Drinking Ban on Public Transport

June 29th, 2008 by matt

As an American, I take for granted that it’s pretty much illegal to drink alcohol in public places. Most cities will make exceptions: at outdoor festivals, movies and concerts they tend to turn a blind eye to it but you still need to be subtle about it. Here in the UK (and much of the world, for that matter), such rules don’t exist. In London, pick a day and pick a time and you’ll probably see someone with a beer in their hand. Now, Britain certainly has it’s issues with drinking. I don’t know if it’s any worse than the US or if it’s just more out in the open, but there’s a big concern about it and it’s a source of debate.

So, with that as background, our idiot of a new mayor (he only won because the previous one was Labour and people hate the Labour party here almost as much as people in the US hate the Republicans — please please please say they get trounced in November) decided he would attack the scourge of drinking on public transport. I can honestly say I have NEVER seen a single person on public transport making problems while drinking. The assholes are the ones who are way too drunk before they get on that train or bus. I’m sure you could pull out a host of other people with their evidence of people with beers in their hands on the tube harassing people or doing various illegal activities. I know this is not a political blog, but it’s mine so forgive me the occasional rant. And spare me the “well, one time I was on the NXXX bus and saw two people drinking and harassing some other people”. Go to Hoxton on a Friday and count the number of morons who have had too much and tell me if they are still drinking. Or is the problem that they had too much to drink and THEN went out into the public space. This is politics, pure and simple and Boris Johnson wanted to score points. As a result, in the name of some sort of crap along the lines of “making your journey more pleasant” drinking was banned on 1 June 2008.

So, what happened at 11pm on 31st May? Well, a whole lot of chaos. Here are various BBC reports about what happened. Basically, the interwebs allow people to organize way to easily. So they decided to meet on the circle line, which goes in a big circle meaning you could hang out on the train and drink drink drink without reaching the end of any line. Alas, it was a little too successful and became a massive fiasco. Some people had waaaaay too much to drink, property was damaged, transport employees were assaulted, the police overreacted and stations were shut down. But, now that people got that out of their system, drinking is banned on the trains and buses of London.

The real thing that annoys me is that people seemed shocked that this would be a normal reaction to a silly policy going into effect. AND, people seem to point to this as evidence that drinking should have been banned on trains and that supporters of this rule were correct. It was a reaction to the ban, not a reason to ban it. If you don’t ban drinking on trains, it happens in small, easily managable batches. Even worse, now some people are howling to ban drinking in public entirely. I know this doesn’t matter to most people, but I very much enjoy the lack of puritanism in the UK compared to the stuff that seems to pervade the US (at least in this aspect — there’s plenty of silly things in the UK that smack of puritanism). People drink here and, most of the time, no one cares if it’s in a pub, in a park on a nice day, whenever. Yes some people abuse it, but you deal with them, you don’t enact blanket laws and demonize something that many people do whether it’s between 4 walls or in public.

Sorry for the rant. This blog is supposed to be more about mine and Carolyn’s life abroad. Since the worst I normally do is have some beer on my way to a Radiohead concert or in a park, how does this affect me? Not a whole lot. I heard about the whole party happening and decided it was a bad idea. But I had a meek little send off of my own. That night, we’d gone out with Dina and Adrian after seeing the Psycho Buildings exhibit. When it was time to go our separate ways, we picked up some beers and, for the first time, did a little drinking on the public transport. Here would be the evidence:


Boy, aren’t I the rebel? 🙂 I must say, it was the most public drinking on a bus I’d ever seen. There were probably almost 10 whole people with a beer in their hands. And I’ve been on buses at all hours of the day and night on some of the sillier lines out there. Anyway, thus ends my rant and tribute to public drinking.

Them Crazy Buildings

June 28th, 2008 by matt

Consider the blog to be in catch up mode while all the fun things we’re doing here in jolly old Londontown get added. Updates will be in a haphazard order, but bear with us. Let’s take a look at some cultural fun we partook of about a month ago. Obviously London is chock full of some amazing art, being the capital city of a country with many years of history. However, we chose, on that weekend, to check out a modern art exhibition in the Hayward gallery in the Southbank centre. It’s a section of the south Thames near Waterloo that has been redone as a lot of cultural venues, like museums, theatres, music venues and a long walk along the river of public space for people to enjoy. The Hayward is a particularly severe piece of modern architecture, but I personally enjoyed it’s look.

