far from a patriot, and if you take it through Nottingham all you’re going to get is a lot of people asking the runners if they can borrow their lighter.

And on this day we will light a thousand cigarettes with our ceremonial torch!

With climate change out to get us at this point we should probably avoid the whole ever burning flame thing; perhaps instead we should do something else, something greener. I mean how hard would it be to pull of some sort of cross-country tree planting? I’m sure the distinctively non-British Will.I.Am would still take part and Muse could still do it, even if a forest would look a little odd on the piers of Teignmouth.

Perhaps we would be better off if nobody ran with it at all, I’m sure that nobody in Britain would object to a record breaking game of pass the parcel; even if the prize in the middle is so obviously Olympic torch-shaped.

I’m sure that such an event would block less roads as well, because I for one don’t need to be running along a busy high street to rip forth a bag of haribo from an over-sized parcel.

Sunday Hangover: Diamond Jubblies

So, as of Yesterday… I think…

Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne (I should probably have put that in scare quotes) for sixty years? Yes, sixty years of doing a lot of waving and trying her best to hide the fact that she married a massive racist and doesn’t really have any power besides being filthy rich these days.

And for the diamond jubilee I’m celebrating by doing a lot of studying and reading A Storm Of Swords.

Deal with it Lizzy, it’s raining, also I’m not a big fan of yours, although I do like you better than Prince Charles.

His face would look terrible on my money.

As nice as it is to have a little old lady on coins and notes though, I think I would prefer to have a system of great achievers in British society, you know, like on the other side of British notes.

I take pleasure in thinking about how the back of the ten pound note would go down in the Bible belt, and perhaps one day I’ll be able to find out for myself, as soon as I’ve found myself a bulletproof vest and a coat made out of Bibles. Because when it’s blasphemy to shoot me they’re not going to try, and any who do will be thwarted!

Now let’s see whether they try to cash it in or piss on it.

I’m always a little harsh on the royal family though, and as much as I disagree with such an archaic system still being in place, I feel a little bad for being so cynical about their position.

So let me qualify.

Congratulations Ms. Thesecond, I wish you all the best with your life and times, but if you would, could you end the monarchy in your will? Or at least make sure illegitimise Charles?

Thank you.

A Recipe For Snake Oil?

So, here comes today’s break from doing spreadsheets and worrying about my next driving test.

I’ve just come back from some strange corner of the internet where tables sit on ceilings, birds swim, sharks fly, cats dig up their own shit and a bunch of children have forced a guy called Kony to become their one-man army.

And while I would love to keep making stupid remarks about this reverse world, only in Soviet Russia does a blog write me, so I’d better explain myself.

In the prescientific world of 1796, a physician known as Samuel Hahnemann in Germany proposed the basic laws of a practice we all know today as homeopathy. This practice was based on the ‘law of similars’; the idea that ‘like can be cured by like’, which, as we all know, must mean that eating lots of cake cures type 2 diabetes.

Well no, it’s not like that, because according to the principles of homeopathy the more diluted a substance is, the stronger its effect. So the natural progression from that would turn out to be something like…

You will need:

-1 slice of cake
-shitloads of water
-shitloads more water
-an assload of water
-ridiculous amounts of water

step 1: first, take your slice of cake and add shitloads of water. Stir until there are but crumbs of cake in very sparse areas of the mixture.

step 2: then, take your mixture and add shitloads more water. By this point there should only be a few molecules of cake in each area of the mixture, but just in case, mix until there is basically no active ingredient.

step 3: add an assload of water; just in case there’s any chance of there being anything apart from water in this solution.

step 4: finish off your recipe with ridiculous amounts of water; making sure to take note of how many times it has been diluted; remember, diabetes is a thing of the past when you can drink water. I wonder why medical science didn’t think of this, I mean the stuff’s been around for a couple of hundred years now!

So in this strange world outside the republic of internet and in the strange district of the blogosphere known as ‘homeopath avenue’ there are strong criticisms being pushed towards people who are skeptical of these ideas.

