Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Watching the riots on TV really brought it home to me how very lucky we are to live in the relatively peaceful area of South Devon. Although we see in the local press on a weekly basis that someone has been killed or badly injured in a fight it had no impact on me at all. Well, no impact other than not want to go into town on a Saturday night anymore but when I was 16, I was more frightened of Dracula appearing from behind a bush than seeing anyone have a fight.
There were the Teddy boys of course with their slicked back hair, tight, tight trousers and brothel creepers; the bikers ( more my type) with leather jackets and powerful bikes and then later, there were the Mods with their parkers  and scooters and umpteen mirrors decorating the handlebars.
At the Jive Club on Thursday night in the Church Hall there was never any trouble despite the fact that knuckle dusters and flick knives were mentioned- no I never saw any. Neither was there any drunkenness, just hours of jiving to the latest records – Elvis, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers  et al. This was around 1958 – 1960 when I could dance all evening mostly with my girlfriends, the boys were propping up the walls waiting to take someone home if they were lucky.
Remember Elvis’s King Creole ? Loved it!
Fashions were varied, for jiving we wore sloppy joes ( usually our Dad’s jumper ) over tight trousers and baseball boots on our feet for that extra spring in the step. For “ going out” we wore pleated skirts, rolled up around the waist over several paper nylon petticoats which crackled as we walked. On our feet were the winkle picker shoes with the highest heels we could find.
Remember those wonderful Jukeboxes in the corner of every cafe belting out the Top Twenty but not deafening as is today's music.
Along with the Jukebox went the Espresso coffee in chic glass cups. The machines took some getting used to with the fresh coffee in the filter and the steam jet, very hot, to froth up the coffee – I just loved it. We were never taught how to make pretty patterns in the froth though – that is a modern idea.
The coffee bars were mainly for teenagers, we were quite content to drink coffee of coca cola or juice in those days – alcohol was not on our minds. Perhaps drinking laws were enforced more strictly then and, of course, it was not easily available. You could only buy it from a pub or an off license. Perhaps we should return to those days – definitely  take it out of supermarkets. Other countries are far stricter :-
Alcohol in America
Legal Issues
By and large, alcohol consumption rules are set by the states, and in some places, by the counties or cities. Closing times vary from city to city, and in some states (primarily rural areas) there are still 'dry counties' in that you cannot buy alcohol in that area.
In many areas grocery stores can sell beer and wine, but not hard liquor, for that you will need to go to a liquor or 'package' store. In some states, the sale of liquor is controlled entirely by the state and you will need to go to an ABC (Alcohol and Beverage Control) store to buy it.
A few important rules:
1) You cannot drink alcohol in public. Taking a beer out of a pub onto the sidewalk is illegal in most states. Public consumption of alcohol, while tolerated at places like sporting events (the 'tailgate party'), drive in movie theatres and a few other situations, it is generally not allowed in the US. At most bars, you'll either have the cup taken from you at the door by security, or channelled into a 'beer garden' which is separated from the public sidewalk by a small fence. Walking down the street with a glass of beer is certain to get you a citation for 'public consumption'.
2) The drinking age is 21 (with LEGAL PROOF). You are 50, you have grey hair, you look like a geezer, technically, this is not enough to buy alcohol in many states. To get into many bars and buy alcohol, you often have to produce a government issued ID (drivers license, passport) that shows your picture and has your birth date. Some stores will only accept a US drivers license or liquor ID (ID for people over 21 who do not hold a drivers license), so not even a military ID or US passport will be accepted, but this is usually the exception to the rule. In some cases, only ID from that state or a neighboring state will be accepted. It may seem silly, but many a bartender can tell you about how they have turned away grey-haired old ladies because they couldn't produce proof of their age. If you plan to go out drinking, take an ID and avoid any problems. Whether they 'card you' (ask for ID) varies, but better safe than sorry.
3) Driving while drunk is a big no-no. This happens thousands of times a night, and some bars miles from anywhere you have to just ask 'how the hell are you supposed to NOT drink and drive with a place like this." But getting stopped for a DUI test can really cause some problems with your insurance, losing your license for a minimum of six months in many states, and also creating a lot of problems for immigration and VWP. It's best to find a 'designated driver' (i.e. the buddy who gets free Cokes from the bar) and have them deal with you getting home.
4) Every state has a minimum alcohol purchase age of 21 (18 still persists in some US territories). Before the mid 1980s some states had a lower age (it's a matter of state law) but the federal government made certain highway funding conditional on adopting a 21 drinking age. However, the laws still differ in detail by state (for example, in some cases it's illegal for under 21s to consume alcohol as well as buy it, in other cases it is only illegal to purchase alcohol). Providing alcohol to under 21s may be banned by a specific statute or something more general like "contributing to delinquency of a minor". People have been jailed for allowing under 21s (their children, or more usually, friends of their children) to drink alcohol at a party in their house.NIH APIS explains some of the complexities regarding underage possession or consumption of alcohol.
5) In some states, under 21s are not allowed in certain areas of bars, hotels or liquor stores.
6) Taking alcohol across state lines brings you within the scope of federal law. It is not a problem to bring alcohol for your own use from one state to another, but anything, for example, involving under 21s, could lead to offences under federal law as well as state.
7) Being deemed an "alcohol abuser" - which can happen if you are convicted or cited for alcohol related offences (eg DUI) - can cause complications for your immigration status, if you are not a US citizen. Even if you manage to overcome the problems DUI will cause in getting US resident status or citizenship, it could prevent you entering Canada (Canada is even stricter on DUI than the United States) and especially if you live in a border state, this could be a real inconvenience.
8) US state and federal laws on alcohol use among recreational watercraft users (many waterways are under federal jurisdiction) and commercial drivers are stricter than in many other countries. Also, if you cause an accident or injury/death while under alcohol influence, US laws are also stricter and you face the real risk of a jail sentence (and deportation if you are not a US citizen).
Perhaps if we did tighten up on alcohol abuse by young people my grandson(aged 15) would not have been rushed to hospital recently in an ambulance , having been knocked unconscious with a savage blow to his right eye. Perhaps I should make a comparison with “then” and “now” in my next post.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Well, we packed our case and headed east.

