Saturday, July 17, 2010

Living in the UK

I was browsing Google today, looking for a government website that would show UK visa requirements. In view of the recent decrease in the percentage of "traditional" British in the UK, I wasn't sure if you actually required visas, but I looked.

I found a site that specialized in helping people emigrate from other lands to the UK, and it said it could help with visa knowledge, so I perused the front page of the site and here is how it started out:

"The United Kingdom is an exciting country which you can truly enjoy for a short visit or for a longer period if you decide to enroll in a course of study, work or even settle here."

Well, ok. I guess becoming a student is a pretty broad hint on how to stay, and, since the author used the word "here," I am assuming the article in question was written by someone who lives "here" in the UK. It continues:

"The country is experiencing a booming economy and has built a strong reputation for its diversified and cosmopolitan life attracting people from all over the world. There is a mix and match of cultures with more than 50 nationalities and as many as 300 different languages. As such one cannot help but feel welcome to live there!"

Here, I began to sense the author's main audience was perhaps not your average protestant descended from William the Conqueror. Also, the last word was "there!" so I began to lose my confidence the author lives in the UK after all. I have resisted the urge to add any punctuation in the quoted parts. After all, it would be American punctuation, anyway.

Here I must admit candidly that a lump was rising in my throat as I considered the 50 nationalities and 300 languages, and I began to consider starting a petition drive to move the Statue of Liberty over to Canvey Island or environs: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse from your teeming shore..." Like that. Especially with the booming economy, don't you know.

As I still hadn't been edified as to how wretched refuse obtain a visa, I continued to read on:

"Population Growth Led by UK Immigration" was the next subject heading. "Really?," I thought.

"... the population has grown by 394,000 in the span of one year. It seems that growing birth rates within the UK have been... due to a larger amount of migrant mothers are of child-bearing years and are already established enough to start a family. At the same time births to UK born mothers continues to fall... "

Once again, I think, thank GOD for that booming economy.

Okay, let's just pause a moment between visa prelude tidbits to indulge our cynical and sarcastic American self, says I. Let's run some of that through my auto-skeptic translator:

"... migrant mothers are of child-bearing years..." (Over age 12, eh?) "... and are already established enough to start a family..." I am guessing this means that "migrant" mothers have denied themselves until they have finished university and have an executive employment. In the U.S.A., "established enough" would mean they own their own cardboard box under the bridge and have signed up for food stamps. Not so in the booming economy that is the UK today. I had always thought "migrant" meant they move around seasonally and might leave the country again, well-established or not. Silly me. No, they don't ever leave.


"The United Kingdom Government is set to change immigration policies in order to better sustain both UK nationals and future immigrants."

Well, golly. Is that a pretty sentence, or what? Let this poor blogger translate this into base Americanese for you:

1. "The United Kingdom Government" means "MPs who are scared shitless of being voted out of office."

2. "Change immigration policies" means "cut off immigration, and cut it off damn fast."

3. "Better sustain UK nationals (that's you) and future immigrants" means "appease the masses until we can come up with a real idea but you can forget about the future immigrants part in any event." Comprende?

Here old Max leans back against the doggie wall and takes a couple laps of beer from his dish and conjures up an image of England having Mexico on its border instead of Wales. But it probably wouldn't matter, what with the booming economy.

FINALLY, the article begins to talk about visas, although I think they have been preparing me for the worst.

"The UK government is currently working on setting up a quota to cap annual immigration to the UK from April 2011 onwards. The cap would affect those skilled workers coming from outside the European Union. In the interim, a temporary, smaller cap is proposed to come in to effect on July 19, 2010."

Obviously, I am not going to learn about visa requirements on the website, so I give up. But right underneath that last paragraph, I swear to God, is a wide banner advert that says, "Skilled Workers Wanted: Live and Work in Sunny Australia." And it shows scuba divers exploring an undersea reef.

Sometimes you can't make this stuff up.

Update: After reading this post over again, I can see where some readers would take the opinion that I am anti-immigration, and generally a smartass curmudgeon. The latter is probably true, but I am not anti-immigration. I am in favor of controlled immigration. I only want to point out the irony of the ineptness of most governments (not just the UK's) in handling the issue of immigration fairly and sanely.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

An American loved in Scotland

The British Open is underway.

This year, the British Open is being played at St. Andrews - the birthplace of the game of golf. As I write this, after one round of play, the leader is a young man from Holywood, Northern Ireland by the name of Rory Mcllroy. Rory was born in 1989.

I remember another young man at St. Andrews. Well, I don't remember him because I'm not that old, but I have read about him because he is, by many golfer's votes, the greatest golfer to ever play the game. Bobby Jones.