In the Hayward (until the end of August) is an exhibition called “Pyscho Buildings“. A number of artists were commissioned to come up with various spaces in their own creative ways. Some did smaller scales of larger architecture in unique situations (like a very very large dollhouse version of his apartment block in the US being struck by replica of his old home in Korea. Others were large-scales spaces to explore or take in. For example, a group of artists purchased a number of IKEA “showrooms” (as in they bought all the pieces in a sample room) and then tore much of the pieces apart. The pieces were then put together in a way to give the impression that something had ravaged the house and you were seeing it just as it happened in suspended animation.

It being an art show, they get kind of anal about people taking photos, so it was hard to capture. But one of the more popular ones (there was a line as only 4 people at a time could enjoy it), was by an “Anarchist” art German art collective (it was the most orderly and organized exhibit) who took one of the exterior terraces and built a gigantic pool on it and built some rowboats for people to go out in the pool on. Here are Carolyn and I with the London Eye in the background.


It was a great way to spend at least a few minutes taking in the city from a unique perspective.

Some other exhibits: a gigantic globe being held together using air pressure, a movie theatre that seemed like an homage to David Lynch, the staircase to the artists landlords apartment done in extreme detail made out of sewn silk (and could be folded into a bag), hundreds of dollhouses lit up and placed in a community of sorts, a 100 ft long tunnel made out of aluminum, a room created out of chicken wire and fragile paper, a room that looked like it had been attacked by some sort of unknown creature and a cave like room made out of some sort of woven material. All in all, it created a wonderful series of art pieces. I found the sewn staircase to be the most impressive from aesthetic standpoint. The destroyed apartment dollhouse and the IKEA destruction were also quite impressive. The above links are photos from the Guardian. If you want a visual representation, they show most of them. It was good fun. Carolyn, Dina and I went. Adrian was lame and had to take some class, but we met up with him after and wandered the Thames for a bit before making our way north past Arsenal where we saw all the folks going to the first of a two night Bruce Springsteen concert and had some good Mexican food. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday! 🙂

Radiohead Live

June 25th, 2008 by matt

So Radiohead would be up there atop my favourite bands. Over the last 15 years, they’ve played standard guitar-rock and experimented with more esoteric electronic music. Their latest album, In Rainbows, broke new ground in that you bought the digital format directly from the band and you could pay 1p or pay £10000000. The price was up to you. They’ve always impressed me with the musical skills and the ground they’ve broken. I saw them live in 2002 and, when Adrian offered the chance to pick up some tickets, I said yes.

The fun really started on Tuesday, 24 June. Radiohead had two shows in London’s Victoria Park. Dina and Adrian said our ticket was for the first night, Tuesday. So we met up at a convenient point and made our way to the park. After some beers, we tried to enter. They wouldn’t let us in. Looking at this photo, can you tell us what’s wrong with this ticket?


Yes, the actual date of our ticket was for Wednesday, NOT Tuesday. In fact, we had tickets for the following day! 🙂

After much merriment, we made the most of it and enjoyed our company. Hopefully this shows us in good spirits (I’m not really pissed off):


Sooo, after some beers on Tuesday, we went our separate ways with a plan in mind to meet up the next day to actually see the band. After making absolutely sure we had our tickets and the right night, we met up tonight to see Radiohead. It was a good performance. Obviously, they are a very popular band and have long passed the point of having shows in intimate clubs, which are typically the ideal location. However, they played a 2+ hour set that spanned the whole range of their impressive career. They played music from all their albums and satisfied everyone. The crowd was bit un-exciting, but it allowed us to roam a bit and take Radiohead in from all angles. Here would be one of them:


The concert, as all good things, had to end. We made our way towards the train and here I am, writing about all of it. I would have to say I’m not the best for concert reviews, but they ended with Paranoid Android from OK Computer and it was absolutely brilliant. Their song selection was excellent and each song was dead on and beautifully performed. I really enjoyed it.

A Nice Way to See London

June 23rd, 2008 by matt

Since I moved here, I’ve been whinging about getting a bike. I loved when I was able to do a bike commute in Chicago. It was faster than all other modes of transport in an urban setting and, you got to see a unique perspective of the world around you and it was a way to be fit while getting somewhere. I’ve been walking a lot in London but it’s amazing that, in an area that is as small as central London, it still felt like it takes 30 minutes to get 1 mile or 5 miles. Anything beyond that is like another world.

