Tag Archives: England

Gladiators, 12 Yards, Heartbreak Hotel

So, the English made it all the way to the final of the Euro championships and then…heartbreak…again. How strange sports combat is. Almost unwatchable at the end. This gladiatorial battle spent over 2 hours of tactical maneuvering with two breaks in between and it came down to 12 yards. The distance between a penalty spot and the goal. And there it was. 60,000 fanatical fans, all cheering England on against the enemy Italians. A penalty shoot out. 12 yards. A towering goalkeeper in the Italian net who was 6ft 7, moving along the goal line intimidating the penalty shooters. It all came down to the this. 32 teams, all reduced to two teams on an English summer night, and certainty that one team would win and one would lose. The penalty shoot out. As glorious an event as sports can provide. A shooter, a goalkeeper and a referee with a whistle. And the sounds of the masses resonating around the stadium and anguish and nerves and breathtaking tension filling the evening air. Inevitably England’s long torturous journey from the distant 1966 England victory against the dreaded Germans, would come back to Wembley for redemption. This time. The team was better. The Italians weaker. The English scored after 2 minutes. England would be assured of victory and an end to the curse that showed no mercy for 55 years! Ignominy against Iceland, heartache against Spain. Prince William, Boris Johnston, David Beckham all there to celebrate the victory that was assured. The Queen sending a message of good luck. The Queen. Even she had become interested! She likes horse racing and ascot and maybe rugby but not this sport of the common man. Surely, we were assured now! This was England. The cup was coming home. Brexit was worth it, we didn’t need those dastardly Europeans. We had survived Covid. We would walk once more with dignity down Wembley Way as champions, if not of the world, of Europe. Teach those Europeans a thing or two about decency.

And then. It happened. The equalizer.

And then the penalty shoot out. Last minute substitutions were made to put our best foot forward. But the goalkeeper had a reach unimaginably long. The guy was from Naples. How did they breed them so tall there! And in one second, the hopes and dreams of a nation were gone. 55 years would no longer be the number of lost opportunities. We had lost the moment. Just at the very end. 12 yards. Indecision. Nerves. And suddenly it was gone. Rome celebrated. The Italians were the winners. 12 yards. Fans barely able to watch. Torment, tears, a long journey home on the Underground.

The World Cup will come around shortly and we will try once more but never will that cup feel so close as it did on that fateful evening at Wembley. 12 yards.

Brexit…Its Complicated!

And if the world hadn’t changed and turned upside down enough, Tourism must deal with Brexit. Its complicated. Brexit for the Brits brings forth its own problems with tourism.

Imagine a British tour guide who would meet you in Italy because he or she happens to speak fluent Italian and is an expert on Italy but has a British passport.  Well, they can’t work in Italy any longer! Even worse, let’s say I’m a tour guide who picks a group up in London and wants to take them on the Eurostar (which is practically bankrupt now by the way) to Paris.  I’m an English passport holder and with the current law, cannot move with the group to Paris.  In other words, now until there is an urgent review, you simply cannot work outside of the UK if you have a British passport.  Period.

Travel organizations often use a lot of tour guides who currently work outside of the UK who are British passport holders.  Their English is….not bad… and quite often what they lack in historical and local knowledge, they more than make up with their unique British humor and acting abilities.  All this is now gone! For symphony orchestras, traveling theatre groups, people who are in the entertainment business and need to work inside the European zone, they no longer will be able to.  Gone!  Yes, a business traveler can still pop across to France for two or three days but the rest will not be legal.

Tourism depends upon tour guides who can handle different countries and speak multiple languages.  Incredibly, the British Government has overlooked this, and probably we’re all rather ironically fortunate that Brexit took place during the pandemic.  With zero business and zero travelers on organized tours, the urgency to fix this anomaly hasn’t screamed out just yet.
The Brexit decision ultimately will probably cost the Brits a valuable place at the International table.  As the financial business inevitably devolves to Germany or the Netherlands and the center of power that London once was gradually shifts, things are going to shake up.  London truly was an international city but in the past year 700,000 Europeans have moved out of the UK.  We’re keeping close tabs on this because our business depends upon a fluid border and Brexit cannot provide that.

