Cash

I am told that visitors to the UK, especially from the USA, find English cash virtually impossible to understand. So let’s have a bash at trying to sort it all out.

Although we are part of the EC (for now), we do not use Euros. Traveling between Belgium, France, Spain etc is easy because they all use the same currency. Eire also uses Euros. We use pounds (usually written as UKP on computers, and £ on prices).

There are shops in London that accept some foreign currencies, but you pay for this convenience, so you may be better off paying by card. Banks, the post office and many booths and shops will convert currency. It pays to shop around for the best rate, but not too much as to waste your valuable holiday time.

The pound is divided into pence, or pennies, and there are 100p in the pound.

Notes are used for £5 and above. As with nearly all other countries, the notes are different colours and sizes and it is very difficult to get them mixed up, unlike the USA where notes are basically identical and you have to be careful to check you are not handing over a $100 bill thinking it is a $1. Also, notes vary with some being plastic (currently £5 and £10) and some paper. Make sure you are not given an old note in change that is no longer legal.

Very few shops will accept notes of £50 or above for small purchases. Some Oyster card machines will accept cash.

If you go to Scotland, you may be given Scottish notes rather than English ones. Some shops in England get rather sniffy about accepting these.

We have a lot of coins, of values 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. This is where it could get confusing.

The picture shows the appearance and relative sizes of the coins. The design of the £1 coin has changed recently, so make sure that you are not given old coins.

Shops have a right to refuse you if you want to pay in piles of coins. For example, buying a £5 book with 10p pieces may not go down well. They call it ‘legal tender’. On the other hand, some shops really appreciate it if you have correct change (but don’t spend hours counting it out and holding up a queue).

The price you see on the sticker is the price you pay. There are no hidden taxes to add and no rounding to do.

It is very easy to accumulate pockets full of coins, but there are shops where you can serve yourself (eg supermarkets) at a machine, and it is a great place to empty your pocket of coins. If you find yourself with a pocketful of coins and leaving the country, eg at an airport, there are charity collecting boxes.

The worst coins to get rid of are 1p and 5p.

As for taxi fares, some taxis do accept cards, but check with the driver before you start the journey. If you need the driver to stop so you can get cash from an ATM, tell the driver before you get in. Many will not accept your fare. Since the taxi fare can vary depending on the distance, traffic jams, extras etc, it is best to make sure you have lots of cash, or book through a system that allows credit card payment on-line, or use a minicab that quotes a fixed price.

 

 

Trump

It’s too easy to make fun of Mr Trump. Because of how he is, what he does.

We know he is stupid, we know he is unhinged, we know no-one can stand up to him. His irrational tweets show us, and we don’t need to read books to know this. You look at the family, the friends, people in the White House, senior Trump advisors, who used to be fashion correspondents.

But Mr Trump is the President of the USA, the leader of the western world, the most powerful person on this planet.

Doesn’t that scare you?

So, i am off to New York city. I will meet people and talk to locals. They will not talk about Trump. In NYC, you cannot get away from Trump. He ‘owns’ so many buildings, but it’s like he doesn’t. Get something about Trump from a local, and it’s generally disgust. They don’t like uncouth, common people.

Trump’s buildings have his name all over them. A tv programme said that Trump Tower has been shown to be the least ecologically efficient building in the world. There was a fire recently. Someone died. Had Mr Trump chosen to install sprinklers, to protect the people and the building, this would not have happened. Mr Trump dismissed the whole thing with “well built building”, in a tweet.

All Mr Trump wants to be is the most famous person in the world. Possibly he is, and, for many, a source of amazed laughter.

2001

It is fifty years and a little bit since 2001: A Space Odyssey was released. 1968.

So many books and articles have been written about this film over the years, you wonder if there is anything left to say.

But I have a few thoughts.

When it came out, man was nowhere near landing on the Moon. There was no cinema cgi. Nowadays, every film has a wash of cgi on it, but not one frame of this film. It was all actual models, hand animation and other rather ingenious special effects. It was craftsmanship and patience and skill. And it shows on the screen, setting a visual standard that films nowadays cannot match.

I know people who hate science fiction and have never seen it. This is actually probably good. It is a film made for the cinema, a true film. I first saw it in my home town on a small screen, but when I moved to London, it was on in 70mm (or Cinerama) at the Casino theatre (now the Prince Edward). On a big screen, with a good print (film, not digital) it is an experience never to be forgotten. Those huge, glorious images, and that wonderful detail. And let’s not forget the choice of classical music.

It is a film unlike any other. Whatever you may think of the story, and it is just a story, 2001 is one of the greatest films ever. The story is told mostly through the images. There are occasional patches of expository speech, once on the Moon about the object they have discovered and again at the end, as HAL is being lobotomised.

Kubrick is dead. Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood are alive, and will talk about the film, though I think Mr Lockwood thinks it’s “just a film” in the end, and that there’s a lot of popmpous nonsense said about it. Douglas Rain, who voiced HAL, is still alive but does not seem to want to talk about it any more.

2001 represents a high point in cinema history. Yes, people can point out mistakes – Pan Am has gone, Howard Johnson’s too, and 2001 the year is long gone and manned space travel is more restricted now than it was in 1968, which is sad.

Is spelling important?

OK, I know there are people who find spelling and recognising words difficult. I also know there are people who are dyslexic who revel in it, use it as an excuse for pretty much anything.

I watch YouTube and similar from time to time. There are some interesting clips on audio, photography, travel, tv, music… things I am interested in and want to learn more about. I assume the people making clips on a topic are experts, they know something I don’t, something I will be interested in. I assume they speak with knowledge and authority.

But then you watch videos and you see simple spelling mistakes, with words you would expect them to know, simple words sometimes.

Like the travel man not being able to spell WIMBLEDON (“Wimbleon”), the hifi man (“Turntabel”), someone talking about movies (“Moveis”), “UBS” (as in memory stick), “Weinsein” (as in the film man) and the list goes on.

To be honest, it is very rare to watch something that has no spelling mistakes at all.

How do I feel? well, if you know you have a difficulty and you are putting something out for the world to view and judge, don’t you make an extra effort, or get someone else to check? How hard is that? Five minutes perhaps.

So I look at these badly made clips of people telling me stuff with rubbish written on the screen, and I discount what they say and, to be honest, don’t take them seriously.

And feel disappointed.