Monday, March 30, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I've probably ranted about this before but I feel like I need to address it yet again.
Please, for the love of all things holy, do not refer to the UK (United Kingdom of Great Britain) as "England"; do not interchange England with the UK. England is not a country; I do not live in "England"! However, please feel free to continue referring to the Queen as the "Queen of England" - that error, I do not mind.
So, please study the map above. The yellow part is England.
England, Scotland, and Wales are known as “Great Britain". Great Britain plus Northern Ireland equals "The United Kingdom".
For further information, check out this handy breakdown of the terminology.
Yours in the UK (NOT ENGLAND),
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Although Spring doesn't officially begin until next weekend, it felt like Spring today in Glasgow; the sun was shining and it was warm. The weather seemed to bring out all sorts: tulips, hippie drummers and BNP (British National Party - total racist anti-immigration douchebags) members.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
So all those back in Canada can see my beloved city, Glasgow, in all its glory! I love that it seems to have been documented on a sunny summer day too!
Google Maps users can zoom in to a given location and then drag the "Pegman" icon above the zoom bar on to a given street.
A picture view of that street appears, which users can control to get a 360-degree view of the area or to progress on street level, throughout the city.
View Larger Map
Why is the mural of Bobby Sands blurred out? WTF?
Continuing Labour's anti-immigration policies, Westminster announced today that beginning this year, economic migrants and students coming to the UK from outside the EU will have to pay a £50.
The government said the 'migrant tax' starting later this year will go toward funding public services, such as health and education, in specific areas with large non-EU migrant populations.
But the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a centre-left thinktank, said the government should be careful about how it presents the tax, which is expected to raise 70 million pounds over the next two years, to the British people.
"Government and local public services must be careful not to fuel anti-migrant sentiments by suggesting that migrants place strains on schools, the police and the NHS [National Health Service].
"In reality, migrants contribute to public service provision through taxation and as public service workers," she added.
After announcing that from April, non-EU workers wanting to come to Britain must have a master's degree - rather than a bachelor's degree, as currently - and a previous salary equivalent to at least £20,000, non-EU immigrants and students now have to pay a £50 visa charge?!
Seriously, f*ck this Government that I didn't even vote for in Westminster and their blatant anti-immigration policies. I ALREADY pay taxes and National Insurance - all without recourse to benefits, so God help me if I ever lost my job - and now an additional £50 charge for just being a filthy immigrant from outwith the EU?
When did Labour become the new Conservatives?
Monday, March 16, 2009
In a stroke of birthday madness, Lauren decided she wanted to go to a casino for her birthday. Accordingly, we all piled into two taxis and headed to the Gala Casino on the Clyde. Having never been to a casino, I was quite intrigued by it. I quickly decided that since I only had £10 in my wallet, I would only spend £10 on chips. After a quick tutorial from Lauren in Roulette I placed my .50p chips across the table.
And proceeded to win back my £10 AND and additional £8. Seizing the opportunity, I quickly cashed out and claimed my £18 back. I can safely say that after witnessing some poor souls slamming down £50 after £50 on the roulette table, I have no further inclination to gamble; it's never been one of my vices.
After claiming my winnings, I headed back to the Southside for Jamie's housewarming party, where Paul was. I stayed long enough to eat a delicious cupcake his girlfriend made (oh god, so good - she works at a catering company) before heading back home with Paul.
Sunday, Paul managed to be lucky enough and score some last minute tickets to the CIS cup final between Celtic and Rangers at Hampden Park. I stayed at home to cheer on Celtic and watch them win 2-0! Get in (as they say here)!Continuing my recent Belfast theme, Sunday night I stumbled across a fantastic film from 1990 called, Hidden Agenda, directed by Ken Loach and starring Frances McDormand and Brian Cox.
The film is centered around two American civil rights activists, who are in Belfast investigating police brutality. When one of the Americans is murdered, while in the company of an IRA sympathiser, a conspiracy is unearthed involving a successful Central Intelligence Agency plot to influence the 1987 UK General Election and keep Margaret Thatcher in power.
Although fictional, the film was inspired by the RUC's and British Army's alleged, "shoot to kill" policy of (mostly) IRA suspects. It's a great film that I had never heard of before and even reflects my own outsider's bemused/ disgusted opinion on orange walks (albeit they are on a much smaller scale in Glasgow than in Belfast).
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
On the one hand, if you were to stick to downtown ("city centre"), you would never know that from 1969 - 1997, there had been a violent and bloody war; indeed the new shopping complex of Victoria Square and the numerous "luxury" flats being built are evidence of a booming city (not sure how long that boom will last though).
When I asked my cousin about life during the height of the Troubles, he chuckled and said, "I always found that definition to be strange because in all aspects, it was an all out war".
So, I loved Belfast and can't wait to go back and see more of the city (and my family). I only hope that peace prevails.
Monday, March 09, 2009
(OR I LOVE BELFAST)
Like last year, Paul and I decided to go away to celebrate our anniversary. This year we decided to go to Belfast and to use the opportunity to meet my cousin, Danny. I'd been emailing Danny for a while now and was really looking forward to meeting him in person.
