Posts Tagged ‘British’

Strasbourg Calling (Sooo British)


Between November 2011 and May 2012 the UK is the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe. Not the European Union, which is also run by a committee of ministers confusingly called the Council of the European Union, but the Council of Europe (CoE) the body promoting and protecting Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law throughout its 47 countries. The CoE is probably best known for overseeing the work of the European Court of Human Rights(EHCR). The Minister for Europe, David Lidington, announced the UK government’s priorities for its chairmanship of the CoE’s Committee of Ministers in a written statement:

“The overarching theme of our Chairmanship will be the protection and promotion of human rights. The Government has repeatedly made it clear that human rights are central to its foreign policy. We aim to be an example of a society that upholds human rights and democracy, and we are committed to strengthening the rules based international system.”

Here is a list of the items which have happened during the Chairmanship and, as you can see here the UK Foreign Office even has a logo for the period. (above)

There is also a programme of 30 cultural activities has organised by the Communauté urbaine de Strasbourg (The council for the municipality of Strasbourg) in the period under the heading ‘Sooo British‘ with a brochure highlighting them all, available by clicking on this link [PDF, 971 KB, new window] A friend who was at the offices of the council this week to renew his parking permit said that the building was plastered with posters promoting it. I have to declare an interest at this point as the theatre group, TAGORA, of which I am a member are putting onOh What A Lovely War” in April which has ben included as part of the programme. (It was actually at a rehearsal last night I was told about the posters at the local council offices.)

The political oversight of the CoE is provided by the Parliamentary Assembly, where members of parliament, representing their home parliament, from the 47 countries meet four times a year in Strasbourg to elect judges to the court, receive reports on the activity of the CoE and to receive reports on matters affecting democracy, human rights and the rule of law in member countries. The first meeting for 2012 takes place next week and it is going to be addressed by both the UK Minister for Europe and the Prime Minister.(here is the agenda for the meeting.)

Brought to book


Every Summer for the last three years I have gone away for an amount of time to work in the UK.  People in France tend to go away for up to a month and it is either the month of July or August so there is little work for me here.  People from all over Europe, and further afield, send their children to schools in the UK to improve their English and this means there is a demand for people who can teach the little darlings English.  Each time I have worked I buy myself something from the money I earn.  Usually it is something quite expensive that I would otherwise not have the money to afford.  The first time it was a new came Large book storage ra like the one pictured, except being a child of the 80’s it was black.

Last year I bought a Sony Reader.  I didn’t do so because I prefer it to books.  I don’t think the various form of eBook readers mean the end of the printed page.  Why is it that there is a bipolar choice, books or Reader?  To read some like Norm, or David Hepworth or Andrew Collins in The Word making great pronouncements that it is the book for them not the Kindle.  Hey, I too love getting and reading new books.  Form the time of ordering to the time Mr Amazon arrives at the door with my new delivery is a time of excitment and expectation for me.  I wrote about my recent visit to Bristol and how a visit to a book shop for a particular book resulted in me leaving with about five extra books I hadn’t intended and I came a way with two more from a record shop.  So you don’t have to convince me I love books.

So why buy a book reader?  Over the last few years I have travelled up to ten times each year.  I like to read when travelling and the extra weght of the pile of books can make quite a difference, especially if going for up to eight weeks as I do when I work in the UK.  It is much better to get some eBooks and read them.  If it is a book by an author I like and expect I will want to keep I usually try to get a hardback version of the book and read it at home.  If I do not know, or if previously I would have bought a paperback version of the book then I might as well get an eBook and read it whilst travelling.  If I decide I like it and want to keep it I can then get the hardback copy.  So for over a year that is what I’ve done.

Not any longer.  The two partner stores on the Sony Reader site where you can buy your eBooks are WH Smith and Waterstones.

I have previously bought books from both shops online.  On 15th September I received the following email from WH Smith:

Dear Customer 

Thank you for your custom at WHSmith’s eBook Store. Today WHSmith eBooks has moved – we’re now at

At you’ll find:

  • Thousands of eBooks in ePub and PDF formats and eAudiobooks
  • More great eBook offers
  • The Richard & Judy Book Club exclusive to WHSmith
  • As well as millions of Books, Stationery products, Magazines and Gifts.
Within one week we will move your account and Bookshelf to If you already have an account with we will associate your eBook Bookshelf with that account; we’ll match them up using your email address.
In the meantime you can continue to access your Bookshelf at If you have queries about your WHSmith Bookshelf please contact our customer service team.
Please Note: 

  • If you have Mobipocket or Microsoft Reader eBooks in your Bookshelf please download these by 22nd September as from then on they will no longer be available to access.
  • If your credit card billing address(es) is outside the UK we’re afraid we will not be able to sell you eBooks from This is due to taxation and contractual issues. We hope to serve you again in the future.
We assume you would like to hear about WHSmith offers by email. If you would prefer not to, please click here.
Thanks again for your custom. We look forward to serving you at
Yours faithfully

As you can see from the text in red I am not able to buy books from WH Smith because I live outside the UK.  OK then I’ll have to do with Waterstones.  You’re ahead of me here aren’t you.  On Tuesday I received the following email from Waterstone’s”

“Dear Customer,

We see from our records that you have previously purchased an eBook from whilst having a registered address outside of the UK and Ireland.

We regret that  with immediate effect, we are no longer able to sell  eBooks to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland.  We have had to take this action to comply with the legal demands of publishers regarding the territories  into which we can sell eBooks.

Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience  that  this may cause.

Please note: Your previously purchased eBooks are not affected by this and will still be available in your ‘Digital order history’ in your online account.

Kind regards, Customer Service”

So the publishers have threatened legal action against eBook sellers who sell eBooks from UK based shops to people who do not live in the UK.  Whatever happened to globalisation?  Particularly for something like an eBook which is designed for being bought over the internet.  This is crazy.  I can buy physical books from Amazon from the US, Australia. New Zealand or the UK.  Because I have bought something other than a Kindle I cannot buy eBooks from them and the shops I can buy from say they have now been threatened by the publishers and can’t sell them to me.  OK there are plenty of free eBooks available from the following sites and I’ll get my reading there.  Publishers Association, I hope your writers are happy as they’ll lose the income they would have had if I’d carried on buying my books from WH Shith and Waterstones.  Well done.

Coincidence or what – you decide


When I was recently i"MC5", Sonically Speaking: A Tale of Revolution and Rock 'n' Rolln the UK, in Bristol to be more precise, I went into a couple of book and record shops and the foreseeable danger happened, I came out of them with more than I had intended to buy when I went in.  That’s why online shopping is so much better as, despite the best efforts of Mr Amazon with his ‘others who bought this also bought’, there is not the same danger of buying things on impulse as there is in a physical shop.

One of the books I bought was 77 Sulphate Strip reviewed by me here, and the second one I’ve read that I bought on that trip was ‘sonically speaking mc5 a tale of revolution and rock’n’roll‘.  I got interested in the band after they were referenced by a number of the bands involved in early punk rock as an influence.  I like going back and finding out about the people who influenced the people I like and I came to like MC5.  The book’s interesting to read about what was happening in Detroit in the late 60’s about the band and then read about what happened to the people in the band after the band.  I wasn’t going to review it here or write about it.

The book does talk about the relationship between guitarist in MC5,(and here) Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith,  and Patti Smith (Who didn’t have to worry about hanging her name after they got together) and then at the same time as I’m reading about her in the book Patti Smith turns up in Strasbourg this week, which I wrote about here.

Then on Friday I decide to listen to the Word magazine podcast and this week David Hepworth talks to the founder of the Elektra record label (wiki), Jac Holzman, about the founding of the label, its early incarnation as a mainly folk label, the change to have more rock acts, about finding Love and the doors, and about signing MC5 and their “mascot” band the Stooges.  His story of the signing of the two bands tallies perfectly with that in the book.

So after no MC5 activity at all I chance upon a book on a visit to the UK, buy it and the week I read it two other events connected to the band happen as well.  Spooky.  Anyway here are the band with the title track from their first album, ‘Kick out the Jams, motherfuckers’:

Men don your frilly lacy pants for manhood.


As someone whose work involves the English language, in a number of forms, making explicit the fact there are a number of different forms of English and that the difference amounts to more than just vocabulary is quite important.  For example I spent the afternoon and evening of Patti Smith events with an American friend and it struck me how much of British English is formed in the negative sense, even giving approval or permission – not half, I don’t mind etc, which doesn’t happen in American English, certainly not the mid-west version of my friend.

You do see quite a lot of adverts featuring English, more than I expected.  The advert has to have the French equivalent displayed on it, though on this one it seems to be in very little letters up the side – they’re too small for me to read to make sure.  This is part of a campaign launched by Dockers and will fall foul of the teaching of British English.  A ‘Call to Manhood and asks “Wear the  Pants”‘, or as the poster puts it, ‘Calling all men, its time to wear the pants’

American British English

Pants                       Trousers

Knickers                  Pants

So the call would be met by the answer, which ones?  The Frilly lacy ones, the thong, the big pants or the white y-fronts?

I also saw this poster of ‘A spectacle from the heart of Ireland’and I must say the Irish friends I have don’t tend to dress like that or break out in dances like that.  One friend I worked with this Summer didn’t do any of this at all.  What are we being sold?

Whilst out in the city I saw the van photographed from a local ‘Fromager’, M Tourrette.  I know the syndrome (wiki) is not spelt like this but with one ‘r’, however, an online medical dictionary spells it differently.(Check the URL rather than on the page – whoever did the coding was the person with the spelling problem.)  It did make me wonder what a cheese with tourettes would be like and that even for France, where as De Gaulle famously said with more cheeses than days of the year, a cheese with tourettes would be a novel concept.

Finally, a friend has introduced me to a dubbed version of the wonderful Flashing Blade that gave this blog its name.  Here’s one in funny supposed Lancashire accents:

Weekend World part 2 – Bristol


It was just getting dark as we arrived at Bristol Airport and got onto the bus that took us the twenty minute/half hour ride into the centre of the city.  We booked into our hotel then walked through a park next to a roofless church, over the river and a left turn took us to a curry house.  It was not anything special but we had a proper British curry, a chat and a beer and nearby where there were a group of people who work together obviously out for the night in the city, drinking and talking nonsense.  On our return we had both an i-Mac, with a large number of television channels on it, and free wifi in our hotel room so we entertained ourselves before going to sleep.

The next day after a great breakfast in the hotel we walked for a bit before stopping for a coffee and a read of the paper in the Retreat Cafe.  Then we went into the city for some shopping.  There was a festival of the bike taking place  with people in fancy dress riding bikes and performers of various quality at various stages round the city.  It was busy and seemed quite thriving.  The picture on the left shows two cyclists off their bikes and dancing to one of the performers whose power is supplied by the dynamos attached to the other bikes.  They are waving lances having clearly been jousting on bike.  After a walk up Christmas Steps we had a great lunch of Wild Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Penne at the Colston Yard, somewhere I had last been when it was a micro breweries as part of the Smiles chain.  I stayed reading the newspaper whilst JTO had a haircut before returning to the hotel where we had a meal in their restaurant.

The next morning we took it easy, JTO trying out a local church, before. on a recommendation of a native we are friendly with, going to the riverstation for brunch where I had a very nice scrambled eggs and salmon on toast.  It doesn’t look great shakes in the picture but this former station for the river police had great views over the docks.  After a leisurely time were headed back to the railway station to catch the bus back to the airport and return to France.

Whole lotta Burns


Despite being a sassenach I joined the English Speaking Community in Alsace last night for my third Burns Night and had a great time eating, drinking and dancing Scottish.

I have written elsewhere about the layers of belonging which build up on central facts about the place where we exist to make it home.  Another happened last night.  I have been to this event twice before with friends and had a good time with them but hardly knew anyone else there.  This time, as well as the friends we had gone with, there were lots of other people present it was good to catch up with and discover how they were doing.  Another layer grown on the onion.

The evening followed a pretty normal course for a Burns evening with demonstrations of dancing, the Selkirk Grace before we ate a broth and then the haggis was piped into the room and paraded around it before being killed.  Whilst the toast to Burns and the Address to the Lassies and to the Laddies were being given we had our dessert before the rest of the evening was spent dancing with a break at midnight to sing Auld Lang Syne.

The English Speaking Community is not an enclave of Brits leavened with a touch of antipodean or American but open to people who speak or have an interest in speaking English.  It is less exclusive than, for example Americans in Alsace for whom you have to be American to be a member.  We were joined by two French, one Portuguese and a Russian friend last night.  The pictures show the piping in of the Haggis and the dancing.

Too referential for one day


To try and up the intellectual content of this site I will copy a short book review I posted on my Facebook site for “The Second Plane, September 11: Terror and Boredoom” by Martin Amis.  For me a very good read and “An interesting development of his thoughts from the aftermath of 11 September to understanding the nihilist death wish that is islamism and why like the other similar remnants of the 20th century, fascism and soviet communism, it has to consigned to the dustbin of history.”  It is more balanced than it is credited with in a lot of reviews I have seen but to be congratulated for not following the leftist herd of seeking balance between a nihilist death cult like Al-quaeda and the Worlds largest democracy, the USA and as another review on Facebook said, “acts as welcome panacea to self-conscious Guardian editorials and the rabid spittle of the British tabloid press”.  Quoting my own Facebook book review, getting self-referential enough to disappear up my own orifice.

Taking the heat

p1010768In a previous post where I was referential about an already self-referential post I talked about developments in something I noticed when the weather thawed. (If I hesitate a guess at referentially referring to a self-referentially referring post could I be right?  Enough referring Ed.)  Well, wait no longer as there have been further developments, cue fanfare.  On my way past site of the p1020131original hole a couple of days ago I noticed that a plate had been welded over the hole, preventing more steam from coming up from it.  Surely, it cannot be long now before the hole is filled in and cleared up and, apart from the freshly laid tarmac, no-one would ever know that there had been a problem here. (Apart from this electronic record on the cyberweb thingy.)  As you can also see from the sign, that was only recently attached to the fence, p10201321my hunch about the source of the steam, a waste pipe from the laundry of the nearby building, was way off the mark .  It seemingly instead being from a community energy scheme run by Strasbourg energie.  Readers will be pleased to learn that I checked on the progress of the holes on the other side of the road and, as can be seen from this picture, another one has also been welded shut and has p1020133stopped issuing steam whilst the other, which was last pictured featuring men working in it (I’m afraid you will have to forgoe the immediate excitement and click here to see that picture)  is still isuing steam as can be seen above, and in close-up with the hole in the pipe, right.  I’m sure it won’t be too long before this too has a piece welded to it and the excitement of the steam in Strasbourg comes to an end.

Pancake day

To cope with all the excitement of the above it’s off out tonight to celebrate an English tradition, Shrove Tuesday with a couple of friends at a Creperie. (also here for the non-French speaking.)  Although I will be eating pancakes it will not be like the one’s mother used to make but traditional Breton ones stuffed for a main course and then one with ice-cream and chocolate for desert washed down with some traditional Cidre Bretagne, which even has its own museum.

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