Getting around in London

Just like the city itself, public transport is a network of endless possibilities, reinventions, and reconfigurations. It’s far-reaching, multicolored sprawl reduces London to a series of villages hanging loosely together around constellations of train stations and bus stops.

A short tube ride is all that separates the very English pubs tucked away in leafy Hampstead suburbs and the über-cool bars and trendy boutiques of Shoreditch.

The sleek glass and steel skyscrapers gracing Docklands, the curry houses lining Brick Lane and the expensive bohemian chic of Notting Hill may seem worlds apart but are united by a quick trip on a city bus.

This all makes getting to know London (or more precisely, getting to know your London) a very tricky business. Fleeting visitors, who stroll around Buckingham Palace, gawp at the gothic monstrosity of the Houses of Parliament and brave the queues at Madame Tussauds are not even scratching the surface.

Acquainting yourself with this city, to the point where you feel comfortable in its skin (not to mention sharing that skin with eight million other people) takes patience, persistence and a good dose of sheer bloody-mindedness. Ten years of living in London has taught me that it will kick you in the teeth more often than pat you on the back. But by God, it has a lot to offer.

Want to study in London?

London is a capital city and one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations. A large number of visitors, day trippers, and night-clubbers folk into the city as London are decorated with music venues, shopping centers, government offices and an array of other beautiful location.

Many international students come to London as well, and the city is famous for some of the best business schools in the world. London is one of the world’s most important financial centers and many business professionals come here to study, you should at least have a GED diploma, this diploma is also recognized by the UK authorities. If you are really serious about it, start preparing for it with free practice tests. You can also try to get financial aid for your studies abroad.

This is an incredible place where people can enjoy lovely hours which are obvious to boost up the economy and to the industries concerned; however, there is an inevitable downside to this situation.

It’s Monday morning at Highbury and Islington train station, north London. The Victoria line is running with severe delays due to “signal failure” and the ticket hall is overrun with people haphazardly queuing to renew their weekly travel cards. The platforms are packed six people deep and everyone is wearing their winter coats, although the temperature must be approaching 45 degrees.

Why British Snow is so Special…

British snow is a cut above the icy stuff that every other country gets. Just a couple of inches can cripple transport networks and close down services. Why is Britain blessed with such powerful snow?

OK, I’ll admit it. The Brits don’t actually get special snow over there; they just sometimes can’t handle what they do get. This irritates the life out of them and makes them a laughing stock in many other places. It’s a bit deflating to see news reports from other parts of the world poking fun at their inability to cope with a couple of inches of the white stuff.

But, it’s not hard to see why you find their ineptitude so amusing – many countries have a long hard winter each year and deal with snow in feet/ meters. The Brits grind to a frustrating halt with excuses for service shut-downs such as snow falling at the wrong time of day or the wrong type of snowflake causing problems. So, why are they useless with snow?

Three British Women who Changed the World

For many years, if not decades, I have been aware that women’s’ achievements as leaders, scientists, social reformers, and activists have been ignored or actively downplayed: the ‘glass ceiling’ is nothing new.

But the role of women came sharply into focus while waiting for a Starbucks’ hot chocolate and browsing a magazine aimed at Indian women. The cover story featured twenty of the world’s most powerful women. The article profiled great leaders like Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and Golda Meir. These women have occupied the very top table of power. As will the case there were inclusions that were debatable, like Mother Teresa.

Reading the article I got to thinking which three British women would I nominate for greatness, for their ability to lead, influence and to change the way people think and behave.

Florence Nightingale

Included in my short list has to be one of the most famous of the world’s women: Florence Nightingale.

Some Bizarre British Royal Deaths…

I could count how many Kings and Queens have ruled Britain but I honestly can’t be bothered. Let’s just say, we’ve had a lot and they’ve been around for centuries. Many of them give us Bizarre Brits a lot of material to write about – today, we’re going to be looking at some of the odder ways some of them expired.

Being a Royal in the early days of the country might have put you at the top of the social scale, but it also often gave you a precarious rule and, in some cases, probably hastened your end. For many centuries, nobles jockeyed for the throne. They often fought for it. So, a fair few of our early Kings died in battle – undoubtedly gory in many cases (an arrow in your eye and being blown up by your own defective cannon, for example) – but not really that odd given the times.

If you thought you had a claim to the throne, could convince others that you did and could raise a big enough army to defeat the current King, then nobody much would argue with you once your bum hit the throne. This principle notably saw the death of Harold Godwinson (1066) and Richard III (1485).

Britain Unleashed Some Bizarre Baby Behavior

So, batten down the hatches chaps. Once that baby was born, the Brits unleashed a barrage of bizarre on the world. The press over there was already as excited as a four-year-old handed a family bag of Skittles and told to eat as many of them as they like…..things will only get worse once the future King or Queen arrives. This is a good time for the government to release details of potentially unpopular new laws and for despots to throw their toys out of the pram in other countries. We simply won’t care.

Old traditions like gun salutes in Royal parks and at the Tower of London will still happen to celebrate the birth, but today’s Royal births are more of a media frenzy than anything else. We’ll still have to wait for an official announcement on an easel at the gates of Buckingham Palace to find out the sex of the baby. But, the young couple won’t, at least, have to put up with other traditions that were just bizarrely intrusive.

