Established 2003. Now incorporating The Sudbury Hill Harrow and Wherever End Times

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

How to be British - an occasional series for Foreigners

Part 3 - Wear a powdered wig and tights

Remember to call attorneys Barristers when translating into the local patois. Britain, or more precisely the main bit of it known as England, is run by a coterie of these witch doctor-like figures, also known affectionately as "old boys." Easily recognised in their black robes, powdered wigs, tights and garters, they have something in common with Pantomime Dames, but I will save that subject for another article. A significant proportion of them these days are real women.

Barristers are a protected species held mainly in London, in a Royal Park called the Inns of Court, where their numbers are carefully managed. The process of becoming a barrister involves "eating a number of dinners" at the Inns. Whether that is a euphemism or a literal procedure, I dread to think. Some cursory acquaintance with legal precedent is expected as a matter of good form, but the chief attribute required is an olympian ability to make the implausible sound likely. In their spare time, barristers also run the nominal government of Britain from the nearby Palaces of Westminster.**

Within the Inns of Court, there are miles of ancient squares, buildings and alleys stretching from Temple near the Thames Embankment all the way to Grays Inn Road, a mile or so to the north. These cobbled lanes and squares are full of the ghosts of Samuel Johnson, Boswell, Dickens and I can't think of anyone else. --Oh yes, myriad newly poor litigants.

I don't think many people know what a wonderful little world is here, which has been around for a very long time, and judging by the stone construction of the buildings and alleys, will be for a very long time yet. So here are some pictures by London-based photographer Onion Mbeke, to give you some idea of the place.

One of the delights is this fountain in Fountain Court near Temple. It is shaded by two ancient mulberry trees, now almost horizontal and both propped. You can see the prop holding up one of them in this picture.

Also on view is a marvellous open-air exhibition of hundreds of expensive German cars, as well as a few Range Rovers, Jaguars, Bentleys and the odd Aston Martin.


*Dozens of you have written to ask me what the purpose of this series is. It was originally intended as a handy guide to US authors who may have to visit the island of Britain to bring the light of literature back from across the Atlantic to where it has partially died out in "the ould sod." As well as sensible sexual hygiene practices, it is also a good idea to know a bit about the natives, their likes and dislikes. Don't be fooled by his inoffensive demeanour, Tommy is not a man you would want to have as an enemy. P.

**Known to all London taxi drivers as the Palace of Varieties. P.


How to be British - an occasional series for Foreigners

Part 2 - the hysterical

Decide your habiliment of hilarity early and swathe yourself in it on all social occasions. Should your mien gravitate towards the pompous, you may choose something from the house of John Cleese. As an opening gambit with a demoiselle at a soiree, refer to an unrelated item in the manner of the Dead Parrot Sketch. Faced with a wilted lettuce leaf, a Briton from the school of Cleese will invariably declare, "This is an ex-legume, it is sadly etiolated, in short it is dead." You will not be out-of-place afterwards, when sufficient chardonnay has been quaffed, goosestepping around mein host's hallway and bellowing, "Don't mention the war." For a more contemporary effect, you can be David Brent from The Office, the entire Fast Show - ooh suits you - or if you have the talent for mimicry that you think you have, big up for Ali G in da house. As a connoisseur of all things purely British, I like to affect a modest air of Alan Bennett, myself. Choose your comedy well, laugh like a drain at your own jokes, and remember you won first prize in the tombola of talent when you were born a British comedian.


Old Comments:

John @ 9:39AM 2004-09-01

Or you may encounter the pedant who will quote "Suit you, sir". My Python and Pete'n'Dud quoting abilities are a bit sad, but at least i didn't learn morality from Star Trek TNG like some of these young foreigners.

email website

Karlo @ 7:21PM 2004-10-11

In spite of my supererogatory efforts to develop the British knack for hilarity, I just can't quite get the swing of it. Are you sure you are just qauffing chardonnay lads? It does smell, how shall I say it, a bit "peatty" in here...

email website


How to be British - an occasional series for Foreigners

Part 1 - the impassive

Try to get to know a little bit of our culture and you'll find things will go better on your trip. Tone down your voice by a few decibels when you infest our shores, and don't argue with hotel staff. Never wear check, plaid or plastic macs. Remember we Brits are jaded, blasé, and not in the least interested in petty annoyances, so don't become one. If the service in your hotel is bad, simply accept that you have no savoir faire, and made a bad choice. We have a saying here, which you would do well to memorise, and that is "Shite occurs."



Saturday, June 26, 2004

George Bush snapped in scanties in Irish Castle

Herald Exclusive - the picture they tried to ban

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Bush filmed in underwear:
"When the US president arranged a visit to Ireland in an election year he wanted to make sure the folks back home could see him - but not dressed in a vest. "

For your edification, in spite of warnings from the little-known Irish President (who has to show her ID to her own sentrymen to get into the state residence) we bring you this picture of Bush cavorting in underwear, at Dromoland Castle last night.

Mary Whitehouse

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Ponce gored by bull

"Ponce was preparing to finish off the animal at a bullfight in Alicante when the incident occurred. The bull tossed him into the air, then trampled him as he covered his head with his hands."