Here's a trick question: how much was Bobby Jones' lifetime earnings from winning golf tournaments? Answer: nothing - Bobby was an amateur.*

Who was the last amateur to win the British Open? Bet you can guess, now.

Bobby Jones won golf's grand slam at the time, 1930, by winning all 4 of the slam tournaments: the U.S. Amateur; the U.S. Open; the British Amateur; the British Open. All in the same year.

Bobby Jones retired at age 28.

A final trivia question: what was Bobby Jones' occupation? Answer: he was an attorney in Georgia.

Bobby Jones contracted a rare disease of the spinal cord that left him paralyzed and, eventually, in a wheel chair.

From the San Francisco Chronicle [July 15, 2010]: In 1958, Jones became only the second American - after Benjamin Franklin - to be honored as a Freeman of the City of St. Andrews. By then, Jones was ravaged by a rare degenerative disease. As he was wheeled from the hall, the crowd burst into the Scottish ballad, "Will ye no come back again?" Everyone wept.

*Bobby Jones did earn money from the game of golf, as an instructor and as a course designer, but never as a player.

See more pictures of the Royal and Ancient at A Postcard A Day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shaved Pussy and How to put an animated gif on your Blogspot blog

It's amazing that none of the highest rated, or most viewed, posts on my blogs have anything at all to do with the subject matter the blogs were set up to talk about.

By far, BritishSpeak is my most successful blog ever. It only has 318 posts, but I stopped blogging on it for a year (2009) more or less. Even with going that long without posting, the damage had apparently already been done because it still gets around 1500 or so unique page views a month, over 1000 unique hits. This is down, of course from it's heyday before I abandoned it for a year, but still MUCH more (more than twice) as my other blog, Clarity 2010.

Search engines are amazing things. BritishSpeak is (or was intended to be) about the differences in American and British English, and then it slid into anything at all about the two countries relationships, words or anything else. But by far the most successful post on BritishSpeak, traffic-wise was a post I did in 2008 explaining how to put an animated gif in your blogger post. That post still got 146 hits in the past 30 days. Ah, well.

In Clarity2010 (actually Clarity2009) the most popular post is still one entitled "Shaved Pussy". It wasn't very long. It illustrates how important it is to select good titles for your posts.

Anyway, back to the power of search engines. BritishSpeak gets hits from all over the world; always has. Saudia Arabia. Iran. 5 from Moscow this month. We're still big in Norway and
Sweden - thank you very much indeed. Great Britain is down this month: 197 visits from 54 cities. The vast majority from England. Canada is up. Western Europe is holding it's own. Thank you South Africa and Australia for keeping the faith. It wouldn't hurt to have a comment now and then. Just saying.

The most still come from the U.S. They break it down by state and California is the highest this month. There must be a lot of expat Brits in California. In fact, there were only 4 states this month that haven't hit BritishSpeak. Screw you West Virginia. Screw you South Dakota. Screw you Mississippi. And Montana, I think. But I would never screw Montana. They only have one computer up there anyway, and that is in a library somewhere.

I forgot what the point of this post was supposed to be. Sorry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Battle of Britain

"The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin..."
—Winston Churchill

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Britain.

The Battle of Britain was fought in the air. The German Luftwaffe assaulted the United Kingdom continuously from July 1940 through that fall, without letup. The world had never seen hell rain down to earth on such a scale before. It was imperative to the German plan of continued conquest that they gain air superiority over the British. Coastal shipping was attacked. Ports were attacked. Aircraft and munitions factories were attacked. Finally, in desperation, the Germans began the terror bombing of population centers. Had the Germans succeeded, the United Kingdom almost certainly would have been forced into a separate armistice.

The RAF held.

Through it all, the skies over Britain were NEVER uncontested. The Germans finally left off. Operation Sea Lion would never materialize. Much of Britain was in shambles, and years of hardship lay ahead, but the British had defended their island. They were staggered, but they were still standing.

When the final history was written, it would be the British who accepted the German surrender.

Indescribable bravery began over Britain, 70 years ago today.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ringo Starr turns 70

July 7, 2010, Times Square. [From an AP story] Throngs of spectators strained to catch a glimpse of the former Beatle as he celebrated his birthday at the Hard Rock Cafe Times Square in New York City Wednesday.

"New York was a magical moment in 1964, and it's still a magical moment," said Ringo. He waited patiently for staff to come up with a cake knife so he could cut his own cake, which he says is Liverpool tradition.

Starr wants people from every part of the globe to say "Peace and Love" at noon every day by word, email or any form of communication. Forever, I guess.

Ok: Peace and Love, O fellow bloggers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Land of the free... and other reasons.

Yesterday was the 4th of July. I realize that doesn't mean quite the same thing in the U.K. as it does here. As usual, I watched on TV the birthday celebration at the National Mall in Washington. Really good music, really cool fireworks. Wall to wall people, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the steps of the Capitol.

