Archive for January 2008

How did they manage an empire?

January 22, 2008

Through out my blog I have been generally very happy about my travels in the UK. I must note that through out my adventures there have been moments, which I hold my head in my hands and wonder, “how on earth did the Brits gain and then successfully control an empire?” (yes, I am lumping the Scots with the Brits in for simplicity’s sake). Here are a few examples.

While watching the Junior Hockey championship go into overtime at a university run pub the channel was changed. This is fine considering most Brits don’t know hockey and the probably assumed the game was over. However once we convinced the bartender the game was going to continue he decided to help us change the channel back…by picking up the phone. This is no lie, in order to change the channel back the bartender had to call downstairs to the other bartender who had control over the remote control. To complicate matters it seemed the bartender downstairs was dyslexic so by the time the right channel was rediscovered the game had ended and we were informed through a telephone call from Canada that team Canada had in fact won.

Heres a couple more examples. Imagine arriving at a bus station with a reservation slip in your hands and then finding out that piece of paper does not actually mean anything accept that you pissed away some money and have to find another way home. Imagine taking mandatory courses that claim to promote ‘fundamental academic skills’ which are only offered in the second term. Imagine trying to recycle (HA!) and finding out that in order to recycle glass you have to walk another block and put it into a separate bin. Another bin is however positioned right beside you , its called the rubbish bin (garbage dumpster).

Imagine receiving numerous threatening letters, straight out of ‘1984’, from the TV licensing bureau, which swears up and down that you have a TV and that they are going to get you. Now imagine calling the telephone number they provided which states ‘report that there has been a mistake (and you have no TV)’ only to find that there is no option in their elaborate phone system to actually allow you to report that you don’t have a TV. I am still under investigation apparently, and don’t have a damn TV.

Now I have no answer as to how they achieved so much with such a frustrating system and judging by the abundance of frustration humour in Monty Python I assume it is not simply because I am an outsider. I did have one hint, unexpected and random violence which occurs under the guise of a seemingly reserved civilization. This occurred on Friday when I was walking with a friend of mine from a place of business which serves alcohol quite late. We were walking towards home when, ahead of us, we heard a loud mob of drunken males from the street we had to turn down. We waited until we thought they had passed only to turn down the street to find another mob of drunken -and seemingly angry- Scots. We were now  out numbered, surrounded, and my friend was on crutches. They sneered at us and asked ‘wh-air yah fromeh?’ ‘Canada’ we sheepishly replied, this changed the facial expressions of many in the mob from ‘I want to see you bleed’ to ‘Oh! I got a cousin who lives there’. “Whatc’ah doin-out hure?” another asked. My friend piped up “Where’s the nearest chippy (chip shop)? Milliseconds later a cheerful chorus of directions and pointing gave us a socially acceptable escape. With a block between the mob and us, my friend stated, “dude, we almost died”. “Yah, thank god for Canada and Chippies,” I stated. No sooner had the words escaped my mouth but a traffic pylon nosily landed 25 meters away from us, the mob had struck again. Please note that this is not exclusive to Glasgow or Scotland, hell its probably not exclusive to the UK but I’ve heard more tales out of the UK that involves people getting beat up for no reason than anywhere else in the world. I hear the fear of violence is also an effective method of controlling the masses. I’m just saying…there was likely a historic link there somewhere.

On an up note, I went to Edinburgh last weekend. It had beautiful sites, awesome people and parties and more importantly it had a violence free setting! I’ll talk about that tomorrow though.

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Edinburgh ahoy!

January 18, 2008

Tomorrow I am heading to Edinburgh with four friends. We are ‘crashing’ at the flat of a friend of a friend’s. This will be my first time in the capital, which is funny as it is only a 40-minute bus ride away.

February is shaping up to be a crazy month. I am trying to score myself a reservation to go to Belgium (I will likely have to pay my own way though) to get a tour of the Western front. The ‘battlefielders’ (battlefield archaeologists) will also be working with a Canadian TV production company and possibly doing some fieldwork. I mentioned I was the only Canadian and that might have single handedly swayed our professor. It pays to be the only Canadian archaeologist around sometimes.

I will also be going to a conference in York on “The computer applications and quantitative methods in archaeology”. (http://www.york.ac.uk/conferences/caauk2008/index.html)
As it turns out the friend I spent Christmas with has a friend at York who will be giving one of the lectures at the conference. It is indeed a small world and the sphere of Archaeology seems even smaller.

Well I have to send off a letter and a cheque to those organizing the conference (clearly the only requirement for attending this conference is money), and then get some schoolwork done.

Happy Holidays/Back in Glasvegas

January 7, 2008

Happy Holidays everyone. I am back from my adventures in London and Paris and the two cities were both incredible. I had been to London before but this time I received a tour from a local. We hit up the Portobello Market, the Campbelltown Market and the Imperial War museum just to name a few. It was interesting to see a British Christmas (the family was also Irish) and what stands out in my mind is Mince pies and the television show Sharpe. I partied with my hosts’ extended family and heard the conversations that occur at every family gathering including drole stories about the ‘nuttier’ relatives. As I was dropped off at the train station to make my way to Paris I received the advice ‘watch where you walk in Paris, there is a lot of dog crap around’. Turns out it was completely on the mark, the Parisians are not big on ‘poop-scoping’ and my shoes paid the price more than once.

Dog do-do aside, Paris is incredible. It truly hit me on the last day when my Parisian host went home to clean up the house leaving an American friend of mine and myself to make our make home. As we walked out of the Museum d’Orsay and over the river Seine you could turn 360 degrees and see the Eiffel Tower, L’oeuvre, Notre Dame, the Museum d’Orsay, and all the indescribable beauty that is Paris.

New Years was an incredible party and a funny story. After drinking some wine with our muscles, pasta, and a type of olive paste and tomato pie we went to a very posh party. Everyone was dressed to impressed and was sporting a bottle of champagne, which immediately became communal property. Needless to say, I tasted a lot of very good champagne and had a lot of fun. The party began to die off at 3 in the morning and we decided to head home. I walked with two of my new Parisian friends ahead of my host and our American friend and gradually we were separated. I hoped on the Metro with the Parisians who told me mid stop that they were going the away from where I was staying and I should run back to the Arch de Triumph stop and find my other friends. I ran back to the stop but I could not find my friends. Thinking they had headed back without me I jumped onto a train that stopped at Belleville, which I knew, was the connection to get back home. I arrived at Belleville and again I couldn’t find my friends and even worse the line which would have taken me directly to my host’s house wasn’t running. I had to walk three stops to get home and after two wrong turns, witnessing one car accident and eating a donner kebab I made it home which impressed my two friends. All my map reading experience from archaeology really paid off.

I took over 700 pictures over the course of the trip so I am really having a hard time narrowing down which ones to post. Perhaps it is best if you just drop me a line and I will fire over some pictures (damn I love that feature on iphoto) It has also occurred to me that Paris and London are both so big and interesting that the places and sites a local shows you says something about your guide almost as much as it does about the city itself.