Well, bikes, like most things here, aren’t cheap. I wanted a decent used bike that I could ride hard and would still hang on. Alas, I wasn’t sure where to get such a bike. Most places were spiffy cycling shops with bikes of any quality starting at $400. Well, in honour of Bike Week, I stumbled upon a link to second hand bikes and, unlike the previous year, we found a couple that were near us that had a larger selection of bikes. Along with our friends Ben and Gerry, we tramped over to Camden Cycles and we all found what we want. Here’s the one I picked up:


It is an Apollo Jalapeno. Yes, a Jalapeno. It was cheap and will need some work, but I’ve ridden to work 5 of the last 6 work days and gone on rides of various distances on the weekends (more on that later). I’m really loving it. I now truly feel ok with the whole driving-on-the-left and I’m amazed at what a biking city London is. The cars (so far!) are very aware of the cyclists and at any intersection during rush hour, there will be a ton of bikes waiting for the light. The city has taken many through streets and done what they can carve bike lanes on the narrow ancient roads. And my 2 mile commute, which can balloon up to 40 minutes if the buses are running like shit, never takes more than 15 minutes. Next up, I find a bike co-op, get some cheap parts and make my bike a little more durable and reliable!

Getting Settled in London

June 8th, 2008 by carolyn

Hi everyone. Its been a crazy couple of months full of lots of celebrations, travel up and down the east coast, big moves, a new job and a bit of exploring. Matt will be working to catch the blog up on all the events but in the meantime, I thought I would chime in for a bit myself.

You did read correctly, it says “new job” above. It’s true, I have started work as a physiotherapist in London. I have a locum (temporary) position through an agency. I started on June 2nd and am enjoying getting into a routine. I can even walk to work.

In order to take advantage of my final few days without a work schedule, I took a day trip to Canterbury and to Leed’s Castle (some of you may remember Matt’s trip here last year) with a group called London Walks. London Walks organizes all sorts of walking tours in the city covering topics from Parliament and Big Ben to Jack the Ripper. Occasionally they do Explorer Days outside the city and I met up with the group for a chock full day of touring. We travelled by train to our first stop Canterbury. The main attraction here is the Cathedral which is home to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the destination for the pilgrims in Canterbury Tales.
The Cathedral is where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett, was killed in 1170 after King Henry II complained about his activities. The statue below is a memorial to the site of his assassination by four knights.

After visiting the cathedral, we wandered through town and were educated on many historical events and buildings. We then set out for our next destination, Leeds Castle. Leeds Castle was built in 1119 by one of William the Conqueror’s Lords. It passed into royal hands and was used by many widowed queens after the death of their husbands. King Edward IV gave the castle to a courtier in the 1500s and eventually it passed into private ownership. The castle is now open for tours, conventions, weddings and other special events.

It was jousting day at Leeds Castle so we had sometime to watch the intense competition before exploring the grounds.


It was a nice way to spend my last day as a full-time tourist in the UK.

Wedding Pictures — Lots of them

June 5th, 2008 by matt

Ok, let’s shift to something a little more fun while I get back into the swing of things. Our photographer has provided a website with a whole lot of photos they took at the wedding. They did an excellent job. If you have the time, feel free to graze through the many, many photos in this site. And let us know which ones you like. Drum roll please:

Matt and Carolyn’s Official Wedding photos

Carolyn and I might be biased, but we had a blast looking at the excellent photos that provide a great little documentary history of a night that could sometimes be a bit of a blur. It allowed me to really see what was going on (I had no idea my Dad was having so much fun on the dance floor! :)).

RIP Anna 2002-2008

June 3rd, 2008 by matt


At about 4:20pm GMT on 3 June 2008, Anna took her last breath. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But she was sick and was just getting worse. Carolyn and I took her to the vet and pet her until the very end. She was a trooper. Words can’t express the sadness and emptiness I feel now. Chewy notices something is amiss. I hope he is healthy and has many more years left in him.

Anyone who has been to my house knew Anna. She was always at the door waiting to greet you. And, the second you sat down, she was in your lap, purring. She was a constant, loving companion and friend to Carolyn and I. She had the chance to travel and explore many homes and meet many other wonderful animals. I will miss waking up in the middle of the night to have her purring contentedly by my side. I hope I was able to provide a life, short as it might have been, that was caring and loving. She will be missed.

Evidence that this was one of the sweetest cats in the world. Rest in peace Annabelle.

Sorry for the absence

June 2nd, 2008 by matt

Hi. Sorry, I’ve been silent in the past few weeks. My cat, Anna, one of the sweetest animals I’ve ever had the privilege to know, has just been diagnosed with Feline Leukemia. Tomorrow morning, I have to take her to the vet and have her put to sleep. I can’t describe the sadness I’m feeling at the moment. She’s only 6 and all I can hope is that I’ve given her the best life she possibly could. 🙁

Regular postings will begin soon enough and they’ll be filled with all the happy things that have been going amidst this sadness.