People waving flags, large and small. Children on the shoulders of their parents, waving those little flags. Celebrities performing. Miltary bands performing. You know.

I sometimes think, perhaps correctly, that Europeans sort of look down on Americans for what they must think are displays of naive (and probably misplaced) patriotism.

Anyway, it happens every year on the 4th of July. The politicians are out of town for their holiday, so the American people reclaim their capitol for a few hours. Maybe they ought to just stay put, eh? -- children sitting on the railings of the carved marble balustrades of the capitol building, swinging their legs and eating ice cream. Screw Congress - we're not giving it back to you. Heh.

Well, today, on the evening news, there were the yesterday videos of the obligatory interviews as the reporters worked the happy crowd of maybe a couple hundred thousand. "What do YOU like about America?" "Why do you like living in America?" "What do you like MOST about living in America?" "Is America still great?" Loaded questions. Of course there were no negative responses in this crowd. "Hell, yes, America is still great!" "I love living here because of the freedom." That last was repeated a dozen times or so. No nasty negative sarcasm.

At the edge of the walkway are some benches and on one bench was a lady without a flag, just sitting there taking it all in, with a little white paper bag on her lap. The reporter shoved the microphone in her face and asked what she loved most about America. As soon as she opened her mouth it was obvious she was British, maybe even of the Scottish persuasion. The reporter adjusted his ear to her accent and repeated the question.

"What was that? What do you like best about America?"

"The doughnuts, I said. Best damn doughnuts I ever tasted. We don't got them like these."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Catholicism and Morris Dancing

"Speak softly and carry a big stick," said Teddy Roosevelt. He wasn't talking about Morris Dancing though, I don't think.

James VI of Scotland, son of Mary Queen of Scots was NOT Catholic. His mother most definitely WAS Catholic, and you are probably wondering why her son wasn't Catholic but was a Morris Dancer.

I really don't know how you came up with the idea James was a Morris Dancer. I certainly didn't say he was; I was only talking about big stick diplomacy and somehow that means I must talk a bit about the origins of Morris Dancing, else you'll think this is a post about Teddy Roosevelt and the Panama Canal or something.

You couldn't be more wrong, so stop jumping to conclusions.

See, it all started (not Morris Dancing) when Elizabeth I realized it wasn't likely she was going to produce an heir, being an avowed virgin and all, so she took baby James from his mother MQOS when he was just a wee tyke, so wee that he didn't even remember his real mother, and had him raised up the way Bess Gloriana wanted him raised, by her courtesans, on the assumption he would end up being her heir. Actually MQOS gave him up right away, voluntarily, and Elizabeth I was really his godmother at her cousin's request... ahhhhh, never mind that. This upbringing under the influence of Elizabeth I accounts for James not being Catholic, see? But the English queen had a house on Drury Lane (not sure why, since she must have had a castle - perhaps she had a little vegetable garden out back) and that, of course, explains the Morris Dancing. I personally don't think she was really a virgin, either, but she never married and never had offspring, so I guess I would be safer, from an American standpoint, to just stick with Teddy Roosevelt and his phallic symbol.

Above, Mary QOS painting, but I think she was fatter.

Some of you, I can tell by your facial expressions, want an even deeper explanation.

Quickly, baby James was heir apparent to the English throne because Queen Elizabeth, childless, was the daughter of Henry VIII, and James' mother, MQOS, was the daughter of Henry VIII's older sister. So the succession backed up to her offspring. Sigh.

Now, the following more elaborate explanation is only about Morris Dancing since I already explained how James VI, I, was a christian protestant. The only thing we need to bring in to tie this all together is Her Majesty's house on Drury Lane and, of course, Shakespeare. Here goes.

How did Morris Dancing originate?

1. With the Druids
2. Brought back with the Crusaders
3. It's really Italian
4. Nobody knows. Not even the dancers.

Nobody really knows. Morris Dancing is really ancient. And I don't think even they know why they carry sticks to beat people with either. Morris Dancing certainly predates the Spanish trips to America by Columbus. It is mentioned by William Shakespeare in Henry V. Morris Dancing in a play was viewed by Elizabeth I from her house on Drury Lane. Aha! - you didn't think I could tie that in to all this, did you?

And all this time I thought Morris Dancing originated from Puritans trying to imitate the way Charles I's legs twitched rapidly when his head rolled off. I was very wrong in that assumption.

You can see some very nice pictures of Morris Dancing at various festivals here. Some of the pictures show them with their big sticks, which I still can't figure out what the heck it means.

Stopping now.

Update: that link doesn't take you where it took me so you will have to click on "photos" when you get where it takes you.


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