Paul and I booked the holiday weekend a while ago and I was really looking forward to seeing Ireland (albeit, even if it's only just one city) as well as meeting a member of my family. When both Paul and I excitedly told people that we were going to Belfast for a holiday - as well as meet my cousin - people would ask us where my family was from. It's a fair enough question (although apparently you're not meant to ask people in Belfast) but when both Paul and I answered the question separately to two different people, both times we were both told to "avoid" the area. In particular, I was told by a person from Belfast, that the area was full of "thieves and killers". With such responses from people, I was beginning to think that my cousins lived in some modern day Dickensian slum, having to fight dogs for scraps of food.
It couldn't have been further from the truth.
When Paul and I walked (as well as drove) around the area, it had an amazing community feel and the streets were colourful and vibrant with murals. Maybe it's because Paul and I live in Glasgow, but we didn't feel threatened or scared in the slightest.
By the way, the area was Andersonstown. Just sayin'.
On Friday evening, we flew from Glasgow and arrived about 25 minutes later in Belfast (short flight!) My cousin met us at the airport and took us to our hotel, not before driving us around his part of town though and giving us an impromptu tour of downtown and West Belfast. Afterward we dropped off our bag, my cousin walked us around and gave us another impromptu tour before buying us a drink.
After dinner on Friday, we went for a drink at the Crown Bar Liquor Saloon - one of the most beautiful pubs in the world. Of course, I didn't manage to get any pictures of it.
Our tour started by taking us to the Shankill Road area.
This is a mural of Stevie "Top Gun" McKeag from the UDA, who killed 14 Catholics (hence the nickname). He died of a cocaine overdose in 2000. This mural as well as the following are in the Shankill Road area of Belfast.
Mural of Lt Jackie Coulter from the UDA, who was killed by another Protestant in the UVF
Mural of Oliver Cromwell
Mural of "King Billy", "William the Orange" blah blah blah. If you live in the West of Scotland, or indeed, Ireland, you've probably heard of him (and like me, maybe even sick of hearing about him).
Part of the Peaceline in Belfast. Although these gates are operational, they have never been open.
This is the only part of the peaceline that actually opens to allow people to pass through from one side to the other.
Mural on the Peaceline.
Peaceline and evidence of a petrol bomb
Peaceline on the Protestant side
Peaceline on Protestant side
This is what the same street looked like (above) before 1969
Directly opposite the Peaceline and on the Catholic side is a mural illustrating the August 1969 riots and when Protestants burnt down Catholic homes.
Backyard of a Catholic home, squeezed against the wall.
Clonard Memorial Garden
Mural in West Belfast (Falls Road/ Catholic area) commemorating the ten 1981 hunger strikers who lost their lives.
Mural of Bobby Sands, whose struggle was recently portrayed in the award-winning film, Hunger. You can read Bobby Sands' diary from his hunger strike here
Sinn Fein headquarters on Falls Road
From our previous impromptu tour with my cousin, Paul and I spotted this mural of Pat Finucane (the lawyer who represented the IRA and Bobby Sands). Finucane was murdered by the UDA/ UFF, who were in collusion with the Royal Ulster Constabulary in his assassination. He was shot 14 times in front of his wife and three children.
Apparently this is the door from Bobby Sands' cell when he was in the Maze prison. You can find it in the Irish Republican History Museum.
Mural of Fredrick Douglass on Falls Road. The following murals can also be found along Falls Road. Do you notice a difference between the Shankill and Falls Road murals?
Who are Republicans going to mock and villanise now that Obama is in office? I suggest Stephen Harper!
View of the Peaceline from Falls Road
Ok, I am so jealous of Belfast's St George's Market. Even though Glasgow is bigger than Belfast, we don't have anything that compares to it. Dare I say it but it might even be on par with the St Lawrence Market in Toronto. The only fault of the St George's Market, however, is the asshole who works at the Origin Foods Crepe stand.
You see, overall, I thought Belfast(ians?) were friendly (although perhaps not as friendly as Glaswegians but hey, weegies are weird like that) until I dared to ask the douchebag at the ORIGIN FOODS CREPE STAND if there was a cash machine around. Without even looking up from what he was doing he barked, "no" at me. I was so stunned that I just stood there confused as to whether he brushed me off or didn't hear me. He started talking to a woman that was beside me while I just blinked in confusion and disbelief. Again, without even looking at me he snarked, "no! there isn't a bank machine in here". I staggered away and Paul, who only caught the tail end of our one-sided bitch fest, came over to me and asked what had happened.
The guy who works at the ORIGIN FOODS CREPE STAND must have thought I was just another dumb American tourist and therefore worthy of his contempt, right? Get it right up yae, ya bawbag, because I'm Canadian and live just across the water from you in Glasgow.
Victoria Square (shopping mall) in Belfast. Totally hot.
Saturday night, Paul and I went to The Spainiard Pub - a really cool small bar - before having a pint in McHugh's (pictured above).
So this is my cousin, Danny, who is without a doubt, one of the most interesting dudes I've met in a long time. He has some really amazing stories (most of which I won't relay to you, internets. Sorry) and is a genuinely warm and decent human. He's probably one of the coolest family members ever (not including you, Mom, of course)!
Can't you tell how jealous Paul is over the fact that Danny is my cousin? Heh, just kidding.
Sadly, Belfast is still not without its problems as two British soliders were murdered on Saturday night and two civilians were critically injured by a small dissident group calling themselves "the Real IRA" (who were also responsible for the Omagh bombing in 1998 in which 29 people were killed).
Nevertheless, I loved Belfast and cannot wait to get back and enjoy the craic.