After listening to all the news bulletins we decided to take a chance and go to London on Wednesday despite skirmishes being reported in Canning Town where we were staying. Had we not booked and paid for our hotel and Show we would have stayed at home – just in case but…………………………………


A good journey up the M5 & M4 guided by Mss Tom Tom we arrived shortly after lunch and after checking in we thought we would pop over to Canary Wharf and enjoy a glass of wine by the river.

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It was hot and sunny and it was a perfect way to relax after the long drive. And not a hoody in sight.

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Thursday we thought we would go to the West End on the bus which would save us a bob or two as we could use our bus passes. The 115 took us a far as Aldgate through Poplar and Aldgate which were also devoid of hoody. Very close to the Gerkin which switched to the 15 and got off at Covent Garden.

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It was buzzing, full of life with everyone enjoying the day after the initial rain. People of all nationalities and colours eating and drinking and inspecting the variety of goods on sale. Almost a carnival atmosphere after the horror of the events earlier in the week.

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From Covent Garden we walked and walked enjoying the atmosphere until I really needed to sit! Leicester Square we knew had seats in the little park in front of the Odeon, but no longer. All shut off making ready for 2012.


We found ourselves outside The Garrick Theatre and, as we had theatre tokens, we decided to go in and watch the matinee performance of Pygmalion.

It has had good reviews and Mike really enjoyed it. I did not – I am a Philistine when it comes to stage plays – I cannot accept the dramatic acting – perfectly normal but I don’t like it.

I also got a little scared, every so often there was a loud rumbling noise and police sirens in the background and I wondered what was going on! Of course, I eventually realised the rumbling was from the underground trains.


After the show we made our way to Shaftesbury Avenue so that we would be close to the theatre we had booked for the evening. We found a little pub opposite the Windmill and had a light supper.






It was then time to make our way to the Queens Theatre to see Alfie Boe and Matt Lucas in Les Miserables. There was a was a small window when they are performing together and, subject to illness, they should be there. They HAD to be there.

There wasn’t a spare seat and all we had to worry about was not having a coughing fit once it started.


The orchestra struck up and we were transported to a magical place by the most wonderful singing and acting you could ever see on a stage anywhere in the world.





Does that mean it was good? No, it was very nearly perfect. Alfie’s voice is so well suited to the music( he is SO handsome with big brown eyes) and Matt Lucas was hilarious as the Innkeeper. The whole cast was excellent, although it was the fourth time we have seen it, the production was very different and exciting.

After the show we were picked up by Keith ( Young Goat) and transported safely to our hotel. Whilst we waited we enjoyed the music coming from a bar next door – lots of singing came bellowing out in to the road , young people gathered outside enjoying the balmy evening and, apart from the ever present police sirens – no trouble to be seen.

I was so high on adrenalin that I could not sleep despite such a busy day. Never mind, I had Alfie for company!

Next day, back on the bus and we decided to get off at the Tower of London.

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It was very busy with long queues of mostly foreign tourists. I think half the population of France was in London that week.

We sat down and enjoyed a cup of coffee and were joined by some very tame starlings. I haven’t seen them for years in Devon.

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Then we went on a boat trip up to Westminster which took us past many interesting landmarks.

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Tower Bridge and Boris Johnson’s office.

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The Tower from the river and the Millennium Bridge.

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The Eye and Cleopatra's Needle.

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The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey – note the queues.

London in August is not for the faint-hearted.

We then took a bus to Hyde Park Corner, grabbed a sandwich from Pret A Manger and went into the park for a rest.

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A magnificent specimen of a botanical curiosity is the Weeping Beech, Fagus sylvatica pendula, cherished as "the upside-down tree"

Kids were having so much fun running in and out and climbing to the top.





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Just a few snaps from Hyde Park. Must go back – it is beautiful but VERY big!

Our last evening was spent with a forum friend – Keith. He drives a taxi and he picked us up from our hotel and we went to the O2 arena, just across the river from our hotel.


What a surprise – full of different types of entertainment and restaurants. We had no idea that this was on our doorstep.




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We had a nice if rather noisy meal in TGI Fridays and a long chat with someone I have known only on the internet for over 10 years.

Then back to the hotel, early to bed after another busy day.



We left the hotel fro home about 9.30 and Tom Tom gave our ETA as 1.20! Rather optimistic. We were taken over Tower Bridge, all round the place on the south side of the river then back across Chelsea Bridge – to avoid the Congestion charge I guess.

Then there were warnings of heavy traffic on the motorway – and there was, Very heavy!

We finally arrived home about 2.45 – safe and sound.

A great little break in the Big City.