LONDONI slept till 10:00 AM. I don't know how I accomplished that in spite of the early summer sunrise and traffic noise. But Darlene was quietly watching Wimbledon on the telly when I finally awoke. After I finally got ready to go out, she wanted lunch and I wanted breakfast, so we walked to Waterloo Station, where I went to Starbucks for coffee and a scone. She got a healthy lunch at McDonald's, and we sat together at a nearby table. I love her.
On the way home, I got a haircut at a randomly-chosen barber shop in the neighborhood. Risky, I know. But it looks pretty good.
There was a lot going on in London today: the Wimbledon women's singles final (Venus won), the massive Live 8 concert at Hyde Park (I was nowhere near the place), a one-day cricket match at Lords (the Pommies fought Australia to a rare draw), a televised rugby match from Wellington, NZ, that had people packing into the London pubs (the All Blacks had their way with the British and Irish Lions); and the Gay Pride parade from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. Oh, and did I mention the massive cleanup job left by last night's Canadia Day reveling?
My thoughts on "Live 8"
I hate to be a killjoy, but I find all the hype, hysteria, and hypocrisy of Live 8 nearly as revolting as the Gay Pride proceedings. Live 8 was broadcasting all day, so it was on the telly in the barbershop and everywhere else I went all day. Is there a silly rich blonde girl anywhere in London today who wasn't handed a microphone so she could emote for the audience about how "no one has done anything about poverty for 20 years, since the original Live Aid Concert"? I doubt it.
The BBC's coverage also featured a non-stop parade of worldly luminaries who have devoted their whole lives to shallownessnow suddenly smitten in conscience and determined in a single day to "Make Poverty History." Someone (I think it was Bob Geldof) convinced everyone that they could end poverty the same way Hal Roach's Little Rascals survived the Great Depression: "Hey! Why don't we put on a show?" The celebrities alternated as if on cue between giddy and grim.
Do sane people really think Western materialism, self-conceit, and celebrity-worship can be leveraged to solve the problem of African poverty? I agree with this guy.
The most disturbing picture of the day was when Snoop Dog took the stage and began spouting appalling profanities in rhythm to a rap beat. The camera cut away to an English dude (probably a banker) in a pin-stripe suit and tie, squinting as if deep in thought and nodding in time to the cadenceas if he really gets it.
Sorry. I know stuff like that tends to make most people get all teary-eyed and sentimental, but it has the opposite effect on me. John 12:3-8 seems appropriate in this context. There you see an artificial concern for the poor motivated by selfish pretext. It's a sin at least as old as Judas. And consider how arrogant the "Make Poverty History" slogan is, in light of Jesus' words in verse 8.
Anyway, to something only slightly less dour
More about London food
Actually, the food situation in London is not as bleak as some travelers like to make out. I think the biggest problem is the high price. But that is true of everything in London. I know how Londoners could end poverty in Africa if they really took a mind to: turn all the restaurants in London over to African owners. The food would be better, I'm sure. And a couple weeks' profit could probably pay off several developing nations' debt.
But the scarcity of good food in London is exaggerated, frankly. If you know your way around, you don't have to resort to Pizza Hut to find edible dishes. (I swore off British Pizza Huts some 15 years ago, because the pizza didn't have an authentic Pizza Hut look and feel. I like sausage pizza, and sausage in the UK iswell, that's another story. Bangers. An acquired taste. Not bad for breakfast, once you get used to them. But they don't work on pizza, and never will. First time I asked for sausage pizza in England, the waitress saidand I am not making this up"Ha! That's an interesting idea!) Anyway, the restaurant scene all over England has vastly improved over the past half decade. They still have a way to go, but there's no need for an American to feel like a total foreigner.
Tonight, for example, I took Darlene to Chiquito in Leicester Square. They offer a reasonable facsimile of Mexican food. The tortilla chips have a vaguely rye flavor, and in order to make the nachos substantial enough for a meal you have to buy a side cup of chili (look for "chilli beef" on the menu), but the jalapeños are authentic and the salsa is pretty decent, all things considered. I've been there before, and the chimichangas are passable, too. Darlene always has the cheeseburger. She gave me a bite tonight, and it was decentnot like the typical English cheeseburger, designed to be eaten with a fork and knife. (More about English manners in a minute.)
Then, as one of my commenters pointed out, there's always Chinatown, a block north of Leicester Square. I've eaten in three or four of those restaurants over the years. Every one I have tried was authentic and superb.
If you're in a train station and want fast food, skip the American chains like McDonald's and Burger King and go for the Cornish pasty shops. Really fine. I wish we could get decent Cornish pasties in Santa Clarita.
For snack food, the Brits have invented something really wonderful: Galaxy Minstrels. They are like M&Ms, only four times as large. I'm not a huge fan of sweets and chocolates, but these are really, really good. (Note to self: Bring back two large bags for the bowl on Kim's desk.)
The difference between the English and the Americans can be summed up by a look at their respective road signs:
Plus, the English eat everything with a fork and knife. Not only cheeseburgers, but even chicken wings. Tonight at Chiquito, people at the tables on either side of us were trying to eat fajitas with a fork and knife!
So, since the English are known worldwide for such impeccable manners, can someone please explain to me why central London is now dotted with public, doorless urinals? I'm not talking about the Live 8 concert here; they have one of these things in the Strand, traditionally thought of as an upscale location, just across from the Hotel Savoy, and right in the main traffic pattern of one of the busiest sidewalks in central London. They have them at Leicester Square, tooalways the busiest, most crowded spot in London when Live 8 is not in town. I confess I don't get it. I suppose it could be just a big joke for the tourists' sake. You never know with the British.
See you tomorrow.