Up until the 1930s, Royal births were attended by the Home Secretary and, sometimes, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. It is thought that the first media frenzy dates back to the birth of the son of King James II when his poor wife had to give birth in front of 42 public figures.

Is Urinating in Public an Offence in Britain?

If there aren’t any public conveniences (toilets) available, and nature is calling, is it an offense to ‘relieve yourself’ in a public place in Britain? Tourists and Brits themselves might find this information useful.

Public Peeing and Pop-up Urinals

In regard to the recent topic of toilets, it seems to becoming a more common sight to come across men in particular ‘caught short’ by the side of the road, maybe this is due to the lack of availability of public restrooms these days, or the fact that you cannot recognise them even when you are standing on them and have to wait until they pop out of the ground at 8 pm as reported they do in Watford.

Is Urinating in Public an Offence?

This is actually a urinal. The circular outline is the roof of a pop-up urinal, installed to reduce the use of shop doorways at night as a public loo. Apparently, they appear at around 8 pm on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays and drop back into the ground at about 7 or 8 am the following morning.

What Exactly Is The United Kingdom?

What is the United Kingdom? Is it just England or is there more to this complex country?

When travelers arrive in France they know where they are, when in Italy the name of the country is clearly understood, when in Spain or Austria or Sweden the identities of those people are known.  They are French, Italians, Spaniards or Swedes.

But it’s not just the will to live that gets lost while standing in the long immigration queue at Heathrow Airport, geopolitical certainty also flies out of the window. The ever pleasant and always cheerful immigration officer says ‘Welcome to Britain’ as he or she stamps your passport, but the sign beyond proclaims ’United Kingdom Border Agency.’  So many American parents who want to send their girls to a British boarding school think what is it, Britain, Great Britain, the United Kingdom, or England?  The truth is that it is all four and more.

The United Kingdom is a complex geopolitical entity that has developed through internal colonization and assimilation over millennia.  Its political tectonic plates have shifted many times in the past few hundred years and that shift continues today.

The Etiquette of the Queue – A British Obsession

It’s often said that Britain would win automatic Gold if queuing became an Olympic sport. The length of time we spend standing in line is also one of our core topics of conversation.

I was impressed – and a little surprised – to see TV shots of long lines of Americans patiently waiting to vote in the Presidential elections last year. As a nation, we Brits are fairly convinced that nobody queues as effectively, unwearyingly and neatly as we do, but those lines really gave us a run for our money.

We queue a lot. Nothing much is instant here. We also talk about queuing a lot. The time we’ve had to spend waiting in line during our daily lives is almost as interesting to us as the weather. In fact, if you want to strike up a conversation with a Brit, you could simply try talking about the queue in a queue before moving on to a brief mention of the weather. We aren’t always the warmest with strangers but queue proximity and the right topics of conversation can elevate you to family and friend status for a while.

How English are the English actually?

The English have a strong sense of national identity but they might be less English than they think. There is a strong possibility they might actually be European. If this distresses you, stop reading now.

The UK today is a truly multi-cultural society and their indigenous languages and traditions have been joined together with hundreds of others. A 2014 report in The Evening Standard newspaper announced that their melting-pot city of London was then home to 300 different languages. Chances are, that figure will be higher now.

The truth is, the Brits may also be a little more historically cross-bred than they realize – or will admit to. Early Britain was probably populated mainly by intrepid Celtic travelers from the rest of Europe. Some of them probably got stuck here when the sea level rose enough to turn the land into an island. And then the Romans came. But, luckily, the Brits aren’t really Italian as they left again en masse when their own Empire fell apart. This is when they get really interested as they then became Anglo Saxon.

England’s North-South Divide

Visitors to Britain may think that the English part of the island nation is a united part of a greater whole. Things are a bit more complicated than that. What is the north/south divide?

If you take Scotland and Wales out of the main island equation, you’re left with England. Foreign visitors and students who want to teach English abroad may have a single stereotypical view of the English and the way they learn how to teach English to speakers od a foreign language; they actually have lots more of their own. You can split England into specific geographical regions on a map but no cartographer has ever come up with the definitive line that they all agree makes up the north/south divide.

This divide is the source of much humor, some outrageous stereotyping and sometimes some not-so-nice rivalry in the country. They are all English but they are not all the same. It is (depending on their birthplace) grim and poor up north and soft and rich down south. As the joke goes, northerners live on gravy; southerners live on its train. So where do northern flat-capped grit end and southern posh money start?

So British – Gentlemen Only, Ladies Not Allowed!

Fellow ladies, I have a question for you. Do you feel like second-class citizens? Are you sometimes confused about where to draw the line between what is largely innocent and effective segregation of the sexes from a practical viewpoint –  and what is not only unnecessarily harsh but downright insulting?

Lifelines, a local organization in Brighton, runs a number of classes for older people, including a “Men’s Cook, Share and Eat” where the guys learn to cook healthily for themselves then take their food home to enjoy. It’s practical and has good intentions.

Not many women reach their senior years without being able to look after themselves pretty well – but for this generation, many men are floundering. It’s kind and practical for them to have a non-threatening environment to address these possible shortcomings in their ability to care for themselves.