Good News Desk

Fine Art - Guildhall Graduate Show

click to enlarge

This installation of writing on masking tape by Craig Moran* was one of the most original exhibits in the London Metropolitan Sir John Cass Fine Art Department week-long graduate show. I attended the preview on Tuesday night. The exhibition is arranged over several floors covering almost the whole of the old Guildhall University building opposite Aldgate East tube station, from the foyer inwards and upwards. The artists show a diversity and mastery of media and styles, inventiveness and industry. Many influences are discernible, though being an art ignoramus, I'm not sure who they are attributable to. In some cases the artists have provided visitors with images and experiences that will linger in the mind afterwards. There is plenty of fun to be had, and every sort of medium and technology you could wish for. A visitor could spend a rewarding few hours browsing here and collecting the many stylish calling cards and catalogues on offer.

*I declare an interest - he's my son.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

What goes around, comes around

Iran state TV shows British troops being marched blindfold

"TEHRAN : Iranian state television showed new images of eight British troops, this time being marched blindfold on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab waterway where they were detained on Monday."

Israelis hood and plasticuff hundreds at a time in Palestine, the Americans and Brits hood and cuff and abuse suspects in Iraq, and now it should come as no surprise to see British captives being given similar treatment.

This is what happens when the fantasy of Forrest Gump turns into the nightmare of Chucky the demon doll. A stacked Supreme Court appoints Forrest Gump's evil twin. A British quisling prostrates himself in Texas, down on El Rancho Grande. Thousands are exploded, massacred, rounded-up, tortured, shot, burned, mutilated, sexually abused, the works - the "Go Large" option. Pictures of booted troops kicking in flimsy doors where people leave their shoes outside, shivering detainees dehumanised with sacks over their heads, pushed and shoved and worse, screaming women and children...

...and now. Hey! They put blindfolds on our soldiers! Axis of Evil! Axis of Evil!

Let's get rid of these stupid leaders. At least Michael Howard is intelligent. Gordon Brown is intelligent. Enough with these two dolts, Bush and Blair. Are we going to follow them like lemmings into a ravine? Stop this century now, and start over.


Monday, June 21, 2004

Arrest Bush

IOL: Irish lawyers call for arrest of Bush

"172 members of the legal profession have signed a statement of objection to the visit of George Bush to Ireland next weekend - and called for him to be arrested."

Niall Clipping
Cracking set from Dylan saves the day

Report from the Finsbury Park Fleadh 2004

Downpours, no big screens, tiresome American rehash acts, pasty-faced lager louts urinating where they stood in the crowd and then milling around in their own piss afterwards, tickets a rip-off - nearly £40 each and £12 added by Ticketmaster on ordering - fuck them, bastardos.

Counting Crows didn't go down very well with the parts of the crowd near to your reporter. "Counting Sheep" would be a better name for them, they thought. At one point the singer said "We're tired" and a proportion of the audience replied, "So are we." I thought they were not three bad, very lively towards the end.

The wonderful John Prine appeared on the smaller stage in a covered area, during a downpour, so the entire crowd tried to cram in. He said that Bush had forced him to revive his old protest songs, which he had put away in a drawer somewhere.

A fairly objective intro announced the mythic Bob Dylan, recapping his career including the doldrums. He was on keyboards for the whole session. All his effort was needed to get his croaky voice to perform. "Not Dark Yet" was perfectly timed to the setting sun, and sounded wonderful. I thought it was "Shooting Star" at first. I never rated "Not Dark Yet" till I heard this performance.

I heard somebody in the crowd say, "It's taken him forty years, but he finally got the voice right." The same person said, "He's done one of mine--Desolation Row." I hadn't realised that Dylan had stolen that song from somebody in Finsbury Park.

What I thought was some sort of homo-erotic foreplay, I was later informed was something called "blowback". A long-haired rent-boy looking debauchee put a joint, lighted side first, into his mouth and proferred the other end to his companion, a wrinkly, long-coated old rocker, who sucked on it. It's supposed to be "an amazing hit" due to some mystical turbo-charging process, but probably more to do with the recherché thrill of appearing to kiss some geezer.

It was worth suffering the indignities of the day for the session by the Maestro alone. His set list is up at Bob Ronnie Wood joined the band for the encore, appropriately "Like a Rolling Stone." Great 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m - shame about the dismal day leading up to it.

Feargal Mooney

Friday, June 18, 2004

Last look for a while

Onion is taking a rest under doctor's orders. This was the last picture he filed.

Antonia Cat

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Attention "potentially irritating north London liberals"

Stop Press - Scoop of the Century

Ed is facile, insouciant and naive!

Ed replies:

"Aw shucks. (I'm blushing now.) That's the nicest thing anybody has ever said about me. Thanks."

Marsha Woolley

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Dirty rotten scoundrels

What is the world coming to. An egregious example of fly-tipping spotted in Wembley this morning.