Right now, the UK government has yet to consider any of this.  The European Union has already moved on.  Yeah, people love to travel to the UK because of the royal family, the fabulous theater, the double decker busses and the sheer weight of tradition that envelops it.  But London will miss that injection of European talent and youth that once was there.  People came to London to learn English, to take in the sights and to take part in the UK economy and some of them stayed and became resident Brits.  They started businesses and integrated into British society.  They brought fresh ideas and loved Britain maybe more than many Brits.  They became Brits.  Gone!

With Brexit or should we say more the European exit, Britain and specifically London will not be the powerhouse it was.  I hate to say it, but I think a lot of the people that voted for Brexit would probably reevaluate their decision if they had a chance to right now.  According to current polls Brexit would never go through.  But Brexit is done.

In the USA, we had a chance to dump Trump.  We get that opportunity, every 4 years.  With Brexit, it’s done and dusted.  It would be extraordinarily challenging to reverse the curse of separation from the European Union.  We must imagine that Britain will become less of an International powerhouse.  Less of a cultural heartthrob for Europeans. T he strong possibility that Scotland will call for another referendum to join the European Union as an independent nation.  We must imagine that Ireland essentially has already left. And where does that leave us?  That leaves us with Little Britain.  A short sighted and awful decision that leaves Brits minnows amongst the Giants of Europe.  Pity.



Arriving in Dublin on a Saturday night can be a fun experience under any circumstance.

But renting a car and driving into town after the final of the All-Ireland Gaelic Football game that Dublin won is a whole different world.  The GPS could navigate me into the center but what it did not tell me was that I had to avoid the remnants of celebration walking randomly in front of me as I drove to the Conrad Dublin Hotel by St. Stephen’s Green.  We made it eventually and the hotel was absolutely great.  It was party night in Dublin.  Not a better place in all of the world.

The next morning, we began our journey to the scenic western coast of Ireland.

The drive to Sligo uses a fairly modern highway.  We drove out passing the St. James’s Gate and the Guinness Factory, and followed the River Liffey for several miles.  We traced peat bogs and at one point intersected with the River Shannon at Roosky before arriving in Sligo about 2.5 hours after departure.

The west of Ireland is truly a magnificent part of this tiny country.  Sligo sits in the northwestern part quite close to the Northern Ireland border.  The wealth that came to Sligo because of the port trade gave it the Cathedral of John the Baptist whose original foundation was built in the 13th century although it was completed in the 18th century.  About 30,000 people emigrated from Sligo during the Great Famine in the 19th century.  In the early part of the 20th century, Sligo became a hotbed for Republicanism.  Today, Sligo has the feel of an old colonial Garrison town with beautiful stone houses and on the outskirts there are some massive estates.  The Sligo area was popular with the British aristocracy even after Partition in 1921.

To me, walking through Sligo was a reminder of England in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s; shops were closed on Sunday, family stores, traditional clothing stores, butcher shops, pubs with the patron’s name on it, and tiny terraced houses with barely room to move between the door and the road.  Sligo has its beautiful River Garavogue that has created some activity and a bustle of shops and cafes that 15 years ago did not exist.

This is William Butler Yeats country and the inspiration for his poetry lies in the fields all around this tiny town.

It is easy to get here from Dublin by rental car, by bus, or a three-hour train service.  We stayed at the Glasshouse Hotel which was modest but ample and right on the Hyde Bridge – not fancy but the location was superb and the staff and amenities were brilliant. Sligo is absolutely worthwhile adding to your list.

