The Royal Facebook

17 November 2010

Highly amusing Facebook #fail comedy video from the BBC. Wonder if they’ll get the deal to film the Wedding?

Night Train!

17 September 2010

Tonight I’m catching my first UK Night Train in order to get to a wedding in Cornwall. It looks like it will be slightly more luxurious that many of the European night trains I’ve taken – I remember for example sharing a tiny cabin with five loud, sweaty german teenege boys going from Berlin to Warsaw, and getting worken up in the middle of the night by a guard shouting in Serbocroat on a train without beds overnight from Budapest to Sarajevo.

The two-person berths look far more acceptable to my partner and me!

And of course, speaking of night trains, my friend Ben the ever-electro music maestro, directed me to this as soon as he heard.

I Love Man

18 August 2009

So I’m on a train now, returning already from the Isle of Man. I was, after all, only there for a wedding on Saturday (which I must say was an amazing and stunning affair).

It’s a very beautiful Island. Part British seaside-town (Douglas, at least), part Celtic and mildly irish it is a fascinating combination of cultures.

It is a self-governing Crown dependency and the head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann, but is not Monarch. It is neither part of the UK, nor the EU. But foreign relations and defence are the responsibility of the government of the United Kingdom. The Island is inhabited by about 80,000 people, and it’s approximately 32 miles (51 km) long and between 8 miles (13 km) and 15 miles (24 km) wide, and has an area of around 221 square miles (570 km2). A passport issued on the Isle of Man says “British Islands – Isle of Man” on the cover but the nationality status stated on the passport is “British Citizen”. Despite this, because the Island doesn’t have membership of the EU you do not have the same rights as non Mann British citizens. It’s complex huh!

Yet one of our taxi drivers spent 25 minutes ranting rabidly about those foreigners coming over and taking their jobs. Not me, mind you “those non-whites” he said, although quickly clarified “non Islanders, I mean” – like who? – “you know, those Asians, and the Eastern Bloc, those Bulgarians”. It was like having a taped version of the Daily Mail played on a loop for the journey down country roads where at any point he could have pulled over and stabbed the two gays in the back of his car (!) He even blamed “the British Government” for selling the Isle of Man down the swanny.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom has paramount power to legislate for the Isle of Man on all matters but it is a long-standing convention that it does not do so on domestic (‘insular’) matters without Tynwald’s [the Manx parliament] consent. Apparently, the Isle of Man has had several disputes with the European Court of Human Rights because it was late to change its laws concerning corporal punishment and sodomy. The Isle of Man was once known to be rather homophobic, and gay sex has only been legal since 1992. More recently the age of consent was equalised – in 2006.

Despite the fact that whenever I said the name of the Island I tripped over my own words accidentally saying I Love Man, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to grow up as a young gay man on the island. Even on our short trip, the hotel “double (not twin) room please” scenario and looks and [rather blatant] stares made me an uncomfortable gay outsider. I’ve obviously been to worse places (Warsaw, pár example, or gay pride in Galway where a man outside the bar wielding a rather large kitchen knife forced us to lock ourselves in), but provincial attitudes aren’t really my scene.

It reminded me on some ways of my growing up in small-town midlands. My home town is about the same size. But I could escape easily. Half an hour on the train to Birmingham allowed me, growing up, to get out of the town which could at times feel choking. Small town middle England isn’t for me. But on the Isle of Man (OK the landmass is significant, but there are still only 80,000 people) it’s not as easy to escape. There are no 30 minute train rides: it’s a 3 or 5 hours ferry ride to England.

I’ll try to post some of the amazing pictures when I have a moment. If I have a moment. I’m off to Bristol for work then to Copenhagen and Stockholm for a holiday this week. Right now, though, I just want to get home and to bed.

Going to the Isle of Man

14 August 2009

At the moment I am sat on a ferry. I’m not a fan of boats. And this one is swaying far more than I would like. I can feel the bottom of my stomach swing right as my body swings left (thank goodness my chair’s tied to the floor), It’s the Great British Summer and this is the Irish Sea: the ferry is en-route from Heysham, on the Lancashire coast, to Douglas, on the Isle of Man. We’re going to the Isle of Man for a wedding.

A couple of months ago we were looking how to get to the IOM. Flights were pretty fast, but not necessarily cheap. And flying certainly ain’t the most environmentally friendly way to travel. Conscious of our carbon footprint, we looked up alternative routes. For a summer fare of £103 each (it’s cheaper off summer-peak) we were able to get on any train from London Euston with a through-ticket to the Isle of Man. The IOM Steam Packet Company’s ferries go from two ports that more or less connect with the trains: our outward journey was a 09:30 am train from Euston, and a change at Lancaster which took us directly to Heysham port (directly to the ferry terminal). The (relatively slow, unfortunately) ferry to Douglas is where I am writing from now. The route back (with a ferry that takes half the time) is via Liverpool.

I’m looking forward to my first trip to the Isle of Man, although I must say I know very little around it. Looking around me as I type I can see a combination of bored staycationers, bored homegoers and northern families taking a weekend trip. It might be that boredom (well, it’s a long trip and a heavily swaying boat – you may not want to look at the horizon) which means that people are looking at me, or it might be the fact that I’m wearing clothes of a far more joyful hue than most of the people on the ferry. It may also be that – at least as I understand it – homosexuality has not long been accepted on the IOM (maybe it still isn’t). That provincial nervousness has been nagging me since our arrival in Lancaster – that nervousness of looking out of place, odd, strange, overtly gay… who knows. But regardless, and despite of this, the trip to the IOM, marking the start of my holiday season, is an exciting one. Seeing friends getting married is always an exciting thing (and would be even more exciting if summer actually came to the Irish Sea in mid-August).

I am sure I will tweet and blog my thoughts soon enough…

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