Note: I spent the last week of August in Factual London (which I am distinguishing from Fictional London). Visting London gives a sense of the cityscape. London Architecture praises its architecture. Here I offer further observations on my experience in the last international stop on my five-month around-the-world tour. Next I look at Fictional London.
Brexit. You can’t spend an hour in London without encountering talk of Brexit.
You hear TV newscasters speaking of it as a done deal. Former pro-Remainers, like Sarah Sands, now write cheerful commentary on how Brexit is an opportunity for something new and exciting.
Economist Graeme Leach uses the success of Team Great Britain at the Rio Olympics to argue for a “go it alone” pro-Brexit position on economic issues. He writes, “You get gold medals from competition not protectionism.”
Note: If the EU entered the Olympics as the United States of Europe, the combined medal count of England, Germany and Italy alone would be 151, namely 30 more than the US. Conclusion: you get more gold medals if you band together.
However, Brexit has not formally begun, because no authority in the UK has invoked Article 50, which is the legal mechanism for beginning a withdrawal from the EU.
So, there is still post-vote debate on whether there should be another referendum. Owen Smith of the Labour Party is offering a second referendum if he is made leader.
Whatever else is at play here immigration is definitely in the mix. Prime Minister Theresa May of the Conservative Party – the one, under David Cameron, which called for the Brexit referendum in June – has said that curbing immigration will be her “absolute priority” during Brexit negotiations. For immigration statics see:
Speaking of which ….
Romanians in London. I left Bucharest in the morning and arrived at my hotel, the Grange White Hall, in London that evening. As I checked in I suspected the young receptionist to be Romanian, but I kept this thought to myself. The next morning, on my way to breakfast, I heard two staff members speaking Romanian, and I joined the conversation. They told me all the staff at the hotel was Romanian, with some Bulgarians. So, I continued to speak Romanian, even after having left Romania. Fun!
Fish and chips. At the Museum Tavern around the corner from my hotel, I decided to order the classic dish, figuring once wouldn’t kill me. It was really good and impossible to finish.
The London Eye. Although I extolled London’s architecture in my previous blog, I’ve always thought that it was slightly weird to put what amounts to a giant Ferris wheel in pride of place on the banks of the Thames.
When the Eiffel Tower was built, many French people thought it was an abomination, and now it’s the very symbol of Paris, so what do I know? Then, as I was strolling one evening along St. James’s Park, I passed the House Guards and caught the pink rainbow of the London Eye arcing over the roofs. I thought, “Nice!”
Pomp. It’s everywhere. It’s part and parcel of London’s legacy as the center of a global empire, and its roots go back a thousand years to the Norman taste for heraldry. In recent decades the world has witnessed Charles and Diana’s wedding, Diana’s funeral, William and Kate’s wedding – all spectacular events.
In monarchies pomp serves to make sure everyone knows who’s in charge. In a constitutional monarchy the most I can figure is that it’s great for tourism.
Here’s the guy – namely George III – the Americans declared their independence from. Maybe I’ve inherited Puritan taste, because this guy strikes me as wearing a few too many doo-dads. I prefer my head of state less rigged out.
Nobody does pomp better than the British. I’ll leave them to it.
Bikes. London is a great city to cycle in.
I saw tons of bikers, cops on bikes, and whole families twirling around town on two wheels.
Atmosphere. I can’t explain it, but the whole time I was in London, I thought I was at a carnival, because the atmosphere was so effervescent. Maybe it was the weather, which was gorgeous, warm and balmy. Everyone seemed to be outside, even on the weekdays, and the pubs filled to overflowing around 5:00 and stayed that way until 9:00 or later.
People work here, obviously, beginning with all the staff in restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops. I saw people going in and out of office buildings. So, yes, people work here. It just didn’t feel like it.
A half-dozen Hare Krishnas, singing and dancing their way down Oxford Street, contributed to the playful atmosphere.
So, Day #3 of Factual (not Fictional) London.
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen