Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

“A penny for the Guy” is dead, long live “trick or treat”

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that British kids collected money over the Halloween period by wheeling around a dummy and collecting a “penny for the Guy”.

These days though, I doubt that many would even know the phrase or where it originally came from. In case you’re one of those, it’s a phrase commemorating Guy Fawkes and his attempt to blow up the houses of Parliament as part of the Gunpowder Plot way back in 1605.

There was a vaguely confusing few years when that went out of fashion with nothing to replace it but thanks to the Americanisation of the Halloween period we are firmly in the “trick or treat” era. Still, at least it hasn’t degenerated into the non-traditional cry of “bon bons” (sweeties) of the French who arrived at that with no previous Halloween tradition.

It’s fortunate for us this week anyway in that it’s been pouring for most of this week but was quite pleasant whilst we were walking round with the kids on Halloween night last week.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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Tidying up the unfinished car administration from years back

When we moved to France we drove our car there with the intention of officially importing it at some stage.

However, we were rather busy in the first few months in France setting things up, then spent the rest of that first year trying to catch up on various bits of administration that we’d put off in the early part of the year. Thus it was quite late on that we started looking into importing the car.

By then we’d become rather wary of the circular path that administration often takes in France and so it was no great surprise to find that it was going to be almost impossible to import our car. Compounding the difficulties was that it was a grey (ie personal) import to the UK so it didn’t have the European type approval. That added another circle of administration to be worked through.

Fortunately in some ways the car developed a couple of what seemed like major problems if the garages were to be believed (which we later found out were relatively trivial things) at around the time when we needed to do something concrete in terms of importing the car. So we ended up just leaving it in the car park for the next six years. It’s not that we intended to do nothing about it, just that one thing or another always had a higher priority and besides the more we looked at the administration required to import it officially, the more we tended to look away.

Anyway, it’s obviously not worth a whole lot now and it’s become one of the French annoyances that need to be cleared up so we thought we’d either sell it or at least get it towed away.

It turns out that thanks to the French love of administration that we can do neither until we can come up with some ownership papers that they will recognise. The ancient log book was never going to be a runner in their eyes even if we could find it so we figured that we’d get the new V5 certificate which is a European style document that they should recognise. Now, those that have read the small print of their own V5 certificate will note that it specifically says that it’s not proof of ownership but seemingly is accepted as such in France as it is here.

So, after finally getting the VIN without which the DVLA said they wouldn’t issue a new one, we set off to Coleraine this morning. We’d a couple of queries so couldn’t use the local offices hence the trip to Coleraine. Nope, can’t issue you that. There’s a note on the record that says the car was exported back in 2005. Well, would you expect anything to do with European administration to be easy?

After some debate, it turns out that they can issue the export certificate which they should have issued back in 2005 though. This contains the same information as the V5 and moreover is free. All being well, the French will accept it.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The Connswater greenway: a meandering route from the Titanic Quarter to the Castlereagh hills

The Connswater greenway is a project which will, over the course of the next two or three years, link up pretty much all of the existing smattering of parks and walkways from the Titanic quarter through to the Castlereagh hills.

Although it’s an area that I’ve been in and around for most of my life their booklet highlights a whole bunch of things that I never knew existed. In fact, it comes across as a much more interesting area than you would expect, picking out as it does interests ranging from George Best’s home and Van Morrison’s home and haunts through to a 400 year old bridge in what it a fairly compact area.

That bridge is the most surprising for me as I went to school right beside it yet never knew of its existence until Wednesday morning! To be fair, it doesn’t look that impressive these days but then ancient footbridges rarely do and this one crosses the river at a point where the flow tends to collect a whole heap of junk ranging from fallen branches through to the Tesco trolley which seem to get everywhere these days.

Whilst the majority of the open spaces exist already, many of them have seen better days and the walkways have generally fallen into disuse over the years. Thus one of the major tasks of the project is to spruce up what’s already there which is no small task given the span of the greenway. This will include re-routing some of the stretches of river to both create a more typical meandering look and to sort out the flooding problem that arises along some sections of the rivers. In addition to all the prettying up the playgrounds scattered along the route will have their numbers increased somewhat and upgrades to those that are already there.

One of the most staggering figures that was quoted in the presentation on Wednesday was that over 50% of the population in the area is “economically inactive” ie there’s a very high level of unemployment. Whilst this project won’t directly change that, it should help to pretty up the area substantially which may in turn attract more businesses to move to what was once an area with close to 100% employment thanks to the shipyard, aircraft factory and all the supporting businesses which they drew in.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Culture Night: a very lively night out in Belfast

Friday was Culture Night in Belfast which means a very, very packed night of entertainment all over the city and all free too.

We took the opportunity to finish off some things that we didn’t manage to fit in to the Heritage Weekend earlier in the month. The easy way to include them turned out to be to go on one of the three Community Taster Tours. The listing for these was a little confusing in the booklet about the culture night but it turned out that there were three entirely different tours to choose from, each lasting three hours.

For our purposes the 4pm tour seemed best in that it included the Titanic pump house which we’d missed out on earlier and which normally has a very confusing car parking arrangement that seems best avoided. Surprisingly the tours weren’t anything like fully booked and we found ourselves on an open top bus that didn’t even have a dozen people on it.

Frankly the pump house was a major disappointment. Effectively it’s a small, very overpriced, cafe with one stand containing an assortment of Titanic gifts and a dozen or so panels about various aspects of the Titanic spaced around a very bare room. Next stop was the Engine Room Gallery which is nowhere near the Titanic area as you might expect but instead at Hollywood Arches.

From there we were off to what was supposed to be an Ulster Scots event at the Spectrum Centre on the Shankill Road. Unfortunately the organisation fell apart at that point so we only saw the Lambeg drummer and didn’t see the highland dancing, the flute band nor the lone piper.

Finally, it was on to the Indian Community Centre where they were rather optimistic about the amount that could be included in the short time available. Thus we missed out on the henna and sari demonstration, Hindi class information, Indian dance and musical performance and we just about managed to fit in the Indian tea, food and snacks.

Although three hours seemed like an awfully long time for a bus tour round Belfast when we read about it in the brochure, in practice the time just flew in and really it needed to be around twice as long to do justice to everything but then that’s only to be expected of a taster tour. In fact, it was almost perfect as a taster and has highlighted a couple of places that we will be revisiting at the next opportunity.

By the time we got back, it was almost the perfect time to go on the tour round the offices of the Belfast Telegraph. No smell of fire and brimstone as you sort-of expect from seeing newspaper back-offices in movies but rather a very automated newspaper production factory. Sadly we didn’t get to see the presses running as they don’t kick off ’til a couple of hours after the tours finish but a very interesting tour nonetheless and the hour just flew in.

Both the little guys were running on empty by this point so we finished off with a brief look round some of the activities going on before heading home.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

What should David Cameron do now?

The Liberals revealed their true colours today. It was never so much what was in the national interest as what was in the Liberal party interest.

Thus, whilst clearly the economic issues should have been the most important, there was always the demand for PR which, the Liberals think, will best suit them. If PR did pan out in the way that the Liberals think it will, coalitions will be the order of the day and the power of the Liberal party will rise as dramatically as it has done in the last week. Do they deserve such power. Clearly not, if the negotiations this week are anything to go by.

But, what should David Cameron do now? If I were him, I’d be calling Buckingham Palace tomorrow morning with a proposal. First, Brown would be out: he clearly doesn’t have the support of either the Commons or the country. Next, I would propose myself as the Prime Minister on the understanding that what I would do, within the shortest period administratively feasible, would be to dissolve Parliament and hold another election. Whilst this would ordinarily be a high risk option for him, both Labour and the Liberals are showing how bad they are more and more as the days go by and so the chances of a landslide Conservative victory are rising as each day passes.

Will he do it though? If Labour and the Liberals get together I’d say yes for sure, if not it’s increasingly likely.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.