And why wouldn’t there be? Obviously these ideas make perfect sense! Pharmaceutical companies should continue to make lots of money out of selling basically nothing!

I think on this issue it’s hard for me not to start taking the piss, mostly because I’m still baffled at how widespread homeopathy is in Britain.

The royal family doesn’t really help, but to be honest I’m not sure there’s a lot they do help with.

I fear that I am not yet done here.

Doctor Who – The Beast Below

As promised the second episode of the current series of Doctor Who is being given my judgment. My original intention was to do all of the episodes in one blog but after writing the first I realised that if this was to be achieved, sleep would not be and due to the impending doomsday of exam season tomorrow it seemed logical and indeed more compelling to do the episodes one at a time.

So let’s start on ‘The Beast Below’; as with ‘The Eleventh Hour’ it lacked much pace but this was somewhat to do with the immense focus on the British journey of space travel, and as anyone living in Britain knows, it’s not a brilliant country to focus on. Granted every country has its share of blithering idiots and Benedict Arnolds; Britain is rife with them and adding to this fact the horrible weather resulting in mass SADs, the recent conservative win at the general election after which David Cameron admitted that everything he had used to get into office was a lie but thanks for voting. I have little faith in the human race as it is but I have even less faith in the country I live in. What country allows Nick Griffin to become an MEP? Apparently the same country that wanted its own bloody space ship and tortured a massive anaerobic whale to allow themselves to sail across the universe bathing in ignorance of the horror they had created; in fact, this sounds just like my view of Britain. It may come as no surprise that I am not a follower of football, and as such, I will not express mock patriotism towards a country of which the general public has little good to say all for the support of a team of council estate monkeys kicking around a neo gen sheep’s bladder worse than most countries in the world. As such, in the next episode, which is so patriotic it’s sickening; I may offend some people describing the way Doctor Who deals with historic figures and I’m apologising for this beforehand because I don’t have a lot more to say about Britain in this episode, in fear of falling off topic as I usually do and already have. So in danger of this becoming my catchphrase I digress.

The episode starts with the concept of the smilers being introduced as some sort of big brother figure. They watch over the ship; sending the non-believers in their ‘perfect society’ into the belly of a giant starfleet issued whale which refuses to eat children because apparently it heard one cry once. Which besides the last point is a pretty neat idea, in fact my first reaction when the smiler turned its head and revealed its ugly side was ‘this is what monsters should be’ – exciting, mysterious and creepy. However, their story never really reached a conclusion; even when ‘everything was solved’ when Amy Pond has a lucky guess that the whale would carry the community without receiving regular electroshock therapy, the smilers received no change; assuming that everything wasn’t resolved after all; Winston loved big brother. Infidels were plunged into the stomach of an elegant, but very hungry beast.

Along with this gaping plothole the other large weakness of this episode was the identity of a masked vigilante as a queen who had essentially forgotten 50 versions of her life, this wasn’t weak just because in the star trek style life of this new Britain there would be much less reason to have a queen as there is in the monarchy’s rather redundant present, but that she really didn’t live up to her introduction. She was presented to us as the rebel and ended the episode as the dictator, as big brother, and this transformation was shown to us in a much less climatic way than it should have done, almost forcing the episode’s events to continue by brushing over the fact that she was the monster she had been fighting, which, like the smilers, had the potential for greatness but was looked over so that Amy could save the day and The Doctor could pretend that everything had become hunky dory when in reality big brother was still watching and the totalitarian world continued to oppress. This doesn’t seem like something the doctor would overlook and for that reason this episode stands as one of the low points of this series, starting off promising, and in line with the master and davros episodes of series’ yore, ended on a very anticlimactic note.

Not wanting to do the same I will leave you with this picture summing up was Russel T Davies did to the last episode of series 3 after building up so much tension he couldn’t work out how to resolve the issues without some much loved deus ex machina doctor praise.