Sligo Pietro Place Peter Jones

Sligo Pietro Place Peter Jones 3 Sligo Pietro Place Peter Jones 4 Sligo Pietro Place Peter Jones 5 Sligo Pietro Place Peter Jones 6 Sligo Pietro Place Peter Jones 7

Brexit Marmite Pietro Place Peter Jones

Update on Brexit

With all of this populist talk in the air and Trump grabbing most of the headlines through his really bad behavior, some people may have forgotten that the Prime Minister of England, Theresa May, is firmly committed to pushing the Brexit button next March.

The good news for travelers is that the British pound continues to sink, products that we buy in the UK are as cheap as chips, and sadly for my mum, the average cost of a glass of sangria in Spain just went up by around 20%.  But that is not the end of it and lines have to be drawn.

Marmite has been brought into this whole ugly and distasteful mess about Brexit and the pound.

Apparently the makers of Marmite, the mega monopoly, Unilever, have decided to pull back some of the lost profitability of the falling pound and increase the price of our beloved product.

This is causing mainline supermarkets to refuse to stock the beloved brand and deny the right of all English people a taste on toast of their staple diet.

For the American tourists, there is good news of course in all of this.  Americans traditionally loathe the taste of Marmite, a black, sticky, glue-like yeast extract that Brits have been brought up on since they discovered what to do with the waste from brewing beer.  In Australia they call it Vegemite and it tastes the same.

For most ex-pats, Marmite is headlined with digestive biscuits, custard creams, and oxo cubes as things I dream about when I’m asleep.

It’s the stuff that we were raised on.

Now the beloved brand itself is merely a pawn in the gain of the Brexit politicians who promised a different world but in actual fact delivered a depressed currency, higher prices, more unemployment, and good news, an opportunity for Americans and Europeans to take advantage of a strong dollar and euro.

I was opposed to Brexit but I never thought that they’d touch my Marmite.  Those bastards!

Image courtesy of https://twitter.com/mnchstrdesign/status/706414679686561793

The One Topic Everyone's Talking About in Britain Right Now

Not to say that there is any great evidence that this could be anything of a lasting effect, notwithstanding the issues of global warming, but the British are starting to question the very notion that their island was always destined to have a wet, gray, depressing climate for the rest of mankind.

The summer has taken the British by surprise. The newspapers have been headlining with “Phew, what a scorcher!” and people are starting to complain that it is just simply too hot and un-British. Wimbledon, won by the Scottish-born Andy Murray, went off with barely a drop of rain. The month of July seems increasingly to be a record-breaking month of unrelenting heat that has seen a mass exodus to Britain’s seaside shores at the expense of the Mediterranean beaches in Spain and Portugal. Who knows what August will bring?

Some have to be reminded that the giant orb in the sky that makes its way above the horizon every day, getting bigger and hotter, beaming down on the pasty Brits, relentlessly pouring heat onto the pavement, melting ice creams, and causing the locals to practically strip off in the parks and public, is actually the sun.

We have not seen it in England in years. We always wonder how the druids in Stonehenge could celebrate the summer solstice when they could not even see the sun through the clouds.

Pictured above: A student group poses in front of the London Eye on a sunny summer day.

But the Brits are now starting to like the orb. In those glorious long days, when nighttime comes after 10 o’clock and the warmth of the day’s sun still stays on the streets and in the gardens, the Brits have gotten used to it.

The other day, some friends of mine took the plastic paddling pool from their kids and plopped themselves into it while sipping their wine in the evening. It is weird, I agree — but when you have not seen the sun for more than 2,000 years, it is not altogether so strange.

With great regularity, the conversation on the trains, buses, and around the water cooler is now not about the rain and the damp, but it’s about this strange ball in the sky. The sightings are conclusive. It surfaces in the morning from behind the eastern horizon, sticks around for the best part of the day, and drops into the western sky to be replaced by a thing called the moon.

Long live the orb and may winter and the rain take a back seat to an English summer’s day.



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