Christmas is here

Actually, it seems like Xmas has been here since Easter. Certainly, pubs and restaurants were taking last minute Christmas bookings in July, some people I know had decorations up in October, I wrote my (few) cards weeks ago. The food delivery services were saying get your last minute booking in September.

When I was little, Xmas was a big thing for several reasons. The country came to a halt basically from Christmas Eve until after the new year. Shops were rarely open, people didn’t go out. It was dismal. All you could do was stay home, watch tv, eat and argue.

But now there are plenty of places open on Xmas Day even. OK, public transport does not run, except certain services, and taxis charge a fortune, but pubs and restaurants are open and busy, and many shops. By Boxing Day, it’s back to normal (the USA don’t have Boxing Day) in the UK. Some, not many but some, people work. The sales are on, everyone literally does DIY.

The need to buy a 15 tonne turkey to get a family of 4 through 3 weeks seems to have gone. Whatever made Xmas special, and that does not mean good, is no more. Here in the UK, we are becoming even more American.

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, then the next day it’s sales. After Xmas day, USA shops are open for people to return gifts for something they actually want. We don’t do that here – you can’t really return stuff unless it is faulty. We’ve mostly forgotten the so-called religious significance, thank goodness, and it’s a time for shops to count their profits. Don’t make expected sales at Xmas and you are doomed for the year.

Food

It’s not for us to tell you what to do if you are visiting London. What we enjoy doing may well not interest you. Just look on some web sites, get a decent travel book and ask your friends.

What we can do, what we feel we must do, is tell you things we think you should avoid. Ignore our advice if you like, of course.

This is about food.

You will recognise all the usual suspects in London, McDonald’s, Subway, Starbucks, Burger King and so on. They will probably be very different from your local outlets. They may sell different things, the items may taste different (different ingredients tuned to different tastes), probably more expensive. If you want something special, say, X but with Y not Z, the server will look at you as if you are stupid and will probably give you a sharp no! No flexibility here, they don’t bend over to accommodate your needs. And more expensive.

The UK has a number of chain restaurants. Some are OK, others may well be best avoided. Cafe Rouge, Bella Italia, Garfunkels, Prezzo, Aberdeen Angus Steak restaurants and others seem, in our experience, to offer poor quality at inflated/tourist prices. Never has the microwave worked so hard. Some have been involved in a tips scandal.

Lots of pubs serve lovely food, but beware of these terms. Some offer an extensive menu at cheap prices. Others offer ‘home cooked‘ food, which probably means bought in frozen and microwaved. Some offer ‘home made‘ food. This usually means there is one item, maybe a few, highlighted with the words home made and they should be. It does not mean necessarily that all items are home made. If you are in a pub where you order at the bar and food is brought to your table, then tips are not appropriate.

We know people who object to certain restaurants because of the companies that own them. Pret A Manger had associations with McDonald’s in the past, Giraffe and Harris + Hoole is or were owned by Tesco.

It’s really hard, near impossible, to get a really cold drink in a shop.

On a different matter, Brits eat pretty much everything with knife and fork. Well, not fast food burgers, but everything else, even pizza. We know how to use cutlery: knife in the right hand, fork in the left. We don’t use one hand, we don’t cut our food up like baby servings, then swap a fork to the other hand to eat.

Your forefinger should be along the top of the knife and fork…

and it is probably the worst bad manners ever to use your cutlery like a dagger:

Harrassment

There has been a lot of headline news over the past few weeks about a certain producer who is accused of various sexual assaults over a fairly lengthy period of time. I have no idea what he did or did not do, and no doubt these things will come out later, if you care. Yesterday there was another story about a well-known actor who has also been accused of things with a 14 year old boy. His response was, basically, I don’t remember, it was a long time ago, I was drunk and anyway I am gay. I have no idea what that all means, either, and my level of interest is fairly minimal. Note that I am NOT defending anyone, just not that interested. If these people really did bad things, they must be punished.

I have a few thoughts, mainly coming from the Jimmy Savile incidents some years ago. Savile, of course, was dead. No-one spoke out about him when he was alive, in a way that anyone took notice of anyway. JS could not defend himself. Once the first allegations came out, it was like a flood gate. Same in the first example here. Many of Savile’s accusers were investigated. It was shown that some had simply fabricated stories in an attempt to get money. It may be, I don’t know, that the same has happened here, that people are saying they too were sexually assaulted but maybe they weren’t, they just want some fame and some money. I don’t know, but if there is even one person who is simply making up a story to ‘cash in’, then it devalues all the others.

I was involved in a conversation about this the other day. Someone remarked that more than 50% of women reported sexual harrassment in the workplace. I asked a simple question, what does that mean. There was a fairly lengthy discussion about this. One vaguely known tv actor has said that he was sexually harrassed when someone touched his arm. My friends seemed not to know. Does it have a clear definition?

My friends concluded that, if you FELT you had been sexually harrassed, then you HAD BEEN sexually harrassed. It didn’t have to be real at all.

I am not trying to diminish these events, if they have occurred, but some of it seems a bit mad to me.

4K

I bought a new tv some time ago. It’s a Sony, and they are all now Android tvs. I have grumbled about it elsewhere: it’s not the set, it’s the Android.

Well, just the other day I managed to complete the second half of the project and bought a 4K bluray player.

Now, since my tv was made, something called HDR (High Dynamic Range) has been implemented on some discs, but I don’t have that obviously.

The player is also Sony, and is a bargain at under £300 in many places. It comes with a free film, and mine had a cable to connect to the tv.

So, I have been looking at a few films, Underworld: Blood Wars, Wonder Woman etc. But the highlight was the original Blade Runner, yes, originally shot on film, which looked spectacular.

Except, some parts are shot on regular 35mm and the effects are on 65mm are are noticeably less grainy.

What 4K does is makes the problems easier to spot.

Hopefully more titles will be available soon. Close Encounters… is coming soon.

 

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