"What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote
in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes
his own self-interest as he sees it... which for the majority translates as 'Bread and Circuses'."
- Robert A. Heinlein

In Roman times, free Bread and Circuses entertained the masses. I hope you find your time
here both entertaining and informative.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm Back

I know I've neglected this lately, the last several months were very hectic for me.

However, as I sit here in the UK drinking my luncheon beer (what a great custom), I've resolved to try to post at least 5 times a week, even if it's just a few short lines.

I just got back from Birmingham, I went into town to do some food shopping at the fine market in town. I know, how domestic of me. I also visited the Central library for the second time, I found a great book there in the stacks that you just can't find in the US.

I flew in earlier this month. I watched Fracture on the plane, those little TV screens in the back of your seats are great, no editing as is typical of airline films. I had a ten hour layover in Dublin. When in Ireland.... so yeah I bought a daysaver bus pass, and went into Dublin City Centre. I walked around for a couple of hours waiting for the pubs to open... which doesn't happen until ten thirty in the morning. While enjoying a few proper pints of Guinness in a pub, I met a charming Irish lady who sat and chatted with me for about an hour. An American accent opens many doors. For future reference she gave me the names of a few small pubs that have grandfathered licences allowing them to open at 7:30 AM for the dock workers.

When flying from Dublin to Birmingham later that night, apparently the flight crew assumed all their passengers were EU citizens. I had to track down a steward and explained that I needed a landing card. This provoked some consternation among the Aer Lingus staff, who otherwise were the picture of polite service. And they even did the flight announcements in English and Gaelic. My request prompted a confab of about three stewardesses, who rummaged around and found what they "thought was the right card," under the coffee maker I think.

Turns out I shouldn't have been worried. I landed in Brum and disembarked. I collected my luggage, and proceeded on . Unlike my last trip, there was no sign of a passport control officer. Usually they grill non-EU citizens thus: "How long are you staying, " "why are you here," "where are you staying," "how much money do you have with you?" Not this time. I think they assumed anyone flying in from Dublin was cool. I proceeded on through the door for "Her Majesty's Customs - No Declaration" where i passed two Customs officials rifling a gentleman's bag (surprise, he looked Middle Eastern). They seemed little concerned with a Yank, and I carried on. Maybe it was because I was wearing my typical "please don't cavity search me Mr. TSA man" suit. You can get away with practically anything if you shave and wear a suit. I expected to see some Customs presence at least pretending to care who they were letting into their country, so imagine my surprise when I passed through another door to find myself in the lobby of the airport. I warndered around for a minute, hoping there was someone I could point out the error to. "Really, I wouldn't let myself into a country without a few peremptory questions." No joy.

I am still somewhat bewildered, and trying to dodge a group of excitable Asians, when my peripheral vision screams "Danger Will Robinson, you're being blindsided." I know Birmingham has a high crime rate, but surely they don't have muggings in the airport itself. Sure enough, next minute I'm tackled by my fiance and the kids. She explains that she's traveled across Europe and never been asked to show a passport. I really don't know what their security blokes are thinking. The kids had drawn a lovely welcome back card for me.

We get outside, and I'm still gobsmacked by the lack of security, maybe I'm just used to the adinistrative paranoia of American airline security, designed almost entirely to reassure the unwitting populace that everything is under control. But get this, the taxi queue outside is empty... deserted in fact. Obviously in the wake of the Glasgow incident, the Brits are more concerned about people driving near their airports than who's entering the country.

Instead, taxis have to park in short term parking. Thankfully we had met a great cab driver the last time I was here, and he was already on his way. I can't judge whether it's an appropriate security measure, but good lord they must be raking in enormous parking revenues.

More when I get a chance. To all my readers in the land where Senators solicit anonymous sex in men's toilets, I hope you are enjoying the madness. For now this temporary expatriate has to finish his beer.