Category Archives: london


I don’t think I’ve blogged this before.  Has anyone?

When you get a train ticket valid via London, it includes a tube journey to connect the mainline stations of your arrival and departure.  Or you can walk it – some connections are not unpleasant (for example, Victoria to Paddington is 40 minutes and largely across the park).

Now London has Boris-bikes, we have at our fingertips an altogether more pleasant alternative.  But since I rarely go to London, I’d much rather get one-off journeys than a season ticket.

So, rail companies and TFL, when will you start selling via-London tickets that offer the option of one journey on a Boris-bike as an alternative to that tube journey?  You know it makes sense!

A coronation and a kingmaker

Have Londoners elected a joke? Or can the exuberant upper-class twit mature, like Prince Hal[1], into a great leader?

My guess is that he can and will, FSVO great leader. But that may not really matter very much: all he really has to do is make the right noises. Beyond that, he’ll get a “media honeymoon” from those whose agenda for the past eight years has been anti-Ken. I think he’s smart enough not to reverse the core good things Ken has done to make London a more pleasant place than in my youth, and Boris’s own agenda is going to make fewer enemies. And he’s got off to a good start, with a generous tribute to his predecessor!

His office is one where character and personality matter, and appear less damaging than in a national leader, not least because he (unlike The Liar et al) is elected to his office by the people he represents. Boris, like Ken, is not lacking in individuality. Even if he goes off and plays fantasy games with his office as The Liar did (and there’s no suggestion that he will), he won’t drag an entire government with him, so potential damage is limited.

Perhaps the biggest winner from this is David Cameron. If one exuberant fortysomething toff can prove himself in office, that’ll (rightly or wrongly) help dispel doubts about the other. The timing is brilliant for him: Boris has his honeymoon just coming, and won’t have much time to tarnish before the next general election.

[1] As in Shakespeare’s portrayal – which is where my knowledge of the relevant history comes from[2].

[2] See the section “Lettice and Lovage” in this page.

Lucky London!

UK national politics remain a very sick joke.

But London politics are looking like lots of fun, with the prospect of Boris Johnson challenging the incumbent mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone.

So that’s two people with their own minds and personalities. An election where neither of the two leading candidates is a mindless party apparatchik.

Livingston has been one of the UK’s most effective politicians during his time in office. His most notable achievement is to have successfully taken on a powerful motoring lobby that had become the biggest single problem his city faced. This is in sharp contrast to our national politicians, who are slaves to the motoring lobby[1].

I don’t know that much about London’s government these days: it has no direct effect on me. But I expect both these candidates will have some interesting and worthwhile ideas. I shall watch with interest.

[1] Or rather the meeja who shamelessly back it. Note I didn’t say “motorists”: that would’ve pointed an accusing finger at the silent majority, who pointedly did not support the militant lobby.

The ITIN saga continues …

Well, since my application for an ITIN seems to have gone AWOL, I’ve tried again. On Wednesday, I made it to London and the US embassy in person.

Access to the embassy wasn’t as painful as it might have been. When I told the uniformed security guard outside I wanted IRS, she directed me to the shortest and fastest-moving of three queues to go through security. The security itself was indeed paranoid: for example, they made members of the american family in front of me go through separately, and made me take my belt off (yes, that’s a perfectly normal belt, whose purpose is to hold my trousers up). But noone got shot or otherwise attacked while I was there.

I started explaining the saga to the IRS man, who was deeply suspicious and hostile. But when I pointed out that I was actually presenting him an entirely new application form together with the required supporting documents, he became friendly and helpful. Evidently he’s much happier accepting a routine form than chasing stray paperwork. He happily accepted the form, but told me I now have to wait another twelve weeks for the ITIN itself. Strewth!

I left London from Victoria station, heading for Brighton (blog entry coming), passing Buckingham Palace on the way. They were doing something touristy involving clearing the road of both people and traffic, so I had to wade through hordes of gawping tourists crowded into a stretch of pavement altogether too narrow for the purpose. Bah, Humbug.