Monday, February 22, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Hadley Freeman is a talent American, who lives in the UK, and writes for The Guardian.
Yesterday she touched upon one of my favourite subjects: being an outsider or "Other" in the UK. She even confirmed what I always knew: British (and Scottish) people don't date:
How to be British
It takes more than queueing to fit in here. How about self-deprecation and Marks & Spencer?
- Hadley Freeman
- The Guardian, Wednesday 17 February 2010
You may feel that you have quite enough to think about this week, what with deciding whether you should pledge your vote in the next general election to the party that has – and I quote – "bagged Chris Martin" (the Lib Dems should feel free to tie the string on that particular bag) or the one that claims Carol Vorderman as its "celebrity representative". Well, it's a short hop from choosing one's perfume based on the celebrity who "made" it to choosing who to vote for by whether you prefer Kathy Lette (Labour) or Kirstie Allsopp (Conservatives). The right choice is Kirstie, obviously, for both the property advice and lack of puns.
But there is another important issue in the air: how to make immigrants become more British. Depending on how you obtain your news, this question will either smack of debates about whether Muslim women in France should be forced to remove their hijabs, or the scene in Zoolander (the film that truly keeps on giving) in which Will Ferrell attempts to brainwash Ben Stiller via bad club visuals and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Allegedly, the latter approach has yet to be adopted here. Instead, immigration minister Phil Woolas has announced that immigrants to the UK are to be taught "the art of queueing": "The very simple act of taking one's turn is one of the things that holds our country together," announced Woolas, a man who has apparently not stood at a bus stop for some time. "It is very important . . . Huge resentment is caused when people push in."
Leaving aside the question of whether it is really queue-jumping that "creates tension" between some British citizens and immigrants, and also leaving aside Woolas's insinuation that immigrants bring any attacks they suffer in Britain on themselves, I think that this idea has potential. Yes, one needs to understand the local customs when coming to a new country, but is queueing top of the list? Speaking as someone who was once an outsider but is now, I like to think, a fully integrated member of British society, I feel I have a better idea than Woolas of the lessons immigrants need to learn when coming to this strange, wet land. And so, free of charge, I offer up an alternative guide to Britain for newcomers.
1. Dinner parties
Should you get an invitation to a dinner party from a British person and it says "dinner at eight", this does not mean you will actually eat dinner at eight. It means the host will start cooking dinner at eight and you will sit down to eat at about 10.30 – yes, even on a Tuesday night. This is because the point of a dinner party is not the dinner. It's the drinking. Top tip: secrete a loaf of bread in your handbag.
2. Over-excitement coupled with self-deprecation
Any time a British person gets any kind of recognition – an Oscar nomination, an invitation to the White House – the British press will react with the squealing excitement of the school dork being asked to the disco by the class hunk. However, everyone will also be determined that something will go wrong. Phrases such as this will come in handy: "Colin Firth got nominated for an Oscar! So exciting! But, of course, he'll lose."
3. Claiming a sale purchase
Should you be complimented on any item of clothing you are wearing, you must say that you bought it "in the sale", whether you did or didn't.
You will be expected to care greatly about the fortunes of this middle-of-the-road, overpriced store. When this store falls, so does Britain.
5. Never date
Ask a British person for a date, and they are more likely to hand you a dried fruit. British people do not date. They pull. This rather more violent verb conveys the more chaotic approach to romance than you might have known in your home country. The British method of coupling is as follows: go to a party, get extremely drunk, drunkenly kiss someone you have been making eyes at for some time but obviously never spoke to because you were sober then, go home with them, move in with them the next day, marry them.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
City of European cafe culture? More like being in a war zone
EXCLUSIVE: Kate Devine
Published on 13 Feb 2010
The new chair of Glasgow Restaurateurs’ Association says the city reminds him of Guernica – Picasso’s violent painting of a war-ravaged Spanish village.
Ryan James, 44, owner of Two Fat Ladies group, made his comparison to the famous painting because of the number of young drunken hooligans flooding the city centre at weekends.
Mr James, who took over the chair earlier this year, also said he would support the Scottish Government’s proposal to introduce a minimum price for alcohol because he believes it would help curb antisocial behaviour in the city, which he describes as “completely unacceptable”.
The GRA represents the views of 76 restaurants, about a third of the city’s total, though he wants to increase membership by 50%.
He said: “In Glasgow on a Saturday night you’d think you were in Guernica, and not part of the European cafe culture society. Young people turn up drunk because they’ve bought ridiculously cheap alcohol in shops and supermarkets and consumed it before coming in to town.
“Gangs of drunken youths rampaging through the streets is putting off not only tourists but also local people from coming into town to eat in a restaurant.
“They see policemen in high-visibility vests patrolling the streets, and though this may be a comfort to locals, it can be alarming for tourists who feel an unpleasant incident is imminent.
“This is simply unacceptable, especially in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 when it will become one of the biggest conference centres in the UK, if not Europe.
“The source of the problem is the retailers. Shops and supermarkets are being allowed to continue with special offers on alcohol when publicans and restaurateurs cannot. We’re allowing people to get so off their faces they don’t know what they’re doing. For this reason I would support the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol.”
Mr James’s comments come in the wake of support for minimum pricing, reported in yesterday’s Herald, from an international group of scientific advisers, who wrote to MSPs urging them to adopt a ban on cheap alcohol.
Glasgow’s licensing board recognises Valentine’s Day tomorrow and St Patrick’s Day in March will result in numerous drinks promotions.
But these will clash with similar promotions in the city’s restaurants, and Mr James believes the restaurants will suffer.
A spokesman for the licensing board said: “We recognise alcohol misuse is a serious problem and we are committed to working with other stakeholders to try to tackle the social problems associated with alcohol misuse.
“As to the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol, we welcome proposals to amend irresponsible drinks promotions in off-sales as well as on-sales [restaurants, pubs and clubs].
“However, we consider that in order to be in any way effective, it would require to be introduced as part of a series of measures designed to tackle the problems associated with alcohol misuse.
“The licensing board considers a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will not provide a solution to these problems and that any such measures have to be part of a sustained and targeted educational programme.”
Mr James wants to increase the membership of GRA to at least 100 establishments in order to strengthen its voice, and would like Jamie Oliver to be involved when his new restaurant opens in the city centre in May because he would help increase the association’s lobbying power.
“Restaurants are the cash cow for the Government and Glasgow City Council, but we’re getting nothing in return,” he added. “We pay business rates, licensing costs, wages, national insurance and other costs faithfully every month. We even pay for our own glass recycling. But there’s nobody trying to help us out.”
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “While we have never said minimum pricing is a ‘silver bullet’, there is a growing consensus it can be a key weapon in the battle against alcohol misuse. The Glasgow Restaurateurs’ Association’s support adds to a growing coalition in favour of minimum pricing for alcohol.”
Friday, February 12, 2010
Glasgow is hardcore. Definitely not for pussies and ladies of the Temperance Society.