Herald Mobile Unit

Next >> (fly-tipping)

Red hills of Reading

Poppy fields west of Reading today, through a train window on 14:55 from Cardiff to Paddington.


Sunday, June 13, 2004

Striated cloudscape at sunset

This was the sky over Willesden this evening.

A handy guide to the new BBC channels

As well as the channels that people watch and listen to, the BBC now has the following supernumerary offerings, a wealth of choice for busy people with no time to spare. You may have noticed the ersatz advertising campaign for the following new channels.


BBC3 - Things that should be on ITV, mostly about how much money pop stars earn.

BBC4 - Things that should be on BBC2, but they think we're too stupid to appreciate.

CBBC - Things that should be on BBC1 in the afternoon, instead of whining Australian soaps.

CBeebies - Things that should be on BBC1 in the morning, instead of whining British soaps.

BBC News24 - Half an hour of news, repeated forty-eight times

BBC Parliament - Closed Circuit TV from an institute for the clinically pompous


Five Live - Things that should be on Radio 2

Sports Xtra - Things that shouldn't be on at all

6 Music - Things that should be on BBC Radio 1

BBC 7 - Old things that should never have been on in the first place

Asian Network - Auntie talking very slowly and distinctly about things that should be on the BBC World Service

GLR / Local Radio - The broadcasting equivalent of make-work

The BBC is now run by superannuated dregs of the failed yuppie era. Because they are not really allowed to advertise, their simulations of commercial advertising always reek faintly of self-abuse. They produce laddish adverts suggesting that we cut out important things in life - dressing, civility, childcare - in order to make time for their luxuriant exercises in redundancy. Of course we understand that they are only joking, because it has been reported that many hours of the new channels' output go without any viewers or listeners at all.

Malachy Dunhill

Friday, June 11, 2004

Your eyelids feel heavy, heavy...

Still rising.

Wembley Watch

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Stand well clear

Must be nearly there now (?)

Wembley Watch
Polling Day - Vote Early, Vote Often

An election address by Mikey's uncle, Sir Bufton Delgado.

Ballotform Exchange

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

At the risk of boring you

This was the scene this evening.

- and earlier today.

Wey Hey and Up She Rises Dept.
Congress interrogates Ashcroft for three hours - Ashcroft grilled over military's rules on torture: "Human Rights Watch said yesterday it was now clear there was heavy interest at the highest levels of the Pentagon in using torture, and seeking ways to avoid criminal sanctions if caught."

This is the guy who had to have some naked statues draped for his news conferences. Maybe they reminded his guilty conscience of US prisoners, who are stripped.

News Desk

Transit of Venus and Serena

Willesden astronomers were the first to discover the transit of Venus's sister planet, Serena, which occurred unnoticed by other observers today, at the same time as the transit of Venus. The smaller Serena can just be made out near the top of this exclusive picture* taken through the massive redundant array 5-inch telescope, with beta-ray-ban filter.

Copyright © L'Osservatore Willesdensio, MIV

*Syndication enquiries to Ed.

Summer Fiction

The summer fiction issue of the New Yorker features three stories by Alice Monro, of which this one is online: Chance.


Monday, June 07, 2004

Mind that elastic doesn't snap*

Onion Mbeke

*We have this picture in large, high quality TIF format too, and a range of pleasing colourways, for the discerning syndicate. This is only one of our delightfully appointed views of the new stadium emerging. Here's another. Ed.


Ruination of view from Harrow-on-the-Hill

I could not believe my eyes this week when I looked out of my window and discovered that the beautiful view across to Canary Wharf had been interrupted by a giant bicycle wheel like contraption. I'm sure there must be other people cheesed-off on the hill. If this is what the new Wembley stadium is going to be like then please knock it down and start again.


Saturday, June 05, 2004

Up she rises*

*That was the other day. I saw it again today (Sunday), and I wish I'd had a cameraman with me. The arch is really amazing already, it's getting higher. It will be the biggest arch of its kind in the world, they say. It is not just for show, it will support by suspension a lot of the structure of the stadium, allowing a view uninterrupted by pillars. It is angled so as not to cast a shadow on the pitch. The inside of it has a train track, for its own maintenance train, and it is big enough to drive a tube train through.


Your newspaper is a fraud - it doesn't exist


Nothing at all exists, not even this newspaper. The past no longer exists, the future does not yet exist, and that which we call the present cannot be found because infinitesimal division of an instant must prove that everything is on either one side or the other. There is nowhere for anything to exist because there is no such thing as the present, the past is gone, and the future only a phantasm. This newspaper is therefore a fraud, and I have given up waiting for the cheque for my article.

Prof. Kronk
St Benedict's Basket Workshop

Friday, June 04, 2004

Miss the bus?

Today is the very last day that Routemasters will run in east London. Tonight, just before midnight, the final route 8 Routemaster will arrive home at Bow Garage, the end of a small red chunk of London's history... (Read on: diamond geezer)

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Wembley Arch - Remember you saw it first

in your Super Soaraway 'Sden Herald!

Wembley is rising. The Behemoth is unbound. Mammon has unbanned Leviathan.

Onion Mbeke